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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Needed: Better Govt, cleaner Opposition

By Swapan Dasgupta

Last week, when the TV channels were buzzing with indignation and outrage over the financial peccadilloes of the nation’s most important son-in-law, my good friend Professor Ashutosh Varshney of Brown University (USA) sent out an interesting tweet. Arvind Kejriwal, he wrote, “will soon learn a political lesson: that creating and sustaining a political party is tougher than a TV show.”

The observation may be gratuitous but is well taken. It is known that a big bang launch of a product doesn’t necessarily guarantee its success, not unless it meets a demand and is authentic. I don’t think Kejriwal and his associates who have chosen to blend crusading zeal with electoral intervention are unaware of their long journey ahead. They probably know that being the enfant terrible merely ensures recognition; it doesn’t automatically inspire trust.

The long-term future of Kejriwal’s yet unnamed political party is debatable. There is common ground among the activists on the question of a Jan Lokpal Bill. But apart from this there appears to be a cacophony of voices over larger questions of public policy. Indeed, some of those who have climbed on to the Anna Hazare bandwagon have done so in the conviction that it is possible to steer an impressionable, single-issue movement in particular ‘alternative’ directions.

The contradictions that are likely to emerge in Kejriwal’s movement are, however, matters for future deliberations. What is more relevant today is the reality that this wild card entry into the public sphere has created convulsions in the political class.

That the Congress stalwarts would be fluttering about like headless chickens was perhaps to be expected—witness Salman Khurshid’s touching offer to lay down his life for the leader and Renuka Choudhury’s extraordinary performances on TV. Robert Vadra, after all, was no ordinary businessman prone to sharp practices: he is a Gandhi by marriage and accorded a special status as a SPG protectee. Confronting him with very strong evidence of dubious business practices that stemmed from his special status is, by implication, a direct attack on the carefully cultivated Mother India image that Sonia Gandhi has crafted for herself. In any evolved democracy such revelations would have resulted in a spate of resignations and announcements of sannyas from political life. In the Banana Republic called India it has instead led to Vadra mocking his accusers, top Cabinet ministers issuing him certificates of good conduct and the Prime Minister decrying the onrush of “negativity” in public life.

That the Congress has reacted with characteristic brazenness to the emerging evidence hasn’t come as a surprise. What may occasion surprise is the fact that the revelations have also left the principal opposition party red-faced. A part of this may be explained by the resentment against an interloper into the opposition space—witness Vijay Goel’s puerile fulminations at being upstaged at a local protest against exorbitant electricity charges in Delhi.

Yet, Kejriwal’s gate-crashing into the cosy world of politics had a context. Ideally, the debate on Vadra should have begun in March 2011 after Economic Times wrote a cautious but suggestive report on his remarkable business success and his proximity to DLF. At that time, there were senior leaders in the BJP such as Arun Jaitley and Yashwant Sinha who were willing to raise the matter in Parliament and outside. They had all the details Kejriwal divulged to the media in his first press conference some 18 months later. The question the BJP needs to address is: why did the leadership decide that the “children” of political leaders must be provided immunity from attacks?

This is not a lament about the BJP’s missed opportunity. There is a widespread impression that the principal opposition party has failed to take advantage of the UPA’s unending bungling on account of the questionable integrity of some of own leaders. The BJP has not fully succeeded in putting the government on the mat over corruption because many of its own people are equally culpable. They have developed a cosy arrangement with the Congress to share the dividends from ‘political equity’. In addition, others have gained from being persuaded to look the other way and abdicate their responsibilities as the main opposition.

Taking on Vadra involved taking on the Gandhi family. It also implied possessing the uprightness to resist the inevitable harassment from politicised investigative agencies. It would seem that many BJP leaders, tired of waiting for the good times to return, have acquired too many skeletons in their personal cupboards. They have been compromised to such an extent that their opposition to the misdemeanours of the Government have become perfunctory. Their stake in a rotten system has meant they lack the moral authority to challenge the rot. They have become a part of the problem itself.

Kejriwal may be wild and publicity hungry but he has emerged as a fearless individual, willing to challenge the awesome might of the first family. If he persists with his recklessness, his party may grab a sizable political space and even emerge as an effective spoiler in urban India. He will eat into a constituency that should be leaning naturally towards the BJP. If that happens, the BJP can only blame itself for being morally upstaged. It has allowed base considerations to dilute its commitment to the larger good. To recover a sense of purpose, it needs to dispose of its dirty linen.

India deserves a better government. It also demands a cleaner opposition. 


Anonymous said...

Another hit job on behalf of AJ?

Anonymous said...

Unless untill BJP is cleansed of these parasites we would never b free from Congress rule.We have high hopes on BJP as its the only party in india which craves for aam aadmi but a few rootless leaders at the top echelons of power and in Delhi are creating hurdles for state based leaders who are true leaders of root.BSY was shown the door by shady power hungry corrupt ananth kumar who is well supported by an elderly LKA and his PA SS.BJP need to have come out of these gang of four chandal chowkdi D4 very soon or we would have to trust AK7

Neeraj Bhatyal said...

well said...undoubtedly both the alliances have failed but i feel arving is moving in the right direction...dont know till what time n phase of his journey.

Anonymous said...

Please reason out,why cleaner & better govt is not required ?Don't u think a better govt is possible only when the govt is clean itself?
Present govt has not been clean from the day 1 till date,that's why it's not been able to provide a better govt.When the PM himself urges that RTI should be limited because it exposes corruption by the near and dear ones of those in power,how can the cleaner govt should not be the priority ?

subbu said...

Very well said, better government, cleaner opposition. The point very clearly to be noted, understood and digested, by all politicians, all political analysts, all journalists and all debate mongers is that all this while they just offered lip service to a huge menace that viewers, people at large, in simple and efficient language, "the common people" have been angry, frustrated and helpless about- CORRUPTION. "What is Arvind Kejriwal's political agenda" everyone questions. What are his views on other issues everyone questions. Very simple science, if the money that was meant to go to the farmer, went to him, he would remain a happy man. If every citizen had equal opportunities and equal avenues to enterprise, every citizen would be happy. Might seem immaturish and childish logic, but the root cause every single issue is economy, money. And this is where governance has been shoddy, inefficient and CORRUPT. In any private enterprise or any enterprise for that matter, the head of the organization is responsible for the profit margins..the growth of the people in the enterprise...the sustainability of the product of the enterprise. The enterprise of our government, is like a rudderless ship. Political analysts, journalists, politicians, researchers everyone has only attempted to clothe this apathy in eloquent words to only reflect and display their understanding of the situation. What clearly is not understood is that the common man on the street is fed up and tired of the anarchy set in by the government. To add to the inefficiency of governance, we have our politicians misbehaving, displaying their worse side whether it be inside parliament, on tv, in a public platform or anywhere for that matter. Probably that is why children in schools...are still taught about only few leaders of our country...from the independence era. a seriously missing element in today's governance. On the lighter side, leave aside everything, there needs to be a serious official, impartial probe/inquiry into this. Arvind Kejriwal comes in as a rank outsider in the present cacophony of governance and resonates the anger, anguish and frustration of the common man. His ideas, his manifesto, his proclaims may seem UTOPIAN. What else can it seem, when we are at the NADIR of governance. We clothe this abyss by calling ourselves one of the world's LARGEST DEMOCRACY. Throwing cover on suspect transactions, putting on a very convenient go slow on all investigations into the various scams...would we call it DEMOCRACY. Honest to self, would any citizen want his/her child to know about governance in today's time. Even if one does, what can one teach about governance. If one sets out to explain to a child how does the cell phone and sim card is sure to confront the 2G and 3G spectrum. Encouraging a child in sports, one is going to confront, CWG. is going to confront IRRIGATION SCAM. Is there anything we can pass on to the next generation in today's our children, without having to cover up the non governance of the country. So when you switch on the news in the night, watching to these debates and the news clippings..the child asks...WHO IS THIS KEJRIWAL? The answer is pat, HE IS FIGHTING FOR US. HE IS FIGHTING ON OUR BEHALF. HE IS DOING WHAT MANY OF US ONLY DREAM OF...TAKING THE WRONGDOERS TO THE CLEANERS. Will he be able to win the next election? Will he able to form a formidable party with an identifiable and appreciable agenda? Dont know and doesnt matter? WHAT HAVE THE EXISTING PARTIES..IN GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION DONE WITH THEIR AGENDAS AND MANIFESTOS? Mr. Arvind Kejriwal is not a phenomenon...or a godsend angel...or a phantom. Why is he needed? we really need any of these politicians? Do we really need this corruption? I doubt a common man, who leads a normal life..earning his living...looking after his family...will say YES

Prema said...

Well said Swapan, hope BJP is listening

venkateh said...

Well analysed Swapan Daa!BJP has no Moral right to cry Foul because it failed to play the role of an effective Opposition Govt forgot that a effective opposition is part of the checks and balances provided in Governance instead it peddled the Congress line. Arvind Kejriwal is right today every party is in Ruling Coalition and we the Mango People is the Only opposition.That's why i say "Arvind Kejriwal Has hit a DLF Maximum on the No Ball Bowled by BJP" !

Manoj Agarwal said...

Awesome. Very hard hitting and "from the heart" honest article. Swapan da, hats off to you...

KiranB said...

It would be to India's benefit if the next government is formed by parties on the anti-corruption and pro development plank. This can only happen if NDA comes out unscathed from this attack by IAC and forms the government. It would then be pressured to provide a clean and progressive government -which it has the best chance of providing.
If IACs charges against Gadkari stick, the next government could be formed by a coalition of parties based on very different issues and India would lose out. This is because IAC itself would not be in a position to form the government in any case!
IAC on the other hand is playing a very high stakes game by naming Gadkari - they would lose all their credibility if the charges come unstuck! I hope they have concrete proof and are very sure of what they are talking about. The arguments so far - that Gadkari told someone that he has business relations with NCP and can not act on the irrigation scam - seem far from convincing since there is no proof and Kirit Somayya and Dev Phadnavis of BJP have been actively pursuing the irrigation scam!

Anonymous said...

third rate journos doing the bidding for their masters.usual suspects.

Anonymous said...

so Adani is the most honest business house in India and Modi and Jaitley teh only good compromised..but the 6 journos whom Shourie mentioned are the paragons of virtue

Anonymous said...

Article is correct about Kejriwals possibilities about winning in educated urban areas more than rural areas. Rural parties will be won by congress appeal to uneducated people :
1. by giving them freebies and unsustainable schemes from out of money fleeced from urban people and 2. "tamasha" sham often funny politics which only the uneducated can fall for.

The Educated who generally vote for BJP in urban areas will have to choose between BJP and Kejriwals party, thus leading to division of NDA votes. I wonder why Congress hates Kejriwal, instead it should feed him more so that he eats up votes meant of opposition. Out of the expected 60% of voters who will cast their vote it can win highest per seat with just as little as 20% of total even though more than half of country doesnt like it.

It will do well for congress if it concentrates on rural areas on mass appeal rallys and freebies and forget the funny excuses and ditch urban areas all together. There is a chance that even though it may win less seats than BJP, congress may be part of third front government with less vote share, if it sticks to gun that BJP is communal. There is possibility that even if BJP wins 35-40% of seats congress may form a coalition government with SP, CPI, NCP, DMK but with less say in the government.

However Kejriwals party gives opportunity to NDA supporters who donot want to vote for some extorting BJP allys who use its NDA tag to get votes but dont support NDA in parliament.

Anonymous said...

Congress would do well if it forms alliance with Yeddurappa, YSR Reddy, Shiv Sena, JDU, Mulayam Singh, Mamta Banerjee, Mayawati and AIADMK Jay lalita.

Congress should dump LALU and DMK and get allys with better seat ratio.

Praveen said...

Exactly my thoughts. The lack lustre responses of some BJP members show that they want this matter of vadra, Salman to end as quickly as possible; lest the fire in the neighboring camp spreads to its own then there would be no where to go. Its trying its best not to involve in any fire burning around. A sad day for India.
I was of looking forward for BJP to look within itself and ask for itself 'Is this what we would be giving to our future generation? ' . Sadly BJP has failed to have a vision of INDIA. Even if it has that vision it will be very difficult to put into place bcoz of reliance on coalition politics and infighting ( Karnataka mess is a good example. They had a very good chance to show what good governance is but have wasted hat opportunity) I don't know with what conviction they would go in front of electorate.
What guaranty does BJP give that tomorrow if voted to power in centre it will not fall prey to 'coalition dharma'. What are its standards for any person who would be accused of irregularities in public office. It doesn't have any clear answers to that.
So its quite difficult for me to have credibility in the present state of BJP.

On a side note, of course BJP is going to suffer bcoz the electorate of congress has been rural area where they would most probably vote for it no matter what happens. But for BJP most of its voter base is educated urban class and it may have lost most of ground to IAC. If IAC is able to field candidates in at least all urban areas in next election it bound to affect BJP.

Shrini said...

Sooner the political parties clean their wardrobes of skeletons, sooner Kejriwal political health starts running out.

Jitendra Desai said...

Good advice to the principal opposition party, which considers itself to be in the driving seat for the journey towards becoming prinicpal ruling party.
It is still early days.If BJP keeps worrying about children of leaders from all parties, it may [again] miss the bus.Like it happened in case of Deve Gowda, the nth front may get together and project Kejriwal as consensus PM candidate!
BJP has to quickly get its act together,declare its PM candidate, announce the agenda/manifesto, driven by issues of transperancy,growth,effective governance and wide spread reforms.
Showing up in TV studios and smiling in front of cameras can keep you where you are. Prinicpal Opposition Party with 100 or less seats in Parliament,complete with sinecures of the [greatest] Leader Of Opposition - cabinet rank etc.Delhi based ladies and genetlemen appear satisfied with just that.

Anonymous said...


You missed ethical and unbiased media.