Archive for December, 2013


I can understand why supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and especially Narendra Modi, are raging. It is because they know they were within sniffing distance of victory in Delhi, and someone, who they least expected, pulled the red carpet from under their feet. They were that close, and had they won, the saffron party would have completed a fantastic sweep of the assembly elections – four out of five. More importantly, to win in Delhi would have been the perfect launch pad for Lok Sabha 2014, when Narendra Modi would surely have swept the polls across the nation, and his ardent followers would have been over the moon. And I mean nation, not just the cow belt, because judging by the response he is getting, even in the South, it seems for the first time, he might achieve the impossible – a win down there – with the party’s allies, except maybe in Kerala.

And then out popped Aam Aadmi Arvind Kejriwal, wrapped up in his pullover, coat, muffler and topi, and stepped on the BJP’s celebratory cake. Up till the day the Assembly election results were being declared, the BJP and the Congress had both treated Kejriwal like the proverbial fly in the ointment – the minor irritant – that would be swatted into silence in another 24 hours (Example: Kejriwal isn’t even on the radar – Sheila Dikshit). They really didn’t think he was going to do much damage, and even the exit polls weren’t too sure. Much to their horror and anguish, the fly became a bee that stung them hard. Sheila Dixit, lost her constituency and her chair, and the BJP just lost its shirt at the audacity of this middle class ‘nobody’ who stuck it to them, where it hurts.

They believe the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has dared to steal from right under the nose of the BJP, what was rightfully theirs! And that also explains why the saffron supporters are savaging Kejriwal and his fledgling party with innuendos and pictures ridiculing him and his movement. What they are showing themselves to be, are poor losers. The funny thing is, the Congress was everything the people didn’t want in a political party and government– corrupt, inefficient, uncaring, and Kejriwal came along and whipped them, in their backyard. Instead of cheering for him there are some people who are ridiculing him. And these are mostly furious friends and supporters of the saffron brigade.

There’s a photograph that’s doing the rounds on Facebook, and probably on twitter. It is of Arvind Kejriwal in a Toyota SUV at Pune airport supposedly going to meet Anna Hazare at Ralegan Siddhi. It’s from a national daily. It’s obviously been used to convey that a guy who preaches simplicity and self righteousness has no qualms sitting in an SUV. It’s a pretty shallow attempt by the newspaper, for which incidentally I have great respect, to create a controversy where there isn’t any. Then there’s constant comparison between IIT pass-out Kejriwal and another IIT pass-out, BJP Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar of Goa, who has been photographed riding pillion on a scooter in Goa. I am sure Parrikar is a good, honest and hard working man. I’ve also read that he travels economy class and by bus, but I am sure he does not travel by scooter to work every day!

While I accept that I don’t see any party that can stand up to the BJP, right now, I don’t think I want to see a Parliament where there is no opposition worth the name. Unfortunately, even outside Delhi, the likes of Mulayam Singh, Mamata Banerji, Mayawati, Sharad Pawar, and Nitish Kumar are, together, not strong enough to pose a challenge even to Amit Shah, leave along Modi! And try as they might, Rahul Gandhi and his ragtag bunch are simply incapable of taking on Modi. Can Kejriwal?

At the recent speech to industry captains, Rahul spoke a lot about what his government has done and what it wanted to do, and yet it sounded so hollow, because it was just the political speech that the industry wasn’t interested in hearing. There really is no point in saying ‘we will do this’, or ‘we will do that’ when his government had ten years to do it, and didn’t. And now, just as the elections are around the corner and time is running out for the UPA government, it gets off its behind and announces a slew of populist measures, which everyone, with an iota of common sense, knows is just pre-poll gimmickry and will take another few years to bear fruit.

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We just love to flaunt our connections, don’t we? And if we are the connection, we just love to flaunt that too. ‘Immunity’ is a word that has been misused by politicians, diplomats, journalists, bureaucrats and anyone with any connection to government. When we are not in that position, some of us engage in what we call ‘name-dropping’. “I know so-and-so” or “do you know who I am?” is a popular refrain. See what happens at airports around the country. An MLA or MP or even the son-in-law of a VVIP can walk through the green channel, because he has the connections.

Whether Devyani Khobragade broke the law, or was framed by her maid, or the US government, the twelve men and women in an American courtroom will decide. And Ms Khobragade has not cared to give us the correct version – and by that I don’t mean her version, but the legal and truthful one. She has just denied the charge. What is the real story? Did she or didn’t she underpay her maid and does she have the documents to prove that she didn’t? The complaint alleges that Ms. Khobragade undertook to pay Sangeeta Richard $9.75 an hour for a 40-hour work week, but actually paid her around 30,000 rupees a month, or about $3.31 an hour.

Even weirder is External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid insisting on immunity for the diplomat. So does Khurshid mean that even though she committed the crime he would like her to be exonerated because she is a diplomat? Or should she have been handcuffed or strip searched?

Even on the question of immunity there are two versions. And then to protect her, the government hurriedly shifted her to the UN, where she can avail full immunity. Why do that, if she is innocent?

So what makes Ms Khobragade so special? Her father’s connections or her exalted status as ingrained in the Indian Constitution? This isn’t the first case of an Indian diplomat underpaying his or her maid, and it definitely won’t be the last. I wish ordinary citizens like me would also get such leeway when we are caught in a jam. And after having read the report on the Adarsh housing scam, it looks like neither Ms Khobragade or her father are as clean as he is claiming to be. She has also been declared ineligible to own a house in Adarsh. So when the lady didn’t have any issues bending a few rules here, how do we know she didn’t bend it there too?

But I do wish we – government and people (journalists included) – would stop indulging in this shoddy chest-thumping rhetoric. We have been blaming the media from across the border for the past sixty odd years of being jingoistic on a rather touchy issue. Isn’t that exactly how we are behaving now? Aren’t we going by whatever version we want to believe is the truth? Or as the TV channels are doing – carrying out their own jury trials, with the Sardesais and the Goswamis shrieking at the top of the lungs to gain some extra TRPs. I am really surprised at the stuff that is floating around about Ms Khobragade’s treatment of the maid; about how the maid thought Ms Khobragade was a wonderful woman and treated her like family; about how the maid was blackmailing her, etc etc. All that is really not important in this case, is it? So can we stop the BS?

Which also makes me wonder why the Manmohan Singh government never reacted with such alacrity when former President APJ Abdul Kalam was searched or when former Defence Minister George Fernandes was strip searched at an American airport? Was it because both men were not on the ‘most favoured people’ list of the MMs government? The lame excuse given then was that these were their (US) procedures at all airports. Some of my friends sitting in the USA or some more here might disagree with me on this, but tell me what did the Indian government do, with reference to a certain Rajat Gupta who was till the insider trading news broke, the darling of the Indian government and media? Of course, he broke the law, and the Indian government does not extend courtesies to law-breakers, does it? But Kalam and Fernandes did not break any law? Why didn’t our government withdraw privileges to US diplomats then? So what’s so special now?

Someone sent me an interesting piece from the US that according to Article 47 (Exemption From Work Permits) of the Vienna Convention, the staff in question wasn’t bound by local wage laws. I’ll accept that if it is really the case. Article 47 states: Specific restrictions on authority to express the consent of a State: “If the authority of a representative to express the consent of a State to be bound by a particular treaty has been made subject to a specific restriction, his omission to observe that restriction may not be invoked as invalidating the consent expressed by him unless the restriction was notified to the other negotiating States prior to his expressing such consent.” If you can figure that out, let me know.

The other issue is one of well-to-do Indians or Americans, or those in positions of power short-changing their countrymen elsewhere. In the midst of all this, spare a thought for the maid. We have conveniently made her the villain of the piece. A maid getting Rs 30,000 in India is unheard of except if she is working with the really rich. So it is easy to understand how someone in her position can be easily lured to any other country by such a figure.

I don’t know whether Ms Khobragade and the US government came to some sort of tacit understanding that they would look the other way while she underpaid the maid and a third party decided to be a little smart. If that is so, then all I can say is Ms Khobragade (India) slipped on a really big banana peel that was conveniently left there for her. If not, let us wait for the court to decide. And I mean the US court, not the one run on the news channels.


The online dictionary describes ‘oxymoron’ (plural oxymora or oxymorons) as a figure of speech that “juxtaposes apparently contradictory elements (it is not however a contradiction in terms)”. Some examples are ‘dark light’, ‘living dead’, ‘little while’, ‘mad wisdom’, ‘mournful optimist’ ‘violent relaxation’ etc etc. Would ‘honest politician’ qualify as an oxymoron? But, we’ll come to that later.

The just concluded Assembly elections, more specifically the one in Delhi, have been the most exciting I have witnessed since the 1977 elections. Just like it was back then, and Jayaprakash Narayan and his rag tag bunch destroyed the Indira Congress, soon after the Emergency was lifted. I poured over reports in the Indian Express about the daredevilry of leaders like George Fernandes who always managed to escape from the clutches of the police. It was stirring stuff. Of course, in a few years the Janata Party belied the hopes of the millions who voted them to power. I am seeing the same excitement now, but let’s also hope the Aam Aadmi Party does not go the same way. It would be a tragedy for Indian politics. Are they employing the scoot and shoot method, as my friend Dr Shobha Shrivastava believes they are? Time will tell.

That brings me to the subject of numbers. Fans and supporters of the BJP seem to forget that in spite of the competent Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the work he had done in the five years he was at the helm of affairs his government was still removed from power. They must have done something wrong because in 2004, over 670 million people voted, some for them and more, against. For them India wasn’t really shining. Still it was a close fight, but in the end the Congress managed to gather up their friends and supporters and form a government. Whether the BJP couldn’t or didn’t want to will be left to history to decide. The Congress got 145 and the BJP managed 138. However, the Congress and its allies got 276 against the BJP’s 185. So, not too many ‘friends’ were willing to support the BJP even then. Wonder why…

So the question is, if the BJP thinks it is so damn good how come they only managed 32 seats in Delhi? And even if they haven’t, why don’t they form a minority government if they are so concerned about the people? I am sure both AAP, and the Congress will support them on issues that will help the people of Delhi. But since they won’t, they – the party and its self-appointed PR machinery – should shut up and let the people decide, instead of putting the blame on the AAP.  Suddenly everyone is worried about the cost of another election to the nation. Why weren’t they protesting when Sonia Gandhi’s government rammed the Food Bill down our throats or when they were busy pushing through other populist schemes?

And that brings me to the oxymoron bit…

The campaign being orchestrated to discredit and malign Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party is quite ironic. Ironic, because calling Kejriwal and AAP corrupt, amoral and immoral, is like the old adage of the black pot and the kettle! Like they never had a party functionary who was caught on camera stuffing notes into a table drawer; or being caught on camera receiving cash inducements in return for raising questions in the Parliament; or built huge business empires overnight; or were photographed in bed with multiple partners; or sired illegitimate children; or had mistresses and more than one wife hidden away somewhere and pretended they didn’t exist; had illegal relationships; or rigged the elections; or killed their wives/mistresses/girl friends and stuffed them into unusual places; or were caught allegedly snooping; or allegedly massacred thousands in the name of dead leaders, God and religion (in that order)…The list is endless.

So pipe down, people! If Arvind Kejriwal and his party are as corrupt as some people claim they are, they will meet the same fate as the other politicians have around the country. The competence of a person can only be judged after you see him or her at work. So let the AAP do that for some time and then let the voter decide. The voter is no fool, and does not need friends and well wishers going on ad nauseam about the vices of the AAP. They brought the party to power so let them realise what they have themselves in. Isn’t that what elections are all about? If voters are to be brainwashed or coerced why not just tell them to sit at home and cast a vote on their behalf, or give them voting slips of other voters? Now, please don’t tell me that never happened. I’ve personally experienced at least one of the above, in a VVIP constituency! It was a shameful exercise by the party machinery, which was terrified that their blue-eyed boy was about to be thrown out. They did the only thing they were good at – they rigged the entire election process and sent him back to the Lok Sabha.

People are tired of the same old politician telling them the same old lies, year after year. Isn’t that what happened in Delhi? Politicians are also worried about the impact the Delhi results will have on the rest of the country. The very existence of the professional politician is being threatened by a bunch of nobodies and that has to be stopped at any cost. Right now Kejriwal seems incorruptible. The dirt being thrown at him and his party is not sticking and by the time it does, they could be well on their way to becoming a national entity. The fact is, the AAP did what no other party in India’s political history managed to do. What if they try out that experiment on a national scale and some of their candidates even manage to win? Imagine, if in big  states like Delhi, Maharashtra, UP, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, MP, Gujarat and Bihar the AAP and like-minded parties put up 50-60 squeaky clean, efficient and hard working candidates against the old boys club, and they win. They could then be a pressure group in Lok Sabha that could raise a lot of uncomfortable questions. That is what is scaring the hell out of political parties today. Serves them right!!


I tweeted on Sunday that Arvind Kejriwal has proved to voters across the country that it is possible to win an election without pandering to caste and religion. To that I’ll add money and muscle power. What he has also proved is that you can be nobody but if you believe in yourself, nothing can stop you. In one short sentence, Arvind Kejriwal has rewritten the political rule book.

People like Mayawati, Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad won elections by creating this hoodoo that the existence of anyone who was not a Brahmin was under threat. This whole nonsense of social justice has been re-engineered to bring in votes and not prosperity to the Dalits. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar championed the cause of the ‘downtrodden’ but those who use his name to climb up the political ladder don’t really care about Dalits or anyone else. Kejriwal has turned that stereotyped assumption on its head. What he does from here on, will be watched closely. If he can accomplish even 20 per cent of what he promised, in the first few years, I think he would have done his job.

I am also thinking whether all those who dismissed him as some kind of Dharti Pakad, are now looking for a place to hide. For those of you who are wondering who Dharti Pakad is, it is the nickname of at least three eccentrics who contested elections unsuccessfully. There was this one particular guy, with the same nickname in the 1980s and 1990s who had contested against every prime minister since Independence. He won only a handful of votes every time, lost his deposit, but he contested. And he became the ‘side show’ of every election.

Kejriwal has proved to everyone he is no Dharti Pakad. And I, for one am delighted, firstly, because I had predicted that he would surprise a few people; secondly because he rubbed Sheila’s Dikshit’s nose to the ground and thirdly and more importantly, because he showed both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party that he wasn’t going to be cowed down by the dirt they threw at him.

And that brings me to Sheila Dikshit. I think the Delhi voter, especially women, had made up their minds to kick her out on this Election Day, exactly a year ago on that chilly morning in December, when they came out on the streets to protest against the gang-rape of the medical student. Dikshit, ever the smug politician, shrugged off responsibility by saying that the security of Delhi was the job of the Lt. Governor, and then added fuel to the fire by saying that she had two grown-up daughters and would ask them to come home early, because Delhi’s streets were not safe enough. These comments and others as the agitation picked up steam didn’t really do much for her image. It was only when Sonia Gandhi stepped out of her residence one night to meet protestors warming themselves around a bonfire on a chilly Delhi night that Dikshit decided to meet the protestors. When she did that she was jostled and roundly booed.

No amount of good work or infrastructure you usher in can take the place of a compassionate society. And when Delhiites, with the rest of the country prayed for that brave young girl who fought for her life even as she was strapped to a ventilator, Sheila Dikshit showed us that as a woman and as a chief minister she was callous and lacked compassion. She seemed more interested in scoring brownie points with her adversaries. No amount of damage control helped after that.

Information from the election coverage sent to me by a former student, who covered the polls, says that women and middle-aged voters spewed venom against Sheila Dikshit because of her complete apathy towards women’s safety. Every woman felt that despite the fact that it’s been a year since the gang-rape, nothing had changed. I am sure if and when there is a re-election in Delhi in the next six months and God forbid she decides to contest, they will come out in even greater numbers to vote against her. Dikshit never deserves to return if she cannot guarantee the safety of young women and girls in her State. And the results in Delhi should be a wake-up call for those who rule in Maharashtra, because they have been displaying the same blinkered attitude toward women’s safety.

Coming to the BJP, those people who would like us to believe that Narendra Modi did not play a role in the four states that went to the polls are only deluding themselves. The fact is that his presence helped bring in the crowds which became voters in large numbers on Election Day. I was one of those who said to a friend on Facebook that a big crowd doesn’t necessarily translate into votes, so I guess I was a little off the mark. I don’t know if there was a wave or whatever they want to call it, because things were pretty tight in two of the four states.

Had there been a ‘wave’ the BJP would have trampled over all opposition in all four states. Coming to Modi himself, while there will always be those who will continue to highlight his role in the Gujarat riots – and they have every right to do – I think a lot of people have moved on from 2001 – just like they have moved on from 1984. Modi and his cohorts will be and should be brought to justice if they can find anything against them, but the world isn’t going to stop for that. The voter has just told us that.