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India This Week

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Dynasty Politics Breaking JD-U Back; SP’s Golden Oldies; Civilian Dishonour?; Missing: Mark of a National Leader; Four Chief Ministers and a State

Dynasty Politics Breaking JD-U Back

No matter what Congress leaders might say privately about their ability to push Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United (JD-U) on the brink of a split in the Lok Sabha, the ongoing rebellion in the JD-U has been caused essentially by the dynastic ambitions of a majority of its MPs in the face of the Bihar CM’s public posturing against politics based on lineage.

According to sources, a number of JD-U MPs who are said to be in touch with the Congress are those who contested last year’s Lok Sabha election after leaving their Assembly seats, and now want their family to be fielded from their pocket buroughs in the upcoming Assembly polls.
What is fuelling uncertainty is Nitish’s announcement just before bypolls in 18 Assembly seats in Bihar two months back, that he would not allow dynastic politics.

Sources point out that the sole grudge of JD-U leader Lallan Singh, who resigned from all party posts on 1 January, calling Nitish an autocrat, is that the CM is not allowing him a major say in the distribution of tickets for the Bihar polls.

Two of the many MPs unhappy with Nitish’s decision—Purnamasi Ram and Jagdish Sharma—had, in fact, revolted during the by-election itself when they had fielded their relatives from the Assembly segments they had vacated as against the party candidates. They were put under suspension soon after the bypoll results were out.

For these JD-U MPs, the Congress has suddenly emerged as an alternative political platform to place their dear ones on.  The Congress, on its part, is making no mistakes. Sensing an opportunity in the ongoing rebellion in the JD-U to get a major foothold in the state, the party has gone into proactive mode not only to lure away these MPs, but also to revive its rainbow coalition of Muslims, upper castes and Dalits that once held the party in power in Bihar.


SP’s Golden Oldies

Having expelled Amar Singh from the Samajwadi Party (SP), Mulayam Singh Yadav is all set to go back to his roots and don the socialist mantle in his desperate bid to remain in the reckoning in Uttar Pradesh politics. Sources say Mulayam has got in touch with a number of old socialists, most of whom had left the party or become critical of Mulayam because of his association with Amar Singh. Among those sought to be brought into the party fold, sources say, are Surendra Mohan, Amitabh Adhar,  Raghu Tiwari and Sanjay Dalmia.

Attempts are also being made to woo back Muslim leaders who had started getting alienated from the SP after Mulayam and Amar forced the party to support the Indo-US nuclear agreement. Kalyan Singh’s entry into the party left them infuriated. Amar  Singh’s exit has paved the way for the return of Azam Khan, the party’s traditional Muslim face, sources say. 

Dhirendra K Jha

Civilian Dishonour?

The Padma Shri to renegade Ghulam Muhammad Mir has created a huge embarrassment for the Omar Abdullah government in Jammu & Kashmir. The Chief Minister, who recently completed a year in office, distanced himself from the controversy by saying his government had not recommended Mir’s name. But after it emerged that his father, Farooq Abdullah, and one of his cabinet colleagues, GH Mir, had recommended the name, Omar Abdullah found himself in a tight spot, with separatist groups and the main Opposition party, the PDP, launching a tirade against him.

In his role as a counter-insurgent, infamously known in Kashmir as Ikhwanis, Mir (now 60) is believed to have helped security forces nab militants. He is also alleged to have let loose a reign of terror in his area of influence, by setting up an illegal militia and forcibly occupying land.

Rahul Pandita

Missing: Mark of a National Leader

By the time this appears in print, the Shiv Sena would have blurted out more nonsense on the issue and more politicians would have jumped into the arena. Perhaps, Rahul Gandhi, too, would have reacted to the Sena leaders’ uncouth remarks. But one thing is clear: even before Rahul Gandhi joined politics and successfully contested the Lok Sabha election from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, no one expected him to be the leader of just UP and Bihar.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said more than once that he would like Gandhi to be in his Cabinet. In fact, Rahul could have replaced Manmohan Singh had he not chosen to first embark upon a long, arduous journey to educate himself on the average Indian’s travails and then take upon himself the task of resuscitating and democratising the Youth Congress, and ultimately the Congress.  An Open-C-fore survey conducted in UP last year revealed that nearly half the respondents wanted him to have led the UPA II. In short, his national credentials are well established.

True, his constituency is in UP and he has a special regard for people from the state. It is also true that there will be polls soon in Bihar and electioneering lends itself to all kinds of political rhetoric. When the polls are regional, the rhetoric too gets regional. But in making a statement on the Sena’s unreasonable ‘Mumbai-is-only-for-Maharashtrians’ stance, Rahul should have sounded more like the national leader that he is.

For some time, Uddhav Thackeray and Rahul sounded alike on the matter, with Udhhav pursuing his divisive Marathi agenda and Rahul countering him by saying that NSG commandos from UP and Bihar had saved Mumbai. Taking on the Sena should rather be left to the BJP’s rookie president, Nitin Gadkari. RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat had set the ball rolling by taking on the Sena’s sectarian stance, clearing the way for the BJP to echo its master’s voice. The RSS chief’s remarks also paved the way for the BJP to start charting its own course in Maharashtra and moving away from the Sena’s narrow agenda, more in consonance with its national aspirations. With the BJP and Sena at odds with each other on the issue, Rahul really shouldn’t have bothered with the Sena. Even voters in Maharashtra don’t, as was clear from the results of the Assembly polls a few months ago.


Four Chief Ministers and a State

The curious and amusing case of Meghalaya being saddled with four Chief Ministers caps the long list of quirky politics that this state has witnessed over the past 38 years. From choosing a Chief Minister (DD Pugh) by a draw of lots among legislators in 1978 and having an Independent MLA (FA Khonglam) as the CM in 2001 to having 21 governments since its formation in 1972, Meghalaya has seen it all.

These ‘absurdities’ are the direct manifestation of the fractured mandate that the electorate has thrown up in all but two of the seven elections held in the state so far. The prime reason is that the electorate itself is fragmented: the three major tribes in the state (Khasis, Garos and Jaintias) have their own political aspirations and want to see one from their tribe in the high seat. Add to this the fact that people in the hill states of the North East don’t really vote for a party and its ideology, but for individuals. This explains why MLAs have no problem switching parties to another and attract no censure from the electorate for such merry political hopping.

Yet another reason is that all 60 MLAs  aspire to become CM, thus necessitating out-of-the-box ‘adjustments’ like giving three persons other than Chief Minister DD Lapang (his ‘political advisor’ Friday Lyngdoh, state planning board chairman Donkupar Roy and state economic development council chief JD Rymbai) the status and privileges of the CM.

Had Lapang not been magnanimous, he would have been toppled overnight, as has happened ten times since 1972. Lapang himself had been toppled twice in the past. Such is the nature of greed in Meghalaya politics.