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Archive for March, 2012

Will DMK make Ram Sethu issue next pressure point for UPA?

March 29, 2012 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

After tasting success in pushing the government to vote against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Commission last week, DMK leaders are in no mood to appear soft on the Ram Sethu issue.  

DMK MPs, belonging to Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, led by its leader T R Baalu met UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on March 29 in this regard, and said “any weakened response” on the issue would only “expose the betrayal of hope and promise” given to Tamil Nadu.  
As the Supreme Court gave more time to the UPA government to decide whether the mythological Ram Setu could be declared a national monument, the DMK began to mount pressure to quicken the legal process over the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project, which it said is essential for the economic development of Tamil Nadu. 
The Sethusamudram project is open up a shipping channel by breaking up limestone shells and shores called Ram’s Bridge or Ram to link the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka to allow large ships to get to the eastern coast of the country from the western coast without having to navigate through Sri Lanka, as they do now. 
Besides saving navigation, the project is supposed to speed up Tamil Nadu’s coastal areas, with Tuticorin as its main port and 13 smaller ports across the state. 
According to DMK leaders, after major portions of the work were completed and only 22 km of dredging work left, “some vested interests” approached the Supreme Court and obtained a stay. The Centre is said to have already spent Rs 800 crore on dredging work for the project.
It was during the UPA-I, Baalu as surface transport minister had got the project going before the Hindu groups and AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa called for a halt, citing environmental and religious reasons. She had moved the Supreme Court in 2007 asking for the declaration of the structure as a national monument.
On Thursday, DMK chief M Karunanidhi was prompted to send the delegation to Sonia Gandhi after Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking the Centre to declare Ram Sethu as a ‘national monument” without further delay. Her response followed the apex Court seeking the Centre’s opinion in this regard.
A DMK memoram handed to V Narayanaswamy, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s office, recalled the Prime Minister had inaugurated the project in July 2005 in the presence UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Karunanidhi. The Congress chief had then
“expressed her desire in the presence of thousands of people that work should be completed within the stipulated time frame
of three years.” 

Will the government sack Gen Singh?

March 28, 2012 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

The corridors of Parliament and South Block, which houses the offices of the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister are agog with intense speculation that Army Chief V K Singh might be sacked.
The talk about his dismissal was strengthened by a hush-hush meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had with seniors ministers including Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and, of course, Defence Minister A K Antony.
A section of the government and the Congress were firming up their mind to show the door to the general following the leakage of a letter he wrote to the PM, which lay bare the state of the Army’s preparedness because of procurement delays and obsolete equipment.
Fortunately for the government, the opposition joined hands with it to virtually single out Gen Singh for unleasing a “havoc” on the defence services.
Aiding the section of the government, which wants Gen Singh sacked without delay (though he retires in May this year), allies like the Samajwadi Party and the Lalu Prasad Yadav openly called for his removal. Lalu even went before TV channels to allege that Gen Singh was “nurturing” political ambitions.
Those backing for action against Gen Singh suggested that the leak of the March 12 letter to the PM had come from his end but those backing him said it could be from the government’s side. A retired general said, “don’t shoot the messenger.”
The PM does not want to precipitate the situation because of his preoccupation with the Brics Summit and when leaders from China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa have arrived in the Capital. Even Antony does not want the matter to become ugly.
The developments cheered the arms lobbyists who said Gen Singh had become a “thorn in the flesh” and his removal would at least ensure the government’s procurement process is completed before the financial year ends on March 31.
According to a newspaper report, the Army Chief has contended in the letter that the entire tank fleet is “devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks”, the air defence is “97 per cent obsolete” and the infantry is crippled with “deficiencies of crew served weapon” and lacks “night fighting” capabilities.
Gen Singh has also alleged that there is “hollowness” in the procedures and processing time for procurements as well as legal impediments by vendors.
First, Gen Singh embarrassed the government about an alleged offer of Rs 14 crore as bribe to him from a general and later, Antony saying that the general did not want to pursue the matter when it happened. in September 2010. Anycase, Antony ordered a CBI inquiry.

Will Gen Singh have the last laugh?

March 26, 2012 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

In January, he became the first serving Army chief to take the government to the Supreme Court. Now, he has come with a bomb shell that will make even a honest politician like Defence Minister A K Antony squirm in his seat. The Congress has yet another scam on its lap to answer.
General VK Singh said that he was offered a bribe worth Rs 14 crore by an equipment lobbyist to have a tranche of 600 sub-standard vehicles cleared for purchase. The lobbyist was a retired lieutenant-general.
General Singh also said that 7,000 of those sub-standard vehicles were already in use in the Army and had been sold over the years at exorbitant prices.
What is important to understand is that, all along, Gen Singh has been maintaing that, it was because he had cracked down on corruption that he was targeted on his date of birth.
“But things are fast unravelling and you will soon see the hand behind the drama. You will soon see who the sutradhar of the play is,” he told The Hindu.
Gen Singh’s contention has been that he acted tough on the army officers who were behind the Adarsh Soceity scam in Mumbai and those responsible for the Sukna land fraud, which involved transfer of 71 acres of land adjacent to Sukna military station in West Bengal. These officers were backed by his predecessors, Gen Deepak Kapoor and Gen J J Singh, who later became a governor.
But the government and the Congress will have a tough time answering these questions: Why has Defence Minister AK Antony been silent on the General VK Singh’s allegation all these months? Why is the CBI inquiry only being ordered now?
Of course, it will also be asked why didn’t Gen Singh insist on an FIR being lodged when he was first approached? Why has Gen Singh chosen to rake up the issue weeks ahead of his retirement? He will be gone in May.
In an interview to ‘The Hindu’, General Singh said, “One of these men had the gumption to walk up to me and tell me that if I cleared the tranche, he would give me Rs 14 crore. He was offering a bribe to me, to the Army Chief. He told me that people had taken money before me and they will take money after me.”
He also said that he reported the incident to Antony. “I told him, if you think I’m a misfit, I will walk out.”
When asked how the Army Chief could be offered a bribe, he said, “Obviously somewhere our standards of probity and integrity have fallen.”
Antony quickly ordered a CBI probe into the allegation of bribe levelled by General Singh. “Allegation of Gen Singh that he was offered bribe is serious. We have to handle it,” Antony said.
But, the Congress has reacted very sharply to the charges by the Army chief. “If someone had approached Gen Singh, he should have got an FIR registered against the person,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari told reporters outside Parliament.
According to The Hindu, the General said the lobbyist offered him the bribe in order to have a tranche of 600 sub-standard vehicles of a particular make cleared for purchase. He said the vehicles, 7,000 of which were already in use in the Army, had been sold over the years at exorbitant prices with no questions asked. He said there was no proper facility where they could be serviced and maintained and yet they continued to be sold to the Army.
The Army chief said the brazenness of the act shocked him out of his wits. “I was shocked. If somebody comes and tells you, you will get so much, what can you do?” He said the man had recently retired from the Army, indicating how deeply entrenched the problem was.
Asked what had brought the Army to the state where the Chief could be offered a bribe, he said: “Obviously somewhere our standards of probity and integrity have fallen.”
Gen Singh had wanted the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to accept that he was born in 1950 and 1951, as some army records showed. MoD rejected his claim, stating that he had accepted many promotions on the basis of his seniority, which was based on his acceptance of 1950 as the date of his birth. He had to withdraw his petition in the Supreme Court after the judges indicated that they were not inclined to entertain his plea. (end)

Will Dinesh Trivedi become Mamata’s fall guy?

March 14, 2012 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

The Trinanmool Congress has opposed Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi’s announcement of a marginal hike in passenger fares ranging from 2 paisa per kilometre to 30 paisa per kilometre in various categories of trains. Platform tickets have also been raised from Rs 3 to Rs 5.
Just as Trivedi finished his Railway Budget speech, his party colleague Dereck O’Brien went on the twitter to oppose the hike. A little later, Trinamool Congress senior leader and Union minister Sudip Bandhopadhyay said his party was not consulted by Trivedi.
Trivedi himself said he had not consulted his party and the decision to effect the hike was taken by him “consciously” as the Railways was going through a “difficult phase” and faced a severe financial crunch.
Interestingly, Trivedi’s ministerial colleague, Sultan Ahmed, who also belongs to the Trinamool Congress, said the hike was only “marginal” and no body should complain or oppose!
Is the Trinamool Congress deliberately speaking in two voices just to deflect criticism that it broke its promise not to effect a hike in fares? 
Is Mamata Banerjee playing the good cop and letting Trivedi play the bad cop? Or will she force him to roll back the hike or quit?
One thing is clear. The latest flip-flop has only added to the Congress’ worries over the UPA’s stability. Will Mamata strike at the UPA to pave the way for fresh elections? That question has only got more serious as Parliament’s budget session gets underway.
A day ago, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee sought to convey to the recalcitrant ally at a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister for the UPA allies not to press for amendments in an official motion in Parliament for thanking the President for her address– just because Mamata is opposed to Home Minister P Chidambaram’s pet project, the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). 
Mamata is livid with the government for including the NCTC as one of its achievements in the President’s address when she had opposed it, along with other non-Congress chief ministers.
Mukherjee tried to convey to the Trinamool Congress that the Opposition would only take advantage of a UPA-ally sponsored amendment  and force defeat of the government’s motion. But that’s the last thing she is worried about. 
An early election to the Lok Sabha, her party leaders say, could mean at least 30 of the 42 seats from West Bengal for Trinamool Congress. That translates into greater leverage in the next Lok Sabha and the next government!

With Akilesh as Uttar Pradesh CM, can Rahul Gandhi delay it any further?

March 10, 2012 By: Gemini Category: Uncategorized

Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav convinced his party leaders who were opposed to his son, Akilesh Yadav, to accept his decision to anoint him as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. At 38, Akilesh Yadav will be the youngest UP CM. In 1999, when Mayawati became CM, she was 39. So Akilesh has broken the record.
With Akilesh wearing the crown, the big question that has come to haunt Congressmen in UP and elsewhere is whether Rahul Gandhi delay taking charge of their party any further?
True, Rahul, his sister Priyanka, and mother Sonia Gandhi are very upset that the party machinery let down the “yuvraj.” Despite his hectic campaigning, the Congress managed to finish fourth with just 28 seats, getting 11.6% of the votes! The only consolation, the Congress’ national rival, did no better. The BJP earned the third place, with 47 seats and 15% vote share.
But Congressmen including Union ministers who are close to Rahul think that he should not delay any further in assuming complate charge of the party as its president and Sonia Gandhi would only be glad to make way and become “patron-in-chief.”
A Union minister said he would be the first to opt for a Kamaraj-type plan if a call was given for those in the government to give up ministerial berths and take up serious party work.
In 1963, senior Congress leader K Kamaraj suggested to Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru that senior Congress leaders should leave ministerial posts to take up organisational work. This suggestion came to be known as the ‘Kamaraj Plan’, which was designed primarily to dispel from the minds of Congressmen the lure for power, creating in its place a dedicated attachment to the objectives and policies of the organisation. The plan was approved by the Congress Working Committee and was implemented within two months.
Six Union Ministers and six Chief Ministers including Lalbahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, Biju Patnaik and S k Patil resigned from their posts. Similarly, the Union minister said, time has come for everyone to focus attention on affairs of the Congress and prepare the organisation’s machinery to face the 2014 polls. Rahul Gandhi should be seriously projected as Prime Minister candidate. UP debacle should be put behind, he said.


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