Monday, December 30, 2013

How not to reduce the fiscal deficit

It is true that sound economics dictates that fiscal deficit should not be allowed to surge. Is it OK for the Finance Ministry to adopt any method in order to achieve this laudable goal?

GOI is adopting dirty tricks in the process. Tax refunds are delayed. Genuine payments to contractors and others are postponed to the next financial year. And now comes the news in Economic Times that even the usually mollycoddled exporters are not spared. Duty refunds are delayed by months.

The government should play the rules of budget in a fair manner. Any attempt to hoodwink any section of the public will misfire.

Corruption in India: what has changed in the past 50 years?

The Hindu dared December 30, 1963 reported:


Mr. M. Bhaktavatsalam, Chief Minister of Madras, was reported to have said at the conference of State Chief Ministers and Home Ministers in New Delhi on December 28 that corruption existed in higher ranks and should be dealt with promptly. Mr. N. Sanjiva Reddy, Chief Minister of Andhra, is understood to have said action should be taken against top politicians who did not have personal integrity. Mr. R. Sankar, Kerala’s Chief Minister, said big businessmen were maintaining “contact men” at important places to influence decisions."

Corruption in independent India has a long history. Five decades ago, chief ministers admitted the existence of corruption and atleast pleaded for preventive and corrective steps. Nowadays the chief ministers engage in denial. Arvind Kejriwal, the new member of the august club of chief ministers, has been voted to power on the basis of his tirade against bribery. One hopes that he will change the system rather the system changing him.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Lalu Prasad's discovery

Arvind Kejriwal has taken charge as Delhi's chief minister with delirious support of the public. He is seen to be a game changer in India's dirty politics. Narendra Modi is touring the country and attracting vast crowds wherever he goes. Are they relevant in present circumstances? Lalu Prasad has given his expert opinion:

"MUZAFFARNAGAR: Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav on Sunday said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal are no match to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. 

Lalu assessed that Arvind Kejriwal and Narendra Modi is nothing in front of Rahul Gandhi. 

"Rahul Gandhi is Rahul Gandhi. It is the media, which has created the hype about Kejriwal and Modi," claimed Lalu. 

He also attacked the AAP saying, "In a month, people of Delhi will realise that they have made a mistake. People don't know what kind of people they are, especially the people living in slums don't know about their mistake. 

"The dream Kejriwal has showed to the people is nothing but a big drama. He will set the worst record of governance in Delhi. He is no Raja Harishchandra," he added. " TOI.

It is a pity that such a great seer is found guilty in a few scams. If UPA retains power after the elections, we can hope that Laluji will be our Home Minister. Why, he may even be a consensus candidate for prime ministership. Who said our future is bleak?

John Kerry and Salman Khurshid

When emotions were running high in India immediately after the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, the American secretary of state John Kerry spoke to India's national security adviser Shivshankar Menon and not the foreign minister Salman Khurshid. This was interpreted variously by the media. Was Uncle Sam trying to give short shrift to democratically elected leaders? Khurshid misled the nation claiming he was trying to establish contact with Kerry and that the latter was busy visiting some country and time zones interfered with early contact.

The New York Times has now reported what really happened:
"American officials quietly say they bent over backward to heal bruised feelings. On Dec. 19, Secretary of State John Kerry tried to get in touch with the Indian foreign secretary, Salman Khurshid, but Mr. Khurshid did not take his call for reasons he has not explained. So Mr. Kerry called Shivshankar Menon, the Indian national security adviser, to express his “regret” over the matter."

Salman Khurshid was merely being churlish. It is possible that the prime minister ticked him off for his unprofessional act. The minister was promoted to foreign affairs ministry after his family oversaw embezzlement of funds meant for physically challenged persons. Will he get another promotion now?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Aam Aadhmi Party comes of age

There is a saying that a couple understands themselves better after their first fight and not after their first night. When rifts arise, awareness of ground realities expands.

It is good that AAP has formed the government in Delhi. Appointment of ministers has caused the first rift in the party after its success in elections. Of course, Arvind Kejriwal has denied the existence of any rift. This proves that Kejriwal is maturing as a politician since one of the requirements for success in Indian politics is the readiness to deny the obvious and the ability to concoct the absent.

Vinod Kumar Binny left the AAP meeting in a huff and this was interpreted as his disappointment over his non-selection as a minister. He also assured the media that he would later hold a media conference and divulge details about functioning of the party. Kejriwal wants us to believe that Binny met him only to request him not to consider him for any ministership. Great!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Jayanthi Natarajan's resignation: Jettisoning a honest minister

The minister for environment and forests, Ms.Jayanthi Natarajan has resigned, ostensibly to devote more time for Congress party work. In a way she has been 'Kamarajised'.

Around the same time time that she resigned, Rahul Gandhi was addressing the FICCI.

“The biggest problem is absolute arbitrary powers at all levels of the system. This is what we face.. In India, there are lot of arbitrary powers. The Environment Minister or the Chief Minister can take any decision he wants,” he (Rahul Gandhi) said while responding to concerns of the industry that clearances were holding up projects.
“The real issue in all these things, whether land acquisition or environment it is arbitrary power,” Mr. Gandhi said, while advocating the need for eliminating the system of arbitrary powers.
Jayanthi Natarajan is one of the few ministers known to be non-corrupt. Yes, there have been delays in clearing various projects from environment angle. The delays were caused by the minister's steadfast adherence to guidelines and refusal to clear proposals on extraneous considerations. She was following the path shown by Jairam Ramesh who was the environment minister earlier.
Rahul Gandhi highlighted the evil posed by corruption (!) in his FICCI address. Needless to say, his insincerity was transparent. As if to drive home the message that Rahul Gandhi's address should not be taken seriously, the environment ministry will be in additional charge of Veerappa Moily whose closeness to certain industrialists is well-known.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Rule of Law

"This Office’s sole motivation in this (Kobhragade) case, as in all cases, is to uphold the rule of law, protect victims, and hold accountable anyone who breaks the law – no matter what their societal status and no matter how powerful, rich or connected they are."

This exemplary statement was made by Preet Bharara. Instead of celebrating the contribution made by the India-born American, Indian politicians of all hues have chosen to ridicule him. We cannot expect anything better from people who always think they are above the law.

Added on 21st December: In an article in Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta argues that instead of cursing Bharara, we should try and import him as our first Lokpal. The link to his article is given below:

Preet Bharara's statement on Khobragade

The following are extracts from a statement issued by Preet Bharara in the Khobragade episode. They speak for themselves.

" It is alleged not merely that Ms.Khobragade sought to evade the law, but that she affirmatively created false documents and went ahead with lying to the U.S. government about what she was doing. One wonders whether any government would not take action regarding false documents being submitted to it in order to bring immigrants into the country. One wonders even more pointedly whether any government would not take action regarding that alleged conduct where the purpose of the scheme was to unfairly treat a domestic worker in ways that violate the law. And one wonders why there is so much outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian national accused of perpetrating these acts, but precious little outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian victim and her spouse?

Is it for U.S. prosecutors to look the other way, ignore the law and the civil rights of victims (again, here an Indian national), or is it the responsibility of the diplomats and consular officers and their government to make sure the law is observed?

Third, Ms. Khobragade, the Deputy General Consul for Political, Economic, Commercial and Women’s Affairs, is alleged to have treated this victim illegally in numerous ways by paying her far below minimum wage, despite her child care responsibilities and many household duties, such that it was not a legal wage. The victim is also alleged to have worked far more than the 40 hours per week she was contracted to work, and which exceeded the maximum hour limit set forth in the visa application. Ms. Khobragade, as the Complaint charges, created a second contract that was not to be revealed to the U.S. government, that changed the amount to be paid to far below minimum wage, deleted the required language protecting the victim from other forms of exploitation and abuse, and also deleted language that stated that Ms. Khobragade agreed to “abide by all Federal, state, and local laws in the U.S.” As the Complaint states, these are only “in part” the facts, and there are other facts regarding the treatment of the victim – that were not consistent with the law or the representations made by Ms. Khobragade -- that caused this Office and the State Department, to take legal action.

Ms. Khobragade was accorded courtesies well beyond what other defendants, most of whom are American citizens, are accorded. She was not, as has been incorrectly reported, arrested in front of her children. The agents arrested her in the most discreet way possible, and unlike most defendants, she was not then handcuffed or restrained. In fact, the arresting officers did not even seize her phone as they normally would have. Instead, they offered her the opportunity to make numerous calls to arrange personal matters and contact whomever she needed, including allowing her to arrange for child care. This lasted approximately two hours. Because it was cold outside, the agents let her make those calls from their car and even brought her coffee and offered to get her food. It is true that she was fully searched by a female Deputy Marshal -- in a private setting -- when she was brought into the U.S. Marshals’ custody, but this is standard practice for every defendant, rich or poor, American or not, in order to make sure that no prisoner keeps anything on his person that could harm anyone, including himself. This is in the interests of everyone’s safety."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

India's silly tit for tat

Indian government has taken a lot of action against American diplomatic mission obviously in retaliation to the way in which India's deputy consul general, Khobragade was dealt with in New York. Steps taken by India include withdrawal of barricade protection for consular office, withdrawal of flight passes and cancellation of automatic imports of consumables.

Why did the normally lethargic government plunge into action? Is it because an American court has dared to persist with issue of summons to Sonia Gandhi? Any kneejerk reaction is prone to contain blunders. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ganguli and Ganguly

In the late sixties and early seventies there was a Chairman of Railway Board, B.C.Ganguli by name. He was supposedly very upright and therefore had every reason to offend the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi. Not one to put up with uprightness that easily, she showed him the door. But he refused to accept sacking orders and stayed confined to his compartment in the train he was travelling. The compartment was detached and the drama went on for a couple of days. Political tendency to punish honest bureaucrats had its origin during Indira Gandhi's prime ministership.

Now we have Justice A.K.Ganguly who refuses to resign from chairmanship of West Bengal Human Rights Commission despite allegations of sexual harassment against him. Ganguly was considered a honest judge. But honesty in one's profession does not entitle one to harass another. (This is not to suggest that Ganguly was guilty.)

What is in a name, Ganguli or Ganguly?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Preet Bharara" syndrome

Preet(inder Singh) Bharara is an Indian - American who has made it big as an Attorney in America. Highly dedicated to and focused in his profession, he has had a successful conviction rate against alleged white-collar criminals.

Preet Bharara has been particularly active in proceeding against Indians in America. We do not know whether this is by design or accident. Nevertheless, the likes of Rajat Gupta are scared of him. Preet Bharara has strengthened his credentials as a person immune to compatriotic indulgence by causing arrest of Devyani Khobragade, India's Deputy Consul General in New York for an infraction of American law.

It is time that we named the quality of proceeding vigorously against legal transgressions by compatriots abroad as a part of "Preet Bharara Syndrome" (PBS).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Arvind Kejriwal : A dog in the manger?

Aam Aadmi party has done exceptionally well in Delhi. Kejriwal's triumph over Sheila Dikshit in New Delhi constituency was the icing on the cake for AAP.

Kejriwal's post-election attitude does not enhance his reputation. He has decided that AAP will not support either the BJP or the Congress to form the ministry. AAP has every right to decide so. But he has gone further and decided that AAP will not accept support from any party to form the government either. This "neither they nor us" policy leads only to re-election. There is no guarantee that the re-election would produce majority for any party. Further, elections are costly affairs.

Citizens of Delhi have a right to expect Arvind Kejriwal to become chief-minister and start delivering on his party's promises. If Kejriwal reneges on this and imposes re-elections, he will be seen as derelict. If he sincerely takes up responsibility as chief-minister and performs in line with his assurances, any attempts to destabilise his government will surely be rebuffed by citizens.

If three party contests become the norm, this situation of 'hung legislature' will become more common. In order to avoid political instability, we may have to amend the law regarding votes of confidence in the legislature. The party in government may not be required to obtain support from more legislators than it had won in the elections. Such a provision may make life easier for the likes of Kejriwal and will be conducive to political stability.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Sonia Gandhi's reaction to election results

Election results are in line with exit polls. These results do not surprise anyone, barring the Congress. Maybe, Congress was also expecting the same while putting on a brave face while commenting on the exit polls.

The Hindu reports,
“In Delhi, a great deal of work was done (by the government). But the results tell us something else. We will introspect and take steps to rectify it,” Ms. Sonia Gandhi said."

Rectify what? Rectify whatever good work the party has done in Delhi? At least now, would the GOP realise that citizens expect only scam-free administration? They are fed up with corruption and malgovernance. The drubbing that Congress has received must be a warning to BJP too. One hopes that the Aam Aadhmi Party will not become too political and undistinguishable from other political parties.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Supreme Court's perfidy

The Supreme Court has decided that its administration will not entertain the complaint against Justice A.K.Ganguly on the specious plea that he is retired and that the complainant intern was not employed by the court. The following statement has been issued by the Chief Justice:

"As decided by the Full Court in its Meeting dated December 5, 2013, it is made clear that the representations made against former Judges of this Court are not entertainable by the administration of the Supreme Court,” the CJI’s statement said.

It is a shameful abdication of the court's responsibility. If this is the guiding principle, why did the CJI form a committee of judges to hear the complaint in the first place?

The following extract from the same newspaper report makes Supreme Court's uneasy dithering obvious:

"The CJI said that taking cognizance of the fact that such allegation against a Supreme Court Judge will have a direct bearing on the institution’s reputation and credibility, he had on the same day appointed the three-member committee to ascertain the truth of the allegations."
The committee observed that "complainant's statement prima facie discloses an act of unwelcome behaviour by Justice Ganguly". This Eureka conclusion only begs the question. Everyone knows the complaint. We don't require an august committee of honourable judges to read and interpret the complaint. We expected a finding on guilt or otherwise of the retired judge. Sadly, the committee has only dilly dallied. It appears that the court is not yet ready to dispense justice.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chidambaram on inflation

Chidambaram has ridiculed Narendra Modi for "giving his first lesson in economy (sic)".

Chidambaram has quoted Modi as saying, "I am not as educated as him... but I know inflation is not because of buying gold but due to corruption".

The Finance Minister adds, "I recall having said on many occasions that buying gold, which is almost entirely imported, worsens current account deficit. I don't recall saying that buying gold causes inflation".

PC is delinking CAD from inflation. Aggravation in CAD leads to lower external value for a currency. Therefore imports become costlier in rupee terms. This leads to price rise within the country. This is explained as "imported inflation".

There is no necessity, political or otherwise, for Chidambaram to deny an economic truth simply because Modi had falsely attributed the truth to him (Chidambaram).

It is noteworthy that PC has confined his response to CAD and has forgotten / omitted to comment on the link between corruption and inflation. Oftentimes what is left unsaid conveys more than what is said.

Crime and punishment

Our criminal system is funny. If a person defaces the name-plate of a residence, he will be questioned by the police for six hours and may also be arrested. If a person commits a more serious offence like rape and thus dehumanises another, he will be free to keep the police on tenterhooks by initiating the judicial process.

If a person has money-power, he is well protected. If he is also politically connected, he is doubly protected and his illegal activities will be ignored or at worst dismissed as drunken bantering.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Jayanti Natarajan's shocker

Tarun Tejpal's heinous behaviour in an elevator in a Goan hotel has unhinged many otherwise sedate persons. How else can we justify Jayanti Natarajan's obnoxious remark on the event and its fallout?

"Hundreds of foreign tourists are raped in Goa. Is the chief minister taking personal interest in those cases?" As a responsible minister it is also Jayanti Natarajan's duty to prevent the hundreds of rapes that are allegedly happening in Goa. The prime minister should wake up to this remark made by his minister and safeguard India's prestige. If the allegation is false, the minister should be advised that she has no right to debase Goa and thus India only to score political brownie points.

The minister added, "Why should the hearing take place in Goa and not in Mumbai?" So, if there is a charge of rape of say a Canadian lady in Goa, the case should be heard in Canada! Politics makes even decent people to stoop low.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Regard for Science

India is a country that delights in contradictions. This is welcome. But what is irksome is our lack of sense of proportions at times.

For example, our Mars Orbiter Mission costs USD 75mn. This has been described by many 'activists' as a gargantuan sum which a poor country like ours cannot afford. Harsh Mander, an activist and a former bureaucrat, who is normally known for sensible ideas says, "The Mars mission is a remarkable indifference to the dignity of the poor".

Such arguments are based on ignorance about scientific pursuits. Investment on science cannot be pitted against priority for poverty eradication. One is not at the cost of the other.

Protests against spending USD 340mn (yes, I am not exaggerating the figure) for erection of the tallest statue in the world for Sardar Patel are justified. Surprisingly, this does not attract the attention of activists.

There is a worrisome tendency to criticise Narendra Modi for wrong reasons and to keep quiet when criticism is justified.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Anand vs Carlsen - 10th game

Both players played well in the 10th game. Carlsen could have settled for a draw much earlier in the game. That he preferred not to do so shows his confidence. Throughout the match, Anand was not his usual self. Carlsen has won the championship with two games to spare and without suffering a defeat. A remarkable feat.

After the match was over, Anand made a thoughtful statement. "Throughout the game, I did not understand Carlsen. Perhaps I did not understand myself also." Another way of looking at the result is to regard Carlsen's seconds as better than Anand's.

Is Anand past his prime? There cannot be an unequivocal answer now. We may get to know from his performance in ensuing tournaments.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Anand vs Carlsen - 9th game

Anand has lost the 9th game through a blunder unexpected at his level but expected in his present plight. The score is now 3 - 6. Carlsen needs only a draw from the remaining three games. In other words, Anand has to win all the remaining games to retain the championship. Anand's chances are next to nil.

Anand was doing well in the ninth game. It is a pity that he lost it. He was stoic in the press conference held after the game. India may not produce a phenomenon like Anand in the near future.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Judiciary's reputation at stake

Among various institutions in India, judiciary has been by far the least tarnished. Even after discounting the opacity that surrounds the happenings in various courts, the judicial system has not yet become a festering disgrace.

But alas! things are fast achanging. An intern has reported sexual harassment by a recently retired judge of the Supreme Court. One hopes this will be honestly investigated and the nation taken into confidence. But so far, the preliminary moves are not promising.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Anand vs Carlsen - 8th game

So the Carlsen juggernaut moves on merrily. The eighth game also is drawn. The challenger chose e4 opening. No opening is strange from this versatile player. The score is now 5-3.

Anand cannot wait any longer. He has to torpedo Carlsen somehow. Can he do it?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Anand vs Carlsen - 7th game

Draw in the seventh game was a relief for Anand and a non-issue for the challenger. Carlsen is maintaining his two point lead. Five games remain of which Carlsen has three as white, a slight advantage.

Anand though plays equally well with either colour. Games to follow may produce high quality chess, but not a trend reversal.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Anand vs Carlsen - 6th game

The inevitable has happened. Carlsen has extended his lead to 4-2. It is all but certain that Magnus Carlsen is the new World Champion.

Anand himself has admitted that he committed multiple mistakes in the sixth game. Carlsen's chess acumen is such that just a single mistake by the opponent is enough for him to have a vice-like grip on the game. He does not provide the luxury of relaxing even for a single moment to his opponent.

The usually articulate Anand was laconic in the post-game 6 press conference. Obviously he would not reveal his strategy for the ensuing games. The only option available for him is to play wild and try to distract Carlsen. Carlsen is not that easily side-tracked.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Anand vs Carlsen - 5th game

The Mozart has won the fifth game. He certainly outplayed Anand comprehensively. Though Anand has the advantage of white in the next two games, it will be difficult to get back into the match.

Carlsen's tenacity is unmatchable. He has a liking for long and tortuous games. Another distinct advantage for him which surprisingly is not discussed anywhere is the fact that Anand has played many more games because of age difference. Hence, Carlsen can read Anand better than vice versa.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Anand vs Carlsen- 4th game

In chess, if one plays four games consecutively without losing any, one becomes confident. Similarly four games without a win makes one diffident. So the confidence levels of the two players Anand and Carlsen are anybody's guess.

The fourth game played yesterday, 13th Nov., was long and tense. One interpretation is that Anand extricated himself from the jaws of defeat. The Ruy Lopez, a favourite of Anand, was defended with a lot of creative dexterity by the Mozart of Chess.

Some fans of Carlsen were predicting that he would win the match with a few games to spare. That is becoming more remote with every passing game. Even if Carlsen wins every game from now on, we will witness another five games making it nine out of maximum twelve. Interesting games are ahead.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Anand vs Carlsen - 3rd Game

The third game also ends in a draw, but not a tame draw. Anand had better chances almost throughout the game. It is not clear why Anand was so defensive in this 51-move game. Is he averse to taking any risk at this stage of the championship?

If Carlsen starts taking chances and gets a lead, Anand's position will become desperate. No risk, no gain applies as much to chess as to life.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Anand vs Carlsen - 2nd game

In case you believe in zodiac signs, both Carlsen and Anand are Sagittarius. The 'Archers' are supposed to be highly optimistic, confident and intellectual. They keep shooting arrows hoping that every time they will hit the bulls' eye.

The second game also was drawn. It was a relief for Anand. He did admit that he was not fully prepared for Carlsen's Caro-Kann defense.  A blunt and unexpected admission in a game that is as much psychological as it is skill-based.

Carlsen let us have a peep into his world-view. Answering a question, he said that future games do not depend on what has happened in the first two games. In other words, was he saying that Life is a Markov process?

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Anand vs Carlsen

World Chess Championship has started in Chennai and chess is on everyone's mind and lips. Media is saturated with nuances of chess. A lot has been said and written about dissimilarities between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen. The former is almost twice as old as the latter.

There are many similarities too. Both became prominent grandmasters at a fairly young age. Both are connoisseurs of digital chess. Aggression and intuition are second nature to both.

It is therefore not surprising that the first game has ended in a draw. What was strange was the shortness of the game. Was neither prepared to probe beyond feeling the waters? Let us see what happens in the second game scheduled for tomorrow (10th November).

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Political truth

Sonia Gandhi, addressing a meeting in Chattisgarh, said, "Congress has a history of sacrifice." Absolutely. Congress has sacrificed nation's interests time and again.

Jairam Ramesh: "Narendra Modi is characterised by political autocracy, social divisiveness and economic liberalism." The Congress party had imposed emergency, plays minority appeasement card and Manmohan Singh is a silent witness to looting of nation's resources by corrupt elements. One expects more sense from Jairam Ramesh.

It is well known that ministers like Jairam Ramesh have pledged their lifelong loyalty to Sonia Gandhi. But how many of us know that they have pledged their common sense also?

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Edward Snowden's appeal

Snowden who is now under temporary asylum in Russia has issued an appeal to American authorities not to view dissent as a crime. The appeal a copy of which is published in the New York Times is available in the following link:

Friday, November 01, 2013

Supreme Court on oral orders

In a petition filed by many concerned citizens including retired civil servants, the Supreme Court of India has ruled that civil servants are not expected to be guided by oral orders of superior officials and political authorities.

Our governance is at such an abysmally low level that a court has to intervene and advise what the civil servants are supposed to be governed by. Will this ruling make any difference  to our administrative culture? Probably no.

It is feared that even some judicial orders are based on oral instructions from the powers-that-be. If that be the case, where is the solution? Integrity and fairness continue to be a mirage in our culture of self-interest and subservience.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sibal's sabre-rattling

Kapil Sibal is trying to bully the supreme court to go slow on coal scam. He has suggested that judiciary should take up monitoring fake encounters in Gujarat with the same gusto seen in the investigation into coal allocations. What is the connection between the two?

If the government has nothing to hide in the coal scam, why is the minister peeved? It goes without saying that fake encounters anywhere needs to be investigated. The honourable minister ought to approach judiciary instead of issuing a public statement.

We have the sad spectacle of aggressive ministers acting as loose cannons under (but not reporting to) a dumb prime minister who is indifferent to what is happening.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Peripatetic prime minister

The Economist points out that Manmohan Singh has spent a tenth of his near-decade as prime minister abroad. He has flown more than 1m km in 72 official visits.(He is not done yet.) "Beleaguered at home by scandal and gloomy prospects for his ruling Congress party, the airport departure lounge is more tempting than ever." It is difficult to get eviscerated in more blunt terms.

As a bonus the magazine adds, "And abroad he is unconstrained by his part boss, Sonia Gandhi." It is widely believed that coal allocations were made at the instance of Sonia Gandhi conveyed through her most trusted secretary, Ahmed Patel. Of course, PMO has denied this inference.

How did the venerable Singh land in this mess? Had he done something in the past that is opportunistically utilised by his leader to blackmail him into falling in line without demur? Future will reveal.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Rahul Gandhi's supreme sacrifice

Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly explained to the electorate how much sacrifice has been made by his grand-mother and father. Both were killed and "they might kill me also". Government of India, as usual, has swung into action and assured the worried electorate that ample protection is given to Rahulji.

GOI may be protecting the leader from people. But is it not their duty to protect him from bugs and mosquitoes also? The young leader has narrated how he was harassed by bed bugs and even a stomach bug when he was 'experiencing' poverty by staying a few hours with the aam aadmi. I hope that the government will understand the seriousness of the issue and wage a war against the communal flies and insects.

The nation cannot afford to miss Rahul Gandhi's services even for a day. What if he is down with dengue or malaria? One shudders to think of attempts being made on his life. Prahalad's father had a boon that he would not be killed by any human being. That was why the Almighty had to incarnate as Narasimha (part human and part lion). Rahul also is so powerful that no human being can harm or defeat him. But he must be careful about the winged insects.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Manish Tewari's strange advice: Part II

The Hindu reports:

"Dr. Singh was ‘satisfied’ that the final decision taken in this regard was ‘entirely appropriate’, and was based ‘on the merits of the case placed before him’. This is the first time Dr. Singh has clearly and unequivocally come out in support of the former coal secretary P.C Parakh, in the wake of the recent controversy where Mr. Parakh, along with Mr. Birla, has been named by the CBI in a fresh FIR."

It is unfortunate that the prime minister has ignored the noble advice of his cabinet colleague, Manish Tewari and gone public on a case which is 'subjudice'. There is one more interesting development. After the prime minister clarified that the final decision was entirely appropriate and was based on the merits of the case placed before him, Salman Khurshid and Manish Tewari have proffered the golden principle that bureaucrats and not the ministers are responsible for the decisions taken. A new kind of democracy on the anvil?

If ministers are not accountable for decisions, what are they accountable for? The twin ministerial luminaries have also clarified as P.Chidambaram had earlier explained in another context that ministers cannot be expected to read the notes which are approved by them. What an exemplary view!

On what authority does Manmohan Singh now claim that the decision was taken based on the merits of the case placed before him? Had he committed the unpardonable sin of reading the note placed to him?
Why should the ministers say that the prime minister cannot be expected to read the note after the latter 'admitted' to and pleaded guilty of reading the file?

In the FIR filed against Parakh and K M Birla, Singh should also have been named. Can the CBI now think of dropping the FIR on the basis of a rare assertion of the "should have been named" Singh?

Murphy's Law states "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong". GOI's Law says,"Anything that cannot go wrong, will also go wrong". Great going!

Manish Tewari's strange advice

Manish Tewari, the belligerent spokesperson of the Congress party, is known for supposing that he is a repository of wisdom and everyone else is a dunce. When the entire country is anxious to know what is the accountability of our non-responsive prime minister in the coal scam especially when much cleaner hands are targetted by the CBI, the I & B minister offers this triple-pointed wisdom:

1) The matter is sub-judice; so no one should speak about this;
2) People should speak appropriately at appropriate forums,

and best of all 3) the government is giving all information to investigating authorities.

The basic questions are: Does the honourable minister want to gag the entire country? What are appropriate forums? What happened to the missing files? If the minister claims that all information is provided to the CBI, does he mean that the missing files are blank files?

There are occasions when ministers will be helpful if they keep quiet. This is one such occasion.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Rahul Gandhi's emotional appeal

"My mother refused to leave parliament when the food bill was passed ...I tried stopping her but she went inside parliament after a medical check-up... I dragged her to a hospital... She was unable to breathe when she landed in the hospital and she had tears in her eyes. She said she fought for the bill and wanted to vote on it. But she could not." This is Rahul Gandhi's dramatisation of his mother's concern for the poor.

If the concern were real, so many scams would not have been facilitated. The Congress party is in such a terrible mess today that only emotional appeals are possible. A party once nurtured by stalwarts like Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel is now trivialised by reckless leaders and selfish and slavish followers.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Undermining bureaucracy to save corrupt politicians: Is our prime minister a sociopath?

Following report is from Times of India. The irony cannot be more stark. The Prime Minister who presided over all scams is safe. Those officials who wanted to streamline governance are charged with corruption. It will be interesting if a psychologist would study the sociopathic tendencies of our P.M.

Coalgate FIR: Bureaucracy shocked by action against 'honest' officer

NEW DELHI: The irony couldn't be starker. Booked for corruption in a Coalgate case, former coal secretary PC Parakh had strongly protested to the Prime Minister against political interference in the coal ministry.

Sources familiar with events said Parakh, coal secretary in 2004-05, referring to the intrusive role of then minister of state for coal Dasari Narayana Rao, had explained the morale of officials was adversely affected by Rao's actions.

A concerned PM is understood to have assured Parakh that he would speak to officials to reassure them and dissuaded the senior bureaucrat from putting in his papers.

On Tuesday, as word of the CBI filing a case against Parakh spread, officials were shaking their heads in disbelief. While serving officers would not go on record, former power secretary E A S Sarma told ToI, "It is indeed a sad commentary for an FIR being filed against an upright and honest officer like P C Parakh."

Sarma added that he is waiting for action against PMO for its role in Coalgate. "I made a formal complaint to CVC last year and earlier that PMO's role in Coalgate and other scams should be investigated. I do not find any visible action on that complaint so far," he said.

Sarma said there are senior politicians involved in Coalgate and none has so far been proceeded against. Proceeding against honest officers and letting off dishonest politicians will only erode the credibility of the government.

Furious emails were exchanged as bureaucrats recalled that Parakh had first blown the whistle on a likely scandal in coal block allocations by warning in July 2004 that award of captive coal blocks could result in "windfall profits" for benefitted corporates.

Just like Pararkh, his predecessor in the coal ministry H C Gupta is also facing an investigation. Gupta strongly amplified Parakh's warnings, saying in a meeting held in PMO on April 7, 2006, that there is no legal basis for allocation of coal blocks by a screening committee.

The case of Shyamal Ghosh, a former telecom secretary, is also spoken of among officials as being made a victim of political score settling between the UPA government and BJP. Ghosh has been booked in a case relating to fees being waived off when the late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan was telecom minister.

Officials point to demoralization in the bureaucracy due to alleged witch hunts. "An honest officer under investigation for no fault of his feels diminished. The crooks don't get caught, but the diligent officer feels double the distress," said a bureaucrat.

He said Parakh has been targeted while "others are not being proceeded against. I understand that he was the one who put his foot down on the first-come-first-served method of coal block allocation and expressed himself firmly in favour of a transparent, auction system. He was overruled."

Sarma said there are senior politicians involved in coalgate and none has so far been proceeded against. Proceeding against honest officers and letting off dishonest politicians, corporates and officers will only erode the credibility of the government which has diminished a great deal during the recent times.

RBI Governor's cheek

Raghuram Rajan while addressing an IMF meeting in Washington claimed that huge banking reforms are on the anvil in India. He said that foreign banks will soon be permitted to take over Indian banks.

One wonders whether the Governor has been correctly quoted because change in ownership of banks is beset with political and legal implications. RBI Governor of the day cannot arrogate to himself the authority to pronounce, suo moto, on such matters.

Such hasty declarations by persons in authority ultimately undermine the credibility of the government.

Well done, Governments

There is at last some good news about governance. The much-feared cyclone, Phailin did not do much damage in terms of human casualty. This was largely because of preventive steps taken by the Orissa government. The central government also contributed its might.

In addition, Indian meteorologists predicted with greater accuracy than their American counterparts.

This shows that Indian governments can deliver if they are focused and if much time is not made available for scheming and scams.

Around the same time, a wholly avoidable tragedy costing hundreds of human lives took place in Madhya Pradesh. Reports blame police corruption for the disaster. It is a blot on the government.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Governor vs Dy.Governor: Clash of views or tactical manoeuvre?

The Economic Times reported on 4th October that a decision has been taken to advise state-run banks to provide cheaper loans to fund purchases of autos and durables. The decision was taken at a meeting between Finance Minister, Chidambaram and RBI Governor, Raghuram Rajan.

The Hindu reports on 6th October that Deputy Governor of RBI, K.C.Chakrabarty has observed that "no one can force" lenders to selectively cut rates. He added, "It is not a prudent measure to increase consumption by lowering interest rates. Cheap loan plan can impact asset quality of banks".

What is really happening? Prima facie, it appears that Rajan and Chakrabarty have contradictory views on the proposed measure. If so, Chakrabarty need not have embarrassed the Governor by voicing his differing opinion publicly a la Rahul Gandhi. Chakrabarty is a mature person and therefore this interpretation is wrong.

What is more likely is that Rajan has been bamboozled by the minister into agreeing to his view. Despite his learning, Rajan is still a babe in the political woods and he is not yet Y.V.Reddy who could stand his ground whatever be the pressure on him. Has Rajan sought a favourable 'dissent' from Chakrabarty so that Rajan can stave off ministerial coercion?

Thursday, October 03, 2013

"Dehati aurat": A message, not an insult

Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's prime minister was hosting a breakfast for two journalists, one from Pakistan and the other, Barkha Dutt in USA during Manmohan Singh's recent visit there. After the breakfast, the Pakistani journalist remarked that Nawaz Sharif opined that Manmohan Singh behaved like a dehati aurat (village woman) in seeking President Obama's help in curbing terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

Barkha Dutt contested this version and clarified that Nawaz Sharif was only allegorical and that the reference was not an insult. She did not deny the happening.

It is plausible that Nawaz Sharif did not mean to insult Manmohan Singh and was only suggesting that as prime minister of a huge neighbouring country, Singh could as well handle the situation directly by hitting at terrorist spots in Pakistan, if necessary. This interpretation gains credibility in the light of suggestions that Osama Bin Laden was caught by the Americans only on specific input from the government of Pakistan which preferred, for obvious reasons, to remain as an anonymous source of information. This interpretation becomes all the more credible because the Pakistani government preferred not to defend its airways when the American jets thundered in. 

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Manmohan Singh

Sanjeev S.Ahluwalia is a former civil servant and Montek Singh Ahluwalia's brother. He has written the following in his blog. This was written before Rahul Gandhi's histrionic 'nonsense' act.

"We assume that knowledge, learning and professionalism is what makes the difference between an “extractive” policracy and a “developmental” one. This builds on the modern Indian tradition of education being the path to progress and the high ritual status given to learned Brahmins, poets, literatures and artists in ancient India. Dr Radhakrishnan (1962-67), Dr Zakir Hussain (1967-69), Dr Abdul Kalam (2002-07) and Pandit Nehru (1947-1964) did not disappoint in their actions as President/Prime Minister by remaining true to their intellectual integrity.
In 2004 when Dr Manmohan Singh was selected by Mrs Gandhi to became PM, there was relief that after a hiatus of two decades, India would again be led by an “intellectual” far above the hurly burly of election politics, with no personal stake and no motive, except to “wipe the tears from the eyes of the poorest Indian” (the Mahatma). We exulted when Dr. Singh showed his mettle in initiating change in our energy policy, continuing the BJP approach in external relations of abandoning the deadweight of polarizing ideology, unless it served national interest and seemingly putting Indian on the track of fast growth with social inclusion. In 1984 he was an accidental choice as PM, out of the several other “old” faces around, who were considered politically innocuous enough, to keep the seat warm for Rahul.
In 2009 we voted for Dr Singh, based on his record of the past five years but also based on our belief,  that more and better was to come. He and the Congress with him, won and the deluge began. Like the collapse of the mountains above Kedarnath, the lofty edifice built up by reputation and public expectations cracked and collapsed under the weight of timidity, poor political instincts but most importantly self-betrayal.
Dr Singh betrayed himself time and again as he turned a Nelson’s eye to massive corruption, allowed decision making to be subverted by unconscionably partisan politics and sloth. He defined the integrity of the highest executive position in India as a narrowly construed “personal” integrity and in doing so reverted to his essentially “babu” roots of keeping “his desk clean”. Even this is questioned in the 2G scam and Coalgate, though most would put down the seeming links to him, to a secretariat, outside of his control. He betrayed his profession, since economics played, at best a marginal role, in the working of his cabinet. He betrayed his earlier characterization of himself as a Sher (Singh) and appeared to meekly toe the backward looking, ineffective and contradictory party line. In acting thus, he debased the high office he holds. Who holds the Nuclear “button” today is really the question?  and does the World believe that Dr. Singh would be allowed to press it should the situation warrant?
Could he have acted differently? Was he constrained by the limitations imposed on “outsiders” joining the “policracy” laterally, as Russi Mody was in Air India or Sudhir Muljee in the State Trading Corporation? The analogy itself nails the absurdity of the comparison. When the going gets tough, the tough get going….one way or another.  
Here is some gratuitous advice to Dr. Singh. It is not too late to resign. Rahul is ripe to take over and we would all welcome his coming out of the shadows. More importantly, when you became PM you became “our” PM, not the Congress Party’s representative. You are, hopefully, not just any other policrat. Please preserve our faith in the belief that professionals and intellectuals are actually “high minded” enough to work against their own self-interest. Are you scared that once the “immunity” of high office is lifted the opposition will go after you hammer and tongs and even your own party will “sacrifice” you, just as they failed to support you, when you fought your first and only election in South Delhi in 2004? Surely, as the PM, you have a “black book” in the “cloud” which will act as “insurance”? Please do it now, so that all of us, who believe that education and erudition results in intellectual integrity and purposefulness, can continue to dream.
T.N. Seshan (Chief Election Commissioner 1990-1996), another babu, turned upon the political machine which created him, once he was given a high constitutional position. But he served us Indians well by working against election malpractices. Most recently, Raghuram Rajan (RBI Governor) has done exactly the same by ignoring the noise of corporate and government “likes” and remaining true to his intellectual integrity and commitment to the poor, by targeting inflation, rather than pandering to the optics of growth orientation…just as his babu predecessor (Subba Rao) had done. This is a time honored tradition amongst babus. We sup with anyone who parties in the evening, but come the morning, we do the “right” thing, no matter what the consequences. There are thousands of babus who do this for 35 long years of their working lives and are none the worse for it. Please shed your intellectual robes and become the babu you have been." 

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

State of the Nation

Today (2nd October) is Gandhi Jayanthi. We may take some time off our usual routine and introspect where we are headed.

The prime minister whose core competence is in betraying the nation has said he would not resign in response to Rahul Gandhi's fulmination against the ordinance. "I have seen many ups and downs in my life. Let us see which way the wind blows."

Yes, he has seen ups and downs in his life. But, in his leadership the country has seen only downs in the recent past.

Digvijaya Singh, supposedly one of the most cerebral Congress persons, has said that Lalu Prasad has been framed. Once in a blue moon, a politician gets convicted for corruption. Even when convicted, his influential political friends will bail him out.

One tends to be  pessimistic about India. Governments may or may not change; but governance would remain in the pits. Maladministration and corruption being so widespread, the system cannot tolerate any palpable redemptive measures. Rahul Gandhi's histrionics is not a game-changer. Lalu's conviction is just a one-off diversion.

The Mahatma must be happy that he is not alive to watch such lows in Indian governance.

Reputation of our leaders

Following story is circulating among netizens:

"The Pope lay dying.
He sent a message for Sonia Gandhi and Chidambaram to come to the hospital. 
When they arrived, they were ushered up to his room. 
As they entered the room, the priest held out his hands and motioned for them to sit on each side of the bed. 
The Pope grasped their hands, sighed contentedly, smiled and stared at the ceiling. For a time, no one said anything. 
Both Sonia Gandhi and Chidambaram were touched and flattered that the Pope would ask them to be with him during his final moments. They were also puzzled because he had never given any indication that he particularly liked either one of them. 
Finally, Sonia asked, " Father, why did you ask the two of us to come here? " 
The Pope mustered all his strength, and then said weakly,
"Jesus died between two thieves, and that's how I'd like to go.""

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Is there a limit to prime minister's tolerance for nonsense?

Sanjeev Ahluwalia is Montek Singh Ahluwalia's brother. He wrote the following in his blog before Rahul Gandhi's 'nonsense' drama.

While it is possible to read this for what it is, some cynics may wonder if M S Ahluwalia's family is splitting its loyalties only to hedge its future against political uncertainties.

Joker or nonsense?

Rajiv Gandhi once said that members of the Planning Commission were a set of jokers. Manmohan Singh was the Deputy Chairman of PC at that time. Needless to add, Manmohan Singh swallowed the insult and did not respond.

Now, Rahul Gandhi has ridiculed Manmohan Singh's action in proposing an ordinance to protect the convicted lawmakers as nonsense. We can expect the prime minister to add this insult as an additional feather to his cap.

Whatever Manmohan Singh may be guilty of, one cannot accuse him of inconsistency. He would never react to what the Gandhi family says about him. He is beholden to them for generations for making him the prime minister. It is another matter that he chooses to act as a subprime minister.

Is he nonsensical or a joker? Or would you say both?

Grand Old Party's Grand Show

It is difficult to decide who should be appreciated more, Rahul Gandhi who demonstrates what is not leadership or his incorrigible acolytes for whom he is nothing but God in human form.

Rahul Gandhi's public dismissal of ordinance as nonsense that deserves to be torn up and thrown out reminds us of Rajiv Gandhi's public rebuke and transfer of Foreign Secretary, A.P.Venkateswaran. Inappropriate behaviour seems to run in families.

Shashi Tharoor says, "Rahul Gandhi speaking has given us a right to present our private opinion." That is, thus far his followers had no right to express their personal opinion. What a way to run the GOP! In fact, Shashi Tharoor is mistaken. Rahul has not endowed any such right to his followers.

It was very entertaining to see and hear worthies like Manish Tewari and Ajay Maken praising the ordinance and subsequently, after getting enlightened by Rahulji, shredding it to pieces. Greater versatility was never seen.

What will Manmohan Singh do now? He will thank Rahul Gandhi for his bold leadership and seek further lessons from him. India's destiny is in very able hands!

We have heard of masochists who enjoy pain and suffering. What do we call the likes of Manmohan Singh who enjoy insults to themselves?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rahul Gandhi's grandiloquence

Rahul Gandhi has at last spoken, and how magnificently! "The ordinance protecting the convicted politicians is nonsense. It is to be torn up and thrown away."

Why did the government ignore the young prince's views? Was it because the prime minister knew that Sonia Gandhi's views were different from Rahul's? Why is Soniaji silent?

Or, is Rahul reacting rather late? If so, why? Is it because he has started understanding nation's mood? Or, is he briefed about the ordinance only now? Is Subramanian Swamy justified in calling Rahul Gandhi a moron?

Has Pranab Mukherjee queered the pitch for the government by seeking clarifications?

Are the politicians playing out a big drama? Is it a ploy to minimise media coverage for the belligerent Modi? In the absence of good governance and transparency, we will never know the intentions of these sinister elements. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Letter to Hon(?).Manmohan Singh

The author retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains- he has made them his home.

By: Avay Shukla August 28, 2013 16:44

Dear Prime Minister,
In Hindu tradition and culture the concept of renunciation has always been valued more than the idea of acquisition, and even though you may not accept this for fear of offending your party’s minority vote bank, let me allay your fears by reminding you that this is something preached by the Abrahamic religions also.

I would, therefore, urge you to seriously consider this option in your own interest as well as in the larger interest of this unfortunate country.
The government headed by you has already taken the country back to 1990 in sheer economic terms, and in terms of other social and public values we have reached the nadir of the Dark Ages.

The country had great hopes from you when it voted you to power in 2004, and even higher expectations when it renewed your mandate in 2009 after your sterling display of vision and courage in the nuclear deal. But you only flattered to deceive, and for reasons which are now becoming obvious, relinquished any pretense of leadership or governance.

A big ship needs a strong hand at the rudder-your hand- but you have handed it over to a motley crew of rank opportunists and faceless lascars who can only run it aground.

You were never a politician- a positive for most of the voters – and the two qualities that made us repose our trust in you were your honesty and your acknowledged status as an eminent economist. Today, both lie in tatters- you have betrayed our trust, not substantially but wholly, and therefore you must go.

Time to go Mr Prime Minister
Honesty is not divisible, and for those who exercise power there can be no nuances between personal honesty and public honesty. A person who allows others to loot cannot be honest. A Manager who does not raise his voice when illegalities are being committed by his subordinates cannot be honest.
A law maker who protects criminals cannot be honest. And a Prime Minister who does all this simply to remain in power cannot be honest. Your honesty has already cost the country dearly, Mr. Prime Minister, and we cannot sustain this cost any longer.

Your reputation as an economist may still follow you to Harvard or to the LSE after your retirement, but in this country its devaluation is proportionate to the devaluation of the Indian rupee. Where did you lose the plot?

You had everything going for you when you took over in 2004– an economy growing at 8-9%, a Current Account SURPLUS of US$ 10.56 billion, Foreign Exchange reserves in excess of US$ 400 billion, a comfortable net INFLOW of Foreign Direct Investment.
After nine years of your being at the helm, the growth rate is down to between 5% and 6% and falling, the Current Account has gone into a DEFICIT of US$ 20 billion and increasing, Foreign Exchange reserves are down to seven months’ import and depleting, the Fiscal Deficit is going to hit 6%, Foreign Exchange reserves are down to US $ 200 billions (with repayments of US$ 150 due before March 2014), there is a net OUTFLOW of FDI funds to the tune of almost US$ 7-10 billions every month.
The Rupee has reached an exchange rate of 65 to the dollar. Nobody believes Mr. Chidambaram anymore, the RBI Governor can only hyper-ventilate, and you, of course, continue to maintain your sphinx-like silence.

In the meantime inflation continues unabated, jobs are being lost by the millions ( unemployment actually rose by 2% between July 2011 and June 2012), Indian industry prefers to take its money abroad, infrastructure projects languish somewhere between Messers Jaiswal, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and a litre of cooking oil now costs more than two litres of beer! (Can you imagine, Mr. Prime Minister, what a field day Marie Antoinette would have had with this?!).

And this is at the precise time when the rest of the world is coming out of its downturn! No, sir, you and your band of forty thieves have been so busy with your petty politicking, with ensuring the survival of a particular dynasty, securing the financial well being of future generations of your party colleagues and allies, dividing communities and classes, that you have had no time for planning and taking decisions.
The only decisions you HAVE taken boggle the mind. We are already spending 75000 crores every year on our Public Distribution System: every single survey indicates that at least 40% of this, or 30000 crores is siphoned off by politicians, bureaucrats and middle-men. And now your govt. is determined to pour another 50000 crores into this bottomless pit through the Food Security Act! What for?

The BPL( Below Poverty Line) families and the Antyodaya (poorest of the poor) families are already covered under the existing PDS-the FSA will make no difference to them. Govt.’s own figures state that only 27% of our population is now below the poverty line; why then do you want to bring 67% of the population under the FSA, and spend a whopping 50000 crore on people who do not deserve this largesse?

And that too at a time when you have no money for infrastructure development or health and education( in both of which we now lag behind even Sri Lanka and Bangladesh!). Is it worth destroying a country just so your motley crew can win another election? Is this honesty, Mr. Prime Minister?

Had it been only the economic downturn we could perhaps have been more generous. For economics, as we all know, is not only a dismal science, it is also an uncertain one: as they say, even if one were to lay down all economists end to end, we still wouldn’t reach a conclusion!

After all, if Mr. Amartya Sen and Mr. Bhagwati cannot agree on what is good for India we can hardly expect you to have the answer. No sir, the economics is only a part of the mess: let me recount what the others are.

You have systematically sought to destroy every fibre of the democratic fabric of this nation. Constitutional authorities have been attacked publicly by your minions and sought to be humiliated at every turn: remember the diatribes against Vinod Rai and the Central Information Commissioner?

Statutory authorities like the CBI and the office of the Attorney General have been subverted and made to fall in line, your party’s line. Your oath of office demanded that you protect them, but you remained mute, as is your wont.

You have even done the unthinkable: set the Intelligence Bureau against the CBI, ensuring for ever that our premier intelligence agency will never cooperate with our premier criminal investigating agency- every terrorist, insurgent and crooks of all assorted types must be lining up outside Teksons to buy ” thank you” cards for you!

Such is your hubris that you have shown contempt for the orders of the Supreme Court even. The Court’s judgments, instead of being respected and seen as a matter for serious contemplation, are publicly criticised and sought to be by-passed by the collation of a consensus of those affected by the judgments (!) and a brute legislative majority.

So criminals can continue in Parliament. Merit will find no place in the selection of Doctors (at the senior most, Professor, level) even in Super specialty disciplines; minorities will get reservations in government jobs even though the Constitution forbids it.

This lack of respect for the final arbiter of the Constitution and the law is not only breeding a competitive defiance of the Court among other political parties but is also setting the stage for a show down with the judiciary a-la Pakistan and other banana republics.

You behave as if the Opposition is not part of the democratic process, that it is a nuisance that is best ignored; consequently, all communication between the two has now snapped, and the nation is a helpless witness to a Parliament that resembles a rugby locker room in both language and action and is in a permanent state of adjournment.

All parties are to blame for this, of course, but it is your party which laid down the rules of engagement. By refusing to walk the extra mile to accommodate even the legitimate demands of the Opposition, and by sabotaging time and again the Committees of Parliament, you have eviscerated this vital organ of democracy which under you has become as vestigious and irrelevant as your appendix.

Practically no legislative work has been done in the last two years: there are 116 bills pending in both Houses, of which 19 and 21 relate to financial and educational reforms, respectively, two of the areas that need immediate attention.

But your lack of concern is matched only by your shocking sense of priorities: instead of trying to push these bills, you have instead chosen to concentrate your fading energies on two other amendments that can only make politics murkier and more criminalised: removing the disqualification of convicted legislators, and exempting political parties from the RTI Act!

Perhaps the biggest price for your incompetence and your colleagues’ venality is being paid by our defense forces: all three are many years behind in terms of armaments and weaponry ( because another ” honest” Minister, Mr. Antony, will neither effect purchases from abroad nor allow FDI in defense production) and their very capacity to defend the country has been seriously eroded.

Who will defend our borders in such a scenario, Mr. Prime Minister- the lethal barbs of Mr. Manish Tewari, or the boomerangs of Mr. Digvijay Singh or the IEDs of Mr. Mani Shankar Iyer? Even worse, you have demoralized our armed forces by the constant interference of your Ministry and completely taken away their operational and tactical independence.

A succession of retired Army commanders have said so in recent times and the pusillanimous approach of our troops in response to violations of the LOC testify to this. (Of course, these same Army Commanders who have suddenly found their conscience and their voice also need to explain why they didn’t defend their operational independence more vigorously when they were enjoying the perks of their office!).

Under you we have become a whining nation- we whine when Pakistani troops shoot our soldiers, we whine when Chinese troops camp on our territory for weeks on end, we whine when Italian marines shoot our sailors, we whine when the Sri Lanka navy arrests our fishermen, we whine when our ex-President is frisked at an American airport.

Under you a once-proud nation is being kicked around by even a Maldives or a Bhutan. What in God’s name have you done to our image?

In communal terms we have always been a fractured society. But true leaders have in the past tried to bridge these fissures. To you, however, will go the dubious credit of widening and deepening these cracks between communities and castes.
In order to survive, your party has countenanced the retrograde decisions of allies that can only raise the confrontational pitch: earmarking of state budgets for a religious minority, reservations in jobs for the same community (which goes against the express provisions of our Constitution), reservations in promotions (which has been struck down by the courts), setting up of a central Commission to review the (criminal) cases of suspects of one community only.

It is your party which has put communalism at the center of the campaign for next year’s election, not the BJP or Mr. Modi. The former has consciously downplayed the Ram Mandir issue, and Modi had made it clear that development was going to be his plank. But this did not suit you since your party couldn’t possibly debate him on this plank, what with your miserable record of the last five years.

So you deliberately inserted the communal element, as did your allies, by harping only on the 2002 Gujarat riots. To his credit, Mr. Modi has so far not agreed to stoop so low, and I do not think your strategy will work.

But you have in the process vitiated the atmosphere for a long time to come, reopened old wounds that were beginning to heal, and provided a legitimate space for hot heads on both sides of the divide.

How much damage to the country is one Parliamentary seat worth, Mr. Prime Minister? How many more Partitions will you recreate to satisfy your party’s lust for power?

Your opportunistic creation of Telangana has sown the seeds of disputes and blood-letting in all parts of the country that will sorely test the federal integrity of our country for many years to come. There are twenty one more statehood specters waiting in the wings and by the time they are exorcised we may have ceased to exist as one nation.

Do I need to refer to the endemic corruption that your government has been indulging in these last ten years? And to your pathetic attempts to distance yourself from them, even though it is gradually becoming clearer with each passing day that you were aware of what was happening and did nothing to stop it? Why?

The quality of honesty, like that of mercy, cannot be strained: one cannot be honest and yet knowingly allow dishonesty on one’s watch.

Even worse, your increasing brazenness in the face of evidence against you boggles the mind: the Minister who doctored the Coalgate report has been made Special Envoy to Japan, a Minister whose nephew sold posts in The Railways for crores has not even been named in the charge sheet, the Minister on whose watch files relating to YOUR period of the coal scam have gone missing continues to bestride Shastri Bhavan like a colossus.
Who is this Faustian devil you have sold your soul to, Mr. Prime Minister?

Your deafening silence on all these matters-you have spoken in both houses of Parliament only fifty times in ten years-defies logic and conventional wisdom. And that leads me to speculate whether we are underestimating you.

Is there, after all, a method in your madness? Could it be that you are reconciled to losing the next elections and are therefore deliberately implementing a scorched earth policy?

That you will leave behind as a legacy for the next government an India that is bankrupt, ungovernable, riven by caste and communal conflicts, all its institutions destroyed?

An India that will soon be on its knees, begging for your party- the lone horseman riding in from the sunset, in Mr. Rahul Gandhi’s words, don’t forget-to take over the reins again, and save the country from perdition? But I forget, you never speak- so we’ll never know till the horseman is upon us.

Mr. Prime Minister, your party has stripped this country like a cloud of locusts. You have sown every type of poisonous seed known to your ilk and we shall be reaping the bitter harvest for many years hence. You have engendered an atmosphere of uncertainty,venality, indecision, communalism, opportunism, criminalisation and defiance of constitutional and statutory institutions which cannot be allowed to continue, for that way lies certain disaster.

Elections are nine months’ hence but we cannot allow this conception to come to full term: the seed sown by you can only destroy this country and must be aborted. The time has come for you to go, Mr. Prime Minister, and to go immediately.

Call for elections now, end the uncertainty, let us get on with our lives, give this country a chance to redeem itself. Do one last service to this nation, sir- stand not upon the order of your going, but go!

With best wishes,
Your’s sincerely,