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Capital Grapevine

Virendra Kapoor

Every time Chidambaram speaks, Sitharaman holds mirror before him

Congress leaders have been rather aggressive in criticizing the Government in recent months. None more so than P. Chidambaram. During Modi 1.0, the former UPA Finance Minister was not half as vocal. Probably this may have got something to do with his own problems stemming from the corruption cases slapped against him, wife, Nalini and son, Karti. All three are facing serious corruption charges which don’t require rehashing here. Suffice to say Chidambaram has sufficient personal reasons to attack the Modi Government day in and day out.

An example of how embittered he feels is his reported suggestion to the Congress colleagues that if the President, Ram Nath Kovind, was not available to meet a party delegation immediately they should go and slap their protest memorandum regarding the Delhi riots on the door of the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Apparently, Manmohan Singh shot down the suggestion, saying it would be insulting to the high office of the President. In any case, Kovind had agreed to meet the Congress delegation the very next day while expressing inability to meet them at short notice the same day.

Now consider the trenchant criticism Chidambaram has levied against Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman over the on-going troubles of Yes Bank. In a number of tweets, Chidambaram has criticized her handling of the Yes Bank collapse. Alluding to the analogy of wrong doctors handling the economy which is in ICU’ Chidambaram had used to criticize the budget in the Rajya Sabha, the Finance Minister responded in kind, asking “ the self-appointed competent doctor” to look himself in the mirror before criticizing her.

“ The Yes Bank troubles began before 2014 when crony corporations extended huge lines of credit… Under the competent doctors United Western Bank was on the verge of collapse when it was forcefully merged with IDBI. Similarly, Global Trust Bank was merged with Oriental Bank of Commerce and Ganesh Bank of Kurundwad merged with Federal Bank…. How many people were booked for wrong-doing then?”

Clearly, forced on the back foot when reminded of his own poor record, Chidambaram had little to counter her, only to say that she cannot keep on blaming the UPA, while seeking to shift responsibility for the decisions of his government to the then RBI Governors. Simply put, Chidambaram relies on proverbial short public memory to criticize Sitharaman, not realizing she is bound to hold mirror to him and others in his party whose record in office was far from being credible

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MP BJP gets its house in order

The BJP rank-and-file was at a loss to understand why the leadership had allowed a key State such as Madhya Pradesh to slip out of its control when all that it needed was some half-a-dozen foot-loose newly elected MLAs back in December 2018. It seems the real reason lay in the fact that the Modi-Shah duo wasn’t enamoured of Shivraj Singh. And probably encouraged by the attitude of the central leadership, Narotam Mishra, a senior minister in the outgoing BJP Government, challenged Shivraj Singh for the leadership of the legislative party. In the resulting confusion, the Congress sewed up a majority with the help of BSP, SP and a couple of independent MLAs.

Now, on the eve of the crucial Rajya Sabha elections later this month, the BJP has revived its bid to try and unsettle the Kamal Nath Government. What has helped the party in sowing further confusion in the Congress ranks is the clear three-way division in the MP Congress, with Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijay Singh heading their own separate and mutually hostile factions. The problem is that both Scindia and Singh want to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha, Scindia for the first time while Singh seeks a second consecutive term. Nath is keen on denying the seat to Scindia and that is why he had floated the name of Priyanka Gandhi for one of the two seats that the Congress hoped to get from MP.

Also, that is why the timing of the BJP’s Operation Topple assumes significance. Given the precarious majority of the Congress Government, if a couple of MLAs choose to absent from voting or resign before the voting for the Rajya Sabha, the BJP could deny the Congress one seat while it could take two instead of one it is assured of. The Congress effort to stymie poaching of its supporters is not helped by the bitter factional fights among its leaders and the fact that the BJP has the advantage of a friendly tenant in the Bhopal Raj Bhavan and a friendly central government.

The coming days leading to the voting for the Rajya Sabha on March 26 are critical for the Kamal Nath Government. Though known to be adept in money matters, Nath nonetheless cannot neutralize the advantage the BJP has in a friendly central government and even in access to funds. And he may be unable to surmount the bigger problem of rival power centres in his own party. As of now, it is advantageous to the BJP.

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No faith in court and yet seek its intervention

When you openly say that you have no faith in the Supreme Court of India, then why approach it for seeking justice? But professional social worker Harsh Mander wants to eat his cake and have it too. He is accused of having said on tape that he has little faith in the highest court in India, has asserted that the decisions of the court in the Mandir-Masjid, Article 370, cases, etc., have undermined peoples’ faith in the court. Yet, he wants the court to proceed against BJP leaders who made inflammatory speeches during the run-up to the Delhi Assembly poll.

But the irony is that when caught on tape for undermining the highest court in the land, the same Mander has the gumption to deny that he did so. Now he says he has not abused the court in public. It is a matter of interpretation of course, but when you question the fairness and justness of the court’s orders before those who probably felt aggrieved by those decisions you certainly encouraged partisan people to question the independence and impartiality of the Supreme Court. Unless the court delivers judgements as per your views, you are ready to question its impartiality. And then claim that you are innocent of bringing into public disrepute? Mander must moderate his need to thrust himself front and centre in the professional business of social service.

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Fake and un-fake news

President Trump called a meeting of his Health Secretary and other top medical scientists when coronavirus hit the American shores and asked with a straight face, “ How is it that we are the biggest military power in the world and still cannot kill this virus”.

The above is fake news. But the following question he did pose, revealing his appalling ignorance. “ Is there no strong vaccine which can kill the coronavirus?”

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The facts and views expressed in the article are that of the author

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