Sadhvi “hate speech” row

Hypocrisy and double standard

As if any reconfirmation is required at all, this episode has only provided fresh evidence of hypocrisy and double speak among our political class as well as fake liberal media. It would appear that two different standards apply depending on who you are. If you are from BJP or the Sangh parivar, first world standards of behaviour that would political correctness of USA, UK and other western standards apply. If you are not, then you can use any filthy, abusive, gutter language and join the ‘progressive, secular’ crowd after wiping your mouth with a tissue.

One did not have to wait too long for this to be proved beyond doubt. Within hours, Mamata Banerjee, whose MPs were vociferous in protesting in the RS, provided fresh proof. To quote TOI she “used crass words replete with invectives (sic) and accompanied by gestures that were downright vulgar“. Yet the dalal media was silent and made no mention of this in any of its coverage of the Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti affair.  Her MP Tapas Paul who threatened Marxists with rape, has of course not resigned, a demand made noisily by TMC MPs shamelessly for much milder words by the Sadhvi.

Omar Abdullah, not to be out done, was quoted by Mumbai Mirror with using the ‘b’ word, a charge he denies.  Be that as it may, he, Tapas Paul or Mamata Banerjee would not be the first or the last to use swear words and filthy language in the politics.

Media’s selective outrage

Our ‘progressive, liberal, secular’ media, dominated by the likes of Tejpal and Radia tainted yellow agents and corrupt coolies, was not too far behind its political pay masters in hypocrisy, selective outrage and double standards.  Media mouthpieces derisively labeled “Newstraders” vented out their feigned anger in op-eds, editorials and columns against the Sadhvi while remaining curiously silent on similar incidents involving non-BJP politicians.

In fact some even use language bordering on sycophancy when it comes to covering rude, vulgar abuse by BJP’s opponents, making it abundantly clear where their sympathies lie. More importantly their classification of so-called hate speech depends on who makes it and who it is targeted against. “Gives as good as she gets”, “Never the one to mince words”, “known for his frank opinions”, “forthright” and other positive phrases abound in media coverage of abuses against Modi and BJP. The usual journalist technique of selectively blacking out inconvenient words citing ‘editorial discretion’ is of course, always available.

It would indeed be sad if such biased and hypocritical approach by fake liberal left allows BJP to successfully highlight the built-in bias to the general public, thereby giving itself license to continued use of abusive language.  Any amount of moral posturing by the pseudo secular political class and their media coolies would fall on deaf ears as long it is not backed by proper conduct and decency on their part.

Senseless disruption

The opposition has been disrupting legislative and other business in the Rajya Sabha. One never hears the words “brutal majority” used by ‘independent’ media in this context, but this is precisely what is being used to hold the nation to ransom simply to score political brownie points. This is because these parties know, they will not get too far in the real stage where such ‘abusive’ words need to be taken up – In the streets and courts of public opinion. “What about you?” is the question that would confront them everywhere. Friendly media army is of no use there.

Here again, media has been selective in its outrage. Dailies like Hindu which used to write editorials slamming the BJP for similar disruptive tactics now use opposition friendly language to cover the disruption. TV channels like NDTV that were counting ‘cost’ of disruption appear to have lost their calculator.

One can only hope good sense would prevail and the prospect of being exposed by BJP outside the Parliament in the streets would force them to a workable compromise over this issue.

 

 

 

 

Xi Jinping’s visit

A lot has been written about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to India. Several agreements and MOUs were announced, so it is possible to argue the trip was ‘successful’ whatever that means. PM Modi showed he could be a gracious host and a powerful communicator, even as the visit was marred by the stand off at the border.

Coming to the standoff itself, what was the background and what could have been the objective of whoever it was that ordered troops to do what they did? After all conquering territory was hardly the objective.

Context of the trip

The alacrity with which Chinese leadership reached out to the Modi administration after May 2014 elections, and the fact that President Xi visited so soon after the takeover do convey a message. China is trying to prevent India from actively joining the rival camp – and add to its headache of dealing with aggressive US moves in Far East and Japan’s resurgent foreign policy, not to speak of various troubles with smaller neighbors like Vietnam and Philippines. While any one them can be a nuisance, collectively they could pose serious challenges. India joining up with them will tilt the scales considerably.

China also has huge investments in manufacturing and lots of excess capacity. India, looked at “with a mixture of contempt and condescension” by China, is nevertheless one big market that can absorb a lot of the low quality/cost goods that these factories churn out.

The ‘incursion’ and the reactions

So it was indeed surprising and somewhat confusing that the incursion in the Chumar (Ladakh) sector of the unmarked border happened to coincide with the high profile visit of Chinese president. The situation was ripe for various conspiracy theories to flourish.

S. Varadarajan is of the opinion that the incident was not deliberate but just happened because the border is not demarcated. This conveniently lets both Xi and PLA off the hook and is typical of leftist Indian commentators opinions when it comes to China. After all, even a full fledged invasion by Chinese troops, like that of 1962 is India’s fault in the eyes of our comrades. This ‘random walk’ theory is implausible because even if the border is vague, PLA troops do know they are marching several kilometers away from their usual positions, towards where they surely know Indians are. They refused to withdraw when challenged. And that too when their President was in Delhi – a fact they surely would not be unaware of.  It took several days of behind the scenes talks for the matter to be resolved in New York during the UNGA session.

One has to to turn to Roderick MacFarquhar, interviewed in Indian Express by Ashutosh Varshney to find a more plausible explanation. He pooh-poohs the theory of PLA making moves without bothering to check with the civilian leadership. It has to be deliberate. He even suggests China has hardened its stance on the border dispute, hence a reasonable solution is highly unlikely.

Gordon Chang of National Interest seems to believe in the PLA going rogue theory, suggesting Xi is yet to exercise full control of the powerful military and plant his own men. This makes the Chinese situation closer to that of all weather terrorist ally Pakistan where the military calls the shots and takes its own decisions. It also makes the situation even more complicated.

India’s options

Given these possibilities, what are India’s options? It would be logical to suggest the best option is to keep all options on the table. That would mean India should work with China to resolve the conflict but be prepared for the worst. Obviously strengthening the border infrastructure and defensive capabilities, long neglected, is a priority. It also means building bridges with ASEAN, Korea and Japan to identify areas of closer coordination in the defense arena.

It would make a lot of sense to hold back on some areas of cooperation with China as well send some ‘negative’ signals, making it clear there is a price to pay for playing Confucian mind games and rearing poisonous snakes aka Pakistan Army.  At some point the Chinese, known for their maths skills and game theories, will find the game is not worth playing and adopt a different stance. As India’s economy wakes up from ten years of corruption, scams, sloth and neglect, passage of time is more likely to strengthen India’s hand than weaken it.

America, even under same presidency, is too unreliable an ally to place bets on. Routine regime changes make it even more unreliable. Hence it would be prudent not to join any anti-China chorus orchestrated by Uncle Sam as the lead singer. But careful leveraging of the so-called East Asian pivot, made stronger by the rapid decline of Middle East oil’s blackmailing power over western economies, can bring dividends.

But all along, India has to be clear and make it clear that it has no fundamental or cultural conflict with China, on the contrary it is a friend of Chinese people, and is merely interested in resolving issues and developing its economy and will never be a client state of China or for that matter any other nation.  This is where PM Modi’s warm hospitality and firm words make eminent sense.

Your comments and feedback are welcome!

 

 

 

The knives are out

Narendra Modi lamented that he never had much of a ‘honeymoon’ – a luxury most new governments enjoy for fairly long periods. Forget about honeymoons, now Modi has to deal with an ugly fact – the knives are out to get him and his government and quickly return back to the ‘golden’ era of dynasty rule. As expected the secular liberal elites are the Janissaries that are out to protect the empire.

Booby traps and propaganda war

In politics, as in war, all is fair. So it is to be expected that apart from a ruined economy and down in dumps sentiment, the outgoing Congress government also left a few booby traps for Modi to walk into. The dalal media was waiting for the traps to spring. The railway fare hike, adverse opinion on Gopal Subramaniam, Hindi as “official” language circular, were all cleverly exploited by the secular, liberal media elite. No one from the BJP could get a word of theirs heard in the cacophony that followed.

But now the propaganda war is going very fast down a very dangerous and irresponsible route, perhaps reflecting the frustration and desperation on the part of the ex rulers and their lackeys.

Fifty years of privileges

One can readily appreciate the predicament our secular, liberal elites, ’eminent historians’ and other bhadralok that do the rounds of TV studios, issue regular appeals and press releases and keep themselves in the news. For fifty years, the country was theirs, even the short Atal era making hardly any difference to their status. Juicy posting were theirs for the asking. Luxurious bungalows, frequent flier miles attending conferences on poverty and depravity (in very nice locations, of course), liberal coverage in western media, even more liberal funding from evangelist and other lobbies, you name it, they had it.

But now with Modi firmly in power for five years barring miracles or disasters, suddenly life looks a lot bleaker. The good life is under serious threat. This good life also needs conflict, chaos, violence and strife to keep the cash box ringing with donations. To mention but one example, it was reported that Teesta Setelvad, her husband and even her daughter were billing their NGO more than Rs.100,000 each month as ‘salary’ which no doubt they richly deserve for the hard work they put in demonising Modi for their donors. Obviously there will be dozens more,  milking India’s poverty, religious strife and various other conflicts.

Nejma Heptuallah’s recent statement that Indian Muslims are gradually warming up to Modi government and the BJP must have added to the paranoia of many intellectual, secular, liberal merchants of fear. After all, if there is no religious conflict or violence, why fund a bunch of high flying elite for ‘equality studies’ and ‘conflict management’?

Sania Mirza affair

Sania Mirza’s appointment as Telengana’s brand ambassador has become a perfect opportunity for uber secularists to incite religious tensions and hopefully violence, that would enable them to say ‘I told you so’ and blame Modi even more. Quietly blacking out a Congress MLAs opposition to the move, TV studios have been shouting from rooftops and running sob stories turning the whole affair into a Hindu Muslim one. On the contrary this is all about a country – Pakistan – that has been waging a violent war of terrorism against India, Afghanistan and others and turning itself into a outcast state of fanatic barbarians. It may be well within Sania’s right to marry someone that is a product of that system, but surely a Indian state need not bypass so many other deserving Indian Mulsims to award that recognition to Mirza whose husband has not said a word against the terrorism sponsored by his country against India?

Sena MLAs conduct

Yet another unfortunate event has come in handy for the media brokers – the incident of Shiv Sena MPs ‘force feeding’ a Muslim catering staff. No doubt the conduct of the MPs was disgraceful but to turn this into a communal matter is nothing short of irresponsible and reckless. What next? Guilt in road traffic accidents will be judged based on religion? The MPs have been loudly protesting they did not know the staff’s religion and were protesting bad food were barely mentioned.

Resist the temptation to bribe the way out

Fed up and irritated with all this, Modi or this government may be tempted to pay their way out of trouble. After all, in the larger scheme of things, it does not cost much to throw some money and shut some mouths. There are always research academy grants, chairmanships and other benefits that can be bestowed upon the noisy liberal opinion makers to let them continue to leech the taxpayer.  Secular, liberal fingers that stray in lifts can be quietly allowed to lacerate themselves, perhaps over a few beers in a posh New Delhi bar and discuss Hindutva fascists tormenting women baring cleavages and going to bars. They don’t have to be hauled to court. Shady businessmen that fund such elites by buying shares in media companies at very high prices, can be allowed to do so, with a wink and a nod.

Liberal funding for NGOs and turning a few of their loudest mouths into advisors with a NAC type club will also buy a lot of good media bytes, articles and opinions on how sensitive Modi is to the needs of the ‘poorest of the poor’.

A few of these nepotist yellow journalists that owe their position to heritage rather than scholarship or work can also be made to feel important. Perhaps even decide cabinet posts. Just ignoring them may be costly as Harish Khare rightly pointed out in his NDTV article

Going a bit slow on arms purchases and keeping Beijing ‘sensitivity’ in mind in expanding ties with Japan or South East Asia even while allowing it to use its terrorist proxy in Islamabad to wreak havoc in India will also earn brownie points with the ultra leftist and hence ultra liberal elite. ‘Modi is a pragmatic statesman’ they will gush.

Keep walking

But one hopes Modi and his government will resist such temptations and carry on with what it should do in India’s interests and in line with its promise to the people of this country. After all, the secular liberal elite did not elect him and will never do so. People of the country, including Muslims are gradually seeing through their real agendas and motives and all the noise they can make in TV studios and opinion pages will be worth nothing in five years time.

But it should watch its back because the knives are out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bringing back money from overseas havens

This has always been a ‘hot button’ issue in Indian politics. Politicians have been making a lot of noise and BJP had made it a huge campaign issue. As it is with most other issues in India, facts have been either scarce or twisted out of shape. Wild and crazy numbers are thrown about with ‘lists’ floating in Twitter and elsewhere showing figures running into trillions of dollars. A certain amount of nationalistic sentiment is being pandered to as well.

The issue is not religious, ideological or national. It is plain and simple economics. Let us look at what got us there and what can go about rectifying the situation.

How we got here

It would be not just churlish, but downright foolish not to acknowledge the various reasons that got us to this position. Most of it is self inflicted injury.

We had 90% tax rates and were taxing soap and toothpaste sets as ‘luxury’ not too long ago. Diluted versions of this nonsense packaged as ‘socialism’ continued until very recently.

Not just that, we developed a culture of worshiping poverty, and demonising success and treated industrialists and entrepreneurs as criminals except when it came to collect bribes.

We never provided safe, legal and red-tape free process by which such funds can be invested in productive assets in India itself.

We made it horribly slow, even impossible to import anything, even spares and crucial supplies, almost forcing industrialists to setup piggy banks overseas through under invoicing or other such tactics to keep their businesses running. Our overseas traveling ‘allowance’ for ‘hard currency’ was so pathetic, businessmen had to beg their contacts to buy them lunch or dinner to stay within limits, unless they had dollars stashed abroad.

We made retrospective and illogical changes to tax laws, making it impossible to predict what may happen in next few years, even to money legitimately earned and taxed.

And most importantly, our fiscal and monetary policies turned rupee into waste paper, declining in value year after year, eroding savings and wealth.  Even with sky high interest rates, it made little sense to keep funds in rupees unless forced to do so.

We made businessmen, politicians, babus and so many others stakeholders in this looters’ regime, batting for license permit raj, exchange controls and ‘socialism’ because it suited them perfectly.  Entrenched state employed labor, always much more organised than the unemployed and daily wagers, happily joined the bandwagon. They were minting money. The only losers were the real proletariat whose ‘protection’ these policies were created for in the first place!

Why it is difficult

  1. Firstly we don’t know how much or where. No one is going to give us a list.
  2. It is so easy to move money around. It takes seconds to transfer from Switzerland to Hong Kong or London.
  3. Switzerland has been tamed by Uncle (for his own benefit) but we don’t have similar clout. By the time a list is received, the money may be gone.
  4. New tax havens that are not democratic, open and driven by good conscience abound. We can do very little about them. Unless we are like Uncle Sam that can send marines or be a Godfather that makes ‘offers that cannot be refused’
  5. Recent liberalisation means that a lot of wealth CAN legally flow abroad.  RBI allows legal remittances of US$100k per year a limit that is going up. We have millions of NRIs with legitimate wealth abroad. It will be hard to tell which is which.
  6. It will take years of work for which no regime has the time or bandwidth. After all, another election is due in five years, not fifty. Quick results are important.

How to go about it

Take the cause into account in finding cure

That means the state acknowledges its own share of blame and hence treats the wealth stashed overseas as an opportunity and not as a pure crime fighting operation. Regardless of what the letter of law says.

Once this approach is adopted, the solutions will flow automatically in that spirit and hence have higher chances of success. We are also not at the mercy of tax havens that simply have no interest in cooperating. After all, we can’t even bring Dawood home, even after knowing his precise address and GPS location.

Not all overseas wealth is ‘loot’

Lot of it is just money kept abroad legitimately for various reasons. It is also important to keep the doors open for trade, commerce and business investments to flow.  It is important to sell this to the ‘aam aadmi’ so that pragmatic policies can be pushed and loony suggestions from the likes of Ramdev tamed.

Transparency and predictability is the key

Government should firstly declare policies in advance and guarantee that they will not change at least during its own term. Further, major opposition (now Congress) should be taken on board to make the tenure even longer.

Transparency is also key. Laws should be clear, concise, easy to understand and follow. Above all reasonable.

Incentives, not stick, except in rarest of cases

It is important to find quick ways of attracting funds to return. The best way obviously is if the tax payer or citizen voluntarily remits it home because he is getting a fair deal and decent returns. There is nothing wrong in offering an attractive amnesty because money once returned will stay and contribute to growth.  It is also far more cheaper and comes with less onerous conditions than foreign aid, loans or investments.

Hope PM Modi keeps these principles in mind in choosing the way forward.

 

Where did the liberals go wrong?

A recent article by Prof. Shiv Visvanathan, described as ‘public intellectual’ in his Wikipedia profile in Hindu (Is there such a thing as private intellectual?) attracted a lot of attention.

You can find it here

Prof Visvanathan’s main point was that ‘secularism’ as practiced in India by left liberals alienated the majority which in turn was exploited by Narendra Modi successfully. He also, correctly in my opinion, highlighted the anti-Hindu bias of the secular class who were not objective or fair. He is also right in pointing out the debates and dialogue were always part of Hinduism and Indian religions (a term he used, perhaps, to avoid acknowledging the obvious) have not been anti-science as Christianity has been.

Yet he himself falls victim to the same secular disease, citing the ‘Ganesha and milk’ example, confusing (or cleverly equating) superstition with Hindu religion. Similar stories abound in other religions, particularly Christianity, and not just in India.

Be that as it may, he comes pretty close to repeating as well as endorsing the ‘pseudo secular’ arguments of the right. That must bring smiles to a lot of faces. A lot has been said about this particular article in the mainstream media as well as social media.

What should ‘liberals’ do?

Coming back to the main objective of this article, the key question is, what can they do to get it right? To come straight to the point, here is our list of things liberals can do

  1. Purge hardcore Marxist/Maoist activists in liberal camouflage
  2. Purge anti-Hindu hate mongers, evangelist bigots and Jihadis
  3. Be loyal to the core principles and not to corrupt dynasties
  4. Use Indian culture, not imported ideologies to sell liberalism
  5. Be fair to moderates in the right wing to isolate the fringe

Lets elaborate on each point further.

Purge hardcore Marxist activists in liberal camouflage

In the West or elsewhere liberals have always been left of center, but they have rarely, almost never been hardcore communists and Maoists. Violence, especially on the scale often resorted to by the Marxists is as repugnant to them as right wing extremism. And they do not hesitate to say so. Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Blair or Gordon Brown, Malcolm Fraser – you can think of many other examples. We just don’t have politicians, ‘intellectuals’ and media personalities of such calibre that are genuinely liberal.

However, in India, you practically need to be a card carrying member of one of the Marxist Maoist gangs to be accepted as ‘liberal’. Words like ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ have become useful camouflage for mass murderers, rapists and their ideological mates and fanboys who romanticise them. Such ‘liberals’ ignore or play down horrible crimes of their ‘comrades with arms’, to paraphrase Chidambaram. They actively play a role in providing ideological cover fire to the violent leftist fringe. Arundhati Roy’s ‘Gandhians with guns’ example comes to mind. They hardly raise their voice when Marxists brag about target killings and mafia style behavior in Kerala or rape and butcher dozens to clear land for Chinese businessmen in Bengal. Nor do the deaths of dozens of innocent policemen and civilians in bomb blasts by leftist extremists disturb their sleep. Instead these politicians are allowed masquerade as ‘progressive’, attend seminars and talk shops where the creme de-la creme of Indian liberals hobnob with them.

The bias that Prof Visvanathan pointed out is seen here too. While criminal acts by right wing fringe is attributed to their ‘ideology’ tarring anyone remotely associated, we are asked to believe that left ideology itself is pure and their heinous crimes against humanity simply ‘deviations’.

What is even more ironic is that many of these ‘liberals’ are drawn from the ranks of the same upper caste/class elite, a class they routinely disparage. Sitting secure in their air conditioned bungalows in big metros, often funded by the same imperialist capitalist satans who they love to hate in public, they support various loony causes, including the ‘right’ of tribals to live in poverty, undisturbed by development which is termed ‘violence’. Green cause, environmentalism, liberalism have all become tickets to frequent flier miles, conferences in comfy European cities and well funded awards, scholarships and endowments to these elites.

By purging these charlatans from their ranks, genuine liberals can ensure their message is more moderate, free of negative agendas and hence more likely to be heard.

Anti-Hindu bigots and jihadis are NOT liberals

You often find evangelist fanatics and bigots that wish Hindus ‘come out of darkness’ in their Diwali “greeting”, jihadi sympathisers and fanatics like Syed Ali Geelani that spew venom against Hindus and India show up in ‘liberal’ talk shops, freely furthering their cause even as their ‘freedom of speech’ is defended by the left liberal crowd. Of course, the same champions of free speech promptly crawl back under rocks when someone draws an inappropriate cartoon. Hardly any liberal came to the defense of Ms. Tasleema when she was being hounded by vote-bank chasing Marxists. Freedom of speech, to our liberals, is reserved only for anti-Hindu hate propaganda and vitriol.

A hardcore Marxist posing as liberal obviously has reasons to please evangelists and mouth pro-jihadi arguments disguised as ‘human rights’. After all the former keeps you in limelight and the cash flowing and the later an ideological compulsion, a reflection of the ‘all weather’ friendship forged between the terrorist Pakistan and its northern communist neighbour.

A genuine liberal should not just stay away from such crowd, but also make clear their opposition.

It is true that most liberals are not religious, in fact many are atheists or agnostic. However, a genuine liberal keeps his own religious faith or lack of it to himself. Propagating such ideas is obviously not wrong. Promoting atheism or campaigns against ‘superstition’ can be done in an unbiased way. Worse, it cannot be selective and designed to favor ‘competing’ faiths. That is like ranting against Coke for promoting obesity but declaring that Pepsi is fine. It is little wonder such ‘progressive/liberal’ frauds have failed to cool inter faith tensions or influence the populace.

Be loyal to the core principles and not to corrupt dynasties

Five decades of Nehru/Gandhi dynasty rule has created a not-so-small-scale industry that keeps many left liberal ‘intellectuals’ gainfully employed at tax payers cost in exchange for crass sycophancy and propaganda dressed up as pearls of liberal wisdom. This industry is recession proof and remarkable resilient. Like water eroding concrete over time, power and money corrupts and erodes intellectual honesty and values.

While it could be argued that Congress is more secular or liberal as compared to, say, BJP, despite tons evidence to the contrary, it does not justify extreme bias or crass partisanship. Nor does it justify blind hatred towards the political right. It is not just the Gandhi clan, many other dynasties of dubious reputation, some outright plunderers and most corrupt as well as casteist or in other ways regressive, have enjoyed the left liberal endorsement in exchange for the usual tax payer funded gigs and rewards or in the fond hope that these politicians would by some miracle, make India liberal and secular notwithstanding their primary focus on looting the public.

Liberals should instead promote their values across the entire political spectrum and not become songbirds and mouthpieces of corrupt dynasties. In most democratic countries, there is room for a conservative or right wing alternative. It is to India’s benefit if such alternative exists and represents the genuine and legitimate aspirations of a huge percentage of its population, whether or not it constitutes a majority, wins a particular election or not. Liberals should also encourage a gradual drift to moderation everywhere, instead of showing visceral hatred for dissent. Show by example what it means to be tolerant, liberal and caring.

What have instead been subjected to in the name of liberalism is rabid intolerance, extreme bias, hypocrisy and hate propaganda with scant regard to truth.

Use Indian culture not imported ideologies to sell liberalism

We often hear from our liberal elite that Hinduism is ‘syncretic’. Sadly this true statement is only used in the context of taking on what is perceived as majority community intolerance or to justify vitriolic attacks on Hindu religion or its Gods. It is rarely, almost never used in a positive sense – to convince Indians of the need to be tolerant, liberal and accommodating. Because that is not inconsistent with, in fact perfectly in sync with the uniquely Indian concept of ‘global family’ or “vasudeva kudumbakam” a concept that has been with us for centuries, long before liberalism became a convenient disguise for Marxists.

There is really no need to package tolerance as a imported Western magic potion with the unstated addendum that Hinduism is intolerant unlike Christianity. Genuine respect shown to the majority religion will only improve credibility of those wishing to isolate the so-called ‘fringe’ not tarring every Hindu Indian with the same black brush.

Be fair to moderates in the right wing to isolate the fringe

If BJP or any of its leaders take even a small step away from their ‘Hindutva’ agenda, more than its hardcore followers, it is the liberals that get worried. It is almost as if they feel their careers and wallets are threatened by the right’s adoption of moderate position. Modi’s ‘toilets before temples’ comment, sincere or otherwise, was greeted with derision by the liberal elite, who even tried to turn the Hindu sentiment against him for the remark. Similar moves were made when he sought to show a friendly face to Muslims. L. K. Advani who was branded right wing fanatic suddenly became a favorite of liberals when he go into leadership tussle with Modi.  Whenever a BJP government takes any step to help Muslims, it is criticised for ‘going back’ on its non-appeasement policy. Vague unsubstantiated allegations were made in left wing media about temples being destroyed in Gujarat to make way for roads during the last elections, simply to promote rivals agendas and pander to the same ‘Hindutva’ sentiments.

Such hypocritical moves clearly show liberals are far more interested in preserving their ideological foes. Like Pakistan army nourishing jihadis to milk aid dollars from Uncle Sam, our liberals, who have turned their cause into a valuable business franchise, are loath to see it suffer.

Even if some of BJPs pro-minority actions are symbolic or just propaganda, something every political party indulges in, it is very much in the real interest of liberals to support it, instead of trying to score brownie points with Hindutva brigade by criticising it. But that as we mentioned earlier, that requires genuine interest in the cause.

Conclusion

As a nation we have too much religion in public space and most of it is ‘show business’. A gradual adoption of more secular, liberal ideas, without having to give up or destroy faith, can make a huge difference to many things, large and small. For instance, it can make it that much easier to move or demolish a place of worship that is standing in the way of a crucial highway. It can also let small incidents remain small, localised and not blown out of proportion and trigger violence and anarchy.

A lot of that depends on how genuine liberals think, talk and inspire.

 

Modi Wave redux

We wrote about the 10 point test – now that results are out, let us see how he fares

1. BJP crosses 182 – Well, nothing to be said here! PASS

2. Pappu loses / scrapes thru’ – PASS

3. Karnataka votes lots of BJP MPs – BJP won 17 so you could say PASS

4. BJP impress in KL,WB,TN – PASS

5. NDA gets 300+ – Sure, it got there! PASS

6. Bigwigs incl Jaitley win – wonder what made me mention Jaitley by name, but I guess it was well known the contest was fierce and close. FAIL

7. Jaswanth Singh defeated – PASS

8. Modi wins big in Varanasi PASS

9. BJP wins heavy in Delhi, deals blow to AAP PASS

10.  BJP wins big in Urban areas – PASS

Wow, that’s 9 out of 10! Impressive indeed!

 

 

 

 

Modi wave myth or reality – the Top Ten Test

These ten events will prove if there was ever a Modi wave or none. My guess is 6 or more points he wins a ‘wave’. They are not in any particular sequence.

  1. BJP crosses its previous best tally of 182 seats in 1999
  2. Rahul Gandhi gets defeated or at the very least wins very narrowly (< 50,000 votes)
  3. Karnataka votes in a lot more BJP MPs than state elections barely few months earlier suggested (say 18+)
  4. BJP performs impressively in Bengal, TN and Kerala (vote share, more seats than forecast)
  5. NDA wins 300+ seats, needs no further support from outside or inside.
  6. None of the party big wigs including Jaitley lose
  7. Jaswanth Singh defeated in Barmer – a clear case of Modi wave sweeping aside son of soil
  8. Varanasi win of Modi is with big margin (200k+) considering its demographics.
  9. BJP wins most seats in Delhi reversing past trend and delivers a body blow to AAP in that process.
  10. BJP wins heavily in urban areas proving its ‘success’ in social media is not all hype and noise. It is a party that has stake in educated, urbanised, relatively affluent class that thinks beyond caste and religion.

 

 

 

 

 

Sustainable anti-corruption drive

As we argued earlier, Kejriwal’s antics and rhetoric have damaged not just his electoral prospects but, more importantly, have harmed the entire anti-corruption cause for years to come. Anyone promoting this hereafter would have to pass the sanity test, hypocrisy test and the sincerity test.

It takes more than one party or individual

We would like to believe that eradicating corruption requires a multi-phase, multi-faceted, multi-year (even multi-decade) effort that is sustained as well as pragmatic. Globally this has been the case. What this means is, one party, simply cannot do it alone, even if it comes to rule every state and the center and if it is sincere in its purpose and firm in its actions. No one in their wildest dream sees AAP doing this in foreseeable future.

This brings us to Anna Hazare’s approach, that is to stay outside and try to force existing players to change their ways. While we may question his medicine (Lokpal) or his methods, that is far more workable because it does not depend on one party capturing power and lasting long enough to make a difference in a vast, diverse country like India, surviving 5 year or shorter election cycles.

But this also means existing players, or at least the relatively incorruptible among them, have to be shown sufficient respect, encouragement and support instead of tarring everyone with same  black paint. Kejriwal’s ‘my way or highway’ approach and his tendency to dub anyone and everyone questioning him, including journalists, as corrupt, simply enhances hostility, hardens stands and reduces whatever little chances of success there is. It also sets ridiculous standards for AAP’s own behaviour and conduct which it fails repeatedly to adhere to.

Break the problem down

Like in any business situation, to solve a problem, one has to first break it down into manageable pieces and tackle them one by one. Each piece may require different solution and priority. Some may even be ignored for long time to come.

For example, we may break down the corruption problem into a few components, each having different dynamics and require different solutions.

  1. Petty corruption that harasses ordinary people – bribes to get driving license, vehicle inspection, birth or death certificates, caste, land title deeds, register FIR etc. There are thousands more, too many to list. Here the beneficiaries are government employees at various levels, but rarely does the money trickle up to ‘neta’ level.
  2. War-chest for future elections. Like any democracy, elections are costly and happen too often in India. Here the leader is not seeking to pocket the money but use it for the ‘war’ effort. Obviously many netas cream a lot off this too for their personal benefit, but the primary purpose still remains building war chest and not personal enrichment.
  3. Red-tape License-permit raj related corruption that holds up or spoils big ticket or more importantly, small and medium size investments. This is where the neta-babu-lala nexus skims money, fixes tenders and contracts, keeps the loot within their circle, delivers poor quality work or even gets paid for doing nothing. Here practically everyone is involved, at almost all levels.
  4. Personal enrichment of the YSR, Madhu Koda, Imelda Marcos, Suharto kind where the leaders accumulate thousands of crores of wealth, which goes far beyond any election related cost and is simply corruption for the sake of accumulating wealth. This is crime, pure and simple.

This is just a small list and I am sure one can list a few more categories of corruption with further research. The point of highlighting them is that each one of them has a solution that is different because the stakeholders are different and the scales are different too.

It requires a great deal of maturity, intelligence, sincerity and effort to handle each one of them and produce desired outcome without making things worse. For instance, a crackdown on lower level government employees to tackle the first item, will lead to chaos, strikes and violence, easily derailing the government’s entire agenda. Solving it by paying everyone decent money (if that is the reason) may deplete coffers. To leave it untouched hoping the top-down approach will trickle down to lowest levels may take decades to do so and voters don’t wait that long!

See the big picture

A related issue is to analyse if corruption is indeed the biggest issue facing the nation, and even if so, there are other issues that require equal urgency such as investments, infrastructure, border peace, communal harmony etc. A Prime Minister or any minister only has so much time and bandwidth and has to spread his bets to show results.

It could be argued that many countries are very rich and still corrupt at some level or perhaps even at many levels. Japan is a very good example. Here petty corruption is uncommon, but until very recently, corruption in high levels was not. Same goes for numerous other rich societies like Italy. Even in the case of USA, corruption was thriving well into 60s and 70s involving policemen, politicians and others. The Las Vegas gambling and mafia in other areas were cleaned up not too long ago. All these countries achieved per-capital incomes well over $20,000 despite all this – levels of prosperity we may not see for 40-50 years even with sustained growth!

Closer to home, many Indonesians still feel nostalgic about the Suharto era which was totally corrupt but had stability and growth. Even in Tamilnadu, it is very common to come across voters that say ‘So what if he creams some money off, he is a good administrator!’.

Obviously, this is not an argument for corruption, certainly not for the kind seen in Nigeria, Libya or Indonesia. It is a question of priorities. It is a question of ensuring that the entire economy is not burnt to ashes in the attempt to solve the bed bug issue of corruption.

There are any number of issues that need urgent handling, that may make a 3-5% difference to economic growth and job creation, which don’t have anything to do with corruption. Or at least, with a few ‘categories’ of corruption that we listed earlier. With growth comes a educated, open minded and politically mature citizenry that automatically leads to lower corruption.

On the flip side, there are examples like Cuba and Venezuela which, though run by supposedly incorruptible socialist leaders, are stuck in poverty or see their economies going down the drain because of wrong policy choices. In India itself, it was the super-clean AK Anthony who as Defense Minister, sat through decision making and policy paralysis. He has probably done much more damage to Indian Armed forces and its interests than LET/JEM/IM could hope to achieve.

Strengthening internal security, power sector reforms, ports and other basic infrastructure and so many other areas that can make a huge difference to the economy are waiting for action. A single minded obsession with corruption may not make any difference if ridiculous and outdated economic policies are pursued by a non-corrupt but 50s style Stalinist thinker.

Agenda for action

So what should be the approach? We would suggest careful analysis of the problem in greater depth, and solutions that are short, medium and long term implemented in conjunction. Each of these and every one of these steps should take sufficient care not to destroy what has been built or achieved.

Simplification of procedures, reduction of paperwork and red tape, pursued intelligently can (and already has) made a huge difference to reduce several types of corruption

Electoral reforms and funding reforms can reduce neta-level corruption except for the odd case of personal enrichment by looters, and vast majority of sincere politicians who go with begging bowl to industrialists and businessmen simply to survive the next election will feel relieved. They will be then in a better position to take on the looters.

Economic liberalisation, pursued intelligently, communicated clearly and articulated logically to unconvinced masses, can also make a huge dent in corruption. Obviously the recent mining, telecoms and other scams have given a bad name to the entire liberalisation story but this need not be the case by default. Giving out juicy entitlements, be they telecom licenses or mining leases without tender and due process has nothing to do with liberalisation per se and we don’t have to go back to Coal India and Indian Airlines of 60s to fix that. It can be done properly. It takes leadership and administrative as well as political will.

Leadership

It should be obvious reading this, strong leadership is a key factor in the entire process and this is what the nation has been lacking all this while. Even though power is scattered across center and states, a strong Prime Minister can make a world of difference, as PVN, Indira Gandhi, ABV have shown on more than one occasion.

Electing an anarchist leader stuck in the petrified ideology of 50s flushed down the toilet by more successful nations like China, will only makes things much worse. It may solve corruption because there is no economy left to be corrupt!

Voters beware!

 

 

Kejriwal Varanasi drama

A great actor simply makes you forget he is acting. A great comedian makes you laugh even as he stays calm, even serious. A great secret agent or spy is inconspicuous. Once your mask has slipped, game is essentially over.

Arvind Kejriwal, unfortunately has made drama and theatrics so brazen and overused, he is now seen as a stuntman and fake even if he is saying something serious.

Hence his dip in the Ganges river and the usual drama over ink pots and eggshells (which amazingly he alone seems to attract) has not gotten as much media attention as he must have hoped.  The arrest of IM jihadi chief spoiled the show somewhat. The absence of large crowds must have also mattered.

It should be obvious to anyone that he went to Varanasi on Tuesday his mind already made up to contest, for better or worse. So all this talk of ‘referendum’ was nonsense but his honeymoon with media looking for anti-Modi sound bytes ensured all that was forgotten.

We don’t care to predict if he will make a difference to the Modi campaign juggernaut. It is obvious he doesn’t care, all he wants is his continued presence in the TV screens and prime time news. Short of dancing naked in the streets, he is perfectly willing to do anything to get that. Who knows, he may even try that.

Is the baby still in bath water?

But the more serious question is, what does it mean to the campaign against corruption which is supposed to be the main focus of Kejriwal as well as his “Aam Aadmi” party?

His frequent flip-flops, hypocritical criticism of others even as he demanded and continues to enjoy perks like bungalows and chartered plane trip, business class flights by Yogendra Yadav, rabidly racist assault on african immigrants by his sidekick Somnath (who has an interesting track record and past, to put it mildly), have all contributed to the decline of AAP in middle class perception in recent weeks. Just as Pakistan needs constant bomb blasts and nuclear threats to stay in news, AAP seems to need constant flow of nautankis to stay relevant. Not surprisingly, many respectable founders and senior members have given up on the whole idea and quit.

There is a genuine risk that he is not just damaging his own prospects, but the sustainability and relevance of the entire anti-corruption platform by his words, actions and pathetic track record. In fact, the damage may have already been done.

His choice to fight against Modi, whatever his other faults arguably the least corrupt of the leaders in today’s politics, not just sucks up his personal time, which can be better spent campaigning elsewhere, trivialises the anti-corruption plank. It also marks yet another U turn of his policy not to field any existing Delhi assembly member in Loksabha polls. Looks like he exempted himself from any policy or law.

May be it provides him a convenient excuse to stay clear of Delhi, where he may be called to explain his running away from delivering on his lofty promises.

It is sad, but anyone coming out with a anti-corruption agenda will now be seen through the prism of examples set by Kejriwal and seen as a quack and non-serious. Real reform of the system has to wait. For the arrival of another messiah who will have a much steeper hill to climb.

 

 

 

BJP grandpa army revolts!

Jaswanth Singh, LK Advani, Lalji Tandon, MM Joshi, the list is getting longer by the day! What’ going on?

It is quite simple – these gentlemen, who no doubt made sterling contributions alone or as a team in the past, are unable to digest the fact that times have changed. They simply could not bring the party to where it is right now – brink of victory when only a self-made disaster can spoil things. Remember 2012 when despite numerous scams and troubles, BJP was seen as ‘even worse’ hence not in the race? Now it is, not just in the race but leading it by a wide margin by most polls.

And, like him or not, who made the difference? Of course, it is Narendra Modi.

Unable to digest this, the geriatrics are now engaging in theatrics. What can they achieve?

At best they can achieve a few days of glory in the anti-Modi media – ample front page coverage, friendly shoulders to cry (literally cry, as shameless JS did) on and prime time slots.

At worse they may ensure BJP scores a spectacular self-goal.

Time will tell. If there is really a Modi-wave, they will be swept away. If there is none and BJP scrapes through, there will be a lot of squabbles and nothing much would matter anyway.