The Scrap 370 Movement               Virendra Kapoor
   June 3, 2002

Leaders of the Sangh Parivar are convinced that the only durable solution to the protracted Kashmir problem is to scrap Article 370. Even India's founding fathers, they argue, had stipulated that the article was temporary in nature and that, in due course, it would be scrapped in order to put the State of Jammu & Kashmir at par with the other member-states of the Union.

The article, however, has not been scrapped in the last 50 years and there seems to be no hope of abolishing it in the near future. Hence, Sangh Parivar bigwigs have come up with a seemingly simple proposal, which, nonetheless, has the potential to get round the provisions of what is considered a constitutional millstone around India's neck.

Simply put, it says the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government should undertake huge infrastructure projects in Kashmir. These projects are intended to be so labour-intensive that it would necessarily require stationing several lakh families in Jammu & Kashmir. Eventually, the social and cultural dynamics of, say, a couple of lakh families from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh living in Kashmir would have an impact on the state's security situation. Though, under Article 370, they would still stand barred from participating in the democratic process in Jammu & Kashmir. Hence, they could be expected to insist on the state's eventual integration with the rest of the country.

However, the top two leaders in the government are yet to approve, even in principle, what senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Bharatiya Janata Party members believe is a brilliant idea.

Mayawati's albatross

Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati, it seems, is more sinned against than sinning, at least in her latest innings as Uttar Pradesh chief minister. Having acquired the image of being quirky and temperamental in her earlier stints, Mayawati is now consciously trying to avoid her past mistakes. But the Opposition is hell-bent on presenting her as an arrogant and arbitrary CM so that the Bahujan Samaj Party-BJP coalition in UP comes unstuck under the resulting strain.

But those who keep a close watch on the goings-on in Lucknow maintain that Mayawati has, thus far, behaved in a responsible manner. A case in point is the hue and cry being made about the large number of postings and transfers she has ordered. The truth of the matter is that any administration, in its first few days in power, routinely puts its men in key posts. The idea is to generate a sense of loyalty at crucial levels of the administrative structure.

In pragmatic terms, by rewarding officers who were kept out of the power loop in the previous administration, the new rulers seek to earn their gratitude and expect them to push their agenda further. The point to be noted, however, is that all concerned officers -- these include the new and old appointees -- belong to the same permanent civil service.

Mayawati has a point when she protests that, in a relatively smaller state like Punjab, the new chief minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, ordered some 900 transfers in the two months he has been in power. It is routine for other chief ministers to shuffle their officials. Last week, the Rajasthan government transferred 43 IAS officers, including seven secretaries and 13 district collectors. The story is the same in other states. But, somehow, the media picks on Mayawati for having started 'a transfer and posting industry'.

A string of newspaper reports, in particular, about the posting of a new chief secretary to the UP government were just so much hot air. The new chief secretary, D S Bagga, a former Central Election Commission secretary, did not supercede anyone. He is not a dalit, so he could not have got the job on the basis of his caste loyalty to the chief minister (Bagga is a Punjabi Khatri belonging to the UP cadre of the IAS). He received orders posting him as new chief secretary in the morning in New Delhi. He flew to Lucknow the same day to take up his new charge.

A new 'godman' in Delhi

It seems the capital's political elite cannot do without a 'godman'.

Indira Gandhi consulted the bare-chested Dhirendra Brahmachari.

Then there was Baba Nagpal of the now famous Chattarpur Mandir on the outskirts of south Delhi. He was known as the 'transfer and posting baba', since all the powerful people in Indira Gandhi's regime -- from her chief factotum R K Dhawan to her minister Buta Singh -- were his disciples.

P V Narasimha Rao's sojourn saw the rise of Chandraswami. This 'godman' also influenced postings and transfers and generally indulged in peddling influence. Now facing a slew of criminal cases, he is doing the rounds of Delhi's courts.

Of late, there is a new 'godman' making his presence felt in the capital's elite circles. He is called Jallandhri Baba, getting his name from the Punjab town from where he seems to have relocated to south Delhi's verdant farms. This baba too boasts of a huge following among the capital's political, bureaucratic and business elite.

A central minister's spouse, who apparently benefited from the baba's healing touch, is now his ardent devotee. So are several IPS and IAS officers. They have now been joined by a senior IPS officer, who is seeking to become Delhi's commissioner of police though he is five notches junior to the most senior claimant to the post.

Sorry Singh

Akhand Pratap Singh, a UP cadre officer, has again been thwarted in his ambition of becoming the state chief secretary. Singh was the Samajwadi Party's favourite for this coveted job. Since the party failed to make the grade in Lucknow, SP leaders have been pleading his case with leaders of the ruling coalition in New Delhi, seeking his promotion and posting within the central government. But all the active lobbying by the SP bosses seems to have borne no fruit.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

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