Friday, December 28, 2012


This man has already achieved what no other non-member of the Gandhi family has ever done. The closest to his record is Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was Prime Minister for six consecutive years between 1998 and 2004. P. V. Narasimha Rao is another non- Gandhi who completed 5 uninterrupted years as the Prime Minister. The next best is a Gandhi family member Rajiv Gandhi, who led the government between 1984 and 1989. No other Prime Minister – except Jawaharhal Nehru and Indira Gandhi – has survived five uninterrupted years as Prime Minister. Nehru was PM continuously from 1947 till his death in 1964. Indira Gandhi was PM between 1966 and 1984, except for a two and half year exile between 1977 and end-1979. The way things are changing in Indian society and economy in terms of aspirations and expectations, even die-hard supporters of Congress will snigger at the suggestion that Rahul Gandhi could be Prime Minister for 10 consecutive years beginning 2014. So there is absolutely no doubt that, in a factual context, Manmohan Singh has already secured his place in history. It is a different matter that an ‘unelectable’ bureaucrat completing 10 successive years as Prime Minister reflects on the quality and the depth of Indian democracy. But credit must be given. Manmohan Singh will almost certainly complete 10 years as PM. But will history talk about him and his lengthy tenure the way it will keep dissecting the track record of Nehru and Indira? For that matter, forget Nehru and Indira, will he ever acquire the stature that even Vajpayee has assured for himself? Let’s look at it in another, more blunt manner: will history ever talk about the legacy left behind by Manmohan Singh? Quite frankly, history books will confine him to a supporting role at best as they analyze the legacy of Sonia Gandhi. Sad, but Dr. Singh will leave behind no legacy: faceless bureaucrats who selflessly do the bidding of political masters never do so. And yet the man, the economist, the bureaucrat, the courtier and the reluctant politician knows that he has achieved something phenomenal by becoming Prime Minister for two consecutive terms. And even faceless bureaucrats have egos and dreams. There is no doubt whatsoever that Dr. Singh knows his days as Prime Minister are numbered. He knows that even if the UPA manages to win another term in 2014 and Rahul Gandhi decides he is better

off enacting the role of Sonia Gandhi by pulling the strings from behind the scenes, it is another courtier who would be anointed Prime Minister. He also knows that fawning Congressmen will instantly delete him from even contemporary footnotes the moment another courtier takes his post. I mean, if they don’t care a fig about him even now when he is the Prime Minister, what chance would he have as an elderly statesman without even the fig leaf of perceived power and authority? Surely, it must be rankling. It would rankle any normal human being with normal feelings and human emotions. And Dr. Singh is undoubtedly the embodiment of middle class normalcy. This is where India begins to enter very dangerous times. Dr. Singh would be determined to leave at least some legacy behind. He is not a fool. He knows there is no chance of a political legacy of the kind left behind by Nehru, Indira and Vajpayee. He also knows that history books will credit not him, but Narasimha Rao as the architect of economic reforms. In fact, in terms of economic performance, his long tenure as PM would be torn to shreds by objective historians. Do remember, he was aware of all this even back in 2008 when it was not certain that the UPA would be voted back to power.

So he sought to leave his personal legacy behind through the Indo-US nuclear deal. His crowning moment was the George W. Bush visit to India and the signing of the controversial deal. So determined was he to leave at least this legacy behind that the normally diffident and reticent man staked everything on the deal. He literally left his party bosses, including Sonia Gandhi, with no option but to cobble together a majority in the Parliament when the Left, which supported UPA-1, withdrew support over the nuclear deal. We then had the disgrace of the cash for votes scam, something that is yet to be honestly investigated. His deal with Sonia Gandhi was clear: he would chase a foreign policy legacy al la Nehru and not murmur as Congress politicians unleashed economically dangerous populism like farm loan waivers and assorted welfare schemes that now look like bottomless holes. The deal worked. But not even partisans can say yet if the Indo-US nuclear deal is a success. The fact is, it will probably be at least 2020 before even one nuclear power plant as envisaged by the deal comes up. And post the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan, and the stubborn resistance – motivated or not – to the 25-year old Kundakullam nuclear plant, it is anybody’s guess if all the hype about nuclear energy solving India’s power sector problems will actually come true.

Like his tenure was coming to an end in 2008, Dr. Singh knows that 2013 will be the last year of his tenure; this time for good. He still can’t leave a political legacy behind. There is nothing in the domestic arena where he can leave a mark: that would be reserved for the Gandhi family. So out of compulsion, Dr. Singh is again looking through the foreign policy prism to ensure that he leaves behind at least a modicum of a legacy.

It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out which direction he is headed. It has been clear for quite some time that Dr. Singh is eyeing Pakistan as his enduring legacy. I mean, if a Prime Minister can actually mend relations with Pakistan to the point where even the Kashmir issue would appear solved, his place in history would be doubly assured. It is that temptation that is driving him and his government to adopt policies and take postures that will do incalculable damage to India’s long terms interests and security.

But before we come to that, let us look at the devastatingly dangerous implications of the deal he seems to have struck with his political bosses this time. Unlike 2008, when high growth rates and buoyant tax revenues had given the government enough resources to play Santa with, the situation is going to be alarmingly different in 2013. The India growth story is in a state of coma, if not already dead. The fiscal deficit is unsustainable. International ratings agencies are threatening to downgrade India’s sovereign debt to junk status. Indian entrepreneurs are voting with their money and feet by preferring to invest in overseas markets. In 2013, India will badly need good economic policy making to rescue it out of the current mess. But rest assured, Dr. Singh will not bat an economist eyelid as his political bosses unleash a tsunami of welfare schemes to ensure that the political odds will be stacked in favour of Rahul Gandhi in 2014. Believe me, he might have personal and private regrets and remorse, but he will not lift an eyebrow in protest as the Indian economy is sucker punched by populism in 2013. Nor will he protest when brazen forms of crony capitalism – FDI in retail, FDI in civil aviation style – will be pushed in the name of bold economic reforms. No Sir: Dr. Singh may know his economics, but he is currently obsessed with history and his shaky place in it. Do even die-hard supporters of the Dynasty and the UPA realize the massive damage all this will do to future economic growth in India? And how poor economic growth will kill dreams of tens of millions of poor Indians who are struggling to join the ranks of the lower middle class? And what would Dr. Singh gain through this Faustian bargain? Does he honestly think that the military establishment of Pakistan and the ruling elite of that country are genuinely interested in a genuine peace deal with India? Why, their very rationale for existence will wither away if India actually changes from being the eternal enemy to a friendly neighbour! To expect the ruling elite of Pakistan to willingly commit hara kiri to allow Dr. Singh an enduring legacy is so naive that it would be laughable, were it not so dangerous. Look at what Rehman Malik said during and after his “friendly” visit to India. He juxtaposed 26/11 with the demolition of Babri Masjid. He said Jundal is an Indian agent. He said there is no evidence against the LeT and its chief. He said that India is instigating separatism in Balochistan. He said everything that the ruling elite of Pakistan have been saying for six decades and more. I shudder to think if a desperate Dr. Singh offers a friendly gesture in Siachen.

And don’t forget the most viciously cynical political calculation behind this race for a Pakistan legacy. Mending fences with Pakistan will encourage Indian Muslims to vote for the UPA in 2014. Believe me, many Congressmen are actually thinking along those lines.

God help India.


Saturday, December 1, 2012


The so called mainstream media is at it again – making a fool of itself and displaying unending contempt for the native intelligence of the Indian voter. Once again, we are being told by pundits and sycophantic and servile courtiers masquerading as columnists that the Congress and the UPA have got their mojo back and look set to win the Lok Sabha elections due in 2014. The reasons offered are many. For one, the BJP is in a mess and has failed to capitalize on the serial scams haunting the Congress since 2010. Then again, the voter is wary of a rag tag Third or Fourth Front government propped up by outside support and will reluctantly vote again for the Congress. The most servile are writing about how Rahul Gandhi and his computer baba log are drawing up a “fool” proof strategy to woo voters. The pink papers have been screaming hoarse about the return of P. Chidambaram as the Finance Minister and how he will get the economy back on a high growth path. A related part of this delusional narrative is hailing the decision to allow FDI in retail and capping the use of subsidized LPG cylinders at six a year as proof that the UPA government is determined to push for “reforms”. Of course, the game changer is supposed to be what Jairam Ramesh so cutely described as “Aapka paisa, Aapke Haath”. Yes, I am talking about the decision to resort to cash transfer of subsidies to beneficiaries using the Aadhar scheme. So powerful is the alleged impact of this game changing decision that even mainstream media professionals who are critical of the Congress and the Gandhi dynasty are complaining that the ruling party is resorting to bribing the voters to win another election. In all of this, there seems to be a near unanimity that the Congress will pull off yet another stunning victory. They draw parallels with 2009 when the NREGA scheme was used as a bribe to the Indian voters to win elections. Of course, there are many who are still saying that the Indian voter is still so angry, so outraged and so pissed off with the corruption, hubris and arrogance of this government that they are determined to vote against the Congress. But such voices have been drowned in the cacophony of predicting yet another Congress victory.

I can only marvel and laugh at such malarkey and nonsense. For ages, the New Delhi-based mainstream media has utterly failed to read the intentions of the Indian voter. It has a habit of getting it wrong almost every time. And yet, it persists in such hogwash. Allow me to quote columnist Tavleen Singh who was a young reporter in 1977 when Indira Gandhi lifted the Emergency and called for elections. She writes:

“It became clear that Mrs.Gandhi wanted to restore her image as a democratic leader and this could only happen if the coming elections were seen to be fair. Within days of the elections being announced, most of the opposition leaders who were still in jail were released. They were no longer worth keeping in jail since nobody, not even the opposition leaders themselves, thought in January 1977 that Mrs.Gandhi had the slightest chance of losing this election. Every report, even from her own intelligence agencies, indicated that she might lose a few seats; but that there was no chance of a total defeat.”

That was 35 years ago. Since then, in election after election, the mainstream media has almost always forecasted it wrong – the only notable exception being 1984, when Rajiv Gandhi won a historic mandate after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

It would be easy to conclude that most of the mainstream media is blindly and abjectly supportive of the Congress and the Gandhi dynasty when it comes to forecasting election results. A hell of a lot of our mainstream media is guilty of that. But the bigger crime is its failure to read voter intentions. Just go back to the spring of 2004 and you will realize what I am talking about. Let me give you just

one example. The much talked about research agency AC Nielsen was commissioned by NDTV and The Indian Express to conduct an opinion poll and make a forecast for the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. In a largest of its kind survey, around 40,000 respondents were asked about their voting intentions. The forecast was that the then ruling NDA would win between 287 to 307 seats and rule India for another five years. The BJP was projected to win around 200 seats while the Congress was projected to win around 100 seats. Let me give you one more example from the same year when assembly elections were held along with Lok Sabha elections in Andhra Pradesh. A prestigious survey that featured in the Outlook magazine had the following forecast for the state. The then ruling Telugu Desam was given around 165 seats while the Congress and its allies were given around 125 seats. So NDTV said in 2004 that the NDA would rule India for another five years and Outlook said in 2004 that Chandrababu Naidu and his party would rule Andhra Pradesh for another five years. We all know what the actual results were.

Now, even a moron would not dare to suggest that the two prestigious mainstream media outlets are hostile to the Congress. In fact, many would suggest that their sympathies clearly lie with the Congress and that they have no love lost for the BJP. And yet, for all their sympathies and leanings, they failed to read or gauge the mood of the electorate in 2004. And I am not singling out NDTV and Outlook. Virtually the entire Delhi-based mainstream media had the same opinion.

Why did this happen and why does the mainstream media still fail to get it? The answer is two fold. The first, it is deeply rooted in the Durbar politics of Delhi and has no clue about what really is happening in the rest of India. Second, it is susceptible to smart spin masters and courtiers of the day who have their own axe to grind. This was sickeningly revealed during the coverage of the 2012 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Just pause for a moment and think about the manner in which the mainstream media covered the election campaign conducted by heir apparent Rahul Gandhi. There was unbelievable talk about how the UP voter could actually give more than 150 seats to the Congress and possibly make it the largest party in the state assembly. The less hysterical and shameless parts of the mainstream media talked about how the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party would emerge as the largest party, but would need the support of a vastly improved and powerful Congress to be able to rule UP. I read some of the newspaper articles of that time and saw some TV stories on You- Tube. I tell you, it was embarrassing, downright embarrassing. For good measure, I read up many articles penned during the run up to the Tamil Nadu assembly elections in 2011. They were even more embarrassing, because many actually said that the ruling DMK-Congress alliance would actually negate voter anger against scams by bribing the voters with goodies and gifts. And we all know what happened when the results of the assembly elections in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh were announced.

And yet, the Delhi-centric mainstream media is back to its old tricks again by showing utter disregard for the voter, for contemporary history and for facts. Angry voters in India have always thrown out governments. When they are really angry, they don’t conduct stupid debates and ponder philosophically about the viability of alternatives. They just want to teach a lesson to the ruling party, the consequences be dammed. They did that in 1977, in 1980 when they were betrayed by the Janata Party, in 1989 and in 1996. It is both presumptuous and foolish of the mainstream media to think that the Indian voter was not aware of the possibility of unstable governments when she voted in anger.

Allow me to point out another silly thread in this drumbeat about revived Congress prospects. The pundits say that NREGA was a huge factor in the 2009 election victory of the Congress. They are plain wrong. It was the urban middle class aspirational vote that gave the Congress a mandate in 2009. The fact is – the Congress did poorly in rural areas and overwhelmingly well in cities and urban areas. Can we at least see the 2009 vote in perspective? Could it be that when a genuine crisis looms, voters across the world tend to vote for incumbents? Could it be that Kargil helped the NDA in 1999 and 26/11 helped UPA in 2009?

But sadly, there is no attempt to do any serious analysis. But I am quite clear of one thing. The Indian voter is about as angry as she was in 1977 and 1989. And this time, the manner in which inflation has derailed household budgets and dreams has further fueled the anger. I am also clear about another thing. The mainstream media will keep projecting Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Minister in waiting. Till the voter delivers her stinging slap in 2014.

Well, some things never change.


Monday, October 1, 2012


It’s an old cliché no doubt, but elections often are about numbers, mathematics and cold calculations. Yes, charisma, ideology, policies and campaigning strategy do matter. But at the end of the day, it really boils down to numbers. That is the reason why the Republican challenger Mitt Romney looks all set to lose badly to Barack Obama on November 6 when Americans vote for a new President. He is losing despite the terrible economic situation in the United States since Obama took over in January 2009. Obama should have lost, but it is numbers that are working for him. Republican ideology, particularly the hard line attitude of the faithful, has alienated huge chunks of voters. Women, students, blacks and Hispanics are overwhelmingly against Republicans and will vote for Obama. The number of these groups of voters will surely outnumber the angry white voters who will vote for Romney.

Of course India is vastly different from US. And of course, elections are still – at least officially – far away in 2014. But even at this early a stage, it is easy to see why the numbers appear stacked against the Congress in 2014. And that is the reason why Sonia Gandhi and her advisors and strategists are a worried lot. I am not talking just about the impact of the serial scams like Commonwealth Games, 2G, airport privatisation, Coalgate and the latest irrigation scam in Maharashtra. I am not talking just about the venomous bite of inflation that is destroying household budgets. I am not talking just about the manner in which Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has become the butt of jokes and cruel humour despite the recent and futile efforts of some sections of the media to portray him as a decisive leader. I am not talking just about the damage that reluctant allies like Mulayam Yadav, Mayawati, Sharad Pawar and Karunanidhi will inflict during the run up to 2014 even as they prop up the tottering UPA regime. All these things will have an impact on Congress’ fortunes in 2014. No doubt about that. But it is the curse of cold, hard numbers that could have a more dangerous impact.

Before we get into the analysis of the cold, hard numbers, let us first take a cold, hard look at the factors that led to the triumph of the Congress and the UPA in 2009. Everybody talks about how the jholawallah advisors of Sonia Gandhi who comprise the National Advisory Council crafted the Congress victory of 2009 by coming up with schemes like NREGA. Then there was the Rs.600 billion farm loan waiver announced in 2009. If you believe these played a decisive role in 2009, you are misinformed and wrong. Overwhelmingly rural states – where you would expect to find grateful beneficiaries of NREGA and farm loan amnesties – like Odisha, Chattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh did not give a lot of seats to the Congress. Including Uttar Pradesh, the Congress managed just 46 out of 195 seats from these states in 2009. In fact, the Congress and the UPA did amazingly well in urban constituencies in 2009. It won 13 out of the 13 Lok Sabha seats on offer in Delhi and Mumbai. That performance was last seen perhaps in 1984 when Rajiv Gandhi swept India in the aftermath of the assassination of Indira Gandhi. So fact number one is that Congress did fabulously in urban centers.

Fact number two is the massive vote against the Left in West Bengal and Kerala that gave Congress and the UPA 39 out of 62 seats in 2009 in these two states. Fact number three is the strong alliances that gave a lot of seats to the UPA in 2009. In West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra, the Congress and the UPA managed to win a massive 98 out of 159 seats in 2009. And who can forget fact number four – YSR Reddy who, along with the Majlis-e- Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), gave the Congress a spectacular 34 out of 42 seats in Andhra. In 2009, YSR was clearly the incumbent hero who simply swept aside all opposition despite loud whispers of numerous scams and instances of crony capitalism. The last factor is the suicidal behaviour of the BJP that gave the Congress 20 out of 25 seats in Rajasthan in 2009.

Add up all these facts and it is easy to figure out how the Congress won 206 Lok Sabha seats and how the UPA won a decisive majority in 2009.

And now comes the curse of cold numbers. Sonia Gandhi and her advisors are painfully aware that there is simply no way that the urban voter will repeat her 2009 preferences. A series of scams have unquestionably and badly dented the image of the Congress amongst urban voters. Sure, governments facing charges of corruption have been re-elected. Consider YSR Reddy of the Congress in 2009 and the Akali Dal- BJP combine in Punjab in 2012. But this time, the stench of corruption and its fallout is so pervasive that the Congress is almost certainly staring at a Bofors like situation. Mind you, Rajiv Gandhi was deeply popular across the nation in 1989 when his party slumped from 413 odd seats to about 150 odd seats. He was certainly more popular than Rahul Gandhi is today. Add the ravaging effect of inflation to the series of scams and you have one hell of an angry urban voter.

Despite the best efforts of this government, or perhaps because of its utter lack of sincere efforts, food inflation stubbornly stays above the double-digit mark. This has created havoc with household budgets. Add a very high interest rate regime and the soaring cost of home and retail loans and you worsen the mood of the urban electorate. The latest and absolutely stupid decision to ration LPG cylinders is yet another blow. Quite simply, the Congress has blown away its urban chances. Can you honestly see the Congress winning 13 out of 13 seats from Delhi and Mumbai in 2014? Even die hard Congress supporters will think you are a nut case if you believe so. Why the articulate spokesperson of the Congress Manish Tiwari will be damned lucky if can manage to retain his Ludhiana seat!

Then let’s come to the allies. Mamata Bannerji has already walked away. So the Congress can kiss goodbye to West Bengal in 2014, both for itself and the UPA. At the time of going to press, the crisis triggered by the resignation of Maharahstra Deputy Chief Minister and Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar because of the irrigation scam had not been resolved. The NCP and the Congress have always been uneasy allies. The unease and distrust will widen during the run up to 2014. What about Tamil Nadu? Well, it is not just Karunanidhi but the entire DMK cadre which is hopping mad at the Congress for the manner in which DMK leaders like Kanimozhi and D. Raja were jailed for months for the 2G scam while not a single Congress leader was touched.

In a recent State of the Nation survey conducted by our sister publication The Sunday Indian, some of the results were extraordinary. To a question as to whom they would prefer as the next Prime Minister of India, an overwhelming majority of DMK supporters said they would prefer Narendra Modi over Rahul Gandhi. Do remember, the Congress and the UPA had won 98 out of 159 seats in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra. That appears virtually impossible today. Why, the Congress and the UPA will be lucky to retain even 50 out of this 98.

Now comes the last bit of the cold, hard numbers. The Congress has to make up big time in other states and with other voters, if urban voters and allies will lead to a huge fall in numbers. But where exactly will these numbers come from? There are only three states where the Congress has any hope or chance of improving its tally. They are Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka which together account for 53 seats. The Congress won just 8 out of these 53 in 2009. A superb performance will lead to a gain of about 22 seats. But then, the Congress has 33 out of 42 seats in Andhra, 9 out of 10 in Haryana, 20 out of 25 in Rajasthan, 8 out of 13 in Punjab and 5 out of 5 in Uttarakhand.

Of course, 2014 is still far away. But as these cold, hard and unforgiving numbers clearly suggest, Sonia Gandhi and her advisors know that the bells have started tolling for the immediate future of the Congress and Rahul Gandhi. Of course spectacular comebacks are always possible in politics. It is entirely possible that Narendra Modi loses Gujarat and the Prime Minister actually becomes decisive, assertive and articulate!


Saturday, September 8, 2012


It was really a no contest till recently. The late V.P. Singh was the undisputed winner of this trophy. He also remains the classic example of a middle class hero who became a middle class villain. Till he became the Prime Minister, V.P. Singh was the anti-corruption crusader and messiah who rode on the infamy of the Bofors scam. Of course, Indians soon realised that pious crusaders do not always become good leaders. Mercifully, his tenure did not last long enough for V.P. Singh to inflict irreparable damage to India.

I used the words “till recently” because there was some lingering, forlorn hope that the current Prime Minister would at least do something that would enable V.P. Singh to retain the crown. But then, forlorn hopes always remain hopeless. I realised this when I read newspaper stories about how a Supreme Court Bench has yet again criticised the PMO. This time, the rap on the knuckles is because the Prime Minister has failed to convene a meeting of the Cauvery River Authority despite reminders. Allow me to use the words of the Bench: “What do you mean by this? It is shocking that you require the consent of all the states even for a date of a meeting? Is the PM to see his convenience or the convenience of the members? It is surprising that the PMO is asking the convenience of everybody before fixing the meeting.” Just imagine. The Prime Minister is the head of the Cauvery River Authority set up to tackle the often ugly dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over the sharing of Cauvery waters. What conclusion can you draw from the fact that he is not able to set up a meeting with some chief ministers? Either he is truly helpless and powerless, or he is indifferent and callous. Either ways, it bodes ill for India.

This incident and the rap on the knuckles by the Supreme Court is not front page news. Nor will it lead our television anchors to froth at the mouth. Yet, in a small but very significant way, it reflects the disappointment and disaster that Dr. Manmohan Singh has been. In 2009, he was a true blue middle class hero because the Congress won virtually all urban seats in the Lok Sabha elections, including seven out of seven in Delhi. Today, that halo has been torn to shreds. Of course, the middle class Indian is very fickle and unreliable. And later historians might have more charitable things to say about the tenure of Manmohan Singh. The more charitable may say that Indians expected too much from him and hence the disappointment and anger.

But for me, there are some crucial reasons why Dr. Manmohan Singh has become the worst Prime Minister India has ever had.

The most important reason is that he has presided over an insidious process that has transformed India into a total banana republic. Nothing has been left untouched in this era of loot and plunder; nothing is sacrosanct. Just a few examples will suffice, though the tales of crony capitalism written in his tenure would fill up entire books. BSNL and Air India have been systematically run to the ground and destroyed through incomprehensible policies and decisions. I am not saying that the Prime Minister personally took the conspiracy call to do this. That is childish. But the fact is that private sector players have immensely benefited from the troubles of these two public sector giants. And I won’t be surprised if – as the cacophony over Air India gathers momentum – the two are eventually “privatised” at throwaway prices, their assets and value eroded deliberately. It is in this era of Dr. Manmohan Singh that India has thrown up more dollar billionaires than even China. It is during his tenure that crony capitalism has become de facto policy. Let me quote a few lines from the book Breakout Nations written by Ruchir Sharma to illustrate what has happened under Dr Singh: “Crony capitalism is a cancer that undermines competition and slows economic growth. That is why the United States confronted the problem and moved to take down the robber barons... The Dow index of the top thirty US industrial companies is in constant flux and, on average, replaces half its members every fifteen years. India’s market used to generate heavy turnover too, but in late 2011, twenty seven – 90 percent – of the top thirty companies tracked by the benchmark Sensex index were holdovers 2006. Back in 2006, the comparable figure was just 68 percent... Nine out of the top ten Indian billionaires on the Forbes 2010 are holdovers from the 2006 list, while the 2006 list had only five holdovers. As of today, many of India’s super rich still inspire national pride, not resentment, and they can travel the country with no fear for their safety; but this genial state of affairs can change quickly.” In effect, India has become a true banana republic where the ruling religion is crony capitalism and the ruling chant is scam. This is astonishing because the UPA regime never fails to remind all of us that its heart beats genuinely and passionately for the aam aadmi.

Just one more example to conclude this observation. You might recall how the then Governor of Andhra Pradesh and veteran Congress leader N.D. Tiwari was seen frolicking with nubile nymphets. Do you know how this scandalous footage found its way into the media? The brothel owner who allegedly supplied the girls to Tiwari wanted revenge. Why? Because N.D. Tiwari had not kept his promise of getting a few mining licenses for her! Mera Bharat Mahan!

The second reason why Dr. Singh has been such a monumental failure is his inability or unwillingness or both to move even an inch ahead on administrative reforms. Back in 2004 when he was appointed Prime Minister, Dr. Singh had singled out administrative reforms as his most important priority. And why not? Governance in India is in an appalling state because the entire administrative framework has virtually collapsed. There is simply no accountability and both the tehsildar and the secretary level IAS officer treat the citizens as subjects to be lorded over. Our sister publication The Sunday Indian has done a story on how the IAS lobby has stolen the country. One would have thought that Dr. Singh would be well acquainted with the perils of Indian bureaucracy since he was himself a bureaucrat for most of his adult and working life. But in the last eight years, he has not lifted a finger to make even small, cosmetic changes to India’s rotting steel frame. The consequence has been brutal and devastating: the quality of governance is at an all time low and India’s record in delivering health, education and sanitation is actually worse than ever before. He has been unable or unwilling to even prevent bureaucrats holding sensitive posts to retire and take plum private sector assignments in a brazen defiance of norms and law.

The third and most devastating failure – in fact, the key reason behind all other failures – has been his inability or unwillingness or both, to display some spine. So pathetic has been his track record in this regard that his personal reputation as a man of integrity has become a joke. The charitable would say that our current regime of coalition politics does not allow a Prime Minister all the power that he should have because allies dictate terms. True. In the NDA regime, Suresh Prabhu was widely acknowledged as a brilliant Power Minister. Yet, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was helpless when Shiv Sena decided that Suresh Prabhu must be sacked. Despite such compulsions, Vajpayee had a clear run this far and no further approach. And even troublesome allies knew that and respected his authority. Can anyone say that about Dr. Singh? The other charitable thing we say about him is that real power resides with Sonia Gandhi and Dr. Singh is actually doing the best he can of a difficult job. That is bunkum. Sonia Gandhi is a very intelligent and astute politician. There is no way she would have asked for the head of Dr. Singh if he had put his foot down on at least some crucial issues. It is not Sonia Gandhi who has made Dr. Singh a puppet; it is Dr. Singh who has become a puppet and eventually and inevitably the lamest of lame ducks.

Let’s all anxiously wait for 2014 for this agony to be over. It is India’s misfortune that 2014 still looks very, very far away.


Friday, August 3, 2012


Ominous, objectionable, offensive, obnoxious and odious were five epithets used by some ‘secular’ friends when I tried to raise the issue. Another one said that my dislike and distaste for UPA-2 which he reluctantly shared has started colouring my perceptions and world view. Of course, there are many who say I am basically a closet Khakhi Chaddi masquerading as a liberal. So be it. But there are times when discomforting and disturbing questions have to be raised, no matter how unpalatable they sound. Otherwise, we are condemned to keep repeating history, never as a farce and always as a tragedy.

Let’s start with some facts first. Barring some ‘stray’ incidents, India has been spared the specter of communal riots since 2002 – the one exception being Kandhamal in Orissa in 2008. A lot of us had started thinking – I now realise stupidly – that Hindus and Muslims had both realised that they were being used as cannon fodder by political and vested interests through ‘engineered’ communal riots. We thought, gone were the vitriolic and vicious days of Shah Bano and Babri Masjid. We thought we are maturing as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society and democracy. Looks like we thought wrong.

It started with Gopalgarh in Rajasthan where communal violence and police firing led to many deaths. Predictably and parrot like, we blamed the RSS types for it. Then communal violence erupted in Hyderabad, which has an inglorious history of communal violence. We again blamed the RSS types for it. Then came communal riots near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh soon after the ‘ultra-secular’ Samajwadi Party came to power. Incidentally, both Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh have Congress governments. Then came communal riots in Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh. And now we have communal riots in Congressruled Assam. I won’t be surprised to hear the likes of Digvijay Singh foaming at the mouth that the RSS types have instigated Bodo tribals, who are largely Hindu, to riot against illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, who are largely Muslim. In between all this, we have seen Digvijay Singh offer the moon, the sky and the stars to Muslim voters in the recently held assembly elections in UP. Of course, we had Salman Khurshid allegedly claiming that the Empress of India had actually cried after alleged terrorists were shot dead in the Batla House encounter. In between, we witnessed thundering silence from secular warriors and large sections of mainstream media when a so-called Grand Mufti of Kashmir ordered a Christian priest to appear in his “court” to answer charges that he was converting innocent young Muslims. The priest was subsequently arrested and locked up by the J&K government and since has been effectively banished from the valley. In between, we had the higher judiciary slamming the Andhra Pradesh government decision to “reserve” a sub-quota for Muslims within the “reserved” category as unconstitutional. And how can we forget the ultimate in between – the Draft Communal Violence Bill prepared by the deluded National Advisory Council that basically says that the majority community is automatically the offender and the accused if there is communal violence and the minority community automatically the victim. Now if this were law, the government would be duty-bound to arrest and prosecute Bodo tribals from various relief camps. Nobody seems to have the actual facts but even secular warriors are reluctantly admitting that both Bodo tribals and illegal Bangladeshi immigrants have been victims in massive numbers in this latest instance of history repeating itself as tragedy.

You might ask: why I am sounding like Sadhvi Rithambara or as a propaganda tool for the RSS. Well, let me clarify. I think the RSS world view is totally wrong and unsuited to the Indian civilisational ethos. Till it retains its ideology of portraying Mulsims as the ‘other’, it will never gain the respect of a majority of Hindus. And I think, it is delusional to say that poor Mulsim peasants, artisans and workers are “invading” Assam as part of a grand ISI hatched conspiracy to conquer India. The primary reason for Bangladeshis entering India illegally is economic. You really need to check yourself into a lunatic asylum if you think a desperately poor Bangladeshi dying to feed his family is a Jihadi who has planned and plotted his invasion of India. It is like saying Biharis planned and plotted an invasion of Mumbai. Or to say that Spanish speaking people from Mexico and other Latin American countries have planned and plotted an invasion of Arizona, Texas and California so that they can reclaim the land their ancestors had lost to the White people. [American states like California and Texas were actually provinces of Mexico for hundreds of years before they became part of the United States.] But let us not forget: identity does play a part. Immigrants have been known to cheer Mexico in Texas and California when the Mexican team beats the American team in soccer. Some of my friends there tell me that immigrants often say that what the Whites captured through guns and subterfuge will be recaptured through demographics as Spanish speaking Catholics eventually outnumber the White Anglo Saxon Protestants. Something similar happens in Assam when illegal immigrants use religion and state complicity and duplicity to start thinking less as migrants in search of livelihood and more as a group whose faith and identity is in danger. Of course, by winking at illegal immigration, the Indian State is also sending a message to people in Bangladesh that they can come and get voter I-cards and grab land and opportunities. Would you – in a similar situation – forego the opportunity?

So there I have confessed that a lot of RSS and VHP types are loonies. The problem is, I think a lot of our secular warriors are worse than loonies and even more dangerous. Their basic problem is selective secularism. They absolutely refuse to apply the same yardsticks to minorities; the yardsticks they use to condemn most Hindus as blood thirsty and bigoted oppressors of minorities. And they are so blinded by their hatred for the BJP and the likes of Narendra Modi that they prefer to look the other way when a Congress leader or government is culpable or when minorities, like fundamentalist Muslims in the Kashmir valley, want to impose Sharia. Or when fundamentalist Catholics persecute a rationalist for saying loudly that the Church is hoodwinking people. The real problem is: this kind of selective secularism makes the loony Hindutva types even stronger.

That is where I come to those days of Shah Bano when thethen Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi used the brute majority of his party in the Parliament to overturn a Supreme Court verdict that said even Muslim women in India are entitled to alimony and maintenance after divorce. Not much had been heard about the VHP and Bajrang Dal before that. The so called Ram Mandir movement was still a fringe affair that an (L) December 6, 1992; Ayodhya: Hindu nationalists (supporters of VHP, Shiv Sena and BJP) tearing down the Babri Masjid mosque. In the nationwide riots caused, more than 2,000 people were killed; (R) August 18, 2010; Bareilly: Riots and curfews on a regular basis symbolise the fierce and noisy antagonism between the Hindus and the Muslims in this city (SMS your views with your name and topic to 0-9818101234) overwhelming majority of Hindus preferred to ignore. But what happened after Shah Bano? VHP, Bajrang Dal and Ram Janambhoomi suddenly became mainstream. Thousands of bureaucrats, armed forces personnel and others started loudly talking about Hindus getting second class treatment in their own country and started joining the BJP. All this actually helped the BJP capture power in Delhi. Of course, secular warriors say that all those bureaucrats and army officers who joined the BJP were actually bigots who came out of their closets. Many were, no doubt. But to say that a guy like Maj. Gen. (Retd.) B.C. Khandhuri – the man who has been responsible for the National Highways success – is also a closet bigot means you need psychiatric treatment. But then, there are secular warriors who firmly believe that a majority of voters in Gujarat who keep voting for Narendra Modi are bigots.

My fear is very simple: the UPA regime has seen the writing on the wall. Suddenly, there is a real possibility that the Congress might face political exile for at least five years, if not more. Desperate situations call for desperate measures. And my fear is that this UPA regime will try damn hard to ‘scare’ minorities into voting for the Congress since they wouldn’t want a hostile government at the centre led by the BJP. It doesn’t matter at all, if most Muslims haven’t got any decent opportunities at anything since 1947. Lip service and scaremongering are deemed to be enough. What this kind of posturing does is to encourage fundamentalist Muslims as well as fundamentalist Hindus. If you think that is cock and bull, just try and answer why Hindu-Muslim riots are breaking out all over India since last year after almost a decade of ‘peace’? If you think only the RSS types are responsible, then why were the RSS types not successful for almost a decade and what has suddenly made them such a potent force?

India, and the Congress are once again playing with fire. It will consume many more innocent Muslim and Hindu lives if we don’t stop this dangerous game right now. But then, if even the Partition and hundreds of riots after that have not taught us any lesson, I guess we Indians deserve the bleak future that awaits us.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012


The clock is ticking for the Congress and the UPA regime in India. Battered by scams and bruised by humiliating electoral defeats, the party knows that the party may be over. And that come 2014 and the Indian voter might deliver another resounding slap and perhaps even a few kicks for good measure. But then as they say, even a week is a long time in politics and desperate situations can be turned around with a bit of pluck and lots of luck. Pranab Mukherjee of course will lend more than a helping ‘Hand’. But Congress leaders know that Pranabda needs a good hand to be able to lend a helping hand. Personally, I have great admiration for the Congress, in particular for its ability to hang on to power. Since I think mere admiration may not be enough for the man ‘destined’ to be India’s Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi to actually become Prime Minister, let me do my patriotic bit by offering some free advice even to those who are beyond advice.

All my suggestions revolve around that mind blowing invention of Sonia Gandhi called the National Advisory Council (NAC). That is because advice is best given to advisors. The NAC has been a pioneer of sorts when it comes to drafting laws that resemble Midsummer Night’s Dreams. The sheer range of their imagination defies imagination. So here are a few more laws that be drafted by the NAC to help Pranabda lend a helping hand to the “Hand” in 2014:

The Motilal Nehru Bill on Lawyers and Law – Now, the great, great grandfather was a very famous and successful lawyer so it is befitting that this law be dedicated to his name. Once it is passed by the Parliament, this law will seek to monitor and regulate the behaviour of lawyers. Though the details of the proposed law are too complicated for simple folks like you to understand, let me summarise a few highlights so you get the gist and the drift. Lawyers will not be allowed to file any kind of PILs; only the aam aadmi will have that right. Lawyers like Manish Tiwari who also happens to be a Congress spokesperson can easily defend this provision and insist on idiotic TV shows that it is not at all targeted at Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan. Another lawyer P. Chidambaram who happens to be the Home Minister can always smile beatifically and insist in a stentorian tone that the provision has nothing to do with a pesky pest and fellow Tam- Brahm called Subramanyam Swamy. In fact, both the great lawyers can argue with flourish that the drivers of the Bhushans and Swamy will be entitled to file any number of PILs as long as the driver was never employed by another great lawyer named Abhishek Manu Singhvi. A corollary to this provision will be a stipulation that the drivers of any lawyer be perpetually banned from recording any secret and salacious footage.

The Jawaharlal Nehru Bill for Chinese Checkers and Whispers: Since the great grandfather was a great champion of democracy and since his place is assured even in Chinese history, it is befitting that this proposed law be named after him. This law will mark a new high in the annals of free speech and freedom. This law came as an inspiration recently to the NAC members when they stumbled across a media report that said China has banned Bloomberg because it had the temerity and the effrontery to suggest that the family of the new leader of China is worth a few hundred million dollars. That kind of story is totally against free speech and freedom. Under this law, all scams worth more than one million dollars will be exempt from media scrutiny and activist interest. In the interests of free speech, the media and activists will be required to hold loud and meaningful debates in TV studios about constables and clerks who have been arrested on charges of corruption. To protect the ability of journalists to fearlessly pursue their profession without fear or favour, this law will also stipulate that journalists will voluntarily refrain from writing about fellow journalists who get too cosy with politicians and the powers that be. All journalists who fail to comply with this freedom enhancing provision of the Jawaharlal Nehru Act will be required to read the collected works of Arundhati Roy and make sense of it. One more pathbreaking provision of this new law will stipulate that all journalists who write something positive about Narendra Modi will be automatically deported to China where positive stories are better appreciated.

The Indira Gandhi Bill for Family Planning: Since the grandmother symbolised the eternal Indian mantra that Family comes First, it is befitting that this new law be named after that great woman. Mind you, don’t start having naughty thoughts. Family Planning here is not the type of family planning that her great son Sanjay Gandhi encouraged fellow Indians to practice with a little help from cops and that fancy thing balled sterilisation. Family planning here basically means that Indians will be better prepared to prepare for a rosy future for the families after this new law comes into effect. Shorn of the legal jargon and bureaucratic mumbo jumbo, this law will stipulate that it will be mandatory for the sons and daughters of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs to contest elections to the same seats once the parents call it a day or kick thebucket. The ungrateful and unpatriotic progeny who refuse to comply with this historic provision will be required to draft affidavits for patriotic Indians like Teesta Setalvad. Of course, accidents of history may lead to some Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs not being able to produce any progeny. In that case, the NAC will be authorised to ‘Hand’ pick a nephew or niece who fits the Bill. There is another magnificent provision in this law. Elections will continue to be held repeatedly till stupid voters see wisdom and vote unanimously for the son, daughter, niece or nephew. As a result, corruption will be completely eliminated from the country since there will be no further need to organise black money to fight elections. In any case, under the new Jawaharlal Nehru Act, all deals worth more than one million dollars will be exempt from media and activist scrutiny.

The Sanjay Gandhi Act on Gangs and Gangsters: Since it was the uncle who took historic steps to curb the menace of goons and save Indian democracy during the Emergency, it is befitting that this new law be named after the illustrious leader. This law will forever eliminate the danger of goons and gangsters from Indian society. All goons who are considered history shelters with a track record of senseless violence will be required to join the Youth Congress and stay there till they are 75 years old. If they manage to live that long, some of these patriotic Indians will be eligible to become Cabinet ministers. All patriotic Indians who have stolen millions and millions will be given the option of joining the DMK. Pickpockets will have the option of joining the RJD. This historic new law will have huge benefits which simple folks like you cannot comprehend. Since expenditures on policemen, courts, police stations and jails will be virtually eliminated, the NAC will be able to dream up new projects and schemes for the aam aadmi.

The Rajiv Gandhi Naani Yaad Dila Denge Act: Since the father immortalised the term “Naani Yaad Dila Denge” along with something called Bofors, it is befitting that this wonderful law be named after him. This is quite a straightforward law and will help India rebuild the great institution called the Indian family. Any Indian who even mistakenly says or writes anything critical about either India or the Family (It’s the same thing really) will be required to spend quality time with maternal grandmothers. This way, the institution called the family will be saved, the Family will not be embarrassed and secular warriors like Mani Shankar Aiyar will launch a series of television soap operas where the arch villain will be Narendra Modi and his arch henchman will be Baba Ramdev. Anna Hazare too will put in guest appearances.

I am convinced this new set of laws will ensure that the Indian voter does not even accidentally dispose what God has proposed – that the Yuvraj will lead India to new heights of glory.


Friday, June 1, 2012


Most newspapers, magazines and television channels have been spouting wisdom and much more about 3 years of the current UPA regime. I think, it would be more honest to look at 8 years of the UPA. After all, it was in 2004 that Dr Manmohan Singh was appointed (mark my words: appointed, not elected) the Prime Minister of India. The composition of the alliance may have changed, like the Left no longer being a part of the dispensation. But the core of the UPA has remained the same over the last 8 years.

Before I write about the eight and half lessons that we Indians can draw from 8 years of the UPA regime, allow me to describe the two principal leaders of UPA. First, Sonia Gandhi. No matter what her critics say, the fact is that she has revived the Congress when it looked like all was lost and displayed more political astuteness and maturity than most other leaders. Then Manmohan Singh. No one can doubt his personal integrity and the wealth of experience he has as an administrator. Besides, no one should even begin to doubt their commitment to India.

And yet, things are in a sorry shape and the remarkable story of the rise and rise of India is now becoming one of gloom, despair and anger. Very clearly, something has gone horribly wrong. I don’t need to bore you by recounting statistics to show how badly things have gone wrong. It is crystal clear that the two top leaders of the UPA and their advisors must do something drastic, and something soon. Otherwise, the India growth story and the UPA will both be history in 2014. But before they do anything, here are eight and half lessons they can draw upon.

Lesson number one is perversely biblical – the road to hell is paved with noble intentions. Sonia Gandhi gathered together a band of highly educated, articulate and committed individuals and formed the National Advisory Council. No one doubts the sincerity of the NAC members and their noble intentions. After all, who in her right mind would refuse to accept inclusive growth as an ideal? And we all applauded initially when a landmark legislation like RTI was passed. We were less enthusiastic, but still reluctantly supportive, when it came to the NREGA. We wondered how the Food Security act would be implemented in corrupt India. We shook our heads in wonder when the Forest Act was being foisted. And the logical climax was when the horror called the Communal Violence Bill was midwifed. These noble intentions will rip apart the very fabric of Indian society. I am all for resurrecting Mother Teresa and letting her run India. But is that how you run a complex nation in the 21st century?

At least the jholawala NAC types look suitably humble, if infuriatingly sanctimonious. Lesson number two is about the so called political deal makers of the UPA, who have been insufferably smug and arrogant when it comes to dealing with opponents. Most of us remember how Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari had to go quiet for months after heaping abuse on Anna Hazare. We forget how UPA managers simply did not bother to consult any opposition party on how to tackle the movement growing around the Lokpal Bill. And do remember how leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj protested that her opinions were rudely ignored when it came to appointing a new CVC. It was only when the Supreme Court cancelled the choice of the UPA that its arrogance was exposed. Confidence is great, insouciance is maybe ok, but arrogance usually comes back to haunt you.

The third lesson that the UPA could have learnt was from the failure of the NDA in managing allies. It was the loss of “allies” like National Conference, AGP, Telugu Desam, BJD, Trinamool Congress and the DMK that cost the NDA both power and a possible future. And yet, UPA managers have persisted with the folly of either treating allies disdainfully or bowing and scrapping to their whims and fancies. It is only the lure of power and the fear of elections that is keeping the allies in the fold. The moment they sense that the BJP – despite its suicidal tendencies – is going to benefit big time from a backlash against this regime, the allies will scatter like a flock of birds. Strangely, ally management still seems to be a huge headache for the UPA despite 8 uninterrupted years in power.

Even with disgruntled allies, the Congress and the UPA could theoretically use a trump card called populism; the way NREGA and farm loan waivers were used by UPA 1. Only a fool will say that populism never pays electoral dividends. And yet, basic economic theory teaches us something called the law of diminishing marginal utility. A voter will never mind a sop, but the more sops you throw at her, the less attractive their marginal utility. If you travelled in small town and rural India in 2008, there seemed to be genuine admiration for the NREGA. Today, you won’t find that kind of enthusiasm for Food Security and Right to Education. Hell, the voters are so angry, that they will take the sops and vote against you anyway. As the UPA strategists brainstorm about a wave of sops in the run up to 2014, they do seem to be ignoring this lesson number five.

Lesson number six is inextricably linked to the previous one – there really is no such thing called a free lunch. Someone, at some time or the other – often sooner rather than later – has to pay for it. Thanks to the initiatives of the jholawala NAC members and also thanks to vested interests, India is awash with subsidies of all kinds. We have LPG subsidies in excess of Rs.20,000 crores enjoyed mostly by middle class India. We have fertilizer subsidies in excess of Rs.80,000 crores enjoyed mostly by rich farmers and fertilizer companies. Welfare schemes have been launched by the UPA as if it is a medieval monarchy that is pleased to share a bit of the royal treasury with its restless subjects. No amount of common sense argument has convinced the jholawalas that virtually all this money is lining up the pockets of corrupt middlemen, bureaucrats and politicians. They want even more money to be thrown at the subjects. And why would vested interests voluntarily surrender subsidies? Something has to give. And it has started giving. Deficit levels in the economy are reaching alarming proportions. Perversely, this will result in even more inflation and even more misery for the poor in whose name the UPA claims to rule.

The UPA could have gotten away with ignoring lesson number six if lesson number seven had not kicked into play. And that is about how bad and arbitrary policies can kill growth. Let’s take the aviation sector. By 2005, it did appear as if an average Indian can actually take a flight. And then started a slew of arbitrary policies. Rules were rigged and transparent policy making was thrown in the dustbin. Suddenly, you find that the whole sector is in a mess and that airfares and stupid airport charges have gone up so high that flying is once again a dream for the average Indian. Then look at how the one great infrastructural leap of India – the highway modernization and construction project launched by the NDA government – has been killed by arbitrary policy making. And who can forget the mess that is the telecom sector today? Discretionary power and arbitrary policies have become the norm. Today, you ban cotton exports; tomorrow you resume them. Today you announce this rule; tomorrow you scrap it. The results are obvious. From about 9% a year, GDP growth rate is slipping to less than 7%. This is bad news not just for every Indian, but particularly so for the jholawalas. Lower growth rates means lower tax collections and lesser money to throw at subjects. And blaming the crisis in Greece for this mess is like blaming Alexander the Great for letting future invaders realize how easy it is to invade and plunder India!

And that brings us to the final lesson number 8 – the voter is not a fool. Look at the facts. The UPA lost miserably in Bihar. It won West Bengal, but thanks mainly to Mamata Bannerjee. It barely won a majority in Kerala despite an unpopular Left government. It was decimated in Tamil Nadu. It was decimated in Uttar Pradesh. It just about managed to form a government in Uttarakhand despite massive incumbency. And the Akali Dal-BJP combine was swept back to power in Punjab. In a few weeks time, bye lections to 18 assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh will deliver another body blow. Arresting Jagan Mohan Reddy is not going to change that. The bells are tolling. But is anybody in the UPA listening?

I speak about eight and a half lessons. The half is about that half empty glass – or should I say petrol tank?


Saturday, May 5, 2012


There is a chilling story in our sister publication The Sunday Indian from Srinagar that tells a lot about how Indian intellectuals, journalists and pundits practice secularism. Kaiser Bhatt runs a school for kids called Orange International Playschool in the outskirts of Srinagar. In April, 2012, he invited some Muslim friends from Malaysia to visit his school. They sipped tea, exchanged pleasantries and soon left. Within minutes, the playschool was surrounded by an angry mob that had gathered in response to a rumour that the playschool was actually a ‘Christian’ outfit and that the visiting Malaysians were Christian missionaries. Scared stiff, Kaiser desperately pleaded with his Malaysian friends to come back to scotch the rumours. The Malaysians returned and were forced by the mob to ‘prove’ that they were Muslims. Only then did the violent mob disperse. But Kaiser’s troubles were not over as worried parents wanted to withdraw their kids. Worse, school staff were reluctant to come to the school since they were scared a mob will pounce on them.

Sensing financial ruin, Kaiser pleaded with Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to come to his rescue. The separatist leader ‘pronounced’ that the playschool is Muslim enough for parents and the staff not to be worried. After assuring angry Muslims of the neighbourhood that Orange International Playschool (meanwhile, the playschool plastered its walls with Quranic verses) was not a Christian conspiracy, the ‘separatist’ and ‘spiritual’ leader told The Sunday Indian, “We have strong evidence to suggest that Christian missionaries are working to convert Kashmiri Muslims using unfair means”. In November, 2011, a Christian priest Chandar Mani Khanna was accused of proselytizing. Someone called the Grand Mufti of Kashmir ‘summoned’ the priest for interrogation and ordered him to cease and desist. The priest was arrested and allegedly beaten up and tortured and remained locked up for about 20 days. Of course, he was then ‘banished’ from the valley. The so-called Grand Mufti now routinely ‘summons’ alleged offenders to his Sharia court.

In case you don’t know or have deliberately chosen to forget, the Kashmir valley is overwhelmingly Muslim majority (most Kashmiri Hindus were forced out of the valley in the 1990s and now live in wretched refugee camps) with Hindus, Christians and Sikhs being insignificant minorities. In case you have chosen to forget, India’s secular warriors ceaselessly cry themselves hoarse – while raving and ranting against all things and symbols Hindu – that it is the duty of the majority Hindus of India to protect its secular identity and Constitution. Very unpalatable question that even those who have not been blinded by Marxism and secular fundamentalism feel uncomfortable about asking: where are the loud ‘secular’ voices when Christians are being so ruthlessly targeted in the only Muslim majority state in India? What happened to the vocal chords of Jholawala Leftists who never give up an opportunity of pointing out how intolerant, obscurantist and ‘fascist’ Hindus are when it comes to dealing with minorities? Would they have adopted a self imposed vow of silence if Christian priests were similarly harassed in Gujarat?

The only possible answer is: our secular warriors are frauds, plain and simple. And Indian media has since long lost its ability to call a spade a spade, even at the cost of being politically correct. What amazes me is the sheer hypocrisy of these frauds. Ask them to condemn what is happening in the Kashmir valley and you will get a torrent of Marxist dialectics about how India was never a nation and how we must respect its ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity. And imagine what will happen if another pet project of the secular brigade, the Communal Violence Bill becomes law. Under this Bill, the majority community is automatically the guilty party in case of a communal dispute. So will Muslims be the guilty party in a dispute between them and Christians in the Kashmir valley? You must be crazy if you think that will happen.

So much for fraud secularism. The funny thing is the same set of intellectuals and journalists shamelessly encourage crony socialism, just as they shamelessly encourage crony secularism. Over the last two years, I have be- come sick and tired of reading glorified PR stories about how great, wonderful and magnificent the new Delhi airport is. Literally hundreds of articles have appeared in the print media and even news channels have done TV programmes extolling the spanking new Delhi airport (Incidentally, all these intellectuals and journalists went mysteriously quiet in August 2011 when a thundershower literally blew away this so-called marvel of technology and aesthetics built by the Andhra based GMR group. Yes, just one bout of heavy rains and this world class airport completely collapsed!)

In case you don’t know or have deliberately chosen to forget, the GMR group, promoted by G. M. Rao outbid the Mittals and Ambanis for the contract to revamp the Delhi airport. A few years after it won the contract, it imposed a ‘fee’ of Rs.200 on domestic passengers and Rs.1,200 on international passengers because GMR claimed that it had to ‘tax’ gullible passengers to remain viable. GMR claimed that actual project costs were far higher than originally estimated. Subsequently, the Supreme Court ruled that the ‘tax’ being collected by GMR from passengers was illegal and ordered a refund. Don’t waste your time guessing whether the refund happened or not. And now, the airports regulator has allowed GMR to hike fee by about 350%. This has made Delhi one of the most expensive in the world. There were some protests and complaints for a while and that was it. Not one of the intellectuals and journalists bothered to ask how GMR was being allowed to get away with this kind of brazen behaviour. Equally shocking, the TV channel Headlines Today did an investigative story in 2011 which exposed how construction activities of GMR were making the Delhi airport a sitting duck for terror attacks. Nothing much was heard about it after that.

But then crony socialism, like crony secularism, runs in our blood as another example will show, In 2002, power distribution in Delhi was privatised. One of the key promises made was that power supply would be reliable and economical since private operators will drastically reduce transmission and distribution (T&D) losses (most of T&D losses in India are downright power theft and robbery). Ten years later, the private operator of East Delhi, the area represented by Sheila Dikhsit in the assembly and her son Sandeep Dikhsit in the Lok Sabha, admitted that it was not entirely successful reducing T&D losses as planned and promised. What happens? The regulator allows this private company to charge a higher rate from consumers! Common sense says that private companies must take risks and be ready for either profits or losses depending on the market situation and the ability of their management. Nowhere has it been said that private companies be rewarded for incompetence. But as the GMR-Delhi airport and the power supply to East Delhi examples show, crony socialism in India ensures we reward incompetence.

With Indians like this, does India really need any enemies? Fortunately, these crony secularists and socialists cannot destroy the Idea of India despite their best ‘Fifth Column’ efforts because most Indians – Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Sikhs – prefer common sense over fraudulent and malicious intentions masquerading as scholarship. Were it not so, either Uma Bharti or Salmaan Khurshid would have been elected Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh! Amen…


Thursday, April 12, 2012


Sachin Tendulkar has achieved a milestone that will be impossible – or extremely difficult at best – for cricketers in near future to surpass. His 100th ton in International cricket will be remembered. It took him under 22 years (since he scored his first ton at Old Trafford in August 1990) to achieve the feat. The #1 reason why it will not be an easy hill to climb is because these days, internationally, cricketing careers don’t last more than 10 or 15 years anyway. So, the darling of Indian sport has made us proud again. But his feat also signals how we Indians are obsessed with numbers and choose freely to miss the big picture.

Fans, commentators, the media and every aam hindustani had been waiting for the hour when the Little Master would raise his bat to thank the heavens as he always does. It took Sachin 369 days to create history. And when he did that evening of March 16 on foreign soil (at Mirpur, Bangladesh), suddenly Indians forgot the humiliation that its cricket team had suffered in the past 369 days during away games! Battered in England (we lost by a margin of 0-8; all formats combined), cleaned up in Australia (we handed over the Border-Gavaskar Test trophy 0-4 and were knocked out of the Commonwealth Bank ODI Series) and pushed aside in Bangladesh (defending champion India was knocked out, and all because we lost to Bangladesh – the day Sachin made his 100th 100!). Minus the tour of the Caribbean, India’s overseas record during the 12 months we spent anxiously to see Sachin’s next 100, stood at 6-18. Translation: We lost 75% of matches played during the time!

Move to pure business. We’re obsessed about Indians making it to the World’s list of billionaires every year. This year, 48 Indians (with a total worth of $194.6 billion) have been included in the list of 1,226 billionaires around the world. This group with a headcount of under 50 is important, for it represents how proud we are about out country’s wealth, and more so because ‘India’ – the country – today represents 3.9% of the world’s billionaire count and 4.3% of its wealth. They are definitely more important because these billionaires make up 0.000003% of the Indian population! Here’s the big picture – as per World Bank, 41.6% of Indians live below the poverty line, while UNDP says this BPL figure stands at 37.2%. According to the UNDP–Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative Report, 8 states in India (Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, MP, Orissa, Rajasthan, UP and WB) account for 421 million poor – more than that present in the 26 poorest nations of Africa combined (410 million)! There is more to the big picture. According to the newly defined poverty line by the Planning Commission, 33% of people in rural and 21% in urban India are poor. This ‘best estimate’ – which makes a mockery of what could be called the ‘rock-bottom of existence’ for Indians – claims that if you earn Rs.28 while living in Delhi or Mumbai, you are not poor. So here’s the deal. Catch a bus to go to work and the minimum you have to spend is Rs.10 both ways, in the National Capital Region. Along similar lines, a metro ride would cost Rs.16 both ways at the least. So a lower middle class India living in New Delhi catches a bus or a metro, and at the end of the day, if he has Rs.12 – Rs.18 to spare to buy himself food, water, clothes, medicine, shelter, he isn’t poor! Folks, a group of 48 billionaires makes you thump your chest. But if you’re happy about India shining yet, you are missing the bigger frame. India accounts for 36.3% of the poor and 33% of malnourished children in the World (UNHDR data). And in our country, where IPL players are bought for millions, BPL families are left to starve! For those obsessed with a handful of Indians making it to the glory list, that is the big picture.

We like to discuss how Akshay Kumar became the 2-year-in-a-row highest tax payer in Bollywood (Rs.200 million each year), why Ravindra Jadeja attracted the highest bid in IPL 5 ($2 million from CSK), when the Sensex will breach the 20,000 mark again, what will remain of Kingfisher Airlines which is operating only 30% of its fleet and reeling under a mountain of debt of over $1 billion, and whether the new coal scam of Rs.10.67 trillion – which is the big daddy of both the CWG (Rs.700 billion) and 2G (Rs.1.76 trillion) scams – will leave the ruling government searching for answers. We crazy-fornumbers Indians will only get to see the real picture, if we can answer some questions to ourselves in an honest voice: Have we paid taxes honestly as Akshay perhaps did? Has match-fixing left the game of IPL untouched? Forget the 20,000 mark, has SEBI done enough to broom out the clans of the Harshad Mehtas and the Ketan Parekhs? And to talk about scams rocking the government, are we voting the right people to power – those who can really make an impact by influencing policy changes?

Over the years, you would have often heard someone marvel over how we add more number of mobile users each month than the total population of Nokia’s motherland Finland! Years back, when we crossed the 100 million mark in the mobile subscriber base, we became proud as a nation that was fast advancing in the field of telephony and modern modes of communication. Even today, we talk about this cellular user base rising by over 9 million each month (addition of 9.88 million units in January 2012). We are sitting on a total of 936 million mobile connections today – I can imagine what kind of celebration and back patting will happen when we cross the billion mark. And to imagine that despite being so proud of our 2G numbers, the fact that comes to our mind when we talk about 2G is the scam.

China is another number-laden topic for Indians. The elephant versus the dragon is quite a comparison. Our GDP grows by 7-8%, and that of China grows by 8-10% – we’re only talking about the day when our growth will overtake their’s. Maybe that will happen in 2020, or 2050, or maybe never. Truth is – there are better numbers for the sake of comparison that we can attempt to digest. Here are some to give you a live telecast of the India versus China cage match. In India, life expectancy at birth is 8% lower than in China. In this regard, China is 36 years ahead of us (Source: UN, ILO, World Bank, IEA, CEIC & IMF). Adult literacy rate in China is 31% higher than in India. (China is ahead by 25 years.) A Chinese consumes 5 times more electricity than an Indian does. (China is ahead by 18 years.) 32% of Chinese use the Internet as compared to 9% in India. And the higher education enrolment percentage in China (25%) is almost 100% more than that in India (13%). (China is ahead by 5 years in both parameters.) So the next time you hear someone talk about India overtaking China only because there is 1% difference or so left to cover in terms of GDP growth, do show them the fine print.

I am an Indian, and a proud one at that. And so like you my dear reader, I confess that I am addicted to numbers. I especially use them while voicing my opinions to convince others. 80 times have I used numbers in this piece to convince you that you, a proud Indian, are obsessed with numbers and often miss the woods for the trees. In the end, you may choose to hold on to your number-preaching game, or agree with me and start reading beyond the digits. The least you could do is learn from the Indian government. Well, full credits to them for teaching us ordinary citizens that the term “reducing the poverty line” was supposed to be taken literally...


Friday, March 2, 2012


Two recent incidents involving two European countries illustrate how India handles the World and how the World at large perceives India. Some time back, two soldiers of the Italian armed forces opened fire on an unarmed fishing boat off the coast of Kerala, killing two fishermen. The captain of their ship and the soldiers insist the act is 'not' murder but self defence, since they thought the innocent fishermen were pirates. Till their arrogance and nonchalance became difficult even for normally servile Indians to handle, the murderers and their captain refused to allow Indian policemen even to board the ship for investigations.

About nine months before this happened, an Indian NRI couple Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya, working and living in Norway got a taste of European style welfare state authoritarianism. Welfare authorities of Norway accused the couple of not looking aft er their three year-old and one year-old child ‘properly’ and literally snatched them away to be placed in a State-run welfare home. Most of us in India were not even aware of this shocking violation of human rights of an Indian family!

Now look at how Italy reacted aft er its soldiers killed two fishermen in cold blood and how India reacted aft er authorities in Norway made life a living hell for an Indian couple. Within days of the firing incident, top officials of Italy’s foreign ministry descended on Delhi to secure the release of the soldiers. One demented Indian Christian who is now a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church decided to interfere on behalf of the Italian soldiers. So heavy and so sustained has been the pressure from Italy in this matter that even though the soldiers have been arrested by the Indian police, they happily smoke cigarettes in custody and have pizza delivered to satisfy their taste buds. Don’t be surprised at all if the two Italian soldiers wing their way back home aft er enjoying a ‘holiday’ in God’s Own Country because of some back room deals.

In sharp contrast, Indian authorities didn’t even bother to lift a finger to help when authorities in Norway actually kidnapped two young children of an Indian couple in May 2011. The poor couple fought a lonely and losing battle all the way. [Imagine the plight of a mother losing her three and one year-old kids in such a manner in a distant land with nobody to help.] It is only recently when the grandparents of the children started a protest against this barbaric action in front of the Embassy of Norway that the Indian media and authorities started paying attention. Even then, Norway is refusing to budge and refusing to give the children back to their parents citing Norwegian law. Perhaps one uncle of the kids will now get their custody.

What is the message that is sent across the world by these two separate incidents? It is simple, India and Indians are fair game for bullies. The World already knows that the Indian State is so soft that it can be melted and pasteurised. That perception will become even stronger aft er these two incidents. No wonder India is the only major country in Asia that has been repeatedly invaded, ravaged and pillaged throughout history. And we talk of becoming a 21st century Superpower, eh?


Friday, February 17, 2012


The countdown to a macabre anniversary has begun and the media has already started reliving those gory moments and days. Even if you want to, there is simply no way you can avoid reliving the horror. Yes, I am talking about the burning of the S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express – in which 'Kar Sevaks' were travelling from Ayodhya – at the Godhra station on February 27, 2002, and the subsequent riots in Gujarat that led to the brutal deaths of about 2,000 human beings, most of them Muslims. There is little doubt now that a lot of those killings were conducted in an organised manner and the state government failed to protect innocent citizens. Of course, I must say that the manner in which our secular fundamentalists use the word 'Genocide' to describe the 2002 Gujarat riots have a deeply perverted sense of history as well as the English language. I find it stranger still when the same folk insist that the burning alive of 59 children, women and men inside a train compartment was merely an accident, or a conspiracy hatched by Hindu fanatics to provide ammunition for the pogrom (there goes another word) against Muslims in Gujarat.

Since 2002, no other man or woman in contemporary Indian history has been demonised the way Narendra Modi has been. And as the 10th anniversary of Gujarat riots approaches, you can bet many pundits will dish out more armchair psychiatric nonsense while claiming to analyse the psyche of a ‘mass murderer’ (there goes another word) like Narendra Modi. The more polite and possibly more objective ones will say how the taint of the Gujarat riots will prevent Modi from being able to play a more effective and meaningful role in national politics and even in BJP (God knows how desperately the BJP needs a national leader at this juncture). The more ideologically perverted types will continue to declare him persona non grata. By the way, our Indian comrades managed to convince Capitalist and Imperialist America to deny a visa to Modi. But I guess the comrades either forgot to ask or failed in their attempts to persuade Communist China to deny a visa to Modi! I think such small ironies of life entirely escape our Indian Left ies who still think Stalin and Mao were 20th century versions of God.

So Modi as Ravana will become the leitmotif for India in the coming weeks. But don’t you honestly think we are going too far in our obsession to demonise the man? And that we are belittling ourselves and India in the bargain? I wont repeat stuff about how our media conveniently ignores the massacre of Sikhs in 1984 and the myriad massacres of Muslims in the (then) Bombay, in Bhagalpur, in Nellie, in Meerut and many other places in which surely Narendra Modi was not the ‘mastermind’ (there goes another word).

But I will ask you this if you honestly believe in the Indian Constitution and the Supreme Court. The latter has relentlessly pursued the Gujarat riots cases, including transferring them to other states so that the killers could be punished and the victims get justice. So can we allow the Supreme Court to finish its job before we pass verdicts? Of course, if you are convinced that Maoists are Gandhians with Guns, you probably are convinced that the Supreme Court of India is a conspiracy hatched by Goebbels.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Stop Abusing Laxman and Dravid

I know it is time for all and sundry to throw brickbats and worse at our star batsmen after the double debacle, first a 4-0 whitewash in England and then a repeat 4-0 whitewash in Australia. The second one is even more shocking because betting syndicates as well as former Australian players had put money on India winning the series. The world of tweets, blogs and the net is awash with scorn and abuse for V.V. S Laxman and Rahul Dravid and muted scorn for Sachin Tendulkar. Dhoni, of course is suddenly transformed from an all conquering hero and India's best captain ever to a fool. And Virender Sehwag, he was always irresponsible and casual anyway, isn't it? The less said about the BCCI the better. But most of the abuse seems to be reserved for the golden trio of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman. It seems they have become public enemies of India. This is a peculiar habit we Indians have, reflected in all it's glory in the Indian media: praise a bunch of sky highs when they do well and destroy them when they do badly.

Come on guys, by angrily abusing these batsmen, please do not forget the fact they are-along with Saurav Ganguly- arguably the four best batsmen to have ever played for India in recent memory. I am not talking about subjective judgements; my contention is based on facts and statistics. The worst of the lot is Ganguly who has a test average of about 43. He is followed by Laxman with an average of about 46; in fact, take out these two disastrous series and his batting average is close to 50. Dravid has an average of about 52 and Tendulkar has an average of about 55. All have played more than 100 test matches. If you think you cannot be world class and yet maintain such averages over such a long period of time, you must be either ignorant or hopelessly prejudiced or both. Of the players gone by before them, only Sunil Gavaskar has an average of over 50. Dilip Vengsakar too played more than 100 matches and averages about 42. We all very fondly remember G.R Vishwanath for his wrists stroke play and genius. He averages just about 42. Even the doughty and never say die fighter Moninder Amarnath averages about 42. And Ravi Shastri, who spouts such wisdom from the commentary box has an a erase of about 35. The only batsman who has done better than Ganguly is Azzharuddin who averages about 45 in 99 test matches. He couldn't play 100 test matches because he was sacked for alleged match fixing.

Today, you are abusing such great batsmen because of two failures in two away series. Let's go back to 1983 when India won the World Cup. Soon after that, an Indian test team comprising of the likes of Gavaskar, Amarnath, Shastri, Kapil and Vengsarkar was whitewashed 5-0 in a test series in India. Yes, in India. The West Indies team was followed by an England team that comfortably beat India. In fact, before India under Azzaruddin beat England 3-0 at home in 1993, a victory for the Indian team even in Indian soil and 'favourable' home conditions was a rare, rare thing.

And even as you are abusing, do look at Ricky Ponting. Before this series, he looked totally down and out, having failed to score a century in more than 2 years. For three years, he averaged well below 30. And yet the punter was backed by sensible Australians and how he has come roaring back. Okay, even if you think that the best years of our batsmen are over, at least say he and thank you for all the entertainment and joy you provided us over the years. And let's say it with grace. Surely Laxman, Dravid and Tendulkar deserve at least that much, if not much more?


Friday, January 27, 2012

India's Possible Folly in Iran

Now that Saddam Hussein is long gone and Iraq has been 'gifted' a democracy(what a travesty of that word) by United States and it's allies, the next 'rogue' regime to be targeted is Iran. Just recently, following the for steps of the US, the 27 member European Union has announced that it will virtually enforce an embargo on purchase of oil from Iran beginning July 1. The ostensible reason is to pressurize Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program and turn it back. The real reason of course is regime change. Ever since citizens of Iran overthrew an American imposed dictator Reza Pahlvi in an Islamic Revolution in 1979, Uncle Sam has been an implacable foe of Iran. Do remember, when Iran fought a war with Iraq under Saddam in the 1980s, it was America and Saudi Arabia that helped Iraq with money as well as arms.

Now, America and its allies are applying relentless pressure on India to toe the sanctions line against Iran. On the face of it, that might look innocuous. India imports PIL worth about $ 12 billion a year from Iran. Back channel diplomacy seems to be promising to make up that shortfall through the good offices of key American ally Saudi Arabia. Of course, with a total annual oil bill well in excess of $ 100 billion, that shortfall doesn't look menacing. And then again, many in Delhi are still so much in love with the delusion called an Indo-American alliance to check China, that they would urge India to do anything keep Uncle Sam happy.

But India must not support this gang up against Iran. It is in India's long term strategic interest to refuse to toe the American, Israeli and Saudi line. Two things must motivate Indian policy makers when they think about Iran. The first is the all important need to secure future energy supplies. The second is to not needlessly give ammunition to Jihadists with their propaganda that India is against the Muslim community. On both these counts, the interests of America and India-contrary to what many think- are actually diverging instead of converging. It would be stupid of India to rely on an unreliable ally like America for its future energy security. It must learn a lesson or two from China. Look at what happened when America and its allies decided that some countries like Myanmar and Sudan had gone rogue. Besotted with both idealism and a naive belief in America, India avoided building bridges with the two countries. China went merrily ahead and is now in an unviable position of having massive supplies of energy and other natural resources. It is only now that India is trying to play catch up with China in Myanmar. Even in Central Asian countries, China has marched way ahead in securing future energy supplies even as Indian policy makers waffled, hemmed and hawed. Look at this way, India is today staring at an annual trade deficit of $ 200 billion caused mostly by oil. Targeting Iran will inevitably mean a big rise in oil prices and a big rise in the trade deficit. Is India- with just about $ 300 billion in foreign currency reserves and a falling Rupee in a position to afford such nonsense?

Now look at recent history to figure out what will happen even if India goes the American line. In 2005, when middle class India was basking in the glory of a historic nuclear deal with America, our policy wonks did something incredibly stupid. As a gesture of goodwill towards Uncle Sam and with the hope that America will support India when it comes to our own vital interests. India voted for IAEA sanctions against Iran in 2005. The result, a lot of deals being worked by business houses like the Tatas and Ambanis with Iran went up in smoke. And what did India get in return? American didn't even supply crucial information obtained from David Coleman Headley about the 26/11 Terror attacks. It made a few polite noises but Hafeez Sayid of LET continues to openly preach Jihad against India. Of course, the Americans smoked out Osama Bin Laden and blithely killed him by openly violating Pakistani sovereignty. India is still twiddling it's thumbs. But the real shocker for Imdia is the manner in which America is negotiating with the Taliban even as it prepares to exit Afghanistan. Uncle Sam is simply shrugging off protests from India that letting the Taliban sneak in through the back door will be disastrous.

And don't blame America. It is doing what it thinks is best for its own strategic interests; others be damned. China too is openly saying that it will continue its 'good relations' with the Iranian regime. Isn't it time we in India too woke up and smelled the coffee. You don't use tools like hope and goodwill and hope while pursuing national interests. Indira Gandhi had shown us long ago that you need nerves of steel, and a backbone.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It is Australia Day!

The news media is full of reports from Australia; and the stories have a link with India. Of course, the stories and the laments have to do with the abject manner in which the Indian cricket team has been surrendering to the Kangaroos. But come January 26 and we will probably forget our humiliation in Australia and celebrate Republic Day by mostly saying nice things about ourselves; our success as a democracy and our ability to bounce back from crisis after crisis. Thousands of children will probably railroaded towards India Gate to watch the pomp and prowess of the new India.

But some of us know that Australians will be doing the same thing on January 26. Just as Indians celebrate Jan 26 as the Republic Day, the folks down under celebrate Australia Day. A British ship " discovered" Australia on this day about 250 years ago. From those humble beginnings, Australia has emerged as one of the more exciting countries of the world. The moment you talk Australia, you talk about sports and athleticism. It is not just in cricket that Aussies ruled the world for so long. They excel in swimming, tennis, rugby and much more. Australians have not lost the irreverence that is a product of their legacy. In its early years as a colony of Britain, Australia was the place where criminals were packed off to. Virtually all white Australian can trace his or her ancestry back to some such poor should who was dispatched permanently from the mother country. No wonder, the Australians celebrate like mad when their cricket team demolishes England; and mourn when the reverse happens, as it has been happening recently.

There is something about the Australian spirit that you have to admire. My colleague Saibal recently wrote a blog for this web site where he talked about how Michael Clarke declared even though he was batting on 329 and could have taken a shot at Brian Lara's record of 400 runs in a test innings. Clarke was more interested in team success than personal glory. Many years ago, Mark Taylor who was captain of the team declared even though he was batting on about 333. He then said that he wanted Australia to win and didn't want to break the record held by Don Bradman for a highest test innings by an Australian. Saibal also wrote about how many Indians we're up in rage back in 2004 when stand in captain Rahul Dravid declared even though our God Sachin Tendulkar was playing on 194. The idea was- how dare Dravid deny Tendulkar his double century? That is indeed the difference between India and Australia. We seem to be happier applauding personal achievements and milestones even as we collectively fail while Australians pay more important to collective success rather than personal milestones. Ironically, even without chasing personal milestones, Australians seem to excel even at the personal level.

That sums up my admiration for Australia as it celebrates Australia Day. But let me also point out two less charitable aspects of Australia on their founding day. The first is linked to the European push into new lands beginning the 15 th century. Like in other places, the natives or the aboriginals in this case were virtually massacred as the whites pursued new lands, pastures and opportunities. So an entire continent that is so much larger than India became home initially only to whites. Remember, India adds an Australia to its population every year!

The second aspect is the really deep flaw in Capitalism in practice; and the reason why advocates of free markets are being hypocritical when they advocate free trade and open markets. Capitalism means free movement of both capital and labour. Since the 20th century, we have a situation where the whites love free movement of capital but refuse to accept free movement of labour. Did God-of whichever religion- decree that vast lands like Australia have been reserved predominantly for whites? Why can't non whites- brown, black and otherwise have the freedom to go and work in places like Canada and Australia whenever they feel like it? That is the fundamental tenet of Capitalism isn't it?

Still, many congrats to the Aussies as they celebrate their day of 'founding'!