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Rahul baba is coming – Drumbeats get louder …

November 19, 2010 Leave a comment
Trial by media - on an unprecedented scale. 3 senior politicians scalped. Corruption being made a hot-button issue. Rahul baba wins with his 'clean' image. (Cartoonist - Ajit Ninan; courtesy - indiatimes.com). Click for larger image.

Trial by media - on an unprecedented scale. 3 senior politicians scalped. Corruption being made a hot-button issue. Rahul baba wins with his 'clean' image. (Cartoonist - Ajit Ninan; courtesy - indiatimes.com). Click for larger image.

Drumbeats get louder.

It is Rahulbaba’s footsteps that you are hearing. An unprecedented media campaign based on the ‘corruption’ hot-button.

Kalmadi resigns on CWG issue. A.Raja resigns on the 2G scam. CBI arrests CWG officials. CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) report criticizes Telecom Minister. Supreme courts questions PM on 2G scam.

2ndlook had outlined the following situation nearly 2 months ago – post linked above. The projections seems to be getting real …

What if …

Manmohan Singh takes moral ‘responsibility’. Resigns. Congress veterans beseech Rahul to ‘save’ the country, ’empower’ the youth, and ‘renew’ the Congress party structure with its glorious tradition.

A ‘reluctant’ Rahulbaba immediately rejects the idea. He expresses full confidence in Manmohan Singh’s leadership – and his moral stature.

The charade

Manmohan Singh submits his resignation to his party’s president. She urges him withdraw or at least reconsider his decision. Manmohan Singh refuses.

15 days later, after repeated requests from Manmohan Singh, and under ‘great pressure’ from party workers, Sonia accepts Manmohan Singh’s resignation and Rahulbaba accepts the post of Prime Minister.

Rahul-baba must save the country! (Cartoonist - Ajit Ninan; courtesy-indiatimes.com)

Rahul-baba must save the country! (Cartoonist - Ajit Ninan; courtesy-indiatimes.com). Click for larger image.

A plausible scenario …?

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Endgame for Manmohan Singh?

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment
(Montage courtesy - Sunday Magazine of Faking News dated 30 May 2010.). Click for larger image.

(Montage courtesy - Sunday Magazine of Faking News dated 30 May 2010.). Click for larger image.

Tom-tom drums

In the deep jungles of Indian politics, tom-tom drums are beating. Some people who know how to read these drum-beats are saying that the message reads “Rahul baba is coming … Rahul baba is coming …”

Will Indira Gandhi inspire Rahul Gandhi

It is some 15 months of UPA-II. Will it be like the 1971 election of Indira Gandhi. Leading a lame-duck, Government for two years, after a flurry of populist tokens, like abolition of privy purses, bank nationalisation, Indira Gandhi called for ‘garibi hatao’ and an election.

Will we see an ouster of Manmohan, installation of Rahul Gandhi as PM, another flurry of populist tokens – and an election in 12-18 months.

Going by personal experience, the few 2ndlook posts in the last 3 months, on Rahul Gandhi have had unusual traffic. Reader interest has been higher than what the content would justify.

Listening posts

A report in The Times Of India reads

our economist PM’s lack of leadership gets manifested best in his absolute abdication of responsibility on issues concerning the country’s economy … foodgrains continue to rot for want of storage space … even as Naxals continue to kill our forces at will … the home minister’s response suggests it to be a ‘law and order’ problem, Digvijay Singh thinks otherwise … as the killing spree continues, the government’s absentee railway minister addresses a massive rally at Lalgarh with Maoist support and even supports an investigation into the death of a Naxal commander.

Cartoon date - Sep 06, 2010; Cartoon by - Sandeep Adhwaryu; cartoon courtesy - outlook.com. Click for larger image.

Cartoon date - Sep 06, 2010; Cartoon by - Sandeep Adhwaryu; cartoon courtesy - outlook.com. Click for larger image.

Pranab Mukherjee disapproves of Mamata Banerjee’s antics. But soon the Congress’s own heir apparent takes a dangerous left turn. Addressing a massive tribal rally alongside a suspected Naxal leader, Rahul Gandhi talks of being a soldier of the tribals in Delhi … What is most unbecoming of the ‘honest’ Singh is his constantly looking the other way on issues involving gross corruption. No wonder then that telecom minister A Raja and CWG chairman Suresh Kalmadi have seemed to carry on their reported exploits with impunity.

India deserves a more ‘in-control’ PM … what makes the PM-in-waiting, Rahul, choose to remain ‘shielded’ perpetually? Has he done a reality check and concluded that he is not prepared for the job? Is he worried that he might face the same flak when his opportunity comes? What is equally surprising is that our ‘PM-designate’ is just as invisible on almost all important issues. (via No Nightwatchman’s Innings – The Times of India; parts excised for brevity.).

Is Rahul trying out his grand-mother's strategy? (Cartoonist - RK Laxman; Cartoon courtesy - outlook.com) Click for larger image.

Is Rahul trying out his grand-mother's strategy? (Cartoonist - RK Laxman; Cartoon courtesy - outlook.com) Click for larger image.

National Advisory Council (NAC) takes over

A web-zine, MeriNews in a recent analysis points out

The SIX-year old trusted political equation between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh is said to be under pressure. Since the revival of National Advisory Council (NAC), headed by Sonia Gandhi …

All these six years, perfect understanding was maintained among these two power centers. While Sonia Gandhi looking after political issues of Congress-led UPA Government; Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh was given free hand with regard to the affairs of the government. But the growing interest shown by Sonia Gandhi in the governance seems to be widening the gap between the two political titans.

At this juncture, the revival of NAC is seen as Sonia Gandhi’s efforts to take control over the administration on her own to pave way for the coronation of her son Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister. …

Manmohan Singh  is taking all due care avoiding the media focus on himself. He has hardly given any full-length interview for any news paper or news channel. He is also not happy with the attitude of some ministers, who did not cooperate with him … only Home Minister P. Chidambaram interacts with the Prime Minister on a regular basis on all major policy issues. While all other ministers are trying to show that they are more loyal to `madam’ than the prime minister.

Manmohan Singh was upset when AICC General Secretary Digvijay Singh had written an article questioning Chidambaram’s anti-Maoists policy at a time when the government was facing crisis following 76 CRPF jawans massacre in Chhattiasgarh. Whether Rahul Gandhi will be allowed to lead the nation or some intermediate arrangement will be preferred, is yet to be seen. (via Has Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh equation as a team ended?).

It wasn't easy then ... (Published on - Jul 14, 2010; cartoon by - Sandeep Adhwaryu; cartoon courtesy - outlook.com.). Click for larger image.

It wasn't easy then ... (Published on - Jul 14, 2010; cartoon by - Sandeep Adhwaryu; cartoon courtesy - outlook.com.). Click for larger image.

Insider knows

A BJP MP, Chandan Mitra, writing for The Pioneer, paints a similar picture. Some edited (for brevity) sections are reproduced below.

What happened in the Rajya Sabha on August 31, last day of the Monsoon Session … was probably the most incredible example of a Government under siege … from within. The … next day, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister sought to drape Congress MP Keshava Rao’s rebellion against … Kapil Sibal with the cloak of “inner-party democracy” reveals the … bewilderment. Later the same evening, … P Chidambaram and Digvijay Singh were back in the ring …this time over the term ‘saffron terror’. Was it mere coincidence that two efficient … Ministers — Mr Chidambaram and Mr Sibal — bore the brunt of Congress MPs’ wrath? Some … believe that … Mr Keshava Rao’s … access to 10 Janpath, the rebellion must have been staged … (knowing) that no consequences would follow.

leaders have begun jockeying for the post-Manmohan era. With Rahul Gandhi’s mounting visibility, carefully calibrated by sections of the media, Congress know it is a matter of time before the heir-apparent takes direct charge.

the Prime Minister sat through all five hours of the Nuclear Liability Bill debate in the Rajya Sabha. Congress MPs later complained they couldn’t even take coffee breaks because it would have been improper to gad off while he sat on impassively. From this unusual action it has been deduced by many that Mr Manmohan Singh is in the final stage of repaying his debt to Washington on the nuclear issue.

So now that the nuclear deal process is complete, Mr Manmohan Singh may prefer to walk into the sunset once US President Barack Obama’s visit happens in early November.

Proponents believe that 2011 or latest 2012 will be the year of transition … a political crisis may be deliberately stirred so that a fresh election has to be called to legitimise Mr Rahul Gandhi’s ascendancy since his mother believes electoral endorsement is what’s kept the dynasty going. Congress strategists have calculated that if an election is held within the next 12 to 18 months, with Mr Rahul Gandhi projected as Prime Minister, the party will win a majority on its own. …

some seniors in the party are already positioning themselves for such an eventuality — Mr Digvijay Singh for one [.] has been consistently making jholawallah-type noises … significantly, he has targeted Mr Chidambaram who is clearly doing his best to uphold the dignity and power of the Indian state. … Rahul is building a jholawallah team around himself, some inherited from his mother’s National Advisory Council, which now acts as a super-Cabinet, and the rest drawn from from across the globe, potential British Labour Party leader David Miliband included. I would rather have Mr Rahul Gandhi take over right now than permit his ambitious cohorts to inject chaos and disorder in governance so that they can herald the Crown Prince’s arrival into South Block as the knight in shining armour destined to ‘rescue’ India from drift. Who knows, maybe Ms Sonia Gandhi will time her ‘voluntary retirement’ to coincide with that so daughter Priyanka begins a long stint as Congress president! [Significant caveats and qualifications by the author excised for brevity. Read original, linked at the beginning and here to verify the credibility and degree of certainty of the analysis].

Remember! Congress has won just 3 elections in the last 40 years. (Cartoon By Sandeep Adhwaryu; courtesy - outlook.com; publication date - Jun 28, 2010.). Click for larger image.

Remember! Congress has won just 3 elections in the last 40 years. (Cartoon By Sandeep Adhwaryu; courtesy - outlook.com; publication date - Jun 28, 2010.). Click for larger image.

Which way the wind blows

The wide- coverage of Rahul Gandhi’s support  to Omar Abdullah by the media was indicative of the way political winds are blowing. Did Omar Abdullah with nearly 12-15 years of experience in governance need Rahul Gandhi’s certification? The shrill attacks on the Government using Commonwealth Games is another indicator. Will the Ayodhya judgement by the Allahabad High Court be used as a trigger for displacing Manmohan Singh?

Time will surely tell. In the meantime, Rahul Gandhi would do well to remember that the Congress has really won just three election out of ten in the last 40 years. No doubt, the Indian Voter exudes warmth towards Rahul Gandhi.

To assume that this warmth will translate into votes is immature.

Rahul Gandhi on terrorism

September 21, 2010 16 comments
Self defence is an idea whose time has come. Ideas matter. Prejudices dont! (Cartoonist - Lisa Benson; Cartoon Courtesy - cartoonistgroup.com.).
Self defence is an idea whose time has come. Ideas matter. Prejudices dont! (Cartoonist – Lisa Benson; Cartoon Courtesy – cartoonistgroup.com.).

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday had a surprise suggestion of empowering villagers to fight terrorism.

“I am confident that this country can take on terrorism. Defeating it is no problem. If we empower those people in villages, we can sit back, relax and we will destroy terrorism in 15 minutes,” Gandhi told a press conference here. (via Empower villagers and defeat terrorism in 15 minutes: Rahul).

Are we making terrorism into a slogan

Twitter, Facebook, private emails are all buzzing about the latest statement by Rahul Gandhi on terrorism. Mostly critical. With bits like ‘we can sit back, relax’, Rahul partly deserves ridicule. But the core of his statement is a rare piece of sense.

Strangely, when Rahul Gandhi does make his rare sensible statement, unthinking reaction is to reject. Terrorism is a case where a ‘disarmed’ population has been made dependent  on the State for defence at even the local level. Would the attackers of Mumbai’s Taj Hotel have dared if they had known that many of the people were armed and liable to fire back?

To all Rahul baiters

This is one smart thing he has said. What if it his first good idea! In fact the idea is so good that no government would dare to do such a thing! Including Rahul Gandhi himself, if he were to come the Prime Minister tomorrow.

Can Rahul Gandhi deliver for the Congress?

August 30, 2010 13 comments

The Nehru-Gandhi ‘dynasty’ has not connected to India in the last 40 years after India Gandhi – and it is not for lack of trying.

Rahul Gandhi's image management. Cartoon by Ajit Ninan;

Rahul Gandhi's image management. Cartoon by Ajit Ninan;

Does nurture work?

For a few years now, Rahul Gandhi’s political persona is being crafted in New Delhi. There is clear and conscious design behind this.

The trips to UP, a politically important state, the selective engagement with the Government, the complete lack of involvement with the Government are new ideas in political nurturing.

This लोक सेवा ‘lok seva’ and ‘power I dont want’ stance is being projected extensively.

Rules of the game

MJ Akbar captures this surreal political atmosphere in his recent post

Rahul Gandhi in the Hindi heart-belt. Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt; cartoon courtesy http://bamulahija.wordpress.com

Rahul Gandhi in the Hindi heart-belt. Cartoon by Kirtish Bhatt; cartoon courtesy http://bamulahija.wordpress.com

It is axiomatic that a largely impoverished nation needs a political party that the poor can identify with. The Congress has set out to be the party of the poor in daytime, and of the rich at night. Its sunlight politics will fetch votes, its twilight policies will enable it to govern. This is an extremely clever act whose opening scenes are being played out for a new generation that is vague about Indira Gandhi and amnesiac about Nehru. The hero of this drama must have the charisma to dazzle the poor and the flexibility to keep the rich onside. That is the challenge before Rahul Gandhi. His avowed role is to be the guardian of the poor in Delhi, which means that the poor need protection from Delhi. He is at home with the elite in the in the evening and is now making the effort to capture the sunshine hours. (via Crown prince Rahul cannily turns left : India : M J Akbar : TOI Blogs).

Rahul Gandhi's image management. Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; 2009 May 08	in The Times Of India Bengaluru  |  Click for larger image.

Rahul Gandhi's image management. Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; 2009 May 08 in The Times Of India Bengaluru | Click for larger image.

The political apprenticeship of Rajiv Gandhi needed Indira’s Gandhi’s assassination to win an election. After that one singular victory, Rajiv was electorally ineffective and politically insignificant. Before Rajiv, his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi could not take on the Nehru mantle as his mother had done. Priyanka Vadra’s attempts at politics did not get the electoral traction that the Congress needed to win an election.

Rahul needs BJP’s help

If Rahul Gandhi succeeds, the single biggest reason may well be the BJP. Headless and clueless, BJP out of power, is a shell of BJP before coming into power.

Losing power can do some strange things to people.


The Indian Voter does it – again

May 17, 2009 9 comments
Complacent Congress was jolted by the Left VoteThe Indian Voter does it – again

March 18th 1957 Cartoon by RK Laxman - Complacent Congress jolted by the Left Vote

The Indian Voter has again shown that he has a mind of his own – an independent mind. In spite of various allegations, which come in very superior sounding tones, the Indian Voter has displayed a few common patterns.

1. Risk Taking

The Indian Voter has not stepped back from electing new parties and leaders. The 1956 election, saw the Indian Voter challenge Nehru himself. The Left gained nearly 20% of the popular vote – and became the first Communist Government to be elected to power in the State of Kerala. Leaders like Ram Manohar Lohia, JB Kripalani and Jaya Prakash Narayan became legends in their own life time – in many ways, with greater regard and respect than Nehru himself.

These worked outside the system’ – and pioneered land reform, proved to be a check on the Nehruvian onslaught on Indian languages (along with the Dravidian parties) and sensitized the indifferent colonial-cadre bureaucrats to be more responsive and caring. To many this looked like Western Socialism (including the practitioners themselves), but it was nation building at a different level.

This election verdict is again a risk – that a victorious Manmohan Singh and hard working Rahul Gandhi may revert to the imperial ways of the old Congress Party. Earlier, the Indian Voter cured this imperiousness by underwriting the rise and use of regional parties. Purpose served, these regional parties have been sent back to the drawing board – to reinvent themselves.

Jayaprakash Narayan gave up electoral politics

Jaya Prakash Narayan gives up electoral politics

2. Power and hubris

Time and again, the Indian Voter has chastened political leaders – whose hubris and power overwhelmed them. Nehru in 1956, Indira Gandhi in 1977, Rajiv Gandhi in 1989, BJP in 2004 at a national level and many at the state level.

In this election also, the hubris of the regional parties was broken. Sharad Pawar with a few MPs projected himself as Prime Ministerial candidate, as did some other bit players. Film stars like Chiranjeevi thought they could make a power grab by just announcing their candidature.  In Maharashtra the Shiv Sena /MNS goons also got their comeuppance. To all these players, went out a clear message, from the Indian Voter.

The national alliance of BJP /NDA did not do too badly! It was the ‘Third + Fourth” Front that has been decimated. Possibly, this election was also about BJP hubris – with LK Advani appearing at every website. Similarly, the use of Varun Gandhi was also in bad taste – if not bad strategy.

3. No sops and no bones

To many, brought up on the Western schools of political understanding, the Indian Voter will vote for cash, sops, caste and allurements. This displays a profound disrespect for the Indian Voter – and greater ignorance.

The Indian State has been gradually and steadily retreating – and the Indian Voter has been at the forefront of this retreat. For all practical purposes health care in India has been privatized over the last 70 years. The vestigial State support for health care can also go, if the State cuts away its exclusive dependence on Western medical systems – and the complete collapse of Indian medical systems. The Western Voter will not let go of the subsidized health care system – while the Indian Voter has been gradually shifting the the private sector.

Similarly, the dependence on subsidized grain has been steadily decreasing. Inflation may give a false impression of increasing food subsidy bills. However, fact is that from about 75% of the population in the 1960-1970 decades, the dependence on subsidized food grains has reduced to 30%-40%.

Similarly, in other sectors too, the reduction of the role of the State is becoming apparent and welcomed – by the Indian Voter. The resistance is from the bureaucracy and the vested interests of Big Business.

In this election, Chandrababu Naidu in AP promised a cash transfer scheme to all families – even middle class families. His welfare stat-ism has been soundly rejected.

NTRs Chaitanya Ratham

NTR's Chaitanya Ratham

4. Hard Work

Similar to Gandhiji’s Dandi march, which galvanised the nation, NTR Rama Rao’s epochal ‘Chaitanya Ratham’ rewrote politics in India. His 180 day campaign,  in 1982, covering an estimated 75,000 km, across Andhra re-wrote Indian politics. For the first time, a political party of a few months, unseated a century old party.

It provided the inspiration for LK Advani’s ‘rath yatra’ in 1989 – which saw BJP gain a national following. YS Rajasekhara Reddy, the Andhra Chief Minister’s padayatra, which was ignored and ridiculed by the then TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu, (‘as Budabukkalodu, a village jester who wears outlandish clothes and asks for alms during Sankranti festival’) was patterned along similar lines. Covering 1500 km in 60 days, YSR’s padayatra saw Congress re-capture power in Andhra Pradesh after 20 years.

Rahul’ Gandhi’s 2009 campaign was no less. With limited use of helicopter’s and low media  coverage, it was  a combination of courage and the sheer drudgery that saw Congress come out on top – winning in 60 constituencies out of the 106 in which Rahul campaigned”.

5. Negative campaigns

The 1967 election came closest to breaking the Congress rule in the pre-1977 India. In 1969, further, a significant group of senior leaders, split from the Congress, and formed the Congress (O). A highly negative campaign, saw Indira Gandhi come back with a stunning victory in the 1971 election.

Her party program was summed up in the simple but highly appealing slogan, “Garibi hatao” (Remove Poverty). The old Congress, led by Desai, responded with the unimaginative, inane campaign slogan, “Indira Hatao “ (Remove Indira). (from The making of India By Ranbir Vohra)

The opposition to Indira – the ‘Grand Alliance’ consisting of the Congress (O), the Jan Sangh, Swatantra and Samyukta socialist parties – all knew that she was the issue in 1971, and they made the mistake of choosing a personalized campaign slogan to reflect this: ‘Indira Hatao’ (Remove Indira). Indira retaliated with the simplistic but effective battle cry of ‘Garibi hatao’. (from Indira By Katherine Frank).

Her speeches had simple logic. “Main kehtin hoon garibi hatao. Voh kehten hain Indira hatao. Ab faisla aap keejiye.”

LK Advani’s anti-Manmohan Singh campaign made the same mistake that Congress (O) made 40 years ago. PM Singh, who is seen as a well meaning, honest, ‘politician’ started looking better – after Advani’s attacks. Rahul Gandhi’s riposte, “have you ever seen a weak Sardar?’ killed this line of campaigning.

The legal processes against Indira Gandhi, by the 1977 Janata Party Government, was again seen as a vindictive and negative campaign, which started off Indira Gandhi’s comeback campaign.

Indira Gandhi’s own negative campaign and ouster of NT Rama Rao, by engineering the split in TDP with Nadendla Bhasker Rao, ensured that Congress was out. The tidal wave of Voter solidarity with Rajiv Gandhi, in post-Indira Gandhi’s assassination elections of 1984, still saw the angry Andhra Voter shun the Congress Party. Varun Gandhi’s abrasive campaign, in contrast to Rahul Gandhi’s inclusive agenda, was albatross around the BJP neck.

The Indian Voter will simply not accept negative campaigning.

Fractured Verdicts ...

Fractured Verdicts ...

Cause for optimism

LK Advani (?) and Manmohan Singh are possibly going to be the last colonial-era Prime Ministers of India. The next generation of political leaders will be Indians who have grown in the post colonial India. This vote is vote for consolidation – for the national parties and for performing administrations.

Colonialism is hearsay, propaganda, exaggerations – a second hand experience, to most young post-colonial Indians. Brought up on a diet of nation building, socialism, (opportunistic) English education, limited exposure to the rest of the world, they have seen rapid change. From an India, which was a ship-to-mouth basket case, to an emerging power, seems to be have been a facile and an easy experience – with little credit being given to Indian political leadership for managing the post-colonial Indian system.

India’s successes have been built on Indic elements retrofitted on Western models. Renewing an Indian model – how will India’s young leader’s face up to this challenge? Will they ‘fall into the trap’ of copying successful countries or take the (really) easier path of renewing the Indic model, which may initially, seem difficult.

The continuity will be provided by the Indian Voter, who has seamlessly handed over political power – to tested and untested, to the imperious Indira Gandhi and the humble LB Shastri.

Similar to Gandhiji’s Dandi march, which galvanised the nation,

Rahul Gandhi needs Paris Hilton for tutorials in politics – l’affaire Milliband

January 29, 2009 6 comments
The clue is in the body language

The clue is in the body language

Socialite Paris Hilton showed off her ignorance recently when she thought Gordon Ramsay was the British prime minister.

She said: “I love Britain. London is my favourite city in the world.” But when asked if she knew who the British prime minister was, she replied, “Yes, it’s Gordon Ramsay, isn’t it?” (via Paris Hilton thinks Gordon Ramsay, and not Brown, is British PM).

I think Rahul Gandhi needs to learn from Paris Hilton. After all, why waste time with Britain – a nation, 5 times over its GDP, in debt. A nation, that is a nobody in manufacturing, services, currency – a nation in terminal decline into anonymity?

Rahul Gandhi’s dalliance with Milliband reminded me of Nehru’s dalliance with the Mountbattens. I am still unclear who Nehru was having an affair with – Lord or Lady Mountbatten?

Nehru-Edwina-Louis Mountbatten - Ménage à trois

Nehru-Edwina-Louis Mountbatten - Ménage à trois

And I think, it was the reporters that got it all wrong. Why did this reporter think that Paris Hilton should know who the Prime Minister of Britain was?

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