Archive for February, 2014

Can Kejriwal be PM

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Can Kejriwal be PM

By

Col (Retd) Bhaskar Sarkar VSM

www.bhaskarsarkar.com ; www.twitter@COLSARKAR

A question that has been raised by some elements in the media and the established political parties is, “Does Kejriwal have the experience to be Prime Minister or even a chief minister? To answer the question all one needs to do is to look at history.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

What was the experience of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru when he became Prime Minister on 15 August 1947? A big zero. During periods when he was not in jail, he did lead the Congress Party. But he could have no experience of ruling any part of India because India was then under British rule. He was well educated and had vision of a great India. Except for being a supporter of corruption (e.g. jeep scam of 1947 involving V K Krishna Menon) , nepotism (e.g. making infamous General B M Kaul Corps Commander in 1962 leading to Chinese debacle) and crony capitalism (e.g. Dalmia Case of 1956; Mundra Scam of 1957; Jaynti Dharam Teja Scam of 1962 where Daram Teja’s company with a paid up capital of Rs 200 got a loan of Rs 200 crores on Nehru’s recommendation) and a neglecter of India’s defence preparedness, he did a pretty good job. He laid the foundation of a vibrant, modern, technology savvy and industrialized India. In fact his entire cabinet was without any experience. Yet most of them, except for a few like Mr. Krishna Menon, performed very well. Their assets were intelligence, knowledge, dedication and love for the country. It is because of Nehru that India has IITs, IIMs, AIMS and is a nuclear power and has sent a mission to moon and Mars.

Rajeev Gandhi

What experience did Rajeev Gandhi have when he became PM? He literally parachuted from a Boeing aircraft of Indian Airlines into the prime minister’s chair. Except for his handling of the Anti Sikh riots and the misadventure in Sri Lanka, he did as well as he was permitted by his unscrupulous council of ministers. Mr. Clean was snared into the Bofors and other scandals and the Shahbano Case and lost the election that followed. But he had the vision to introduce “Panchayeti Raj, integrate the villages into the national telephone network and brought in computers and to start information technology. His vision helped India to progress and become the world’s leading IT power.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama, the current US President in his second term was a first time senator before becoming the US president in 2009. His executive experience before becoming president is nil. Yet he did well enough to win a second term.

Manmohan Singh

Unlike the most inexperienced national leaders listed above, the most experienced Prime Minister after Indira Gandhi, Mr. Manmohan Singh, has been a total disaster. As a result of his weak character, (the only time he shows resolve is when it comes to hanging on to his chair), poor governance and benign tolerance of all pervasive corruption, he has brought the century old Congress Party close to oblivion. What use is experience when ones vision is restricted to finding corrupt ways to stay in power, when your leader has no pride in his nation and no control over his ministers? Why the Congress party chose him to be Prime Minister and persisted with him remains the most intriguing political mystery of our times.

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi claims that he has experience for running the country. Does he? He has been the Chief Minister of Gujrat for over 10 years. But does that qualify him to be Prime Minister. As a Chief Minister he has the power to sack any of his ministers. He does not have to tolerate dissent. Does the Prime Minister have the power to sack a Chief Minister? A Prime Minister has to live with dissent and have the tact to still implement his agenda. Narendra Modi has dictatorial tendencies. His home minister, Mr. Haren Pandya with whom he had differences was assassinated. He has a convicted criminal in his cabinet and has a benign tolerance to corruption. He is a master at crony capitalism. He is close to the Adani Group and has granted them all kinds of sops. He refuses to make his relations with the Ambanis and his stand on doubling of gas prices clear. Yet, if the opinion polls are to be believed, he is India’s most favoured Prime Ministerial candidate. I am unable to understand whether Narenra Modi has been able to hypnotise the Indian voters with his election campaign and rallies (the source of the funding of these expensive political events is of course a closely guarded sectret) or the modern day youth is as dumb and gullible as their illiterate parents and grandparents.

Rahul Gandhi

Mr. Rahul Gandhi is unofficially declared as the Congress Party’s nominee for the Prime Ministership. His experience in government is zero. He is well educated and appears honest. He does not appear to be power hungry. Is that enough to make him a better Prime Ministerial candidate than Kejriwal? The fact of the case is that no senior leader in the Congress takes him seriously. He is having difficulty in getting anti corruption laws passed. He is unable to have the corrupt punished or even prevent them from getting party tickets for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. He is not in a position to explain the source of funds for his rallies or clarify his stand on doubling the gas price at behest of Mukesh Ambani.

Arvind Kejriwal

Kejriwal, as an ex bureaucrat has some firsthand knowledge of what goes on in the corridors of power. Kejriwal is intelligent (IIT graduate and IRS), honest and down to earth. He is not after money. (As income tax commissioner he could have made tons of it but quit to form an NGO). He is not power hungry. (He would not have resigned as CM of Delhi if he was). He is accepted by his party mates and the people as their leader. He is media savvy. He is fighting against corruption, nepotism and crony capitalism. Is he not likely to be a better PM than Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi?

Conclusion

A successful Prime Minister has to be a leader of men. He must passionately love his country and be ready to make sacrifices for his country. He must have the courage of conviction to stand his ground in national interest against foreign powers and domestic business and religious lobbies. He, like Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi, must be loved and respected by the ordinary people of India. He must be a man of vision capable of taking long term decisions which will benefit the country. He must be a man of compassion for the poor and down trodden. He must be the prime minister of all Indians, rich or poor; over privileged or under privileged; regardless of sex, religion, caste, community or political leaning.

We have many to choose from. We have the power hungry Narendra Modi and the petty leaders of regional parties who will fight amongst themselves when the time comes. (Have we forgotten that Chowdhury Charan Singh stabbed Moraji Desai in the back to get the chair in true Indian tradition? Have we forgotten that Chandra Shekhar stabbed VP Singh for the chair? Have we forgotten the miserable short reigns of Deve Gowda and IK Gujral?  We also have Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal.

May we have the wisdom to choose the right person and his party.

Tale of Two Struggles

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Tale of Two Struggles

By

Col (Retd) Bhaskar Sarkar VSM

www.bhaskarsarkar.com ; www.twitter@COLSARKAR

Once upon a time some patriotic Indians took up the struggle to end British Rule in India. Most of young India or about 70 percent of Indians know very little or absolutely nothing about this struggle. To historians, the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 was the start of this struggle. The details of this long and difficult struggle cannot be covered in a few pages. Suffice it to say that there were many greater leaders and many visions of what India should become and how the struggle for independence was to be sustained till the goals were reached. In this article I will only touch on a few aspects.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak was the first leader to demand “Swaraj” or self rule. In 1905 he said that “Swaraj is my birth right and I shall have it”. The British promptly put him in Jail. Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1915 and started “Satyagragh” or civil disobedience to force the British to grant independence. Initial demands were for dominion status. But in 1928, Congress adopted the demand for “Purna Swaraj” or full independence. The struggle for independence led by Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress Party continued till 1947 when we finally became free from British rule.

Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and the Congress party, and millions of known and unknown freedom fighters gave us independence. Pandit Nehru and the Congress party also introduced corruption, nepotism and crony capitalism which made “swaraj” irrelevant for the common man or the Aam Admi. Nehru’s policies of boosting higher education and industrialization saw a huge growth in the privileged classes. The “license raj” restricted industrialization to a few politically connected business houses, created monopolies and led to exploitation of the poor. Aam Admi had to wait another 17 years before Lal Bahadur Shastri recognized them with his slogan “Jai Jawan; Jai Kissan”. Indira Gandhi kept the focus on the Aam Admi with her slogan “Garibi Hatao”, 20 Point Program for rural development, nationalization of banks and foreign companies who refused to have 50 percent Indian shareholders. After Mrs Gandhi the common people were again pushed to the background and corruption, nepotism and crony capitalism filled the pockets of the political class and government servants (the Khas admi or privileged class) and the business class and the rich (the Amir Admi or the rich). The rule of the privileged, by the privileged and for the privileged and the rule of the rich, by the rich and for the rich has prevailed ever since and is practiced by all political parties.

Then from nowhere emerged an agitation led by Anna Hazare and the Civil Society called India Against Corruption in 2011. It demanded the passing of the Jan Lok Pal Bill drafted by Anna Hazare’s team by the parliament and launched an agitation in Delhi. The Congress government did its best to break up the movement and failed. They then manoeuvred the simpleton Anna Hazare by promising to pass the bill. But the struggle by the Aam Admi to eliminate corruption, nepotism and crony capitalism was taken up by Anna Hazare’s erstwhile lieutenant Arvind Kejriwal who floated the Aam Admi Party. The party made its first electoral foray in 2013 in the Delhi state elections and surprised all by winning 28 seats. The Aam Admi Party today carries the flag for all Indians who are against corruption.

I would like to share some interesting parallels between India’s struggle to free itself from British rule and the Aam Admi’s struggle to free itself from corruption and rule of the privileged, by the privileged and for the privileged.

Leadership

India’s struggle for freedom from British Rule was led in its final stages by Mahatma Gandhi, a simple man with no political or pecuniary ambitions. India’s struggle against corruption, nepotism and crony capitalism was led by Anna Hazare, a simple man with no political or pecuniary ambitions.

The political struggle for freedom from British Rule was led by Gandhi’s trusted lieutenant Pandit Nehru. The political struggle from corruption, nepotism and crony capitalism is led by Hazare’s trusted lieutenant Arvind Kejriwal.

Gandhi advised Nehru to disband the Congress Party after independence. Nehru refused. Hazare advised Kejriwal not to join politics. He refused.

Opposition to the Struggle

India’s struggle for freedom from British Rule had to defeat the opposition from the princely states and other privileged classes (the Westernized Oriental Gentlemen) and the British. Aam Admi’s struggle for freedom from corruption, nepotism and crony capitalism is opposed by almost all Indian political leaders, government servants, traders, business houses and multinational companies.

Reasons for Success

India’s struggle for freedom from British Rule succeeded partly because of its leaders but mainly because of the millions of known and unknown freedom fighters who smilingly gave their all for the cause. Aam Admi’s struggle for freedom from corruption, nepotism and crony capitalism will succeed if their leaders are determined to selflessly continue the struggle and if the people of India display the same commitment to freedom and are willing to make the same kind of sacrifices which our forefathers made to gain “Swaraj”.

Conclusion

My friends and countrymen! Lend me your ears. You stand at the crossroads of history. What you do will make the difference between a democracy that is of the privileged, by the privileged and for the privileged or a democracy that is of the people, by the people and for the people. Join the Aam Admi Party. Work for the Aam Admi Party. Contribute whatever money you can to the Aam Admi Party. Vote for the Aam Admi Party. Persuade others to vote for Aam Admi Party.

Aam Admi Party may not win majority in this election. But every seat it wins puts the corrupt and the privileged on the defensive and reduces corruption, nepotism and crony capitalism. Every seat it wins makes it difficult for the privileged to make the Aam Admi their unwilling “Das” (servant) or “Dasi” (maid servant). Have faith. “Hum Honge Kamiyab Eek Din”.

True Colours of BJP Being Revealed: Hope the Electorate is Watching

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

True Colours of BJP Being Revealed: Hope the Electorate is Watching

By

Col (Retd) Bhaskar Sarkar VSM

www.bhaskarsarkar.com ; www.twitter@COLSARKAR

An article “UPS’s Failed Socialist Experiment” by Varun Gandhi, BJP National Secretary and MP ends with “it’s time to give markets a chance”. The article which has been published in Times of India Chennai on February 5, 2014 bears scrutiny. He adds, “Thanks to economic populism and subsidy raj, India is now the sick man of Asia”.  I am a regular listener to foreign news channels like BBC, CNN and Al Zajeera. I have never heard any of their journalists or experts call India, the “sick man of Asia”. I am not claiming for a moment that India has achieved the economic or human development growth that is commensurate with its potential. I would however like to submit that this failure is due to poor governance and not socialism. Let us take the issues raised by Varun Gandhi one by one.

Benefits of Subsidies are Captured by Upper Class and Large Farmers

Mr. Gandhi writes, “In the last decade the central government has spent almost Rs 11 trillion in subsidies – mostly captured by the upper class (fuel subsidies) and large farmers (fertilizers)”. I totally agree with him. But the distortion and leakage has nothing to do with socialism. It simply confirms the truth that Indian democracy as practised by all national and regional parties is “of the upper class, by the upper class and for the upper class”. This is where the Aam Admi Party needs to come in.

Fuel subsidies can be easily designed to reach the target segment of the society. Petrol used for two wheelers can be supplied after premixing it with engine oil and thereby making it unusable in cars. Only petrol used in two wheelers should be subsidised and petrol for cars should not be subsidized. To reduce the number of diesel cars and SUVs, the initial road tax should be made equal to the cost of the car. Subsidized LPG cylinders have been capped even if at 12 per year.

A “small farmer’s” card on line of BPL card could be used to ensure fertilizer subsidy reaches only the small farmers (holding up to 5 acres). Direct cash transfer of subsidies would ensure that subsidies reached only those targeted. However, the attempt to do the same by the government is being resisted by vested interest of the upper class through Supreme Court. The constitution should be amended to make the “Aadhar” Card compulsory.

Leakages in the Public Distribution benefit the community of shopkeepers, bakers and hoteliers, most of who are the upper class and supporters of BJP. The leakage can be easily stopped by direct cash transfers. But direct cash transfer of subsidies based on “Aadhar” Cards into bank accounts are being resisted by vested interest. There is a way of overcoming individual reluctance to “Adhar” card based cash transfer. Just pay 20% extra subsidy to Aadhar Card holders for a few months and get them to enroll. Another option is to link direct cash transfers to banks linked through the voter ID card or Aadhar card.

Grain Procured by Government Rots due to Lack of Storage

The rotting of grains procured by the government in its stores or during transit is simply poor governance and has nothing to do socialism. Just because some children die after polio vaccination or on the operation table does not mean polio vaccination or operations are bad. The real problem is lack of accountability in the government machinery. The other problem is that the upper class does not use grains supplied by Public Distribution system but grain from branded sources. So a government “of the upper class, by the upper class and for the upper class” has no interest in the matter and just do not care. This is another reason why we need the Aam Admi Party.

Stopping Pilferage of Electricity and Dealing with Non Payment of Bills

Pilferage of electricity is a national practice. Only about 20% India does not. The staff of electricity boards and Discoms provide direct connections to houses, businesses and industries for a bribe. No effort has been made to punish the guilty by making the offence non bailable. The poor cannot afford not to pay their bills. Their connections will be immediately cut. It is the rich and the powerful that do not pay their bills and still remain connected. The list of defaulters if published every month in news papers will be led by politicians, bureaucrats, industries and government departments. Since the government is “of the upper class, by the upper class and for the upper class” everyone is making merry at government expense. This is another reason why we need the Aam Admi Party. I hope Mr. Varun Gandhi cleared his electricity bill before writing the article.

Removing Stigma from Defaulting on Loans

I am not sure which loans Mr. Gandhi has referred to in his article. If it is agricultural loans to small farmers he is talking about, it is understandable. Farmers usually do not vote for BJP. BJPs vote bank consist of traders, businessmen and industrialists. It is surprising that he has mentioned the Rs 6.5 lakh crore sticky loans with Indian banks. It must have been done inadvertently. Almost all the beneficiaries of the sticky loans are member or supporters of BJP and are rooting for Modi as PM.

UPA & Socialism

I am not inclined to agree with Mr. Varun Gandhi’s assertion that UPA practices socialism. UPA is a divided house. The Gandhi family and some of their young followers and most members of the National Advisory council are left oriented and behind MGNAREGA, Food Security Bill, Right to Forest Produce Bill, Right to Education Bill etc. But the government led by Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram and Monetek Singh Ahluwalia are hard core neo-liberal economists who do their best to serve the interest of foreign countries like China, US, Europe, ASEAN; big business, foreign investors and multinational companies. Liberation of imports, reduction of import duties, relaxing norms for identifying foreign investors to check money laundering, the entry of drug money and terrorist money into our economy, bringing in multi-brand retail without a care of growth of Indian industry and jobs is the work of these neo-liberals. This group has full support of BJP. In fact BJP supports neo-liberal economic model and is 100% pro business. After all, the core supporters of BJP are small and big businesses and traders. More the de-regulation, more the black money generation, less the taxation and tax compliance, the better it is for BJP supporters.

Conclusion

Mr. Varun Gandhi ends his article by appealing, “It is time to give markets a chance”. Markets have been ruling the Western World since the time of Regan and Thatcher in mid seventies. See the result. Inequalities have reached new peaks. Tax havens and the rich are flourishing and never had it better. America and Europe have seen their manufacturing sectors destroyed and unemployment at record levels. Many European countries have 25 to 50% youth employment. Unions have been weakened and become impotent. Slavery has been reintroduced in the form of economic slavery. The message from the market is work long hours for a pittance or stave. Middle class jobs are reducing and being replaced by low paid jobs in retailing and hospitality industries. More and more people in the developed world are going hungry or surviving on community kitchens.