Category Archives: Political

3 Days that shook the country

A Year ago ten men carried out the one of the most deadliest terrorist attacks and took a city to hostage for nearly 3 days and pushed a country to a chaotic and deadly void. The City is Mumbai and the country, Pakistan. We have often repeated a particular question, what effect has 26/11 have on India? The answer, after a long year of political Tamasha : Not much.

Mumbaikars were expected to vote in large numbers and give a verdict to the State and Central Goverment’s mixed response to the tragedy(Although the security forces did a fantastic job of handling the chaotic situation but they were badly let-down by a goverment that was shockingly ill-prepared for an attack of such magnitude). Sadly the story turned out to be different. Mumbai’s voting percentage was 42% and south Mumbai, where all the action happened, fared a touch better at 47%. Not only the UPA goverment was voted back to power but also the Congress-NCP combine again formed the State goverment. By the way the then Home Minister of Maharashtra, Mr.R.R.Patil, who was forced to resign, has again come back as Home Minister. Mr.R.R.Patil had memorably said,”Big cities face [such]small problems.” There is a saying in Hindi, Yeh public hai, yeh sab janti hai. I wonder………………..

However, it is the glorious comeback of the great defender of the Marathi Manoos that takes the cake. A year ago, urban India’s enraged voice was heard not only against the armed men who attacked Mumbai but the also against the notorious Raj Thackeray, who advocated a virtual sealing of non-Maharashtrians from seeking of employment in in his home state. Emails, Text Messages flowed from Computers and Mobiles mocking Raj Thackeray’s chauvinism and lauding the armed forces that battled in that chaos and how the men battling in Mumbai were mostly North Indians. Raj Thackeray and his band of hooligans were no where to be seen.

Ironically, Thackeray, has’nt stopped his Marathi Manoos tirade and his demand of his home state being keep free from non-Maharashtrian settlers. Thackeray’s brand of Chauvinsim had at best a tenuous connection with National Security. So it is perhaps not surprising that the large section of the electorate welcomed backed this native’s darling with open arms. The Indian Electorate’s canniness sometimes baffles me.

If we recall the various catastrophes that have befallen Mumbai-serial blasts, explosions in crowded stations, communal riots- 26/11 do not appear unique. The scale of devastation was similar but careful planning and perfect execution that went into it baffled and startled everyone. We always come to know about terrorist attacks after it has happened. Terrorism became a game of numbers for us. 50 injured, 30 died. This was terrorism for us. But 26/11 was terrorism live on T.V, at primetime slots. For 62 hours we saw fanatical men carrying terrorism on live T.V. It was also a unique leveller. The Rich and the famous were taken out of there comfort zone in Taj and Trident and also the common man being attacked at CST. 26/11 became a leveller of sorts.

Mumbai’s capacity to spring back to normal life is a stuff of legends; so is the dilly-dallying of its political class. This chalta hai has also been evident in Indo-Pak diplomacy. Faced with the testimony of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the gunman from Faridkot who was caught alive, Pakistan’s initial response was to deny all evidence and allegations. The denial went on for weeks even as the foreign media traced the roots of Kasab and interviewed his parents. Finally under the pressure of UNSC and USA, Asif Ali Zardari took matters to his ‘able’ hands. He legalized sharia in the Tribal area but put conditions on the bill that he knew that the Taliban will refuse. This provided Zardari the opportunity to send his troops in the mad-mullah country resulting a Civil war and terror attacks all over Pakistan.

There is so much Zardari can do as a head of a state that is governed by forces beyond his controls. Even foreign aid fails to entice Pakistan to behave well. When US dangled a golden carrot of $7.5 billion, Pakistan, despite its imminent bankruptcy, refused to compromise on its ‘sovereignty'(read, its license to make mischief). No doubt India has a great deal to reckon with one year on from 26/11. Yet it is Pakistan that has still too may ghosts to exorcise-and its increasingly mixing up its friends with foes.


At His (T)wit’s End…..

We all know what Twitter is. Its a highly popular Social Networking site. Like Orkut and Facebook it has gathered popularity in India. According to the Twitter headquarters, India has the 3rd largest number of twitter accounts in the World. Quite an achievement as Twitter entered the market much after Orkut and Facebook did. Now you people may want to know what has Twitter got to do with my topic?

Well, Twitter has also become quite a handy tool for a few techno-savvy politicians to interact with the common people. One of them is Shashi Tharoor. When Shashi Tharoor won the election in Kerala, I was really happy as I was following his columns and write-ups for newspapers for a long time. I knew this guy can become a model politician. In his Twitter account he was divulging his day to day life and was quite refreshing, as we rarely come to know about a Minister’s day to day activity.His Tweets are often quite witty and full of pun. Like a few days back he said that he sometimes get bored by meetings in the MoS. But a few days back I saw a tweet of him replying to a journalist’s tweet. I found it quite funny and taking a dig at the Goverment’s ‘Austerity Drive’. I can’t exactly quote what he said but it described the economy class as ‘cattle class’ and refering to ‘Holy Cows’. I found it quite witty and refreshing, as we have rarely seen politicians come out in open with there views. But the controversy the followed was quite bad but expected.

The Congress Leaders did’nt take the comment as a whole but took it in isolation and criticized it. No one was bothered to look at the Tweet that he was replying to! According to some journalists the ‘Tweeting’ habit of Tharoor was quite an irritation for some senior Congress leaders. One of the reason might be that Indian politicians are so used to not interacting with common citizens on day to day basis that when one of their colleagues do it, it becomes a irritation for them.

Shashi Tharoor is new to Indian politics. He worked at the UN for more than 5 years and has been a very well respected author and columnist. He will take some time to get used to Indian politics and Congress’ ‘High Command’ or ‘Delhi Durbarr’ culture. I just hope this controversy does’nt affect his tweeting habits as we may lose a rare Minister who interacts with common people on a day yo day basis.

How about a Presidential form of Goverment in India?

The idea of a change in system of governance may seem preposterous but I have given it a serious thought before writing this blog. All the problems that the present government is facing are due to our system. The days of single party majority are gone and chances of it coming back, in the near future is remote. In the last two decades we have formed innumerable rag tag coalitions, which have hurt the Indian Democracy badly. Today the governments in power need to depend and give in to the whims and fancies of some king makers. The governments concentrate more on keeping themselves in power rather than on good governance. That’s the basic problem that we face today. We need to revamp this system in to more efficient one and for that wee need a Presidential form of government.

Two great and efficient democracies follow two kinds of Presidential form of governments, Russia and United States of America. I will prefer the latter but the Russian one will suite us better.

The Russian system is such that various steps are completed before a President is elected. First a lot of candidates throw their name into the gauntlet and elections take place. The two candidates that secure the highest number votes then contest the election.

How will it work in the Indian system? The so called ‘netas’ will file their nomination papers with at least ten parliamentarians forwarding it. Due to the fragmented nature of our country no one will secure fifty one percent votes in the first stage. So the two best candidates move on to the second round. The losers will then throw their weight on the candidate of their choice. Finally we will have our own President.

Does such a system not automatically favour candidates from the more populous states? one may ask. Is there any chance that someone from Manipur or Lakshadweep will ever win the votes of a majority of the country’s voters? Could a Muslim or a Dalit be elected president? These are fair questions, but the answer surely is that their chances would be no better, and no worse, than they are under our present system. Seven of India’s first 11 prime ministers, after all, came from Uttar Pradesh, which surely has no monopoly on political wisdom; perhaps a similar proportion of our directly-elected presidents will be UPites as well. How does it matter? Most democratic systems tend to favour majorities; it is no accident that every president of the United States has been a white male Christian barring one (and all bar one a Protestant), or that only one Welshman has been prime minister of Great Britain. But i dare say that the need to appeal to the rest of the country will oblige a would-be president from UP to reach across the boundaries of region, language, caste and religion, whereas in our present parliamentary system a politician elected in his constituency on the basis of precisely such parochial appeals can jockey his way to the prime ministership. A directly-elected president will, by definition, have to be far more of a national figure than a prime minister who owes his position to a handful of political king-makers in a coalition card-deal. I would also borrow from the USthe idea of an electoral college, to ensure that our less populous states are not ignored by the candidates: the winner would also be required to carry a majority of states, so that crushing numbers in the cow belt alone would not be enough.

Why should we underestimate the wisdom of the Indian Electorate? Jamaica with a 97% black population elected a white president. In Argentina a country that is proud of its European origins twice elected, son of Syrian immigrants, Carlos Saul Menem. Peru elected a Japanese origin President in Alberto Fujimori. Indeed, the voters of Guyana, a country that is 50% Indian and 47% black, elected as president a white American Jewish woman, who happened to be the widow of the nationalist hero Cheddi Jagan. A story with a certain ring of plausibility inIndia.

The adoption of a presidential system will send our politicians scurrying back to the drawing boards. Politicians of all faiths across India have sought to mobilise voters by appealing to narrow identities; by seeking votes in the name of religion, caste and region, they have urged voters to define themselves on these lines. Under our parliamentary system, we are more and more defined by our narrow particulars, and it has become more important to be a Muslim, a Bodo or a Yadav than to be an Indian. Our politics have created a discourse in which the clamour goes up for Assam for the Assamese, Jharkhand for the Jharkhandis,Maharashtra for the Maharashtrians. A presidential system will oblige candidates to renew the demand for an India for the Indians.

Any politician with aspirations to rule India as president will have to win the support of people beyond his home turf; he will have to reach out to other groups, other interests, other minorities. In that may lie the presidential system’s ultimate vindication

The City of Joy!! oops sorry, The City of Chaos!!

Kolkata for me was always my second home(now my home). All my relatives live here and i used to visit this charming city during my summer holidays. The annual visit to Kolkata was always exciting and full of surprises. Now for the last 4 years i have been living here and Kolkata is becoming less and less charming for me.

Bengal was always very politically volatile and records the most number of political killings happened in this state. But Kolkata its capital, snce the chaos of the 60’s and the 70’s, was largely peaceful with occasional Strikes(that was treated as holidays by most office goers). I remember the Left Front winning the state elections(that the only thing i can remember happening in my lifetime) in 2006 with thumping majority and promising new wave of industrilization in the state. As far as my memory serves me the TATA NANO was announced on the results day. Mr.Buddhadeb Bhattacharya brimming with confidence(the sort of result can turn most heads) and promising new things for the state. I for one, who was always politically inclined, was quite happy with the TATA project. But problem with romantic stories are, they don’t always have a  happy ending. Things took a wild turn when a section of the farmers in Singur refused to give away lands for compensation and then started the vicious cycle of Bands and counter-Bandhs, political murders and all things that can give night mares to any administration. But Singur was not the only bone of contenation, the situation in Nandigram(another land acquisation problem) was chaotic. The opposition took full advantage( that most opposition parties do in most states) and stood against the goverment. The chaos that continued for more than 2 years in the stae drove the TATAs out.

Now why Kolkata has become chaotic? With the political situation so volatile and the ruling coalition suffering electoral setbacks, the Goverment has become inert and not taking tough administrative decisions as they fear it may back fire. So in this city you can do anything. Sit on a Dharna on important roads, call Transport strikes, torch buses and Taxis during Bandhs as if its the concerned party’s property. The agents of chaos are having a field day in the city due to the inert administration.

Change for the sake of change is not the way to go. What should we choose, the known devil or the deep sea?