Mantris Mess up Message
Too many cooks spoil the brotherhood. NDA’s top honchos have finally got it that BJP’s aggressive and acerbic infodemic on pandemic management isn’t getting the government any kudos. Those not even remotely connected with handling Covid perception are defending the government without a proper brief. With the Opposition berating the ruling party over public perception, BJP leadership has instructed motor-mouth ministers to stay schtum on Covid. Only Health Minister Harsh Vardhan will give the macro picture. Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal (yet to speak) will brief the media on oxygen movement. Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Sadananda Gowda will run interference with the media concerning the supply of essential drugs.
But Goyal’s and Gowda’s inputs have been as useful as a cylinder without oxygen. Many senior mantris gave contradictory statements because inter-ministerial communications are nil. For example, Nitin Gadkari, one of the most effective ministers, spoke frankly on May 18, “If the demand is more and supply is less, then it creates problems. So, instead of one, licence should be given to 10 vaccine companies.” Twenty-four hours later, he walked back his words. He re-tweeted: “Yesterday. I had made a suggestion to ramp up vaccine production. I was unaware that before my speech.
Mansukh Mandaviya had explained the government’s efforts to ramp up vaccine production. I am glad and congratulate he [Mandaviya] and his team for this timely intervention in the right direction. I feel important to put this on record,” he tweeted. Mandaviya is a state minister in Gowda’s ministry and Modi has tasked him with managing the supply chain of all Corona-related drugs. Natch, the crossed wires between ministers were manna for the Congress. But BJP insiders are more concerned more about mandarin misspeak that hides more than they reveal to their bosses. The NDA which was setting the agenda has discovered the virtue of speaking in one voice rather than myriad monologues. No wonder, numerous hyper active ministers and social media mandarins have gone into hiding.
Too many Gandhis
After its whipping in the recent state elections, the Congress still can’t find its feet. The Ashok Chavan Committee’s report on poll reverses have skipped the real villains and chosen to point a finger at some satraps; the document will be shelved as usual. The party isn’t able to plug into the new Gandhi Dynasty dynamics. Surviving on meagre political rations, Congress leaders are finding it tough to handle three Gandhis simultaneously without hurting the feelings of any one of them. Historically, the party has had a dominating duo from the family. Jawaharlal Nehru and daughter Indira Gandhi called the shots in the party. The father ensured that Indira became the youngest Congress president. After her progeny Rajiv and Sanjay grew up, Sanjay became mama’s advisor in early 70s.
He created a parallel outfit and picked over half the MP candidates who won the 1980 Lok Sabha elections. While the old guard needed Indira for survival, a large part of the party became Sanjay loyalists. Soon after his death Rajiv arrived. The Indira-Rajiv combo controlled the government and the party. Rajiv inducted his Doon School mates and technocrats to guide him after his mother’s assassination. For the next couple of years, he was the only Gandhi with total control over the party. Later on, Sonia became his invisible advisor and Congress leaders viewed her as a parallel power centre. After Rajiv’s assassination, she retreated into silence only to return in 1998 as party chief. Until 2004, she was the only Gandhi ruling the roost.
Rahul joined mother and won in Amethi. Since then, there were only two Gandhis at the helm. Sonia is the unifier; Rahul has his own team and became party president for a short period. Now, Priyanka Gandhi’s foray has disrupted the equation. Congress followers are confused over the new family troika. The rank and file are at sea without well-defined separation of responsibilities between the brother and the sister. Priyanka, the General Secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh whose brief is to revive the outfit in the state, is a pan-India political frequent flyer. Rahul is keeping away from his old state. Which of the three Gandhis is the most powerful? Congress netas are hard-pressed to figure the G-force egging on the rebels in Punjab and Rajasthan against the chief ministers. For the first time, the Congress appears to be victims of Plenty of Gandhis.
Vista is Centre’s Trouble
No communication is bad communication. What is the real bill for the Central Vista? What are its contours? After letting the dirt fly over its actual size and dimensions, the government is finally on the defensive. The cost is Rs 13,000 crore and not Rs 20,000 crore as has been publicised without a word from the government. The money will be spent over the next five years and not in one year and is the estimated expenditure for building a new Parliament, while the Central Vista is for recreational purposes.
The whole project will house all the Central government offices scattered across the city, the Prime Minister’s residence, the Vice-President’s House and a world class convention centre. Of course, the project is meant to be a precious and everlasting gift to the nation, but history would record it as a puerile mid-pandemic political circus. The Opposition, including the Congress, is calling the Vista a monumental waste of time and money solely to satisfy the Prime Minister’s ego. Actually, when it is completed, it would be recorded in history as one of the most innovating architectural marvels conceived by Indians, developed by Indians and for Indians. So claims the government. So far, India is known for monuments and buildings built during the Mughal or British rule.
What a Gas!
Petroleum product prices are on fire. But political parties aren’t bonding to douse it fast. Instead, they are at each other’s throats over Pandemic Panic and seeking accountability. Barring, a few inane tweets and press statements, no party has a sore throat after demanding a reduction in the prices of petrol and diesel which almost touched R100 a litre.
In one month alone, oil companies have hiked prices over a dozen times at a time when the global cost of crude is either stable or declining. All states which want GST on Corona drugs to be withdrawn are mum on the rollback of fuel taxes. Petroleum products contribute over 20 per cent of the revenue of both the Centre and the states. It varies from state to state.
Around half of the price of a litre of gas goes into government coffers. Petroleum products have been kept out of the GST regime so that no single party gets a bad name for fleecing consumers. Since states have no desire to reform tax collection and leakages, they are willing partners-in-sin. Looks like India is seeing Cooperative Federalism joined at the hip at least on the fleecing through fuel.
Follow him on Twitter @PrabhuChawla