Sir — For Atal Bihari Vajpayee, obviously, what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander (“PM primes flock for cow clash”, Feb 19). Why then is he so livid at a poster, allegedly the Congress’s handiwork, which accuses him of being a beef-eater' What about when rabble-rousers like Praveen Togadia in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad were making scandalous innuendoes about the opposition leader, Sonia Gandhi, and the chief election commissioner, J.M. Lyngdoh, “meeting in church”, in the run-up to the Gujarat elections' The Bharatiya Janata Party has done nothing to punish Togadia. Vajpayee only expressed “pain” at the depths to which political rhetoric had fallen, and left it at that. Now that he himself has become the target of such canards, he knows how much it hurts. But isn’t Vajpayee too old a hand at the political game to bother with such minor irritants in the electoral battle' Or is he losing the stomach for unhealthy criticism with age'
Jagannath Sen, Calcutta
Sir — In his address to the joint session of Parliament on the first day of the budget session, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam said that he believed the Ayodhya dispute could be solved either through peaceful negotiations between the Hindus and the Muslims or through a judicial verdict acceptable to all (“Kalam seeks swift temple verdict”, Feb 18). Kalam’s statement assumes significance now, with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad demanding that the undisputed land in Ayodhya be handed over to it and the Centre filing an application in the Supreme Court to that effect. But there is nothing new in the president’s suggestions. Also it is doubtful whether people like Praveen Togadia will heed his call for patience and restraint. The sangh parivar too seems in no mood to give up its hard-line stance, especially since assembly and general elections are not too distant.
Kalam also echoed the present government’s hawkish stand against Pakistan, how Pakistan had replied to India’s attempts at friendship with hatred and violence and so on. The president is constitutionally bound to articulate the policies of the government, but he could have refrained from taking such a proactive stand against a neighbour. The real disappointment in Kalam’s speech, however, was that he did not even mention the bill seeking 33 per cent reservation for women in legislatures. He also did not criticize the United States of America on Iraq, choosing instead to say that India hoped the international community would find a peaceful resolution to the problem.
Sir — A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s speech to Parliament was a 75-minute long one, but he did not touch upon two important issues — population explosion and corruption. For a permanent and speedy solution to the Ayodhya issue, the Centre could have asked the apex court to transfer the title-suit of the land to a special bench of the Supreme Court for a day-to-day hearing.
The president’s speech is a routine affair and should only touch upon the salient features of the government’s plans and policies. Too long a speech is a disrespect to the holder of the highest post in the country, especially since Parliament members invariably go on talking to each other or take a nap. The sudden discomfort felt by the vice-president, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, when reading out the Hindi translation of the speech, also shows that our aged politicians can no longer bear such long official functions.
Madhu Agrawal, New Delhi
Sir — Bhairon Singh Shekhawat reportedly fell sick while reading out the Hindi translation of the president’s speech to Parliament. But he was up on his feet when the national anthem was played soon after. Naturally, many members of parliament were full of praise for his commitment to constitutional norms. Sadly there are many who neglect to do so. Just last week a left chief minister allegedly failed to stand up and pay respect to the national anthem at the end of a function. The Vande Mataram too should command as much respect.
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore
Sir — Presidents should not be made to mouth inanities of the kind A.P.J. Abdul Kalam did while opening the budget session. Why should the president delineate the policies of the government' Is he a stooge of the ruling party' Instead, the president should use the opportunity to to talk sense into political parties.
S. Chatterjee, Calcutta
Sir — Pramod Mahajan’s departure from the cabinet reaffirms the nexus between politicians and industry (“Price Pramod paid for a ‘friend’”, Feb 16). A.B. Vajpayee should keep in mind the lessons of this episode. The Bhara-tiya Janata Party should avoid all such murky associations. After all, the nation is yet to forget the Bofors scandal.
Bijoy Ranjan Dey, Tinsukia
Sir — The government has tried to avoid an embarrassing situation in the Pramod Mahajan-Reliance affair, but the association could not have been unknown to the BJP from the start. At least, Mahajan has not tried to deny his links with Reliance.
T.R. Anand, Calcutta