Sunday, November 12, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E



American foreign policy
Is it dictated by public attitude?
by James M. Lindsay
mericans cherish the idea that partisan politics should stop at the water's edge. But in practice, bipartisanship has become a scarce commodity in American foreign policy.

The Canadian Mistress of Fiction
by Shelley Walia
Margaret Atwood's last reading session reminded me of Chomsky's lecture at Cambridge when almost 300 enthusiastic people had to be turned away as the Lady Mitchell's Hall was already overflowing.

Hindustani: lingua franca for South Asia?
by Rakshat Puri
HE release of its second issue of The Yearbook of South Asian Languages and Linguistics by Sage Publications in New Delhi provides an occasion to recall and reaffirm the linguo-cultural unity-in-diversity of South Asia.



Law of arrests
November 11, 2000
US election drama
November 10, 2000
Making same ends meet
November 9, 2000
Congress elections 
November 8, 2000
Kashmir cries for sanity
November 7, 2000
Go, Governor, go
November 6, 2000
Wanted long-term defence planning
November 5, 2000
Crime and politics
November 4, 2000
Cricket jurisprudence
November 3, 2000
Bold indictment
November 2, 2000
Azhar, Ajay and avarice
November 1, 2000


Sketch by RangaBy Harihar Swarup
Chief Ministers imposed by high commands
here is a common pattern in choosing the Chief Ministers of three newly created states — Chattisgarh, Uttaranchal and Jharkhand. Guess what it is? The Chief Ministers have been “imposed” by the respective high commands of the Congress and the BJP and, shockingly, their acceptance by the legislature parties has been taken for granted.


Battle over the ballot
he ballot bungle and allegations of foul play have brought a bad name to the election system in the USA. 


Uneasy tale of two Americas
From Martin Kettle in Washington
VERY morning, millions of Americans recite a pledge about themselves as “One nation, under God, indivisible”. But the question , after Tuesday’s split-down-the-middle presidential election, is just how true any of this is any longer?Top


American foreign policy
Is it dictated by public attitude?
by James M. Lindsay

Americans cherish the idea that partisan politics should stop at the water's edge. But in practice, bipartisanship has become a scarce commodity in American foreign policy.

Bipartisanship is not the natural state of affairs in American foreign policy. The reason is simple — Americans disagree about what constitutes their interests overseas and how best to achieve them. More often than not, these differences have fallen along party lines.

Consider one of America's most contentious foreign policy debates of the 20th century, the Senate's rejection of the Treaty of Versailles. While World War I was being fought, Democrats and Republicans put aside their differences and formed a united political front (something seen in almost all of America's wars). But just a month before the war ended and on the eve of the 1918 mid-term congressional elections, President Woodrow Wilson stuck a stick in a wasp's nest by urging his fellow Americans to reelect a Democratic Congress. A vote for Republicans, he argued, would undercut his ability to fashion a just and lasting peace.

The bitterness of the debate over the Treaty of Versailles and the suspicion that the Treaty's defeat had helped pave the road to World War II facilitated the rise of bipartisanship after World War II. In the first few years after the war, Democrats led by President Truman and Republicans led by Senator Vandenberg, the former isolationist turned internationalist who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, cooperated on historic pieces of legislation such as the UN Charter, the Marshall Plan, and the NATO Treaty. The bipartisan tradition that Truman and Vandenberg established grew stronger in the 1950s under President Dwight Eisenhower. By the early 1960s, Democrats and Republicans were nearly unanimous in supporting freer trade, high levels of defence spending, and most important, military intervention in Vietnam.

This is not to say that partisan conflict over foreign policy disappeared in the first two decades after World War II. Democrats and Republicans found things to bicker over, especially US policy toward China. Still, these disagreements paled in comparison to a level of bipartisan cooperation that, looking back decades later, is remarkable.

Then, Vietnam rocked the bipartisan tradition. The war split the country and the two parties as well. The Republican Party, once the stronghold of isolationism held firm to a muscular form of internationalism. Republicans argued that the Soviet Union was overtaking the United States, called for spending more on defence, and continued to uphold the banner of freer trade.

Democrats, meanwhile, moved in the opposite direction. The party that had once embraced President John F. Kennedy's pledge to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship" to assure the survival of liberty became skeptical of foreign entanglements. Democrats argued that most third-world conflicts had nothing to do with Moscow, embraced the idea of detente with the Soviet Union, and moved away from their support for freer trade.

Yet even as foreign policy issues increasingly came to divide Republicans and Democrats in the 1970s and 1980s, the legacy of bipartisanship continued to hold sway. Although Vietnam destroyed the knee-jerk willingness of Congress to support the President, congressional deference survived (albeit tattered) well into the 1980s. President Ronald Reagan's great ally in flights over arms control, aid to the contrast in Nicaragua, and other foreign policy issues was the reluctance of moderate Democrats to hand him a foreign policy defeat. The caution stemmed partly from political calculations — they feared being blamed for playing politics with national security — but also from the belief that publicly rebuffing a President would harm the country's long-term interests abroad.

Such fears largely disappeared with the end of the Cold War, and, as a result, the tattered bipartisanship of the 1980s gave way to a new partisanship. The change in the politics of American foreign policy is evident in the enmity congressional Republicans have displayed toward President Bill Clinton. Senator James Inhofe (Republican of Oklahoma) spoke for many in his party when he called Clinton "unquestionably the worst Commander in Chief in the history of America". The House went so far as to refuse to vote to support bombing. Not to be outdone, the Senate brought back memories of the Treaty of Versailles by voting down the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), even though President Clinton and 62 Senators asked that the vote be postponed in order to avoid damaging America's reputation overseas. Both these episodes broke with past practice. When Congress sought to wrest control of foreign policy from the President on issues such as Vietnam and the MX missile, it had vocal public support. On Kosovo and CTBT, Republicans challenged Clinton even though most Americans backed his positions.

To be fair, the temptation to use foreign policy for partisan gain is hardly restricted to members of Congress or Republicans. The potential for domestic political gain apparently drove many of President Clinton's foreign policies, including the decisions to expand NATO and to push for a National Missile Defence. And Senator Joseph Biden (Democrat of Delaware) was simply being more honest than most when he acknowledged that Democrats believed that the CTBT's defeat would help them at the polls: "(Republican Senator) Bill Roth says he will vote against the treaty. Bingo! That's $ 200,000 worth of ads" against his reelection.

What accounts for the new partisanship? It is tempting to blame it all on Clinton's polarising personality, but, in fact, it reflects several deeper causes. One is that the United States no longer faces a looming threat. With the demise of the Soviet union, there is now greater room for legitimate disagreement on the means and ends of US foreign policy. And because the Democrats and Republicans represent different constituencies with different interests, it is hardly surprising that they see the world differently.

A second cause is generational change. Elements of the old bipartisan ethic survived into the 1980s because so many members of Congress were a product of that tradition. But by the 1990s these legislators began to retire from politics. Today, 45 per cent of senators and 61 per cent of representatives first took office after 1992. (The numbers will be even higher after the November elections). These news members have known only the fractious politics of the new partisanship.

The third and most important cause of the new partisanship ironically is foreign policy's fading political importance. The American public's interest in foreign affairs, which was fairly high during the Cold War, plummeted during the 1990s. Americans concluded that their country's unparalleled power means they have little at stake abroad. With the public now absorbed with domestic politics, the inhibition against using foreign policy to score political points has broken down.

The rise of the new partisanship has created a paradox: the United States enjoys unparalleled power on the world stage, but presidents are finding it harder to mobilise support for their foreign policies. They can no longer assume that Congress and the public will follow their lead. Clinton triumphed on issues such as enlarging NATO, ending the war in Bosnia, and securing Senate approval of the Chemical Weapons Convention only after he committed the full powers of his office to building bipartisan support in Congress. Even then, the margins of victory were slim. On the issues, ranging from China policy to trade policy to global warming, Mr Clinton saw his initiatives fall victim to partisan squabbling on the Hill.

Can the next administration restore the old spirit of bipartisanship? Probably not. The tradition of Truman and Vandenberg rested on a consensus about America's role in the world; Vietnam shook that consensus and the end of the Cold War buried it. A renewed threat to American security might force Americans to reach agreement on the means and ends of American foreign policy in the 21st century, but no adversary equivalent to the Soviet Union is on the horizon.

A national debate might also produce a new foreign policy; ideally, that is a purpose elections can serve. But foreign policy has been largely an afterthought in the 2000 presidential campaign. Vice President Al Gore did not outline his foreign policy platform until April 2000, after the primaries were over, and he devoted only four spare paragraphs to the topic in his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention. Governor George W. Bush has attacked the Clinton administration for letting military readiness decline and for failing to pursue missile defence more aggressively. Otherwise, his foreign policy comments have been long on rhetoric and short on substance.

Mr Gore and Mr Bush have trodden lightly on foreign policy partly because, putting their rhetorical differences aside, they agree on the basic outlines of America's role in the world. Both are internationalists at odds with the neo-isolationists within their own parties. But the more important reason why neither has made foreign policy a focal point of his campaign is the same one behind the new partisanship: public apathy about foreign affairs. Presidential candidates naturally gravitate toward issues that ordinary Americans care about. Today, that means prescription drug benefits for seniors and not US policy toward Russia.

So whoever takes the oath of office next January can expect more of the partisanship that buffeted the Clinton administration. Whether this is for good or for ill lies in the eye of the beholder. Bipartisanship on behalf of an imprudent policy can be folly, just as partisanship on behalf of a just cause can be wise. What is clear is that politics will not stop at the water's edge simply because presidents plead for it. American foreign policy will return to the tradition of Truman and Vendenberg only when the American public demands it.

— James M. Lindsay is a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution and leading expert on US foreign policy.


The Canadian Mistress of Fiction
by Shelley Walia

Margaret Atwood's last reading session reminded me of Chomsky's lecture at Cambridge when almost 300 enthusiastic people had to be turned away as the Lady Mitchell's Hall was already overflowing. The theatre in London had already taken in 900 people. Hundreds queuing up outside had to leave disappointed.

This adulation is clear from her tenth novel, The Blind Assassin, getting the Booker this year. Her audience at most of her readings is female, but gradually over the years she has gained popularity with the male readership also who feel that her novels are too complex and multi-layered, ironic and polyphonic, embracing a great variety of themes and a multitude of literary echoes to be termed as only feminist texts. Atwood is of the firm view that feminism, like other 'issues', is only one of many approaches to a sociological problem. Puritanical women inhabit the world of The Handamaid's Tale (1986), whereas Cat's Eye (1989) is more about childhood harassment by physically stronger brothers or the interesting aspect of adult life that shows that women can be more cruel to each other than men in The Robber Bride.

Atwood's popularity grows every year. She has been published in 20 languages since the year when The Edible Woman (1969) appeared and was fortunately rejected by the publishers in 1965. She feels this was a blessing as the book appeared in the heady days of the 1968 world-wide upheaval on the campuses so that it almost became a feminist 'bible' for many radical and political minded woman academics around the world. She had begun to talk about anorexia in this novel much before anyone had ever talked of feminism. But her popularity does not wholly depend on her hard-core feminism, or her interest in ecology, or the anti-nuclear campaign which she has so wholeheartedly backed, or even her dissident voice supporting the persecuted writers around the world. The killing of the heroin in Surfacing is too senseless for her: she blames the hunters who 'to prove they could do it, they had the power to kill.' She posits why it is important to kill something which cannot be even eaten; or is hunting/killing a game to relieve oneself from boredom: 'Anything we could do to animals we could do to each other' and the animals die that we may live almost like Christ. Amusingly, in her classic novel, Surfacing, she asks the anglers to catch fish with their teeth. At least then it would be a fair play and not cold-blooded killing.

There is something deeply unsettling about her novels from Edible Woman to The Blind Assassin. They are too infused with pain: so many people die, children drown or go missing, so many of our dear ones are faithless. I still remember this frizzy, dark-haired woman almost 20 years ago, radiant in the face, very calm and peaceful, a disposition so contradictory to the painful situations and circumstances that she is always setting up in her novels. One of the main questions she seems to be asking is: how did we go wrong? 'By following the Americans and forgetting our past when children grew like flowers in the garden.' This could be her answer to the innate power to kill which lies in each one of us; power is evil, she strongly feels.

Throughout her fiction, her characters, right up to Iris Chase in The Blind Assassin, are prone to suffering. Their lives are full of loss as is clear from Iris's memoirs that she writes to bring about some reconciliation with her granddaughter. Her sister Laura, her husband Richard, her daughter Aimee, and Richard's sister Winifred have all committed suicide. And all these characters along with a novella left by Laura titled The Blind Assassin come alive in the hands of Atwood who is capable of writing by penetrating under the skin of her characters, exposing the raw nerve-endings that leave the reader on the edge and wondering how Atwood could possibly carry on so happily in her almost 30 years old marriage to the Canadian writer Graeme Gibbson.

Rivalry among the two sisters, Laura and Iris, the fascinating story of The Blind Assassin which is interspersed with sub plots of intrigue in illicit affairs and a fantasy tale of children endlessly weaving carpets on another planet till they go blind and attain the status of hired assassins, all indicate Atwood's dexterous artistry with all its multiplicity and complexity of characters and situations that make her fiction smack of a heightened awareness of the rhythms and sensuousness of life. In tone, too, this study of creativity and destructiveness is triumphantly wide-ranging. It is, by turns, bleak, funny, sensuously evocative and acutely penetrating.

We thus know and can variously analyse her characters but the writer herself remains reticent about her life. Not many know that her real name is Peggy Atwood and that she spent most of her childhood in the Quebec bush country in a log cabin without any modern creature comforts. It is here that she spent her time reading Poe and Orwell and with her brother composing tales about other planets and space travel. And then finally her family's moving to the city left her bewildered, what with the 'bizarre' manners and city culture of the different social groups that she came across.

Her parents wanted her to become a scientist but she had begun to think of becoming a writer by the time she reached college where she wrote in her diary, 'My ambition is to write the great Canadian novel.' I regard Surfacing still her best and easily the great Canadian novel now taught in about seventy percent of the departments of English around the world.

The Blind Assassin shows that Atwood has never been content with a single theme. She uses the game of science fiction here as she had done in The Handmaid's Tale and the spy story as in Bodily Harm. The Blind Assassin indicates her preoccupation with the past and its strong propensity to intrude in the present. As was seen in Alias Grace, she had already tried her hand at the historical novel too in writing about the true story of Grace Marks who was convicted of murder in 1843. But nowhere is she obsessed with the true story which she finds 'multiple and untrue.'

She is a master of the technique of superimposing the present on memories. Much of the present novel's interest lies in how one generation looks at another, how older women look to little girls or their younger sisters. Time is not linear but a dimension bending back on itself. Atwood is a wonderfully close observer of decor, clothes, slang phrases and other aspects of manners. Like Iris or Laura, she is an accomplished writer rediscovering life through phrases, songs, tastes, sights and attitudes long forgotten. Acutely observed setting, a complex tone subtly modulated and time-bending devices all go into making the novel into simply being different from her previous works and yet almost reminiscent of most of them in their mood and gothic ambience.

The Blind Assassin embodies values and attitudes and more than anything else, a consciousness of life and ethics embedded in memory and habits of thought, action and speech. It is certainly, like Surfacing, an enduring achievement with its theme treated subtly and complexly and the narrative rich in its texture and setting. More than anything else, she deserves the Booker Prize for her consummate virtuosity and ability to move into others, to ventroloquise with an amazing ability and power.

The balancing element of intellect and intuition, of self-deprecation and fine critical understanding of the intellectual interweaving with the imaginative, indicate Atwood's wide experience as a novelist and the somber brilliance and tough melancholy of the novel.


Hindustani: lingua franca for South Asia?
by Rakshat Puri

THE release of its second issue of The Yearbook of South Asian Languages and Linguistics by Sage Publications in New Delhi provides an occasion to recall and reaffirm the linguo-cultural unity-in-diversity of South Asia. The linguo-cultural situation in South Asia is relevant to the region’s emergence as a single cultural-economic entity at a time when it is becoming increasingly clear that cultural-economic regional groupings are on the way everywhere to replacing the nation-state as we know it and have known it these last two centuries.

South Asia is the region embracing the area roughly from Kabul in the north to Kanyakumari in the south and from Gwadar on the western Makran coast to Manipur in the east. In this region the many language flows, drifts, rills and rivulets add to and take off from three main streams: Sanskrit, Persian and Tamil. These three streams have flowed through thousands of years of history to form the cultural river that gives the unity-in-diversity life and character to the countries which have decided to come together in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

One of the significant signs in South Asia of linguo-cultural unity-in-diversity is the very adaptable and malleable language, Hindustani, which is spoken all over the region in many forms and versions. A visit to Kabul and Kandhar in the 1970s, to report on the unseating by Daud of King Zahir Shah, revealed that Hindustani was understood and spoken fluently enough in parts of Afghanistan.

A subsequent visit to Tehran and Shiraz in Iran indicated that despite the influence of Arabic on the Persian language, in script and vocabulary, Zend remained the lingual base. Zend has been described by linguists as a variation of Sanskrit. It would seem appropriate for Iran, whenever it should decide to join a regional grouping, to throw in its lot with SAARC. In respect of linguo-culture, Iran has less in common with its Arabic and Turkish neighbours than with the SAARC countries.

Hindustani needs, then, to be given a full and honest chance to play the significant role it is capable of playing in bringing South Asia together as a cultural-economic ensemble. It is one of the very few languages in the world that can borrow, adapt and subordinate for its own expressive use words from other tongues. All the countries in the SAARC ensemble— India most of all because it leads at present — need to give Hindustani an official position of more than passing importance in their linguo-cultural intercourse. Even those regions, such as Bangladesh and Sinhala-Tamil-speaking Sri Lanka, where a hard conviction of language-literature superiority prevails.

But, obviously, the initiative for this has to come from India and Pakistan. In India, the authorities have sought to give Hindustani a Sanskritic refinement to make it Hindi, the country’s official language.

In Pakistan, the authorities have sought to give Hindustani a Perso-Arabic refinement, to make it Urdu, that country’s official language. In many other parts of the SAARC region, for example in India’s States of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Nagaland etc, there is a desire—not only perceptible but often vociferated—for putting Hindustani in a regular and authorized Latin script. There may be many good and relevant reasons for accepting this demand—for the Latin script, not the English or any European alphabet . The Latin script would have to be harnessed to the phonetics of Hindustani.

Among the most important reasons for accepting the demand for an additional Latin script may be that it is bound to encourage cultural freedom from English. Cultural freedom begins with the freedom and ability to think independently. Secondly, the incorporation of a regular and authorised Latin script for Hindustani would make for the strengthening of South Asia’s lingua franca, bringing with it the development of a South Asian identity. Thirdly, it would enable further leaps-forward in such internationally fast-developing fields as infotech.

It is by no means clear if the authorities in India would have the sense and courage to give Hindustani the Devnagari, Persian and Latin scripts to make it the official language. Constitutional amendment would be needed for this. The obtaining Hindutva atmosphere is hardly conducive to such action. In Pakistan, the situation is even more discouraging. The constitution would have to include a stipulation for Hindustani in not only the Persian and Latin scripts but also Devnagari in addition. The mullahs and so-called mujahideen who appear to rule the military rulers of Pakistan and who confuse linguo-culture with fanatical “Islamic” religiosity would have a fit.

A contributor in the second issue of The Yearbook of South Asian Languages and Linguistics, Ashok Kelkar, is quoted by a commentator in The Hindu as saying in a reference to the ancient Sanskrit poet-philosopher, Bhartrahari, that his approach to language was based, in effect, on the premise that “words are not merely words but a means to action; hence speech-power has an incalculable force”.

Can there be any doubt about the importance, then, of the urgent need for thought everywhere in the region to provide an acceptable lingua franca for South Asia? And can there be any doubt that the lingua franca would have to be Hindustani in the Devnagari, Persian and Latin scripts? (Asia Features).


Chief Ministers imposed by high commands
By Harihar Swarup

There is a common pattern in choosing the Chief Ministers of three newly created states — Chattisgarh, Uttaranchal and Jharkhand. Guess what it is? The Chief Ministers have been “imposed” by the respective high commands of the Congress and the BJP and, shockingly, their acceptance by the legislature parties has been taken for granted. The intrusion on the rights of the legislators succeeded amidst resentment in Chattisgarh and Uttaranchal but the imposition bid in Jharkhand backfired, causing embarrassment to the BJP’s leadership. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had relieved Minister of State Babulal Mirandi from the Council of Ministers to enable him to head the new Government in Ranchi but a much senior leader, Karia Munda, revolted, declined to be inducted in place of Mirandi and staked his claim to the Chief Minister’s office. The BJP leadership was forced to declare that the question of leadership was open and now the race for the top slot is between Mr Mirandi and Mr Munda, both tribal leaders belonging to the Jharkhand region.

Both the Chief Minister of Chattisgarh, Mr Ajit Jogi, and his Uttaranchal counterpart, Mr Nityanand Swamy, as discontented MLAs say, command “artificial majority” and depend on the “crutches” of their respective high commands. Had Mr Digvijay Singh not thrown his weight in favour of Mr Jogi, he would never have been elected leader of the Congress Legislature Party. He, apparently, did so at the behest of his party’s leadership. Even as 30 tribal MLAs, owing allegiance to the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, raised their hands for Mr Jogi, seven supporters of Mr V.C.Shukla boycotted the legislature party meeting and later irate Shukla loyalists attempted to rough up Mr Digvijay Singh.

The scene was no better in Dehra Dun. Frenzied BJP workers came out in protest against the imposition of “an outsider”. “Sangarsh koi karey, taaj koi aur pahne” (the struggle for the creation of the hill state was carried forward by locals, but somebody else got the reward) was the refrain of the protest. The new Chief Minister does not belong to the hill region. Even though Mr Swamy was Chairman of the U.P. Legislative Council, little is known about his native place. Insiders say the 73-year-old Swamy’s ancestors originally hailed from Haryana but others say they came from Sindh. He has, however, grown up in Dehra Dun, became an RSS activist during his students

days and later worked as a RSS “Pracharak”. Mr Swamy’s career record reveals that he contested elections to the U.P. Assembly from the Dehra Dun constituency in 1953, 1962 and 1967 as candidate of the erstwhile Jana Sangh but every time he had to face defeat even though the percentage of his vote went up after every poll. Tenacious as he was, he did not give up and finally triumphed in 1969 as the Sangh made inroad in the hills. He was said to be close to the family of the late Congress leader, Mr Kamlapati Tripathi, and this was not to the liking of the

Sangh leaders. Mr Swamy also faced expulsion for the Jana Sangh, ostensibly for his proximity to the Congress but, records say, he went to jail during the Emergency. Later, he was readmitted to the Sangh.

BJP sources say that the party leadership choose Mr Swamy to head the tiny hill state because of his clean image. He is known to be incorruptible and never during his long career has a charge of graft been made against him. He says those who have been describing him as an outsider did not like the decision of the BJP high command to draft him as the hill state’s first Chief Minister.

There is almost a generation gap between septuagenarian Swami and the Chattisgarh Chief Minister, Mr Ajit Jogi. Now 54, Mr Jogi became a Rajya Sabha member when he was only 40 and since then he has been going up the ladder. He completed two terms in the upper house and was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1998 from the Raigarh reserved constituency of Madhya Pradesh. In the last mid-term poll, he changed his constituency to Shahdol and had to face defeat. As spokesman of the Congress he became the most visible face of his party. Initially, he was a bit shaky but with sound educational background and good command both over Hindi and English he picked up fast and often handled intricate briefings with finesse and answered even the most provocative questions with a smile.

Highly ambitious and intelligent as Mr Jogi is, he has learnt to read the political barometer quite early in his political career and always jumped to the bandwagon of the winning side. He owned his political career and nomination to the Rajya Sabha to former HRD Minister Arjun Singh but cultivated all those who were close to Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao when he was the Prime Minister. He came close to the late Sitaram Kesri but took no time to gain the confidence of Mrs Sonia Gandhi as she became the Congress President, replacing Mr Kesri. He was rewarded at the cost of two senior leaders of Chattisgarh — Mr V.C. Shukla and Mr Motilal Vora.

Mr Jogi had a brilliant academic career, having obtained a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from one of the prestigious regional college — Bhopal’s Maulana Azad College of Technology — besides obtaining a law degree. He qualified for the IAS and worked as District Collector in Sidhi, Shahdol, Raipur and Indore districts of Madhya Pradesh, gaining wide administrative experience. He quit the IAS to enter politics in 1986 amidst several charges hurled at him and entered the Rajya Sabha the same year.

Mr Jogi’s critics say he is not a tribal but a “Satnami Harijan” from Bilaspur. He is a converted Christian.Whatever may be charges against him, he is shrewd, smart and a skillful politician. He may not have a natural majority in the Congress Legislature Party now but he is capable of winning over the estranged MLAs by sheer tact in an amenable manner.


Battle over the ballot

The ballot bungle and allegations of foul play have brought a bad name to the election system in the USA. There is, however, one section of democratic people, and that too living thousands of miles away from the USA, who are happy over these developments. Senior bureaucrats in the Capital have been heard complaining that had the same thing happened in India tongues would have wagged about the systems failure in the country. In fact even now when the US system has developed a fault, there have been uncharitable remarks like the Bihar vice extending its sway over Miami shore. However, the most authoritative man on the Indian election system has not taken kindly to such remarks.

In his reaction on the US bungle, the Chief Election Commission, Dr M.S.Gill, said they need to rethink the process, including the whole question of electoral colleges in an electronically unified America. ‘‘I mean no disrespect for our great democratic friends... The process is not perfect in India. But the Commission here is empowered to order a repoll. I could order a repoll in Palm Beach.’’ Anybody listening?

Candid Soren

Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader Shibu Soren, who claims to have fought for the creation of the new state of Jharkhand for 30 years, has been very vocal about his stake for the Chief Minister's post. Though the BJP with 32 MLAs in the Jharkhand Assembly never looked like giving in to the JMM chief's demand, Mr Soren never looked like giving up. But his reminders of promises of Chief Minister's post, reportedly given to him by the NDA convener, Mr George Fernandes, in return for the JMM's support to Mr Nitish Kumar, did not finally work and the NDA finally and firmly said no to Mr Soren's demand. ‘‘But why was the veteran leader not giving up the claim to the Chief Minister's post when he had given up so much else in life,’’ Mr Soren was asked when he declared parting of ways with the NDA. ‘‘It's not something to be given up,’’ Mr Soren declared candidly.

What's in a name?

For the Congress official mouthpiece `Sandesh', the candidature of Mr Jitendra Prasada for the presidential polls of the Congress is no news. The latest issue of the magazine has two photographs of Ms Sonia Gandhi, including one in which she is filing her nomination papers, but none of Prasada. The Congress spokesman had a ready explanation for this omission. ‘‘Since Prasada filed his nomination on October 29 and the issue closed a day before, his photograph could not be accommodated,’’ he said. But what about Mr Prasada's name?

SP eyeing Cong trouble?

The trouble brewing in the Congress after CWC member Jitendra Prasada decided to challenge Ms Sonia Gandhi for the post of party President has brought forward the Samajwadi Party (SP) as a highly interested spectator.

Not only is the SP eyeing the trouble with a view to getting back at Ms Gandhi, who had once refused to come out in support of the Third Front when the party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was in the running for the deputy prime ministership, if not for the post of the Prime Minister, but is also hoping to make political capital in Uttar Pradesh, in case there is any adverse action against Mr Jitendra Prasada in the Congress.

Senior party leaders admit that they were watching the developing situation in the Congress very carefully. They are expecting that Mr Jitendra Prasada would be expelled from the Congress, which would be to their favour.

As senior leaders point out that if there is no adverse action against Mr Prasada then there would be no loss for the SP, but if the Congress takes action against him then there would be definite gains for the party. The SP is looking forward to some kind of arrangement with Mr Prasada. Senior SP leaders are not saying much but the smirk on their face reveals it all.

Kaun Banega Crorepati?

Who is the first crorepati of the popular Kaun Banega Crorepati show? Harshwardan Nawathe. Wrong. The answer should be the host, Amitabh Bachchan himself. The founder of Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Ltd, which was in the news for its huge losses and its inability to pay its creditors, has of late turned the tide. Ever since the popular television show become successful and Bachchan started raking in the moolah, ABCL creditors have been having a good time. The latest to benefit from the superstar's windfall is poor old Doordarshan. ABCL has reportedly offered to clear 50 per cent of its Rs 18 crore dues to Doordarshan immediately and pay the rest in instalments.

Lady Luck, it appears, is all smiles for Amitabh Bachchan. The owner of Star channels Rupert Murdoch recently acknowledged before shareholders of the television company that the superstar had indeed helped turn the fortune of the company in India. Star's fortune augers well for the Bollywood star as his contract for the show is bound to be extended and that too at the terms and conditions of Amitabh Bachchan. Happy days are here again!

(Contributed by T.V.Lakshminarayan, Girija Shankar Kaura, Prashant Sood and P.N.Andley).


Uneasy tale of two Americas
From Martin Kettle in Washington

EVERY morning, millions of Americans recite a pledge about themselves as “One nation, under God, indivisible”. But the question , after Tuesday’s split-down-the-middle presidential election, is just how true any of this is any longer?

“This nation has rarely appeared more divided than it does right now,” the doyen of American political commentators, David Broder, commented in his Washington Post column.

Mr Broder was one of many Americans peering over the brink this weekend, wondering just how much post-election recrimination and legal challenge the United States constitution can take.

“We say yes to counting a little more, but the legal action about which Mr Daley (the Al Gore campaign chairman) spoke elliptically should be approached with enormous caution” warned an editorial in the Washington Post.

Typically, the mood was much more brusque in New York. Enough already! ran the headline on the tabloid New York Post’s front page. “Stop whining, finish counting and move on.”

Over on the west coast, the response was just as characteristically mellow. “There’s time to sort this out without resorting to hysterics,” counselled the Los Angeles Times in an editorial.

The hysteria level was as strong on the right as it was on the left. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, conservative America’s favourite playground, came out with a vintage collection of obsessive think pieces. The three headlines tell it all: A Gore Coup d’Etat? The People Have Spoken; Will Gore Listen? and Blame Bush for Hillary’s Win.

“There are two Americas, and when you look at the electoral map the division has never been clearer,” observed Rutgers university professor, Ben Barber.

“One is an old-fashioned America of traditional values. The other wants a much more open, diverse society, less judgmental of people. One America wanted to impeach and remove Clinton. The other wanted to exonerate him”.

Not much was spoken about the Clinton factor in the election campaign that everyone thought had ended on Tuesday. But the issue was very much there, just below the surface. Tuesday’s exit polls showed that 44 per cent of voters said the Clinton scandals were important in deciding which way they would vote.

The sense of division in modern America came through very clearly in the November 7 election. Americans divided 50-50 in the presidential election, 50-50 in the Senate election, and 50-50 in the House of Representatives election. More than one commentator this week has quoted Abraham Lincoln’s solemn words: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

The divisions have sparked creative thinking in some quarters. “Let’s face it. This election was basically a tie,” says Gail Collins, of the New York Times, calling on Bush and Gore to respond accordingly by moderating their calls for absolute victory.

In the same paper, Thomas Friedman went even further. “This unprecedented ending to a US election calls for an unprecedented response-some kind of national unity cabinet,” he suggested. If Bush wins, he should appoint Bill Clinton as his secretary of state and give Al Gore a seat in the cabinet. If Gore wins, Colin Powell should go to state and Bush should get the education secretaryship. I’m serious — sort of,’’ Mr Friedman wrote.

Others have not been. The satirical magazine Onion carried a front page celebrating the election of “President Bush or Gore” amid crowds of ``delirious Republicans or Democrats’’ in a report datelined “Austin or Nashville.”

Radio commentator Peter Loge took up the idea, suggesting “a tag-team presidency”. If charm and schmooze were needed, Bush could do the presidential duties. If a bit of knowledge was required, Gore could take over.

But the real mood in America is uneasy, and the huge interest which the election has generated is beginning to harden into something more apprehensive.

“Beware what you wish for,” the columnist Charles Krauthammer cautioned. “It is deeply troubling that the future course of a country of 275 million should be determined by a handful of voters.” 
— By arrangement with The Guardian

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