Sunday, January 9, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E

What is wrong with us and what is keeping us back?

Our failure is due to bottlenecks
Politicians and bureaucrats must take urgent action
by T. N. Kaul
WE Indians, by habit and nature, are inclined to glorify our past, and denigrate our present. There is nothing wrong with this attitude except that it must not encourage us to run down our future also.

Grim picture of confusion and conflict
Proper analysis is necessary
by K. F. Rustamji
ALL democracies have a peculiar way of giving a picture of confusion and conflict. The Indian democracy specialises in it. It is a pure delight to our critics across the border.

Are we going off course?
Self-interest rules supreme
by P. D. Shastri
What is wrong with us? Everything, says a rebellious, frustrated youth. We have just wasted 52 years of independence. This mentality of self-degradation and a national inferiority complex was encouraged during the British rule to set the rulers on a high pedestal. Today it is out of court.





sketch by RangaTime’s ‘South Asian of the Year’
Harihar Swarup
TIME magazine has declared Chandra Babu Naidu as “South Asian of the Year” and described the youthful Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh as “a provincial politician from Southern India who became a beacon of hope for all of us”. A write-up in the prestigious magazine even went to the extent of describing Naidu as the sub-continent’s “most visionary politician”.


Thakre recovering after heart surgery
The New Year greeting wishing prosperity and good health had a different connotation in the BJP headquarters as some of the top leaders suddenly developed medical problems.

The Tribune
75 years ago
LONDON: A former attaché at the Czar’s court has informed Italian newspapers that Czar Nicholas deposited his fortune in London on the outbreak of the war and of this, despite withdrawals to alleviate Russian distress, 12 millions (plus interest) remains.



Our failure is due to bottlenecks
Politicians and bureaucrats must take urgent action
by T. N. Kaul

WE Indians, by habit and nature, are inclined to glorify our past, and denigrate our present. There is nothing wrong with this attitude except that it must not encourage us to run down our future also.

As our ancient culture teaches us, the past, the present and the future are artificial divisions in the long and continuous process of evolution. However, it is good to emphasise the present and examine what is wrong with us and what is keeping us back. At the same time we should not ignore what is right with us and what is keeping us going in spite of the enormous difficulties and obstacles that prevent our going forward faster.

We have made considerable progress in various fields since Independence — in agriculture, industry, infrastructure development and in science and technology. There is no doubt about it. However, we have failed to exploit advantages such as our natural resources, human skills, and the spirit of creativity that enables our entrepreneurs to prosper side by side with large-scale industries.

Our failure in the public sector is mainly due to the bottlenecks created by our powerful bureaucracy and the corrupt political leadership which is hesitant to punish rampant bribery and corruption but is anxious to provide more and more jobs to its supporters, irrespective of financial, political or social constraints. Thus we find uneconomic public sector units, failing, to make profit because of interference from the central/state ministries/departments and the lack of initiative and autonomy in the local managers.

Another factor that seems to be retarding or even preventing the benefits of our development from reaching the poorest strata of society, especially those below the poverty line who account for more than 30 per cent of the total population, is the overgrowth of our population and the failure of the government to take measures to control it through effective steps. We need:

(a) Widespread education in hygiene and health; family planning, especially among the poor in rural areas and urban slums;

(b) Adequate health hygiene and family planning units for the poorest sections of society who have the highest rate of growth of population;

(c) Effective incentives, like accelerated promotion, for small families and disincentives against large ones through restrictions of financial loans, advances etc.

After the drastic, dictatorial and compulsory sterilisation campaign launched by the late Sanjay Gandhi, and its backlash, governments seem to be afraid of taking undemocratic but effective steps for restricting our population explosion. The result is that most of the fruits of development are eaten away by the middle and upper classes and are not adequate enough to reach those who need them most i.e. one-third of the population living below the poverty line.

On the political scene, the picture is both encouraging and depressing. Encouraging in the sense that we have been able to maintain the form of democracy; depressing in that we have failed to give social, political and economic content to it.

The result is that regional pulls and pressures based on caste, language and religion are weakening the fabric of a secular democracy with a sense of social justice as had been proclaimed in our Constitution, especially in its Preamble and Directive Principles. The reasons for this deterioration are many of which the most important ones are:

(i) Mandalisation introduced by Mr V.P. Singh as Prime Minister, which has taken the country backward by a thousand years. Social and educational backwardness is not judged by actual facts or a means test but based on birth in a particular caste or creed. Even the judgement of the Supreme Court regarding “creamy layer” has been violated by several state governments that have increased the reservation quota of so-called backward classes beyond the 50 per cent limit, which the Supreme Court had laid down. The quota has been increased even to 80 per cent in some states. Even Kurmis, Ahirs and Yadavs, who are the richest farmers, are classed as “backward”. And now there is a move to include Jats as well! “Reservations have lasted 50 years while they were originally intended for only 10.

It is time we took drastic steps to rationalise the principle and application of reservations on the basis of economic, social and educational means tests rather than by birth in a particular caste or creed. However, the present electoral system seems to be a strong stumbling block in this regard as it treats caste and creed as a vote bank. The sooner it is reviewed and revised the easier it would be to set matters right.

(ii) The electoral system at present encourages money and muscle power, along with caste and creed to play an unduly prominent role in the setting up of candidates by almost all parties and determine their success at the hustings. We have been talking, for the last several decades, about electoral reforms but have done little to implement them. There is an urgent need for that now. The state must finance the bare minimum expenses involved in a candidate’s electioneering such as travelling expenses, telephone charges, provision of a jeep and POL, printing of leaflets etc, up to a certain minimum beyond which each candidate should maintain proper accounts of his/her expenses which should be audited.

Contributions by corporate bodies to particular political parties or candidates should be forbidden and the legal ceiling strictly enforced. The present system discourages honest candidates from standing for elections because of the expenses involved. Some countries in the West have adopted state financing of election expenses and we should consider implementing similar measures in our country.

(iii) Delimitation of constituencies and reducing their size in order to make them more manageable should also be considered. Bigger states like UP, MP and Bihar should be split into smaller states which are easily manageable both for holding elections and for administrative purposes.

One of the main factors which cause depression and is the bane of India is the rampant corruption, bribery and nepotism prevailing at all levels from the top political leadership to the lowest government officials such as peons, police constables, patwaris and petty clerks. Even in big cities settling electricity and telephone bills, house-taxes, getting sanctions for building plans etc are impossible unless one greases the palms of both senior and junior officials who receive protection from and share such benefits with their seniors and political bosses.

The licence and permit raj which has prevailed over the last few decades or more is a menace and creates greater opportunities for bribery and corruption. The sooner this system is simplified and streamlined the easier it would be to reduce bribery, corruption and delays in the implementation of government policies, plans and programmes.

Apart from the above glaring difficulties in the political and administrative structure the third largest obstacle is in the dispensation of justice which is unduly delayed — partly because of not filling vacancies promptly but mainly because of the tendency among the judges and magistrates to give unduly long adjournments at the request of the lawyers who fleece their clients. The result is that civil cases take more than a decade for the final pronouncement of judgement, while criminal cases take at least four to five years to reach a decision. This system is not only costly but is a negation of justice and needs to be reformed urgently.

The judiciary seems to have woken up to the need of exercising a supervisory role, as it were, over the activities of the executive but they seem to have failed in setting an example themselves by preventing the large delays and ensuring quick and fair justice. It is worth considering whether decentralisation and local autonomy in deciding petty disputes and cases through the panchayats or Lok Adalats could not be expanded and used more widely than it is at present.

The picture that India presents today has both bright and dark sides. The bright side reflects the possible and probable improvements that can and will hopefully be introduced in the next decade or two. The dark side is presented by the spirit of inability exhibited by the electorate, the political leadership and the intellectuals who seem to be sleeping in ivory towers and looking at the scene from an aloof distance without getting involved in it more directly and actively.

The media also have an important role to play but with the multiplication of media companies, they seem to be involved in a mad rush, fierce competition to encourage consumerism, and a rat race.

The system of education that we have needs to be drastically revised in order to train better qualified students who can be employed usefully for the development of the country and not merely provide cannon fodder for the warring political parties and factions or become an object of brain drain to other countries.

We have vast natural resources and a great reservoir of human talent and skill which could and should be better employed to serve the nation at all levels and especially at the lowest level i.e. below the poverty line. Our priorities need to be revised so that the gulf between the rich and the poor, the upper and the middle classes on one side and the lower classes and those below the poverty line on the other does not become wider and lead to social and political unrest and conflict.

The next decade will be a testing time — it is up to the Indian people to change the course and compel their leaders to follow a direction that leads to the greatest good of the greatest number and not the welfare of only the upper or creamy layers of society.

The people of India are hard working and long suffering — especially at the lower levels. They are patient as long as there is hope for a better future. But, once they lose hope they can get out of control and make it more difficult, if not impossible, for the powers that be to govern the country.

Let the politicians and bureaucrats, the rich and the ruling classes, beware of the dangers ahead. They must take urgent action to remedy the defects mentioned above soon — in the next decade or so. They do not have too much time to reform themselves and the system or rather the lack of it which they exploit.

India and its people are aware and awake and will not tolerate the present state of affairs for long. Our leaders must see the writing on the wall and act wisely and soon.

We have not done too badly when compared to other countries that became independent along with us or soon after. Some of them have disintegrated or have been torn by civil strife or turned into military dictatorships. We must not rest on our laurels and be smug or self-complacent. In the words of Swami Vivekananda we must arise, awake and stop not until the goal is achieved! Last but not the least, we must be prepared to tighten our belts and work hard and honestly to safeguard our hard earned independence and give social and economic content and meaning to our political democracy.

The author is a former diplomat and Foreign Secretary of India.


Grim picture of confusion and conflict
Proper analysis is necessary
by K. F. Rustamji

ALL democracies have a peculiar way of giving a picture of confusion and conflict. The Indian democracy specialises in it. It is a pure delight to our critics across the border.

If there is a national calamity, the first thing that we do is to go for each other’s throat. An earthquake (Latur), a cyclone (Orissa), or a railway accident — we like to paint a grim picture of confusion and conflict.

In an international calamity like an earthquake, the first request is for help, notably from international sources. If that help goes to one agency, its rival at once goes to the press and talks of misuse, corruption, money wasted, and the word ‘irregularities’ occurs like a ‘mantra’... So it goes on till all the foreign donors believe that there is so much corruption in India that it is best not to waste money in helping the survivors.

Take the hijacking of our flight from Kathmandu. Even while the drama was being played out, critics rushed in to show their national spirit. There were hints of internal conflict, of delays, of keeping out the Service Chiefs, of not informing the Prime Minister in time...

There is a lot about failure at Amritsar. We just cannot wait for a proper and full analysis, or a full examination of any big event. Within a few days the controversy dies down.

There is no further interest. If there has been failure, it is best forgotten. We love to be critical of ourselves, and in the process weaken the national resolve.

What a chance the UN seemed to miss of getting the leadership of the world at Kandahar. It is to the credit of the Taliban that they called them in to deal with the hijacked plane at Kandahar.

The UN should have taken over, placed forces of its own, or from other nations, at Kandahar and asked the hijackers to surrender. Instead, the UN representative gave the impression that nothing could be done.

Looking back again at Indian democracy, I would say there is no doubt that it is taking us in the right direction. There will be mistakes, there will be delays, but, as long as we can talk freely and vote freely, we can never go wrong.

The writer, a retired IPS officer, is a former member of the Police Commission.


Are we going off course?
Self-interest rules supreme
by P. D. Shastri

What is wrong with us? Everything, says a rebellious, frustrated youth. We have just wasted 52 years of independence.

This mentality of self-degradation and a national inferiority complex was encouraged during the British rule to set the rulers on a high pedestal. Today it is out of court.

No statement could be more false. Our achievements during the half century as a republic would make any older nation hold its head high with pride. To take a bird’s eye-view of some of our achievements — Once our average age was 22-25-30, today people ordinarily live up to 60 or 70.

During the British period, famines and epidemics made regular visitations and claimed tens of millions of lives. The last of the famines was the Bengal famine, just four years before independence, which killed 20 lakh people. Small-pox, cholera, plague, influenza, malaria took a toll of millions of lives frequently. Today they are things of the past.

Once we could not produce a pin; today we manufacture aeroplanes, ships, sophisticated weapons and much else. The British had arrested our growth. India was reduced to an agricultural colony of the industrialised England to supply the raw material and serve as a captive market for the British finished products (this policy was slightly softened under the compulsions of World War II). Today numberless factories are producing the wealth of the nation.

Five wars were thrust upon us (1948, ’62, ’65, ’71 and Kargil). In 1971, we took 93,000 Pakistani PoWs and knocked off 55% of Pakistan to father the new nation of Bangladesh; our most glorious moment. The Kargil war was a big feather in our cap. We were taken unawares, while the enemy occupied commanding heights.

For the first time in history, the whole of India is united under one government and one flag. Such a phenomenon during the British rule was unity in slavery. The story of our glorious achievements could go on ad infinitum but for the limitations of space.

Then, where have we gone wrong? It is in the terrible gap between the little done and the might have been done vast. We are a nation of 100 crore. The whole world’s population touched one billion only in 1730, after trackless centuries. We are the whole world. Under ideal leadership, this nation of one billion would have put the world in its pocket and walked away to world domination like another USA or erstwhile Soviet Union. We have missed the destiny that beckons us.

What then is keeping us back? After the Nehruvian area every government that took office was more concerned with its own uplift rather than the uplift of the nation and its long-term interests. V.P. Singh invented Mandalism to create a constituency to ride to power. Provincial leaders like Deve Gowda, with a limited outlook and a narrow vision, dominated India’s stage for a while. Only P.V. Narasimha Rao completed his term (and his majority was cobbled by questionable means).

Other governments were birds of passage, like Shakespeare’s ‘walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more’. Sometimes it was a new ministry every year (it reminded us of pre-de Gaulle France).

Expediency ruled the roost; principles and ideals were sacrificed at its altar. To keep in power all the main objectives for which the ruling party stood are shelved. What India needs is a moral elite, wedded to truth and ideals, who work not for personal good of the moment, but for the nation’s welfare for all time.

The other day, the Prime Minister announced that in the case of promotions for the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs) etc, merit will not be taken into consideration. A nation that pays such scant respect to merit has already signed its mediocrity warrant.

Our founding fathers allowed special rights and privileges only to SCs and STs, and for 15 years. Our rulers have made it an all-time affair. V.P. Singh compiled a list of 2148 castes to receive preferential treatment. Today’s government has already added over 50 castes or sub-castes to that big list.The Supreme Court’s writ to limit these favours to 50% is generally negatived.

Everywhere 50 to 70% jobs are barred to merit and are open to those who can produce the correct caste certificate (not always genuine). These positions are mortgaged to casteism and communalism in the name of social justice and this social justice means rank injustice to the country’s progress.

This policy divides the mind and heart of the nation and would eventually tear the nation apart. Let us not forget that disruption and disintegration are in our historical blood. Many times a strong state rose in India. But as soon as the uniting leader died, different parts fell apart. Those leaders who encourage divisive and separatist tendencies for personal good are guilty of treason against the nation. The goal is to grab power and give no thought to tomorrow.

The Women’s Reservation Bill, reserving 33% seats for women in Parliament and legislatures has been moved. There also is an uproar to divide that share in terms of castes and communities. Such reservations have given new vitality to the dark strains in our national psyche.

If government continues this policy of casteocracy for long, we shall have a horde of second class or third class engineers, doctors, administrators, scientists, professors and all that; physicians who promote disease rather than cure, engineers whose bridges collapse, administrators who lack expertise in their profession and other bosses who drag the country down. Backwards will stand first in MBBS and other professional courses, ex-officio. High castes will forge III division in place of I division in their university certificates. Minorities have to be propped up at the expense of justice and efficiency and our traditional outlook—universal and all-world has to be narrowed into caste departments.

Ours is called the century of the common man and that illusion of people’s sovereignty has to be kept up though the citizens do not feel the glow of freedom.

We are a sick society. We are the despair of democracy. Violence has become a way of life. Everyday newspapers publish lurid details of murders, robberies, kidnappings for huge ransoms (this is a new profession); the latest is the hijacking of an aeroplane; giving excruciating heartache. Disorder, chaos and absence of perfect law and order (so much pronounced during the British rule, which older people remember so nostalgically) put a brake on all progress and kept us back.

The whole atmosphere is filled by forgeries of the brain. Hypocrisy has become the badge of our tribe. Defiance of law has become a fashion among those who consider themselves politically important. They are above the law. They may embezzle crores of public money, their children may commit murder in public view. But punishment must hide its head.

The department of crime and punishment has gone haywire. As the head of the National Vigilance Commission (it is an independent body) said the other day; 94% of the high criminals go scotfree, only 6% are convicted and that too after such a long interval that it cannot serve as a deterrent. What a shame!

Ask a man in the street, what is keeping us back and his reply is mounting corruption. Corruption has risen to gigantic proportions. As Rajiv Gandhi said, of every one rupee budgeted for people’s welfare, only 17 paise reach the intended beneficiaries. Politicians and the top brass grow rich with that. They did not spare even relief funds and articles meant for Orissa’s super-cyclone sufferers.

Another national disease of ours is our utter distaste for work, not to speak of hard work. We have more holidays than working days. The colleges and universities do not have even 180 working days in a year. Strikes are too common, though strike days are not too different from working days if you consider the amount of work done.

Another negative feature is the big brain drain. The country trains engineers, doctors, computer and other specialists at an expense of more than Rs 1 lakh per head. Everyone wants to go to the USA or other foreign countries. The toppers are even more anxious to go abroad; for here caste and sifarish make a difference. There are no rewards for merit.

Religious sentiments kept our society running on an even keel. In our scriptures, there are no inventories of rights, only of duties. If you do your duty — genuine, not make-believe or pose — rights are sure to follow, as day follows night.

The religious atmosphere we have destroyed in the name of secularism — of the bogus quality. As Omar Khayyam said:

Ah love could thou and I with fate conspire
To set this sorry state of things entire
Would we not shatter it to bits and then
Rebuild it nearer to our heart’s desire.

Four hundred years ago, Nostradamus predicted that in the new century India would emerge as a super power.

Be it so. Amen.

(The writer is a thinker and retired professor of English.)


by Harihar Swarup
Time’s ‘South Asian of the Year’

TIME magazine has declared Chandra Babu Naidu as “South Asian of the Year” and described the youthful Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh as “a provincial politician from Southern India who became a beacon of hope for all of us”. A write-up in the prestigious magazine even went to the extent of describing Naidu as the sub-continent’s “most visionary politician”. But, the author who penned the write up, at the same time, made a somewhat paradoxical observation: “In just five years, he (Naidu) turned an improvised, rural backwater into India’s new information-technology hub”. The information technology, no doubt, is fantastic but people of Andhra Pradesh still continue to reel under stark poverty and Naxalite violence has touched a new high.

Andhra Pradesh’s problems notwithstanding, the most noteworthy achievement of Naidu, popularly known as “Babu”, is to effectively use the newly acquired information technology to shake up a lethargic and inefficient civil administration out of its slumber. He has developed his own software which has come to be known as “the Chief Minister’s information system”. It took over a year for him to perfect the system which includes modules on almost everything — civil supplies, districts, constituencies, education, energy, finance, education, industry, housing and forests. The system helps him to keep close tab on implementation of various programmes and call the bluff of a shirker in a moment.

For example, a separate module deals with revenue and expenditure, cross checking every day the receipt and expenditure at every district and department. It is, no doubt, a massive exercise but the accountability is foolproof and scandals like the “fodder scam” can never take place. Officers sometime receive an early morning call from the Chief Minister asking why a target could not be achieved? The officers cannot get away by putting an excuse but account for lapses, if any.

An important aspect of Babu’s Vision 2020 is adoption of information technology in all areas of development and governance. A wide area of network connecting the secretariat with the districts is almost complete and periodic video conferences with the Collectors is bound to end red tapism and administrative delays.

Entering the 49th year of his life, Naidu has been one of the youngest Chief Ministers of India. Born in a peasant’s family, he obtained the masters degree in economics and carried on research in the subject to be honoured with PhD. Business Week magazine listed him among the 50 top Asians who were initiators of change. Those who know Naidu intimately say that three qualities — organising ability, resoluteness and robust common sense — make him different than others.

Seventeen years back Babu stood virtually in sackcloth and ashes in front of his father-in-law, N.T. Rama Rao’s house. NTR had created history by routing the Congress in the 1983 Assembly elections and among the vanquished was Telugu Desam supremo’s own son-in-law. Naidu had married NTR’s third daughter, Bhubneshwari. He, apparently, wanted to jump over to the winning side but there was opposition by TDP leaders to his entry into the party and among them was another son-in-law of NTR, Dr D. Venkateswar Rao. His fear was that once Babu joined the TDP, he would be marginalised. The hunch of Dr Rao was correct; it did not take much time for Babu to come to the centrestage once he entered the party.

The credit of building the Telugu Desam Party and taking the organisation to the grassroots level goes to Naidu. With his extraordinary organising ability and backing of his mighty father-in-law, he gradually set up TDP units in each district and block to match the Congress. Naidu stood by his father-in-law when his close associate N. Bhaskar Rao revolted in a bid to unseat NTR. After the crisis was over, it was at Babu’s behest that a drive to consolidate the gains of power started. He conceived and launched a scheme, on the pattern of the ruling CPM in West Bengal, to raise a group of committed cadres in each village. Such cadres were given largesse in the shape of contracts, permits and licence for fair price shops. The membership of the party swelled.

Babu also became the chief fund raiser of the TDP and took care of the party’s day-to-day requirements while NTR concentrated on his high profile road shows and campaigns. The equation between Babu and his father-in-law was excellent and people started believing that Naidu was emerging as a true successor to NTR. But Rama Rao’s marriage with Lakshmi Parvathi in September, 1993, changed the situation and the TDP supremo began distancing himself from his favourite son-in-law and assigned important role in the party to his young wife.

The groundwork done by Babu and the manner in which he had raised and consolidated the party cadres yielded rich dividends; the TDP romped home with a massive majority in the December, 1994, election. Naidu became number two in the NTR cabinet but it was Lakshmi Parvathi who dominated the show and became the centre of power. The gulf between her and “Babu” widened and both began undercutting each other. Once NTR was not on the scene. Naidu with his superb skill and political manoeuvring outsmarted Lakshmi Parvathi and virtually captured the TDP.

Naidu was originally a creation of the Congress. He was a Youth Congress activist at the early stage of his political career. A follower of the late Prof N.G. Ranga gave him the first boost, having helped him in securing a ticket in the 1978 Assembly election. Two years later, he became a Minister in the government of T. Anjiah and continued in the Cabinets of two successive Chief Ministers — Bhavanam Venkataram and K. Vijayabhaskar Reddy.


Delhi Durbar
Thakre recovering after heart surgery

The New Year greeting wishing prosperity and good health had a different connotation in the BJP headquarters as some of the top leaders suddenly developed medical problems.

The beginning of the New Year saw at least three top leaders of the party getting admitted to hospitals after they were afflicted with some ailment or the other. The BJP President, Mr Kushabhau Thakre, who had been suffering from a cardiac problem and an ailment in his foot decided to get operated. He underwent a major heart surgery and is reported to be doing well. His improved health, party sources feel, would enable him to pitch in for a second term as party president.

Senior party general secretaries, Mr M. Venkaiah Naidu and Mr K.N. Govindacharya were the other affected functionaries in the BJP. Mr Govindacharya, who leads a very disciplined yet hectic lifestyle, was surprised to know that he was suffering from high blood pressure and sugar problem. The party has advised him to take adequate rest and return to work only after he is fully fit.

Mr Naidu is in hospital with an eye ailment. He is undergoing a major eye operation in Chennai. Having gone to attend the BJP’s National Council meeting there, he decided to stay back and get his eye problem rectified. Being the party’s official spokesman, Mr Naidu was prompt in informing his friends in the media about his problem. He told them that he would be out of action till January 25 and cautioned them against indulging in any kind of speculation on his failure to return to the Capital immediately after the Chennai meet.

Iftaar rescues Shiela?

Hosting of Iftaar by leaders has become a routine.

Last week Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda and Samajwadi Party chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav were among those who hosted Iftaars as the holy month of Ramzaan drew to a close.

However, the Iftaar hosted by Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit suddenly became the talk of the town, at least among those who are loyal to the beleaguered Mrs Dikshit.

The Delhi Chief Minister has been facing dissidence with a large section of party legislators demanding her removal. In fact, former DPCC President Deep Chand Bandhu has quit from a party post in protest.

Even as the newly-appointed AICC General Secretary, Mrs Prabha Rau, and the Secretary, Mr Pawan Bansal, who are in charge of the party affairs in the state were looking into the problem, the presence of the Congress President Mrs Sonia Gandhi, at the Chief Minister’s Iftaar was taken as a sign of victory by the loyalists. In no time word was out that all was well and dissidents once again beat a tactical retreat.

RSS soldiers

The Gujarat government’s decision to allow RSS members to join the state administration may have come under criticism from several quarters but old timers in the organisation feel there is no great deal about it. Senior RSS member and BJP Vice-President, J.P.Mathur points out that the RSS had come under a cloud during the British regime and the Congress Government after independence had capitalised on it to ostracise them. Though there was no bar on Communists or even members of the Muslim League in joining the government, the RSS was singled out by all subsequent governments. He said the RSS of today is a far cry from what it used to be before independence days. Before independence, the RSS cadre was trained on the lines of a military outfit. Training on use of arms and lathis was mandatory then. However, after the country got independence, the RSS became a kind of cultural organisation and was focusing on doing voluntary work in villages.

Mr Mathur recalls that even he underwent training on the use of arms during his early days with the RSS. His only regret was that he was never associated with any action. The reason: His associates felt that his spectacles were a give away and in the event of it dropping he would have difficulty in shooting.

Elections time again

With Assembly elections due to be held in Orissa, Bihar, Haryana and Manipur political activity has started to warm up. The majority of political parties and regional forces are once getting ready for the battle of the ballot.

For the Congress, which seemed to be in none-too-happy a position in all these states the condition seemed to be improving, at least in some.

After the rout in the Lok Sabha polls last year, in Haryana, the party got its act together. The Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee organised a meeting in Delhi which was attended by leaders of various factions. The show of unity and strength was not seen before and it raised hopes of a better showing this time around. Optimism was also generated after reports that the BJP and the INLD agreement on seat-sharing seemed to have run into rough weather.

While Haryana has come into focus again. The trend set by another Haryana leader, Mrs Sushma Swaraj at Bellary has inspired at least another political leader from another party. It seems that Bahujan Samaj Party leader, Mohammed Arif is now learning Kannada language preparing as he is, to contest from the Bellary Lok Sabha constituency.

The seat fell vacant after Mrs Sonia Gandhi decided to retain Amethi and resign from Bellary, the high profile battle which saw Mrs Swaraj camping there and carrying on her campaign in Kannada.

Advani’s nostalgia

The other day the Union Home Minister, Mr L K Advani, confessed that he became nostalgic on entering Shastri Bhavan, which among other houses several Ministries, including that of Information and Broadcasting.

Mr Advani had arrived there to the National Press Centre of the Press Information Bureau to address the media on the role of Pakistan and the hijackers identity. In his opening remarks, the Home Minister said he stepped into the building after some two decades. Mr Advani was the Minister for Information and Broadcasting in the Morarji Desai Council of Ministers in 1977.

Incidentally, the conference was also attended by daughters of two prominent political leaders, Mr Advani and Mr Subramanian Swamy. Both these ladies were there in pursuit of their professional requirement employed as they are by two prominent television networks.

(Contributed by T V Lakshminarayan, K V Prasad and P N Andley)


75 years ago
January 9, 1925 The Czar’s millions

LONDON: A former attaché at the Czar’s court has informed Italian newspapers that Czar Nicholas deposited his fortune in London on the outbreak of the war and of this, despite withdrawals to alleviate Russian distress, 12 millions (plus interest) remains.

The Czar’s surviving relations desire King George or King Manuel to arbitrate on the disposal of the money; but they cannot legally prove that the Czar is dead.

Enquiries made by the “Daily News” in Russo-British diplomatic circles neither confirm nor deny the report. Although the sum may be exaggerated, it must be remembered that the Kaiser, before his abdication, saved half a million sterling each year.


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