Masala Post: Version 1.0
A gallimaufry of events, notices and breaking [broking!] news of the past month – from the hot spots of New Delhi, Karnataka, Parliament and Bihar – not forgetting Radiagate – in a freshly packaged pocket edition of views and counterviews that attempt to aim for the soul of brevity – with or without the wit.
The Dalal Street of Journalism
The recent expose by Open magazine that purportedly reveals how eminent and well known journalists played roles bordering on broking and promoting for unspecified favours at the behest of a PR professional representing her clients’ interests is really all about seeing things differently. Here is what one of my friends said: “ Niira Radia was doing her job. Her clients were getting their job done. One could argue that Suhel Seth was also doing what he probably does anyway most of the time. Hell, but what were Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt doing!” There can be no denying that the Congress has a symbiotic relationship with corruption. The issue is not simply of money being made here and there whenever they are in power, it is the systemic modification they are able to signal each time they command the state’s finances which is more interesting to note. This behavioural sequence that manifests itself into the mechanisms of governance is an indicator also of a skill at finessing the system that has been acquired over decades of power broking and power sharing. This consummate ability to access the treasury through various techniques to the benefit of the party and its bosses has remained a benchmark that political entities in the opposition only sigh and admire. It has to be said, many see this as an admirable quality and I too have heard many times within the BJP the sardonic and self disparaging remark that if only the BJP guys knew how to launder money like the Congressis, they would never have gone out of power. Okay, that may be a stretch. Admittedly, it is not that simplistic and electoral math also plays a big part in the continuation of power. But the truth is that most electoral math in our country is also about a lot of zeros – the kind you get after a digit like 1. Truth be told, more support can be bought with money in Parliament today than a well argued case by a well meaning MP. The Congress is a past master at the game and this has to be factored in all the time by those in the opposition. For parties like the BJP which come of purer stock, the dilemma will always taunt and tantalize. On the one, the politics of principle the BJP grew up with but which yields no short term advantages in an environment sullied by the parochial politics that Congress spawned; on the other the quick fix, fast returns of cash-fuelled politics that is a surer shot each time finger meets EVM and a politician dips into the treasury. The way ahead is not going to be easy, but we have to hold to what we have – the original idea of probity and honesty in politics will only win if we are willing to lose for it.
Raja ka Baaja and Fearless Radia
As a counterpoint, and don’t kill me for it, it does merit asking the question that Ratan Tata finally asked: why were the tapes made public? What are they expected to prove? Nobody wants to deal with that it seems. Was the IT department probing Raja ostensibly at the behest of the Government [read Congress] to fix the DMK Minister? Is that why, when the SC made that remark, the tapes were hurriedly thrown into the open market [pun intended]. That should explain why and how so many of our good friends in the media got caught with their pens down. But now look how the Government is withdrawing the muzzle after the shot has fired: guess who they will investigate: Niira Radia: for what: black money? Bribe? Wow! I love this Government! Talk about obfuscation. Hey, how about investigating Raja – [ oh no! not him – he gets a pat on the back from the PM after all hell breaks loose]; how about investigating the DMK since by all reckoning the fruits of Raja’s labour would have been shared generously. You can just imagine how this will all end. Raja cannot be found guilty – DMK would throw a fit and throw in the towel destabilizing the UPA. Therefore expect many more red herrings, false alarms, small fish who get the grilling until nobody can tell who did what to whom for what. In retrospect, if anyone has come out looking good out of this entire episode, it has to be said that it is Radia. Hell, who wouldn’t put his money on her for her single minded pursuit of her brief, her loyalty to her clients and finesse and taut professionalism.
Nataka in Karnataka
Naturally, they tried to pillory me, much like Manish Tiwary went emoticon with it, about equalizing the Karnataka crisis with all the Raja and the CWG scam on their tail. My standard reply remained: one scam does not cancel the other and if you call me for a debate on the Raja or the CWG scam, stick to the subject. If you want to discuss the Karnataka natak, let me know and we will discuss it. But this childish manner of showing your thumb or sticking out your tongue is patently juvenile and most spokespersons resort to this purely because they are not trained in the discipline of separating issues well enough. But back to how the Karnataka crisis was handled and you have to grant it to the CM that he not only rowed his boat out of the crisis but came out all guns blazing. Notwithstanding Ms. Brinda Karat’s pangs of probity in accusing the BJP of double standards, it turned out that the CM actually delivered on his word, divested all relationship with favor seeking relatives, instituted an investigation [including into himself, it must be admired] and sought to place his case in perspective by going all out to dig up the records of the last decade. The story had a good ending with the reported investigation by Tehelka that showed that two Chief Ministers of the Congress and the JD cheerleader Kumaraswamy were all involved in doling out similar favours – I believe SM Krishna also [unconfirmed] made a mark somewhere in the matter. Now that’s what you call, calling their bluff. But the episode also served to illustrate to other Chief Ministers, both of the BJP and otherwise, who may be more relaxed in offering goodies to friends and relatives that neither the party nor the public will tolerate it and I think that does very well for us as a country on the whole. But you can expect more on this because the Congress has to try and dig up some dirt to equalize their shame.
Nitish in Bihar: Sonia, yet so far
Okay so NDA did it again in Bihar. And how! The sight to see was a belligerent Sonia Gandhi who timed her famous double standard charge against the BJP and the PM-is-such-an-honest-man-how-can-anybody-try-and-malign-him tactics to divert attention from her son’s dismal effect in Bihar. You got to give it to the Biharis – they know a joker when they see one! So all that hype and kalawati kalabaazi came to nought finally but the killer was delivered by none other than Mother scorned again – “we will have to start from scratch in Bihar”, she said sagaciously. For my quip on this, do visit: http://www.governancenow.com/news/regular-story/it-occurred-me-morning-5 . All things considered and all the debates and heartburn for the opposition wondering how the BJP improved its tally so dramatically and achieved a success rate of 91% which was even better than the JD[U], the learning has to be that when a party enjoys all-pervasive public approval, there will be an in-general electoral advantage for the party. In reverse, however, if there is all pervasive disapproval, there will be higher peaks of votes against a party. This works to logic and human behaviour. An approval vote is wide and ambient; a disapproval vote is sharp and peaky. In that context it was tiring to see the aimless debates on TV with everyone and his cousin trying to analyze why the BJP did so well when the vote was for Nitish or why the biggest win in Bihar’s history did not show the biggest vote share shifts etc. etc. It was mirthful, however, to see Congressmen take solace, much like Aloo Prasad, that the vote was for Nitish and then be dumbstruck on why the BJP did so well; or that caste was a factor, or that it wasn’t and frankly only N.K. Singh seemed to come across as the most sensible of the lot. Sum total: the Bihar elections proved that you can’t fool all the people all the time; that good governance works; that the JDU-BJP combine had developed an effective partnership; that caste can be secondary and that fictitious, media managed qualities of paper tigers like the Right Honourable Rahul Gandhi, M.P. are a see through for even the simple folks of Bihar. Oh, and that when Rahul Gandhi fails, his name is Congress.
Parliament and Argument
The impasse in Parliament continues and the face off is looking more serious as each day passes. The resolute demand of the opposition for a JPC – never mind the pros and cons here, because if the Congress has nothing to hide, why the blockade – and the asinine, or strategic refusal of the ruling party to comply is also pointing to a new first if this is not quickly resolved – the spectre that this could be a wash out session and the fight will spill over on the streets. It may be argued that the opposition is being unyielding, but it can be argued more forcefully that all opposition is on one side and in a parliamentary democracy sometimes more than numbers, consensus holds the key. The ruling junta – for that is what they are more and more resembling with each passing day and scam – is refusing to serve public opinion and depending on a mandate that is two years past. In a democracy which is as dynamic as a new day, that can be the crucial difference between being in power and being power drunk. This does not augur well for the country as many critical issues are held up and the fact remains that it is the government that is in the dock and has much explaining to do. It has been argued that this logjam could be actively desired by the Congress to ensure that they have to answer for nothing at all. The Congress is an old hand at constitutional graft and tokenism and it is perfectly possible that a namesake agreement will be hammered out just with a few days left for the session to end and this way both ends would have been met. They will avoid discussion and yet look like the guys who tried so hard to accommodate the opposition. Be that as it may, this will also signify a trend change for the political climate. Never before has a government been beset with so many cases of large scale impropriety at one time. The public anger is mounting and it seems to me that unless the Congress relents and agrees to repent, the backlash will pave the way for a new regime. If that looks like wishful thinking, just call it a prediction.