Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Return of J Jayalalithaa: Requiem to Dravidian Politics

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books J Jajalalithaa too the oath of office for the fifth time this morning. Wearing a green Sari with an emerald ring sparkling on her right index finger she signed the Register. The Governor Rosaiah was doing his best to look comfortable as her ministers lined up to genuflect before her in the strict order of ministerial rank. The fact that she has been acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in the Disproportionate Asset case made her return possible. Critics have already smudged her copy book pointing out the seemingly glaring arithmetical error which resulted in Justice Kumaraswamy acquitting her on the judicial premise that her assets are within the permissible margin of error. Her critics seem to be unaware that an acquittal can be overturned by rectifying the mathematical calculation. The entire accounting of the assets have to be redone and that will not make any material change in the judgement. Though the acquittal will be challenged in the Supreme Court, the chances of it being set aside are rather slim. So J Jayalaithaa has crossed the last legal hurdle before the 2016 State Assembly Polls. Dravidian style politics is now on its last legs. The ostentatious display of identity symbols, the cloud display of personality cult, the obsequiousness toward party leadership and the immediate family, the wanton disregard to political and cultural values are all part of the political culture of high Dravidianism. J Jayalalithaa did not personally endorse any of these aberration, but had to fall in line with the established code of Dradidian politics. Even the corruption charges for which she was repeatedly prosecuted at the behest of Karunanidhi and Subramania Swamy was more the doing of her inner circle consisting of Sashikala and her Kallar relatives than of her own making. However, the fact is that in the menagerie of Indian politics, J Jayalalithaa enjoys the distintion of being the only politician who has been disqualified twice for corruption and has got back to power. It is very unlikely that Karunanidhi's daughter will escape the punishment as the case against her is water tight with little scope for legal jugglery. It is hoped that this time around she delivers on her promise, The closet politician with whom Jayalalithaa can be compared is Eva Peron. Like Eva, the present Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu is adored by the masses almost bordering on mass adulation. It is a foregone conclusion that she will sweep the next election as the populist schemes launched by her will fetch a rich harvest of votes. Launched in the name of AMMA, or Mother, these schemes all touch the lives of ordinary citizens. This new dimension of using the state and its machinery to redistibute resources has been perfected by the AIADMK and was started by her mentor, MGR. Surprisingly the total cost of these schemes is around 5,000 crores while the state earns nearly 30.000 crores by the sale of liquor through the TASMAC outlets. The immediate task before the present Chief Minister is the restore the confidence of the international financiers and kick start the stalled infra structure projects.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


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

The conceit Jawarharlal Nehru and his brand of ideologically driven politics encouraged was the notion that India had a role in transmitting Western "values" and "institutions" to an Asia that was stagnant, despotic and cruel in every sense of the word. His Discovery of India was little more than a celebration of two thousand years of Indian humiliation and a wanton denial of the grand civilizational role that India had played in world history. The denial of the civilizational ethos of India was not accidental: Nehru's skewered view of Nation State demanded such an approach. The nation state and the quest for a "state centric" history has kept historians of India engaged for nearly six decades and there is little to show except the rumbustious noise over "secular history" versus "communal history".Nehru's ghost haunts the Historiography of modern India like Banco's ghost, a farce turning into a tragedy. There have been several changes in historiographical approaches but Indian historians prefer to embrace the colonial or the post colonial perspectives and while the latter with its dense fog of meaningless jargon finds a receptive audience in Indian academia, the colonial approaches are still the norm among professional historians. Manufacturing a "national history" to justify India's trnasition into a "modern" "democratic" and "socialist"  republic became the sine qua non for Indian historians. The turgid prose of Upinder Singh's successful foray into text book market does little to put India on the map of world civilizations.

During his recent visit to the great nation, China, Narendra Modi as Prime Minister visited the Tomb of China's first Emperor and her we have his pictures in the Tomb with the Terracotta warriors

The message that Narendra Modi was constantly engaged in making public is that China and India had a common Asian and civilizational history stretching over 2,500 years. Even the Communist Party dominated State had to accept the view that Buddhism was a strong and enduring link between the two countries. Nehru in his utter folly allowed the problem of Tibet and the border issue inherited from the infamous Younghusban expedition tomcloud his understanding of China. Modi's vision of an Asia led by China and India is more appropriate to the history that links these two countries.

Monday, May 11, 2015

J Jayalalitaa and her legal travails: Why Justice seems a distant dream

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

Two judicial verdicts have caused considerable consternation in India. The first is the curious case of Salman Khan and the stay granted to his conviction by the Sessions Court within 2 hours. The cose was filed more than 13 years ago when Slaman Khan allegedly ran over 7 pavement dwellers killing one of them. According to the Police he was drunk at that time and following the Supreme Court judgement in the Perriera case, he was sentenced for "culpable homicide" not am mounting to murder. The fact that the judgment was stayed and the celebrity actor back home without spending even a single day in prison for killing a human being is cause for concern and people are asking questions about the integrity of the judicial process.

In Jayalalithaa's  case the matter is different. A vengeful DMK regime charged her under various provision relating to what we in India call Disproportionate Assets. A person should be able to show the source of income from which he or she has purchase assets. Failure to do so would amount to acceptance of the charge. The DMK went to town over the case and hyped the DA case to the tune of 100 crores. In fact the whole sordid episode stems from over enthusiasm on the part of the DMK regimes which tried to exaggerate the value of the assets seized from J Jayalalitaa after her defeat in the 1996 elections.  The judgement of the Trial Court was also strange. Instead of relying of the value of the assets and its source, Michael Cuhuna, the trial judge, pronounced her guilty on the basis of a totally extraneous piece of legislation: the Prevention of Corruption Act. Having assets disproportionate to known sources of Income does not constitute corruption, as one can inherit assets, acquire by exchange or gift and there are other pieces of law governing the acquisition of assets through these different means. The punishment handed in by the trial court was extremely harsh: 100 crore fine and 10 years rigorous imprisonment. The harshness of the verdict and the questionable legal grounds on which it rested have raised eyebrows in India.

Today the Bangalore High Court has on the appeal of Ms Jayalalitaa acquitted her of all charges. It is nobody's case that the former Chief Minister is above board. However, her acquittal has sent thrills of joy down the spines of her partymen and Ms Jayalalithaa is expected to return as Chief Minister soon. It is becoming difficult to convict VIPs guilty of major acts of corruption.

Both the case discussed in this blog suggest that corruption and VIP misdemeanors need to be addressed with greater vigour.