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Battle and Brawl
There are deep differences in government over use of Army units and air power. The issue finally settled against use of military. But divisions persist on whether Naxalism is primarily a development issue or needs a law and order approach. The Congress brass sees both arguments as relevant, but leaders like Digvijay Singh accuse home minister P Chidambaram of adopting a heavy-handed approach.
UPA2's top social welfare agenda is hanging fire for more than a year. The Sonia Gandhi-led NAC wants a strongly inclusive approach that will be universal in the most backward districts. The government wants a clearly defined list of beneficiaries to contain the subsidy. The NAC is expected to force a compromise that will increase the number of beneficiaries.
Who is responsible for inflation and how are food prices to be controlled? Price rise has been an issue for more than two years, but is now beginning to bite the government. The Centre has blamed the states, but Congress leaders and some ministers have targeted NCP boss and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar. The blame game continues with Pawar asking the PM to reduce his burden.
The plan panel has been accused by roads and highways minister Kamal Nath of being an armchair advisor and ignoring ground realities. Commission deputy chief Montek Singh Ahluwalia returned fire immediately. The bone of contention are tough norms for PPPs planned by various ministries. Despite being under attack, Montek is holding on. The stalemate continues.
NUCLEAR LIABILITY BILL
This is high on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's priority list, but may fall victim to the Congress's political objectives. The Congress sees the CBI offensive in the Sohrabuddin case as more important even if this means relations with the BJP sour and the possibility of the bill being legislated becomes dimmer.
Always tricky ground for Indian leaders, the public spectacle in Islamabad in mid-July set off an unprecedented ministerial blame game. Foreign minister S M Krishna ended up endorsing his Pakistan counterpart Mahmood Shah Qureshi's view that home secretary G K Pillai's frank comments on the ISI and 26/11 were the reason why talks failed. The home ministry hit back and an uneasy truce prevails.
It was seen to be a done deal and that might still be the case. But after being referred to a GoM, its utility is being hotly debated, dividing both the government and the Congress. Ministers like M Veerappa Moily, Mukul Wasnik and Salman Khursheed support it, while P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Pranab Mukherjee have their reservations. The hot potato will be tossed around for a while.
Sports minister M S Gill has been waging a largely losing battle with Congress MP and chief of the Delhi CWG organising committee Suresh Kalmadi. The smooth-talking Indian Olympic Committee chief has the government worried with Manmohan Singh himself following the progress of the Games. Maverick MP Mani Shankar Aiyar has just added fat to the fire, not only saying that the event was a colossal waste of money, but wishing it would fail. With the OC, urban affairs and the Delhi government at odds with each other, the chaos is unabated
There has been steady sniping at HRD minister Kapil Sibal from within the Congress over allowing foreign varsities to set up campuses in India with a party general secretary proving to be a vocal opponent. Right To Education is seen as a success, but is running into opposition from conservative Muslim groups like the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind. States, too, are not ready to pick up the huge tab the initiative needs
Battles are being waged over power, airports and roads. Jairam Ramesh has crossed swords with Sharad Pawar and Prithviraj Chavan over Bt brinjal;with Praful Patel over the Navi Mumbai airport and with Kamal Nath over highways through sanctuaries. The environmental cause has won most skirmishes, but Ramesh crossed the line by attacking the home ministry in China over its "paranoia" about Chinese telecom equipment
Unbridled exploitation of tribal areas has been offered as a reason for the growth of Left wing extremism. But genuine efforts to reform the mining sector by sharply reducing government intervention, creating a regulator and ensuring a part of the profits are invested in the local area have got ensnared by competing interests. First, the law ministry put a spanner in the works and now the proposed bill is before a GoM. Not much light at the end of this tunnel
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