Thursday, March 26, 2009

Election Watch: Joining the astrologers - Poll predictions

I'm loath to predict the results of this elections, given the 2004 fiasco, but I'll try... maybe we can try verifying that with what the astrologers say:

It will be a hung house, with Congress losing upto 20 seats from last time. They will however gain seats in other areas, especially Orissa (although BJD will do much better over there). BJP will definitely do better, and will probably make up around 20 seats. However, both of these are not enough to get them to power, unless they band together - not likely either.

Regional parties will find this election to be their starting gun for the future - the 3rd front will get around 120 seats, but will disintegrate after the results - most of the constituents, who are even more promiscuous than the Congress (common whores have less of a choice than a courtesan) will join one or the other. Left will be left cold.

Given the BJP's infighting, it is difficult to see how they can actually pull this off... Congress has had a headstart, but their own house seems more precarious than a mountain of melting butter. BJP will gain from UPA's shakiness, and the splitting of the "secular" vote.

Final prediction - UPA may come back, but with a wafer thin majority. However, that depends on their allies. BJP could still pull it off, if they can stitch up alliances fast. They still need to have a good development-driven, common-man-focussed manifesto though - and sell that hard.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Election Watch: 4 Reasons why I'd vote for Congress, & the 3 reasons why I would think twice

(Like the 12 days of Christmas, I'll probably add a couple more reasons when they strike my brain, but right now, its 4 reasons).

1. Youth:

Whatever their faults, the congress does have the advantage of having, and most certainly encouraging young, dynamic, and well educated leaders. Forget Rahul Gandhi, what about people like Milind Deora, Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia and others. A strong second line of leaders with strength for administration. This, in spite of the fact that the party does have a tradition of intrigue and pitting two satraps against each other to strengthen the central hand.

The Youth Congress, which is by far the largest, most organized and most influential youth wing of any indian political party has an extremely strong tradition. Wild, rude and criminal behaviour of some of their leaders notwithstanding, they do bring out some able guys once in a while. It is this emphasis on youth that enthuses me.

The problem, as I have pointed out, is that these dynamic guys rarely get the chance to rule, one, because the constant bickering means that the older leaders choose their own proxies, and would not want an independent minded guy, and second, because local alliances usually overrule any attempt at putting able leaders. Hopefully Rahul Gandhi can change that a bit.

2. A strong second rung:

Compared to the other big National party, the BJP (and CPM at a distant third), the Congress has a far larger bench-strength of National level crowdpullers and mass leaders, and strong second rung, while the BJP is mostly limited to regional kings who have little national recognition - the ones that do are not mass leaders, but managers.

If the BJP has Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Yashwant Sinha and others, the Congress has a far larger base of leaders who can actually gain them votes, and can also govern - Kapil Sibal, Digvijay Singh, Murli Deora, etc etc etc. It doesn't hurt that many of them are actually quite well educated. This would theoratically make the party stronger, more dynamic and gives it a firm foundation. The Congress can thus manage to fill a cabinet with a good number of strong and educated leaders, rather than having to scrounge around for people.

The "Theoratically" word in the previous sentence said it all - all these second rung mass leaders and their strength and education comes to nought in the absence of inner-party democracy (something that the BJP abounds in - the recent infighting proves that). When everyone needs to pander to and obey her highness' words without question, that Oxford degree is useless.

Additionally, 10, Janpath has cleverly and perennially pitted these satraps against each other to strengthen its own hand... thus, at times when they need to be governing or taking on the opposition, they are stuck squabbling in their own house. Not a good sight, nor a good idea if good governance is required.

3. No Ideology to serve:

Unlike the CPM's class act (and US bashing, and China cuddling), or the BJP's Hindutva plank, The Congress' doesn't have any ideological pulls, except the short term ones that it chooses. "Aam aadmi" seems to be the only long term ideology that they have ("secularism" comes a close second).

This development-based agenda is a good idea, since it usually means that decisions would be taken on logic, rather than ideology. Its better to have someone with a people-focus at power, rather than those who have other pulls. Then, there is also the ideological danger of going too far with an idea - remember Germany.

No ideology results in no work... if development was indeed the Congress ideology that they believed in, they've failed miserably. Even the BJP has done better on that count. Their secular card is definitely doing a shabby job of covering their modesty. And without any long term ideology, the ideal the congress seems to live by is Power - they'll do anything to get it.

Plus, without a central pillar to hold on to, it is very very easy to get swayed by coalition pulls - something we witnessed during the last 5 years.

4. Development Agenda:

The UPA has taken some extremely important steps over the past 5 years - the ones that I'd list are - RTI Act, US-India Nuke deal, NREGA, NRHM, and increased support to the SSA. (If this sounds like acronym soup, Google ki jai!!). Even more important I'd say is the empowerment of Panchayati Raj's under Mr. Aiyar.

All these are potentially revolutionary steps towards creating a better democracy, and social welfare. The NDA too took many such important steps, but not in such a clear way.

IMPLEMENTATION - total failure by the UPA. Which is surprising considering the surfeit of administrators that their ranks contain. NREGA is beset by corruption, and SSA hasn't really succeeded at the secondary level.

As for the BJP, I'd say that they're not far behind... if the INC banners their development and aam aadmi focus, the BJP actually does it... Most of the UPA's achievements built on the foundation that the BJP quietly set during their tenure - the Nuke deal was laid by BJP, they started the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the Golden Quadrilateral and Gram Sadak Yojanas were tremendously successful implementations under their watch. IT boomed under their watch, and the telecom revolution truly started during their term (although i'd doubt if they can take all the credit for the inevitable). Even the vastly unpopular Disinvestments actually helped...

Its a pity that they didn't have the support of the English language press, and neither did they go about tomtomming their achievements. The problem was that they forgot a small detail when doing all this - the village man. But even this was a case of things getting bad before getting better - unlike the Congress' implementation, which has usually led only to a distribution of poverty, the BJP has a more right of centre view of trickle-down benefits. It works sometimes, sometimes it doesn't. Unfortunately, in my view, the BJP put too much trust in that, rather than focussing also on direct action at those levels (something that the UPA has tried).

However, as I said, implementation is the key.... and Congress has done quite badly on that front.

The three reasons that I'd think twice (apart from the BUTS that i listed above):

a) Sonia Gandhi and Family - Dictator for life:

The Congress survives for a surname. It listens to their every word, and would even sweep their floor if ordered so. When they're so preoccupied with satisfying her fancies (and beta's too), how can we expect them to listen to us common folk? And with no sign of inner democracy, I'd doubt its a good idea to put a bigger democracy in their hands.

b) Promiscuity for Power:
Certainly not a good idea to bring a group that'll screw anyone and sell their virgin ideals to get their preferred seat in parliament (the treasury side seats). Makes one wonder what they'd do after coming to power.

c) Constitutional respect:

Given the consistent way that Congress Govt's have torn down democratic institutions and constitutional bodies, is it a good idea to give them more time??

Monday, March 23, 2009


We've just heard Varun Gandhi, and before him, Messrs Mutalik and Co., Raj Thakeray and family before that. Others too come to mind - AR Antulay, Jodhaa-Akbar, Non-Maharashtrians vs Manoos, Kandhamal, Gorkhaland, Gujjars, Da Vinci Code, MF Hussain, the Shahi Imam, Taslima Nasreen and a hundred other examples of intolerance and idle minds coming together in a volatile mix.

It wont be long before these pet peeves and psychotic hatreds explode in a fireball, and join their other examples- Maoists, NE Rebels, LeT and other madmen. We're hemorrhaging internally. And unfortunately, there's no way to put that lightly.

Well, the situation may not be as bad as it seems, but it does get very depressing to switch on the boob tube and see a new violent protest every day.

So heres a word of advice to Messrs Raj Thakeray, MIM, Togadia, Mutalik and other 'leaders' of these mobs - Get innovative. Riots and violent protests are getting old fashioned. Its interesting for about a month, but after that, it just seems that you lack the brains to think up new ways to unleash chaos. Then of course, you guys are wasting your time on these silly stunts.