Monday, December 30, 2013

If Rahul Gandhi persists with Style and Substance ....Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/December 29, 2013

If Rahul Gandhi Persists with Style and Substance, the Indira Era Could Well Return

With the precision of a royal chronograph, history has repeated itself. While one Gandhi has chosen to take a backseat, another has started moving into not just his mother’s shoes but her chair as well. In the 1960s, Indira replaced Jawaharlal Nehru. In the ’80s, Sanjay and Rajiv Gandhi took over from their mother. Each created their own political culture and slogans. Now, instead of reinventing itself, the 128-year-old Congress is resuscitating its past philosophy to grasp a better future. Every decade or so, it has been acquiring a new leader and newer ideology. Today’s revisionist renaissance is taking place under the leadership of Gen-3 of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Last week, Rahul Gandhi chose to redefine the economic philosophy of the Congress-led governments at the Centre and states, instead of changing it. He also established control as well as the superiority of the party over government. It’s rare for a Gandhi scion to summon all Congress CMs, key Union ministers and important party functionaries to deliberate and debate government issues while the PM was conspicuous by absence. Even Congress president Sonia Gandhi kept away from the conclave held in the aftermath of the party’s humiliating defeat in the just concluded Assembly elections. During his six-hour interaction with over a dozen CMs and half a dozen ministers, Rahul left no one in doubt that he has taken full charge of the ship. If deliberations are any indication, the days of the market-friendly government are dead. The decade-old slant in favour of an elitist economic environment will soon be reversed. Rahul has finally chosen to revive his grandmother’s election-winning clarion call, ‘Garibi Hatao’, by directing state governments and the Centre to strengthen pro-poor schemes.

He is convinced that a large number of Congress CMs and Union ministers preen in sunny eulogies of corporate leaders and foreign think tanks and ignore the common man’s voice. Rahul seems to have been greatly influenced by the means and methods adopted by AAP in Delhi, which succeeded in pirating away the Congress base. Since his own political future is at stake, he has chosen to set his own terms and delineate his role. His critics succeeded in fostering an impression that Rahul has neither the acumen nor vision to provide an effective agenda for governance. His decade-long active political career had been termed a failure sans any impact on even his own party. He is blamed by many Congressmen for the party’s poll debacle in UP and Bihar. A powerful section of the party leadership has been quietly pushing Sonia to take more interest in the affairs of the party and government.
But Rahul proved the political Cassandras who had written him off after the Assembly polls wrong by engaging Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Defence Minister A K Antony, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Law Minister Kapil Sibal, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Food Minister K V Thomas in making governance and its delivery systems more accountable and responsive. In the past 15 years, never has such a large group of heavy-hitters been summoned, even by the Congress president. Indeed, Sonia has been holding party coffee klatches where CMs and Union ministers were part of the long invite list. But at Rahul’s conclave, direct interaction between ministers and CMs on issues which could revive the party’s sinking fortunes took place. The agenda was clear. The directives even clearer. Many speakers tried to raise other diversionary issues but Rahul put his foot down and told them to stick to predetermined subjects. However, to dilute offence with a mild charm offensive, he also told them to meet him informally after the event.
For the past three years, most Congress leaders have behaved like klaxons, blaring that the UPA and party are pro-active in fighting corruption and taking action against culprits. But they never owned up to the fact that they were losing credibility with the masses. For the first time, the party admitted to itself that both inflation and corruption were hurting it badly. Last week’s session was meant to establish not only Rahul’s unquestioned leadership but also to prove that he is a leader with a clear vision and mission. For the past few months, he has been taking a stand on issues opposing the majority view in the Congress. He received a lot of flak for his contrarian remarks on the law on preventing criminals from contesting elections. But his will prevailed. More recently, the party and government took an exceptionally strong anti-US line over the inhuman treatment meted out to Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade after Rahul made his views public. His contrarian stand on the Adarsh Society scam in Maharashtra is an attempt to outline himself as a rebel and a leader who wields the stick and the broom within his party. He ticked off Andhra Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy who opposed the division of the state—fall in line or fall from grace, he was told. More recently, Rahul set the tone of the future course of UPA politics when he met the press with two senior ministers by his side to seek all-party support for the Lokpal Bill.
He has told many CMs to junk tainted ministers and civil servants, and ensure that the revised Lokayukta Act is passed before February 28 in all the Congress-ruled states. It was part of his strategy to prepare the Congress to counter the Modi wave perceived to be hitting various parts of the country. While NaMo has chosen to pull Brand Atal out of the saffron cupboard to win the 2014 elections, Rahul has opted to adopt the iconic tried and tested Brand Indira to revive his dismally demoralised party. Advisers have told Rahul that the Congress has lost elections even when the country experienced a higher GDP growth. In fact, the market share of the Congress has dwindled directly in proportion to the rise in market capitalisation of India’s top 20 corporate entities. Rahul’s choice is to increase the vote share of his ancient, doddering party even if it means the fall of a few of India’s rich and mighty who have been behaving like fair weather birds of late. If the young Gandhi persists with style and substance, the country could soon see the return of the Indira era.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, December 23, 2013

Not just Namo or RaGa..... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/December 22, 2013

Not Just NaMo or RaGa, 2014's Wrestling Bouts Will be Between Many PM Aspirants

The PM copyright has expired. Copycats rule. Narendra Modi is no longer the only declared Prime Ministerial candidate of a political party. The liege lords and ladies of the AIADMK, TMC, SP and Congress have begun confabulations with their paladins to declare themselves as contenders for India’s top job. Surprisingly, NaMo’s monopoly was effectively challenged by none other than one considered his natural ally in the run-up to the 2014 elections. Last week, the general council of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) unanimously passed a resolution that the party would like to see its supreme leader, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, become the Prime Minister. Their justification in staking the claim was purely regional. The party claimed that only a Tamilian could protect the interests of other Tamilians. Though Jaya has been speaking extensively on national issues and taking on the UPA government even on international subjects, it was for the first time that the AIADMK invoked local sentiments to project her as the most suitable candidate to lead the nation. If the BJP leaders are to be trusted, Jaya’s surprise gauntlet has shocked the party. Tamil Nadu sends 39 MPs to the Lok Sabha as against 26 from Gujarat. Like NaMo, Jaya is also known for her decisiveness, economic liberalism and running her state with an iron hand. She believes in free market economy and single window clearances for all projects. Her second term has been the most effective, and she has been delivering on many fronts. The similarity between 63-year-old NaMo and 65-year-old Jaya doesn’t end there. Both have successfully decimated their opponents in the state. The Southern Queen may not be crisscrossing the nation and addressing choreographed rallies like her Gujarat counterpart yet, but she has been making the right noises about federal character, UPA’s faulty economic policies while keeping away from controversial issues.
It wasn’t just Jaya’s candidature, which disturbed the high stakes game of selecting India’s next Prime Minister. L K Advani left tongues wagging with his unilateral declaration to contest Lok Sabha elections again from Gandhi Nagar in 2014; and no one has, till now, advised him not to enter the fray. Of late, Advani is seen more often in NaMo’s company, but his presence in the next Parliament  would mean new partnership options would open for current and future allies. In case the NDA falls short of the magic number of 200 seats, Advani would be the front runner for Prime Minister, not NaMo.
While the NDA is busy putting its house together, the Congress and non-NDA parties have also started thinking in terms of how to challenge Modi. The buzz in political circles is that those who expect to win 30-plus seats will be the ones to declare their national intentions. They have already announced their distaste to partner with either the Congress or BJP. This triumphant trio is Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and Jayalalithaa. Each of them is capable of winning more than 30 seats on their own in their states. Jayalalithaa’s singularity is that she enjoys the Left’s support and maintains good relations with Sharad Pawar, Naveen Patnaik and Chandrababu Naidu. Opposition to her will come from North Indian leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar and even Mamata. Jayalalithaa enthusiasts expect that she would need to muster the support of over 80 MPs from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to be Prime Minister. Odisha, Maharashtra and the NDA may extend support to her. In another scenario, the Congress and Left may prop her up to keep the NDA out of power. The nation may see over half a dozen visibly declared candidates on the oratorical skyline by the time the dates for the General Elections are announced. Some of them will try social engineering by forging caste and religion. Others could seek an ideological mandate. Once again, the choice of India’s Prime Minister is no longer limited to candidates from the two national parties. In 1996, regional outfits favoured the regional satrap H D Deve Gowda because none of the national leaders such as V P Singh or Jyoti Basu were willing to accept the responsibility of being a precarious Prime Minister.
But the Congress hasn’t given up on its claim to govern India for the third consecutive term. Since it has announced the date of the AICC session in advance, speculation is rife about Rahul Gandhi being formally declared as the party’s challenger to NaMo. The 41-year-old inheritor has decided to take the plunge and lead the party from the front. He may not be formally declared the party’s prime ministerial candidate before the elections. But the Congress could also project a Dalit or a woman with clean record as the party’s face for 2014. Rahul’s only objective and mission is to block the BJP from becoming the largest single party and stop the relentless advance of the NaMo juggernaut in its tracks. The young Gandhi and his team are convinced that their party’s future lies not in the gains it makes in 2014 but in its ability to demolish NaMo’s larger-than-life hologram. Hence, they are thinking of even supporting a non-Gandhi Congressman as Prime Minister or perhaps adopt one from a non-BJP coalition. Taking a cue from its mauling in Delhi and elsewhere, the Congress plans to retain and woo the minorities which stood by it in the Delhi Assembly polls. 2014 is as much a make or break opportunity for RaGa as it is for NaMo. Do not expect a war of ideologies. Welcome to the desi political ring of Indian-style wrestling between home-grown opponents. The one with the most innovative manoeuvres will be the victor.; Follow me  on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, December 16, 2013

Like Caesar, Be Aware and Beware of.... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/December 15, 2013

Like Caesar, Be Aware and Beware of Your New Friends More Than Sworn Foes

Dear Narendra bhai,
We go back 40 tumultuous years. In those eventful decades, the Sun Tzuian maxim that has often come to my mind is that you should keep your enemies closer to you than your friends, of which you have a few, but are outnumbered by the former. Ten years of ruling Gujarat with a clear vision and mission, you have acquired a large congeries of enemies but a larger number of new admirers and friends. Those who once led the hate campaign against you after the 2002 riots and refused to share stage with you are now jostling to climb the Jacob’s ladder of Modi-for-PM. From media to money lords, all are clamouring to give you credit for something which even you would hesitate to own up to. Last week, these fair weather friends were annunciating their new-found confidence in you. Soon after Assembly election results were announced, these self-anointed megaphones grabbed every opportunity to declare the results as an endorsement of your ability to lead the country.

By giving you credit for their record performances, your faux-friendly foes aim to isolate you among your peer group

As you are well aware, there has been hardly any talk regarding your stellar performance as Gujarat CM. Despite the obloquy the riots brought you, and your subsequent social and global isolation, you led the state from the front and restored peoples’ confidence and even that of the corporate sector with your administrative acumen. You won elections twice after 2003. Now, the moneyed class, which lost fortunes at the stock exchange through the UPA’s infirm governance, are looking at Brand Modi as the fastest way to recoup losses and not as the man who created the Modi Model of statecraft.
But 2013 is not 2003. Now you are BJP’s official candidate for PM. It is for the first time that a state leader has been able to successfully topple an established Central leadership on the basis of performance and credibility. This has caused massive heartburn to those aspiring to be PM, thanks to their close ties to elitist opinion-makers dominating the national discourse from their lofty citadels. They have never been comfortable with your uncompromising style or persona. Until now, the idea of Modi and Moditva has been anathema to them. For the past few years, most of them have been mocking both your politics of exclusivity and assertive model of functioning. They wouldn’t want a person like you who is not influenced or dictated by others at the helm of India which finds itself in the stormy seas of policy indecision and political upheaval. You believe in firm action and decisive speech. But the new class of sycophantic Machiavellis are making you suspect in the eyes of other successful BJP CMs like Vasundhara Raje, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh who have also registered spectacular victories. Be forewarned that by giving you credit for their record performances, your faux-friendly foes aim to isolate you among your peer group. They have encircled you to push their own agendas. They are out to make you the envy of your compeers. In this burlesque of the absurd, they would even give you credit for excessive rainfall in parts of India. Their mindless monologues would hail you as the rescuer of the American and Indian economies as they did during a short 24-hour surge in the Indian stock market last Monday.
Instead of taking your Gujarat story to every nook and corner, these members of the Permanent Ruling Party of India are looking to manufacture inane instances of success to promote you. By diverting the debate of the BJP’s unprecedented electoral success and Congress’s complete rout to the power of your charisma, they have damaged you more than the Congress ever could. Your adversaries were quick to point out the BJP’s failure to secure an absolute majority in Delhi. The news channel, India News, ran graphics co-relating your visits to various parts of the capital with the verdicts in constituencies where your rallies were held. Of the 48 segments you had targeted, your party won only in 19. This dismal show had nothing to do with your abilities. The faction-ridden BJP wasn’t able to put up its best candidates and failed to exploit the 15 years of anti-incumbency sentiment in its favour. The young voters and even the BJP’s middle class followers were angry with the party and chose to elect Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party in its stead.
It would have been laughable if it wasn’t so despicable, the attempt of the pro-Modi opportunists to glorify your skills in reviving the speculator-driven stock markets. While newspapers were full of stories on the Modi effect on the Assembly results, business TV channels went into overdrive. Conveniently ignoring the impact of global economic recovery, they started the day by giving you credit for the 2 per cent recovery in Sensex. Representatives of FIIs and Dalal Street firms were singing in fortissimo to project you as the messiah of markets and not good governance. I’m sure you don’t sneeze when the markets catch a cold. Unlike many UPA ministers and even the PM who consider the stock market as one of the barometers of policy success, you tom-tom the economic recovery of your state as the symbol of your successful governance. But the market-makers were determined to make you the Sensei of Sensex. Both BSE and Nifty closed at 20,996 and 6259 on December 6, just two days before the votes were counted. Nikkei and Hang Seng closed at 15,665 and 24,038 the same day. When the markets opened on Monday, the day after the counting was over, the stocks showed a worldwide surge and not just in India. But for the first time Indian tycoons and opinion-makers abjured giving credit to global trends and invoked the Modi factor as the succour of stocks. On Friday, however, the markets closed lower than a week ago; the Sensex ended up at 20,715 and Nifty at 6,168. Does it mean that Brand Modi is just a bubble? You must see through the sinister designs of these temporary cheerleaders. Your work speaks for you. Your conduct is both your asset and liability. For the next few months while your detractors lie low, your promoters will create scary expectations from you. Like Caesar, beware of your friends more than your sworn foes.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, December 9, 2013

An India Divided into 50 states.... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/December 08, 2013

An India Divided Into 50 States on Economic Lines Will Ensure a True Shining Nation

Activists protest in Hyderabad demanding separate Telangana

Expediency is the mot juste for the Congress credo. The party founded by Alan Octavian Hume exactly 129 years ago swears by its imperial inheritance from the Union Jack—the British policy of divide and rule. For a party that advertises inclusive economics and politics, its policies and actions have always been aimed at polarising the nation along casteist, regional and religious lines. It chooses to divide when it fails to unite through pressure, persuasion and power. For example, after stonewalling the creation of a Telangana state for over five decades, it has suddenly discovered that dividing Andhra Pradesh is its only option to capture a small sliver of the stormy state. It is rare that a new state is created, not for economic and administrative reasons but purely to improve the political prospects of a party. The economic necessity of bifurcating Andhra is as much relevant today as it was 50 years ago. But a clique of the high and mighty had for long sabotaged the midwifing of a smaller state, because it would have adversely affected their financial and political clout.

Ever since former CM YSR Reddy died, the Congress and the ruling elite have been orphaned in Andhra. To the High Command’s delight, the mercurial CM’s argumentum ad baculum policy was successful in gagging even legitimate dissent while keeping the state politically united. After his death in a helicopter crash, the Andhra Congress became a divided house as its control over castes and regions crumbled with Jagan Mohan Reddy deserting the party and floating his own.
Since the return of the Congress to power for a third consecutive term in 2014 also depends on its performance in Andhra, which gave it 33 seats in 2009, the leadership has decided to surrender a large part of coastal Andhra to Jagan while trying to retain and win Telangana, which sends 17 MPs to the Lok Sabha. UPA was fast and furious in completing almost all the administrative and legislative formalities necessary for the creation of a new state; this, however, exposed the Congress’s political compulsions. Never before has the Central government initiated the process of dividing a state, ignoring strident opposition from a large section of the state. When the NDA divided Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, it carried the state leadership along and the process was seamless and politically perfect. In Andhra, the Congress, buckling under local pressures, vacillated and agonised for two years. It swerved haphazardly at opportunistic U-turns. In the end, it reckoned that it was better to salvage whatever little support was left. The UPA surgeons finished the amputation exercise in eight weeks. The Group of Ministers headed by Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, a former Andhra Pradesh governor, went through the motions of talking to all political parties. They even brought on board civil servants from over a dozen ministries from the state and the Centre. Finally, the Union government has endorsed a draft Bill to be passed during the Winter Session of Parliament. 
The falsetto for the creation of smaller states has reached a high pitch in other states. But a powerful confederacy of political, corporate and social interests has sabotaged the genuine need to divide India into many economically viable smaller states. While the Congress is in a tearing hurry to be Telangana’s political obstetrician, it has not spoken a word about similar pleas emanating from other states. It is almost three years since Mayawati, Uttar Pradesh’s CM at the time, wrote to the Centre to start the process of dividing her humongous state into four smaller ones. Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has been fighting for a separate Harit Pradesh, though his demand is confined to occasional speeches and letters, with no serious agitation attempted so far. In West Bengal, people from hilly regions around Darjeeling have been struggling for Gorkhaland, but ironically both the Trinamool Congress and arch enemy CPI(M) have pooled their political resources together to fight the division of the state. In Maharashtra, none of the national parties are backing the strong demand for Vidharbha, which has stayed a backward region for decades.
The demand for new states is the outcome of poor governance and economic and social benightedness of those parts of big states which are resource-deprived. Both Vidarbha and Telangana are significantly poorer on all economic parameters than other parts of Maharashtra and Andhra. Since the established political leadership fears loss of power if their fiefdoms are divided, they conspire with opinion makers, corpulent corporates and even social organisations to oppose such moves. For example, the opposition to Telangana is coming from the section of India Inc based in Hyderabad, which holds over 70 per cent of the assets of a dozen powerful families. Their nominees control the political and bureaucratic machinery. The Mumbai elite would feel insecure if Vidarbha is created because they will not be able to influence decisions in that region of Maharashtra to protect their business and social stakes. In the case of Uttar Pradesh, the Yadavs are opposed to division because their caste control is much less in various parts of Western and Eastern UP. Even the upper caste-dominated BJP fears the contraction of its political base if UP is quartered into four. It is surprising that the UPA leadership, which follows market economics, is opposed to creating more states like the US has. The raison d’etre for the Congress aversion to appoint a States Reorganisation Commission is expediently political. It makes sense to divide India on developmental lines as it makes both good economics and better politics. Even if the Congress adheres to its well-tested philosophy of divide and rule, it should do so without discrimination. An India divided into 50 smaller states, based on economic reasons and not caste or language, will ensure the birth of a true Shining India of tomorrow.
(; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla)

Monday, December 2, 2013

State Polls Verdicts will make.... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/December 01, 2013

State Polls Verdicts Will Make and Mar the Destinies of National Leaders like Modi

The heads may belong to different Caesars, but the Congress and BJP are two sides of the same mintage. That is, at least, the perception if not the reality. The ascendants and descendants of the electoral zodiac have erased the amorphous line that divides both national parties. Personality cults and sycophancy have always constituted the Congress party’s political charter. Its generalissimos are unfailingly unapologetic about expressing their unflinching loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. They remain convinced that while the Family’s Charisma seizes the laurels, losses in the battle of the ballots are entirely caused by the infirmities of the local leadership. This contagion of belief has now affected the BJP. With votes yet to be counted in the five states, leaders of both parties have, in advance, started apportioning the credit and blame for expected losses and wins. Leaders chased by TV channels for sound bytes are obsessed with offering morsels of banal opinion even if they have to dine on their words later. Last week, journalists quizzed senior BJP leaders about the possible consequences of the electoral verdicts in the party. While asked about whom the credit to victory or shame in defeat in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh should go to, a saffron luminary was emphatic in his response—it would be a victory of both national and local sentiments. The second rung leadership echoed his views, making it obvious that a section of the central leadership is unwilling to give full credit to the BJP’s chief ministerial candidates like Vasundhara Raje Scindia and Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Disremembering that the party has been projecting Chouhan as a model chief minister along with Narendra Modi, its wannabe leaders are competing with each other to give credit to the efficacy of the Modi as the Ace of Trumps. Modi acolytes have taken over the reins of the party, and have ensured that he gets more exposure in poll-bound states than local leaders. In Delhi, all posters, hoardings and TV promos carry much bigger visuals of Modi compared to CM candidate Harsh Vardhan’s. In contrast, the Congress, for the first time, has refrained from projecting the Gandhis or the Prime Minister as the face of their election offensive.

A divided and ambitious BJP leadership is playing a Sun Tzu-ian game of posturing and positioning. Diehard Modi followers feel that thanks to his magic, the party would win all the four states where the Gujarat Chief Minister has addressed over 50 meetings. Though the party had given a list of over 30 star campaigners to the Election Commission for these states, Modi topped the charts, followed by Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani. In case the BJP storms home in all the four, the spoils of war would go to Modi and not the chief ministers. He would be declared the sole hero of the 2014 electoral semi-finals. Statistics would spell the numerical narrative on crowds drawn by Modi and his fiery speeches, as having generated a massive wave in the BJP’s favour to throw out incumbent Congress chief ministers. In case the BJP retains Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh while snatching Rajasthan away from its foe, the credit would go to Modi because it would be projected as a mandate for him for leading from the front. Internal opinion polls will be pulled out of the party’s escritoires to show that it was Modi who converted a lost cause in Chhattisgarh into an emphatic victory. If local party scuttlebutt is to be believed, the BJP plans to organise a special victory procession in Delhi, with Modi as the monarch. If the BJP is trounced in Delhi, however, the absence of a charismatic local leadership and a divided party leadership would be blamed. In case of a tie where the Congress and BJP win two states each, party logicians would dissemble that the absence of local organisational skills and the selection of unpopular candidates were the main reasons for defeat. Meanwhile, another section of the BJP feels that if the party fails to win Delhi and Chhattisgarh, Modi would be held responsible for the electoral Waterloo blaming his aggressive style and personality for polarising voters and scaring off fence-sitters. Since Modi is omnipresent on the battlefields of all the states, his acceptability and political allure are under greater scrutiny than that of his immediate rival, Rahul Gandhi.
The BJP has taken victory for granted while the Congress has confined itself to projecting the state elections as a mandate for the local leadership. Both Rahul and Sonia Gandhi have addressed less than half the number of Modi’s public rallies. They have realised that the Family may keep the party together, but is in no position to ensure victory, doomed by the pathetic performance of the UPA government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Congress High Command’s singular objective is to ensure that the Modi Mantra is extensively erased with the use of massive election funding and by bringing together all warring factions together. The Gandhis and their guild of loyalists feel that if the Congress wins two of the four states (excluding Mizoram), it would paralyse the Modi juggernaut and pave the way for UPA III. In the endgame, a score of 4-all would make Modi the invincible captain, but a 2-2 would be advantage Congress. Hence, as the die is perched at the edge of the precipice of prediction, the BJP has much more to lose than the Gandhis by making Modi its commander-in-chief. Elections verdicts will not decide the fate of local governments. But they will make and mar the destinies of national leaders like Modi.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, November 25, 2013

Muscled with dosh from India Inc, ....Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard/November 24, 2013

Muscled with dosh from India Inc, poll industry yields richest dividends in the game

Surviving in politics without black money is like Dionysius living without wine. As the electoral glove game of 2014 gets dirty and malodorous, not a single player involved is extemporising on cleansing electoral economics. Last week, when a portal carried a sting operation on some Aam Aadmi Party candidates, the outfit smelt political vengeance. Stung by AAP’s growing acceptability, its opponents struck back and accused it of double standards by using unaccounted money. In the sadistic political slanging match between parties, the role of money power in elections became toast. From PM Manmohan Singh to aspiring PM Narendra Modi, not one leader spoke about bringing financial transparency into election funding. Even the vociferous and sanctimonious Election Commission achieved Zen by the monotonous repetition of its decade-old representations to the government. An analysis of over 100 speeches made by the PM, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Modi and the CMs of election-bound states generates revealing revelations. The use of bad money coming from ugly sources wasn’t an issue. All parties are competing with one another in a decadent display of money power with choreographed rallies and fancy stages. According to an estimate by a corporate, Croesus, who ponies up poll funds to all leading parties, it would cost candidates in the coming state elections over Rs. 2,000 crore to fight for the 650 Assembly seats. While the upper spending limit set by EC for an Assembly election is just Rs. 35 lakh per candidate, it would cost each aspirant at least Rs. 1 lakh a day to cover his constituency during a month-long campaign. If the details of collections given to EC are any indication, it’s a record of parties being Shylockian with the truth. Together, all candidates spend over Rs. 25,000 crore every five years to win or lose. With the political-business nexus becoming stronger and blatantly visible, all talk of transparency in election spending is perceived as naff.

Since most parties have refused to come under the RTI Act, it is clear that they have more to hide than to reveal about the dubious sources of their funds. Not a single CM has made a feeble attempt to promise that his or her party would accept political donations only by cheque. Even the BJP, which 20 years ago was the first party to pass a resolution refusing to accept donations in cash, was the first to forget and violate its own resolve. Surprisingly, all political outfits become animadvert on the use of brobdingnagian amounts of money in politics only after they have won or lost an election. One doesn’t have to go far to seek the reasons for their sinister silence on finances. Even though India’s geographical boundaries remain unchanged since Independence, electoral expenses have risen manifold. Earlier, senior leaders, including CMs and officebearers, would cover the country by road and would rarely use flying machines to reach remote forested areas. Today, even a petty leader-come-yesterday takes pride in commandeering a helicopter or a chartered plane for election campaigns. Some of the so-called national leaders have refused to campaign because they were not allowed to jet set to various states in luxury. According to a civil aviation contractor, over 100 helicopters and small jet planes have been pressed into service in all the five election-bound states. The majority of the aircraft are owned by big business houses, which have acquired their flying toys by floating aviation companies. In fact, some leaders have made it a condition that they would not campaign unless they are provided an eight-seater twin-engine jet complete with five-star catering. Now the leaders are dictating terms to the parties. They decide their campaign schedule in such a way that they can return to their urban playgrounds for late night social rendezvous. They also seek caravans of luxury sedans for local poll peregrinations. A decade ago, our earthy leaders would draft publicity campaigns with catchy slogans, posters and graffiti. Now each party hires a top-end ad agency whose slogan writers are given the task to market the leaders who sign the contracts. Even district-level officers are demanding Innovas, Scorpios and Tata Safaris with unlimited gas and grub money before they even step out of their houses.
The complexion of the Indian election campaign is becoming more colourful and exhibitionistic than ever. It is not the crowd or quality of speeches that make an impact on voters. Leaders have convinced themselves that only the feel and look of the stage and the campaigner’s body language would them get them eyeballs and votes. With over 400 TV channels beaming news 24x7, all major parties have devised strategies to splurge on expensive media space to reach the maximum number of people. Both national parties are fully exploiting the shrinking top lines of news organisations, which are unable to spend massively on live coverage. Moreover, parties are hiring state-of-the-art technology along with experts to dictate the live coverage of their rallies. According to media circles, both the Congress and BJP have engaged IT companies to provide dedicated feeds to all TV companies so that the channels could save money. No wonder, viewers are being fed similar images rallies with the focus on the leaders and selected crowded spots. These cost a minimum of over Rs. 1 crore per rally, since the effort requires over a dozen cameras and heavy techquipment.
It is not only the crony capitalists who have benefited from the pace of economic reforms. It is the money, which they have generated through means fair and foul that has changed the way India engages in the battle of ballots. Hired marketers have replaced barefoot campaigners as ideological messengers. Muscled with dosh from India Inc, the election industry yields the richest dividends in the political game played in the shadows of the dark side of India’s economy.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, November 18, 2013

Poll 2014 will decide fate ...Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/November 17, 2014

Poll 2014 will decide fate of opportunists who seek success in political currents

Shifts in the quicksands of loyalties and the forging of new ideological consociations are determined by the electoral pendulum. As various political outfits seek new partners and promoters, members of the Permanent Ruling Party of India (PRPI) are no lofty exceptions. It is not just a few chameleons of the political class which are changing their colours. Opportunism is much more visible among those who have acquired the art of jumping from one ship to another to avoid turbulence in business and social life. Depending on the nature of oscillations, foes become friends and villains are seen as emerging heroes. Old social encounters are retrieved from the archives of alliances to show and prove their ideological compatibility in sepia to the Caesars of tomorrow. Even friendly losers are liabilities and have to be dropped like hot potatoes.

Not long ago, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was the darling of the classes. So were Omar Abdullah and Akhilesh Singh Yadav. A couple of years before, even A Raja and Kanimozhi were coveted guests at chatterati soirees in Delhi and Chennai. Now they have disappeared from the mailing list of those who only host rising stars.
As various opinion polls reflect a clear swing in favour of Narendra Modi, his once-sworn enemies are desperately looking for platforms to bellow their allegiance to him. Participating in bellicose TV debates, writing columns and speaking at business forums in his favour are the most effective ways to join Modi-for-PM campaign. Earlier, he was the dreaded Decurion of divisiveness who had choreographed a pogrom in his state in 2002. For over a decade, they hounded Modi and sponsored and even supported every move to fix him legally, politically and socially.
From corporate caliphs to opinion operators, members of his new cortege see him as the only politician who can save India from disaster. Undoubtedly, Modi has a clean image. He has also performed well in Gujarat. But these aren’t new achievements. He was one of India’s best chief ministers for the past 10 years. Those who are now buzzing in the spindrift of the Modi juggernaut used to be uncomfortable with Modi’s class and character. For them Moditva was the face of a murderous ideology and Modi, a man without a mission. From New Delhi to New York, the rich and mighty were hell bent on banishing Modi and his brand of politics forever. They made him an international pariah who had to be avoided at all costs. For pseudo-secularists, NaMo was the most malignant threat to communal harmony. Now all of them, including the Obamas and the Camerons of the world, suddenly don’t find anything wrong with him. India has 30-odd chief ministers and some of them have done as well as Modi. Even Congress chief ministers like Bhupinder Singh Hooda have beaten Gujarat on many development indicators. BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan has an even better marksheet. But for both the BJP and Congress, NaMo is the only alternative claimant for the national throne. And that makes the power-hungry class of middlemen, image consultants and media mandarins who promote Modi and dump the rest. To be seen in Modi’s company or even in the periphery of his circle is a sure way to earn profits and retain social acceptability. Now even the secular and liberal brigade take schizophrenic pride in associating with Narendra Swayam Sewak Sangh (NSS) while hating RSS. The PRPI has converted its luxurious drawing rooms into war rooms to plan the launch of Modi as the new national brand. For them, 43-year-old Rahul Gandhi is history, and 63-year-old NaMo is the herald of a bright future.
For the past few weeks, Modi has become a god who can do no wrong. Earlier, his harmless barbs would invite pernicious barks from all over the country and even from abroad. Now, even the global rating agencies whose survival depends on a friendly government in India predict an easy victory for the BJP’s candidate. Those who would refuse to attend any social gathering where Modi was expected  now stand in the queue to sponsor his events and even his M-merchandise. Over 100 top industrialists, socialites, media personalities and Bollywood icons are conceiving events in which NaMo would be the chief guest. Modi is now becoming an icon in demand for inaugurating seminars and debates, laying foundation stones for new buildings and even becoming the stellar visitor at weddings.
What is baffling a few top Congress leaders is the new tendency on part of their traditional promoters to avoid their phone calls, even from Union ministers. While some ministers continue to have good relationships with industrialists, they are unable to make them support the party the way it was done in the past. Even the UPA regime’s beneficiaries are now taking pot shots at the senior Congress leadership and even the Prime Minister—the same cabal which would earlier organise national and international conclaves to promote the Gandhis and the once-powerful reformist Manmohan Singh and his team.
Interestingly, the PRPI doesn’t owe its allegiance to any doctrine of principles. It only flirts with individuals in various political parties depending upon their utility and class. They behave like modern slaves always looking for a new ruler in front of whom they could bow and scrape  for crumbs. They are the beneficiaries and products of India’s economic reform and crony capitalism. Since they have flourished not necessarily thanks to hard work and ability, but due to continuous state protection in the form of a favourable fiscal and administrative regime, they are always at the telescope peering out for those who would not only protect their new wealth but also help in fattening it. As their number has multiplied during the past two decades, they are in a position to influence the political charter and agenda. For them, conviction has always been a matter of convenience. Election 2014 will decide the fate of not only NaMo and RaGa but also of the avaricious floaters who seek success in the whimsical currents of politics.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, November 11, 2013

PM's Lanka decision proves ...Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/Nvoember 10, 2013

PM's Lanka decision proves he is no longer India's sole arbiter on foreign relations

The broth of diplomacy could turn out to be a noxious concoction made of “scale of dragon; tooth of wolf; witches’ mummy; and maw and gulf” if the pot is stirred sans care and caution. Throw in a dose of dilemma, and diplomacy is certain to cause undiplomatic trauma—the current mot juste for the Indian diplomatic community’s state of mind. For the past few weeks, PM Manmohan Singh is under tremendous pressure to choose between pleasant pastures of international diplomacy and the quirky quicksands of domestic politics. He has now discovered that good diplomacy could be ‘Adder’s fork, and blind worm’s sting’ for the Congress’ political interests. His indecisiveness on participation in the CHOGM to be held in Colombo next week reflected his vulnerability. Diplomats have always deplored the influence of domestic or regional politics on international relations and the PM has been a fellow traveller. But as the countdown to general elections begins, he is more concerned about winning the election than maintaining consistent faith in traditional diplomacy. The current contours of Indian diplomacy are being defined by those expected to be the kingmakers after 2014. The magic number of 40 (including Puducherry) Lok Sabha seats from Tamil Nadu is defining the UPA’s foreign policy. The PM’s conciliatory contortions to soothe Tamil anger over his Sri Lanka visit was quite droll, though he was bold enough to defy the BJP which demanded suspension of the Indo-Pak dialogue because of cross-border terrorism, since they are as unlikely to form a coalition in 2014 as Macbeth’s witches would brew elixir. The Indian PM has always dictated foreign policy from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru, one of those who midwifed the CHOGM—a result of Nehruvian romance with international diplomacy. In the age of coalition politics, even diplomacy has become an effective instrument of votebank politics. Currently, dialogue with Pakistan is a sign of secularism, which pays rich political dividends. Boycotting CHOGM is a regional weapon to capture votes and power. Even liberal Congress ministers who otherwise would have nudged the PM to defy regional parties advised him against any adventurism fearing worse electoral humiliation in Tamil Nadu. Even the BJP, ideologically in simpatico with Sri Lanka’s ruling establishment, prefers to beat around the bush because it, too, expects one of the Tamil parties to support its PM candidate.

PM Manmohan Singh with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa

CHOGM wasn’t an important noting on Manmohan’s diplomatic diary in 2011. He had requested Vice-President Hamid Ansari to represent India. Though CHOGM can hardly influence international diplomacy, it has become an instrument for India to dominate dialogue; at least among smaller nations. With over a dozen other multi-nation platforms including ASEAN, G-20, BRICS and SAARC being prima donnas of South Asian diplomatic savoir-faire, CHOGM has lost its sheen and relevance since the same subjects are discussed at its venues too. Those opposed to Manmohan’s Sri Lanka visit had argued that CHOGM failed to guarantee that Sri Lanka adhered to principles when it blatantly flouted the 14-point 1971 Singapore Resolution which mandates members to ensure human rights protection. In the past, CHOGM had suspended Pakistan, Nigeria, Fiji and Zimbabwe for human rights violations. Unfortunately, none of its rich and powerful members have attacked Sri Lanka for the Tamil genocide. Most members take divergent positions at various forums, and no  important multilateral issue has been resolved because of differing loyalties. Sri Lanka has been wooing the Chinese for the past few years by granting increasing access to its ports and markets. It is not merit but pure politics, which is forcing Manmohan to surrender his only fief in the government. He attended three of the last four CHOGMs. Though not officially announced yet but with all indications implying the same, by deciding to miss the last one of his tenure, he would prove he is no longer India’s sole arbiter on foreign relations.
Come November, New Delhi becomes the salubrious rendezvous point for international meetings and seminars. Post recession, New Delhi has lost its global corporate clientele. Instead, it is now hosting diplomats from countries experiencing bad weather. Foreign secretary Sujatha Singh decided to invite 140 heads of Indian Missions for a four-day brainstorming session. Prime Minister, the Commerce Minister and the National Security Advisor addressed the jamboree. Unlike in the past, the meeting was more interactive. A short 450-word summary explaining the salient features of the PM’s speech was uploaded on the MEA’s website. As usual, the PM’s address was very high on principles and low on count. Most of those who participated found serious contradictions between what he meant by effective diplomacy to protect national interests and what the Congress was pursuing on ground. At the end, they were left wondering what their job would be—selling the ruling party’s line or that of their ministry and the PM’s. But their major grouse was that though they were flown first class to India, they were handed just Rs 5,000 a day to find accommodation.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, November 4, 2013

Modi takes a leaf out of Congress book ..... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/November 03, 2013

Modi takes a leaf out of Congress book, plays politics of grief on enemy turf

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi is known for his innovative epiphanies. His cannily choreographed rallies are the envy of many a corporate and political leader. NaMo has become a mantra, a mission and a model of governance. Offence is always his best defence. But he is on a course correction spree. Modi is not a Demosthenes of ideology anymore. He has chosen to pay back his rivals like RaGa (Rahul Gandhi) and NiKu (Nitish Kumar) in their own coin. The Congress and its apple polishers dubbed Modi’s weekend visit to Bihar martyrdom tourism, charging him with playing politics of grief. Modi visited the homes of all the six victims of the serial blasts which rocked Patna’s Gandhi Maidan and other parts of the city during his visit to address the Hunkar Rally on October 27. NaMo, who had avoided visiting the victims of the 2002 riots in his own state for a long time, lost no time in burning up aviation fuel by dashing to Patna twice in one week to express condolences and score points over his rambunctious rivals. These well-calculated demarches have rattled his detractors and hit them where it hurts the most-their political constituency. A close look at his recent manoeuvres reveals that NaMo, a staunch RSS faithful, is experiencing his Dale Carnegie moment-he has lifted virtual chapters from the Congress’ book of ‘How to Make Friends and Influence Enemies’ in order to establish himself as the new messiah of terror victims. Fishing in troubled waters has been the most effective and consistent virtue of all political leaders. For our avaricious politicians, agony is opportunity, and misery the canon of success.
The last two weeks have witnessed scathing and scandalous scrimmages between NaMo and the supporters of both RaGa and NiKu. All have been extravagant with their arsenal in trying to lacerate and paralyse the opponent’s political moves. Both over half a dozen senior ministers of UPA and the Bihar Chief Minister challenged NaMo, accusing him of making factually incorrect statements against his adversaries and polarising voters in Bihar and other parts of the country. Now, he is charged with exploiting the grief of the terror victims of 26/10. Modi’s strategy is crystal clear. Like any guerrilla operating in a treacherous political jungle, he has chosen to shoot and scoot. Even though he was caught making gaffes about Nehru avoiding Sardar Patel’s funeral, NaMo is determined to impose both his politics and political narrative on his rivals. His Bihar Mission has a method in its madness. With Lalu Prasad in jail, Modi launched verbal drone attacks against the weak NiKu government on the twin issues of security and governance. He has decided to demolish NiKu’s credibility by accusing him of patronising terror at the risk of serious threats to the lives of senior leaders and communal harmony in Bihar. By visiting the families of the Patna blast victims, NaMo is drilling home the point that NiKu is least bothered about the personal tragedies of his people. So incensed was the Bihar chief minister with NaMo’s missiles that he retorted by unleashing a personal attack on his oppugner. Ridiculing NaMo’s frequent visits, NiKu termed his foe an outsider and claimed that the people of Bihar are “buying brooms during Deepawali to clean the garbage that has come to Bihar”.
It’s History Redux in the politically fertile land of Bihar. NaMo seems to have carefully imbibed that chapter of political history which changed Indian politics. It was in Bihar that Indira Gandhi launched her retaliatory charge against the Janata government in 1978. In August that year, militantly aggressive Kurmis mowed down 14 Dalits in the sleepy hamlet of Belchchi in Nalanda district. Only a year ago, Indira had lost power. But she lost no time in taking advantage of the bloody caste war that ensued. Karpoori Thakur, a socialist but a weak administrator, was the state’s chief minister. Indira landed in Nalanda and waded into the floodwaters on an elephant to visit each Dalit family, which had lost members in the caste pogrom. On her return to Patna, she called on the ailing Jayaprakash Narayan who was responsible for her crushing electoral ignominy. JP expressed his distress over the non-performing state government. He told Indira, “Indu, I wish  you a better future, brighter than your past.” Her Nalanda visit revived the Congress, and the party won its first by-election in the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh three months later—Mohsina Kidwai, the Congress candidate, won the Azamgarh Lok Sabha constituency, the first seat won by the party in north India after its 1977 rout. If a collapsed colossus like Indira could manage a triumphant return to power using raging caste violence, a NaMo with an equally charismatic personality and supported by a committed cadre could use the same political thesaurus.
In his campaign, Modi is only using the well-tested techniques adopted by Congress leaders in the recent past. His research team has compiled a long list of grief and poverty tours undertaken by top Congress leaders. Last year, Rahul Gandhi made a motorbike trip to bond with Bhattaparsol, where the Uttar Pradesh Police allegedly tortured farmers. The grief list also includes the nights spent by Rahul in Dalit colonies and the visits of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi to Chhattisgarh after top Congress leaders were massacred by Naxalites. Modiites are now reminding the Congress about the trips which Sonia and the Prime Minister made to Muzzafarnagar after 43 were killed in the worst-ever communal clashes in decades. If the Congress is accusing NaMo of marketing grief for electoral gains, the BJP has charged it with selling poverty to retain power. The tendency to encash on human tragedies for electoral gains is becoming an acceptable norm for taking a gullible voter for a ride. The Battle of 2014 is fought on the landscapes of the mistakes and miseries of the past and not on how to draw a new roadmap for the future.

Monday, October 28, 2013

In I vs I battle, it won't be ..... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/ October 27, 2013

In I vs I battle, it won't be easy for RaGa, NaMo to convince India of their worth

Indian politics is no more an Armageddon of ideologies. Electoral verdicts no longer define political ensigns of those who follow the bugle of the ballot. As ideological divides get blurred, elections are fought around personalities and not performance. The current clash of the Titans—Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi—defines the evaporation of a structured model or mantra for governance. The national discourse revolves around faults and faculties of RaGa and NaMo. Even the age difference between the two doesn’t deter critics and admirers from shifting the debate beyond the known and unknown skills of both leaders. Modi is 64 and Rahul 43.

If their demagoguery during the past two weeks is any indication, the election is being turned into I vs I. Their campaign tells a tale of new politics. Both talk more about themselves and less about what they represent. Rahul has convinced himself that invoking the Gandhi name, family culture and their sacrifices will sway the national Weltanschauung. When he talks about the assassinations of his grandmother and father, he is drilling the point that it is his family alone which can keep the country united and that he is not afraid to meet his Hamletian fate to save India. His speech writers are following the golden principle that an oration delivered with a correct mix of emotional charge and personal anecdotes is capable of carrying the target audience than words full of lofty ideas and dreams. Rahul’s clear strategy is to make himself, and not the Congress, his opponent’s target. He seems to have picked a leaf out of his grandmother and mother’s political strategy. Both Indira and Sonia have been primary targets of vicious personal campaigns. Indira was called a goongi gudia (dumb doll). Sonia’s Italian connection and her association with an Italian businessman has been the subject of barbs. But both staged comebacks. Indira recaptured the throne in 1980 with two-thirds majority, barely 30 months after she lost it in the spindrift of Emergency. In 2004, Sonia’s silent campaign led to the ouster of the government led by Atal Bihari
Vajpayee. Within two decades, she nearly doubled her party’s strength in Lok Sabha from 112 to 206. The Gandhi Parivar feels that the last two victories were appropriate rebuffs to those who indulged in personal attacks. Rahul is just experimenting with history. He is undeterred by the ridicule he invited for some of his recent politically incorrect utterances, including the one on Muzzarffarnagar riots.
Not to be left behind, NaMo has made his indigent origins his selling point. He doesn’t miss any chance to tell audiences that he used to sell tea and couldn’t attend a good school. He wants people to elect him the guardian of India’s treasury to prevent corruption. Without naming Rahul, Modi paints him as a leader born with the proverbial silver spoon. He calls Rahul “Yuvraj” and now “Shehzada”, who is thriving because he was born into the right family but failed to acquire any skills for dealing with ordinary Indians. Modi’s electoral aria is based on his own brand of politics and the Modi Mantra, which revolves around his style. Through gestures and choice of idioms, NaMo paints himself a victim of a campaign of hatred launched by a cabal of elitist social activists and NGOs. His promoters make the point that despite maintaining communal harmony and a spectacular performance in Gujarat, NaMo is being branded the Great Divider because he is a threat to votebank politics. Modi considers himself an outsider and a serious challenger to the class-oriented establishment. These sustained and dangerous personal attacks on NaMo have only made him one of the most popular political brands. He has converted Poll-2014 into a battle between pedigree vs performance; rich vs poor.
But there appears some method behind this personality-driven madness. RaGa’s political genealogy reminds one of Indira’s hyperbolic speechcraft on Garibi Hatao and whatever went in the name of a welfare state. Economics was hardly the central theme of her politics. Sonia adopted the Indira Doctrine, ignoring economic transformation brought by her late husband Rajiv. RaGa represents the aggressive and confrontationist politics of his grandmother and the socialist inclinations of his mother. For him, using state funds to provide freebies makes better politics than creating a favourable climate for markets and foreign investments. Rajiv ignored his mother and grandfather by dumping the mixed economy model by following P V Narasimha Rao who disowned Nehruvian Mantra. History has come full circle with RaGa pleading for a dominant role for the state. Unlike his father for whom good economics made better politics, RaGa is reinventing the grammar of good politics, which would lead to better economics.
Modi flies the banderole of good economics. The villain of 2002 is the new hero of 2013 because he is talking about delivery, development and dialogue. NaMo is the real follower of both Rajiv and Rao who created oligopoly. Rao opened up the economy for industrial houses, which were denied access to state patronage by Nehru and Indira. NaMo has promoted and created powerful corporate leaders in Gujarat and won over traditional Congress supporters even if it meant compromising with those who are opposed to his core ideology. NaMo talks technology, uses technology and swears by the markets. Like RaGa, the BJP’s PM candidate rarely dwells on international issues.
In what appears to be an apocalyptic confrontation between a declared PM contender and a scion of India’s perennial ruling family, their plights and delights have become bazaar babble. Political strategies and weaponry are being honed and polished. But for both leaders, it will not be an easy task to convince a self-righteous and argumentative India united by a 5,000-year-old cultural heritage of unity in diversity, of their true worth.; Follow me  on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Teekhi Baat with Dr Harsh Vardhan / IBN 7 / October 26, 2013

PC: What medical area do you specialise in?
HV: Ear, nose and throat.

PC: But Delhi has a problem of heart…
HV: I pray to god that you don’t get it…

PC: I have a problem, can’t hear properly. Speaking about you, a doctor has been chosen to solve Delhi’s problems.
HV: As far as Delhi is concerned, I think it is ill. At this moment, it is in the Intensive Care Unit. I feel it needs a healing touch.

PC: Since you are an ENT specialist, you will have to open up ears of the people of Delhi first. People here don’t believe in BJP. They have made you lose for 15 years.
HV: How can you say that people are making us lose for 15 years? In these 15 years, we have won 7 Lok Sabha seats. In 1999, we won all seven Lok Sabha seats of Delhi.

PC: And 2004, after which you were left with only one seat?
HV: In 2007 and 2011 we won municipal elections in Delhi. Hence, you cannot say we have been losing for 15 years.

PC: Dr. Saab, you have been here for a long time. Your Sangh-age is more than others. You have been winning corporation elections since 1998, but not Lok Sabha elections. It means your party is a corporation level party in Delhi.
HV: It is not so. If we have not been successful in assembly elections, we feel that the Congress and its leader may have had better fortune than us.

PC: But your vote percentage has decreased over a decade due to issues of credibility.
HV: What are you saying Prabhuji? BJP has good credibility not only in Delhi, but in the whole country and the whole world. Though Atalji did not win the second time in 2004, if you go abroad even today, people ask about Atalji first. They praise the work done by Atalji’s government. 

PC: Why don’t they vote for Atalji’s party? Even now Atalji is way ahead in popularity. It is true according to opinion polls.
HV: A year ago, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, her whole cabinet had put all their might, but Congress was not able to win even one of the three municipal corporations in Delhi.

PC: Dr Saab, you have come back to municipal level again. We are talking of national level party.
HV: It is the same public which votes.

PC: Last time you won the municipal elections, but lost the assembly polls.
HV: See in December, 2013, we will form government in Delhi and in 2014 under Narendra Modi’s leadership. He will become India’s Prime Minister, and will make India’s name all over the world.

PC: Just one month before the elections. BJP has found the ENT specialist. But you have been around for a long time. Why did they remember you now?
HV: From the time I am in politics, I have been given important responsibilities. In Delhi, I have been city president three times, national vice president, and today I am central election committee member that chooses candidates across the country. Hence, the party has given me all kinds of responsibilities. I have served as Haryana in-charge.

PC: Why didn’t they announce the CM candidate earlier?
HV: The question is not why it is done now or why it was was not done before, or should it have been done or not. Our senior party leaders have a lot of experience—of 50-60 years. They have made people contest so many elections. And you are asking why it was not done earlier… Yesterday, it was announced. Today, ask any child in Delhi who the BJP chief ministerial candidate in Delhi is. He will tell you.

PC: Everybody was waiting. Vijay Goelji said he wanted to be the CM candidate. Now, there are people opposing you in the party. They say that a man under whose leadership we have lost elections has been made the CM candidate. But they don’t talk about image. You have a good image.
HV: In politics, everybody has the right to make every type of comment. And there is no necessity for a counter comment to every person who comments on you.  I do not need to say anything about myself. In our party, we work for ideology and policy, not for individual person. But if you want to listen what I have done, I will tell you that during the last 20 years, I have won awards, which many would not have won in India in past 50 years.

PC: People say these days that RSS decides everything and you have been RSS swayamsevak. They have trust in you. You have been named because of RSS. Otherwise it could have happened earlier. You are RSS’s candidate not BJP’s.
HV: Please understand, RSS for us is a centre of ideals and inspiration. We get inspired and derive energy to good work from RSS. BJP and I get the culture of good work from RSS. We feel proud about it. Even in 2008 and before that, I was a Sangh swayamsevak. Sangh never interferes in BJP’s affairs. I am witnessing politics for 20 years actively.

PC: Are you not RSS nominee.
HV: There is no question. In our parliamentary board, Advaniji decided, Rajnathji decided, Nitinji decided, Dr Joshiji decided, Venkaiahjidecided, Sushmaji, Ananth Kumarji, Ramlalji, all of them decided together.

PC: But all these are RSS people
HV: Everybody is from RSS, and I think those who are not, should be. If those who are outside (RSS) come and see it, they would wonder why they didn’t join it all these years. 

PC: It seemed that Vijay Goel would be the candidate. What did people see one month before the elections that they felt you could give better results than him? 
HV: Vijay Goel is a very good and a hard working leader. He works with innovation. And I like him from within my heart and he too does the same. For any post, in your channel, if anyone has to be made the chief, it is only one person, it cannot be two. No A would become, if B had become. You would have said that you have been president for five years, then why weren’t you appointed.

PC: In Sangh-age you are the senior…
HV: There is no issue of seniority. The experienced leaders of the party decide. Till now, we have not thought about an individual. We give work the importance.

PC: Why does Harshvardhan have to take BJP to victory? Now it is personality contest. On one side is Sheila Dikshit, Arvind Kejriwal and Dr. Harshvardhan.
HV: It is not a question of about Harshvardhan. Our party karyakartaswork for the party. Through the party, for the country and the society, we are inspired by Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and Dr Shayama Prasad Mukherjee. Atalji and Advaniji have followed this path.

PC: Are you confident the party will win?
HV: I have 100 per cent confidence in our party workers, on people’s trust, love, and our leaders’ guidance and on God’s wishes.

PC: Not on oneself…
HV: What is an individual? My party and its workers are with me, people of Delhi, guidance of leaders....

PC: Last time, people voted you to power and trusted you. But you changed three chief ministers in five years. Then you brought Sushma to the forefront and lost elections. Will you get a magic box at the last moment?
HV: It is our party, when a false allegations was levelled against Lal Krishna Advaniji and Madan Lal Khurana, we adopted the highest ideals of probity in public life.

PC: Yes, they resigned.
HV: Both showed what it is to practice high ideals and now you ask why one replaced the other...

PC: What was the charge on Vermaji?
HV: There are many things in a party.

PC: But by taking a late decision, like during Sushma’s time, there are many drawbacks. 
HV: It is a party of strategy, but in politics, you may have the best possible strategy, even then it is not necessary that you would win the elections. I want to tell you today. Since the time nation got Independence, the work that our beloved Atal Bihari Vajpayee did during the six year NDA rule, I can take a challenge and debate. That much good work has not happened under the tenure of any prime minister. Unfortunately, we lost elections in 2004.

PC: But you lost the elections in 2009 as well.
HV: It is unfortunate for the nation. But this does not mean that there was any shortcoming in the work, or strategy.

PC: Why did you lose in 2009?
HV: I have said that there are many factors in an election. Only one person wins. This is not a fight.

PC: But you lost the fight that happened before Advaniji and Manmohan Singh…
HV: An experienced leader like Shri Lal Krishna Advaniji, who has an unblemished character, he has such a long political career, if this country did not make him Prime Minister, then it is not unfortunate for him, it is unfortunate for the nation.

PC: But you are talking about people.
HV: I am giving you a broader perspective. If people would have taken benefit of his 50 year experience in 2009, it would have been great for the nation.

PC: I agree with you. Be it Advaniji, Atalji or Dr Harshvardhan, image is good, clean and honest. There has been no statesman like Ataljisince Independence. There would have been before, but not after. Advaniji has a clean image, and you too have a clean image. Your performance as the  health minister was very good. But even then the party lost.
HV: You are repeating the same thing…

PC: I am repeating, because you didn’t give convincing answer. Why don’t people believe in you at the time of polls?
HV: Tell me, all you people, for so many years, did such a big wrong information campaign for so many years against Gujarat chief minister, so many things were said in newspapers and media, but he won consecutively and is winning. Even in Madhya Pradesh we are winning. In Delhi if you see the past 15-20 years, BJP has won, Congress also has won.

PC: Don’t you feel there are internal fights? Or leaders like Madanlal Khurana, Vijay Kumarji, Sahaniji, Advaniji were chairmen of metropolitan council. Everybody became national leaders, nobody became local leader.
HV: We have good party workers in every lane. Look at our Mandal presidents, even good workers at polling booths. There is no fight or quarrel but media cooks up things…

PC: There is new disease in the political class. They start blaming the media for everything.
HV: I am not blaming the media, I respect the media very much, and you’re a very senior journalist, I know you from many years. I am such a person that if anybody writes anything against me, I call and thank him. I get to learn after that. But I feel the way things are played in the media many times shows a lot of exaggeration. There may be differences in thoughts among us. But there is no difference in the minds.

PC: Sheilaji says her work is seen, development is seen, that is their slogan. Arvind Kejriwal says that he is fighting against corruption, there is proof and image. What slogan does Dr Harshvardhan have?
HV: I don’t know what development does Sheilaji talks about.

PC: Roads.
HV: Roads in which thousands of crores have been spent, and there are potholes on roads after a spell of rain. Don’t you remember the picture before the Common Wealth Games? A road was made near the Yamuna and it had potholes on the third day. What development you are talking about? Go to the slums. People don’t get a square meal to eat. There are no toilets in Delhi. Read their Delhi human development report— 84 per cent people do not get adequate water. The water they get is dirty. In schools, there is shortage of 15,000 teachers even today. There are no essential medicines in hospitals.

PC: You mean there is no development…
HV: Will there be any accountability? In GB Panth hospital, 50 per cent fatalities are being recorded since the last 10 years. Who will take responsibility? Can you tell me?

PC: Flyovers were made, metro was developed, green cover increased.
HV: The decision of metro was taken by us in the Madan Lal Khurana cabinet. The development model was prepared till the last phase. Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji had kept the foundation stone during our govenrment’s tenure. When he became the PM, Atalji inaugurated the Shahdara to Kashmiri gate route. Today, in the city, children have no schools, there are no teachers. A child gets 90 per cent, but cannot take admission to a college.

PC: What will you do, what is your slogan?
HV: We say that this government has treated Delhi very casually. We want to govern Delhi professionally with modern ideas, with assistance of best possible experts, with 500 per cent transparency. We will not make a government that does corruption and scams, but find solutions so that people can’t do corruption.

PC: Dr saab, you may feel bad, but your party has not done any big protest against corruption in Delhi, in the past five years. Like Arvind Kejriwal does daily.
HV: The gentleman you are naming, we don’t have a nature of abusing everybody like he does.

PC: He speaks from the heart.
HV: If any person gets obsessed with the idea that except for him, the whole world is dishonest and thief, I do not subscribe to that kind of mechanism.

PC: He says you should debate with them.
HV: Nobody has a problem in debating with anybody. But there should be some debating standards for debate, it does not mean that you dotu-tu-main-main and start abusing.

PC: Are you ready to debate with Sheilaji?
HV: I am ready to debate with everybody. But its agenda, its mechanism, all should be decided in a transparent manner. There should be no tu-tu main-main, or nuisance. Today, you see what is happening in politics, we do not accept it.

PC: I asked whether you are ready for debate with Sheilaji and Arvind Kejriwal
HV: When did I refuse? I am telling in your program, decide norms, and maintain its sanctity. I have said get any person to debate with me on the work done by Atalji’s government in six years.

PC: When you go to demand vote, you have projected Modi’s name for Prime Minister’s post. Sheila Dikshit is for 15 years and hence has a charisma and halo around her. Like your old leaders also had a halo around them. Harshvardhan does not have that much halo but has an image. Hence, will you use Modi’s name?
HV: It is not a issue of use. Modiji’s name is such a name today. A child who is not eligible to vote also gets excited by Narendra Modiji’s name. That’s because he has made a name due to his work, integrity, governance and vision.

PC: I have asked whether you will demand votes on Modi’s name or your work…
HV: On the name of BJP, all its governments, and its work in Delhi and across the country, states, our ideology, vision.

PC: Not on Modiji’s name, you said that you will win 2014 elections. 
HV: We will win this election and Modiji will become Prime Minister. You media have doubt, but the people of country don’t have any doubt. See, has any person addressed rallies of 5,7,10 lakh people in the past 50 years?

PC: I have seen Jaiprakash Narayan’s rally…
HV: Narendra Modiji’s rallies today are much bigger than Jaiprakash Narayan’s rallies…

PC: Before that we had seen Atalji’s rally, we walked 3-4 kms to see it.
HV: There is no comparison with Atalji, but today Narendra Modiji’s rallies have beaten all records.

PC: Who is your political fight against?
HV: It is against Sheilaji. Enough is enough, if you cannot deliver in 15 years, we want to gracefully show you the way out. People are forced to buy onion at Rs. 100 per kilo.

PC: But they are expensive even in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat…
HV: In the old days, when onions was sold at Rs. 30 per kilo for three weeks, Congress people were wearing onion garlands, now why don’t Sheilaji and others wear garlands.

PC: You feel Arvind Kejriwal is not relevant in the election?
HV: I do not want to rubbish anybody. My brain and focus now are preoccupied with thinking the best for the people of Delhi. There are 1300 parties in the country, and one more is added. Many parties are formed before elections and wither away. See election commission record, there are 1300 parties.

PC: But none of those leaders have popularity of 18 to 20 per cent.
HV: I am not questioning the sanctity of any opinion poll. I fully trust the people of Delhi.

PC: How many times will Modi come to the field here to make your image?
HV: Modiji is campaigning all over the country today. He is our future prime minister of India. When elections happened in the next 3-4-5 months, he will become prime minister. He is campaigning in the whole country.
Why wouldn’t he campaign in Delhi if elections are due here?
He will devote as much time as possible. We will request him to come, also other leaders in Delhi, we will do 100 meetings. Arun Jaitleyji has asked us to do as many meetings as we want to do. Advaniji said that they would come to as many places where they do the meetings. All leaders are our national president. But you have no other question than this. Narendra Modiji is an institution today. He is a phenomenon that has never been seen in India before.

PC: Will it benefit the Delhi election?
HV: His image is not because you people wrote some certificates. It is because of his work.

PC: But Congressmen are raising questions over his claims now.
HV: Even United Nations is praising the work he has done, he is getting awards. His name and Atalji’s name is taken respectfully by people.

PC: If you win, who will you give the credit? Modiji? BJP? Harshvardhan?
HV:  See, the work of our party workers, who work selflessly, have limitless potential, are honest, take inspiration from Pandit Deendayal Upadhyayay and Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee.

PC: And who will be blamed if you lose?
HV: This is not an important issue for us, this is an imaginary question. There is no necessity of answering this question. Winning and losing happen in politics. There is no meter for that. These are your questions.