That is not what friends are for
Sir — Ever since Bill Clinton made it a part of his election campaign, the family has been a key factor in the political success of first-world leaders. But time and again, this “family”, pulling in several directions, have also proved to be their bane. If Clinton’s dalliances with Monica Lewinsky showed how fragile the family “feeling” could be in anchoring political fortunes, Cherie Blair’s associations and consequent unpopularity make evident how entirely dangerous the political dependence on spousal good behaviour could be (“Cheriegate returns to haunt Blairs” (May 27). High on “family values”, the New Labour’s public face has come to be represented by that of Cherie Blair, together with her husband’s. The party has used the fourth child of the Blairs as much as their presumed domestic bliss to gain political mileage . Which is why it cannot sidestep the invariable fallout of Cherie’s negative associations. But why should Cherie change her friends because it does not suit the party'
M. Moitra, Calcutta
Out and about
Sir — I have been closely following the latest cabinet reshuffle drama. Despite Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s attempts, L.K. Advani’s wrath did ultimately stall the re-entry of Mamata Banerjee into the cabinet. Yet Swami Chinmayanand, an ardent Vishwa Hindu Parishad follower who had been part of Advani’s rath yatra when he traversed Uttar Pradesh, was inducted into the ministry without eyebrows raised even in the opposition.
It is difficult to buy the argument of either Sudip Bandopadhyay or the Bharatiya Janata Party that it is the prime minister’s prerogative to invite anybody to join his ministry. This rule does not work in an alliance where party presidents of the allies have to be necessarily consulted before a member of any party is inducted into the cabinet. This is the democratic norm in coalition politics. And now it is evident that Advani and the party president, M. Venkaiah Naidu, had misled Vajpayee on this score. When will the BJP stop giving the cabinet its coat of saffron paint'
Asok Mukherjee, Erlangen, Germany
Sir — The way in which Mamata Banerjee reacted to the inclusion of Sudip Bandhopadhyay into the Union cabinet is rather unfortunate for the people of West Bengal. Bandhopadhyay would have proved to be an efficient cabinet minister, perhaps even better than Banerjee herself. The Trinamool Congress president has been rather shortsighted in her action and has not considered the larger interests of the state.
Raj. K. Bagri, Calcutta
Sir — The frequent cabinet reshuffles in India are adversely affecting the administrative efficiency of our country. Such changes are usually prompted by political necessities and do not depend on the suitability or qualification of the incumbents. Jagmohan Singh was shifted from the urban development ministry only because he was acting against encroachers in Delhi. Politicians who had once criticized the frequent changes in the Congress-led cabinet on grounds that it affected the work of the ministers are now themselves indulging in such practices.
India should perhaps adopt the American system, where ministries are allotted keeping in mind the individual minister’s ability to handle and manage events during his tenure. This would make the political system dependant primarily on the performance of individual ministers. There would be even less politicking if the method of choosing ministers was made as transparent as that of nominating the prime minister and chief minister. Even ministers should be elected in Parliament by absolute majority through secret voting on the basis of nominations signed by at least one-third of the members of the two houses.
Subhas Chandra Agarwal, Delhi
Sir — The Vajpayee government has set a record of sorts given the frequency with which it shuffles its ministers. Just as the judiciary has set a limit on the size of the cabinet, it should also impose strictures on the number of times the cabinet can be reshuffled.
M. Srivastava, Calcutta
Abuse of power
Sir — The method which the CESC has adopted to deal with people who steal power is strange and does not seem to be the right method of penalizing culprits. On May 14, 2003 CESC disconnected the power supply of one of my relatives living in Park Street without any notice. On enquiry it was found that the line was disconnected because someone else in the same building had been stealing power. My relative, on the contrary, had paid all his bills and was not engaged in any illegal operation. The CESC thus ended up punishing a law-abiding citizen on the pretext of disciplining another.
K.P. Ghosh, Calcutta
Sir — The CESC’s arbitrary disconnection of power supply to all AC consumers of the building at 8, Madan Street, that belonged to the Life Insurance Corporation of India, is not an exceptional case (“Heat and darkness drive aged, ailing to despair,” May 26). The CESC did something similar at 93, Park Street on May 14. The modus operandi was the same and the grounds on which the CESC behaved in such a manner was also the same. The law- abiding people of the building had to pay a collective fine of Rs 5,000 for the reconnection that was made 24 hours after the payment was made. Yet one would have expected an immediate reconnection given the arbitrary nature of action.
Kalyan Ghosh, Calcutta
Unmaking a heroine
Sir — Nisha Sharma might be getting too much attention, but why shouldn’t she (“How a heroine was made”, May 26)' As Rajyasree Sen herself points out, most Indian girls are resigned to accept almost everything to settle down with a husband. If Nisha has refused to go that way, shouldn’t she be treated exceptionally'
Moreover, Sen has made it clear that Nisha refused to marry not only because of the demand for dowry, but also because her father had been manhandled. If she did not speak up earlier, it was because she knew her parents could afford what was being asked.
Madri Kakoti, Mumbai
Sir — Rajyasree Sen rightly observes that the problem with Nisha Sharma was not dowry per se, but its quantum. But there are many who genuinely oppose the system.
Rajendra Rai, Darjeeling