This Week in (Politics ∩ Sycophancy)

Back! Some old pals (students) reminded me that I had something in the name of a blog. So I thought of making it a playground to record the bullshit interesting bits all around.

On that warning/thinly veiled threat, we start with the following exemplary tales of “devotion”.

  1. Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu’s herculean effort in taking servile sycophancy to a new level
  2. Fixed for flattery! How IAS officers sacrificed a T20 match at the altar of UP CM Akhilesh Yadav

I know that flattery will get you far. Apparently, India’s bureaucrats and politicians are also aware of this lesson from a top management school. So let me go flatter my woman now.

EDIT: FirstPost staff and authors need not think that I’m flattering them by linking to their posts.

[Contributed Short Story] A Politician’s Wife

[Contributed by Angelic Devil after several hundred requests.]

Years ago, I saw “Rang de Basanti“. I felt awed, felt the blood rush to my face and wanted to go all out and do something for my country. It was in 2006, a time when my generation felt crippled and angry that they weren’t born in pre-independence days, when one could serve their country; free their motherland. What is it that we are running after now? MNC’s, fat salaries, cute partners, skimpy clothes, fancy mobile sets? My generation felt wasted and disillusioned. Debates ensued, candle marches and punish Jessica Lal’s murderers text messages overflowed. Everybody did what they felt was their duty. The movie awakened a kind of a raw passion that one had to channel. And we did. We were all united in the thought that unless we speak up, the democracy will fail. And so everybody spoke up and I… well, me too.

♦♦♦♦♦

Why can’t I join politics? Do you not trust me?” his eyes searched my face for an answer. His face betrayed the disbelief and frustration he felt but his voice was calm. His eyes bore into mine and all I could do was bury my face in his chest. Fear caught hold of me as I struggled to find my voice and a way to phrase my fears.

Fighting my tears all I could squeak was, “I am afraid for you.

As I felt his body relax, I relaxed too. But the fear remained; Dark and ugly, scary and unnerving. How could I tell him that I agreed with him in principle? Yes, someone has to make the beginning. But why did it have to be him? What if somebody snuffs his life out? What if somebody gets him framed? How would it matter to anybody else in the country except me? After the initial brouhaha fades, it will be I who would be struggling to live, not them. What was I to tell him? That I am the armchair activist that he and I despise so badly?

Look at me. Do you want me to spend the rest of my life like an ordinary guy? I’ll go to work, come back; wonder about next month’s EMIs or why my kids are scoring so poorly. Isn’t that what the whole world does? You married me because I was not your ordinary guy, do you want me to become what I never was? Weren’t you the one who told me that one needs to be in the system to change it?

My heart screamed, “Hell yes!” and my mind numb. All I could think of was that he may have the strength to fight the whole world but I don’t. I don’t even have the strength to stand next to him. In those 5 minutes, all my desires to fight for my rights and to make the country better flew out of the window. All I could imagine was me running from pillar to post, trying to get “justice”. All I could envisage was a lifetime of regret that I didn’t stop him.

Can’t we reason it out? Have a healthy debate like we used to?” he asked. His pleading made my heart melt and tighten at the same time. Why can’t he go have an affair or something? Why can’t he be normal? Why is this fight not about some girl he stared at when we were out for dinner? “No! I am not open to any sort of discussion on this issue.” I was startled at my sharpness. So was he.

♦♦♦♦♦

If you ask me what made me give in, my love for him or my love for the country, I would not know. Was that the beginning or the end — I don’t know. Nor do I wish to know. For the time being, I’ve brushed my fears aside and am standing next to him. Or trying to. He wanted me to come and meet these women who have been trying to set up an embroidery unit. I look at him and he catches my eye, the smile on his face lights up his face. I try hard to concentrate on what the woman in-charge is explaining. All I can taste is bile. All I remember is darkness. The water drops feel cool on my face. As I gain consciousness, I hear some talk about the young MLA’s wife being a fragile doll. Were they tittering too? I slump back. Darkness. Again.

I wake up in the cool comfort of the AC in my bedroom, my husband missing in action. All I have is a message on BBM from him saying, “Sunstroke. Rest. Will see you in the evening.” As I work on the plot-line for my new novel–a politico drama, I wonder if I really am a fragile doll. I read his message again. Do I sense regret in his message? I read it again. The message gives away nothing. He took me there because he knew I am all for women emancipation. I wonder if let him down by fainting? I am not sure.

♦♦♦♦♦

Years have gone by; I’ve seen him grow more as a politician. Oh well, the houses we’ve moved into have only grown with time. So I assume he is doing well. The more he got involved with the country, the more sceptical I’ve become. I often find myself questioning if he is corrupt too. I never asked and he’s never said anything. After the incident, my involvement with his work became less. Slowly, it stopped. Perhaps, it damaged his image. My fears like my involvement too vanished with time.

I no longer sit up and wait for him to come home. I no longer scan the news for his name or his death. He is no longer mine. He is doing what he always wanted whereas I still wonder what I really want from life. I get no answers. I am as confused as I was in 11th standard, when I had to choose one among the three streams. I struggle to find my identity as he continues to firmly establish his. Am I jealous? I would think not. I struggle to reconcile my identity as a minister’s wife. I see other minister’s wives living up to their roles to perfection. I wonder about their disenchantment. I wonder if they share my feeling on the issue. I am afraid. Whether of asking questions or their answers, I do not know.

Desperate for an answer, I dig my life. I sense that my vivacity has been replaced by a dull ache. A friend suggests that I talk it over. Going as far as to tell me that maybe I am craving for attention from him. I know it to be untrue. I know that I shunned him the day he chose to walk on his path. Perhaps that was my defence mechanism. Perhaps I was trying to protect myself from my fears. I drown myself in more work. The pain, however, continues to haunt me.

♦♦♦♦♦

Whose lost boys?

Mohammed Hanif, the head of BBC Urdu service and the author of “A Case of Exploding Mangoes,” explores the internal crisis in India and Pakistan as an afterthought to recent terror strikes in Mumbai. [cf. The Lost Boys, Tehelka]

He takes on Indian and Pakistani establishments and media agencies asking them not to point to the other country every time there is a terror strike in any one of those, saying (I quote):

This week might have been an opportunity for Pakistan to acknowledge its own internal crisis, to start looking for the lost boys who are destined for very short-lived violent careers on our small screen. For India there was a real opportunity to stop hankering for American-sized victim status and start counting its own lost boys. Instead, it has turned out to be a case of the blind accusing the blinkered and then both walking hand in hand into the smog created by the airwaves pollution.

Among all things said, he touches briefly on what the Pakistan media says about the religion of the strikers (terrorists):

That Kasav boy? That’s not even a Pakistani name. Maybe it’s Kasav? But, hang on, show a close up of his wrist in that picture. He is wearing what those Hindus wear for raakhi bandhan. A boy from Lashkar would never wear that thread. Come to think of it, he would never even dress like that.

Herein lies the entire problem: media, from both sides, claims essentially this: all terrorists from India are Hindus and all of them from Pakistan are Muslims. Now that we know that some Mr. Kasav from Pakistan was one of the criminals (international intelligence agencies, from MI5 to Mossad, agree on his Pakistan links and LeT training), Pakistan media tries to find loopholes in the ‘theory’ based on what Kasav looks like, wears and acts. Since he wore a thread on his wrist, he’s not a Muslim and so he is not a Pakistani. What kind of logic is that? For once, let me concur just for the sake of argument that he’s not a Muslim. Does that mean he is not from Pakistan? Aren’t there Hindus in Pakistan? Aren’t there Muslims in India?

Once again, it is clear that religion is blinding everyone, from governments to media, just like it blinds the terrorists.

The need of hour is not just counting the lost boys and knowing what religion they belong to. It is rather knowing what makes them choose the path. Economics is closer to the center of the problem than Religion. Work on your economy and education more than you work on religions. Why did Kasav and the likes agreed to carry out the attack? Because he was a Muslim and he saw atrocities on other Muslims? Maybe. One can’t be certain on that. But, what one can be certain on is that he quit school after 4th standard and hardly ate all the meals of the day. Yes, there are some who have had best of the education and were born with silver spoons in their mouths, e.g., Bin Laden et al. They are psychopaths. Religion can affect only a fool and it is these people from whom Marx said, “Religion is the opiate of the people.” Religious sentiments take over ones thought process when there is not much to do: the poor and uneducated or riches. Hardly anywhere in the entire world history have the working middle class is seen getting involved in such bigotry. So get you people educated, get them jobs and you’d have solved the problem to a large extent. Then the bigots like Bin Laden, Al Zawahiri, Masood Azhar won’t get those easy recruits.

Gallup Daily

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Orwellian Society

In United Kingdom, The Communications Data Bill (2008) is going lead to the creation of a single, centralized database containing records of all e-mails sent, websites visited and mobile phones used by UK citizens. The bill and the idea are not new. It has been done, covertly and openly, in the name of ‘homeland security’ and ‘Patriot Acts’ in several other countries, e.g., China, United States. Picture the following dialog between two individuals:

BBG: We need to reduce our expectation of privacy and accept the boundless mass surveillance in order to maintain homeland security.

NAA: I reject this position. The resulting lack of privacy and confidentiality is putting at risk the freedom of confession, the freedom of speech as well as the work of doctors, helplines, lawyers and journalists.

[BBG: ‘Big Brother’ Government. NAA: New Age Activist]

The debate, personal privacy and freedom vs. homeland security, heated after the Information Revolution. In this context, my friend asked me whether we are slowly changing into an Orwellian society (Ref. ‘1984‘ by George Orwell). Before expressing my views, I want to know the readers’ opinion on this. So here is a quick poll:

Political and Social Fallout of Tata pulling out of West Bengal

Alright. I am not an expert on West Bengal politics. Anybody who has many friends who hail from that, in the words of Ratan Tata, “terrific State”, and who kept track of the recent happenings there can draw the similar conclusions and ask similar question as I will in this post. There has been a lot of drama, and too much at stake. There have been riots, people killed, agitations, disruptions, intimidation, fasts, dharnas and what not! Everybody is talking of Tatas pulling out, but nobody the plight and future of Singur farmers.

Hurricane Mamata arrived, leveled the field, and committed a political suicide. There are several questions that need to be answered before talking of political future of CPIs and Trinmools.

  1. What happens to 13,000 farmer families whose lands were acquired? Tatas promised them jobs and money in return of their land. Now with no jobs and no land good enough for cultivation left after all the concrete infrastructure raised there, what are they supposed to do?
  2. Where was Ms. Banerjee when the land was acquired? Why did she choose to intervene now? Yes, I know! 400 families, right? Did they ask for help?
  3. Buddhadeb government’s role in the whole incident is more than just dubious. Alright, dear Buddha-da wanted WB to progress, but that could have happened had they not used the heavy ‘communist’ hand. IMHO, government should have kept away from the land deals, and should have let the local bodies and committees negotiate with the capitalist czars.
  4. How much money and resources are wasted to get zero output from this exercise?

What happens to the jobless farmers now is an easy guess. Their role in the war of giants is over! What happens to their children nobody cares about. Some shall die of hunger, and rest shall end up embracing violence in their quest of survival. Call them nameless martyrs, if you will. There will be social unrest, even riots, to say the least. So little for the ‘economic revolution’.

As I said, Hurricane Mamata did, as hurricanes always do, bring destruction with itself. Little did she know, as hurricanes never know, that she would have to settle eventually. It is time that she settles. Although now she understands that she is in a situation that is best described by the popular phrase, ‘Catch 22′. It is evident from her dubbing Tatas’ decision as a “a political game plan of the State Government and the Tatas”. She conveniently chose not to mention her political game plan when she decided to put her ugly little leg into the matter. Game over Mamata!

Someones loss is someone else’s gain. But surely not of the ruling WB government. The pullout is a very bad example of their plans of the so called economic growth. It will go down, in the memory of the WB masses and the investors, as nothing less than gross incompetence. It is the voter of WB who should ask the right questions to the government, “Who will invest in our state after whatever happened, whoever’s fault it was, in Nandigram and Singur?” “What happened to the promise of more jobs to the youth?” Not just the economic, there are several other concerns, both social and administrative, that tarnish the image (as if it was not already) of the ruling party in the state.

Whose gain is it then? At what cost? The states like Gujarat and Karnataka, where the fascist governments will graciously embrace Tatas. At the cost of a few thousand more farmers and their families. There will more dharnas, fasts, police shootings, riots and killings, and Tatas will probably get what they want. Poor will eat shit in the high stake games between the centers of power and the centers of capital.

Hail democracy! Hail capitalism!! Hail Socialism and Communism!!!

Political Fallout of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal

Mrs. (Indira) Gandhi‘s heroics resulted in India witnessing more than three decades of “Nuclear Apartheid,” following the 1974 Pokharan nuclear tests. With a helping hand from the United States, India is back in the club of nuclear elites and their groupies, as Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, a.k.a. the “123 Agreement“, was passed by the US Senate on Wednesday, ending more than thirty years of prejudice. Later on President Bush said, “I look forward to signing this bill into law and continuing to strengthen the US-India strategic partnership.” It will be interesting to see what role we play, that of a submissive groupie or an elite.

123 Agreement
123 Agreement

Apart from (hopefully) strengthening the strategic partnership between India and the United States, a successful deal means (if we put all other matters of home aside for the time being) ominous signs for Indira Congress and its allies, collectively known as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in Indian politics.

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh now stands on a higher than ever ground of his political career, both in his own party and Indian politics. Congress hails the present hour to be Dr. Singh’s finest hour. This means that, apart from Sonia Gandhi, Dr. Manmohan Singh will be the face of the Congress Party at center-stage in the upcoming general elections. It was Dr. Singh whose strong political will and non-aggressive stance saw the deal through. Whether the deal is good or bad for the state and the nation is another matter, but just the fact that Dr. Singh fulfilled a promise he made is a huge boon to his party. After all, it is not everyday that politicians in India keep their promises, and this event will surely stay long in a voter’s memory.

Singh-Bush alliance
Singh-Bush alliance

Dr. Singh and his government had to face strong criticism from their allies, the left parties, and the opposition lead by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) both. In the process, the UPA government faced its worst ever political crisis when the left parties chose to withdraw support.

I have a lot of respect for the Left for its issue-based political stands. In all the drama that ensued regarding the 123 agreement during past couple of years, many fail to see why the Left stood its ground. If it supported the deal, the Left would have lost its image as staunch opponent of US “imperialism”, risking serious erosion of core support and loyalty. Unlike the right and centrist parties, the Left criticizes the deal as part of a Indo-US “strategic partnership” or India’s strategic embrace of the US. It also refers to the impact of the agreement on India’s advocacy of universal nuclear disarmament, the ideology which the UPA promised to return to while embracing the power in center. Whether Left will succeed in maintaining its core support or not is an interesting prospect of the future to observe.

BJP on the other hand is in muddy waters, as their shallow political stunts and the wide-spread unrest can easily be seen. It was the BJP government in the center when the deal was proposed–although it vehemently denied anything to do with the deal later, when it sat in the opposition–and the success of the present government seeing the deal through means a big jolt to its campaign of getting back in the center of power. Its position, with respect to the deal, is that of a disruptive opportunist.

But the power game is very complicated! Though UPA succeeded in bringing home the deal, there are several issues that decide the outcome of the political gimmickry called General Elections. UPA has failed (to a certain extent; that extent depends on where you stand) when it comes to a lot of matters of the homeland. That analysis is surely not the subject of this post.