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Keeping tab on the political grapevine

If for some reason the general elections were held this year, the BJP would have to dig deep into its piggy bank as the main Opposition party.

india Updated: Nov 21, 2011 23:13 IST

Business class yatras
If for some reason the general elections were held this year, the BJP would have to dig deep into its piggy bank as the main Opposition party. Why? Because considerable expenses are being made with all those leaders going around in yatras. The costliest yatra has clearly been the 38-day anti-corruption road-cum-helicopter-cum-jet roadshow put up by veteran LK Advani. The other yatras led by former party president Rajnath Singh and Uttar Pradesh leader Kalraj Mishra weren’t too cheaper, with funds being poured into organisational expenses, crowd gathering, logistics, rooms booked for leaders, banners and advertising. Even though the party may laugh this one off, the total expenditure on these yatras have been upwards of R100 crore. Whether these yatras served any purpose will, of course, be decided when people go to vote in the forthcoming assembly elections.

Flight of fancy?
With air chief NAK Browne announcing that the winner of the Rs42,000 crore medium multi-role combat aircraft contract will be declared next month, the fight between the two contenders, Eurofighter and Rafale, has got serious. Both are offering sops to attract New Delhi. The Indian defence acquisition policy requires that vendors have to source at least 30% of offsets — products that the supplier agrees to buy from the buyer — from India. The two companies, however, have announced that they will source 50% of offsets from India. But does the Indian private sector, despite all the lobbying, have the infrastructure and technology to supply the offsets? Based on present capacities, the answer is no. So even if the IAF announces the winner next month, it’ll be a while before we get those planes from either Eurofighter or Rafale.

Coming to the defence
Omar Abdullah’s visit last week to New Delhi to press for the limited withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from J&K was quite an eye-opener for the CM. He thought that the support of home minister P Chidambaram and the nudges from the PMO were enough for him to get the job done. But with no real demand from J&K for Afspa to be withdrawn, Abdullah was thinking more of gaining political mileage. It was left to defence minister AK Antony to give him the message. While Antony heard him out, he made it clear that the Congress was supporting the state government and would continue to do so, but it didn’t mean that his was the last word. He also said that he would be going by the army’s assessment and asked Abdullah to pipe down for the time being. Suitably chastened, Abdullah went back home.

Room No 6
The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has refused to vacate Room No 6 in Parliament House. This room was allotted to the DMK after the Lok Sabha polls in 2009. Since the TDP’s tally was reduced to five MPs after the polls, it was allotted a smaller room on the third floor. TR Baalu, DMK’s parliamentary party leader, has conveyed his displeasure to Lok Sabha Meira Kumar and to Lok Sabha secretary-general TK Viswanathan. The DMK has 18 MPs and need the space. Will DMK MPs now make a forcible entry to evict the TDP? Or do they have other more traditional tactics to make them leave?

Plucking a Manmohan
Prime Minister Manm-ohan Singh refused the Singapore authorities’ suggestion that an orchid be named after him to mark his visit to that country. According to officials, he politely conveyed that he shouldn’t be personally honoured in such a fashion as his focus was on fostering bilateral ties between the two countries.