Friday, September 27, 2013

Convicted Politicians, Rahul Gandhi and the outrage over the Ordinance

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The Indian Government headed by Dr Man Mohan Singh sent an Ordinance to the President of India by which Indian politicians convicted of heinous crimes would not be disqualified from the membership of the State Assemblies and the National Parliament. The alarming rate at which criminals are entering the political process and getting elected to the seats of power has been commented upon by several public figures and there has been very powerful civil society movements too, The Supreme Court of India in a recent judgement said categorically that convicted politicians lose their seats and cannot continue in their elected positions. This judgement was widely seen as a small step in cleansing the stables of Indian politics of rapists, murderers and dacoits. Instead of welcoming this judgement, the Congress Party introduced a bill on parliament to undo the judegement. The strident opposition of the Bharatiya Janata Party forced the bill to be submitted to a special committee and the matter rested there. The fact is that an important ally of the UPA, a man called Laloo Prasad Yadava, a semi literate thug from Bihar is likely to be convicted in the Fodder Scam case whose judgement will be pronounced on the 30th of September 2013. In spite of having at least 4 prominent witnesses killed, the prosecution soldiered on and and the conviction of this fellow in on the cards.

In the forthcoming Parliamentary election which will be held by May 2014, the Congress and its allies will be wiped out as the Nation is sick and tired of the grand corruption that has taken by place. The minsters responsible for massive corruption have been shielded from prosecution a plaint Central Bureau of Investigation or the CBI whose Director was chastised by the Supreme Court of India for being a "caged parrot" of the powers that be. In the Coalgate Scam even the files implicating the Congress leaders who got coal blaocks allocated to them have disappeared from the custody of the Coal Minister, who happened to be the Prime Minster himself. The BJP in spite of a very messy leadership struggle is poised to win the upcoming electoral battle. The Congress Party pokes fun at the messy struggle involving the aging patriarch, L K Advani and Hon'ble Narendra Modi ignoring the sad fact that in the Congress party, dynastic fascism ensures that on one can aspire for a leadership position in the party except those born to the Nehru bloodline. This is highly primitive system of ensuring that the leadership remains within the "Royal Family" has contributed in no small measure to the degeneration of the political culture in India as it has made politicians cultivate factional loyalties and court family members in oder to ensure their visibility in the political arena. Unfortunately, the Congress political culture is being emulated by all the other corrupt political allies of the Congress like the DMK, the RJD and other "secular" parties.

It is against the back ground sketched above that we must see the "idealistic outburst " of Rahul Gandhi, the Crown Prince of the Congress party and the son of Sonia Gandhi the Italian widow of Rajiv Gandhi. When Man Mohan Singh was away on a visit to the USA to address the U N Genaral Assembly, Rahul Gandhi called a Press Conference and denounced the Ordinance awaiting Presidential assest as "nonsense" and deserves to be thrown out, Most political commentators felt that Man Mohan Singh stood dimnished as a result of the public rebuke administered by Rahul Gandhi. The Ordinance was sent to the President after it had been cleared by the Cabinet and had the backing of Rahul's mother, Sonia Gandhi. It is shameful that dynastic fascism has begun to undermine even the office of the Prime Minister. In the noise caused by Rahul's "idealistic: outburst what is firgitten is the fact that the President of India refused to sign the Ordinance and the real credit for scrapping the Ordinance should go to Shri Pranab Mukerjee, the Prersident of the Republic. Instead the pliant electronic and print media in India make it appear as if Rahul Gandhi's "idealistic" outburst had led to a rethink.

Certain trends are visible form this episode. First, there is a lot of factional strife going on in the Congress Party. Second, a very unhealthy precedent has been set: one in which the Crown Prince can make the Government of the day make a complete turnaround in its policy. There is no place for civilized political discourse in such a scenario. Even Arun Jailey, a senior leader of the bJP said that Man Mohan Singh should resign because he was undermined by the crown price. I expecty that eminent Leader of the Opposition to know that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet is responsible to the Parliament and not to the  strippling, Crown Prince. This just gies to show how deep the shadow of dynastic fascism is in India.

The BJP did not emerge as the victor in this round but to its credit the Pary and Hon'ble Naredra Modi opposed the Orinance. The shameless courtiers of the Congress do not even have the dignity to say that their Government  has been undermined and the Prime Minister, a nominee of the "Royal Family" has been publicly humiliated. The demands for the resignation of the Prime Minister only reinforce the perception that he is accountable to the "royal family" and not to Parliament. Rahul Gandhi said that it was his "personal opinion" but such is the strangle hold of dynastic fascism that personal opinions become Government policy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Twenty Third Convocation of Pondicherry University

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukerjee who is also the Visitor of Pondicherry University  delivered a most erudite and inspiring Convocation Address on the occasion of the 23rd Convocation. He combines the grace and simplicity of an enlightened mind with the penetrating insight of a good administrator. His long tears in politics has made him understand the reality of the Indian educational scenario and he pointed it out in his address.

After the usual preliminaries he went straight to the point. He lamented that not a single Indian University finds a place in the high table of education. As a student of History, he pointed out that for several centuries Universities like Taxila and Nalanda kept the lamp of education burning not only in India, but more pertinently   attracted students from all over the world. He said that it should be the goal of Indian higher education to bring back the lost glory. India, the President said has nearly 645 Universities and more than 2000 colleges. He seemed to suggest that while the numbers are encouraging, the quality is depressing.

I was struck by the clarity of his thought and the eloquence at his command.  If India has more politicians and statesmen like him the country would be well served. However, the sad reality faces him as he returns to New Delhi. The Ordinance setting aside the Supreme Court judgement   on convicted politicians will be sitting on his table. I have heard many Presidents address the Convocation in the University and I rate A P J Abdul Kalam and Shri Pranab Mukerjee among the most memorable speakers that I have heard.

The President is keen on improving the quality of higher education and his commitment is palpable. However,education should also embrace the humanities and cannot be restricted to the technology stream.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Street Cat, Bob: Love and Redemption

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The little book by James Bowen, A Street Cat named Bob is a remarkable tale of love, hope and redemption. The author James Bowen, a drug addict and in the jargon of British social welfare office, a substance abuser, finds a large ginger cat near his dwelling. The adventures of this duo occupies most of the  book. The author has fallen through the cracks of western society and has ended on the streets of London without a job and little skill,l which can translate into dependable employment. So "busking" for a living is the only career choice that  available. The Cat and James set out by tube to Coventry Garden where James has a designated spot busking, playing music for voluntary donations. Since panhandling is forbidden by law in most western counties, busking invites little attention from the law, provided of course there it is done in a designated place and there is no complaint of anticancer James earns at best little more than what was essential to keep .his nose out of trouble. Petty theft and drug addiction were already on his record and James now has a cat to feed and support. The bond between the two develops into a stable and mutually enriching relationship and now James Bowen had a purpose to his life, something he never had earlier. His life settled down to a routine of busking in London and the petty quarrels and jealousies his success and the attention paid to Bob his cat evoked amongst the other derelicts on the streets of London is brought out well.

The love between the two transforms Bob from a drug addict to a more responsible human being and the book also documents the reconciliation between James and his mother who after her marriage to Nick seems to have drifted away from James. The spiritual anchor of Jmaes' life is Bob and he gradually helps him find his feet again.
For most readers, the tale of Bob and James may sound surreal. Can a street cat make sucha huge difference to a person's life. As someone who has seen and experienced the rougher side of life, I can say that animals do bring a strange kind of unconditional love to their relationship with their owners that is really unsettling at times. James Bowen was down and out in London, barely eking out a bare living by busking in the posh areas of Londan, loving from day to day, taking life one day at a time and when Bob entered his life all that changed. He had a purpose to live anf that made all the difference. Life Richard Parker in the Life of Pi, who became Pi's spiritual anchor in the Pacific Ocean, Bob was to James.

I liked this book immensely and I too am fond of animals and so read the book with interest. The message of redemption comes out strongly in the book.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Narendra Modi, the BJP and the 2014 Elections: The Storm Ahead

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

As expected the BJP Parliamentary Board met this morning and declared Shri Narendra Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate for the forthcoming Lok Sabha election. The Congress party which reposes faith in dynastic fascism as its only political principle in all probability  rally around  Rahul Gandhi derisively called Amul Baby in India. It will be an unequal match as Tahul Gandhi does not have either the experience or the national stature to stand up to Narendra Modi and in the forthcoming election all seasoned political observers see a tectonic shift in favour of the NDA led by the BJP.

The issues that will dominate the Elections of 2014 are serious ones and some of the issues are listed below:

1 There has been unprecedented levels of corruption and mis governance during the 10 years of the UPA whose PM was the teflon coated Dr Man Mohan Singh. The disappearance of the files relating to the allocation of coal blocks in the coal gate scandal has put the spotlight on the Prime Minister. Indians are used to corruption and in our everyday lives have to deal with it at some level, but under the Congress the scale and magnitude of corruption has broken all limits and the common man in yearning for a change. Narendra Modi has the image of a clean and efficient politician and is not tainted by a singly scandal.

2 There has been a virtual melt down of the Indian economy. The growth rate has plunged to 3.5% and this is the lowest in nearly tywo decades. The Current Account Deficit is narly 7 % of the GDP and is increasing. The trade gap is widening and in spite of the fall in the value of the rupee exports are not picking up. The high rate of unemployment had made the youth restive and it is the young voter who is expected to vote en masse for Narendra Modi. The Congress has offered no explanation for the decline in the economy except blaming the policies of Pranab Mukherjee the former Finance Minister and now President of INdia. Corrective measure have not been taken for bringing the economy back on track. In fact the situation is getting worse with the inflationary pressure exerted by the rise in petrol and fuel.

3 The populist measures taken by the UPA under the influence of a bunch of civil society activists close to Mrs Sonia Gandhi has imposed an enormous strain on the economy and has made corruption a rural phenomenon. The Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has spawned huge corruption and the Comptroller and Auditor General has drawn attention to the lapses in the Government schemes

4 The foreign policy scenario is not bright. India has declined before the eyes of the World. There was a time when the voice of India was heard. Today India is silent on all major issues confronting the world. This decline is due . bad statecraft and muddled priorities. The incursions of the Chinese Army have to be addressed in a bilateral forum through discussions. The News papers are full of alarming Reports of the presence of Chinese soldiers deep into Indian territory. I am sure this issue can be settled through dialogue, but the weak UPA Government lacks the credibility to undertake such a dialogue. In the case of Pakistan, India has been craven. Inspite of the fact that the Government of India being aware that Pakistani soldiers killed 5 Indian soldiers in a brutal manner, the UPA regime sought to pass the buck by saying that terrorists dressed in Pakistan Army uniform did this dastardly act. The UPA lost what little respect people had  after this display of cowardice.

Against the declining fortunes of the UPA, Narendra Modi has to craft a winning strategy. His personality and image alone will not see the NDA through because the UPA will throw the 2002 Riots in Gujarat against Modi in onder to garner the votes of the Muslims. This strategy will come unstuck in the big state of Uttar Pradesh, but may have some purchase in other parts. Though the Supreme Court of India has not found anything to prove the involvement of Modi in the riots, the 2002 Riots are still there in public perception. NDA must respond by bringing up the Sikh Massacre of 1984 when Indira Gandhi died. The factionalism within the BJP with the senior leader L K Advani sulking in the shadows after the announcement of the candidature of Hon'ble Narendra Modi may be unsettling in the short run.

The BJP has its work cut out for it and the sooner Narendra Modi establishes an organization which can translate his vision into a reality the bettor it would be.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The American Media, Barack Obama and the debate on Syrian and Chemical Weapons

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The latest issue of Time  (September, 9 2013) has a cover story dedicated to The Unhappy Warrior. Yes it is Barack Obama, the Nobel Prize Winner and now a strong advocate of War in Syria. What is so alarming about the US debate both on the print media and in Congress is that the issue is narrowly focused on the apparent use of Sarin Gas in a suburb of Damascus on August 21, 2013. The American Government has been saying that the Syrian Government forces used the chemical weapons and are making a strong case for bombing Syria. Nobody seems to ask the basic question that Damascus is the capital and no matter how rotten the regime is, the Capital is generally spared the agony of chemical weapons because the military ansd political elites live there. Further, even in Syria there is a foreign Press Corps and no Government will commit a "black deed" so nakedly in front of the International media.This fact seems to be getting lost in the drumbeat of war struck by Obama and his regime in Washington.

President Barack Obama in fact suggested more than a year back that the use of "Chemical weapons will be a red line" and it will have consequences. The US media is faulting the President for "waiting so long". The fact that President Putin has openly suggested in the Press Conference at the close of the G-20 Summit in Saint Peters burgh that the chemical weapons were used by the rebels in order to create the pretext for American Intervention. This argument puts a totally different spin on the policy of the American President. Rather than a humanitarian gesture, US in a cold blooded manner set the stage for a barbaric assault on the civilian population of Damascus so that a "moral" legal and political justification may be created for US intervention. The USA hoped thta the revulsion of the world would be so deep that everyone including the UN Security Council will fall in line. The best laid plans of men and mice go awry and that is exactly what happened.

The US has a plaint Intelligence Community and sn embedded press which laps up everything their regime throws at them. The Intelligence produced by the US is extrmely weak and consists of you tube footage of children gasping for breath in a Damascus Hospital. Are we to understand from thids footage that the Syrian Government ordered the use of the chemical weapons or the exact opposite: the rebels used the gas to tease the Americans in taking a hard stand and the US regime fell into the trap laid for them by the rebels. It seems that the uS has not learnt the lessons from the Iraq War: The Iraqi quislings like Chablis fed the US false information and instigated the US to wage war. Much the same has happened in Syria.

The Syrian Government is fighting a Civil War in which the USA is deeply inmplicated. The rebels have advanced till Damascus and are threatening the Capital. The Government of Assad will fall if the rebels take control of Damascus. Anbar Province is also reeling under the impact of the insurgents. The collapse of Syria is in the interest of Israel as the last major Baathist Government which opposed the formation of Israel would have folded. As Ben Gurion once said If the Arab world in on fire, it suits Israel" and that statement os about to come true. The war against Syria is not about chemcial attack and the Americans know that their allies carried out the attack. It is about reshaping the map of the Middle East in favour of Israel and its security..

The Americans are fooling themselves if they believe that the Assad Government carried out the attack. It is a"Big Lie" and like all big lies this too has its uses . Iran will not stand idly by if Syria is attacked and will hurl Hizbollah against Israel. The Israeli Army lost the war against Hizbullah and now the Military arm is stronger than ever. The only thing US can do is to stir up Wahhabi-Sunni fundamentalism and al qaeda is waiting for just such an opportunity. It seems USA is bent on its own destruction.