Thursday, Dec. 4
Just two days ago, the mood at the Maharashtra’s future ex-chief minister’s press conference was very different.
Back then, the local journalists were howling for Vilasrao Deshmukh’s head, pushing for a resignation announcement following the security and intelligence blunders that failed to thwart the Mumbai terrorist attacks.
The press corps literally cut short the opening statements by the chief minister of Maharashtra - the state of which Mumbai is the capital - until Deshmukh admitted that he had submitted his resignation. The leaders of the Congress party - the largest in the ruling coalition - would now have to make a decision, he said.
Today, the local papers are splashed with the news that Deshmukh’s resignation has been accepted. It took two days, a delay highlighting the advance stage of paralysis that seems to have gripped the Congress party.
But now that it’s finally official, the journalists seem almost wistful about his departure. Some sound anguished about the future of the Congress party, which frankly, doesn’t look very good right now.
A consummate politician, Deshmukh strikes the right tone. Here then, is the familiar discourse of departure: “bowing to the will of the party,” “submitting to the will of the people,” “my service to the people will continue in any manner the party deems fit.”
There’s no doubt the chief minister of the wealthiest state in the Indian union committed quite a few blunders. But none have been more baffling than an ill-advised visit to the Taj hotel along with his Bollywood actor son, Riteish, and one of India's best-known film-makers shortly after it was cleared of militants.
The Indian media howled. Post-attacks, large sections of the Indian media seem to be going the American way, dividing the story simplistically between the heroes and the villains. Not unlike a Bollywood saga. And like Bollywood characters, they can be quite sensitive about things.
Local papers speculated that the visit by the Bollywood director was a “recky” for an upcoming film about the attacks. The speculation was denied. And today, once again, Deshmukh is profuse with his mea culpas over the Bollywood bungle. “It was a mistake, I feel sorry about it. I am sorry about it,” he repeats.
And so goes another Indian politico...