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Power Point Sachidananda Murthy
The treasurers two
Atal Bihari Vajpayee is increasingly becoming the silent mascot of the BJP campaign, with Narendra Modi invoking his governance model. Vajpayee is confined to his Delhi home because of old age illnesses and could not record even an audio speech for the campaign. But, even Modi has agreed that Vajpayee should appear on posters that highlight the economy's growth during the NDA years.Yet, the...
The ambassadorial itch
Yet another US ambassador is leaving New Delhi under less than happy circumstances. Nancy Powell has had a tough time as Barack Obama’s representative ever since she arrived in April 2012. Her predecessor Timothy Roemer had resigned the day after India told Boeing and Lockheed Martin that they were out of the race to supply new fighters to the Indian Air Force. Roemer had invested a lot of...
Siding with success
In politics, instinct matters as much as strategy and preparation. In the past 18 years, some regional leaders have instinctively chosen the national party on the ascendent and picked the fruits of power.Though they were dismissed as political weathercocks, many grizzled politicians marvelled at the way these regional leaders backed the winning horse. The DMK, which shared power in the United...
Lok is key
BJP stalwart Arun Jaitley will contest his first direct election in his three-decade-long political career from Amritsar. By doing so, he has dared his critics within and outside the BJP; they had whispered often that he had always taken the back door to Parliament, i.e. the Rajya Sabha. Jaitley was willing to fight the 2009 elections, but the party wanted him for campaign work. He has prime...
Father, son and the holy boast
The trinity of the anti-corruption movement of 2011 has now gone different ways. Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Baba Ramdev symbolised the mass protests in Delhi against corruption, delay in enacting an effective Lokpal and bringing back black money stashed abroad. Anna and Kejriwal started the journey together, while Ramdev flitted in and out. The mass protests had seen high drama when Anna...
The audacity of hope
The BJP has informally told Raj Thackeray that his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena should not contest the Lok Sabha elections as the MNS has terribly harmed the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in elections after Raj parted ways with his cousin Uddhav. The cousins fell out on the issue of inheriting the leadership of the Shiv Sena, founded by Uddhav’s father, Bal Thackeray. In the last Lok Sabha...
The boomerang defect
For most of the last eight years, Nitish Kumar had the golden touch, but now he looks more uncertain and shaky. By failing to force a split in the small MLA base of arch-rival Lalu Prasad Yadav just ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Nitish has scored a self goal. It was an operation that the Bihar chief minister would have done with finesse a year ago. Now his desperation to get a majority in the...
Lead by example
When Justices R.K. Agarwal and N.V. Ramana were given the oath of office by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, it was a rare moment for the Supreme Court. It was packed to its strength of 31 judges, including the Chief Justice. Finally, the collegium of the court and the Union government had worked in tandem to see that the apex court did not have a single vacancy. Sathasivam and Law Minister Kapil...
Constituency conundrum
Narendra Modi has not given an inkling on whether he will contest the Lok Sabha elections and, if he takes the plunge, which constituency he will choose. Modi's close adviser Arun Jaitley took digs at senior Congress leaders like Digvijaya Singh for rushing to the comfort of the Rajya Sabha. Jaitley, who has taken the easy route to the upper house so far, is now keen to contest from a seat in...
Rainbow politics
Prakash Javadekar, the BJP spokesperson, is not returning to the Rajya Sabha as his party has decided to concede its lone seat in the Upper House from Maharashtra to Ramadas Athavale, who heads a Republican Party of India faction named after himself. The suave Javadekar is not only known for his words, but also his choice of colours. In fact, the only passion of the simple politician is colourful...
Nothing official about it
An old joke about elite clubs is that the lady members sit inside discussing their aayahs (servants), while the aayahs sit in the verandah discussing their memsahibs. For the Indian bureaucracy at least, servant problem is one of the main issues these days. After diplomat Devyani Khobragade got into trouble in the US, it is not just the external affairs ministry which is caught in...
Star fixation
Amar Singh might have been thrown out of the Samajwadi Party, but the party has not given up the Bollywood obsession introduced by the former general secretary. Years after Singh's tumultuous exit from the party and an open denunciation of his style of politics, Mulayam Singh and his son Akhilesh Yadav are wooing Bollywood in a big way. On their home turf of Saifai in Etawah district, the...
Rooms for the Broom
Arvind Kejriwal has backtracked on his demand for two adjoining homes, each with five bedrooms, because of a storm of criticism. He now wants a smaller house for himself and another one for his home office. The justification is that thousands come to meet him with their grievances, so space is needed both for visitors and staff.An office at home is a must for ministers, judges and top officials...
Desperate remedies
The Congress high command, finally, has started moving. After a prolonged strife in the party's Kerala unit between Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and state president Ramesh Chennithala, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has broken the impasse. Chennithala, who was keen on the post of deputy chief minister, is now satisfied with just a ministerial post. And Chandy, who was reluctant to give home...
Tragedy and errors
The Central and state governments got a pat on the back for predicting and minimising the casualties of cyclone Phailin that hit Odisha a few weeks ago. There was a lot of crowing about the way the Indian disaster management mechanism, which was put into place after the 2006 tsunami, had worked in preventing a major disaster. There were, of course, comparisons with the severe cloudburst in...
Suggestions, not welcome
The Congress is looking down the barrel, and its critics are gleefully saying that its strength in the next Lok Sabha could be below 100. Such a double-digit presence would be the lowest ever for the party, which has formed governments after 10 of the 14 Lok Sabha elections so far. Apart from defeats in the Hindi heartland states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi...
That sinking feeling
When Vikramaditya, India's newest aircraft carrier, drops anchor in Karwar in January, the country's first carrier, Vikrant, would be ready for the knacker's yard. After struggling to maintain Vikrant as a naval museum in Mumbai, the Navy has decided to auction off the vessel, which patrolled three seas for 36 years till 1997. The Navy does not have enough money to maintain the...
Snubs and surprises
The conferment of the Bharat Ratna on Sachin Tendulkar and C.N.R. Rao has predictably sparked demands that the highest civilian award be given to other eminent Indians. The Bharatiya Janata Party has repeated its refrain that Atal Bihari Vajpayee should be honoured for his services to the nation, and some of his ministerial colleagues, who are now opposed to the BJP, like Nitish Kumar and Farooq...
Saheb’s silence
Narendra Modi is trapped in the snoopgate, with the BJP and the Congress engaged in a fierce battle of words. The Congress's lawyer brigade of P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Manish Tewari have jumped on the bandwagon, describing the surveillance of a young woman architect belonging to a 'prominent RSS family' as stalking by the state. A Congress leader showed his insensitivity by...
Hammer your successor
Peer pressure is a behavioural issue, which has been studied a lot in areas of work and academia. But now some bureaucrats in Delhi are complaining about the retiree pressure. They are concerned that groups of retired bureaucrats of ministries and different constitutional organisations are putting pressure on serving officers. The pool of officials who have retired during the past two decades is...
Moscow mellowed
As Manmohan Singh completed his tenth and last annual summit with the Russians—sixth and last with Vladimir Putin and four with Dmitry Medvedev—there is stocktaking on both sides. India will have a new leader for the year-end summit in New Delhi next year. When Putin was to visit New Delhi last year for the summit, the situation was tense on the ground, as the national capital was...
Resigned to standstill
Are ministers essential to run a ministry? There are mixed reports from Shastri Bhavan, the HQ of the human resource development ministry, as its minister M.M. Pallam Raju has stayed away from office since early October. The Union minister told officials that since his resignation is pending with the Prime Minister, he would not sign any file. Since Manmohan Singh wants him to withdraw his...
Coach and poach
Some people believe that the punishment meted out to Lalu Prasad, Jagannath Mishra and others in the fodder scam case would deter those who create false vouchers and drain out the treasury. However, fraudsters are as brazen as ever in milking government schemes dry.Recently, Union Public Service Commission officials were scared when officers of the Comptroller and Auditor General came knocking....
Brand Indiramma
Sonia Gandhi wants a name for the food security programme, so that state governments will not hijack it. Among the pantheon of the Nehru-Gandhis, she has zeroed in on her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi. Sonia has asked the Union food minister to ensure that the just approved Food Security Act is amended, so that the programme is named after the iconic politician, who was both loved and loathed...
Armoured one from Assam
After Rahul Gandhi savaged the ordinance proposed to save convicted lawmakers, BJP leaders as well as a former adviser of Manmohan Singh said the best option for the Prime Minister was to resign. They argued it was unacceptable humiliation of Singh and his cabinet. True to his nature, Singh did not rise to these baits and taunts. Refusing to quit, he chose to speak philosophically about the right...
Over a barrel
South African arms manufacturer Denel is set to return to the crowded Indian market, after the CBI decided to close a bribery case against the company. Denel had been blacklisted by the United Progressive Alliance government on the allegation that kickbacks were paid by the company during the National Democratic Alliance regime for purchase of bunker-busting guns. The company and the South...
On the waiting list
The curious case of the headless railway board has caused a rethink in the Prime Minister’s Office and the cabinet secretariat. For several months, the railway minister has not been able to recommend a suitable officer for the chairmanship of the country’s largest public utility because of important procedural blocks.Either eligible officers did not have requisite years of service or...
Endgame begins
Former British prime minister Harold Wilson once said a week was a long time in politics. Then what about the 13 weeks it took for Narendra Modi to travel from campaign committee chairmanship to prime ministerial candidature? The BJP likes the number 13. Modi was given the party mantle on Friday, September 13, and the partymen lost no time in saying Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s first two...
Status update
The Supreme Court has backed the demand that the CBI director be made a Union secretary¯a proposal opposed by the political and bureaucratic leadership at Delhi's Raisina Hill. Current director Ranjit Sinha's argument is that he would be able to deal with the bureaucracy on an equal footing, and would get functional autonomy. A Union secretary has more financial and bureaucratic powers...
Obstructing the field
The slugfest between the cricket boards of India and South Africa is largely portrayed as an ego fight, because Cricket South Africa did not agree to the Indian cricket board vetoing the appointment of Haroon Lorgat as its chief executive. Lorgat has not had good equations with the big guns of Indian cricket like Sharad Pawar, Jagmohan Dalmiya and, at a very personal level, N. Srinivasan, who...
Balk strait
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris speaks at length. When he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month, he waxed eloquent about his government's efforts to rehabilitate Tamils. He also spoke about Indian fishermen trespassing into Lankan waters, and how their trawl nets were endangering marine life and damaging the seabed.Singh raised the issue of the Sri Lankan Navy's aggressive...
Delhi-dallying
Irritated by criticism over the suspension of IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal, a minister in Uttar Pradesh threatened to send away all the IAS officers attached to the state and manage with the state service officers. Nagpal was suspended for taking on the sand mafia in Gautam Buddha Nagar, as the dons were close to the Samajwadi Party. If UP is averse to IAS officers, Kerala wants more of them,...
Sign and whine
The Left parties have asked their parliamentarians to verify the antecedents of individuals and organisations who ask them to sign mass petitions and forward letters to ministers and officials.The directive came after CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury and several other MPs denied they had signed a letter to US President Barack Obama, requesting him not to give a visa to Gujarat Chief Minister...
Resign and revert
The Telangana issue has made parliamentarians and legislators use the resignation weapon so freely that the threat of vacating the seats has become a farce. Elected representatives of the Congress, Telugu Desam Party and Telangana Rashtra Samithi have been flinging their resignations at their party leadership, and even sending resignations to the presiding officers of the Lok Sabha, the Rajya...
Price of disruption
The Tamil Nadu government has demanded Rs.20 crore from opposition Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) for the losses the state suffered because of two agitations called by it. The AIADMK government's argument is that whoever causes loss to the state exchequer should compensate it. Like the principle of “polluter should pay” for environmental damage, the new demand is “disruptor...
Monsoon magic
See how the cookie crumbles as the UPA gets ready for the last monsoon session of the current Lok Sabha. The delayed session begins on August 5, and the centrepiece promises to be the food security bill. Sonia Gandhi's insistence on an ordinance to bring the law has helped the government, as many parties that were fence-sitters are now confronted with a fait accompli. Thus, even the BJP has...
Gated community
Both the Delhi Police and the armed forces need to have a sense of magnanimity towards ordinary citizens. In a petulant action, they have made the capital's sprawling India Gate lawns out of bounds for citizens this summer. Targeted by the agitations over the gang-rape of a young student in a moving bus, Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar bore the brunt of the attack with even Delhi Chief...
Capital squatters
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan's bungalow in Delhi is the envy of ministers in the Manmohan Singh government. The bungalow on Race Course Road is next to the Prime Minister's residential complex, and was alloted to Chavan when he was a minister of state in the PMO. When Chavan was parachuted to Mumbai in 2010—after chief minister Ashok Chavan quit, courtesy the Adarsh...
Fray-for-all
Though the Lok Sabha elections are several months away, there is buzz about the electoral plans of political bigwigs. Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar has declared that he would not contest in 2014. The Union agriculture minister has, so far, won a dozen elections, including seven to the Lok Sabha. He wanted to call it quits in 2009, but since he was grooming his daughter Supriya...
Puppets on strings
In the seven years he has been the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's point man for the BJP, Suresh Soni has grown in strength and clout. Many party leaders suggest that the pracharak from Madhya Pradesh has been manipulating the changes in the BJP's campaign leadership. L.K. Advani even complained to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat about the role Soni played in bringing Narendra Modi as the big face...
Breaking and making
Mamata Banerjee's dreams of a federal front have suffered a blow as her original collaborator, Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar, is busy protecting his political empire in Bihar after his party's dramatic break from the BJP. Mamata had hoped that the front of regional parties would maintain equidistance from national parties like the Congress and the BJP. Also, she wanted to keep...
Spooking the spooks
It is only a walk across the road from Sanchar Bhawan, which houses the telecom ministry, to Sardar Patel Bhawan for just-retired telecom secretary Rentala Chandrasekhar, who has been appointed as chief of the super-secretive National Technical Research Organisation. But, in government circles, the appointment has had a seismic effect—an IAS officer has encroached upon the world of...
Running from RTI
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar must have been amused by the rare show of unanimity among political parties refusing to comply with the Right to Information Act. She has been trying in vain for many months to bring unity among the major players in the Lok Sabha to ensure that Parliament runs smoothly. But the unanimity of the political class against the intrusion into their style of functioning was...
Jeth propellant
The expulsion of Ram Jethmalani from the BJP was expected. The surprise was the time it took to eject the nonagenarian after he attacked the organisational and parliamentary leadership of the main opposition party. It was a typical dramatic action by Jethmalani that ensured his removal. He had stormed into a party meeting to which he was not invited and ridiculed the supineness of the...
Poll positioning
With the Karnataka Assembly elections over, the Congress and the BJP have begun preparations for the next round of direct fight in four Hindi-speaking states. While the Congress rules Rajasthan and Delhi, the BJP has been in power in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for almost a decade. These states have been going to polls together since 1993, thanks to the dismissal of the BJP governments...
Cagey about the CBI
The brouhaha over the Supreme Court description of the CBI as a “caged parrot” has led to the formation of a group of ministers to consider granting autonomy to the agency. The GoM, led by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, who had dealt with the CBI in the Rajiv Gandhi government in the 1980s, would give suggestions. Since it is not an empowered GoM, the suggestions will not get...
All strike, no work
As one more Parliament session went down the drain, the blame game began immediately. The BJP has developed a reflexive action of killing the question hour and all other proceedings in support of its demand. The strategy, which is credited to NDA working chairman L.K. Advani and the two opposition leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, has helped the government escape parliamentary scrutiny....
Guv and take
The reappointment of N.N. Vohra as Governor of Jammu and Kashmir for a further five years made eyebrows go up in political circles.Everyone in the government expected Vohra, a favourite of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to get an extension. But the reappointment was done even as Vohra's current term ends only on June 25.It is unprecedented for the UPA government to act two months in advance....
Chalo Chennai
Chennai Express is Shah Rukh Khan's upcoming film. And for opposition leaders, Chennai is the new destination. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s recent meeting with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa has revved up speculation about a third front after the Lok Sabha elections, though both of them were more outspoken against discrimination by the Congress-controlled...
Non-plying captain
Despite Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar’s prodding, the Congress is reluctant to hold regular meetings with its allies. A promise was made to Mamata Banerjee (when she was still in the UPA) and Pawar last year, but the regular consultation mechanism has not yet been put into place. Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, who is considered the coordinator of the UPA, believes...
Inter‘net’ gain
Narendra Modi had a new mantra for the BJP's top leadership. He asked them to embrace social media to reach out to voters. At the central election committee, to which he was belatedly nominated, Modi extolled the power of the new medium of communication saying there were more mobile users than the votes polled by the Congress in the last Lok Sabha elections. He believes in telelinkages,...
Arm aadmi
Both Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chauhan have the reputation of being fair-minded administrators. They like to make decisions without fuss, though Chauhan's in-house critics often grumble that he is indecisive and worried about his reputation. The duo now will have to deal with the shrill demands that actor Sanjay Dutt be not sent back to jail for...
Family federations
Mani Shankar Aiyar, M.S. Gill and Ajay Maken were three successive sports ministers who tried hard to rein in the powerful sports federations in the country. One was a diplomat, the second a bureaucrat and the third a grassroots politician. They worked on a new sports code, which insisted on new norms of functioning by the entrenched interests which controlled sports bodies for decades. Even as...
Neighbourhood watch
Policy purists are appalled that regional politics is affecting the country’s foreign policy. They are objecting to the strong intervention by Tamil Nadu parties on issues of national security and diplomacy. The withdrawal of the DMK from the UPA is seen as the manifestation of regional obsessions against national interest.When Mamata Banerjee backed out of the prime ministerial delegation...
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Rwanda's forgivers
Five women from Rwanda, all awarded the Unesco peace prize in 1996, stood tall and with pride tinged with immense grief. I was there in Paris to perform my piece on violence, V For..., for the award ceremony. The ...  »
Power Point  |  Sachidananda Murthy
The treasurers two
Atal Bihari Vajpayee is increasingly becoming the silent mascot of the BJP campaign, with Narendra Modi invoking his governance model. Vajpayee is confined to his Delhi home because of old age illnesses and could ...  »
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