Monday, March 24, 2014

NaMo Vs RaGa

Parliament election is no more a  speculation.  The date with ballot  being just a month away,  political heat is set to soar to new highs.       The  never ending campaign cavalcade of the netas  will not allow the dust to settle.   High pitched battle is on the cards and we will be lost in the  shrill microphonic din.    Every inch of visible and coveted public space will be filled  with flex banners amply decorated with   generously grinning netas with  humble folded hands.   Political rhetoric and name-calling are  back.   Catchy slogans from rivals provide  good soundbytes for the press.    The largest  show of democratic process on earth has just begun.    


Many pundits have already given their opinions on the electoral prospects  from socio-demographic perspective.  Let us analyse elections from another point of view.   If we sit back and  analyse,  the electoral show around us is analogical to marketing campaigns of  corporate groups fighting for their pie in a given product or service segment.       We have seen pepsi versus cola advertisement war   in the past.     Likewise,    competing political groups are busy building their "brands".  Although political philosophy is about core ideologies,   it has been overshadowed by  other factors, in the current context.       This is understandable because  boundaries between different ideologies are slowly   shrinking.  Wide-spread symmetrical   spectrum ranging from  left to right is now heavily tilted towards  centre to right.     It will be hard to find today any nationally significant  or relevant political  group  practicing  diametrically opposite ideologies, although they may appear to be preaching different things.      In summary,  brand building  includes  articulation of a political group's plan of action (vision) so as to effectively reach out to the electorate.   In other words, it is  all about  salesmanship.     


Election season brings windfall gains to promotional industry.  They have an opportunity to gain a share of   huge   promotional funds of rival political camps.     Reaching out 1.2 billion people requires great deal of salesmanship.  Complex political philosophies have to be compressed to meaningful one liners.   As a new trend in  Indian context,  catchy acronyms representing  leaders' pet names  are gaining popularity everyday.    NaMo and RaGa are the trending short names  right now.   If William can be Bill and  Richard can be Dick, why should we object to some  truly Indianised pet names  for a change ?  Now, let me spare some time to analyse our two  current  pet-named leaders.    


NaMo has been a trend setter in many ways.  Perhaps, this is the first short form of its kind to capture   popular imagination in India.   Traditional Indian masculine names have always had mythological connections   but NaMo sounds all the more venerable.   Its  Sanskrit origin seems quite  symbolic when the man himself inspires  nationalistic spirit of high order.


Converting every adversity to an advantage seems to be the hallmark of NaMo's  personal  style.    Every single day of his tenure as CM of Gujarat must have been an ordeal for him, facing   hostility of  opposition-sponsored individuals and NGOs working collusively  with the  sole agenda of maligning his   public image.  While NaMo seems to have come unscathed from the legal mess so far, opposition still continues with their committed agenda of  scheming against him.  It may not be exaggeration to say that NaMo owes some of his quick popularity  to the likes of Digvijay Singh, Kapil Sibal, Manish Tiwari,   Mani Shankar Iyer etc.,.   NaMo is really smart to use every nasty jibe from opposition camp to create a favourable public opinion for himself.         NaMo has also successfully milked  his "humble" origin  to great advantage in personal brand building.          His  chaiwala tag has provided  a unique and novel theme  adding formidable ammunition to his campaign.  Sensing some opportunity to gain mileage from  this new-found social title,  even a veteran like  Lalu   claimed  his own  inheritance to   chaiwala legacy !  


NaMo is often called a dictator by his opponents.  He is also described  as someone who will either  destroy his enemies  or buy them over to his side.   No wonder,  opposition party is  almost non-existent in Gujarat because they have either defected to NaMo's side or given up their fight.    Experts agree that any style to management has to be finally judged by its effectiveness.     When we apply  the practical yardstick of continued  endorsement  by his voters,  NaMo's style  stands vindicated.     If we look at the mess around us,   a well meaning dictator seems to be  need of the hour.   To be fair to the size of our democracy, we can  try to slightly modify  the prescription for  India's future leader  as  an authoritarian statesman.    NaMo readily  fits this requirement.                    


NaMo is  a third time CM of a reasonable big and prosperous state of India.  NaMo's tenure as CM of Gujarat also saw  many achievements for the state, winning many awards for the new initiatives.   Apart from providing 24 hours power supply, good roads, industrial investment etc., his state also witnessed unprecedented harmony in the society with no incidence of any communal violence for 12 long years.    Backed with such statistics, NaMo's claims carry conviction.    


NaMo is aggressive but we can hardly find any statements or actions from him that backfire.  He knows what to say, when and to what effect.   He is supposed to have a qualified team of advisors but what seems to work in his favour is that NaMo knows how to make best use of such a team.    Anybody else  would have been  provoked to issue public  statements against Kejrival for the kind of anti-NaMo activities he indulges in everyday.   But NaMo has a unique  ability of ignoring such provocations which results in  not granting legitimacy to such antics.    Such street smartness gives NaMo immense edge over his  opponents and peers as well.      


Namo has been wise  enough to ensure that  his not-so-illustrious  academic background and   perceived lack of proficiency in spoken English  do not become  limitations  in  his progress as a politician.       It is no mean task if one can manage to hog limelight at international levels  overcoming   all the practical  hurdles  of   a humble family and educational  backgrounds.   In this sense, he also represents  true power of modern democracy.    It  is  still early to predict  whether NaMo will be PM of India post 2014 elections, but he is the shining example of  a self-made individual who  can inspire a generation.   He will remain a hero for long time for whatever he has achieved in life.   If he has the ambition to be the PM of our country, he definitely  deserves to nurse such an dream.   With the exception of  Lal Bahadur Shastri, Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, we have seen pretty ordinary people occupying the post of PM of this country with disastrous long term implications.  It is time this huge country of over a billion people got a true leader.   


At the core of an  individual's confidence is  self-belief.   Judiciously nurtured  confidence  leads to performance.    Finally,  continued performance comes to be recognized as competence.      While almost anybody can be a lame follower,   it requires (apart from competence),  vision,   charisma,  experience, intelligence etc., to be a trendsetter.   NaMo fills this rare category to deserve the title of a  leader in the  real sense.  


Now, let us dwell briefly on the profile of  RaGa  who   appears to be a study in contrast.    RaGa  belongs to the so-called political first family of Independent India  where  3  generations of his elders have been  Prime Ministers.    Going by the practice of his party to nominate successive generations from the same family  to the top job whenever elected to power,   RaGa has  earned a parallel title of  shehjada.   Spokespersons of his party have often found it tough to react to this derisive reference    in any other way except falling back on the  standard argument of internal "democratic" process of  electing their leader. 


It is debatable whether certain privileges are  a boon or a bane – this seems  particularly  relevant   in  RaGa's case.     All of us have been readily  sympathetic to the fact that RaGa must have had tough time as a teenager to  witness to series of  tragedies in his family.    But RaGa   gives an  impression of being not-so-brave   when he tries  to ride on a sympathy wave by referring to the "martyrdoms" of his elders.   Being born  in a family that brings ready privileges  can have its flip sides too.   Nature has always its fair and balanced package.     Our  countrymen  have already paid due sympathies for the personal tragedies of RaGa's family  and he is   not likely  to be granted  any further mileage  for on account of ancestral martyrdom.    


People of our country will readily recognize that  RaGa was  blessed to be born with a proverbial silver spoon in his mouth.     Rare   privilege of growing up as  part of the   political first family of India must have given  invaluable  exposure to the big world through  family discussions and   ring side view of various dignitaries from around the  world  visiting his household.    It is natural that  one's perspective of an issue at hand depends   on the level of exposure.    In RaGa's case, it is not certain  whether such a huge exposure helped him at all.      As I see it,   main problem with RaGa is not being able to  match the expectations of public with his performance.   While he is supposed to be a solution provider because of  his long heritage and connection to those who managed the country's affairs, he has hardly shown any promise in the last 10 years of his active political career  that he can handle any situation with maturity.       


RaGa has seen power from close quarters.    But problem seems to be that he lacks personal experience because he has never handled any democratic  assignment carrying public  accountability even at a pachayat level.    Going by the practice of his family where a next  generation starts at a minimum level of PM,  it is not surprising that RaGa  never chose to accept the gauntlet to be the CM nominee during elections to  the big and politically decisive state of  UP earlier.    Akhilesh Yadav may not have achieved anything yet as  a CM but he is surely far ahead in practical experience of managing a complex state like UP.   I sincerely believe, had RaGa shown the courage to be a CM candidate in UP,  he could have not only won, but  could also carry that advantage for the  natural progression    to PM's post.   For this reason alone, RaGa comes across as a laid back person for whom politics does not seem to be  a full time profession.    


RaGa  is also supposed to have been educated in reputed foreign institutions (ignoring   many  contradictory counter claims  to this effect).       In addition,  RaGa has the benefit of access to huge team of  advisors and valuable insights from a host of experienced political administrators from his party.     This again, seems to be a baggage to RaGa rather than a benefit because of his  unenviable task  of having to defend a huge  incumbency factor and be answerable to all the mis-deeds and scams of his partymen.     His  display   of mis-placed activism to protest against decisions of his own government fail to cut any ice with public but  are rather seen as insincere gimmicks for publicity.


RaGa seems to have an uncanny knack to miss opportunities coming his way.  He had a golden opportunity to  blunt  public outrage against UPA government when Anna was holding a fast unto death on Jan lokpal bill.  This act alone had the potential to mask the effects of all the scams of UPA regime and give RaGa the  benefit of doubt as a "fresh entrant", a privilege his father managed to harness well in his early days.        Strangely, RaGa  never spoke nor appeared publicly during Anna's movement against  corruption.    If he had taken pro-active role during those days, our country could have been spared  the trouble of having to endure a nuisance called AAP. 


It is reported that  RaGa has  a big team of advisors for various issues.  His vocal political advisors include  the famous Rajyasabha gang of Digvijay Singh, Jairam Ramesh, Madhusoodan Mistry among others.  Unfortunately,  very often, these political advisors  demonstrate their lack ability to gauge pulse of the nation accurately who end up ill-advising their boss.  RaGa obviously  lacks   inherent competence to make best use of counsel from external advisors.    Recent (and rare) interview of RaGa  on   prime time TV was an example of how limited can be the role of  advisors in a  leader's life.    This image building exercise ended up as a big flop and actually caused  irrecoverable damage to his image just before  elections.   


Finally, let me invoke our traditional charitable line "may the best leader prevail" in the coming elections.   Let me also add a qualifier, NaMo seems to be better than the best at this moment ! Bharatamata deserves more and is waiting for her turn to shine yet again... 


Friday, March 7, 2014

AAP aur hum

Some short forms can be misleading.  In this era when SMS language is quickly gaining legitimacy, we need to look carefully into every letter in the word before trying to decipher it.     AAP seems to be  the latest in-thing.    It was already a word but it has re-invented itself  in a new incarnation  through   an acronym.    AAP has hogged limelight and occupied front pages of national newspapers ever since it was launched.   While the meteoric rise of the fledgling party was unexpected (perhaps even to its own founders),  it was the collective dis-illusionment  of common man that catapulted AAP to its stardom.   However,  within just a few months,  AAP  seems more like a child prodigy which has lost its way   after  the  first breakthrough on stage.    

With the announcement of elections to parliament, I hope this is the best occasion to start a healthy (but heated) debate on  current political scene.      It is also a good excuse to re-start the old blog which had come  to a temporary halt   sometime back !   Here is my  personal take on AAP and its various manifestations.     


1.0  Austerity is not the exclusive domain of Arvind Kejriwal. I hope everyone would have heard about the following ex or current premiers of different states of India..

 1.1  Achutanandan, chief minister of kerala in the earlier government led by communists, was known for his simplicity. He was known to go for his morning walks wearing lungi.. 

1.2   Mamata Banerjee is famous for her trademark white Bengali cotton saris and hawai chappals. She still uses a Maruti800 or alto car and lives in her ancestral house in one of the gullies of Kolkatta.   

1.3  Manik Sarkar, who has been elected for 3rd or 4th term in Tripura is known to be the most honest chief minister ever. He is from CPI(M).  


Can we find any reasonable explanation why only Kejrival's style of austerity catches media's attention and no other  chief ministers listed above  get any publicity ? Isnt it obvious that  they are either not charming enough to lure the journalists for juicy soundbytes everyday ?   perhaps also  because they do not want to publicise their simplicity  as a virtue but they practice it as a part of their   inner belief.   I don't think they were or are too naïve not to know the mileage they will get out of this..  but public will watch people in public life anyway and give them  the respect they deserve..  that is how noble souls are expected to behave.  


2.0   Austerity and honesty are enough to make a mark in life ?

2.1   Defence Minister Antony is known to carry his resignation letter in his pocket because   he is supposed to be ready to resign anytime, should anyone point any fingers at him.    Unfortunately, it is also true that he is better known for his indecisiveness and inefficiency. 

2.2  I have also read reports about the personal integrity of Prithviraj Chauhan, current chief minister of Maharashtra.   It is also reported that nothing moves in his government because he is too cautious to take any decision, lest his government get any bad name related to some new  scams.

2.3   Enough has been written about the great "Maun" Mohan Singh, who should have peacefully retired 10 years ago  which would have allowed  history to remember him as a great economist for the good job he did under Narasimha Rao.  Nobody will talk about his honesty anymore but he will go down the public memory as someone who set India back by several decades because of his mis-governance.  


3.0  Leadership requires vision, clarity and  decisiveness ..

3.1  Singapore is a city nation.  It is also known for its cleanliness and corruption free regime.  It is better known as a business friendly destination with a bustling economy.  By the way, it   is also a democracy.   I don't think, any party wins there  by offering subsidies. 

3.2  Malaysia is another shining example in our own neighbourhood as to how one leader's vision can transform a country within a brief period.  This country is not among the top of the chart of  corruption-free nations.  But  it seems,  Malaysia  has  legalized corruption to bring it under control.   This means, funds get used  for the purpose they are intended for but somebody can make a cut out of it, in a controlled and leagal way.   It is like paying a sales commission. It is not the best way but definitely better than what most other countries  have.  

3.3  Ratan Tata could have well tried out the gimmick of driving nano car to his office.   It would have fetched him some instant publicity. But it ends there.  Finally, people will buy his car only if they find any value in it.   Nobody will complain if he drives  a Mercedes but his company contributes to the society and nation.  Some privileges are legitimate.  So, if a chief minister denies a facility that he is entitled to, he need  not become a hero only on that account.   We need to see beyond that limited viewpoint of simplicity alone. If a facility can augment a minister's efficiency and allow him to contribute more, the expense is worthwhile.          



3.4  IIT qualification and seemingly good intentions  are not enough to be a good leader. If that was the case, every IITan should have been heading every available  corporate top slot. Most entrepreneurs are college drop outs but they have some abilities which others do not have !  




I do not hesitate   to openly say that I want AAP experiment to fail (atleast temporarily). Not because I am blinded by my admiration for Modi  but because I want AAP team to re-discover their priorities.  It seems that instant success has made them arrogant. If they are committed and show enough patience, they can always come back and they are all young too.    Afterall, their contribution will not go unnoticed,  because their  impact is already being felt across the parties and many are already making their best efforts to follow suit – be it cutting down the number of escort vehicles,  cutting down costs etc.,  These are all welcome changes in public life.   


I consciously tried to  make sure that   my point of view on AAP is not negative or skeptical.  On the contrary, I see a bigger chance of their failure because they are likely to collapse on the weight of expectations from public. This is their own fault. And if they fail,  dis-illusionment with public, especially the young voters who form bulk of their sympathizers,  will be very damaging for democracy in the long run.     Presence of members like Medha Petkar whose only claim to fame is leading protests all over the country and achieving nothing else,  also makes AAP a questionable  entity as a team.  They will attract  more such elements who want a platform to get noticed.  AAP will need time to allow the dust to settle in more ways than one.    


Governing a nation requires lots of vision.   It also requires administrative and managerial experience.  With their manifesto of subsidies, it is clear that AAP wants to appease the poor or create a permanent vote bank.  Social welfare schemes are there in some developed countries as well but that requires some solid foundation of resources.   We cannot distribute anything for free   unless we have that resource in plenty    -  AAP promised to give free, particularly   those commodities (water and electricity) which are in short supply !  So, priority should have been to rectify leakages, lay pipelines and improve supply at reasonable cost. But obviously, AAP team is  in a hurry and wants to create an illusion that   they can do magic.     This shud be enough the fool people from slums as congress has been doing for decades.  But then how is an IITan different from others ? Perhaps, AAP wants to free India of corruption but also wants to keep India poor (and offer subsidies forever).   This is not the combination any Indian can be proud of.    Everyone wants to see a progressive and prosperous India.   No one would cherish the idea of India going back to the forgettable past of Soviet union which survived  on  subsidies. Therefore, corruption is  an important issue but not the only or "the issue" of top most priority.   AAP's policies seem to be  regressive.  


General perception of AAP would have been different if other   members of original Anna team had joined the party.  For example, Kiran Bedi could have added substantially to the credibility factor of the party because of her administrative experience and professional achievements.   By the way, where was  Arvind Kejrival before he was seen sharing stage with Anna ? The sequence of events leading to his "official bungalow" drama   is a big eye opener on his virtues.   He refused government bungalow at first,   later  accepted a 2 storey  building   defending that public should compare his house to the mansion which was used by Sheila Dixit !  But when he was confronted with adverse reaction from public, he refused to move into the allotted bungalow.   This  shows that his so-called nobleness  is very  suspect.   Pursuance of  one's virtue cannot be   subject to public  opinion or reaction  !  .   


For now, I only hope wisdom will prevail on AAP  leadership (if there is any) to focus on Delhi where they have a chance to prove themselves.   If they succeed, country's electorate will welcome them.  But success should be hard earned. Instant success does not last.  Nelson Mandela fought hard for many decades to achieve his goal.  His commitment was time-tested. That is why he will be remembered.. Same is the story with Ang San Sui Kii of Burma.   Arvind Kejrival can be our hero  but he has to acquire another virtue called patience.   His patience or lack of it  will decide how history will remember him.    



There are already signs of AAP falling apart with one of its founding members parting ways.  There is something more disturbing.   I happened to read Prof Vaidyanathan's (a Prof in IIMB) article in a local daily where he outlined  outcome of his findings related to source of funding to AAP.   This revelation  is very disturbing.  According to the article,  Ford Foundation (which is the front end of CIA) has been funding many NGOs and individuals who could play  important roles in public life  or carry  the potential to influence public opinion.  As per the article,  among other beneficiaries of Ford foundation are  NGOs run by Mallika Sarabhai, Medha Petkar, Teesta Setalvad etc.,.  So, it seems  not a mere coincidence that such motley crowd of individuals have come together under the umbrella of AAP.   Obviously, there is no clear programme or vision for the entity as a whole.  The only hidden agenda seems to be to keep Modi away from power. There is no prize for guessing that Narendra Modi is not a favourite of US administration.           




Let me end this write up on lighter note by reproducing a compilation of comparisons drawn between possible  policies of Modi and Kejriwal :


Kejriwal: Nobody can go to schools and colleges in Delhi unless they are born here!

Modi: We will set up an IIT, IIM, AIIM in EVERY city in India! Anyone can attend any school they want, where they want, they can also go to the best institutions in the world.


Kejriwal: FDI is not welcome.

Modi: We will make India the number one destination for FDI.


Kejriwal: We will nationalize airports, ban privatization of public utilities. We will make every city in India end up like Kolkatta!

Modi: We will encourage privatization. We will build 100 smart cities in India that will be the envy of the world!


Kejriwal: We will fight corruption from the bottom up. We will make every man, woman, and child

become a spy and come to us with videos of sting operations.

Modi: We will fight corruption from the top down. We will run anti-corruption exercises based on well-proven administration processes that have worked well in Gujarat for the last 10 years.


Kejriwal: We will catch constables who are taking 10-50 Rupee bribes!

Modi: We will bring back the trillions of rupees stolen by politicians over the last seven decades and stashed away in the banks of Switzerland and the Cayman Islands!


Kejriwal: We will give away Kashmir if the Muslims of Kashmir say so.

Modi: We will not allow the enemy to even step on an inch of our Motherland.


Kejriwal: Naxalites are also welcome in our party.

Modi: Naxalites will be rooted out and destroyed.


Kejriwal: We are supported by the Congress party and we are for the Congress!