Thursday, August 21, 2008

Diminishing returns of Congress

The political assessment about Congress’s future in the Hindi belt of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar appears bleak and weak .

In Madhya Pradesh, the state Congress in being headed by Suresh Pachouri, a leader who has never won an election, not even that of municipality. On top of that, Suhash Yadav, Jamuna Devi, Digvijay singh, Kamal Nath, Arjun singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia, all have their own nut to grind leaving Pachori with the difficult task of pleasing everyone and dislodging the firmly rooted BJP from the state. In short Pachouri has to manoeuver through a maze that has no end.

The tremors of intra-party factionalism has never allowed Pachouri to prepare for himself a firm ground, standing on which he can at least think of challenging Shivraj Singh Chauhan.

At the moment, most of the strings that are controlled by the Digvijays, the Kamalnaths and the Scindias are being pulled from Delhi, but once the monsoon of election sets in, all these clouds will make a beeline for Madhya Pradesh and then Pachouri will have his task cut out.

Relationship between Pachouri and KamalNath are not in the best of state and only time will tell how much damage will the Chindwara power house do to Pachori. Ajay Singh, son of Arjun Singh and Nakul Nath,son of Kamal Nath will add their own bit to the whole story as both of them will try to establish themselves in the political map of the state and the assembly elections will be the arena that will decide their rise or fall.

While commenting on the situation of Congress in Bihar one will strain his yes and yet find no leaders to talk or write of. The word ‘bleak’ will be an understatement to describe the situation, as the state congress is virtually defunct in this eastern state.

The fact that AICC secretary in charge KC Deo, who was the State Congress in-charge for one year, never thought of visiting Bihar even once speaks volumes about the importance the Congress leadership attaches to Bihar.

There are only three Congress MPs from Bihar in the parliament. Nikhil Kumar (former Delhi police commissioner and son of former chief minister,Satyendra Narayan Sinha), Meira Kumar (daughter of Babu Jagjivan Ram) and Shakeel Ahmed(son of former Bihar speaker,Shakoor Ahmad). The party also has merely nine MLAs in the state assembly, and no one will surprised if it’s representation in the state goes down even further in the future.

Recently, Bihar Pradesh Congress saw a new chief being appointed. Anil Sharma who has emerged through the corridors of student politics of Patna University recently replaced Sadanand Singh.

Sharma, like Pachouri has never won an election not was even an MLC, fits more comfortably in the role of a palmist. He is an expert palmist and astrologer and if one is to go by news coming from within the party, Sharma got the job after he was recommended by Vincent George, the ‘now-almost-forgotten’ secretary of Ms.Sonia Gandhi. George reportedly pushed Sharma’s candidature because he was pleased by the accuracy of the forecasts predicated by him while reading George’s palm.

Unlike in other states, in Bihar it is Lalu Yadav who decides the ticket distribution for the Congress party. The state Congress has paid a very heavy price to keep the alliance between the RJD and the UPA at the Centre functioning. Lalu while working in a systematic way has made sure that Congress is brought down to a point, from where it will take years if not decades to stand up again. And the one party that has gained from this has been Ram Vilas Pawan’s LJP. For years to come the electorate battle in the state will be fought between the troika of JD (U), the RJD and the LJP. Leaving both the main national parties, the BJP and the Congress to play the role of a mere substitute

In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the Congress is going to contest the elections on its own strength. In the past, it had made “strategic arrangements” with the Bahujan Samaj party and the Left giving them a couple of constituencies, but in Bihar, it is dependent on the RJD only. If it goes alone in Bihar, the party can become organizationally stronger. The party leaders had recently told the treasurer, Motilal Vora that the workers at the grass root level were “jobless” even during the election campaign as they were not required for campaign as most of the seats were given to the RJD in alliance. They feared the party may lose its ground in the villages, if this trend continued for long .The party may no win more seats, but it may be revived with the “involvement” of the workers in the villages.

In Chhattisgarh the prospects appear better for the Congress, as the tribal belt of Surguja and Bastar are not happy with their respective BJP MLAs. In the previous election, it was this belt which voted against the Congress and led BJP to power. The Salva Judum movement too will come into play as most of the tribals are disenchanted by it. This tribal belt will perhaps decide that who amongst the seekers will finally get the treasure.

The tickets for the forthcoming assembly elections is Chhattisgarh will be distributed through mainly two counters; one being manned by the former CM and MP Ajit jogi and the other that has the octogenarian Motilal Vohra at its helm. In the political equation that will possibly emerge in this state, many other leaders like Satyanarayan Sharma, Charan das Mahant, VC Shukla will also play small yet pivotal part to make the equation more ‘exciting’.

The intra-party factionalism and the honest image of Raman Singh will be the only thing that may stop Congress from capturing the required number of seats. While on one hand the Rs 3 kg rice scheme for the poor in Chhattisgarh may help Raman Singh to retain the tribals votes but on the other the below satisfactory performance of his colleagues among the tribals will make it difficult for Raman to consolidate on the advantage that he will get from the rice scheme.

Dilip Singh Judeo, who was a chief ministerial candidate in 2003 has been sidelined and is now busy with his re-conversion programmes.

The factionalism that has emerged in this state has led to the birth of two poles for the Congress workers to choose from. ‘With Jogi’ and ‘Against Jogi’, is the possible resting house that will probably come-up in the state. In fact the detractors of Jogi within Congress may well outnumber his enemies that are in the BJP. The birth of ‘Against Jogi’ group can be traced to 2000 when the state came into existence and Jogi was appointed the first CM. Claims of many other leaders like the Shukla brothers and that of numerous other aspirants were dismissed by Sonia Gandhi while appointing the much ‘junior’, Ajit Jogi. Seven years later the swords are still drawn and though each side claims the odd success in the battle, but the one final war is still to be fought.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Bihar Analysis- July

Bihar, where caste equations are always of paramount interest, saw a new director general of police in the form of Devki Nandan Gautam,a 1974 batch IPS from a dalit community. Gautam was made DG of police in place of a Brahmin, Shiv Chandra Jha.

Claims of two other senior IPS officers were ignored while superseding Gautam. Gautam, is considered an upright honest officer. The then chief minister, Karpoori Thakur during a debate in the state assembly had described Gautam as God for the poor.

Gautam was being shunted for the last 17 years. First during the Lalu-Rabri regime and then when the government changed he was ignored for the initial two years by the Nitish Kumar government due to the pressure of senior Janta Dal(U) MP, Prabhunath Singh, against whom Gautam, was monitoring a murder case.

Nitish Kumar has obviously tried to send a message among the masses about his intention to give an honest police administration in the state by making Gautam, the new DG of police. The police headquarters so far has been a hot bed of groupism.

For the second year in succession, Patna remained waterlogged during the monsoon session. Boats were pressed into service the posh locality of Rajendra Nagar, after the entire area was deluged. The residence of the deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, senior politicians, bureaucrats and doctors was marooned and Modi had to shift to safer place alongwith his family for about a month. Medical facilities also came to a standstill as the clinics and hospitals were under knee deep water.

The district administration ordered closure of all schools as the school buildings and class rooms were waterlogged and movement of buses and autos became impossible due to flood on the roads.

The chief minister blamed the Rain God for the water logging and the urban development minister, Bhola Singh, held the previous RJD government responsible for the watery mess, alleging that the government did not create drainage system.

The entire monsoon session of the State legislature was dedicated to waterlogging problem and the entire opposition boycotted the two houses for the entire session. The leader of the opposition, Ms Rabri Debi, remained absent for the entire session inviting criticism from the treasury benches.

The Patna High Court intervened again as the state government failed in restoring normalcy in all the universities, where the teaches and the non-teaching staff are on strike for the last two months. Neither the scheduled examinations are being held nor are fresh admissions taking place. The new academic session has not started as yet. Since, the staff did not get salary for the past two months many employees died of starvation. The High Court has also admitted a public interest litigation filed by a student and issued instructions to the government asking it to take immediate steps for withdrawal of strike.

CM Nitish Kumar’s criticism of the Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad Yadav and describing him as the “world biggest liar” kept the politicians and media engaged for a week. The Railway Minister also retaliated and called Nitish depressed and a frustrated politician. Kumar said “Lalu Yadav’s only achievement as Railway Minister was to link his village and Rabri Devi’s village with railway line’’. Kumar was also upset over shifting of railway wheels factory project from his assembly constitutency, Harnaut in Nalanda to Chapra, Lalu Yadav’s constituency.

Madhya Pradesh Analysis - July

As with the other state bodies of the country, buoyed with the UPA wining confidence motion in Lok Sabha, Madhya Pradesh Congress is also making efforts to boost up the party workers but its work is being hampered due to the lack of unity, as disputes between leaders refuses to disappear.

BJP gained power in the previous state elections by raking up the pitiable conditions of BSP (Bijli-Sadak Pani) in the state. According to commentators the situation in the state hasn’t improved much and continues to remain the same but the main opposition in state assembly, Congress has not been able to ‘market’ this among the mass.Anti-incumbency won’t be much a factor in the forthcoming state elections scheduled for November, hence the Congress will need to work out some other formula if it wants to dislodge BJP.

Corruption which has recently beset the state BJP was an issue that could have been developed and used as a tool by the opposition but that too was not properly utilized. According to Party functionaries even though the state has big stature leaders, yet most of them are more active in the Center and hence the state organization is not able to utilize their experience and tact. Here too the party is facing a catch-22 situation as a section of the workers are wishing for bringing the Kamal Naths and the Digvijay Singhs into the state for a prolonged inning but another section of the party fear that too many cooks will spoil the broth and will result in more intra-party disputes.

As widely reported in the local media the intraparty dispute was clearly visible in two meetings that were held in two different places. One at the state PPC office in Bhopal, Indira Gandhi Bhawan and the other at the residence of a Union Minister Kamal Nath in Delhi.

Though it was said that the meeting at Kamal Nath’s place was to deliberate the future strategy for the state but those present in the meetings say that the subject of the meeting was an individual rather than the organization.

Among others who were excluded from the meet at Delhi included AICC General Secretary Digvijay Singh, Union Minister Arjun Singh and senior leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi.

Two days later, Bhopal became the hotspot as supporters of Digvijay and Arjun Singh met to work out the future strategy. The most notable of the absentee was Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) chief Suresh Pachauri.

As such instances of factionalism continue to come out, the view that Congress will lose hands down will grow strong.

The long standing demand of the state Congress leaders for arranging a visit of Gandhi scion to the central state was finally fulfilled as the Congress general secretary attended a special function in Bhopal and interacted with children in a school owned and promoted by a well known media group.

Rahul Gandhi also took stock of the political situation in the state through a brainstorming exercise which involved State Congress president, Suresh Pachouri and chairman of the State Congress Campaign Committee Ajay Singh.

Detractors of the state PCC chief Suresh Pachori, were left disappointed as the former union minister was praised by Rahul Gandhi for his efforts to bring the state organization into shape.

The state assembly witnessed unruly scenes as the opposition’s demand of setting up a judicial enquiry into the communal violence that was witnessed in Indore went unheeded.Setting a record of sorts no question hour could be transacted during the entire monsoon session, while more than a dozen official bills, including the supplementary budget, were passed without debate.

The state also witnessed two bandhs in the month of July; one in Indore and the other in Chindwara. Bandh was imposed in Indore after a communal clash between the supporters of the bandh led by the Hindutva group like RSS and VHP clashed with a section of the minority group. The bandh was called by these organizations to protest the decision of the Jammu and Kashmir government to revoke the decision to transfer land to Amarnath Shrine trust board.

Chindwara which is the parliamentary constituency of union commerce minister Kamal Nath, witnessed a bandh that was called by the Gondwana Gantranta party (GGP) to protest against protesting against the death of a boy at a gurukul (school) run by the asram of spiritual guru Asaram Bapu. This is the second death that has been reported in the asram in two days.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Summer of 2001@ Jawahar

i got my first real six friends
met them in the corridors of jawahar
we played till we all got tanned
it was not the summer of 69'

me and some guys from school had a crush
and we tried real hard
Laad quit and VJ got beaten
they shud have known it will never get far

o when i look back now
that summer seems to last forever
and if I had a choice
I would always wanna be there
those were the best days of my life

ain't no use in complainin
when u got a job to do
got thrashed near Kasturba
and still we stood tall

dancing with u in Ranjeet's porch
my heart flew helter-skelter
and when it was time to say farewell
i knew it was now or never
those were the best days of my life
back in the summer of '01

now we are out of Bhopal and graduated
it's better to take you out of my mind
i guess nothing can last forever...forever

and now the times are changing
looking back at everything that's come and gone
sometimes i meet my friends and figure bout what went wrong
dancing with u in Ranjeet's porch
i shud have told i would be there forever
and when u held my hand i shud have known it was now or never
those were the best days of my life

oh yeah...

back in the summer of 01
that was the summer of 01...

In sweet and in sour memories -- 1996-2001 :)


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