Monday, August 27, 2012

Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard/ August 26, 2012

UPA’s zero intolerance games can subtract from its fortunes, not add


Only zeroes and losers, and not heroes and doers, in public life resort to numeric nuances to counter a nemesis of numbers. When Finance Minister P Chidambaram claimed that there was a zero loss” to the public exchequer in the arbitrary allotment of coal blocks, he was speaking more like an advocate than an achiever. It wasn’t expected from a successful former home minister to simply copy the idea of “zero loss” from fellow lawyer-turned- Union Minister for Communications Kapil Sibal. It was he who authored the principle of ‘zero loss’ in the allotment of 2G licences but cleverly refrained from repeating his opinion after much media and political bashing. Yet another erudite colleague, Law Minister Salman Khurshid, who sat next to Chidambaram, chose to keep quiet on the zero sum game. However, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal was totally at sea as he couldn’t defend the actions that were taken during the period when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in charge of the coal portfolio.

Chidambaram should have realised that he was chosen to fight and win a battle of perception, and not performance. For the past two years, UPA II has been paralysed and has been prevented by both its allies and the Opposition from taking any productive decision. The government has to deal with innumerable scams that keep tumbling out of the CAG closet and from elsewhere. While the Opposition is ratcheting up its mission to tar the government’s image successfully, UPA leaders are fighting a losing battle by resorting to zeroes again and again. The Opposition has mastered the art of inflicting wounds in a calibrated manner. They first trained their guns on a weak UPA ally in the 2G scam—the DMK. Then they made former Maharashtra chief ministers soft targets to reinforce the ruling party’s tainted image. To demolish the UPA’s credibility, now they have singled out Manmohan Singh, the clean and honest face of the government. Ministers like Chidambaram have an uphill task of not only defending the indefensible but also of saving and salvaging the image of those who have won or influenced the outcome of elections in the past. Since the finance minister’s name is being whispered as one of the prime ministerial candidates, he has been given an envious task of protecting his own political relevance.

Undoubtedly, genuine questions can be raised about the figures concerning the monumental loss the government would have suffered by avoiding the coal block auction route. Chidambaram rightly put it when he said that if the mines were not mined, then where is the loss? But there is equally strong counter-argument. According to Naresh Gujral, senior Akali Dal Rajya Sabha member, the share prices of most of the listed companies who got the coal blocks rose by 100 to 800 per cent soon after they received their allotment papers. The government may not have lost anything but the companies made humongous gains. According to Gujral, JSPL’s share value rose from Rs 46 in July 2006 to Rs 550 in December 2007; Sterlite’s from Rs 70 to Rs 270, JSW Steel’s from Rs 200 to Rs 1,400 and Reliance Power’s issue price was fixed at Rs 450 against its face value of Rs 10.

Chidambaram was at his best defending the government, especially soon after the Supreme Court rejected petitions seeking his inclusion as an accused in the 2G cases. He enjoys credibility and dependability for the delivery of what he promises. During his three-and-a-half-year tenure as home minister, no major terror attack happened in India. Earlier, as finance minister, he introduced innovative economic reforms. He is a master number-cruncher and an exceptional combination of a legal eagle and a creative argument-smith. But his political loyalty betrayed his confidence in algorithmic reality. Around 600 AD, Aryabhata invented the zero as part of his positional decimal number system that later used the letter “kha” as a placeholder. But it was Brahmagupta who developed the concept of the zero as an independent number and wrote rules for adding and subtracting it from other numbers—a zero can’t be used independently. It can either be added or subtracted from a number. The zero is a positive numeral and not a negative one. The CAG may have added few extra zeroes in its quest to calculate presumptive losses, but the loss itself can’t be denied. It is like saying the government hasn’t suffered any loss because the thief hasn’t sold any public property so far.

The government is justified in finding fault with the numbers, but it has launched a vicious campaign against the institution of the CAG and given a potent weapon to the Opposition to damage the UPA further. With election-wary allies, the government may not fall even if BJP MPs resign from the Lok Sabha. However, its authority and acceptability will be further eroded if it is not able to fight its adversaries politically. With a divided Opposition like the BJP and NDA, the Congress and Chidambaram do not need an enemy. They need a new idea and not just a zero. Chidambaram could have come up with a brighter idea—buy back the coal blocks from the allottees after returning the allotment fee along with simple interest and then auction them according to rules. Adding one zero to another will only yield more zeroes.

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

Narayanasamy on Teekhi Baat/IBN7/August 25, 2012



"I act as a ‘loudspeaker’ of the Prime Minister"


Interview with MoS in PMO V. Narayanasamy on Teekhi Baat for on IBN7

PC: You are doing very good work these days?

VN: That you would know, how would I know?

PC: You work well but your critics say, that the Prime Minister keeps silent, but there is a minister in this office whose work is just to speak. He is a loudspeaker on behalf of the Prime Minister

VN: The work of the Prime Minister is to work silently. His minister of state has to tell the people, he has to tell.

PC: For the first time there is an MoS in PMO who speaks so much, earlier even Chavan saab did not speak, but Narayanaswamy is a loudspeaker and speaks much.

VN: Will have to speak on issues. Will have to tell people what our government is doing. Prime Minister is going for a function, on my behalf, I speak to the media. This I will have to do.

PC: You are the Prime Minister’s inner voice

VN: No I am not the inner voice. Whatever directions the Prime Minister, respected UPA chairperson is giving, my work is to do that.

PC: It is a big issue for you, will you listen to UPA chairperson or Prime Minister

VN: Will listen to both.

PC: Will listen to both, who will to take instruction from, you are a congress worker, an old loyalist, Narayanaswami has been with the Gandhi family, even if other people left, your commitment towards Soniaji is total,100 per cent.

VN: It is 100 per cent.

PC: Then you must be taking her advice first

VN: The government comes after the party.

PC: Which means party is first

VN: Party is first

PC: Hence you will do first what the party says

VN: Surely, 100 per cent, I will do it. You know, the government comes after the party. It is necessary to give importance first to the party.

PC: Once you go into the government, it may be difficult for Narayanaswamy, who is a Gandhi family loyalist; many times it may be that should I support Prime Minister or Soniaji

VN: I know where you are heading. Let me tell you, it is the government’s job to act according to the party’s policy. The party’s policy is given by the Congress president, UPA chairperson, to act accordingly is our work, Prime Minister will do, Narayanaswamy will do, Chidambaram will do, Salman Khurshid will do, Pawan Bansal will do, Kapil Sibal will do, Ambika Soni and all of them.

PC: Narayanaswamy is in the PMO. I will not say that you are IB are Sonia Gandhi’s place, but you keep an eye on whether the party program is being implemented.

VN: It is my responsibility to see whether the party program is being implemented in the right manner.

PC: In appointments committee, all work happens through you

VN: No, no, it is routed through Narayanaswamy

PC: But the file comes to you, in which you must be reading names, whether the name of Prabhu Chawla is right or not, you keep an eye, that the person would not go against. You must be getting enquiry done about each officer.

VN: My job is, that after looking at the file, to see if the guidelines have been followed. Is the IB report correct, is there a CVC clearance, will have to sent after having a look at all this.

PC: You would be seeing if the office will go against the Congress party or no

VN: Why it will go against, what is the relation between a government servant and Congress.

PC: What is written in IB report, whether the person is sympathetic to CPI (M), RSS, Congress, something like that would be written

VN: There is no relation between officers and party. They will support any party that runs the government.

PC: Earlier on the CVC posting, you did not listen to the opposition, later you lost in the Supreme Court

VN: You are speaking about non official member that is different, if you are speaking about government servant’s bank chairman

PC: Issues of salary, secretary empanelment, in which you examine which secretary is right. Narayanaswamy job must be to screen people who must be against Congress and its philosophy

VN: No, we look at merit.

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PC: If you see on merit, and one is a Congress supporter, and one is not, then you will appoint a Congress supporter,

VN: Going by merit, there is no party issue at the time of appointment, merit will have to be considered

PC: Merit would have to be seen, but both things are essential, isn’t it? If there are two people having merit, one is a Congress supporter, the second is independent, who will you choose,

VN: When a file comes to me, I don’t know if a person is a Congress or some other supporter.

PC: From the time you have come, parliament is not running properly, people are saying that you are not rightly advising Pawan Bansal. Bansal does not work, he is senior and keeps quiet, Narayanaswamy comes to the forefront and takes positions.

VN: I give my full support to Pawan Kumar Bansalji.

PC: But the failure of parliament to function, the government is responsible for that.

VN: You are saying rightly that it is the responsibility of the government. It is first the responsibility of the government, then the opposition, they should support the government in running the parliament, co-operate with it, which is not happening these days. These days, BJP takes up a small issue and stalls parliament. This is not right. The parliament is very, very important in a democracy. Parliament is for taking up issues and discussing. People will have to be told what all works the government is doing. The opposition’s work is to grill the government. It is not for shouting slogans inside the parliament.

PC: People say that the Congress used to do the same when it was in opposition. When the George Fernandes case came to light, you did not let the parliament function.

VN: It would be for two or three days

PC: For many days you boycotted George Fernandes

VN: In all these 50 years, BJP will take reference of one incidence, this should not happen.

PC: When opposition says that the Prime Minister should resign,

VN: Since 2009, they have demanded the Prime Minister’s resignation a 100 times. They want the chair, it is time for that, the people will decide, it is not in our hand, elections would be held in 2014, people will decide, how will they get the chair.

PC: They refer to the CAG report and say when Prime Minister was also the coal minister, like Raja had to resign. Earlier, MoS in coal was different, when it can happen with Raja, then why cannot Prime Minister give his resignation, don’t you think there is logic in their argument

VN: Let me tell you the CAG report is not final, it is a preliminary report, it will have to be tested, the PAC would do it.

PC: You don’t even let the PAC run

VN: Murli Manohar Joshi was chairman or the PAC. In PAC the preliminary report would go, it would be discussed, they will examine, after which it will give a report. On the basis of the report, the government would act. Regarding CAG reports let me tell you, when BJP government was there, that time thousands of CAG reports came, did Vajpayjeeji resign.

PC: But such a big scam, 1.70 lakh crore

VN: Corruption is corruption, bungling is bungling,

PC: When the scam during their time came out, a minister had to resign

VN: Where, he was brought back.

PC: They removed after you raise the issue

VN: They got him back. There are CAG reports against so many chief ministers, in Gujarat, against Narendra Modi, a CAG report was tabled, did he resign, against Raman Singh, a CAG report stated mining scam, did he resign.

PC: Why is your credibility so bad then? Your foes say that the amount of scams that have happened in UPA 2 have never happened before. But you are saying that it happens in state government’s do but is not known.

VN: BJP is doing this, media is doing this, it has not other work. Our government since 2004 till today, has given such good programme’s to people , Right to Information (RTI) and now Right to Education (RTE). We gave tribal rights, our bill regarding food security is in the parliament,

PC: But unemployment is increasing, inflation is increasing, but you are giving everything for free,

VN: On the one hand, a joint secretary level government officer gets Rs. 80,000 monthly salary, we are giving subsidy, incentive to farmers.

PC: One of your minister say that inflation is benefitting famrers, Verma.

VN: He is a different economist, I am a different economist

PC: Bu the question is about low credibility of your government

VN: No, no, no, no this is a vicious campaign that the BJP is doing, it is BJP’s agenda. Two times BJP projected respected Advaniji as Prime Ministerial candidate, 2004 went by, 2009 also went by, that is why they got frustrated, now it is not his turn, now there are second line leaders in BJP, where everybody is the Prime Ministerial candidate, this is happening in our country.

PC: There are many candidate there, but there is no one except Rahul Gandhi with you. They

have many good Prime Ministerial candidates.

VN: Are they good people, they are fighting among themselves. They are not good people, fighting among themselves, even when there is a nothing at ground level,

PC: But they have 5-6 leaders, Prime Ministerial candidates.

VN: We have a lot of second line leadership in our party. Rahulji is our leader, Prime Minister is our leader,

PC: But there is only one PM after Manmohan Singh in your place, that is Rahul Gandhi and nobody else.

VN: I fully support this.

PC: Why does not Rahul Gandhi become minister then?

VN: That is his wish. Rahulji would have to take decision, we requested him to become Prime Minister. He himself said that for me to come into council of ministers, Congress President and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will take decision.

PC: BJP makes charge against the government that it is arrogant, don’t have tolerance, you misuse CBI against the opposition, you are not running the government but misusing the agency,

VN: Congress party and leaders are not arrogant. BJP starts being arrogant, they are speaking about CBI, let me tell you, there are CBI cases against Congress leaders, there are CBI cases against our alliance party leaders, some of our people were in jail, after that they came out on bail. CBI case was registered only against one BJP leader, you see. Isn’t there any bungling in the BJP? Is there no bungling in Madhya Pradesh

PC: The are all innocent people

VN: Achcha, you know, I know that there is so many scams happening in Madhya Pradesh in mining. Recently, there was a scam of Rs. 300 crore against a minister in Chattisgarh, the chief minister has given 50,000 acres land for mining. Is this not a scam.

PC: You mean to say that CBI people are so independent that they are catching more of your people and not other people to that extent

VN: We are not interfering with the CBI, that is not our job.

PC: If there was misuse, you mean to say that BJP people would have been caught because they are equally corrupt

VN: To defend, they are speaking against the Congress. They keep on raking up issue saying misuse of CBI, misuse of CBI, thinking that CBI would not go after them if they say that.

PC: People are making a charge that all the institutions, be it parliament, CBI,CVC, CAG, you said that the CAG is crossing its mandate, not speaking the language under the constitution. Recently, I saw one of your ministers giving instructions to the vice chairman to dissolve the house. Hence, you don’t have respect for institutions.

VN: You impression is not right. It is essential to talk about CAG report. In the CAG report, they have no right to question the policy of the government; their job is to do accounting. So many CAG reports were brought out, how come the presumptive aspect comes in, they are experts in accounting, they have to give correct value. How can notional value be said, they are doing politics, that is why I am saying they should not exceed their mandate.

PC: You means CAG is doing politics

VN: I am not saying that CAG is doing politics

PC: But you just said

VN: No, I did not mean that, cut it. I am telling that CAG should do work according to the mandate given to it by the constitution.

PC: Are they not doing their work

VN: After seeing the report, I seems that they are not working according to their mandate, that is the impression I have.

PC: They mean to embarrass the government

VN: No that I don’t want to talk on, we will face it in the parliament.

PC: Even CAG, that Rajiv Shukla lectured them the other day to adjourn, first time we saw a leader telling that there would be chaos, adjourn, is the govenrment’s job to advice. Even earlier you got the Vice President to adjourn the house at 12 pm in December.

VN: Deputy chairman was presiding over the house. Opposition was creating chaos.

PC: But it had not even started

VN: They started chaos, from our end, people said Prime Minister zindabad ! They asked Prime Minister’s resignation, what will parliamentary affairs minister, he is not there to keep quiet. He said that the situation is not right, you take a decision. What is there against him, but media turned it into a big issue and started talking against Rajiv Shukla, this is not good.

PC: But do you think he has the authority to tell in the ear to adjourn the house

VN: To take or not take his advice is the chariman’s job.

PC: But chairman listens to your advice

VN: If he wants to adjourn

PC: Party says they want to discuss, you get it adjourned, this is double standard.

VN: There was so much chaos, nobody would have even got to listen to speech

PC: BJP is also saying rightly that you do not want discussion and hence when Prime Minister resigns, they will come to the house

VN: It is on record, we have told them, we are ready to discuss on coal block allotments, please come, why is the BJP running.

PC: Discussions happened many times, like on CAG report on 2G, discussions keep on happening, but there is no action.

VN: Our government took action. In our system, proof is essential, to punish somebody, there must be evidence to prove it.

PC: You appointed CAG, it is appointed via the finance minister’s authority.

VN: CAG is constitutional authority, appointment is different.

PC: Then to question about its integrity, you are criticizing the messenger.

VN: We did not question his integrity. We are telling them to work on the basis of their mandate.

PC: it means that they don’t know their work. An IAS officer has worked for 35 years, you are telling him what work he should do, he does not know.

VN: We have not told him, there is a provision in the constitution regarding what all is their mandate, we are telling them to go on that basis.

PC: How will you run the house, BJP are saying they will not let it run

VN: Today in the Rajya Sabha, Chairman saab spoke to all political leaders, now to find a way our, BJP, JD (U), our alliance partners, Samajwadi Party, BSP, speaking to everybody to find a way out

PC: Will you convene an all party meeting

VN: Speaker will take a decision. Chairman held a meeting today, major political parties representatives were present in the meeting. He told them to discuss.

PC: Will there be no initiative the Prime Minister’s level to convene an all party meeting

VN: You know our leader of the house Shindeji, Bansal saab, our parliamentary affairs minister, they are making an attempt so that all leaders speak to each other on Monday.

PC: It means you have not requested them through speaker to call a meeting

VN: We have made a request to the speaker, speaker will decide

PC: Will call an all party meeting

VN: I don’t know, speaker will decide, madam will decide.

PC: If all BJP MP’s resign, then the credibility of your government would be lost.

VN: I won’t answer to ifs and buts

PC: You are scared of BJP

VN: No, you know for 20 years I have come up fighting the BJP in parliament. I do not fear BJP. I am telling that BJP leaders should take decision, it is their party’s job, it would not be right for me to respond on that

PC: If they resign, will you make elections happen

VN: This the election commission will decide, what can I do in that

PC: I don’t understand why you grow stubborn on each issue. Like a nuclear plant issue in your state, you said that you will run it. Even there you were pressing upon the people, even here you are doing the same. A high court case is on there

VN: No, no,no,no , judgement is awaited in Koodankulam. Independent authority has gone there, stayed for three months, done total inspection, gave permission regarding fuel loading, now 99 per cent of the work is done there,

PC: It has happened but the people don’t want nuclear power, you are doing it by force because the Americans say, you critics say that you are going to forcibly give nuclear power. You are telling alliance partners that you will get FDI, you are behaving like a big brother, which reeks of arrogance.

VN: That is not true. Whatever the directors of the environment office, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, TERB, public outreach, we completed all formalities and completed the work on Koodankulam.

PC: Allies are annoyed with you because you don’t ask them

VN: No, we made a co-ordination committee, meetings are on now. Everybody are talking

PC: Now you would not take any decisions beforehand

VN: How will decision happen

PC: Like you did in FDI and then asked allies

VN: We spoke with allies

PC:Later, after announcing

VN: If somebody has reservation, we will speak on that

PC: Henceforth, any important decision that you take would be via the co-ordination committee.

VN: Co-ordination committee will take decision regarding policy matter.

PC: Congress will not take decision alone now

VN: In coalition government it is a compulsion.

PC: But earlier you took decisions, you erred.

VN: It is not a fault, that time we did, there were differences in two to three issues,

PC: Your are minister in Prime Ministers office, people say paralyzed Prime Minister office, no work happens, government is paralyzed, Prime Minister office is paralyzed and our Prime Minister is keeping quiet like Gautam Buddha. Is the government paralyzed or not?

VN: Prime Minister if working for 18 hours, is doing government’s work. It would not be good if people merely see and take decision, what is his work, that will have to be seen, you would have seen Reliance’s investment to the tune of two billion dollars in exploration was initiated,

PC: You reduced area by 40 per cent

VN: Asked explanation. Investment has come. Secondly, you know investment is coming from Japan in our country, from other countries for infrastructure works like metro.

PC: Inflation

VN: It is BJP’s false propaganda, not only propaganda, BJP’s false propaganda, BJP has only one program, to speak against our government every day.

PC: But that is the job of the opposition.

VN: They have to speak what is right, right issues have to be raised. Which is not happening, they are speaking blatant lies.

PC:Your government is running very well

VN: It is running very well.

PC: Thank you for coming to our studio

VN: Thank you, Prabhuji !

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard/ August 19, 2012


Time for Nitish to realise the hidden costs of his Modi obsession


When leaders fight for a post and not for performance, it signals the end of their commitment to the public cause. If individuals consider themselves bigger than the institutions and ideology they serve, it results in democratic anarchy. The public confrontation between Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has nothing to do with the ideological DNA of either as is being made out. Surprisingly, Nitish has chosen the issue of the future prime minister to position himself as an alternative for the country’s top executive post. He has conveniently forgotten that there is no vacancy at the moment. He is not concerned with the issues that will determine the colour of the next government. But he doesn’t mind reminding his big ally, the BJP, to declare its prime ministerial candidate now or perish. He has also forgotten that Modi has to establish his popular acceptability for the job first by winning the Gujarat Assembly elections this year. Even Nitish’s party colleagues are baffled by his obsession with the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate. Instead of attacking the UPA for its failure to contain graft in public life, revive the economy and control inflation, Nitish has been exposing the fissures within the NDA. On the other hand, the Gujarat chief minister does not miss any opportunity to berate the Congress and the UPA allies on both national and international issues.

The Nitish-Modi feud symbolises the hidden shadow-boxing going on both in the BJP and the Congress party. The truth is that a large section of the leadership of both the national parties doesn’t want either Modi or Nitish becoming a strong contender for the next prime minister. But they are definitely interested in finishing off both before they become too big a factor in the race. The top leaders of both parties are feeling insecure about the rise of regional satraps with prime ministerial potential and aspirations. They think that it is the monopoly of only Central leaders who have never won an election or led their party to victory in any state. Mass leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Modi and Nitish make them look like political pygmies. Individually, any of them can collect more crowds than all the Central leaders put together. They have been dictating the national agenda and governance for the past few years. However, none have been associated with any national decision-making process which is dominated by national leaders without a state following. Yet they are able to reverse the decisions taken by their national leadership. Stung by the growing clout of the regional leaders, a section of the Congress and the BJP leadership has chosen to adopt the well-tested policy of ‘Divide and Rule.’ Friends of Nitish in the BJP have been encouraging him to take on Modi and erode his acceptability, even in his own party. This suits the Congress as well, which has provided Bihar excessive financial help so that he keeps on making Modi a major irritant in keeping the NDA intact. Even while the BJP is still to take a final call on Modi, it is, inexplicably, Nitish who is raising the issue repeatedly at every forum.

However, both Modi and Nitish have nothing in common except the arrogance of authority. Nitish muzzles any media that opposes him. Modi doesn’t tolerate dissenting leaders. The uncrowned Monarch of Gujarat lacks the magnanimity to regret his government’s abysmal failure to contain the post-Godhra riots. Nitish is the new chatterati darling whose soft target is Modi. Nitish is seeking endorsement from India Inc. On the other hand, Corporate India is desperately seeking Modi for a plot of land in Gujarat. They visit Gujarat more often than Bihar. Bihar may have recorded the highest GDP growth because of agricultural plenty, but it has failed to attract either new investment or even kickstart any of its own schemes aimed at improving infrastructure.

Leadership can’t be bought or acquired by running down other leaders. It follows one’s work and words. Unfortunately, Nitish neither has any work to show nor any words of wisdom for others to follow him. His work has been confined to the geographical boundaries of Bihar, which have been defined by his caste and community politics. He doesn’t depend on merely touting his achievements as the chief minister, but by making Modi look like a monster. For the past few weeks, Nitish has not got any opportunity to display his pathological hatred for Modi who, in turn, hasn’t even bothered to acknowledge Nitish’s uncharitable barbs. Undoubtedly, Modi has to explain his government’s failure to contain the worst-ever communal carnage in 2002, but his track record of putting Gujarat back on the development path hasn’t been questioned even by his worst adversaries. By making Modi his political rival, Nitish has diluted his anti-Congress genes. If the NDA fails to create a truce between the warring titans, it will be the Congress that will be laughing all the way to the bank in 2014.

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

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard/ August 12, 2012

Indignant over Assam, well-heeled Indians won’t see the bigger picture



As Assam burns, some are busy scoring personal brownie points. When the Assamese are fighting a bloody battle to protect their unique Indian identity, our politicians, their fellow travelers and our globalised chatterati are mourning and lobbying for the rights of the illegal infiltrators. For nationalist Indians, the Assam violence is a pure fight between desis and videshis. It is not a confrontation between religious communities. For centuries, the Northeast, including Assam, was a living example of unity in diversity until armed migrants from across the border cleaved them apart. They have not only divided the Assamese along caste and communal lines, they now define and dictate the contours and colours of the state government.

Last week, our leaders didn’t discuss ways to tame the well-armed illegal infiltrators and deport them. Guided and goaded by the advantages of votebank politics, they are discussing how to polarise votes or find ways to legitimise the illegitimate occupants of Indian land. The fight for the rights of Indians vis-à-vis foreigners has spread to almost every aspect of Indian life, from the social sector to the business world. A coalition of suave wealthy westernised classes is determined to fight for the entry of foreign entities in every walk of Indian life. Why do we adore and promote everything and every entity with a foreign tag? Be it a mall, a residential complex, an automobile brand or even kitchenware, Indians support foreign brands and push out national names and symbols. Is it something to do with the young, new age Indians born with a silver spoon, educated abroad and who have privileged access to both the job market and politics? Defending Vodafone and Bangladeshis are part of their conviction. For them Ram, Rahim or Guru Nanak are mere symbols of faith while the Western economic and social model is their real religion.

The discourse on the Assam tragedy reflects the growing tendency to defend the foreign invasion of Indian land, business, and the cultural and educational system. Except from some vote-chasing politicians, we hardly hear voices or chest-beating on behalf of the Indian poor for whom two meals a day is still a mirage. No elitist, glamorous NGO is seen squatting on dharna or on fast demanding food, shelter and healthcare for the deprived and the underprivileged. But they are hyper-active when there is a strong movement against illegal immigration in India. They condone the defiance of even judicial verdicts. It is fashionable, desirable and rewardable to be politically correct in India than speaking for what is right for India. Some trot out ridiculous arguments to justify the existence of the foreign hand in Indian society and economy—“Aren’t illegal Indian immigrants settled in various parts of the world? Shouldn’t they also be thrown out the way ‘nationalists’ are demanding Bangladeshis and Pakistanis be deported?” They conveniently forget that Indian immigrants are productive assets for any country they live in. They aren’t liabilities. They follow local customs and local laws. They don’t defy them even if they did back home in India. Indians create wealth and jobs for locals and do not displace them. Indians don’t carry arms and manufacture bombs like illegal immigrants are suspected of doing in India. Indians don’t demand separate laws. It is because of Indian companies that over 2,50,000 additional jobs have been created in the US alone.

But foreigners who come to India, legally or illegally, demand preferential treatment in all walks of life. MNCs want tax concessions, immunity from Indian laws and stay without proper documents. For the past few weeks, policy-makers are only talking about reviewing and reversing the Indian tax regime only to attract more foreign direct investment. They are burning the midnight oil to find ways and means to ensure that Vodafone and others aren’t seen as victims of Indian laws. Megaphones of the corporate world are making noises about the environment being negative for growth. None of them are concerned about the rising number of suicides by farmers or the plummeting purchasing power of the marginalised classes. Sadly, it doesn’t bother any well-spoken Indian that of 10,000 Pakistanis who have entered Nagpur with proper visas in the past decade, over 7,000 have vanished without a trace. The local police forgot to track them and pack them home. It doesn’t bother them if the demographic complexion of nearly half a district changes, not because of indigenous biological reasons but because of illegal immigration from Bangladesh. Unfortunately, it hardly matters to them that MNCs spend millions to influence and manipulate the stock markets to make instant piles of dosh even if the poor investor loses his hard-earned money. They want the journey from home to office on a hassle-free expressway, an ATM next to their apartment, a super mall only a few steps away, and a car and a home loan at concessional rates of interest. If home-grown companies can provide these facilities, they are welcome. If they can’t, let the modern East India Companies walk in and take over our life and system once again. The discourse on Assam carnage, therefore, is part of a sinister attempt to de-Indianise the Indian mindset.

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

Monday, August 6, 2012

Will Sonia's new ... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/August 05, 2012

Will Sonia's new umbrella get Congress homeand dry in 2014?


It’s a perfect picture of perfect politics—a Sikh Prime Minister accompanied by a Christian defence minister and a Dalit home minister. When the Monsoon Session of Parliament starts this week, an erudite Sikh economist and a former Dalit police inspector—the new home minister—would occupy the first two seats in the first row of the Treasury benches. It will also have Defence Minister A K Antony. The two Houses of Parliament are presided over by a Dalit—Meira Kumar (Lok Sabha)—and an articulate Muslim

—Hamid Ansari (Rajya Sabha). Never since Independence have the top legislative and executive posts been held by a combination of minorities and socially backward leaders. It was not mere political accident that led to the creation of a hierarchy, which was heavily loaded against the upper classes who always claimed to be born rulers. From Jawaharlal Nehru to Rajiv Gandhi, the Gandhi Parivar was the darling of the minorities and the Dalits. It lost most of this support after the 1984 Sikh massacre and the Babri Masjid demolition. Ever since Sonia took over the reins of the Congress in 1998, the party has been undergoing an invisible social transformation. Both Indira and Rajiv believed in sloganism. However, for the past 14 years, Sonia has been silently working according to plan to change the social character of the government and the party. She may have allowed the urban elite to dominate the Council of Ministers, but her long-term agenda to create and promote new leaders from the minorities and Dalits is finally acquiring shape. Ignoring the high-voltage attack on Manmohan Singh’s paralysed government, she cocked a snook at her opponents by restoring the crucial finance Ministry to P Chidambaram. The new finance minister has been a prime target of the BJP for the past two years and has been dragged to various courts for his alleged role in 2G spectrum allocation.

Last week, when she chose the affable Sushilkumar Shinde to fill the most sensitive post of the country as its 22nd home minister, netizens went after the Congress party and its leadership. They couldn’t digest the fact that someone like Shinde, who was held responsible for pushing half the country into darkness for several hours, was promoted before the nation got its electricity back. But Sonia and Manmohan opted for this trusted and experienced politician who always disarms his sworn enemies by a smile. Shinde is also being investigated for his role in the Adarsh scam, though he hasn’t been charged or made an accused in the case.

Shinde was not only made the home minister but was also appointed the Leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party in the Lok Sabha. For the first time in history, the ruling party will be led in the House by a Dalit, who will also attend all crucial government meetings. The Shinde Syndrome reflects yet another social transformation of the ruling establishment. He has replaced a Brahmin, Pranab Mukherjee. He will sit next to the Prime Minister which also settles the issue of who is number two in the government. Shinde has been a chief minister, a party general secretary, a governor and a Union home minister. At 71, he is now the seniormost Congress leader in Parliament. He has pipped veterans like Kamal Nath, Kishore Chandra Deo and Chidambaram for the post of the Leader of the House. He will also be one of the two permanent members of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, which approves the selection of all officers above the rank of joint secretary and the heads of all the PSUs. He will also participate in all Committees on Political Affairs and Security meetings as a full-fledged member. It is not a coincidence that three of the five members of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS)—Manmohan Singh, Antony and Shinde—are from minority and Dalit communities. The other two—Chidambaram and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna—are from the south. Veerappa Moily, yet another former chief minister and an OBC from Karnataka, was given charge of the important power ministry. Only last year, he was stripped of the law ministry as he was found ineffective in dealing with judicial and legal matters. According to party insiders, the next reshuffle of both the government and the party will focus less on youth but more on caste, communities and loyalty.

Last week’s mini-exercise has sent a message with maximum social impact. It has changed the entire power equation within the government, as well as its complexion. Power is slowly slipping down south, away from the upper castes and north Indian leaders. The Congress is once again trying to acquire an umbrella party image by starting a social re-engineering process. It has realised that the only way to win elections is to share power, and not wealth, with those who go out and vote as communities. Their leaders will never pose a threat or challenge to the superiority and authority of the Hand that has always fed them.

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