The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Krishna okays junkets, Cong looks askance

New Delhi, Jan. 2: Two years ago, the Congress high command had advised its Andhra Pradesh unit to “not join chief minister Chandrababu Naidu’s wasteful junket for MLAs to China and some Southeast Asian countries”.

Last week, the party’s own Karnataka chief minister, S.M. Krishna, cleared a Southeast Asian jaunt in batches for his MLAs.

Krishna appears to have forgotten the high command’s directive just like the party bosses themselves. The high command looked the other way as Krishna followed in Naidu’s footsteps.

“We are not aware of Krishna’s move,” said an AICC functionary on Tuesday when asked for the high command’s latest view. “We would be able to talk about it (the junket) only after confirming and ascertaining the reasons.”

The presiding officers of both Houses of the Karnataka legislature had approved Krishna’s decision.

Krishna cleared the foreign jaunt for 284 legislators, apparently confident that the party central leadership would not scuttle it.

He is said to have an excellent rapport with AICC general-secretary in charge of Karnataka affairs Vayalar Ravi. A few months ago, Ravi had reportedly advised Krishna against largescale foreign jaunts at government expense. Late last week, Ravi was in Bangalore briefly.

Krishna had till last week resisted Karnataka MLAs’ pressure to arrange organised foreign jaunts after Naidu started sending their Andhra Pradesh counterparts to China, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. The Congress high command’s opposition to the idea had come in handy for Krishna then.

Krishna, however, unlike his Kerala counterpart A.K. Antony, is not really known for any economy drive in administration. A few months ago, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had even shot down his offer of a special flight to ferry Antony to a Cauvery crisis meeting in Delhi.

Notwithstanding the merit in exposing legislators to the rapid economic strides China and some Southeast Asian countries have made, Krishna’s timing of his “gift” to MLAs has come as a surprise.

The Congress legislators would naturally be happy, but Opposition MLAs, too, would be as happy to spend time away from the country. They have been attacking Krishna for his management of the Nagappa abduction crisis.

The high command is apparently willing to look the other way if the “gift” secures Krishna a few weeks’ breather from the Nagappa offensive.

In Andhra Pradesh, too, some Congress MLAs had quietly joined their colleagues in China and Southeast Asia despite the high command’s warning.

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