Saturday, February 18, 2017

Deep State and Democracy: Something wrong in the way US Democracy is functioning

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

One of the fundamental attributes of a mature democracy is the civilian control over the Military and Intelligence Services. In USA, it is quite clear that President Donald Trump is the elected President. However, what is surprising is that within less than a month of his assumption of the Office of President, he is being dragged into a unholy mess in which the Media, the Academia and the Intelligence Community all seem to be working in tandem. His popularity or unpopularity is not the issue. The viciousness with which he is being attacked and the studies and co ordinated manner in which he is being undermined in less than a month in Office leads me to suspect that there is something more than mere political posturing.

Donald Trump is certainly an obnoxious man. But that does not disqualify him from holding an elected post. President Barack Obama, had poetry on his lips and blood on his hands and the American public was quite exited over him. Perhaps, the fact of being black and sophisticated had something to do with his popularity. Obama was ruthless in his pursuit of the American objectives or where they American objectives. He sustained the Sunni USA Alliance against Iran even though he made a fairly good deal to restrict Iran's nuclear ambitions. He created the ISIS and set it loose against the last progressive state in the Middle East, Syria and turned a blind eye to the atrocities against the Christian and other sectarian populations in Syria. His policy of undermining the fledgling Democracy in Egypt was sold to his subject population by demonising the Muslim Brotherhood and this organization is certainly less of a problem than ISIS. Obama came to India as a guest of the Prime Minister of India, and had the temerity to say some scathing things about Narendra Modi and his Government. Trump has not had the time even to put together his policy platform and all hell is breaking loose.

Russia is not at war with USA and so having conversations over any diplomatic or strategic issue with Russia is not a crime and certainly not any act of treason. Robert Flynn the National Security Advisor, The alleged involvement of Russia in the hacking of the Democratic Party Server is a ruse to create a cloud of illegitimacy over the election of Trump. In fact what the hacked emails of Podesta brought to light was the systematic rigging of the primaries against Bernie Sanders who if nominated would have defeated Donald Trump. Instead, foreign involvement in the political affairs of USA has become the war cry which is being used to hammer the Presidency of Trump. The American Media went along with the Bush Administration when he used it to create a cloud of suspicion over the Weapons of Mass Destruction allegedly held by Saddam Hussein. We in India were clear that it was a just a ploy. But the Deep State created such a miasma of war and terror over this issue that questioning the narrative from the White House and the theatrics of Colin Powell was considered un American and suspicious. Something similar is happening now. The Deep State is unhappy with Trump and is trying to create hurdles for him and his policies.

Trump has said that he would like to have Russian support in the war against ISIS and why is the Deep State afraid of this. It is now quite certain that ISIS cannot be defeated militarily. It has to be dealt with politically by forging an alliance of like minded countries. USA and its Deep State is willing to allow terrorism to flourish and American security threatened all over the world than to take the logical step toward stability. The ban against immigration from 7 countries is not a Muslim ban as there are 40 muslim countries and this policy was initiated by Barack Obama. Further, it was Barack Obama's policy of wanton and sustained bombing that led to the collapse of these countries. Trump rightly want this "American Carnage" to stop. Why is the Deep State not allowing the American Carnage to be checked if not totally halted.

There are wheels within wheels. One need not be a conspiracy advocate to connect the dots. Obams's record of ruthless and wanton bloodshed is not questioned at all and the cries for revoking the Nobel Peace Prize are still muted. Trump has incurred the hostility of the nebulous and faceless cluster of financial, strategic, academic and military interests whose face, at least in public is the elected President. Trup is the first American President who has confronted what Eisenhower had long feared, "the Military Industrial Complex". At this rate I suspect that he will not be allowed to complete his terms and physical removal is also a possibility as the Intelligence Community has gone rogue.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sasikala Convicted and Punished? Nemesis or Retribution

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

The ancient Greeks believed that the jealous gods are ever vigilant to catch an ordinary mortal strutting about as though he was a god himself. Hubris, the quality of immense pride and overweening lust for power, inevitably led to Nemesis, the very destruction of pride and a divine retribution for competing with the Gods. This belief entered western ethical praxis through Christianity with its emphasis on strict separation between the world of God and the World of Mortals, at least since the biblical Fall of Man. Hindu religion, unfortunately, lacks a well defined ethical universe and consequently the religion invariably becomes a web of transactions between human beings and the realm of gods. This lack of an ethical foundation is the real reason for the huge and egregious instances of corruption that crops up from time to time. The idea is share the loot with God and everything is fine. USA has a powerful judiciary and a strong state which is capable of enforcing a modicum of accountability on its public/political class. In India, the election of 2014 is the turning point with the State showing zero tolerance towards corruption and the Judiciary displaying the strength to pronounce harsh judgements.

The "Disproportionate Assets" Case against Jayalalithaa and Sasikala and her extended kin is an instance of the sort of wanton corruption that thrives in the kleptocracy called the Indian state. While Jayalalithaa herself came from a well to do background and she herself had a thriving career as a film star, Sasikala came from a lower middle class with a deep sense of insecurity and a lust for property that was not quelled even after 20 years of prosecution for corruption. She has now been found guilty of amassing wealth using her proximity to the then Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa. The later made the huge mistake of allowing this corrupt semi literate woman to live in her house and therefore became a party to all the property deals that transpired during the first term of Jayalalithaa's Chief Ministership. The Supreme Court inits unprecedented 570 page Judgement indicted the late Chief Minister as the Ist accused stating that since her residence was used for making the deals she ought to have known what was happening under her own roof. Jayalalithaa herself may not have been corrupt,but she paid the price for bring this semi literate woman called Sasikala into her household and allowing her the freedom to interfere in official matters. A house maid got transformed into "chinnamma" and even claimed the mantle of Chief Ministership as the anointed successor of Jayalalithaa until nemesis caught up with her in the form of the Supreme Court Judgement.

There are swirling rumours of the possibility of Sasikala being involved in the death of Jayalalithaa. A doctor at Apollo Hospital has made the sensational disclosure that the late Chief Minister was brought to the hospital dead on September 22nd 2016. If this is the case, then the members of Jayalaithaa's household and the authorities of Apollo have a lot of explaining to do do. Ignoring her own dubious role, Sasikala decided to stake her claim to the Chief Ministership barely a week before the Supreme Court was to pronounce the verdict. Inducing all her loyalists to seek refuge in a Holiday Resort at Kuvathur on the East Coast Road, Sasikala unleashed a full blown factional war forcing a reluctant Governor to order a floor test in the Assembly.

With the conviction of Sasikala upheld by the Supreme Court it is curtains for the political future of this woman. The AIADMK will sputter on till the mid tern polls are held and it is quite unlikely that the party will return to power. Hubris led to a huge Nemesis.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Tamil Nadu Politics: Sashikala, Paneerselvam and the Ghost of things past

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

The death of Jayalalithaa has created a real storm in Tamil politics. The AIADMK with 134 MLAs in the house is poised to split between the two warring factions:Sasikala and O Paneerselvam. The fact is that the Party and its higher leadership has lost all credibility will make the task of polituical recoverry extremely difficult. Added to the political turmoil unleashed by the death of Jayalalithaa is the mass protest on the issue of jallikkattu. The crowds of young people who protested on the beach of Marina were not displaying their love for the sport of bull taming. They were expressing their anguish at the sudden and disastrous turn in the politics of Tamil Nadu. In fact the restoration of the sport following the promulgation of an Ordinance by the Chief Minister, O Pannerslvam hardly caused a ripple in Chennai, the ground zero of the protests.

O Paneersevam, the acting Chief Minister, was the choice of Jayalalithaa whenever she had to vacte the position due to frequent conviction in corruption cases. In fact, in all the cases in which the late CM was procecuted, the real beneficiary was Sashikala Natrajan and her extended family which goes under the sobriquet, Managudi Mafia. The strangle hold acquired by Sashkala over the party can be gauged from the fact that 129 MLAs have come out in open suppport of her. While O Pannerselvam has the support of a small handful of MLAs, there is no doubt that the rank and file, the cadres of the AIADMK are solidly behind him. The corruption cases against Sashikala are not the only rerasons for her unpopularity in the AIADMK. The real reason is that Jayalalithaa herself had expelled Sashikala from the Party for anti party activities and threw her out of the Poes Garden Residence in 2011 and was admitted back in favor only after giving an abject letter of apology in which Sashikala shook off all ties with her family. Indeed one of the factors that contributed to the defeat of the AIADMK in the 1996 election was the excesses committed during the wedding of Dinakaran, the nephew of Sasikala. The vulgar display of ill gotten wealth was so revolting that AIADMK paid a political price for that mistake. It is rather surprising that even with this legacy, Sashikala was able to seize control over the Party and have herself declared the General Secretary of the AIADMK. In fact her agrteement with Paneerselvam was that he would not be disturbed in his position as Chiel Minister.

The successful manner in which Paneerselvam handles the Jallikkattu crisis and earlier in overseeing the relief work following the Vardha Cyscle that hit Chennai in December 2016 alarmed the Sasikala faction. It became clear as daylight that if he is allowed a free hand, he would get the mandate of the people. From that point onwards effort was made to destabalize Paneerselvam. A section of the senior leaders began asking for the installation of their "Chinamma" as the Chief Minister. And an unlikely rebel was born.

Paneerselvan made a dramtic appearance before the grave of Jayalalithaa on the Marina Beach and "meditated" near her grave for 40 minutes and  announced to the waiting crowd that he had always been the choice of Jayalalithaa to fill her post whenever vacancy arose. It is now clear thta sensing popular anger at the manner in which Sasikala had usurped the post of General Secretary of the AIADMK and her shamless occupation of the poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa, Paneerselvan raised the banner of revolt. The Governor Vidyasagar Rao did not exactly cover himself in glory by completely neglecting his constitutional duties during the 72 says Jayalalithaa was kept in Apppollo Hospital. Now questions are being asked about the manner of Jayalalithaa's death and the possible involvement of Sasikala in it. Appollo has not come out clean and still there are questions. The rumours that the late Chief Minister was pushed down the stairs in her residence and was brought dead to the hospital on September 22 are making rounds, O Paneerselvam raised this issue in his press conference and speculated about constituting a Judicial Inquiry. It is now quite obvious that Jayalalithaas death has become a controversy due to the mutual recriminations between the rival factions.

As Paneerselavam hardened his stand and Vidyasagar Rao the Governor not showing any haste is settiling the issues stemming from the resignation of O Paneerselvam, Sasikala took all her MLAs hered them in three luxury buses and sequestered them in an exclisive resort on the East Coast Road near Mahabalipuram.

I venture to speculate that the corruption cases against Sashikala will come back to haunt her. Her faction thought that having the position of Chief Minister will protect her. This is very unlikely. Paneerslevam though much weakened as he rebelled only after his own position had become untenable may continue for some time more. Tamil Nadu is heading for a mid term poll.