Short-sighted pursuits for sheer survival

Short-sighted pursuits for sheer survival

As yet another week becomes history for UPA-II, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has cemented his position as the favourite punching bag of everyone,...

As yet another week becomes history for UPA-II, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has cemented his position as the favourite punching bag of everyone, from Dalbir Kaur, sister of Sarabjit Singh and a one-time BJP activist, to Sushma Swaraj, BJP's likely choice for NDA job if Narendra Modi fails to make the grade. Some may like to see the loss of his quiet dignity as the result of Chandrasekhar's curse or PV's curse. Still others may like to argue that Indian politics is very harsh when the chips are down. Both camps may be right, but truth may still lie somewhere in between the two extremes.

As L'affaire Ashwini Kumar shows, Singh has to blame himself for his penchant to sport the cap of uprightness when the trail of scams rocking the government leads to the PMO. How he will wriggle out of the mess will be a lesson to his successors. Whether Plan A or B is adopted, it will only put more pressure on him and weaken the UPA. The Plan A is the favourite of the Congress party. If it is adopted, Ashwini Kumar will save his chair.

If Plan B is the final choice, Kumar will be sacrificed by the time Parliament reconvenes after the week-end recess. Already a top law officer of the government has gone public to distance Singh from Kumar and the 'status report' mess. The Solicitor General's defence of the Prime Minister is something unusual. Never in the past was the nation witness to such a defence, that too after everyone in the power corridors was made to believe that Kumar enjoyed Prime Minister's confidence. The briefless lawyer, as Ashwini Kumar is called by some sections of the legal fraternity, used to head the intellectual cell of the Congress, which too had very little work, before his induction into Singh Cabinet. Kumar's sacking may prove to be temporary.

The Opposition, having tasted blood, will go for the kill, and in such a scenario the Singh Sarkar will be truly lame duck. As the saying goes, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi have a tough choice to make.

Their only hope, as of now, of brazening through the 'status report' mess is Karnataka miracle. There is an armchair view that the sister's act by Balbir Kaur may influence the Karnataka voter, particularly in urban centres which fall within the TRP area of live TV. A school teacher by vocation, she displayed a strong will to save her brother from Pakistani gallows. Her critique of the government on the day she returned from Lahore after seeing her brother brain-dead in the Jinnah hospital, reminded her audience on live TV of Marcus Antonius's funeral oration�

"�now lies he there. And none so poor to do him reverence. O masters, if I were disposed to stir Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage, I should do Brutus wrong, and Cassius wrong, Who, you all know, are honourable men�."

There is no doubt that Balbir Kaur's lament will influence the voters in Delhi, where the Congress is fighting with its back to the wall after a local court gave the benefit of the doubt to former lawmaker Sajjan Kumar and spared him from punishment in the 1984 riots case.

Along with Jagdish Tytler, a hardcore Delhiite, and a few other Congress seniors, he is known to have orchestrated mob violence after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Tytler's case has just been re-opened after a local court had set aside the CBI's closure report that had given Tytler a clean chit.

Tytler's response to the court directive crossed the basic limits of human decency. And the demonstrations by the families of 1984 riots show that the wounds of the victims have not healed as yet.

There is also some action and drama in Madhya Pradesh, which is set to elect a new government by the year end. Former chief minister Digvijay Singh has decided to end his decade-long sanyas from electoral politics. A one-time disciple of Arjun Singh, he was chief minister of the State for two successive terms. Today he is known more as a 'media anointed' mentor of Rahul Gandhi and self-anointed one-man think tank of the Congress party.

His younger brother, Laxman Singh, returned to the Congress fold some three-months back after a stint in the BJP. And Arjun Singh's daughter, Veena Singh, is also back in the Congress. She had been expelled from the party in 2009 when she entered the Lok Sabha fray against the party nominee. Arjun Singh could not help her much as he had become a fading star by then.

It is nobody's case that the three Singhs would swing fortune in favour of the Congress in Central India. They will not. But their presence will make the fight interesting.

Already there is a talk of BJP stalwart, Sushma Swaraj moving out of her familiar turf, Vidhisha, since Diggy Raja has set his eyes on this constituency for his entry into the Lok Sabha.

Even his BJP rivals concede that Singh was a good administrator. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has publicly acknowledged his debt of gratitude to Digvijay Singh. "My accomplishments", he said, "are the outcome of tremendous development in infrastructure, agriculture, industry, and power sectors achieved during Digvijayji's rule".

Even Atal Behari Vajpayee used to have a good word for the Congress leader's work. And Digvijay Singh himself keeps reminding you of the Atal certificate. All this development record should have paid electoral dividends. It did not. It was because he depended on loyal bureaucrats and ignored the political class; like Chandrababu Naidu yesterday and Nitish Kumar today.

Put simply, politicians, once in power, have a tendency to listen to the 'good word' from the bureaucrats around them. Interestingly, the same charge of keeping the political class at bay is leveled against the UPA-II not only against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but also against the UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, and the crown prince Rahul Gandhi.

(The writer may be reached at

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