Posts Tagged ‘L.K. Advani’

If Kejriwal is ‘anarchist’, how about L.K. Advani?

25 January 2014

VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes: Ever since AAP came to power in Delhi, they seem to have become the favourite punching bag of the media, intellectuals and politicians.

Arvind Kejriwal was declared a threat to Indian democracy — an ‘Anarchist.’

Yes a dose of criticism is healthy, but to speak in a tone suggesting that voting for Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was a mistake and that they have become a menace is not only unfair, but also a disservice to a nation that is in the threshold of change. It also reeks of fear and propaganda.

All this sudden blaming and name calling of AAP by many Indians makes one wonder if most Indians really want a corruption-free India?

It seems many want AAP to fix just enough corruption to make life convenient?

Convenient enough that they don’t have to bribe to get a Driver’s License, but then not so efficient that it becomes impossible to bribe a Policeman when caught riding without a helmet or jumping traffic lights. Is that what it is? Selective anti-corruption options.

First, the Congress and BJP called Arvind Kejriwal’s two-day protest an anarchist movement. Really? For starters, where was this fear of anarchy when L.K. Advani took his chariot of fire all the way to Ayodhya and the BJP lotus bloomed from 84 seats to 183 in 1999?

Where was this fear of anarchy when Bajrang Dal ran amok beating up young girls across the nation on Valentine’s Day teaching them lessons in morality?

As for Congress, where was their fear of anarchy when Sikhs were massacred? Has any party even apologised for these acts? Where was the Indian upper middle class and intellectuals’ fear of anarchy then?

Now, a party very different, has come to power in the capital. It feels helpless as it is unable to control its own Police force and stages a peaceful dharna because the Union Government is unwilling to even discuss the issue and every one calls it ‘anarchy.’

Yes may be there may have been a slight traffic inconvenience to the Delhi citizens, but can’t a citizen handle being inconvenienced a little by a protest which will give him better policing?

We always want someone else to fight out fights, to make our lives better, without inconveniencing ourselves. How selfish is that?!

Indeed we want AAP to work within the framework of the law, but isn’t peaceful dissent within this framework as well? Yes, when it comes to politics, everyone suffers from amnesia. Indeed two wrongs don’t make a right, but still, to call AAP’s protest in Delhi ‘anarchy’ is just plain unfair.

While they say Kejriwal is turning India into a Banana Republic why is no one asking about the Bill to bring Delhi Police under the Delhi Government which has been pending for 15 years? What is waiting for? Is it on purpose?

After all ‘timing’ of passing certain laws or bills is in fact a political strategy. More than to benefit the citizens it is meant to win elections. This what creates a Banana Republic, not a government that sits in peaceful dharna.

The Delhi CM wants to give good governance to his people and good law and order is part of it. So he wants control of law and order, which he is not being given, so the protest. Is that wrong?

In that case, when H.D. Deve Gowda, a former PM of this country sits in dharna on Mysore-Bangalore road to get us Cauvery water for agriculture, drinking and cooking, does it make him an anarchist?

Now the Delhi Police say they act only upon issue of a warrant, but still when a crime is underway do they need a warrant?

Everyone in Delhi knows the area between Saketh and Malviya Nagar has had issue of prostitution. The residents of Hauz Rani which lies between these areas, had complained repeatedly for months and no action was taken.

Finally when a Minister goes to have a look, orders the Police to act, it is termed ‘vigilantism.’

How would the upper middle class “cultured” citizens react if they had a “Service Centre” next door? We are sure, they would have called the Home Minister and warrant or no warrant it would be cleared in a jiffy.

The details of the Delhi incident of course were made murkier and louder by now what seems like an anti-AAP media.

The same media which went hyper and showed us doctored tapes of AAP reportedly accepting cash, which some say cost Shazia Ilmi of AAP her seat, who lost by just 326 votes. But then once it was proved the tapes were doctored the raw footage was never shown.

The man who made it, earlier was given ample screen, but was never brought back to be grilled. In the Delhi incident a media that gets a sound byte from all and sundry did not get too many residents’ opinions. There was also no clarity and consistency in reports, why?

So while the media says the AAP Minister Somnath Bharti has brought bad name to India internationally, maybe selective journalism did too?

The same media just before the elections said AAP will not get more than 6 to 10 seats, in a way encouraging voters not to waste their vote and stick with the winning horse, the BJP, only to be proved wrong.

Is the Corporate owned media with other varied interests suddenly scared that too much anti-corruption may come knocking on their own doors or are they trying to play ball with BJP which is sure to win many more seats than any other party right now?

Also interesting is the fact that as one watched the AAP Minister wagging a finger at the Policeman, the Policeman too wagged his finger right back! Wonder if he would dare to do so at a BJP or a Congress Minister?

No way.

He knows very well what will happen. It seems it has not sunk in the officialdom that an aam aadmi has come to power, because AAP does not project power like traditional politicians do, which can be brutal and leave one in a perpetual vindictive legal limbo.

In fact, our politicians follow the same principle as that of the British. Independence ushered in only a change in management and not swaraj. No wonder the laws that British used to suppress us is still in use and no party wants to change it.

Forget the laws and attitudes; even the residences did not change. Soon after independence Nehru moved into Flagstaff House (Teen Murti Bhavan), the palatial residence of the former British Commander-in-Chief, our President moved into the palace built for the then Viceroy of India.

This is why it is said, “Democracy did not adopt India, Indians usurped democracy because it could be moulded to fit earlier structures without threatening them. It caught the popular imagination not for the new values it symbolised, but for the possibilities it opened up for the consolidation of the old. The miracle of India is that the practice of democracy has flourished within its boundaries for over six decades in the absence of a democratic temperament.”

AAP, it seems is here to rewrite democracy and they must be critiqued but not shouted down into oblivion and death.

True, AAP is in a hurry to become a National Party without getting its structures in place. They are advised to prepare well, for they need to survive, grow and deliver us not just from corruption, but help us rewrite our democracy, that will allow us to transcend into pure patriotism.

(Vikram Muthanna is the managing editor of Star of Mysore where this piece originally appeared)

Will Yediyurappa return change BJP fortunes?

11 July 2013

What goes around, comes around. Barely months after he left the party fuming and fretting, barely months after the party thought it had seen the back of him, B.S. Yediyurappa and the BJP—both chastened by the defeat in the Karnataka assembly elections—are apparently eyeing each other.

In one sense, it is a reality check for the BJP, which likes to think of itself as a cadre-based party, and for Yediyurappa, who thought that his standing was alone enough to carry him to power. With both the party and the individual realising their limitations, they are thinking of mending broken bridges.

In another sense, it is also a reflection of the changed if not changing reality in the BJP. With “two-time former future prime minister” L.K. Advani, who apparently played a key role in Yediyurappa’s ouster, no longer calling the shots, Yediyurappa sees an opening in the new scheme of things under Narendra Modi. And vice-versa.

Both sides are now playing coy. The BJP wants him to formally “apply” to rejoin the party. Yediyurappa, for his part, says the majority of his followers only want a tie-up with the parent body, not a formal merger. Either way, the path is being paved for the return of the prodigal.

Still, there is such a thing as political morality. When Yediyurappa walked out, the BJP painted all the excesses of his government—the corruption, the scams, the scandals—to him and his cronies. Will facilitating Yediyurappa’s return impact Modi’s national ambitions? Will the BJP emerge stronger in Karnataka with Yediyurappa’s return, or is this too convenient an arrangement which voters will see through?

Can Narendra Modi win friends, influence voters?

19 June 2013

A week is a long time in politics; a fortnight is an eternity. What seemed like, what was projected to be the penultimate stop in his march to his advertised destination, his elevation as the chairman of the election campaign committee of the BJP at the party’s national executive in Goa, has come quickly unstuck for Narendra Damodardas Modi.

On one level, the very public resignation of Lalchand Kishinchand Advani from all BJP posts the day after Modi’s anointment served to show that the divisions in the party on Modi’s acceptance wasn’t a media-created fiction, as the paid pipers on TV and the internet contend, but a reality.

That such senior leaders like Sushma Swaraj conspicuously absented themselves from the unctuous celebrations of Modi’s elevation was too obvious to be missed.

On another level, the withdrawal of support by the BJP’s partner, the JD(U), after 17 years of cohabitation showed that Modi’s acceptance within the NDA wasn’t assured either. And Nitish Kumar‘s dismissal of Modi as a “shortlived wave” created by “corporate houses” only underlines the obstacles ahead of the Gujarat chief minister.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, the aide of both former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani, has today described Modi as an “autocrat” and a “self-centered leader who has shown that he cares two hoots for the party organization and long-time party colleagues in his own state“.

Even prime minister Manmohan Singh has suddenly found the strength to say that “Modi is no threat. People of India know what he stands for… People of India have to draw their own conclusion what they stand for.”

What the developments of the last few days have demonstrated is that the knives are now out in the open. There are some in Delhi who smell trouble for Modi’s Man Friday in Uttar Pradesh, the former home minister of Gujarat, Amit Shah, in the Ishrat Jahan encounter killing case, and indeed some read the urgency with which the RSS and BJP ensured Modi’s elevation in Goa (sparking Advani’s resignation and the JDU pullout), in conjunction with it.

In short, the odds are getting stacked and it is going to take a strong heart, a chhappan ki chhaati, to weather the current and future storms. Can Modi still pull it off and become the BJP’s face for the next election? If he does, will he able to provide the kind of thrust and throttle that the party requires to get close to 200 seats? And if he doesn’t, does his personality inspire enough confidence to woo parties and partners?

Or have all these cards been played by Modi’s detractors too early, giving him more than enough time to recoup?

CHURUMURI POLL: BJP better off without Advani?

11 June 2013

Hell hath no fury like an old man scorned. With Narendra Damodardas Modi‘s nomination as the chairman of the BJP election campaign committee in Goa on Sunday, 86-year-old Lalchand Kishinchand Advani‘s fate as a “two-time former future prime minister of India” was finally and firmly sealed.

But it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

So, a dramatic resignation from the all posts held by him (except the crucial one of NDA chairperson), followed by the leak of the resignation letter, followed by the leak that he did not speak to Modi for six minutes after the nomination but merely 90 seconds. If age equals experience equals wisdom, Advani was showing little of it.

Indeed, the contents of the resignation letter showed a petty and bitter man, unable to come to terms with the reality that the party he had so artfully built on the trail of blood left behind by his rath yatras no longer found him useful. So petty and so bitter that he even seemed willing to destroy its immediate prospects.

So far, the BJP has refused to play ball. It wants him to stay on in his posts but has shown no indication that it will revoke its decision to elevate Modi. More resignations of Advani’s camp-followers may follow, but by all available indications, it appears as if the BJP and RSS (not necessarily in that order) have taken a calculated risk.

Questions: Is BJP better off without Advani? Will Advani’s absence impact the NDA and its prospects in the coming general elections? Is BJP’s (and India’s) future safe with Modi or has Advani shown the opposite?

Also read: Is Advani more acceptable than Modi?

‘The man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred’

CHURUMURI POLL: Is BJP guilty of ‘arrogance’?

7 March 2013

07nda

Replying to the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, prime minister Manmohan Singh was unusually belligerent, invoking memories of 22 July 2008, when he spoke in a similar vein after the UPA had won a controversial vote in favour of the civilian nuclear deal on which he had staked all.

Five years ago, he had said:

“The Leader of Opposition, L.K. Advani has chosen to use all manner of abusive objectives to describe my performance. He has described me as the weakest Prime Minister, a nikamma PM, and of having devalued the office of PM. To fulfill his ambitions, he has made at least three attempts to topple our government. But on each occasion his astrologers have misled him. This pattern, I am sure, will be repeated today. At his ripe old age, I do not expect Advani to change his thinking. But for his sake and India’s sake, I urge him at least to change his astrologers so that he gets more accurate predictions of things to come.”

Yesterday, days after Narendra Damodardas Modi said the PM was only a “nightwatchman“, the PM said:

“In 2009, they (the BJP) fielded their Iron Man Advaniji against the lamb that Manmohan Singh is and we all know what the result was. The BJP will lose again because of its arrogance…. I am convinced that if people look at our record, they would repeat what they did in 2004 and 2009.”

The PM’s “aggression” has caught many by surprise. Coming a day after Rahul Gandhi‘s admission that becoming prime minister was not his life-objective, there is even talk that this was as close as Manmohan Singh could come to bidding for candidacy for a third successive term as Prime Minister.

Questions: Is the prime minister’s charge of arrogance against the BJP valid? Or is he merely venting his frustration? Is it possible, just possible, that Manmohan Singh could be proved right again? Or is this just a pipe dream?

Infographic: courtesy The Telegraph

CHURUMURI POLL: Who could be NDA’s PM?

10 September 2012

The BJP’s race of aspiring (and perspiring) prime ministerial contenders is growing long—and wagging. On top of the pile, as always, is the “former future prime minister” himself, Lalchand Kishinchand Advani, who as the default “elder statesman” still fancies his chances should the NDA end up ahead of the UPA in the next general election.

Then there is Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi who, through his artfully constructed PR initiatives in the last few years, has left no one in any doubt that he will well and truly be in the great race in Delhi after he has wrapped his third election victory in his home-state (provided the long arm of the law doesn’t trip him in his ambitious path).

Through the boycott of Parliament over “Coalgate” and through his magisterial demeanour on TV, the Rajya Sabha leader Arun Jaitley has conveyed that he is quietly climbing up the greasy pole, and that there might be very helpful people to lend him support from below like Bihar chief minister and NDA partner, Nitish Kumar.

Nitish Kumar himself has delivered many thinly disguised messages in the past few months, but two statements stand out: the NDA’s next leader has to be “secular” (which means you-know-who is out) and that he himself is not in the race because he believes the biggest party in the NDA should get the shot (which means you-know-who is whom he wants).

To this list, a new name has been entered by another NDA partner, Shiv Sena “supremo” Bal Thackeray:

“At least today, there is only one intelligent and brilliant person. And that is Sushma Swaraj. She will be a superb choice for the prime minister’s post. She is deserving, (and) an intelligent lady. She will work very well.”

On top of which, there is the BJP president Nitin Gadkari, not to forget Rajnath Singh.

So, who amongst the lot might be best suited to head the NDA should an opening arise? Who amongst the lot might have national resonance? Or, as the Congress alleges, is the NDA counting its chickens before they are hatched?

Also read: ‘The only person to blame for BJP loss is Advani

Defeat of BJP is a defeat of BJP brand of journalism

Even a paper tiger roars when ship starts leaking

Has Yediyurappa melted the Loh in Loh Purush?

9 July 2012

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The BJP high command is neither high nor has any command left.  This stark truth emerges succinctly from the manner in which the BJP high command has been ineptly handling dissidence in the Karnataka BJP which is threatening the existence of the first saffron ministry south of Vindhyas.

At a time party should have pulled up its socks to take on the scam-tainted Congress in the forthcoming general elections, the BJP has been presenting the inedible face of a party which is unable to manage its own internal crises and has allowed the canker of dissidence to develop into a Frankenstein‘s monster as it were.

The younger generation of party leadership which was put in place with great flourish as a process of transition from the Atal Behari Vajpayee and Lalchand Kishinchand Advani era, has proved to the hilt that the party can longer claim to be a party with difference and that it consists of men with feet of clay, who have more faith in the political opportunism than in principled, value-based tactics.

Even the patriarch Advani finds himself unable to stem the developments and has allowed himself to be a passive spectator. How else can one explain the strange phenomenon of the party compromising on party discipline and as a matter of fact appearing to pamper its lack of it, off and on?

The party leadership hardly moved when the group of three ministers comprising of the Reddy trio openly raised a banner of revolt demanding the change of leadership of the Yediyurappa government and resorted to the politics of herding the supporting legislators to the resorts.

The party chose to turn a blind eye to the indiscretion and instead worked overtime to bring about a compromise.

All those who had challenged the leadership were allowed to get away, even without a warning.  The complaints about the style of working of the then chief minster were pushed under the carpet, by a leadership which refused to take cognizance of the ground realities in Karnataka.

The repeated tantrums thrown up by Yediyurappa has been sum product of the laissez faire attitude of the national party in the matter of enforcing the party discipline.

Ever since he was asked to step down in the light of indictment by the Lokayukta report on the illegal mining and plethora of land denotification cases which resulted in his arrest, Yediyurappa has become a bugbear to the party’s leadership.

When he was asked to quit in the light of the scam report, Yeddyurappa demurred deliberately.

When he had to ultimately yield, he did  so after making it amply clear that it was his, rather than the party’s, writ which ran as for as Karnataka affairs was concerned.  He forced an election on the choice of his successor and defeated the nominee of the high command.

Sadananda Gowda was his nominee for the post and Gowda defeated Jagadish Shettar, who had the backing of the high command.

The high command had no problem with the new chief minister and as a matter of fact it was appreciative of the work being done by him in providing a  clean government and taking care to keep the family members at a distance unlike what had happened during his predecessor’s days.

However, Gowda’s effort to run a government independent of his mentor angered Yediyurappa like anything and he started an open campaign seeking his removal. But now the tables have turned and Yediyurappa has successfully sought the removal of the very man he had installed in office and wanted him to be replaced by Jagadish Shettar who in the meantime had been weaned into his camp.

Initially, the high command was not willing to concede and backed the beleaguered Sadananda Gowda to the hilt.  But it dropped him like a hot potato when Yediyurappa held out the threat of precipitating the crisis by making group of nine ministers belonging to his camp to resign en masse.

The high command became panicky and had to give in to the pressures tactics of Yediyurappa.

The crop of the second-generation leadership which is at the helms of affairs was the first to cave in to the dictates of Yediyurappa and lobbed the ball in the court of the patriarch Advani before making the final announcement.

Advani  had always stood for a firm stand against those who have been making open mockery of the party discipline.

At one stage he was reportedly of the view that the party should go for a fresh mandate in Karnataka instead succumbing to the pressures of the Yediyurappa group.  But he had no option but to fall in line in the light of the combined pressure of the younger group that it is important to save the party juncture at this stage instead of taking a risk of fresh poll.

And Advani had to yield and going by the newspaper reports “with tears in his eyes”.

Even the “iron” in the “iron man” (Loh Purush) has started melting. And that is the tragedy of the BJP under the dispensation of younger generation, which is more interested in the power game than anything else.

Cartoon: courtesy Surendra/ The Hindu

Also read: ‘BJP has fallen prey to politician-entrepreneurs’

Why does the BJP persist with Operation Kamala?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Operation Kamala OK?

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

Getaway of the louts in the Gateway to the South

BJP’s lotus grows in muck, so do BJP’s people

Five questions for L.K. Advani and Arun Jaitley

24 February 2012

His mouth already full, metaphorically speaking, former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa lunges for a plate of chakkuli and kodebale from the next table, at a meeting of leaders and legislators at his residence in Bangalore on Thursday.

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Who exactly is ruling Karnataka right now?

Exhibit A: The Mahatma Gandhi national rural employment guarantee scheme (MGNREGS) guarantees  employment in rural areas. Of the Rs 2,153 crore approved in the budget, districts in Karnataka have spent only Rs 1,265 crore—58% of the allocated funds—despite severe drought.

Exhibit B: Studies have shown 37% of children are underweight, about 28% are undernourished, and 5.5% of children die of hunger before they reach five years. Prevalence of malnutrition in Karnataka in Raichur and other districts has reached epic proportions.

Exhibit C: The process of naming a Lok Ayukta to replace Justice Santosh Hegde is still going on months after he remitted office, even  as minister after minister or official or other is caught every now and then with mind-boggling income totally unrelated to his / her income.

Exhibit D: The ‘blue babies’, the 3 MLAs  who were watching porn material while the legislative assembly session was on have already shamed the party, on top of all those caught in similar misdemeanours.

These are only few examples.

Despite all these major problems confronting the State and the ruling party, the only issue the BJP MLAs and BJP ministers seem to be interested in is: when will D.V. Sadananda Gowda pack up and go leaving the seat for B.S. Yediyurappa?

For this, dinner meetings spending lakhs of rupees are held,  the ex-CM dashes in and out of either Benares or Vaishnodevi, burning tax-payers’ money as if he is just taking a stroll from his bed-room to drawing room. The Veerashaiva swamijis, who are ready to jump into this any time, have become willing partners in this plot.

Confabulations are held in resort after resort, plans are afoot to unseat the CM by hook or crook.

Here are five key questions:

1) Why are sanctimonious BJP and RSS leaders tolerating such natak from its political actors in Karnataka, week after week, month after month?

2) Why is BJP president Nitin Gadkari putting up with such an audacious and brazen lust for power, giving room for suspicion?

3) Now there seems to be a plan to bring in Jagadish Shettar, a Lingayat, to replace D.V. Sadananda Gowda, a vokkaliga, becasue Yediyurappa cannot become CM immediately. How can the BJP make such casteist moves so openly?

4) Why is the central BJP allowing the authority of present chief minister to be so openly eroded?After all they nominated him for the post after all sorts of discussions and he is the elected leader of the legislature party.

5) Why are leaders like the former future prime minister of India L.K. Advani and the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley mum on the subject? Can they unseat a CM and replace him with another against whom cases are still pending, no matter how much he hankers for the post?

BJP will again become a laughing stock if they bring back Yediyurappa due to coercion, religious and caste politics.  The cases against him are still on and he has not been declared innocent. He is only out on bail.

Meanwhile, let the administration be damned in the State.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Will BJP win Karnataka again?

How BJP turned Karnataka politics into a cartoon

Raichur, malnutrition deaths and BJP ‘governance’

Yella OK, guru. Nanna makkalu is not learning

Manmohan & Deve Gowda: 40 winks of separation

23 January 2012

In his first term as prime minister, Manmohan Singh was called plenty of names by the BJP and routinely reminded of being “weak” till it boomeranged in the 2009 elections.

In his second term, Singh continues to be called weak but with the corruption scandals chipping away at the PM’s image, there is an added twist: he is now called weaker than the former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

At a function in Madras last week to mark the 40th anniversary of the Tamil magazine, Tughlak, the “former future prime minister of India” L.K. Advani once again repeated the “weaker than Deve Gowda” charge.

Srinivasa Ram Iyengar  Iyer Ramaswamy alias Cho Ramaswamy, the editor of Tughlak who has now positioned in the AIADMK camp after having enjoyed the pleasures of the DMK camp not long ago, interjected:

“Advaniji says Manmohan Singh is weaker than Deve Gowda. But Deve Gowda was stronger in one respect. Deve Gowda was strong enough to go off to sleep on his own. Poor fellow Manmohan cannot even doze off on his own.”

Also read: Is Manmohan Singh still India’s weakest PM?

Weak Manmohan, yes, but what about L.K. Advani?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is BJP casteist on corruption?

6 January 2012

Nothing underlines hypocrisy better than when the shoe is on the other foot. When an anti-corruption campaigner who is waving the national flag for the Lok Pal bill (Kiran Bedi) is found to have fudged travel bills, or her compatriot (Shanti Bhushan) is charged of evading stamp duty of over a crore of rupees, it convinces even the most optimistic cynic in the Republic that hamaam mein sab nange hain.

And so it is with the BJP.

For months, actually for well over a year and a half, the so-called main opposition “party with a difference” at the Centre has feasted on the torrent of corruption scandals raining in on the Congress-led UPA government; its spokespersons sitting on the high moral pedestal offered by nightly television and holding forth self-righteously, like angels in the augean stables.

The  “former future prime minister of IndiaL.K. Advani, even went on a self-serving yatra, with the Hudco-scam tainted H.N. Ananth Kumar (whose links with Niira Radia is now legend) as his navigator. That the BJP was doing all this grandstanding even while B.S. Yediyurappa and other members of his outstanding cabinet were burning the candle of corruption at both ends was pure irony.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot once again, with a fullblown crisis having erupted in Uttar Pradesh over the BJP’s induction of scam-tainted former BSP minister, Babu Singh Khushwaha, into its ranks. This, even while the party boycotts Union home minister P. Chidambaram in Parliament on the 2G scam issueThe point here is not the BJP’s selective  blindness to corruption—that is every party’s weakness—rather, it is the BJP’s response to it.

Uma Bharati has raised a banner of revolt against Khushwaha’s inclusion threatening to stop campaigning for the party in UP; her close friend Yogi Adityanath has said he will quit the party; party luminaries like Maneka Gandhi and Kirti Azad have spoken out; and the party’s central leadership is said to be vertically split over Khushwaha’s inclusion reportedly engineered by party chief Nitin Gadkari, Ananth Kumar, et al.

The RSS is reported to have stepped into the picture and warned against accommodating the corrupt, and all indications are that Khushwaha will be dropped like a hot potato.

So, here is the question, notwithstanding the fact that Uma Bharati too is an OBC leader. How is it that vocal sections of the BJP and RSS find a voice against corruption only when Dalits (like Bangaru Laxman) or backward class leaders (like Khushwaha) are caught in a scam? Why was it absent when Yediyurappa (a Lingayat) was bringing such ignominy to the party, or when other upper caste members like Pramod Mahajan (a Brahmin) were not exactly smelling of roses?

Is the BJP casteist on a secular issue such as corruption?

Ask not what your leaders have done for you…

15 December 2011

With the year drawing to a close and Christmas close at hand, E.R. RAMACHANDRAN is in an expansive mood, compiling a list of gifts that he would like to give out to our various performing and non-performing assets.

1. Asif Zardari: A permanent hospital room in Dubai

2. Imran Khan: A Pakistani political pitch to bowl on

3. BJP leaders in Karnataka: Sites in Bangalore + a room in Parappana Agrahara

4. Jayalalitha: A set of 10,000 sample questions for practice

5. Rahul Gandhi:  ‘India is UP, UP is India’ T-shirt

6. Sharad Pawar: Protective cover for the other cheek

7. Team Anna: ‘Scams within’ report

8. Virender Sehwag: Indore pitch

9. Mamata Banerjee: Fireproof hospital (scale model)

10. Anna Hazare: Jantar Mantar for fasting

11. P. Chidambaram: A pocket map of Tihar

12. Manmohan Singh: A mike

13. Sonia Gandhi: Calendar with a red marker

14. Subramanian Swamy: Permanent room in  Supreme Court

15. Kapil Sibal: Facebook without faces

16. Sachin Tendulkar: 100 centuries of 90s

17. L.K. Advani: Hidden agenda

What gifts would you like to give your favourite performing and non-performing assets, for services rendered or denied in the year gone by?

Check out what ERR gave in 2008: Gifts for some one you love and don’t

CHURUMURI POLL: Advani yatra in Karnataka?

24 October 2011

Lalchand Kishinchand Advani‘s near-comical anti-corruption yatra—with the HUDCO scam-tainted Ananth Kumar (whose links with the 2G scam tainted Niira Radia are well known) as the navigator—has predictably taken a farcical turn even before the rath rolls into BJP’s gateway to the south, Karnataka.

With minister after dishonourable minister, led by the former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa, warming cell after VIP cell at the central jail in Parapanna Agrahara, and more on the way, the hypocricy of Advani’s “antim yatra” is there for all to see: should he or shouldn’t he visit “India’s most corrupt State“?

Orignally, the plan was that the “former future prime minister of India” would bravely wade through the “mine”field that the Reddy brothers have rendered of Karnataka. Then, as the noose tightened around several BJP ministerial necks over the denotification scam, it was amended.

Yes, he would come to the State, but only to the coastal parts, not Bangalore, where Yediyurappa & Co are spending a dark Deepavali and Dhanteras. But, before the world could digest the flip-flop, it was clarified that Advani would stick to his original gameplan and visit the State capital on October 30, as the Ananth Kumar faction, which reportedly wants Yediyurappa expelled, wanted.

Before Team Advani changes its mind again, here’s the question: should Advani visit Karnataka? With what face can he rant against corruption when a BJP-ruled State can very nearly be run from the central jail, or when his own navigator is not beyond scrutiny? And if he does make it to Karnataka, what should be Advani’s sentinel message?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: L.K. Advani‘s antim yatra?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will the BJP dump B.S. Yediyurappa?

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt CM?

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

Those who live by the Reddys shall die by them

The cons, cheats & frauds lording over Karnataka

21 October 2011


RAVI KRISHNA REDDY writes from Bangalore: It is truly a sad state of politics in Karnataka.

Charlatans and confidence artists, with none of the qualifications desired by a good and mature democracy, have taken over the polity in the State in general and the ruling BJP in particular.

Fraudulent actions like forging documents and providing false affidavits to swindle the State’s (and the public’s) money is second nature to some of the ruling party ministers, MPs and MLAs.

As can be seen in the case of heavy industries minister Murugesh Nirani, and in the case in which the chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa and his erstwhile colleague S.N. Krishniah Shetty are in judicial custody (reported by Praja Vani), people in power have thrown all laws to the wind and behaved like professional cons.

Our elected representatives and their families are putting Frank Abagnale Jr. to shame.

The sad state of the BJP does not end with its senior ministers and career politicians. It extends to greenhorn politicians like Yediyurappa’s son B.Y. Raghavendra, the Chitradurga MP Janardhana Swamy and others.

Instead of using the people’s mandate to steer and shape their own, their party’s (and the State’s) long-term future, they used their election as a godsent opportunity to secure their personal fortunes in double quick time.

These people were granted large 50’x80′ BDA sites worth Rs 3-4 crore for a meagre sum of Rs 8 lakh within months of taking oath, on the basis of false affidavits that carried outright lies in some cases and misleading information in some others.

And all this, in the era of the right to information (RTI).

It may be true that the politicians are the true reflection of our society, and perhaps it is not just politics that has gone wrong in Karnataka. After all, supporting a family’s corruption and protecting errant sons and sons-in-laws is not unknown in our society.

To give just one example, D. Javare Gowda, the former vice-chancellor of Mysore University—a well known Kannada writer who translated Tolstoy to Kannada and a one-time disciple of Kuvempu— went on a fast to save his son from corruption charges.

Octagenarian Gowda’s son is not a child. He himself is probably a grandfather in his late sixties; yet his father went on a fast to influence and threaten the State to scuttle the ongoing investigation on the irregularities he had committed while he was the VC of the same Univeristy his father had served.

A father going to jail for his son’s crimes and a son making use of the father’s influence and power to stay out of it, shows that something is truly rotten here.

Everyone, it seems, has come around to believe that corrupt practices are somehow OK if it involves members of their family.

Everyone, it seems, has come around to believe that corrupt practices are somehow OK if it involves members of their caste.

Everyone, it seems, has come around to believe that corrupt practices are somehow OK if it involves members of their party or ideology.

I know “everyone” is not the right word here, but “majority” is also not the right word as it may imply that 49.9% do not support corruption, as it is not true in this context.

The onus on exposing the corrupt and setting Karnataka back on track lies with our journalists, but they are not very different either, it seems.

I happened to visit Mudhol couple of weeks back. I was shocked to see a palatial bungalow on the town’s outskirts. It belonged to a serving minister. I am not qualified to assess monetary worth of this palace, but it was spread over acres and the people over there were saying that it had lifts inside.

It may be worth half a billion rupees, if not a billion.

The work and expansion of the sugar factory was in full swing. I had gone with a friend to the sugar mill run by the minister as he had not been paid for his sugar cane for the last six months.

So this factory has dues, but the expansion work and the bungalow next door tells the money is flowing. Where is this money coming from?

What are our journalists doing?

Can ministers or elected representatives like MLAs and MPs run private businesses or occupy offices-of-profit when they are serving a public office? I think the laws in our country are vague on this subject but the Reddy brothers’ phenomenon and that of other elected representatives underlines Karnataka’s current rot.

If Nandan Nilekani had to resign from all the posts of Infosys Technologies when he took charge of the UID position, shouldn’t the same rule be applied to our elected representatives to prevent public office from being used, abused and misused for private good?

Why are our journalists not raising this issue?

The media in Karnataka, especially the electronic news media, is now largely controlled by politicians, with four out of the five Kannada news channels being owned by active politicans. Minister Nirani also owns a channel and apparently he does not like bad press.

The BJP leader L.K. Advani said his party “can’t win the confidence of the people if its own house is bedevilled with similar weaknesses.” Kannada journalists merely—and merrily—reported it.

Now is the time for journalists in Karnataka to rid their house of corruption, fear, injustice and insecurity. In that process, maybe the cheats and frauds in the disguise of public representatives would also be controlled and be brought to book.

(Ravi Krishna Reddy is a US-returned software engineer who contested the 2008 assembly elections from the Jayanagar constituency as an independent candidate)

File photograph: Former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa with his son B.Y. Raghavendra (extreme right) and the state BJP president K.S. Eshwarappa at the party’s state executive committee meeting in Hubli in July 2011 (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: My dear IT brothers and sisters of Karnataka

Don’t laugh at the the joke of the year, decade, century

CHURUMURI POLL: Will BJP dump Yediyurappa?

15 October 2011

The “former future prime minister of India“, Lalchand Kishinchand Advani‘s much-ballyhooed anti-corruption yatra—with the 2G scam tainted Niira Radia‘s former western ballroom dance partner, the HUDCO scam tainted Ananth Kumar, as navigator—has rolled off on the wrong note.

First, a BJP MP has been accused of trying to buy coverage for the anti-corruption yatra by bribing journalists. And now, B.S. Yediyurappa, who had to resign ingloriously as chief minister of Karnataka in the wake of the Lok Ayukta report on the illegal mining scam, has been sent to spend the weekend in jail in the “denotification scam”.

And this, a day after the BJP government in the State sought to rescue the corrupt by punching holes in the Lok Ayukta report.

With Yediyurappa joining a long and impressive line of ministerial colleagues—Janardhana Reddy, Katta Subramanya Naidu, Ramachandre Gowda, Hartaalu Halappa, S.N. Krishnaiah Shetty, M.P. Renukacharya et al—in the hall of shame, his boastful promise of returning to occupy the CM’s gaddi “within six months” is now clearly a very hollow one.

More importantly, images of Yediyurappa’s arrest and incarceration are likely to alter the BJP’s relationship with him inexorably. On camera, for now, party leaders are standing by him “legally”, with the state party chief, K.S. Eshwarappa, who fell at his feet in public as recently as two days ago, calling Yediyurappa’s arrest a “bad day“.

But, clearly for the BJP, which has been riding a high horse of self-righteouness in the wake of the scams and scandals dogging the Manmohan Singh government at the Centre, Yediyurappa is now damaged goods. He may still be a viable political force in the State, a potent Lingayat leader, but any further defence of him will only be exploited by the opposition across the nation.

As it is, the brazen corruption, casteism and nepotism under Yediyurappa’s watch, and his open defiance of the party high command in the run-up to his resignation, have punched huge ethical and moral holes in the BJP’s “gateway to the south”.

After Saturday’s ignominy, the questions are simple: will Yediyurappa stick to the BJP, or will he quit the party in time for the next election? On the other hand, will the BJP stand by Yediyurappa in his hour of trial, or will it ditch him? And either way, will the electorate still back Yediyurappa next time round?

Also read: One question I’m dying to ask B.S. Yediyurappa

The stunning moral collapse of the BJP in Karnataka

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

Getaway of the louts in the Gateway to the South

BJP’s lotus grows in muck, so do BJP’s people

One question I’m dying to ask Janardhana Swamy

12 October 2011

The well-earned reputation of the average Indian politician—of a lying, looting, hypocritical, bogus, backstabbing rogue, with his eyes forever focussed on wheeling and dealing, and using his position to make a quick pile to last the next three generations of his extended family—is cynical, of course, but rarely inaccurate.

Which is why “the educated middle-class” is beside itself with joy when one of its ilk makes the cut. The presumption is that their education qualifications and professional experience will somehow make a difference to our polity.

Bangalore Mirror reports today on Janardhana Swamy, a masters from IISc who swiped his greencard at Cisco, Dell, Sun Microsystems and other giant American firms before throwing his hat in the hurly-burly of Indian politics and being elected as a BJP MP from Chitradurga.

According to the report, Swamy secured a 50×80 plot in posh Raj Mahal Vilas (RMV) extension in Bangalore for Rs 7.56 lakh (market rate: Rs 4 crore) after furnishing an affidavit that he owned no other property in Bangalore, although he had told the election commission (EC) that he owned three sites, two in his name and one in his wife’s, worth over Rs 1.5 crore.

“If I had stated that I own three sites, the BDA would never have allotted me the plot. The other sites I have are total waste,” the MP tells the paper nonchalantly.

Swamy’s hunger for land will surprise only a few, but what the 43-year-old MP shows is that the more things change in Indian politics, the more they remain the same; only the protagonists change. So, what is the one question you are dying to ask this “educated, middle class” BJP MP?

Like, how many sites, waste or otherwise, does a three-member family really require? Like, would his “mentor”, N.R. Naryana Murthy, approve such subterfuge? Like, should L.K. Advani‘s anti-corruption yatra pass through Chitradurga? Like, what would he caption a cartoon on his scam, if he were to draw one?

Please keep your queries short, civil and self-righteous. And ‘cc’ your comment to jswamy@jswamy.com

Image: courtesy Bangalore Mirror

Also read: And a snapshot of a simple devotee of Lord Rama

George Fernandes: Pati, patni aur woh & some crores

Mayawati: For doyen of downtrodden, assets is all maya

Kanimozhi: How many poems fetch a poet rs 8.5 crore?

Priya Krishna: One question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

H.D. Deve Gowda: A snapshot of a poor, debt-ridden farming family

R.V. Deshpande: A 1,611% jump in assets in five years? Hello!

Should editors and journalists declare their assets?

CHURUMURI POLL: Rahul vs Modi in 2014 poll?

14 September 2011

Plenty of pre-electoral chickens are being counted after the Supreme Court directed the trial court to proceed in the Gulberg society carnage case in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002. And leading the charge is Narendra Damodardas Modi and his drumbeaters in his party and the media, who interpret the SC ruling as a licence for the Gujarat chief minister to now conquer the Centre. (Mercifully, L.K. Advani had announced his anti-corruption yatra three days earlier, else Modi’s prime ministerial candidacy would have been signed, sealed and delivered by now.)

Nevertheless, there is no denying that depending on which way the trial court goes in the Ehsan Jafri case, how the corruption charges against Modi’s government stick, what happens in the Gujarat assembly elections due by December 2012, how the other aspirants in the BJP (including Advani) react to Modi’s ambitions, and how the allies in the NDA take to him, Narendra Modi is now well and truly eyeing a role in Delhi, a suspicion confirmed by a US thinktank report which sees him as a “likely candidate for prime ministership”.

Should that happen, it opens up a delicious prospect. That of a State satrap with a much-touted record of corruption-free governance against the Congress’ heir apparent, Rahul Gandhi, whose record both as parliamentarian and as a party general secretary has at best been patchy. With the Congress president Sonia Gandhi not in particularly great health and with Manmohan Singh‘s reputation in tatters after all the scams under his charge, it is daunting challenge ahead of Rahul Gandhi, should he lead the charge in 2014.

But what if the trial court does clear Modi? Will Modi be the BJP’s (an NDA’s) automatic choice? Is Modi’s boastful administrative record enough to win national approval despite his remorseless attitude to his “alleged complicity in lethal anti-Muslim rioting”? Could the benefits of Anna Hazare‘s anti-corruption movement accrue to a BJP led by Modi? Could the Congress spring a fresh surprise, like say a Priyanka Gandhi in the fray, to upset the applecart? Could Jayalalitha, Nitish Kumar, Naveen Patnaik, et al stich up a more potent Third or Fourth Front?

Also read: ‘Gujarat was vibrant long before Modi

Do only Gujaratis have asmita? Don’t Indians?

Why our silly middle-class loves Narendra Modi

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Sushma Swaraj right about Modi?

‘Bisexual’ Gandhi, bachelor Modi & author Moily

CHURUMURI POLL: Do we like our ‘icons’ single?

CHURUMURI POLL: L.K. Advani’s ‘Antim Yatra’?

9 September 2011

There is nothing more revealing in politics than a old, doddering politician who buries his head in the sand and tries to gauge the prevailing wind of public opinion. And so it is with the “former future prime minister of India“, Lalchand Kishinchand Advani who has announced what many are derisively calling his “Antim Yatra“.

At one level, Advani’s impromptu announcement of a nationwide tour at the age of 84 is proof that the flame of ambition has flickered feverishly despite the renunciation of key posts (like leader of opposition and party president) at the less-than-gentle nudging of the extra-constitutional knicker lobby that really wears the pants in the BJP.

At another level, the “Antim Yatra” is proof that the BJP is now officially bereft of both ideas and leadership. That it took the success of Anna Hazare‘s campaign for the lead opposition party to take up corruption as an issue reveals plenty about what it has been doing these past two and a half years since the 2009 electoral defeat.

And that the BJP leadership thinks that it has the credibility to talk about corruption, when its own governments and leaders in Karnataka, Gujarat, Uttaranchal and Chhatisgarh are battling (or stalling investigation of) serious charges of corruption shows the hypocrisy of it all.

Above all, Advani’s announcement of a yatra throws cold water on the aspirations of almost the entire second generation of leaders in the BJP, all of whom privately envision themselves as national leaders and almost all of whom entertain dreams of becoming prime minister.

Questions: Will Advani’s “Antim Yatra” evoke any response? Is Advani’s “Antim Yatra” merely to save his skin now that the reprehensible cash-for-votes scandal has landed squarely in his court? Notwithstanding the Congress’s plight, does the BJP have the credibility to talk of clean, corruption-free governance? Will Advani be acceptable as the face of the BJP in 2014, when he will be 86?

Also read: ‘The only person to blame for BJP defeat is Advani

‘The man who spread the dragon-seeds of hatred’

Advani offers nothing creative, only resentment

The Great Debator ducks out of a TV interview

A lifetime achievement award for L.K. Advani?

 

What the DMK’s muruku did to the PM’s teeth

3 July 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: A number of personalities, and the print and electronic media, have accused the Prime Minister of maintaining a stony silence on important policy matters and using secrecy as a weapon when the administration was falling apart all around him.

This is rather unusual for a former professor of the London school of economics and a former finance minister. There was no other way he could have communicated with his students or his colleagues, least of all delivered the Union budget, without opening his mouth.

I wondered what had really happened to him over the years and here a stroke of luck helped me.

When I was with my dentist friend at Green Park, his uncle dropped in to spend the evening there. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that uncleji was in the panel of doctors who had treated our PM for the last five years.

Here was a chance to find out about our PM from someone who has looked deep into his mouth.

“Why is our PM mostly silent on all issues?”

“He was not silent at all during UPA-I. During the vote of confidence motion moved by the Left parties during the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, his incisors and premolars had partially decayed. He couldn’t chew on any question that needed his left molar. To reduce his pain, I had hidden some swabs of cotton dipped in dettol on the left side of his mouth with the result nobody could understand what he spoke. He mumbled though his speech amidst thunderous applause by Congress members. In fact I had suggested to the UPA chairperson to issue a whip that every member must clap throughout his speech!”

“Oh, I see.”

“In fact the other day when he went to both Lok Sabha and the Upper House, his teeth on the left canine was colliding directly with the one below causing a guttural sound and to those around PM this would have looked he was gnashing his teeth. Soon enough he was tearing Lal Krishna Advaniji to pieces as he had called him a puppet Prime Minister.”

“You seem to have read the PM’s teeth like a book and so his moods too.”

Shayad. Again during the nuclear bill debate his right molar had grown wild and was directly challenging the teeth around the periphery. You could call this an unhinged and untrammeled growth, the one that comes from supreme power.  I filed and cut his teeth to size, so to say, and I found his speech on the nuclear bill which started with a supreme air of arrogance had come down next day by several notches to one of decency once the sharp edges were filed.”

“What has happened of late?” my friend asked his uncle.

“When he spoke of the compulsions of coalition politics, which he pronounces as collision, he was simply stating the facts.  He had bit hard in to the muruku brought by some DMK members from Saravana Bhavan which tore his gum off the dental arch and hit the roof. Till this day CBI has not cracked this case whether it was an act of culinary negligence or a willful and deliberate attack on his teeth for not helping its corrupt members rotting in jail.”

“You haven’t answered our question. Why is he mostly silent these days,” we asked simultaneously.

“I don’t think it has to do with his teeth. My psychiatrist friend in the panel, who watches the PM all the time, was telling me it may have to do with his job security and some rebellion brewing within the party,” concluded the dentist.

Of course, if some VIP had been held hostage…

26 June 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: When our sailors were caught by Somalian pirates for over 10 months, their families ran from Pillai to post in New Delhi to get our government to act.

They met the prime minister, the UPA chairperson and the defence minister and god knows who else. Their efforts came to nought; no help was forthcoming from the high and mighty, and the biggest navy in the region.

Of what use is the strength of our defence forces apart from the ‘show of strength’ during the Republic Day parade?

Why was our government pussyfooting on saving our sailors caught in deep sea, not by an enemy’s naval force but by a bunch of pirates? What was the so-called opposition doing in playing its rightful role?

Why didn’t the wailings of the family and friends of the sailors capture the attention of the nation, including dare we say ours, till the rescue took place?

In contrast, our arch rival Pakistan showed far better understanding of the problem and was instrumental in securing the release of the kidnapped sailors.

Ansar Burney Trust, an NGO from Pakistan, arranged $2.1 million to rescue the hostages. India, it appears, did not pay the promised $500,000.

The owners were blind to the woes of the crew. None of the famed “trusts” of our corporate bigwigs voluntarily came to the help of the crew in collecting the ransom.

Even after the hostages had been freed, when MV Suez again came under attack from the pirates, PNS Babur intervened and thwarted the attack.

Which raises simple questions:

Why were sailors left high and dry and left to fend for themselves by the government, trusts, civil society and corporates even though we are supposed to be a mighty naval force in this region—a burgeoning superpower, an Asian tiger?

Why are we  so insensitive when it comes to the life of ‘aam aadmi’—and so hyperactive when VIP lives are at stake?

About time politics is covered on the comics page

31 May 2011

Cartoons: courtesy Keshav/The Hindu and R. Prasad/Mail Today

***

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Why did Sushma Swaraj ditch Reddys?

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

Getaway of the louts in the Gateway to the South

BJP’s lotus grows in muck, so do BJP’s people

One question I’m dying to ask Yediyurappa & Reddy

CHURUMURI POLL: Is BJP blackmailing Congress?

18 February 2011

Plenty of pixels have been expended on Manmohan Singh‘s inquisition on television against the backdrop of the scams enveloping his government, and the jury is agreed that the prime minister underlined his image as the lonely hero, blaming everybody—the coalition, the opposition and the media—for his woes, i.e. everybody except himself.

Seen from the PM’s perspective, though, he delivered a couple of telling blows. In reiterating that he will last his full tenure in clear, unequivocal terms, he sent a message to the Congress. And he socked it to the BJP where it hurts most: that it was using reforms like the goods and services tax (GST) as a bargaining chip.

“The reasons that have been given, frankly, I cannot mention it in public. They say because you have taken some decision against a particular person, who was a minister in Gujarat (Amit Shah), we must reverse it.” Singh, however, stopped short of naming the minister.

The Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi has, as is his wont, laughed the charge away, calling it the biggest joke of 2011, although we are just 45 days into it and we might yet seem better jokes in the days and months ahead. But the PM’s charge shines the light on the politics of blackmail that is the bedrock of modern Indian politics.

If B.S. Yediyurappa is accused of corruption, he threatens to reveal all the wrong doings of his predecessors but just stops short of it. The Congress switches on the CBI probe into the disproporationate assets of Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav like a switch, whenever it suits the grand old party. And so on.

But since even Lalchand Kishinchand Advani doesn’t deign question the personal integrity of PM, Manmohan Singh’s charge can’t be wished away. Also, given the kind of trouble the RSS and its inspirational figures like Indresh Kumar and Swami Aseemanand are in vis-a-vis “Hindutva Terror”, the PM’s allegation throws up the big question: for all its sanctimonious breast-beating, is the BJP blackmailing the Congress when no one is watching?

Why Yediyurappa is on a strong wicket (for now)

23 January 2011

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: A  protracted legal battle, especially over the issue of the discretionary powers enjoyed by the governor, appears likely to be the most important fallout of the spat between H.R. Bharadwaj and B.S. Yediyurappa, over the sanction of prosecution of the chief minister.

Of  secondary importance is the impact of the governor’s action on the political equations in the State in general, and the propriety of the CM continuing in office despite the go-ahead for prosecution in particular.

From all available indications, Yediyurappa is unlikely to oblige his detractors and prefers going down fighting rather than throwing in the towel. As a matter of fact, he finds himself in an advantageous position, much to the chagrin of those who have planned and executed this move.

***

The discretionary powers enjoyed by the governor is a grey area, which still needs to be fine tuned through judicial interpretation, like Article 356 of the Constitution (on imposing President’s rule) was done by the Supreme Court in the S.R. Bommai case.

Under the present frame of things, the governor enjoys two kinds of discretionary powers, namely the one given by the Constitution under Article 163, and the others given under the relevant statutes including section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code (for sanctioning of prosecution).

While the former has been clearly defined, the latter has some areas of doubt on the question of whether the discretionary power enjoyed by the governor is individual, or whether he is bound by the advice of the council of ministers.

***

There have been three important rulings of the apex court in this connection: a 1974 judgment in the case of dismissal of two judicial officers of the Punjab government; a 1982 case of a special leave petition (SLP) filed in connection with the prosecution of then Maharashtra chief minister A.R. Antulay; and a 2004 case of prosecution of two ministers of the Madhya Pradesh government.

What stands out in the three judicial pronouncements is that the governor has to necessarily act on the advice of the council of ministers.

The question of the governor exercising individual discretion comes only in the rarest of rare cases and in cases involving the choice of the chief minister or the dismissal of  a government which refuses to resign after losing majority and the dissolution of the house.

Justice P.N. Bhagwati and Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, who were members of the seven-judge bench, had something more to add while concurring with the other judges:

“The President, like the King, has not merely been constitutionally romanticised but actually has been given a pervasive and persuasive role. While he plays such a role, he is not a rival centre of power in any sense and must abide by and act on the advice tendered by his ministers except in narrow territory, which is sometimes slippery…[and]  should avoid getting involved in politics.”

In the case of Antulay, a two-member SC bench led by Justice Chinnappa Reddy noted that the discretionary powers exercised by the governor (in sanctioning the prosecution of the CM) arose out of the concession made at the high court by the attorney-general, who had appeared for the respondents.

“The governor, while determining whether sanction should be granted or not, as a matter of propriety, necessarily acted on his own discretion and not on the advice of the council of ministers,” said the bench, and expressed its satisfaction that concession given by the attorney-general was to advance the cause of justice. But it made amply clear that this applied to this particular case only.

***

As for the sanction of prosecution of the Madhya Pradesh ministers, the Supreme Court upheld the governor’s decision in view of the bias, inherent or manifest, in the cabinet decision.

It is this 2004 judgment on which the Karnataka governor has relied while giving permission for the prosecution of the B.S. Yediyurappa.

But there is an essential difference between the  Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka situations. In Madhya Pradesh, the matter went to the governor after the cabinet had rejected the permission. And the governor had the benefit of the Lok Ayukta report on the charges made against the two ministers to act upon.

But in Karnataka, the lawyer’s petition seeking the sanction went straight to the governor, and the governor conceded to the request even when the matter was pending investigation with the Lok Ayukta and the judicial commission especially appointed for the purpose.

The Karnataka episode has thrown up another new problem: what validity should the discretion exercised carry when the governor’s action is perceived as biased/ prejudiced/ or one sided?

The  BJP has a long list to prove its charge of bias and its spokesmen, including the chief minister, have been harping on this aspect. This may also be put up for judicial scrutiny.

***

As far as the impact of the current imbroglio on political equations in Karnataka, the answer is simple. Nothing worthwhile is expected to happen. No doubt Yediyurappa and the BJP are terribly embarrassed. But Yediyurappa is a person who will not easily give up office and so won’t his party.

However, it must be said that The problems faced by the BJP are its own creation. It has needlessly provoked the governor.

The BJP should have been careful in its dealings the moment a longtime Congress loyalist like Bharadwaj, who is known to have no scruples in serving party interests in whatever capacity he is holding, was sent as governor.

But it did not so and is now paying the price for its indiscretion and lack of sophistication in dealing with the governor. The relations between the governor and the government have never been on even keel at any time and both have stoked the fire of mutual animosity and acrimony and find themselves caught in a cleft stick.

The governor, in the name of exercising caution, has cornered them.

***

Going by the names figuring in the complaint, on the basis of which the sanction to prosecute Yediyurappa was given by the governor, it is clear that it is his family members rather than party functionaries or dissidents, who have landed him in trouble.

This was the point which the BJP leader in charge of the State, Arun Jaitley, had reportedly made to upbraid Yediyurappa’s son B.Y. Raghavendra at the height of its last crisis to save the CM’s chair two months ago. The remarks by the BJP president Nitin Gadkari that the actions of Yediyurappa “may be immoral and not illegal” have only added spice to the same.

But with all this, the BJP finds itself in a politically advantageous position. This is because the denouement smacks of  political bias. The governor has acted unilaterally in acting on the allegations hurled at the CM repeatedly by the opposition JDS and kowtowed to by the Congress, without giving a hearing to the concerned.

Nothing under the circumstances prevents Yediyurappa from launching a political campaign to proclaim that it is all a pre-planned conspiracy to unseat him. He may stomp round Karnataka narrating the  sob story of his continued persecution by his detractors, who are envious of his success and want to undo the mandate given by the people, in the same manner he had when H.D. Kumaraswamy refused to hand over the reins as had been agreed upon.

This has a bright chance of success for two things. Firstly, the corruption has ceased to be an issue influencing the poll, barring the solitary exception of Rajiv Gandhi losing the 1989 general elections in the wake of the campaign against the Bofors payoffs.

Secondly the BJP’s image remains high in the eyes of the people, as has been proved in all the elections for the different fora held ever since BJP came to power in Karnataka more than two years ago. The latest in the series has been its success in the panchayat elections.

The performance of the BJP, which was practically a non-starter in the realm of panchayats, has been much better than its rivals, who have been left far behind, despite a vigorous political campaign.

Moreover, in general parlance, the sanction by the governor to launch the prosecution, hardly means anything.  It merely presages the starting point of a legal battle and has so many phases to be covered, for which the party is getting ready. The first step has been taken with a complaint already filed before the Lok Ayukta court.

Yediyurappa is not obliged to resign merely because the governor has sanctioned his prosecution. He is the company of his peers like L.K. Advani, who continued in office despite a chargesheet filed in an Uttar Pradesh court in connection with the demolition of Babri Masjid.

Yediyurappa may have a long legal fight on his hands to clear himself of the charges made but none of this warrants his resignation.

Knowing his nature he is not the one to give up the office that easily. He may refuse to resign and may dare the governor to dismiss him if it comes to that. This would surely enable him to take his fight to the people. In this, he apparently has the full backing of the party at the national level.

BJP has made an  opening gambit of taking the issue to the people by calling for a bandh. Efforts are underway to mount pressure for the withdrawal of the governor, which are doomed to fail  going by the manner in which the Congress is backing the Governor.

What happens to the common man in the process is not difficult to guess.

(Mathihalli Madan Mohan (in picture, top) is a former special correspondent of The Hindu)

Photograph: Chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose‘s birthday celebrations, in Bangalore on Sunday (Karnataka Photo News)

Ratan Tata’s open letter to Rajeev Chandrasekhar

9 December 2010

Generally speaking, Indian business is a nice, cosy club of stuffed shirts and suspenders. There are a set of rules and everyone plays along happily. No one ever says anything new. No one speaks out of turn. No one ever throws a flame into someone else’s pants. There is a code of Omerta, and everybody better stick with it.

Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the former BPL scion who owns the Suvarna network in Karnataka, stepped out of line with an open letter to Ratan Tata, the chairman of Tata Sons, who had propitiously chose the Niira Radia moment to warn of India slipping and becoming a banana republic.

Now, Tata has hit back at Chandrasekhar in a return letter, slamming the latter’s self-righteous sanctimony. A politically motivated Chandrasekhar, Tata implies, has been running with the telecom hares and hunting with the telecom hounds, and stops just short of calling him a lousy liar.

If nothing else, the two open letters provide a snapshot of how Indian business and politics is conducted (and how Indian media is managed), and underline the fact that nothing illuminating comes out when everything is hunky-dory. It is conflict between two stones that produces fire and light.

***

Dear Rajeev

I am currently overseas and have just seen a copy of the open letter you have addressed to me with copies to the entire media community. This is of course in keeping with the current trend of attempted character assassination through widespread media publicity couched in pain and concern for upholding ethics and values.

Your letter is based on untruths and distortion of facts and I feel compelled to place the real facts, as bluntly as possible before you. I hope this will also be broadly disseminated to the same audience as your letter.

I am, of course, well aware that some media house will choose not to publish or air my response in deference of their owners, who are the real gainers in the telecom sector, with whom you have unfortunately aligned to provide a massive diversion of attention away from the real culprits in the telecom space.

***

You will appreciate that the Government’s stated telecom policy of 1999 set out the principles of a technology neutral environment. When cellular mobile telephony was introduced, the first set of operators, including yourself, chose GSM, the broadly used European technology at that time.

The first set of cellular mobile operators received their licenses based on the auction process in circles for which some of them and their partners submitted very high bids. Later in July 1999, in a BJP-led NDA government, in accordance with the recommendation of a group of ministers headed by Jaswant Singh, the fixed license fee regime was changed to a revenue share regime (which exists even today).

If a hypothetical amount was to be calculated, similar to one which has been done in the CAG report, at that point of time, the loss to the exchequer would be about Rs 50,000 crore and the exchequer would have been deprived of this amount.

Realistically, however, the revenue share system would have recouped some amount over time and this important change most probably has been responsible for the greater growth of the industry as it enabled tariffs to be reduced.

***

CDMA technology (a newer and more spectrum-efficient technology), was utilised by some operators for fixed wireless operations such as PCOs and for last mile wireless connectivity for fixed line phones.

The first attempted deviation of stated policy was in January 2001 when the then telecom minister, Ram Vilas Paswan, in a BJP-led NDA government, sought to allow the fixed wireless application of CDMA for limited mobility on the grounds that it would be available to the public at a lower price.

The GSM operators led by you mounted a campaign lobbying against this on the grounds that it would be unfair to the incumbents who had made investments and who had enjoyed first mover advantage.

You will recall that you and Nusli Wadia [of Bombay Dyeing] approached me in the Chambers in Taj Mumbai in July 2002 to sign an appeal to the Prime Minister, A. B. Vajpayee, deputy prime minister, L.K. Advani and finance minister Jaswant Singh not to allow fixed mobile service providers to provide mobile services.

I enclose a copy of your fax dated July 12, 2002 requesting me to sign and the draft letter which I was supposed to sign. In para 2 of this letter your objective amongst other things was to reach 50 million subscriber base by 2006.

To refresh your memory, I enclose a copy of the letter dated August 16,2002, that I wrote to you expressing my inability to sign such letter as it would block the introduction of CDMA technology and I believed that the telecom industry needed to be technology-neutral but what I agreed with you was that any new operator should pay the same fee as the incumbents so that all operators were equalized and that no one was disadvantaged.

As a result of a technology-agnostic policy we achieved more than 100 million subscribers in 2006 and to 700 million. I am also enclosing a copy of my letter to Vajpayee dated January 12, 2001, which I advocated an open, transparent process giving all parties a chance to be head—a stance that I have not changed till date.

This had angered you and other operators who were not interested in a level playing field and lobbied aggressively through COAI to ensure that a technology-agnostic environment would not come to pass.

It is obvious that an industry driven by technology cannot confine itself to a single technology only because that was the technology employed by a handful of operators who deprived early-mover advantage, enjoyed high ARPUs and in fact thwarted new admittedly more efficient technology like CDMA.

China, Korea and even the US have built their large subscriber numbers on the utilization of both CDMA and GSM technologies. Growth could have been far greater had incumbent operators like yourself risen above their self-interest of protesting their investment and allowing the existence of all technologies on an equal footing.

However, in pursuance of the spirit of NTP 1999, the Government did indeed implement the technology neutral policy in November 2003.  The minister involved was Arun Shourie in the same BJP-led NDA government under Vajpayee.

This was implemented through the creation of the UASL regime which enabled existing license holders to migrate to UASL license providing freedom of choice of technology and where a pan-India license could be obtained for a fee of about Rs. 1,650 crore, the same fee paid by the successful fourth cellular mobile operator.

Shourie needs to be commended in implementing this far sighted policy, which has enabled technology to be the driver of the industry, rather than technology protected growth.

***

I will now briefly touch on the points you raised regarding Tata Teleservices (TTSL) and the alleged advantage they gained. I have requested TTSL to address those issues in greater detail to you directly.

# On the issue of various allegations you have made on the so called benefits gained by TTSL, so called out-of-turn allotment that you claim have been given by DoT, you have chosen to misrepresent the facts as they suit you to justify the claims you have made.

The true position is that TTSL has not, I repeat not, been advantaged in any way by A. Raja or any earlier Minister.

The company has strictly followed the applicable policy and has been severely disadvantaged, as you are well aware, by certain powerful politically connected operators who have wilfully subverted policy under various telecom ministers which has subsequently been regularized to their advantage.

The same operators continue to subvert policy: have even paid fees for spectrum, even before the announcement of a policy, and have “de-facto ownership” in several new telecom enterprises. Licenses were granted to several ineligible applicants. Several licenses have spectrum in excess of their entitlement as per license conditions and not on the self-styled capacity spectrum efficiency that you have chosen to mention.

This is the smoke screen that I am referring to as these subverters of government policy continue to do so to their advantage and their acts are being ignored or condoned.

TTSL, on the other hand, an existing licensee, applied for spectrum under the dual technology policy after the policy was announced on October 19th , 2007 and is still awaiting allotment of spectrum in Delhi and 39 key districts for about three years whereas operators who applied, and paid the fee even before the policy announcement, were not only considered ahead in line but were allotted spectrum with amazing alacrity in January 2008 itself.

I am surprised that you have chosen to sidestep this very important aspect.

#  The investment by NTT DoCoMo in TTSL was not based on a zero-base valuation, like others, but was based on the performance of the company with 38 million subscribers, pan-India presence of network, offices, channel, turnover of Rs 6,000 crore, 60,000 km of fibre, and the potential growth of the company. The valuations are on the bases of a due diligence and service evaluation of the company’s service quality by DoCoMo.

#  On the question of hoarding of spectrum to which I have referred, you will no doubt remember that in 2005 I made an issue of the fact that spectrum was a scarce resource and needed to be paid for rather than given fee as was being proposed. The government policy entitled operators to no more than 6.2 MHz on the bases of their license conditions.

All additional spectrum should have been returned or paid for. Even TRAI has recommended this July 2010. I believed that TTSL was the only operator that returned spectrum when demanded by DoT. The CAG report clearly indicates which of the powerful GSM operators are holding spectrum beyond their entitlement free of cost to the detriment of the other operators.

# On the question of many disadvantaged new applicants who have supposedly been denied license in 2007, you are well aware that many of the applicants were proxy shareholders in high places, and were applying to enter the sector with a view of monetize the license once received.Even those that were granted license and spectrum have failed to effect any meaningful rollout of service.

Strangely, you have chosen to ignore this fact and singled out TTSL, who have, in fact, put in place a network supporting 82 million subscribers, despite the fact that they have been deprived of spectrum in Delhi and 39 key districts over the past 3 years as mentioned earlier.

How could you or anybody possibly consider this to be a beneficial situation of TTSL?

***

Let me address the question of the Tatas’ need for an external PR service provider. Ten years ago, Tatas found themselves under attack in a media campaign to defame the ethics and value systems of the group which held it apart from others in India.

The campaign was instituted and sustained through an unholy nexus between certain corporates and the media through selected journalists.

As Tatas did not enjoy any such “captive connections” in this environment, the Tata Group, had no option but to seek an external agency focused at projecting its point of view in the media and countering the misinformation and vested interest viewpoints which were being expressed.

Vaishnavi was commissioned for this purpose and has operated effectively since 2001. You yourself have interacted with Niira Radia on some occasions in the past and it is therefore amazing that you should now, after nearly nine years, seek to denounce Tatas’ appointment of Vaishnavi.

Also, the statement regarding Tatas employing [ex-TRAI chairman] Pradip Baijal is completely false.

Vaishnavi is neither owned by the Tata Group nor is the Tata Group Vaishnavi’s only client. Baijal, whom you apparently have a dislike for, is a part of Noesis, (an affiliate or Vaishnavi in which Tatas have no ownership) and, as facts will show, on various occasions has differed with the Tata Group during his period in office and has not advocated or influenced Telecom policy for the Tata Group in any way.

***

You and many others have focused your attention on Ms. Radia as a corporate lobbyist. I would like to draw your attention to the following

# You parked yourself at the Taj Mahal Hotel Delhi, for several months since 2002 which was the centre of operations for your to prevent entry of WLL Limited Mobility and CDMA as well as to interact with the polity and bureaucracy and with other operators to forge telecom policy of your choice. You did this in your own capacity as also as President of COAI.

# Your also constantly solicited support of Confederation of India Industry (CII).

Would you not consider this as an endeavour to influence or subvert policy? To influence politicians or solicit support from selected corporates? I take it that in your view this would not constitute lobbying.

Your affiliating with a particular political party is well known and it appears that their political aspirations and their endeavour to embarrass the Prime Minister and the ruling party may well have been the motivation behind your letter and the insinuations which you make.

We should all note that many of the flip flops in the telecom policy occurred during the BJP regime.

Whatever may be said, it must be recognised that the recent policy broke the powerful cartel which had been holding back competition and delaying implementation of policies not to their liking, such as growth of CDMA technologies, new GSM entrants, revision in subscriber based spectrum allocation norms, and now even number portability.

You yourself have publicly commended in November 2007 such initiatives and the minister for breaking the cartel and reducing the cost of service to the customer.

The 2G scam ostensibly revolved around Raja‘s alleged misdeeds and some parts of the CAG report were quoted as having indicted the minister.

Much has been made about the hypothetical loss to the exchequer in the grant of new licenses and the grant of spectrum on the basis of 3G auction prices, (which were not known or even foreseen at the time of granting such licenses and spectrum).

However, the media and even you have chosen to ignore the rest of the CAG report in which excess possession of spectrum, the disadvantages to TTSL by name, the irregularity in allotment of licenses to most players whose applications were ineligible to be considered in the first place have been clearly stated in detail.

You have also not noticed that the CAG has not ascribed value to 48 new GSM licenses issued to incumbents between 2004-08 and 65 MHz of additional spectrum allotted to incumbents during this period even though the CAG was supposed to cover the period from 2003. It would have been widely reported.

I support the ongoing investigations and believe that the period of investigation be extended to 2001 for the nation to know the real beneficiaries of the ad hoc policy-making and implementation.

***

Finally, you have chosen to lecture me on the responsibilities of upholding the ethics and values which the Tata Group has honoured and adhered to through the years.

I can say categorically that we have not wavered in upholding our values and ethical standards despite the erosion in the ethical fabric in the country and despite the efforts of others to draw us into controversy and endeavour to besmirch our record.

When the present sensational smokescreen dies down, as it will, and the true facts emerge, it will be for the people of India to determine who are the culprits that enjoy political patronage and protection and who actually subvert policy and who have dual standards.

I can hold my head high and say that neither the Tata Group or I have at any time been involved in any of these misdeeds.

The selective reporting and your own selective focus appear to be diversionary actions to deflect attention away from the real issue which plagues the telecom industry, in the interest of a few powerful politically connected operators.

Perhaps it is time that you and members of the media do some introspection and soul searching as to whether you have been serving your masters or serving the general public at large.

With warm regards

Yours sincerely

Ratan N. Tata

***

Also read: To: Ratan Tata. From Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Has Ratan Tata ruined the Tatas’ brand image?

‘Go to bed knowing you haven’t succumbed’

Why is Yediyurappa taking on the Lok Ayukta?

29 November 2010

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Poor Yediyurappa, a victim of his own habits.

The Karnataka chief minister is impulsive in his reactions, a habit which he has carried from his days as the chief of the state BJP unit and leader of the opposition in the State assembly.

He often puts his foot into his mouth and has a penchant for making promises, with no thought whatsoever of redeeming them. He is liberal with both.

These have often dragged him into a quagmire of controversies needlessly.

The latest one to surface has been the one in which he has pitted himself with the Karnataka Lok Ayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde, over the propriety of the State government in constituting a judicial commission to go into the land denotification issue when the matter is already pending with Lok Ayukta.

From all points of view, this was an avoidable controversy. Only some time ago, Yediyurappa had achieved a tenuous  peace when Hegde had put in his papers, dissatisfied as he was with the manner in which the State government was hedging the demand for the grant of the suo motu powers of  investigation into the cases of corruption.

(Under the present rules, the Lok Ayukta can only act on the basis of a written complaint and in the absence of the same, he can’t proceed in the matter.)

In view of the public outcry over the episode, Yediyurappa had to seek the intervention of the BJP’s higher-ups, including the patriarch L.K. Advani in making Justice Hegde relent. Justice Hegde was promised that the needful action would be taken to meet his demand. But this hardly materialised in the days that followed.

What has happened is that the government has only met the demand halfway, leaving the main question unresolved.

It does not stand to reason why the Karnataka chief minister should open another flank for a fight, when he had won a reprieve by a whisker as it were from the party high command which wanted to give him the marching orders.

It has opened the raw wound of uneasy relations between the government and the Lok Ayukta at a time when the issue had almost gone out of the memory of the people.

One may concede that the decision to go in for judicial commission was an impulsive reaction from Yediyurappa in the light of the torrent of land denotification scandals involving his kith and kin which had prompted the high command to think in terms of asking him to quit. But the subsequent events have proved that it is a deliberate action.

In an unusual reaction, the State government seeks the status report from the Lok Ayukta on all the matters entrusted to it for enquiry, while the State government is known to be sitting over the reports already sent by Lok Ayukta, thus coming in the way of the enquiry reaching the logical end.

Not only those, BJP legislators have been let loose on the Lok Ayukta, with one of them demanding an apology from him to the CM and threatening to organise a demonstration in front of his office if it wasn’t forthcoming.  The action smacks of attitude of the political vengeance, which is uncalled for since the Lok Ayukta is not a political office.

It is not clear what Yediyurappa wants to achieve by this kind of action. One plausible explanation could be that he would like to complicate the matter by having parallel enquiry by two separate agencies, and create a legal conundrum to delay the process of enquiry one way or other.

Yediyurappa in his wisdom genuinely believed that the judicial enquiry would serve the ends more than the one conducted by the Lok Ayukta, nothing prevented him from having informal consultation to avoid any acrimony or needless controversy.

That Justice Hegde has been hurt very much by diatribe opened by the government is evident from his strong reaction.  Hegde, who is otherwise quite restrained and balanced in his remarks,  made an emotional remark that if the government so desired, it could abolish the Lok Ayukta by repealing the law.

Yediyurappa and his cohorts should understand that Lok Ayukta today enjoys better credibility than the BJP government and this is the one controversy they could have avoided on the eve of an electoral challenge in the form of the panchayat elections next month.

The inimical attitude towards the Lok Ayukta inherent in the State government’s action and observations cannot be hidden by any explanation made on behalf of the government. Moreover, there is hardly anything that government gains politically by throwing innuendos against the style of the working of Lok Ayukta.

Also read: ‘BJP’s lotus grows in muck; so do its people’

6+1 questions after the return of Justice Santosh Hegde

‘In Ram Rajya, hamaam mein sab nange hain

Getaway of the Louts in the Gateway to the South

CHURUMURI POLL: Dismiss BJP govt in Karnataka?

GOOD NEWS: Karnataka beats AP, TN, Kerala

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Sushma right about Modi?

28 October 2010

Yet another inkling of the internecine war in “Generation Next” of the BJP has come, with the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, brusquely turning away Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi from campaigning in Bihar, with the categorical assertion that “his magic need not work everywhere.”

As it is, with Modi’s anti-minority image rendering him persona non grata in several States,  Sushma’s matter-of-fact remark reveals that the leadership of the BJP for (and post) the 2014 elections is far from being sealed, signed and delivered in Modi’s favour, despite the growth and development mantra he keeps chanting.

At another level, the ambitious Sushma has struck a telling blow by raising Modi’s “acceptance” problem outside “Vibrant Gujarat”, which was evident in the 2009 general elections. Of the 300-plus rallies Modi addressed in the 2009 election campaign, BJP won 37 seats (against 75 for the Congress from Rahul Gandhi‘s 102 meetings).

For a party which has near-zero presence in 143 Lok Sabha seats, and whose seatshare and voteshare have been going downhill since 1999, Modi’s image is the elephant in the room. And the new infighting reveals that not everybody within his own party is enamoured of Modi , nor willing to accept his “leadership” without a fight.

At the same time, Sushma Swaraj’s appeal is not to be sniffed at. One of the few women of stature in the BJP, Swaraj came to faraway Karnataka to take on Sonia Gandhi, speaks English with reasonable fluency unlike Modi, has never been afraid to face interviewers, unlike Modi, and has cultivated her own resources, vide the Reddy brothers.

Question: Is Sushma Swaraj right in asserting that Narendra Modi’s “magic” need not work everywhere? Or has Modi overcome his past to emerge as a leader of national importance? Has Sushma revealed her cards too soon? Or are the battlelines drawn in the BJP for another leadership squabble? And between Sushma and Modi, who is  likely to be the bigger vote-getter in the long run?


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,500 other followers