It is a Julian Assange observation which he later withdrew that raised a storm. Mr. Assange and his Wikileaks claimed that the West was wary of a Narendra Modi government because Mr. Modi is an honest man. This on the face of it an innocuous statement had larger ramifications. One – that the present UPA establishment is corrupt and that corruption is at the highest levels, which meant the first family of India – the Gandhis. Second, that the West prefers a corrupt and pliable establishment whom they can arm-twist and get their way to one that is honest, forthright and has a mind of its own. I don’t think Julian Assange realized he had opened a Pandora’s Box by making this statement. Later he hastily retracted what he had said.
There is a lot of truth in the assertion that a Modi government will be more decisive, active and transparent government than the present dispensation. The irony is that the West is not too enthused about a government that is proactive, responsive, decisive and a go getter. A bunch of Left Liberals have signed a petition saying that they fear a Modi government will bring in totalitarianism and will be a threat to democracy. Western media is also giving voice to such Liberals and invariably shut their ears to those who want a responsible, decisive government led by Narendra Modi.
If there is indeed a Modi government on the 16th of May, 2014 it should be the best news for the West. There are umpteen reasons why the West should not only welcome a Modi government but should celebrate a government that is overtly a friend of the West. Remarkably, that does not seem to be the case.
I must admit however that the US has eased out their ambassador in Delhi, Nancy Powell for being cold to BJP and to the inevitable change of guard. Ms. Powell did visit Gandhinagar and met Mr. Modi but it was too little too late.
It is the economics of Modi that most excites prospective investors within India and those from abroad. When the Japanese and other foreign investors felt they were being stone walled in other states they headed to Gujarat safe in the knowledge that if their investment made sense they would get clearance in no time. That is the basic idea of the so-called Gujarat model. The progressive forces have made foreign investment a bad word in the minds of Indians. They equate foreign investment as a ruse to fleece India as the East India Company did in the times past. This is petty and meaningless rhetoric in the 21st century. The world is doing all it can to attract foreign investment and here in India we shun them as pariahs! Modi understands the importance of rapid industrialization and that of creation of jobs. He is very clear that only such development can uplift people from poverty and give them basics like housing, healthcare and education. The Left Liberals find this an assault on Indian democracy!
India is a land of immense possibilities. Ask those who have invested in India and decided to stay put come what may. India has been a bonanza for them. But must companies and investors have to fight it out such that they resist eviction? With the present UPA dispensation that was the economic environment. Remember so many companies are fighting expensive and tiresome legal battle against taxes levied on a retrospective basis. Investors do not come to India to fight legal battles. They are here to create an enterprise that serves them well as well as is an asset to India and Indians. They feel unwanted here and that is just so distasteful.
President George W Bush rightly pointed out to the 400 million plus Indian middle class and their consumption needs as an opportunity not to be missed. This figure could double in the next ten years and then the consumption of India will skyrocket. This will happen only if there is a decisive, clear headed government with the right priorities. Foreign investment in basic industries, consumer goods, education and health care should make that radical shift that ordinary Indians are waiting to happen. Let me assure that were Modi to come to power and for some reason unable to come up to expectations of the people of India he will be as unceremoniously discarded as anyone else before him. People’s aspirations must be met and that is a given. And that is where the opportunity lies for foreign investors and companies. India is on an irreversible path to development and that cannot be wished away.
India and the West have had close strategic ties over the last decade. The Indo-US Civilian Nuclear deal that was signed was the paradigm shift in Indian foreign policy. True to form India has been slow on its implementation or shall we say that the deal has been put in the cold storage. A Modi government should change this and the parameters of the deal and what we envisage as the nuts and bolts of the new relationship will be refurbished. The West needs India and we need the West. India can be West’s outpost in the region. With US withdrawing from Afghanistan they will have a freer hand in dealing with situations in Asia in general and South Asia and the Far East in particular. A Modi government will be more aware of India’s stature in the region and will not shy away from its responsibilities to make sure that the equilibrium is maintained India is not just a tool in West’s contain China policy – India is an equal partner in it. The India-Japan-Australia partnership should find more leverage under a Modi administration. India could also play a more active role in Afghanistan post West’s withdrawal which will quash any possible Pakistan adventurism in the region.
West will have to learn to deal with India on an equal footing and not try to push us around. To be fair to our western counterparts our own tardy progress and inertia in dealing with issues and proposals puts a spanner in bilateral and multi-lateral relations. Our attitude to work and dealing with issues needs to be more transparent and responsive which is what Narendra Modi epitomizes.
A billion educated forward looking Indians could be a bonanza for the West. I will again come back to the economics. With a slowing Chinese economy, India galloping in double digits growth figures could be the elixir that the world economy needs. I see India replicate the kind of scorching growth Japan witnessed in the ‘60’s. The good news is that India and Indians are ready to go farther and higher. A Modi victory will be a victory not only for India but for the world at large. For democracy, freedom and those who believe in humanism. Because poverty is a scourge that is the most ghastly assault on human dignity and we must fight it with honesty and intelligence. That is exactly what Modi wants to do. West cannot afford any but a Modi government in New Delhi.
It wasn’t the best of times, but then it wasn’t the worst of times, either. The April sun did bother a bit but it was still bearable. May and June are the worst months for getaways in India unless you are travelling to the hills.And hills and mountains are what I saw just a few kilometres from Varanasi. The Vindhya Range of mountains starts just beyond Mughalsarai and across Chakiya. The golden wheat fields ready for harvest were a sight to behold. The mountains right across a beautiful backdrop to these granaries of Eastern Uttar Pradesh. The leisurely pace of the countryside as intoxicating as the clean air one breathes. The road was good and bad in patches. The Yamaha SZ-R was as dependable as ever. And I rode on.
I had been to Rajdari Waterfalls before, as a school boy. I knew it was on the Chakiya – Naugarh road but I failed to spot it and rode on towards Naugarh.Had to turn back and drive more than 12 kilometers before I found the place. That is 24 extra kms to ride on a hilly tract.
The place is a restricted area and a wildlife sanctuary. But I never saw any wildlife. Man encroaching spaces meant for animals? But the falls were the same as when I had come last – which was decades ago. The place is breath-taking.Like any other fall this too is dangerous. There have been accidents I have heard. The rocks are slippery and one wrong step can be the difference between life and death. Parents are advised to keep a close watch on their kids. It’s a seventy meter sheer fall and the foliage around reminds one of the Amazon. The unadulterated beauty of the place leaves one speechless. I did take a bath. Soaped myself and luxuriated in the never ending stream of water. Somehow water falling is not cacophonous. Its nature’s way of talking to us, that is if we care to listen. I lay down and closed my eyes and tried to listen to what the elements had to say. And then I fell asleep. It was just a wink but a very soothing and refreshing one. Felt alive.
The journey back was tiring. Yes, it is an effort even to have a getaway. But it was well worth it.
The recent annexation of Crimea by Putin’s Russia has taken us back to times when kings would invade and win territories. This is so unlike anything the world thought we would see in the 21st century. President Obama was right in his wonderment at what Putin had done. But the question is not what Putin did but how Obama let him do it. Ukrainians are calling it a theft. But it was not even that. Remember, Crimea had a referendum and the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to join Russia. For the western democracies to call the annexation ‘illegal’ makes them look silly.
For Obama this has been a decisive defeat. Strategically this has been a disaster. Annexation of Crimea is not only an oil bonanza, it means that Russian shores are deeper down south to the strategically important Black Sea. Russia being the largest exporter of oil now can claim the Black Sea oilfields. Europe will hum and haw but they cannot do without Russian oil and gas. Putin had been working on Crimea for sometime it seems. His inking of oil deals with China show that he was looking at markets beyond Europe and North America. Shale gas may have given the US some respite but they still import almost 35-40% of their oil. Russia exported oil to the US till yesterday.
Now, some may turn around and ask what could Obama have done? It was clear that Crimean’s would vote overwhelmingly for joining Russia. US has done this before in Iraq and Afghanistan and they could have done it again – entered Crimea this time. Had the Americans landed a couple of dozen fighter jets from the nearest base both in Kiev and in Sevastopol before the referendum Russians would have stopped in their tracks! But Obama did not act. He decided to let the issue drift. Putin read the American president’s mind correctly. He knew that the referendum would give him the legitimacy to move his tanks and take over the peninsula. It was a bloodless takeover. It could not have been any easier.
US has some 700 bases around the world since last reported, unless Obama has closed down some of them or just withdrew as he did from Iraq and is going to exit Afghanistan. The American president is out of depths when it comes to foreign policy. Chinese invariably get their way with him. Now Putin has done what he wanted. World is not Cinderella land. Slapping of sanctions against individual Russians is more of a joke than a serious rebuke. Putin carried on with the joke and issued a list of Americans against whom Russia had slapped sanctions. One name in the Russian list was that of one Mr John McCain. I heard many fell from their chairs laughing at this charade that is the sanctions. You can’t blame Obama if he carries on with the joke – one must concede the guy has sense of humour. Obama has promised more sanctions against Russia! It is unending laughter all around. The comedy is that the Europeans have it in their genes to follow Americans. So they try to look busy and with a stiff upper lip support the sanctions and further sanctions.
The US was stupid enough to go to the UN and try and pass a resolution calling the annexation of Crimea ‘illegal’. China abstained and Russia vetoed. That was the end of the matter.
Putin called Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when the ‘heat’ was on Russia soon after the Sevastopol raid by Russian forces. Manmohan Singh assured Russians of support. That was pragmatic of the Indian PM. We have close defence ties with Russia. The two heads of states may have also talked about more import of Russian oil by India. Russia needs market for its oil. India is a net importer. There should be no surprise if we do end up buying more from Russia.
Does the NATO really provide security to member nations – that is the question that is uppermost in the minds of most nations. Under Obama they are not too sure. While it is true that the American President is Noble Peace Prize winner, but even so, gifting Crimea was being just a tad too generous.
To make up for the blooper that was Crimea the guy chooses to meet the Pope in the hopes that it would be flashed around the globe and Crimea would be forgotten. It didn’t quite work that way.
Bibi Netanyahu must be a worried man. The way Obama has handled Crimea and the way he has given a long rope to Iran, things look ominous. Washington seems oblivious to the Iranian threat. I understand that US is not within Iranian missiles range but Tel Aviv is and Iranians have vowed to obliterate Israel. Does this register in DC? Evidently it does not. Bibi is not a fool. He has travelled to DC regularly trying to convince those who matter on the Capitol Hill the dangers that lie ahead. Some 100 Senators did give the president a petition of a possible proliferation by Iran but it seems the effort was a waste.
When the Iranians inked the deal with the US their president and his team were welcomed as war heroes in Tehran. If Putin understands Obama then so do the Iranians. As I write Obama is in Saudi Arabia trying to convince them about their security concerns. Saudis are clear in that the moment Iranians test a nuclear device they would get nukes from Pakistan. The Iranian question will be upper most on the agenda between the Saudis and the Americans. The region is in a fix over the Iranian question and not just Israel. Wonder whether another coloured man will get a shot at the White House were the Iranians able to test a nuclear device during Obama’s tenure?
Update: Russia is amassing troops in Eastern Ukraine. Obama is talking of further ‘sanctions’. Earlier Obama had dismissed Russia as a ‘regional power’. Putin has achieved a lot with obsolete tanks and artillery. What use A1-Abrams if they are never going to be used? Putin calling Obama could be a ruse to buy time before an incursion into Ukraine. Putin had earlier talked of a Union of Russian speaking regions. Reports are that Russia may invade Moldova next. Obama can quote the scriptures but the fact is that Russian expansionism is a reality that cannot be wished away.
Kiev says Russia provoking trouble in eastern Ukraine: Washington Post
I am not a motorsport enthusiast. I mean I cannot make out one model from another. Yet, I have driven all my life. Lately I bought a Yamaha SZR (153cc). It’s not a monster. Yet has enough power to take you around. It’s comfortable to drive both in low and high gears. I was itching to ride around Varanasi. And then I ventured.
I had been to Vindhyachal some couple of decades ago along with my friends in a car. I wanted to ride out of Varanasi and Mirzapur and Vindhyachal were the obvious choice. Vindhyachal is a small town adjacent to Mirzapur. Development has ensured that it is populated all along Mirzapur to Vindhyachal which Google showed was some 29 km away but I never could make out when I exited Mirzapur and when I entered Vindhyachal. While Mirzapur is famous for carpets and durries Vindhychal is known for the Vindhvasini Devi temple which I wanted to visit as a pilgrim.
I started early, at around 8 AM. Getting out of Varanasi was a chore. The roads are not up to scratch. Once on the Varanasi-Allahabad highway,I could raise the throttle. Yes, I was doing 80-90km/hr at times. The little baby was responding fabulously. But I guess I should not have taken the SRZ that far up, for the simple reason that on Indian roads anyone can appear at any time. It could be a puppy, a goat or people or a vehicle wanting to turn. I mean, it’s a tad crazy and it was just as crazy of me to accelerate beyond 70km/hr.
Once off the highway and on to the Mirzapur road the ride again became bumpy. The road was just as I remembered all those years ago when I last travelled here. They sell these pedas (round sweet made of flour and sugar) which are typical of the region. I stopped and had one. Way too sweet.
It was when I reached the bridge over the Ganges that I gasped in wonder. The majesty of the river took my breath away.It had a turquoise blue hue, looked clean and life giving. The pictures along side are from the middle of the bridge and the bloody edifice wobbled every time a heavy vehicle passed. I hurriedly took the pictures and rode on.
Mirzapur town is well, just another small town in Eastern Uttar Pradesh. It is chaotic, with woeful roads and infrastructure and non-existent town planning. I know that Mirzapur is the centre of carpet industry and there must be opulence but I could see none. There is one landmark which is the Ghantagarh (Clock Tower).But this is no clock tower but the Town Hall with Gothic architecture. A plaque clams that Maharaja Baneras built this. If indeed he did he must have got the masons and architects from Europe which seems unlikely. Chances are that the Europeans built the Ghantaghar and later Maharaja Baneras added a few touches and his name on the plaque. I say this because along the Town Hall that is the Ghantaghar is a small Gothic church which has now been turned into a ‘Convent’ school. Of course there is no Convent there but just as well.
From the Town Hall I ventured to the much touted Pukkay Ghat. The Ganges was a sight to behold but the place reeked of human faeces. I wanted to sit around and enjoy the scene but the smell was so incessant and overpowering that I made a hasty exit. And they had these slogans written all around on the walls about keeping the Ganges clean! I must concede though that the Ganges in Mirzapur is much cleaner than in Varanasi or the Yamuna in Delhi (that is a joke!).
I was biking around the lanes and by-lanes of Mirzapur when I chanced upon this temple which has distinct South Indian architecture.I thought I was in Madurai. It was just so beautiful and such a surprise. The oft repeated North-South divide is a sham. Remember the priests in Kedarnath and Badrinath come all the way from Kerala. There is only one India that is Bharat.
On my way to Vindyachal I came across these towers that were clearly military garrisons built by the Europeans. Mirzapur must have been a garrison town and the architecture of the Town Hall and the garrison towers had a synergy. It made sense and it told me I was exiting Mirzapur and was on my way to Vindyachal.
On reaching Vindhyachal the tourist in me took a back seat and the pilgrim in me took over. It never occurred to me that I should take my camera into the temple. Maybe I should have. What struck me about the Vindhvasini Devi temple again were the South Indian motifs that adorned the walls of the temple. It was amazing. A temple in North India with a very real South Indian architecture!
I did not stay at the Vindhvasini Temple for long. I took to the road and the journey back was uneventful. If I fancied myself as a roadie I must eat out at the highway. And so I did. The Mochu Dhaba beckoned and I stopped. They had clean steel plates and spoons. A plastic mug in front full of water to wash and to drink. The food was spicy and hot, the rotis fresh and buttery. I mean, there is a reason why the Big Mac has hardly any outlets on Indian highways. These dhabas that sell Indian food at rock bottom prices are just what a trucker wants. The meal with a small Coke cost me Rs 90 ($1.5). I am sure there are better dhabas on the way but Mochu is what I found and while I wasn’t impressed I won’t say I felt being let down. A basic fare and a filling meal. Just as well.
It was a pleasure riding around Varanasi. I did some 200km in half a day. I know it was hectic. I was back home by 2.30 in the afternoon. One can do 300km in a day without a sweat. The Yamaha SZR was comfortable and I did not feel tired after the journey. These are some small pleasures of life. The world is a beautiful place. Get on a bike and explore this wondrous world.
Dhrupada is a style of Indian music which is a stuti (homage, reverence) to Lord Shiva. Usually it is a vocal rendition or through pakhavage or mridangam. It’s the dance of Shiva, the voice of the Creator and the Destroyer. It is based on Nada Yoga and the singer sings not just through his vocal chords but through his entire being. It is as if the sound comes from the stomach or the naval. It is an amazing experience. I have seen singers sweating profusely in the cold of the winter singing under a shamiana taking off their jacket because their body heated up singing the Dhrupada.
The ragas are the same but it is the style of rendition that is unique. The sudden dips in tenor to the non-stop calling out to Narayana takes you places you have never been. It may seem incredulous but yes, it is incredible the way they make this ancient Indian form of music.
It is the sound of the Cosmos. It is passage through Time. It is a voyage through the Universe – passing the stars, passing the suns. How else can you describe the music that has at its core just one word – Narayana – calling out to Lord Shiva?
It is the complete being of the singer that goes into the incessant rhythmic chant of Narayana that makes it the sound of the Universe. It is like an Odyssey through the Universe. The simplicity of the chant is captivating and the intricacy of the music with patters and sudden dips in sound that makes you go in a trance and into the space and beyond. You begin to understand yourself better – you can relate with Nature just a bit more. That chant and the myriad notes and tenors give you an awareness that is indescribable. It’s an existential experience. To some it might appear as cacophonous noise, but to others it is peace Divine.
Dhrupad rendition to me seems to be the sound of the Creator. It is how the Universe began. This is beyond any scientific explanation. But then Science cannot go beyond a point. There are things that you can only experience, and can’t explain. Dhrupad is the art form that explains a lot without explaining anything. The music itself is an explanation if one is ready to understand. It is Shiva and his dance that is the Natraja. The beats of the Mridangam or the Pakhavajja that make you imagine the Lord and his grace over us all. You bow down in humility. You are at one with the Creator. You are in bliss.
There is a reason why Dhrupada form is like an Odyssey through the Universe. The philosophy of Dvaita and Advaita are at the core of this. Dvaita is the Lord and you while Advaita is Lord within you. When the Lord is within, you have the universe inside of you. The human body is a Cosmos by itself. And when you sing the Dhurupada using all your faculties you embody the Universe. And the music that the singer creates is Cosmic in nature. The incessant rhythmic chants of Narayana making you wonder where you are and where you have been.
Political pundits including yours truly had expected this all along. This has not come as a surprise at all. That it took so long to happen is the only thing that has surprised many. BJP and Modi baiters had been using all tricks in the book to run down the man and the party. The 2002 Gujarat riots were milked for political brinkmanship ad nauseum. People got fed up of the rant and many got irritated as well. Most of the media outrage was generated and stage managed as it were.
Congress and the UPA quoted growth figures that were specious and useless – for two reasons. One, it ignored the simple fact that double digit inflation negated any such growth. Secondly, the growth figures came largely from BJP ruled states and did not represent the whole of India. The one huge achievement that Rahul Gandhi gloated about was the ‘power’ that he and his party had given to the people with bills such as the RTI (Right to Information) and Lokpal Bill. The other great achievement was the ‘jobs’ (read doles) that the government gave to the people through MANREGA. People cared two hoots for RTI and MANREGA was more a right to easy money for the Sarpanches than real devolution of resources to the common man. Rahul Gandhi even now claims that he wants to give power to the people. But never does he elaborate as to how he will do so. And so the question of devolution of power to the people – to women and tribal and the weaker sections hangs in the air. I am told Rahul Gandhi is Harvard educated. I am sure he must have heard about creation of jobs. US and Europe and other parts of the world give weekly jobless figures. UPA and Mr. Gandhi do not realize that it is jobs that are the crux of the matter. And jobs are not created by devolution of power – that is clearly of no use to the common man. What they need is a steady income. And that can happen only when investments are made welcome and industries and business prosper creating jobs.
The disenchantment of the people is so acute that they have thronged to Modi rallies. There is a Modi wave. I have written about his rally in Varanasi in one of my earlier articles. Clearly there is a paradigm shift in the political climate in the past few months. There has emerged a so-called Third Front which has been woven around the Left Brotherhood, but that is a non-serious outfit – a conglomeration of 11 parties hoping that neither the NDA nor the UPA does well and they manage to bring around another 11 parties to form a government. There is an outside chance but one that is very unlikely to happen.
The real game changer is Narendra Modi and his BJP led NDA coalition. Other political parties are sensing the mood of the people and converging towards NDA. Those who are with the UPA or had promised to align or assimilate with the Congress are running shy. Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP (Telugu Desam Party) has joined the NDA again. Jagan Mohan Reddy is so peeved with the Congress that he is ready to support any party that manages to keep the Congress out of power. Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP has aligned again with the BJP and is now a part of the NDA after a hiatus of 12 years. Athawale’s RPI is also back in the NDA. The sad anecdote of the unceremonious eviction of Ramnath Athawale from his residence by Congress government is the reason why he joined the NDA again.
Nitish Kumar and his Janata Dal United has seen a revolt when Shivanand Tiwari and four other MP’s were ousted from the party. Tiwari had criticised Nitish and his style of functioning. On an earlier occasion he had praised Modi and had been heckled by Nitish supporters. I will not be surprised if he joins the BJP.
Telangana Rashtriya Samiti had announced that they would go with whosoever forms Telangana. Congress made Telangana happen. Chandrashekhar Rao then announced the merger of TRS with the Congress. Later he withdrew. I am not sure he will be a part of even the UPA. He has got Telangana and he knows he will have to deal with BJP led NDA government in the years to come. It makes no political sense in merging his political outfit with a declining Congress. The rats are jumping off a sinking ship that is the Congress.
There is a background to Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party joining the NDA. It appears that Paswan was not too comfortable with the rightist posture of the NDA. It could well be that he urged Rajnath Singh to issue some kind of regret or ‘apology’ for the 2002 Gujarat riots. Rajnath Singh did so with the caveat that if there has been any wrong doing against any minorities by his government in Gujarat then he apologizes. That was good enough for Paswan. With Paswan on the NDA bandwagon the Dalit and backward votes should come NDA way and the threat from overtly backward and Dalit parties like the BSP will be marginalized.
The icing on the cake was however the longest serving chief minister from Arunachal Pradesh, Geogong Apang’s decision to leave the Congress and join the BJP. The man has been CM for 22 years. The man understands the mood of his people and knows that the shift is decisively against the Congress. There is a background to such political developments in the North East. BJP fielded Purno Sangma as their presidential candidate against Pranab Mukherjee. They knew Sangma would not make it. But it was a shrewd political move. Many within the BJP wanted Pranabda to enter the Rashtrapati Bhavan. But by fielding Sangma, a Christian and a tribal they made three statements. One that they are secular by backing a Christian. Second, that they were pro-tribal. And thirdly and most importantly they were friends of the people of North East, which again was true. Modi rallies in the North East have had a tumultuous response. Apang joining the BJP therefore does not come as a surprise. The media has played this down but this is perhaps a body blow to the Congress.
Power has a magnetism of its own. I am sure the BJP will do very well in the coming general elections. It is veritably a walkover by the Congress and the UPA. World media is talking about the change of guard. The US ambassador Nancy Powell met Narendra Modi in Gandhinagar. The man is being wooed by those who matter not only within India but globally.
It is 1998 revisited when more than 20 parties came together under the leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee to form the government. The apology of sorts for Gujarat riots by Rajnathji has rattled the UPA like nothing has. The secular media is trying to make is sound as an empty rhetoric for political gains. But then wasn’t Telangana formed for political gains too? It is amazing how far politicians will go to secure power. Telangana was an out and out a political move to ensure 15 odd seats for the UPA. The bad news for them is that TRS has deserted them and have had their cake and eaten it too. Its too late for the Congress to unleash the CBI against Chandrashekhar Rao. Rao is no Lalu who can be cowed down by graft cases.
There were talks of Sharad Pawar’s NCP joining hands with the BJP in Maharashtra. Udhav Thakre’s Shiv Sena put their foot down and told the BJP in no uncertain terms that NCP joining the NDA was untenable. Shiv Sena and the BJP have managed to rope in many smaller parties in Maharashtra who are from the Vidarbha region and should undercut Pawar’s NCP. By the way, Sharad pawar is not fighting the Lok Sabha elections this time and his daughter Supriya Sule will fight from their home constituency of Baramati.
As I write the news is that DMK Supremo Karunanidhi has called Modi a hardworking man and a friend. Indian politics and politicians leave me breathless.
There is a clamour to be a part of the NDA bandwagon. Teesta Setalvad and other activists unleashed by the UPA have vanished. Modi and the NDA are the flavour of the political grapevine in Lutyen’s Delhi. Its time Modi got a bungalow in Delhi, where he belongs.
The Aam Aadmi Party government fell inexplicably on the 49th day in office. Looking back it seems it was a pre-meditated step. Those in the know felt Arvind Kejriwal had made up his mind to resign at least a week before the Lokayukta Bill was tabled in the Vidhan Sabha. The reasons for the fall of the AAP government were as weird as the Bill for which they made such a hue and cry. They refused to send the Lokayukta Bill to the Lt. Governor which would have then been forwarded to the Centre before it came back to the Speaker of the House to be formally tabled for consideration. Kejriwal and his men said that this was unacceptable and that since they were elected representatives of the people of Delhi therefore they were answerable to none except the citizens of Delhi. They went on to quote the eminent lawyer and jurist Soli Sorabjee and claimed that he seconded their stand, only to be repudiated by him.
The amazing part was that both Congress and the BJP were ready to support the Lokayukta Bill. It is said that Dr. Harshvardhan of the BJP received a copy of the proposed bill at the dead of the night before it was tabled in the House the next day. AAP claimed that the Bill was on the lines of the Lokayukta Bill passed in Uttarakhand Assembly. The AAP government was not too keen to give time to Legislators to go through the Bill. Their haste in getting the Bill tabled was surprising. If they were really serious about the Lokayukta Bill they should have followed the precedent. They said that nowhere has it been written in the Constitution that the Bill needs to be sent to the Centre through the Lt. Governor. What they fail to understand is that in stable democracies there are customs and traditions and those are followed without anyone questioning them.
The few weeks that AAP was in office they did not crown themselves with glory. One of their ministers Mr. Somnath Bharti was found using abusive language with police officers and exhorting them to raid a house without any warrant, where some African nationals lived. This behaviour by a Minister became a flashpoint in Indo-African relations. It was unnecessary and unprecedented.
AAP government had promised that electricity rates would be halved, but what really happened was that they were increased. The joke was that they waived 50% of the tariff for those who had not paid for a particular period of time. It was clear that they were rewarding those who were AAP supporters. This would have cost the exchequer a neat Rs 6 crores.
The people of Delhi found their Chief Minister squatting on the streets for some frivolous demand, I am forgetting what. The 26th January celebrations were due and the Defence Forces put their foot down and the CM and his rabble rousers were unceremoniously evicted from the Raisena Hills. Kejriwal then ordered an audit of the power companies. The CAG it seems seconded the idea. The matter reached a flashpoint and Delhi was in for a major outage.
The piece de resistance however was Delhi government filing an FIR against Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani, Cabinet Minister Veerappa Moily and others claiming that increase in gas prices was theft of the exchequer. I have never heard of any government filing an FIR against ministers and industrialists. Can this really be done? AAP claimed that both their allies the Congress and the opposition, the BJP were at the beck and call of Mr. Ambani! Before they could pursue the FIR they quit. It is said that the AAP government benefitted Reliance Industries to the tune of Rs 370 cr. before they quit. The nuances of the sweetener need to be explored, if at all.
The one common thread that runs through the brief AAP saga at the helm in Delhi is one of charges being levelled and not being pursued. They never got down to really auditing the power companies, nor did they pursue the case against Reliance and the Cabinet Ministers. Spit and run was their policy. Perhaps they knew about their own shortcomings enough not to pursue what they proposed.
Some are calling Kejriwal’s decision to quit as a political master stroke. He would be seen as a martyr for a cause close to the hearts of the people of Delhi – corruption. AAP has tried to paint everyone black calling them all corrupt. That may not be quiet true. People had given AAP the mandate to give a clean government – to clean the rot. They decided to run away from the responsibility. People of Delhi and of the nation do not see Kejriwal and AAP as martyrs but as one who showed little respect for the mandate given to them. The mandate was for governance and to turn Delhi into a truly world class city. They did not see it thus. Perhaps they were fearful of being found out, of being exposed. Kejriwal and AAP have never defined clearly their economic policies, their views on foreign policy, defence and world affairs. They only talk of fighting corruption. They do not even talk about fighting poverty. Kejriwal is never asked these questions by journalists who interview him for extended periods of time. Are they told not to ask these questions?
AAP government and Kejriwal are no martyrs. If at all, they have shown disrespect to the wishes of the people of Delhi. They asked the people of Delhi whether they should form the government but they never asked them whether they should quit. The House supported them for the Lokayukta Bill and yet they resigned on some technicality. Their credibility is at an all time low. AAP has called for fresh polls in Delhi assuming that they will sweep the polls next time around. I am not sure that is going to happen. Congress is playing it safe and there is going to be President’s rule with Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung as his representative. The people of Delhi feel cheated and let down. Arun Jaitley of the BJP has called the brief AAP stint as a sham and ‘worst government’ in recent past. For the people of Delhi it is nightmare that is over. This maybe posturing by the AAP before the Lok Sabha polls, but this is a wake- up call for the people of India.