Rank opportunism Thursday, Mar 24 2011 

Alphons Kannamthanam and Nitin Gadkari

Alphons Kannamthanam being welcomed into BJP by party president Nitin Gadkari.

Opportunism has found new heights among politicians in Kerala with several of them changing colours like chameleon.

The field has become such that it looks like corporates hunting for talents in a job market with scarcity of talents. However, what the political parties are getting are people with no ideology other than what suits them at the moment.

So, some comparisons with the past are apt. When people like Peter (Punnapra Vayalar uprising) and P. V. Kunhikannan (LDF convenor) were expelled from CPI (M), they ended up in penury unable to lead any other party or movement for ideological or practical reasons. Leaders like P. T. Chacko were unwilling to quit Congress but his followers formed the Kerala Congress. Many of those who split parties at those times were unwilling for major shifts in their stands or professed ideology.

The historical split of Communist party of India only yielded the Communist Party of India (Marxist). When the party of Sreekantan Nair and Baby John, styling itself as Revolutionary Socialist Party, split again and again; that only gave way to comical variants of the RSP. Though Kerala Congresses divided themselves like amoeba, they kept their generic names.  Even M. V. Raghavan and K. R. Gouriamma formed their own parties, even when going for a major shift from their leftist positions.

Individual defections like that of Lonappan Nambadan, T. K. Hamza and Cheriyan Philip were stable and made some sense. However, when it came to the likes of A. P. Abdullakutty, it started look more opportunistic. Still Abdullakutty, or for that matter Manjalamkuzhi Ali, could raise some valid issues. However, when it comes to Alphons Kannamthanam, Jaya Dally and Sindhu Joy, careerist preferences seems to be only major concern. People would have even taken aback by the suddenness with which they have switched loyalties to extreme levels. The question now is how the people could trust these politicians?

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Strait jacketing Shashi Tharoor Sunday, Sep 20 2009 

Union Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor

Union Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor

The Congress is bent on fitting Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Thaoor in the same mould as other Congressmen.

Congressmen have taken umbrage to Shashi Tharoor’s remark on the twitter about travelling cattle class  and party is thinking of imposing a code on conduct on him. Mr. Tharoor is a man used to walk in full suit and travel in the air-conditioned comfort of his car or airlines. Congressmen have made him to don khadi and do all sorts of thing like travelling in an open ‘rath’ during the electioneering in Trivandrum.

He is a man used to jet setting in business or executive class from New York to the Gulf and Israel. The Congress now wants him to travel cattle class and eschew five star comforts.  He has money and he wants to spent it openly, not knowing the hypocrisy prevalent in the Congress.

There are many crore-pathis in the Congress. However, they would not flaunt the money as long as they have to win an election. Instead they would wear khadi and even make it appear worn out. The money will remain safe in Swiss banks and you can spend it in Israel or Singapore (as the leftists do). Take a train and then fly helicopter. Mr. Tharoor could have spent a night a la A. K. Balan (Minister for SC and ST in Kerala) in a tribal hamlet in the eastern reaches of his Constituency and then flown to some five star hotel in Delhi. Nobody would have winked an eye.

It seems that Shashi Tharoor has a lot to learn about being an Indian politician. His Western style humour or sarcasm would not be politically correct in India. Holy cows are holy cows in India and you cannot consider them as one among cattle.

Related:  Shashi Tharoor and Kanjan Gupta

Humour in politics an occupational hazard!

Congress to consoldidate position in Kerala, West Bengal Thursday, May 28 2009 

New Union Ministry after swearing in -PIB Photo

New Union Ministry after swearing in -PIB Photo

While the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala could not put its house in order, the Indian National Congress is making moves to strengthen its position in Kerala and West Bengal.

The failed leaders of the CPI (M) Pinarayi Vijayan and V. S. Achuthanandan do not have the grace to step down owing responsibility for the debacle in the Lok Sabha polls. It is not just that they don’t believe in democratic norms. They are entangled in a bitter battle that none could withdraw without conceding defeat. At least for the time being, the party is unable to push them out, or end the quarrel.

Party general secretary Prakash Karat is in no position to assert himself with the West Bengal unit demanding his resignation over the poll debacle. The decision to withdraw support to UPA Government before th elections has cost the party a share in power at the Centre. Now, the Congress-Trinamool combine would leave no stone unturned to wrest power from the Left in West Bengal.

The Congress has already taken steps to consolidate its position in both the States. It has named eight members of the Parliament from West Bengal and six from Kerala as Ministers. Two of them each are of Cabinet rank. The portfolios allotted to them are also significant. Minister of State E. Ahamed gets Railways while Minister of State K. V. Thomas gets Agriculture, Food and Civil Supplies. These are areas in which the State had been continuously accusing the Centre of neglect. It is clear that the Centre is not for confrontation with the State Government. On the other hand, it plans to win over the people.

One only have to recall the performance of BJP leader O. Rajagopal in 2004 elections to assess the opportunity that is opening up before E. Ahamed. Mr. Rajgopal’s contributions to the State as Minister of State for Railways had won acclaim and at least a lakh votes from politically uncommitted voters in Trivandrum.

Mullappally Ramachandran may also been tactically placed in the Home Ministry. He can address the concerns of Keralites about law and order and terrorism. If needed, he can also take on the CPI (M) politically over its handling of the police.

UDF imposes another hartal on the people Wednesday, May 6 2009 

The Congress led United Democratic Front in Kerala is imposing another hartal on the people for its own failures.

The hartal is in protest against the Cabinet’s recommendation to the Governor against prosecution of the CPI (M) State secretary Pinarai Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin corruption case. The case pertains to the period when Pinarai was the Power Minister in the LDF Cabinet that came to power a decade ago. After that, the UDF had ruled the State for five years.

Five years was enough time for the government to conclude an investigation and permit prosecution. But the UDF Government was keen on withdrawing the Palmolein corruption case against Congress leader K. Karunakaran rather than pursuing the case against Pinarai, especially when the present Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy was the Chief Minister.

After the investigation was entrusted to the CBI, the Congress had been in power at the Centre. However, the CBI sat on the investigation as along as the CPI (M) was supporting the Government at the Centre. Then, it acted and sought sanction from the Governor for the prosecution, which he referred to the Government.

The Advocate General, who is a political nominee of the CPI (M) has given a legal opinion against prosecution despite the CBI listing Pinarai as the ninth accused after an investigation supervised by the courts. The CPI (M) intervened to force the decision by the Cabinet against feeble objections raised by the Chief Minister.

The case has never been vigourously by the Congress. Now, in view of media criticism about its dilly dallying, the party is imposing another hartal on the people. Thus both the UDF and LDF becoming party to subversion of rule of the law in the State.

Election results and terrorism Monday, Dec 8 2008 

The hand symbol of Indian National Congress

Many commentators are quick to say that the Congress victory in three States in the recent elections indicates that the voters were not influenced by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. This may not be fully true.

We know that the tirade against politicians after the Mumbai attacks was mainly an upper class phenomenon. The common on the street shows much more resilience. For they live under one or other type of terror everyday. Thus the average Indian is less panicky about terrorism compared to, say, the Americans. So, he is capable of much more reasoned behaviour. This would have disappointed the terrorists besides the BJP.

The common man does not want India to declare war with Pakistan on the spur of the moment. He would have voted BJP if it was a war that he preferred. For the chances of a BJP going for war are much more than the Congress. He may also be aware that the State governments cannot declare war. They are also not directly responsible for the Central government’s failures.

Many also think that terrorism attacks began to spread from Kashmir to other parts of the country after the demolition of the Babri Masjid and Gujarat massacre. Ordinary man has enough wisdom to understand that bringing BJP to power is not the best way to reduce tensions. If at all the country is to declare war against Pakistan, who else is better than A. K. Antony and Sonia Gandhi to be at the helm of affairs? They would be motivated only by security concerns (and not communal factors).

Election symbol of BJPBut, we could still wonder why the common man did not react to the economic crisis and price rise. Well, the crisis is yet to hit the common man. It is the stock market players, realtors, banks and exporters who had been bruised badly. Moreover, farmers and others are now seeing the end of tunnel after the Central government pumped in money to help the farming sector and create rural employment. Those who look beyond their immediate welfare know that the Central Government is not responsible for the crisis.

The lack of voter response to price rise, however, look inexplicable. One reason may be that the real incomes of the people at middle and lower levels have gone up. Consequently, price rise is not a big concern as in the past.

It is notable that the voters have generally gone against regional parties. The Mizo National Front has been swept out. The ordinary Kashmiris has shown with their feet that they are not with the terrorists. (This is an opportunity that the Centre must know miss to settle the Kashmir issue once and for all.)

India is showing some facets of a slowly maturing democracy despite all our problems with the politicians and bureaucrats and increasing inefficiency and corruption in administration. Progress is marred only by lack of choice for the voters.

Congress: Deeper into the morass Sunday, Nov 16 2008 

Margaret Alva

The clap that ceased: Margaret Alva

Indian National Congress general secretary Margaret Alva’s allegation, before she was forced out of the post, would not shock many who are aware of the internal workings of the party. That she has chosen to make something known to those close to the Congress public does not boost the image of Ms. Alva. For, she is no whistle blower.

She blurted it out because her son failure to get a ticket for the Karnataka Assembly elections. Despite her closeness to the Congress high command (read Sonia Gandhi), her position (gratis the high command) as general secretary and member of the Central election committee, her son did not get a party ticket.

That kinship is a qualification for seats in the Congress is something that has been accepted and acted upon by even the Defence Minister and Disciplinary committee Chair A. K. Antony. (If you have forgotten all about that, recall how K. Karunakaran’s son K. Muraleedharan got his Lok Sabha ticket for the first time.) Still, Ms. Alva could not manage a ticket for her dear son. She has been outbid.

Ms. Alva’s present plight, however, need not be of much concern to the public. What is of concern is how our “would be” members of the Assembly are going to recover their investment. Already, they do all sorts of things to recover their election expenses. They will grant undue favours and pilfer public money. Now with their selectors also sharing booty, these activities will become a larger cooperative enterprise. The party will forfeit forever the right to question any member of the Assembly for amassing money. (I am not saying that the party does anything of sort even now. However, opponents within the party sometimes used such issues to their advantage, and that could rein some members.)

All these point to the need for internal democracy in the Congress if it is to retain semblance of a democratic party committed to people.

How far money influences selection of Congress candidates in the selection of party candidates in Kerala is not know. But we indeed know that this practice was prevailing in some smaller parties, especially the break-aways from the Congress. Even a leftist party had been forced to allocate seat to a leader repeatedly in the past, as he was a good fundraiser.

The Left will not dump the Government Friday, Jul 4 2008 

Capital city

Central Secretariat

The Left will not dump the Government (KeralaViews said earlier that it might dump the Congress.) It will wait for the Congress to strike a deal with the Samajvadi party before it withdraws support to the UPA, thus paving way for the nuclear deal with the United States. If it had withdrawn support earlier, the Government may have fallen. If the left parties really wanted to prevent the nuclear deal, it would have withdrawn support without notice so that the Congress would have little time to come to understandings with other parties.

Most parties do not want an election now. Congress and the Left is parting ways because of electoral exigencies. They need a lead-time before they face the electorate with opposing arguments. The so-called crisis over nuclear deal also helps both the Congress-led and CPI-M led governments to divert attention from price rise, inflation and other issues.

Otherwise, one should be wondering why the Congress was risking its government for a deal with the United States that is no way crucial for the country. Nothing particular is going to happen if India did not sign the deal. India had developed its nuclear assets on its own. In fact, the performance of the Atomic Energy Department was better that the Indian Space Research Organisation. While the latter brought, adapted or copied rocket technology from other countries, the former developed the nuclear technology on its own. If at all India wants more nuclear power plants, it has the technical capability to do so. It also has the raw materials. Only, the capital needs to be found.

Even if the deal would help the energy sector more than indigenous efforts, nuclear plants could become a liability on account of the decommissioning costs and problems in disposal of wastes. Being a vast country, India has several alternative sources of energy waiting to be tapped.

Indian Minister Arjun Singh’s plight Monday, May 12 2008 

Minister of Human Resources Development of India Arjun SinghIndian Minister for Human Resources Development Arjun Singh should be sympathised for his plight. When he suggested that Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son Rahul Gandhi should be the Prime Minister, the All India Congress Committee termed him as sycophant. So, he decided to have some constructive criticism of the party to change his image. He commented that party affairs were in disarray for want of consultations at higher levels of the party. This unleashed a bigger barrage though he may probably have been telling the truth.

The party leadership chose the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Vayalar Ravi from Kerala to respond to Mr. Singh’s comments. It was the ‘right choice’ as Mr. Ravi is distant in every sense from Arjun Singh. He has no debts to repay to the former Chief Minister from Madhya Pradesh.

So, Mr. Ravi pounced on him harshly saying that Mr. Singh was trying to blackmail the party and that his statements were colourful lies. Mr. Singh has once again to express his loyalties to the Gandhi family and declare that the chapter is closed.

Well, what is behind all this noise? Many in Janapath circle feel that Mr. Singh is actually angling for the top post. They see a plot behind the energy that Mr. Singh had been displaying in recent weeks. What Mr. Singh failed to remember is this. In Congress, it does not matter whether you are a sycophant, sincere or loyal to the party, what matters is whether the Gandhi family considers you loyal. Mr. Singh is failing to pass this test, of late.

Tailpiece: Is Mr. Singh fit to be the Prime Minister of a country with a lot of people living below the poverty line? Remember that he was not sympathetic to Bhopal tragedy victims in his comments.

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