Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sunanda Pushkar and the Indian Political Elite: Tweets of a Death Foretold

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

Sunanda Pushkar, the wife of the Union Minister for Education, Dr Sashi Tharoor, was found dead in a holel room in New Delhi on January 17th 2014. The events preceding her death are extremely important. Apparently she discovered an Affair between Tharoor and a Pakistani woman, Mehr Tarar. Tharoor had saved the name of this woman on his mobile under the gender bending name of Harish. On the flight from Trivandrum to New Delhi this couple had a public spat after which she took her husband's mobile and made public the emails between the woman in Pakistan and Tharoor. Inn her last and final tweet she made a threat which her death a few hours later can be interpreted in different ways: I have taken the blame for this man's IPL crimes  and I am not willing to take anything "lying down"/ In the same tweet she discloses that Mehr Tarar was an ISI agent.

The reference to the IPL could trigger the memory of the scandal in 2010 when the Kochi Tusker IPL franchise was allotted to Sunanda Pushkar as "sweat equity". This scandal came to light because Lalit Modi, the IPL honcho tweeted about it and Tharoor was forced to quit his post as the MoS for External Affairs. Soon thereafter the two married and Sunanda Pushkar shifted to Delhi from Dubai. This woman has been quite unfortunate in the men she chose to have in her life. She divorced her first husband within week of her marriage and married his friend Sajith Menon who was the father of her 21 year old son, Shiv Menon. She then married Sahshi Tharoor who is close to the record of Henry VIII as far as matrimonial statistics is concerned. The relationship fell apart under the twin strains of Tharoor's serial infidelity and the stressses and strains of being a Miniter in a fractious UPA regime. In fact on the day she dies, her husband was attedning the special AICC Session in which Rahul Gandhi was all but nominated for the post of PM in the unlikely event of the dynastic fascists coming to power.

The Police investigation was certainly full of unexpected surprises. Though the Family of Tahroor and Sunanda were both interested in floating the theory that the lady died due to a fatal mixture of "wrong medication, stress and exhaustion". the autopsy revealed that her death was caused by poisoning.  And the examination of the viscera has also more or less confirmed that she died due to induced poisoning. And to make matters worse, the autopsy revealed injury marks all over the body of Sunanda, evidence of either domestic violence or a scuffle with her killers.  The Indian Media jhas been very lukewarm in the way this crime was handled. Taroor enjoys a good rapport with the English speaking media because he is said to be a noted writer, scholar and an internationally acclaimed diplomat. While the petty affair of the woman who was being protected on the request of her father by the Gujarat Police resulted in the Congress regime trying to embarrass the Hon'ble Chief Minister of Gujarat by ordering a Judicial Inquiry, there is no attempt to find the truth of the death of Sunanda. It is entirely another matter that the Government of India could not find even a single judge to head the Inquiry it ordered.

There are a number of unanswered questions:
1, What do the injury marks on her body indicate?
2  Is there any truth in the allegation made by Sunanda that Mehr Tarar is an ISI agent
3. Why was the woman who was obviously ill left alone and unsupervised in a hotel room>
4  Why is the family keen to stop the Investigation and close the case as an "accidental death".

The people of Trivandrum voted for Tharoor and he has brought only scandal and shame upon them. Hopefully next time around they will atone for their mistake.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Challenge of the AAM ADMI PARTY; How to confront the Great White Hope of Indian Politics

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

Urban India is witnessing a novel political phenomenon: the rise and rise of the Aam Admi Party. The anti corruption movement launched by Anna Hazare was accompanied by a surge of civil society activism against corruption in India and the victory of the Aam Admi Party can be traced directly to the political consciousness roused by the movement of Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare. While the former supports the BJP under Hon'ble Narendra Modi as the political alternative, Anna Hazare decided to remain apolitical. His chosen disciple Arvind Khejriwal decided to break away and form a political party (the AAP) which rolled to power with the support of the Congress party and is now the ruling party in Delhi. It is time to assess the strengths of this new force and try to evaluate its impact on the 2014 Elections to the Lok Sabha. The BJP can ignore the AAP only at its own risk and must take steps to counter its appeal.

Until the victory of the AAP it was generally held that the BJP will emerge victorious in the 2014 General Elevtions with Narendra Modi as the next Prime Minister. Now the picture is not that sanguine. primarily due to the politics of the Aam Admi Party. Led by a former Indian Revenue Officer, Shri Arvind Khejriwal (around 45 tyars old). the AAP seized control over the reins of Government in Delhi after the BJP declined to form the Government. The BJP won 32 seats, a few seats short of an absolute majority. The AAP after declaring publicly that it will not seek the support of the Congress, a party with a national notoriety for Crime, Corruption and Communalism, had no problem in getting the support of the Congress which is extending crucial support from outside the Government to sustain the Government. This arrangement is neither politically valid nor an ethical one as both Parties snipe at each other all the time and yet the Congress voted in favor of the APP in the Delhi assembly a few days back. I do not think this arrangement will last beyond a couple of months as the Congress will be badly dented if the AAP succeeds.

Arvind Kejriwal played to the gallery like a pro. He rode a metro train to the Capital to take the vote of Office at Delhi's Ram Lila Grounds where he sat on dharna along with his mentor. Such a populiost gesture went down well with the people who love to see their "High Officials" appear ordinary. What is forgotten is the fact that to keep the pretence of Arvind Khejriwal's pro poor image huge public expenditure was incurred in order to secure the metro route. A mere gesture, a nod in the direction of the common man, a supreme act of condescension is taken as proof of the simplicity and honesty of Arvind Khejriwal. Let us give him his moment.

The policy initiatives taken by the AAP even before it secured a vote of confidence is proof of the absolute disregard for the public exchequer. Announcing subsidies to the tune of 3, 500 crore rupees, the electricity bills of the consumers in New Delhi got some relief. However, the long term solution to the problem of energy pricing lies not in subsidies but in augmented power generation and the AAP has no clue as to what to do. Arvind Khejriwal is a mechanical engineer trained in IIT, Kharaghpur in West Bengal and he may have some idea of the problems inherent in his solutions.

The political phenomenon called the AAP is new to Indian politics. For long the political discourse has been dominated by issues of personality and identity. The AAP has shifted the discourse to issues concerning the common man: water, electricity, public safety, and corruption. The shift to a non identity based politics is welcome. However, it was Narendra Modi who shifted the emphasis on Governance rather than identity. The appeal of this new kid on the block to the post 1990's generation is obvious. Liberalism initiated by Narashima Rao in the 1990's has spawned a whole generation whose politics is shaped by live issues concerning everyday life and problems. The network created by the AAP during the heady days of the Anna Agitation paid huge dividents. The AAP was able to articulate the problems of the people of small neighbourhoods because it had a dedicated cadres working here. This networked interaction with localities using GIS and other sophisticated tools of analysis makes the AAP a viable force/ The bJP will do well to invest more tiem amnd energy in drawing out local issues spread over 532 Parliamentary consituencies instead of banking entirely on the charisma of Hon'ble Narendra Modi.

On balance, the AAP is certainly a new force but its alliance with the Congress will spell its doom.