Behind the scenes on the FDI vote: Fact or Fiction?

After the FDI-in-retail motion was passed successfully in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, there were news reports about Walmart having spent Rs. 125 crores in lobbying for this. Given that Walmart does have a track record of bribery cases against it around the world, it’s anybody’s guess that many among our political class, in all likelihood, made “mota maal” in this case. Picture this plausible scenario: Walmart bribes all the major political parties in proportion to their seats in Parliament. Since all our parties have top-down structures, where the high and mighty of each party (the high command) decide on how a party votes, “fixing” becomes relatively straightforward. Fix the high command and you are in business.

Now, the ruling party wants this motion to pass at any cost to boost investor confidence and show that they are serious about reform. The main opposition, BJP, despite having been a proponent of FDI-in-retail when it was in power at the Center, now thinks and argues exactly the opposite. So it does plenty of chest-thumping and goes all out to appease the voters with its rhetoric on why FDI is bad for farmers, traders, etc., to show that they are with them in heart, mind and spirit. But they know fully well that they don’t have the numbers to derail the passage of the motion. The smaller players like the Samajwadi party and the BSP have a permanent CBI gun to their heads. Threaten to pull the trigger, and they will stage a walk out, run, or even dance, when required by the Congress. Not surprisingly, both these parties staged a walkout in unison from the Lok Sabha.

In the Rajya Sabha, if the BJP, SP, and BSP joined hands with other smaller parties, the motion could have been defeated. However, given the Walmart lobbying funds, they were committed to its passage, but at the same time, they had to put up a show to appease their respective bases. The BSP unleashed some hideous reverse swing (when we need this badly on the cricket field we get it on the political field instead!), and voted in favor of the motion in the Rajya Sabha after staging a walk out in the Lok Sabha! The SP voted against the motion in the Rajya Sabha, knowing that even without the BJP votes, victory for the motion was guaranteed. In short, what the nation witnessed was possible political match-fixing sponsored by Walmart and orchestrated by all the major political parties.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

Can the Aam Aadmi save cricket?

Team India’s dismal show in the Kolkata Test match has cricket enthusiasts across the country angry and frustrated, to say the least. But public memory is short-lived. A win in the fourth Test or an exciting draw is enough for the defeat to slowly but surely recede into the background. What remains though is the root cause of the problems facing cricket in our country today. The old Chinese saying, “Fish rots from the head,” is apt in this case. Our problems begin with lack of professionalism and transparency at the highest levels of our cricket administration and poor day to day management.

India’s richest sport, cricket, is managed by the BCCI which stands for Board of Control for Cricket in India. It’s named rightly so because it is a Board comprised of rich industrialists and powerful politicians who elect and nominate each other in a well orchestrated “You scratch my back, I scratch yours” arrangement in order to exercise complete “control” over cricket in the country. The players represent the country but they are chosen by a selection committee appointed by the bigwigs of the BCCI, based on a zonal-quota system. If you are in the good books of the BCCI and you have the support of your zone, you could become a selector. The recent ouster of the outspoken Mohinder Amarnath from the selection committee is a perfect example of this, where the powerful crush the outspoken and troublesome. The RTI does not apply to the BCCI so the “Aam Aadmi” is not allowed to ask questions. This is despite the fact that the BCCI enjoys special government benefits and the players represent the country.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

What you say is not what they report

There have been innumerable instances in which, in their obsession for eyeballs, the news media tends to sensationalize news reports. If you dig below the surface, you’ll realize that in most cases, it’s a deliberate attempt to manipulate news in order to grab the reader’s attention. Take the issue of Modi being the BJP’s PM candidate, a topic of media obsession these days. Pro-Congress or anti-BJP sections of the media find this issue a perfect target to discredit and widen fissures in the BJP. Recently, there were headlines across the media that said, “Narendra Modi fit to be PM, says Sushma Swaraj.” The headline implies that Sushma Swaraj is now backing Modi for PM and has set aside her personal PM ambitions and stopped backing her other colleagues in the party who might be equally interested in the PM job, should the BJP come to power. The truth of the matter is that a reporter simply asked her if Modi is fit to be PM. As a senior party official what would you expect her to say? “Sorry, Modi is totally unfit to be PM. He is an extreme right-wing nut-job. Like many people in this country, I can’t stand the sight of him either!”

What this news report does not tell you is that if she was asked if Advani or Jaitley or any other visible person in the BJP was fit to be the PM, she would most certainly have said the same thing. In the media’s obsession for catchy headlines, there is very little due diligence or responsible, editorial review that seems to be going into such reports.

Picture a scenario where you interview someone living in an affluent south Mumbai neighborhood. You ask this person, “Could your house be burgled?” The obvious answer most people will give you in response to such a question is, “Yes, it’s possible.” Imagine if you twisted this interview for a headline that reads, “South Mumbai no longer safe from burglary, says long-time resident.” This headline is bound to grab reader attention, but it gives the completely wrong impression that a once plush neighborhood is now on the decline with rampant burglaries.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times