Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pranab as next President: Some predictions

The Indian poitical characteristic is such that often we say the country is deeply troubled at heart, and at odds with many things of its own. The elections process throw opportunities to size up the polity. But, as with presidential elections, often these are wasted as caste and linguistic divisions throw up fragmented mandate. However, there r interesting facets these times. Was Sonia G not very ple...ased to announce Pranab's name as UPA candidate? her smile was missing? Has she lost her pre-eminence position.. Is this is a sheer glimpse of what Pranab can turn up in time to come? Well he could face defeat (seems unlikely) if Sonia's own people do not betray the other 'PM" at her beshest ..but if he makes it... bigger trouble for first political family is not ruled out. Many say Mulayam has acted according to script drafted by Congress's hitherto known best known draftsman...... From Didi to Dada, Italian lady could face real indian/desi heat .... well well...... Why she had to meet Mulayam herself? Was Ahmed Patel on leave? I could analyze things on my own more and more.... However, there is other side of the tale and the obvious side..... the implications of his elevation as President and how others are sidelined/marginalised.. But the presidential election in India is a gigantic task as the work involves keeping hawk’s eyes on each party, prominent individual leaders, local and regional factors. Pranab is today considered with the obvious 'pratham bangali' Rashtrapati tag.... and by having his 'chhoto bon (younger sister) against him, Pranab has practically managed the left votes --- ironically slghtly more than Mamata's Trinamool. Election this time has other players playing their own game. Naveen Patnaik is keen for a tribal card as this goes well for him in his own backyard... Jayalalitha wants to win over Christians who form sizeable voters in Tamil Nadu and are likely to be with her foes DMK as they being close to Sonia Gandhi herself. One should try to examine all these, more minuetly. Look at the big picture... a complete picture of our netas, their playing of chances, opportunism in self-seeking goals, myths called partnerships. Lalu Prasad is vocal in supporting Pranab as he is eyeing a cabinet berth to strike back at strong opponent Nitish. NCP satrap Sharad Pawar, could not conceal his lifetime ambition of running for Prime Ministership perhaps even for 2014 and therefore is desperate to prevent his own partyman P A Sangma to become president. Moral of the story is no body is above board.... remember the good old saying,,, 'Hamam mey sab nange hae... Now, zeroing down on Pranab. It's time to have a first Bengali as President of India. With his nomination, Pranab M joins the cub of R Venkataraman, Zail Singh, Shankar Dayal Sharma and Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy to be first citizen from among hardcore Congress politicians. and to be honest, none of these predecessors in Rashtrapati bhavan has left any mark. Except I suppose, Shankar Dayal Sharma went by text book and invited Vajpayee as the leader of the single largest party in 1996. Another Congress sympathiser and also a sympathiser of Sonia, K R Narayanan waited for days to oblige the Madam from Italy....Zail Singh would have swept the floor for Indira, according to his own words.. RV ran to airport to receive Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi when RG returned from Colombo from being hit by a soldier in the island nation. The same zail singh reportedly threatened to take action against Rajiv... well, now it is for time to see what kind of President, Pranab would make it. I could b wrong, but ther would be less for Bengalis to cheer abt Pranab's stay in Raisina Hills. Mamata has her reasons as Pranab could have helped her as Finance Minister. God forbid, my prayer is he does not end up as Somnath 'Shame Shame' Chatterjee and bring disgrace in more ways than one. On Somnath, Mamata Didi has been absolutely wrong, other than teasing the Leftists. the 'shame shame' Chatterjee, as he used to scream in Lok Sabha as presiding officer forgetting his own conduct, has been used as a 'joker' or poplu card by Mamata. About Pranab's contribution to Bengal after winning LS election from Jangipur, my friend Rajib Guha, a Kolkata-based journo, says is opening branches of nationalised banks in all the road of Jangipur. "There are a lot of banks in Jangipur. Other than this he has no contribution to Bengal. But his g...reatest contribution to corporate India is the rise of RIL in 1980s when he was the Finance minister in Indira Gandhi cabinet," says Rajib. So, if Dhirubhai brought in the culture of 'buying over anything and everything" in Indian government and bureaucracy and if Indira Gandhi is responsible for bringing corruption and sycophancy in all institutes... one cannot credit Pranab Mukherjee, the eternal 'the other PM' for being a Mr Clean...... I am a Bengali myself and essentially not a 'Bangali hater'......

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Now, Truism on Modi's Developmental Identity

Predictably, Narendra Modi is back in public debate once again after he literally has hijacked BJP leadership platform and forced the exit of his bete noire Sanjay Joshi. Said to be an organisational man, Sanjay Joshi was more a RSS-pointman but his functioning and also including lifestyle has been in controversies. Things have not been transparent either. For instance, when Advani as BJP president made the statement on Jinnah in Pakistan in 2005, he wanted the party office in Delhi to "interpret" his statement properly. As general secretary in-charge of organisation, Sanjay Joshi failed to deliver at least this is what ASdvani says, a "a lost opportunity" for his party. Now, coming to the main issue of Modi and his new identity as a mascot of Hindutva and development, there is a need to address certain key aspects. Were it not for Modi having to confront a full-scale war against him by the rival politicians and the secular brigade for the last decade, it is unlikely that Modi would have pushed his developmental card so hard and decisively. May be, may be not! After all Modi before being elevated as the chief minister of Gujarat was a typical 'also ran BJP neta' and was always overshadowed by the galaxy of media savvy players like Pramod Mahajan, Sushma Swaraj and Govindacharya. “But today things have gone in Modi’s favour. He might be a Muslim-baiter; but today he has brought in sustained acceleration in growth, perceptible progress against otherwise awful toll of poverty and the image of non-performing netas,” says one of his admirers. According to him, Moditva today as if a case of the ‘caged and injured tiger’ was waiting to be truly set free. Look at the results: the same chief minister vilified in the nation and who was denied a US visa in 2005 is wooed by corporate of all hues. He is finding himself engaged with top industrialists within the country and overseas and also there is engagement with the global economic power like China. His admirers have reasons therefore when they say Narendra Modi has changed the rules of Indian politics to an extent as from Nitish Kumar to Mamata Banerjee – everybody is following his footsteps organizing business summits and instead of rushing to Delhi with begging bowls are trying out to look for investment in their respective states based on their own strengths. The alleged ill-treatment meted to non-Congress state governments by the centre today have today provoked angry comments from Modi and even the likes of Jayalalitha, Naveen Patnaik and importantly, UPA constituent, Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress. Modi has also set the pace for inclusive growth, something cherished and given a lip-service in most cases. There is no denying that at the national level too, despite having someone like Dr Manmohan Singh at the helm, too much of growth has been concentrated in a narrow part of the economy – IT, BPO and some urban-based sectors. But in Modi’s Gujarat, there have been actions of the ground for generating mass employment with focused approach for expansion in manufacturing. The Gujarat government, despite its lapses, has also taken steps for high-value agriculture and food processing. Therefore, what can be the measure of Modi’s success rate on the developmental front? He has put the subject of rebalancing the growth chart on the agenda. The question in Gujarat and in those minds interested in Gujarat affairs is now whether his developmental saga has to be checked or reversed. On the contrary, the clamour is for taking these to the newer heights, as a key minister in the Modi cabinet summed up. Now let us try to take the debate on development and social sectors yardsticks into a different plane. Firstly, India’s reforms have come in compartmentalized forms. In the absence of reforms in the administration, police and judiciary, the new rules were enforced by an old system, and the mismatch has led to weak enforcement. The competition in presence of multiple players say in telecom could overcome weak enforcement. This appears to be a factor responsible for the success of equity markets and telecom but the same story was not reaped in the oil and power sectors. Many would argue that in a complex society like ours and in multi-layered polity of democracy in India, the consensual process of reform is important for success. There is no doubt in the last two decades the policy makers, the ministers and the law makers either in state assemblies or in parliament, have spent time listening to groups, business chambers etc before embarking on major policy changes. So did even a supposed autocrat Modi. But his success story also underlines that ‘out of the box’ thinking is highly advisable. Here was a chief minister, who despite the bad press, to the industry has always remained a ‘vanguard’ of not only change but someone who stood for what he said. ends

Friday, June 1, 2012

Truism about L K Advani and Nitin Gadkari

There is always a danger that for every performing politician and more so in a vibrant democracy like ours, there are those whose motives are self-serving and malicious. Now, this is no way to attempt to put either Narendra Modi, Advani or Nitin Gadkari in one category or the other. The posterity will judge that best, may be. But it ought to be stated that Narendra Modi’s or for that matter BJP’s accomplishments and methods to achieve electoral success in post Rajiv Gandhi era in Indian polity spark off few crucial questions of means and ends, as the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi had often spoken about. How does these means and ends relate in effect in parliamentary democracy guided ultimately by electoral success or failure? Is electoral success so vital and what would follow then? These questions broadly refer to the other political class too. How does Lalu Prasad or Mayawati’s segmented appeal and alleged corruption justify their success or failure? How does Congress absolve itself from the charge of creating vote banks by glorifying Urdu and playing naked minority (read Muslim) appeasement card in UP in 2012? What made Rajiv Gandhi make the infamous statement of tree falling and earth shaking? Did Congress get the ultimate message that Muslim in Uttar Pradesh outright rejected their carrot and gave back Rahul Gandhi’s party, the stick (read humbling defeat) in the elections? Firstly, while talking about Advani, one must say that the axiom about politics is that often charishmatic leaders like Advani, who contributed the most for BJP’s success, do not possess the vital luck and the right rhythm and flexibility to get the chance to lead a government or the country. Despite his glorious past, history will be no kinder to Advani. Since 2004, his political journey has been a test case of flirting with failures and mistakes. And mostly, they were self-inflicted flaws. If he thought ‘India Shining’ was a mistake, he should have corrected it on time. In more ways than one, Advani himself knew that with aging Vajpayee around; the 2004 general elections were more crucial for him as he would have been natural choice to succeed Vajpayee. Advani was already the deputy Prime Minister. In subsequent period, he went on committing one mistake after other. He replaced his onetime Man Friday Venkaiah Naidu as BJP president only to be challenged by sheer machinations of second generation leaders. Uma Bharati threw him open challenge in full televised view. Late Pramod Mahajan started working against him. No party leader tried to defend his remark on Jinnah. Advani must have been accustomed to be boss deciding and guiding the party’s destiny as well as calling shots for individual careers. From Sushma Swaraj to Venkaiah Naidu to Pramod Mahajan, and not forgetting Narendra Modi, everyone was his hand-picked leaders and beneficiaries of his benevolence. But the claim to remain the natural and legitimate player, that too in a commanding position, was torpedoed by the blunder of 2005 – Jinnah is secular hara-kiri. Similarly, his blog on May 31, 2012, the day his party had called for Bharat Bandh against petrol price hike was equally self destructive. In between too, he has committed few other mistakes like total mishandling of ‘cash-for-vote’ episode in 2008 trial of strength in Lok Sabha. In what was said to be Dr Singh’s crucial test, Advani staked his part that too --- significantly – probably at the instance of operators like Suddhendra Kulkarni. So much was the quantum of mistake that he was even pulled by then Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee for allowing BJP MPs to table cash in the Lok Sabha. Calling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ‘the weakest Prime Minister’ also did not help his case either. But it goes without saying that politically, people like Advani leave a mixed legacy. Among his most positive contribution for the party was to bring it at par with Congress. BJP never had a wider national appeal. But once his Somnath to Ayodhya Rathyatra was undertaken, the party had brought in bipolar approach to politics. This admittedly remains the most striking salient feature of his politics. This also has to be attributed to Advani’s pragmatism and far-fetched political vision, when in 1991 Mumbai convention of the BJP, he named his compatriot for many years Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. Vajpayee was extraordinarily popular and soon the BJP started to have a pan-India impact with even Naga leaders like the Late Vamuzo, swearing by Christian ideals, coming to the party fold or working out joint electoral strategy. Many call it Sangh’s political integration with Indian politics. Thus, in my understanding, it is hard to visualize what would have happened to BJP and Advani had he made the ‘Jinnah-secular’ statement in 1998-99 instead of 2005. In the case of Nitin Gadkari, he did not have much to claim except RSS blessings. While Narendra Modi’s motivations and objectives were never a ‘mystery’, I presume there are serious contradictions and difficult issues in evaluating Gadkari. Not so successful in state politics, one thing was clear from very beginning that he was RSS protégé and was readily willing to play second fiddle anytime. His actions often puzzled hardcore BJP supporters. During the peak of anti-corruption crusade led by Anna Hazare and that seemingly had put the UPA regime on the dock, Gadkari chose to take in one tainted minister of Mayawati, Khushwah just before the UP elections. Thus, it was not without good reason Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh mocked at Gadkari saying, the BJP president was more of a ‘businessman’. However, it ought to be said that his initial achievement after he took over in December 2009 was to bring a semblance of stability in the party and prevent the party from disintegrating into numerous factions. But the latent divisions in the party remained palpably all throughout. ends