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House-hunting for Dr Singh
July 01, 2004
THERE are still many who see the defeat of Manmohan Singh in 1998 from South Delhi, the kind of constituency most likely to have benefited from his economic reforms, as a sign that the Indian voter is somehow incapable of voting a good candidate into office even when he sees one. But has Dr Singh's 'winnability' changed now that he is prime minister and the adjectives -- good, simple, decent, honest, quiet and efficient -- are being pinned on to him like there's no tomorrow?
Dr Singh's Rajya Sabha membership ends soon, but the low level of excitement among Congressmen in inviting him to stand for the Lok Sabha from their state/s proves one of two things. Either they are not sure that Dr Singh can romp home in spite of the PM tag, or their sycophancy doesn't extend beyond 10, Janpath. Maybe it is too early. Nevertheless, the contrast to the manner in which Congressmen were falling over each other to get Rahul (and Priyanka) Gandhi to their lair is striking.
There are rumours that some Andhra politicians are pressing Dr Singh to stand from Nandyal. This will kill four birds with one stone. One, it is a safe Congress haven. Two, it was the constituency the PM who made him finance minister in 1991, P V Narasimha Rao, stood from. Three, it would be a fitting tribute to a state which was largely responsible for the Congress poll tally to touch 145. And four, it would give the farmers in that state somebody they can relate to: a reformer with a human face.
But the larger question remains: should the prime minister of the country necessarily have to be a Lok Sabha member? Does Dr Singh become any less acceptable to his colleagues, compatriots, countrymen and counterparts if he continues to represent the Rajya Sabha?
DOCTORED UNTIL PROVEN GENUINE
THE videographer who did duty at the wedding of Ajay Jadeja a couple of years ago should thank his stars that the bride's side let him off so lightly for the final tape/CD he gave the family. Such is the mastery that Jadeja's mother-in-law Jaya Jaitly seems to have acquired over what can be done with video and audio on a piece of film that it boggles the mind.
In spite of a British expert certifying the tehelka tapes as genuine -- which means those scenes of Rs 2 lakh changing hands in her presence weren't made up -- Ms Jaitly now pops up on our television screens holding forth on ethics.
Thankfully for her, it isn't so obvious to Justice Phukan who now wants six months to certify 'once and for all' whether the tehelka tapes are genuine. And when he does so, he will be the fourth expert to do so. Ms Jaitly is hoping that the UPA government will collapse by then, which colleague George Fernandes has now proclaimed as his life's mission. But one of these days 'Jaddu', based on his own experience, should tell his ma-in-law that with so much hera-pheri around, journalists don't really have to make it up. And when we have such difficulty in retelling the facts, when does she think we get the time (and the imagination) to whip up fiction?
Truly does Ms Jaitly deserve the dubious award, 'The Dadasaheb Phalke Grant for Film Criticism,' conferred upon her by a weekly newsmagazine earlier this year: 'For her deep technical interest in video film editing, dubbing, subtitling, montage, mis en scene, and for her critical belief that all film is doctored unless proven genuine.'
THANKS FOR NOTHING
AFTER plastering every page of its pre-poll 'Vision Document' with pictures of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the fact that the media centre at the BJP national executive meeting in Mumbai should not have had a single portrait of the former prime minister shows that winning is not everything for the BJP in its current frame of mind; it is the only thing. That Venkaiah Naidu launched into the 'virus of individualism' in his opening remarks is ironic because it was the BJP president who tom-tommed the 'Atal Wave' from every podium. And it was he who teased, taunted and titillated audiences with his smart-alecky 'Atal vs Question Mark' line.
The point here is not so much the short memory of a sore loser as the use-and-throw mindset the BJP leadership suddenly seems to be gripped by now that Vajpayee seems to have served its purpose of a long stint in power. Doubtless, the mandatory invocations to the Tallest Leader are still made by the party's talking heads. But the speed with which the party has sought to read Vajpayee's sell-by date to the nation at large is illustrative.
Forty years after his death, the Congress' Jawaharlal Nehru's place in history is being debated energetically. Forty days after his defeat, the BJP's Jawaharlal Nehru has been discarded and dumped in the dustbin of history by his own party.
MISSING IN ACTION
WHETHER the entry of Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Jyotiraraditya Scindia, Sandeep Dikshit, Jitin Prasada, Dushyant Singh, Manvendra Singh and Dayanidhi Maran into the 14th Lok Sabha means the infusion of young blood in a country where over half the population is under 25 years of age or whether it is just the new face of dynastic politics we will soon see. But Rahul Gandhi has proved quickly that age by itself is not going to do wonders to Parliament. The day after taking oath, the 33-year-old Amethi MP was in his constituency seeking a regime-change in Uttar Pradesh. The following day, the MP from Rae Bareli joined him to echo the son's sentiments. In his three days in Parliament, Mr Gandhi was absent on two. Amen.
FRAME IT IN GOLD
I FAIL to understand the way the Indian democracy works. Those who are rejected by the people are made MPs and even Ministers and then elected to the Upper House.... And now there is a demand within the BJP to dethrone Narendra Modi, a person duly elected by the people of Gujarat. Democracy has been distorted to such an extent that it no longer represents the rule of the people, by the people and for the people. It is an exercise in combinations and permutations by power-seekers, secured with the bolts and nuts of compromises and unholy alliances.' -- Hilda Raja in a letter to The Hindu.