Let it be clear. The scam-tainted Lalu Prasad Yadav is calling the shots in the already crumbling grand alliance in Bihar. Any doubt on that score should have been removed last Sunday. The pecking order at the so-called Swabhiman rally in Patna revealed who was the boss of the anti-BJP combine. Though leaders of the Janata Dal(U), the Congress and the RJD were on the dais, it was a Lalu Yadav show all the way. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi too addressed the rally, but Lalu got the top billing. And the maximum applause from an audience dominated by RJD followers. Kumar may be projected as the chief ministerial candidate of the alliance, but Yadav constitutes its main draw.
Take another test which too endorses the primacy of Yadav. In all such public meetings, it is customary for the main speaker to speak the last. And that is when Yadav spoke. Sonia Gandhi spoke not only ahead of Yadav, but even before Kumar, which again proves the shambolic state of the Congress party in Bihar. Of course, what they said was only to be expected, there being nothing new in the criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But the big take-away from the rally was that Kumar was now fully at the mercy of his friend-turned-foe-turned-friend. The organisational weakness of the JDU was all too visible. Having relied all along on the organisationally superior BJP for fleshing out his previous alliance with the saffron party, Kumar found himself weak and lonely after his gamble of challenging the rise of Modi had misfired. Per force, he went on all fours, seeking the hand of friendship of Yadav, abusing whom not long ago he had risen to the post of Chief Minister.
Now, in order to retain the chief ministerial gaddi, he tries to eat all those pejorative terms about the RJD boss and does not miss an opportunity to massage Yadav's ego. Last Sunday, Kumar was at pains to gloss over the recent history of his embittered relationship with Yadav so that he could remain in contention for the CM's post after the elections.
However, the people seem to be oblivious to the fact that in Yadav we have a leader who is duly convicted in a massive case of corruption and who stands barred from contesting elections for a period of six years. In the normal course, propriety would have demanded that such a leader be shunned both by his peers and the ordinary people. But as the Swabhiman rally in Patna showed, despite his conviction Yadav was a crowd-puller for his caste-men.
So, all that talk about ordinary Indians being disgusted with corruption, and about politicians themselves pretending to fight corruption, is pure hogwash. While politicians are opportunists, the people at large are cynical; it matters little if a leader is corrupt, so long as he is a caste-brother or promises this or that freebie. At the current level of our political maturity, it is futile to expect that we can be rid of corrupt leaders. Kumar, a relatively clean politician, is tarred by association with the fodder scamster, who now acts as the real boss of the opportunistic and purely negative anti-BJP alliance. Bihar's and Nitish Kumar's swabhiman is certainly not enhanced by casteist and corrupt politicians like Lalu Yadav.
BCCI NOT WELL UNDER DALMIA
In more ways than one, Jagmohan Dalmia is not the same man we have known him to be all these years. Though re-elected president of the Board for Control of Cricket in India, his poor health does not allow him to be in control of himself or the BCCI. That alone would explain how the old fox was outsmarted by his traditional rival N. Srinivasan at last month's BCCI's working committee meeting in Kolkata, which ended in a fiasco without conducting any business. Srinivasan, despite the duly-certified shenanigans of his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan in the IPL franchise, Chennai Super Kings, insisted on playing an active role in the BCCI. And though Dalmia had managed to replace Srinivasan as the Board president, his poor health virtually rules him out from playing an active role. Whether it is a case of dementia or some such age-related ailment, the fact is that Dalmia is in no position to steer the Board at a most critical time in its life. Small wonder, then, a handful of people surrounding him seem to be keen to exploit his near-paralysis for personal gain and advancement.
It is noteworthy that I.S. Bindra, who had played a dominant role in the affairs of the BCCI as the long-time boss of the Punjab Cricket Association, had voluntarily distanced himself from it due to his poor health. Bindra is slowly recovering his physical and mental strength, but has no intention to be active again in the affairs of the BCCI. It is time too for Dalmia to leave the BCCI alone and to tend to his failing health.
PHYSICIAN, HEAL THYSELF
Some weeks ago, newspapers in the capital splashed a headline: NGT to bar parking on city roads. The news quoted sources in the National Green Tribunal to the effect that it was considering prohibiting the parking of cars on municipal roads at anytime of the day or night. Immediately the question arose as to where the lakhs of cars that the Delhiites own would be parked. Anyway, nothing came of that scary news. But, at least, it was expected that the NGT itself would take care of the hundreds of cars that are routinely parked outside its own headquarters on Copernicus Marg, near India Gate, since it obstructs flow of peak-time traffic. On a busy day in the NGT, the long line of cars parked outside stretches from India Gate to the traffic roundabout near Bengali Market.
A STREAK OF INTOLERANCE
HRD Minister Smriti Irani does not win any marks for being unduly petulant and churlish towards her critics. Some time ago, a senior corporate manager was mildly critical of the reported move to curb the autonomy of the IITs and the IIMs. Speaking at a closed-door meeting of the Indian Merchants' Chambers in Mumbai, the well-respected chairman-emeritus of a major private bank hoped that the HRD Ministry would desist from altering the present system of governance at these seats of excellence in our otherwise dreary educational landscape. A sketchy report of the remarks found its way into the columns of a financial daily. And soon enough Irani's aides traced the errant corporate veteran. He was ticked off and told that he had relied on baseless reports to criticise her. Taken aback by the vehemence of the protest, he weakly offered that since the reports were not denied he had merely expressed his concern at the possible loss of autonomy of these institutions. Though in no way ill-disposed towards the present ruling dispensation, nonetheless the rap from on high has left him a bit shaken.
THE JAUNDICED LEFT-LIBERALS
The so-called left-liberal elements harbour such visceral hatred for the Modi government that they would not even mind hurting the larger national interest. A case in point is the open appeal by a US-based group of Indian-origin academics to iconic IT companies in view of the forthcoming visit of the PM later this month to the Silicon Valley. The left-liberal academics have called upon the IT biggies not to partner the Modi government in its Smart City Digital India Project.
And, pray, what is the reason for their ire? Nothing in particular but a generalised gripe against the alleged constriction of liberties, civic freedoms, religious autonomy, etc., etc., things that can be rustled up to vilify any or every government. Time these academics ceased to see things through the distorting prism of a failed and rejected ideology. And privileged national interest over their distorted world-view.
And finally a gem from our nightly television. Breaking News: Indrani ney sandwich khayee. Amen.