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Tag CM

Dump all the Maha Politicians 11


Recently while campaigning for Bihar Elections, Sharad Yadav made a controversial remark about ‘throwing Rahul Gandhi’ into the Ganges. While his remark may simply have been a ruse to draw attention, there does exist a valid case for dumping all the current Maharashtra politicians into the Arabian sea.

Maharashtra Politicians

New Breed of Maharashtra Politicians

Without that, there can be no fresh beginning. Since Ashok Chavan’s offer to resign over the Adarsh Housing Society scam, the guessing game for the next Chief Minister has already begun, similar to the speculation that was rife when Vilasrao Desmuskh was removed after 26/11 Mumbai attack. Given that multiple relatives of Ashok Chavan have been found to have received allotment of the multi-crore flats in the Adarsh Housing Society, which was cleared in the name of Kargill widows and war heros, his continuation as CM, seems highly untenable. The choices though among the present pool of Maharashtra politicians are horrifying. The usual names of Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Nararyan Rane etc. are doing the rounds, but all of them are part of a discredited lot. It is not just the ruling party that faces such a predicament, its alliance partner NCP is no better and neither is the opposition of Shiv Sena, BJP and MNS. It seems as if the entire polity of Maharashtra has been vitiated. Overdose of money, fame and crime reek from every pore of state politicians, resulting in bad governance, mismanagement and Corruption. Wealth accumulation seems to be their only goal. Behind the public facade of political rivalry, the real race is for money. This last decade and a half has seen a curious game of Musical Chairs being played amongst its 5 ex-Chief Ministers , 2 ex-Depty Chief Ministers and the current CM and Dy CM. Roller coaster rides of some of the key players are detailed below:-

Vilasrao Deshmukh(Congress): CM from 1999-2003, was replaced by Sushil Kumar Sihinde in January 2003 –> Again become CM after 2004 elections replacing Shinde –> had to resign after 26/11 attacks in 2008, was replaced by Ashok Chavan –> rehabilitated into Union Cabinet in May 2009 as  Minister for Heavy Industries.

Sushil Kumar Shinde(Congress): CM briefly between January 2003 – November 2004, replacing Vilasrao Deshmukh –> Won the elections but was replaced by Vilasrao Deshmukh again, and was packed up as Governor of Andhra Pradesh –> inducted into Union Cabinet as Minster for Power in 2006.

Narayan Rane(Congress, ex-Shiv Sena): CM for a brief period in between February – October 1999 from Shiv Sena, lost Elections in 1999. Quit Sena and joined Congress in 2005 and became minister in the state cabinet since then

Chagan Bhujbal(NCP,ex-Shiv Sena): Deputy Chief Minister October 1999 – December 2003 –> quit on account of Telgi Scam –> reinducted as Deputy CM in December 2008 replacing R.R. Patil

R R Patil(NCP,ex-Congress): Deputy Chief Minister October 2004 – December 2008 –> had to resign after 26/11 attack –> rehabilitated as State Home Minister in October 2009

Towering above everyone else there is Sharad Pawar, who formed NCP in June 1999 after quitting Congress over Sonia Gandhi’s foreigner status, yet had no qualms aligning with Congress in the state (1999 onwards) and at the centre (2004 onwards) for power sharing. Besides being the overworked Union Minister for Agriculture and PDS, he still finds time to be the czar of the multi-billion Cricket Industry and the NCP President. He has diverse business interests, majority of which are undisclosed. Closely linked to him is Praful Patel, a businessman turned politician who is currently the Minister of state for Civil Aviation in the Union Cabinet. To give him company there is another businessman turned politician of the Congress party, Murli Deora, who is the Union Cabinet Minister for Petroleum and Natural gas since 2006. None of them however can overshadow Suresh Kalmadi who outshone everyone in the just concluded Common Wealth Games.

The opposition ranks are equally discredited and insipid. The principal opposition party, Shiv Sena formed on narrow, regional parochialism and Hindu right wing ideology is on the decline due to an overage patriarch and the third term out of power. Its writ though still runs large among Businessmen and Film fraternity, whom they armtwist with the threat of violence. Matching them step for step and exceeding in venality is its new off shoot MNS. This new breed of politicians is even more brazen and intolerant.  The BJP has long been reduced to being an appendage of the Shiv Sena and is incapable of independent action.

On closer scrutiny three prominent trends in Maharashtra politics stand out:-

1. All major political parties are controlled by ‘remote control’. In case of Congress it is true nationally, yet the vagaries of changes in Maharashtra have surpassed their own standards. For NCP, the keys to power are securely kept with Sharad Pawar and his confidante Praful Patel.They may be Union Ministers but their heart still lies in Maharashtra. Balasaheb Thakrey of Shiv Sena has always prided himself for being  above the fray. In his hey days, he nominated Manohar Joshi to be the Chief Minister only to be replace him with Narayan Rane towards the fag end of his term. BJP’s remote control used to be with Pramod Mahajan till he was alive, after that it has lost relevance. The politics of extra constitutional authority has often brought in power without accountability leading to more rapid degeneration.

2. Another salient characteristic of Maharashtra politicians is their close association with business community. Mumbai being the business capital of India, most politicians have overt business interests in Sugar, Real Estate, Education or Hospitality besides covert involvement in crime syndicates or illicit businesses. This has created strong vested interests and fueled Corruption at all levels.

3.Whenever someone gets discredited in the public eye or is named in a scam, he is shunted out for a brief period of time, only to return back either in the state or the centre, after the public gaze shifts on to some one else.

There is little hope for Maharashtra with the current batch of politicians. @Chetan_Bhagat has a point when he suggests that may be its time for Rahul Gandhi to try his hand at being the interim Maharashtra CM before he ascends the throne at Delhi.

Anatomy of a Strike 3


Strikes are still the weapon of choice for political parties to drive home their point. Yet a look under the hood of a typical strike, fails to reveal anything distinctive or hope inspiring.
Indian Politics Image

The strike date is notified well in advance (so much for spontaneity).  It is then publicised through all means available. Media picks up the announcement and features it prominently, giving it further publicity. At local levels threats and innuendos are used freely to forewarn everyone.  On the day of the strike, hooligans and muscle power is used to force shops & offices to close down. Many though stay away on their own, fearing violence and commotion.  Trains and other modes of transportation are obstructed, with least concern for those caught in the middle. Many a times those in urgent need of hospitalisation are unable to get their, those traveling for work, interview or examination are also made to suffer for no fault of theirs. The more the hardship to the public, the more successful the strike is considered to be. At the end of every strike, supporters always claim that the strike was spontaneous, voluntary & a grand success while the opponents claim it to be a flop show.  No quarters gained, none lost. Net result is loss to the public exchequer and public misery.

Apart from general strikes that are ignited by occasional events, there are the ‘habitual’ strikers. Every year at the start of festive season the municipal workers strike work, the teachers & the non teaching staff go on strike during the admission season, Doctors strike work even when the ICUs are full of critical patients, bankers go on strike just before a long weekend. The intent clearly is to maximise the impact. The apparent success of the strike is again measured by the amount of public hardship.

While it is natural for us to blame the strikers for all the public hardship, the Government is equally to blame. One could understand if occasionally there was an issue that was complicated and could not be solved solved easily, leading to agitation. But strikes have become an integral part of our lives. So much so that first one agitates for constituting pay commission, then agitate if recommendations are not to one’s liking, then on to enforcing its implementation. Once the central Government implements the recommendations, as if on cue, one by one the state Government employees start seeking parity with central employees. On and on the cycle keeps repeating itself. Worst part of the process is that Government frequently goes back on the settlement reached at the end of a strike. There are strikes and agitations to simply get Government to keep its word and sometimes for payment of salary for the previous strike duration.

The frequent agitations are symptoms of a deep malaise in our system. They show that our grievance redressal mechanisms have all collapsed. While the judiciary takes ages to resolve complaints, everyone else is too busy protecting their own vested interests to spare time for problem resolution. Take for example the 3 – 4 PM slot that is normally reserved by bureaucrats to meet public for grievance resolution. Most officials make it a point to be away from office during the time period. Even meeting a public official does not lead to a solution. Things have come to such a pass that even problems referred by the Chief Minister in his Janata Durbar need multiple petitions before they get redressed by the officials down below. Even the courts have to get their judgments implemented by using the ‘contempt’ stick. Officials use every ruse for not implementing decisions that are not to their liking starting with appeals to simply delaying their implementation . Every organ of the state needs to be dragged by the scruff of their neck into doing anything. Often Government becomes the biggest law breaker when it tries to brow beat individuals and smaller groups with its size and power. All this leads to a general environment of non compliance and encourages people to agitate for their just as well as unjust demands . Things can only improve if problems are redressed at appropriate levels and judicial intervention is available in a defined time interval.

Part: 1 2

Persistence beats Perfection 9


One of the most redeeming qualities of Nitish Kumar is persistence. Most politicians have a tendency of launching something with much fanfare, only to fade away in a whimper once the public gaze shifts. Nitish on the other hand has an inclination for following up on his initiatives. One of the best examples of his persistence is the ‘Janta Durbar’ program. Every Monday morning, he along with his key ministers and top bureaucrats meets complainants who approach him.
New Bihar Janta Durbar
Such programs had been in fashion with earlier administrations too, but then they were primarily used for either dispensing favours to select groups, patronizing sycophants (ala ‘Lalu Chalisa’), or most importantly for earning useful publicity news bites . However, more often than not they quickly lost their utility and were slowly relegated to the back burner. One of the first significant changes that Nitish made to this program was to change its name from ‘Janta Durbar of Chief Minister’ to ‘Chief Minister in Janta Durbar’. The change though symbolic, epitomizes Nitish’s approach to governance. Another important improvement that he brought in was to connect all the complaints to an online tracking system. This online system assigns a ‘ticket number’ to every complaint that is logged in. The complaint is then followed up through the maze of bureaucracy till its resolution. He also experimented with ‘Janta Durbar’ on specific topics such as cases related to Police or to other departments and schemes. After assuming Office, Nitish Kumar has meticulously stuck to his ‘Monday morning’ schedule of ‘Janta Durbar’. The only time he makes an exception is when he is unwell, away for some important business or any other extenuating circumstances ( like the period of mourning after his Wife’s demise). Another time when he changed his schedule was when he took the program to the electorate’s door steps during his ‘Vikas Yatra’ while campaigning for the Parliamentary Elections.

This is not to suggest that all the complaints that land up in the ‘Janta Durbar’ get redressed. While many complaints are frivolous in nature, many seek personal favours and some are even antagonistic and require investigation of the contrarian point of view also. However still many genuine problems too face bureaucratic resistance in spite of the direct intervention of Chief Minister. Moreover one of the unfortunate offshoots of persistence has been that that those whose problems get redressed are less likely to return for expressing their thankfulness than those whose problems do not get redressed. This has led to several publicity disasters with complainants turning to the Janta Durbar multiple times unable to get redressal even after repeated attempts. Anyone else would have given up on this program if not for anything else, then for the bad publicity it generates when complainants recount their horror story of bureaucratic apathy and expose the inability of even the CM to cut through the red tape. Yet he has steadfastly stuck to his guns and refused to shut the program down. Four years down the line, different people may have different take on the efficacy of the program, still its regular continuance is an achievement in itself. That people continue to flock his Monday morning sessions and are allowed to approach repeatedly if their problems are not resolved, is no mean achievement at all.

In conclusion, Nitish Kumar has turned out to be an honest politician who has sincerely worked hard to put the state back on rails. He however, does not just bring good intentions and hard work to the table but also actively engages in realpolitik to ensure his political survival. He may not be a perfect politician, but his persistence scores well over his lack of perfection. Yet it may not be desirable to have him at the helm in perpetuity. On the contrary, we need many more such politicians so that we can rotate power among them and be sure that one takes off from where the other left. Only then, the people’s work can finally get done .

Part: 1 2 3 4 5

Changing Bihar, slowly 14


Note: This is the first part of a multi part series on Nitish Kumar and his efforts to build a New Bihar.

When Mayawati became Chief Minster of U.P. for the first time, she shook up the entire bureaucracy and police by shifting more than 150 officers in one day. When Lalu became CM, he soon landed up at the Patna Medical College Hospital with the media in tow, to inspect whether Doctors were attending duty properly. He publicly rebuked those who were found derelict. He did the same when he became the Central Railway Minister, by ordering the office gates to be locked after the scheduled time so that the habitual late-comers could not get in. Yet, when Nitish Kumar became CM of Bihar in November 2005, after 15 long years of Lalu-Rabri rule, there was hardly a flutter.

Bihar CM Image

Save one or two key bureaucratic changes, there were hardly any changes anywhere. So much so that even the official residence of Chief Minster, 1 Anne Marg, continued to adorn the outgoing Chief Minister, Rabri Devi more than two months after he was sworn in. People started to wonder what, if any, were the changes. Nitish Kumar went to work with practically the same bureaucratic and executive team as his predecessor. Sure there were reshuffles later on but the pace was unremarkable. He started off by conducting long meetings with the senior bureaucrats that routinely went on till late nights. The bureaucracy was rattled a bit but not too much thinking that the initial enthusiasm will soon run out of steam. They were, however, in for a rude shock. Nitish was digging his heels for a long seize, not a guerrilla war. Assiduously he went to work to put the state back on track, bit by bit.

One of the first challenges was to stabilize law and order situation. However here too, those who were looking for some high profile, quick fix solutions, were disappointed. In fact the first full year barely saw any change. High profile kidnappings and murders continued to rattle the state. Nitish came in for criticism for his pre-election claim that he will fix law & order within three months.  Change however, started to become visible later after a few cases were cracked by the Police and the accused were charge sheeted promptly. Another significant change appeared in the form of unshackling of several upright senior Police Officers who had been completely sidelined during the Lalu Rabri era.

Another turning point was the gusto with which the state embraced the centrally sponsored Fast Track Court scheme. More and cases were transfered to the FTC especially those belonging to high profile criminal politicians ( even those from his own JDU Party) . Suddenly things started to look up after the conviction rates started to inch up. In the past two years 2006 – 2008, more than 26000 convictions have taken place. Several dreaded political criminals have been awarded capital punishment and lesser sentences. Today, even thogh the law & order situation may not be ideal, but at least it has turned a corner . A clear proof of this is that Bihar has already ceded its monopoly over prime time television news to a lot of other states. No news is indeed good news.

Part: 1 2 3 4 5