Humiliate Lata Mangeshkar, welcome Taliban: Misplaced priorities?

Mumbai Congress president professor Janardhan Chandurkar has demanded that India's Melody Queen Lata Mangeshkar should surrender her coveted national awards including the Bharat Ratna or else the Congress-led UPA government should take them back from her. Mangeshkar's crime? She recently supported Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's candidature for the post of the prime minister.

Are awards government's property?

Chandurkar even threatened to begin an agitation if the singer did not surrender her awards.

The BJP and Shiv Sena slammed the Congress leader, saying such awards are not property of the government and advised Chandurkar to stop listening to Mangeshkar's songs if he disliked her so much. Chandurkar even did not find much support within his own unit. Sources in the party said it is a known fact that Mangeshkar is a supporter of Hindu ideology but yet had been conferred awards for her exemplary contribution to music.

Visa to Taliban leader

Take another story along with this. Taliban leader Abdul Salam Zaeef has been given visa by the Indian government reportedly on the recommendation of intelligence agencies and it is said that the the government had no role to play in the matter. Recently, the government of Assam said that noted Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen would not be allowed entry by the home ministry ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, fearing religious backlash. So, the government knows about visas when it comes to soft targets but not when hard political interests are served.

A senior home ministry official said the decision to allow Zaeef was not the government's and that of the intelligence agencies who sought to utilise his knowledge on Afghanistan to prepare India's strategy in the war-ravaged country after the western forces pull out next year.

Zaeef was a confidant of Mullah Omar who headed the Taliban government till 2001 and was the latter's ambassador to Pakistan during the 9/11 attacks on the USA. The man, known for his provocative speeches, was captured in Pakistan in 2001 after the USA invaded Afghanistan. He was kept in the Guantanamo Bay prison till 2005.

Zaeef was a deputy Minister in the Taliban Government and was its Ambassador to Pakistan during the 9/11 attacks on the US. He was known for his vitriolic speeches in his Press conferences in Islamabad. After the US invaded Afghanistan and the Taliban lost power, he was captured in Pakistan in 2001. He was then sent to the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison where he was lodged till 2005.

Separate incidents, common message

Apparently, these two incidents have no similarity between them but yet there is a common concern. Both point towards a case of misprioritisation on behalf of a party which is also the senior most ally in the coalition that is ruling the country at the moment.

Politicians in Mumbai have an advantage over their counterparts in other parts of the country and that is they have big personalities to bank on to spread their own publicity. The Shiv Sena is known for targetting celebrities time and again on various issues, big or small, and now the Congress has followed suit by taking on the octogenarian singer.

It is nothing but a publicity stunt by the chief of the city Congress but the scale of the stunt has perhaps gone too far for Chandurkar and his party. His party colleagues like Meem Afzal and Bhakta Charan Das also aired their own reservations on the singer's take on Modi earlier and now with Chandurkar also uttering words on similar lines, there is a feeling that the Congress is too rattled by the thought that the enlightened section of the society is tilting in favour of its rival.

Why diplomatic missions are not foolproof?

The second case also speaks volume about the Congress-led government's sense of timing going awry. Making a diplomatic overture towards the Taliban for strategic gains in Afghanistan is not a bad idea but the government somehow failed to provide a protective shield to its secret diplomatic designs abroad. In any government, domestic and foreign policy issues have different priorities and also strategising, but the current UPA government has confused the two and that too at a time, when a strong anti-incumbency wave is prevailing across the nation, hence fuelling the public anger more.

It was suicidal for the government to allow the photo of Zaeef and Chidambaram sitting in the same room at Think 2013 conference in Goa recently go viral. There is a clear lack of strictness on the government's part to ensure that its foreign missions are conducted with foolproof security. What is even more strange is that not many of the national channels are also highlighting these issues.

Doubt in common man's mind

These two incidents happening around the same time have raised a predictable doubt in the mind of the common man: Our leadership is bothered more about a singer praising the opponent and is even demanding her humiliation but there is no sense of urgency when it comes to issuing a visa to a Taliban leader. Why?

Well, this happens when an ineffective authority grows a phobia.

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