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Virender Kapoor | July 05, 2005
The annual meetings of the National Development Council have become a familiar ritual.
Participants from the prime minister down to state chief ministers make set-piece speeches while officials work behind the scenes on consensus resolutions.
After two or three days of talkathons, they disperse happily, only to meet again for an equally fruitless exercise a year later.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh tried to break the mould this year, in vain.
To make the NDC deliberations more meaningful and to ensure a better understanding of problems confronting each state, he repeatedly asked the chief ministers not to read mechanically from their prepared speeches.
Since these had already been distributed along with various other agenda and background papers in a neat little folder at the start of the inaugural session on June 27 morning, these should be taken as read, the prime minister said.
Most chief ministers found it hard to speak extempore about the problems confronting their states and how the Centre could help solve them.
In fact, Dr Singh stopped a couple of chief ministers mid-sentence when they read out like parrots from the texts, but to no avail.
When Karnataka Chief Minister Dharam Singh was droning on and on -- hardly taking his eyes off the prepared text -- the prime minister politely asked him, 'Dharam Singhji, we have read your speech already. Please do not read it. If you have anything to add or amplify…' Before he could finish, Dharam Singh responded, 'Sir, I will not take long,' and went back to reading from the paper.
Several chief ministers, including Mulayam Singh Yadav from Uttar Pradesh, were caught on camera stealing the proverbial forty winks when they were supposed to be debating ways and means to boost economic growth in their states.
The one who stole the show was Narendra Modi. He made a power-point presentation without for a moment looking at the prepared text.
The Gujarat chief minister pointedly told the prime minister that though the Planning Commission was scaling down the growth target from over 8 per cent to a little over 7 per cent, Gujarat had registered a growth rate of over 15 per cent last year and was on course to repeat the feat this year too.
It wasn't just Modi's figures and statistics that impressed the chief ministers and senior babus at the NDC meet. Modi packaged his contents in a well-reasoned speech interspersed with pointed references to rising social and economic indicators made possible by policy measures undertaken by his government.
And because he had mastered his case well, there was not a soul in the main hall in Vigyan Bhawan who did not sit up and listen attentively to what he had to say.
At the end of his contribution, most chief ministers, including those belonging to the Congress, made it a point to congratulate Modi.
At the end of the first day, there was consensus among the participants that Modi's was by far the best.
West Bengal's Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and his Marxist counterpart from Tripura, Manik Sarkar, came distant second and third in a straw poll among the participants.
Jinnah's ghost still haunts the Sangh Parivar. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh top brass is not fully appeased by the sacrifice of Sudheendra Kulkarni by his chief patron Lal Kishenchand Advani.
The RSS seems bent on punishing Advani too. Though there is a broad agreement on penalising Advani for his act of 'apostasy', the RSS top echelons are not bereft of problems of their own.
Most notably, RSS Sarsanghchalak K S Sudharshan has proved to be a bit of a loose cannon.
Some three years ago, when he had called Atal Bihari Vajpayee 'the worst prime minister India has had so far,' his senior RSS colleagues had managed to ensure he did not open his mouth in public.
But the Jinnah episode has again allowed him to exercise his vocal chords, much to the embarrassment of RSS leaders like H V Seshadari and Mohan Bhagwat.
Since Seshadari does not keep good health, the man to watch is Bhagwat. He is beginning to put his impress on all matters pertaining to the Sangh Parivar.
Every swayamsevak has his day
Vajpayee might have defended beleaguered Bharatiya Janata Party chief Advani publicly about the latter's certificate to Jinnah while he was in Pakistan, but in private Vajpayee isn't all that sympathetic to his erstwhile number two in the National Democratic Alliance government.
Having been for long at the receiving end of pressures and barbs from the RSS and the its most favoured BJP leader, Advani, Vajpayee has been chuckling at Advani's troubles.
In private Vajpayee is said to have wondered aloud several times in recent days, 'Advaniji ko kya kahne ki zaroorat thhi. Pakistan mein ja ke kyon kaha aisey? (Why did Advaniji have to say what he did? Why did he say what he said in Pakistan?)'
Meanwhile, a person close to the former prime minister has been briefing friendly scribes about the Jinnah trouble in the Sangh Parivar, passing on tidbits showing Vajpayee in good light, especially in comparison with Advani.
In a controversial decision, an information technology company is said to have off-loaded 13 residential properties in a posh south Delhi residential complex -- reportedly to improve its bottomline.
The decision to sell premium real estate would not have raised eyebrows but for the fact that till the other day it was a government-owned company, having been sold by Arun Shourie, divestment minister in the Vajpayee government.
The word in the capital's real estate circles is that a media house snapped up all the 13 flats, made the initial advance payment, and then tried to flog the same in the open market at a huge premium.
Poor Rakesh Mohan.
He thought Finance Minister P Chidambaram would make him the finance secretary.
But instead Mohan, the secretary in the department of economic affairs, was summarily sent back to the Reserve Bank of India.
Chidambaram had not been happy with Mohan for a long time.
Seven months ago, upon his induction from the RBI into the finance ministry, Mohan had desired that he be also made in charge of the banking department till he was appointed finance secretary. That was not to be.
The vibes between Mohan and Chidambaram got bad a few months ago, leading to his repatriation to the RBI last week.
Now, the chances of Mohan being sent to the World Bank to replace one of its executive directors, C M Vasudevan, who is due to retire later this year, are remote.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh