January 12, 2000,
R & D IN INDIA
identity and the curriculum
advisers have ruined Cong: Panja
Party in command
COMMUNISTS assert that politics
should be in command, meaning that it is the party that
is supreme. And the BJP always had a lurking admiration
for the discipline and cadre-based structure of the
communist parties, seeing striking similarities between
the two, even if their ideologies are forever clashing
and they occupy the extreme positions in political space.
The UP unit of the BJP has decided to act on this dictum
and on Monday issued a directive to Chief
Minister Ram Prakash Gupta to order transfer of officers
only on the recommendations of the district branch of the
party. Like a good student of the communist procedure,
the party secured the sanction of the state executive
committee before committing the Chief Minister to
strictly toe the party line. In fact, the fallout is more
than open interference in the routine working of the
government and all the attendant damage to administrative
culture. The party has virtually stripped the Chief
Minister of all authority by shifting the real
decision-making to the BJP office and making his chamber
its ante room. For, the directive commands
the Chief Minister to ignore the recommendations of the
Ministers, legislators or other senior leaders while
shifting senior officials but go strictly by district
party executive. State BJP chief Om Prakash Singh finds
this totally democratic since the new system will
eliminate whimsical or punishment posting and also the
frequent uprooting of government officers. He slurrs over
the vital point of the BJP alone enjoying this democratic
veto power and other parties being pushed beyond the
periphery. Recent events suggest that this is not the end
of the matter in the BJPs efforts to dominate the
government functioning. The two-day meeting of the
state-level party leaders reverberated to sharp attacks
on the government for ignoring, if not humiliating,
senior party workers. Their suggestions are brushed
aside, they are excluded from important committees and,
what is galling, the alliance parties are cornering real
power in their hands, the lament runs. The provocation
for the last charge came from a flip-flop decision of the
Chief Minister. He first transferred a deputy
inspector-general of police to Chitrakoot Dham and when a
Loktantrik Congress Minister (incidentally a favourite of
Mr Kalyan Singh) resigned in protest he quietly spiked
the order. The police officer has powerful political
connections and that reflects in the BJP protest. The
breakaway groups which prop up the minority BJP
government are visibly annoyed at the BJP coup. And are
sure to rake it up at a Cabinet meeting. Loktantrik chief
Naresh Agarwal has already protested against senior RSS
leaders moving into the Chief Ministers house to
assist him. They were quickly sent to a backroom from the
more prominent front hall. There was a similar protest
when Mr Gupta promised to build a temple at Ayodhya. Now
he has been reduced to a figurehead. The central
leadership of the party was congratulating itself when it
dragged out the old man from retirement and successfully
scotched open infighting. That ploy has come unstuck. Mr
Gupta is proving to be weak, indecisive and hence on a
non-stop please-all mission.
One positive step in Bihar
COMPLIANCE, if not obedience, is what the Election Commission requires from the government or governments concerned with the poll process to make its exercise peaceful and transparent. Dr M.S. Gill did well to tell the Rashtriya Janata Dal Government in Bihar not to seek a vote-on-account to meet the expenditure beyond March 31. The Rabri-Laloo set-up has done one reasonable thing in several months. This is to follow the Election Commission's directive for the present! A supplementary demand for grants to meet the gaps in the current financial year will, however, be quite in order. All political parties should clear it sincerely in the on-going Assembly session. A vote-on-account could have given the ruling set-up some avoidable advantages on the eve of the elections. The ruling mindset is well known. The Governor's inaugural address delivered in the Assembly on Monday was full of promises in its unexpurgated form. The dream-selling and vote-catching part was excised rather unwillingly and what Mr V.S. Pandey spoke amidst the din was ritualistically necessary. The term of the present Assembly will expire in April. The poll will be held on February 12, 17 and 22. Predictably, there will be a repoll in more than two dozen constituencies where inter-party feud is compelling the available law-enforcement agencies to seek a massive deployment of paramilitary forces. During the Lok Sabha election, the EC lost its personnel in unthinkable landmine blasts; so did the security forces. As Dr Gill commented then, weapons or devices used in battlefields were not expected to be found in the electoral arena. Hopefully, the ordeal of the commission will be over by February 26. (The counting of votes will begin on February 25).
The Budget is a notional
thing in Bihar. The allocated money does not reach the
poor who do not understand the textbook language which
seeks to claim that feudalism is dead. Those who do not
die of preventable diseases perish in thoughtess Ranbir
Sena or People's War Group shoot-outs. Financial
compensation comes faster than any normal relief; money
minimises voter alienation. The key players Mr
Laloo Yadav, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, Mr Nitish Kumar et al
are set for power-grabbing in solo or synchronised
violent electoral shows. The need of the hour is not to
get worried about the "Budget". It is the
ensuring of peace and decorum in the coming weeks. The
present Governor, who does not have sufficient experience
of lung-and-muscle-power management in an Assembly like
that of Bihar, may have felt happy at the dropping of
"his" promises from the speech he read on
January 10. But he must have been disturbed by the
innovative and poetical slogans which hit his ears:
"Jangal raj mitana hai / RJD sarkar hatana
hai". The BJP, which has built a noticeable cadre
particularly in North and Central Bihar, is taking the
lead in aggressiveness, leaving the Samata Party and the
Congress behind in certain places around Darbhanga,
Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Champaran and even Murger The
Ganga is easily crossed now that "maili
Ganga" of the "inheritors of heaven on the
earth". From Gaya and Jehanabad to Ranchi, the
atmosphere is tense. Who bothers about Arrah, the
traumatised belt? Dr Gill should be happy with the
respect shown to his writ under compulsion by the
Laloo-Rabri leadership. But he will have to keep his
fingers crossed until the poll results are announced.
Sorry, there is no L.P. Singh on the scene to guide him
in dealing with the trauma of an exploited, overpopulated
and goonda-governed state.
Uniform sales tax
THE confusion over the implementation of the decision in favour of a uniform sales tax structure for the entire country should not be taken as a sign of failure of the scheme approved at the Chief Ministers and State Finance Ministers Conference in November, 1999. The success of the scheme would, of course, depend upon the Centres ability to keep the "flock of states" together. The monitoring committee set up as part of the November exercise has now decided to give a 15 days reprieve to the states which have ignored the January 1, 2000 deadline for the introduction of the scheme across the country. It even recommended penal action against those states which may ignore the fresh deadline for compliance. It can be said without fear of contradiction that no state would ever be penalised for not falling in line with others on what may ultimately become a contentious issue between neighbouring states and even between the Centre and recalcitrant state governments. The reason why penal action against defiant states is theoretically not possible has something to do with the dependence for survival of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre on regional parties. Nevertheless, the implementation of the proposals for tax reforms discussed and approved at the Chief Ministers conference in November should not be abandoned because of the diffidence of a few states to implement the measures. It is evident that the Centre, and more specifically Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, will have to keep talking with the states which have developed cold feet over the introduction of a uniform sales tax regime in the country. For instance in Kerala, where the scheme has been implemented, Mr Sinha would have to explain to the various chambers of commerce and farmers' lobbies the reason why commodities which had zero tax rate, including pesticides and agricultural implements, now attract a sales tax of 4 per cent.
It must be understood
that a uniform sales tax structure would hurt the
interests of those who have grown up reaping huge profits
through what can be called manipulating the "divide
and rule" potential built into the system of
recognising the freedom available to the states to evolve
their own sales tax structure. To illustrate the point,
in an unregulated regime there were some states which
earned more revenue through a lower rate of sales tax on
automobiles than neighbouring states which had a higher
tax rate on the same product. Before the Union Territory
Administration raised the levy on the sale of petrol
Chandigarh dealers were doing "brisker
business" than their counterparts in Panchkula and
Mohali. The Union Finance Minister will also have to take
note of the rumblings in the North-East over the
non-implementation of the measure by some states. Assam
has threatened to do away with the uniform sales tax
policy if the monitoring committee headed by West Bengal
Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta fails to persuade
Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram to implement the decision.
Assam has claimed that it would lose up to Rs 55 crore
because of lower sales tax rates approved for certain
commodities in the two neighbouring states. If Assam
breaks the provisions of the agreement on uniform sales
tax the rest of the North-East may have no choice but to
follow suit. Ultimately, it would be back to square one
for the remaining states. It would be a pity if a good
idea abandoned because of faulty implementation of the
scheme combined with the tendency of the political class
to give primacy to petty local interests over national
DEFENCE R & D IN INDIA
IN a report tabled in Parliament on December 14 the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) concluded that Defence Research and Development Organisations (DRDOs) cup of achievements is woefully empty. Some of the glaring examples of these are the unavailability of the Light Combat Aircraft (LAC), a multi-barrel rocket launcher system, the AWACS type aircraft, and the main battle tank. Of course, the upgrading of MIG-21 is yet another story.
One of the paradoxes of scientific research in India is the glaring discrepancy between its achievements in the highly technical and scientific fields of space research, and its continued and abject dependence on foreign suppliers, even for armaments of only moderate levels of sophistication. Even in the case of the former, although the countrys imagination may have been captured with the Agni and Prithvi missiles, we have failed to develop any of the bread and butter systems such as Trishul and Akash surface-to-air missiles or the Nag anti-tank missile projects which are six years behind schedule.
Unlike other countries, in India, with details of defence production remaining in the realm of highly classified information, there has been little by way of detailed analysis of the efficiency levels achieved by our defence R&D and production units. Ultimately, the question arises as to why we have to buy abroad even today more than 80 per cent of our defence equipment (in financial terms if not in numbers), despite 50 years of building up our defence R&D and production capacity?
Even a cursory glance at our own organisation will show that the system caters for three distinct and independent departments R&D production and quality assurance. It is also significant to note that the coordination and unification if it at all can be called that of all these three specific departments takes place only at the level of the Secretary of Defence Production. There is no real effective coordination at any of the technical working levels, and it is felt that this is one of the fundamental weaknesses of our system.
The system lacks uniformity, in that the user has to look to three or four separate agencies for the development and production of the same commodity. The existing control mechanism tends to breakdown, and failure to coordinate fully the efforts of all such agencies results in the lack of unified direction and integration of development and production effort.
Apart from the concept of unified production control, another major difference between our development and production organisation, and say those of the UK and the USA, is in the command and control set-up. It is true that both the UK and the USA as well as with us, a civilian scientist is the top adviser for the R&D matters at the ministerial level. This is how it should be. However, whereas in the former countries the executive control of development and production vests with the respective Service chiefs, in our country this remains the direct function of the Minister of Defence Production.
The stage has now long passed, and a time has come for R&D and production to revert to their proper place under the executive control of the Services which they serve. It is felt that the only way for the Services to get genuinely interested and give full support to the R&D would be to place it under their executive control at the proper technical working level. The top advisory function at the ministerial level, however, can continue to remain with the civilian scientific adviser, whose status, if need be, should be equated to that of the Service chief.
When we first started the R&D, the policy was that certain key appointments (e.g. the Director of equipment-oriented establishments and also heads of certain other R&D faculties) were made tenable by Service officers only, irrespective of their seniority with the civilian scientists in the organisation. This is the practice which is followed in the UK, America and France, and this appears to be the correct system if defence R&D has got to remain 100 per cent Service-oriented.
No amount of technical and scientific excellence alone will enable the defence R&D to gain the confidence of the Services unless the latter feel that the R&D is a part and parcel of the Services organisation, and exists only and solely for them. This is where today there exists a credibility gap. In defence R&D there must exist a strong feeling for the requirement of the military-civilian team concept, not only for operations but also for management. In this respect, the bulk of technical competency must come from the civilian scientist. One pertinent factor, however, cannot be emphasised too strongly, in that continuity lies only too often in the realm of the military the pride of the mission and accomplishment, coupled with the acceptance of organisational and national responsibility.
To conclude, the internal reason for the military-technological trap, which, in spite of 50 years of defence R&D is forcing us to still buy 80 per cent of our defence equipment from abroad, is not so much due to lack of technical knowledge or lack of an industrial base, but a large measure of it is due to the lack of confidence of the Services in our defence R&D. In this respect, no matter what they say in public, the General Staff still harbours suspicion and doubt about our defence R&D and production, and quality assurance, to meet their equipment requirements in quantity and, more so, in the time required. This creates a vicious circle wherein the General Staff continuously forces or almost blackmails the government to procure the defence equipment from abroad on grounds of meeting the immediate military threat, but thereby not giving the R&D an opportunity to develop these indigenously.
Unless the R&D is totally integrated with the Services, this credibility gap between it and the military General Staff will be there, resulting in the continued search for our equipment and technology from outside, but one which we may not be able to get so easily as we did in the past. The latest example of this is that after having been caught napping in Kargil, our Services have now sent teams to Europe and other countries, marketing for their immediate requirement of armaments.
National identity and the
THE argument for the opening up of the canon is often an inflammatory red flag for the superficial, westward inclined elite too easily swept off its feet by the allurement of globalisation. The established literary tradition stands precluded before the pluralists for whom all canonical literature is the endorsement of the dominant class, a construction that is inherently Eurocentric, white and male.
The nativist apocalyptic despair is understandable in the face of the overwhelming assertion of the traditionally oppressed and disenfranchised vernacular writer for identity and a voice. In this context it is important to deconstruct the cult of Shakespeare which seems to convey that the greats were not born great but their fame was a result of a cross century propaganda. Fame may be as much a product of construction by society as of innate genius. Shakespeares fame was a deliberate and politically motivated construct that evolved out of an attempt to bestow cultural supremacy on the British empire. As Terence Hawkes, the famous Shakespeare critic, argues, If Shakespeare had died at birth, we would have had to find some one else. To promote the British Empire he was the most suitable candidate for the symbol of national cohesion and British nationalism. Though intrinsic greatness does exist, it is the state and society that decides how to recognise it and forge reputations. Shakespeare wrote in Richard III, the purest treasure mortal times afford is spotless reputation; that away, men are but gilded loam or painted clay. The uncertain worth of reputations and its relationship with society and power is an idea that often appears in the plays of Shakespeare.
The western culture programme as it is presently structured around a core list which consists of the Great Works and an outdated philosophy of Greece, Europe and America hurts people of other nations mentally and emotionally in ways that are not even recognised. Recently, the Western Civilisation course, like many liberal arts requirements at many American and Indian universities, has fallen victim to sentiments voiced by students and faculty members alike that students should feel free to choose their own courses. For instance, after a two-year debate at the University of Stanford, a new course entitled Culture, Ideas, Values has been introduced. This course includes the study of works by women, minorities, and persons of colour as laid down in the guidelines, and all must study at least one of the non-European cultures that have become components of the diverse American society. One might note that this guideline can be met through, say, the inclusion of the Mahabharta, Urdu poetry or some classical Japanese poems and a Latin-American novel. The choice of new texts will reflect the make-up of the universitys minority population. Thus, Greek slavery could be taken up in the discussion of Aristotles Ethics and later forms of exploitation can be explored by looking at Calibans role in The Tempest with special emphasis on Aime Cesaires reworking of this play. A major change in the interpretation of canonical texts is itself a process of effecting canon change.
It must be kept in mind that attempts to uphold the canon or to destabilise it are always in some sense political as well as cultural. Neocolonialism, racism and sexism underlying all canon formations can be understood through discourse analysis which helps to reveal how power structures operate, and knowledge and action embodies beliefs, cultural values and ideology. At a juncture when questions of nation and national identity have become very significant, departments of English in India, for instance, are still the victims of this western discourse, visible in the inordinate emphasis on western texts.
The Oedipal compulsions of the motherculture compel many to view native English lineages more as a heritage to be protected than as an object to be problematised. They behave, in the words of Terry Eagleton, with all the studied self-consciousness of the parvenu who anxiously seek paternal approval, flamboyantly becoming self-parodically, more English than the English. Let them pay heed to James Joyces assertion of his nationalism when he told a friend: It is my revolt against the English conventions, literary and otherwise, that is the main source of my talent.
Whenever a theory is to be devised or an education policy framed we have to bear in mind the view that national identity can always be deliberately influenced through the national curriculum. Let the intellectual leadership in the country emphasise the role of literature in various parts and languages as vital for helping the coming generations towards a critical understanding of the world and the cultural environment in which they live.
This must not be construed as a descent into xenophobia as is the case when cultures are aggressively associated with the nation or the state, but as an opposition to the implied hegemony of the western canon with a perspective of intellectual freedom. We must not fail to grasp the odd situation in which we are deeply sympathetic to other peoples cultural traditions and literature, but disdainful towards our own. The solution that I can see is a multicultural relativism and an extensively inclusionary curriculum with a sense of civic identity at its core which has the potential of creating a sense of dignity and self-esteem, though it will never be possible to get rid of the instruments of ownership, be it of culture, identity, nationality and power which inexorably resonate in all literary texts.
You can reduce cultuo a politically denuded thesaurus where ontologically and epistemologically you can fix the relationship between citizenship, the arts and language, thereby extorting differences into reconciliation.
Memories of Kandahar
MY father was several years senior to the late Dr P.N. Chhuttani and had graduated from the same medical college at Lahore. His first job after graduation was in Afghanistan as a medical officer. I had just joined school in Lahore when it was decided that I too with my mother would join my father in this assignment.
King Amanullah was the ruler of Afghanistan during those days. We reached Kabul via Peshawar and Khyber Pass. The bus journey through the Khyber Pass was slow and dusty but uneventful. The relations between Afghanistan and India were cordial. After serving for about a year in the main hospital at Kabul near Bagebala my father was appointed Medical Officer in-charge at the Regional Hospital at Kandahar. It was during early thirties. We were allocated a double-storey house close to the hospital and I got my admission in an Urdu teaching school which catered to the needs of about 80 Indian migrant families residing in Kandahar and its surroundings.
Kandahar was the principal town of southern Afghanistan and was connected to Chaman, Quetta and Dera Ismail Khan in India via the Bolan Pass. We resided in upper storey and the ground floor was used as a poultry farm and as a resting place for visiting Assistant Medical Officers from surrounding small towns. There was no system of having a callbell at the main gate below. This was solidly built of walnut treewood and secured with steel strips. The caller was required to pull a half-inch diameter cotton rope projecting out with a hook on the main door. The rope passing over four different rollers used to pull a hammer to strike its gong in our sitting room in the top storey. My mother could verify the identity of the caller from the balcony above while she could open the main door by pulling another appropriate rope arrangement made for this purpose without actually coming down. There were no fans or refrigerators in the dwelling unit in those days and we needed none.
Although there was piped water supply to our house a maashki was detailed to deliver and fill two tanks of stone-built tanks in the ground floor with their traditional leather mashks. Indo-Afghan relations were quite cordial and there were never any reports of disrespect shown to our gurdwaras, mandirs or Buddhist shrines in Afghanistan. However, as a matter of caution my mother was advised to fully cover her forehead and arms while going out for visiting or shopping. There was no other social life other than weekly gettogether of all Sikhs and Hindus in a gurdwara which was, in fact, a community centre also for all celebrations. Most Indians were from north India and used to deal in cloth, utensils and medicines as well as dry fruits. A Japanese made bicycle imported through India used to cost not more than rupees 20 and was considered to be an item of luxury in a household.
The narrow roads leading from Kandahar to Chaman in the east and to Ghazni in the north were full of grape yards as well as walnut and almond trees. Large tandoor baked naans and red meat were staple food for the common man.
The countrys climate was cold and dry, very dry indeed. The Indian settlers on first arrival used to be amused to note that any leftover in a large tray of pink or white grapes did not perish as in India but used to turn into kishmish with a long shelf life. Common Afghan was God fearing and could be trusted. It was only decades later that religious fundamentalism sneaked into the country from outside and tried to pollute the minds of simple Afghans.
Within a year after my fathers arrival at Kandahar political turmoil started in Kabul. There were sharp differences between King Amanullah and those surrounding him. There was an uprising led by Bacha Sakka. Groups of gun wielding Afghans closed in towards Kabul and the king was deposed. Amanullah took refuge in Italy and could never return. This was before 1933. Everything suddenly appeared to be unsettling. My father tendered his resignation through the Indian consulate at Kabul and decided to leave for India.
He was advised to use the shortest route to India from Kandahar via the Bolan Pass to Quetta. It was summer with beautiful foliage and green landscape studded with fruit trees on both sides of hilly and narrow road. We were on horseback. As we neared the small town of Maruf, about 50 miles from Chaman, suddenly we were surrounded by a team of rebel sowing allegiance to Bacha Sakka. Their idea was to just relieve us of our belonging and then let us go. Luckily amongst them was one Pathan known as Lal Khan who knew my father. During our two years stay in Afghanistan we had learnt a bit of spoken Pushto and could overhear the conversation between Lal Khan and his rebel group leader. Lal Khan told him about the medical and humanitarian services rendered by my father to Afghans.
The group leader started smiling and as a gesture of goodwill provided an armed escort to us until we reached the border Indian town of Chaman. During the night journey we were taken to a jirga camp where we saw full dressed lamb carcasses being roasted on open fire and Kahwa tea in tiny cups being served to all present.
The recent hijacking of
an Indian aeroplane and the interaction of Afghan
authorities with Indian officials at Kandahar can perhaps
make us convince the Afghans that Indians are their
traditional and tried friends for centuries with no areas
of conflict and they must not be misled by others.
have ruined Cong: Panja
WHEN I went to meet Mr Ajit Kumar Panja at a place in south Calcutta as per appointment, I didnt get to meet the Union External Affairs Minister of State. I met Sri Ramakrishna of Noti Binodini, a popular Bengali drama. He was busy in the final stage of rehearsal of Noti Binodini. The day after the public show of the drama, Mr Panja gave a 40-minute taped interview to The Tribune.
The following are excerpts from the interview:
Question: How is it sir, you suddenly become a stage actor and that too in the role of Ramakrishna. You are known to the people as a politician as well as a barrister and now a new feather is added?
Answer: Oh no (laugh), not that. But really I dont know how suddenly I become an actor. You know we have an association at the Calcutta Bar Council which every year stages some drama or the other and on one occasion I got the offer of the role of Ramakrishna. With much hesitation I accepted the offer and after the public performance of the drama I found everybody appreciating my role. Obviously I got encouraged and since then I am in demand. But I can tell you, my acting is just a fun, a recreation, rather relaxation you may call it.
Q: But why not take it seriously? There are many people in politics who came from the stage and they are equally successful in both fields. Though in your case it will be otherwise. You will become a politician-turned-actor.
A: Oh, no no (laughs loudly), I have no such intention. I am in politics and I love to remain in politics. But sometime when an offer comes I may participate.
Q: Now sir, lets turn to some other things. You have been known to be a man of work and action and so far you have engaged yourself in public utility services. In three successive Congress Government in Delhi you had been the Minister with the portfolios of Development Activities and Public Utility Services. But in the present government you have been given an ornamental post. How would you justify the work?
A: Well, you have a wrong inception that in this ministry, there are no development works. Yes, there are lots of development activities. Moreover, this is a very prestigious department. Here I find no problem in serving the people. Here I get the opportunity to serve the entire nation.
Q: You are a veteran and an experienced politician. In the past you held independent portfolios but now you have been given a lesser status. Men much junior as well less experienced have been given independent portfolios. Any regrets, any complaints?
A: Its the prerogative of the Prime Minister to allot portfolios to the Minister. Perhaps he thought me right to be in this department and I gracefully accepted. I would have been glad if an independent department was given to me, but what else can be done. I am happy and I have no problem in working with Mr Jaswant Singh. He is a perfect gentleman.
Q: Sir, you worked under Mrs Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi as well as Narasimha Rao in the Congress regime and now you are with others in a coalition government under a BJP Prime Minister. Do you find any difference?
A: When I worked with Mrs Gandhi the age gap between us was so large that I sometimes found it difficult to communicate. But she was a great and lovable person and I was fortunate that I could work with her. With Rajiv Gandhi, there was no such problem. We could communicate very easily and get things done. And Narasimha Rao was rather a guardian and had a fatherly affection for us and we worked accordingly. But you must note here with Vajpayeeji, we have on the table relation! We are a different partner with different policies and ideologies. We meet and discuss the matter with him across the table and find solutions. So far, we have had no problem, we have started relying on him. We find him considerate.
Q: What is the future of the Vajpayee Government ? Will it last a full five-year term?
A: The future is bright. I feel they will not make any mistake of the past. We are here in the government to caution him and rectify things we find wrong. I find no reason why this government should not last the full term.
Q: You have been with the Congress, do you find any future of the party?
A: In West Bengal its nil, absolutely nil, and at the national level, it will depend on whom the leadership is given. If the same stock remains, the future is equally bleak.
Q: To your mind, who are responsible for the present disaster of the party?
A: First of all, it has now become a most indisciplined organisation. Here nobody trusts anybody. Theres none in the party to guide others. In the Congress, theres leadership problem, direction problem and moreover, Sonia Gandhi having with her very bad advisers who are out to stab her from the back. Its pity, Soniaji is blind about them.
Q: Who are those bad advisers ? Can you name any one ?
A: Certainly, there are many. But the most notorious among them is Pranab Mukherjee. He has ruined the Bengal Congress and now he is out to destroy the national Congress. He is the enemy of the Congress.
Q: You are at heart a Congressman, I believe and Trinamul Congress is nothing but a dissident Congress. Why then dont you all follow a policy of forgive and forget and get yourselves united. Dont you think it is better for both?
A: First of all, I deny that I am at heart a Congressman. When I have severed ties I have severed everything. I also deny the Trinamul Congress is a dissident Congress group. Its a new party with its own policies and ideologies. And talking about union? Sorry, its too late now. We have waited to the last but it is the narrow mentality and the vested interests of a few that has ruined everything. The Congress is now a party divided into several groups and those who are siding with Sonia Gandhi are the main enemies of the party. I wish Soniaji understands everything, sooner the better, otherwise the centurys oldest party will become non-existent.
Q: Now about your ministry. I understand you have been given some specific jobs and some Asian countries have been allotted to you to deal with. What are those specific jobs ?
A: I have been given 144 countries, mostly Asian and some West Asian and African countries to handle.
Q: I suppose, you deal, with all the SAARC countries. What then do you propose to do to develop, rather improve, Indias relations with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and all other countries. Would you personally like to initiate a dialogue with Pakistan ?
A: Our policy is based on Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam we love all and like to be loved by others. We want friendly relations with all, even Pakistan. But there are certain parameters. With Pakistan, we want first democracy to be restored there and then the question of dialogue comes. We cant give the signal to the world that we are anti-democratic. Its is left to Pakistan to restore first a normal negotiable situation. Only then can talks begin.
With regards to other countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan etc we have no problems. We are friendly countries and have very good relations among ourselves.
Q: And now sir, lastly about the political future of West Bengal the state you come from. Will the Marxists continue to rule in the new millennium? I feel for allowing them to run for so long 23 years at a stretch you too are responsible. Your disunity and difference in the party, I mean, the Congress Party, has helped them.
A: Thats true. Our division is their strength. But for this you better ask the Congress leadership in Delhi why did they allow things to some to such a pass. And that gentleman, I have to utter his name, who has never won any election and who has no base in the masses, is the main culprit.
Q: I am sure, you mean Pranab Mukherjee ?
A: Certainly, he is the root of all cause. So long as men like him are in the Congress, there is no future for the party. But I tell you the Trinamul Congress has turned out to be an alternative to the Congress and the people have accepted it as a reality.
Q: But Pranab Mukherjee has been dropped from the post of General Secretary of the AICC.
THE Viceroy must have discovered by this time the seriousness of his mistake in imagining that the Muslim deputation which recently waited upon him for the two-fold purpose of supporting the present repressive policy and asking for increased Muslim representation was representative of the Muslim community as a whole.
The very fact that another All-Bengal Conference has since been held at which the repressive policy of Lords Reading and Lytton has been strongly condemned is proof positive of this fact.
The additional fact that
this conference was attended and actively participated in
by such men as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Dr Khuda Bux
shows that the best Muslim opinion is as much against the
repressive policy as non-Muslim opinion.
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