Editorial 1 / Giving berth
Editorial 2 / Towards one law
Over the line and out
Fifth Column / Ten foot ogres on the loose
The same old organ-grinders
Document / Participation is the key to progress
Letters to the editor

It is a truism that a reshuffle of a pack of jacks will not lead to any qualitative changes in the hands dealt out. Thus, the prime minister could not have been in an enviable position when he decided on a cabinet reshuffle. He had to ring changes on his cabinet if only to show that he had not lost the initiative and to instill a measure of confidence. But the pool of talents available to him was woefully limited. Moreover, his options were limited by some amount of political pressure. The latter dictated that Mr Arun Shourie, by far the best candidate for the post of finance minister, be denied the post which went to Mr Jaswant Singh who, when he was finance minister for 13 days in 1996, actually admitted that he had neither interest nor expertise in economic matters. It would not be unfair to conclude from this example that merit and competence were not too high on the prime minister’s priorities when he was deciding on the distribution of portfolios. This is also reflected in the exit of Mr Arun Jaitley from the Union cabinet for no apparent reason. Mr Jaitley was known for his efficiency and his clear thinking; one can only assume that he has fallen victim to some arcane process of political machination. There is also no explanation for Mr Yashwant Sinha’s move to the South Block since he did not exactly win friends and influence people during his tenure across the road in the North Block. Unless, one interprets the decision to move Mr Sinha as an attempt to strengthen Mr Brajesh Mishra’s hold over the ministry of external affairs.

The process of reshuffle has other dimensions. In the days leading up to the reshuffle, all political and governmental activity had come to a standstill. Yet the prime minister took his own time to announce the reshuffle. The delay was no doubt related to inevitable compulsions emanating from the need to preserve the coalition. Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee has not only succeeded in doing this but he has also very unobtrusively strengthened the position of the Bharatiya Janata Party within the cabinet. It would be an exaggeration to call it a coup since the allies had put forward very few contenders. Ms Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress was a contender but she made herself look ludicrous by demanding much more than what her political strength justifies. Many, especially those who have suffered her in West Bengal and her tenure as railway minister, will heave a sigh of relief that she has been consigned to the political wilderness. It is difficult to gauge the thrust of this reshuffle. It sends out no clear signal to the country about Mr Vajpayee’s intentions — that is, if he has any. It could be a routine reshuffle which has acquired significance because of the enormous delay and deliberation involved in its execution.


Universal justice sounds like an impossible abstraction. But a quiet attempt is being made in The Hague, from this month, to turn the concept into some sort of a reality. The International Criminal Court has started its preliminary operations in the Dutch capital from July 1. After 50 years of deliberation, the United Nations had framed the founding principles of such a court in its 1998 statute in Rome. It was signed by 139 states and ratified by more than 60, enough to bring the treaty into force. Unlike the existing International Court of Justice, which rules on civil disputes between nations, the ICC can bring criminal cases against individuals for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. (Interestingly, using nuclear weapons is not considered a crime by the ICC.) Although following the international criminal tribunals set up to deal with the atrocities in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the ICC takes these ad hoc bodies a step further by creating a permanent forum for global justice.

But not everybody wants such a thing. Mr Bill Clinton had signed the Roman treaty, but his successor is now steadfastly refusing to ratify it. And the American state and military establishments are squarely behind him in this, afraid that their soldiers might be the subjects of politically motivated or frivolous prosecutions in this court. The United States of America could not possibly be tried by a panel of judges from, say, Syria, Vietnam and the Congo Republic. The American contrariness could wreak deeper havoc. Washington has threatened to pull out of UN peacekeeping in Bosnia if US forces are not exempted from the jurisdiction of the ICC. This, in spite of the fact that the ICC is a last-resort court, allowed to intervene only when national authorities cannot or will not prosecute. It can only complement, and not displace, a nation’s legal system, and cannot really be a threat to its sovereignty. Surprisingly, Mr Tony Blair understands this, and joins France and Germany in being among the ICC’s principal upholders. A global concept therefore confronts a divided world. The US pulls away from Europe, while the Arab and Asian presences among the ratifying states remain worryingly low. Russia has signed but not ratified, while China has not even signed. India and Pakistan are with China in this. India had made it clear to the UN that it disdains to subject its legal and investigative mechanisms to “a Star Chamber procedure”. Its sovereignty must be zealously guarded, as it had occasion recently to remind the international community high-mindedly. India need not worry though. The ICC can only deal with crimes committed after July 1 this year. Gujarat happened well before that.


Pakistan decided to acquire nuclear weapons shortly after its disastrous military defeat in the 1972 war. Islamabad reasoned that nuclear weapons could be used to offset India’s marked superiority in conventional arms. The risk of nuclear escalation would in future deter India from launching another massive military operation against Pakistan. Questions may be raised about the justification for the enormous diversion of resources from developmental goals that was inherent in the decision to go nuclear. However, the decision cannot be faulted from a narrowly strategic viewpoint. It was consistent with much of current strategic discourse.

The grievous error committed by Pakistan was its failure to realize that nuclear weapons impose constraints also on the possessor. When the adversary possesses nuclear weapons as well, the same risk of escalation should rule out the initiation of any military adventure — whether at the conventional or sub-conventional level.

Throughout the Cold War both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact strictly refrained from any type of armed action — conventional or covert — in each other’s territory. Proxy wars were fought in distant Asian or African theatres but the territories of member states of the rival alliances were treated as sacrosanct. Both sides strictly refrained from using force to alter the territorial status quo in Europe. Indeed, one of the lessons of the Cold War is that nuclear weapons tend to freeze the territorial status quo between two nuclear powers.

Ignoring these historical lessons, Pakistan not only maintained but actually stepped up the level of clandestine infiltration in an effort to change the territorial status quo in Kashmir. It discounted the possibility of a devastating conventional military response on the part of India in the firm belief that New Delhi would be deterred by fear of a possible escalation of the conflict to the nuclear level. Islamabad was thus convinced that its nuclear armoury provided an umbrella under which it could safely conduct a covert sub-conventional war against India.

Such was the flawed reasoning that led the Pakistan army into the Kargil misadventure. The Kargil exercise involved a covert invasion across the line of control not only by jihadi terrorists but also regular soldiers of the Pakistan armed forces.

Kargil posed a difficult choice for India. From a strictly military point of view, the obvious response would have been a counter-strike across the LoC in Kashmir or even perhaps across the international border. Such a move, however, would not have been entirely free of the risk of escalation. The risk would be minimal and almost negligible if the counter-strike were localized in the Pakistan side of the LoC in the Kargil area. A counter-strike across the international boundary would have involved a greater element of risk, depending upon the targets.

The alternative option was to push back the invaders without crossing the LoC, confining operations to the Indian side of the line. This option eliminated the risk of escalation but it was a much more difficult task from a military point of view, involving acceptance of a larger number of casualties on the Indian side.

In the event, India opted for the latter response. The critical factor in the decision was the position taken by the United States of America. Washington condemned Pakistan in clear and unambiguous terms for violating the “sacrosanct” LoC in Kashmir and pressed Islamabad to withdraw all armed personnel to the Pakistani side of the line. This came as a pleasant surprise to India, which had been used to a pro-Pakistani slant in US policy during the Cold War era. Having been reassured that Washington would keep up the pressure on Islamabad to withdraw the intruders, New Delhi decided to confine operations to its side of the LoC. Slowly but steadily, the Indian armed forces threw the Pakistanis back across the LoC.

Thus Kargil turned out to be a diplomatic as well as military setback for Pakistan. Not only were its forces pushed back from the positions they had occupied across the LoC, but its covert military adventure was exposed and strongly condemned by the US, other Western powers and Russia. Concerned over the possibility of escalation in a conflict between two nuclear weapon states, these powers called on Pakistan to respect the LoC.

Kargil taught Islamabad the lesson that it can no longer get away with a clandestine invasion across the LoC. In an earlier era, in 1965, Pakistan had employed somewhat similar tactics and escaped without major international censure. But that was before the advent of nuclear weapons in south Asia. Such adventurism has become unacceptable in the context of a nuclearized subcontinent.

Islamabad is currently absorbing a second and related lesson. Responsible behaviour in a nuclear environment requires it to refrain not only from clandestine use of its armed forces to seize territory but also from unleashing cross-border terrorism against its neighbour. Even after Kargil, Islamabad continued to cause infiltration of terrorists across the LoC in an attempt to “bleed” India. This led to mounting calls in India for a limited military riposte such as “hot pursuit” or strikes at terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Following the heinous terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament, New Delhi decided to mass troops along the Pakistan border in a demonstration of its readiness to employ military force, if necessary, to put an end to the terrorist threat.

These events unfolded against the backdrop of the US-led “war on terror”. Rising tension in the subcontinent placed the US in a delicate position. Washington needs Islamabad’s cooperation in its current anti-terrorist drive in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. At the same time, it cannot permit Pakistan to conduct a terrorist campaign in Kashmir without losing credibility in its global campaign against terror. Washington thus found it necessary to employ a carrot and stick approach in order to prevail upon Pakistan to end its terrorist campaign.

Vigorous American diplomacy has brought down the temperature in the region. Washington has categorically refused to turn a blind eye to cross-border terrorism in Kashmir. “In their recent visits to the subcontinent, the US deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage, and the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, held Pervez Musharraf to his promise that he would not permit jihadi elements to launch attacks across the LoC. More important, Armitage extracted from the general a specific undertaking to close down the terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Pakistan-held areas.” At the same time, Washington urged India to take reciprocal steps to reduce tension, emphasizing the need for resumption of an India-Pakistan dialogue covering all issues, including Kashmir.

Jaswant Singh has elegantly but inaccurately described the Indian posture during the crisis as an exercise in “coercive diplomacy”. In reality, the intention was not so much to directly coerce Pakistan as to beat the war drums in order to attract the attention of the US and urge it to press Pakistan to halt its terrorist campaign. This policy has yielded at least initial results.

There are signs of a recent reduction in the level of infiltration across the LoC. It is too early to say, of course, whether this marks a permanent change in Pakistan’s policy and a realization on Islamabad’s part of its responsibilities as a nuclear weapon state. The next few months leading up to the elections in Kashmir will reveal whether Pakistan has fully absorbed the lesson that nuclear weapon states must not initiate open or covert hostilities against each other.

The author is former ambassador to China and the European Union


The Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, is not a fan of Ariel Sharon’s expansionist policy in the occupied Palestinian territories, so it understandably didn’t like George W. Bush’s west Asia speech of June 24. “Those millions of Israelis who are losing hope for an agreement to end the conflict by political means,” observed Gideon Samet, “now have confirmation from the leader of the West that for a long time to come, there won’t even be the beginning of movement.”

What Bush’s speech signalled was that there would be no peace talks until terrorism stopped, no pressure on Israel to compromise on territory, and enormous pressure on the Palestinians to dump Yasser Arafat in favour of someone even more pliable. The practical consequences of this taking of sides are that terrorism will go on, the Palestinians will probably become even more radicalized, and the opportunities for the Israeli prime minister to simply kill Arafat and use the resultant uprising as an excuse to clear Palestinians out of large parts of the West Bank will grow.

The speech was written in the White House, but it could have been written by Sharon’s office. Yet we should not assume (as Ha’aretz crudely does) that Bush’s policy is driven simply by concern for the American Jewish vote. What it reveals is that the Bush administration’s main, and almost sole, foreign policy priority is the fight against “terrorism”.

One-point agenda

This is what Bush has been saying all along. It’s just that people outside the United States of America, found it hard to believe that he was really going to concentrate on the “war against terrorism” to the exclusion of all America’s other interests. Terrorism is a problem, certainly, but it ranks tenth or twentieth in the order of the world’s problems for most people — as it did for most Americans, too, until last September 11.

In the post-September 11 world, there is only one priority in American foreign policy. Suicide bombings are “terrorism”, and therefore part of that priority. Peace in west Asia is not.

Other things being equal, Bush would doubtless love to be the sponsor of a west Asian peace settlement, but if it involves talking to terrorists, or anybody remotely associated with them, then it is ideologically unacceptable. So far as the Bush administration is concerned, all terrorists are the same: a purely irrational evil belonging not to the political world but to the same domain as cancer.

They are also all 10 feet tall — a view shared by the US mass media and, so far as one can tell, the general American public. The “terrorist threat”, in the popular imagination, is as big and scary as the “Soviet threat” 20 years ago, even though the damage that terrorists could do is a thousand times less. The difference, of course, is that the terrorists of al Qaida actually did kill a few thousand Americans, whereas the risk of a war where ten thousand Soviet nuclear weapons would fall on the US and kill a hundred million Americans, however real, always remained only potential.

False claims

It can’t be helped: the average person’s grasp of risk factors is so poor that it’s commonplace to meet cigarette smokers who worry about terrorism. American public opinion has been persuaded that the “terrorist threat” to the US is on a par with the now mercifully defunct risk of a world war, and the Bush administration has dedicated itself to waging a war on terrorism.

So Washington will back Sharon’s policy regardless of the damage to American (and longer-term Israeli) interests in west Asia; Sharon’s ability to claim that he is the victim of terrorism trumps any other consideration. The US will attack Iraq within the year, regardless of the likelihood that such a war will destabilize pro-US regimes throughout the region and involve large numbers of American casualties.

Indeed, almost anybody who can claim a terrorist problem now stands a fair chance of manipulating US policy in his favour: Russia has already done it over Che-chnya, and India may yet succeed in doing it over Kashmir. And this deformation of American foreign policy will probably continue until some really big military or political disaster brings Washington back to earth.


The Bharatiya Janata Party has tried to create the impression that the two grand old men of the party, Atal Bihari Vajpayee (77) and L.K. Advani (78), have thoughtfully handed over the baton to a new generation of leaders. After all, K. Jana Krishnamurthi, who is more than 75 years old, has been removed and a 53-year-old M. Venkaiah Naidu has been made the president of the BJP. He will have the able assistance of Arun Jaitley — in his late forties and until recently a bright star in the BJP government — as the new spokesman of the party.

But this is no generational change. By making the kind of changes they have made, Vajpayee and Advani have only reinforced their control over the party and have effectively prevented its rejuvenation.

In 1969, the Congress had gone through its first generational change in the post-independence era. A youthful Indira Gandhi, by presenting a vastly different programme, had ousted the syndicate and led the party to a two-thirds majority in Parliament in 1971.

In some ways the BJP is where the Congress was in 1969 — in dire need of a new leadership. However, in the name of changing the party set-up, only those who suited the needs of its aging leadership in the government have been chosen.

Ever since the BJP came to power, the party has been left to the care of dummy presidents — first it was Kushabhau Thakre and later, Bangaru Lakshman. Neither was a mass leader. When Lakshman was caught on video-tape accepting a measly bribe of Rs 100,000, he was made to resign within hours of the scandal becoming public. No better proof is needed of his being both a dummy and a dummy president.

He was replaced by an aging Jana Krishnamurthi. Krishnamurthi too had never won a Lok Sabha election and had to be brought to the upper house, not from his home state of Tamil Nadu but from Gujarat. The point, however, is that by ensuring that no one with a mass base became the president of the party, the legislative leadership continued to maintain its supremacy over the party organization.

At the same time, however, it had become apparent that the age-profile of the BJP leadership was becoming akin to that of the Chinese Communist Party. And more than what the prime minister did or did not do, like Chairman Mao Zedong, his health was making headlines. With no Yangtse to swim, the poor man had to be paraded before the press at carefully organized dinners to dispel doubts about his health. The Time magazine article, “Asleep at the wheel”, though grossly exaggerated and inadequately researched (it does not mention, for example, that Vajpayee, like many at his age, is hard of hearing), in a sense capped all the underground rumours about the prime minister’s health and brought them to the fore.

Simultaneously, a group of young and ambitious ministers — especially Pramod Mahajan, Venkaiah Naidu, Arun Jaitley and to an extent, Ananth Kumar — were arguing for a change in the party leadership by constantly offering to go back to the party organization. Their constant talk of the need to strengthen the party had two consequences: it weakened the incumbent president, and at the same time, helped position them as second-line leaders after Vajpayee and Advani. By openly wanting to sacrifice ministerial privileges for organizational work, it also set them apart from their peers who were bound to be seen as hanging on to the loaves and fishes of office.

The mother organization of the BJP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, disappointed by the performance of the government at New Delhi, also wanted change. It wanted to strengthen the party organization in time for the coming legislative assembly elections of December 2003 and the general elections the year after.

Krishnamurthi also knew that pressure was building for a revamp. To pre-empt it, he initiated his own revamp of the organization. Between April 29 and May 3 — over a period of five days, he made nearly 27 new party appointments. He did not consult Vajpayee and Advani — after all, as party president he could, in principle, choose his own team. The party president had clearly gone berserk.

A constellation of circumstances was, therefore, emerging for a generational change in the BJP. The deftness with which Vajpayee handled this non-transition once again showed that he was fully in control of his faculties. The baton was not handed over to those who he thought might run away with it. So, the hopes of Mahajan, a Vajpayee point man, of becoming the party president, were dashed.

Vajpayee first compromised with his bete noir, L.K. Advani, by appointing him deputy prime minister. For the last 30 years, despite their differences, the two leaders have learnt to afford a minimum respectable accommodation and legitimacy to each other. Thus, instead of listening to his close advisors, who suggested that not one but three deputy prime ministers be appointed (the other two being George Fernandes and Farooq Abdullah) to prevent a clear line of succession, Vajpayee anointed Advani as his successor. He has now bought peace with Advani for the time being.

Having arranged this compromise, he chose Venkaiah Naidu as the new party president. Venkaiah Naidu had been an ineffective minister and could by no stretch of the imagination be considered a mass leader. The very fact that a south Indian was chosen as party president at a time when state assembly elections are due mostly in the north Indian states — Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh — shows that Vajpayee was not serious about an organizational revamp. Venkaiah Naidu’s main qualification was his pliability.

Arun Jaitley, who was sent to assist Venkaiah Naidu, became the victim of his own success and his excellent relations with the media. He is, after all, in a party where even best friends do not hesitate to stab each other in the back. He was made party spokesman and is likely to be appointed general secretary — posts which he has held earlier. Whatever the packaging, this is certainly not a promotion for the BJP’s best-known spin-doctor. Jaitley is yet to prove his popularity among the masses and is currently a member of the upper house from Gujarat.

The imminent appointment of Rajnath Singh as another general secretary also demonstrates the hollowness of the claim of rejuvenating the party. Singh lost the Uttar Pradesh election when he was the incumbent chief minister. That he too is not a mass leader is apparent from the fact that but for winning the Mirzapur assembly seat in the Janata wave of 1977 and another when a Congressman, Puttu Awasthy, vacated his pocket-borough of Haidergarh for him, Singh has always been a member of the legislative council or the Rajya Sabha.

All indications up to now therefore are that what we are witnessing is no generational change in the BJP. Only one more dummy president has been appointed.

Venkaiah Naidu has already declared that he would do the bidding of those in the government by inviting Advani to visit the party office once or twice a week, thereby promising to be an obedient boy. A generational change also implies a programmatic shift. That is nowhere in the offing as of now.


A first priority is to find pragmatic and innovative ways to further enhance the effective participation of developing countries...in international dialogues and decision-making processes. Within the mandates and means of the respective institutions and forums, we encourage the following actions:

International Monetary Fund and World Bank: to continue to enhance participation of all developing countries...in their decision-making, and thereby to strengthen the international dialogue and the work of those institutions as they address the development needs and concerns of these countries;

World Trade Organization: to ensure that any consultation is representative of its full membership and participation based on clear, simple and objective criteria;

Bank for International Settlements, Basel Committees and Financial Stability Forum: to continue enhancing their outreach and consultation efforts with developing countries...at the regional level, and to review their membership, as appropriate, to allow for adequate participation;

Ad hoc groupings that make policy recommendations with global implications: to continue to improve their outreach to non-member countries, and to enhance collaboration with the multilateral institutions with clearly defined and broad-based inter-governmental mandates.

To strengthen the effectiveness of the global economic system’s support for development, we encourage the following actions:

Improve the relationship between the United Nations and WTO for development, and strengthen their capacity to provide technical assistance to all countries in need of such assistance;

Support the International Labour Organization and encourage its ongoing work on the social dimension of globalization; strengthen the coordination of the UN system and all other multilateral financial, trade and development institutions to support economic growth, poverty eradication and sustainable development worldwide;

Mainstream the gender perspective into development policies at all levels and in all sectors; strengthen international tax cooperation, through enhanced dialogue among national tax authorities and greater coordination of the work of concerned multilateral bodies and relevant regional organizations, giving special attention to the needs of developing countries...

Promote the role of regional commissions and regional development banks in supporting policy dialogue among countries at the regional level on macroeconomic, financial, trade and development issues.

We commit ourselves to negotiating and finalizing as soon as possible a UN convention against corruption in all its aspects, including the question of repatriation of funds illicitly acquired to countries of origin, and also to promoting stronger cooperation to eliminate money-laundering. We encourage states that have not yet done so to consider signature and ratification of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

We urge as a matter of priority all states that have not yet done so to consider becoming parties to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, and call for increased cooperation with the same objective.

We attach priority to reinvigorating the UN system as fundamental to the promotion of international cooperation for development and to a global economic system that works for all. We reaffirm our commitment to enabling the general assembly to play its central role as the chief deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the UN, and to further strengthening the economic and social council to enable it to fulfil the role ascr- ibed in the charter of the UN.

To build a global alliance for development will require an unremitting effort. We thus commit ourselves to keeping fully engaged, nationally, regionally and internationally, to ensuring proper follow-up to the implementation of agreements and commitments reached at the present conference, and to continuing to build bridges between development, finance, and trade organizations and initiatives, within the framework of the holistic agenda of the conference. Greater cooperation among existing institutions is needed, based on a clear understanding and respect for their respective mandates and governance structures.

Building on the successful experience of the conference and the process leading up to it, we shall strengthen and make fuller use of the general assembly and the economic and social council, as well as the relevant inter-governmental/governing bodies of other institutional stakeholders, for the purposes of conference follow-up and coordination, by substantively connecting, in ascending series, the following elements:

(a) Interactions between representatives of the economic and social council and directors of the executive boards of the World Bank and IMF can serve as preliminary exchanges on matters related to the follow-up of the conference and preparations for the annual spring meeting between those institutions. Similar interactions can also be initiated with representatives of the appropriate intergovernmental body of the WTO.

To be concluded



Those who protest too much

Sir — Most would believe that pop music and political satire have no meeting ground, but not George Michael. The pop star recently released a music video in which he talks about world affairs and the relationship between George W. Bush and Tony Blair (“George versus Tony & George”, July 2). The cartoon video shows Bush petting a poodle-shaped Blair, and follows it up with Blair — in a flowing dress — and Bush dancing the tango. That such a song could be released without being banned speaks volumes for the freedom of expression in the United States of America. When Goan singer, Remo released a song on corruption in Indian politics, the song was banned and Remo asked to rewrite the lyrics. The Indian government should learn from the US government. Instead of raising a hue and cry whenever the ruling party is criticized, it should ignore such criticism. When there is too much protest, people suspect that there must be some truth in the allegations.

Yours faithfully,
Rohan Paul, Calcutta


Sir — The promotion of L.K. Advani to the post of the deputy prime minister has been surprisingly well received by the allies of the National Democratic Alliance as well as by various sections of the press (“Crown brings Advani close to Atal”, June 30). Despite the welcome, however, everybody has been left wondering why such an appointment was made at all. The most commonly held belief is that Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is contemplating retirement following his health problems and therefore needs to name a successor. In fact, Advani’s appointment could not have come at a more inopportune moment, what with Vajpayee’s health making international news thanks to Alex Perry’s article on the prime minister in Time.

The second reason could be the Lok Sabha elections, which are less than a couple of years away, but most importantly the assembly elections in nine states next year. The Bharatiya Janata Party obviously believes that Advani at the helm of affairs would be more useful than Vajpayee. The elections may have prompted the cabinet revamp and the BJP’s rollback to its pro-Hindutva stand. And who better to portray that face than one of the main protagonists of the Babri Masjid demolition.

Yet one doubts if a resurgent Hindutva can obliterate the memory of the unpleasantness of the decisions taken by the NDA government. The salaried classes have suffered thanks to Yashwant Sinha’s budget and are being taxed heavily. And the common man has suffered because of the Unit Trust of India debacle. A simple exercise of swapping portfolios and inducting new faces at the Centre will not help the common man. Till these issues are addressed, Advani’s elevation to deputy prime ministership may not bring much gains to the BJP.

Yours faithfully,
Asheem Kapoor, Calcutta

Sir — It is a pity that a staunch advocate of Hindutva and one of the main brains behind the Babri Masjid demolition is now the deputy prime minister of India. One can have nothing but contempt for the NDA partners who are backing the BJP’s promotion of L.K. Advani simply for the sake of remaining in power. When radical leaders like N. Chandrababu Naidu and Mamata Banerjee should raise a hue and cry about such high-handed appointments by the ruling party one does not hear a squeak from them. Decrying the appointment of the speaker of the Lok Sabha is perhaps less self-destructive than decrying the appointment of the deputy prime minister.

Yours faithfully,
Kalyan Ghosh, Calcutta

Sir — L.K. Advani’s appointment as deputy prime minister is a welcome move. Taking into consideration Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s failing health, the presence of a deputy prime minister to handle the cabinet and run the government in the absence of the prime minister is imperative. One cannot be sure if the move can be compared to the anointment of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as deputy to the then chief minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu, and his subsequent accession to Basu’s chair. It is also not clear if this signifies a dilution in Vajpayee’s authority. What is definite is that the the NDA is unsure of its political standing. With the Congress gaining on fast, the NDA had no choice but to re-shuffle the cabinet and make fresh appointments.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta


Sir — Despite four sports channels being available to viewers in India, not one broadcast the French Open tennis matches live. And now Calcuttans cannot watch the Wimbledon as it has been blocked by cable operators who for some unknown reason have decided to switch off the channels showing the event. Thanks to this step, we are not being able to see the tri-series cricket matches being played in England in which India is participating.

Who decides what viewers should see, and how much they should pay --- cable channels, operators or consumers? Should consumers, who ultimately foot the bill, be held at ransom and be denied the right to exercise their choice? Do cable operators have the authority to switch off channels arbitrarily and deprive their customers? No cable operator should be allowed to play god. Open competition should be encouraged so that market forces determine the choice of the product and the price. This can only happen when more players enter the field and consumers have direct access to channels. Direct to home broadcast could be a possible solution as cable operators will then have to compete on the basis of quality of service alone.

Yours faithfully,
R.N. Bose, Calcutta

Sir — The extent to which cable operators can exploit viewers is evident from their latest showdown with ESPN-Star Sports. Cable operators in Calcutta have stopped the two channels ever since they hiked their price which operators have to pay. The ones suffering are sports lovers like me who are missing both the Natwest Trophy matches as well as Wimbledon.

Yours faithfully,
Sanjay Vasa, Calcutta

Parting shot

Sir — On hearing that five animals might be offered for sacrifice at the Kamakhya temple by King Gyanendra of Nepal, Maneka Gandhi filed a first information report demanding that such “crime” be stopped (“Royals skirt sacrifice row”, June 28). Such a move has only denigrated the visiting king. How come Maneka Gandhi remains a mute spectator during Id, when animals are lined up for sacrifice? Before pointing a finger at a visiting dignitary, she should first stop animal slaughter by Indian citizens.

Yours faithfully,
Sucharita Ghosh, Calcutta

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