Thursday, January 30, 2014

Romanticism- thy name is Rahul G

                                                   (pic source:

It always is a pleasure to see romanticism in every walk of life. Rahul G personifies the romanticism in politics at its pinnacle. Much has been said about the interview this week and reams of newspaper and electronic space will be devoted to intricately dissect every word said. It was sort of a damp squib at the end of it.

Any individual who isn't related to India and has not seen the last 10 years of India's journey would not be blamed if he chooses to endorse him for the next PM. On the basis of sheer innocence and forthrightness. But as always, there is more to it than what meets the eye.

Rahul wants to go for 'Business Process Re-engineering' of the political system i.e. make radical changes than go for ‘Kaizan’ i.e. slow and steady improvements. Nothing wrong in the thought. However, if you consider the anomalies, extremities and dichotomy in behaviour. On one hand you want to scrap the ordinance which bars individuals with criminal proceedings to stop contesting elections but on the other, you align yourself with the RJD chief implicated in a scam. On one hand you pride yourself on bringing in the Lokpal but on the other, you save the politicians from the Adarsh scam. On one hand you talk of 'women empowerment' but on the other, you do not take a 'zero-tolerance' stand against injustice meted out to the fairer sex. On one hand you talk of opening up the system and bringing in meritocracy in selecting individuals for elections but on the other, you are a beneficiary of dynastic politics. On one hand you talk of RTI as a game-changer but on the other hand, you have the biggest scams in India- Coalgate & spectrum allocation wherein your coalition partners ran amok and you were a sitting duck. On one hand you talk of Narenda M and his government abetting 2002 riots in Gujarat in spite of him being exonerated but were audacious enough to accept that 1984 riots had a few Congressman involved. This isn’t an endorsement of what happened in Gujarat. It is your double standards on two heinous events.

Having said this, you still want to believe him when he says that he isn't afraid of Narenda M because it is a trivial thing for someone who has seen his Grandmother and Father assassinated. When doubts are raised on him being afraid of a one-on-one contest with Narenda M, it is a metaphor being used. We know he isn’t physically afraid of Narendra M and he need not be. If I want to be harsh on him and turn this issue on its head, it can be argued that he is indeed afraid of being the PM as it gets him directly in line to be assassinated next. He might like to be in power yet without having this precedent and thus have a dual power centre as is the case with his mother and the current PM. I do not want to believe this but circumstantial reasoning might force me to.

'Women empowerment', opening up the system to meritocracy, making India a manufacturing hub to compete with China, and eradicating corruption are issues common to not just India but all countries in the world. It is a no-brainer that this has to be done. You will be treated with respect if you show- in actions- how this will be done.

Sycophancy is ingrained in Indian politics and thus he isn't shown the mirror by someone. And this is the reason you have to Aam Aadmi party taking shape to fill in the void. They have ideas and have shown the willingness to take actions. They are faltering at the moment but no one doubts their credibility. Credibility for the other political parties is at stake. Lip service and honest intentions will only help you to a break-even point. Deeds will get you the respect and support to govern. An attempt to have an upheaval in the current political system isn't necessary. What is necessary is to bring accountability. Having your ear to the ground will help. Hope a time doesn't come when you behave like Queen Marie Antoinette of France who, on being told that the peasants had no bread, said “Let them eat cake”.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Request to the Aam Aadmi Party’s First Among Equals

 Success has taken quite a liking to you. Your impeccable strike rate of hitting the bulls-eye on first attempt might have few precedents. IIT in first attempt. Civil services in first attempt. Chief Minister in first attempt. And who knows, Prime Minister in first attempt as well. Life is good to good people.

 You have been like an Arab spring of 2013 for India. It has shown our democratic foundations are as strong as ever. But admit it that you too would have been surprised by your performance in the New Delhi state elections. Even more surprising would have been Indian National Congress' support to you to form a government. And most surprising would be your own acceptance of the support provided by the INC. Because your entire election was fought against Congress' indiscretions vis-a-vis corruption. Pragmatic people have no doubt this was the right thing to do considering the high cost of re-elections. And this also gives you an opportunity to prove your mettle the first time. The start of your innings as the CM started on good footing with attempts to be a common man as the name of the party suggests. No red beacons on cars. No palatial bungalows. Although these are small issues and tokenism, you have won the hearts of millions by practising the Gandhian principles of austerity and not just wear the Gandhi topi.

 Things though have been off-course. Nothing against populist measures such as electricity and water subsidies but retracting on the FDI has been a regressive step. Yes, there are instances of FDI not helping many countries though that cannot be considered as empirical evidence. As marketers have understood, no other country can even come close to India's diversity in terms of cultures, languages, perspectives and landscapes. FDI will help India in solving supply chain issues via infrastructure growth and reduce inflation related to supply-side constraints. Kindly have a rethink. You also need to have an economic cell to develop economic policies because being new, your team doesn't have the experience of policy-making. Not that it’s a problem but it needs to be addressed on priority.

 Two things have to be addressed by you- citizen empowerment and economic development through the most-abused word in politics these days – inclusive growth. Both these things are inter-dependent and could act as imbalance in isolation. When the citizens are empowered, there will be economic development and when there is economic development, the citizens will feel empowered. Your movement was started with an endeavour to root out corruption and the disillusionment of the populace towards the political establishment. The latter is because of the former and the helplessness towards the former. All countries face the uphill task against corruption and India is no different. It would be foolhardy to think that corruption could be eradicated although that could be the ultimate vision. We, as human beings, are the ones who make laws and therefore have the wherewithal to find loop holes and make ways around it. Materialism is the root cause of corruption and any government cannot change the thinking of an individual. It would be better to concentrate on the process and reduce the dependence of any individual on another individual especially a government employee in different department. Corruption in private sector is generally towards the giver rather than the taker. It is in bureaucracy that corruption is at an individual stage and palm greasing becomes the norm rather than an exception. Thus rationing, excise, property, water, electricity, energy, public works department and such places need to have oversight and less influence over policy. If this can be done, then corruption automatically takes a back seat. Sting operations & phone help-lines will help but as I said, eventually people will find a way around it. gauging the root cause will help rather than excessive policing. It is better to have more controls in place rather than administering medicine on a case-to-case basis.

 The other necessary issue is of economic development. And this I am saying from a national perspective. There is a need to bring accountability in public institutions. No white-collar job is safe in private sector where you perform or perish. Why doesn’t the same barometer apply to government institutions? There is a tendency in India to apply for government jobs because they offer job security. An endeavour should be made to change the perception because this results in lack of accountability. There are no checks and balances. Cartelisation is banned through the Competition commission of India which keeps a hawk eye on private companies. But no accountability is the biggest cartel by government employees. They can hold the public to ransom at their whims. Socialism has its advantages but this is harming all. Free electricity, free water, low energy prices are affecting the overall economy because subsidy becomes the norm rather than an exception. Would it not be better to have the infrastructure and businesses in place that people earn enough to pay market price. This would bring equilibrium to society and the gap between the haves and have-nots will come down.

 The kind of activism that is on display will alienate the thinking middle-class and further increase the disillusionment with politics. A goodwill wave with the Aam Aadmi party isn’t strong enough to catapult it into the national centre-stage. You need to go slow. An attempt to expedite might result in unfavourable situations. Like if you contest 400 + seats in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, and if you lose heavily, it will have a domino effect on your supports, majority of whom are youngsters looking for instant gratification. It would be better to show you mettle in New Delhi and decide to strike it by going national. That doesn’t mean you don’t contest Lok Sabha 2014 but go small and in territories where you can relate to the issues at the grass-root level.

You have bought politics from a dirty word to the buzz word. Efforts need to be in place to sustain it and work towards cohesive governance.