Sunday, June 26, 2011

Where's the Silence?

Recently, was watching an interview of Home Minister P Chidambaram, where on a question posed by NDTV editor, Sonia Singh on the PM's 'silence' on many issues including Lokpal Bill , he remarked- "Many people want the PM to speak, or rise up to the plate, But One has to know and belief in the style of the person."

I have read umpteen editorials in various newspapers on why PM is silent on this issue, why PM always speaks later, and what are the PM's views contentious issues. Whenever a political event unfolds (like that of Baba Ramdev's fast, or may be wikileaks !) bloggers and opinion makers on forums like twitter and facebook, people in news paper columns and on tv shows ask the same stupid question. Yes Stupid Indeed.

I shall now humbly describe, why is it - STUPID !

Post Liberalization, The First stable Govt to complete 5 years of power, was the NDA Government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. There were few television channels then, very few indeed. FDI in media was limited and the country was still opening up. Scams took place.

Yes a lot of them. Like Operation Westend,Phukhan Commission,Kargil Coffin Scam,Kargil Cess Misuse,Telecom Scam- Pramod Mahajan-Reliance-Arun Shourie-Bailout Package to Private Players,UTI Scam,Cyberspace Infosys Ltd. Scam,Petrol Pump and Gas Agency Allotment Scam, Judeo Scam ,Centaur Hotel Deal, Delhi Land Allotment Scam,HUDCO Scam involving Ananth Kumar,VSNL Disinvestment Scam by Arun Shourie,Arvind Johri-Vajpayee-IT Park Lucknow Scam,Delhi Plot Allotment Scam,Medical Procurement Scam - C P Thakur, BALCO Disinvestment Scam,Jain-Hawala Case -L K Advani and so on

How many times did Atal Bihari Vajpayee came on air and spoke about these scandals? How Many Times did he either defended the Govt or the people involved ? How many PAC's or JPC's were made created for these scams? How many sound bytes did his party offer then?

Vajpayee on many occassions either dropped ministers, changed them or re-instated them (like in the case of Defence Minister George Fernandes, when the problem was a bit serious)

But Did Vajpayee spoke? Or Give Sound Bytes ? Of Course one cannot deny that the oratory skills of Vajpayee were far better than the present incumbent of the job , Dr Manmohan Singh.

Since in Politics- Relative Performance matters, and Voters cast their vote on a ballot paper judging a set of political parties and their representatives- One always compares the two. (This is the reason for bringing Vajpayee into the discussion !)

Now lets shed some light on the present situation.

The UPA-2 Government has completed 2 years of power. FDI in Media has been increased (of course in UPA-1 itself) The 24 hour News channels on TV which had a 'Breaking News' once or twice a day, are now showing 'Breaking News' every single minute. The all affluent middle class which has enjoyed the fruits of Liberalization is now vocal and damn opinionated, with tools like Twitter and Facebook on the touch of a button. They have the power to abuse the system and government more now. From the prices of onions to the policy frame work of the Twelfth 5 year plan - They share their opinions on Everything !
(Of course those who haven't yet received the fruits of liberalization are still gaping at such probabilities and fighting for basic services like banking, ration etc; but that is a different story altogether !)

The UPA-1 Government has given India- Right to Information. Anybody can access information related to Govt. (unless it is classified for security reasons) and can take on the government by filing PILs or applications against erring Govt. servants. (Vajpayee regime never thought of such a novel law, and had kept the system opaque and out of bounds)

So now , the 24x7 media news channels can easily access leaked CAG reports, or file RTI's to nail anybody or to 'expose' the deficiencies in the system. Now people can easily question the PM every single minute on any issue, which may not even concern him.

The PM on his part has tried to adjust to this new India. He has given Two Major interviews/interactions - 1) To All Eminent Newspaper Editors 2) To Editors and Journalists of Electronic Media. Whenever the PM travels abroad, there is always a media session on board in his special flight. According to the PM's official website , Since May 2009, (ie when UPA-2 came to power) the PM has taken 18 such foreign visits .Therefore The PM has spoken to the media not less than 20 times in 2 years. Which I think is still a little less. Now in two years, the PM has given sound bytes on occasions of National importance in functions of Rashtrapati Bhawan and also when heads of state of foreign countries arrive in India. In 2010, itself- All the heads of G-5 countries - UK, US, Russia, China and France paid state level visits to India. The PM spoke on All occasions. So we can easily take the number to almost 30 (assuming that the PM provided his precious sound bytes to our decibel hungry media in functions in Rashtrapati Bhavan)

The Congress Party has had atleast 12 conventions, including the Plenary Session and the 125th Foundation day celebrations in the last 2 years. On every occasion the PM has spoken to the people. Which takes the number to 42

The PM has also spoken to the Nation on Independence Day, Has also gone on air before the Ayodhya verdict. He has also spoken many times in the Parliament. From the debate on Price Rise (Cut Motion) , to issues such as Pakistan, to 2G scam , Debate on Wikileaks etc. The PM always makes it a point to share his views on Budget- whether railways or general.

The PM has also addressed various political rallies in State Elections post 2009. The PM speaks whenever he inaugurates National Projects like T3 Terminal of the Delhi Airport or dedicates Ports or Oil refineries to the Nation.

Adding all this we can easily take our total to a comfortable 60

So in 24 months of UPA Government the PM has spoken 2.5 times a month to either the media or the people- Which is Once in 12 days. Which is certainly not a bad record for a PM who is often labelled as Apolitical, Technocrat and Maintains a Low Profile. A PM who believes in Actions rather than Words.

So where's the Silence? Is it not Misunderstood

Either by Me or By the Media?

You be the Judge !

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Power Yoga - Part -2

His Royal Highness , Most Respected Swami Baba Ramdev broke his 9 day fast today. So Today was the appropriate day to conclude my write up about this circus currently involving Individuals not Issues. Since I concluded my last post by mentioning Ramdev's remarks about the media. First focus on the Media. Media is responsible too for creating this mess. Electronic channels in today's context tend to focus on 'Sound Bytes' than 'Reality Bites'. First they gave us minute by minute update on How 4 top ministers of the Government went to lure Baba (including the cabinet secretary) . How Baba ordered special Rasgullas from Chandini Chowk. How both the parties danced to each others tunes in a 5 star hotel and How Baba had assured his followers that the GOI has agreed to 99% of his demands . Then they bring in some loudmouth commentators to dissect the whole thing with sometimes very ludicrous arguements. The circus doesn't stop here, Each of the protagonists and wannabe protagonists continue to provide sound bytes and further sound bytes and plays to the gallery. In all of this the real issue of "Corruption" (yes that is the REAL issue !) vanishes undeneath the din of this tamasha.

India is a land of contradictions. Yes this is a fact. Everyday in some corner , in a village comes a Baba who prays and preaches, the villagers give him food, listen patiently to him provide him with respectable hospitality in awe. But when the same Baba dupes them , they make it a point to kick him out of the village. This is what happened with his highness Baba Ramdev. The Government of India cajoled him , listened to his demands, but when Ramdev started to show his real colours , they simply kicked him out.

Critics of the Government point out and ask why did they rolled out a red carpet for the "Dhongi" Baba . The answer lies in a simple cross question- If the Government was silent on Baba's demands the same critics would have accused the Government of being indifferent to People's Voice- The Aam Aadmi.

Politics - Which Baba Ramdev was playing demanded -All Kinds of Tools- Saam, Daam, Danda, Bhed to be used against him . Yes indeed Ramdev was playing Politics. Ramdev has never hidden his political ambitions . His Bharat Swabhiman Trust (or Movement or Party) is active on the cyberspace. He announced that he would field candidates in each Lok Sabha Constituency , but would not fight elections. In Feburary, he went into a PR offensive accusing a Congress MLA from Arunachal Pradesh for calling him a "Bloody Indian" (This is absolutely incorrect, as the records of the incident show) Of course when he sits with Sadhvi Rithambhara, Ashok Singhal and when Sushma Swaraj comes to visit him in Hardiwar. He no longer remains a Spritual Guru.

When Baba announced his plans to enter, his fellow companions of the Sant Samaj- clearly were not happy- They tried to expose him (click for link) but the mainstream media ignored this, because that wont bring any TRP's !

The subplot of this incident has been the item number provided to us by none other than India's Leader of opposition- Hona'ble Sushma Swaraj. Sushma Swaraj clearly had the courage of dancing at the Samadhi of the Father Of the Nation. Her Thumkas with young party leader Anurag Thakur (son of Himachal CM-Prem Kumar Dhumal) added to the drama and nautanki, a trademark of the Bharatiya Janta Party. Sushma aunty in her defense pointed out many great Congress leaders had danced previously.

But clearly she got her facts all wrong- Great Congress leaders like Smt. Indira Gandhi , Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi had danced. No doubt. But with Tribals, But with Army Jawans , But with Aam Aadmi. Never on Someone's Samadhi.

If Tomorrow, Atal Bihari Vajpayee dies and we have his Samadhi- Would the BJP allow anybody to dance at his Samadhi even on a patriotic number?

India is the Vibrant land of culture, of song and dance , of melas and tamashas ! But clearly when we are not serious when we talk of National Issues like Corruption and Black Money. We make a song and dance out of it. Clearly we miss the point.

You Decide.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Power Yoga - Part -1

Section 144 of the IPC can be imposed according to the decision of the District Magistrate according to the emerging situation at hand, in which the administration feels that it cannot control a law and order situation. Baba Ramdev had taken permission for 5000 people. The capacity of Ramlila Grounds is 30,000 people. But Baba himself claims that over 1 lakh people were there and would be there the next morning, hence the Govt had to crack the whip at night only, since many more people were to be expected in the morning. Under Section 144 IPC Govt can arrest, exterminate(send off) or even take co-ercive action against the person/persons leading the mob or demonstration.

True there were 8 rounds of tear gas shells which were fired. True there was some disbursal of crowds by some force. But NOT a Lathichage and NO Firing at all. The visuals of the Gun firing tear gas shells have sparks which is usual and cannot be taken as FIRING.

Baba Ramdev reacted rather cowardly to all this. He used innocent women and children as human shield around himself to avoid any arrest and dressed himself as 'women' to 'escape' the police action.39 people have been reportedly injured out o which Only One -Rajbala is seriously injured and critical. 23 Police men are also injured since Baba Ramdev's supporters did throw bricks on them which also injured their own people. Bajrang Dal and VHP supporters hurled stones at police and police retaliated in a legitimate tear gas fire.

Democratically Elected Governments around the world have the right to use certain degree of force when such domestic situations arise. Primary method of crowd disbursal is Tear Gas which is often used when a 30000 strong crowd is to be disbursed. If it was on the road and water was readily available , Police might have used Water cannons to disburse. All this talk of Lathicharge is a humbug. The visuals on the internet are misleading, they show the same bunch of police men just disbursing the crowd by shoving some lathis in air. That is shown again and again to spin this into a "Government Torture against its own people"

Another spin is about the sparks which come out of the tear gas gun, that is spinned by Right wingers as "Firing" and "Jalliawalabagh". Unfortunately in 24X7 media, anybody can SPIN anything !

We all know that Baba Ramdev's demands apart from corruption (and even on it ) were irrational, unimaginative and obsolete with the times. His demand on Black Money, though justifiable was more a rhetoric than a "demand". He keeps on talking about 400 lakh crores, when even BJP's own committee on Black Money is less than 1/4th the estimate.

His other demands such as Labour Laws, Public Delivery Guarantee System, Teaching Hindi in Higher Educational Institutions were purely POLITICAL in Nature. Hence had a definite Political hue to it. It seemed as if Baba was announcing his Party Manifesto infront of 30000 people in full media glare instead of practicing Yoga in a Yog Shivir (That was mentioned in the banner on the main stage)

Babain his day long discourse mentioned atleast 50 times - "Mere Media Ke Bhaiyo Ko Main Batana Chahta Hunn"

Now You and I should judge what he wanted to tell !

To be continued...