Small wonder that Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Kishanchand Advani have upgraded Sonia Gandhi's security cover to equal that given to the President of the Republic. But for the distaste in which most Indian voters hold the middle-school graduate from Orbassano, the BJP-led government would have fallen in weeks. Its twin leaders have both demonstrated their unwillingness to give a coherent administration to this opportunity-rich country. Indeed, if any progress is being made, it is despite the Advani-Atal government.
Sonia and her large family love chocolate, and the Rajya Sabha election has given them yet another chance to feast. Most of the selected candidates will have been chosen for their ability to lavish mithai on the charming family that is estimated to be costing the country's taxpayers Rs 3.6 million per day in security, infrastructure and related costs.
Of course, such sweet-filled considerations for selection have operated in every election since Sonia Maino took over the Congress party. And it is thus that upstanding citizens who have made weighty contributions to public life such as Mani Kumar Subba were selected as Congress candidates. Small wonder that even Kapil Sibal (who knows a bit of law and of Mr Subba) felt that Subba would be a candidate who would enhance the prestige and image of Mahatma Gandhi's party. Chacha Advani, who has voluminous data on this favourite of 10 Janpath, is as usual following his Three Monkeys policy of seeing, hearing and speaking no evil.
Were Lal to indulge in bedtime reading, he may perhaps look through information on the ONGC, for example. For more than two decades this organisation has concentrated on not discovering oil. Enquiries with staff would show the whys and hows of the sabotage of the country's petroleum capabilities by individuals responding to pressure from external interests.
Every once in a way -- by mistake -- the ONGC discovers a rich field. This is promptly sold to overseas interests who -- surprise, surprise -- ensure that production gets stifled. The juniormost engineers in ONGC are aware of the location of the proven fields that have thus been gifted to companies seemingly unable to extract oil.
Were the home minister to call into account just a few officials of the ONGC and the petroleum ministry, he may reduce India's import bill by billions of dollars. What he does do is issue bold statements on 'wars to the finish' against extremists and crooks, the most recent being in Andhra Pradesh, the home of some offshore finds that have been given away by the ONGC.
In this trait, he is following in the footsteps of his leader Atalji who kept repeating that he would not compromise with the terrorism at Kandahar till almost the hour when Jassu and his three passengers from Indian prisons were airborne.
Instead of backing the Kalyan Singhs and the Keshubhai Patels, were Advani to spend his diminishing energy on rooting out specific instances of anti-national sabotage such as:
1. the scuttling of oil discoveries by ONGC;
2. the denial of equipment to Indian troops facing Pakistan;
3. the causes behind the rotting of millions of tonnes of foodgrain;
4. the use of Kathmandu as a hawala channel and as the point of entry for counterfeit Indian currency (Attari is chicken feed, but then Nepal is a Hindu kingdom that can by definition do no wrong, which is why it is soon to be rewarded by the reopening of air traffic with India;
5. the throttling of the nuclear and missile programmes by a team of politicians and their henchmen, he may do some service to India rather than to just the two Holy Families at 10 Janpath and 5 Race Course Road.
Unlike Murli Manohar Joshi, who imprudently sought to take action on the Nehru trusts, our media-friendly home minister has been singularly inactive in probing -- much less booking -- political families that are auctioning Indian interests.
Poor Jassu. Even the Israelis treat him with contempt. Tel Aviv gave exactly four hours notice to the Indian foreign minister when it called off his visit to that capital. The explanation given by Jassu's admirers in the Indian media was that all the key personalities in Israel had rushed off to Washington, when the fact is that they were all very much at home.
Thanks to Jassu's forging spirit, even leaving aside Clinton favourite Pervez Musharraf, now Chandrika Kumaratunga has invited Knut Vollebaek of Norway to intervene in its internal dispute with the Tigers. The same Vollebaek had made some very dismissive comments on India while in New Delhi, for which he was duly lionised in Sacher-Masoch's spiritual home.
Today this sneering critic of India has insinuated himself and his masters into Sri Lankan domestic issues, to silence from New Delhi. At one time there were the glimmerings of a Delhi Doctrine; South Asian problems should be left to South Asians themselves to settle. Now, thanks to Vajpayee diplomacy, the region is experiencing significant alien intervention.
Had the forgetful Vajpayee remembered Indian interests, he would have dropped plans for an address to the joint session of Parliament by that declared enemy of India, William Jefferson Clinton. He would have factored in the fact that this anti-Indian president has thus far refused to give the privilege of a state visit to the head of the world's largest democracy.
Kocheril Raman Narayanan being made of different metal from Jassu and Atal, has refused to make a visit to the US unless he is treated with the dignity not only he as an individual deserves, but his country. And yet the Vajpayee regime is falling over itself to grovel before a chief executive who has insulted India's President by declining to offer him the same courtesies as he has to literally dozens of others. Clinton should be given the courtesies of the same 'working visit' he has offered our own President, rather than the ceremonial of a state visit.
Just as Pakistan's generals have, Clinton knows the one action designed to generate fawning accommodation from India's leaders is to hurt the country's interests hard and insult openly and personally. With every barb thrown from the White House, the welcome mat has got further dusted and extended in Delhi.
So what if Clinton is breaking several US laws by coddling up to a dictator busy trying to hang the last democratically elected head of government in Pakistan? He has always been a man who follows his instincts, no matter where it leads him.
The untold story about the Pakistan stopover is that many other powers besides China -- whose intervention was promptly disclosed -- secretly interceded on behalf of Musharraf, including a country from the ASEAN region and two from the Gulf. Should their own regimes get felled in the way that Sharif's was, perhaps the gentlemen who made the calls on Musharraf's behalf will remember this stab in the back of democratic values as they themselves get carted off to execution.
It is strange that countries that claim to promote Muslim interests forget the 130 million Muslims of India in their eagerness to help Pakistan's crazies destroy the world's biggest functional anarchy. However, the fact is that no such advice was needed: from the start, it was clear that Clinton would not let down Musharraf, especially after being briefed by favourite poodles of the Pakistan army not to allow those hateful Indians to dictate just where the US president should or should not go.
To be fair to Clinton, it is not that he hates every large Asian country. China, for example, is close to his heart, which is why he and Al Gore have done so much to promote the interests of that glorious People's Democracy and its vibrant leadership, so steeped in democratic traditions and methods.
When US law prevented Clinton from selling AWACS technology to Beijing, Clinton got Israel to transfer know-how. After legal advisors pointed to the risks of gifting midair refuelling technology to Communist China, Billy Boy made sure that Tony Blair acted as the deliveryman. Once Al Gore occupies the White House, it should not be long before the Motherland gets reunified with the return of Taiwan to its bosom.
The hearts of Gore and Clinton may fibrillate at the mere mention of India, but they beat in unison with Pakistan and China, both of whom are collaborating so readily in efforts to reduce the trade in narcotics and to stem proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The message is clear: if India wants to be loved, it should adopt (in its external relations) the methods that Pakistan and China have used to become the favourites of the Clinton administration. This advice is especially relevant were Al Gore to make his way into the Oval Office.