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Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped

EDITORIALS

PM’s appeal
Punjab needs peace, not strife
T
HE people of Punjab, which during the last two days has seen violence in some towns, should heed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s appeal to maintain peace. The government, he has said, is determined to ensure that the perpetrators of this “mindless and wanton act” in Vienna will be brought to justice.

Front that was
It vanished with the poll winds
O
NE of the casualties of Verdict-2009 has been the so-called Third Front, which has gone with the electoral wind unceremoniously. Ironically, no tears are going to be shed for it, even by its godfather, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat. Only he and some of his yes-men were convinced about its viability and even they have now conceded that it was a grandiose but foolhardy scheme.

EARLIER STORIES

Mayawati goes berserk
May 25, 2009
Mandate for Manmohan
May 24, 2009
Manmohan Singh’s A team
May 23, 2009
Perils of “arrogance”
May 22, 2009
The failed fronts
May 21, 2009
Advani stays put
May 20, 2009
Vote for growth
May 19, 2009
North by North-West
May 18, 2009
Risat 2: A feather in the cap
May 17, 2009
The countdown begins
May 16, 2009
Regional satraps in demand
May 15, 2009
Well-done, EC
May 14, 2009
Can’t be just goodwill
May 13, 2009



An eye in the sky
AWACS will add to India’s strategic capability
T
HE Indian Air Force has this week made a significant addition to its strategic capability by inducting its first-ever Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). This is the first of the three AWACS, priced at $1.5 billion, which India has contracted to purchase. Even as the induction of the remaining two AWACS is expected next year, India is already engaged in negotiations for the purchase of three more “eyes in the sky”.

ARTICLE

Beyond Pilibhit
Is BJP using Varun for Parivar politics?
by J. Sri Raman
I
S the party against “dynastic politics” going to become a participant in a political war of dynastic succession? Is a section of the Bharatiya Janata Party preparing for bipolarisation of Indian politics based on sundering of blood ties? The wise men and women of the BJP, currently assessing its Lok Sabha election losses, may not officially answer the question.

MIDDLE

Second to none
by Raj Chatterjee
T
HERE is no accounting for tastes. Some people I know like to drink their tea from a shaving mug. They say it improves the flavour of the brew. To me the thought is disgusting. It’s like sipping a whisky and soda through a straw. A few years ago I read a newspaper report of a young man in Kolkata who had decided to lock himself up for 48 hours in the company of five hissing cobras. “I like to be cuddled by them,” said the intrepid youth as he began his self-imposed ordeal.

OPED

Elections throw up a new breed of politicians
by Prem Prakash
N
OW that the heat and the dust of a hard-fought election has ended, a new government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is going to be in place. It is time to take stock of the just-concluded elections.  Is it the end of rabble-rousing politics? Are we witnessing the emergence of a new breed of politicians who are focussed on good governance and development instead of hate, divisiveness and rabble-rousing?

Pretoria diary
What New Delhi, Pretoria have in common
by Ashish Ray
C
ommissioned in 1909 and completed in 1913 the Unions Buildings, or the offices of the President and Deputy President of South Africa, have a remarkable resemblance to New Delhi’s central administrative complex. Indeed, like the Indian capital, these are also at an elevation.

Delhi Durbar
Post-results, Reds keep low profile
L
eaders of the Left parties were in no mood to interact with anyone after the results of the 15th Lok Sabha elections were announced. Heart-broken, they were inside their war rooms at the party headquarters in the capital, where, they had, for the first time, arranged television screens and refreshments for mediapersons tracking their performance.

Regional leaders at the receiving end
Marriage disputes at Supreme Court


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PM’s appeal
Punjab needs peace, not strife

THE people of Punjab, which during the last two days has seen violence in some towns, should heed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s appeal to maintain peace. The government, he has said, is determined to ensure that the perpetrators of this “mindless and wanton act” in Vienna will be brought to justice.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has called an all-party meeting in Chandigarh on Tuesday to try a political consensus on how to deal with the threat to peace and harmony, while the ruling Akali Dal has given a call for Tuesday bandh. The delicate situation requires mature handling by leaders of all political parties and persuasions.

The provocation for violence in the state came from Vienna where Sant Niranjan Dass, the head of Dera Sachkhand, based at Ballan village, near Jalandhar, was attacked in a gurdwara by a group of fanatics. The armed attack resulted in serious injuries to the Sant and the death of his number two, Sant Rama Nand.

Many others were injured. As the news of the attack spread, Guru Ravidass devotees and followers of the Dera, largely based in the Doaba region, reacted violently, leading to the imposition of a curfew in Jalandhar on Sunday. Violent incidents and tension have also been reported from other parts of the state.

It is natural for the Dera followers to feel hurt at this outrageous and unwarranted attack, but they have to exercise restraint and protest in a peaceful manner. The Vienna police has already arrested the assailants who will face the consequences of their crime.

The way some of the devotees have chosen to express their anger by burning buses and causing destruction to government property may not be the right way of letting out anger and pent-up feelings. Why stop trains, causing inconvenience to innocent citizens? Violent protests often invite disgruntled anti-social elements and dormant militant groups to exploit the situation and disturb the peace in the state. This does not help Punjab and its people.

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Front that was
It vanished with the poll winds

ONE of the casualties of Verdict-2009 has been the so-called Third Front, which has gone with the electoral wind unceremoniously. Ironically, no tears are going to be shed for it, even by its godfather, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat. Only he and some of his yes-men were convinced about its viability and even they have now conceded that it was a grandiose but foolhardy scheme.

The Left was promoting it with such conviction that they themselves had been taken in by their own arguments that it had not only arrived but had as good as formed a government. That is why they were holding out lessons to the Congress to forget about coming to power and be prepared to support a Third Front government from outside. Mind you, even this support was not sought but was suggested in a condescending manner, as if the entity had already attained critical mass ready to launch a new era in Indian politics.

If only the communists had been less arrogant and convinced of themselves, they would have noticed that the concept was a stillborn, with neither Jayalalithaa nor Mayawati nor Nitish Kumar attending the Tumkur meeting. Even the flotsam and jetsam that tended to gravitate towards it did so solely for their own convenience. The adventure was one of the many reasons that made the voters take the Left less seriously.

Valuable lessons can still be drawn from the botched experiment. One, it is inadvisable to be totally sold out to an idea which is a figment of imagination of those who live cut off from the people. Two, one should compare the viability of an experiment with similar attempts made in the past.

Such national fronts had been tried out in the past but had failed along with the governments that would last a few months. Three, India may back regional parties to some extent, but is wary of handing over national responsibilities to them. The average voter may have learnt to live with coalition governments but is none too happy about it. The alliance of the weak and the desperate elements does not mean the right to govern India.

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An eye in the sky
AWACS will add to India’s strategic capability

THE Indian Air Force has this week made a significant addition to its strategic capability by inducting its first-ever Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). This is the first of the three AWACS, priced at $1.5 billion, which India has contracted to purchase. Even as the induction of the remaining two AWACS is expected next year, India is already engaged in negotiations for the purchase of three more “eyes in the sky”.

A fleet of at least six AWACS is considered necessary in view of India’s size, threat to its security and strategic interests that extend much beyond its shores. This airborne radar system comprises an Israeli Phalcon radar mounted on a Russian IL-76 transport aircraft and will considerably enhance India’s surveillance capability with its all-pervasive electromagnetic vision.

Except for a limited “view” of China, the IAF will now have the strategic reach of monitoring aircraft, missile and ground troop movements across the length and breath of all its neighbours, including much of Pakistan’s and Myanmar’s territory. Equally significant, the AWACS will also be able to direct the IAF’s fighter aircraft to their targets with precision. This force-multiplier will also form part of the IAF’s efforts at developing a countrywide integrated command, control and surveillance system comprising a mix of military satellites, unmanned aerial aircraft, aerostats and conventional radars.

But India is not the only country to have this sophisticated technology in the region. China already possesses such systems and has decided to acquire IL-76 aircraft from Russia to convert into AWACS to add to its existing fleet. Pakistan has contracted the purchase of six such systems from Sweden and signed agreements for an unspecified number from China.

Hence the induction of this sophisticated technology had become necessary for India. Future wars in the subcontinent, if any, are bound to be more challenging and complicated. Wars these days are fought in different ways and call for effective deterrence, projection and capability. The induction of AWACS in the IAF is, therefore, both a welcome and necessary step. Continuous vigilance, after all, is the best defence.

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Thought for the Day

The play’s the thing/
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience
of the king. — William Shakespeare

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Beyond Pilibhit
Is BJP using Varun for Parivar politics?
by J. Sri Raman

IS the party against “dynastic politics” going to become a participant in a political war of dynastic succession? Is a section of the Bharatiya Janata Party preparing for bipolarisation of Indian politics based on sundering of blood ties? The wise men and women of the BJP, currently assessing its Lok Sabha election losses, may not officially answer the question.

But the party cannot pretend that Pilibhit belongs to an irrelevant past, considering the damage done to it by declamations made by its candidate for the Uttar Pradesh constituency. The question should not sound fancifully futuristic, either, after Varun Gandhi’s videotaped speeches and widely reported observations on his worldview. The speculation should raise no eyebrows, really, after the responses to his rhetoric from either his extended family or his political-ideological “family” (as the country’s far-right “Parivar” calls itself collectively).

To begin with, Varun has made no bones about the “dynastic” dimension to his participation in the democratic process as a candidate in the Pilibhit parliamentary constituency. He asserts that he has spoken “equally as a Hindu, an Indian and a Gandhi”. He has sought to forcefully underscore his connection to India’s first political family (as its loyal following labels it) by placing on record his objection to some of the “personal attacks” made by some BJP leaders on “my aunt” Sonia Gandhi. Expressing personal “disappointment” at Varun’s vituperations, cousins Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra have also helped emphasise the family-feud part of Varun’s fray.

The son of Sanjay Gandhi has made no secret of the succession war he is set to wage. He has told the Daily Telegraph of London that he hopes to follow in his “father’s footsteps by offering strong leadership which India has lacked for 20 years.” In what sounds like an allusion to Rahul’s repeated disavowals of the ultimate political ambition, Varun has added, “Anyone who says they have no ambition to achieve power at some stage is lying”.

The responses of the “family” or the Parivar to the Varun-speak on various subjects of vital interest to it also suggests a readiness to treat a coming dynastic war as part of its own crusade for “democracy”. The “family” sees him as fit to spearhead the struggle for “democracy” redefined as minority repression more than as majority rule at home, and as nuclear militarism rather than nationalism of any category in the region.

Many friends of the BJP feigned surprise that the party which spoke so harshly against Sanjay and his Emergency excesses should harbour Varun and defend his virulent campaign. They pretend to be perplexed about the party’s attempt to wish away his wanton attacks on the minority community, his tirade against it as a terrorist force, his reported promise to emulate his father in a forcible sterilisation programme, and his advocacy of compulsory military training for Indian citizens.

The fact is that Sanjay had no dearth of supporters in the Parivar, even when the BJP’s parent Jan Sangh was denouncing his “Emergency excesses”. Historian Bipan Chandra, in his “In the Name of Democracy”, recalls that the excesses — forcible sterilisation drives, heavy-handed slum clearances to “beautify and de-congest” Delhi, banning of industrial strikes, and so on — marked “a steep slide towards Nazification of the country” and thus drew the far right support.  The RSS, the backbone of the Jayaprakash Narayan-led movement, welcomed the “emergence of Sanjay Gandhi as a youth leader” and offered to lend its manpower to the government “for the uplift of our country”.

There was nothing shocking, therefore, about the enthusiastic endorsement Varun has received from large sections of the party and in the Parivar, despite the diplomatic noises of disapproval emanating from the BJP’s top echelons. Except the party’s two Muslim faces, Shanawaz Hussain and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, no main opposition leader evinced serious unease about Varun’s invective and its implications.

The Parivar and allies were more unreserved and unrestrained in their praise for the new hero of Hindutva. Ashok Singhal of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad saw nothing wrong in Varun’s remarks and the Bajrang Dal, too, gave him a certificate as “bright young man”. Bal Thackeray of the Shiv Sena went further. In an editorial in Sena organ Saamna, he said: “There is no need for Varun to apologise for his remarks... Varun has spoken out the truth.” 

Stating that Varun’s anti-Muslim remarks revived memories of his father, Thackeray said that Sanjay “had stood up for the Hindus in the country more than 25 years ago”. As proof, the Sena chief cited the coercive family planning for Muslims and the Turkman Gate incident of traditional residents’ eviction. “In Varun,” gushed Thackeray, “one gets an impression as if Sanjay Gandhi has had his re-birth. And when Varun speaks, we get an impression as if Sanjay Gandhi is speaking.”

“There is a Hindutva spark in him. Don’t extinguish it”, Thackeray counselled the BJP. The Sena supremo added: “He is one Gandhi we like.…” There is no doubt that he is a Gandhi that the rank and file of the BJP likes too in parts of the country. To them he seems to be addressing the party’s core constituency in unabashed terms. The slogan resounding in his Pilibhit rallies amidst fluttering symbols of the lotus is: “Varun nahin yeh andhi hain, doosra Sanjay Gandhi hai. (This isn’t Varun, but a hurricane; it is the second Sanjay Gandhi.)”

The slogan is clinching evidence that the party cadre and voters have no compunction about taking sides in the dynastic politics. It is no wonder that as many as 70 party candidates across the country wanted him to campaign for them — or that the top party leadership did not take kindly to their wish.

At least in some parts of the country, Varun has made a more substantial impact in the election campaign for either shadow Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani or his supposed successor Narendra Modi. Advani tried his utmost to avoid the subject of Varun but, when compelled to do so, committed a faux pas by comparing Varun’s arrest and the National Security Act (NSA) to Jayaprakash Narayan’s detention during the Emergency under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA).

Modi, for his part, has succeeded in keeping entirely silent on the Varun episode. The Gujarat Chief Minister’s embarrassment should be no enigma. He has found more than a match for his virulence in the new star on the saffron horizon. Where Modi only amuses his audiences, Varun alarms the country or those who apprehend a serious threat to communal harmony in his hate speech.

In a recent speech, Modi, quipped: “They talk of threats from the Parivar. All the threats are, actually, from the Parivar at 10, Janpath.” Time, however, may not be far off when a section of the BJP will be more interested and involved in a power struggle in one Parivar than in promoting the far-right interests of the other.

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Second to none
by Raj Chatterjee

THERE is no accounting for tastes. Some people I know like to drink their tea from a shaving mug. They say it improves the flavour of the brew. To me the thought is disgusting. It’s like sipping a whisky and soda through a straw. A few years ago I read a newspaper report of a young man in Kolkata who had decided to lock himself up for 48 hours in the company of five hissing cobras. “I like to be cuddled by them,” said the intrepid youth as he began his self-imposed ordeal.

Old as I am, I don’t mind an occasional cuddle myself. But I draw the line at poisonous snakes or any reptiles. It did not surprise me either that the cobra-loving young man was a Bengali. Bengalis, whether of a Communist hue or otherwise, are known for their foolhardiness. The first Indian to have swum the English Channel was a Bengali barrister, Mihir Sen by name. So was one of the two youths who successfully crossed over to the Andamans, several years ago in an open boat.

Indeed, when one notices the respect with which people all over the world mention names like Rabindra Nath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, J.C. Bose, Ram Mohun Roy and C.R. Das, one cannot help recalling, with pride, that Bengal also produced men of valour to whom the country has cause to be grateful. The Indian National Army was led by a Bengali and a Bengali Chief of Army Staff directed operations in our 1965 war with Pakistan.

What surprises me, however, is that in the days of the Raj Bengalis were regarded as belonging to the non-martial classes. This erroneous impression gave rise to a number of uncomplimentary stories about such of them who had volunteered for military service under the Crown in World War I.

One of these canards concerned a Bengali sepoy who crossed the seas with the Indian contingent. Somewhere in the slushy and rat-infested trenches of Mesopotamia, as he raised his head for a breath of fresh air an enemy bullet whizzed past him, grazing his ear. “Hey shala,” he shouted in anger, “Dekh ke maro. Abhi hum ko lag jata.”

The story, if true, lends support to what I’ve said earlier. It takes a great deal more than bullet to frighten a Bengali or stifle his spirit of independence. I have heard it said that the Bengali husband is more easily intimidated by his wife than, say, a Punjabi or a Jat husband, both coming from the so-called martial classes. If this is so, then Bengali males are men of discretion as well as valour!

Having said all this, let me confess that I cannot speak a word of Bengali. For over three generations our family have spread themselves out over Punjab, Delhi and UP There was no one left to teach me the language.

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Elections throw up a new breed of politicians
by Prem Prakash

NOW that the heat and the dust of a hard-fought election has ended, a new government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is going to be in place. It is time to take stock of the just-concluded elections.  Is it the end of rabble-rousing politics? Are we witnessing the emergence of a new breed of politicians who are focussed on good governance and development instead of hate, divisiveness and rabble-rousing?

Even as the BJP still emerges as the main opposition party of India, its traditional brand of politics stands rejected by the electorate. The number of MPs that the party managed to bring into Parliament has primarily come from states where its leaders have achieved development and growth. That the Congress beat it decisively was because that party presented a new breed of politicians like Rahul Gandhi, who concentrated on  good governance and development.

The BJP now faces a dilemma. Apart from being a party led by leaders who should have retired long ago, its appeal based on Hindutva and divisiveness stands rejected by the electorate. Where does the party go from here? Where is its second line of leadership? The party seems to be waiting for the RSS to provide answers for all this. Hindutva as a policy needs to be redefined.

The BJP has been in the habit of lampooning the Congress and others as 'pseudo seculars'. The time has come for it to clearly define what kind of secularism it accepts or preaches? What was Varun Gandhi doing in Pilibhit? Was he an image of the BJP's secular politician?

The time has also come for the BJP to decide whether the party is a political extension of the RSS or does it have its own mind and ideology? The difficulties it faced in electing a new leader for its parliamentary party shows the divisions within.

So long as the BJP continues its links with the RSS, it will find it difficult to have an image that is inclusive; an appeal that brings all Indians together; an appeal that promises them a share in the national pie. The politics of "mandir masjid" has to give way to the politics of peace, development and growth. Can the BJP do it?

The BJP has never clearly defined its relationship with obscurantist and fundamentalist outfits like the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad), the Bajrang Dal and the Ram Sene.  These outfits really have no right to represent or speak on behalf of the Hindus, for they just do not know what Hinduism is all about.

Has any of them seriously understood the meaning of the Gita or the essence of the Vedas? If they act like the storm troopers of the BJP, the party has itself to blame for its debacle.

The Nehru-Gandhi family that has succeeded in retaining its leadership role in the Congress has a special place in the hearts of India's poor. Coming from a wealthy background, Moti Lal Nehru gave his all at the call of Mahatma Gandhi. 

Jawaharlal Nehru started his work in the party as a Sewa Dal worker.  Rahul Gandhi has been spending a lot of his time in villages and even staying with the poor to find out what has gone wrong that in the 60-odd years of freedom  its fruits have not reached the poor. 

India's poor have seen how the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government tried to implement its promises. Schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the waiver of farmer loans have lifted the spirit and pride of the countryside. These schemes are not a dole like England's unemployment benefit, but wages for employment.

They have enabled the poor to retain their pride. The closely monitored schemes have paid rich dividends to the Congress Party and protected rural India from the vagaries of the market economy.

The Left,  led by the CPI-M,  has miscalculated. At a time and moment when their support to the Manmohan Singh had come to be recognised, they withdrew it and committed a double whammy by opposing the nuclear deal. They were dealt a sound drubbing by the electorate.

The youth of India, proud of the country's history, are looking forward. They want to see the nation marching abreast with the rest of the developed world. They are a part of a fast emerging global culture.

Thus, when obscurantist organisations like the Bajrang Dal, the VHP and the Ram Sene show off their brand of what they claim 'Indian culture', the BJP had to suffer the backlash. If the BJP has to woo the youth of India, the party would need to define very clearly its relationship with such outfits.

The simple fact is that the youth of India are easily able to identify themselves with young leaders like Rahul , Priyanka, Sachin Pilot and  Scindia. There is no one that the BJP can produce to rival their image. The BJP youth wing is defunct and now it seems the ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) is not even an adjunct of the BJP. The party needs to reactivate its youth wing to feel the pulse of India's youth.

The people of India have voted decisively for a better tomorrow. They want growth and development. The whole world is going through a very serious economic downturn and the impact is being felt in India as well. The simple fact is that during this election, the BJP or the NDA failed to convince the people of India that it can handle the economy of this country better than Manmohan Singh.

The personal attacks on Manmohan Singh only made the voter more sympathetic towards the Congress. Some BJP campaigners did the same with Sonia Gandhi and her children, only to suffer a voter backlash. The lesson is: please do not take Indian voters to be dumb. They can see the difference between the politics of hate and constructive criticism.

It is clear that the electorate is beginning to demand development, growth and good governance. The politics of dealers and fixers that was thrown up by the licence-permit raj may finally come to an end as the country demands a more transparent economic regime. The transparency and the right to information empower people to demand accountability from those elected to run the government.

The manner in which the Congress had led the way in injecting youth and fresh blood into the country's Parliament is to be admired. Most of these young people are well educated and professionals in their own right. That they have taken to politics could decidedly improve the governance of the country. Politics may no longer be a field shunned by the educated youth.

This election will remain historic for the manner in which it has introduced the idea of development, good governance and accountability from those elected to Parliament. It certainly has introduced a new breed of politician on the Indian political scene. The emergence of this new breed of politician may give a greater fillip to the economic growth of India. One can only hope that this trend really becomes the rule for those getting into politics. — ANI

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Pretoria diary
What New Delhi, Pretoria have in common
by Ashish Ray

Commissioned in 1909 and completed in 1913 the Unions Buildings, or the offices of the President and Deputy President of South Africa, have a remarkable resemblance to New Delhi’s central administrative complex. Indeed, like the Indian capital, these are also at an elevation.

In the middle is a semi-circular construction, which extends into wings on two sides. These serve to represent a union of formerly divided people. The East and West wings on their own represent two languages - English and Afrikaans.

The colours, the sandstone exteriors, the pillars outside windows render the construction a striking similarity with Raisina Hill. Only the roof is different; in this case corrugated red tiles sloping down, European style. But domes at the apex of the two wings are virtual clones of the helmets atop North Block and South Block.

The likeness is hardly surprising. Sir Herbert Baker, the architect who devised the Union Buildings, then travelled to India to collaborate with Edwin Lutyens to design New Delhi, particularly North Block, South Block and Parliament House. He, later, also provided the blueprint for India House, now the High Commission of India in London.

A modest memorial to soldiers killed in World War I stands opposite the main entrance. Below this a beautiful terraced garden cascading down to a congested valley, or downtown Pretoria, where modern high rises have mushroomed.

There is very little overt security; it’s also remarkably tranquil. Cars occasionally drive past; a tourist coach is parked nearby; visitors, black and white, young and old savour the seat of power in South Africa.

The symbolism and technical wisdom of positioning the nerve centre of government at a higher altitude than the rest of the city are not lost. All rulers during the apartheid era operated from within the magnificent walls.

A momentous change, a realisation on the part of those who had institutionalised racism that the game was up, ushered in Nelson Mandela as the first black president in 1994 — one of a notable triumvirate in the South African freedom movement; the others being the now deceased Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu, whose son is now the Speaker of the South African parliament.

Mandela, Tambo (after whom the international airport at Johannesburg is named) and Sisulu worked their way up from the African National Congress’ Youth League to provide an intellectual and moral leadership for non-white emancipation, which has become a shining example to the rest of the world.

Relations with India

At the time of the transition, South Africa had ambassadorial relations with Taiwan, not China. This was unsurprising as Pretoria’s white regime merely toed a line enunciated by the right-wing forces in Europe and America. Indeed, it was not until 1998 that full diplomatic ties were established with Beijing.

However, while India enjoyed a headstart over the People’s Republic, the latter has galloped past in terms of trade with and investment in South Africa. In fact, with bargains available in various fronts as a result of the global economic downturn, cash-rich China is embarking on a second surge of acquiring assets in Africa in general.

This ranges from buying significant shares in private South African banks to taking over sick mining companies (to whom China immediately provides a ready market) in lieu of building infrastructure. New Delhi hopes that with the setting up of partnerships between the Indian and South African private sectors, economic co-operation between the two countries will blossom.

The Indian government also appears to have high expectations from the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) co-operation. “It (the relationship between India and South Africa) has,” Rajiv Bhatia, Indian High Commissioner in Pretoria, claimed, “also gained because of the steady progress in the IBSA dialogue.”

Next month, India’s new External Affairs Minister, S M Krishna is expected to visit Pretoria for an IBSA foreign ministers’ meeting, as a precursor to a heads of government summit involving Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Brazil in October or November.

Female premiers

But the current level of inter-party political discourse in South Africa is deeply disappointing. Significantly, five of the country’ nine provinces have female premiers (or chief ministers). One of them is Helen Zille of Western Cape, of which Cape Town is the capital. Her Democratic Alliance defeated the ANC in the state elections, which the latter seem to be finding difficult to stomach.

As it happens, the rest of Zille’s cabinet is all male. Criticising the lack of woman representation other than her, the ANC’s Youth League venomously accused her of being promiscuous and packing her administration with her lovers.

Zille shot back by citing the case of national president Jacob Zuma (of ANC) having engaged in unprotected sex with a woman with AIDS, which she highlighted as being grossly irresponsible towards his wives (officially, he has three spouses). What bearing either accusation has to politics is incomprehensible!

The international community may be unconcerned about domestic mudslinging. But Zuma needs to ensure that the Youth League, one of his support bases, does not have a debilitating influence on policies of the federal government.

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Delhi Durbar
Post-results, Reds keep low profile

Leaders of the Left parties were in no mood to interact with anyone after the results of the 15th Lok Sabha elections were announced. Heart-broken, they were inside their war rooms at the party headquarters in the capital, where, they had, for the first time, arranged television screens and refreshments for mediapersons tracking their performance.

But as the day went by, the enthusiasm waned and touched its ebb by the evening. As if this was not enough, supporters of Ajay Maken, the Congress candidate who won from the capital, spent their day celebrating on the road right across AK Gopalan Bhavan, the CPM office, which, in contrast, wore a dull, dreary look. The atmosphere in the red bastion had until last month been hyped up, in anticipation of a victory that never came.

Regional leaders at the receiving end

The Congress party is on a high. Getting 206 seats in the 15th Lok Sabha is far beyond anyone’s expectations, even of the most optimistic Congressman. Naturally, then this victory has made the party feel heady. Congressmen have always been disdainful and dismissive of regional leaders like Lalu Prasad, Mulayam Singh, Mayawati and Paswan.

They had suffered them for five years only out of sheer compulsion and now that they have got 206 seats, their contempt for the regional leaders is so evident. They are openly talking against DMK leaders Baalu and Raja and almost pushing away the likes of Lalu Yadav, who try embracing them. The kind of cold reception the losers got at the swearing-in ceremony clearly showed how the hoi polloi were not ready to suffer the losers.

L.K. Advani had to wait a while before he could get a chair to sit. Paswan too faced the same fate. And Mulayam and Amar Singh got seats in the last row. Lalu Yadav, better watch out! Perhaps, the next time he tries pushing a rasgulla down Rahul Gandhi’s mouth, he may even be snubbed.

Marriage disputes at Supreme Court

It was virtually a week of marriage counselling for the vacation Bench of Supreme Court Judges Markandey Katju and Deepak Varma. In one case involving marriage between a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy, the Bench clarified that the parents of the bride, who had converted to Islam before the ‘nikah,’ had no right to stand in her way, harass or ill-treat her. The maximum the parents could do in such cases where the girl was a major was to sever social ties with her.

In another case of matrimonial dispute, the Bench said it could decide on the issue of bringing up an infant only after hearing the husband’s version. When the wife sought immediate possession of the child, the Bench said this was not possible.

The father must be taking care of the child, feeding it with baby food, the Judges remarked. In yet another case, Justice Katju advised the husband to hand over “all the keys” to the wife, prompting his brother Judge to remark: “This will also be lapped up by the media”, which had prominently carried the earlier remarks.

Contributed by Aditi Tandon, Faraz Ahmad and R Sedhuraman.

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Corrections and clarifications

In a report filed by an agency (Page 2, May 23) Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh
was wrongly reported to have held the position of Governor, Reserve Bank of India,
between “Sept 1982 — Jan 1982”. Dr Singh was the RBI Governor between 1982
and 1985.

In a report (Page 18, May 22), Manish Pandey was reported to have scored 114 runs off 67 balls. He actually took 73 balls to score the runs.

In a report related to excellence awards (Page 4, May 24, Himachal edition), it should have been NHPC, earlier known as National Hydroelectric Power Corporation.

Despite our earnest endeavour to keep The Tribune error-free, some errors do creep in at times. We are always eager to correct them.

We request our readers to write or e-mail to us whenever they find any error.
We will carry corrections and clarifications, wherever necessary, every Tuesday
& Friday.

Readers in such cases can write to Mr Uttam Sengupta, Associate Editor, The Tribune, Chandigarh, with the word “Corrections” on the envelope. His e-mail ID is uttamsengupta@tribunemail.com.

H.K. Dua
Editor-in-Chief


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