Posts Tagged ‘Rahul Gandhi’

When a general election is an ‘agni pareeksha’

14 April 2014

Photo Caption

The Congress candidate for the Davanagere Lok Sabha constituency, S.S. Mallikarjuna, walks over somewhat smouldering, somewhat dying coal embers during a pit stop as part of campaigning in the central Karnataka town once renowned for its textile mills, on Monday.

In true Congress style, which Rahul Gandhi says he wants to overthrow but cannot quite come around to doing it, the constituency was earlier represented by Mallikarjuna’s father, the education magnate Shamanur Shivashankarappa.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

One question I’m dying to ask Nandan Nilekani

10 March 2014

Like Arvind Kejriwal overshadowed Anna Hazare leaving the old man suitably stumped and stupefied, Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani has taken a giant leap into electoral politics that should leave his former colleague, N.R. Narayana Murthy, moaning in his majjige-huli.

By joining the Congress a day after he was named the party’s candidate from Bangalore South, Nilekani has put his political money where his voluble mouth is, a far cry from Murthy, who after aiming to be the President of India, said he was happy to be India’s ambassador to the US, before finally returning to his parent—and sneaking in his son Rohan Murthy in a fit of meritocracy.

But parachuting in politics is the easy part, especially if you have the ear of Sonia Gandhi and the earpiece of Rahul Gandhi. The difficult part is landing, and in a few weeks from now, Bangalore South will show (and Nilekani will learn) if the “urban, educated, literate, middle-class” truly wants change, or if it is happy with Ananth Kumar.

On his YouTube channel, paid twitter messages, and super-soft interviews with business correspondents whom he courted in his previous avatar, Nilekani paints himself as a son of the soil, being born to a Minerva Mills employee, in Vani Vilas hospital, who lived in BTM layout, etc.

He even tries to speaks in Kannada.

But there is plenty Bangaloreans do not know of Nilekani. So, what is the one question you are dying to ask the Bangalore South candidate?

Like, have his number-crunchers already computed the victory (or defeat) margin on their computers? Like, will he run away, as NRN did from the Bangalore international airport project, at the first hint of criticism? Like, all Congressmen, does he too think Rahul Gandhi is god’s gift to Indian politics?

Like, does he see Rohini, Nihar or Janhavi taking over from him, should he win, in the best traditions of the Congress?

Also read: Not yet an MP, could Nandan become PM?

Can Nandan Nilekani win from Bangalore South?

Dear Nandan, quit Infosys, join politics, start a party

Nandan Nilekani: the six things that changed India

CHURUMURI POLL: Has Nilekani trounced NRN?

MUST READ: 12 things no one is telling us about namma Nandu

Nandan Nilekani: The five steps to success

Why your TV couldn’t show you this ‘mega rally’

25 February 2014

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Sitaram Yechury addressing the Left rally in Hissar, but without the “Jimmy Jib” cameras

The point has been made before, that the current political coverage, especially on television, is more than somewhat skewed, tilting unabashedly towards Narendra Damodardas Modi of the BJP vis-a-vis Rahul Gandhi of the Congress.

Now, the CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechuri explicates it a bit more in the Hindustan Times, comparing the TV coverage of Arvind Kejriwal‘s Aam Aadmi Party vis-a-vis the Left parties and unions.

“Two days ago, the Left held a Haryana-level people’s rally for a political alternative at Hissar. On the same day, AAP held a rally called much after the Left rally announcement at nearby Rohtak. The latter was widely covered by the corporate media while the former was hardly mentioned notwithstanding larger participation.

“This is not surprising. Earlier, when Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement was on in the Capital, over two lakh workers organised by the central trade unions had converged at Parliament against corruption and price rise. While the former hogged 24/7 media coverage, the latter hardly found any mention.

“Clearly, for the corporate media, a so-called ‘morally’ upright alternative that does not adversely affect profit maximisation is always better than an alternative that aims at improving people’s livelihood while not excessively promoting profit maximisation!”

For the record, though, Kejriwal launched into the media at the Rohtak rally, inviting a statement from the editors guild of India.
Photograph: courtesy Ganashakti
Read the full article: Sitaram Yechuri in HT
Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

 How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feat, a promo’

Usually before an election, the wheels come off

29 January 2014

Photo Caption

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During his recent whistle-stop tour of Kerala, Rahul Gandhi jumped out of his security cocoon and clambered on top of a police vehicle. But it is not just the Congress vice-president who feels compelled to do these “mass” numbers on the eve of an election.

Exhibit A is former Union minister H.N. Ananth Kumar of the BJP and Exhibit B is the former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular). The former taking part in an event to promote use of bicycles in Bangalore; the latter flagging off a party rally.

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Why Adiga‘s wants a COO for idli-vada-sambar

Double-riding in the era of helicopter joy rides?

No helmets, please; they are for the aam janata

Don’t miss: Behind every successful cyclist, there are few men

‘On TV evidence, Rahul doesn’t have it to be PM’

28 January 2014

Rahul Gandhi‘s interview with Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami has already led to a torrent of scrutiny and criticism, and there will be more tonight as the wise sages in Bombay and Delhi sit down to parse every paragraph and syllable.

But how did smalltown India receive Gandhi’s arangetram against the stylish backdrop of an M.F. Husain painting?

Here, K.B. Ganapathy, the erudite editor-in-chief of the evening tabloid Star of Mysore shares his thoughts.

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By K.B. GANAPATHY

Last evening I had my sundowner early enough to be ready to watch the TV channel Times Now at 9 pm waiting for the soon-to-become prime minister of India, Rahul Gandhi. He was to appear before Arnab Goswami, that loud-mouthed Times Now anchor who loves his own voice more than those whom he interviews and tackles in a panel discussion.

I was ready with a writing pad and a pen to write about the interview.

This interview, Arnab claimed, was Rahul’s first since he won the 2004 parliamentary elections. Rahul’s response was a denial saying he had given many press interviews but dodged the crux of the question that it was Rahul’s first TV interview.

Now, after I laboured through a languorous interview of over an hour, I discovered that this was the way Rahul was answering every one of Arnab Goswami’s questions. I am sure many attentive viewers too may have made the same discovery as yours truly.

Rahul, apparently in a show of bravado, told Arnab Goswami, who was going back in time, “…draw me back as much as you want.”

Arnab grabbed the opportunity and asked why Congress was avoiding announcing the prime ministerial candidate. The answer was something like this: “Issue is how a Prime Minister is chosen. It is MPs who select the Prime Minister. We have respect for the process.”

Arnab Goswami: What about 2009?

Rahul Gandhi: There was an incumbent Prime Minister.

In fact, knowledgeable people know whenever there is a person available in the Gandhi dynasty to become Prime Minister, that office would go to the member of that dynasty only.

In 1984, Rajiv Gandhi was sworn-in as prime minister, soon after Indira Gandhi’s assassination without consulting the MPs. It was the majority of CWC that chose the prime minister even though, left to the MPs, Pranab Mukherjee, being No. 2 in Indira Gandhi’s Cabinet, would have been chosen.

In fact, that was the reason for Pranab Mukherjee to leave Congress. Rajiv Gandhi too ignored him after assuming power. Let it be.

Sadly, Rahul Gandhi was unable to explain convincingly about this contradiction in what he told Arnab Goswami and what had happened in the Congress Party in the matter of choosing a Prime Minister.

Rahul Gandhi, in his detour of an answer, denied there was ever any arbitrary decision taken in choosing a PM, whatever it meant.

Questioned if he would face Narerddra Modi in a debate, once again the answer was devious and said, ‘You must understand Rahul Gandhi. I want to ask you a question…’ For this, Arnab’s answer was, ‘I can’t be a half journalist. I ask this question because Narendra Modi is challenging you on a daily basis.’

Answering further questions, Rahul went rambling — people of honesty are destroyed by the ‘system,’ question of losing or winning an election does not arise, etc.

After the interview, Arnab Goswami invited Vinod Mehta, that veteran journalist and mentor of Outlook magazine along with another author for their opinions about Rahul’s interview. Vinod Mehta rightly said, recalling Rahul’s concern for correcting the ‘system,’ that all these years, all those who tried to fix the system got themselves fixed and threw up their hands in despair.

I thought of Rahul’s father Rajiv Gandhi to whom the ever helpful media gave the reverential epithet Mr. Clean. This Mr Clean went to Bombay soon after becoming the Prime Minister, delivered an India-shaking speech criticising the power brokers in his party and vowed to end this menace that was the cause for corruption.

What happened? Soon Rajiv Gandhi himself got mired in corruption scandal of Bofors gun deal, lost the election to V.P. Singh and the rest was tragic history.

Question: Narendra Modi calls you Shehzada. Are you afraid of losing to Modi?

The answer was again abstract and irrelevant. ‘Rahul Gandhi wants to empower women. We will defeat BJP etc., etc.’

Question: Is Narendra Modi responsible for Gujarat riots? Courts gave him clean chit. Congress wants to put Modi on the back foot on this issue. What about 1984 Sikh massacre in Delhi? Was Congress responsible?

Here, Rahul Gandhi had a new take by way of answer. According to him, in Gujarat, the government headed by Narendra Modi abetted the massacre, while in Delhi the Congress government tried to contain the killings.

Arnab Goswami told Rahul Gandhi that while Narendra Modi got the army in 48 hours, in Delhi, it took 72 hours and many Congress leaders were arraigned in criminal cases in this Sikh massacre and the cases are still being dragged on.

Listening to this part of the interview, I was wondering why the learned media wizards and the smart politicians don’t see a distinction between 2002 Gujarat riots and 1984 Delhi massacre. The Gujarat violence was a communal riot. It is not important who provoked it because that will not justify killings at all.

The law of the land should prevail, not mass violence.

Here, both Hindus and Muslims died, but majority of people who died were Muslims. However, in Delhi, it was not a communal riot. It was a pogrom, like what happened to Jews during World War II in Germany.

Just because two Sikh security guards killed our Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, some Congress party members and admirers of Indira Gandhi allegedly massacred innocent Sikhs in a sudden, surprise attack. Now, 30 years on, our country’s legal system could not punish the culprits!

Will Rahul Gandhi, if and when he becomes the Prime Minister fix this ‘legal system’ so that aam aadmi gets justice without delay. Can he? I doubt.

To be honest, much as Congressmen would like to make Rahul Gandhi the Prime Minister of India, my gut feeling, after seeing him face the interview, is that he will not fit into the Prime Minister’s slot.

He was simply not clear in his mind what he wants to do for the country’s many challenging political, economic and social issues.

Yes, I must mention here that Rahul was asking Arnab Goswami why he was not asking questions about issues related to corruption, women empowerment, bringing youngsters into politics, etc. This was when Rahul was unable to face the tricky, difficult questions from Arnab Goswami.

Rahul did not seem a person with intellectual streak or with oratorical or debating skill.

Power of speech is what makes a leader.

History is replete with such leaders — Julius Caesar, Antony, Hannibal, Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Lenin, Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose…. At present Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal.

After seeing the interview, I don’t think, Rahul has what it takes to make one a Prime Minister or a great leader.

He was asked: If he wants to end corruption, how can he have alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav of Bihar who has been convicted of corruption? The clever answer from Rahul was that the alliance was with the Party RJD and not with Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Likewise, he was asked about the ‘dynasty’ of which he is the No. 1. His answer was again a clever one: “In every party one could see ‘dynasty.’ I did not sign up and say I must be born in this dynasty or family,” etc., etc.

He further clarified in his own rambling, inchoate manner, to a question, his opinion about the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). It was a non-answer ! He was for opening the ‘system’ to end dynasty but there is no Abracadabra to do that.

I must appreciate here that for once that talkative, argumentative, belligerent Arnab Goswami was too condescending to Rahul Gandhi; too patient, too gentle and may I say too sympathetic to a person sitting before him, tensed up, with a smear of sweat on his pink visage, not sure of himself in answering the questions.

And I thought it was rather rude and even unkindly on the part of Arnab Goswami to ask Rahul Gandhi if he was prepared for a TV debate with Narendra Modi.

By now I had come to anticipate Rahul’s answer to such direct, taunting question and, as I correctly guessed, he said ‘his party would be ready for such a debate’. Now Manish Tewari, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Digvijay Singh… please get ready to face Narendra Modi.

And finally, it was interesting to hear in the beginning of the interview itself about Rahul Gandhi’s educational qualification about which that acerbic Dr Subramanian Swamy had some doubts. Surprisingly Rahul in turn asked Arnab Goswami if he was ever in Cambridge.

When the answer was yes, Rahul mentioned about an ‘affidavit’ he had filed etc., etc. about his having a degree from Trinity College.

Well, that was an insipid, boring interview, but I was left wondering, as I retired to bed, how could Vinod Mehta say Rahul’s was a creditable performance? Honesty in journalism may not always be the best policy.

After all, his own magazine Outlook has described Rahul Gandhi as ‘Sunset Prince’ and after watching this interview, I don’t think Outlook was wrong in its opinion.

(This piece was originally published in Star of Mysore)

Should Indian TV introduce ‘equal coverage’?

31 October 2013

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The relationship between Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and the media, especially “English maedia” as he puts it, has followed two distinct trends over the last ten years.

The first trend was of unbridled distrust on either side. Modi had nothing but contempt for those who sought to buttonhole him on the ghastly incidents of 2002. He walked out of TV interviews or stared blankly at interviewers who reminded him of his role, if any. Ours was not to question.

The media, not surprisingly, responded with circumspection bordering on suspicion.

The second trend emerged in the run-up to the 2012 assembly elections in Gujarat, which Modi used as his launchpad, first to become the chairman of the BJP campaign committee and thereafter as the BJP’s self-proclaimed “prime ministerial candidate”. Suddenly, influential sections of the media were eating out of his hands.

International news agencies were getting soft-ball interviews, top journalists were asking if there was a middle-ground; media groups with corporate backing host tailor-made conferences; friendly newspapers were getting 16-page advertising supplements; “bureau chiefs” were finding stories that showed Modi’s detractors in poor light.

Why, the coverage of Modi seems to have been a key editorial driver in the recent change of guard at The Hindu, and—pinch yourself—Modi was launching an edition of Hindu Business Line.

The key player in the turnaround of the Modi-media relationship, however, has been television, which has unabashedly been used and turned into a soapbox for advertising the latest detergent from the land of Nirma that promises to wipe Indian democracy clean.

To the exclusion of all else.

As Modi—decidedly more macho, muscular, articulate and telegenic than the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi—drives his brandwagon around the country, most news TV channels have dropped any pretence of trying to stay non-partisan, covering every speech or parts of it, conducting opinion polls, setting up nightly contests, etc, as if the end of the world is nigh.

All this, of course, is before the Election Commission’s model code kicks in.

In the Indian Express, Shailaja Bajpai asks an important question: has the time has come to consider “equal coverage”—where all players, not just Modi and Rahul but even leaders of smaller parties get equal space and time—so that the field is not unduly distorted?

“Countries such as the United States try to follow the idea of equal coverage especially in the run-up to an election — and especially after a politician is declared as the official candidate, as Modi has been.

“Recently, the Republicans threatened that TV channels, NBC and CNN, would not be allowed to telecast the party’s next presidential debates because NBC had planned a TV series and CNN a documentary about Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“Indian news channels don’t let minor matters like equality trouble them. They’re obsessed with the man, to the point that Modi-fixation has become a clinical condition which may soon require treatment.”

Read the full story: The chosen one

Photograph: courtesy NewsX

Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective  TRP

An open letter to Rahul Gandhi from an Editor

11 October 2013

Photo Caption

K.B. Ganapathy, the editor-in-chief of India’s leading English daily evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, pens an open letter to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

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Dear Sri Rahul Gandhi

Let me come to the point, for you are a busy man. And it is the busy man who has time to spare. Please spare a few minutes to peruse what I have written here concerning Karnataka, my State and its Chief Minister of a little over 100 days old, Sri Siddaramaiah.

I know him from the day he was a lawyer, law teacher and then an angry young politician inspired by Jayaprakash Narayan and the socialist leaders of Nehru-Gandhi years. Hailing from a backward village of an industrially backward district Mysore, he had the dream of ameliorating the living conditions of the oppressed and the have nots.

Since you will have a dossier on Siddaramaiah, I will not dilate.

However, what prompted me, rather provoked me to write this letter of appeal to you is the news that broke out last evening on TV channels and that appeared in cold print this morning saying that about 20 Congress MLAs have sent a complaint against Siddaramaiah to the Congress high command.

As if to prove the blind belief of many earlier Chief Ministers of Karnataka that whoever visited Chamarajanagar — whose inhabitants are mostly Dalits and Scheduled Tribes — would lose power, these 20 MLAs must have submitted their complaint.

It may be their belief that the bold decision of Siddaramaiah to visit the “cursed” district could be an auspicious moment for them to conspire to bring down Siddaramaiah and then allow the TV and the Press to go to town saying, “didn’t we say he would lose power after visiting Chamarajanagar?”

Dear Sri Rahul, I want you to congratulate Siddaramaiah for his deliberate, daring visit to Chamarajanagar despite advice to the contrary. In doing so, he has led the motley crowd of people steeped in superstition from the front urging them to give up such blind belief. Siddaramaiah, thus, has set a personal example, unlike other Chief Ministers. Now, it should not be shown as if he made a mistake by going to Chamarajanagar.

I will only say this. If you listen to these disgruntled MLAs and sack Siddaramaiah, it will tantamount to yourself subscribing to the superstition and thereby perpetuating the same in this century of reason and scientific temperament.

And in any case, the people of Karnataka know what could be the nature of their complaint. The MLAs generally want their favourite (read corrupt) officers to be posted in most ‘revenue” generating departments like police, revenue, PWD and zilla panchayat. The deputy commissioners (DCs) are tough nuts, being IAS.

So these MLAs want the Chief Minister to give them their favourite police inspectors, tahasildars, executive engineers and CEOs of ZPs.

Totally self-centric, not Karnataka-centric in their conduct as MLAs.

In the past, the Chief Minister, in order to remain in his seat, used to oblige these MLAs. But, have we seen corresponding increased development in the constituencies of these MLAs? No. Reason: Self-aggrandisement.

However, there is another complaint tagged on to the first one, “that Siddaramaiah is ignoring the MLAs’ requests and he is surrounded by his old friends and old gang etc.” This one is to provide a moral facade to an untenable complaint. They alleged that Siddaramaiah goes by their advice.

So what?

Ramakrishna Hegde had his “Brains Trust.” Every Chief Minister will have to consult, apart from the Cabinet colleagues, somebody in whose wisdom, expertise and experience he has trust.

According to reports, Siddaramaiah has five such advisors. I understand they are not only committed and loyal to Siddaramaiah but also to his party, Congress. They are: 1. Kempaiah, IPS, retired. 2. Ravi Bosraj. 3. Chenna Reddy. 4. Konanakunte Laxman. 5. MLA Bhyrati Suresh of Krishnarajapuram, Bangalore.

If it is true, it will be perceived by the people, not by politicians and bureaucrats, that these five will be like ‘Pancha Ratnas’ similar to the ‘Navaratnas’ in the courts of Ashoka and Akbar. Like your mother listened to her inner voice about 10 years back, you had better listen to the voice of the people of Karnataka.

More importantly, development of the State is possible only if the Chief Minister is allowed to complete his term, unless he is incompetent or corrupt. For now, Siddharamaiah is competent, what with many years of experience in the earlier governments of JD(S) and he is our Mr. Clean.

For Kannadigas, development is more important than 2014 Parliamentary election.

Yours faithfully,

K.B. Ganapathy

File photograph: Karnataka governor H.R. Bharadwaj administrating the oath of office to Siddaramaiah during the swearing-in ceremony at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bangalore on Monday (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: The editor who foresaw Siddaramaiah as CM

Is ‘Modi Media’ partisan against Rahul Gandhi?

11 October 2013

In a cash-strapped election season which has seen “corporate interest and media ownership” converge, it is arguable if Narendra Modi is getting a free run. Every whisper of the Gujarat chief minister and BJP “prime ministerial aspirant” is turned into a mighty roar, sans scrutiny, as the idiot box ends up being a soapbox of shrill rhetoric.

In marked contrast, there is only grudging media adulation for the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi even on the odd occasion he does something right, like two Fridays ago, when he barged into a Press Club of India event to stymie an ordinance passed by the Congress-led UPA government, intended at shielding criminal Members of Parliament.

What’s up, asks Malvika Singh in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“The press and the Opposition leaders began to pontificate on the language used by Rahul Gandhi. They spent hours damning the use of the word ‘nonsense’, which only meant that something makes no sense.

“They were clutching on to whatever they could find to ensure they gave no credit for Rahul Gandhi. The bias was crystal clear and gave the game away.

“Why is the press distorting the simple truth? Is it because the press would have to doff its hat to Rahul Gandhi, about whom it has been rude and sarcastic? Why is the press being partisan? Why the double standards?”

Read the full column: Put an end to chatter

Photograph: courtesy Press Brief

Also read: How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feat, a promo’

POLL: Do you believe Narendra Modi’s PM claim?

5 September 2013

The 2014 general election was supposed to be a head-to-head contest between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Damodardas Modi, the former ordained by the unspoken dynamics of dynastic politics; the other responding to the groundswell of popular support. Yet, could it be a no-show as the two conquistadors find one excuse more fantastic than the other to exit the ring?

The Congress vice-president reiterated in an interaction with the media in Parliament earlier this year (what he had privately maintained for a while) that becoming PM was not the sole ambition of his life. And now, the Gujarat chief minister has surprised even his fanboys by claiming that he was committed to serving his term till 2017.

“I never see such dreams (of becoming PM), nor am I going to see such dreams. People of Gujarat have given me the mandate to serve them till 2017 and I have to do this with full strength,” Modi said.

The charitable view to take is that both Gandhi and Modi are playing it safe, since neither Congress nor BJP looks likely, judging from opinion polls, to come anywhere near forming the next government. By seeming to be not interested in the race, they keep their options open, should the election verdict surprise them.

The less charitable view is that reality has hit home. Both Congress and BJP will require the support of allies to reach 273, and only Congress seems to be making moves as of now. Even if a non-Congress, non-BJP government comes to power, its longevity is far from certain. So 2014 could actually be a semi-final, with another general election around the corner.

Question: Is Narendra Modi being honest with his reluctance for the PM’s chair? Or is he being too clever by half and trying to exert pressure on his party to declare him the candidate?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL-I: Modi vs Rahul in 2014?

CHURUMURI POLL-II: Modi vs Rahul in 2014?

Why Narendra Modi will never be India’s PM

Modi vs Rahul? Nah, more like Rajiv vs Sanjay

Rahul Gandhi fails five tests in Karnataka poll

19 April 2013

Whether it was his power-is-poison speech at the Congress chintan shivir in Jaipur earlier this year, where he was elevated to the post of vice-president, or at the CII meet in New Delhi two weeks ago, where he used the beehive analogy to describe India, Rahul Gandhi has shown a very sophomoric, spreadsheet understanding of realpolitik.

He makes all the right NGO-style noises about cutting out power brokers, of rewarding talent, of creating new leaders, about database management, about empowering the grassroots in ticket distribution, etc. But are they really workable in the Indian context, especially in the Congress context?

The elections to the Karnataka assembly, shortly after his elevation, have provided an opportunity to test how ready his party is, and how insistent he is that his writ runs. In the Hindustan Times, Aurangzeb Naqshbandi shows the yawning gap between precept and practice, between Rahul rhetoric and Congress reality:

1. Rahul theory: “Leaders from other parties parachute in just before the elections and fly away after getting defeated.”

Congress in Karnataka: Party has given tickets to those who came from the Janata Dal (Secular). Shivaraj Tangadgi, who was till recently a minister in the BJP government, has been given the ticket from Kanakagiri reserved constituency.

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2. Rahul theory: “No person with a criminal background should be given party ticket.”

Congress in Karnataka: Candidates facing criminal cases such as D.K. Shiva Kumar, M. Krishnappa and Satish Jarkiholi have been accommodated.

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3. Rahul theory: “Party will not not field candidates who have lost two previous elections with a margin of 15,000 votes and above.”

Congress in Karnataka: Basavaraja Rayaraddi, Kumar Bangarappa and Siddu Nyamagouda, whose defeat margin was much higher than 15,000, have been considered.

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4.Rahul theory: “The kin of of senior leaders should be given the go-by.”

Congress in Karnataka: Former chief minister Dharam Singh’s son Ajay Singh, union minister Mallikarjun M. Kharge’s son Priyank M. Kharge, former minister C.K. Jaffer Sharief’s grandson Abdul Rahman Sharief and son-in-law Syed Yasin, Shamanur Shivashankarappa and his S.S. Mallikarjun, M. Krishnappa and his son Priya Krishna have all been given tickets.

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5. Rahul theory: “Youth Congress should to get its desired share of candidates.”

Congress in Karnataka: Of the list of 20 names forwarded, only a few have got in. Even state Youth Congress president Rizwan Arshad has been denied a ticket, prompting him to offer his resignation from the post.

Read the full story: Cong flouts Rahul Gandhi‘s guidelines

Also read: What Amethi’s indices tell us about Rahul Gandhi

Jesus, Mozart, Alexander and apna Rahul Gandhi

In one-horse race, Rahul Gandhi is a two trick pony

CHURUMURI POLL: Has Rahul Gandhi blown it?

What Rahul Gandhi can learn from Brad Pitt

Only question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi

POLL: Is Advani more ‘acceptable’ than Modi?

16 April 2013

In politics, like in cricket, nothing is in the realm of the impossible. And it is not over till the last ball is bowled (and sometimes not even that, if it is a front-foot no-ball). So, what was projected to be a head-to-head faceoff between Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi for the 2014 elections is showing signs of becoming anything but.

In other words, it’s time to dip into the Kuala Lumpur Police Department manual.

On the one hand, the “young yuvaraj” seems to have presumptively developed cold feet about wanting to take over the mantle, as if the people of democratic India were dying to hand it over to him. Result: prime minister Manmohan Singh feels emboldened to answer hypothetical questions on a third term, if Congress wins, if UPA comes to power, if….

But it is what is happening in the other corner that is even more captivating.

After prematurely building himself up as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Modi is coming to terms with reality outside TV studios. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar‘s comment, among others, that “only one who can carry with him all the diverse sections of people can become the leader of the nation” is proving to be the spark.

Suddenly, a bunch of people within the BJP are finding virtue in L.K. Advani.

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has realised that he is without doubt “our tallest leader“. Former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh finds him the “seniormost“. And former finance minister Yashwant Sinha says, “if Advani is available to lead the party and the government, that should end all discourse.”

The BJP’s allies too are piping in. Naresh Gujral of the Shiromani Akali Dal says “nobody can have any objection to Advani’s candidature. He is a senior and respected leader.” K.C. Tyagi of the JD(U) says, “We contested under Advani’s leadership in 2009 and will have absolutely no hesitation in doing so again.”

So, could Modi vs Rahul in 2014 become a Manmohan vs Advani battle?

Does Advani have the backing of the RSS or of larger BJP for the top job? Is the “man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred“—the brain behind the bloody rath yatra that led to the demolition of the Babri masjid—really “more secular” than Modi? Or, are his BJP colleagues and NDA allies firing from his shoulders against Modi?

Could Advani, 84, gracefully make way for a younger aspirant, like say Sushma Swaraj (who has the OK of Shiv Sena), or will he throw his hat in the ring? Does he have the carry that Modi enjoys?

Or is the “man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred“—the brain behind the bloody rath yatra that led to the demolition of the Babri masjid—destined to become a two-time “former future prime minister of India“? And is the next general election a semi-final before another election in 2015 or 2016?

Also read: Who could be the NDA’s PM candidate?

Will Narendra Modi lead Karnataka BJP campaign?

3 April 2013

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: “Narendra Modi vs Rahul Gandhi“: It makes for a sexy headline. And for an audience drawing shouting match on television. But as an analytical frame to understand the upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections, it just doesn’t make any sense.

Let me explain.

Neither Modi nor Rahul is on the ballot in Karnataka. They aren’t likely to lead the government if their parties are voted into office. Nor will they be difference making vote gatherers, and to say otherwise is to misread democratic politics.

Narendra Modi’s spectacular success in Gujarat is neither unique nor is it solely based on claims of good governance and absence of corruption allegations. In fact, Shivraj Singh of Madhya Pradesh, Nitish Kumar of Bihar and Naveen Patnaik of Orissa too claim similar track record of both electoral success as well as efficient administration.

If anything, all four of them (Modi, Singh, Kumar and Patnaik) may have in common is the social alliance they have managed to create in their states, which has enabled them to triumph in the electoral arena. Sure good governance and a clean image always help.

But elections are fought and won based on caste equations, finding the right candidate and moving the right pawns. Modi has done exceptionally well in building that combination, in addition to economic development of Gujarat.

Astute political observers have always pointed out that the secret of Modi’s success in Gujarat is not that he is a practitioner of Hindutva politics; but he has rebuilt the old social alliance (of Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim known popularly as KHAM) Congress relied on for electoral success until the 1980s.

Admittedly, Muslims aren’t a key element of Modi’s social coalition but there is evidence to suggest that he has secured significant Muslim support in the last few years.

Yet the point is Modi has turned out to be an exceptional political strategist within Gujarat, and his administrative acumen has only helped in consolidating these political gains.

Does that make him a star campaigner outside Gujarat, especially among people who haven’t benefited from good governance? No one is suggesting that BJP invite Shivraj Singh or Nitish Kumar to campaign in Karnataka!

This is where Rahul Gandhi may start out with a small advantage, which accrues to any Gandhi-Nehru dynast, and that gets him the initial name recognition nationally as well as some loyalty of Congressmen. That may have been enough in the past even until the 1980s when his father entered politics. But Indian democracy has changed and has become more competitive since then.

Political loyalties are only skin-deep these days even in a High Command centric party like Congress.

Rahul gives the impression of being a reluctant politician, who given a choice would do something else. He hasn’t shown the commitment or stamina of a professional politician who will breathe politics every waking moment.

Can he be the adept strategist and star campaigner that Congress party, and indeed even the media expect him to be?

I remain skeptical. The voter has gotten better at seeing through masks and evaluates his self interests in ways that media or political scientists do not recognize.

What Rahul and Modi will accomplish, if they campaign vigorously in Karnataka, is bridge and/or raise the enthusiasm gap for their parties. That is their appeal will be limited to committed supporters of Congress and BJP respectively, who will be energized to vote for their candidates instead of staying home.

A recent survey by Suvarna News and Cfore media bears this out: more than two thirds of likely BJP voters admit that Modi’s support will make them vote for BJP.

What neither will be able to do is to convert the undecided voter or the opponent. Hence their impact will be limited and marginal at best.

So, why do we still see stories like this in prominent newspapers?

Is it because the media is lazy and cannot come up with better explanations?

***

IAS – KAS conflict:  Are only direct IAS recruits efficient and capable of running fair and impartial elections?

The Karnataka Election Commission seems to think so and has replaced twelve deputy commissioners, who are IAS officers but promoted from Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS).  Sashidhar Nandikal reports in Vijaya Karnataka on April 1 that this has created a rift among direct recruits and promotee IAS officers.

Majority of the direct recruits into IAS are non-Kannadigas and therefore lack deep roots in local caste politics or personal / family connections to leading politicians. That’s the not case with KAS recruits, whose initial selection will largely be because of their powerful connections.

Still, we must file this question among the inexplicable mysteries!

***

On Actresses and Politics: Recently, I was asked to explain why actresses are getting into politics in Karnataka. While the elders in the business, like Umashri, Tara and Jayamala relied on MLC nominations or an Academy chairmanship to launch their political career, the younger lot like Rakshita and Pooja Gandhi is sweating it out, traveling across the state and taking part in party conventions.

Lest the reader mistake their political activism to the tireless campaigning of a Mamata Banerjee or a Mayawati, I hasten to add that these actresses haven’t offered a compelling reason for entering politics. In fact, we don’t hear much about their political commitments or track of social service.

The talk in Bangalore revolves around the money they are being paid. Pooja Gandhi is supposed to have received Rs 2 crore for joining BSR Congress and when asked by Vijaya Karnataka, she strongly denied that rumour. Yet in a political career spanning a little over a year, she has been a member of JD (S) and KJP.

To my questioner, a journalist-friend, I suggested that for someone like Pooja Gandhi a political party is no different than a product or a business she endorses. I suspect she looks at herself as a brand ambassador for a party, and taking a fee for that work isn’t the worst thing in the world.

CHURUMURI POLL: A third term for Manmohan?!

29 March 2013

When he was first sworn in in 2004 after Sonia Gandhi reportedly heard her “inner voice”, the less-than-charitable view was that Manmohan Singh was merely warming the prime ministerial chair for her son Rahul Gandhi, who was decreed even by the prevailing feudal standards to be too young to be imposed on a captive nation. All his first term, they teased and taunted the Silent Sardar. They called him “India’s weakest PM since independence“, they called him nikamma. It didn’t work; he survived a pullout by the Left parties.

By 2009, when the Congress-led UPA won a second stint in office, Singh, a mascot of the middleclasses for his 1991 reforms and clean image, had emerged as one of the three faces in the Congress’ aam admi campaign, besides mother and son, but it was said he would be kicked upstairs as President in 2012. We asked if he would survive in 2010, in 2011, in 2012. They called him “underachiever“. It didn’t work; he survived a pullout by the TMC and DMK, and every scam and scandal swirling under his very nose.

Now in his ninth year in office, longer than other Indian prime minister bar Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, Manmohan Singh has provided fresh evidence that he may be “an overrated economist and an underated politician“. Even as Congressmen, P. Chidambaram downwards, count their 2014 chickens before they are hatched following Rahul Gandhi’s expressed reluctance for the top job, Singh has refused to rule out a third stint for himself in the event of the UPA coming back to power in the next general election.

On the flight back from the BRICS summit in South Africa….

In the 2014 elections, If the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and your party request you to accept third term, will you accept Prime Ministerial nomination for the third term?

These are all hypothetical questions. We will cross that bridge, when we reach there.

Hypothetical yes, but certainly “India’s weakest PM since independence” has killed many birds with one stone. He has not ruled himself out of the race, if such a race were to take place. He has told his upstart colleagues to watch out. He has shown that the Rahul Gandhi vs Narendra Modi race is one he isn’t watching on his television set. And he has shown that he has greater political stamina and acumen than people give him credit for, despite the scams and scandals that have enveloped his regime and the repeated pullout of various parties.

Question: Could the Silent Sardar become India’s first PM to get three consecutive terms?

Rahul vs Modi in 2014? Not really. Not if you…

13 March 2013

keshav

The Indian Express, Delhi, uses the verdict of the urban local body elections in Karnataka, to make a larger point on the coming general elections:

“With a year to go, the general election is being painted and promoted as a Rahul-versus-Modi contest. It’s a tidy, appealing binary, given that Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi appear to have profoundly different political instincts and personality types.

“But while it may be tempting to think of Election 2014 as a two-horse race, the political field may be less settled or predictable in reality. In all probability, the real deciders will be regional forces whose support to one or the other pole, Congress or BJP, cannot be taken for granted….

“The 2014 election looks unlikely, therefore, to bring the satisfying resolution of the Modi-Gandhi choice. It will be an aggregate of what happens in Andhra Pradesh, in Karnataka, Bihar and other state arenas. Politics in India, in all its complexity and flux, cannot be reduced to the arm-wrestling of two individuals.”

Read the full editorial: Not Modi, not Gandhi

Cartoons: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu, E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

CHURUMURI POLL: Is BJP guilty of ‘arrogance’?

7 March 2013

07nda

Replying to the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, prime minister Manmohan Singh was unusually belligerent, invoking memories of 22 July 2008, when he spoke in a similar vein after the UPA had won a controversial vote in favour of the civilian nuclear deal on which he had staked all.

Five years ago, he had said:

“The Leader of Opposition, L.K. Advani has chosen to use all manner of abusive objectives to describe my performance. He has described me as the weakest Prime Minister, a nikamma PM, and of having devalued the office of PM. To fulfill his ambitions, he has made at least three attempts to topple our government. But on each occasion his astrologers have misled him. This pattern, I am sure, will be repeated today. At his ripe old age, I do not expect Advani to change his thinking. But for his sake and India’s sake, I urge him at least to change his astrologers so that he gets more accurate predictions of things to come.”

Yesterday, days after Narendra Damodardas Modi said the PM was only a “nightwatchman“, the PM said:

“In 2009, they (the BJP) fielded their Iron Man Advaniji against the lamb that Manmohan Singh is and we all know what the result was. The BJP will lose again because of its arrogance…. I am convinced that if people look at our record, they would repeat what they did in 2004 and 2009.”

The PM’s “aggression” has caught many by surprise. Coming a day after Rahul Gandhi‘s admission that becoming prime minister was not his life-objective, there is even talk that this was as close as Manmohan Singh could come to bidding for candidacy for a third successive term as Prime Minister.

Questions: Is the prime minister’s charge of arrogance against the BJP valid? Or is he merely venting his frustration? Is it possible, just possible, that Manmohan Singh could be proved right again? Or is this just a pipe dream?

Infographic: courtesy The Telegraph

When a palmist looked into an anynomous hand

31 January 2013

Political reporters in India can hope to be only slightly more scientific than punters peering into Original Vel‘s cards at the race course. Nothing—not access to the “corridors of power”, not those schmoozy lunches and dinners, not off-the-record briefs, not poll numbers, nothing—ever turns up anything more reliable than bazaar gossip, regardless of how artfully the “narrative” is spun using the same sources.

The problem is even more acute if the subject of investigation is the Congress party, whose secrecy and opacity rivals that of the Priory of Sion. So, given the scale of the problem and the delectability of the contest, The Economist “newspaper” did the next best thing recently to know how a two-trick pony might fare at the 2014 Derby:

Sitting cross-legged on a white plastic mat at the entrance to a Delhi metro station, rattling a tambourine to lure business, Radha Raman Tripathi boasts of nearly half a century reading palms. Given an enlarged photo of one 42-year-old man’s open hand, he peers at it through his magnifying glass.

He sees much to please the (anonymous) subject: a kind heart, appealing “brain line”, the promise of long life, children and wealth. A dot on the palm, he says reflects a tragedy in the man’s past. And, crucially, power beckons: “he will reach the topmost post”.

So, whose palm print did the Economist produce?

Read the full article: Show your hand

POLL: Rahul Gandhi vs Narendra Modi in 2014?

21 January 2013

The contours of the next general election are becoming ever more clearer with the expected “elevation” of Rahul Gandhi as the vice-president of the Congress. Given the repeated rumours on the state of Sonia Gandhi‘s health and her reported desire to retire from politics at the age of 70, it is obvious the leadership of the 130-year-old Congress party has passed on to a fifth generation of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

But Rahul Gandhi is no Rajiv Gandhi. His father was 40 when he became PM, Rahul is 42. His father was thrown into the deep end all of a sudden, Rahul has been around for several years. And more tellingly, despite his travels across the country and his exertions in several election campaigns, Rahul Gandhi has not quite been the vote-magnet that Congressmen suspected he would be, having lost Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.

But all that is in the past tense now. As the new, official No.2, the silence that Rahul Gandhi adopted as part of his mystique (he has only barely attended Parliament and spoken even more rarely on the issues of the day)—and the reluctance that he conveyed through his swift disappearances after parachuting into the rough and tumble, allowing lesser mortals to face the flak for his failed experiments—is no longer a luxury he owns.

For politics is a game played with a scoreboard, and push has come to shove for the scam, scandal tainted party that is facing diminishing returns across the country despite a slew of well-meaning social welfare schemes designed to fetch votes by the bucket.

Although the BJP is in no better shape, the word on the street is that Rahul Gandhi’s elevation will serve as an impetus for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to assume a bigger, larger role in the BJP before the next general elections. With his hat-trick of wins in the State and with his advertised record as an administrator, Modi has a headstart over Rahul Gandhi, nearly 20 years his junior.

Indeed paradoxically, Modi, 62, is seen as more of a youth icon than Rahul Gandhi, who was missing in action when, say, the Delhi gangrape was scorching the party or when Google, Facebook and Twitter were being clogged up by the Oxford and Harvard educated geniuses in Manmohan Singh‘s government.

However, elections in India is not a zero-sum game.

So, given all the imponderables that swing into play—caste, allies, secularism, communalism, etc—who do you think will come up trumps if it is Modi vs Gandhi in 2014? Does Rahul, who has the Gandhi surname, have the pan-national appeal that goes beyond the urban middle-classes? Which of the two could garner more allies, so crucial in a coalition era? Which alliance will triumph—UPA or NDA?

Also read: What Amethi’s indices tell us about Rahul Gandhi

Jesus, Mozart, Alexander aur apun ka Rahul Gandhi

In one-horse race, Rahul baba is a two-trick pony

‘Politics is about solving problems, not evading them’

After Manmohan who? Chidu, Diggy or Rahul?

‘Most opaque politicians in the democratic world’

A functioning anarchy? Or a feudal democracy?

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part I

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part II

Only question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

Where would Narendra Modi be without the UPA?

19 January 2013

The veteran editor Sunanda K. Datta-Ray in The Telegraph:

Narendra Modi is the UPA’s creation. Despite his vigorous self-projection and the propaganda, both strident and sophisticated, of acolytes, he would never have been considered prime ministerial material but for what Azim Premji called a “complete breakdown in public governance across the board” under the UPA….

“Just as a young woman slapped Mohan Bhagwat, Congress needs to slap down Modi’s pretensions, not to save Rahul Gandhi’s career but to save the secular democratic polity that alone can hold India together in a harmonious union worth living in.

“The only way it can do so is by attending to the “widespread governance deficit in almost every sphere of national activity covering government, business and institutions” that Premji, Deepak Parekh and others highlighted in their letter to the prime minister. Their assessment that “the biggest issue corroding the fabric of our nation is corruption” cannot have been news to Manmohan Singh.

“The decision by 83 senior retired bureaucrats to move the Supreme Court over the decline in administrative services was another warning of the “urgent need to depoliticize management of transfers, postings, inquiries, promotions, reward, punishment and disciplinary matters relating to civil servants”, to quote one of the petitioners, T.S.R. Subramanian, a former cabinet secretary.

“All this assumes crucial importance because the economic dynamo of Manmohan Singh’s dreams is running out of steam. There is already talk abroad that the “I” in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) should denote Indonesia. Prices, especially of food, are soaring. Despite a contrived market boom, India is plagued by high current account and fiscal deficits. The new one-rupee coin invites contempt….

“A nation with 200 million Muslims cannot be ruled by someone whose ascent recalls the Kampfzeit (time of struggle) that assailed Germany when military defeat, diplomatic humiliation and economic catastrophe (with a loaf of bread costing 80 billion marks) led to the death of public decency.”

Read the full column: Laughing up his sleeve

Also read: Narendra Modi cannot be the face of India’

‘Why Narendra Modi will never be India’s PM’

Why our silly middle-class loves Narendra Modi

POLL: Has Modi’s march to Delhi been checked?

20 December 2012

To nobody’s surprise, Narendra Damodardas Modi has secured a remarkable third, consecutive victory for the BJP in Gujarat. But to the shock of his fanatical drumbeaters and hype masters (and internet trolls), he has ended up with two fewer seats than what he had got five years ago: 115 in 2012 versus 117 in 2007.

The reduced margin does little to take away from the significance of the mandate, but it does throw a nice question mark over the expensive and relentless public relations campaign that had been mounted (through TV channels, magazine covers, newspaper ads) to erase the memories of 2002 and to create the self-fulfilling prophecy of the development giant towering over meek, inactive creatures populating the landscape.

The size of the victory also throws a small spanner in his grand design to swiftly move to Delhi and assume charge of his beleaguered party that is no better shape than the Congress, if not worse.

The fact that he has ended up with fewer seats for all that had been invested into his giant leap by corporates, business and media houses, means that many in the BJP and RSS (and not necessarily in that order), and the NDA, will now be emboldened to question what had been assumed for granted: that he would win a huge win on the scale of his persona, serve out a few months as chief minister, hand over charge to one of his chosen ones, and then move to Delhi to lead the BJP charge in the next general election against the hapless Rahul Gandhi.

He might yet do that, but there can be little denying that some of the air has slipped out of the blimp for the moment.

The BJP reverse in Himachal Pradesh (where he made a big song and dance over induction cookers) shows that he still doesn’t possess the pan-Indian appeal that his supporters thought he does. Sans an emotive issue (despite his efforts to spread a canard about Sir Creek or his derisive labelling of Ahmed Patel as Ahmed miyan), Modi is not the force he was expected to be.

Quite clearly, it would require a superhuman to retain the interest or sustain the hype for another five years. So, when exactly will Modi make his move to Delhi? Will it be smooth? Will he able to stomach a rebuff if his advances are spurned by his party colleagues and allies? And will the “former future prime minister” be given the opportunity to stand from Gandhinagar again?

Also read: How many seats will Narendra Modi get?–II

How many seats for Narendra Modi?—I

 

Why can’t our ‘leaders’ speak like Obama?

10 November 2012

VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes: Barack is back, and what a victory speech he gave us!

I say ‘us’ because the speech had something for all of us, in India too.

Like many of us Indians, as I watched Barack Obama’s victory speech on Thursday morning, I was left feeling envious — envious of Americans for having elected for themselves such an inspiring leader as their President.

I was left asking, “Why can’t I have a Prime Minister like him? A Prime Minister who inspires me, makes me feel like I matter, arouses a renewed sense of patriotism even in this severely fractured democracy that is India?”

Just a few days before Obama’s victory speech, our Prime Minister and our future prime ministerial candidate also spoke at a Congress mega rally. What a disappointment it was. No one on the dais could connect with the people they were addressing.

Rahul Gandhi’s ‘screech’ was full of sound and fury, at one point it seemed like he might collapse under his own vocal ferocity. But in spite of all the sound, in the end he shed very little light on any issue.

Instead, he showed us how dim he sometimes can be when he compared support for Kargil war to FDI! Neither did he inspire nor did he inform.

The only good thing about his speech was its timing. It was short.

Then our Prime Minister spoke. The content was repetitive, and like all his speeches, uninspiring. At best it could have inspired a few ventriloquists. Probably Robocop would have done a better job of connecting emotionally to us than our PM.

It is unfortunate. What use is intellect, if it can neither save us nor give us hope or produce words that will inspire us?

More importantly, what most of us would have noticed during the American presidential elections is the role of the family. We Indians never tire of saying that Americans are very detached from their families and add how we are such a family-oriented culture.

But every US President is judged by his family life. Every US President brings up his family in his speech, and never fails to mention the family values they imbibed in their formative years.

On the victory night, Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden both had their families on stage.

In fact, Obama said:

“and I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago. Let me say this publicly. Michelle, I have never loved you more.”

Then he acknowledged his children saying:

“You’re growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women, just like your mom. And I am so proud of you.”

In fact, not only did Obama thank his family, he also thanked and praised his opponent Mitt Romney’s family when he said:

“The Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service. And that is a legacy that we honour and applaud tonight.”

Now we have to ask, for a people who claim to be so much more ‘family-oriented,’ how many of our leaders have ever brought their family to the public fore to feel one with the people?

How many of our leaders have thanked their wives for their success (may be they don’t want to create ripples by picking one over the other)?

How many politicians have thanked their children for tolerating their absence?

None.

Even if they do, it is a display to garner sympathy and not family values.

Every Indian politician’s family life is shrouded in secrecy and when their children join them in politics, it is for personal gain, or when they have learnt the dirty tricks of the trade. Or even worse their names surface only when their illegal property is unearthed or a back door deal is exposed.

So political families get involved to stay in power and loot together. It makes us wonder, is there any true patriot among Indian politicians? It seems more likely that they love this country like one would love their goose that lays golden eggs, that’s all.

While we were in envy, Obama’s speech also made us feel miserable, because he made us think about our own nation when he said:

“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet. We want to pass on a country that’s safe and respected and admired around the world.”

We were left thinking, what do our leaders want to leave behind for our children? A chaotic mess, that churns out black money and mediocrity, over which their equally greedy children can rule?

American Presidents care about legacy. But our leaders care only about power. And the only legacy they worry about is passing on their constituency and seat to their children. So they are either in power or forever in pursuit of it.

No wonder that yesterday Vijay Kumar Malhotra at age 80 won his 40th term as President of the Archery Association of India. It’s astounding that in 40 years, the members could not find anyone better than him.

When this is the case, it’s power that drives our leaders, not the vision of a better India or patriotism. That is why our election is based on promise of freebies, caste and money.

Not on agendas such as social justice, equality and prosperity.

Obama made us cheer for an otherwise arrogant America, when he said:

“We believe we can keep the promise of our founding fathers, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”

Can any of our leaders say that?

Have we ever heard our leaders say “no matter whatever you are, North Indian or South Indian, no matter if you are rich or poor, Hindu or Muslim, abled or disabled, if you are willing to work hard and be sincere, you can make it in India?”

No. Instead, our leaders have created an environment where you have to be born rich or be crooked to make it in India. We have to be a certain vote bank to avail basic facilities and must be able to mobilise a mob to get justice.

Obama probably is the best thing that happened in recent times to the very idea of democracy. Because when we heard Obama’s speech, we felt inspired to be part of a democracy.

We felt we needed to be part of nation-building.

We felt we mattered.

We felt we had to vote.

We felt we had to be responsible citizens.

In contrast, our leaders have left us feeling deceived and helpless, so helpless in fact that we want to flee this nation the first chance we get. The only ones who are staying back are those who cannot leave due to financial or family constraints; in some cases, the inability to adjust to a new culture.

That is why so many of our young, unappreciated minds go there. They almost always do better than they would have here in their own country. They go there and become whatever they want. Some may disagree, especially our neo-rich, real-estate barons and corporate honchos who say that India is shining and no one wants to leave.

Well, then how come there is still a line outside the US Consulate offices all over India even today and there is no line in sight anywhere near an Indian Consulate in any part of the world?

That’s because India does not harbour an environment to facilitate the development of a decent and dignified citizen.

Instead we are engulfed in the smog of corruption, crony-capitalism, casteism and a lethargic justice system that has only helped the development of a crooked, greedy and self-centered citizenry.

When Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister with Rahul Gandhi waiting in toe, we assumed there was hope. Instead, in these ‘hopeful’ hands, our nation has become hopeless.

And so today while we watch in envy the American President’s inspirational and touching address to his nation, we are left orphaned with no leaders to inspire us or lead us. The only thing holding us together is our collective sense of greed and insecurity.

We have no hope.

We have only God.

But he too seems to have given up.

(Vikram Muthanna is managing editor of Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

CHURUMURI POLL: Is this Congress’s Bofors-II?

8 October 2012

The grenade lobbed by the Arvind Kejriwal-Prashant Bhushan gang on Friday, accusing Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, of dubious deals with the construction company DLF, has sent the Congress camp into a tizzy. Over half-a-dozen Union ministers trooped into TV studios to defend FDI*—the First Damaad of India—even as Vadra maintained a studied silence, before breaking it on Facebook (he has since deleted his FB account).

To be sure, there was little of surprise: the same details had been carried by The Economic Times a year and six months ago, quoting Registrar of Companies (ROC) documents. At the time, the Congress had not seen it fit to respond. But the timing of the latest “expose”, after the Jan Lok Pal movement was tarred and tarnished, after the announcement of a new party sans Anna Hazare, and in the run-up to the Gujarat and general elections, gives the issue a whole new angle.

Questions: Will the charges against Vadra become a millstone around the Congress’—and by extension, Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi‘s necks—forever, like Bofors has? Or will they peter out because there is no foreign hand like Ottavio Quattrochchi‘s and no clear quid pro quo? Do the charges prove crony conspiracy at its worst? Or, has the Kejriwal-Bhushan duo bitten off more than they can chew by hitting below the belt?

*courtesy Rama Lakshmi/ WaPo

For Congress and BJP, writing is on the UP wall

13 March 2012

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Uttar Pradesh has proved once again the trend observed  in the assembly elections in  West Bengal and Tamil Nadu last year that political changes are wrought mostly by new voters rather than old voters.

The essential difference is that while in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu new voters en masse plumped for the leading opposition party, in UP new voters distributed their largesse among the main contestants and the Samajwadi party proved to be biggest benefactor.

A study of the electoral behaviour in the country has proved one thing in rather conclusive terms: that parties hold on to their bases generally and the shift of political loyalty is very rare indeed. Whatever shift happens takes place marginally, while the bulk remain loyal to the party they have voted before.

Under the circumstances,  political change depends essentially on new voters.

They comprise of two categories, namely newly enrolled voters and those who, though enrolled, had not previously voted before and come to exercise their franchise for the first time.

In Karnataka, it is the newly enrolled voters, who have regularly voted for the BJP in the past three elections, even managing to catapult the party to power in 2008.  It had happened in West Bengal too, where they supported the Trinamool Congress last time.

In Tamil Nadu first-time voters sent packing home the Karunanidhi government of the DMK and put the crown on  Jayalalitha of the AIADMK.

It has  happened once again Uttar Pradesh elections too, where SP led by the father and son duo of Mulayam Singh and Akhilesh Singh, have turned in a stunning performanance to displace the BSP government of Mayawati and regain power in a very convincing matter.

The UP polls, it may be noted here, witnessed a higher turn out for a State which has a track record of low poll percentages  all these years. For the first time nearly 60% of voters—that is three out of every five voters—turned up at the booths, which is perhaps a record for the State.

It marked a more than 14% increase in the poll turn out and reports said that women turn out was appreciably higher this time.

In terms of  numbers, the increase in poll turn out, meant that more than 2.35 crore voters had cast their votes. This included around 1.38 crore voters who had enrolled themselves as voters for the first time and  remaining chunk being the voters though registered long ago, were exercising their right for the first time.

All these voters were making the choice of parties for the first time.

Of the total of 2.35 crore new votes waiting to be shared, the SP was able to corner a whopping 88 lakhs, to win 224 seats as against 97 in 2007 and earned right to rule the biggest state in India by its own right. This appeared to be direct offshoot of the social engineering done by the SP in the allotment of tickets, the aggressive campaign done by Akhilesh Singh and rising disenchantment with the Mayawati government.

The  ruling BSP which could not match with the superior election campaign of the father-son duo lost the race to retain power. Its only consolation has been that despite all the propaganda unleashed against it, it did receive an additional vote support to the extent of 37.74 lakhs. But this was not enough to retain the power and stem the tide of support that SP had  been able to mop up.  It lost 126 seats to end up with only 80 in a house of 403  but emerge as the main opposition party in the sprawling State.

The Congress, which ran a spirited campaign under the leadership of  Rahul Gandhi, had the next highest share to the extent of 42 lakhs votes. In terms of the seats, it meant an additional six seats to its previous tally of 22.

What is significant is that its share in the polled votes reached the double digit bracket  perhaps for the first time, though it has still a long way to go in quest of power in the state, by taking on the two well entrenched parties, the  SP and the BSP.

All those who are writing off Rahul Gandhi’s campaign as a failure appear to have overlooked a significant fact that the campaign had brought an increase in the base of the Congress. This trend had  also been noticed in Bihar too, where also the campaign was managed by Rahul Gandhi.

The BJP, which regarded the present poll as something of a  runup to the parliamentary polls scheduled in 2014, had quite a disappointing performanance. Though it did receive an additional votes to the extent of  25.19 lakhs,  it lost four seats. Its share in the polled votes showed a decline with the party receiving 15.01% as against 16.96 % of the previous poll.

Another interesting factor is that there had been considerable reduction in the number of voters and seats going to the other splinter parties.  The four main parties between themselves could bag 376 seats in 403-member house, and capture more than 81% of the votes.

From a national point of view, in the context of the  coming parliamentary elections in about two years of time (if not earlier), the prognosis is not good at all for the top two national parties, the Congress and the BJP, whose disconnect with the voters at large has shown no signs of receding.

Of the 2.35 crores of additional voters who exercised their right, in UP, the share of  the two national parties was a  mere 68 lakhs, while a marked higher chunk of votes went in favour of the regional satraps, Mulayam Singh and Mayawati, who between them had received a combined support  to the tune of  1.25 crores of votes.

Going by the present mood, it is unlikely that the either the Congress or the BJP is able to show any improvement in the days preceding the next poll.

Why youth, women hold key to UP poll verdict

5 March 2012

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Greater participation of voters in the poll process keeps democracy alvie and vibrant. This has been proved in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal already, and Uttar Pradesh, the biggest state with a whopping 403-member assembly, is all set to follow suit tomorrow.

Higher voter turnout has been a regular feature in Karnataka since 1999. Newly enrolled voters, numbering around 35 lakhs in each election, have almost en masse plumped for the BJP, helping it to catapult to power for the first time in the south.

Result: in terms of the total vote base in the election, BJP has dislodged the Congress from the number one position. (How the BJP is doing hara-kiri with this is a different matter.)

In last year’s assembly elections, this trend was noticed in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, in particular.

In Tamil Nadu, there was no increase in the electorate. But the turn out was quite high. Around 32.11 lakh more voters turned up at the polling booths. Apparently all of them went for AIADMK, helping Jayalalithaa to end the hegemony of the DMK and Karunanidhi. The AIADMK, had an additional 33.81 lakh votes in its kitty. The inference is obvious.

In West Bengal, the size of the electorate increased by 79.26 lakhs while 81.81 lakh more voters had exercised their franchise. This helped the Trinamul Congress of Mamata Bannerjee, to breach the CPM citadel to put an end to its long reign.

Trinamul had got an additional support of to the extent of 80.31 lakh votes. The CPM suffered slight erosion to the extent of 3.22 lakhs. The Congress lost the support to the extent of 14.74 lakhs while the BJP had gained by 11.74 lakh votes.

From the available information, it seems that similar drama is being enacted in the UP too.

The state which has been under the BSP rule of Mayawati witnessed one of the highest poll turnouts in the seven-phase election this time to the extent of over 62%, in an electorate of 12.70 crores.

Around 1.35 crores new voters had been enrolled this time.

In terms of the voters who exercised their franchise, the increase was by over 2 crores according to the election authorities. The observers have noted a marked enthusiasm among women voters this time.

It is the segment of voters who have absolutely no political commitment whatsoever who are going to write the new political history in the state.

The question is, who is going to be the beneficiary of the voters’ largesse—the two front runners, the BSP and the SP, or the BJP and the Congress, which are in the third and fourth position and lag far behind in terms of the total vote strength?

The odds should obviously favour the balance in favour of the BSP and the SP, who between themselves had accounted for 55.85% of the polled votes last time. And their opponents the BJP and Congress lagged far behind in the race with combined vote strength of around 25%.

The choice between them is quite dicey too. The odds favour SP undoubtedly if the incumbency factor is to be reckoned with. But the scales turning in favour of Mayawati cannot be ruled out too in the context of the high turnout of women voters this time.

The chances of the Congress, which fought under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, and the BJP getting the bonanza may arise if the phenomenon of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, with the entire bunch of the fresh voters extending the support en masse to either of them.

Anyhow what is in the mind of the UP voters would be clear on 6th when the counting of votes is taken up.

6 questions Rahul Gandhi still hasn’t answered

7 January 2012

If you listen closely to the breeze blowing through the capital’s vineyards, the year of the lord two-thousand twelve is the year when a not-so-young man will become the “fifth generation custodian of one of the world’s longest serving political dynasties of the world“.

But Rahul Gandhi‘s personal life has not been the bed of roses that pathological Congress-haters with Subramanian Swamy on their Twitter timeline think it is: he was 10, when his uncle crashed to death; 13 when his grandmother lay soaked in blood in the family garden; 20 when the call came from Sriperumbudur.

His political life, though, is not as touching.

Seven years since he set foot in the cesspool, few know where he stands on any issue. He speaks for FDI in retail after the bill has been torpedoed. He speaks for Nandan Nilekani‘s Aadhar project after the parliament standing committee has torn into it. He looks ashen-faced when his suggestion to make Lok Pal a constitutional authority is noisily defeated.

If the Congress wins anything, bouquets are laid at his door; if it loses, partymen magnanimously bat the bricks. If he speaks in the Lok Sabha, he is cheered; if he remains silent, his critics are jeered. For a digital generation politician, he seems to loves playing a stuck LP on his strange two-nation theory of India.

Yes, has heroically (and admirably) made the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections a test of his prowess, unlike his presumed rival from the BJP—Narendra Damodardas Modi, to give him his full name—who cannot even step out of his Vibrant State, but what after that?

On India Real Time, the Wall Street Journal‘s superb India website, Ajit Mohan asks the one question reporters on the Congress beat are loathe to asking:

“The question that has never been sincerely posed is what will he have to do to earn the right to lead the nation or even the party? Even the scions of established political dynasties have had to earn their stripes in recent history.

“While it was always a guaranteed outcome that Singapore’s founding leader Lee Kuan Yew’s first-born son would become the prime minister some day, Lee Hsein Loong was battle-tested in critical ministerial portfolios and successfully led the country’s monetary authority during the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s before he got anywhere near the leadership chair.

Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the Democratic party’s favorite president, John F. Kennedy, and descendant in a long line of family members who served in senior leadership positions in the government, failed to get the nod from her party for a US Senate nomination despite her legacy and support from a sitting president. North Korea may well be an exception to the rule, where the only criterion for the new supreme leader seems to have been that he happened to be the son who was not a full-blown lunatic.

“For Rahul Gandhi to earn the right to be the leader that he may be destined to be, he must prove his mettle on many fronts.

“Can he articulate a philosophy of political and social change that is compelling enough to chart the policies of the Congress for the next 20 years? Can he create a political strategy that is rooted not in the vote bank politics of the past — slicing and dicing communities and castes — but in appealing to the aspirations and energy of constituencies that have traditionally not even bothered to vote? Does he have the intent and the ability to reform the party’s governance structures? Can he win elections for the party? Can he build and sustain coalitions? Does he have the management ability to lead and govern a party as diverse as the Congress, or a country as complex as India?”

Photograph: courtesy The Associated Press via WSJ

Also readJesus, Mozart, Alexander aur apun ka Rahul Gandhi

What Amethi’s indices tell us about Rahul Gandhi

How different is Rahul Gandhi from MNS and KRV?

Rahul Gandhi‘s ascension: A foregone conclusion?

‘Politics is about solving problems, not evading them’

After Manmohan who? Chidu, Diggy or Rahul?

‘Most opaque politicians in the democratic world’

A functioning anarchy? Or a feudal democracy?

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part I

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part II

Only question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

Corrupt, communal, cynical and also casteist?

27 December 2011

Caste is back—and in your face. To pave the way for fixers seeking to stymie the Lokpal match, the Congress-led UPA has envisaged reserving half the nine-member institution on the basis of caste. And, a day before the Election Commission could notify the elections in Uttar Pradesh and four other States, the Centre created a 4.5% subquota within the 27% OBC quota for minorities.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes in the Indian Express:

“The Anna Hazare movement has rightly been castigated for the morally obscene use of the caste of children. Recently, it was reported that Rahul Gandhi referred to Sam Pitroda’s caste in an election rally. Is this really the party of Jawaharlal Nehru or even Rajiv Gandhi?

“We ought not to disguise the appalling realities of caste, where appropriate. But using them in this way? Someone remarked on reading this story, “Rahul ne to Sam Pitroda ki bhi jaat dikha di.” Even if the intention was benign there is a truth in this.

“Is it not appallingly diminishing when we create an institutional culture where the first thing we want to point to is someone’s caste? I thought the idea of India was to escape precisely this original sin. And now Lokpals, tomorrow judges, all will be identified through caste.

“Perhaps the Congress is in love with the “C” in its name. Corruption was not enough. It had to become corrupt, casteist, communal and cynical. India’s tragedy is that there is no national level challenger to this party that is diminishing us all.”

Read the full article: The C in Congress


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