Cabinet reshuffle is also an omen

We have a Cabinet reshuffle on hand and having some experience of politics, I can say that the first Cabinet appointed after the formation of the United Progressive Alliance government in 2004 is, in theory, the best choice. Every change that follows is a “correction”.
It is never a good thing if a Prime Minister is under pressure to make drastic changes in his Cabinet.
This can well lead to a mid-term poll with the indication that government is on its way out. Neither of these possibilities can be ruled out in the current scenario.
The Congress has suffered because of its allies and will make a fatal error if it inducts “tainted” allies in order to survive.
No one has suggested that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or the Congress high command is involved in the 2G spectrum scam or the Commonwealth Games mess, but the responsibility for negative performance rests both with the government and the party.

The issue of Telangana has erupted again but this time the impact will be serious. The law and order situation is chaotic and Andhra Pradesh could well be heading for a spell of President’s rule and early Assembly elections. The state is almost certainly heading for a coalition structure and we could well see this happening before the Punjab and the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in 2012.
In the Lok Sabha elections, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) will sweep the region with the exception of one seat. In terms of numbers, the Congress, which currently holds 33 out of 42 seats in the state, could lose 20-25 seats as it faces serious challenges both in Rayalseema and coastal Andhra from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSR Congress Party led by Jagan Mohan Reddy. The Congress doesn’t have a single credible leader at the Centre or in the state to take charge of matters.

While Indian sports is bogged down by the doping scandal, the news of the week is the discovery of treasure found in four vaults of Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Kerala and the cash and gold found in the private chamber of Sathya Sai Baba at his ashram in Puttaparthi.
The reopening of Sathya Sai’s temple has led to the discovery of a veritable treasure trove — 98 kgs of gold, 307 kg of silver and `11.56 crores in cash. The total value of all goods added together is over `38 crores.
Going by the amount of wealth temples and spiritual gurus have, I wonder what would the cash and asset valuation of the top 100 religious trusts of India will be. In this day and age, when we talk of the 1.2 billion aam aadmi in the country, all these riches make little sense.
Issues related to places of worship and gurus are emotive, but there is a clear case here for the finance ministry to revisit the structure and logic of tax exemptions. We must begin this process by debating this issue openly.
Of course, every religious trust is not like that of yoga guru Baba Ramdev whose associates have fake passports, gun licence et cetera. Many institutes do a lot of good work. But when there are complaints, they can’t be ignored.
The Supreme Court is looking into the treasure troves, 2G scam and black money. Sometimes I wonder that if the law courts have to monitor everything, why do we need the government.

The entire justice system in the United States has been called into question because of two recent cases. First, Krittika Biswas, a high-school student from India and daughter of an Indian diplomat in New York, was wrongfully jailed by the New York police after being falsely accused of sending obscene emails to her two schoolteachers.
She was released when the actual culprit was caught. He, however, was let off after he apologised. The government of India should stand firmly with Ms Biswas and help her with finances to fight the case and get justice.
The second is the high-profile case of the former chief of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. His arrest, following the charge of raping a hotel maid, has been dominating headlines as it has deep political implications. Now, news reports are emerging that the hotel maid also worked as a prostitute. She may be deported as her entire life in the US was based on a series of lies.
It is surprising that the US immigration department did not conduct a background check on her. Now, after this incident, everyone is wiser. But Mr Strauss-Kahn, a prospective French presidential candidate, has lost his job and perhaps his future. Clearly quite a few people should be sacked for this disaster.
The French political fraternity, along with the 24x7 media, is full of a hundred different conspiracy theories. I sometimes wonder what the public’s reaction would be if a US presidential candidate had been accused of a similar offence, jailed and handcuffed on an unverified complaint and then declared innocent after the damage had been done in a foreign country?

The author is a former Union minister

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