Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Samajwadi,Left and the ethics of politics

A new 24 hour soap opera is playing out in the corridors of power in Delhi in the recent days,following the debates on the nuclear Deal. This is the kind of mega serial that we have been used to, since the days of coalition politics have begun. Remember Vajpayee's 13 day Government or the drama surrounding DeveGowda's resignation in the days of the Third Front.

These dramas have given rise to new kinds of politicians, the "deal brokers". The greatest of them all is a one time small grocery shop owner from Kolkata,a man called Amar Singh. Amar Singh is having a gala time these days, happily playing his role as the King maker.

While on end of the spectrum is Amar Singh, whose stands on important issues can change faster that a chameleon changes color, on the other end is the ever-so-stubborn Prakash Karat. It is in these times of crisis that the true colors of politicians and parties come out.

The media and a portion of the Congress party has been consistently blaming Karat and the Left Front for opposing the Government's developmental plans (read neo-liberal reforms) and coming in the way of functioning of the Government. However, the politics of the Left has always been straightforward. CPI(M) has never joined the Government in the history of independent India,even when Jyoti Basu was openly offered the Prime Ministerial berth by Sonia Gandhi after Deve Gowda's resignation (If it were the Samajwadi Party,or some such, it would have fallen head over heels over such an offer:) ). It has given its support from the outside, always maintaining that it has irreconciliable differences with the Congress Party. The Party's opposition to policies has also been consistent, and even its worst enemy would not blame that Karat has flip-flopped based on secret meetings in 10 Janpath (discussing you-know-what).

That is what the Left is doing even today. With SP supporting the UPA,the Left is virtually isolated now. However,that does not bring them to a compromise on the issues of policy. Also, in the short run, it was not at all in the advantage of the Left to withdraw support from the Govt. It is not in a good shape in West Bengal where it has fared badly both in the Panchayet and the Municipal elections. Also,it is in power in all the three States it is most powerful in (West Bengal,Kerala and Tripura) and with the rising inflation, there will be a huge anti-incubency factor acting against it due to the price rise. Thus, strategically speaking, the Left would want to delay the polls for a few months now. However, these short term political complusions have not caused the Left to make U turns in policy decisions.

Let us take a peek into the Samajwadi Party's role now. SP, probably on account of their Muslim votebank,had been opposed to the Nuclear Deal till about a week ago. Suddenly, at the press conference of the UNPA, Master Blaster Amar Singh says, their knowledge and concerns on the Nuclear Deal are based on what the newspapers have said and what their "Communist friends" are said. (Here again, this time more clearly,"I am in constant touch with Prakash Karat on nuclear deal. Everything we know about the N-deal is through the Left parties.....")

Wow!! I mean Wow!!!

Leave alone a responsible political party, does even a responsible adult individual form opinions based on their neighbor's judgements? Thus, we come to know that the SP's opinion on this important issue was not based on its own judgement of the situation,but simply from hearsay.The next episode, meticulously planned by Amar Singh, is to land up straight on the doors of former President APJ Abdul Kalam (I suspect Mr. Singh had a secret phone call with Ekta Kapoor that afternoon). Now,while Abdul Kalam may be knowledgable on the technical aspects of the deal (its effects on India's atomic research etc.),his knowledge on its political fallout (Concerns on India's strategic alliance with the United States) may only be as much as that of a layman. Therefore, to hold a single individual's views as sacred and immediately declaring a 180 degree turn on policies is "naive", at best. It was a poor attempt to hoodwink the people who have voted them to power, who expect them to take a principled stand on issues, irrespective of the kickbacks or the ministerial berths that they recieve. The drama probably does not end there, for to support the UPA Govt. is to support not only the N Deal, but its various other policies (economic for instance),which they had been opposing tooth and nail till a few days ago.

And the worst part is that portions of the media, and a large part of the "Shining India" seem to have turned their backs to these facts in a frenzy of left bashing. Or it probably says a lot about the priorities of a certain section regarding issues such as "ethics" and "ideologies".

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Edwards Endorsement. What it means?

Barack Obama long deserves a mention in this blog. I have probably never been influenced or felt more hopeful about a political personality. Barack Obama's struggle, from the community worker in Chicago's Southside, to a lone force looking to give a "sane" political alternative, in the neocon dominated American politics, is, to say the least, inspiring.

However, as Obama painfully realizes, as he is choking in the death overs (much like the Indian cricket team), that he is an "Outsider". His liberal values, extraordinary upbringing does not go down well with a large section of America's voters. The "white,blue collar" is more interested in trusting in a woman who had supported a needless war, and is breaking the ethics of intraparty politics in a series of vicious attacks.

In view of this white, blue collar votebank, the Edwards endoresement, which came a few days ago, can probably dramatically swing things in Obama's favor. For no one has talked about poverty, and the interest of workers in this election more than John Edwards. A joint ticket, will definitely boost the white voter's confidence in the Dems.

If it doesn't, then even if the numbers play out in favor of Obama in the convention, it can probably not carry him to the White House. As Hillary campaigns more aggressively, Obama's weaknesses are showing clearly. The average blue collar white swing voter (and even some Dems) going against him will kill the Democrat's best chance in a decade. A Democratic electorate fragmented over the issues of race giving an walkover to Mccain will really be a pity.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

This whole IPL thing

The corporate world had long realized that there was a huge,huge market to be trapped in the emerging "Shining" Indian Economy. "Cricket" is that one emotion, that almost every Indian is passionate about, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. From giant screens in plush shopping malls, to small,generator operated TV sets in shanties and slums, it is the thing that defines the sense of being Indian.

Back in my childhood, I remember, this was the one thing, except probably for politics, that sparked off raging debates in fish markets,roadside tea stalls, or in the young teenagers' smoking joints. The older generation fondly tells stories of how they had watched the '83 finals in their newly bought TV sets, on the common "paraa" ones. The 90s generation has its memories of the Hero Cup, the Pakistan match in the World Cup, or the Eden debacle against Sri Lanka. We have grown up with the art of Azhar, the genius of Sachin, and then found a new hero in Ganguly, the man whose mental toughness as well as cricketing skills have never ceased to amaze me.

Thus, if there is one investment that Corporate India can feel safe about, even among the fears of Worldwide recession, it is Cricket. It is therefore, of no doubt, that money has poured into the IPL, and Indian cricket has ceremoniously married its popular counterpart, "The Bollywood", in what could aptly be described as a marraige of convenience.

However, as I sat down to watch the IPL, I could not remain oblivious of the changes that the game has undergone in this attempt to become "Manoranjan ka Baap",(The Father of all Entertainment) as its catchline describes it. The ranting may seem a little cliched and conservative, but I could not but help noticing that the beauty that has been so long associated with the game and has kept us glued to TV sets throughout our childhood is fast vanishing, in this fast food packaging.

The ungrammatical shots, the baseball like pinch hitting, has reduced the game to a mere show of sixes,providing an adrenalin rush to a houseful crowd. The classic defensive shot, or an elegant square cut for a single, have become useless appendages that the batsman must cut off from his repertoire, for the game has now become less about the celebration of style, and more about "instant entertainment".

I wonder what a Gavaskar or a Geoffrey Boycott would have done, faced with a career option such as this. No wonder, Rahul Dravid, probably the most stylish and technically perfect Indian batsman in the last decade, has had little to offer to this form of the game, till now.

To add to this ridiculous circus in the name of cricket, is the Bhangra playing at the top of the voice with every hit. Somehow, it does not go well with cricket when the earth shattering "noise" takes away the mood, as one relishes the action replay of a stylish stroke (the few that there are).

The "loud",sometimes shameless, fast food entertainment should probably be given some other name, other than cricket. The name should probably be spared for a minority who still love to watch the older, quieter,slower form of the game.

There is certainly more to cricket (and to life) than adding more speed to it.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Raj and the Parochial Rhetoric

Stirring up parochial sentiments is no new thing in Indian politics. We have seen that card played over and over again. From Anna Durai to Budhhadeb Bhattacharya, many are guilty of the same offence. But what was new this time round was the style and th directness of the rhetoric, and the follow up that the city of Mumbai experienced.

One clearly understands that this is clearly nothing more than mere vote bank politics. Amar Singh, India's undisputable political "deal broker" is searching for new pastures. Riding on the Big B wave and given the large North Indian population of this cosmopolitan city, Mumbai can definetely be Mulayam's first stride outside UP,where they are fast losing ground.
The first people to object to Amar Singh's attempt would have been the Sena, Mumbai's local strongarms. However, they had their job cut short, by a foolish young man, eager to jump on to the fire. In an attempt to take a bite out of the Sena's Marathi vote bank, Raj Thackerey has landed himself to the far right of the political spectrum, a move that severly undermines the ambitions of a young leader in a cosmopolitan town like the Mumbai.
He can, now, at best dream to be a small time ultra right politician, representing a very miniscule fraction of the "Marathi manoos" votebank. A man with the Thackerey tag should have had greater ambitions in mind.

Now let us come to the ethical and moral aspects of Raj Thackerey's rant. Of course, he sounds like a spoilt five year old, crying "mommy,the neighbor's son is touching my toys".
But Raj does have a point that cannot be ignored,especially when globalisation threatens the existence of local cultures like never before.
Men live in communities, bonded by common ethnicities, cultures, language,religion etc. This basic human need of a "cultural space" can never be ignored in the name of national integration.
National integration is to accept the unity by keeping the cultural uniqueness in its place, not by dissolving it into thin air. Mass immigration to cities always have the danger of encroachment on this local cultural space, and to the undermining of the ethnic values that gives,to much of the city,it original charm. Chennai has stood its ground firmly, warding off a "foreign invasion", even at the risk of losing out to less resourceful cities in the rat race for "we are the IT capital".

I have seen North Indians in Chennai constantly expressing their dissatisfaction at the average Chennai-ite's refusal to accept Hindi as the language of common conversation. What they do not get is the fact that it is a matter of far more importance, than the simple convinience of conversation.

Raj is indeed correct in pointing out the dangers of increased immigration to Mumbai, which encroaches upon the space of the Marathi Manoos by creating a parallel culture, that robs Mumbai of its own ethnic charm. The other thing that one must think,with or without the Raj factor, is the development of the "Bimaru States". The uneven development that India is seeing today, as the resulting mass migration will result in several problems, this being one of them.
Amar Singh would thus do a great service to the nation by developing his own State rather than rabble rousing in Mumbai.

Also, Raj is not the first to play the regionalism card. Most of Tamil Nadu's politics has, and still revolves round the "Anti-Hindi" issue. Elsewhere, the liberal leftist Chief Minister speaks out for a particular cricket player, and his supporters sit on train tracks, demanding that he be reinstated. In the West, we recently heard the great macho man of Indian politics, talking of "Gujarat Asmita".

However, the regionalism card is played much more subtly by more seasoned politicians, and the clash of interests there are not so immediate and apparent as in Mumbai.
The media's Badshah of one day, Raj Thackerey is surely putting himself down as one of the "also rans" of Maharashtra politics, with childishness such as this.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

IITM Courses on the Web

A series of IITM courses have been put up on Youtube here. (Source:nanopolitan)
Prof. Mangal Sundar's hard work finally pays off.
Hats off to him,one of the great guys I have seen at IITM.
I watched some of the videos for this one.
Looks great!

Also,it feels great to be sitting in the classroom of one of my favorite professors after some time!! :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The People's Car

Ratan Tata proudly announced as the "People's Car". While the Nano was released amidst all the
fanfare, and it was hailed as the pinnacle of
technological achievement, the sad irony of the
"people's car" slipped out of the mind of the media
and the millions of viewers.
In today's liberalized India,suddenly, the word "people" has started to mean its tiny upwardly mobile middle class. For a counstry that used to
swear by Gandhiji's "talisman", there could not
be any greater contradiction.

The People's Car indeed...
The unregistered "borgadaars" who used to work for landowners in the fields of Singur,the
unwilling peasants who still haven't taken their meager compensations. Yes,indeed it is the
peoples car.
When Ratan Tata starts his bullcock story about the middle class couple blah blah, is he trying to
portray himself as the people's entrepreneur?
Mr. Tata, the average Indian is intelligent enough to see through your "manufactured" oratory.
An attempt to endure yourself to the Indian "Middle Class" is a carefully crafted business move
to tap into one of the world's potentially wealthiest markets.
If you really had any sense of social responsibility, couldn't you have mentioned the farmers
of Singur,thanked them once,at least once, in a single wasted sentence in the number of
hours that you spent in your technically dazzling presentation, and the press conference that followed?
I believe they are not high enough in the species tree to be termed as "people"....
Alas,Mr. Tata, you never dream of these lesser species in your "sponsored" dreams................