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August 19, 1999


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The Rediff Specials/Vir Sanghvi

Star Line-up

The Three Men Who Handled Diplomacy

  • A B VAJPAYEE: Cool and unemotional, he appealed to the world to see things from India's point of view.

  • JASWANT SINGH: Was responsible for executing much of what the PM carried out as spadework.

  • BRAJESH MISHRA: Was the PM's emissary on several occasions and explained to the world that India did not have infinite resource and patience.

    The Three Men Who Handled The Party

  • L K ADVANI: Held everyone at bay -- the lunatic fringe, the Me-Too-Hindus, the politically-ambitious party hawks. Provided total and unflagging support to the PM.

  • A B VAJPAYEE: Paid no attention to repeated demands that the BJP fulfil its mandate of reclaiming PoK. Refused to be swayed by mangers who argued that Kargil could be served up as an Election Special to an electorate with jaded palates.

  • BRAJESH MISHRA: Handled calls from 11 Ashok Road adroitly. Suggested ways in which the BJP's jingoism could be turned to India's advantage vis-a-vis the rest of the world, while keeping it muted domestically.

    The Three Men Who Handled The War

  • GEORGE FERNANDES: Obviously, as defence minister, he had everything to do with the war. But he handled the fallout carefully, keeping the morale of the soldiers up without resorting to anti-Pakistan propaganda.

  • A B VAJPAYEE: Never, never interfered in the pace of the war. The army and air force are full of praise for the man because he never imposed deadlines and always provided whatever they asked for.

  • BRAJESH MIHSRA: Acted as a nodal liaison man for interaction between the top leadership and the defence forces. Facilitated meetings. It helped that he knew the PM's mind thoroughly.

    The Three Men Who Handled Politics

  • A B Vajpayee: Played by the rules of consensus -- took the Opposition into confidence about everything but refused to be bullied into calling a Rajya Sabha session, because he knew the Opposition wanted to pass a resolution against the government which is in a minority.

  • L K Advani: Deflected all criticism of his ministry on account of intelligence failure by just keeping quiet and not giving anyone any issue to raise.

  • Pramod Mahajan: Sensed that the Opposition could use the media and tried to deflect attention through informal briefings.


    What the politicians were doing when the soldiers were fighting

  • BASU, JYOTI: Stuck to the predictable line of opposition and demanded a Rajya Sabha session. But after that he deviated from script and praised the government for its handling of the crisis in Kargil. In not resorting to scoring cheap political points, Basu showed that he was not just a politician. He could also be a statesman.

  • FERNANDES, GEORGE: The defence minister is the only man in government who's lost the media war. First, there was a quibble over whether he promised the infiltrators a 'safe passage' or not. Fernanades said he'd been misquoted, and kept a low profile thereafter.

  • GANDHI, SONIA: She was torn between playing the role of a responsible opposition and her natural inclination to attack the BJP for its intelligence failure, which caused the crisis in the first place. But the Congress president made a poor compromise by praising the jawans on the one hand and threatening to raise certain questions at an appropriate time on the other.

  • GUJRAL, INDER KUMAR: The former prime minister decided to make the most of the situation to see if he could get his old job back -- either as foreign minister or prime minister, it didn't really matter which one. He was just desperate to be back in the limelight again.

  • GOWDA, H D DEVE: Saw in the war a chance to add to his newspaper clippings file. He made two demands that he apparently thought would boost the morale of the soldiers: that George Fernandes should be sacked; and that the government should agree to a Rajya Sabha session. That was the sum total of his contribution to the Kargil situation. After which he dozed back into oblivion, only to wake up and find that his party had split, leaving him behind.

  • JAYALALITHA, JAYARAM: Played the same role as she did when she was in the government -- attacked the ruling coalition. But she also took time off from demanding a Rajya Sabha session, and met Manmohan Singh and A K Antony to hammer a deal with the Congress for the next elections.

  • MAHAJAN, PRAMOD: While the Pakistan information minister has to explain why Pakistan lost out on media coverage, Mahajan was quick to declare that India had won the media war. And the I&B minister did his bit: for once, Doordarshan News gave priority not to Mahajan and his antics, but to the soldiers on the front. And if banned Pak TV, then he provided a substitute -- by inaugurating the Dogri channel in Srinagar right in the middle of the conflict.

  • MISHRA, BRAJESH: Won the media war for the government since he was the most articulate and rational voice on television. In fact, when compared to Natwar Singh's hysteria, George Fernandes's faux pas and Jaswant Singh's slow and deliberate statements, Mishra quickly emerged as the voice of reason.

  • NATH, KAMAL: Took the official Congress delegation to Kargil in his helicopter. First, of course, he cracked jokes about that delegation list actually being a hit-list. But while he was there, he asked many questions and generously shared his Iridium phone with those who wanted to make a call back home. He also managed to take some aerial photographs of the Line of Control -- so now he can give an informed briefing on the conflict, along with pictures to illustrate his point. Looks like Natwar Singh has competition.

  • PAWAR, SHARAD: He wasn't very happy with the timing of the conflict -- it coincided with the formation of his new party and took away media attention. But later, he used the all-party meetings as a chance to emerge as a national leader. While Sonia stayed away from the first two, Pawar attended all the briefings, and even gave sound bites on the situation.

  • SINGH, ARUN: Took the Congress by surprise by suddenly emerging from hibernation and taking up office at South Block. During the conflict, he wrote to the external affairs minister, offering his services. For his defence expertise -- and also for reasons political -- the ministry gave him a desk at South Block. However, with the war at an end, one is not quite sure what Singh will do in his new office.

  • SINGH, JASWANT: Addressed two press briefings at slow speed. One was about his visit to China, but he was gracious enough to include Kargil in the itinerary as well. Singh also went to China where his visit was far more successful than Nawaz Sharief's. And now he's off to meet US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to assure her that America did the right thing in supporting India. That must make a pleasant change from his visits to Madras to meet Jayalalitha.

    The Rediff Election Specials

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