Archive for January 25th, 2009

A shadow PM: Advani signals ‘main hoon na’ – By Rajeev Sharma – Sunday Free Press Journal, Mumbai

January 25, 2009

A shadow PM: Advani signals ‘main hoon na’
By Rajeev Sharma

IT was a deft political stroke that cerebral politician L K Advani made today while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was undergoing coronary surgery at AIIMS: the leader of Opposition convened a meeting with some three dozen noted security experts and commentators. Advani’s message to the nation was: main hoon na! At a time when the Prime Minister was under the knife at AIIMS, the BJP made two moves. One, its Prime Minister-in-waiting held a meeting of his advisory council on national security matters, timing it brilliantly with the ongoing Indo-Pak diplomatic tug-ofwar in the wake of 26/11. Many of those who attended Advani’s meeting are prominent members of his shadow cabinet.Two, the BJP orchestrated media leaks that it has found a new ally in Uttar Pradesh and the name of this political party with which the BJP would contest the AprilMay general elections would be announced next week. The BJP also reminded the media about its performance in the just-concluded assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, saying it won 40 Lok Sabha seats, got 300 MLAs and got 34 per cent vote in these three states as against 280 seats and 32 per cent vote share of the Congress. The BJP also maintained that the Congress retained only a city-state and won in Rajasthan because of the BJP’s failure at micro level management.

Those who attended Advani’s national security affairs-related meeting were from four spheres: (i) political: Advani, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Arun Shourie; (ii) top journalists and commentators : M J Akbar, Chandan Mitra, Brahma Chalani and Swapan Das Gupta; (iii) 13 from civil services including Vijay Kapoor, Anil Baijal, Ajit Doval, Yogendra Narayan, KPS Gill, K P Singh, Satish Chandra, B Raman and K Santanam; and (iv) 14 from defence— former Air Chief Marshals- A Y Tipnis, S Krishnaswami and S P Tyagi, former Naval Chief Arun Prakash, and ten Lt Generals.

The mission objective of the conclave was that the BJP-led NDA government-in-waiting was here to fill in the vacuum created by the sudden absence of Manmohan Singh from the Congress and the government scene. The idea was to convey to the people of India that it was not just Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but the Congress too was under the knife as the Congress has no face for governance other than Manmohan Singh. Advani’s meeting also set the agenda for governance if the BJP were to return to power. Today’s deliberations also threw up some important points from the BJP’s perspective which the party would be incorporating in its election manifesto. At the meeting, concern was expressed on the defence preparedness and also post- 26/11 situation. M J Akbar felt that British foreign minister David Miliband was trying to link terrorism with the Kashmir problem and the danger was that the Barack Obama administration too could toe this line. Akbar stressed that India needed to be tough. Former defence top honchos expressed concern on slowing down of the weapons procurement process and resentment in the armed forces over the implementation of 6th Pay Commission. They lamented that the Group of Ministers after the 1999 Kargil war had suggested a number of measures to beef up national security but most of these could not be implemented. One suggestion that came up was that before the Crisis Management Group meets to decide upon a development impinging on the national security, there should be a person who can take immediate decisions the moment the crisis breaks out. Mumbai terror attacks and their security fallout were discussed in detail and a recent study of the US think tank Rand