Despite the militants’ call to boycott the assembly polls, many in Kashmir are queuing up for tickets from recognised political parties. The JD(U), the JD(S), the BSP, the BJP, Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Jana Shakti and Subramaniam Swamy’s Janata Party have no base in the valley, but are still participating in the election process, even if the chances of victory are remote. In Kashmir, there is a major incentive in getting a party ticket. The perks include a personal security guard, a government vehicle at your command, policemen standing guard at the candidate’s residence and permission to stay in state dak bungalows and guesthouses for the next six years. Besides, many former militants believe that contesting elections is one way to avoid harassment by the police.
Move to write
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee is conscious that this may be his last term in Parliament. Chatterjee has lost his parliamentary constituency Bolpur after delimitation. Besides, relations between him and the CPI(M), have soured. He is building a house for himself after retirement in Gwalpada near Shanti Niketan and thinking of writing his memoirs. With a distinguished career of 10 terms in Parliament and no longer bound by party discipline, Chatterjee’s biography, if it comes about, could provide an insider’s view of Left politics over half a century.
The Ministry of Women and Child Welfare has repeatedly written to the PMO, requesting that a meeting of the National Nutrition Committee be convened to discuss an effective nutrition strategy to help bring down the rate of child malnutrition (46 per cent) in the country. But the government has not held a single meeting of the Committee, of which the Prime Minister is the chairperson, in the last four-and-a-half years. Now, at the fag end of Manmohan Singh’s term, the PMO, reportedly at the behest of the Planning Commission, has unilaterally re-constituted the committee to include the names of a few favourites without consulting the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare, the nodal ministry. It seems there is politics even in tackling an issue of such far-reaching importance.
Yes, no, maybe
The Sangh Parivar is rattled. Its earlier defence that the charges against those involved in the Malegaon and Modasa blasts are a frame-up is untenable, with evidence mounting against the suspects. Nevertheless, the RSS believes it is wrong to totally disown the arrested persons as some of them do have links with Sangh organisations. Last week, two top RSS leaders met senior office-bearers of the BJP in Delhi. The purpose of the interaction was to clear the confusion created by people in the party speaking in different voices. L.K. Advani has taken the line that the law must take its course and that those charged were only distantly associated with the Sangh. More in tune with the RSS thinking, Ravi Shankar Prasad expressed the view that there is no such thing as Hindu terrorism. Party President Rajnath Singh, meanwhile, seems to have mixed up the message and instead made the extraordinary claim that a Hindu cannot be a terrorist. But even after the interaction, if the confusion still persists, it may be that the RSS itself is confused.
It is not only the Bombay Police who keep journalists informed on investigations into the conspiracy behind terror attacks in Malegaon and Modasa. A Congress leader in the Capital, who briefs the press on party issues, has been helpfully providing Xerox copies of documents from police files to the media.
There is a calendar widely distributed in Andhra Pradesh which declares proudly that 2009 is the year for the formation of Telangana and includes illustrations of the symbols and flags of major political parties to indicate that they all support the move for a separate state. The calendar exaggerates. True, the TDP has reversed its position on the division of Andhra. However, while the BJP, the CPI, the TRS and Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam, all support Telangana, the CPI(M) and the Congress are still opposed. Andhra Pradesh observer Veerappa Moily recently implied that the party was ready to back a move for Telangana, then back-tracked and clarified his position. Sonia Gandhi has left the final decision to Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and he is dead set against splitting the state.