Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sonia & The Economist

Of course corruption cases are rising and it is affecting the people's morale. But the state governments of BJP, including Gujarat under Modi, do not have saintly record on corruption, nor have they been able to derive. Harish Gupta The Economist is read with enjoyment and pride in many educated homes of the world, including the developing countries. It is liked for its dry wit and it provokes the intellect for its liberal views. But, above all, it is regarded as bellwether for Western (read American) view of happenings around the world. Half the circulation of the 170-year-old British publication is in the US, and unlike Fox TV and such other ham-fisted publicists of the American official view, The Economist is nonpareil in its subtlety.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Sonia-Singh Chemistry

I very well remember that hot afternoon in May 2004 when I, and most my professional colleagues, were contemplating the opening line to the story about what seemed to be the big news of the day. It was the impending swearing in of India’s first foreign-origin prime minister, Sonia Gandhi. The assembled scribes were about to leave the Akbar Road headquarters of the AICC adjacent to 10, Janpath, the residence of Mrs Gandhi. And then the penny dropped. It was later in the same evening that her "inner voice" spoke through the microphone. The rest is history.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Decoding Rahul Gandhi

With the 2014 general elections inching closer, there is little doubt that the Congress will choose vice president Rahul Gandhi as its general, just as BJP is almost certain to accept Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. Though India follows the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy, its election for the Central Government has acquired, over the decades, a strong ‘presidential’ character comparable to the US, the only, and crucial, difference being that India has inner-party democracy only in name, and the choice of candidate depends upon considerations that are anything but rational. Modi is therefore being lauded by his panegyrists much like a medieval emperor was heralded in his court. With Rahul, however, there is a difference. Though Congress party has no lack of trumpeters of the Nehru-Gandhis, the paean for Rahul is somewhat muted in comparison to that of Modi. It is because Rahul has a political record which is somewhat uninspiring, if at all, and the incumbent Congress party is currently buffeted by the twin hurricanes of disastrous governance, high food inflation and a rising stench of corruption.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Two Budgets: Price of populism

Between UPA’s two finance ministers, Pranab Mukherjee and P. Chidambaram, one feels sorry in equal measure. Mukherjee had moved into the North Block office at an inopportune time, when the flow of money had dried up worldwide, including India, and, undeterred by the economic realities, his party’s dominant philosophy continued to be to “buy out” the poor. It actually meant showering cash on those who could herd them into the polling booth. The pressure of his job compelled him to increase in the last year of his tenure the total non-Plan revenue expenditure by 12.29 per cent, despite a raging inflation and runaway fiscal deficit. His subsequent short journey to the nearby Rashtrapati Bhavan was more a lifeboat from a burning ship than being “kicked upstairs”, as The Economist magazine somewhat unkindly commented.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The battle of Brands: Rahul and Modi

Facebook, Twitter and e-mails may facilitate the choice but they are no substitute for a thinking leader. ‘Rahul the leader’ should take priority over ‘Brand Rahul’. 
Harish Gupta

If the upcoming battle between Brand Modi and Brand Rahul is nothing but a marketing joust, it may be safely argued that the former enjoys a decided edge over the latter. Between BJP strongman Narendra Modi and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, twenty years his junior, Modi is ahead of his rival in most matters—political experience, non-incumbency of his party, perceived leadership quality, proven track record, and, last but not the least, a huge following in the social networking media. The Gujarat Chief Minister rides the cyberspace like a colossus. Thousands  ofHindutva enthusiasts, in India or abroad, generally owing their loyalty to Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the RSS, work overtime to keep the flag of Modi flying along the internet highway. Last August, when his chat session was broadcast live on YouTube, there were over a lakh questions storming in. The Google+ platform had crashed under the weight of traffic.