Asset test

The battle for Bihar has begun and all parties are throwing political punches at each other. While it is good to see a spirited political battle in the state, the results are not easy to forecast as several political trends remain uncertain. But my hunch is that we might be in for a surprise or two.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar is a good man and he means well — under his leadership, law and order in the state has undergone a dramatic change for the better and development in the rural areas is visible. But will all this prevail over a stormy alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), especially since the minority vote is crucial to success.
The Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the BJP may win by more than a whisker, but it is not yet clear whether the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) or the Congress will be in second place.
The people’s response to the Congress and party cadre’s response to the efforts of general secretary Rahul Gandhi have been very positive and this could shift a major part of the minority vote as Lalu Prasad Yadav and the RJD seem to be in decline. We could be in for a surprise and the Congress, from a meagre 10 seats, could go into the 30-seat range and the RJD-LJP might fall to 30-35 seats.
This could be seen as a trend for the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 where the Congress will pose a challenge for all the 40 seats in the state. We have now seen two decades of coalition governance at the Centre and are heading towards a change to majority rule. Will strong regional leaders like Mr Kumar survive the trend of consolidation as we approach the Lok Sabha?

THE COMMITTEE appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the Commonwealth Games will take three months to submit its report for further investigation. But, meanwhile, the media will be full of details on the “transactions” made by Suresh Kalmadi and his coterie within the Commonwealth Games organising committee and the Central agencies, especially the Delhi Development Authority, will be thoroughly scrutinised, as well as Emaar-MGF.
We have seen very poor management of the Games and if the blame-game is played fairly, then the “buck” has to stop at the top level of governance. I am baffled by the lack of action by the group of ministers and the minister concerned. They cannot escape responsibility.
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) or the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) reports by themselves mean little. One needs to look at the action initiated by the Enforcement Directorate, the income-tax department and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the results achieved.
Every attempt will be made by those with vested interests to confuse the issue and it would be sad if time and effort goes to waste. The reality is that a handful of organising committee (OC) members have created financial chaos and we should not be surprised if files and records are destroyed. Almost everyone in the OC is aware of the “excessive” assets of the five-six people involved in the systematic plunder of resources loaned by the government to the OC.
Dr Singh took drastic steps at the last minute. This, to me, is the single-biggest disaster in the Games that threatened to wreck India’s reputation as a nation. Raids have been conducted in over 30 locations and the real picture will become a little clearer in the next fortnight when the entire pattern of the investigation emerges.

The United Progressive Alliance-2 looks more intact than UPA-1, yet look at the damage the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Union telecom minister A. Raja, with the 2G-spectrum scam, have done to the government. Despite the Congress tally of 200-plus seats, the coalition has not been a grand success.
The situation in south India is rather fluid. There is chaos in Karnataka with all the political parties losing credibility as members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) are auctioned. Few believe that MLAs are switching loyalties on matters of morality and ethics.
In a situation where strong financial lobbies are subverting political power, there is very little credibility for the political system, including for Karnataka governor H.S. Bharadwaj. President’s Rule never really helps the party in power at the Centre, but some action must be taken when a well-run state like Karnataka is going Jharkhand’s way.
The situation in Andhra Pradesh, too, is fluid. In Tamil Nadu, the DMK family war could erupt at any moment and the telecom scam and Mr Raja have cast a very dark shadow on UPA-2.
A weak CBI response to the whole issue raises the compulsions of the coalition’s survival. A political accident was averted in Kerala on the lottery issue.
While Tamil Nadu and Kerala will go to polls in the months to come, can anyone forecast the turn of events in Karnataka, or, for that matter, in all the three regions of Andhra Pradesh? These are some of the challenges before the Congress leadership as they make long-awaited changes in the party and in government. The Congress, it is clear, has much to do in all the four southern states.
We have a busy time ahead as elections in Bihar are held in six phases. During this time we will be kept busy with the Indian Premier League soap opera and will have a welcome diversion in the visit of US President Barack Obama in early November. Mr Obama’s first official visit to India promises to be historic for both countries, one that is likely to take the Indo-US relationship to a new level.

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

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