Fate hinges on Election Commission

THE defection of three senior Congress leaders in Andhra Pradesh, K Kesava Rao, former APCC president, G Vivekanand and M Jagannatha, both members of the Lok Sabha, to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, and the disqualification of nine Congress and six Telugu Desam members of the State Assembly by the Speaker for defying whips of their respective parties while voting on the motion of no-confidence in the government of Kiran Kumar Reddy in March, have made the Congress government in the State shaky. In the 295-member State Assembly including one nominated seat, the Congress has 146 members. Because of the disqualification of 15 members, the effective strength of the Assembly has come down to 280, leaving the Congress with a working majority for the time being.
  If by-elections are held within the stipulated six-month period for the vacant seats, the Congress, which has not won a single by-election in the State since coming to power in 2009, will be in serious trouble. Having come to power on the promise of fulfilling the long-pending demand of the people of Telangana for statehood, the Congress has betrayed the mandate. Former Union home minister P Chidambaram announced in Parliament in December 2009 that the process of formation of Telangana would be set in motion immediately. Instead, he set up the Sri Krishna Commission to buy time. Even after the Commission submitted its report with an a la carte menu of solutions, the government failed to act. Sushil Kumar Shinde, who succeeded Chidambaram as home minister, set 28 December 2012 as the deadline to announce the formation of Telangana. He too went back on his promise.
To add to the woes of Kiran Kumar Reddy, the CBI has sought judicial custody of two of his ministers, P Sabita Indra Reddy and Dharmana Prasada Rao, who were forced to resign following charge-sheets filed against them in corruption cases. The Supreme Court had issued notices to four more ministers to be investigated by the CBI. If these six tainted ministers resign from the Assembly, the Congress will be left with only 140 members.
 The Telangana region has 17 Lok Sabha and 119 Assembly seats which, by virtue of the Congress dragging its feet and going back on repeated promises, have become out of bounds for the ruling party. Elected representatives of the party cannot even visit their constituencies without being booed by the public. Since coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions account for 25 Lok Sabha and 175 Assembly seats where YS Jaganmohan Reddy&’s YSR Congress is making steady progress, the Congress would prefer to pamper the people of these regions rather than concede the demand of the people of Telangana. The cat was let out of the bag by Congress spokesperson PC Chacko who said recently that Telangana was no longer on the agenda of the UPA. The Congress general secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh, however, advised patience until the party high command took a final view on the issue. By this cynical game of playing the other two regions against Telangana, the Congress could fall between two stools, come 2014, the year of election to both the Lok Sabha and the State Assembly. A foretaste of that will be available when panchayat and municipal elections are held next month.

Pregnant stress on ‘respect’

EVEN at the risk of being charged with overdoing the “interpretation”, it would be fair to infer that the Chief of the Air Staff had more in his mind than the synergy modern warfare demands when he called upon young men being commissioned into the Army to show “professional respect” to their colleagues in the other wings of the armed services. Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne&’s message at the latest passing out parade at the Indian Military Academy was, for a variety of reasons, among the most authentic in recent years: going far beyond the usual call to uphold the honour and dignity of the uniform.  His advice to the young men to keep themselves “state of the art” and broaden their horizons was laudable, since increasingly has warfare become more than a military operation.
  Yet the punch-line was his call to develop “a healthy professional respect for each other&’s capabilities”, and it was not limited to that having “a force multiplier effect”: it was an early “alert” against inter-service rivalry detracting from the national military effort. It required a high degree of moral courage for a Chief to enlighten the fledglings that all is not hunky-dory on the synergy front. Adequate commonality eludes our forces, inter-service rivalry is not always healthy. And the Air Force is not always the injured innocent.
While the Army often contends that the prime role of the Air Force is to support the troops on the ground, the latter tries to monopolise all air assets. The current “scrap” over who will operate attack helicopters is a flashback to the 1970s row with the Navy over the responsibility for maritime reconnaissance. It is an open secret that the resistance to a switch-over to a Chief of Defence Staff system and Theatre Commands comes from within the uniformed community. It is true that bonds are established at the multi-service National Defence Academy, but they seem to wither away as “seniority” raises the stakes in the turf wars that ought to have ended decades ago.
There is so much overlapping in the “support” effort that the overall tooth-to-tail ratio drains away resources. Why, even within each Service rivalries run amuck. The infantry, artillery and armoured units of the Army look down on those providing the equipment and back up; 15 years ago the pilots and engineers of the IAF were involved in open confrontation. There may be no panacea, but as ‘Charlie Browne’ has put it, “respect” could lead to a mental “re-boot”.