Pulwama has changed narrative, nationalism set to dominate Lok Sabha poll.

 

The story is apocryphal but it still speaks of the complete breakdown of trust between the government and the Opposition. Without mutual trust, it becomes still harder to carry on governance for the larger good of the poor and the underprivileged.

It seems after the doubts raised about the surgical strikes by the Opposition and its usual media proxies, senior ministers considered flying Mamata Banerjee, Rahul Gandhi and that political gadfly of a television anchor, one Ravish Kumar Pandey, on a special plane to witness for themselves how our fighter jets level the Jaish e Mohammed camp in Balakot. Initially, the idea evoked a positive response until someone asked, “What if all three gang up and say in unison, ‘we saw nothing’?”

Levity aside, it seems no facet of government policy, external and internal threats to national security, presence of a huge fifth column entrenched deep inside the country, urgent need of fighter jets to replace the ancient and accident-prone MiGs, action against the habitual plunderers of public funds, etc., is immune from Opposition obstructionism. Even though the Modi household has no one to cook pasta and serve it with her own hands to the visiting Swedish Prime Minister, with his Indian counterpart sitting quietly alongside, while Ottavio Quattrocchi does the Bofors numbers, must Rahul Gandhi continue to fire blanks at Narendra Modi for the belated acquisition of the latest fighter-jets with cutting edge technology.

If the objection is that the Modi PMO conducted parallel negotiations on Rafale, it may be simply a case of going against the established hide-bound protocols, nothing more. Besides, a defence ministry which could not conclude the deal for over two decades—even as the Indian Air Force cried for the modernisation of its ageing fleet—needed the Modi push. He was to go to France on a state visit shortly and was keen to clinch the long-pending purchase, making it the high point of his visit. There was no malfeasance involved, even remotely. Again, Rahul should be the last to question the PMO intervention in the Rafale negotiations, given that his mother, without holding any formal position in the government of pretend PM Manmohan Singh, was in the regular habit of summoning files from various ministries, wasn’t she?

A word for the editor who was chosen for leaking the so-called exclusive about the parallel negotiations in Rafale. Since he had the entire file on Rafale, he was guilty of omitting the vital response of the then Defence Minister Manohar Parriakar to his Defence Secretary’s complaint about the PMO undertaking parallel negotiations. Had he revealed Parrikar’s noting about there being no harm in the PMO too talking to Rafale, it would have undermined the “bigness” of his scoop. This was nothing but mischief aforethought—something he and Arun Shourie, then with the Indian Express, had done together when they introduced a Gandhi Trust in the list of beneficiaries of the Bofors commissions.

Meanwhile, the week also witnessed the Congress at long last picking up the courage to spurn the supplications of Arvind Kejriwal. The street-smart AAP boss, knowing that without the Congress he stood no chance in the parliamentary poll, believed he could con the party into propping up his candidates—only to kick it aside soon after. The Congress leadership had already burnt its fingers supporting his 49-day government, only to be wiped out clean from the Delhi Assembly in the election that followed. Now he stooped to conquer, wanting Congress to support four or five AAP candidates, while he yielded but only two seats of the seven in the capital. The alliance would have appeared further incongruous since the AAP as the main Opposition in Punjab is certain to contest the Lok Sabha poll against the ruling Congress Party on the one side and the Akali-BJP combine on the other—unless the Congress was ready to commit hara-kiri in Punjab as well by teaming up with AAP.

Kejriwal, one of the more unprincipled politicians who did not bat an eyelid to dub the Congress a B-Team of the BJP once Sheila Dikshit rejected his overtures, was worried that without an alliance the Muslim vote would shift en bloc to the national party. He still counted on the jhuggi-jhopri vote-bank—it might take a little longer to see through the selfishness of this fake messiah who has reached where he has betraying a lot of people, from Anna Hazare, Medha Patkar to Yogendra Yadav, etc. But without the solid 18% Muslim vote, which will vote as one to try and defeat Modi, he could draw a blank.

On the other side, the Congress could not have written its own death warrant by yet again getting in bed with a treacherous partner who had gobbled its traditional base among the slum dwellers and the minorities. It was important that it tries and reclaims its old constituency rather than forgo it altogether by allying with a party which has an eye on its social base. As for the BJP, it was sitting pretty. Even when it won only three seats in the Assembly, its 30% vote share remained intact.

It is notable that the Congress spurned Kejriwal after the post-Pulwama strikes by the IAF at Balakot, which is within a handshake distance of Islamabad. Therefore, any second thoughts can be ruled out. The party leadership clearly is keen to slog for the long-term rather than stitch together an alliance with a tricky customer for temporary gain, if any, and in the process risk its future growth.

Meanwhile, there is much on social media to suggest that the mood generated by the tough response to Pulwama is certain to carry the NDA to a comfortable win. Patriotic fervour subsumes all differences of caste and class, region and religion, and relegates mundane concerns, at least temporarily, to the background. Once the foundation stone-laying spree by the Central ministers is over, we can expect the notification about the poll schedule. With this, the vulgar waste of taxpayers’ rupees on multi-page ads by Modi and Kejriwal—the latter is matching Modi ad for ad—will come to an end, much to the discomfiture of the media owners. In the case of Modi, the ads are released by DAVP. Which private agency does it for Kejriwal and on what terms?

CORRUPT NEXUS

Here is another facet of the nexus between Chanda Kochhar, the now disgraced former boss of the ICICI Bank, and the Videocon Dhoots. After the scam burst out into the open, it seems the ICICI Bank is now vacating post-haste a couple of floors it had rented in the Videcon Tower in Jhandewala in central Delhi, shifting their office elsewhere. Why this hurry? Because thanks to Kochhar’s largesse, the Dhoots were reported to have been paid more than twice the prevailing market rent. Indeed, more than twice the rent other tenants paid in the same building. Inquiry, anyone?

VULGAR WASTE OF MONEY

No other president of the Delhi and District Cricket Association has used his authority for personal glorification as the current incumbent. It is routine for him to send out large-sized envelopes complete with his all dolled-up mug shot in colour printed on expensive paper to members along with a message about the great things he is doing to improve the working of the DDCA. Note that his immediate predecessor was none other than Arun Jaitley, who gave the capital a well-equipped modern stadium. But the FM’s successor, looking gawky as always despite sporting expensive threads, thinks nothing of wasting DDCA money to massage his own ego.

 

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