And the soul of irresponsibility
IT might have  been better if Mamata Banerjee had not visited Barasat on Monday. This is quite the most charitable construct that can be placed upon an outrageous performance that has denuded her position further still. There can be no defence of the almost incredibly petulant outburst. Sad to reflect that a women&’s protest against the recent rape and murder of a college student was greeted by the Chief Minister with ~ “The thief&’s mother has a loud voice.” The sniper attack on the CPI-M once again reflected what was part of her furniture two years ago ~ she still needs a punching bag to camouflage her failures. While the Park Street rape was sought to be airbrushed with a flippant wave of hand, this time around her intemperance was directed at the protestors.   Strikingly, she had far too little to say about the recent crime, still less on the mortal depths to which law and order has slid in Barasat, headquarters of North 24-Parganas district.  In the net, the Chief Minister has reaffirmed her intolerance of protest, when not dissent. Any attempt to attribute her abnormal angst to stress and fatigue, if not frustration ~ as did some psycho-analysts on Monday ~ would be a convenient escape route to obfuscate the issue. Additionally, she has confirmed that her government oscillates between a circus tent and a para club.
The victim&’s family or Barasat&’s womenfolk at large can expect little or nothing by way of justice from this dispensation. It is all very well for the Chief Minister to say that the government will demand death penalty for the accused. The public discourse, enlivened since the Delhi rape on 16 December last year, will continue for some time yet. Suffice it to register that nobody can advise the judge/magistrate on what the court should do. Such “advisories” reek of contempt. The women of Barasat, who hit the streets to greet the Chief Minister&’s belated visit, deserved better. Last week, they  along with Kolkata&’s social activists were  dragged to Lalbazar when they raised their voice near the Chief Minister&’s residence. On Monday, they were treated with utter contempt. Arguably, the evolution of a police state is underway despite a thoroughly effete police. Miss Banerjee has reinforced the tragedy in Barasat; two years after assuming power she hasn’t learnt that anger isn’t always political.

Manmohan happy to muddle along
BANG on target, with rare honesty ~ probably inadvertent ~ was Jayanthi Natarajan when she averred on television that the inductions into the ministerial council were an exercise to “fill-in the blanks”. Fill them with what? “Blanks” in the sense that firearms-users describe non-lethal ammunition? What are often dubbed “duds”? For there was little in the exercise to suggest it was aimed at injecting energy into the government ahead of the elections and certainly the only positive from Sis Ram Ola&’s induction at the age of 86 must be that it lets the Prime Minister feel young. Instead it was a run-of-the-mill bid to cater to caste/regional interests, and reward a few who could not be accommodated in the new Karnataka ministry ~ also exemplified by an unsuccessful aspirant for the chief minister&’s office in Bangalore&’s stately Vidhana Soudha getting shunted to Rail Bhawan. A little here to counter-balance the Telengana lobby, the recall of that jolly good fellow (actually good for nothing his critics insist) Oscar Fernandes there, and the underlying theme that loyalty pays. While age is no detraction, the AICC&’s new communications commander&’s theory that the party reshuffle was evidence of Rahul Gandhi&’s stress on youth was punctured by the ministerial action. It is conceded that the media possibly overhyped what it maintains is the last such endeavour ~ round-the-clock channels are desperate to “sex-up” the bland to keep viewers interested ~ and that Mr  Manmohan Singh had limited scope for re-casting his “war cabinet”: yet just about everyone agrees that “home” needs improved housekeeping. Perhaps more than any other ministry, home has direct contact with the daily life of the common man, and the reality is that the prevailing non-functioning militates against that contact progressing into a positive connection. If one end of North Block, conveniently, blames the international situation for the current economic woes, the other has no such alibi. The Maoist menace, continued simmering in Telengana, Jammu and Kashmir, the North-east, terrorism etc add up to a call for Sushil Kumar Shinde to be provided some other sinecure.
In many ways, the comments of Mr Singh after the induction ceremony also ran along routine lines. Did anyone expect him to analyse the chaos in the BJP, or not try and reach out to Nitish Kumar? He may have spoken about the UPA notching up a hat-trick but the “highlight” was his once again saying he would welcome Rahul taking over. The upshot of that being a mutual reluctance in the UPA for the big job ~ a curious contrast to the lust for power on the other side of the fence.

Dissidents yet to be suppressed
IN April, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi boasted that dissident activities against him were absolutely under control. Therefore, he must be sorely disappointed by the recent meetings that eight dissident MLAs held with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to demand his ouster. Gogoi&’s one-time trusted lieutenant and presently health and education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is openly inciting disaffection among the ruling MLAs, was conspicuous by his absence, though he reportedly accompanied the team right up to the gate of Sonia Gandhi&’s residence. Gogoi says Sarma nurses an ambition to become chief minister. The dissidents have accused the chief minister of giving too much primacy to bureaucrats in matters of development and administration, bypassing the elected representatives. They claim to have with them 40 of the 79 MLAs in the 126-member House and are determined to boycott the ensuing monsoon session of the Assembly. Gogoi&’s plan to issue whips against them might work, as it did during the recent Rajya Sabha elections. The scenario is becoming murkier what with another set of dissidents said to be preparing to meet Mrs Gandhi, not to seek Gogoi&’s removal, but to demand replacement of some cabinet ministers.
Dissidents have apparently chosen an odd time. Since the Congress general secretary in charge of Assam, Digvijay Singh (now replaced), has categorically said that not only will Gogoi complete his full third term, the Congress will also fight the 2014 battle under his leadership, the dissidents may have to play down their grievances until then. A time is certain to come when the younger generation will take over the politics of the party in the state from the veterans. Gogoi must be looking over his back.