Monday 29 October 2012

The Cabinet reshuffle

Dr Manmohan Singh who was criticized for policy paralysis surprised his critics recently with a spate of new policies and reform push. The opposition parties were taken aback and did not know what hit them. All of a sudden the much maligned PM bull-dozed his way through the opposition thereby putting the opposition parties in a fix. A burly sardar, a Congress supporter emphasized, ‘never under-estimate a sardar, especially when he is cornered, he hits back with full impact.’ The soft spoken PM seems to have had the last laugh?

The Prime Minister seems to have done a fair job with the cabinet reshuffle, touted as the last change in the cabinet before the general elections in 2014. He seems to have made meaningful changes in the council of ministers by infusing the young. Bringing in as many as 17 new faces is commendable change in important ministries to drive reforms. The normal seniority and regional balance have taken a back seat, with little resistance from the old horses most of whom are tainted or have allegations against them. None of them could put pressure on the PM and Sonia Gandhi.

With a total number of 78 ministers, including the PM, 33 of Cabinet rank, 12 Ministers of State with independent charge and 33 Ministers of State. Andhra Pradesh seems to have got the highest representation. The reshuffle, also geared for giving fillip to the recent reform push of the government. The average age of the union cabinet has reduced marginally – from 59.6 to 58.9, but the youth emphasis is very much visible in the selection of ministers of state with independent charge. Indian corporate has expressed happiness with the PM’s new team. However IAC member Arvind Kejriwal calls it a musical chair. BJP says the reshuffle will be of no good to the beleaguered government.

With the long over due cabinet rejig complete, big question is whether Sonia Gandhi will be able to put the party back on track for the next general election in 2014. If the young and new faces perform satisfactorily against all odds, they have a fair chance in the coming elections. None of the opposition parties pose a serious challenge as they are also trying to cut loose from allegations from IAC and its leaders.

Thursday 25 October 2012

BJP’s Goa dilemma

‘The only thing I like about RSS is their half-pants’, said a BJP activist in lighter vein. The BJP and Sangh Parivar can endorse Nitin Gadkari’s second term as party chief. But that will mean getting off the high moral ground on corruption, an issue on which it sought to embarrass the UPA. Ignoring the Purti episode will torpedo its main anti-Congress plank both in the forth-coming state polls and general elections in 2014.

In Goa, the Congress was accused of ineffective governance, impropriety and rampant corruption in mines and construction activity in the coastal areas violating coastal regulations. Accusations were hurled that the arrogant Digambar Kamat Congress government was encouraging the mine mafia and land sharks in Goa.

Observers believe that the BJP winning in Goa was mainly due to the negative votes and not a total support for BJP. The anti-Congress sentiment gave vent to the public anger and voted Congress out of power. And as there was no alternative, BJP gained from this resentment rather than all the people voted in favour of BJP. Though BJP is in power, all are not happy with the BJP government, especially from the minority communities. Insiders say, loud whispers are being heard against the government and a few ministers. Many are of the opinion that the Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is a capable man with the right credentials to lead the government, but admit – he is the right man in the wrong party. He is progressive but his party won’t allow him much leeway.

Goans all over are not too happy with the BJP politics in Goa. Goans are open-minded and in general are progressive and forward-looking. But some of the recent BJP moves in the centre have led them to believe all that BJP is doing is not right and depriving the people of benefits rightfully theirs. Minority communities are questioning some of the BJP government’s policies and the promises made during the election campaign. However majority feel as there is no alternative and as Congress is mired in allegations of corruption, they will have to make do with BJP. The dilemma of Goa is that though Goa is ruled by BJP, you cannot be sure it is a BJP state like Gujarat endorsing the BJP point of view in toto. But one can never be too sure of Goan politics; politicians switch over sides in a jiffy and create instability as has happened earlier. This time the BJP government is to stay. Can Goa with a BJP government be a BJP state?

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Turmoil in BJP

Former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa announced he will quit BJP and launch a regional party on December 10, raising questions over the survival of the state BJP government headed by Jagdish Shettar. Yeddyurappa, who is largely credited for leading the BJP to power for the first time in South India, says BJP betrayed him. Earlier he had criticized the BJP central leaders and praised Sonia Gandhi for standing behind the Congress leadership.

In a huge setback to Nitin Gadkari Union Corporate Affairs Minister M Veerappa Moily has ordered a ‘discreet inquiry’ by the Registrar of Companies associated with BJP president’s firm, Purti Power & Sugar Ltd. Media reports have raised questions over the source of funds for Purti Power & Sugar Ltd. Media investigations claim that major investments and large loans to Purti – to the tune of around Rs 164 crore were made by construction firm Ideal Road Builders (IRB), which had won contracts between 1995-1999, when Nitin Gadkari was Public Works Department (PWD) minister in Maharastra.

With elections round the corner in two- three states, it does not augur well for the BJP. If they loose these elections, it will be a big embarrassment for the BJP who are projecting themselves as an alternative to Congress, to provide corruption-free government. Narendra Modi in Gujarat is also facing opposition from Keshubhai Patel, Joshi and others. This election is going to be a stiff test for him as he eyes a national role for himself. Insiders in the party say that Modi sounds over-confident with a bit of arrogance, ignoring Gujarat issues and development, and generally speaking about national issues in his election speeches in Gujarat thereby projecting himself as a national leader which is disliked by some within the BJP.

In Rajasthan, Vasundra Raje is not happy with BJP top brass and is contemplating starting a new regional party. All is not well within the BJP either. There are groups and leaders with their followers. In fact, some within the BJP are not happy with Nitin Gadkari getting a second term as party president. All along the party cadres were quiet as he had the backing of RSS. But now after Purti episode, they have raised their heads. It seems unlikely Nitin Gadkari will get a second term. BJP is finding it difficult to defend their party president.

IAC members, Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan have been successful in exposing the nexus between all the major political parties – Congress and BJP and convincing the public at large that all political parties are the same. On the outside, they criticize one another but inside they protect and in fact encourage impropriety and their self interests. Especially BJP which all along proclaimed to be the party with a difference; will be truly hurt by this campaign as they always spoke of high morals and corruption-free government.

Saturday 20 October 2012

BJP’s credibility crisis

Is BJP facing a credibility crisis? It seems so with contradictory statements emanating from different BJP leaders from time to time. It appears there is a lot of pulling and pushing within the party. They being in the opposition is also the main contributing factor. Some are already getting impatient.

A majority of BJP ex-CM have been adopting rebellious attitudes towards the party leadership. The trend started with Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharati. And now, in recent times, this glorious tradition seems to have been meticulously carried forward by Keshubhai Patel, BS Yeddyurappa and Vasundhara Raje. With elections round the corner, the revolt is expected to gain further momentum in weeks to come.

Though Narendra Mody is projected by some BJP leaders as the PM candidate, there are many BJP aspirants. LK Advani has always felt that after Atal Behari Vajpayee, he was the automatic choice as the leader of BJP. He still has an ambition to be PM before fading from politics. Apart from him, there are a few more PM aspirants which could explode to a full blown tug of war if BJP wins the general election.

Some insiders even claim the recent Nitin Gadkari allegations are also part of this sinister plot to put him in place. This only gives credence to the BJP in-fighting and RSS politics. BJP today has many leaders with their own following and ambitions. This may spell disastrous for the party during forth-coming elections unless the party high command pull up their socks in time and bring about some discipline in their cadre. During Atal Behari Vajpayee’s time, he was the strong binding force behind whom the entire party stood for its ideals.

BJP is no longer a party with a difference. Arvind Kejriwal may soon lay claim to this slogan. Even in some BJP ruled states, discontent is simmering. Some even whisper that progressive leaders like Manohar Parikkar – is the right man in the wrong party.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Arvind Kejriwal – to greatness or disaster?

Many are questioning his methods. And some are asking - his is the only wise man in the country? Kejriwal needs to mend his ways before he hurts his own cause. What is he trying to show or achieve? The Congress and opposition leaders are somewhat right in pointing out that Kejriwal is staging an unruly protest only to gain political mileage with some television channels giving him non-stop publicity with only TRPs in mind.

Most of the opposition parties who backed him earlier, including BJP are now wary of him, have distanced themselves, realizing his agenda and political ambitions. Anna Hazare was quick to understand the outcome and mature enough to distance himself from Kejriwal and his political outfit.
Kejriwal is not the law nor what he announces, the gospel truth? He should realize that arrests and sackings cannot be made based on his version of things and his allegations though he has the right to protest. Only courts courts are empowered to issue an arrest warrant. If this is the way, the educated and enlightened Kejriwal is going to run his new political outfit he is certainly going on the path to disaster. Anna Hazare was smart enough to predict that his movement was hijacked for ulterior motives, so he remains unscathed with some credibility intact.

One may not agree with the Kejriwal brand of politics but public anger cannot be ignored. But it has to be channelized properly without trampling upon others to get your viewpoint across. It is significant to note that it is not the opposition parties like BJP, Trinamool Congress and others which is setting the agenda today, but seems to be the people on the streets, led by people like Kejriwal who are leading the charge for social order and change. He should know that this does not necessarily translate to votes, which is essential for winning elections and strongly making your views heard in Parliament. Or does he believe chaos is inherent in all things?

Thursday 4 October 2012

Kejriwal launches party?

Can Arvind Kejriwal succeed in politics? This is what many people wish to know. From an activist to a politician, it’s a different ball-game. When you jump into the pond of politics, some muck is bound to stick on you. The mood on the occasion was summed up by Yogendra Yadav – ‘Hazare’s absence will be felt. His presence would have given us strength and more credibility.’

Kejriwal announced – No MP/MLA of his party will use red beacons on vehicles or have security personnel. Official bungalows are also on the prohibition list. Wonder how many aspirants would be interested or would forgo these perks?

BJP’s Venkaiah Naidu took a dig at Arvind Kejriwal saying not everyone could sustain a political party.
Congress simply said, everyone has right to form a party. Appearing skeptical about the new political outfit floated by former Team Anna member, Baba Ramdev said it takes a minute to form a political party but how many people you have is the key. Ramdev too is thinking of forming his own political party!

Major political parties appeared to be unimpressed with Kejriwal’s political foray. In the coming months he will realize, it is not easy to do politics in isolation. Activism and politics are two different things. The party will have to align itself with one or the other major parties. He will then be sucked into the real dirty politics, diluting all his high ideas and beliefs. His talk on the high pedestal will be truly tested.

Every party starts with utopian vision, hopes and dreams, promising the aam admi many goodies, but soon realize politics is not a straight business, with odd permutations and combinations to gain support. He will have to choose between hard decisions and populism. Very soon along with roses will come brickbats. To take a stand against corruption is one thing; to make big promises is quite another. And he compounds it by his anarchist threat of cutting off power to Delhi CM’s residence if issues related to inflated power bills are not sorted out. For a potential MP/MLA this lawlessness is inappropriate. How, for example, does he intend to give direct power to the people or enunciate the budget on the streets? Power has to go through a proper channel. Has his downslide begun even before he has started?