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EDITORIALS

Back to Hindutva, softly
BJP manifesto tends to be please-all
The significance of the release of the BJP manifesto on Ram Navami day cannot be lost on anybody. It has made one more bid to milk the Hindutva cow for whatever it is worth. So, it has not only re-pledged itself to building the Ram temple at Ayodhya, but also stood by Ram Sethu.

Criminals in the fray
Parties must do some soul-searching
D
uring the past few days the judiciary has been justifiably rejecting petitions from convicted criminals seeking suspension of their conviction and sentence so that they may contest the Lok Sabha elections. Those turned away include film star Sanjay Dutt, Pappu Yadav, Mohammed Shahabuddin and Amarmani Tripathi.


EARLIER STORIES



Managing fire tragedies
Safety norms flouted with impunity

A
fter 11 extensions, the one-man commission headed by Justice T P Garg (retd) is finally ready with its report on what was the worst fire tragedy the country has seen. Thirteen years ago, a devastating fire during an annual school function at a marriage palace at Dabwali town in Sirsa district of Haryana had killed as many as 442 people, many of them children.

ARTICLE

Decriminalisation of politics
How apex court directives help the cause
by Virendra Kumar
A
three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and comprising Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice R.M. Lodha, in its order of March 31, 2009, has once again shown its firm resolve to cleanse our electoral system by banishing persons with criminal proclivities.

MIDDLE

Elementary, sir
by Roopinder Singh
W
E have tremendous capability of justifying whatever wrong we have done, I told my friend, obviously scoring a point in an ongoing conversation, while at the same time losing the argument by putting him on the defensive.

OPED

G-20 outcome
Substance triumphs at the Summit
by Steven Pearlstein
I
nternational economic summits deserve to be regarded with skepticism: The most important decision to come out of them is usually the call for yet another meeting. But last week's G-20 meeting in London was an exception.

Carbon problem can be buried
by Steve Connor
C
arbon dioxide captured from the chimneys of power stations could be safely buried underground for thousands of years without the risk of the greenhouse gas seeping into the atmosphere, a study has found.

Chatterati
Poor Lalu
by Devi Cherian
R
ailway Minister Lalu Yadav, the poor cowherd’s son, has movable assets worth only Rs 12 lakh, which includes a Maruti 800 car purchased in 1991 and a military jeep. Lalu’s rival, the BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy, and the BSP’s Saleem Parvez are wealthier than Mr Yadav.

 


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EDITORIALS

Back to Hindutva, softly
BJP manifesto tends to be please-all

The significance of the release of the BJP manifesto on Ram Navami day cannot be lost on anybody. It has made one more bid to milk the Hindutva cow for whatever it is worth. So, it has not only re-pledged itself to building the Ram temple at Ayodhya, but also stood by Ram Sethu. Not only that, it has promised cow protection, implementation of a uniform civil code and abrogation of Article 370. But knowing full well that most of these may not be acceptable to the allies, it has relegated all these towards the end of the manifesto, that also not in too elaborate a manner. That should be signal enough that in keeping with the general trend, the manifesto only offers the moon, but there will be a marked difference in precept and practice.

The overall aim is to woo the “aam admi” through a liberal pile of goodies. There is a marked attempt to outbid the Congress in the matter of sops on offer. If the Congress offered 35 kg of rice or wheat to BPL families at Rs 3 per kg, the BJP has upped the ante with Rs 2 per kg. Also on tap is complete loan waiver for all farmers, future loans to them at 4 per cent, income tax exemption to all armed forces and paramilitary personnel, income tax exemption for those earning up to Rs 3 lakh per annum and an additional benefit of Rs 50,000 for women and senior citizens, plus income tax exemption on pension for all senior citizens. The manifesto does not spell out where the money is to come from.

Even a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the financial implications of these promises would make it clear that this burden is just not feasible at this time of financial recession. But then, there are very few who take the manifesto promises too seriously. The BJP can be pinned down to these only if it does come to power. With senior leader Sushma Swaraj herself unsure of even the NDA getting enough seats, the BJP has nothing to worry about letting down the voters even if it does come to power somehow. For good measure, its ally, JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, has already said that “the NDA government, if formed, will have its own agenda and common minimum programme”.

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Criminals in the fray
Parties must do some soul-searching

During the past few days the judiciary has been justifiably rejecting petitions from convicted criminals seeking suspension of their conviction and sentence so that they may contest the Lok Sabha elections. Those turned away include film star Sanjay Dutt, Pappu Yadav, Mohammed Shahabuddin and Amarmani Tripathi. While the Supreme Court has refused to suspend Sanjay Dutt’s conviction and six-year imprisonment under the Arms Act, the other three are serving life term for murder. Madhepura RJD MP Pappu Yadav was convicted in the Ajit Sarkar murder case last year. He is facing trial in many more cases. Likewise, Siwan RJD MP Shahabuddin has lost the chance to contest as he was convicted of kidnapping and murder of CPI-ML activist Chote Lal Gupta in 1999. Former UP minister and Samajwadi Party leader Amarmani Tripathi has been convicted for illicit relationship with and murder of poetess and party activist Madhumita Shukla.

Consequently, the judiciary has sent a strong message to all political parties to eschew putting up convicted criminals to contest elections to Parliament and state legislatures. While the judiciary needs to be commended for this, what is disturbing is the refusal of the political parties to see reason and deny tickets to those with criminal background. Every party is guilty of fielding criminals and history-sheeters in the elections.

Unfortunately, successive governments at the Centre have done precious little to implement the Election Commission’s proposal to bar criminals from contesting elections. If political parties fail to keep criminals at bay, it will hit governance hard. There is indeed need for serious introspection in this regard.
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Managing fire tragedies
Safety norms flouted with impunity

After 11 extensions, the one-man commission headed by Justice T P Garg (retd) is finally ready with its report on what was the worst fire tragedy the country has seen. Thirteen years ago, a devastating fire during an annual school function at a marriage palace at Dabwali town in Sirsa district of Haryana had killed as many as 442 people, many of them children. Several others were disabled for life or had permanent burn injuries. The report, which has decided the quantum of compensation besides fixing liability, might bring some succour to the families of the victims or the survivors themselves. But it is a moot point whether any lessons have been learnt.

It is shocking, indeed, how cavalier is the country’s approach to such tragedies. In 2004, carelessness of the mid-day meal staff coupled with the negligence of the management led to the death of about 100 children at a primary school in Tamil Nadu. Over 60 people perished in a fire at an air-conditioned consumer fair in Meerut. What makes these tragedies even more unfortunate is that they could have been averted if safety norms had been followed. Most buildings, including schools, do not follow the National Building Code on fire safety. Permission is given to fairs and other open-air functions in an arbitrary fashion, throwing caution to the wind. Mid–day meals are cooked in schools, especially in South India, with scant regard to safety. Often, the officials guilty of “criminal” negligence walk away scot-free.

How unconcerned governments are to bringing the guilty to book is borne out by the fact that it took three years to file an FIR against the defaulting officials in the Meerut tragedy. In Haryana, the then DC, Sirsa, who was accused and indicted for dereliction of duty received only token punishment and was later appointed a member of the Haryana Public Service Commission. While the state governments must fix accountability, the compensation to the victims will have some meaning only if given expeditiously. To prevent such tragedies in future, there is an urgent need to review and implement fire-safety norms. Mock fire drills in schools and periodic fire safety audits, too, could ensure that buildings do not become fire-traps. “Safety saves” is not a slogan but a truth that needs to be followed in letter and spirit.
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Thought for the Day

When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal. — Richard Nixon
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ARTICLE

Decriminalisation of politics
How apex court directives help the cause
by Virendra Kumar

A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and comprising Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice R.M. Lodha, in its order of March 31, 2009, has once again shown its firm resolve to cleanse our electoral system by banishing persons with criminal proclivities. In a criminal appeal in the case of Sanjay Dutt vs. State of Maharashtra Tr. CBI, Bombay, before the apex court was the petitioner who was earlier found guilty in the Bombay blast case of offences punishable under the Arms Act for possessing an AK-56 rifle, a deadly weapon of mass destruction, and was sentenced to six years rigorous imprisonment. He filed appeal against his conviction and sentence and that appeal is still pending consideration before the Supreme Court.

Under Section 389 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the petitioner pleaded before the apex court that the execution of the order of conviction and sentence be suspended, pending final hearing of the appeal. His principle plea on this count was that “he belongs to a family which has been in long public service in the country,” and that he is “now desirous of contesting election to the House of People.” Since the conviction and sentence pending the appeal constitute disqualification from contesting the election, the petitioner pleaded that the same may be suspended enabling him to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

This plea was reinforced by pointing out “that the petitioner has got fair chance of appeal filed by him being allowed and, if the conviction and sentence is not suspended, he would be seriously prejudiced.” However, this reasoning can be counteracted with equal vehemence, or perhaps even more, by arguing that if the appeal failed or did not succeed eventually, any suspension of disqualification might cause an irreparable loss to the whole social order by making criminalisation of politics more entrenched.

Although the Supreme Court Bench has not said so specifically, and yet this argument is implicit in its order when it stated: “In view of the serious offence for which he (the petitioner/ appellant) has been convicted by the Special Judge, we are not inclined to suspend the conviction and sentence awarded by the Special Judge in the present case.” This clear and categorical denial of suspension, irrespective of the popular image of the petitioner, has been hailed as “an excellent order” by one of our most eminent jurists, Soli Sorabji (The Tribune, April 1, 2009), for it gives effect to Section 8(3) of the Representation of People Act, 1951, which expressly disqualifies a person sentenced to two or more years of imprisonment from contesting the election and that such disqualification will continue for a further period of six years since his release. “Any other order would have given a wrong signal,” said Mr Sorabji.

Realising the reluctance of the legislature to shun criminals owing to its own vested interests, the apex court has all along played a very critical role in the process of de-criminalisation of politics. We may recall, for instance, it was the Supreme Court that compelled the Central Government to make public its very damaging and revealing report, namely, the Vohra Committee Report, by observing in Dinesh Trivedi, M.P. case (1997) that “democracy expects openness and openness is concomitant of a free society, and the sunlight is a best disinfectant.” This report gives a shrieking account of how, in what manner, and to what extent our political system has been polluted by allowing persons with dubious distinctions to be elected.

Since there was no effective law for preventing the undesirable persons to become legislators, the apex court in Association for Democratic Reforms (2002) issued directions to the Election Commission to fill the void by requiring the prospective candidate to provide information while filing his nomination papers on certain specified counts. These counts were whether he is convicted/acquitted/ discharged of any criminal offence in the past, if any, whether he is punished with imprisonment or fine, whether prior to six months of filing of nomination, he is accused in any pending case, of any offence punishable with imprisonment for two years or more, and in which the charge is framed or cognisance is taken by the court of law and, if so, the details thereof; the details about his assets (immovable, movable, bank balance, etc.) and of his spouse and dependants, etc.

The government instantly reacted to this initiative of the Supreme Court by promulgating an Ordinance, which was soon repealed and replaced by an amending Act, introducing new Sections 33-A and 33-B into the Representation of the People Act, 1951. A bare perusal of these sections reveals that only some, and not all, of the directives of the Supreme Court have been incorporated by the legislature. In fact, the judicial directives relating to acquittal or discharge in criminal offences, or amassing of assets and incurring of liabilities, etc, are clearly excluded. It is specifically stated in Section 33-B that no candidate shall be liable to disclose or furnish any such information which is not required to be disclosed or furnished under the Act or the rules made thereunder despite the directions issued by the apex court on the contrary.

This circumventing approach of the legislature was challenged before a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution in People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) v. Union of India (2003). Section 33-B of the Act was declared unconstitutional because it unduly restricted the rights of the voters to information, which is an aspect of fundamental right to speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) read with Article 19(2) of the Constitution. The uncovered directives of the Supreme Court relating to assets and liabilities of the candidate and also in regard to criminal cases in which a person is acquitted or discharged, the directions issued by the Supreme Court in that case will stay put, for their non-inclusion causes violation of the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a).

The implication of the uncovered directives of the apex court in the context of Sanjay Dutt is subtle and profound. The supply of information relating to a candidate’s criminal record (and also his assets and liabilities) may not constitute disqualification under Section 8 of the Act of 1951, but the non-supply of the same would invalidate his nomination paper. Accordingly, the Election Commission would do well, nay obliged to do so, to issue directives compelling the candidates contesting the elections to reveal their criminal antecedents. Even such a simple step would help the electors to decipher the “true colour” of their candidates and thereby assist in the process of de-criminalisation of politics!n

The writer is a former Professor and Chairman, Department of Laws and UGC Emeritus Fellow, Panjab University, Chandigarh.
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MIDDLE

Elementary, sir
by Roopinder Singh

WE have tremendous capability of justifying whatever wrong we have done, I told my friend, obviously scoring a point in an ongoing conversation, while at the same time losing the argument by putting him on the defensive.

Though I do not have a systematic study to buttress my contention, I can provide anecdotal evidence to support what I said, and I dare say any scientific study of “Justifying the Unjustifiable” would find that my contention is a reasonable generalisation, provided the right methodology is used and proper people selected as samples.

A news item titled “Men in flashy cars make women go weak in the knees,” said that in an experiment, psychologists at the University of Wales showed images of the same man sitting in a silver Bentley Continental, then a red Ford Fiesta, to 120 women. The women found the male sitting in that prestigious car “more attractive”. Really? Did we need science to tell us that? Guys, forget fitness, get flashy cars instead!

An earlier study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women find men with muscles more attractive. It took the scientists four years to arrive at this conclusion, though they also offered a consolation for us less muscled people-women felt that scrawny (wimpy?) men will be more faithful.

An Ohio State University study, funded by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, concluded that people who pay for cigarettes have less money. The following scientific observation was published in Tobacco Control: “While a causal relation cannot be proven, smokers appear to pay for tobacco expenditures out of income that is saved by non-smokers. Hence, reductions in smoking will boost wealth, especially among the poor.” A good tip for the IMF and World Bank in their “relentless” war on poverty.

There is a new twist to the “time is of the essence” adage. The time needed for a man to fall in love at first sight is 8.2 seconds, according to a scientific study published in the The Archives of Sexual Behavior, a journal and not a teenager’s diary. Men looked into the eyes of beautiful actresses for an average of 8.2 seconds, but that dropped to 4.5 seconds when gazing at less attractive ones. Girls, keep stopwatches handy, your future may depend on them!

National Institute of Drug Abuse Research-funded research on “Differential effects of cocaine and cocaine + alcohol on neurocognitive performance,” published in Neurology, found that two intoxicants are indeed worse than one, because they affect different brain functions. What next? A study to prove that mixing drinks gives you a hangover?

I am sure that scientists somewhere are empirically examining the obvious and gathering data about the kind of people who study studies to poke fun at them. They will certainly find that these people engage in such acts because they have nothing better to do. But, dear reader, we beat the best brains because the conclusion that they arrive at through rigorous scientific gathering of facts and brilliant deductions is something that we knew instinctively. Obviously!
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OPED

G-20 outcome
Substance triumphs at the Summit

by Steven Pearlstein

International economic summits deserve to be regarded with skepticism: The most important decision to come out of them is usually the call for yet another meeting. But last week's G-20 meeting in London was an exception.

While President Obama may have overstated things a bit when he declared it a "turning point" for the now-shrinking global economy, the meeting did manage to boost the confidence of financial markets, inject another trillion dollars into the financial system and provide needed political cover for world leaders to take unpopular actions back home.

Ever since this round of G-20 consultations was launched last year by an insistent President Nicolas Sarkozy, there's been a distinctly French accent to the process. Implicit in the agenda has been a critique of the Anglo-American economic model that, in the European imagination, was the root cause of the current economic crisis. Sarkozy's aim was nothing less than a rewrite of the rules for global capitalism to conform to the more civilized norms of the continental European model.

At the same time, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was keen on creating a new global financial architecture to replace the creaky Bretton Woods financial institutions that failed to prevent a series of international financial crises and now seem oddly out of sync with the global economy.

To the American ear, much of this sounded overdone and overly ambitious.

While the financial crisis revealed an urgent need to better coordinate regulation of global institutions and capital flows, nobody seriously thought that any country – not the United States, and certainly not France – would cede its sovereign powers to an international bureaucracy.

After all, the most recent attempt at international regulatory coordination – the Basel II standards on bank capital – wound up leaving European banks woefully undercapitalized when the current crisis hit, requiring bank bailouts that in many cases were much larger, in relation to the size of the countries' economies, than in the United States.

U.S. banks, by comparison, had relatively more capital, thanks to those worrywarts at the FDIC, who had fought the looser Basel II standards despite their strong support from the banks and their always-accommodating regulators at the Federal Reserve.

The push for broader, tighter cross-border financial regulation, in fact, came largely in response to the light-touch approach of the Bush administration. But whatever trans-Atlantic tension once existed over that issue pretty much melted away last week when Tim Geithner outlined the new administration's regulatory reform proposal, which could just as easily have been written at the French Finance Ministry as at the U.S. Treasury.

In the end, last week's communique, with its promise of a global regulatory crackdown, was an easy win for all concerned. Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel could declare victory over unfettered Anglo-American capitalism, while Obama now has added political ammunition for taking on the banks, hedge funds, rating agencies and private-equity firms that will try to water down his proposals. While that may constitute a turning point for Anglo-American capitalism, it is hardly the death knell.

Gordon Brown, meanwhile, emerged from the talks to declare an end to "the old Washington consensus," the now-derogatory description for the policy prescription of open borders, floating exchange rates and fiscal prudence long favored by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

What emerged from the G-20, however, amounts more to reform than to revolution. Member countries committed themselves to adding $850 billion to the resources available to the IMF and regional development banks to mount rescues of countries in financial distress, with instructions that the money be used not only for traditional purposes such as debt rollover, bank recapitalization and balance-of-payments support, but also for more "flexible" goals such as stimulus spending, infrastructure investment, trade finance and social support.

And just as the old G-7 has given way to the enlarged G-20, the governance structure of the fund and the bank will be revised to give the bigger developing countries the authority they now deserve.

It may suit the politics of Europe to portray all this as a blow to Washington's power and prestige, but the reality may be quite different. In fact, the shift is perfectly in keeping with the new emphasis on the developing world that Obama brings to international economic policy.

And if any countries are likely to lose out in the restructuring, they are those of "old Europe" that, by dint of history, now wield power far in excess of their importance in the global economy.

Indeed, while European leaders were crowing that they had successfully beat back calls to step up efforts to stimulate their economies, that's not exactly true. The week's big boost in funding for the IMF could well translate into hundreds of billions of dollars in fresh financing for Eastern European countries that, for political reasons, leaders of Western Europe have been unwilling to offer directly.

Last week's communique also contains a carefully worded commitment for all countries (read: France and Germany) to increase stimulus spending if the IMF finds that current policies prove insufficient to get their economies growing again.

All in all, a pretty successful opening-night performance for President Obama on the international economic stage. He achieved most of what he wanted while allowing others to claim victory and allowing the United States to shed its Bush-era reputation for inflexibility and heavy-handedness. And by the standards of past summits, this one was full of accomplishment.

By the way, in case you're wondering – yes, they agreed to meet again in September, this time in New York.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post
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Carbon problem can be buried
by Steve Connor

Carbon dioxide captured from the chimneys of power stations could be safely buried underground for thousands of years without the risk of the greenhouse gas seeping into the atmosphere, a study has found.

The findings will lend weight to the idea of carbon capture and sequestration (CSS) – when carbon dioxide is trapped and then buried – which is being seriously touted as a viable way of reducing man-made emissions of carbon dioxide while still continuing to burn fossil fuels such as oil and coal in power stations.

There are two substantial problems with CCS. The first is how to trap carbon dioxide efficiently in power-station emissions and the second is how to ensure that the underground store of the gas does not leak back into the atmosphere and so exacerbate the greenhouse effect and global warming.

In seeking to answer the second question, scientists looked at natural underground reservoirs of gas. They found that carbon dioxide trapped underground had been stable for possibly millions of years because it dissolves harmlessly in subterranean stores of water which do not appear to have leaked any substantial quantities of the gas back into the atmosphere.

The researchers believe the study shows that it will be possible to inject vast amounts of carbon dioxide from power stations into deep underground reservoirs where it will dissolve in water and remain undisturbed for at least as long as it will take for mankind to completely abandon fossil fuels and generate clean, carbon-neutral electricity.

Stuart Gilfillan of the University of Edinburgh said: "The study shows that naturally stored carbon dioxide has been safely stored for millions of years, which means that these sort of storage timescales should be achievable for the deliberate sequestration of the gas.

"It suggests that underground storage of carbon dioxide, in the correct place, should be a safe option to help us cope with emissions until we can develop cleaner sources of energy not based on fossil fuels," Dr Gilfillan said.

The study, published in the journal Nature, was based on an analysis of the chemical isotopes of helium and carbon dioxide in nine natural gas fields in North America, Europe and China. These gas fields have filled with carbon dioxide for many thousands or millions of years as it seeps from even deeper sources resulting from either volcanic activity or the heating of carbonate rocks.

The ratio of the two isotopes in the gas fields can tell the scientists whether any substantial quantities of carbon dioxide have seeped out of these underground sites during the period of time that they have filled up with gas.

Professor Chris Ballentine of Manchester University, who took part in the study, said that the isotopic technique will also be invaluable for further research, particularly when engineers begin carbon sequestration.

"The new approach will be essential for tracing where carbon dioxide captured from coal-fired power stations goes after we inject it underground – this is critical for future safety verification," Professor Ballentine said.

One of the reasons why the carbon dioxide remains trapped in the nine natural gas fields studied by the researchers could be down to physical changes occurring after its dissolution in water.

Dr Gilfillan said that when carbon dioxide dissolves in water the solution becomes denser than ordinary water and so sinks. This feature may have helped to keep the carbonated water underground for a long time, he said.

"We already know that oil and gas have been stored for millions of years and our study clearly shows that carbon dioxide has been stored naturally and safely in underground water in these fields," he said.

"It's good news in terms of the understanding of the system of carbon dioxide storage. It means that what actually happens in the natural storage of carbon dioxide suggests that it is possible to achieve the 10,000-year storage widely quoted as being necessary for effective carbon sequestration," he added.

There were initially fears that injecting carbon dioxide into the ground could simple result in it bubbling to the surface like a source of carbonated mineral water, releasing the gas into the atmosphere. The scientists also found that the underground carbon dioxide would not tend to form minerals and so form immovable solids. Mineral deposits block pores in rock, limiting the size of the overall carbon sink.

"It's bad news in the sense that mineralising the carbon dioxide would make it even more stable. But the good news is that mineralisation would have limited the amount of carbon dioxide that could be pumped into any one reservoir," Dr Gilfillan said.

Barbara Sherwood Lollar, a geologist at the University of Toronto, said that it was important to understand how carbon dioxide was stored in natural underground reservoirs if the problems of long-term storage of carbon dioxide were to be solved.

What we found was remarkable. At sites throughout the world, we found that the major way carbon dioxide is stored is by dissolution into the underground water, rather than by mineral trapping," Dr Sherwood Lollar said.

However, even if the sequestration part of the equation is solved, there is still the major problem of how to capture carbon dioxide emitted by power stations efficiently and cheaply.

— By arrangement with The Independent
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Chatterati
Poor Lalu
by Devi Cherian

Railway Minister Lalu Yadav, the poor cowherd’s son, has movable assets worth only Rs 12 lakh, which includes a Maruti 800 car purchased in 1991 and a military jeep.

Lalu’s rival, the BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy, and the BSP’s Saleem Parvez are wealthier than Mr Yadav. Lalu owns 50 gram gold and precious stones worth Rs 35,000. His wife, former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi, possesses gold jewellery worth Rs 5.5 lakh, bank deposits worth Rs 23.50 lakh, and agricultural land worth Rs 30 lakh. Both pay Rs 16.26 lakh and Rs 9.79 lakh as income tax, respectively.

Lalu’s 60 cows and 36 calves are worth Rs 11 lakh. Their eldest son owns land priced at Rs 18 lakh. The wealthiest candidate in Saran is the BSP’s Saleem Parvez, whose personal assets are worth over Rs 4 crore. He also owns eight houses in Delhi, Gurgaon, Jaipur and Patna together valued at Rs 2.5 crore. So, our Lalu is the poorest.

Cricket ‘tamasha’

Politicians heaved a sigh of relief when Lalit Modi announced that his “fast-food cricket tamasha” would move out of India. Except, of course, Pawar, who wanted the game in India because after all it is the BCCI baby.

The BJP tried immaturely to use it as an insecurity issue. The muscle-flexing between the IPL “dadas” and the Home Ministry was interesting to watch. The sultans of cricket laid out the timetable for IPL II.

With billion dollars and million cricket/cinema stars in their pocket, the government was expected to merely nod a meek assent. But then to their shock and horror, the Home Ministry indicated that elections deserved higher priority than the Twenty Twenty. An indignant IPL team threatened to pull out only to be countered by a cool Chidambaram’s reply “you are welcome”!

However, they did not envisage that once the elections are on in India, everything changes in the country, the IPL included. Firm Chidambaram made it clear that there was no problem of security for the matches but only scheduling of dates due to large-scale deployment of forces required for both the matches and the elections.

Moreover, pressure to hold the matches in the metros would be enormous since that is where matches would make the maximum money from advertisers, sponsors, gate receipts etc. The IPL cashed in on the cricket mania in India to the hilt to give a spectacular launch to the IPL show last year, so now it can afford to show its muscle. No great difference it would have made altering the schedule here and there.

CMs in fray

The 2009 general election in Karnataka will be unique and interesting. All six former CMs are in the fray. They include four Congress CMs and two from the JD(S). The current CM, B.S. Yeddyurappa, is the first one from the BJP. Former Congress CMs — S.M. Krishna, S. Bangarappa, M.Veerappa Moily and Dharam Singh — are all likely to contest— Krishna from Bangalore South, Bangarappa from Shimoga, Moily from Chikballapur and Singh from Bidar.

In the JD(S), H.D. Deve Gowda and son Kumaraswamy are likely to contest this time.

The Congress, it seems, has proposed to push all these former CMs into the Lok Sabha fray as all of them are perceived to have “finished” their innings at the state level. The former CMs carry their own charisma and memories of the programmes they implemented during their tenure. Raising money to fund their campaigns is easy. So Karnataka voters are likely to see a revival of campaign themes like the housing scheme “Ashraya” started by Bangarappa or land records computerisation done by Krishna.
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