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  Opinion   Columnists  19 Nov 2017  Of Congress’ inertia & Uma’s silence

Of Congress’ inertia & Uma’s silence

The writer is a Delhi-based journalist.
Published : Nov 19, 2017, 5:19 am IST
Updated : Nov 19, 2017, 5:20 am IST

It is widely believed that even as a former President Dr Mukherjee can play a role in improving Dhaka-New Delhi ties.

Uma Bharati (Photo: PTI)
 Uma Bharati (Photo: PTI)

After taking over as the President, Dr Pranab Mukherjee’s first international visit was to Bangladesh in 2013. During his stay in the neighbouring country, he addressed the Bangladesh Parliament and made a special trip to his wife’s ancestral home in Narail where he was accorded a warm welcome befitting a son-in-law. The fact that he was India’s first Bengali President made it a headline-grabbing event as it was expected to improve relations between the two neighbours. It also helped that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has a special bond with the Mukherjee family, dating back to the mid-1970s when she was living in Delhi. It is no coincidence then that Dr Mukherjee’s first visit abroad after he demitted office is also to Bangladesh. The former President is slated to visit Dhaka in January 2018 for a lecture at the university. A couple of other events have also been lined up. Though he is no longer the President, there is a strong likelihood of his meeting Ms Sheikh Hasina. It is widely believed that even as a former President Dr Mukherjee can play a role in improving Dhaka-New Delhi ties. However, it is unlikely that he will make another trip to his in-law’s place. The last time he went there four years ago, he was accompanied by his wife Suvra Mukherjee, who passed away in 2015.

It is nearly 10 days since the curtains came down on the Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls but the rumblings in the Congress camp have not subsided. With an imminent defeat staring them in the face, Congress cadres in the hill state have been complaining about the shoddy manner in which the election campaign was organised and how its leaders behaved like prima donnas. Even second rung leaders refused to travel by road, insisting they should be given a helicopter for their trips to remote areas. Party leaders sent to the hill state on election duty apparently treated their stay as a paid holiday while those manning the control room were most casual in their approach. The urgency associated with an election campaign was missing, say party insiders. Others said that party veteran and chief minister Virbhadara Singh discouraged senior leaders from campaigning as he contended that he could handle the situation on his own. The energy in the Bharatiya Janata Party stood out in stark contrast. The saffron party drafted all its senior ministers for the campaign and they were more than willing to travel for hours on the road despite the hilly terrain.


Whenever a party comes to power, its workers and loyalists are quick to line up for favours. Ministers are immediately flooded with applications for appointment on government committees and commissions while others come with requests for postings and transfers for their friends and relatives. It becomes difficult for a minister to rebuff the applicants, especially if they are party workers or loyal supporters who play a valuable role during the election time. Inundated with such applications, a first-time chief minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party has devised his own method of dealing with them. He never turns down a request letter and holds out an assurance to all the applicants that the “job will be done”. The letters are then duly filed away. When the requisite postings and transfers are finalised by the respective departments, the chief minister then calls for the file to check if any of the applicants have made the cut. In case their names figure in the official list, he promptly calls each one to inform them personally that he had kept his promise. However, it is not known what he has to say to those who are left out.


Though there are a number of ministers in the Modi government who are not heard often, one minister who has been effectively silenced is Ms Uma Bharati. There was a time when the ebullient sanyasin was the media’s delight as she always obliged with witty comments and outrageous statements much to the embarrassment of the BJP leadership. Ms Bharati has maintained a low key ever since she was divested of the Ganga Rejuvenation and Water Resources ministry and moved to the Drinking Water and Sanitation ministry. Since her workload has been substantially reduced, Ms Bharati has been making several trips to Ramdev’s ashram at Haridwar. She was slated to address a press conference last week on the restructured National Rural Drinking Water Programme along with the secretary but she opted out at the last minute. Instead the minister decided to travel to her latest favourite destination. Since she can ill-afford to complain, Ms Bharati has probably decided to put her free time to better use by going for a spell of meditation and yoga.


Tags: pranab mukherjee, sheikh hasina, himachal pradesh assembly polls