Inside track with Coomi Kapoor

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Published: October 22, 2017 3:01:17 AM

The announcement of Rahul Gandhi’s name as Congress president could be sooner than most in the party assume. It could even happen by the month-end, according to sources.

Rahul as president, Rahul Gandhi as congress president, congress, Congress Working Committee, Mullappally Ramachandran, Madhusudan Mistry, Narendra Modi, Modi government, Rescuing ganga, Clean Ganga Mission, Nitin Gadkari, Venkaiah Naidu, AIADMK, DMK, Tamil Nadu politicshe states have completed the process for internal elections, with several states passing unanimous resolutions in Rahul’s favour. (Image: PTI)

Rahul as president
The announcement of Rahul Gandhi’s name as Congress president could be sooner than most in the party assume. It could even happen by the month-end, according to sources. The states have completed the process for internal elections, with several states passing unanimous resolutions in Rahul’s favour. Most assume that the next step will be scheduling a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC). But the CWC permission is not strictly necessary. It is up to the Central Election Authority to decide the election schedule. The low-key, three-member body consists of Mullappally Ramachandran, Madhusudan Mistry and Bhubaneswar Kalita. Its office is a tiny barrack at 12, Akbar Road, where it is difficult for all three members to sit at the same time. It is up to this authority to fix the dates for the election, and if no other candidate except Rahul comes forward by the last date for filing nominations, his name could be announced as Congress president that evening itself.

Keeping on top
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attempted to increase the catchment area for joint-secretary-level posts in the Central government by inducting officers from other services apart from the IAS, such as the IPS, IRS or IFS (Indian Forest Service). But when it comes to guarding its own interests, the IAS is zealous in ensuring that it is a notch or two above. For example, according to the eligibility criteria, IAS and IPS officers are supposed to be promoted to the joint-secretary-level scale in about 14 years. But in the present government, while IAS batches have been regularly upgraded around the specified time period, the IPS batches due for promotion lag way behind. The 1996 batch of IPS officers was promoted to the joint secretary grade after 19 years. The 1997 batch is still waiting, resulting in practically a six-year difference in upgradation between the two services. In contrast, when P Chidambaram was home minister, he had insisted that all service batches be cleared simultaneously. In Modi’s government, the issue has been left to officials from the PMO, cabinet secretary and Department of Personnel, all of whom are from the IAS. Ajit Doval from the IPS, who has considerable clout in the government, has failed to intervene on behalf of
his service.

Rescuing the Ganga
As the new water resources minister, Nitin Gadkari was given charge of the Clean Ganga Mission last month. But he has less than two years before the next parliamentary elections to produce results. The attempt to clean the polluted river is a task which has defied many, from Rajiv Gandhi to Uma Bharti. Gadkari, who is a practical man, realises that the project entrusted to him is a bottomless pit and the time short. He has changed the strategy by relying more on private participation and less on the government. Gadkari has opened a website and invited individuals, NGOs, PSUs, NRIs and other organisations to adopt small stretches of the nine most polluted sections of the river bank. Together with the local administration, the volunteers have to work out a scheme that will also look into financing. Already, Mata Amritanandamayi from Kerala has pledged `100 crore for cleaning one sector of the Ganga, while a leading television channel owner has committed to cleaning
another stretch.

Crossing boundary
After he took over as vice-president, Venkaiah Naidu told old friends in the media that from now on, he would strictly keep away from politics. But this is easier said than done when you have spent a lifetime in politics. Last week, Naidu was invited to release a book by Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao, Those Eventful Days. Rao, who was also acting governor of Tamil Nadu for 13 months, has written the book on his stint in the state. This includes the period during which former chief minister Jayalalithaa was hospitalised and eventually passed away, followed by political turmoil within the AIADMK. Many question the propriety of Rao rushing to publish it, particularly when there is an ongoing political crisis and he remains the Governor of Maharashtra. Before he took over as vice-president, Naidu was the BJP in-charge of Tamil Nadu and watched developments in the AIADMK keenly on behalf of his party. He is not exactly a neutral party.

At least the DMK felt that some of Naidu’s remarks at the book release had political overtones. The DMK’s MK Stalin objected to Naidu’s statement that “the Tamil Nadu government was responsible for fulfilling the promises made by Amma’’. And suggesting that the AIADMK government, once it proves its majority, should be allowed to complete the five-year term for which it was elected.

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