Why the BJP is the new Congress

Ever since the BJP was swept to power at the center, there have been two distinct efforts from the party. The first is to put its marketing department on permanent over-drive in a massive image-building exercise while simultaneously distorting the truth and counter any criticism. To a large extent, this effort has been very successful.

Examples of this are visible every day. Just the other day, Mr.Jaitey had the temerity to announce that India is leading the battle against black money. A perfectly tuned headline to reinforce the illusion of change to the ever gullible middle class. The truth is that the BJP has done little about black money, despite making a host of shameful promises including the PM himself promising 15-20 lakhs per citizen after bringing back the black money within 100 days! The reality, though, is a far cry from this smoke screen.

Then there are a whole host of Bollywood-like feel-good buzz lines — Make in India; no more red tape, only red carpet; SMART police; Swach bharath; better utilization of railway stations; sabka vikas sabke saath; and maximum governance minimum government. (This so-called minimum government with 66 ministers is not very different from the 77 in the UPA!). In short, the internal mantra seems to be to crank out one buzz line a day to keep “ache din” seekers at bay and the middle class in good spirits like front benchers at a Bollywood film.

Then there is the entire spin around government officers and bureaucrats coming into work on time. This is the minimum one should expect of them. The spin doctors of BJP are busy attributing credit for this to the PM. Seriously? We need a designer-clothes wearing PM to bring these bureaucrats in line?

As far as investors and other financial experts are concerned, the general consensus seems to be that not much has changed since the BJP government came to power. In fact, there seem to be a consensus that it has been a mere continuation of UPA-II policies. Comparisons to Thatcher and Reagan have stopped, thankfully.

The second effort by the BJP is the concerted effort to consolidate power at the state level. i.e., try to win each state or, if not possible, establish a coalition partner of convenience in the state – a strategy straight out of the Congress playbook.

 

To read the rest of this article please visit the Economic Times Website where it was first published.

Open Source Politics – Making sense of the AAP phenomenon

The open source movement in the technology world has had significant impact on almost every aspect in the field – the Linux operating system and, more recently, the Android operating system being two leading examples. The open source approach involves sharing of the basic design or code in a collaborative environment where anyone can participate and contribute. Subsequent improvements and features help the development community push the technology further and ultimately benefit end-users. This approach attracts anyone and everyone who loves to get to involved, learn and try new things, and get recognized by their peers in the community.

While working within the community, the individuals involved might benefit by dreaming up new ideas built on these open source solutions or pick up consulting opportunities, teaching gigs, etc. But ultimately, it’s a community of developers that work together to progress technology in an open and transparent way. In short, it creates a fertile ground for new ideas, innovation, and out of the box thinking, unencumbered by commercial interests for the most part. In the process, it inspires an environment of healthy competition and somewhat selfless commitment to a cause.

Click here to read the rest of the article at the Economic Times website.

Is Arvind Kejriwal dangerous for India?

Who is more dangerous for India – Arvind Kejriwal or Narendra Modi? This is a question that India needs to answer. But a recent article titled ‘Arvind Kejriwal: The most dangerous man in India’ has ventured to supply a one-sided answer to this question. The title is as catchy as it is misleading if not subversive. The ensuing ‘analysis’ is sadly not borne out by facts but relies on obfuscation and rhetoric. The tragic outcome is that many pertinent facts have been buried beneath the rubble of unsubstantiated allegations and sinister accusations. On the whole the article is an anti-Kejriwal diatribe disguised as an intellectual treatise.

While conferring on Modi the respectable halo of a “firebrand Hindu nationalist”, the writer goes on to indulge in pure speculation and sweeping generalizations about Kejriwal and other AAP leaders.

Click here to read the rest of the article on the kafila website (where it was originally published).

Cleansing politics in the holy town of Haridwar

Haridwar on the Ganges is a town sacred to the Hindus. It comes as no surprise that both the Congress and the BJP are fighting tooth and nail to establish their supremacy in this Lok Sabha constituency.  Several others are also in the fray.

The BJP candidate for Haridwar is former Chief Minister, Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, who was forced to resign at the height of the anti-corruption movement when the BJP was desperate to take the high moral ground on corruption. But times have changed for the BJP: Yedurappa is back, Ram Vilas Paswan is an ally, and, not surprisingly, Nishank is the BJP candidate from Haridwar.

The Congress, on the other hand, prefers to stick to its tried and tested policy of family members getting party tickets. Not surprisingly, the party is fielding the wife of the incumbent Chief Minister, Harish Rawat, who in 2009 had won the Haridwar Lok Sabha seat by a margin of over one lakh votes.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the Economic Times website.

Does India have to choose between the lesser of two evils?

If you read media reports, it seems like a foregone conclusion – Narendra Modi will be the next PM of India, led by a “mythical” Modi wave that is about to “sweep” India. Western media has sounded the cautionary note of this eventuality, only to be attacked, not surprisingly, by BJP fans. Local godmen, who peddle everything from yoga to secrets of good living, have jumped on the BJP bandwagon through a series of Op-ed pieces, sound bites on TV, tweets and social media posts, attacking everyone who seems to stand in the way. Some industrialists have stepped up to endorse the BJP manifesto. The media has started rolling out the BJP’s “list of most powerful” in the impending Modi government.

Is this “India Shining” as in 2004 all over again? Is this another media-fabricated myth that unabashed PR funding won’t eventually sustain – A case of shining in the media but not in the hearts and minds of the people?

Click here to see read the rest of the article on the Economic Times website.

Can India’s youth change the course of its political history?

It was painful yet poignant to see Mr. Jaswant Singh of the BJP burst into tears and fight back against the party that he has served for the better part of his political innings. On the one hand, it was clear that the new leadership of the BJP under Mr. Modi was “cleaning house,” slowly phasing out people they didn’t care for. It’s a sign that the new team lead by Modi is not averse to playing tough and decisive when required.

With age not on his side, 77 year old Mr. Jaswant Singh could perhaps have chosen to take a back seat and have a younger candidate take his position. But alas, Indian politics does not work that way! The old never retire until they are pushed out or die. The young never get a chance until they are too old and filled with scars from accumulated baggage that renders them ineffective for the most part. Perhaps the most telling aspect of the Jaswant Singh saga was the manner in which the BJP gave the Barmar ticket to recent BJP convert from the Congress. It simply reeks of sheer desperation of a party going all out to cobble together the magic number of 272 seats.

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

Helicopter netas in the age of retail politics

In the early 1990s when Bill Clinton was campaigning for the US Presidency he permanently transformed the way Americans (and to a large extent the world) looked at Presidential campaigns. Hailing from a relatively small southern state, Bill Clinton turned on his rustic charm and reached out to people at coffee shops, fast food joints, restaurants, parks, malls you name it. He was indulging in “retail politics” like no politician had managed to do before. A product of a small town upbringing, he was a natural at this. His ability to connect one on one with people in person was phenomenal. He extended that rapport on to the TV screen during his debates. His brilliant mind and his thorough grasp of the issues further helped him stand out. Not surprisingly he went on to win two elections and led America through two terms of economic boom.

Fast forward of couple of decades and here we are in India at a time when the economy is in the tank, the ruling party is plagued by corruption and mis-governance and the opposition BJP on a rampant bid for coalition partners in a desperate attempt to achieve the the magic number of 272 seats at any cost.

 

Only in AAP’s India: The story of Maya Vishwakarma

It was January 2014 and Maya Vishwakarma had just quit the cosy comfort of her job in California to pursue her idealitic dream of cleansing her motherland of corruption and nepotism. Riding on a high wave of optimism following the unprecedented success of the Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi elections, and inspired by the noble vision of its leader Arvind Kejriwal, this young woman landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport airborne on the wings of hope.

As Maya passed through security check to board a connecting flight from New Delhi to Bhopal, she didn’t realize she had presented herself at the VIP counter. Seeing her in the distinctive AAP t-shirt, a security guard remarked jocularly, “Madam, ye khaas aadmi ke liye hain aapka ticket to aam aadmi ka hai!” (Madam. this line is for special persons, your ticket is for common people!) Another police officer said, “Please come this way. We will treat you as a special person today because your party is doing such excellent work.”

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

Delhi Government Resignation Re-visited

Is the middle class starting to have second thoughts about the Aam Aadmi Party? A key issue that seems to be bothering their minds is the recent resignation of the Kejriwal government in Delhi. There are some who say, “You had an opportunity to govern but you threw it all away because you were too ambitious and wanted to grow bigger, faster – let the BJP govern in 2014 and we’ll vote for you in 2019.” A simple thought comes to mind: Can we tolerate such extreme corruption in this country for another 5 years? Is choosing the lesser of the two evils the only way forward?

Let us retrace the steps leading up to the resignation of the Kejriwal government in Delhi.  When the Jan Lokpal bill was expected to be tabled in the assembly, Arvind Kejriwal had an on-stage interview in the midst of the Delhi Lit Festival where he had said categorically that if the bill can’t be passed, his government would resign. This was telecast live. The anchor was thrilled and at the same time surprised because, firstly, she knew she had just been delivered a TRP coup, and secondly, she was least expecting such a candid response from the young CM.

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

The Misled, Misinformed Middle class

The middle class which heavily backed the Aam Aadmi party (AAP) during the Delhi elections appears to be having some second thoughts for a whole host of reasons. Let me address two of these pet peeves in this piece: We don’t like the subsidies for power and electricity, AAP is the B-team of the Congress and is being used by them to stop the Modi juggernaut.

I’ll start with the last one first, as it’s the easiest and the more ridiculous of the two. Firstly, these conspiracy theorists must ask themselves these questions: Who had the guts to expose Robert Vadera? It is an accepted reality that everyone (including those in the media and the BJP veterans in Delhi) knew about Mr. Vadera’s dealings but no one but Arvind Kejriwal  had the wherewithal to stand up to the high and mighty, and put everything at risk to bring to light serious charges of corruption. Besides, the ministers of the UPA government, most of whom were from the Congress, was alsoexposed by the then Team Anna. Would the B-team of the Congress strike at the very heart of the Congress? It just does not make sense whatsoever.

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