Monday, January 30, 2012

Teekhi Baat_Mahmood Madani/ January 28, 2012

Interview with Mahmood A. Madani, General Secretary, Jamiat Ulema e Hind for Teekhi Baat on IBN7

MM: Aadab, Prabhuji!
PC: These days it seems, as soon as elections come near, people of political parties think that Muslim brothers votes can be bought during elections by talking about 4 per cent, 8 per cent reservations. Do you think that the political parties think in the interest of your community?
MM: To think that political parties think that votes can be
PC: Political parties make such promises only when elections come near.
MM: What you say right, but say in Andhra we got (reservation) then it went to court, in Kerala it is already in existence, in Karnataka we have already got it, in Tamil Nadu we have got it, so in many places we have got it. In Maharastra also in some category..
PC: They have made quota within a quota there.
MM: Yes. But what to say is right to some extent. That to take such a decision (regarding reservation) the time of the elections is decided, then what you said, is the message that goes. Hence, to some extent you are right that people think this way (Muslim votes can be bought by promising reservations just before elections). But I think that in today’s date, Muslims are not going to decide on the basis of any declaration, announcement, gifts given.
PC: What do you think regarding the gift of reservations that is being given
MM: It is not a gift
PC: It is a gift, is what is being said.
MM: No, they (politicians) are telling it is a gift, but it is not so.
PC: Hence, people are not going to vote in the name of reservations.
MM: No, they are not.
PC: Out Muslim brothers understand that there are political strategies (to get votes)
MM: The issue is, that giving is different from making an announcement.
PC: You think that Muslim brothers will not be wooed by these political strategies.
MM: Not political strategy, but the message that has gone outside is this, after so much time has passed, at the last moment (just before elections) these issues are being remembered. And the way that they are going to give it (reservations) is wrong, and there are many other objections.
PC: Don’t you think that announcing reservations, it is been over 60 years (since independence) and there were no reservations in the name of religion. Now, are we are moving ahead, there is reservation, for every community but no reservation for poor people, in the name of the poor, be it Muslim, Hindu or Christian poor people. Because, there are 20 crore Muslim community in the country, the maximum number of poor are in your community.
MM: Yes.
PC: Then why don’t do ask for reservation for and in their name
MM: Please see, it is being asked in their name. But the situation regarding reservation, and where you talk of reservation, the political parties and the system is responsible for this. People are beginning to think that if they don’t get reservation, then they will not benefit. When reservation is a small instrument.
PC: Only 4.5 per cent jobs will be reserved, how many are there in total. (As in hardly anything)
MM: Yes, it is true.
PC: Hence, this is show put on by political parties to show that they are giving something, like a lollypop of 4 per cent, and hence you will be happy.
MM: The whole Muslim community and their leadership has denied this. Nobody has welcomed this (lollipop of reservations). They have not welcomed the way it is being given and the quantity. Not even the time that it is being given, specially the time at which it is being promised. People have not appreciated this. What you are saying is absolutely right.
PC: Hence at this moment you consider this act (of promising reservations before elections) as a drama. You consider it wrong to make such an announcement at this juncture (just before elections)
MM: You can term it whatever (Smiles and chuckles), in my words, this manner (of reservations) is very wrong. I consider it is wrong way to promise reservations. Nor will the demands be met by this measure as also the community will not benefit.
PC: Do you think it is right and support reservation based on religion.
MM: Please see, let me tell you one thing, reservation should be given on the basis of three things. Economical condition, educational and social. A majority of Muslims in the country, is most backward economically, socially and educationally. Then on the basis of that backwardness, they should get reservation. Not on the basis of religion. Now the debate that is going on regarding giving reservation in the name of religion, this is a weird debate. >From 1950 till now, you are giving reservation in the name of scheduled castes,
PC: In the name of scheduled tribes too
MM: In the name of scheduled tribes, but in 1950 you issued an ordinance and said that only a Hindu person will be scheduled caste. Hence, reservation was given in the name of religion. Hence, the double standard,
PC: Hence, that was the fault, scheduled caste can be anybody
MM: Can be anybody,
PC: It is by the work they do
MM: The work and the social status, see all those things. Now let them by anybody, they will be scheduled caste, but it was said only Hindus will be scheduled castes. Hence, this double standard should change. This is the first need.
PC: Why don’t you say that do and amendment and remove the Hindu word from there.
MM: Exactly. Exactly, later Sikhs, Buddhsits were included. We say that an announcement should be made that no religion, then the soul of the constitution will be preserved.
PC: In Scheduled caste reservation the Hindu word should be removed you say, then everybody will be included.
MM: Then everybody will be included.
PC: It will be on the basis of work not on the basis of caste.
MM: On the basis of work, certainly.
PC: Then why don’t you openly say this.
MM: We are saying, time and again, but there is nobody to listen. Today, you have taken it up in a good manner, and hence it then the message will go.
PC: Then reservation on the basis of religion will be over.
MM: Will be over. We say that certainly there should be no reservation on the basis of religion. But then make it all right everywhere. And give reservations to nobody in the name of Muslim community. We don’t ask reservation in the name of Muslims, we say educationally, socially and economically, all those communities in the country who are backward, on these three parameters, even if they are upper caste, anybody who has become backward, given them reservation.
PC: These days people are saying that only one person in each family should get the benefit of reservation, if one person in the family gets a job on the basis of reservation, then the other one should not. Should this formula also be adopted? VP Singh had said in parliament that I am ready to abolish reservation if every family agrees that only a member of each family will come within the quota, the second wont.
MM: This is a good idea and should be thought upon. And the people for whose benefit reservation has been implemented, there should be a talk with those leaders and organisations, regarding many more improvements which can be done, there is need, time has come to do improvement.
PC: Initially you said that Muslim brothers are socially, economically and educationally backward, doesn’t the responsibility for this go on the leaders of your community.
MM: Yes, it does, certainly, it does.
PC: If the majority of the Muslims have not yet joined the mainstream.
MM: Please see, I say we are number one responsible for this, certainly I agree, but along with that, I want to say that in developing countries, and especially in country like India, without the support of the political establishment, no community can be uplifted. Then we are taking the responsibility of our condition on ourselves, along with the same, we also hold the political establishment responsible.
PC: If the conditions of Muslim are bad in the country today, leaders like you and others are responsible, you agree on that.
MM: Yes, we agree.
PC: But you did not get political support, hence people could not be uplifted ,you are saying.
MM: Its means that the political parties of the country, the ruling governments, have not worked with seriousness on this issue in the past 60 years.
PC: But this community has given Maulana Abdul Kalam, APJ Abdul Kalam, and such big leaders like Kidwai sahab, there were big leaders, who served the nation, and are known as good leaders, we are proud of their leadership, but even after that, there is vaccum in Muslim leadership in the country. In the past 20 years, no Muslim leader has come on the national stage. In different states there are leaders, some from the Muslim League, somebody in Hyderabad, UP. Hence, there is no effort at your end to have a national leadership, people who are nationalist and protect their religion too.
MM: Please see, there are two issues in this. It is true that there is no national leadership of Muslims, but not of Hindus also. It is difficult that the same leadership will control religion and politics. India is a diverse country, diverse society, multi lingual, multi faith.
PC: Buy you old leaders which have been were respect by Hindus equally as Muslims did.
MM: Yes, the truth is that our own people, Muslims have given their political leadership to non Muslims. They made them leader. They made Indiraji leader, they went with Rajivji, then with Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Mulayam Singh and many more.. And in a way this is a good thing. Hence, in the country, Muslims don’t search for such a leadership that they will search for a different political flag. But the Ganga-Jamuna culture of the country has taught the people to live with everybody together. But political parties have done injustice, they did not make political leaders of Muslims, but made Muslim leaders of their own parties, you undertand
PC: I understood.
MM: They did not allow a leadership of Muslims to evolve, But made Muslim leaders of their own parties.
PC: You said that there are Muslim leaders in Congress, BJP they are not there, there are Muslim leaders in Samajwadi Party. But nothing is talked about one who respects Muslims, the question is who can earn the respect of Muslims? One who speaks like them, or reservation or something else. Or the one who talks of their development, improving their economic condition. Now leaders are talking of introducing reservation, not implementing RTI on educational institutions, they are talking of keeping the community away from the mainstream.
MM: See, whatever talks are happening, like the talks of reservation, this is not the talk of keeping the community away from mainstream, but it is an issue of joining the people with the mainstream. That when they will have employment, have an opportunity to serve the country, then their sense of belongingness with increase even more, it is our country.
PC: Kalaam sahab became the president of this country, he did not become in the name of reservation, he did not need any reservation.
MM: Please see, he became president.
PC: He became president. Our Vice President is Muslim, on merit.
MM: He is become on merit of something else, that you know well. Kalam sahab certainly has merit and Anasari sahab is an able man, an educated man, and have respect in the community, both have respect in the community, people love them. I also know that Kalam sahab has the love of people, of this country, and listen, this is the hope for the Muslims of this country, that if you study, do hard work, then you will surely get chance.
PC: Will get
MM: Will get, certainly. Reservation is but a small instrument. In today’s date, government jobs in the country, are how many percent?
PC: There are hardly any government jobs being created these days.
MM: 3 per cent, they are not going to be more than 3 per cent, this will reduce. Now, whatever job opportunities are there, more than 97 per cent are out of state.
PC: But please tell me one thing, people like Salman Rushdide, his book was banned in 1988, there is no question of lifting the ban. But now his face would not even be shown on TV, thinking this is wrong.
MM: His face is being seen now, people are seeing it.
PC: If it is the question of his coming on TV, if any right of expression, like the whole country rose in support of Hussain sahab.
MM: No, nobody stood, and even we didn’t. Even we objected that person since the first day,
PC: Am speaking of right of expression, it is his right of expression (MF Hussain)
MM: See, there is a limitation of everything. If any person will cross his limit, and people will get hurt. Please see, this country is a religious country, there are religious people here, hence this country is beautiful, otherwise if any other country has so much diversity and it still manages to retain itself, is impossible. One cannot see so much diversity, and we can see so much diversity where there are Indians.
PC: But it is fine not to let Salman Rushdie speak, you think it is right way? Let it be Hussain?
MM: There can be an objection on the way, but the way which Salman Rushdie has taken, how can we support that. You tell me , how can we support it, what me, even you will not support, he has insulted the Gita. Neither you will support nor us.
PC: But if he comes and give a speech, if he is not speaking on any controversial topic, then what is the need to ban him from speaking.
MM: To stop him from speaking or not is another issue.
PC: Will you agree that this issue was raised because there are elections in UP.
MM: It may be possible that due to that reason this issue was raised but he was coming to Rajasthan.
PC: Before that many times he had come to India, then no issue was raised.
MM: Yes, this point is true.
PC: Hence, don’t you feel, whoever did it, did it to take political benefit.
MM: it may be so, it may be so.
PC: No, what is you view
MM: (Laughs)
PC: To give weight to an issue which had been buried, is to benefit some political party in the elections
MM: This may be true, yes, may be
PC: What do you think about UP. Like Muslim brothers have formed Peace party, some other dal’s have been formed. You are in RLD now.
MM: Hmm
PC: Will you be with them in future, with whom will you fight elections.
MM: (Laughs) Wherever you want, I will be there (laughs). No, no, it is out party, we are with it.
PC: Now are you campaigning in elections.
MM: If I am told, then I will campaign, certainly.
PC: What do you feel about elections in UP.
MM: Please see, I have no idea of what the result of the UP elections may be. I am hearing form people that it will be a mixed bag, there will be no clear (mandate).
PC: You said that if called, you will do election campaigning. Ajit Singh has not invited you till now, for campaigning.
MM: Where has the campaigning started till now.
PC: People are going, Rahul Gandhi is going there.
MM: He is going there from many years.
PC: So now you are not ready for campaigning.
MM: No, no, if party puts us on duty, i will surely do it.
PC: Till now you have received no invitation.
MM: What is invitation, I am a small worker, whenever there is an order, will go and work.
PC: When you will go ,you will ask votes for the Congress.
MM: Please see what will happen, please see what happens.
PC: But RLD is with the Congress now.
MM: They have an alliance.
PC: Hence, when you will go you will say that make our Congress stronger.
MM (Laughs…)
PC: You are not in a mood to answer.
MM: I have told, what you say you say..?(Laughs)
PC: You don’t want to say anything (on this topic)
MM: (Smiles)….Thank you Prabhuji !

Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard/ January 29, 2012

Power & Politics

Cricket Barons and Faded Legends Protect Pockets at India's Expense

Success has many claimants, failure none. Surprisingly, political leaders, glamour-infected corporate scions, struggling-to-survive Bollywood entertainers and shaky satraps are outshouting one another to extend support to a failed cricket icon, despite his pathetic performance on the field. Having failed to set a superlative record of 100 centuries, Sachin Tendulkar—fading cricket star and the youngest aspirant for the Bharat Ratna—is still against the idea of retirement.

Undoubtedly, Sachin has done India proud. He has broken many of his own records. However, his success has always been more about personal achievement than leaving behind more Tendulkars. He has been a mighty miracle at the crease. But of late, he seems to be playing only for more fame or to add to his brand value. In the process, neither he nor cricket have gained.

Unlike in the past, when they return to India from this Australian tour, Sachin and his teammates would face the ire of many of their admirers for placing self-interest before the nation’s. During the past two decades, Indian cricket administrators have been making players and the cricket body very rich indeed. According to brand management companies, the net worth of top five Indian players exceeds `500 crore. While the game is controlled by a coalition of just a dozen politicians and corporate leaders, these stars represent India. They are equally accountable to the country and their billion admirers. However, even when they fail to deliver, instead of punishing the non-performers, the self-appointed owners of the game are keeping brands like Sachin and others to retain their own valuation and to assert power over international cricket. Indian cricket is no more a gentleman’s game. It’s like a fading scrip whose price is being manipulated by cricket speculators and profiteers.

Since March 12, 2011—the day Sachin scored his 99th international ton against South Africa in World Cup 2011—no less than 115 centuries have been scored in international cricket. Of these, 76 were in Tests (including Virat Kohli’s in the 4th Test at Adelaide), 38 in ODIs and one in T20. In the same period, Australian captain Michael Clarke hit six international centuries, and Kumar Sangakkara and Rahul Dravid five each. Sachin’s highest score in this period: 91. Look at Ricky Ponting’s performance in the current series: like Sachin, he is also 38. He scored 587 runs against Sachin’s 287. Ponting’s highest score was 221 against Sachin’s 80. But the Australian has been allowed to play because of his performance record, and not connections or regional affiliations.

All over the world, players are included or dropped on the basis of their consistent accomplishments. In India, however, most are included, thanks to regional connections and corporate patronage. Ever since IPL became the real money-spinner for cricketers, Indian teams have been chosen on the basis of their IPL showing than in regional tournaments like Santosh Trophy or Ranji Trophy. These are ignored by the BCCI. The chief selector seems to be selecting his IPL team first and India’s later. Players like Sachin, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, M S Dhoni have been paid almost `10 crore each by their respective IPL team owners, and around `2 crore each by the BCCI. But their inclusion and retention as Team India players brings them more moolah through endorsing various brands, from motorbikes to shampoos. If a player is dropped from the national team, he suffers a huge monetary loss, as the advertiser doesn’t want to invest in a player who isn’t visible any more. Similarly, each IPL team gets money from sponsors depending on the number of likely Team India players in its 16-member brigade. It is no coincidence that Ravichandran Ashwin was first discovered by Chennai Super Kings and then selected to play for India. Most of the players who let down India Down Under are pampered by IPL owners; and if they don’t represent the country, they will suffer financially big time. Can Mumbai Indians or Royal Challengers allow their team valuations to erode if their star players don’t play for India?

However, when it comes to cricketers like Harbhajan Singh—hailing from the weakest state in the cricket lobby, Punjab—BCCI rulers drop him for his failure to deliver in just one season. One of the world’s most outstanding spinners, he is now left to entertain in wrestling shows. Earlier, Sourav Ganguly was disgracefully dropped just when he had started exhibiting his awesome talent once again. Dada’s fault: he was again from a state whose cricket boss Jagmohan Dalmiya was on the wrong side of the establishment.

Dravid has indicated he may hang up his bat and boots after the Australia series is over. Sachin represented a glorious era of Indian cricket. It seems he is now willing to bat in the darkest chapter of the game as well.
Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, January 23, 2012

Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard/ January 22, 2012


Irrespective of growing public perception, journalists and politicians are not made for each other. By nature and training, they are adversaries. The sudden resignation of Harish Khare—the erudite media advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for almost two eventful years—proves the point. Though only Khare and his ex-boss know the real reasons behind the exit, whispers in South Block corridors hint at the growing mistrust between them.

Journalists today may believe it is spin, and not breaking stories, what makes a byline, but in reality, their job is to deliver news. Politicians who hire them expect fancy PR to hide the real news about ugly truths. The conflict between real news and spin invariably proves fatal for both hacks and their political masters. In the process, the penpusher loses both his job and his credibility, leaving the politician to scout around for another journo eager to do the same job. During the last two decades, many senior, credible and intelligent journalists have suffered because they fell victim to the glamourous allure of the post, forgetting its illusory nature. Strangely enough, the honeymoon was brief for these illustrious editors: they soon fell short of the expectations of their political mentors and promoters. Scribes by nature are rebels and inquisitive. They cannot follow the Government’s golden principle of ‘need-to-know’. Used to grilling and questioning rulers, the advisors couldn’t fully reconcile to their roles on the other side of the fence with the same people questioning their performance and dealings.

In reality, an editor has more power than a press advisor and his political guru. Personally, I’m against the idea of journalists associating with the government in a formal advisory capacity without joining the ruling party. When former Prime Minister V P Singh offered me his media advisor’s job in 1990, I reluctantly declined. I suggested Singh not to hire any journalist, as he would only be adding to his already very long list of foes. At the age of 44, I couldn’t risk my journalistic career for a lackey’s loft, and make the prime minister the target of my own numerous enemies, also from within my profession. I hate to admit there isn’t much love lost between most senior journalists. Over the years, journalism has become divided along ideological lines. Like most humans, journalists also carry their predilections, preferences and biases around. In spite of our best efforts, we try to impose our choices on political leaders.(And imagine we succeed.) In the process, the leader ends up facing the ire of other journalists who end up targeting him, thanks to the one in his service. Many journalists have visible or invisible political ambitions. It is more honest to join a political party than masquerading as a self-proclaimed professional while accepting a job from the ruling party.

Indira and Rajiv Gandhi always ignored the advice of their aides to hire a journalist to handle the prime minister’s media relations. Indira used the soft-spoken H Y Sharada Prashad’s services for almost a decade. He had many friends in the media but few enemies. He could call up any senior editor without sounding arrogant or intimidating. After Indira’s death, Rajiv kept him on. But he also added a former diplomat to his team of media advisors, keeping his close friend and my boss then at India Today magazine, Suman Dubey, who preferred to stay in the background.

But the prime ministers who followed Rajiv placed their trust in journalists. V P Singh inducted Prem Shankar Jha and lost the premiership within 11 months. P V Narasimha Rao who followed Singh was wiser and chose PVRK Prashad, an IAS officer from Andhra Pradesh, as his media officer. Rao faced hardly any trouble with the media for years. However, H D Deve Gowda who succeeded Rao opted for senior journalist H K Dua as his media advisor. Gowda also couldn’t complete a full year in office nor was he a media darling. Later, Atal Bihari Vajpayee recalled Dua from an editorial job to handle media relations. But the party wasn’t comfortable with Dua’s style and substance and he was finally packed off to Brussels as ambassador.

When prime ministers want prime time plaudits, they believe taming an editor as an advisor is the answer. Despite the bitter experiences between journalists and prime ministers, in May 2004, Manmohan Singh decided to induct former business journalist Sanjaya Baru to promote his economic reforms agenda. Baru, an economist by training, left the PMO after serving for four years and took up a teaching assignment in Singapore. His successor couldn’t survive for even half of the Prime Minister’s term. Khare’s aborted flirtation with the establishment has proved beyond doubt that politicians and journalists make gauche bedfellows. In this game, journalists are the losers as they keep losing both the bed and the room.
Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Teekhi Baat_Rajnath Singh on IBN7/January 21, 2012

"Ram Mandir is not an election issue"

BJP leader and former party president Rajnath Singh speaks to Teekhi Baat on IBN7.

PC: Your health is better now.
RS: It is better now.
PC: But party’s health does not seem all right.
RS: Party’s health is also all right. But it is true that the health of the nation is not allright.
PC: One does not understand who among your party is fighting elections in UP, recently Gadkariji said that you are not the chief ministerial candidate there.
RS: Whatever Gadkariji said he said after talking to me. Even earlier I had said that I am not the claimant for the chief minister’s post.
PC: Then what was the reason for the party president to say so, it means there was a problem somewhere.
RS: It is natural, people should not about this thing. Because people should not think that I am in the race.
PC: Like other leaders.
RS: Like leaders from all over the state. Now MLA’s will be elected, and they will elect their leader. But I am not in that race.
PC: This you told me earlier in Teekhi Baat, I am saying this for more than two and a half years. But even then in public and party workers there was this misconception that you may become the chief minister.
RS: BJP does not want to garner votes by spreading misconception among its party workers and people.
PC: But workers would say that their leader is Rajnath Singh.
RS: So what happens, if am in the central politics now, will our worker not take me as a leader.
PC: But you are a central leader and hence will be claimant for the prime minister’s post.
RS: I am not a claimant for the prime minister’s post.
PC: What do you feel about BJP, it has not policy, no slogan, no ideology.
RS: Prabhuji I want to ask you if BJP has no policy, no ideology or programme, then tell me which party in this country has policy, ideology and programme. BJP is the only party in the country which has its own policy, ideology and programme.
PC: You promised some things in UP manifesto. Uma Bharati is from Madhya Pradesh, you are sending her there to fight elections.
RS: She has been the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, but she has had very strong bonds with Uttar Pradesh. It cannot be said that Uma Bharati is from outside Uttar Pradesh. This nobody can say.
PC: If the party has chosen her to fight elections, then she is also a claimant for the chief minister’s post, she will not sit only as an MLA.
RS: Rajnath Singh cannot decide who will be the claimant for, or become the chief minister. If anybody can talk on this issue officialy, he is the our national president, our parliamentary board, and it decides that the MLA’s who get elected will decide their leader.
PC: I am asking something else, what is the aim behind making Uma Bharati fight elections from UP. You are the member of the parliamentary board, you have taken a decision.
RS: You are seeing that she is campaigning in Uttar Pradesh from the past 7 8 months.
PC: Even Digvijay Singh is doing that, but he is not fighting elections over there. He has come from Madhya Pradesh.
RS: This may be Congress’s own decision. It is not necessary that the BJP takes decisions on the lines of the Congress party. We take our own decisions, decide our strategy.
PC: If Uma Bharati is a member of the house, then it means she is qualified to become chief minister.
RS: Whatever it is, the decision will be taken by the parliamentary board, or the legislature party members. I am not officialy designated to comment on who will become chief minister.
PC: Like the president said that the person who wins Lok Sabha elections, will be considered for the post of prime minister. I am asking there are MLA’s in UP
RS: Didn’t you see in Congress, a person who is not a Lok Sabha member is prime minister today.
PC: Even in your party there is talk that people who are not Lok Sabha members may become prime minister.
RS: Many talks go on.
PC: Now will the parliamentary board decide that only those who win elections, become MLA, will become the chief minister
RS: How can I forecast what the parliamentary board will decide?
PC: Can a person who does not become MLA become the chief minister.
RS: No, no I said that how can Rajnath Singh give information on what the parliamentary board will decide. It is true that I am a member of the parliamentary board. Whenever there will be talk on this issue, I will give my views on the forum of the parliamentary board. There is no other appropriate forum where I can put my point of view.
PC: Initially, there were talks that the party has no strategy, no leader in UP.
RS: This you have said, the nation does not believe this.
PC: People are saying this.
RS: Nobody has told me this.
PC: Earlier Uma Bharati said that she will not fight elections, then she said she will fight. Later you also took Kushwah in the party.
RS: Nobody is over eager to fight elections in our party that is why she said. But she gracefully accepted the party’s decision.
PC: What do you think Uma Bharati represents in Uttar Pradesh. Ram Mandir, backward classes, women
RS: No, no, no you cannot limit her with caste or class politics, BJP people do not do politics on caste, creed or religion, he does politics of justice and humanity.
PC: You have so many so many senior leaders there, there is Tripathiji, you, Kalraj MIshra, Tandonji…does it mean that all senior leaders.
RS: There are many senior leaders there, Uma Bharati is also a senior leader. Why do you want to separate her.
PC: In Uttar Pradesh, you are not fighting elections.
RS: Prabhuji, why offence have to taken to her, why do you want to separate her. She is working in Uttar Pradesh from so many days, then what is the big deal if she decides to fight elections from there. And it is not her but the party’s decision.
PC: There may be a strategy to make a backward woman fight against Mayawati.
RS: No decision is taken on this basis. But I want to say one thing, if anybody has done work or reducing the reservation to the backward class, it is the Congress led UPA which has done this. There has been an attempt to loot their rights. And I even want to tell that as a chief minister in Uttar Pradesh, the reservation system we had put in place, the Muslim caste which were in the backward class, we kept them as the most backward class, hence giving them more than 14 per cent reservation. So much so that he students of Aligarh Muslim University welcomed our decision.
PC: So, ultimately came on caste politics. Now Congress has raided this area
RS: This is a constitutional provision, which has been going on from before. All people should get the benefit of reservation in the right manner.
PC: Normally BJP never used to believe in politics of reservation.
RS: It is not politics of reservation. It is sociology. People should get their due rights, ensuring this is the responsibility of any government, which I have followed as the chief minister.
PC: Was Uma Bharati projected as she is a backward face. You have no backward leader there.
RS: She should not be seen as being attached to any caste or class.
PC: Why did you take Kushwah in the party?
RS: Now that chapter is closed.
PC: He is a suspended member now.
RS: He himself said that it is suspended membership, till he is proved not guilty, till then he will not accept the membership of BJP. Not that chapter is closed and there is no reason to discuss the same.
PC: You had taken him as you needed a backward face.
RS: I said that the chapter has been closed. There is no reason to discuss that.
PC: You don’t want to say anything that is one issue, but it is caste politics.
RS: No, I want to say, I am saying what is true.
PC: Why should people vote for BJP?
RS: Why shouldn’t they vote, why shouldn’t they vote, in Uttar Pradesh, people has been the work of the government of Bharatiya Janta Party, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. I have full confidence that if the people of Uttar Pradesh compare the performance of three governments, then it easily accept that if any party can give good governance that is the BJP.
PC: You gave good governance you say
RS: Even at the centre
PC: You say that but you lost
RS: Winning and losing cannot be compared with the performance of the governments. I want to say, six years…
PC: Why did you lose in Uttar Pradesh.
RS: I want to as you one question Prabhuji, for six years NDA government was there under the leadership of Hon. Atalji, in six years not even one case of corruption happened, nor was published in any newspaper.
PC: In 2g scam, there were aspersions cast on you policy decisions too.
RS: Inflation was kept under control, basic infrastructure was developed, this is known as good governance.
PC: In 2004, people made you lose, in 2009 also, people made you lose, why does this happen.
RS: Please see, good governance cannot be related only to this ground. There are many factors for winning and losing elections. From all those factors, this is one factor.
PC: Now you feel that you can win on good governance, caste politics, now conveniently you have forgotten Ram Mandir, you are not speaking of Ram Mandir anymore.
RS: Whatever work we did in the six years, there was a shortfall in communicating that to the grassroots level; hence we could not get the desired support.
PC: You have been president of four years, there would have been some organisational weaknesses.
RS: There could have been organisational weaknesses. Somewhere, there has been some weakness, because of which we did not come to power, could not garner the trust of the people.
PC: In UP you have played the caste card, reservation
RS: I said, there is no question of playing class or caste card. But it is true that caste is a reality of social life in India. Our aim is that in the social life of India, social life of Uttar Pradesh, social harmony and justice should prevail, people should get their rights.
PC: If Congress wants to give reservation to Muslims than what problem you have
RS: Please see, we don’t want to erect any wall between the Hindus and Muslims. Anybody who has been born to Bharat maa, be it Hindu, Muslim, Christian, let it be anybody, everybody is a brother of the other. And whosoever is socially and educationally backward, they should get the benefit of reservation, this is our constitutional provision, be it Hindu or Muslim.
PC: You mean to say reservations should not be done on basis of religion.
RS: There is no basis of differentiating on the basis of being Hindu or Muslim. Politics should be on the basis of Justice and Humanity.
PC: If there is reservation for Hindustan, then why not for Muslim brothers.
RS: There is a provision of reservation, even for Muslim community. But the constitution of India, does not give permission to grant reservation on the basis of religion. Our founding fathers gave a deep thought to this issue and took this decision. And this Congress led UPA government is going against the constitution, just for getting votes.
PC: Do you think this is vote politics.
RS: It is vote fully vote bank politics. And I say it again and again, let it be any politician, politics should not be done to get votes, it should be done to building the nation and society.
PC: But what are you doing in Uttar Pradesh, are you or dividing people on caste basis or not.
RS: It is BJP, not SP, BSP, or Congress. We don’t divide; we join people and do politics.
PC: You said that you do politics of joining people.
RS: Yes
PC: Hence you forgot Ram Mandir in UP, you don’t speak of the same.
RS: Ram Mandir is not an election issue.
PC: Then what is election issue.
RS: Let it be the government of SP, or BSP, or the Congress government in centre, corruption has reached the zenith and hence somebody like Anna Hazare felt like starting an andolan against corruption. Congress party has increased corruption to such a level, which has got support in writing from SP, BSP that Anna Hazare felt the need of starting a protest again corruption. And this party’s were the reason for India’s image being affected all over the world.
PC: You did not let Anna Hazare’s bill passed, all together, people from Congress, BJP. You had a clandestine handshake with the Congress.
RS: You saw that after 12 pm , our leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Shri. Arun Jaitley, he said that the time of the house should be extended, we are ready to sit till the morning or even the next full day but this bill should be passed. But there was a conspiracy by the Congress led UPA government,
PC: But the sense of the house done first time in the Lok Sabha
RS: We passed it in the Lok Sabha. We honoured the sense of house. And let me tell, if the BJP had not done the work of building up pressure, then the Congress led UPA government would not have passed the Lokpal bill in the Lok Sabha under any circumstances.
PC: Tell anything, but Mayawati is the one who removed the most number of corrupt ministers, after Lokayukta’s comment, she removed 16 ministers.
RS: The way there has been loot in UP for five years. And when elections came near, to fool people, she removed ministers.
PC: She removed when Lokayukta report came
RS: How and why she did it, I don’t want to comment about that, but the people of the state know. For five years, why did Mayawatiji did not remember this, for five years why there were no complaints.
PC: Without any report, will she remove people suo moto, you took action against Yedurappa till the Lokayukta report was out
RS: There were Lokayukta’s earlier also. All evidences are being received on the eve of elections. Lokayukta received a complaint when elections came near. I think it is a part of conspiracy, which has been hatched by Mayawatiji to fool the people of Uttar Pradesh.
PC: You all ganged up against Mayawati who is dalit, backward and woman, but even then she won.
RS: What are you saying, Prabhuji don’t try to save somebody by saying this.
PC: But she removed ministers.
RS: She has done all this to fool people.
PC: But the people elected her 206 MLA
RS: For five years, couldn’t she see their corruption, was there no complaint for five years. When elections were announced, all complaints were made, all evidences were revealed.
PC: What did your party do
RS: I don’t blame the Lokayukta, If I hold somebody responsible, it is the chief of the UP government.
PC: Tell me one thing, there is one surety that you are not going to garner majority.
RS: Who says that, it will not come?
PC: Will you get majority
RS: Certainly. There is a target before us if of getting majority. We are making efforts, the decision is in the hands of the people.
PC: If you don’t get majority then what will you do. Will you support Mayawati or Mulayam.
RS: Our efforts are to get majority. Presume, if people do not give us that responsibility, then BJP will play the responsibility of opposition. And playing the responsibility of opposition, we will act as watchdog, chowkidaar, guardian of people of UP.
PC: Hence, you will not support anybody to form the government.
RS: There is no question; I have said it earlier, no need of repeating it again and again.
PC: In politics things keep on changing.
RS: They do, but between our words and deeds, there is no difference.
PC: Earlier you have supported Mayawati
RS: But you know that we have maintained the same stand today what we had then. And I am saying this after talking to everybody.
PC: Now talking of the fights happening at the centre, It seems that you are scared of Rahul Gandhi’s campaigning
RS: (laughs) Kya baat hain , no no, I want him to campaign, he has to, he has his own political party. Leader of every political party, has to campaign for his party.
PC: If he is raising the issue of development.
RS: For all these days, he was not worried about the development of UP, and the SP and BSP, whose support Congress party is taking in the centre, and today he goes to UP and criticizes them. What is this if not fooling the public, Prabhuji? Tell the people what is the truth, isn’t it true
PC: Tell me one thing, both the national parties, be it the Congress or the BJP, have been marginalized in UP.
RS: No, not marginalized.
PC: No, they have 22 you have 46 47
RS: That is wheel of fortune, it is a matter of time.
PC: Wheel of fortune, how many years
RS: What is years, Congress party has been out of power for so many years In Uttar Pradesh
PC: Yes, but even you are out of power.
RS: No, no we will come to power.
PC: Have national parties have become irrelevant there, without any direction, future
RS: It is not a question of national parties becoming irrelevant. If any party is trying to find its space in UP, then it is the Congress, it is fighting a battle for its significance and its survival.
PC: Will you be number three or they.
RS: No, no, we will be number one. With this conviction, we are fighting elections. BJP will emerge number one.
PC: What is your slogan
RS: Governments can be formed on the basis of slogans, but cannot run on the basis of slogans Prabhuji. We don’t want to fool people with slogans, but want to only say that BJP government will form in UP, we will give a clean government. We will give such a government, which will do such development in UP, that it will come on top in the country.
PC: We will see that when your government is formed, thank you for coming to our studio.
RS: Thank You, Prabhuji !

Monday, January 16, 2012

Teekhi Baat_Prakash Singh Badal on IBN7/January 14, 2012

Interview with Deputy chief minister of Punjab Sukhbir Singh Badal for Teekhi Baat on IBN 7. With less than three weeks for Punjab polls, the Badal scion speaks about family run politics in India, the ‘Badal’ brandname, Akali Dal’s relationship with the Congress party and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, allegations of black money, state of industry in Punjab and future course of Akali Dal.

PC: Tell me one thing, for how many years have you been deputy chief minister.

SSB: From almost two years.

PC: Why should people vote for you? Tell me one or two things, stating these changes have ushered since Sukhbir Singh Badal took charge.

SSB: MCDO reforms, Right to Service Act, power projects, expressways, complete development is our, our government’s and our party’s agenda. You have seen our campaign, we have told only one thing to people, this has been our performance, now you compare our performance with the five year performance of the Congress. Now see who performed more, vote for performance. We have a singular agenda, vote for performance.

PC: So you are demanding votes on the basis of performance. Now the party’s name is Akali Dal, but people who oppose you say the party’s name should be changed to Messrs. Badal and Company, it is more of family fiefdom; I will ask you later about whether you did or did not do development work. Don’t you feel that your regional party is running on parivaarvaad

SSB: Which party in the country does not run on family name? Take Jaylalia, Congress, all parties run on a brand. And Akali Dal is not a parivaarvadi party. Akali Dal is the second oldest party, its president has been Master Tara Singh, Sant Fateh Singh, Longwaal saab, Tilwani saab, my father (Prakash Singh Badal), after my father, the party decided on my appointment, after me somebody else can be post holder. Like the Gandhi family, which as tradition keeps on going on, but here the party committee decides. Before my father, somebody else was at the helm of party affairs.

PC: You talked about brand, do you think that Badal is a brand on which names votes are polled.

SSB: Sahab Prakash Singhji Badal has become a brand of Punjab. Because whole life, he has worked in the service of public. There is no village or city in Punjab which he personally has not been to and when in the right manner his government is formed, it is a government of the people. Now if you see him, he takes decisions by sitting among people.

PC: He is the most senior chief minister, he is also widely respected. But don’t you think because of this the family also benefitted a lot, you became deputy chief minister, your wife became MP, more five six Badal names I can count, the total count of whom can go upto 17-18, some of whom are MLA, some are chairmen of some committee.

SSB: No Badal is chairman; I came into politics 20 years ago. I started as a worker and gradually rose. I became an MP earlier, was a minister at the centre, after that I was also a member of the Rajya Sabha, fought, won and even lost Lok Sabha elections. After have been through all experiences, last year led the election campaign.

PC: Even now you are leading.

SSB: Now I am doing it as party president.

PC: Don’t you think you have been benefitted by Prakash Singhji’s name because he is respected. His son would have been benefitted by his goodwill.

SSB: Too much, for the first time. It happens the first time, not the second time, not the third time. Because the first time, votes can be garnered on the name of the father, there are many leaders in the country, who get launched.

PC: There is Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, Omar Abdullah,

SSB: One time a person can be launched in the name of his father. There are thousands of children of politicians who fade out. Second and third time votes are garnered on the basis of performance. If he will perform he will exist, if he does not, he will fade away.

PC: Like you came to power because of the family name. Amrinder Singh, who is in opposition, gave a memorandum, that your assets increased by Rs. 50 lakh per month between 2009 and 2011, you earlier declared 57 crore now you’re declared Rs. 74 crore. He means to say have you made this amount of money through being in power.

SSB: This is stated in our income tax return. There is no black money in income tax return. Capt. Amrinder Singh does not know what is stated in an income tax return. In the income tax return, the property which we declared in 2007, is the same which we declared in 2011, but its market value has increased. This he does not know. What did he do, did you see his statement.

PC: No, I didn’t.

SSB: He said that he Patiala palace in which he stays, he declared its value to be Rs. 2 crore.

PC: He didn’t declare market value

SSB: We declare as per law, we are law abiding. Every year when the market value increase, we have to increase the value in property tax return.

PC: So do you want to say that Amrinder Singh does not know accounts.

SSB: I am saying that he has talked about Rs. 2 crore (valuation of Patiala palace). Am saying, the Punjab government will give him Rs. 10 crore and will take the palace, if it wants to. Hence, this politics of lies, will not work here. You know that last time he had raised an issue that Badal saab has a property worth Rs. 3500 crore. Night club, sheep farms, and he said that we had property in every corner of the world. When he was in power for five years, he did not work for Punjab’s development, which was finished .Capt. Amrinder Singh had one agenda, that he has to prove the list that he had issued against Badal saab. After five years, the charge sheet was filed against us, he reduced the amount from Rs 3500 crore to Rs. 76 crore. Even that was overinflated, the case went before the courts, and were acquitted. Amrinder Singh’s politics is throw mud on the wall, something will stick.

PC: He says that do you want to choose a chief minister who is 90 years old or a young chief minister, he considers himself young.

SSB: I am surprised that Amrinder Singh considers himself young. When does get up in the morning, at 11 am. In the evening at 5 pm, everybody knows what he does. Sahab Prakash Singh Badal, whom he is saying 90 years old, gets up at 5 am in the morning, then till 10 pm to 11 pm he is in some village, some city or in office. Who is young, a man who works 18 hours or a man who works for six hours. And the second point, we have a combination, Sahab Prakash Singh Badal is 90 years they say, I am 50 years old, and I am deputy chief minister, hence Punjab has got both young and experienced.

PC: Hence, Amrinder Singh is challenging you, because votes are polled in his name, he is a brand like Badal sahab.

SSB: One thing should be asked to Amrinder Singh, he was in opposition for the past five years, where was he for 4.5 years, he wasn’t seen in Punjab. He is a non resident Punjabi, most of the time, he is not in Punjab.

PC: You talked of development, road development, but even then there was power shortage in Punjab recently. Tell one development which led to per capita income improvement or the per capita power consumption increased, people say law and order is an issue, extremism has come again.

SSB: There were two governments, from 2002 to 2007 of Capt .Amrinder Singh and from 2007 to 2012 of Sahab Prakash Singh Badal. Total revenue generation of Punjab government from 2002 to 2007, during Capt. Amrinder Singh’s tenure was Rs. 35,000 crores. Our from 2007 to 2012 is Rs. 76,000 crore, which is double revenue generation. Secondly, they talk of power..

PC: How much debt are you in

SSB: Debt per GSTP ratio, when our government came into power, it was 46 per cent, debt to GSTP ratio, we got it down today to 30 per cent. Government of India’s debt to GSTP ratio is 51 per cent. We have improved in every indicator. Fisical deficit, revenue deficit in all these parameters, let me tell you one big thing, you are talking of power, it is not something that you can import from Europe or America.

PC: You get it on the line

SSB: There is power shortage all over India. We did a big thing, that we started construction of power plants. Total power generation in Punjab was 5000 MW when we came to power, then the demand was 9000 MW and shortage of nearly 50 per cent. We have initiated 8000 MW power projects, which are under construction and did long term contracts for the rest 3500 MW.

PC: What is your demand now

SSB: From next year, our power projects will start getting completed. Hence, from next year, Punjab will be the first state in the country, which will be a power surplus state, and we will sell this power to other states, like we do with wheat and rice.

PC: The issue is that no new industry is set up in Punjab. In the past five years, no new big industry was set up.

SSB: Industry has come

PC: Which, tell me

SSB: Refinery,

PC: It is a Govt. of India proposal which was on for a long time. Did the brand which has been formed be senior and junior Badal get some new industry in Punjab.

SSB: Where does industry come, where they are incentivised, what did the government of India do to Punjab? Our state is a land locked state, one side is Pakistan, other side is Jammu and Kashmir, which are disturbed states. Besides this are hill states, now all hill states have been declared as special economic zones (SEZ), we have become an island and our industry has started shifting. We wrote to the Govt. of India that you cannot create an island out of Punjab. Secondly, the package that has been given to Jammu and Kashmir because of terrorism, we as a border state face a maximum amount of terrorism. So, we should be included in the package. The reason is that they (central government) don’t listen to us. They created as island. Now we thought how to incentivise to encourage setting up of new industries, we said that because we are landlocked, the only way to connect Punjab to the rest of the world is by getting international airports, make Punjab power surplus, build expressways, get the best infrastructure. Hence for five years we focussed on infrastructure, and that is the reason investment has started coming to Punjab.

PC: You say that central government is responsible. You had good relations with the Prime Minister, sometimes you say that he is a good Prime Minister, you and your father both said. Why isn’t the Prime Minister helping you?

SSB: Prime Minister is a good human being, but he has his compulsions, political compulsions. He is controlled by 10 Janpath, Sonia Gandhi. Let me give you one small example, for world Sikh heritage we made one complex at Anantpur Sahib, we requested the Prime Minister for do the inauguration, it is a small thing. Capt. Amrinder Singh told Sonia Gandhi that Prime Minister cannot come. Sonia Gandhi controls what happens in the central government. Actually, Prime Minister is Sonia Gandhi.

PC: Not Manmohan Singh

SSB: Not Sardar Manmohan Singh. Because Sonia Gandhi dictates, he is a very good hearted man, but he cannot do anything. Sonia Gandhi decided on everything.

PC: Manmohan Singh is associated with Punjab, is a Punjabi, the first Sikh Prime Minister, is an economist, you think he fears association only by the instance that he did not come to Anantpur Sahib

SSB: I gave an example of Anantpur Sahib that at this level Congress party in Punjab and Sonia Gandhi interferes. It is the duty of the Prime Minister, that if there is a function in any state and he is invited, he comes. In these small things, Congress party has started controlling. With this small example you will understand, that how poorly he is being..

PC: He is a poor Prime Minister

SSB: He is not poor, he is a good man. But he has not got a free hand.

PC: A remote control

SSB: Basically

PC: There is one thing, let me go back to Punjab, there is a charge of black money against you, I read in papers that you are misusing government machinery, in allocation of money to intelligence agencies, people are being caught

SSB: Has even one rupee been seized. Amrinder Singh’s politics is dependent on accusation, like he did of Rs. 3500 crores, but nothing came out of it. Like now he did again, because there is so much frustration in him because his Congress party has disintegrated. Today in Punjab, a parallel Congress has come up, which is fighting elections, which is named Azad Congress. Ask any member of Azad Congress, who are ex ministers and MLA’s of Congress, why did they become Azad, there is only one talk that Congress party high command has taken money to give tickets. The party which will take money from its own worker to issue tickets, if it is given an opportunity to run the government, what will it do. His change against us is to divert attention. Against them there are reports in newspapers everyday that they are taking money to issue tickets.

PC: Both sides are taking defectors.

SSB: Our sahab did not gave ticket to even one defector, not even one, not even one.

PC: People who left Congress were given tickets by you.

SSB: Not even one, not even one, you give example, not even one. There are other parties like peoples party of Punjab (PPP), they opened an office in Punjab saying that they have a vacancy for anyone who does not get a ticket.

PC: But there was a division even in your own party, your big minister left the party, he formed his own Dal. Hence you also don’t tolerate anyone else (in your party)

SSB: He started anti party activity. He knowledge was being used against the interest of the party, against the policies of the party, if anyone gives statement against the party, this is a matter of discipline, no party will accept. Even in your newspaper, if any employee goes against your policy, you will fire him.

PC: One bad thing that has been witnessed during your government, it has been reported in newspapers, in the past five years that some amount of terrorism has come back. There have been reports that old extremists are reviving once again. Are they doing so because of your sympathy, or is your vigilance or your policies weak.

SSB: What you are saying is right, that there have been reports of terrorism in newspapers. The news that has been printed is that we have caught those people. Government of India does not know anything till the blasts happened in Mumbai. In the past five years has any blast any incident happened in Punjab. Has there been even one incident in Punjab. Our police is so vigilant, we are seized RDS, weapons, caught terrorists, we are so vigilant..

PC: They are raising their head again.

SSB: We have a border with Pakistan, it regularly wants that there should be disturbance in India, in Jammu and Kashmir, in Punjab and in different corners of the country. But we are the only state, our police is so intelligent, working in a professional way, hence we identify them before they can act. Unlike the Govt. of India

PC: The wrongful aims of Pakistan government, to create disturbance in Punjab, you claim to have failed that.

SSB: Clearly, and we guarantee that in no way will we allow terrorism to come up in Punjab.

PC: What is the reason for terrorism cropping up.

SSB: Complete Pakistan,

PC: Or because the incomes of the farmer are not increasing

SSB: This is certainly Pakistan sponsored.

PC: There are reasons like youth unemployment

SSB: No,no,no this all is Pakistan sponsored.

PC: Let me ask you a last question, you father senior Prakashsinghji, he made Punjab go ahead, and now you have come, so after elections will you replace him as chief minister.

SSB: No. Four five years ago, every two months media used to announce that Sukhbir Singh Badal will become chief minister. He will be on Diwali, New Years, after Baisakhi. I said on Day one that Sahab Prakash Singh Badal is the tallest leader of the state and of the country, he has vast experience, we want to use his experience, Punjab needs his experience. That is the reason, I said it on day one, and this time also, I as president announced, otherwise media speculation would have started, that Sahab Prakash Singh Badal will become chief minister.

PC: You will want and experienced person, but don’t you think that he should take a back seat and guide you, also because 70 per cent of the people are less than 35 years old, they will also want you to come ahead,

SSB: I am the deputy chief minister, I am the president of the party, so I am being guided by him, and it is an experience working with him. I came to state politics for the first time, I became state deputy chief minister, and because of his guidance I gained such an experience of administration which is amazing. And till the time he is fit, and god willing he will be fit for a long time, we want, our party wants, personally I want, that we want to take advantage of his experience.

PC: Because the condition of the BJP is bad there, don’t you think there they have become a liability for you.

SSB: We have an emotional relational with BJP, not political, this is the first point. It is a media created impression, that the BJP position is down, you will see the results. Coming 30th voting will be done, on 6th results will be announced, BJP is going to perform excellently.

PC: Earlier also they had 100 per cent strike rate

SSB: I am not saying that they should give 19 out of 23. One or two seats can be less, but the condition is not so poor as the media is projecting.

PC: Will your combine will get more or less seats as compared to last time. Do a speculation.

SSB: You will not believe me, this time you will say this is a political statement.

PC: Not political, tell the speculation.

SSB: I am clearly saying that we will cross 80.

PC: 80

SSB: We will cross 80 seats.

PC: Last question, if you lose this election somehow, will this loss be attributable to Sukhbir Singh Badal or Prakash Singh Badal.

SSB: We will not lose.

PC: It is an academic question.

SSB: Am saying that, this is the first time that we are doing performance based politics and going among the people.

PC: Who will get credit/crown for the win.

SSB: The credit/crown for the win will go to Prakash Singh Badal.

PC: And you for losing.

SSB: That you give to whomsoever you want.

PC: Our good wishes are with you, thank you for coming to our studio.

SSB: Thank You, Prabhuji !

Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard/ January 15,2012

Uttar Pradesh Elections are Over for Big Two Even Before Polling Day

As the countdown to the five state Assembly polls begins, both ideologies and credible individual leaders are conspicuous by their absence. With the collapse of central authority and direction in all political parties, a few individuals are dictating the political discourse only to be disowned immediately by their respective High Commands. A couple of political incidents that took place in the last two weeks in Uttar Pradesh reflect the complete disconnect between the Central and state leaderships of two mainstream national parties — the Congress and the BJP. Both are in the fight not to win but to keep their current rankings in the Assembly. While the BJP with 51 seats occupies third position, the Congress with just 21 MLAs stands fourth. However, the confusion was much more pronounced in the Congress as its chief Sonia Gandhi took a backseat, leaving election management and manipulation to her son Rahul and a few other individuals. As its election strategy unfolded, it was evident that the party had taken a plunge without defining the tide. It is perhaps for the first time a statement made by a Union minister during the elections was rejected by his own party and a claim made by the most sought-after AICC office-bearer was dismissed by his government. There was yet another surprise in store for the voters. Home Minister P Chidambaram slaughtered the three-year-old campaign launched by party General Secretary Digvijaya Singh aimed at capturing the minority vote.

It was the home minister who changed the direction of his own party’s Uttar Pradesh campaign. Diggy Raja always suspected the Batla House encounter in New Delhi on September 19, 2008, in which a Delhi Police officer lost his life, as staged. He made it an issue in Uttar Pradesh in which Muslims can influence the poll outcome in over 75 Assembly seats. Since Diggy has emerged as the most powerful Thakur leader who espouses the minorities’ cause than any other, he was expecting rich dividends. But the home minister not only rejected Diggy’s theory about a fake encounter, but also ruled out reopening the case. It is a different matter that both Chidambaram and Digvijaya have been at loggerheads on various issues. But questioning one of the most powerful Congress functionaries during election time, reflected the division between the party and the Government on sensitive issues.

The Chidambaram-Diggy episode symbolises the vulnerability of the ruling party in using the minority card. It was also reflected when Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi declared the statement made by Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid on minority reservations in government jobs was not the party’s view. Later, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh put Khurshid in an awkward spot when he assured the chief election commissioner that the commission was totally independent and not supervised by the Government as Khurshid had claimed in an interview. Even the law minister had no defined script to follow for the elections. With Rahul ploughing a lonely furrow in the mushy fields of Uttar Pradesh, most Congress leaders were inventing their own slogans and stories to win seats for themselves and their kin. The party that began the state elections with a bang seems to be losing its carefully crafted plot. The Congress offence was replaced with defence. Instead of taking on its opponents on issues like the aborted Lokpal Bill, corruption and an irresponsible BSP government, the party was faced with the most serious charge of dividing the country along communal lines.

Fortunately for the Congress, its national rival, the BJP was also in a similar state of political paralysis. Its central leaders were hopelessly divided on the induction of tainted defectors from the BSP. They were confused about their enemy No. 1. While the state leaders targeted Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav, its central leaders were obsessed with the Congress. From the tone and tenor of their speeches, it was obvious they were fighting the Congress to only protect their number three position in Uttar Pradesh. Like the Congress, the saffron party was also caught in caste conflicts while projecting its leader during the run-up to the elections. An upper caste combination and elitist leaders dominated its central leadership, while its state unit was controlled by backward class and middle class leaders who wanted one among them to be projected as the potential chief minister.

With the national parties struggling to find their feet, both the SP and the BSP are better placed in terms of their mission and means. They are fighting to retain or wrest power. However, they too are caught in the defection game, unsure about either their manifesto or election machinery. However, both have left the national parties far behind. It is quite clear: the Centre can’t hold it any
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Monday, January 9, 2012

Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard/ January 08, 2012

Politics of Divisiveness Has Already Won the Uttar Pradesh Elections

It is the largest state of India. Home to a fifth of our population, every seventh Lok Sabha member comes from it. If that wasn’t enough, the gargantuan state of Uttar Pradesh has also produced eight of the 13 duly elected prime ministers of India. Over the years, it has not only suffered geographical shrinkage, but has also lost some of its political clout. It is no longer in a position to influence the national agenda or impose anything on it. A Gandhi scion may be tasting its winter, and the heat and the dust of its dirtiest hamlets and seamy slums, but even his succession will depend on the performance of his party in states other than Uttar Pradesh. There is hardly any catchy slogan, forget about any blueprint for change. Even after the declarations of the election schedule, none of the parties has been able to present a credible election manifesto even if they will forget it after the elections. From the Congress and BJP to the smallest regional parties, all have been looking for the right text of social engineering to forge a winning caste coalition.
As the countdown for elections to the 403-member Assembly begins, the state remains locked in its worst-ever caste and community war. It is no more a fight between ideologies. None of the dozen odd parties in the election fray are talking of better governance, but are loudly proclaiming the caste and community affiliations of each candidate. Last week, when election committees of various parties met in New Delhi and Lucknow to finalise their candidates, they looked at the caste and religion of their candidates first and not winnability on merit alone. While the Congress party didn’t leave any chance to attack the Mayawati government, it indulged in the lowest kind of votebank politics by raising the issue of reservation in government jobs for minorities. For the past seven years, the UPA hardly bothered to ensure any caste- or religion-based reservation. Suddenly, on the eve of the elections, it has discovered more backwardness and poverty only among minorities. Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav has even gone to the extent of promising a constitutional amendment to exceed the cap of 50 per cent reservation. Even the BJP hasn’t been immune to the caste virus, going out of its way to woo leaders of different communities, even if some are involved in heinous crimes or are being investigated by the CBI.

Indulging in competitive politics is not new to political parties in Uttar Pradesh, but it used to be camouflaged behind the high-sounding principles of social equality and justice. It was the Congress policy of ignoring its regional satraps that led to the birth of caste and community leaders like Charan Singh, Mulayam, Kalyan Singh and later Mayawati. With both the Congress and the BJP failing to promote or retain their tall caste leaders, the natural beneficiaries have been regional parties like the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). None of them have ever presented an alternative agenda for governance but they have provided political power to those who had neither jobs nor social acceptability.

In a state where a Dalit or a backward caste couldn’t dream of an important position, the deprived now have the pride and power that comes from an ever-rising share in political power. The state remains at the bottom of national growth pyramid but a large percentage of its socially and economically backward population is now governed by people from their own caste and community. Mayawati’s government may have squandered development funds and encouraged corruption but it has given the largest-ever representation to Dalits and other most backward communities in running the state. Over 30 per cent of its district police and administrative chiefs are from deprived sections. A large number of senior secretarial posts have been given to those who were earlier ignored because of their caste. A state which sent some of the finest civil servants to important ministries at the Centre has now been turned into a haven of castecracy, and not meritocracy.

The February elections are unlikely to reverse the trend. With all parties and leaders coming together—directly or indirectly—to dislodge the mighty Mayawati from her caste-embedded throne, the battlelines between castes and communities are becoming sharper. Local political watchers say every party is divided into numerous caste groups. If the BSP is divided into four sub-caste groups, both the BJP and the Congress have more than a dozen each followed closely by the SP with six caste factions. Current indications are that no party will get an absolute majority. Whatever the outcome, the message from Uttar Pradesh is on the wall. It is going to be a win for divisive politics and a defeat for clean politics and responsive governance. The two national parties are to blame.
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