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Archive for August, 2011

Has Rahul Gandhi changed the Lokpal game?

August 26, 2011 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

Minutes after he made a sudden appearance in the Lok Sabha on Friday to profound his idea of Lokpal as a constitutional body, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi told reporters outside Parliament House that, “it’s a game changing idea.”
Certainly, it was more than just proposing a new concept of Lokpal. He has, in fact, infused a new aggression in the Congress, which appeared to be floundering in the last few days  because of differences within its core group.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has looked helpless, amid disagreement among his ministers on how to tackle the crisis caused by Anna Hazre’s fast since August 16. 
Anna was first arrested and then later allowed to stage a sit-in at the Ramlila ground as the government buckled at the sight of a popular surge.
But Gandhi’s intervention now is intended to resolve this “helplessness” of the government, and its dilemma over acting tough and conciliatory at the same time.  
Gandhi’s call for making the Lokpal into a constitutional body like the Election Commission is entirely a new ball game, say Congress leaders and activists alike.
It also means Gandhi has overruled the Prime Minister’s plan for further concessions to Anna Hazre and his team. 
Already, the government was blaming Anna’s team members,  Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, for Anna not giving up his fast despite the government buckling down and the PM getting Parliament to make an appeal to Anna Hazre to call off the fast. 
After all, since Thursday night, senior ministers have been upset that Anna’s team resumed parleys with other Opposition parties, the BJP and the Left, to garner support for their Jan Lokpal Bill.
Senior ministers led by Pranab Mukherjee and Salman Khurshid, who were hitherto seen as “softliners”, pointing to statements of Swami Agnivesh and former Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde (who wanted Anna to call off the fast) to show that the real “villains” were his aides and not Anna.
By breaking his silence, Gandhi has set terms for the government to resolve the crisis. Basically, he does not want any further concession for Anna’s team to end the fast and, if necessary, the government must adopt a hard line to end the crisis.
Gandhi sees greater danger in the agitation of Anna, which the Congress party had not been willing to openly acknowledge. “We speak of a statutory Lok Pal but our discussions cease at the point of its accountability to the people and the risk that it might itself become corrupt. Why not elevate the debate and fortify the Lok Pal by making it a Constitutional body accountable to Parliament like the Election Commission of India? I feel the time has come for us to seriously consider this idea,” he said in the Lok Sabha.
The second point, Gandhi made was, “laws and institutions are not enough. A representative, inclusive and accessible democracy is central to fighting corruption. Individuals have brought our country great gains. They have galvanized people in the cause of freedom and development.”
But Gandhi added, “However, individual dictates, no matter how well intentioned, must not weaken the democratic process. This process is often lengthy and lumbering. But it is so in order to be inclusive and fair. It provides a representative and transparent platform where ideas are translated into laws.”

One thing is clear that Gandhi has poured cold water over Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s political initiative to resolve the issue. 
By offering to debate the Jan Lokpal bill of Anna’s team and other proposals (in this regard given) of civil rights activists Aruna Roy and Jayaprakash in Parliament, the PM sought to reopen a new dialogue process with the agitators.
But the PM’s proposal, which was bold by his standard, met with roadblocks because Anna refused to give up his fast till he saw the outcome of the debate in Parliament. 
On the other hand, the government wanted the fast to be over before the debate started in Parliament.
With Anna refusing to give in, the government did not list the debate on Lokpal in the day’s business in either Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha.  later, it decided to ask Congress MPs to file notices for a debate.
Gandhi made his dramatic appearance and chose to make a special mention in the House before the debate to make his point. He could have waited for the debate to begin and then had his say. Perhaps, Gandhi wanted to make his point before the debate so that the government too understands what it must do. Earlier, it tried unsuccessfully to persuade Anna to end his hunger strike first. 
Gandhi’s body language conveyed a tough line to the Congress leaders and the civil rights activists alike.
Gandhi’s note of warning was that “A tactical incursion, divorced from the machinery of an elected Government that seeks to undo the checks and balances created to protect the supremacy of Parliament sets a dangerous precedent for a democracy. Today the proposed law is against corruption. Tomorrow the target may be something less universally heralded. It may attack the plurality of our society and democracy.”
Gandhi is leaving no one in doubt that the agitation across the country will undermine the Congress’ political plans and must be nipped in the bud. (end)

India’s “second freedom struggle” puts ruling class in a quandary?

August 19, 2011 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

Even Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi couldn’t have got that kind of reception that India’s latest craze Anna Hazre got when he stepped out of New Delhi’s notorious Tihar jail.
Thousands of men, women and children were out in streets , armed with no more than a tricolor flag and, perhaps, a bottle of water, but with never-before-exhibited enthusiasm usually reserved for one-day cricket matches involving India and, say old rivals, Pakistan.
Public concerns have never been individuals’ concern in this country. Corruption was at best a good topic for debate in schools and colleges and not a matter to show personal commitment.
But 74-year-old civil rights activist Anna Hazre has changed their attitude. Now, there is just one slogan on their lips–yes, we can put an end to corruption, if we step on to streets, rain or shine, to show our might.
But India’s ruling elite and their friends cannot read their message. 
The sleaze-driven political class even hopes the movement will fizzle out! They get even angry at these faceless Indians on the march.
“It’s a foolish crowd led by even a more foolish man,” they say in between abuses at Anna Hazre. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari’s trashing of Anna wasn’t a slip of tongue but a calculated strategy that went haywire–because our ministers and rulers misread India’s own version of Tahir Square.
Anna Hazre’s “second freedom struggle” is not just against corruption, as they see it, but against their understanding of the status quo.
For once, the ruling establishment was caught off-guard and all theories of “politics of development, caste and religious identifies” appeared to be eclipsed or rendered irrelevant by one single cause–sleaze.
For those among ruling class who love conspiracy theories and their Congress-friendly editors and journalists , a RSS hand in the public ferment seems the best way to trash the “mob frenzy” as they see it.
Even a CIA-hand is not a bad idea if the minorities can be somehow persuaded to look askance at the issue of corruption (as if that did not matter to them).
America-baiting too –tried by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav before the UP polls — falls in the same category. This time, the Congress’ biggest worry is the crucial next round of state polls in Uttar Pradesh early next year.
Arm-chair analysts, who don’t like their established theories of social behaviour to be upstaged by public discontent, continue to run down the Anna movement.
They are upset that their favourite, the Congress-led administration, is losing popular support. Others analysts who appear on TV channels every night fear that the opposition, particularly the BJP, could benefit eventually when the unbridled public dissatisfaction results in adverse electoral verdict. Left-leaning writers see a pro-right movement on the anvil with a Gandhian mask. They also see the upsurge as purely a middle-class movement (as if this class should not complain) though even daily wage earners like rickshaw pullers and three-wheeler drivers are among those holding up lit candles at India Gate.
But  if the Hazre movement looks “unreasonable” with regard to creation of an all powerful ombudsman, no body is able to deny it has galvanized a nation’s consciousness on the issue of corruption. What will Team Anna do once Anna Hazre completes fasting for a fortnight? What will the government do to redeem its image? Will the government and Team Anna eventually reach a deal for a better lokpal bill?  But for numerous Congress MPs and their well wishers, it’s time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saved their future. How? They say by agreeing to leave the chair in favour of younger Rahul Gandhi, Dr Singh can actually emerge their hero!
The exit of Dr Singh in the immediate future could save the Congress of many things, the least of which is having to defend an inept administration that singularly failed to prevent huge scams despite their “Mr Clean” at the helm.
Ultimately, there is no substitute to good politics and good governance. The Congress party is at crossroads, wondering what to do to turn the current disaster into another opportunity. It could do well to remember that, more than manipulative politics, the old schoolboy mantra could hold the key: If you do the best, the best will follow!

Modi writes to Prime Minister against Chidambaram

August 13, 2011 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

The war between the Centre and the BJP over “whistle blower” IPS officers took a new turn when Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday evening sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s direct intervention to stop  what he called ” blatant interference from Union Ministers, especially Home Minister P Chidambaram, encouraging indiscipline among some delinquent police officers of Gujarat cadre.”
In a letter to Prime Minister, Modi said that the Home Minister on Friday made statement regarding some delinquent police officers of Gujarat Cadre. This is the second time that Union Home Minister has intervened in favour of such police officers and thus encouraging indiscipline. 
Referring to their defence of Gujarat cadre-IPS officers, Sanjeev Bhatt and Rahul Sharma, Modi said said some other senior Union ministers  have also made similar statement before the media.
These statements are strictly against the Centre-State relationship protocol and a dangerous threat to the federal set up of Indian governance.
Modi said when the Union government comes out in open supporting such in-disciplined conduct of an All India Service Officers then it should be a matter of concern for the entire nation. In other words, one is indirectly encouraging the political activities by service officers. Such blatant interference from Central government will destroy the very fabric of Federal structure.
“Looking at the series of such incidents during last two years, I regret to bring to your notice that there seems to be a definite pattern of conspiracy in meddling with Gujarat’s affairs. Such selective interference is a cause for major concern, as it goes against constitutional principles. Unfortunately, it  appears that UPA government at the Centre is a party to these activities,
in one way or other, with a strong hidden agenda to destabilize a progressive and performing State like Gujarat. I firmly believe that you cannot build a strong India by destabilizing and weakening Progressiveand Development oriented States in a Federal structure. At any cost, we should not convert these constitutional arms as political battle-fields by misusing them”, Modi said.
Modi said Union Home Minister has stated that “Rules do provide for the Central government to take certain step at certain stage. But, it all depends on the concerned officers to invoke the situation”. 
According to Modi, the All India Service Act and Rules framed there-under are very clear and this matter concerning the officers being quoted falls under that. These officers borne on the State Cadre, are working in connection with the affairs of the State. Hence, as per the definition of the term “Government” given in the All India Service Rules, the state government is the “Government” for them in respect of disciplinary matters. The state government is competent to take any action against them including suspension, institution of departmental inquiry and imposition of penalty.
Modi pointed to the PM that no authority, including the Central Government can usurp these powers. If the officers have any grievances on the issue of actions being taken by the State
Government, they can represent to the State Government, or can take a legal recourse by approaching CAT, High Court, Supreme Court, etc. 
Modi “requested” the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh that thesematters are required to view very seriously and appropriate instructions maybe given to the concerned authorities so that such incidents are not repeated in future, in the interest of a healthy Centre-State relationship.

Does Sonia’s illness mean Rahul take over of Congress?

August 04, 2011 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

The sudden disclosure by the Congress that Sonia Gandhi has gone   abroad for surgery has set off speculation that Rahul Gandhi might soon take charge of the party.
Though the party says she may be away for only two to three weeks, her decision to name her son in the “caretaker” group for the Congress is being read by many as a clear indication in this regard. 

Also, there is a possibility that she may not be able to attend to Congress’ internal affairs in the future on account of time needed for her recuperation.
Loyalists are now expected to mount an appeal for appointing Rahul as working president or vice president of the All India Congress Committee (AICC).
In a letter to her party, Sonia Gandhi said the four members of this group are Rahul, who is AICC general secretary, Defence Minister AK Antony, Janardhan Dwivedi, and her political advisor Ahmed Patel.
It is very significant that she included only Antony in the group.
She kept out other senior leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and, even AICC general secretary Divijay Singh, who has openly been championing for Rahul to become Prime Minister.
A few weeks ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he would be happy to step down for Rahul, but that the party had not discussed this possibility. As the PM put it, he had asked Rahul a number of times to join the government but he told him that he was “busy” party work.
It is no secret that, among Congress workers, particularly in UP where the elections are due early next year, the clamour is for Rahul to become Prime Minister so that it has a massive impact in that state.
Sonia’s decision to entrust the party work to a “caretaker” group is also interesting when Law Minister Salman Khurshid had only on Wednesday recalled a powerful one-line dialogue of popular Hindi film Deewar to stress how the Manmohan Singh government was doing everything in its power to rein in prices.
Injecting a dash of humour during a discussion on price rise in the Lok Sabha, Khurshid said: “There is a famous old [film] dialogue that you may have everything, par mere paas Ma hai [but I have my mother on my side]. That’s what we are saying…you may have everything, but we have Dr. Manmohan Singh.”
Cheered by his party colleagues, Khurshid made this remark while referring to measures being taken by the UPA government to reduce inflationary pressures in the next two months. Dr. Singh was present in the House.
But, given the crisis over the government’s image and all-round feeling that there is a sense of drift, a lot of changes could be on the cards before end of the year, say Congress leaders.
Normally, the Congress party and the government maintain strict silence over Sonia’s travels abroad and her medical treatment.
But, by chosing to disclose her travel abroad for treatment, the Congress president has herself giving a new meaning to the assignment for Rahul. Also, she may need a longer period for recovery and recuperation.
Rahul and his sister, Priyanka, are with her. Congress spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi told the media, “Mrs Gandhi was recently diagnosed with a medical condition and upon the advice of her doctors, has travelled abroad for surgery.” During this time, he said a caretaker team has been appointed to “look after the affairs of the Congress party.”
Dwivedi did not reveal where Sonia has travelled to in America. But he did tell the media that the 64-year-old leader was recently diagnosed with a “medical condition and has been advised surgery.”
“On the advise of her doctors, she has travelled abroad and she is likely to be away for two-three weeks,” he said. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Have come to know through media about Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s surgery. I pray for her speedy recovery & good health.” (end)

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