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There is no question, in many ways, the Indian politician is coming ever closer to the archetype American one. The fact that Manmohan Singh had to write to his entire council of ministers telling them how to behave and what to do is a sign of the times to come. The fact is that this time round, most of them will have to listen since the mandate Singh has received is overwhelming. But then what should this Government's priorities be and how should it go about them?

 

I have always maintained that we as a nation are woefully inadequate as far as addressing the three Ps are concerned. We do not take primary health, primary education and population seriously and this will be our enduring fault-line. India's track record on all of the above three Ps is abysmal and the good news is for the first time, in many years, we have a sensible man heading the RD Ministry. I have many hopes from Kapil Sibal but then he will have to demolish before he can build. Demolish those archaic mindsets, which have hampered the advance of primary education or for that matter, higher education too. We have dinosaur bodies such as the University Grants Commission, which does no work at all, hogging so much of the money and the attention. I believe the UGC swallows more grants for itself than gives to needy universities or educational institutions. As far as the spread of decent and meaningful education is concerned, we must have a policy, which encourages public private partnership because the Government just cannot do it alone. And in this partnership, the Government must be willing to let go of control. There is no point in having some silly bureaucrat on the board when they add no value. While the world applauds our institutes of higher learning, the tragedy is the bottom of the pyramid has been neglected for too long and this needs some immediate correction. We also, simultaneously need to set out an agenda for a National Skills Development program because in more cases than one, education in India does not mean employment: it just means a worthless degree on paper. This needs to change if you really wish to harness that demographic dividend of a young population.

 

Health has been perhaps the biggest disaster in India's post-independence history. We have had callous egomaniacs heading the health ministries, the last one, Anbumani Ramadoss, having taken the cake! We cannot crow about being an economic powerhouse when 4 children die every 20 minutes in India only because we have no heath-care delivery system. There is no point in being proud of one All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi when there is a mess in states and districts therein. It is indeed ironic that while 30% of the doctors in the United States are Indians, we have such an abysmal state of heath-care in our very own country. There are many states that have had to suffer because of this neglect. Kala Azar remains a portent threat in Bihar while malaria remains a scourge in India. Even our reactions to the swine flu have been couched in tokenism than some real medical offering. And the saga continues. We need greater private partnership here because brands such as Apollo and Max have established global supremacy here in India and yet we have a Government, which refuses to learn. A country, which cannot afford to look after its own, has no business in the global firmament tom-tomming its economic prowess and I sincerely believe the new minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, has his task cut out. But this is where we need demonstrable action.

 

Sanjay Gandhi destroyed whatever hope there was for population planning when he forced sterilisation in the 1970s. No politician wants to talk about our burgeoning population any longer and therein lies the tragedy. We are never going to have enough water, enough food and enough infrastructure for a population that continues to spiral out of control. And once again, the answer is not in population control but in education. We have empirical data to suggest wherever literacy is higher, family sizes are better configured and both education and health are inextricably linked to population management.

 

So while much has been written and said about this 100-day program, we need some milestones that must be reached in these first 100 days. There is no point declaring a war when no one is willing to stick his neck out and fight and this time round, this Government can hardly hide behind the obstructionist policies of the Left parties. The time for that letter to convert itself into some developmental ammunition has arrived and the sooner, the better.

 

SAME OLD, SAME OLD...

By suhel_seth on Jun. 4th, 2009

The Republic of India finally has a Government in place  but not one of surprises. One would  have expected a cleansing of sorts but that has not  happened. Nor has competence been  rewarded adequately. Which should have, given the  mandate that the Congress Party  received during the elections. But this is perhaps  where Indian frailty rests. I, for one, cannot  understand how some real bright people have been given  some silly portfolios. Chidambaram  as Home Minister is a first-rate choice. He is sharp  and has proved himself in every job he  has handled. But then so is Kamal Nath. Kamal was  India's feisty Commerce Minister in the previous regime and has been credited with improving India's bit in every area: be it exports or the stand-off at WTO. To now move Kamal to Infrastructure is a bit of a come down but then knowing Kamal he will make a fine job of it and there is a lot that needs to be done in the area of infrastructure.

 The wise old man of Indian politics, Pranab Mukherjee is the new Finance Minister of India: a job that he once held 25 years ago. Much is expected from him since there is perhaps no other politician who is so deft in the art of obtaining (and delivering) consensus. Ambika Soni did a superlative job as the Tourism Minister and one hoped she should remain either in that job or for that matter Health but she has been given Information and Broadcasting. What is however shocking is that S M Krishna, a former Chief Minister of one of India's Southern states, Karnataka was taken out of the woodwork and made External Affairs Minister: a disaster to my mind. Krishna was not rewarded for intellect but for loyalty and this is my worry. Not one young minister has been given cabinet rank. The average age of this cabinet is 66 when the average age of the voter is about 32 so the disconnects are apparent.

 What I am even more concerned about, is the fact, that every Congress Government has marginalized constitutional offices. Indira Gandhi destroyed the judiciary when she was Prime Minister. And then in the last term, Sonia Gandhi pitchforked a non-descript and dodgy politician as President of India only because she was a woman: Pratibha Patil, India's President is not just insipid but comes after a man who was truly inspirational and engaging, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. But then this is what the problem with governance in India is. We are still a feudal society even where democracy is concerned and the fact you have Dr Manmohan Singh, easily one of our most honourable politicians, as Prime Minister, some essentials never change. And the loyalty card is now carrying indescribable premia.

 Take for instance, the selection of Meira Kumar as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, India's lower house of Parliament. She is a five-term MP only because of who she is. Not because of what she has ever done. To appoint someone on the back of mere tokenism (so that we now have another woman in a high constitutional office) is not just belittling to the office but completely destroys both the efficacy and the effectiveness of such an office. For the Prime Minister to then introduce her (and justify her selection) saying she is a woman, a Dalit (India's downtrodden class) and the daughter of one of India's legendary politicians (who by the way, forgot to pay income tax throughout his life) is only symptomatic of the political system prevalent in India. So while the whole world hails India's democracy, and the fact that we now have women in high office and have thus broken the glass ceiling, the truth is somewhat chilling. In this present Parliament, of the 543 MPs, only 58 are women and of these 58, 36 are either widows, daughters, wives or daughters-in-law. The question that thus begs to be answered is are we a democracy or a convenient feudal setup? The answer lies in the statistics.

So while we wait for this Government to kick-in, many will question the legacy that the Congress will leave behind? And in that respect, how much more will they destroy in terms of high offices before they build again? There is no question that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have done a commendable job but what prompted them to then make two successive mistakes is something that will remain an enduring mystery!

 


Singh is King was a blockbuster Bollywood film of 2008. Very few ever dreamt it would haunt us, in a very welcoming way, in 2009 and that too post a general election.

 

Never has an Indian election been so bitter, so debased and deprived of real issues. Never was an election fought sans issues. Never was a general election in India witness to deplorable personal attacks but the lesson has now been swiftly learnt. Where the parties got it horribly wrong was while their leaders were aging, the voter was getting younger and it is no surprise that hatred lost to hope. And progress and principles triumphed. The return of the Congress-led UPA is going to be a welcome signal but not without enhanced expectations and this is what should worry Manmohan Singh, who after India’s revered statesman, Jawaharlal Nehru will be the only ever person to become Prime Minister of this country twice in a row, throwing anti-incumbency to the winds.

 

But like most elections, this one too has many lessons embedded in it and one hopes that those who craft the destinies of India’s politics will pay some heed.

 

Lesson # 1: there is a bigger religion than being Hindu or a Muslim and that is the faith of the economy: people want food on their table; jobs to go to and a home to live in. Riots destroy. Never build. This is a lesson that every political party must learn because in some way religious appeasement exists across the entire political spectrum.

 

Lesson # 2: given the fact that 65% of India’s voter base is between the ages of 18 and 35, is indicative of what an ideal political campaign must be: it must feed on issues pertaining to development and progress and not be regressive in its thinking. I believe the logic of aligning youthful idealism with policies and manifestoes is never more critical than it is in today’s times.

 

Lesson # 3: the time for alibis and excuses during the tenure of a Government doesn’t ever bode well when it comes to getting re-elected. The fact that the Communists have been decimated in these elections is both good and ironic. Good because they were the stumbling blocks to any kind of economic reforms in the previous regime and ironic because the only cadre-based political party in India is now left shattered.

 

Lesson # 4: you have to sense the pulse and not the idiom whilst preparing for elections.

Security was thought of as a critical issues post the Mumbai attacks but I guess the BJP didn’t realize, from its own understanding of Hinduism, that we as a nation, and not just Hindus, are pretty karmic about death. What we worry more about is not being blown up by a bomb but instead not having any means of subsistence.

 

Lesson # 5: the nation has moved from regionalism to federalism and this is a tremendous

signal: of the maturity of the Indian voter. We are now seeing the return of the two major

parties: the Congress and the BJP and the demise of regional factionalism and certainly the blackmail opportunities that were effectively the birthmark of these fringe parties.

 

Lesson # 6: the great divide between Bharat (rural or poor India) and India will remain. But this divide is easily bridged when it comes to voting in a Government at the Centre. And this time round, we have seen that divide melt because the aspirations of the people remain the same even though the definition ad intensity may vary.

 

Lesson # 7: politics is no longer the refuge of the scoundrel and perhaps for the first time, we saw professionals, either as independents or as party candidates fighting elections. This augurs well for a country that either elected dynasties or rank crooks. This is perhaps the most significant progressive signal from these elections. It is this that must now guide candidate selection of these political parties. The earlier concept of winnability is no longer cast in stone.

 

I believe India has moved many steps forward with these elections. We will continue to have an honourable man at the helm of affairs. My only hope is that this time round. Manmohan Singh is able to cleanse his cabinet of some of those corrupt ministers who were part of his earlier Government.

 

We will also see the emergence of Rahul Gandhi as a politician who thinks from his head rather than acts from the heart and the transformation of Manmohan Singh from a technocrat to a statesman.

 

In many ways, a perfectly happy ending just like we have in our Bollywood films!

Much has been said and written about the shoe that was thrown by a Sikh journalist at P Chidambaram, India’s Home Minister when he refused to address the concerns raised about the Congress Party nominating Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections from Delhi: where in 1984, these two gents were alleged to have masterminded a state-supported pogrom which saw the death of over 10,000 Sikhs only because the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi had been assassinated by a Sikh bodyguard.

In this melee, history has been conveniently forgotten because in addition to what these two gents have supposedly been accused of, was also a statement by the slain Prime Minister’s son, Rajiv Gandhi, that when a large tree falls, the ground shakes.

One cannot accuse Rajiv Gandhi of being communal but then given the servility of India’s political classes I would not be surprised, if that statement too would have been seen as a gentle nod of support for the mayhem that followed. India experienced the kind of rioting that would make Godhra in Gujarat look like kindergarten. The only difference was those riots were not televised. The ones in Gujarat were.

I have often argued both in print and television, that the Congress party has perhaps as much blood on its hand as the BJP: and both have used caste and creed to forment trouble in unimaginable ways. The fact that the so-called secular Congress has the gumption to field the Tytlers and Kumars of this world is an expression of denial on the one hand and brazen disregard for the emotions of the citizens on the other. I cannot imagine why the Congress has not acted swiftly and denied them a party ticket to contest the polls. In the absence of such action, the Congress comes across as equally indulgent of hate as the BJP is often made out to be.

The killings happened in 1984 and from then till now, justice has not only been delayed but denied as well. It is a shame that while on the one hand we castigate Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s Chief Minister for what happened in Gujarat, as we should, there is a numbed silence on the events of October 1984. This, to my mind, is a reflection not just on the apathy of our political system but also of our justice system. It is a sad state of affairs that while families of the dead continue to wait for justice, in some bizarre turn of events, they will be asked to choose a candidate who in their minds has blood on his hands. Eventually it is about perceptions and not reality. It is about being seen to be doing the right thing and not trying to obfuscate the real issues by shielding behind an ineffective investigative agency or for that matter a lethargic justice system. The anger of the Sikhs is justified. As is the anger of the Muslims of Gujarat. This anger cannot and must not be ignored if we are to preserve the secular identity of India. And send out a demonstrable signal, that those who kill will not be allowed to govern.

I would argue that the shoe was thrown not at Chidambaram the person, but at the political class that he represents and the office he holds and it does not help matters when he is also seen as both opinionated and arrogant by a large swathe of the elite. I think the shoe- throwing incident must be seen in its symbolism and not in its reality. It is an eruption from the frustration that thousands of Sikh families suffer every passing day and to see that emotion being mocked by nominating these two gents is infuriating to say the least. The journalist Jarnail Singh epitomized that anger; that frustration and sadly the collective helplesness not just of riot victims but also of every Indian who has been victimized by a blend of politics and justice. It is this that we need to be cognizant of.

Sonia Gandhi would be humane and wise to take back the nominations of these two gentlemen whether or not they are held innocent by what is already seen as a kangaroo investigation. She needs to send a signal that she is different and that as a result her party is different. In a strange way she also needs to undo the damage that her late husband seemingly caused by his immediate utterance that were explained, at that time, as an emotional outburst of a grieving son. Today, there are many grieving mothers and sons who’ve been scarred by the trauma of 1984.

And to paraphrase George Orwell, 1984 will never be different if the Tytlers and Kumars of this world escape political banishment, as they must. Sonia Gandhi has very little choice. But then who knows how wise one is, when the boot is on the other foot?

The Indian election scenario has always been predictable. And despite the any changes that one sees with regard to the rise and rise of regional parties, some of the fundamentals never seem to change. There has been enormous brouhaha over the manner in which some candidates have been handing out cash in blatant violation of the election conduct but that too is explained away on the altar of tradition, What however intrigues me, election after election, is the manner in which almost every political party makes such a song and dance of its manifesto. There was however, a time when there were some discriminators in these manifestos but in these parity driven ties, that too seems to have vanished and this is the biggest irony of the Indian political scenes. These are no longer manifestoes with plans and shared vision but instead documents which highlight freebies that parties promise but never deliver on. It is this ideological meltdown that should worry every aware voter.

But will the Indian voter have either the maturity or the sagacity to see through this façade?

Or will literacy still come in the way. These manifestoes are documents, which need to be read not heard. With swathes of the Indian population reeling from illiteracy, it amazes me how futile the whole manifesto exercise is. Neither is it a report card of that party’s performance nor is it a deliverable document in terms of what it will set out to do should it form the Government. Add to that, the fact that almost every manifesto looks just the same, the very basis of these political parties, which in essence should be their ideology or focus, is something that is now tokenism and nothing else.

The common man is the focus but rarely the driver of these manifestoes. Nor is there an iota of research that the party may have undertaken to either gauge citizen concern or citizen aspiration while drafting these statements of intent. Once again, grave dangers when it comes to the democratic process. How on earth do political parties hope to remain connected and what’s more, how can they be held accountable when the heart of the manifesto itself does not receive either proper or wide dissemination? I am a strong believer that in any functioning democracy, accountability of intent is what will keep Governments in check and if the manifestoes are anything to go by, then we have a document which is revisited only once every five years and is a collection of populist slogans rather than any serious discourse on the issues grappling the nation.

Which is why it is not strange that extraneous factors such as terrorism and the nuclear deal have become topics of public speeches rather than concrete suggestions of improving India’s ailing infrastructure or for that matter tackling a declining economy. People in this country are still looking for the basics: water, food and primary health not to mention education. And what are our national leaders shouting about in their speeches? Everything but these very issues. The country, with such a large youth voter population would be better served if these politicians had a plan to address employment and productivity; to address the issues of a declining share of agriculture in India’s GDP or for that matter the weakening export scenario.

But then seriousness doesn’t come easily to the rabble-rousing Indian politician, which is why hate rather than progress has become the leitmotif of this election too. And this does not portend well. When the world’s largest democracy compares to the world’s oldest, the United States, we are lacking as far as policy statements are concerned. We continue to live in the hope that people will vote only with their hearts and not with their minds.

Perhaps a good reason to indulge in ideological tokenism rather than some serious citizen initiatives that India so desperately needs.

For a country that often uses democracy as a crutch to justify the anarchy and the underbelly of politics, India has not come a far way as far as the intrinsic nature of  its politics is concerned. We still revere dynasties in one form or the other; if it is the young politician you are looking at, then many are in politics only because of who they are and not because of what they stand for and believe in.

The Gandhi surname in India has almost the same mystique as the Kennedys in the United

States: a family born to rule as it were. But also like the Kennedys, a Gandhi can do no wrong in India and when he or she does, it gets magnified several times over. If you go back in history, there is no doubt that while Mahatma Gandhi gave India its freedom, it took another, Indira Gandhi to take it away when she, as Prime Minister, in 1975 imposed an Emergency in order to hang onto power and suspended all civil rights. It was only in 1977 that democracy once again reared its almost severed head and sanity was brought back into Indian politics.

But Indira was a different kind of Gandhi. While the Mahatma taught us unity and extolled the virtues of our diversity, Indira believed in the mantra: power at any cost and thus used the same democracy to practice a kind of politics that is the bane of modern India. She destroyed every institution that Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister (and her father) established: be it the judiciary or the armed forces or for that matter even the bureaucracy. She injected divisiveness and thus laid the foundations of contemporary vote-bank politics, which includes the blatant articulation of hatred against one community or another. Indira Gandhi was the fountainheads of that debasement of politics and it is strange because she learnt at the feet of her father: Jawaharlal Nehru, the father of modern India and true secularist and liberal.

So does the surname Gandhi help? Does it carry a burden of responsible behaviour? Is a Gandhi supposed to do the right thing? Ever since Indira Gandhi’s grandson, Varun Gandhi spewed venom against the Muslim community a fortnight ago, he has been reviled by many saying this was not expected of a Gandhi. But then people have selective amnesia: they’ve forgotten the Indira years. I guess, the surname no longer carries any meaning nor should it be expected to. In a strange way, while, his grandmother destroyed every public institution, this Gandhi is now hitting out at the very fundamentals that will not only destroy the peace and sanity of today’s India but will also set a standard for debased politics for the future and this is my worry. It is indeed ironic that while the Mahatma stood for bringing the Hindus and Muslims together, to create one post-partition India, this young man is doing just the opposite. Where does this leave the famed secularism that India often touts or crows about?

And is Varun Gandhi only articulating what already exists? I guess, years of divisiveness have created a polarization that is now coming to the surface and this is the terrifying thought. If you look at the support base that today’s Gandhi has, it will alarm you: from right-wing religious groups to youth clubs on social networking sites, all seem to suggest a level of support which one would have never imagined. In many ways, this Gandhi has exposed India to another level of debasement, which we can either embrace or ignore: both at the peril of the idea of India. It is this, which must seize our attention. The entire sub-continent is sitting on a time bomb as it were and the last thing India needs is a brand of new-wave Gandhian politics that will completely destroy the fabric of this country. What is even more tragic is that while we can blame age and detachment from modern youthful thinking when we talk of India’s senior politicians who are communal, there is a sweeping dismay when a young man all of 29 years, decides to embark on his political career by espousing the viciousness that he did. It is this image of youth-in-politics that is frightening. Because there is hatred rather than development.

 Varun Gandhi is now in prison.  For threatening the idea of India. Unlike the Mahatma who went to prison so that India could be free. In many ways, both are martyrs. One is an accidental one and the other remains venerated only when it is convenient. That is perhaps the sad journey that the Gandhi name has made in India. It now remains to be seen which brand of Gandhian thought we embrace going forward. There hardly seems to be a choice if seen through the prism of sanity but then sanity was sacrificed by yet another Gandhi, Indira, many years ago. And her grandson is only playing his part in this terrible political sequel.

WHY INDIA NEEDS A NANO?

By suhel_seth on Mar. 21st, 2009

When the Nano, the world’s cheapest car, is launched at the venerable Parsi Gymkhana Grounds in Bombay, by Ratan Tata on Monday, March 23, it will not just be the launch of a car. Instead it will be the launch of a million possibilities. Indian possibilities. Indian engineering; Indian ingenuity and finally, a vehicle for Indian aspirations. And in these troubled times, India needs a symbol of hope; a symbol of the possible and one which can show the world that Made In India is no longer about off-shoring or about inexpensive services but instead about the capabilities that India has to not just dream out of the ordinary but also make that dream happen.

There has already been enough noise in the media about the Nano. In fact in many ways, it has many firsts to its credit and the price is not the only one. From a marketing perspective, it has already gone into the lexicon of India’s people and the fact that Tata called it a people’s car is even more suggestive of the transfer of ownership of the brand from a company to its users: the people. How many brands can claim this? And how many brands have ever used this form of positioning? It is rare in times such as these to avoid paid advertising and yet launch a brand that has a lot riding on it. But then again, Nano is one car that needs no definition. It has been embraced as a vehicle of change but even more critically; as a vehicle of empowerment and it is here that the Tatas have provided that huge leap as it were.


India is in the throes of an election that will possibly throw up a rag-tag alliance; our political leadership has been fraught with social and communal tensions and the meltdown of the economy has not helped either. Add to that the continuing suspense over whether the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament will happen or not. It is in these uncertain times, that the Nano represents a certainty that the Indian can touch and feel. It is tangible and for him as it were.  The average Indian is still reeling from poverty and lawlessness in many parts and the so-called economic boom has only embraced the very few at the cost of the many. For a lot of those people, the Nano is what will drive them up the value chain of status and status is an important tool for the enhancement of self-esteem so in many ways, the Nano will also take care of the self-esteem gap that exists in large parts of India not to mention the realities of connectivity that have escaped many swathes of India. It is this bridge that the Nano will build. A bridge that will suddenly connect India and Indians much like the low-cost carrier Air Deccan did with civil aviation in India many years ago. But then the Nano is different. It is a car, which the average Indian equates with badgification. For a country that for years has gifted motorcycle and scooters as part of marriage trousseaus is today being provided a choice and in India, one can never understate the importance of this social behaviour either.

So while on the one hand, the Nano represents raw mobility, on the other it also symbolizes social mobility: both of which are critical consumer drivers. For me personally, the Nano will herald a revolution like we haven’t seen before. And this is not a debate about service and profitability; it is indeed not even a story of brands and automobile marketing. It is in a sense the story of a dream that a fellow Indian had and then worked to make it happen despite all the odds and believe you me, there are many in India. From lobbies at work to competitors trying to browbeat at every step. For many in India, the Nano is indeed a David, which will now wrestle with the Goliaths of the world. And win. Because the people of India will hardly let their heroes fail. Especially, when the promise is not just about a car but about a dream that has finally been realized.

What is even more telling is that the people’s car will be launched amidst the people. On grounds that otherwise wee cricket matches and marriages; it will thus merge with the Indian milieu in a manner like no other and be seen on roads with awe and pride. Both of which India needs so desperately as we begin our march with chains of economic shackling that have been imposed on us by the world. It is at this time, more than any other in our history, that India needs a Nano.

SHOULD HATE ALWAYS WIN?

By suhel_seth on Mar. 20th, 2009

It would ideally be logical to assume that a country of India’s size and economic inequalities, development and social upliftment would be the ideal planks for winning an election, but sadly, things have not changed very much and hate is still widely believed to be a huge driver of votes. Or at least of media attention, which is why, it was not surprising for Jawaharlal Nehru’s great grandson, Varun Gandhi to spew venom against the Muslims in an election speech. It has put him in the spotlight; has created the kind of media frenzy that this Gandhi would have never imagined and placed him on a pedestal which is both communal on the one hand and right-wing on the other.

Sadly, in all this melee of hate-speeches, Varun forgot, in a country such as India where names often suggest religion and caste, how will he ever dump his middle name: Feroze: the name of his grandmother, Indira Gandhi’s husband. So was it a case of distancing himself from the suggestiveness of the word Feroze or was it to curry favour with the not so fringe communal elements that come to the fore in any Indian election. And that is the nub of the issue.

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Many people ask me if the BJP will ever come back to power at the Centre and my answer is just like we never imagined the Congress would, the reverse would be equally true. But the fact of the matter is that never has a national party been so ill prepared after so much preparation. Never has a Prime Ministerial candidate (announced aeons ago) looked so un- Prime Ministerial and never has a cadre-based party been so divided as the BJP is today. The fact is that while the BJP may be quick to blame the Congress as a party saddled with dynastic politics, their own track record is equally abysmal as far as certain holy cows are concerned. One of them being the authority of the party President even though he may be a man of feeble intellect and negligible charisma.

  

Unlike the Congress (which has one undisputed leader), the BJP has always had duality in terms of its overall leadership and the present is no different. While Advani may be the man they want as Prime Minister, the man ostensibly running the party commands no base, only a few courtiers and is well-versed in the art of divide and rule which is what happened yesterday. Arun Jaitley is widely regarded as the strategist of the party; a man who has won them elections on the back of carefully devised plans and the ability to negotiate and communicate: both which are critical in today’s India of political alliances. This is a man no party can afford to lose. Nor is this a man they can afford to have sulk. Both of which Arun Jaitley seems to be doing and with good reason. Advani has always built a virtue of his cleanliness; a virtue of having people around him who are intellectuals and at the very basis, honourable. Something that the party President perhaps does not subscribe to which is why the elevation of a certain Sudhangshu Mittal to be the campaign in-charge of the North- East. But then again, like in chess, you sometimes need a pawn to dethrone the queen and this is the move that Rajnath Singh has played but only to the enduring decline of the BJP both in perceptual as well as real on-the-ground terms and this is what I find baffling. Why would the BJP want to commit hara-kiri just when one of their most trusted allies has left them in the lurch of the Eastern state of Orissa? Why would the BJP want to divide their house in a manner that is not just bitter but self-defeating and why would the party President himself shoot a self-goal.

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WHO’S SLEEPING WITH WHOM?

By suhel_seth on Mar. 12th, 2009

For all those who think this is going to be titillating, think again. I am not discussing Bollywood or for that matter the famous shenanigans of some famous Indians caught on tape in compromising positions with some Miss India from Canada: this is a simple treatise on the on-going bed-swapping amongst political parties and the repercussions this nation will experience as we go along.

In the past few weeks enough has been written about the next elections will have no winners:

they will have rag-tag alliances which will come together as they always do, just to taste power and make some quick money while the going is good. Given what one sees around oneself, it is difficult to imagine how on earth the Jayalalithas of the world will ever go to bed with the Communists but then before one could express shock, there was that mushy shot of P K Vaiko offering a glass of fresh juice to Jaya so that she could then resume eating and not bother about Tamil deaths in Sri Lanka. Positions in politics change faster than on a football field. There seem to be no ideological domains within which any of these people are functioning and what makes matters worse, is the voter is incidental to the process or perhaps even to the outcome.

 

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