|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Sunday, November 14, 1999
dark horse that stoops to conquer
CBI open the case on Q?
DARK HORSE, a non-descript old-timer; Simple person who could be bypassed without attracting a second look. This is how newspapers described the new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Ram Prakash Gupta. None among the scribes present on the lawns of the Prime Ministers house had ever heard his name as the BJP President Kushabhau Thakre announced that he would replace Kalyan Singh.
Enquiries at the BJP headquarters also drew a blank till the BJP Vice-President, J.P. Mathur, got in touch with his office in Lucknow and collected scrappy bio-data of the person who will govern the most populous state of the union.
Gupta, now 76, was a known figure in Lucknow then but those were the days of stalwarts like C.B. Gupta, Kamlapati Tripathi, socialist leader, Tirloki Singh, H.N. Bahuguna and T.N. Singh (who later became the Chief Minister) and he was overshadowed by their towering personalities. Nevertheless, representing the then Jana Sangh in the Vidhan Parishad, Ram Prakash Gupta was given the status of Deputy Chief Minister when Charan Singh formed the first non-Congress Government, comprising Opposition parties as far back as 1967. The dispensation was known as the Samyukta Vidhayak Dal (SVD) Government.
The SVD was the first experiment in coalition politics in UP. The Charan Singh Government did not last for long as sharp differences among the constituent parties came to the fore earlier than expected and it collapsed under its own weight. Since then little was heard of Ram Prakash Gupta even though he continued as a member of the Council. He came into prominence again when he won the assembly election in 1977 and was inducted into the Janata Party Government led by Ram Naresh Yadav as Industry Minister. Kalyan Singh was his colleague then holding the portfolio of the Health. The Yadav Ministry, too, was short-lived and with that Gupta again went into the background even though he remained an MLA till 1988 and was re-elected in 1993.
He was denied the party ticket in the 1996 assembly elections and, as a compensation, he was made Deputy Chairman of the state Planning Commission, a post he held till he was picked up to replace Kalyan Singh.
A BJP loyalist and a staunch RSS man, Ram Prakash Gupta is not member of the either House of the UP legislature and will have to get elected within six months. He became an RSS activist in his student days at Allahabad University where he came under the spell of Prof Rajendra Singh, now RSS chief, who was then teaching physics.
Gupta was among the few exceptions whom the RSS supremo gave permission to get married and his services were subsequently loaned to the erstwhile Jana Sangh.
Gupta is said to have blessings of both Nagpur and Jhandewalan as he assumed the stewardship of the BJP-led government. The party is passing through critical time and its fortune appears to be on decline in the politically sensitive state. Low-profile and elderly, Gupta is known for his humility and simple style of living. He addressed Kalyan Singh, as my leader with the comment: I will wear this crown of thorn with his blessing,. Gupta knows that he is not a mass leader like his predecessor and can only stoop to conquer. He does not have a group of his own in the faction-ridden BJP unit of this politically sensitive state.
Known as a moderate in spite of the RSS background, Gupta does not propose to rake up contentious issues like Ram Mandir and, unlike Kalyan Singh, he says: I will toe the party line on the Mandir issue. He does not agree with his predecessor that giving up the Mandir issue, Article 370 and common civil code were responsible for the BJPs electoral rout in UP but he would not like to go into these issues. The debacle, he feels, was accidental and what was needed was corrective steps and not discussion.
He does not feel any difficulty in accommodating Kalyan Singhs men and also those owing allegiance to Kalraj Mishra and Lalji Tandon, arch-rivals of the former Chief Minister.
They are all partymen and our people and I do not see any difficulty, he says.
Gupta also has no plan to touch allies. As far as allies are concerned, they will not be touched, he asserts. His priority, at the moment, is to ensure smooth functioning of the party and his government and, more importantly, tide over the financial mess in which the state has landed.
Gupta is the first high
caste leader to assume the office of Chief Minister after
a lapse of 10 years the last was N.D. Tiwari.
Gupta is a Vaishva, a community which has been solidly
behind the BJP. He was born in Jhansi on October 26,
1923, and had to struggle to come up in life.
The 17th letter of the English alphabet, Q, has come to denote Ottavio Quattrocchi, who is supposed to have been referred to as Q in the diaries of the former Bofors chief, Mr Martin Ardbo. Quattrocchi, who represented Italys Snam Progetti in New Delhi till 1991, had been active in India over the past three decades and had figured in a major controversy in Parliament in 1980 the Thal Vaishet matter concerning the choice of technology for the entire gamut of Bombay High gas-based urea plant to be set up in the country.
After the death of Sanjay Gandhi, in an unprecedented decision superseding the view of a previous Cabinet Committee and three successive Committee of Secretaries, the contract for supply of technology to Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilisers for its Thal Vaishet plant was granted to a firm in which Snam Progetti had acquired a majority share. The favoured firm had not even figured in the shortlisting process of the contract which had been under consideration and repeated review for a period of three years.
The scandal was exposed in Parliament by Mr K.P. Unnikrishnan of Congress (S). The government of Indira Gandhi reacted to the expose by instituting a CBI probe. A former Sheriff of Bombay, late Narendra N. Kapadia, and his nephew, son of a retired ICS officer who had served in the Defence Ministry, were arrested as they represented an American firm, C.F. Braun, which had been topping the shortlist of three successive Committee of Secretaries, headed by different Cabinet Secretaries (all of ICS vintage). Mr K.V. Ramanathan, who as Secretary of the department concerned had opposed the wonky contract, was bypassed for the job of Cabinet Secretary. A journalist who had covered the matter extensively was also quizzed.
The CBI, however, could not make any headway as Mr Unnikrishnan (who represented Badagara in the Lok Sabha for five terms since 1971 and later became a Minister in the V.P. Singh Cabinet) stood his ground the CBI could not probe his laying of authenticated government papers on the table of the Parliament. The case is still pending. Though in this matter Quattrocchi was the accuser and not the accused, if investigation is reopened on the Thal Vaishet matter, perhaps the secrets surrounding pollution of the Gangotri can be unveiled and the process of dirtying of the Ganga, of which Bofors was a part, can be studied in depth.
In search of the new CM
Gupta who? Well that was one question that did the rounds of the corridors of power in the Capital soon after the word leaked out last Wednesday that Mr Ram Prakash Gupta had been selected to be elected as the new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh by the BJP high command.
This Maths lecturer from Allahabad University had been literally pulled out of the closet and catapulted onto the political plain by the BJP which wanted to replace Mr Kalyan Singh as Chief Minister of Indias most populous state forthwith.
Brick by brick, hungry newshounds started building profile of this hitherto little-known Guptaji and for once the old-guard were much in demand.
Yet such was the anonymity surrounding the new Chief Minister-designate that when it was announced he was arriving in the Capital on the evening flight from Lucknow, a major crisis erupted. How to recognise Mr Ram Prakash Gupta.
As hoards of news media personnel descended at Indira Gandhi International Airport to catch Mr Gupta, many realised what they were up against.
The absence of any senior leader of the party either from the state or Centre added to the misery. Finally, help came way in the form of a President of an Association who had come to receive Mr Gupta. He promised to help out the scribes, the quid pro quo being a photograph of his along with the new Chief Minister-designate.
Who says it does not pay to know the little-known as luck would have it many dailies carried the photograph prominently of Mr Gupta along with his well-wisher.
Innovation is the key
It was the other day when the Union Home Minister, Mr Lal Krishan Advani, turned 72. Among the first to greet him was Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Several others joined him and the day progressed the list of those who wanted to greet Mr Advani grew. Surprisingly one of those who called on Mr Advani was senior Congress leader Narain Dutt Tiwari. However, it so happened that the former UP Chief Minister was there in connection with some other work.
However, on seeing several garlands, bouquets and flowers piled up in the room of Mr Advanis personal staff, Mr Tiwari found out that it was the Home Ministers birthday. Having arrived with not even a flower, Mr Tiwari improvised and sought to pluck some roses from the bouquets, wrapped it around with a fax paper and then marched on to greet Mr Advani. Thats innovation if you like it.
State Cabinet meeting in PMO
It is customary for all Chief Ministers when they come to the Capital to pay a courtesy visit to the Prime Minister specially the ones who have just assumed office. Recently the Chief Minister of Sikkim, Mr Pawan Kumar Chamling, whose party was voted to power during October went a step further. He decided to greet the Prime Minister not alone but with his entire Cabinet in tow. The room of the right size had to be opened to accommodate the visitors and just as the Prime Minister took to his seat, the Chief Minister said the entire Sikkim Cabinet was in Delhi to meet him. Mr Vajpayee, known for his humour and repartee, quipped. In that case you can hold a meeting of your Cabinet here.
Reaching out to Congress President
Trust Congress workers to come out with ingenious ways of ensuring that they get access to the party chief. Last this diarist narrated the episode of one enterprising ticket-seeker brought a ticket on the Delhi-Hyderabad flight just to ensure that his case be heard. Now comes out another story, though of a different kind.
During one of her election rallies in UP to be addressed by the Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, a party worker thrust forward an old photograph that showed her and Rajiv Gandhi during their younger days. The worker in question was not parting with it but merely wanted Mrs Sonia Gandhi to autograph the same.
A little later, the Congress chief who seemed to have made a trip down the memory lane turned to one of her aides and requested if somehow a copy of the photograph could be acquired for her. What more, the worker who was then traced from among the crowd offered to part with it in original for a little price an exclusive five-minute meeting with her separately.
Mamata and the media
The Railway Minister, Ms Mamata Banerjee, has been a great hit with the media corps be it in Delhi or back home. For one whatever stand she took politically, it made news. Be it breathing down the neck of the Left Front government in West Bengal or revolting against the former Congress chief Mr Sitaram Kesri.
Ms Banerjee who prefers not to act officious has also kept her promise to media personnel. Soon after taking over as Railway Minister, she ordered that a waiting room across her room in Rail Bhavan be earmarked for the tribe. As per her directions a press room has been created and Ms Banerjee who apparently had promised the tribe in West Bengal to create one at Writers Building (the building in Calcutta where the Chief Ministers Office is located) has done so in New Delhi.
THE Government review of the Punjab Excise Administration Report for the last official year says that the net receipts were about one crore, but the steady increase in the price of liquor and other intoxicants has introduced the problem of illicit trade and manufacture which is baffling solution.
Throughout the review, the Government has its eye mainly on the financial aspect of the problem, but what the people are more concerned with is its moral and economic aspects.
If the people drink less liquor and have to pay more for it, it is evident they have to deny themselves many necessaries of life.
No wonder that crime is
increasing as the Government points out. The whole excise
policy has been a wrong one. Instead of raising the
price, the Government should close the shops and extend
local options in a liberal spirit.
| Punjab | Haryana | Himachal Pradesh | Jammu & Kashmir |
| Chandigarh | Business | Sport |
| Mailbag | Spotlight | World | 50 years of Independence | Weather |
| Search | Subscribe | Archive | Suggestion | Home | E-mail |