An East Delhi Citizen's Blog

general riff about politics, education, media, society, cricket..

Archive for the month “March, 2009”

Where Swaminathan S Aiyar gets hopelessly wrong about Manmohan Singh

History reveres the sharif badmash who gets results – Swaminomics – SA Aiyar – Columnists – Opinion – The Times of India.

Swaminomics is a column I read regularly. I respect the intellectual clarity that Swaminathan S A Aiyar brings to the subject of economics. No nonsense, no bullshit. Yet, unafraid to take a stand and sometimes go against the tide of public wisdom. Witness his predictions about the oil price nosediving when the ruling price was nearly $150 and predictions were for it to go upto $200 a barrel. He also wrote a recent column predicting that Mayawati will be our next PM and while the very thought makes me cringe, you can’t fault his courage in speaking his mind.
The trouble with Swaminomics is that it is morphing from a economics focused column to a column with wider canvas. Some of his pronouncements on political affairs seem more designed to stir controversy than anything else. What is one to make of this very stretched comparison between Lincoln and Manmohan Singh?
I have no quarrel with his basic premise, headlined in the article. However, I have doubts on whether Manmohan Singh will only be remembered for being the architect of the Indo-US nuclear deal and presiding over a “magic economy”. To my mind, he will be as much remembered for the cash for votes scandal, his participation in a government where he was clearly still dependent on his leader for political management and basically wasting 5 years twiddling his thumbs without taking a single bold step towards solving many structural inadequacies in our economy, political system and judicial system.
Our taxation system, our labour laws, the burden on our judicial system, lack of reliable electricity supplies to most homes in our country, our electoral laws, the state of our roads, lack of safe drinking water for the vast majority of our people, an education system that produces conformists … the list is endless. Mr. Singh could have chosen any or many of these areas to focus his and his team’s considerable talents. Instead he chose to fritter away the large fiscal balance he inherited and the “space” afforded by the booming world economy to spend on populist schemes. Mr. Singh has not built infrastructure and he leaves behind mountains of problems for whoever comes to power next.
I think history will judge Manmohan Singh on Vision, Team Building and Execution; the 3 key parameters which will define any leader’s legacy. I have not seen any grand vision from this government. He worked with a team that was working at cross-purposes . Congressmen vied with non-Congressmen in setting disparate agendas and settling scores.  When Arjun Singh was not undermining the authority of the prime minister, he was busy undermining the autonomy of the IITs and IIMs. When Ramadoss was finally rid of his bete-noire Prof Venugopal, he was banning smoking in public places: notice the implementation of this had to be done by the home-ministry and not the health ministry. We had the minister for communication, Raja doling out spectrum for a pittance (valued many times subsequently) and NHAI came to a standstill as the surface transport minister effected 5 changes in 3 years in the NHAI leadership. I can go on and on.
Blaming it on “coalition dharma” does not wash. As I pointed out in a previous post, Vajpayee and Narasimha Rao had both led coalitions with tenuous majorities, but left far more lasting and beneficial legacies.
My question to you all is, will you forget all this and remember the Indo-US nuclear deal?


Buddhi-jibi vs Dur-buddhijibi battle in the land of Nirbuddhi

All Bengalis are intellectuals and that includes me!

To a Bengali, being called an intellectual is a matter of birthright. We like to spend our time on intellectual pursuits. That conjures up vision of a dhoti-clad, bespectacled, middle-aged man in hot pursuit of matters intellectual with a butterfly net.

We live by our intellect; this mode of living excludes all non-Bengalis from its definition. We are Buddhi-jibis: folks who live by our wits. If Chanakyapuri, Delhi’s diplomatic enclave was in Kolkata, the capital city of Bengal, the road names there would have definitely had an addition. Shanti (Peace) Path, Nyaya (justice) Marg, Satya (Truth) Marg, Niti (Principle Marg)… to a Bengali all this is secondary to Buddhi- Intelligence. In fact, to a true Bengali, it all starts and ends with Buddhi.

So, in the most sacred land of Buddhi, whose capital Kolkata is, the buddhiman (intelligent) electorate elected Buddhadeb, the star among the buddhijibis to lead them for 5 years. His predecessor had ruled Bengal for almost 30 years. Gita says, “Vinaashkaale viparit-buddhi”: loosely translated, whom the Gods want to destroy, they first turn mad. Buddhadeb’s predecessor is proof that Gita is not infallible, he had had Viparit Buddhi for a long time, but continued to rule without being visited by any destruction.

Our benighted state is blessed with a galaxy of star buddhijibis, as befits a state where the average IQ is in the high 20s. Buddhadeb’s nemesis is Lady Khamata, the high priestess of bad; the leading Dur-buddhijibi. Normally, you would expect the buddhijibis of the state to rise up and side with Buddhadeb; after all he is one of them. But, after 30 years of being ruled by the Viparit-Buddhi-jibi, the state is now mostly populated by Nirbuddhi-jibis. These brainless wonders sat around and nodded listlessly and waited for the next bandh call as the last truck rolled out of Singur carrying the nuts and bolts of the last hope of Bengal’s economic revival.

Man can not live on bread alone; but, the Nirbuddhi-jibis of Bengal can live on their buddhi, nay, their tattered reputation of being the most intellectual in our country.

Varun Gandhi: an accident waiting to happen

It is bad taste to refer to someone’s parentage especially if the parent in question is long dead. However, Varun Gandhi’s methods are reminiscent of the late Sanjay Gandhi. The same lack of politeness, fondness for hyperbole and even shocking words and when pushed to a corner, recourse to gathering a crowd of lumpens and shouting slogans in the name of leading a people’s movement.

However, lack of good taste does not necessarily mean lacking in political savvy. I strongly suspect Varun Gandhi has no strong views on the subject of the Muslims or frankly any views that matter on anything. Anything, except that of his place under the sun. Heir to the sidelined branch of the Family, Varun wants to measure his standing in his adopted party against Rahul in Congress. The fact that he is way down in the pecking order, rankles. So, he reacts in the only way his education and his legacy have prepared him. Create a noise, create a controversy. Court arrest. Make lots of TV appearances and give confusing statements. Love him or hate him; don’t just ignore him! If there is a more well documented case of Attention Deficit Disorder, I am yet to see one!

I suspect the only people who see through this game are his fellow politicians; both in BJP and in other parties. Their reaction has been quite muted.
For one, they recognise, quite correctly that refusing to rise to his bait is the sensible thing to do. Varun wants the spotlight. Deny him that and he returns to obscurity; a small time politician looking for a spot in the limelight. Congress can not bring himself to question his legacy because, what a can of worms that will open! Media will have a field day resurrecting Sanjay Gandhi and horror of horrors might even mention that it was Sanjay who was destined to inherit Mrs Indira Gandhi’s legacy. The rot in the Family runs deep! The BJP can not do much except have their showcase Muslim members issue statements dissociating the party from Varun’s statements. Have stronger condemnation and the Hindutva crowd gets alienated.
So, both the main parties are cautious. Their hope probably is that Varun will go and get arrested and put behind bars for a long time by the courts.

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