Sunday, December 11, 2011

The BJP's Curse of being the Opposition

Or better still, the BJP’s Crime of being the BJP.
Ever since the disgrace called UPA-2 came into being, as monumental crisis after monumental crisis emerged, one thing was consistent – while criticism of the sham-doers existed for the duration for which the crisis was in public memory, all the intermittent gaps were filled with tirades against the BJP for being an irresponsible opposition.
The Congress seems to have a special-ops team in place for everything else except Governance – be it tackling the Anna Hazare movement or a special team dedicated to dissing the BJP for all its (i.e. the Congress’) scams or guiding the CBI along its investigations.
This noise more-or-less reached a crescendo during the FDI debate. Two points to keep in mind -
  1. I am not against FDI. For that matter I am not pro-FDI either. But over many readings of articles on this topic, despite a surprisingly socialistic leaning towards this issue, I find the arguments in favour of FDI a tad more sensible and practical.
  2. Neither am I saying that the BJP has got a firm grasp on the issue and its stance is absolutely vindicated and perfectly reasoned out. As a matter of fact, as far as explanations go, the BJP’s reasoning seemed quite inadequate. As expected, Arun Jaitley’s piece comes close, but leaves a lot to be desired.

Motive & Timing

It is no secret that our despicably dishonest Prime Minister desires to go down in History books as a reformer more than anything else. However, try as I might, I can just not see FDI as a “reform”. Especially when there are a zillion other more urgent things at hand. Still, even considering FDI as a reform (comparing with LPG, computers, etc), it is important to note two things -
  • That it is the Congress that is doing this.
  • That the Congress is doing it now.
I, for one, have absolutely no confidence in the present government to carry out a policy move as big as FDI.
There are far too many bureaucratic procedures involved and these, in turn, entail too much interference by the government. Plus, most importantly, this single decision will most certainly have a cascading effect on a plethora of other domestic issues finally watering down to the common man as well as the poor landless farmer. At a financially critical time like this, it is extremely ill-advised to go ahead with such a move, WITH SUCH A GOVERNMENT, especially considering the wimp(s) did not even allow for a debate in the Parliament.
There is too much money involved.
Whether this is the common man’s money or not is secondary. Fact remains that there is a humongous amount of money up there and MANMOHAN SINGH CANNOT BE TRUSTED with handling (his ministers, if you believe the hogwash about him still being clean) such cash.

Realpolitik anyone?

So the BJP proposed 26% FDI in its 2004 manifesto and backtracked on the same issue in 2009 (Indian Express says: “The BJP manifesto for 2009, however, had skipped any reference to the issue” while ToI says: “Meanwhile, BJP also changed its position & categorically said in its 2009 manifesto that it wont allow foreign investment in retail“. Take your pick).

Every non-pro-BJP’ian immediately jumped at this in a superbly brilliant manner accusing the BJP of hypocrisy. Their beautiful minds couldnt even grasp the fact that the BJP was merely sticking to its most recent stance.
There are many other things that stand out here -
  • What irks me most is folks reacting as if the BJP supported FDI in its last known stance and is now opposing it simply because it is in the Opposition (that it might actually be doing it is another issue altogether). If at all anyone came close to criticizing the BJP *correctly* & *sensibly* for its stance on FDI, it was its own Internet supporters themselves (Offstumpedand Ashok Malik to name two) apart from a few genuinely centrist/non-aligned folks here and there.
  • Forget ruling party/opposition, politics – are you as an individual bound by ALL decisions you took at some point of time in the past and not allowed to change them at all?
  • Being a responsible opposition does NOT mean you will be a responsible government. So how do people decide the effectiveness of a BJP government simply by saying that they are an irresponsible opposition?
  • All political/policy discussions today follow a standard path – Congress screws up something -> #whatisbjpviewonthis -> Irresponsible Opposition -> not fit to form the next Government.
  • Why does the opposition need to behave responsibly when the Government is painstakingly spreading s**t all over the country? Do you have any idea what (if at all, that is) UPA-II is doing to defuse the financial or security situation? Food & shelter – there, your two basic needs – a big question mark hangs over that.
  • Is it the responsibility of the Opposition to help the Government of the Day *run* the Government? Especially at a time when the ruling party is in absolute tatters and absolutely -cannotdoes not want to get its act together? Why in God’s name does the BJP need to push the bus which broke down from outside when the driver himself isn’t interested in driving it?

The Imbecility of the UPA

The present UPA government is absolutely incapable of providing governance, let alone good governance. Again, and again, and again – it has just been re-emphasizing this fact. There have not been any clear-cut movements forward at all. There has not even been any halt in the backward progress.
It is becoming increasingly evident that this Government just does not deserve to survive.

The BJP as an Opposition

After seemingly supporting the BJP’s performance as an Opposition, it might appear contradictory to you when I say that the BJP has failed as an Opposition on many fronts. First of all, I’m not sure what benchmark you have for a “Good” Opposition, doubly so at a critically (politically/governmentally)-paralyzed scenario like this. Does anyone know? The closest I can think of is – Bring down the Government.
If any, the opposition’s responsibility, in such a situation, I guess, would be to bring down the Government. Which, of course, our dear BJP is so spectacularly *not* doing.
However, at the end of the day, the current-day government is in a state of such anarchy that it is impossible to even imagine what an opposition could be doing perfectly.
As for the BJP, I just hope it doesn’t tie itself up in knots, just to get a good name from all those dissing it for being a useless opposition. I only hope it knows what it’s doing and does enough to come to power next time around, whenever that happens…and the sooner it happens, the better.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Meeting the Lion in its Den

A hurried post after almost an eternity, chiefly to not let go of the excitement.
Amma's friend is a part of popular news-reader of yesteryear, Varadarajan's drama troupe, which had gone to Gujarat for performing there. One (or more) of the members seem(s) to have been a Modi-fan and expressed interest in meeting the man. Somehow, someone seems to have got hold of the Chief Minister's Secretariat's office, just to give it a shot. When the person at the other end said he'd get back in 15 minutes, our folks got skeptical and thought it was as good as gone. When they were consoling each other with "Hey, at least we tried"s, about 10 minutes later, they got a call saying the CM would meet them for half an hour the same day at 12 Noon. This was the day or a day after he had returned from China.

Our folks, whose excitement knew no bounds, immediately bounded off to the CM's home at about 11:30 AM and were escorted to a room. Just as the clock struck 12, in walked Narendra Modi, with a cordial "Namaste" to all. He then proceeded to ask each person individually to introduce himself/herself and asked what their play was about. Then asked them if they had been to the newly renovated Akshardham temple. And casually, rattled out that there were about 5 lakh Tamilians in Surat, while they constituted the largest population (about 1 lakh) in Maninagar, his home constituency, where their Drama was staged. Our folks were quite amazed at how the man (cliché alert) had facts at his fingertips.

Then Modi saab spoke about the Biogas plants that were in operation in Gujarat and mischievously asked them if they needed some, seeing how power-deficient TN was.

The drama guys then enquired about his China visit to which he said it went pretty well. One thing that they said was evident was the amount of pride in his tone whenever he spoke about Gujarat - be it the Akshardham temple or the Biogas plants or the Metro (or BRTS, not sure).

One of them then quipped "How nice it would be if India had 28 Namo's", to which our man simply smiled (who's going to be the first one to comment "28 Namos? Yeah right, and commit mass murders & slaughtering of Muslims all over the country", come on guys).

When one of them told Namo that they had initially tried to get permission to meet him via Cho in Chennai, who had said he wasnt sure when Namo would return from China, Modi said "Aah, Cho saab...woh toh mere Guruji hain."
Inevitably, the question about Prime Minstership came up, and our man genially looked up and pointed both hands upwards. :-)
After 27 minutes, NaMo automatically got up and asked the folks assembled there if they wanted to take a photo, and after the customary photograph, bid them adieu.

Picture Courtesy: Dinamani

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Putting the Crazy in "Dream"

I was in some grand hall in the US, whether or not White House, I dont know, since I havent been there, but it had something to do with a US President. Lots of people assembled there. I have a hunch I was there as a journalist. I dont know what the different events scheduled were, however the main event that I remember - honouring Herbert Hoover's chief cook/maid (an old'ish woman) for her service to the Hoover family. She was wearing an apron and some head-gear and gave a speech in which, among other things, I remember her mentioning about BJP and another distinct thing - "Nehru's aesthetic yet atheistic sense" being the cause for something. Those two words were unmistakably there - "atheistic" & "aesthetic".

1. After I woke up, I was confused whether it was Herbert Hoover or Harry Truman, but I remembered the initials HH being in the dream, so concluded it was Hoover.
2. No, I have not been reading up on the Hoover dam, though I spoke about it with my parents some 2-3 weeks ago when they were fondly recollecting their visit there.
3. The closest I came to something in the dream is seeing some NDTV-type culinary awards on TV on Sat/Sun in which ITC-Maurya won the best Cook award and a guy in a Chef's get-up came and received the award.
4. Oh yes, I do talk/read about the BJP everyday.

I am not going to ask you guys if there's something wrong with me.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Taking Stock of the Present & Re-evaluating my Options for the Future

It's been one year now since I returned to India for good and I guess looking back and analyzing how the past year has been would be in order, especially considering the return to India was something of an inflection point.
At a very superficial level, the return's been a rather interesting mixture of more of the same with a lot of differences.

is obviously the most  important aspect and while I can safely say that I'm not doing something I *don't* want to be doing, I'm definitely not doing something I *want* to, at least over the long run. This is in keeping with a pompous statement I had made to one of my college teachers when I had met her a few days after returning - "I may not know what I want to do, but I definitely know what I don't want to do."

This front has been one of the biggest fails of my return. Once the initial surprise/excitement over my return (though my parents had an idea that I would mostly be returning, I hadn't given them any details about my actual return) subsided, it was immediately replaced by disappointment that their son was no-longer an NRI. My parents aren't these super-wise or intellectual human beings who can get over a disappointment easily. It took me a long time to come to terms with the basic fact that they wanted me to, if not settle down in the US, at least spend a reasonable amount of time there. For quite some time, this attitude disgusted me, but then, I slowly realized that all this came from what they had been subject to in their life. Add to this a plethora of colleagues/acquaintances from a super-typical middle-class TamBrahm background who felt they had attained moksha now that their kids were married and settled in the US. Ok, without elaborating further and presenting the script of a sad documentary, let's just say that I realized that my parents' aspirations for me were perfectly valid, only, they didn't sit well on me, and that's currently the major point of contention at home. I'm pessimistic about a win-win result and though I want to taste success in something I have set sights on, I doubt if I have the cut-throatedness in me to see them settle for an unhappy compromise (at best) or give in to my whims (at worst). Neither do I think I have the killer instinct to finish off what I think I want to do . :P

have been reasonably ok, or in fact, rather good. I've made some unexpected relationships for life and built upon old ones.  On another more obvious front, without going into the details, let me just say that I have now realized I am more single than ever. :D
And though those of you who follow me on twitter might cry hoarse at my hypocrisy, I will admit that despite pseudo-regular cribs of being single and all that, I'm really not in a position to get into a relationship at this point of time. Parental pressure, however, is weighing heavily on me, and I'm not sure how much more I can hold up.

no major vyaadhis so far, but fitness is somewhere on the lower side of all my 26 years of existence. This is another regular talking-point at home - dad shouting at my lack of exercise from time to time. I still can do a lot of things, but am far from "fit". Absolutely no sports but for the occasional soft-ball cricket at work.

Financial Express...
is just about ok. No major savings from the You-Yess-Yeah, but something to call savings yes.

Quite contrary to my hopes & expectations, there has been a noticeable drop (at least from within) in my spirituality. Yes, I might still continue to do my daily prayers without fail and attend the occasional spiritual youth camp, but when it comes to the Bhakti Bhaava within, I can definitely say there was more yearning and reverence for God and/or dedication to spiritual pursuits when I lived a bachelor's life in Chicago. I don't know if this is a case of "Distance makes hearts go fonder", but there. I hope this phase is either thanks to a hectic work-schedule & pressure or is just some kind of illusion and whatever be the case, I get back to normal some time soon.

So then, where does that leave me - discontented and disenchanted to a major extent. I don't think I'd be way off the mark if I say my return to India, at least thus far, has been Fail. Then again, what followed my decision to return might have been bad, but I still stick to my decision of returning. At least the conscience is clean. :)
Coming back to life here, I seem to be existing rather than living, something that my parents seem to have noticed, unfortunately. I seem to be going through the motions. Make no mistake, I'm not exactly living a drab life sans friends, entertainment, etc, but that zing is so totally missing.
As I enter my second year here, I look forward to it with hope. It's not that things cant get worse (they can, for sure!), but there are more things that can make things better from now on, than worse. Then again, you can never be sure!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

An Ode To Karunanidhi

As Tamil Nadu rejoices (including me) at the fall of the DMK government (quite possibly the most corrupt ever in TN's history) and as Muthuvel Karunanidhi prepares to warm the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister's seat one final time, it is time to pay our respects to arguably one of the greatest political brains of India in the 20th Century. Oh yes, MuKa is definitely not bidding adieu to politics any time soon, nor am I predicting that he will kick the bucket in the next year or so, but it's evident that he has (dis?)graced the CM's chair one final time.
2 things I will *not* be doing in this piece -

  1. Recapping his political history inch by inch.
  2. Bashing him (as the title very well indicates).

Good friend Nikunj Mehta nicely summed up MuKa in this tweet of his.
MuKa, at different points of time during his political career, has been one or more of the following -

  1. Leader of men.
  2. Social reformer.
  3. Efficient administrator.
  4. Literary genius (though this has definitely helped him in his political career, I wouldn't count this too much in the big picture).
Yes, we have had a few on whom the above characteristics would sit nicely, but what made MuKa Muka was one definitive attribute - he was a political strategist extraordinaire.
I will not indulge in (any more? :P) hyperbole here and elevate him to the levels of Chanakya or Machiavelli, but if you do a case study on Indian politicians of this past century whose political strategies belonged to the Chanakya/Machiavelli School to a large extent, MuKa will be right up there (just below Sonia Gandhi, maybe ;-). That he chose Machiavelli over Chanakya is the tragedy that I will remember as MuKa's legacy. (Obviously my memory is not the only legacy that he leaves behind, still, I would like to think a fair few would share my thoughts on this).

Ok I may be a Brahmin and all that, and I will also *not* forget the thousands of economically-lower-class citizens who have benefitted from his pro-poor policies, but you know, when you have a man of such stature, your standards are that much higher. Even for a Machiavelli, your damage should be wide-reaching and long-lasting.

When it comes to people, MuKa seems to have started on a great note (thanks to Anna) with Dravidianism as the plank. Then, somewhere in the middle of the journey, the glint of metal and the smell of currency seem to have realigned the focus of his eye to ensure that all his political strategies ended up being ways to garner wealth and spread influence.

So his Dravidian movement predominantly became an anti-Brahmin tirade without actually causing any significant dent to casteism in Tamil Nadu. With the net result that the only far-reaching and long-lasting effect of his warped brand of Dravidian politics happened to be removing Brahmins from a lot of top positions in the political/educational hierarchy and giving rise to a new generation of self-hating Brahmins. Yes, a significant number of non-FC folks have benefitted immensely from educational reservation, but I doubt if Anna would be happy at where we are today, specifically wrt "social upliftment of the downtrodden" and "getting rid of the evil caste system".

And then family families happened, and that's when all semblance of governance, people, social concern, etc. became ways solely to remain in power so he/his family could benefit. We all know what followed - from the Sarkaria Commission to Raja kaiya vecha.

Still, if you will see, in spite of his shift in focus, Tamil Nadu has moved forward. Significant development has happened to the state during his tenures (to rival Jayalalitha's). Of course, it is another fact that at the end of his tenure, he hands over mostly-empty coffers to the poor lady who has to take some strict measures to bring the state's finances back in order, ending up earning the wrath of the people.

And that's what really saddens me - how much *more* Tamil Nadu could've moved forward if he had been more committed to the state's cause and been only marginally less corrupt.

Not to speak of how much forethought he had in ensuring that his (extended) family ventured into all fields of money making - Cinema, Politics, Land, Television, etc. Truly astute.

Then there's his unique brand of acerbic public remarks, something that used to shock me till very recently - be it his questioning of Lord Rama's engineering qualifications or his abuse of Tamil people as "Sotral aditha pindangal" or his tried-and-tested Aryan Conspiracy Theories, he had sufficiently gauged the pulse of the people to know what would effect them and what would remain in memory. Quite amazing, really.

Sadly, it all had to end this way. Yeah, the technical possibility that he might still come back to power at 92 years of age exists, but hey, who are you kidding? A man who fought his way up from the lower rungs of society to such a position of power and a man who was not overwhelmed by power, ended up misusing it, all for money.

And that is how M Karunanidhi will be remembered.