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EDITORIALS

Pakistan on the brink
Zardari faces ordeal of fire

P
akistan
appears to be on the edge of a precipice yet again. Its fresh experiment with democracy is doomed to failure. The Taliban and other radical Islamist forces have gained control of portions of the country and the Army is groping for direction.

Naveen wins, but…
Keeps options open on future course

O
rissa
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s victory in the motion of confidence by a voice vote in the State Assembly on Wednesday has kicked off an avoidable controversy. Though the Congress and the BJP had walked out of the House and questioned the manner in which the motion was passed, Speaker Kishore Chandra Mohanty has claimed that no illegality had been committed.



EARLIER STORIES

Army’s warning
March 11, 2009
Et tu, Naveen?
March 10, 2009
Limits of protest
March 9, 2009
Underachievers at school
March 8, 2009
Mahajot in Bengal
March 7, 2009
Pawar at play
March 6, 2009
Blame-game won’t help
March 5, 2009
Pak terror in sporting arena
March 4, 2009
A destabilisation game
March 3, 2009
Zardari courts trouble
March 2, 2009
In quest of a new identity
March 1, 2009


Terms of play
Separate politics from sports

T
he
Delhi High Court’s indictment of the Union Government for turning a blind eye to the arbitrariness in the functioning of sports bodies has not come a day too soon. Sports organisations are a favourite hunting ground for politicians. Although retired government officials and businessmen, too, are in the game of cornering posts in these bodies, the politician tends to get away with more, and for longer.

ARTICLE

Left’s dubious role
Third Front plans help the BJP
by Amulya Ganguli

T
he
Left has failed throughout its history to choose the right enemy. Perhaps it is a historical legacy dating back to the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. But, in the Indian context, the Left’s role in helping the rise of the communal forces cannot be denied. By targeting the Congress from right after Independence, the only purpose which the communists have served is to weaken perhaps the only essentially non-sectarian party in the country.


MIDDLE

A glimpse of multilingualism
by Satish K. Sharma

H
amen
bhi aagey badhne ka utna hi haq hai jitna hamarey bhaiyon ko hai`85",
(We have the right to progress as much as our brothers`85.), the thin 11-year-old girl was holding forth in an animated voice from the makeshift podium as we entered the compound of the small primary school at Ahmedabad.


OPED

Israel and Gaza
Must Jews always see themselves as victims?
by Antony Lerman

I
n
the wake of Israel’s attack on Gaza, eager voices are telling us that anti-Semitism has returned — yet again. Eight years of Hamas rockets and the world unfairly cries foul when Israel retaliates, they say. Biased media are delegitimising the Jewish state. The Left attacks Israel as uniquely evil, making it the persecuted Jew among the nations.

Lost legacy of Lohia
by G.S. Bhargava

N
ext
year will be the centenary year of Ram Manohar Lohia. He would have been a hundred years old in March, if he had not passed away in October 1967 at what was then Willingdon Nursing Home in New Delhi.

France to return as full NATO member
by Edward Cody

P
resident
Charles de Gaulle infuriated the United States when he suddenly pulled France out of NATO’s military command in 1966, arguing he had to preserve French independence in world affairs.

 


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Pakistan on the brink
Zardari faces ordeal of fire

Pakistan appears to be on the edge of a precipice yet again. Its fresh experiment with democracy is doomed to failure. The Taliban and other radical Islamist forces have gained control of portions of the country and the Army is groping for direction. At the heart of the current political crisis are political differences between President Asif Ali Zardari and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over restoring deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, which is seen as an unfinished business ever since former President Pervez Musharraf dismissed the latter along with some other judges and anointed his favourities to this critical pillar so crucial for the success of a democracy. The recent Supreme Court judgment barring Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif from contesting elections that led to the latter’s removal from the post of Punjab Chief Minister followed by imposition of governor’s rule has precipitated the political stand off between Mr Sharif and Mr Zardari whose control over Pakistan is tenuous. As such it seems that Mr Zardari’s days could be numbered.

In any seasoned democracy, political differences and agitations are viewed as normal and do not signify a failed state. But in Pakistan, electoral politics and democracy have failed to take root. The ‘long march’ by lawyers egged on by a vitriolic Nawaz Sharif and the consequent crackdown that began on Thursday is not the sole issue of concern. Pakistan has been fast giving in to the Taliban and as the two seniormost US intelligence officials — the Director, National Intelligence and Director, Military Intelligence — have testified before the US Senate Armed Services Committee, Pakistan has lost its authority in the north and west and in even the more developed parts of the country. It has allowed the Taliban to operate freely from Quetta while the tribal areas have become a ‘central nervous system’ for the al-Qaida.

This dangerous internal situation in Pakistan does not augur well for India. Some hope may lie in the recent meeting between Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani for finding a compromise. But if all fails, it remains to be seen whether the Pakistan Army will step in again even though Mr Sharif has completely ruled it out. If, however, it does, this time it will be a stretched Pakistan Army, which, despite its deployment of 120,000 troops, has not been able to control the Swat Valley and is accused of only half-heartedly helping the US in its War on Terror.

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Naveen wins, but…
Keeps options open on future course

Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s victory in the motion of confidence by a voice vote in the State Assembly on Wednesday has kicked off an avoidable controversy. Though the Congress and the BJP had walked out of the House and questioned the manner in which the motion was passed, Speaker Kishore Chandra Mohanty has claimed that no illegality had been committed. If Mr Patnaik and Mr Mohanty are to be believed, the members of the Congress and some other parties had objected to a discussion on the motion on the ground that it would influence the voters as the Election Commission’s model code of conduct was already in force. When the motion was indeed put to vote, no one asked for a division and consequently, it was passed by a voice vote. Likewise the BJP has demanded the disqualification of three of its members for switching their loyalties to the BJD, but the Speaker rejected their demand and took the vote. Governor M.C. Bhandare has met the Congress and BJP members and later summoned the Speaker. The ball is in his court now.

Whether Mr Bhandare approves of the motion or directs Mr Patnaik to seek a re-vote, it is clear that the BJD government enjoys the confidence of the House ever since the BJP, its ally, withdrew support to it on March 7 following differences with the BJD over seat sharing for the ensuing Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections. In the 147-member House, the BJD has 61 members (including the Speaker). In addition, it has the support of two members of the CPI and CPM, the NCP (2), the JMM (4) and Independents (7). This takes the total number of members supporting the government to 76. Even if three BJP members had voted against the motion, the government would not have been voted out.

While Mr Patnaik be unpurturbed about being told to seek a re-vote by the Governor, his next move will be keenly watched. He seems to be in no hurry for a pre-poll alliance with the Third Front though his aides have been in touch with leaders like Mr Sitaram Yechury. His absence from Thursday’s Third Front rally at Tumkur near Bangalore proves this. His handshake with Mr Yechury on Sunday was aimed at seeking the Left’s support to win the trust vote, while keeping options open for post-poll manoeuvres.

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Terms of play
Separate politics from sports

The Delhi High Court’s indictment of the Union Government for turning a blind eye to the arbitrariness in the functioning of sports bodies has not come a day too soon. Sports organisations are a favourite hunting ground for politicians. Although retired government officials and businessmen, too, are in the game of cornering posts in these bodies, the politician tends to get away with more, and for longer. Hence Justice Gita Mittal’s directive to the government to ensure that sports officials do not continue in their office for more than two terms or eight years is perfectly in order. The government at the Centre — regardless of the party at the helm — has been extremely lax in enforcing prevalent guidelines because these are seen as political plums or fruits of patronage.

Justice Mittal’s stinging comments came while disposing of a petition challenging Mr K P S Gill’s prolonged occupation of the presidentship of the Indian Hockey Federation. Although Mr Gill was removed as president last year by the Indian Olympic Association and an ad hoc set-up created to run hockey, the issues touched upon in Justice Mittal’s ruling are relevant for all sports organisations. The IOA itself has at its helm Mr Suresh Kalmadi, who has been in the post since 1996. If Ajay Chautala has been at the head of the table tennis body since 2001, Mr V K Malhotra has been entrenched at the helm of the archery organisation since 1972. The politicians holding such offices are not confined to one or two major parties.

Inevitably, once the leadership of sports bodies is reduced to a political perch, sports is the biggest casualty. Politicians are interested more in perpetuating their authority than creating a climate for sports, encouraging talent and developing a culture of excellence. The result —India’s ignominous performance in international competitions —is all too evident. The government must seize the judgment to crack the whip against sports organisations and make them fall in line by withholding funds and withdrawing recognition if such extreme measures are required. 

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Thought for the Day

In the future, everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes. — Andy Warhol

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Left’s dubious role
Third Front plans help the BJP
by Amulya Ganguli

The Left has failed throughout its history to choose the right enemy. Perhaps it is a historical legacy dating back to the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. But, in the Indian context, the Left’s role in helping the rise of the communal forces cannot be denied. By targeting the Congress from right after Independence, the only purpose which the communists have served is to weaken perhaps the only essentially non-sectarian party in the country.

The Left’s attitude would have been understandable if it had been able to grow to fill the vacuum it was creating by undermining the Congress. But the failure of the comrades to do so has again been highlighted by the growing belief that their position is no longer secure in even their two strongholds of West Bengal and Kerala. While the recent by-election defeat in West Bengal by a large margin has galvanised the Trinamool Congress and the Congress to form an alliance, as was feared by Mr Jyoti Basu, the unending bickering between the Chief Minister, Mr V.S.Achuthananadan, and party chief, Mr Pinarayi Vijayan, cannot but undermine the Left’s position in Kerala.

The setback in West Bengal is particularly crucial because it has come in the wake of the ideological confusion in the Leftist ranks because of Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee’s pro-private sector policies. Nothing shows the confusion more than the fact that while Mr Bhattacharjee does not mind supping with the “class enemy”, Mr Achuthanandan remains a staunch Marxist. There is no other party whose two chief ministers follow diametrically opposite lines. The conflicting interpretations of dogma have been compounded by allegations of corruption involving high functionaries, denoting the fateful consequences of long years in power.

Kerala has been slipping in and out of the Left’s control almost every fives years. But, if a surge in the combined voting percentage of the Trinamool Congress and the Congress from their present 41.2 per cent (against the Left’s 50.2 per cent) exposes a chink in the Left’s armour, it will be a devastating blow. However, instead of setting their own house in order, the comrades continue to follow policies which help their ostensible ideological enemy, the BJP, at the Congress’s expense, which is theoretically much closer to them. The Congress was also apparently willing to go slow with pro-market policies to humour the Left. Yet, the communists had little hesitation in lining up on the same side of the fence with the BJP on the nuclear deal and giving the impression that they wouldn’t mind installing Ms Mayawati in the Prime Minister’s chair with the help of the saffron camp.

It is another matter that their game-plan went awry. But what the cynical manoeuvres showed was that they were not too bothered about the national interest where the nuclear deal and the Dalit czarina’s ambitions were concerned. As Amartya Sen pointed out, there was little “justification” in pulling down the government on the nuclear deal since it had only led to the Left’s “isolation”. The isolation was the result of the pro-deal middle classes turning away from the communists, a phenomenon which is likely to hit them hard in West Bengal.

Even if ideological blinkers prevented the Left from seeing the benefits of the nuclear agreement, it should have at least considered how upsetting for the polity would be the elevation of a person whose caste-driven party’s base is confined at the moment mainly to U.P. and whose sole claim to fame is her ostentatious birthday parties and propensity to build statues of herself. It may be that the Left’s old belief that it tends to gain ground at times of turmoil which made it act so recklessly. There is little doubt that if its objective of toppling the government was fulfilled, the country would have entered a chaotic phase in which the last days of Janata Party rule when Charan Singh became the Prime Minister, or of the Janata Dal period when Chandra Shekhar adorned the post, would have seemed eminently placid.

That the comrades are still engaged in muddying the waters is evident from their plans to set up a so-called anti-Congress and anti-BJP Third Front which, they claim in all seriousness, will form the next government. Although this pipedream of theirs is unlikely to come true, it will nevertheless introduce an element of uncertainty in the electoral scene, which may affect the secular camp more than the saffron brigade. The reason for this is the role of the spoilsport which the Third Front’s heroine, Ms Mayawati, is likely to play by fielding candidates even in the seats which the BSP has little chance of winning only to undercut the Congress. Since the Congress tends to get more Dalit votes than the BJP, the latter is bound to gain from the division of Dalit votes between the BSP and the Congress.

By itself, of course, the Third Front’s prospects border on the dismal. For all the grandiose assertions by Mr Prakash Karat, it hasn’t even taken a recognizable shape since its constituents regularly fall in and out of it. The only person, apart from the Left leaders, who can be said to be a part of it is Mr Chandrababu Naidu. Otherwise, it has been at a loose end from the beginning with people like Mr Ajit Singh of the Rasthriya Lok Dal, Mr Om Prakash Chautala of the Indian National Lok Dal and Mr Brindaban Goswami of the Asom Gana Parishad drifting away towards the BJP and Ms Jayalalitha making friendly overtures to the Congress. In any event, only the most highly optimistic tactician could have thought of including both Ms Mayawati and Ms Jayalalitha in the same combination. No front can be large enough to accommodate both of these ego-centric personalities.

Needless to say, the Left itself is in the dumps and cannot hope to replicate its best ever performance of securing 61 Lok Sabha seats in 2004. If there is a drop in its tally, as Mr Basu has hinted that there will be, the person who will face the most flak is Mr Karat, for it was his single-minded anti-Americanism redolent of the “Amar nam, tomar nam, Vietnam, Vietnam” days which led to the rift in the secular camp. The Left’s fixation with the deal also led to one of the most unfortunate incidents in India’s parliamentary history when it tried to force the Speaker, Mr Somnath Chatterjee, to play a partisan role in defiance of constitutional norms during the trust vote. As Mr Chatterjee later said: “I could not compromise on the role and expectations of the Speaker as enshrined in the Constitution”. His refusal to resign, as ordered by the comrades, led to his expulsion from the CPM, suggesting that the party’s “revolutionary” baggage continues to be at odds with the accommodative traditions of a “bourgeois” democracy.

By this one rash act based on its outdated dogma, the Left confirmed that it could not be trusted to play a responsible role since it tried to pull the Speaker out of his chair to facilitate the process of toppling a government without any thought to the disruptive consequences. It is possible that the communists are still engaged in attaining their goal of wrecking the system from within, which they used to unhesitatingly proclaim in the sixties when they first came to power in the states.

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A glimpse of multilingualism
by Satish K. Sharma

Hamen bhi aagey badhne ka utna hi haq hai jitna hamarey bhaiyon ko hai`85", (We have the right to progress as much as our brothers`85.), the thin 11-year-old girl was holding forth in an animated voice from the makeshift podium as we entered the compound of the small primary school at Ahmedabad.

I was told she was speaking on the topic, "Aaj ke daur mein taleem ki ahmiyat (Importance of education in modern age). The declamation had won the girl a prize in the previous year’s inter-school debating competition. Today, she was pressed into service with the same speech to keep the attention of the school children engaged till the chief guest (yours truly) arrived.`A0`A0

`A0The occasion was the admission of new entrants to the school. For last five years the entire top brass of the government – ministers, IAS/IPS/IFS and other senior officers — have been attending such functions at primary schools all over the state to ensure 100 per cent enrolment of children in the schools at the beginning of a new session. Involvement of senior officers was the brainchild of the state CM, who reserves the remotest villages for himself.

This year, I was given the task of visiting 10 municipal Primary schools in Ahmedabad. And today, for a change, I was visiting a couple of Urdu-medium schools, including this one. "Aaj ke jalse ke sadar mehman tashrif la chuke hain. Aap sab khamoshi banaye rakhen", (The chief guest has arrived. Please keep quiet) the girl at the mike had cut short her declamation and handed over the mike to another girl, who was assigned the job of compering.

"Ab main headmistress sahiba se guzarish karti hoon ki vey hamarey sadar mehman sahib ka gulposhi se istaqbal karen."`A0 (Now, I request the headmistress madam to welcome the chief guest with a bouquet). The headmistress, a sprightly lady, came forward and presented the bouquet.

The programme went on for nearly an hour. The forgettable part was my inane speech and the highlight the headmistress’ lively speech in fine Urdu laced with couplets. Only later I learned that she dabbled in poetry and the couplets were her own creation.`A0`A0`A0

Ahmedabad is not the place where one hears Urdu often. Formal Urdu I was hearing after many, many years. It made me realise what has been lost in Urdu’s decline. It came as a surprise that a municipal school had Urdu as the medium of instruction. I mentioned this to the education officer who was sharing the dais with me. What he told me came as a bigger surprise. He said municipal schools in Ahmedabad taught in altogether nine mediums — Gujarati, English, Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, Telegu, Tamil, Malyalam and Sindhi.

I looked at the children in front. They were truly lucky to start their learning in their mother tongue. Luckier than the children of so many well-to-do families who are forced to begin their education in English by their ambitious parents.

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Israel and Gaza
Must Jews always see themselves as victims?
by Antony Lerman

In the wake of Israel’s attack on Gaza, eager voices are telling us that anti-Semitism has returned — yet again. Eight years of Hamas rockets and the world unfairly cries foul when Israel retaliates, they say. Biased media are delegitimising the Jewish state. The Left attacks Israel as uniquely evil, making it the persecuted Jew among the nations. Even theatres keep wheeling out those anti-Semitic stereotypes, Shylock, Fagin and the “chosen people”, just to torment us. If this bleak picture were an accurate portrayal of what Jews are experiencing today, who could deny that suffering is the determining feature of the Jewish condition?

In most Jewish circles, if you pause to question this narrative and suggest that it might be exaggerated, that it unrealistically implies a level of dreadfulness and victimhood unique to Jews, you’ll attract hostility and disbelief in equal measure, and precious little public sympathy. But in the work of Professor Salo Baron, probably the greatest Jewish historian of the 20th century, we find powerful justification for just such a questioning.

Professor Baron spoke out angrily against what he called the “lachrymose conception of Jewish history”, which placed suffering at the centre of Jewish life. “Suffering is part of the destiny” of the Jews,” Professor Baron said in an interview in 1975, “but so is repeated joy as well as ultimate redemption.”

Baron, who was born in Poland and went to America in 1930 to teach at Columbia University in New York, died aged 94 in 1989, perhaps one of the most significant years in post-war Jewish history.

With the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the USSR, the suppression of Jewish religious practice and cultural expression came to an end. More than two million Jews were finally free to choose to be Jewish or not. An astonishing number chose Jewishness and a remarkable revival of Jewish life began. This historic moment aptly illustrates the central truth of Baron’s critique.

Twenty years on, that revival continues, but the world’s response to Israel’s war on Gaza and the dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents in a number of countries since the war began have led many to paint a very dark picture of the current Jewish predicament. Have we Jews succumbed psychologically to a sense of eternal Jewish victimhood, a wholly negative Jewish exceptionalism, or is paranoia justified?

Some pioneering research, published as Israel’s bombing of Gaza began, throws some light on this. It reveals just how much the feeling that no matter what we do, we are perpetually at the mercy of others applies to Jewish Israelis. A team led by Professor Daniel Bar Tal of Tel Aviv University, one of the world’s leading political psychologists, questioned Israeli Jews about their memory of the conflict with the Arabs, from its inception to the present, and found that their “consciousness is characterised by a sense of victimisation, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanisation of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering”. The researchers found a close connection between that collective memory and the memory of “past persecutions of Jews” and the Holocaust, the feeling that “the whole world is against us”. If such a study were to be conducted among Jews in Britain, I suspect the results would be very similar.

For Jews to see themselves in this way is understandable, but it’s a distortion and deeply damaging. As Professor Bar Tal says, this view relies primarily on prolonged indoctrination that is based on ignorance and even nurtures it. The Jewish public does not want to be confused with the facts. If we are defined by past persecutions, by our victimhood, will we ever think clearly about the problem of Israel-Palestine and the problem of anti-Semitism?

To justify its attack on Gaza, Israel threw the mantle of victimhood over the residents of southern Israel who have lived under the constant threat of rocket attack from the territory since 2001. Israeli government and military spokespeople seemed to get a remarkably sympathetic hearing in the media when they made this argument. But history did not begin in 2001.

As the Israeli journalist Amira Hass notes, the origin of Israel’s siege dates back to 1991, before suicide bombings began. The relentless emphasis on Israeli suffering, to the exclusion of all other contextual facts, and the constant mantra that no other country would tolerate such a threat posed to its citizens over such a long period provided the basis for arguing that the military option was the only alternative. The victim is cornered and there’s only one way out.

But the popular Israeli phrase ein breira, “there is no alternative”, won’t stand one second’s scrutiny. There was a wealth of informed senior military and security opinion, especially following the disaster of the 2006 Lebanon war, which argued that there is no military solution to the problem of Islamist groups such as Hamas and Hizbollah.

Early in January this year, Israel’s former Mossad chief and former national security adviser, Efraim Halevy, said: “If Israel’s goal were to remove the threat of rockets from the residents of southern Israel, opening the border crossings would have ensured such quiet for a generation.”

Daniel Levy, former adviser in the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, shows clearly where the wrong choices were made: withdrawing from Gaza without co-ordinating the “what next” with the Palestinians; hermetically sealing off Hamas and besieging Gaza after the 2006 elections instead of testing Hamas’s capacity to govern responsibly; instead of building on the ceasefire, Israel was the first to break it on 4 November. In short, there were other alternatives.

The current flurry of diplomatic activity only confirms this. Tony Blair’s first trip to Gaza, Hillary Clinton’s talks with Israel’s leaders and stronger language on settlements and the $5bn pledged for Gaza at the Egyptian donor conference are all discomfiting signs for Israel’s polity, now in a state of electoral upheaval. They show that the Gaza offensive blasted open the doors to alternative diplomatic options, as well as the possibility of a new Palestinian unity government.

Instead of validating the government’s line that this was justice for Israel’s traumatised southern citizens, it only served to demonstrate to the world, and especially to the new Obama administration, Israel’s responsibility for the injustice of the humanitarian disaster in Gaza.

It’s not a political judgement to feel compassion for Israelis terrorised by Hamas rockets, and it’s just the same for Palestinians living in a virtual prison in Gaza. But the objective predicaments of the two populations are not the same. To convince yourself that a turkey shoot is an act of great heroism, you need the “self-righteousness” and “blind patriotism” Professor Bar Tal found in his study.

You see yourself as David against the Islamist Goliath. The world sees a powerful elephant and an aggressive, rogue mouse that draws blood. The elephant hands the mouse the power of veto over the entire Middle East peace process by demanding that the mouse recognise the elephant’s existence before any meaningful negotiations with Palestinians can take place.

The incongruous truth is that while we are drawing attention to anti-Semitism more comprehensively than at any time in the past 30 years, I sense that so much of the Jewish world is more comfortable with an identifiable enemy that hates us than with a multicultural society that welcomes Jews on equal terms.

We are not condemned to accept the fate which the closed-minded ethnocentricity of so many Jews dictates to us. Ameliorating our predicament, restoring the balance, could come from acknowledging modest but profound truths, even if we get to them through distasteful comparisons.

By arrangement with The Independent

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Lost legacy of Lohia
by G.S. Bhargava

Next year will be the centenary year of Ram Manohar Lohia. He would have been a hundred years old in March, if he had not passed away in October 1967 at what was then Willingdon Nursing Home in New Delhi.

Raj Narain as Health Minister in the short-lived Janata Government during 1977-79 renamed it Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital on the ground that his guru, Madhu Limaye, had alleged “medical and governmental negligence” there.

Even if truth speaking was not Limaye’s strong trait, it was good that the hospital where Dr Lohia breathed his last should be named after him.

Lohia was one of the original, if not the original, thinker of India’s freedom struggle. (I would put Gandhiji ahead of Lohia in the category, contrary to the assertion of George Fernandes, a Lohia acolyte, that the Socialist stalwart “was undoubtedly the most outstanding original thinker, perhaps the only one, produced in India during the last 100-odd years.”

Lohia himself never claimed he was superior to Gandhiji as “an original thinker”, although he had a poor opinion of Gandhiji’s non-violence, on the usual ground that it had delayed at least by a couple of years the winning of freedom, that most of Gandhiji’s followers, especially Nehru, did not believe in it and that it was the product of Gandhiji’s flair for “less radical” policies.

Lohia was a steadfast executor of his ideas and strategies. Take, for instance, the present scenario of different political parties flexing their non-existent ideological muscles for general election to the Lok Sabha. It would have been a child’s play for Lohia to face and master such a situation.

Look back at the political map of India in 1967 to realise the magnitude, if not the magic, of his handiwork. That one could travel by train from Delhi to Howrah without passing through a single Congress party governed state was the popular saying in those days.

Titans like S.K.Patil and K.Kamaraj fell by the wayside as Lohia let loose his juggernaut. Incidentally, when George Fernandes defeated Bombay’s “strong man,” S.K.Patil, at the epicentre of his political power, there was subterfuge with Indira Gandhi reportedly facilitating George’s win. She rated George a lesser evil, apparently.

Other Congress party stalwarts like Atulya Ghosh in West Bengal, Krishna Ballabh Sahay in Bihar, besides S. Nijalingappa, Chief Minister of former princely state of Mysore, also tasted defeat.

Among his protégés, Karpoori Thakur was the Chief Minister of Bihar for two terms, between 1970 and June 1971 and again for from June 1977 to April 1979.

Unlike Advani’s rath yatra of 1990 for a Ram mandir at Ayodhya, Lohia’s electoral mini-revolution had no religious or sectarian fallout. By arresting Advani at Samastipur, Laloo Prasad Yadav managed to cover up his fodder scam of1996.

In the words of a foreign observer, “the scam was and continues to be hushed up by the media due to a nexus between tenured bureaucrats, elected politicians and business.” Like the Bofors kickbacks of Rajiv Gandhi, it was not very high in monetary terms. It would have been about Rs 3,000 crore at the 1996 prices.

But its stink does not go away.

To concentrate on Lohia’s lost legacy, paraphrasing Nehru’s confession at the meeting of the Congress Working Committee in July 1946, which endorsed the British Cabinet mission’s partition plan, the Socialist leader writes: the “decaying leadership resignedly accepted partition as a lesser evil than endless Hindu-Muslim strife. Nehru told the Congress Working Committee that his colleagues and he were not in a position to wage a struggle and if they went to jail they would not come back alive. These men were old and tired. They were near their deaths, or so at least they must have thought. .. They could not have lived much without the restorative of office.” How true, because Nehru lived 18 more years. Even if his motto of “aram haram hain” (rest is evil) sustained him partly.

Meanwhile, when Lohia arrived in Parliament in 1963, three general elections had not shaken up the practically one-party system. He wrote a pamphlet, “25000 Rupees a Day”, the amount spent on the Prime Minister — a sizeable part on the Prime Minister’s Golden Retriever dogs — an obscene sum in a country where the vast majority lived on three annas (less than one-quarter of a rupee) a day.

Nehru said the Planning Commission statistics showed that the daily average income was more like 15 annas a day. Lohia demanded a special debate in the Lok Sabha on it. Member after member, including Congress MPs, gave up their time to Lohia as he built his case, demolishing the Planning Commission statistics as fanciful.

Lohia’s figure was nearer the truth for over 70 per cent of the population. Caste, more than class, was the huge stumbling block to progress. As such, the country was deprived of fresh ideas, because of the narrowness and stultification of thought at the top.

A proponent of affirmative action, he compared it to turning the earth to foster a better crop, urging the upper castes “to voluntarily serve as the soil for lower castes to flourish and grow.” Can the country regain the lost legacy of Lohia?

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France to return as full NATO member
by Edward Cody

President Charles de Gaulle infuriated the United States when he suddenly pulled France out of NATO’s military command in 1966, arguing he had to preserve French independence in world affairs.

Forty-three years later, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced on Wednesday, France has decided to return as a full-fledged member of the 26-nation military pact, the North Atlantic Alliance, which came together under U.S. leadership at the start of the Cold War in 1949 and has served as the basis for U.S.-European security relations ever since.

Casting aside Gaullist dogma long cherished in France, Sarkozy declared that rejoining the U.S.-led integrated command in Brussels will not diminish the independence of France’s nuclear-equipped military and, on the contrary, will open the way for more French influence in deciding what NATO’s new missions should be in the post-Soviet era.

“The time has come,” he said in a speech to France’s Strategic Research Foundation, adding: “Our strategy cannot remain stuck in the past when the conditions of our security have changed radically.”

The decision, widely debated even before it was formally announced, marked another significant step in Sarkozy’s effort to bring France and the United States closer together after a period of estrangement and back-biting.

Since taking over in May 2007, Sarkozy has repeatedly declared himself a friend of Washington and made gestures to warm the chill that had settled over French-U.S. relations under presidents George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac, chiefly because of Chirac’s opposition to the Iraq war.

“We need a renewed trans-Atlantic partnership between an America that is open and a Europe that is being strengthened,” Sarkozy’s defense minister, Herve Morin, said in an address to the same conference.

Sarkozy said he would formally notify France’s allies of its return the NATO command during celebrations to mark the North Atlantic Alliance’s 60th anniversary, with President Obama in attendance, scheduled for April 3-4 in Strasbourg, France, and Kehl, just across the border in Germany.

At Sarkozy’s insistence, according to reports in Paris, Obama has penciled in a stop beforehand at the World War II Normandy landing beaches to dramatize the historic underpinnings of French-U.S. ties.

France never left the overarching North Atlantic Alliance, however, and within a year the practical effect of withdrawing from the integrated command was also watered down. A secret accord between U.S. and French officials, the Lemnitzer-Aillert Agreements, laid out in great detail how French forces would dovetail back into NATO’s command structure should East-West hostilities break out.

Since then, the threat of Soviet attack has melted away and NATO has launched a long study about how it should redefine its mission in the 21st century, including what has become a practice of military operations beyond the borders of member countries.

By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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