Sunday, September 05, 2010



Fw: Manmohan Singh's last lap? Chandan Mitra

Bharat J. Gajjar Sun, Sep 5, 2010 at 1:34 PM

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Manmohan Singh's last lap?

Chandan Mitra

Delhi's grapevine says the sudden drift in governance that we are witnessing has been engineered to pave the way for Rahul Gandhi's early accession to the throne

Even as the Congress celebrates the unopposed ‘re-election’ of Ms Sonia Gandhi for yet another term as party president, it is somewhat paradoxical that the Government she controls (and Mr Manmohan Singh nominally heads) has run into its roughest patch. This is ironic because during the first five years of this dyarchy there was a sense of purpose and cohesion the Congress demonstrated despite commanding only 145 members in the Lok Sabha and facing constant harassment from the Left. But now with 206 Lok Sabha MPs, no Left to bother with and loads of CBI dossiers with which to whip Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ms Mayawati into submission whenever needed, the Government, however, is in a drift — often talking and working at cross-purposes, indecisive and without a sense of direction.

I am sure readers would immediately recall enough examples of this drift without my having to list them. What happened in the Rajya Sabha on August 31, last day of the Monsoon Session (in which I was privileged to participate) was probably the most incredible example of a Government under siege not just from without, but most significantly from within. The fact that the next day, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister sought to drape Congress MP Keshava Rao’s rebellion against Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal with the cloak of “inner-party democracy” reveals the extent of the party bureaucracy’s bewilderment. Later the same evening, old sparring partners P Chidambaram and Digvijay Singh were back in the ring for another bout of fencing — this time over the use of the term ‘saffron terror’.

So, embarrassed spokespersons can only seek recourse in extolling the virtues of legitimate inner-party dissent. They have difficulty saying this with a straight face because the concept of inner-party democracy is patently alien to the Congress, which has alternately prospered and withered under the tutelage of the same family since independence. Was it mere coincidence that two efficient but standoffish Ministers — Mr Chidambaram and Mr Sibal — bore the brunt of Congress MPs’ wrath? Some would like to believe that given Mr Keshava Rao’s stature in the organisation hierarchy and consequent access to 10 Janpath, the rebellion must have been staged in the confidence that no adverse consequences would follow. And they didn’t.

After all, the High Command is not averse to administering periodic doses of ego-deflating pills to keep in check Ministers whose approval ratings have been high in the public perception. This has long been the ruling dynasty’s way of keeping everyone on tenterhooks. Mrs Indira Gandhi used this tactic to devastating effect and her daughter-in-law seems to have mastered the skill to perfection.

But some political pundits have another take on the recent drift in UPA2 and I think they might be right no matter how sinister it may sound. It is being increasingly said that leaders have begun jockeying for the post-Manmohan and in a sense post-Sonia era. With Rahul Gandhi’s mounting visibility, carefully calibrated by fawning sections of the media, Congress bigwigs know it is a matter of time before the heir-apparent takes direct charge.

Interestingly, it was observed that most uncharacteristically, the Prime Minister sat through all five hours of the Nuclear Liability Bill debate in the Rajya Sabha. Congress MPs later complained they couldn’t even take coffee breaks because it would have been improper to gad off while he sat on impassively. From this unusual action it has been deduced by many that Mr Manmohan Singh is in the final stage of repaying his debt to Washington on the nuclear issue. Having pushed the flawed civil nuclear agreement through in 2008, the final consecration had to be completed with the signing of the nuclear liability Bill. The final shape of the legislation may have been viciously criticised by Americans but even they concede that some law is better than no law.

Anyway, the larger point that emerges from the Prime Minister’s prolonged presence in the Upper House only during the nuclear Bill debate is that he has neither any interest nor authority to handle subjects other than this one pet obsession. So now that the nuclear deal process is complete, Mr Manmohan Singh may prefer to walk into the sunset once US President Barack Obama’s visit happens in early November.

Proponents of this prognosis believe that 2011 or latest 2012 will be the year of transition, when the prince waiting in the wings will finally be anointed king. After all he is not exactly young any more; at 40 his father had already become Prime Minister. Some believe that a political crisis may be deliberately stirred so that a fresh election has to be called to legitimise Mr Rahul Gandhi’s ascendancy since his mother apparently believes electoral endorsement is what’s kept the dynasty going. Congress strategists have calculated that if an election is held within the next 12 to 18 months, with Mr Rahul Gandhi projected as Prime Minister, the party will win a majority on its own. This could be a case of hopeless self-delusion, but many close associates of the prince are said to be getting impatient with the long wait. After all 2014 is almost four years away and Rahul would be a middle-aged man by then, shorn of his boyish charm and matrimonial eligibility!

I cannot vouch for this complex formulation that presages impending palace intrigue. But it does seem that some seniors in the party are already positioning themselves for such an eventuality — Mr Digvijay Singh for one. Ever since he visited Azamgarh to empathise with the families of Batla House inmates (all suspected terrorists), the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister has been consistently making jholawallah-type noises befitting NGO honchos rather than a veteran politician of his stature. Significantly, he has also steadily targeted Mr Chidambaram who is clearly doing his best to uphold the dignity and power of the Indian state. This is a philosophy jholawallahs abhor.

If you have ever had the misfortune to read any of Arundhati Roy’s rambling rants that periodically appear in Outlook, you would know that dilution and eventual dissolution of the Indian state is the objective desired by the mother of India’s anarchist movement. Her followers may be less articulate but share the same conviction. As I see it, Rahul is building a jholawallah team around himself, some inherited from his mother’s National Advisory Council, which now acts as a super-Cabinet, and the rest drawn from tech-savvy bleeding hearts from across the globe, potential British Labour Party leader David Miliband included.

That probably explains the calculated and nuanced distancing by many Congress leaders from the Manmohan Singh regime; that is why they don’t think it’s important to listen to him any more. If that is indeed so, I would rather have Mr Rahul Gandhi take over right now than permit his ambitious cohorts to inject chaos and disorder in governance so that they can herald the Crown Prince’s arrival into South Block as the knight in shining armour destined to ‘rescue’ India from drift. Who knows, maybe Ms Sonia Gandhi will time her ‘voluntary retirement’ to coincide with that so daughter Priyanka begins a long stint as Congress president!

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India slipping into monarchy system
By Rohit on 9/5/2010 10:52:14 AM

India's days are numbered. Once the puppet king takes over, the desi ministers will be kicked out. The British rule will be established again.

By Krita on 9/5/2010 10:34:52 AM

These punks Arundhati Roy and Rahul Gandhi think that they own Indian their opinion matters. What these punks don't know that they are yet to test the threshold level of Indian middle class's patience. Once day the dam will burst and and they- demagogues will fall like a ton bricks. Indian middle class will assert itself and the nefarious schemes of traitors like Arundhati roy will fail. She has no commitment to this country because she wasn't educated here, she never sung Jana Gana Mana.

at pleasure of the Con gress president
By satya on 9/5/2010 9:51:34 AM

MMS, his cabinet ,party MP's ,serve at the party through only at pleasure of the Con gress president & will be dismissed at the appropriate time

Manmohan Singh's last lap
By s subramanyan on 9/5/2010 9:34:42 AM

So you are predicting a major change. The orince beoming the PM, the current president retiring to be succceeded by another scion of the dynasty. I recall the day 63 years back as a school boy we rejoiced independence with the congress leaders in teh forefront.The vision of an independent India to be ruled by the people through a parliamentary democracy has been destroyed so badly that we hve a dyansty at the helm.

Last lap of Manmohan Singh CHANDAN MITRA
By Anup Sharma on 9/5/2010 12:39:13 AM

And where does Robert Vadra fit in? Would Priyanka appoint him as a congress General Secretary?This is a real farce. Has my mother India sunk so low?


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