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Home > News > Capital Buzz

Virendra Kapoor | February 14, 2006

It's possible. Speculation has been fuelled by recent actions of the Congress-led UPA government. Take a look at some of the reasons:

1. The prime minister came armed with the only bit of hard news that emerged from his otherwise non-event of a press conference. When a journalist asked, as if on cue, about the pay commission, Manmohan Singh was ready with his response.

The decision to set up the Sixth Pay Commission for central government employees was clearly aimed at winning over a vast constituency whose influence far outweighs its actual numerical strength. Notably, neither the employees nor the generally strident Left had pressed for a new pay commission. Nor, for that matter, had the finances of the government improved to such an extent that it could gratuitously distribute largesse to the large workforce.

The idea was clearly to buy goodwill. As the promised bonanza cannot be limited to central government employees alone, the PM's announcement will also bring cheer to employees in the states and local municipal bodies across the country.

2. No less significant is the decision to enhance pension rates of ex-servicemen. Over 12 lakh retired personnel of junior ranks in the armed forces will have their monthly pensions enhanced by sums varying from Rs 600 to Rs 1,000 beginning January this year.

Ex-servicemen dominate the rural landscape, especially in electorally important states such as UP, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab, etc. They cannot but be thankful to the Congress for this generous gift at the beginning of the year.

3. The economy seems to be in good nick, what with it registering 8 per cent plus growth rate for the third year running and that upbeat mood finding due reflection on the bourses with the Sensex at an all-time high of 10,000-plus.

4. The mood in the Congress has become particularly upbeat, following recent surveys conducted by various media organisations, which predict that, in case of an early parliamentary poll, it would emerge as the single largest party with 200-plus seats.

5. The rural employment scheme in 175-odd districts with all its attendant propaganda value, the Congress reckons, will yield good electoral dividends.

6. The leadership disarray in the principal Opposition party is, by itself, a good enough reason to advance the poll.

7. The recent reshuffle of the Union Cabinet has seen the induction of at least two corporate-friendly politicians in key economic ministries. They can further bolster the Congress election war chest.

8. Last, but not least, the daily arm-twisting by the Left makes a good enough reason for the Congress to go to the people and seek a full mandate so it can fulfil aspirations without being hobbled by outside pressures.

As for the timing of the Lok Sabha poll, it is conceded by senior Congress leaders that it can be scheduled only after completion of the state assembly elections in West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, etc. Which means there could be a fresh parliamentary poll by early winter.

With Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra certain to bolster the party's campaign, an important section of the Congress leadership reckons that 2006 might well see the return of the party with a near-total majority in the Lok Sabha.

No code of conduct for this Election Commissioner

Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav was penalised by the Election Commission when he travelled to Nirvachan Sadan on the eve of the last Bihar poll in his official car. Yadav had gone to explain his conduct on a complaint filed by the NDA.

When newspapers published photographs of him alighting from the regulation Ambassador car, the NDA accused him of further violating the Model Code of Conduct. It was only after Yadav deposited Rs 100 for the small journey, towards the cost of official conveyance, that the Commission was satisfied.

But, quite clearly, no such code of conduct is operative for senior functionaries of the realm. Otherwise Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, recently in the news for his own Trustgate, would not have taken his official Nirvachan Sadan car to Kasauli. Chawla, with family in tow, travelled to the quiet hill station in the Himalayan foothills in his official car and spent a couple of days there.

Still blind to violations

Given the hullabaloo over illegal construction in Delhi, you would imagine that, at least for some time, there wouldn't be any violations of building by-laws. Wrong. The demolition of high-profile fashion malls on the outskirts of the city hasn't quite proved the deterrent it was supposed to be for builders.

Take the case of a handful of shops that have sprung up overnight on the busy Mathura Road in South Delhi. The ironical part is the Nizamuddin police station is literally a stone's throw away. Worse, the office of the Junior Engineer (Buildings) of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi is as close. That these shops are a traffic hazard too seems to have been ignored by the police and MCD.

Incidentally, the land on which these shops have come up abuts the historic Humayun's tomb complex. Several years ago, finding a huge piece of land unoccupied, a transport firm began parking buses there. Over a period of time, a boundary wall came up to enclose the public land. A case against illegal occupation was filed some two decades ago. To date, nothing has come of it.

Congress mole

Last August, when former Kerala chief minister K Karunakaran, leader of the breakaway faction of the Congress Party, approached the Election Commission seeking recognition of his group as a regional party, senior Commission officials were taken aback when a Congress delegation landed at their door unannounced, minutes before Karunakaran's side was to make a representation. They had come to counter Karunakaran's plea, which he was yet to make.

Again, when during an internal discussion at the highest level in the Commission, a distinct view emerged to hold the assembly election in Bihar in five phases, the Election Commission was surprised to hear from the Union home ministry requesting it to hold the poll in only two phases. Neither the Bihar administration nor the home ministry had been informed about what was till then an internal decision.

Who is leaking Commission secrets to the Congress? Your guess is as good as anyone else's.

Udyog Bhavan antics

Newly-inducted junior ministers invariably fight over office rooms. But what Ashwani Kumar, the junior minister for industry, did, takes the cake. Allotted a room on the second floor in Udyog Bhavan, Kumar took great offence since the other junior minister Jairam Ramesh had been given a room next to Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath on the first floor.

On the afternoon of their third day in office, when Ramesh was preoccupied elsewhere, Kumar had his office opened and occupied it, explaining to the Estate Office that he had to meet a group of journalists. He also ordered the Estate Office to replace Ramesh's nameplate with his.

When Ramesh returned the next day, he was surprised to find his nameplate missing. When told about what had happened, instead of picking a fight with Kumar, he quietly went and occupied the second floor room. Word soon reached Ahmad Patel, Sonia Gandhi's political secretary, who advised Ramesh to grab his old room back. Ramesh, however, did not want to be seen fighting over a room.

Later, an amicable solution was found when the commerce secretary vacated a room on the first floor. It is now being readied so both junior ministers can have their offices on the first floor.

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh

Capital Buzz

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Sub: Reasons for early election........

An early elections is needed as oppostion is in state of mess.The UPA needs to fasten their belts with common understanding to implement public schemes. ...

Posted by Nksagar



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