|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Sunday, September 19, 1999
DR KARAN SINGH was in France when the message to cut short his visit and return to India was conveyed to him. The leadership of the Congress had decided to field him against Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and this was the least the former Sadr-i-Riyasat of Kashmir expected. He had a hectic round of campaigning in Delhis election.
A visit to France must have been great relief to him but that was not to last for long. France has special significance for the erudite scholar that Dr Karan Singh is. It was in the resort town of Cannes on the Mediterranean a favourite haunt of high society he was born 68 years back. In early 1931 the dashing and young Maharaja of J & K, Sir Hari Singh, and his lovely Maharani, Tara Devi, had checked into Hotel Martinez.
Maharaja Hari Singh had taken his fourth wife for delivery in Europe. His first wife died with a child in her womb while the other two marriages were childless. He desperately wanted a heir to the throne because that with no successor, the Viceroy, as many feared, might one day invoke the notorious doctrine of lapse and bring the state under direct British administration, Dr Karan Singh is the only child of the polo-loving and champagne-drinking Maharaja.
A new chapter in Dr Karan Singhs life begins with the decision to take on the Prime Minister. A high-profile minister in Indira Gandhis Cabinet, he left the Congress about two decades back. He returned to the parent organisation only a couple of months back, resigned his Rajya Sabha seat, which he had won with the support of the National Conference and declare if the party wanted him to seek election, he was prepared to accept the challenge.
The challenge has been thrown and Dr Karan Singh has accepted it. I am taking up the challenge with a sense of great enthusiasm .... I will give him a tough time, he says. Congress leaders say it would be a Vamdev versus Vedanta standoff (Vamdev was a top VHP activist in the early nineties who refused to recognise the Constitution of India and Karan Singh is a well-known scholar of Vedanta). If the campaign is not denigrated to a low level, it will be a momentous contest.
As someone pointed out it should be verse by verse and sloka for sloka encounter. A person of Dr Karan Singhs stature and scholastic abilities will, no doubt, be more than a match to Vajpayees rhetoric and poetic fervour. Regrettably, spokespersons of the BJP sought to vitiate the atmosphere even before the former Sadr-i-Riyasat filed his nomination papers by accusing him of heading a committee which had recommended a pre-1953 status for J & K. Dr Karan Singh hit back saying he quit the committee within six months of its constitution because he differed with its view.
Dr Karan Singh has never faced an election in U.P. and he is an outsider to Lucknavis while Vajpayee had won election after election from this constituency. He, in fact, started his political career in Lucknow in the early fifties and the electorate is aware that its representative is the Prime Minister. Nevertheless elections are, after all, elections and anything may happen. The polls in the Prime Ministers constitution portends to be lively and Lucknow will be focus of the nations attention.
Dr Karan Singh has never lost an election except in 1984 when Rajiv Gandhi got the biggest-ever majority in the Lok Sabha. He was elected for the first time to the Lok Sabha in a byelection from the Udhampur constituency in 1967 when it was a walkover but in 1971 the then Jana Sangh put up strong opposition. The election in the aftermath of the Emergency in 1977 saw the rout of Indira Gandhis Congress but Karan Singh retained his seat. The 1980 election was the toughest for him because with the Congress split, he left Mrs Gandhi and joined the breakaway faction led by Devraj Urs. He managed to win despite the pledge of Sheikh Abdullah that he would not mind losing all the other five seats in J & K as long as he could defeat the states former ruler.
Having been catapulted into political life at the young age of 18, Dr Karan Singh was appointed Regent by his father, Maharaja Hari Singh, in 1949 on the intervention of Jawaharlal Nehru. He was, without a break, head of J & K for 18 years and his designation was Sadr-i-Riyasat (elected) from 1952 to 1965. He was then made the states Governor and his term lasted till 1967, when Indira Gandhi inducted him into the Union Cabinet as the youngest-ever minister at the Centre. He was 36 then.
The long and eventful career of Dr Karan Singh has been marked by physical disability. Quite young in age the muscle on his right hip and leg began to decay and he started limping. The best of doctors in India treated him, put his leg in plaster for months but the decay persisted and there was hardly any relief. His father decided to send him to the USA for treatment by the most distinguished orthopaedic surgeon at that time, Dr Philip D. Wilson. Year-long treatment in a New York Hospital, prolonged immobilisation of the hip in plaster and a major surgery was a traumatic experience for him. The operation involved permanent immobilisation of the hip joint through a bone graft and a six-inch metal pin.
He was passsing through a bad patch. He met with another accident, near Srinagar, when on shikar his car was hit by a truck and his leg broke between the knee and ankle. Another operation was performed and as he himself puts: I came round with a metal strip and six screws in my left leg to balance the metal pin in my right hip.
Since then Dr Karan Singh visibly limps but he pays compliments to Dr Wilson. The fact that to this day I can play tennis and undertake prolonged election tours without any discomfort is a tribute to the professional competence of that great surgeon, one of the most distinguished names in the history of orthopaedic surgery, he declares.
Another bout of hectic electioneering awaits him and this time it will be toughest he had ever faced. Despite his disability, Dr Karan Singh walks fast. His begins his autobiography with a quotation from the Rigveda and, possibly, this may be the theme of his campaign;
IT was in 1993, that former Haryana Chief Minister Bhajan Lal took a Kadhai (cauldron) of Adampur, his hometown, to the AICC session in Faridabad to prepare halwa (sweet) for the delegates. It now appears that Adampur is famous not only for its Kadhai but also for a dish of the antenna kind. Apart from Mr Bhajan Lal, Adampur also has another prodigal son to its credit.
Mr Subhash Chandra, the man who created the multi-million rupee Zee Telefilms, was born at Adampur in Hisar district. The man who took on the might of Star television and emerged unscathed apart from being the first off the mark in wooing Indian television audiences post-liberalisation of the sector, has been declared the Entrepreneur of the Year 1999 by Ernst and Young, the global consultants.
Chandra is not the only man from the region. Mr P.D. Gupta of Liberty shoes, who started the group 35 years ago in Karnal, is also among the top 20 entrepreneurs selected by Ernst and Young. Mr Sunil Bharati Mittal of Airtel fame, who has given a new dimension to communication technology, is also from Punjab.
Interestingly, these entrepreneurs are a result of former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Raos pathbreaking liberalisation programme. If facts are to be believed, the economic incentives have helped churn out a large number of multimillionaires during the last decade of the century. This came out during the first Ernst and Young award ceremony for Indian entrepreneurs here recently. If the global consultant is to be believed they had a tough time selecting the best out of the about 300 entries.
What was striking was that of the 20 best entrepreneurs shortlisted for the final award, around seven of them were associated with Andhra Pradesh, the home state of the former Prime Minister. B. Ramalinga Raju, B.V.R. Mohan Reddy, G.V.K. Reddy, K. Anji Reddy, K. Raghavendra Rao, K.Varaprasad Reddy, and Ramesh Gelli were among the stars of the day. It appears the liberalisation programme definitely worked for Andhra Pradesh more than it did for the northern states.
Reservation woes and Congress
Now that the Congress party has amended its constitution reserving one-third posts in the party echelons for women, the males in the party are yet to come to terms with the new reality.
The problem was accentuated when the partys Central Election Committee sat down to finalise tickets for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. There was pressure from the women members to give greater representation so that those fielded could at least be nearer the one-third.
Apparently, there was resistance from a section of the males who would question the women members if there were no lady aspirants while objecting to when there were such aspirants. The most common objection was that the party should consider the winnability factor and not just grant tickets to mahilas.
The fact that the Congress could not allot tickets to more women than its President desired was conceded by Mrs Sonia Gandhi herself.
Yet one change is discernible. It has caused a shift in the attitude of some or at least they are cautious when the subject is broached before a lady office-bearer in the AICC.
Recently while finalising candidates for the Delhi University Students Union, the Secretary in charge when asked by a General Secretary as to who were the candidates, he prefaced by saying: First of all, I must tell you that we have reserved 25 per cent for women and decided to field a girl student from among the four posts and then proceeded to reel out the list.
Reducing weight the campaigning way
With electioneering at its pitch, most of the leaders are naturally out in the open campaigning for their party from the crack of the dawn to late in the night and then follow it up with meetings with party workers.
Most politicians must be left exhausted and tired by the end of the day but they have to carry on till the elections are over, after all it is make or break.
Not only do the politicians have to cover constituencies, their round-the-clock work also upsets the routine and results in irregular food intake.
However, not many may would have realised the spin-off benefits of this excercise. At least that is what it appeared when a former MP of the Congress from South, Mr V. Narayanaswamy, greeted the former Union Minister, Mrs Margaret Alva, the other day in the AICC office.
Madam, you seem to have lost some weight was the observation he made on seeing Mrs Alva, who contested from Kanara Lok Sabha constituency in Karnataka, when she arrived at the AICC. You too have shed some, was the one-liner as she walked past Mr Narayanaswamy who spent time in Bellary as part of Mrs Sonia Gandhis team of campaigners.
Congress sugar problem
The Congress has left no stone unturned in embarrassing the Vajpayee Government over the sugar imports from Pakistan undertaken even at the height of the Kargil conflict. While the Congress has been talking about the arrival of sugar, the BJP has claimed that the imports were part of a contract that was signed before the Kargil conflict took place. All in all the sugar imports have become a bone of contention, so much so that the Congress has dubbed it Indias Sugargate.
The BJP, which has been taking pains to counter the several charges levelled by the Congress on the sugar imports, has finally got tired of it. The other day a BJP spokesman, Mr Narendra Modi, was once again asked for some clarification on the sugar imports. Mr Modi promptly retorted that the Congress was a 110-year-old party and it was only natural that it was suffering from sugar problem.
Mr Modis colleague, Mr Arun Jaitley, joined in to add that the Kargil victory was a bitter truth for the Congress and they were unable to digest it. The Congress was now adding sugar to this bitter fact, perhaps with the hope that the bitterness would be diluted.
Dreaming of scams
It is not only Sugargate that has caught the fancy of the Congress, it has been talking of other scams as well. If the Congress is to be believed the Vajpayee Government in the last 13 months has been involved in several scams, including the wheat scam and the telecom scam. The latest allegation is with regard to the Exit poll aired by Doordarshan after the Supreme Court turned down a plea by the Election Commission to ban it.
The Congress saw red over the results of the Exit poll as it predicted a majority of the BJP-led alliance. The Congress promptly described the Exit poll on Doordarshan as bogus and doubted the credentials of the agency which conducted it. The party also questioned the propriety of a public broadcaster commissioning a private agency to air an Exit poll and telecast the results in the midst of elections. The Congress alleged that there was a scam in the whole thing and it should be investigated.
The BJP General Secretary, Mr Venkaiah Naidu, however, took the Congress allegation coolly. The Congress is thinking of scams all the time, he retorted. Whether they are awake or sleeping, all that they can think of and dream of is scams. Is the Congress spokesman listening?
The Secretary in the Union Minister of Urban Affairs and Development, Mr Ashok Pahwa, surprised the organisers and the audience at the inauguration of a conference of architects. As the Secretary stepped forward to light the lamp, the organisers tried to light the candle with a match-stick. Mr Pahwa took out a lighter from his pocket and exclaimed, modern technology use kiya karo (use modern technology).
THE details received by the Railway authorities about medical aid in connection with the railway disaster at Harappa show that immediately on receipt of the report of the disaster the medical staff from Montgomery proceeded to the scene of the accident and along with the medical officers of the North-Western Railway, Khanewal and the Assistant-Surgeon in charge, of the Civil Hospital Khanewal, who had also proceeded on receipt of the news with the relief train stationed at Khanewal, rendered all possible assistance.
The injured were
promptly attended to and despatched to Lahore, Montgomery
and Khanewal by a special train at 8.30 a.m. Sixty
patients were received into the Civil Hospital at
Montgomery where suitable arrangements were made for
their treatment. Nine out of the sixty patients have
unfortunately succumbed to their injuries.nourishments.
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