Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Amar Singh and the art of the impossible

Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable, so said John Kenneth Galbraith.

Amar Singh, the Samajwadi Party’s general secretary, would agree. He has chosen the unpalatable.

The proud Thakur isn’t reciting his curious couplets on news channels these days. He doesn’t have time from offering support to Mrs Sonia Gandhi, who isn’t asking for any.

First he gatecrashed into her dinner party to offer his party’s letter of support. There were no takers though. And then the Congress changed its Prime Minister candidate. So Singh sent the letter of support to direct to the President.

It’s tough being Amar Singh. His leader, Netaji Mulayam Singh Yadav, went back to Lucknow just in time and saved himself some embarrassing moments.

Before the results media had declared the Amar-Mulayam the kingmakers. But media got it wrong. In politics, things change quickly or do they? Once a Kingmaker Always a Kingmaker, so it seems Mr Singh believes.

His party stood in the elections at what they call an equi-distance from both the BJP and the Congress. Singh and Yadav were the lone rangers in the Battle 2004.

Today they want to be seen by Sonia’s side, something unpalatable just some weeks ago. For not being on her side will not be any less disastrous than being seen closer to the BJP.

Oye Control Yaar

We are a nation of emotional people. An eminent writer I am not sure I should quote once said Emotions are like farts, they are embarrassing but they must be let out. But in our zeal to let the emotion out, we sometimes make a fool of us. So much so that we often turn the tragic into farcical.

This is what happened last night. A tragedy struck the Congress party. And Congressmen and women turned it into a national farce broadcast on national television. The Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, decided not to accept the post of the Prime Minister, for reasons known to her and her alone.

Outside her house, supporters let loose a mass hysteria. And rightly so. They wanted their leader as the Prime Minister of India and were very disappointed that she wasn’t willing.

But what happened at the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting was ridiculous, bordering on being disgusting. Leaders who are supposed to give the countrymen courage were breaking down in front of the TV camera.

There was no effort to hold back tears and at times one could see effort to shed more and more tears.

Noted lawyer and just-elected Lok Sabha member Kapil Sibal went ahead saying Mrs Gandhi does not have a parallel in Indian history.

Some were blunt enough to speak the truth. One bearded man got up to declare that the party would break into pieces if she didn’t reverse her decision.

To a great extent he was right. But he added another two worrying lines: Your priority should be to save the party and save the country. He got so emotional he didn’t think twice before putting save the party before save the country.

Just one or two asked her to stand up to the blackmail or stupid, irresponsible statements of some BJP leaders. All focussed on a version of sycophancy that would put even sycophants of past Congress regimes to shame.
Professional actor Govinda said the nation needed not only a leader but also a mother.

He blissfully ignored the fact that Mother India didn’t need a mother. All Mother India needs is a strong leader.

Sonia Gandhi can provide that. She has shown a lot of resolve, a lot of leadership qualities and a lot of promise. It’s perhaps the promise that Indians have voted the Congress to power or the power to lead a non-NDA government, to be precise.

It's the day of WYSWYG: What You See is What You Get. What we saw last night was a mockery of sentiments, including that of Sonia Gandhi. She has proven that she is a strong leader and she must teach her senior colleagues a thing or two about strength. Sacrifice is a sacred virtue, let’s not trivialise it.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The Great Indian Voter is a Sham!

Apart from Sardar Harkishen Singh Surjeet, elections in India bring back a lot of things to life. Words like people's mandate, voter's mind etc. The Indian voter is eulogised as one having his own mind. Journalists in their columns and TV airtime repeatedly call the voter intelligent and mature. He is ultimate arbiter. He punishes the guilty and brings back the country on the right path. I haven't met the quintessential Indian voter yet, but if I do meet him I have just five words for him: You are a big sham!

Consider the results of Election 2004.

Chandrababu Naidu lost, Laloo Prasad Yadav won. Both man of vision: One had Vision 2020, the other Vision 20 Seats. Laloo got more than 20. If giving jobs to the unemployed and governance were issues the voter cared for, Laloo Prasad Yadav would have been cleaned off two elections ago.

Buy One Get One Free
Mr Naidu's vision did not include free power. His opponent, Congress' Y.S.R. Rajshekhar Reddy, promised free power and jobs to the unemployed. Reddy won. So dear voter, do you really think there is something called free power? Congress' Amarinder Singh promised free power to Punjab and once in power realised there actually isn't anything called free power. Congress lost in Punjab. The Great Indian voter wants free power. Give him or get lost.

Mr Naidu definitely put Andhra on the road to progress, but the Indian voter isn't satisfied with the road. He wants it all and he wants it now.

Hare Krishna, Hai Rama!

Mr S.M. Krishna's Karnataka was better than many other states in India. In fact the allegation that outside Bangalore, Karnataka was in a bad shape is wrong. Krishna was considered a clean and progressive leader. The Great Indian Voter kicked him out. If the Great Indian Voter has a mind of his own, he's got a lot of crap up there. The fractured mandate and the resultant instability is not going to end the problems, Krishna was chucked because of.

Love louts

If the Great Indian Voter is so great why does a Suraj Bhan Singh win? Why do Amarmani Tripathi or a Sadhu Yadav win? Why does he vote for Dharmendra for that matter, whose political speeches are more filmi than political?

Perform and perish?

Pundits say elections are fought on local issues. Politicians who don't deliver, the voter teaches them a lesson. Then why did Nitish Kumar lose from Barh or a Digvijay Singh lose from Banka? They many not have done a lot for the country or their state, but they did a lot for their constituency. Digvijay literally squandered national exchequer's resources in his zeal on a railway network in his constituency. Nitish Kumar was called the Railway Minister of Bihar, and more precisely Barh?

Casteist Caveman

If the Indian voter rejected communalism by throwing out the BJP, why did it choose casteism as alternative?

Political pundits dissecting the Gujarat results say it was rejection of Narendra Modi style politics. They choose to ignore that Congress won because the kshatriya votes went to kshatriya leader Shankarsinh Vaghela. Tribal votes went to Amarsinh Chaowdhry. Congress won wherever the total was over BJP's combination of Brahmin, Patel and vania votes.


Voters across India, barring a few states, vote for their own casteman, everything else comes later. North India is notorious for this, but check out the South Indian equations. Caste rules. The Great Indian Voter refuses to leave his pre-historic cave.

Mulayam has pie for dinner

Three days is a long time in politics. For Mulayam Singh Yadav, it's been short and not so sweet. From being in an enviable bargain-power position of having 35 MPs in his pocket, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister went back to Lucknow yesterday afternoon dejected and rejected. Just a day ago he was dreaming to savour his share of the coalition cake. The pehelwan of Etawa had softened so much that he was ready to sup with even Mayawati. He left his pride with the Left. And Left's Harkishen Singh Surjeet tried everything to make Sonia swallow her prejudice. But Sonia refused Mulayam that invitation to dinner. Last night, Mulayam Singh Yadav had pie, a big depressing humble pie. His detractors, headed by Laloo Prasad Yadav, had pasta and the last laugh.