AMBEDKAR WILL MAKE THEM BEHAVE ON THE FIRST TWO DAYS OF THE WINTER SESSION
It is a given that the Opposition would come to the winter session of Parliament with renewed vigour to battle the Modi Sarkar. The unexpectedly large win in Bihar would have made it fiercer still. It would look for a fight so that Parliament is stalled and the wash-out witnessed in the monsoon session is repeated in this one as well. Whether that is the right course to adopt for its own good and that of the country might be open to question, but the government seems to have done a clever thing by slotting a wholly bipartisan matter on the first two days.
On 26 and 27 November, members in both Houses are expected to mark the 125th birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar. No other matter is to be discussed. This is doubly fitting since the Constitution was adopted on 26 November 1949, under the stewardship of the Dalit icon, who was the chairman of the Constituent Assembly. Given that Ambedkar has now found favour with the Congress party as well, even Rahul Gandhi and his young group of hell-raisers might have to behave themselves, at least on the first two days of the session.
As a strategy, it is superb. How can you create mayhem when they are paying tribute to the biggest Dalit icon? Disrupting the commemoration of Ambedkar would not go down well with Dalit voters.
Government was found wanting in neutralising the wilful disrupters in the last session. Clearly, the Bihar setback has concentrated minds in the ruling party. An effective plan to take on the destructive elements must be in place when Parliament meets later in the month.
Admittedly, despite the big win of the Congress as a third string in the Lalu Yadav-anchored — yes, Lalu Yadav-anchored — Grand Alliance, it is futile to expect that Rahul would have shed his blind antipathy towards Narendra Modi. Maybe he and his ever changing group of advisers cannot think of impressing the people through orderly conduct inside and outside Parliament. Aping the disruptionist ways of his late uncle, Sanjay, who, if you must know, had instigated plane hijackings as a way to oppose the first non-Congress government at the Centre, may not prove electorally clever. But when you are blinded by the loss of power, and lack the requisite wisdom and maturity, nothing is beyond the mid-life Babalog.
A SMALL WINDOW FOR RESHUFFLE
Even before the Prime Minister could absorb the Bihar shock, he was immersed in preparations for the visit to the UK and Turkey, the latter for the G-20 summit in the resort town of Anatolia. After all, the felicity with which he addresses meetings and engages his counterparts in foreign lands does not come without proper homework. He is scheduled to be back on 16 November. And four days later, that is, on 20 November, will be headed for Malaysia for a bilateral followed by the ASEAN summit. In other words, hardly a window of a couple of days before the start of the winter session is available for him to carry out the changes in the ministry.
In other words, if the much speculated reshuffle-cum-expansion of the ministry is to take place it can happen only between 17 and 19 November. This has led many ministerial hopefuls to conclude that there is very little chance of the proposed expansion this year. Though mid-session ministerial reshuffles are not unknown, generally these are avoided for fear of causing avoidable disruption in work.
Besides, the reason why a reshuffle may be unlikely before the winter session is that any such exercise might only add to the level of dissidence and disgruntlement within the ruling combine. Once the session is over, the PM might want to undertake a thorough-going recast of the ministerial team after holding wider consultations within the Sangh Parivar. Following the Bihar setback, such consultations may have become absolutely necessary.
MORE THINGS CHANGE, MORE THEY REMAIN...
Apropos of the troubles of the Congress-led Government in Kerala, Finance Minister K.M. Mani of the Kerala Congress was forced to resign following an order by the state High Court for an inquiry into the charge that he took Rs 1 crore for reopening some 400 bar-hotels.
Now the heat is on the Excise Minister K. Babu of the Congress party, for allegedly having accepted ten times that sum to reopen the bars. After all, as the line minister, he had a much better claim to demand a bigger amount in bribe.
Which reminds us that despite such a long passage of time, the modus operandi of corrupt ministers has virtually remained unchanged since the first time the Congress tasted power as part of the post-1935 Act provincial ministries. Mahatma Gandhi was so disgusted at the corruption of the Congress ministers that he threatened to resign from the party. If he did not, it was because the Congress was supposed to be an omnibus, all-inclusive freedom movement.
But Congressmen being Congressmen, they refused to change. Soon after Independence, as in Kerala in 2015, in 1960s and later, the familiar ploy was to threaten to nationalise, say, the road transport, goods and passenger, and thus collar private operators to give big cash thailis to ward off the threat.
In Punjab, the periodic threat to nationalise goods transport and even cinema halls yielded large amounts in bribes for the then ruling party.
HALF PAKHANDI, HALF SHEIKHCHILLI
On Tuesday, 10 November, all Delhi newspapers carried full-page colour ads issued by the Arvind Kejriwal government. Beginning with the customary boast Jo Kaha So Kiya — what we said we did — in bold letters, the copy announced the proposed opening of a 1.6 km elevated road to decongest traffic. And declaimed in still bolder letters Dilli Sarkar Dwara Dilli Basio Ko Deepavali Ka Tohfa (A Diwali gift by the Delhi government to the citizens of Delhi). As the protocol demanded, it listed the names of the Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu, the area MP Harsh Vardhan, both of the BJP, and a number of AAP luminaries led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who were to be present on the opening ceremony scheduled for later in the day. Curiosity led us to inquire as to how the Kejriwal government could have built the elevated road in such a short period it had been in power. Sure enough, it turned out that it was the Shiela Dikshit government which had undertaken the construction of the above road back in 2013 and funds for the same had been duly allocated. In fact, it had sanctioned three more such projects in west Delhi for a total allocation of Rs 2,200 cr. Work on them was now in various stages of completion.
Mercifully, at the opening ceremony, Kejriwal did feel obliged to concede that the work on the elevated road was begun by the previous government. He could not have done otherwise given the presence of the Union Urban Development Minister and the local BJP MP.
But why did the ad copy sought to create a wrong impression? Simple. As someone aptly put, Kejriwal is nothing but half Pakhandi and half Sheikhchilli (50% hypocrite, 50% braggart).