Archive for the ‘Prime Minister’ Category

Nearly two decades ago, as a member of the Pune working journalists union, I remember an occasion during one of our usual protests over something or the other, we had gathered outside the Pune Union of Working Journalists (PUWJ) office, which was then opposite the Congress Bhavan, near Bal Gandharva Rangmandir.

I don’t remember who the President of the PUWJ  was then. I remember, the late Taher Shaikh, who was my senior at Maharashtra Herald, was there with us as we gathered across the road from Congress Bhavan, It was he who spotted Maratha  strongman Sharad Pawar, coming out of the Congress office. We thought that if we all rushed towards him, he might listen to what the members had to say. We were still standing on the divider, waiting to go across in a group, when Pawar signalled with his forefinger that we were to stay put. Then he saw Taher and beckoned to him. After all, they had been classmates in Wadia College. But the rest of the journalists, including some senior journalists from the vernacular press who strutted around like they were the cat’s whiskers stopped in their tracks. Some were even rudely told to go back.

I was reminded of the incident while reading about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s complete silence when dealing with journalists. A lot of people have been asking why this prime minister is keeping a studied silence on issues which concerned the nation. And it’s not just he, but everybody else in his team also, who has suddenly shut up. The man who couldn’t stop talking before the election, has nothing more to say to the media. And to top it off, the royal snub was not being invited on anymore junkets with the PM’s entourage. No daaru, khaana and whatever else. To me it looks like the start of an extended dry day for the mainstream media (MSM)! I guess that’s why when that Ved Prakash Vaidek managed to speak with Hafiz Saeed, they wanted to get the former arrested for sedition! Honestly, guys, where does it say in any goddamn journalism manual or book that one cannot interview even the biggest terrorist? Desperation has its limits and the media is really letting it hang out!

Anyway, coming back to Modi and the media. Used to as they have always been, to speak to ministers when they need to, or having access to the PMO through a media advisor, this media has been clean bowled by the prime minister. Why should he speak when he’s got a lot of people ready to deal with the busybodies in the media who have questions to which the nation needs answers? I think it has dawned on a lot of mediapersons that they’ve been taken for one hell of a ride. They thought he was, oh, so accessible, so open, so unlike Manmohan Singh! It has now dawned on them that this guy is a different kettle of fish. I just think it’s because he doesn’t need to say anything anymore, because he and his party got what they wanted and got to where they wanted to!

Whether Modi’s silence is intentional or unintentional is something we aren’t going to know. Remember, this is the man, who sailed through every indictment made against him, without ever clearing the air, after the initial attempts. As every journalist, activist and politician threw everything at him, he stayed mum and moved on to bigger things. I’ve said this before, but his silence in the midst of all the loud noises from the other side, have only helped him get an even bigger image. He didn’t have to say a word. He remember him telling a news channel that he stopped talking because he felt people were anyway saying and writing whatever they wanted to. I guess he is employing the same tactics now. Let’s see if it works.

Now, even the most senior journalists don’t know how to approach the new MPs and ministers, because they are not quite sure how these MPs will react. It must be particularly galling for news anchors who believe they are on first name terms with politicians! Take Ravi Shankar Prasad, Sushma Swaraj or Smriti Irani, for example, who were so visible before the election? Have you seen them on a news channel after the election, taking part in any debate?

I get vicarious pleasure watching the way Modi is treating the mainstream media, especially those in the national capital who believe that when they order, any person, high or low, must come scurrying. It’s fun to watch them fretting and fuming about the silence from the prime minister and his ministers, and having to listen to only those who are supposed to address the media.

Imagine having to depend on twitter for updates about the prime minister – in just 140 characters!!



Remember the film Network’ where Peter Finch as Robert Boyle tells viewers to go to the window and yell “I’m mad as hell, and I am not going to take it anymore.” Well, In think the people of the country are getting there. And I am sure we don’t need a ‘Mad Prophet’ to make us feel that way. Although, I daresay, there are a few of our news anchors who come close!

Prices of everything are sky-high, crime is rampant, women and children are getting molested, raped, citizens or abducted. Activists are getting murdered in broad daylight. Incidents of road rage are pretty common nowadays. And while all these things are happening around them, the politicians, secure in their fortified bungalows and offices are offering lip sympathy.

I am angry not because the price of petrol has passed Rs 80 and I, like everyone else have to pay through my nose for it, along with the already steep prices of LPG and vegetables. I am angry because while I pay, the politician continues to live a tax-free existence. And if it was a hardworking, honest politician I wouldn’t mind, but most of these guys deserve (and I am sure 99 per cent of the tax-payers feel that way) to get nailed – since I can’t use anything more vituperative.

If there is an economic crisis in the country, how come only the tax-payer has to bear the brunt? Why aren’t elected representatives – MPs and MLAs – told they have to pay taxes, pay for their fuel, telephone usage and house rent, until the situation improves? After all it is they who are responsible for the sorry mess we are in today, so why should they walk away and leave us to carry the burden? The Centre’s logic of shoving it down the tax-payer’s throat even though they are the biggest culprits is only going to increase the anger among the public.

Manmohan Singh, for all his so-called personal integrity has turned out to be a dud as a Prime Minister. Well he is the prime minister, technically, even though Soniaji pulls the strings. For all his integrity, all he does is stand up in Parliament and defend the corrupt ministers and officials who work under him. So how is he any better than them? Has he even once asked his ministers or bureaucrats to limit their expenses on travel? Instead, he has warned the public that things will get worse! What a source of comfort he has been, in these troubled times!

You don’t need to be Einstein, for example, to see that the maximum wastage of fuel is at the government level. The common man, by and large, is careful, The government is not. So if the MPs, MLAs and bureaucrats are asked to pay for the fuel they consume, at least till we tide over the present crisis, there won’t be a crisis. But watch the cavalcade of cars these nincompoops travel with, and you’ll realise that they don’t give a damn if the rest of the country starves as long as they are mobile.

Take Pune itself. We have a terrible public transport system, but does the government care? The BRTS they planned is one of the worst-ever planned projects the city has had. It was supposed to ease the traffic congestion. Instead it has only brought on more chaos. Everyone took a slice of the pie and left the mess on the floor. Now the citizens have to drive through the mess.  It’s not the politician’s problem anymore. Now take the Metro. In the past six years since they announced it all that has moved is the cost of the project – upwards. E Sreedharan, the man who executed other Metro projects around the country, came to Pune recently and ripped the Metro project to shreds. Has it had any effect on the politicians? Ho hum.

As a nation we are in a shambles. In all these years, I don’t think I’ve seen so many issues hitting us so hard in one single year and there’s worse to come, I am told. The worse thing is the government seems to resemble a blindfolded man trying to figure his way out of a maze. All they need to do is take off the blindfold.

So I am angry, and I am sure, so are you. Some months ago I read that some women thrashed an amorous politician in public view. Today I read on FB that villagers in Gurgaon forced open the toll booth there because they were fed up of the bad service road they were being forced to use. They decided to take law into their hands. It’s coming, slowly and surely. The anger is building. God forbid, if one day this anger explodes into something more drastic. I guess, those who rule over us, would deserve that.

Nice guys don’t make good prime ministers – Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh are good examples of this. Would the Bofors deal have dragged Rajiv down if he had been careful about what his ministers and bureaucrats were up to? And Manmohan Singh?

To me the Prime Minister, more and more, is beginning to resemble a cross between Roman Emperor Nero and the fictional character Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau. On the one hand his government is in trouble and he fiddles, while on the other just like the comic French detective, he stumbles from one controversy to another, completely oblivious to the mess he leaves behind.

Honesty and decency are not enough to run a country of one billion people when one is dealing, day in and day out, with a bunch of crooks masquerading as honest politicians. Efficiency, competence and ruthlessness are also mandatory requirements and the PM seems to be way off the mark with these attributes.

He and his government are blundering along from one disaster to another, with the latest one being the Nira Radia phone tapping scandal involving a couple of media personalities and the names of industry stalwarts being dragged in. But we don’t hear anything from the man himself, while his office tells the media that he is clean and doing the best he can!

We hear that the PM is just a rubber stamp, and that the real power lies elsewhere – which may be true to some extent, but I don’t think that’s the case when it comes to the running of ministries. Had that been so, Singh would have quit a long time back. He’s too decent a bloke to allow himself to be led around by a chain and leash by the Gandhi family. Some politicians in the chain-and-leash category spring to mind – Giani Zail Singh, DK. Borooah, V.C. Shukla, R.K. Dhawan, S.S. Ray, H.K.L. Bhagat, M.L. Fotedar and Sitaram Kesri – but Manmohan Singh?

It just seems Singh is totally ineffectual and prefers to do nothing as his ministers and his allies, use their proximity to either Sonia or their own party chiefs and run riot. Raja is a good example. He used his proximity to DMK supremo Karunanidhi to loot the ex-chequer, secure in the knowledge that he could always hide behind the Tamil patriarch’s dhoti, in case the government decided to ask him uncomfortable questions.

Drawing parallels with the Raja case, if you see a man about to steal something or in an extreme case jump in front of a running train, what would you do? Politely tell him not to, or physically stop him from doing so? Was the written nudge to Raja enough? Shouldn’t he have stopped the former telecom minister, before things got out of hand? If Singh’s office says Raja was told to revamp the bidding process, it also means Singh knew all the facts. And if that be the case, the guy is an accomplice and guilty as hell along with his former minister.

More importantly, did the PM need to wait so long before asking Raja to quit? Strangely, this has been the case in every controversy this government has been involved in. Take the case of Tharoor and his tweets, the Commonwealth Games fiasco or even the Adarsh scam. In all these cases, the PM allowed things to drift till they reached a stage where he had to step in douse the flames. And is the Prime Minister a fire fighter or worse, a hostage negotiator, that he stalls for time, till the commandos reach the place and neutralise the criminal?

Now, even the Supreme Court is asking the PM the same question that we are. Let’s wait for the answer when Attorney General GE Vahanvati represents the P in the Supreme Court and, hopefully, clears the air.

In the meantime, step aside Chief Inspector Jack Clouseau, you’ve got competition!

On the eve of polling day, my confusion has increased. Who do I vote for? The manner in which the politicians have been gunning for each other, it makes one wonder what they are really interested in – running the country or running down (and riding roughshod over) their opponents. And hey, none of us at home have voting cards yet, just numbers! What a democracy!
Politicians, former bureaucrats, social workers, retired cops, they’re all there promising the gullible voter the moon. Can they deliver? We’ll have to wait another five years to find out.
If one looks at my city (Pune) things couldn’t have been messier. I remember reading the PR material of a very prominent builder which spoke of Pune as the perfect city. The manifesto said Pune would never have water or power shortages because it was surrounded by four rivers and two dams. Oh damn!
I wonder where those rivers have disappeared and I also wonder how much of the water from the dams is reaching us. More importantly, do the rivers and dams have the capacity to feed the city? Six to eight hours of power cuts everyday, water that comes two hours in the morning and evenings respectively. But, I guess we are luckier than a lot of other housing colonies, even the up-market ones where I see water being supplied by tankers, which cost a bomb.
Logically, the sitting MP should get a second chance, because it is next to impossible to get things done in five years. But the fact of the matter is Pune has seen traffic problems multiply, infrastructure struggling to cope, and housing that’s unaffordable (unless you have loads of cash stashed away somewhere).
But instead of doing something about it, everyone’s busy trading charges as things spiral out of control. Somehow, the reputation Mr Kalmadi has gained, is of someone more interested in making money, getting in front of the cameras shooting his mouth off or posing with celebrities, then being seen as someone who the people voted to look after their city’s interest. That may be untrue, but that is the image he has. Since I didn’t vote for him the last time and do not know Mr Kalmadi personally, I will reserve my comment.
But let me tell you what happened in Lucknow when we lived there some years ago. During the last election in 2004, Lucknow’s candidate was then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. On voting day, my landlord asked me if I was interested in voting. Since I was part of the floating population, I could not vote, but as a journalist I was curious to know what he was proposing.
On probing further he produced a sheaf of slips with names of voters of different age groups. He then gave me one and asked me to go to a party’s polling booth. It was quite funny, actually. The guy at that booth, studied my face for a while, ran his finger down the list and stopped at one. Then he pulled out the slip with the corresponding number and asked me to cast my vote. My wife got one too and she was kicked as hell because the slip mentioned her age as 29! She wanted to keep it as a souvenir!
She walked to the booth and strolled right in just to see what would happen. I refused to go in. I was absolutely appalled by the brazenness of the entire exercise. And mind you, this was then the Prime Minister’s constituency. I called up the editor of the newspaper I worked for, and told her about the incident. Needless to say that the story never appeared in the newspaper, for ‘various’ reasons! I guess, it wouldn’t have looked nice for something like this to emerge from the PM’s constituency.
But back to the present, So for the first time in so many years, I am confused – not because there is an embarrassment of riches, but because I don’t see a single deserving candidate for whose sake I should get that indelible ink put on my finger.