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6. A bug In UPA's Soup

Has our Intelligence Bureau bitten off more than it can chew? Sixteen adhesive sticks were found in finance ministry offices sometime ago, which has set tongues wagging about Pranab-da being spied on. But IB-wallahs rubbished claims that these were remnants of bugging devices. The suspicious stick-ons, they insist, were just chewing gum! Now, it must have been very special chewing gum indeed. Not only did it travel all over North Block, it also got stuck in several spots ideal for eavesdropping. Chew on that.

BJP's Sushma Swaraj takes the IB's theory as just so much bubble gum. Not without reason. Haven't ex-IB men written tomes about their agency's expertise in helping politicos play Spy-Versus-Spy? Why, leaving his party fuming, Congressman Digvijay Singh even calls for a probe. Rightly so. Imagine all the info we could unearth in this age of sticky leaks. Chasing prime suspects, we could find out if North Block ever had Justin Bieber-lookalike tweenage visitors. Didn't we too as young rebels listen in on adult talk and stick yucky blobs all over symbols of institutional authority?

Equally, we could expose which minister has a stake in tuning in to FM. He, not taxpayers, must foot North Block's bill for buttressed security. Won't visitors need extra screening from now on for sticky chewing gum along with stick-'em-up stuff like guns and RDX? Ratan Tata may be happy with the promised law against illegal bugging of private citizens. But who'll protect cabinet ministers if not a gum disposal squad?

However, the probe may well disprove Janata Party prez Subramanian Swamy's allegations about home minister P Chidambaram's culpability. All it'll take is to prove 'home affairs' doesn't mean gathering intelligence on PC's in-house rivals. Big Business, some say, could've also planned the sticky business. Well, who wouldn't want to keep tabs on the FM, if only to know whether the dead reforms process will revive at all in this millennium?

Come to think of it, the UPA seems most in need of an adhesive, given its internal cracks. Consider the 'Kaun Banega Pradhan Mantri' contest that appears to have broken out, with all its divisive potential. It may be mere coincidence that 'PM' is short for Pranab Mukherjee, to the possible chagrin of 'PC'. But is it pure chance that Diggy Raja's "Rahul as PM" pitch comes just when PM Manmohan Singh is in a sticky situation, with the UPA hit by accusations of graft and governance deficit? The question, of course, is whether Rahul baba wants to be glued to the hot seat at a time these charges are showing a propensity for sticking. Like chewing gum.

Netas may have a taste for espionage along with vaulting ambitions. But it's time they learnt that the strongest binding agent in politics has more to do with stooping than snooping to conquer. Political humility and good governance are the best adhesives: both make voters stick with those they elect to power. Chew on that, as well.

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