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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
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Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped

EDITORIALS

Nuke Khan is set free
Pakistan is deceiving the world, again
Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan’s disgraced nuclear scientist who ran what had come to be known as Khan Nuclear Walmart, is a free man today after a verdict delivered by the Islamabad High Court. The judgement, however, is reportedly a result of a secret deal between Dr Khan and the Pakistan government. This exposes Pakistan’s duplicity about its claims that it is for nuclear non-proliferation.

CPM on the wrong foot
It should not try to save Kerala party chief
The manner in which the CPM leadership has been trying to protect Kerala party secretary, Mr Pinarayi Vijayan, from being prosecuted in a serious corruption case when he was the state’s Power Minister 10 years ago will do more harm than good to the party.


EARLIER STORIES

To handcuff or not
February 8, 2009
Vanishing jobs
February 7, 2009
Resignation as a farce
February 6, 2009
Shorter the better
February 5, 2009
Trouble in EC
February 4, 2009
Terror networks intact
February 3, 2009
EC in crisis
February 2, 2009
Crisis in higher education
February 1, 2009
Ekla Chalo
January 31, 2009
Kashmir is bilateral
January 30, 2009
Outrage in Mangalore
January 29, 2009



Potatoes on GT Road
Distressed farmers need more help
A potato glut has led to a crash in prices, much to the dismay of the growers in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. Some of them spilled over the commodity on the GT Road at Khanna in Punjab recently as a token of protest.

ARTICLE

A Tribune Debate
The EC and fair polls
Controversy must not vitiate procedure
by B.G. Verghese 
It will be a pity if a smooth runup to the impending general election is vitiated by an unseemly controversy surrounding the CEC’s letter to the President allegedly recommending that Navin Chawla, one of his two colleagues in the Election Commission, be removed for partisan conduct. Gopalaswami has served the country well and there was nothing unprincipled in a private communication giving expression to his views ahead of demitting office on April 20.

MIDDLE

Lovers all
by Kumar Rakesh
Her first name was Monica, a budget tourist from Austria backpacking at Buddhist centres in India. A white-skinned, good-looking woman who at 34 appeared much younger than her age. That she was also a single making her way through the chaos of Indian streets with the help of strangers and cabbies brought her experiences which were unforgettable, though, not exactly in the way she would like.

OPED

Benjamin Netanyahumin New Israeli leader who struts
like a superpower
by Donald Macintyre 
It was Bill Clinton who drily observed after
meeting the newly elected Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu that “he thinks he is
the superpower and we are here to do
whatever he requires.                                                       
Benjamin Netanyahumin

A gifted journalist with deep commitment
by Afzal Khan
Last year when he wrote a stirring piece on Benazir Bhutto after her assassination, I e-mailed a message to Khalid Hasan to reiterate my belief that nobody could write better obituary in English than him. He was six years older than me, but fit as a fiddle. I sometimes wondered whether he would at all be tempted to write about me, and if so, what it would be like.

Chatterati
Rahul turns to youth
by Devi Cherian
Rahul Gandhi is trying hard to rejuvenate the Congress. Rahul’s mantra is to rope in youth. He is turning to professional institutions known for their pick of the brightest. Recently his trips to St Stephen College, Delhi, the NID in Ahmedabad and a business school in Hyderabad have been great success.

Chand and Fiza
‘Pub Bharo’




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Nuke Khan is set free
Pakistan is deceiving the world, again

Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan’s disgraced nuclear scientist who ran what had come to be known as Khan Nuclear Walmart, is a free man today after a verdict delivered by the Islamabad High Court. The judgement, however, is reportedly a result of a secret deal between Dr Khan and the Pakistan government. This exposes Pakistan’s duplicity about its claims that it is for nuclear non-proliferation. The man who had posed a serious threat to world security by secretly indulging in nuclear trade with Libya, Iran and North Korea should have continued to remain in jail. He had been under house arrest after he was pardoned in 2004 by the then military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf following his confessions about his involvement in nuclear proliferation. Dr Khan later retracted by saying that his revelations were made under pressure from the General.

It will be interesting to watch the impact of the court judgement on US-Pakistan relations. The US Democrats committed to nuclear nonproliferation are unlikely to take it lightly. Last month the US had imposed sanctions on the controversial scientist, his 12 associates and three Pakistani firms, barring them from any deal with the US government and private enterprises. This indicates that the Khan nuclear network is still intact. The man guilty of having committed such a serious crime as indulging in illegal trade in nuclear-enrichment technology and blueprints remains unrepentant. He has provided proof of this through his latest comments.

The truth is that what he did was not entirely his own project. He himself stated some time ago that his nuclear proliferation activities were known to the Pakistan Army high-ups and the ISI. Dr Khan’s argument was that it could not have been possible for him to send centrifuges to North Korea, which he did through that country’s military aircraft in 2000, with the Pakistan Army remaining ignorant about it. That is why the Pakistan establishment had been refusing to allow him to be interrogated by any outside agency. The US, too, has not been as forthcoming as the issue involved demanded. It could be that Washington chose to look the other way when Pakistan was going ahead with its nuclear programme and Dr Khan was busy passing on nuclear material and technology to others. The story of Pakistan’s nuclear programme would have been different today had the CIA not prevailed upon the Dutch authorities in 1975 not to arrest Dr Khan when he was suspected of stealing classified information and secretly providing it to the Pakistani authorities. 

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CPM on the wrong foot
It should not try to save Kerala party chief

The manner in which the CPM leadership has been trying to protect Kerala party secretary, Mr Pinarayi Vijayan, from being prosecuted in a serious corruption case when he was the state’s Power Minister 10 years ago will do more harm than good to the party. With the Lok Sabha elections only a few weeks away, the multi-crore SNC Lavalin scam is bound to affect the ruling CPM’s prospects in the state if it does not take a categorical stand against corruption and dump the tainted leader. Even as the Congress and the BJP have intensified their tirade against the CPM for soft-pedalling the issue, battlelines are clearly drawn within the ruling party. Chief Minister V.S. Achutanandan’s open rebellion against the CPM’s Central leadership for protecting Mr Vijayan in the corruption case is getting murkier day by day. While the Chief Minister is determined to bring Mr Vijayan to book, CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat is opposed to it.

A close look at the scandal suggests that Mr Vijayan had badly handled the Canadian contracts. He not only flouted the normal conventional systems but also violated the formalities of project implementation and awarding of contracts for the renovation of three old power houses in the state. Despite a government committee’s suggestion for giving the contract to the BHEL, a Central PSU, Mr Vijayan had selected Lavalin, a Canadian firm, at thrice the price.

The CBI has sought the Kerala Governor’s permission to prosecute Mr Vijayan. In a report to the Kerala High Court, the CBI has accused him of showing “ugly haste” in awarding the hydropower project to Lavalin. Though the Chief Minister wants to be on the right side of the law and prosecute Mr Vijayan, the party leadership dubs it politically motivated and aimed at damaging the party’s image ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. The CPM politburo may wield considerable clout and authority in Kerala’s power structure (remember how it suspended the Chief Minister himself from the party for openly defying what it calls party line on the CBI case against Mr Vijayan). But such a stand is repugnant to the avowed constitutional principles. It is time the CPM followed the rule of law.

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Potatoes on GT Road
Distressed farmers need more help

A potato glut has led to a crash in prices, much to the dismay of the growers in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. Some of them spilled over the commodity on the GT Road at Khanna in Punjab recently as a token of protest. In Uttar Pradesh, which accounts for 42 per cent of the potato production in the country, the state government has increased the potato purchase price from Rs 250 a quintal to Rs 300 under a market intervention scheme. Besides, the UP government has also lifted restrictions on the movement of potato beyond 500 km outside the state and the government will bear 25 per cent of the transportation charges.

This has led Punjab farmers to make similar demands. They are already asking for a subsidy of Rs 200 a quintal for potato growers. Punjab Markefed has agreed to offer only a freight subsidy of Rs 250 a tonne for inter-state sales and Rs 1,000 a tonne for exports. This is not enough. Exports have shrunk due to recession. A major importer like Pakistan has raised the duty on the Indian potato. The Punjab government can help farmers only up to a point as its financial condition is precarious. Still, it would not like to be seen letting down farmers in the run-up to a general election.

The freight concession would, at best, provide temporary relief. For a long-term solution, the state government will have to promote a network of food processing and cold storages so that farmers are not faced with prospects of distress sale. For want of the requisite infrastructure, a huge quantity of perishable fruits and vegetables are lost annually in Punjab. The state should have a price-monitoring agency to help farmers avoid a glut situation. Futures trading gives a clear idea of advance prices of agricultural commodities. It is strange that a self-proclaimed farmer-friendly government has failed to provide the basic facilities to farmers.

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Thought for the Day

Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them. — Oscar Wilde

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A Tribune Debate
The EC and fair polls
Controversy must not vitiate procedure
by B.G. Verghese 

It will be a pity if a smooth runup to the impending general election is vitiated by an unseemly controversy surrounding the CEC’s letter to the President allegedly recommending that Navin Chawla, one of his two colleagues in the Election Commission, be removed for partisan conduct. Gopalaswami has served the country well and there was nothing unprincipled in a private communication giving expression to his views ahead of demitting office on April 20. The problem is that the letter leaked to the press and was immediately politicised with the BJP pressing for action on the CEC’s recommendation and the Congress crying foul.

The CEC’s critics have faulted the timing of the letter that stems from charges levelled against Chawla at the time of his appointment and then withdrawn without a conclusive ruling by the Supreme Court. The EC has since worked well and guided the country through some critical elections, including those in J&K, UP and Karnataka. The Lok Sabha’s term ends on May 31 and the ensuing general election must be completed by then. A normal election takes around 30 days but this schedule can stretch with staggered polls. Given the internal security situation, a four or more stage poll seems likely. On this calculation, the poll process, including repolls and counting, could spread over 45 days, making it incumbent to start the process by about April 15 at the latest.

Normally, it might have been prudent and proper to extend the term of the incumbent CEC for six weeks to enable the current Election Commission to complete the entire process of “superintendence, direction and control” of the poll seamlessly without a change of guard mid-stream. But this might now be infeasible. The best course would, therefore, be for Gopalaswami to retire when his term ends and for the senior Commissioner, Chawla, to take over thereafter.

A third Commissioner need not be appointed in law but it would be prudent and proper to do so. In order to avoid any whisper of partisanship in this appointment favouring the ruling party, it would be an act of high statesmanship were the government voluntarily to consult with the Leaders of the Opposition, the Speaker and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha in selecting the new Commissioner in keeping with the recommendations of the Constitution Review Committee and others so that the credibility and integrity of the EC is unimpaired.

Gopalaswami and the third EC, S.Y Quraishi, were present just some days earlier at a well-attended meeting convened by the Association for Democratic Reforms and the National Election Watch Network in Mumbai to discuss electoral reforms and measures to ensure the integrity of the ensuing general election in the face of criminalisation, money and muscle power, defective rolls, voter apathy and other ills. Three resolutions were adopted. First, that any person charged with serious offences should not be allowed to contest; secondly, electronic voting machines should have a “none of the above” button and if this tallied more than the combined votes of the named candidates, there should be a repoll with none of the rejected candidates being eligible for re-nomination; and, thirdly, there is urgent need for a comprehensive Bill to regulate political parties (registration, membership, inner party democracy, public audit of accounts) on the basis of an existing Law Commission draft.

Gopalaswami and Quraishi gave several examples of the efficacy of the EC’s code of conduct and the bandobust made. In Karnataka, the poll observers seized Rs 46 crore of “contraband” sarees, liquor (carried in camouflaged tankers), and cash and gifts stowed in ambulances. In Punjab 2007, liquor sales shot up from an average of 2.5 lakh litres per month to 19.5 lakh litres in the poll month! Videography and the use of local bank and postal employees and retired civil servants as observers is contemplated as currently up to 40 per cent senior gazetted staff were out on observer duty.

In the 2007 UP poll, 350 companies of central police forces deployed neutralised local muscle power. Vulnerability mapping is being refined to pinpoint troubled areas where special measures or security is required. The CEC believed that a run-off poll to ensure that the winning candidate polled over 50 per cent of the votes would be feasible were the law amended.

Some advocated of linking eligibility of candidacy to prior representation at the panchayat/municipal level in the absence of primaries or constituency parties in India.

Various State Electoral Officers spoke of improved voter turnout with a little voter education though it was found that the 18-25 age group enrollment and urban educated voter turnout were both low. Complaints were heard of faulty electoral rolls, as from Bangalore, and of scientific methods developed by citizen-IT groups to prevent duplication and omissions.

The menace of the real estate and mining mafia was mentioned and reference made to an alleged Rs 100 crore spent by iron mineowners in just two Bellary constituencies. The CEC said photo-ID cards with unique numbers were being distributed and that the photo-elections rolls being prepared would soon reduce electoral roll deficiencies. But none of this will suffice if the EC, like Caesar’s wife, is not above suspicion.

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Lovers all
by Kumar Rakesh

Her first name was Monica, a budget tourist from Austria backpacking at Buddhist centres in India. A white-skinned, good-looking woman who at 34 appeared much younger than her age. That she was also a single making her way through the chaos of Indian streets with the help of strangers and cabbies brought her experiences which were unforgettable, though, not exactly in the way she would like.

It was on the long road journey from Leh to Srinagar that I met her and she shared her fortnight-long Indian memories.

After spending a few days in Manali, where much to her shock a taxi driver invited her home for dinner soon after she told him that she was travelling alone, Monica reached the Buddhist city of Leh and rented accommodation in one of the numerous cheap guesthouses locals run in their residences.

The host family was hospitable and the elderly couple’s young son took a rather keen interest in the new foreign guest. Two days went by blissfully as her young friend took her around those famed stupas and monasteries and then that night came.

The city had gone to sleep and she was also drifting off when the taps on her door grew louder. And there were whispers of “Monica, Monica…”. She realised that it was none other than the young man who had put down his throat more goblets of local brew than he could handle. He said he wanted to spend some time with her and when she refused he went lyrical in his broken English on her beauty and the magic it had worked on him. She freaked out, and soon family members came rushing upstairs.

The family head, his mother, apologised profusely but her last night visitor insisted in private that he meant what he said, repeating that cliché of expression, “I love you”, again and again as she packed her bags to leave next morning.

If I was embarrassed by the drunken misadventure of a fellow countryman, her mind was occupied by more highbrow thoughts. “He was a bit drunk and being maudlin. I can understand it,” she said. What was more baffling to her was his next morning’s sober claim that “I love you”. “This expression has very deep meaning for us and we cannot say it casually to a stranger. Is it different in India,” asked the chastened Austrian.

I waffled on about cultural differences and that bad-people-are-everywhere amidst her sympathetic nods.

An Indian girl I know would never ask such dumb question as the everyday experiences in our streets rife with brazen Romeos would have long made her wiser.

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New Israeli leader who struts like a superpower
by Donald Macintyre 

It was Bill Clinton who drily observed after meeting the newly elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “he thinks he is the superpower and we are here to do whatever he requires.”

If Mr Netanyahu emerges as victor in next Tuesday’s election and in the process of government formation that will follow, he is unlikely to treat President Barack Obama to a repeat of what Mr Clinton’s key Middle East aide, Dennis Ross, would later recall as that “nearly insufferable” performance in the White House in 1996.

Mr Netanyahu, who has gone out of his way to be publicly flattering about Mr Obama in recent weeks, knows a little more about diplomacy than he did then; one of several reasons why he lost the election three years later was that the Israeli public was unhappy about how unwelcome their prime minister had become in Washington.

The question of whether this is more than a superficial change, and whether he can manage to avoid alienating a new US president professedly intent on progress in the Middle East, remains a vexed one, however.

With his lead over Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party narrowing this weekend, Mr Netanyahu’s Likud cannot be regarded as a shoo-in.

But if he does win, it will have been on a platform of expanding rather than uprooting existing West Bank settlements, of the indivisibility of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, and of the need to remedy what he sees as the unfinished military job last month of toppling Hamas.

None of these positions, on present showing, are likely to commend themselves to the White House.

The paradox of Mr Netanyahu’s uneasy relationship with the US last time around is that he is the most Americanised of Israeli politicians, albeit one more linked to the neo-conservative Republican right.

He was given a US education by his émigré Israeli parents, interrupted by military service first in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit – during which he took part in the nocturnal rescue of hostages from a hijacked Sabena jet in 1972 – and later in the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

He might even have pursued an American business career, had his brother, Yoni, not been killed during the much more famous Entebbe raid in 1976; for Bibi – as he is universally if not especially warmly known – that was a seminal event.

But in 1982 he took a job in Israel’s Washington embassy as a protégé of the leading Likud figure and then-ambassador Moshe Arens, returning to Israel in 1988 to a Knesset seat and deputy ministerial post.

His rise was meteoric, if hardly untroubled. In 1993, when he was fighting for the Likud leadership, his present – and third – wife, Sara, took an anonymous call reporting the existence of a video of her husband in “compromising romantic situations” with a female image consultant.

The candidate’s response was to go on television, confess to infidelity and then accuse his Likud rivals of using “mafia methods” to undermine him.

What mainly exasperated the Clinton administration once Mr Netanyahu became Prime Minister was his foot-dragging over the Oslo accords – which he had vigorously rejected, personalizing much of his opposition around the then-prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated in 1995.

Today, he remains deeply opposed to territorial concessions to the Palestinians in any foreseeable future, arguing that they would be to pave the way for a further “Hamastan” – the term he is proud of having coined about Gaza – in the West Bank.

He has several times during the campaign dropped the name of Tony Blair when advancing his own favoured alternative: an “economic peace” under which some of the formidable obstacles to West Bank trade might be removed – but not (as many others, including Mr Blair, envisage) as a prelude to an independent Palestinian state.

The Israeli analyst Yossi Alpher thinks that if Netanyahu wins and is able to form a unity government with Ms Livni and Labour leader Ehud Barak, he might just be able to avert an early collision with the US President.

He might, Mr Alpher says, be able to persuade the President’s envoy, George Mitchell, that instead of a deal with the Palestinians he could “live with” serious negotiations with Syria as an alternative – despite his 
campaign pledges not to surrender the Golan.

This would at least have the merits of detaching Damascus from Iran – the nuclear threat from which Mr Netanyahu has made a centrepiece of his campaign.

But if, instead, he forms a right-wing coalition including the fast-rising Avigdor Lieberman, Mr Alpher believes “he’s in trouble.”

— By arrangement with The Independent

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A gifted journalist with deep commitment
by Afzal Khan

Last year when he wrote a stirring piece on Benazir Bhutto after her assassination, I e-mailed a message to Khalid Hasan to reiterate my belief that nobody could write better obituary in English than him. He was six years older than me, but fit as a fiddle. I sometimes wondered whether he would at all be tempted to write about me, and if so, what it would be like.

Khalid is no more. Little did I imagine that I shall have to do the obit piece on KH, but I thought I owed it to him. More so, because he was a friend who had been so caring and generous to the fault in egging me on to keep writing political analyses by appreciating them and even passing them on to others, including BB (Benazir Bhutto).

A couple of weeks back when I learned from Akmal Aleemi that he had been constantly running fever, I called him to enquire about his health. I found him more worried about my own post-operation condition that had kept me away from writing anything for the past few months and urging me to come to the United States for further check-up.

Khalid was a gifted and versatile journalist, an outstanding author, a kind and caring human being, a generous host and an extremely loyal friend. Innately diffident, he was finicky about the dress, demeanour, taste and standards. A journalist of deep commitment and profound knowledge, he was also an author with great flourish, prolific pen and peculiar sharp, facile style. He had varied interests, including literature, cricket, photography and music. He had a special place in his heart for Noor Jehan.

These passions, which were common to our generation, tied us in a bond of mutual recognition. Honest to the core, he lived a modest, austere life and had only recently paid off mortgage of a small townhouse in Northern Virginia. He built a vast circle of friends and admirers around the world.

He joined the Income Tax Service but soon left it and opted for journalism in the early 1960s. In Pakistan Times he served under Khawaja Asif (one of the finest editors Pakistan has produced), who polished his writings and tamed his exuberance. Several years later, KH, Khawaja Asif, H.K. Burki and Farooq Mazhar would relish nostalgic memories of their association with Pakistan Times.

Khalid settled down to write tantalisingly fresh and lively columns full of homour, gibe and barbs that attracted instant attention in Pakistan. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) was so impressed by Khalid's sharp intellect and provocative views that he named KH his first Press Secretary. Khaled recalled this episode last year: "A week after ZAB took office in the dying days of that catastrophic year of 1971, he sent for me and asked me to work for him. Until then, the Press Officer to the President — which ZAB then was — was called a public relations officer, which I thought was more appropriate to someone selling soap.

I said that much to ZAB and suggested that I should be his Press Secretary. 'Fine,' he said, but not the kind they have in America."

Once he forgot that caution and held a Press briefing in Lahore that did not go well with Bhutto who later dispatched him abroad as Press Minister. In that capacity he served in Paris, Ottawa and London. When Zia staged the coup in July 1977, Khalid was in London as a member of the Pakistan Service posted there by ZAB personally. He immediately resigned rather than serve the dictator or, in Lillian Hellmann's words, "cut my conscience to suit today's fashion."

In December 1971, he covered the stormy UN Security Council session while Indian Army was knocking at the gates of Dacca. In his subsequent columns he would fiercely defend Bhutto against persistent slander that ZAB had torn the Polish resolution which is erroneously touted as the last attempt to save the Pakistan army from surrendering. While even China opposed the resolution for being anti-Pakistan, Bhutto had shredded only the notes he had before him after delivering a tough speech. But like so many other calumnies about Bhutto, the allegation still sticks.

"Bhutto entered the Security Council looking grim and made the most emotional, though well-prepared, speech of his career", KH once wrote. "It was in that speech that ZAB said, 'I have not come here to accept abject surrender. If the Security Council wants me to be a party of the legalisation of abject surrender, then I say that under no circumstances shall it be so. The United Nations resembles those fashion houses which hide ugly realities by draping ungainly figures in alluring apparel'."

I had my first interaction with Khalid in the 1960s when he and another enterprising journalist, Salahuddin Mohammad, were running the Feature Syndicate. I was with APP in Multan and Khalid asked me to write a feature on a "begar camp" near Muzaffargarh where scores of kidnapped youth were forced to do bonded labour on a road project while being kept in chains. He appreciated it and after that we remained in touch.

Khalid authored about 40 books that included his Bhutto memoir. But he would be best remembered for brilliant English translations of verses of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, short stories of Saadat Hasan Manto and many other distinguished writers.

Khalid upheld the finest professional standards of integrity, objectivity and deep research. He would go extra length to gather and verify facts and fully observe journalistic norms while attending news conferences, briefings and interaction with political figures. His strong commitment to professional ethics is best depicted by his reaction to the episode of Iraqi photographer Muntazir al-Zaidi throwing his shoes at President Bush last year. It incensed people around the world. But Khalid looked at its sordid side as well.

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Chatterati
Rahul turns to youth
by Devi Cherian

Rahul Gandhi is trying hard to rejuvenate the Congress. Rahul’s mantra is to rope in youth. He is turning to professional institutions known for their pick of 
the brightest. Recently his trips to St Stephen College, Delhi, the NID in Ahmedabad and a business school in Hyderabad have been great success.

Right now the average age of the UPA Cabinet is 66 years but that of the CWC is much more. Interestingly, the PCC presidents who have taken charge in the last couple of years are in their 50s.

Rahul has made a list of former Youth Congress leaders who can spot talent. They are visiting various states and districts to interview potential leaders. The response to these interviews has been immense.

Patience is not a virtue here. Their questions are direct: How long is the wait for a party post or an assembly or Lok Sabha ticket? The target age is 20 to 35. Professionals like doctors and engineers are also showing a keen interest in politics.

Rahul is quietly doing his work to form his own team as his father had done when he took over.

Chand and Fiza

Sentimental programmes on TV channels cannot match the real drama of former Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Chand Mohammed and his second wife, Fiza. Former Chief Minister of Haryana Bhajan Lal was known for his shrewd manipulating ways of politicking. He could have never thought that this was what his elder son would make him go through.

It is a shame that two eminent public servants are behaving in a disgraceful manner. Chand Mohammed is the main culprit, 
no doubt, but Fiza is no babe in the woods. She is an educated woman of the world and knew exactly what she had got into. No one is interested in what conspired between these two mature, worldly-wise people.

Fiza’s high-pitched, over-dramatised press conferences have become a laughing stock. Chand keeps disappearing and reappearing, but this does not interest the common man nor does it affect the health of the state or the country.

Yes, it does affect the lives of his minor children in this ugly fight between publicity-hungry Chand and Fiza. It’s a shame that the news-hungry media is lapping up the whole affair.

‘Pub Bharo’

Renuka Chowdhry has launched a “Pub Bharo” movement. While her target may be the repressive, saffron government of Karnataka, “Pub Bharo” seems a far cry from the original Congress slogan of “Jail Bharo” during the freedom struggle.

While Renuka may, no doubt, win the hearts of cash-rich liquor barons, for the pub owners and, of course, elite youth the developments could turn embarrassing.

Sadly, the pub-bashing in Mangalore has become a feminist vs rightist issue. The role of the state and its inaction is in question. Surely, if the law exists for pubs to be open, then Renuka is within the law in trying to fill them and the Ram Sene hoodlums are outside the law.

But the bigger questions that the minister, the ministry and society need to address are: Can we roll back the Western cultural influence we have begun to live with? Does not everyone have the same right to access them, whether men or women? 

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