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Virender Kapoor | March 04, 2003
October is when the Bharatiya Janata Party will decide whether to advance the general election or not.
Most politicians -- especially BJP-wallahs -- say the just-concluded poll were no indicator of the political wind, that it was decided by ‘local' factors.
But the next round in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, scheduled in October, will be a precursor to Election 2004.
And if there is a Hindutva wave then, the BJP leaders have decided, they will advance the 14th Lok Sabha election from October 2004 to January or February.
Since the Congress is in power in the capital and two states, the BJP counts on riding the anti-incumbency factor. Leading the NDA campaign from the front will be Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, though he had said the previous parliamentary election was his last.
There is, insiders tell us, no question of Vajpayee stepping down now or in the near future as PM. "He has shed a few kilos and his health is fine," they said. "He is in a better frame of mind now than at any time in recent years."
More significantly, he is fully reconciled to sharing power with his designated No 2, L K Advani.
In which case, you might ask, what happens to Advani's prime ministerial ambition?
As of now, nothing.
But given Vajpayee's mood swings and his advancing years, he may -- repeat, may -- hand over the NDA reigns to his junior colleague once the alliance is comfortably ensconced for another five years.
Of course, one can ignore the alleged reservations of the BJP allies over the prospect of Advani leading the NDA. Power being the most powerful glue, be assured none of those supposedly uncomfortable at that prospect will rock the boat.
Of proxy vote and Rabri Devi
Parliamentary wit is still alive and kicking.
When the Lok Sabha was discussing an amendment to the Representation of the People's Act to allow proxy voting in state assembly and Lok Sabha elections for military personnel and government servants away on official duty, Congress leader Priyaranjan Dash Munshi stoutly opposed it.
Munshi said it was a BJP ploy to rig elections, that it violated the secrecy of the ballot. And a senior member of Laloo Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal thundered against the amendment, insisting wives could not be trusted with their husbands' votes.
At which point, a BJP leader stood up. "The hon'ble member,” he said, “belongs to a party whose leader has entrusted the entire Bihar government to his wife who is a proxy for her husband."
Tripped by the reference to Rabri Devi, the RJD MP sheepishly joined in the laughter that broke out.
Of course, the Lok Sabha approved the amendment by voice vote.
Minister for Law, Justice, Commerce and Industry Arun Jaitley has come to possess a small pen-like implement, which he bought from a store in Tokyo. And therein hangs a tale.
Seems Jaitley picked up the battery-operated nose and ear hair clipper with Laloo Yadav in mind, as the RJD boss is famed for his thick growth hair in the said areas.
Upon his return, when Jaitley met Yadav in the Central Hall of Parliament and told him what he had got for him, Yadav pointed to -- what a wonder! – his clean ear lobes and nostrils.
Clearly, the thought had occurred to someone else before Jaitley.
Politics, as a rule, is for Laloos and Mulayams, not academicians. At least, not in India.
So what is Jairam Ramesh, a true-blue scholar with a string of degrees from prestigious Western universities, doing in the Congress?
To be fair, he hasn't wasted much time heading the party's economic affairs department. But neither has he divorced academics, as you can see from his collection of essays on present-day India, Kautilya Today.
The book is a must for any student of politics and economics and serves as a ready reference for scholars and journalists in a hurry to look up, say, India's GDP and the likely causes for its slow crawl, or the factors behind the decline and fall of the Abdullah dynasty in Kashmir.
As Jagdish Bhagwati, well-known professor of economics at Columbia University, says in tribute to Jairam, ‘Buy, borrow or steal this collection and do not put it on your coffee table.'
Read it, and you may just believe this is not a plug!
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh