Monday, November 26, 2012

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

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

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

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

Monday, November 12, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teekhi Baat with Salman Khurshid/IBN7/November 10, 2012

" When a mosquito bites, one feels irritated, but that does not mean that one will leave all work and run behind him," 
Salman Khurshid on Kejriwal 

Teekhi Baat with new External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid. 

PC: Earlier you were law minister, you used to defend the government well, but the language has to be changed for diplomacy. So will the language remain the same or change now.
SK: The language use depends upon the responsibility given to the person.
PC: Will you do less Teekhi Baat now.
SK: Will do less Teeki Baat now, even if my mind is “ Teekha” over some issue. You know how diplomatic language is.
PC: Which means your will be something inside, and something outside.
SK: Will be a same inside and outside. But it is true when one has to choose words, one should see who is sitting in front. Like the way I speak when you sit in front of me, is not the same when is speak to others. And I don’t speak to others the way I speak with you. But you call yourself Teekha, but speak smilingly, that is why I also smile and reply.
PC: Kejriwal again has alleged that your government compromises on sovereignty, foreign banks decide policies here. Don’t you think your credibility is falling and it is difficult to defend when Kejriwal levels allegations?
SK: There is no need to defend everything. Sometimes, people start killing themselves. They are themselves getting exposed and the reality is coming to light, let that happen. We don’t have less resources of give right and spicy replies, am talking about the party, the answer to questions raised Digvijay Singh have not been received as yet. Till his questions are not answered, in don’t think they have right to say anything.
PC: Kejriwal commented that the party is in Ambani’s pocket, no action is taken against them, about corporate control over government.
SK: There is no corporate control over government. Then wouldn’t there be an all round feeling that the corporate sector is very happy with us. Even from them we get to year questions.
PC: From such people who have nothing to do with the government
SK: Before levelling allegations on corporate, first let them tell how much money they have got from corporate, that news is tickling out, whether that money has been deployed rightfully? Wrongfully? We are told that whatever policy decisions we take, we should take that issue to all the panchayats in the country, and take their opinion whether we should go ahead with it or not. I want to ask, before they took money from corporate, did they ask people in villages, that should we take money from him, from this foreign person. Where should we spend this money? Do they send the accounts to every village and show it.
PC: Do you mean to say that team Kejriwal is as tainted as you
SK: I don’t say we are tainted; there may be possibility of some mistake in our functioning. It comes, even if you work this happens, we work this happens. And every mistake has some solution and responsibility. We don’t have worries out some questions being levelled against us in the system, if they have been levelled, we have made the system, we have faith in it, and the system has the right to ask us questions.
PC: They said that you did not investigate Mukesh Ambani, should put HSBC staff in jail.   
SK: Who are we to investigate, there is a criminal procedure code, IPC, FEMA, banking laws, authorities, courts, adjudicatory bodies. Now the bodies under whose jurisdiction these issues are, they have right to ask questions, take appropriate action.
PC: But the government did not reply to the allegations made by them
SK: Why would government reply to them, government replies to parliament.
PC: Earlier you used to go to them to answer questions, now you say parliament.  
SK: That is right to, If in our country, somebody says that they represent civil society, in a democracy they have right to ask questions, like I answer you, we answer them. But when one turns it into a political stage, when anyone talks of making a party, then why should we answer, then our party will answer. Out party workers will answer, when our party workers answer, they run away, are not ready to face them.
PC: Do you think corporate should explain about the money.  
SK: The government is accountable to parliament.
PC: But the income tax department took action against businessmen.
SK: We will answer any questions regarding those in parliament. If anybody feels there is any wrongdoing, they can go to court, we will answer there. But if we answer every person, every day regarding us, and he will refrain from giving any answers regarding himself.
PC: In the whole campaign, Kejriwal is listened to because he has credibility and people think what he says it is truth.
SK: We don’t think the people think it is the truth. We are amongst people, we have seen who people trust. It is true that efforts were made to spread rumours, and we also felt that the rumours may taken to be the truth.
PC: You don’t agree that their credibility is more than yours
SK: We don’t. Thousands and lakhs of time, it will be tested and the truth would be known.
PC: In Congress party Samvad Baithak, it came across that there is a disconnect between the government and the party. In Ms. Gandhi speech it comes across that the party would have to make the government understand this step.
SK: It is true that the main aim of the party is inspired from the party’s thought and the experiences of the party. But in a government, especially a co-alition government, there are many expectations.
PC: It is a Congress government, barely three ministers are from outside.
SK: Even then.
PC: Even they are with you; one should presume that it is a Congress government this time.  
SK: If you think this, I thank you, also for your farsightedness. And everybody has one goal, to see a Congress government.
PC: I did not say that, I said that currently it seems the government is a Congress government and not a coalition. Speaking of goals, there is no single goal in your party, everyone speaks a different language.
SK: In a living party, it is not everybody to speak one language and walk in one line. But our perception and boundaries are the same as is of our leadership.
PC: The party top brass said that the ministers should tell how much of the manifesto as been implemented. But one can see many things mentioned in the manifesto have not been implemented.
SK: Not been able to implement some things.
PC: 90 per cent of things have not been implemented.
SK: That is not true. But there are some things which we did not thought would happen, that there would be a global slowdown. Hence the good and bad  effects of it.
PC: You take credit for good things but for bad ones
SK: We take responsibility for everything.
PC: Kejriwal also alleged that black money is being allowed to come via FDI and FII route.
SK: We earlier made how many attempts to convert black money into white. We gave exemptions, told people if they get unaccounted money from abroad, questions would not be asked. Pay tax on it up to a limit and get that money back and use it, because in our country, we needed crores and crores to be pumped in.
PC: Which means you will tell all the thieves who took away money to come back. But you raid poor people.
SK: It is not so, when action is taken again poor people, it is taken into consideration whether the act was committed due to helplessness.
PC: Small tax evaders are caught, the ones who took away 25 lakh crores, are not taxed.
SK: Where ever it is possible we act. We cannot send army abroad to do this work.
PC: But you can close accounts, like HSBC was given notice by America for doing wrong things.
SK: HSBC in India as done no wrong thing.
PC: Those who were raided, gave a statement that HSBC’s local employees were contact point to manage HSBC, Geneva accounts.  The local employees used to do all deposit and withdrawal work.  
SK: If I say in a statement that Kejriwal has kept all this money, would you believe it. Any issue that is silly and just an attempt to create a platform for oneself, that I don’t think you or me should take seriously.
PC: I don’t agree, because the way you are liberal with foreign investment
SK: That is not true, what is GAAR, why did we raise issues regarding Mauritius
PC:You are not implementing it as yet, reviewing it.
SK: In this country many things are passed by parliament, and we again go to parliament.
PC: Your economic policies are based on what will happen in America, New York Stock Exchange, what will industrialists there think, even in diplomacy
SK: What is diplomacy today, the economic diplomacy, the global economic system and our contribution, right and participation in the same.
PC: Will you sell the country’s interest for that
SK: We don’t sell the country’s interest.
PC: On the terms that India allows money, does America allow money on those terms, that you don’t pay tax
SK: The basic thing is reciprocity. What you allow us to do in your country, we will allow you to do in our country.
PC: They don’t allow you to do outsourcing, and here you are saying telling them to come here
SK: We are also not doing outsourcing
PC: You are telling do FDI, take money
SK: We will talk of our interest, they will talk of their interest. We have to see that our neighbour China is receiving many times FDI than what we are. If we don’t do it, where would be growth opportunities for us.
PC: The China tax regime is not like the one here.
SK: China democracy and ours is different.
PC: China does not give the tax concessions that you give
SK: China’s foreign minister does not come for Teekhi Baat, when you get China’s foreign minister for it, I will agree to all that you say.
PC: Many of your ministers are not ready to do Meethi Baat, let alone Teekhi Baat.
SK: All our ministers are ready to speak
PC: As foreign minister you have to deal with Pakistan, and you allowed the players to come, BCCI to make money, ads will come and Pakistani players will take home some dollars. Then the terrorists from there will come and start killing.
SK: We will not allow terrorists to come.
PC: Till date they have not accepted your condition.
SK: Let them accept it or not, but see the condition is not the same which was 10 years ago, five years ago. Today we are successful that America, and all European countries, agree that we have been unfairly attacked and had to face trouble. What we used to say about our problems and feeling of insecurity, that has spread to the whole world now.
PC: But America is keeping on giving aid to Pakistan, like earlier. There are no economic sanctions on them and what transformation happened for you to allow the Pakistani team.
SK:  Those who want to play will them will play
PC: But what love happened between us and them that they were called.
SK: Out main aim with respect to Pakistan is that we want to increase our security. The people who have attacked us from Pakistan soil, and killed innocents here, responsibility should be fixed on them and they be punished.
PC: Recently, home minister said that there are people in Pakistan who are shielding people and not helping us. Do you agree with the home minister, are things state sponsored?
SK: We cannot say we got full co-operation from Pakistan, we hope that we will get co-operation on that path that we are going on.
PC: You agree with the home ministers statement.
SK: Certainly, we speak to each other.
PC: Even after that Prime Minister says he will go to Pakistan, provide legitimacy.
SK: The Prime Minister has received an invitation.
PC: Every year it comes, it is a formality. You invite, they also invite.
SK: But the Prime Minister has not taken any decision as of now. What decision the PM will take will be well thought of. At the moment, even I have not met anybody, not even the foreign minister. It is true I met their Prime Minister in Laos, for two-three minutes and he said that I want India and Pakistan to look ahead and not behind. But the issue which we have problems, pain and expectations, we have put it before them.
PC: You mean to say that the PM has not taken a decision on going
SK: When the decision is taken, we will tell you. Such decisions cannot be hidden, when the decision happens, then we will tell you.
PC: Atmosphere is there, if elections are going to happen there in 2013, you would like to go to save their government
SK: I can answer this question to the Prime Minister behind closed doors. It will not be right for me to say anything before the Prime Minster observes things from all angles.
PC: Today you cannot take any decision on today’s date.  
SK: Today I will just speak to you
PC: That this is an invitation like all others which are lying
SK: No, it is not merely lying, we are thinking on it. And seeing the system, environment and conditions we take decision, and the most important thing is that the decisions is in the interest of the country and we fulfil the country’s expectations.
PC: Now that Obama has been re-elected and he is considered pro-Pakistan, don’t you think your position would become weak.
SK: They have a well understood policy and we think that they have got great sympathy for us.
PC: Just sympathy
SK: Especially President Obama.
PC: Sympathies with you, money with them.
SK: No the issue of money is different; we are not in need of money.
PC: You said trade is important, aid is not important.
SK: Till when we will spread hands before others, now we are giving, we have given our neighbours, leave Pakistan, we have given to Bangladesh, Sri-lanka and Bhutan, we are giving whatever assistance was can and would keep on giving in Asia and Africa.
PC: Neighbours are not ready to listen to you, you have unsettled relationship with neighbours. Be it Sri Lanka
SK: But they are facing tough times, what has happened in front of them in the past 20 years, we cannot take benefit of the deep scars that have left on all the three sides.
PC: You are not getting permanent membership of UN security council, you did everything to get it
 SK: When there will be an atomosphere of change there, then we will become. India cannot go and make new laws.
PC: What is the biggest threat for you, like now Americans are going away from Afghanisation, there is going to be a big problem.
SK: I believe that we have not been directly affected with what happened in Afghanistan. But can affect in our neighbourhood. Our problem is not regarding Afganistan it is somewhere else. You know it is from somewhere else, but because they are all each other’s neighbours. Afganistan, Karzai saab is coming this week, has such great large hearted thoughts about us. He has taken education here, speaks good Hindi and likes seeing Hindi films, but even he is facing very tough situations. Our good wishes and co-operation are with him.
PC: With respect to India’s sovereignty and  other issues, what do you see are more of a problem, China or America
SK: No, we will not accept anybody questioning our sovereignty. But one will have to understand that those days are gone when one used to think that by putting oneself behind closed doors, one will think that it is sovereignty. Today all over the world, people have to sit with each other and talk. That is also an indication of sovereignty, if people are sitting across and talking he is talking of equality. You and me are talking about equality, neither my sovereignty is gone, neither yours.
PC: Now you have to fight two battles, outside the boundary of India, and one inside the boundary with Kejriwal type of people, then there , America, Pakistan.
SK: On one hand you are talking of President Obama and President Karzai and where are you talking about Kejriwal.
PC: Kejriwal can spoil your politics, they can spoil your economic system
SK: Sometimes a mosquito bites, one feels irritation, but this does not mean that a person is reading a book, speaking to somehow, doing some work he will leave that and run behind the mosquito, that will be wrong.
PC:You mean you just get minor irritation.
SK: I used to, now don’t even get that
PC: Thank you for coming to our show
SK: Thank you, Prabhuji!

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Crusade against Corruption ../The Sunday Standard/ November 04, 2012

The crusade against corruption is missing the big, bad, dirty picture

In this day and age of competitive cacophony to capture primetime eyeballs, the real source of corruption gets drowned. While serial exposures of scams are tumbling out of political closets on an hourly basis, the debate on funding elections and lifestyles of our politicians has been conveniently swept under the carpet. Since most scandals involve either politicians or the corporate sector, it is evident that there exists a commercial link between the two. Why aren’t our social activists, industry leaders and political philosophers talking seriously about election funding? From the Gandhi Parivar to Nitin Gadkari, politicos have been targeted for their alleged misuse of power to raise funds. All of them have stoutly refuted the charges and blamed their rivals for diverting attention from the real issues confronting the nation. Scam exposure is turning out to be a political T20 match in which viewers are waiting for either a wicket to fall or a sixer to be hit at every ball.  Unfortunately, every ball is now being declared a no-ball or a dead one, with the scorecard not moving ahead. This scenario is visible in business as well. The dividing line between politics and entrepreneurship is getting blurred. Gadkari calls himself a social entrepreneur, as he feels raising and promoting a business empire could be one way of looking after the poor farmers in his constituency. He has realised that it is not his reputation or political work but his assets that will get him the votes. In Delhi, the Congress party doesn’t see anything wrong in giving huge amounts of money to a privately owned company to run a newspaper. The real source of income of both Gadkari and the Congress are shrouded in mystery.

The Congress and Gadkari are not exceptions. Both occupy the top of the mind because they failed to master the art of political cooking. BSP supremo Mayawati created an innovating recipe for financial gastronomy when she disclosed huge amounts as contributions from well-wishers for her birthday celebrations. Most of them are yet to be located. A study of the value of assets disclosed to the Election Commission by political candidates reveals that each winning legislator has become richer by 100-1000 per cent during their tenure as a member of the state assembly or Parliament. Quite inexplicably, the law drafted by the NDA government, which made it mandatory to disclose assets, conveniently forgot to make it compulsory to disclose the sources of income as well. Even Cabinet ministers are not expected to provide details of their incomes to the Prime Minister or the chief minister concerned. Here lies the conspiracy to keep all political income away from the prying eyes of public scrutiny. The current silence over the need to make election funding more transparent and accountable is quite serious. Almost all national parties have opposed the move to bring their sources of income under the RTI Act. None of those fighting for a strong Lokpal or the eradication of corruption are raising their voice against this practice. Reports on electoral reforms written by veteran political leaders like L K Advani and Indrajit Gupta have been confined to the dustbin of history. The BJP forgot to take any major move to plug the loopholes during its six-year regime. In fact, the recent trend to expose individuals while ignoring the breeding ground of corruption poses a much more serious threat to the survival of clean democracy.
One of the many fallouts of the much-touted economic reforms has been the entry of political entrepreneurs into all the political parties. As a result of crony capitalism and tax-free income from the stock markets, the ones with the resources needed to win an election have replaced poor and middle class candidates. Research shows that the percentage of candidates with assets worth over Rs 1 crore has risen from a meagre 10 per cent in 1996 to over 30 per cent in 2009. The income of most political parties has risen by over 1000 per cent in the past two decades. The definition of desirability and winnability of each candidate has been redefined in favour of the rich and the mighty. The maximum number of criminal cases and the massive amounts of unaccounted wealth are now pre-requisites for contesting elections. Since most of our current leaders are beneficiaries of the unaccounted economy, they would be the last ones to initiate any kind of electoral reform. For them, investing in politics yields better dividends than from genuine business ventures. During the past two years, scams worth over Rs 4 lakh crore have hit the headlines. All of them have been linked to political leaders and entrepreneurs. Therefore, it is not in the interest of the politico-corporate nexus to talk about cleansing the dismally corrupt electoral process, in which over Rs 1 lakh crore are spent every five years.  The Indian democratic system is a revenue-led model. The rich finance wealthy candidates, who in turn formulate policies to make the rich much richer. The circle completes itself when the super-rich further bankroll the victory of much wealthier political leaders and also join political parties. The need of the hour is to break this circle and not just to expose a few rotten individuals.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla