All political parties put together cannot be bigger than our nation

Excerpts from a report in The Hindu:

‘Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos,’ Finance Minister P. Chidambaram ‘hit out at BJP terming its economic policies as retrograde and “blood-eyed” and asked why the Opposition Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi never fielded a Muslim candidate.’

‘Mr. Chidambaram also took dig at Aam Aadmi Party, saying there was no place for mob-democracy in India and the country was a party-based democracy where individuals can not be bigger than a party.’

‘Mr. Chidambaram said, “BJP does not represent all sections of India and it does not even have presence in many parts of the country. … It has got policies that would destroy the very idea of India. Theirs a blood-eyed economic model.”’

He also stated that, ‘“If Congress is called to form the government, I’m pretty certain in my mind that Rahul Gandhi will be the Prime Minister. … There was enough fire in his belly when he spoke at the AICC meeting”.’

‘He said that BJP is opposing multi brand retail on premise that it would kill jobs, while the fact was just the opposite.’

To the best of my knowledge, Chidambaram went to Davos as India’s Finance Minister, not as Congress member. The expenses of his visit were borne by India, not by the Congress party. At the World Economic Forum, he was expected to further India’s interests. (Even if he had gone to Davos as a Congress member and even if the expenses of his visit were borne by the Congress party, he would be expected to further India’s interests.)

Did he expect to further India’s interests by promoting his party and his leader and by speaking poorly about his political opponents?

Was Chidambaram trying to tell the rest of the world that they should not engage in trade with India if the BJP forms the next government and if Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister?

Politicians may air their differences on all matters within the country, but when speaking at any international forum, these differences must be kept aside. They must remember that, in the process of running down their political opponents, they are also running down their nation.

Mr. Chidambaram correctly stated that individuals cannot be bigger than a party. He, and all other politicians, should remember that all their parties put together cannot be bigger than our nation.

Witty, or obnoxious, elitist and arrogant?

In ‘All the president’s cooks‘ on, Venkatesan Vembu writes, “My all-time favourite story involving Indian politicians and food relates to Mani Shankar Aiyar’s dare, while campaigning for an election in 1991, to his opponent who was baiting him with anti-Brahmin rhetoric. Aiyar projected himself as a “meat-eating Brahmin” and even challenged his rival to a contest in the village square to see who could eat more chicken biryani. His campaign’s masala recipe went down well, and he won the election.” When I had read about this incident in 1991, I had wished that more people in public life should be as witty as Aiyar!

Today, I’m not so sure. IBNLive reports that, on January 17, 2014, the same Mani Shankar Aiyar, referring to Narendra Modi’s humble origins as the son of a tea stall owner, said at the AICC meet, “He can never be the Prime Minister of our nation, he can never be. However, if he wants, we could arrange a tea stall for him here.” He later claimed that he had been misquoted, but despite his longwinded explanation, it was clear he had displayed elitism and arrogance. The Congress has said that, “The party does not approve of the statement.”

Later that day, according to this report in The Times of India, Aiyar made a condescending statement against Delhi’s Hans Raj College. Earlier, in 2011, referring to a letter written by then Sports Minister Ajay Maken, Aiyar had, according to this report in The Times of India, said that he could not believe that a BA-Pass student from Hans Raj College could use words like ‘dichotomous’ in a letter. A few days later, Aiyar told a group of Hans Raj students that, “He (Maken) is a decent boy from a decent background with his only handicap being the college he went to.” He asked them to bring together BA-Pass students from Hans Raj and St Stephen’s and make them pronounce ‘dichotomous’. “I do not believe the student from Hans Raj will be able to do it,” he said. Aiyar also poked fun at Kirori Mal College by declaring that actor Amitabh Bachchan was the “sole achievement” of KMC.

All these remarks by Aiyar appear innocent when compared to a remark that, according to the report, ‘Don’t invite the likes of Mani. If you must, limit them to two pegs‘, Amar Singh claims Aiyar made in 2000: “We belong to the Oxford and Cambridge set… your leader can’t even articulate himself in English… Oh that bloody Mulayam — he looks just like me. It could be because my father visited UP at some point. Why don’t you check with Mulayam’s mother?”

After reading these reports, would you consider Aiyar witty, or would you consider him obnoxious, elitist and arrogant?

Unfortunately, he is not alone. Please read the second paragraph of the report ‘Kumar Vishwas jibe at Kerala nurses caught on YouTube’ about a comment made by AAP leader Kumar Viswas on nurses from Kerala. This comment was made by Kumar Vishwas some years back, before he entered politics and before the AAP was formed, and he did apologise on January 22, 2014, but the apology appeared half-hearted and certainly not unconditional.

ET reports that, at a public meeting on Sunday, Delhi’s Law Minister Somnath Bharti said, “I want to spit on the faces of BJP leader Arun Jaitley and senior lawyer Harish Salve to tell them to mend their ways… I warn you, the public is going to hound you and beat you.” AAP has reportedly warned Bharti to mind his language in future.

Many of us believe that the politics will become cleaner if educated people join politics. But, these 3 gentlemen are well-educated.

Does politics have a greater influence than education on a person’s character?

Or does education have little or no influence on a person’s character?

Guilty until proven innocent?

In “To sir, with love: University students to protest against prof’s wrongful suspension”, MID-DAY reported that around 1,000 students of Mumbai University had decided to miss class on January 08, 2014, protesting the suspension of Dr Neeraj Hatekar, a professor of Econometrics in the Economics Department at the University of Mumbai. Dr. Hatekar was suspended after he was part of a press conference in December, in which he reported the alleged mismanagement at the varsity and the deterioration of the university’s academic status.

In “Mumbai University is suffering for want of proper academic leadership”, The Times of India reports that Dr. Hatekar had alleged instances of the Vice-Chancellor’s attempts at perjury and false claims, and had exposed the V-C’s incapacity to govern an institution of the size and standard of Mumbai University.

According to his CV, available on Mumbai University’s website, Dr Neeraj Hatekar has been working with the University for 20 years. Since 2008, he has been a Professor. When a senior faculty member made serious allegations against the V-C, the Management Council should have looked into those allegations. If the MC had found the allegations false and/or frivolous and/or motivated, or if his allegations or the manner in which he made them constituted an act of indiscipline, Dr. Hatekar should have been issued a show-cause notice and given a chance to defend himself. Instead, the MC gave the VC their consent to use “emergency powers” to suspend the Professor.

In our country, every person is considered innocent until proven guilty. Even a person accused of crimes like corruption, rape or murder is considered innocent, and it is the responsibility of the prosecution to prove him/her guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

However, Dr. Neeraj Hatekar has been declared guilty until proven innocent. He has “submitted a petition to the High Court, questioning the suspension order and asking for it to be revoked.” His students are supporting him in various ways. In addition to protesting, they have started a signature campaign, are planning to meet the state’s Governor, and are trying to garner the support of students from affiliated colleges. The AAP has supported Dr. Hatekar, but it’s not known how much impact their support will have.

Is there anything we can do, other than hoping that Dr. Neeraj Hatekar gets justice?

Kapil’s Devils and the AAP government

June 25, 1983 was a big day for Indian cricket-lovers all over the world. India was playing the finals of the Prudential World Cup! India’s entry into the finals had not been expected. Almost everybody thought it a foregone conclusion that India would lose the finals since they were facing the mighty West Indies, who had won the first two Prudential World Cups in 1975 and 1979, but hoped that India would put up a decent fight. As P. R. Man Singh, the manager of the winning Indian team said in ‘When Kapil’s Devils made history‘ in The Hindu, “No one gave us a chance to even qualify for the semi-finals, forget about winning the cup.” Of course, many diehard optimists in India thought that, in view of the ‘glorious uncertainties’ of cricket, India had a chance of winning.

West Indies won the toss and chose to field. India scored 183 all out in 54.4 overs. At this stage, almost everybody gave up any hopes of an Indian victory. The only 2 questions were how many overs the Windies would need to reach the target, and how many wickets they would lose in the process.

As all readers probably know, India bowled out the mighty West Indies for 140 runs in 52 overs to win the match and the third Prudential World Cup!

Today, December 28, 2013, Arvind Kejriwal will be sworn in as Chief Minister of Delhi along with six ministers of the AAP government. Many ‘experts’ have predicted that this Government will be a disaster if it survives. Most, if not all of these experts had earlier predicted that the AAP would not make much impact in the Delhi elections, and that Arvind Kejriwal himself would be routed by Sheila Dikshit in the New Delhi constituency. The AAP shocked these ‘experts’ by winning 28 seats and Arvind Kejriwal himself defeated Sheila Dikshit by a margin of over 25,000 votes!

The Congress and the BJP have been totally graceless in defeat. Instead of wishing the AAP government well and adopting a wait-and-watch approach, they have been making all kinds of snide remarks about the AAP and the government which is being formed.

As P. R. Man Singh said, nobody gave India a chance to even qualify for the semi-finals of the 1983 Prudential World Cup, but India entered the semi-finals and went on to win the cup. In the same way, very few people expected AAP to get more than a few seats in the Delhi election, but AAP did very well and is now forming the government. Unless the Congress, which has promised support, plays dirty, the AAP government will survive at least till the 2014 Lok Sabha elections are over. The AAP government has time till then to start showing results. They have made some promises that appear impossible to fulfil. At least that’s what the ‘experts’ say. However, I’m sure the AAP has their own action plan to fulfil those promises. Why can’t the ‘experts’ from the Congress, the BJP, other parties and elsewhere wait and see what the AAP government does?

Let us all hope that, for the sake of the people of Delhi and the rest of the country, the AAP government will repeat what Kapil’s Devils did 30 years back: prove their critics wrong!

Best wishes to the AAP government! Best wishes to all of us!!

AAP’s broom will clean up Delhi, but only if …

The President of a marketing company had appointed a committee of 3 persons, a HR Manager, an Accounts Manager and a Sales Manager, to recommend ways to reduce the company’s travelling expenses by 10% without adversely affecting the company’s operations.

At the annual Budget Meeting, the Committee was making a presentation about their initial findings and the further course of action. The Service Manager realised that the Committee had focussed almost completely on the travelling expenses incurred by Sales Engineers and Service Engineers. He pointed out that, while the number of engineers was 5 times the number of managers, the total travelling expenses incurred by the managers was double the total travelling expenses incurred by the engineers. Hence the focus should be on the travelling expenses incurred by the managers. He suggested that the company’s travelling expenses could be reduced by over 15% if all managers flew Economy Class instead of Executive/Business Class and stayed at 4 Star hotels instead of 5 Star hotels. The suggestion was shouted down by all the managers present. Not even one person was willing to consider the Service Manager’s suggestion!

This incident illustrates exactly what happens in our country. Everybody wants change. But most people expect change to happen! Very few people are willing to change themselves.

Now that the AAP will form the Government in Delhi, many, if not most of those who voted for the AAP will assume that they have finished doing their bit by voting for the AAP, and that all the ills that have been plaguing Delhi will be removed by the AAP Government in no time.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Let us consider corruption. We all know that bribes are taken by policemen/officials/bureaucrats/politicians. But we conveniently forget that the same bribes are given by us. We have got used to getting work done by paying ‘speed money’ or having our misdemeanours overlooked by paying bribes. For corruption to be eradicated, both the bribe-takers and the bribe-givers have to change for the better.

The same holds for all other issues. While steps must be taken to prevent wrongdoing by officials and contractors, the general public also has to behave responsibly.

AAP’s broom will clean up Delhi, but it’s not a magical broom. It won’t work on its own. It will work only if most people in Delhi pick it up and use it for the common good.

Best wishes to the AAP Government and to the people of Delhi!