Monday, December 31, 2012

The Politics & Economics of India's..../Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard/December 30,2012


The politics and economics of India’s story is breeding monsters





History is analysed by historians. But more often, ordinary people on the streets create it. They don’t have an ideology to propagate. Nor do they have any personality to promote. But they do have an agenda to agitate for. As the 23-year-old braveheart succumbed to the monstrous assault on her person, she shook the entire nation of a billion people. Millions of ordinary, faceless Indians—young and old, rich and poor—used all forms of communication to create history by conveying their disgust with the shameless system; they resolved to force a change. It was the social media that set the tone for others to follow. One of the tweeple put it succinctly, “The brave girl who woke the entire nation, finally went to sleep.”  Damini or Nirbhaya—pseudonyms given to the victim—moved even the international media. News about her death was first broken by an American wire agency on Twitter. Never before in any nation’s history has a dastardly attack on a girl mobilised millions of people. From New Delhi’s India Gate to Mumbai’s Gateway of India, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, ordinary citizens turned out on the roads while the political class and well-protected wealthy corporate honchos chose to hide at home. Has Damini really woken our rulers from their slumber? Actually not. Our planners are obsessed with votebank politics and glamorous growth models, which have created two Indias within one nation. While a fraction of India becomes safer and richer, the rest of it lives in abysmal poverty and insecurity.


Damini’s demise symbolises the bankruptcy of India’s growth story and busts its myths. If India is being discussed globally for its huge potential, it is also a subject of ridicule when it comes to protecting vulnerable women on its streets. The growth of heinous crimes, including rape, has outpaced GNP growth. Undoubtedly, India is much richer than it was 20 years ago. No doubt, we have more swanky airports, five-star hotels, auto hubs, over 800 million mobile phones, hundreds of private jets and thousands of Lamborghinis, Porsches and Jaguars. But these luxury toys have been built or acquired by diverting funds, which could otherwise have gone for providing better security, effective public transport, quality education in government schools, better hospitals, and a credible policing system. It takes hardly a few minutes for the prime minister or top corporate leaders to announce millions of dollars in donations to foreign universities where the children of the rich and mighty study, while over 60 per cent of government-run schools remain without buildings or furniture. Such munificence has hardly been showered on any of the Indian institutions that also produce world-class professionals. Most state governments have stopped opening new schools and instead, have started selling land to private promoters at exorbitant prices. On the other hand, they fast-track the sanction of over Rs 3,000 crore to purchase state-of-the-art flying machines for our leaders.
It takes more than three months and over 1,000 files to force Delhi’s government to sanction a mere Rs 50 crore for the purchase of CCTVs for the capital. India’s police stations are understaffed. They have antiquated arms and untrained staff who put ridiculous questions to rape victims. Despite the recommendations of various commissions, neither the Central nor the state governments have bothered to implement police reforms. Instead, they have been liberal in providing massive security cover to civil servants and political leaders. Over 15,000 police personnel protect about 4,500 MLAs in the country. Over 2,500 cops are on duty to provide security to over 700 MPs. Those who are on VIP duty are given the most modern arms. On an average, a chief minister is protected by over 500 personnel, including specially trained greyhounds. According to unconfirmed estimates, the Central and state governments spend over Rs 5,000 crore yearly on the security of its leaders, including that of the prime minister, chief ministers, leaders of national and regional parties, former chief ministers, MPs, MLAs and senior civil servants. It means there is less money left to upgrade India’s ill-maintained police infrastructure.
In the absence of sufficient funds for the development of urban infrastructure, most Indian cities are becoming breeding grounds for petty criminals. With the emphasis on technology-driven capital-intensive projects, less and less employment opportunities are being created for unskilled and even semi-skilled labour force. Currently, India has over 20 crore youth waiting for gainful employment. They are the ones who, along with the spoilt brats of wealthy and powerful, are driven to crime when they only get part-time, lowly paid jobs from the mafia that runs parallel transport, water and real estate businesses in various cities or inherit their family business. Over 20 per cent of buses, three-wheelers, tempos and trucks plying on Indian roads lack authorised certification. The government has been putting public transport and small vehicles out of reach of the lower and middle classes by its fiscal policies. India is the only country in the world that imposes the maximum possible taxes on petroleum products. Strangely, the prime minister, instead of ensuring the affordable delivery of energy resources, pleaded for the withdrawal of subsidies and not for reducing taxes on power and petrol. If India is allowed to live in darkness and its people are forced to move on insecure roads and public transport, many more Daminis will fall prey to the beasts created by an insensitive establishment of Mera Bharat Mahan!
Prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me  on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Teekhi Baat with Shivraj Singh Chouhan/IBN7/December 29,2013


‘Human rights are for humans, not demons like the Delhi rapists’




The number of rapes cases in MP is the highest because we have issued directions that each and every FIR should be registered, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan says on Teekhi Baat on IBN7. Excerpts:


Your state has the most rape cases. There seems to be a feudal mentality in Madhya Pradesh
I accept that even if there is one incident of rape, it is a matter of shame for every person and the state. We will act more aggressively, there should be fast track courts, criminals should be punished. We are creating systems about which I will talk about later. But there is one thing in Madhya Pradesh, which differentiates us from other states, and that is that it is our strict orders that let it be any crime, you have to register an FIR. If anybody does not register an FIR, action would be taken against him.
You mean to say that the increase in incidence of crime is due to increase in crimes being registered.
Anybody who comes, his FIR would be registered.
Conviction is another issue. The conviction rate is very low in your state.
We are paying attention to that too. But it is natural that if every FIR is registered, many are false, and in many of them there is no evidence. Am just not talking about crime against women, but all crime. But the Madhya Pradesh government is alert, and we strive continuously.
Your party leader Sushma Swaraj has said that rapists should be awarded death sentence.
In Madhya Pradesh, there was an incident where a woman was sexually assaulted and raped. In that case, death sentence was awarded in 33 days by our sessions court. We consider these sensitive cases, and monitor them continuously, collect witnesses and make an attempt to ensure early conviction. But I believe that fast track courts are needed where cases are heard quickly and culprits are sentenced. The Delhi incident or such incidents in other places shame humanity. Hence, there should be death sentence for such criminals, there should be no talk of human rights in such cases, because human rights are for humans, they are not for demons and animals.
So you agree...
Certainly, if we have to stop such crime, we should award strict punishments so that there is an environment where criminals are afraid, and not feel that they can get away.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Congress turns negative into positive.. Power and Politics/ The Sunday Standard/ December 23, 2012



Congress turns negative into positive, but BJP faces a peril of its own making

In 2012, the Congress has followed Fuller faithfully. Meanwhile, the BJP ignored this well-tested prophesy to its detriment. If the electoral verdicts of 2012 are any indication, it is the Congress that anticipated the prevailing public anger, while the BJP failed to read the writing on the wall. Despite scams, lack of leadership, ideological confusion, an ineffective central administration and assertive allies, the Congress gained electorally while the BJP failed to even retain what it had earlier. The saffron party’s third consecutive victory under Narendra Modi’s leadership in Gujarat is hardly a consolation for its slide in other parts of India. The BJP lost both Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, where it had ruled for five years. It polled fewer votes and won less seats in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Assam. The BJP had a total of 276 MLAs combined in the seven states of Goa, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, which went to the hustings in 2012; its tally fell to 252 while that of the Congress rose from 215 to 254.  The ignominious defeat in Assam and Himachal Pradesh exposed the hollowness of its overrated election strategists. It also proved the larger point that only strong leaders like Modi and Virbhadra Singh can win elections, and not paratroopers from Delhi or elsewhere. One cannot ignore the stark reality that the Congress has more chief ministers than the BJP at the end of this year than at its beginning. Earlier, it snatched Kerala from the Left. Meanwhile, the saffron party took pride in winning in various municipal elections.

2012 has been a Year of Consolation for the Congress and despair for the entire Opposition. The BJP may have many prime ministerial aspirants who expect the people to vote out the Congress, but it is the Congress, with just a Gandhi as its potential prime minister, that is laughing all the way to the votebank. As the BJP underplayed Modi’s victory, middle-level Congress leaders took pride in the fact that in Gujarat, the party won whereever Rahul campaigned during his whistle-stop forays. The Congress has been able to successfully exploit both the BJP’s ideological isolation and the insufferable arrogance of its top leadership. For the past 10 months, the Congress not only encouraged but also fuelled the battle for prime ministership within the BJP. Its camp followers ensured that Modi remained the factual point of deliberations not only within the BJP but also in the media. He has become the new political narrative around which the nation has been polarised. Consequently, the BJP leadership walked into the trap and started demolishing not only each other but also the organisation in various states. The battle of Assam was lost not because the party was careless, but because its Central leadership was fighting over the control of funds and publicity. Uttar Pradesh proved to be a disaster because its feuding Central leaders were promoting their own groups. A classic case is the BJP’s humiliating defeat in Himachal Pradesh, where the father-son duo of chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and Anurag Thakur became puppets in the hands of a Central leader and his haywire strategy. They committed the cardinal error of targeting Virbhadra personally, rather than focusing on their genuine achievements. While Modi made his a fight between development and the Congress, the BJP strategist converted the Himachal battle into one between Dhumal and Virbhadra. The Raja of Theog won.

Yet, the BJP refuses to learn lessons from its slide. A bigger challenge lies ahead in 2013. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi are going to the polls. Unless the RSS decides to purge the top leadership of the party, the saffron shadow over India’s political map is going to shrink further. With powerless and rootless Central leaders deciding the fate of the state’s popular leaders, Karnataka is likely to slip out of the BJP’s hands, signalling the end of its short-lived control over a southern state. According to an opinion poll, the BJP’s tally is likely to slip to under 50 as against over 115 now. In Rajasthan, where its chances are bright, a coterie of insecure Central leaders have ensured that its former chief minister not be given favourable treatment. It is only in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where both Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh have carved out their own invincible niches, that cult-hungry Central leaders has been forced to keep their hands off. In Delhi, the condition is pathetic. Its fat cats dictate and decide the future of others. According to one party functionary, the BJP doesn’t even have candidates for 23 of the 70 Assembly constituencies. An 80-year-old leads, because his supporters stop grassroots workers from coming up.

On the other hand, the Congress, under its 76-year-old chief minister, is already in election mode. Its poll strategy and administrative plans are well in place.Even at the Central level, the Congress has mapped out the dangers ahead in Andhra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi, since these states will set the mood for the 2014 elections. While the Congress appears to be battle-ready, it is the BJP that has already assumed that power is waiting to be plucked. It has neither noticed the troubled spots nor remembers that it is still an opposition party not on a roll. A party with a positive perception is performing pathetically against the Congress, which suffers from negative perception. Without a purge at the top level, peril stares the BJP in the face in 2013.
prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me on Twitter @PrabwhuChawla

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Real Contest .... Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard/ December 16, 2012



The real contest in Gujarat is Modi vs Modi, and nobody else matters



In the age of minute-by-minute verdicts on every subject, from potatoes to politics, logical analysis is the loser. Media pundits as well as industry icons have become experts in delivering instant judgments even on complex issues like elections. The Battle for Gujarat is a classic case in which those whose connection with the state is as tenuous as that of casual visitors or political tourists are delivering verdicts on the outcome. I must confess that I am one of the many who visited Gujarat last week looking for fresh facts and unknown trends.

Surprisingly, there is unanimity about the outcome. The only conflicts are either on the margin of victory or the reasons for Narendra Modi’s third consecutive triumph—a record for any BJP chief minister—if he makes it. After a couple of days in Gujarat, I returned to New Delhi a contrarian. It is not a fight between the BJP and Congress. Nor is it between Modi and the Congress. Giving it the tag of Modi vs Rahul or Sonia sounds glamorous, but it is an imaginary description, as none of them would replace Modi. It is not a battle between developmental reality and mythical opposition either. No doubt, Modi is Gujarat’s most effective and successful chief minister ever. But his personal gain has been at the cost of the organisation and a split in the Sangh Parivar.

It’s a war between Modi and Modi. Others are just symbolic opponents. Chief Minister Narendra Modi is involved in a fierce battle with Narendra Modi the individual. The Modi model of governance is his asset, but arrogance is his most formidable foe. There is no BJP on the ground in Gujarat. It has a symbolic presence in the form of an office and a formal institutional framework. Contrary to public perception, it is Modi who strategises his own politics and election agenda. He does invite and hire some from outside for help in press conferences, writing media statements, putting up billboards and interacting with English-speaking opinion-moulders from New Delhi, Mumbai and New York. The collapse of the BJP as an organisation in Gujarat has been steeper than the rise of Modi as an institution. As he became inaccessible to the cadres and easily accessible to the monarchs from Mumbai, Modi’s connectivity with his core constituents has drastically thinned.

For Modi, it is the number of visitors from abroad and New Delhi that reflects his acceptability as a leader and not meetings with his own MLAs and officebearers. In the past five years, many senior leaders—including two former chief ministers and half-a-dozen former ministers—quit the party because of Modi’s assertive personality. Undoubtedly, the BJP cadres take pride in the performance of their chief minister, but are also seriously concerned about the erosion of their  organisational base. Modi has kept both the VHP and RSS at arm’s length as he feels that they interfere too much but they have been providing footsoldiers and ensuring mobilisation of voters. Modi rarely talks about Vajpayee, Deen Dayal Upadhyay or any other BJP stalwart. His innovative 3D campaign has minimised the visibility of other leaders in the six-week-old campaign. Party workers are symbolically but not emotionally involved. Perhaps it was to offset the lack of enthusiasm within his own cadres that Modi admitted former Congress leader Narhari Amin and others into the BJP fold, and shared the platform with the not-so-successful cricketer Irfan Pathan. It reflected Modi’s lack of confidence in his own charisma.

Taking a leaf out of Indira Gandhi’s book,  Modi has made the party irrelevant. He has rallied the fence-sitters and ideologically neutral middle class behind him. By shifting his goalposts, he has left his detractors high and dry. When they found that his development agenda was selling, they started finding fault with his achievements. Suddenly, a couple of economists-turned-columnists started questioning Modi’s claims on every economic indicator. Others went to the extent of blaming him for the state’s backwardness because he failed to encourage teaching English in the state, as if Gujarati is a language of the backwards and the illiterate. Such ridiculous faultfinding has compensated Modi for the loss of cadre support. He is the only BJP leader to survive organisational isolation, being one of three who were sent to their respective states in 2001 to become chief ministers. The other two were Vasundhara Raje Scindia and Uma Bharti. The trio led the BJP to impressive victories. But Uma and Vasundhara couldn’t survive the hostility of the party leadership in Delhi and the Sangh Parivar’s in their states and have been marginalised. Modi learned his lessons and never allowed the party to dominate him.

Modi is omnipresent while others are conspicuous by their absence. Modi has quietly forgotten the skills of weaving an organisation together, which he learned as a full-time RSS pracharak. He hardly ever holds regular meetings with district-level coordination panels where representatives from all Sangh Parivar organisations are present. He is hardly on speaking terms with most top functionaries of the RSS and VHP. He is feared, but hardly respected in his own party. On the other hand, he is revered and admired by those who called him names soon after the 2002 carnage. Even the politically correct auto tycoon Anand Mahindra speculated positively about Modi’s—not the BJP’s—victory in Gujarat. Other industrialists like Ratan Tata don’t find it embarrassing now to get photographed with Modi. Even foreign diplomats who earlier led a cacophony of hatred against Modi have made it a point to make pilgrimages to Ahmedabad.

In 2002, Modi was the messiah of Sangh Parivar. In 2012, he is the Darling of the Dollaratis for whom quick returns on investment and land allotments are the most acceptable indicators of a leader’s success. They smell a future prime minister. But his metamorphosis from a hardcore right-wing Hindu leader to a nationalist secular leader depends on acceptability within his own Parivar. Neither his passion for hard work nor his victory has ever been in doubt. But if Modi wants to play an important national role, he has to set his own house in order. With his political enemies totally mauled, it is time for Modi to lead others, not himself alone. Only then can he replace Vajpayee, who became a national icon despite the Sangh Parivar’s meddling. If Modi doesn’t follow the patriarch’s example, the detractors in his own party will keep him caged in Ahmedabad as he is only Narendrabhai, not Atalji.

prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, December 10, 2012

As Congress trumps BJP.... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/December 09, 2012


As Congress trumps BJP in Parliament, nation gets a taste of sordid politics to come




The parliamentary debate on FDI in retail was expected to be a trend-setting duel between mighty minds. Leaders from 40-odd parties were meant to assert their ideological support or opposition to the government’s move to open Indian retail to marketers from abroad. But at the end of over 20 hours of debate in both houses of Parliament, none of the 56 speakers made any new point or revelation which a primary student of Indian politics and economics does not already know—it was like reissuing an old book with a new jacket, while retaining its old title. Even the main protagonists, who had made similar arguments during the last discussion on FDI few months ago, were the same.


Yet, both the BJP and the Congress were able to deliver their political messages loud and clear. It was almost after two years that the UPA could assert its authority to legislate. Meanwhile, the BJP established the minority character of the government as one holding on to power only by manipulating contradictions in Opposition ranks. It was also evident that instead of a visible dogma driving the political spectrum, some invisible and undefined ideological power was playing an important role in the FDI debate. How  else can one explain the conduct of over a dozen MPs who were elected on the tickets of parties opposed to FDI? They either abstained or voted with the ruling party. For example, all those with corporate connections were ideologically convinced that FDI was beneficial for the nation. Both Rajeev Chandrasekhar, former telecom tycoon and now a media mogul, and Vijay Mallya voted with the Congress, although they won their Rajya Sabha seats from Karnataka with the help of the BJP and the Janata Dal (S). Rajkumar Dhoot, Shiv Sena member from Maharashtra and a promoter of the Videocon group, abstained. Six of the seven independent MPs also voted against the motion. Three members of the TDP, including its leader, deputy leader and chief whip—with direct or indirect corporate interests—abstained from voting in the Rajya Sabha while two of its five Lok Sabha MPs voted with the Opposition. 
Except for the exceptional floor management by Manmohan Singh, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and backroom operators, the government and the Opposition wasted Parliament’s time, making vicious mutual attacks. Normally a loner, the Prime Minister himself contacted some non-Congress MPs to convince them about the merits and importance of FDI.
Otherwise, it was a flop show. At the end of the confrontationist and offensive discussion, neither the nation nor the middle-level workers in various sectors were better informed on the issue. The speakers indulged in hype and swipe rather than on the gains and pains of the sudden transition from a fully protected mom and pop store retail system in small towns to megamalls. The outcome of the whole exercise was never in doubt. The moment the government chose to call the BJP’s bluff by accepting the discussion, which required voting in both the Houses, it was clear that it had managed a comfortable majority. Only a political novice would have thought that caste- and community-based parties like the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party or Rashtriya Lok Dal would vote against the ruling alliance. All of them are fully aware of the ground reality that they win elections thanks to caste loyalties and not on economic issues like the entry of the much-demonised Wal-Mart into India. Ironically, Maya, Mulayam and Lalu spoke against the unrestricted entry of FDI.
While Lalu has been consistently supporting the government’s every legislative move, both Mulayam and Maya have saved the UPA in the past only after striking significant political deals and getting financial packages for their states. If the debate was meant to influence the outcome of the future elections, none of the parties stood to gain from their posturing in Parliament. Those who have convinced themselves that it is the stance of a political party on issues such as nuclear energy, economic reforms or FDI that gets it votes, have forgotten the massive electoral mauling the Congress received in 1989 and in 1996; the father of economic reforms, P V Narasimha Rao, was at the helm of the government and Manmohan Singh was its most visible reformer. The Congress could win in 2004 because of the sheer arrogance of a few BJP leaders who treated NDA allies like political plague. It won both the 2004 and 2009 elections because its leadership had mastered the art of coalition and could accommodate even its fiercest rivals. The Congress pulled down the Deve Gowda government in 1997 because the DMK—one of his coalition partners—was suspect in the eyes of the Jain Commission in the Rajiv assassination. In 2004, however, it welcomed the Dravidian party into its fold. Even the sins of Sharad Pawar, who had quit the Congress on the issue of Sonia’s foreign origins were forgiven; he was given a place of pride in the government, and that too on his own terms.
On the other hand, whenever all the anti-Congress forces, including the Left and BJP, have joined hands, the Congress has suffered a crushing defeat. This time, it won the battle in Parliament because the entire non-Congress opposition was united in heart, but divided physically. Unfortunately, the next government would be formed not through ideological alliances but by striking attractive deals with potential coalition partners.
Prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me  on Twitter @PrabwhuChawla

“I got elected unopposed”



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Interview with newly-elected Indian Olympic Association President Abhay Chautala for Teekhi Baat on IBN7. Excerpts...


Are you president or have become derecognised?
No, I am the president.
President, but only in name?
I am not a president only in name. People have elected me. You would be happy to know that I have been elected unopposed.
You have earlier been elected unopposed in many other places earlier, but the question is that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) derecognised you, are you the president even after this decision of the IOC?
They wrote a letter on the fourth, to the body that was presiding before us, stating that we are derecognising, suspending you. This is the decision of December 4. Our election was held on Dec 5. No notice has been issued to people elected on Dec 5, that we have derecognised or recognised you.
Don’t you feel that the decision to derecognise taken by IOC is correct?
Not at all, they did not listen to what we had to say, we will send a delegation from our side. When we represent our side properly they will review the decision.
IOA secretary general Bhanot is currently facing cases. Don’t you think that the credibility of the country will be affected if these kind of people come to sports organisations?
You talk about the credibility of sports bodies being affected. Tell me one thing, if FIR is filed against any big politician or industrialist or he is raided by the income tax department, when funds amounting to thousands of crores are recovered from him on which he has not paid tax return, nobody in this country says that they are doing wrong.
You are going in the wrong direction;these people don’t mess with the sports being played in the country?
The kind of mess that they create in the country.
Are you talking of industrialists?
Big industrialists, who don’t pay tax, and are let off by just recovering tax from them. 
People say only one gold is won, due to the kind of people sitting on the sports bodies. In a country of 120-crore people, the politician-babu have kept such a stranglehold.
 If anybody is at fault, it is the government. If government does not provide facilities to sportsperson, then from where would the medals come.
People become big in cricket, there are world champions.
But see how much money is there in cricket. The day our cricketers won the WC final they were hailed as tigers.
They are heroes in sports, that is why they get money. There is so much money internationally in football, if you develop a football team then it can yield good results. But you don’t develop teams.
The responsibility for the same is of the concerned federation. I will give you my example, people elected me as the president of boxing federation.
On his 12-year stint as boxing federation president
Before I took over boxing was in bad shape. I put up the issue before the minister and  got 100 rings sanctioned, which were set up in different states. Appointed new coaches. The result was there to see after I provided all facilities to players. Now, if India’s boxer goes to any country in the world for boxing, they fear where he would get hit by our boxers’ punch and lose the match.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Democracy of the Money.. Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/December 02, 2012


Democracy of the money, for the money, by the money must vanish




It’s a change that threatens to demolish the very idea of inclusive democracy. On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln gave democracy a philosophical and ideological definition—“A government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” He must be turning in his grave. The control of the government is fast becoming out of reach for the poor and middle class. A global oligarchy of influential politicians, super-rich entrepreneurs and their visible and invisible agents have taken charge of all decision and opinion-making forums from New York to New Delhi. While Barack Obama mandalised US politics by dividing America along community and colour lines, India is becoming worse. It is converting people’s democracy into a Super Brand meant for the rich and the mighty. It’s not just a coincidence that Indian political parties are following not just the US market model but are also closely adopting American economic tools to win elections. The US spent $6 billion on its last round of elections. Both the candidates, Obama and Mitt Romney, ended up spending about $1 billion (Rs 5,500 crore) each. It is evident that the world’s most powerful democracy is becoming a puppet in the hands of the money lords. Despite Obama’s known pro-Pakistan stance, most Indian-Americans were lured into voting for him.


Since America leads, how can ideological followers like India remain behind? Here too, it is not the acceptability but the resourcefulness and winnability of each candidate, which carry premium in candidate selection. It is not merit but money that decides the fate of candidates seeking tickets. Over the years, the economic and social characters of all parties have changed in favour of the rich. Invoking caste and communal justifications in the elections has become the most effective tool of the ruling classes to perpetuate their hold and keep the poorest from all sections—including Muslims—out of power. Last week, when filing nominations for the Gujarat Assembly polls ended, the focus wasn’t on the quality of each candidate. Instead, the debate was on why Muslims were kept out the list by both national parties. While the BJP found no Muslim suitable for its ticket, the Congress, as usual, stuck to tokenism by giving nominations to fewer than a dozen Muslims. While over 35 per cent of India’s population can’t afford two basic meals a day, Indian political planners continue to think in terms of Muslim, Hindu, Christian, backwards, forwards, the young and the old rather than making the bottom layer of the social hierarchy a stakeholder in the establishment. It is a sad reflection of the thinking of political leaders and opinion-makers that their major concern is religion.
The Indian voter is being reduced to a beggar with an Aadhar card in hand to collect money from ATMs, and vote for those who have acquired monopoly over the public exchequer and natural resources. It is not by accident but by design that the Indian elite and establishment have made caste, community and religion the essential qualifications for granting a poll nomination. Never has there been a dialogue about economic criterion and the acceptability of potential lawmakers as pre-requisites for the right candidate. Why is there no reservation for BPL candidates? A poor Muslim should be given as much weightage as a candidate from any other religion. In the name of religion and caste, political leaders have been able to retain and consolidate the control of the affluent classes over their parties. It is amazing that not a single party, NGO or media personality has made the exclusion of poor people from the long list of candidates a topic for debate.
All of us talk about India becoming a modern, forward-looking and liberal global giant. But when it comes to sharing power, it is the same old story. The richer choose the rich and the mightier prefer the mighty. Political parties take pride in giving details of the caste, gender, age and religion of candidates. But they never disclose the income and family background of those who are expected to work for the people. A quick study of the economic background of Assembly and Parliament candidates reveals that the share of crorepatis is rising at twice the GDP growth rate. We have more than 100 MPs and MLAs whose assets are more than Rs 100 crore, at least half are worth over Rs 500 crore. Their number wasn’t in double digits a decade ago. Over 20 years ago, MPs could get a seat in the DTC buses on standby to ferry them from home to Parliament and back. Now these vehicles wait for hours to ferry maybe one MP. The number of expensive vehicles in the exclusive parking lot exceeds the number of MPs in the Rajya Sabha. The parking lots of the state Assemblies resemble an auto fair exhibition ground. Earlier, money could get a luxurious lifestyle and seats in elite educational institutions in India and abroad. Now, it can get front seats in both the executive and the legislature. The government is now of the money, by the money and for making more money.
prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Modi is Best ... Teekhi Baat/IBN7 /December 01, 2012



'Modi is best person to replace Gadkari as BJP chief'



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Senior Supreme Court advocate and BJP leader Ram Jethmalani speaks to PC on Nitin Gadkari, his suspension from the party, Narendra Modi and a slew of other issues during Teekhi Baat on IBN7. Excerpts:

What is your decision—to finish the BJP or improve it?
To improve it, and in the interest of the party, I said something little in public.


It is not something little; you said that the party chief should resign.
His term is about to expire, I think in this very month. If he had resigned a month before, what problem would the party have had? There would have been no problem. It would have enhanced his prestige.
But why could you not have waited for one month?
Because public does not wait; ask the public.
You should have discussed it in the party forum.
I discussed it in the party forum. I speak to everybody, but when nothing happens, then I speak to the press.
Do you feel Nitin Gadkari’s crime is greater than others?
I never said that Nitin Gadkari has committed a crime. Kejriwal had levelled allegations against him. I think Gadkari saab should have created a tradition. His prestige would have increased had he listened to my advice that till the allegations against him were not cleared he would not sit on the post.
Kejriwal levelled allegations against 16 ministers; nobody resigned, and you are asking your party president to resign. Even Gurumurthy said that things have been wrongly alleged.
Who is Gurumurthy to say? What happens if he says?
Gurumurthy said morally, ethically, legally Gadkari is not at fault.
He may be right, he may be wrong. I can’t say and I am not prepared to say that he is wrong. But this requires a probe which is already taking place which Mr. Gadkari himself has volunteered to undergo... If Gadkari saab meets me and tells me that I am innocent, I will believe him fully. But that is not enough for public life.
The Congress will benefit by defaming the BJP.
Congress will like such a leader to continue in the BJP.
Somebody senior like you could have got everybody together and moved ahead.
If somebody does not listen to me, then I should be able to tell my conscience that I have done my duty.
But Gadkari fought for you to get you the Rajya Sabha ticket, your enemies say.
I am sorry; Gadkari saab did not help me, nor anybody else. BJP wanted me, they invited me.
Don’t you think that your party is suffering loss due to this?
No, not at all. There is no loss, the party is benefitting. The more the party becomes pure, the more it will get strengthened.
You have been served notice by the party.
Let them do it. If they take action, I will say that on the path of truth I have become a martyr.
You are ready to be martyred.
I am always willing to be martyred.
Do you think that Kejriwal is more credible than Gadkari?
Kejriwal is a respectable man, he is not in office and he has now started a party. And he is fighting with truth. According to me, there is a lot of truth in what he, the poor fellow, says. And somebody must give him respect.
Among Gadkari and Kejriwal, whom do you believe more?
I got to hear about Gadkari saab’s defence from Gurumurthy saab. I have not heard it from Gadkari saab. This is my complaint with Gadkari saab. If Gadkari saab had called me and explained that this was the truth, this was what the documents stated, I would be his first defender. And I will be a better defender than Gurumurthy.
Are you ready to listen to him now and will you change your opinion after that?
Of course. I am that man who will apologise if I have wronged somebody.
Even today if Gadkari explains you his deals and conduct, you are ready to listen to him.
I don’t want to call Gadkari in the situation of an accused. But as a friend, companion and comrade, if he comes to me and tells me that these are the issues, which Kejriwal has raised, and proves that they are false, then I will be the first person to go to the public and defend him. Like I defend everybody whom I want to defend.
As one of the few remaining founders who are serving now, do you think there is anybody left who can lead now?
It will be crass for me to comment that I see no leader. There are leaders and I have named at least one such leader publicly; even that has created issues.
Name him.
I have said the person most qualified to be India’s prime minister is Mr Modi.
You don’t think there is anybody to replace Gadkari?
I will have to think.
Don’t you think that anybody other than Modi can become leader this time?
I don’t think that Modi should even take the responsibility of running the office of president; he is a prime ministerial candidate.
You would not like to take anybody’s name for the post of BJP president.
No, not now.
Nobody is qualified at the moment according to you?
I have said that if Modi saab is qualified to become the prime minister, certainly he is qualified to become the president of the party. But I don’t want him to take both, unless he wants to take up both.
You mean he is the most suitable for both the posts?
Both the posts.
Will he become or not?
Well, we will see.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A House Divided .... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/November 25, 2012


A house divided cannot stand, and a house that won’t work will destroy India



Democracy was born to demolish dictatorships. Democracy was meant to debate, dialogue and differ. Parliamentary democracy was created for the people to elect their representatives who would follow the principles of democracy. After 60 years of existence, Indian Parliament has been reduced to just a magnificent piece of architecture from the British era. Our new age politicians have redefined the concept of democracy and the role of Parliament. It hardly legislates, which is its primary responsibility. Legislation is now an exception, and not the rule. It rarely debates issues of those who elect Parliament members. For the past few years, more than half of the time of each session of Parliament has been wasted by disruptions, filibustering and jumping into the well of the House.

Parliamentary democracy is not the only victim of petty politics. While the Parliament hardly conducts any business, other institutions like the Public Accounts Committee and the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India have become new targets. With personal rivalries and erosion of ideological commitment growing, the authority of Parliament has been blunted. India is perhaps the only democracy where the government has become stronger with the weakening of Parliament to which it is expected to be accountable.
The pathetic decline of parliamentary debate stems from the decline of leadership in the country. With over 40 political parties led by leaders of all colours and tastes, it has become almost impossible to come to an agreement on any issue. Every leader now wants his or her casteist, regional, personal, and not any national, agenda to set the tone of the debate. For each one of them, the institution of Parliament has been reduced to just a symbol of political power which gives them enough clout to dictate and determine the fate of the executive. Last week, all of them swore by parliamentary democracy, yet none of them was willing to yield an inch to another party.
With over 18 months left for the next general elections, the ruling UPA was expected to ensure the smooth functioning of Parliament and get through its legislative business. But it seems they are more interested in creating a logjam than persuading various political parties to come to the table. Surprisingly, many senior ministers and the Congress claim that the UPA enjoys full majority in both Houses of Parliament. Yet, the government has always devised ways and means to avoid voting on any contentious issues like FDI in retail, no-confidence motion or even Women Reservation Bill. It is the first time in India’s history that a minority government has been able to survive for such a long time. Though it is known as the UPA government, but it is primarily a Congress government with over 90 per cent ministers belonging to the Congress alone. Even in an era of coalition, the Congress has perfected the art of divide and rule which it inherited from the British. Since it doesn’t want to expose its numerical infirmity, the Congress leaders have been quite successful in provoking its friendly parties to raise issues which are in conflict with its own allies. For example, the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party has been goaded into making reservation for SC/STs in promotions as the first condition for smooth functioning of the House. On the other hand, Mamata Banerjee ensured that both the Opposition and Treasury benches had no trust in her no-trust motion on the first day of the House. While for BSP members, it is their leader who is the Parliament, for the Trinamool Congress, ‘long live Didi and hell with Parliament’ is the slogan for survival. For the Left parties, it is the left-over space in the media which matters and not any meaningful motion in Parliament. For the Samajawadi party, extracting more funds to finance its freebies for wooing voters is the only criterion for letting the government survive in the office without facing the House.
But much of the credit for not letting Parliament function goes to the BJP which is still searching for a leader and ideology. Its only agenda is to keep raking up issues which it thinks will get them votes outside Parliament as they don’t have any  hope of getting the support of any other party in the House. It wants the government to keep the appointment of the CBI director in abeyance but its leaders don’t make the passage of the proposed Lokpal Bill a precondition for calling Parliament in order. The party made hardly any serious attempt to get the report of the select committee prepared earlier. As the second largest party in both Houses, the BJP is not willing to concede the demands of smaller party for debates on other issues so that it can get their support for its own agenda. For the past three sessions, it is the BJP that has been raising the correct issues but has always failed to nail the Congress in the House because its leaders are afraid of exposing their majestic isolation. Since 2004, when it lost power to the Congress-led coalition, the BJP has failed to add a single ally to its fold. With its leaders shrinking in stature or getting older, it is young and more focused younger leaders from other parties who are now defining the contours of national politics. In a fight between giants, it is a cabal of politically empowered regional leaders who have either made Parliament irrelevant or are using it for striking deals to expand their bases. Sadly, no leader understands that the collapse of parliamentary dialogue will eventually sow the seeds of disintegration or the rise of anarchy.
prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow him on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, November 19, 2012

Leaderless, Rudderless BJP... Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard/ November 18, 2012


Leaderless, rudderless BJP has its eyes wide shut to coming debacle


The Bharatiya Janata Party today resembles an army that wants to win a war after assassinating its own commander-in-chief. As its main rival, the Congress, readies to enter the battlefield, top BJP leaders are rejoicing over their dinner invitation from the Prime Minister’s Office which was cancelled due to the demise of Balasaheb Thackeray. It is well known in party circles that none of three leaders invited to 7 Race Course Road share views on most policy matters confronting the country, or the party itself. Various BJP leaders are now taking pride in attending a larger number of social dinners and entertainment events than meetings held to resolve internal convulsions. The party is hardly concerned about the contours of the political battle ahead. A couple of Central leaders, aided by their rootless acolytes in many  states, are busy capturing various organisational forums by hook or crook. Insiders say that the BJP is going through one of the worst phases of infighting in its political existence, involving individuals with powerful muscle and money power attempting to grab the party so that they can decide the next government formation. For them, ideology can be traded for a share in power, while genuine workers are sidelined for the sake of rich friends and promoters.
The tale of two national parties is a story of contrasts. While the scam-tainted Congress is setting its house in order, placing its commanders in the field, striking both visible and invisible deals with its allies, saffron leaders are only taking pride in making fun of the newly appointed ministers who made courtesy visits to some BJP leaders after assuming office. For the past few weeks, none of its honchos have met to discuss the party strategy for the forthcoming Parliament session. Its leaders are only occupied with choosing TV-friendly cities to participate in the nationwide protest against corruption and the price rise. On the other hand, its rivals, including the Samajawadi Party, have already announced their candidates for the Lok Sabha election, which is officially due in 2014. The Congress has announced Rahul Gandhi as its poll mascot. It has also announced various panels to engage existing allies and find new ones; draft its manifesto; conceive its slogan; and create publicity material. But BJP leaders are busy toppling their president, conspiring with others to demolish internal rivals and imposing their unwanted advice on state leaders. Nitin Gadkari, who was roaring like a lion a few weeks ago, is now hiding like a wounded lamb in obscure towns and cities, looking for attention and audiences. With their president demoralised, the BJP leaders who have been aspiring and conspiring to replace him are taking no interest in keeping the party either united or well-oiled to fight the war of the hustings. Its ideological decay is evident from the massive confusion over economic and social issues. Barring a few states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh—where the chief ministers were fully in control of both the party and the government—in the rest of the country, it is a free-for-all between factions owing allegiance to different central leaders. Even in Delhi and Rajasthan, where Assembly elections are due later next year, the BJP is involved in a filthy factional war. For example, the local BJP leadership hasn’t humiliated Vasundhara Raje, but she hasn’t been allowed to formulate election strategy. She is the only person who can ensure victory for the party in Rajasthan, but has been totally marginalised by the central leadership. In Delhi, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has been given total freedom; not only to take policy decisions but also to choose candidates for the elections. The BJP has not been able to decide its agenda, let alone choosing a chief ministerial candidate.
A few months ago, it was the Congress party that was plagued with policy paralysis. It is now the BJP, which has been maimed and mauled by its own warring factions and leaders. There is hardly a state which is not in a state of internal war. Even in Bihar, where the BJP is considered to be the hired army of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the party is actively encouraging vicious Narendra Modi-bashing on a daily basis. The most worrisome development in the BJP is a total crisis of leadership. With Gadkari almost felled by the conspiracy engineered jointly by his internal and external foes, the party appears to be on autopilot, with any leader holding an office making himself the final arbiter of all disputes. If the Karnataka state unit is about to split vertically, thanks to B S Yeddyurappa, no senior leader, including Gadkari, seem empowered to quell the rebellion. Even the leader who was responsible for making Yeddy the chief minister was told to mind his business when he made an attempt to restrain the Lingayat boss from leaving the party. Finally, Dharmendra Pradhan—who had lost the election from Odisha but later on was rewarded with the post of party general secretary—air-dashed to Bangalore to control a leader who considered him a self-appointed Central emissary; just a novice who is a ladder-climber in the BJP. Pradhan is a typical example of how pygmies have replaced giants like Vajpayee and Advani in the party. Unless a powerful ideologue with a mass following among its cadres takes over the party, the BJP is destined to be doomed.
prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Message is the Dialogue../ Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard/ November 11, 2012


The message is the dialogue: We crash together, and the first family is in charge


Dialogue without direction is as meaningless as a debate without debaters. However, if dialogue is an excuse to get warring, egoistic individuals to break bread together, it can yield dividends. When 66 honchos—small and big, young and old with mini and mega mindsets—assembled last week in the salubrious environment created by Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in Surajkund, Haryana, it didn’t turn out to be either a clash of the titans or intellectual gymnastics. It wasn’t meant to be, as the aroma of the delicious five-course lunch served amid the strains of piano music made it clear. The rendezvous was only a move to prove that the Gandhi Parivar was fully in control of both government and the party. Congress President Sonia Gandhi was full of confidence, and Rahul Gandhi symbolised the vital paradigm shift in the ruling establishment. 

The assembly was appropriately titled  ‘Samvad Baithak’, in which those who draw political lines and agendas, and those who execute them were present. The samvad (dialogue), however, was confined to only a select few. Officially, the meeting was expected to review the implementation of the 2009 Congress election manifesto. But it turned out to be more of a six-and-a-half hour seminar in which speeches were made, but no critical questions were raised or answered. Instead of going through the structured dialogue in three sessions—on the manifesto, politics and economics—the meeting became a platform for senior leaders to display their ignorance. However, the Samvad Baithak—the first-of-its-kind in recent Congress history—proved beyond doubt that when other political parties were engulfed in mismanagement, the Congress was walking united, cohesively and purposefully. The baithak (a favourite RSS term) has all the ingredients of a strong organisation. It has the right soochi (list), perfect soochna ( information) and meaningful soch ( thought). The Surajkund baithak may have failed to make any impact on voters, but it reduced the gap between the government and the party. The Congress may have lost the battle of perception but it has won the hearts of its demoralised middle-level leaders and directionless workers. The tone, tenor and content of the speeches made it clear that it wasn’t meant only to bring the government closer to the party. 

As Sonia made it clear that it is the party that wins an election and forms the government, the baithak generated powerful signals for an early election. For those who ceremoniously drove to the venue in a tourist bus, the message was clear—they have to drive or crash together. But if the Samvad was meant to give voice and stature to Congress GenNext, it hardly served its purpose. Rahul was the only person who made a purposeful intervention, when his speech exceeded the allotted time of five minutes. The half-a-dozen young ministers with independent charge or Cabinet rank were more conspicuous by their mandatory presence. The recently promoted Sachin Pilot, Jitender Singh, Ajay Maken and Jyotiraditya Scindia were hardly called upon. Maybe they were under the impression that the baithak was just another Cabinet meeting where only elders speak. With the average age of the Cabinet 65 years, these future leaders were more than elated with the place of pride their leader Rahul got. One said, “Where was the need for us to add anything when he was speaking for all of us?” Another explained: “We have been brought up in an environment in which young members of the family are advised to respect and hear the elders out, even if they are not in tune with your thinking.” Even aggressive interventionists like Jairam Ramesh, Salman Khurshid and Ambika Soni played the role of fence-sitters, not ministers.

Contrary to the current perception, Rahul did set the tone and made the ministers listen to his discovery of a paradigm shift in the Indian political and administrative system.  He wondered how the RTI Act, gifted by the UPA government, could be used effectively by its opponents and the judiciary to enforce transparency. Rahul wondered why the system can’t be made more responsive by eliminating excess bureaucratic intervention. Finance Minister P Chidambaram revealed that he was initiating action against an official who had sat on a file for over 50 days. Surprisingly, his powerful presentation on the economy went over the heads of many, including senior colleagues.

But the participants were riled over the beating that the party and the government is getting from social media and civil society. Over a dozen participants, including senior ministers and leaders like Kapil Sibal, Veerappa Moily, Ashwani kumar, Manish Tewari, Digvijaya Singh, and Jagdish Tytler felt that the party hasn’t been able to use social media effectively to counter its opponents. Moily was insistent that the cadres should be instructed to mark their presence on all social media platforms and make them a political propaganda vehicle. He revealed that over 30 per cent of the sitting Congress MPS have won from rich and urban constituencies, where social media is important. When it comes to discussing the media, most meetings end abruptly without a consensus. So did the baithak. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was told to take the copter back ‘before 4.30 pm, since the weather wouldn’t be conducive afterwards’. He happily flew away, to host another dinner to bring allies like the Samajawadi Party and the National Conference closer, even if his own party was not able to close the distance between dialogue and perception.

prabhuchawla@newindianexpress.com; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla