The Gandhis remain coy as to which of their many advisors are “in” and which are “out,” leading to endless speculation and large numbers of people claiming to be “close to the Gandhi family.”
[All emphasis ours – Editor]
30212, 04/06/2005 13:16, 05NEWDELHI2602, Embassy New Delhi, CONFIDENTIAL
“This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.061316Z Apr 05”,” CONFIDENTIAL SECTION 01 OF 04 NEW DELHI 002602
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/06/2015 TAGS: PGOV, PINR, ECON, IN, Indian Domestic Politics
SUBJECT: CONGRESS CULTURE DEFINES SONIA GANDHI’S ROLE
Classified By: DCM Robert O. Blake, Jr. for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)
1. (C) Summary: Since the Congress-dominated government has been in power, there have been widespread allegations by the opposition BJP and media commentators that party President Sonia Gandhi has been pulling the strings of government. Our conversations with a wide variety of insiders suggest that her role is more muted and nuanced. She has deliberately attempted to preserve the image of being ““above the fray” “politically, taking maximum advantage of Congress culture, which prescribes that the party figurehead be surrounded by an “inner coterie” “to provide advice, and shield the leader from criticism and dissent. The Gandhis remain coy as to which of their many advisors are “in” “and which are “out,” “leading to endless speculation, and large numbers of people claiming to be “close to the Gandhi family.”
“Mrs. Gandhi also heads the National Advisory Council, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Steering Committee, and a committee that administers relations with the Left Front (LF). She restricts her role in these meetings to presiding as chair and utilizes senior Congress leaders to do the talking. Embassy contacts emphasize that Mrs. Gandhi prefers to wield power behind the scenes, relying on discrete back-channel communications with key figures in Congress and allied parties to address outstanding problems. While this elaborate system protects her from blame for GOI shortcomings, it also complicates honest assessments, as her handlers strictly control information flow and access. End Summary.
The Web Around Sonia
2. (C) For decades, Congress culture has had an “inner coterie” “around the Gandhi family, to offer them advice and protect them from dissenting opinions and criticism. The family has been secretive about who belongs to the inner circle, which makes it difficult to define the current membership. Embassy contacts claim that this complex web assists and inhibits Mrs. Gandhi to wield power. While the BJP accuses Mrs. Gandhi of acting “as a shadow Prime Minister,” “our contacts generally agree that she and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have defined their roles, with the PM acting as a corruption-free technocrat handling governance, who remains above the political fray, while Mrs. Gandhi concentrates on the constant give-and-take associated with running an enormous political party with tens of millions of members and a disparate coalition.
3. (C) Mrs. Gandhi’s three principal advisors, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni and Jairam Ramesh, have served the Gandhi family for many years, and derive their power through proximity to her. Party insiders believe that Soni is on the ascendant and currently among those individuals that Mrs. Gandhi trusts the most. Ramesh is primarily viewed as a thinker and wordsmith, who drafts Mrs. Gandhi’s speeches and helps shape her views. Insiders dismiss Ahmed Patel as an intellectual lightweight, known primarily for his skills as a political “errand boy” “who gets things done behind the scenes for Mrs. Gandhi. His star has fallen after allegedly mismanaging recent assembly elections in Jharkhand and Bihar.”
4. (C) Unlike the advisors, who tend to remain with the Gandhis over the long-term, individual politicians move in and out of Mrs. Gandhi’s inner circle. At present, the three most prominent include HRD Minister Arjun Singh, Party General Secretary Digvijay Singh, and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. All three are extremely ambitious and would like to become Prime Minister. According to our sources, Arjun Singh’s chances are fading, as he is viewed as too old and too overbearing. Sharad Pawar, once plagued by ill health, seems to have recovered and is considered one of the most senior and competent of the old Congress leadership. Digvijay Singh, the former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, is highly regarded as one of the few senior Congress leaders with the “common touch.” “Foreign Minister Natwar Singh, Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee occupy a separate orbit of super Ministers whose long-standing personal ties to the Gandhi family and seniority in Congress politics allow direct personal access to Mrs. Gandhi, and routine input on Congress decision making across a range of issues. Of these three, Mukherjee is clearly the most formidable – and reportedly harbors the greatest hope of some day becoming Prime Minister.
Sonia and the NAC
5. (C) Although the National Advisory Council (NAC) has attracted considerable media attention, most agree that it is the least significant of the three bodies Mrs. Gandhi chairs, and is most notable for providing her with cabinet status. Sonia is said to be a strong backer of the Common Minimum Program (CMP), drafted by the Left parties and Congress after the 2004 electoral victory. She views the CMP as a useful tool that will keep the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) together. The UPA government established the NAC to “interface with civil society in the implementation of the CMP.” “Its functions are to:
–monitor implementation of the CMP;
–provide inputs for GOI policy formulation; and
–support GOI legislative business.
6. (C) Mrs. Gandhi’s role as NAC Chairman provides her with Cabinet rank and a “secretariat” “with a complement of civil servants and staff that report directly to her, as well as office space and a travel budget. The NAC members consist of intellectuals, former civil servants, and academics, including a number of heavyweights from India’s NGO community. NAC members are predominantly of a leftist ideological bent and maintain cordial relations with the Communists. Jairam Ramesh, who helped draft the CMP, is also a member, and has played an active role in the two or three meetings held since its creation. Members receive no compensation or government rank. Contacts tell us that while Mrs. Gandhi nominally chairs the sessions, she restricts her involvement to brief opening and closing statements.
7. (C) The NAC website provides access to papers drafted by the members, but it has not issued a policy document or played a significant role in policy formulation since its formation. Since the NAC has been largely moribund, some political observers theorize that Congress created it to provide Mrs. Gandhi with needed Cabinet rank and infrastructure, to help convince the Communists that it was serious about the CMP, to help burnish Mrs. Gandhi’s image as a “compassionate leader” “who cares about the poor, and to provide entre for NGOs in the policy process.
Sonia and the UPA
8. (C) There are three components that must be placated and balanced to keep the UPA government in power: Congress, the Communist parties, and the regional/caste parties. Sonia and the Congress leadership complain about Communist obstruction, but are convinced that these parties, although ideological, are not “irresponsible.” “In the eyes of Congress leaders, most Communists are “pragmatic,” projecting an image of looking after the poor and downtrodden, in order to mollify the party faithful, while not preventing government from functioning.
9. (C) While many in the Congress inner circle have some affinity with the Communists and work together with them on selected issues, they view the regional satraps of the UPA allies with disdain, and prefer to keep them at arm’s length. The recent Congress fiasco in Bihar, for example, convinced many in Congress that Bihar-based politicos Laloo Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan are “loose cannons” “who cannot be trusted”. Their disdain for these often rustic regional politicians has prevented Congress from properly managing the UPA coalition. Because of these engrained prejudices, Congress has been unable to focus on the BJP as its principal adversary, and instead has become mired in internecine squabbling.
10. (C) Mrs. Gandhi chairs the UPA Steering Committee, which is supposed to provide a forum for UPA members to work out their differences. It has met no more than six times in the almost 11 months since the UPA came to power. Since the Communists support the UPA from the outside, they are not members of this committee, and hold their own meetings with Sonia and the Congress leadership on a weekly basis. This suggests that the UPA Steering Committee is primarily intended to coordinate policy between Congress and the regional/caste parties. One of the most powerful regional parties, the Samajwadi Party (SP) of Uttar Pradesh (UP) led by Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, also supports the UPA from outside and is not a member of the committee, while another, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) does not support the UPA.
11. (C) According to our contacts, Mrs. Gandhi plays a similar role in the Steering Committee meetings as she does in the NAC, sitting silently through meetings without participating and leaving substantive statements to Congress heavyweights. Congress Cabinet ministers participate in these meetings on an ad hoc basis according to the issues under discussion, and Sonia lets them present the party position. These include, Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who does not restrict himself to defense issues but also addresses economic questions, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Foreign Minister Natwar Singh, and Finance Minister Chidambaram, among others.
12. (C) Our contacts tell us that few tangible results have emerged from these meetings, which are held largely for public consumption and to demonstrate to the public that Congress is a responsible party interested in “coalition maintenance.” “In reality, Sonia Gandhi and the Congress leadership prefer to work most UPA management issues out of the public eye,” relying on phone calls and personal visits that are not open to prying eyes and the media.
Congress and the Communists
13. (C) Several interlocutors claimed that the weekly meetings with the Communists, also attended by Mrs. Gandhi, are more important than the UPA Steering Committee meetings, as Congress has determined that it will put forward no significant economic initiative without first vetting it with the Communists, and attempting to gain their assent. In addition to formal meetings, Mrs. Gandhi calls Left Front leaders to her residence for “breakfast” on an ad hoc basis. The breakfasts take place only when Sonia and her advisors deem that there is an issue so pressing that it requires a conclave. Mrs. Gandhi expects the meetings to be private and the press is not invited. However, in some instances participants will brief journalists off the record about what transpired. Congress leaders also routinely call their Communist counterparts on the telephone to discuss a wide range of issues. It is not clear whether Mrs. Gandhi personally telephones the Communist leadership, or whether she leaves that to her subordinates.
14. (C) As one of the world’s oldest and largest political parties, Congress has evolved an elaborate culture aimed at protecting the Gandhi dynasty. Mrs. Gandhi’s inner circle carefully controls her access to information, and inoculates her from criticism, while her carefully scripted public appearances protect her from making gaffes or missteps. This has the advantage of preserving the “sanctity” “of Mrs. Gandhi and the dynasty, but can also complicate her efforts to wield power. This system prevents Mrs. Gandhi from asserting herself and reduces her charisma, and makes her overly reliant on a selected group, which may not always have her or the party’s best interests at heart. She appears more comfortable working with the often high-caste and well-educated Communists than with regional satraps of the state-based parties, which suggests that the bumpy Congress/UPA relationship is likely to continue.
105346: Rahul Gandhi jumps into the U.P. electoral fray
REF: A. NEW DELHI 1699
B. NEW DELHI 1675 C. NEW DELHI 1508
Classified By: Political Counselor Ted Osius for reasons 1.4 (B,D)
1. (C) Summary: Rahul Gandhi, the heir apparent of the Gandhi family dynasty, has made a number of gaffes, suggesting an uneven start to his active political career. During a series of “roadshows” “meant to jump-start the Congress campaign in ongoing Uttar Pradesh (UP) elections, Rahul made elliptical and controversial statements regarding Pakistan, the destruction of the Babri Mosque and UP politics that were greeted with disbelief and derision. Veteran politics watchers cannot explain Rahul’s apparent missteps, while Congress insiders complain that he is a neophyte who does not have what it takes to become Prime Minister. Their hopes have now shifted to yet another member of the Nehru Dynasty, Rahul’s sister Priyanka, as they await her entry into politics. With Congress unable to break out of fourth place in UP, its only hopes of returning to significance would be on BSP Chief Mayawati’s coattails. Should Mayawati score big in the elections, the BSP would emerge as the state’s largest party and she would come within striking distance of forming the government. In such a scenario, Congress insiders claim the party would join a BSP government. Congress is apparently willing to play second fiddle to the authoritarian, corrupt and unpredictable Mayawati, if it keeps the hated BJP and SP out of power. Thus are the voters of UP bereft of visionary leaders or hope for a better future. End Summary.
Rahul Puts His Foot in His Mouth
2. (U) As part of its Uttar Pradesh (UP) electoral campaign, Congress has been sending heir apparent Rahul Gandhi into the countryside to conduct “roadshows,” “aimed at making contact with the average voter. Three times during the campaign Rahul has made elliptical statements which have puzzled and enraged political observers, other political parties, Congress cadre, and in one instance, Pakistan.
On April 15, Rahul in a speech at a UP campaign rally stated that “I belong to the family which has never moved backwards, which has never gone back on its words. You know that when any member of my family had decided to do anything, he does it. Be it the freedom struggle, the division of Pakistan or taking India into the 21st Century.”
Earlier, while on the campaign trail, Rahul had maintained that the Babri Mosque “would have been protected had a member of the Gandhi family been in power.”
At another rally, Rahul exclaimed that his party’s slide into the political wilderness in UP started with its 1996 alliance with former Chief Minister Mayawati and her BSP.
Reactions Mostly Negative
3. (U) The Rahul gaffes were greeted with bewilderment and, in some cases, disdain. In an Islamabad press conference a GOP spokesman sniffed that “it validates the point that we all know – that India has always been trying to interfere in Pakistan’s internal affairs and to destabilize Pakistan. It is a clear admission by a prominent member of India’s ruling family and of this party that is ruling now.” “Leading Pakistani track two activist Lt. General Talat Masood remarked, “it is in such bad taste and so unnecessary. It is a short-sighted approach to please certain domestic constituencies for the elections, but in the long run, so detrimental to relations between the two countries.”
NEW DELHI 00001915 002 OF 004
4. (U) The opposition BJP was equally unimpressed. Party spokesman Prakash Javadekar exclaimed that “if he claims this for his family, then he should also own up to the failure that resulted in Partition and the capture and occupation of large parts of Kashmir by Pakistan soon after independence.” CPI National Secretary D. Raja suggested that Rahul “had no grasp of historical issues,” “and should stick to current events”. Samajwadi Party (SP) General Secretary Amar Singh exclaimed that Rahul was “trying hard to find a niche for himself.”
Even Within Congress
5. (U) Press reports quoted Congress workers in UP as expressing ““bewilderment,” as they were unable to determine the political purpose of his remarks. One Congress worker theorized that Rahul was trying to resurrect the “soft Hindutva” “of his father Rajiv Gandhi and win over Hindu voters attracted to the BJP”, stating “a claim that Congress had actively worked for the division of Pakistan would certainly appeal more to a section of sectarian Hindus.” “Other Congress workers suggested that Rahul had simply spoken “without sufficient deliberation.” “One Congressman tried to shift the blame to Rahul’s entourage, stating “their inexperience could be the cause for the mistiming of the statements.” “Another opined that while Rahul’s statements regarding the Babri Mosque were meant to win over a section of Muslims to the party, all that it evoked was ridicule in the minority community.”
6. (C) Former MP (Janata Party) D.N. Patodia told Polcouns April 23 that Congress Party members have no choice but to defend Rahul, even when he makes the worst gaffes. He said Indira Gandhi was groomed for 15 years before coming to power, and predicted that Rahul will need an equally lengthy training period.
The Prime Minister Attempts Damage Control
7. (U) On the UP campaign trail, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared Rahul as “the leader of the future,” stating “your future is in your midst. Yes, I am talking of Rahul Gandhi. He is braving it out for you. He is with you. He is your future. Just one chance is required for him and the Congress Party to build a new Uttar Pradesh for you and your children.” “The BJP was quick to pounce on the PM, stating that “In a democratic society, political leaders rise from the grassroots; they are not born as a result of dynastic politics or a feudal mentality.” In truth, the PM’s timing could not have been worse, as papers took delight in twinning his statement with banner headlines of Rahul’s malapropisms.
Political Pundit Equally Bemused
8. (C) In an April 19 meeting with Poloff, veteran journalist and Hindustan Times Political Editor Pankaj Vohra noted that he was equally confused about Rahul and his statements. Vohra pointed out that the political watchers could not make sense of Rahul, stating that he seemed to be “talking out of his head.” “Vohra could not believe that Congress would allow Rahul to speak without preparation, exclaiming that “there must be some design,” “but he could see no clear object in the remarks. In an attempt to give Rahul the benefit of the doubt, Vohra conceded that the Babri Mosque remarks must have been meant to win over the Muslim vote, the Pakistan remarks to win over the Hindu vote, and the remarks regarding Mayawati to win back some of the Dalit vote. Vohra opined that Rahul “has been sacrificed to poor management and a poorly run UP political campaign.” “Intoning that UP was a poor choice for a political debut, Vohra claimed that Rahul has “done the best he could under the circumstances,” “and was the victim of an “out of touch” coterie of Congress insiders led by Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh”.
9. (C) Exclaiming that Congress “has its back to the wall,” “Vohra noted that the latest rumor is that if Congress does badly in UP, several parties within the UPA could cross over to the opposition NDA coalition and bring on a “mid-term” poll. Vohra argued that Manmohan Singh would be a “poor choice” “to be the Congress standard-bearer if the party had to face the voters, but there is really no one else. Vohra dismissed speculation regarding an early move by Rahul into the Prime Minister slot saying that he is “not acceptable” “as a PM candidate, is “juvenile” and surrounded by deluded sycophants.
Congress Political Cadre is Demoralized
10. (C) On April 19 Congress leader and Gandhi family insider Nachiketa Kapoor informed Poloff that the party in UP was demoralized and did not expect to win more than 35 seats in the current election. Kapoor blamed the party itself for the mess, stating that the campaign was very badly run. Kapoor dismissed Rahul as ineffective and irrelevant, claiming that his road show consisted of a series of poorly attended events in rural areas, where he made almost no impression on the voters. He predicted that Rahul’s participation would have no effect on the electoral outcome, although his office continued to insist that Congress will win up to 80 seats. Kapoor had just returned from campaigning in Allahabad and maintained that Congress workers “on the ground” “had concluded that the party was “losing everywhere.”
The Dynasty Dying Nasty
11. (C) Kapoor was adamant that Rahul’s elliptical statements were spontaneous and off the cuff. Rahul’s speechwriter has reportedly confirmed that the remarks were unscripted and that Rahul refuses to use remarks drafted for him. Opining that Rahul is “out of touch,” Kapoor noted that he has “no close friends or advisors,” “and that his own staff keeps him ““at arm’s length” as he is “arrogant and rude and doesn’t accept guidance from anyone.” Kapoor exclaimed that Rahul “has no future, no talent for politics and will never be PM, as he has done nothing for the past three years.” Kapoor pointed out that even if Congress wanted to make Rahul PM, it would not be able to do so, as it does not have an absolute majority and must rely on its coalition partners to stay in power. Implying that Rahul’s moment has already come and gone, Kapoor claimed that Congress insiders are predictably pinning their hopes on yet another of Nehru Dynasty member, Rahul’s sister Priyanka, and are waiting for the day when she will enter politics.
Comment: Son Set
12. (C) Rahul’s dismal performance on the campaign trail has narrowed the party’s already limited options in UP. While some in Congress are pinning their hopes on a “hung Parliament” “that will result in President’s rule, that is looking increasingly unlikely. To form the UP government, a coalition has to come up with a majority of at least 202 seats in the 403 member Legislative Assembly. As predicted, Mayawati’s BSP is surging. The best hope for Congress would be if she breaks all records and wins 170 seats or more. That would put her within striking distance of forming the government. As the largest party in UP, the governor would then give the BSP the first shot. In such an event, she would need Congress to make up some or all of the needed 30-35 seats. Congress sources claim that although the party would be a very junior partner in a government dominated by the authoritarian and unpredictable Mayawati, it would accept such a deal as it has “nothing to lose.” “Congress insiders argue that at least the hated BJP and SP would be kept out of power in Lucknow. In the event that the BSP does not cross 170, the BJP and SP would likely attempt to come together and form the government. While the ruling SP is getting plastered at the polls, it could manage to hold on to as many as 100 seats. Some of the lost SP seats are going to a resurgent BJP, which could win over 100 seats. Most dismiss the prospect of a BJP/BSP government, as prior experiments ended in dismal failure and lots of bad blood between the two parties.
13. (C) In any event, regardless of the outcome of the UP elections, Rahul has made an uneven entry into active politics. While crowds at his “road show” “events are often large, Rahul has not yet demonstrated that he has the charisma required to make it in Indian politics. Notwithstanding his gaffes, however, political commentators such as M.J. Akbar predict that Rahul Gandhi could replace Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister before the 2009 elections. Others, such as former MP (Janata) D.N. Patodia, predict that Sonia Gandhi will acknowledge that Rahul isn’t yet ready for prime time, and will put forward a malleable PM such as Home Affairs Minister Shiv Raj Patil. Grand old Congress leaders such as Pranab Mukherjee and Arjun Singh are seen as too independent for Sonia’s liking.
14. (U) Visit New Delhi’s Classified Website: (http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/sa/newdelhi/)
Published: March 17, 2011 03:52 IST | Updated: March 27, 2011 00:49 IST
162458: Cash-for-votes ahead of confidence motion
Political horse-trading continued in anticipation of the special session of parliament to consider the confidence vote on July 21 followed by the vote itself on July 22. ……
Classified By: Charge D’Affaires Steven White for Reasons 1.4 (B and D)
1. (C) SUMMARY. Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and his delegation departed for Vienna on July 17 to brief the 35 Board members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and another 19 members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative. In Delhi, government officials responded positively to suggestions about how to address concerns emerging from Vienna, particularly the need to begin negotiating an IAEA Additional Protocol and for the IAEA to circulate India’s (INFCIRC) already-public separation plan as an official IAEA document. Political horse-trading continued in anticipation of the special session of parliament to consider the confidence vote on July 21 followed by the vote itself on July 22. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani each plan to host a dinner for supporters on July 20; the parties will presumably have to chose one or the other. An estranged Congress Party MP and three Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) MPs publicly stated their intention to vote against the UPA, leaving the government still clinging to a slim majority. Small parties representing collectively about 20 votes find themselves with generous suitors; one party chief has reportedly succeeded in having the Lucknow airport renamed after his father. The unrequited Left continued its anti-government rant, but showed signs of internal strain. Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee refused to resign despite pressure from within the Communist party to do so and has made it clear that he was not in favor of the Left voting with the opposition BJP against the government, a position that seems to have resonance among comrades disinclined to face early elections.
Dueling Dinners Force Parties to Declare Loyalties
6. (SBU) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani each plan to host a dinner for supporters on July 20, the evening before the special parliamentary session begins on July 21. Media reported that Advani will use the dinner as a strategy session to field MPs to speak against the confidence motion. Advani will also reportedly meet the BJP’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) supporters on July 17, including Chief Ministers of the states where NDA constituents are in power. Rajasthan Chief Minister Raje reportedly plans to skip the meeting, raising the ire of the BJP leadership.
7. (SBU) Prime Minister Singh’s dinner on July 20 will include the Congress Party’s new allies in the Samajwadi Party as well as other recent converts and fence-sitters from smaller parties. The Telegraph quoted a senior government source who said that PM Singh was “neither crunching numbers nor seeking daily briefings on the political sensex. His bottom line is clear.” “It also claimed that PM Singh was upset with the BJP for allegedly recanting on an “understanding” “that it would support the deal. The article concludes that if the government survives the July 22 vote, PM Singh’s priority would be to implement flagship social programs to thank his party for rallying behind him”.
Votes For Sale
8. (SBU) Behind the scenes, the Congress Party machine is working overtime. Sonia Gandhi reportedly plans to meet Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Shibu Soren and Janata Dal Secular (JD-S) leader H.D. Deve Gowda. Retaining the support of JMM’s five seats and the JD-S’s three seats is reportedly vital to the UPA government’s strategy. In exchange for retaining the support of the three votes of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the Congress Party has reportedly pledged its support to rename Lucknow’s Amausi airport after Chaudhary Charan Singh, father of RLD leader Ajit Charan Singh, who may also get a cabinet seat.
9. (C) On July 16, PolCouns met with Captain Satish Sharma, a Congress Party MP in the Rajya Sabha, a former Indian Airlines Pilot, and a close associate of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi considered to be a very close family friend of Sonia Gandhi. Sharma mentioned that he, as well as others in the party, was working hard to ensure that the UPA government wins the confidence vote on July 22. He said that the Prime Minister, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi were committed to the nuclear initiative and had conveyed this message clearly to the party. Sharma said that PM Singh and others were trying to work on the Akali Dal (8 votes) through financier Sant Chatwal and others, but unfortunately it did not work out. He mentioned that efforts to encourage Shiv Sena (12 votes) to abstain were on-going. While different Congress operatives were working on different groups of MPs, Sharma said that Rahul Gandhi was personally working Omar Abdullah’s Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (J&KNC), whose two MPs are inclined to vote in favor of the UPA. Sharma mentioned that he was also exploring the possibility of trying to get former Prime Minister Vajpayee’s son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya to speak to BJP representatives to try to divide the BJP ranks. He mentioned that if the party wins the trust vote, they would then prefer to go for national elections in February or March 2009, which would give the UPA time to control prices and bring down inflation.
10. (S) Sharma’s political aide Nachiketa Kapur mentioned to an Embassy staff member in an aside on July 16 that Ajit Singh’s RLD had been paid Rupees 10 crore (about $2.5 million) for each of their four MPs to support the government. Kapur mentioned that money was not an issue at all, but the crucial thing was to ensure that those who took the money would vote for the government. Kapur showed the Embassy employee two chests containing cash and said that around Rupees 50-60 crore (about $25 million) was lying around the house for use as pay-offs.
11. (S) Another Congress Party insider told PolCouns that Minister of Commerce and Industry Kamal Nath is also helping to spread largesse. “Formerly he could only offer small planes as bribes,” “according to this interlocutor, now he can pay for votes with jets.”
What If’s: No Vote or a UPA Defeat
12. (SBU) PM Singh appears to have opened the door to the Left to call off the vote, telling media on July 16 that the government had the numbers to prevail in the confidence vote and that it was “unfortunate” “that the special session had to be foisted upon parliament and distract the government from addressing urgent issues like inflation. PM Singh publicly acknowledged trying to get the BJP to support the nuclear initiative by reaching out to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, but Vajpayee reportedly deferred to opposition leader L.K. Advani to make the call.
13. (SBU) There are some signs that the GOI may decide to go ahead with the nuclear initiative even if it loses the confidence vote on July 22. Media quoted Rahul Gandhi on July 16 as saying, “I support the PM 100 percent on the nuke deal. We are going to win the trust vote, but even if the government falls, so be it.” “He also claimed the BJP was divided over the nuclear initiative, saying, “There are people in the BJP who support the deal and do not know why their party is opposing it.” “Rahul Gandhi also recalled how Left parties in the mid-1980s had stonewalled his father Rajiv Gandhi’s efforts to introduce computers in government offices and vision of a computerized India. Congress Party Chief Sonia Gandhi said in Andra Pradesh on July 17 that the government “will not compromise on the nuclear deal because it is in the national interest.”
Disagreements Among Comrades: Left Shows Signs of Strain
14. (SBU) The Left continued its rant against the government. The Community Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Polit Bureau groused that the Prime Minister’s Office set a “dangerous precedent” “by meeting industrialist Mukesh Ambani on July 14, during which Ambani reportedly offered help in securing Shiv Sena support for the UPA government. The CPI-M said the government’s rejection of the use of force against Iran by Israel was “timely,” “but that it would only be credible if the government were to cut military ties with Israel”.
15. (SBU) The Left has also begun to show signs of internal strain. CPI-M Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury told media on July 15 that the party erred in listing Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee among its members who withdrew support from the UPA government on July 8. Chatterjee said he does not want to step down as Speaker despite pressure from within the party to do so. He also wrote a letter to Prakash Karat making it clear that he was not in favor of the Left voting with the opposition BJP against the government. (Chatterjee has looked to the UPA government to help him keep his position as Speaker and appears to be rallying moderate CPI-M members disinclined to join their comrades in voting with their rival BJP against a government that they supported for several years.) Also on July 15, Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh and two other SP leaders called for Chatterjee not to quit his post.
16. (SBU) Consulate Kolkata reported on the growing split within the CPI-M (reftel). Many CPI-M members, particularly Muslims, cannot fathom voting with the “communalist” BJP. A large group of West Bengal MPs do not want to bring down the government and are angry at Karat for his failed strategy. If the government falls, they fear the CPI-M could lose 10-15 seats in new elections based on unfavorable recent local election results. If the government survives, the Left will be embarrassed for having achieved nothing on the issues that are important to their constituents, few of whom care about the nuclear initiative. Though defection is a possibility, Communist Party discipline remains strong and members are unlikely to vote with the government.
https://sites.google.com/site/indiawikicable/ Updates March 27, 2011
[Courtesy The Hindu]
32279: Jaitley reaffirms US-India commitment
32279 5/10/2005 10:14 05NEWDELHI3505 Embassy New Delhi CONFIDENTIAL “This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.” “C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 003505
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/30/2015 TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PINR, ECON, IN, Indian Domestic Politics, Indo-US
SUBJECT: BJP LEADER REAFFIRMS US-INDIA COMMITMENT
Classified By: Charge Robert O. Blake, Jr., for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)
1. (C) Summary: BJP spokesman and former Commerce Minister Arun Jaitley warned us recently that the Modi controversy continues to fester among the party rank and file, who see the Chief Minister’s visa revocation as a personal attack on a leader of the party that began the transformation of US-India relations. One of several aspirants to direct the next generation of BJP leadership, Jaitley was otherwise upbeat on the US-India relationship, and quietly confident that the party would eventually find its feet. End Summary.
2. (C) In an May 6 meeting with the Charge and PolCouns, a relaxed and self-assured Arun Jaitley predicted that current BJP President LK Advani would lead for another two to three years, after which one of five next generation leaders (Jaitley among them) would take the reins. Dismissing the speculation about Advani’s successor as being no more relevant than predictions about Gordon Brown’s accession to power in the UK, Jaitley argued that the BJP remained a force to contend with in Indian politics, notwithstanding the party’s current public squabbling. Pressed on the question of Hindutva, Jaitley argued that Hindu nationalism “will always be a talking point” for the BJP. However, he characterized this as an opportunistic issue. In India’s northeast, for instance, Hindutva plays well because of public anxiety about illegal migration of Muslims from Bangladesh. With the recent improvement of Indo-Pak relations, he added, Hindu nationalism is now less resonant in New Delhi, but that could change with another cross-border terrorist attack, for instance on the Indian Parliament.
3. (C) Jaitley was upbeat on the US-India relationship, emphasizing that ties with the US are no longer a point of controversy in Indian politics. Citing his own situation as typical, Jaitley noted that he has several nieces and sisters living in the US, “and five homes to visit between DC and New York.” Despite this upbeat context, Jaitley was distressed about the US visa denial to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, complaining that he could not understand how the US could take such an action against the party that began the transformation of US-India relations. Charge explained the rationale and legal basis for the US decision. Jaitley agreed with the Charge’s point that Modi was a polarizing personality, but argued that it would have been better for the US to let the Chief Minister visit the US, where he would have attracted a few demonstrators and then nothing more would be said. Regardless of US explanations, Jaitley warned, the Modi decision has hurt the US reputation among BJP rank and file.
4. (C) Reflecting on several weeks spent in Bihar leading the BJP’s state election campaign, Jaitley expressed concern about growing gaps in the quality of governance across India. Virtually all new investment, he argued, is concentrated in the four southern states, two western states (Gujarat and Maharashtra) and “within 100 kilometers of Delhi.” He lamented the “Robin Hood” syndrome that prevails in Bihar, arguing that caste politics lend a “social sanction” criminalization of politics that drives away investment. Recalling helicopter flights over Bihar, Jaitley described an economic desert, with brick kilns constituting virtually the only form of industrial infrastructure. He also decried — but sympathized with — the mass exodus of Bihari professionals from that state to cities like Delhi and Mumbai, and to the ranks of the Indian Administrative Service.
5. (C) Putting on his hat as a former Commerce Minister, Jaitley confessed that the BJP’s opposition to a Value Added Tax (VAT) at the state level was based on a narrow political calculus, and predicted that the BJP states would adopt the VAT soon in order to protect their revenue streams. He gave the Congress government generally positive marks for its handling of economic policy issues, but focused on the contradictions inherent in the UPA coalition. Jaitley was relatively relaxed in response to the Charge’s pitch for opening of the Indian services sector. He agreed that legal services should be opened to foreign competition, noting that the performance of the Indian bar has begun to improve, even though the quality of judges suffers from a “Gandhian” mindset that leads to unreasonably low salaries. On retail, he argued that foreign competition should not seriously hurt the mom and pop stores that form a BJP constituency. However, he suggested that opening up to big retail chains like Wal-Mart should proceed slowly, since large Indian retailers are just now coming into their own.
6. (C) Comment: Although visibly pained by the Modi visa revocation, Jaitley was gracious and open throughout. He clearly values his personal and commercial connections to the US (several US corporates are legal clients). As the competition for BJP leadership heats up, Jaitley will enjoy the advantages of a telegenic personality and strong ties to the New Delhi establishment. However, as reflected in his remarks here about Hindutva, Jaitley’s credentials with the Sangh Parivar are weak, and he may not have what it takes to mobilize the BJP base.
March 26, 2011, Courtesy The Hindu]