Defeat after defeat after defeat is making the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) smarter. After the earthquake that hit the Party following the Lok Sabha drubbing (which itself came on the heels of its defeat in the state polls in Delhi and Rajasthan), the Party moved quickly and early to pre-empt another round of name-calling. It had earlier announced the next national executive meeting for 28th -29th October to review its performance in elections to the three states (Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal). But at the Party’s central parliamentary board meeting in Delhi, LK Advani wisely advised that the 28th October meeting be cancelled to avoid another round of blood-letting. The notable thing is that Mr Advani’s advice did not come after the election results revealed what the electorate continues to think of a Party in drift. His advice came on 15th October, a full week before the results were out. The parliamentary board, for once, anticipated defeat and, hence, prepared to avoid its ugly consequences. That’s not a bad start for a Party hoping to rediscover itself.
What Bangladesh Thinks of India
While discussing Bangladesh we, in India, always assume superior airs. Poor country; underdeveloped; can’t even play cricket; and, on top of that, sends millions of migrants to India because it can’t get its act together. Occasionally, though, it helps to find out what Bangladesh thinks of us. As I write this, I am in Dhaka on official business. I ran into a Whirlpool executive who drives his Dhaka business from Delhi. There is little acceptance of Indian products in Bangladesh, he tells me; Indian goods are looked down upon. Bangladeshis mostly prefer Australian or other foreign products to Indian ones. These countries mop up the high-end products market and, at the lower end, it’s a complete Chinese sweep. That leaves very little space for Indian products. So, after about 10 years of trying to make a dent in Bangladesh, Whirlpool is now trying to shed its ‘Indian’ image and present itself as an ‘American’ company (which it is). It has, thus, dropped the Kajol-as-mascot ads in the Bangladesh market and has shot new commercials with Western models. Hopefully, the strategy works for Whirlpool. But it does work to puncture our ego as the second fastest growing economy, a future world-beater-in-the-making and what not.
Why Jaya Loves the New NREGS
On Gandhi-jayanti, the Congress government at the Centre decided to rename its flagship rural welfare programme after the Mahatma. Thus, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, NREGS, became the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, MGREGS. Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK is loving it as it gets to appropriate all credit for the programme because of the initials ‘MGR’ associated with it now (MGR or MG Ramachadran, the founder of AIADMK was Mr Karunanidhi’s political nemesis). And DMK chief Karunanidhi is upset because he can’t stand anything more than a smiling Jayalalithaa.
Evil Spirits Get Official Recognition
Ghosts and evil spirits got official recognition on 20th October. On that day, the staff of the ministry of petroleum organised a yagna to scare the evil spirits that seemed to have suddenly taken a fancy to petroleum. The puja was followed at 1pm with a brahman-bhoj at Shastri Bhawan. Reason: Three suicides in two months in the ministry, the latest by a lady officer. Her body was found in one of the toilets. Many employees sported vermillion marks on their forehead for the puja. A fire mud pot, emitting thick black smoke, was taken around all the chambers except the petroleum secretary’s. Hopefully, the ghosts have been gassed out and won’t haunt petroleum minister Murli Deora who has been in the thick of the Reliance gas controversy.
Jaswant’s Operation Clean-up
Jaswant Singh is unpredictable. You would imagine that a man who staked his political career by raking up the past and painting Jinnah, the villain of India’s partition according to the BJP, as a hero, would look kindly upon institutional legacy. Apparently not. Jaswant, who now heads the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has ordered a clean-up of his room in Parliament. The walls are full of pictures of all the past 49 PAC chairmen, right from the first one, WM Hailey (1921). Jaswant saw no purpose in so many faces staring at him all the time. Of course, among the pictures was one that he would have loved to keep, that of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his political benefactor. The problem was that Vajpayee had company: Murli Manohar Joshi, Ram Naik and Vijay Kumar Malhotra, all of whom he can’t stand. So word went out that because he can’t tolerate these three men, all had to go. Jaswant gave no reasons for the clean-up, of course. The staff was unsure of what to do; so they wrote to the Lok Sabha secretary-general PDT Achary seeking advice. Mr Achary gave permission to remove the pictures on 19th October and immediately the staff got down to the business of stripping the wall. They dismounted the pictures but carefully packed them with their name tags because Jaswant is chairman only for one year (up to July 2010). What if the next chairman wants them back?
Priyanka Wields the Broom at RGF
Priyanka Gandhi is making waves at the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) which she joined as trustee recently. She spends about three hours every day and seems determined to rid the RGF of employees who have made it a resort for the retirees. In one fell stroke, she handed out 25 pink slips to employees who were well into their 70s and had been warming the chairs for more than 15 years. She wants to bring in young blood. If you are in your 30s, write to Priyanka for a place on the high table.
Climate Change in Environment Ministry Jairam Ramesh has taken to his new environment portfolio like a duck to water. He is setting a scorching pace for the ministry and has wowed people with the depth of his knowledge and quick grasp of issues. The green community recently got proof that the new guy in Paryavaran Bhavan not only means business but also knows business. At the meeting to announce the launch of INCCA, Indian Network of Climate Change Assessment (India’s own climate change monitoring body, hitherto non-existent), Jairam was in total command. He not only knew all the issues at hand, he also knew many scientists, drawn from about 100 different institutions, by name. He announced that he would review INCCA’s working every six months and right there, from the podium, announced the dates and venue for the next meeting. That was not all. He left with a warning: “All through the day, I have been listening to presentations where every figure quoted is from 1996 or earlier. When we meet next, I will not accept figures that are not updated till 2008.” Well, that’s real climate change!
BV Rao has wide experience across print, TV and digital media. He was group editor at ZEE News and senior editor with DNA and Indian Express.