Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Did anyone hear Kejriwal or Anna praise Congress’s corruption busting Direct Transfer initiative??

It is now obvious that Kejriwal, the joker in the political pack, henceforth simply abbreviated to Joker, cares only about politics. Because if he wasn’t, and he was genuinely interested in busting corruption, then he would have paused his usual mindless rabble rousing, and applauded the BIG initiative taken recently by the government. If the government’s estimates come good, the country could save as much as Rs 1 lac crores a year in its various subsidy programs. Unlike the imaginary 2G and coal loss figures, this figure is real and tangible – lining the pockets of the middlemen as it does. With money going directly into the accounts of the beneficiaries, these middlemen’s gravy train will be cut-off. But that’s the point. Joker does not have the largeness of heart to applaud this huge move forward. He has been completely overtaken by his political ambitions.

Likewise, its unlikely he will appreciate the Parliamentary processes which have been humming in the background (where TV cameras don’t roll) and which are likely to soon deliver a Lokpal to the country. Even though several amendments have been made since the last version was passed in the Lok Sabha, Joker is unsatisfied. One has to grant him high marks for consistency. When he launched his agitation with Anna, he demanded that 100% of his Jan Lokpal act be accepted; he still retains that exact same demand even now! Consistency or bull headedness, you decide!

And talking of Anna, I haven’t heard him applaud the initiative either. What’s going on here? Was Anna’s movement merely a movement to enact an institution called Lokpal? Or was it a larger initiative to remove corruption – with the Lokpal and more. Is Anna just a naysayer which his former compatriot Joker surely is. Joker can be forgiven for being a “young revolutionary”, impatient and restless. Surely Anna is a much more mature person who has seen how law making works in our country? Or has his attitude also denigrated into being one of opposing for the sake of opposing?

Opposing for the sake of opposing reminds me naturally about the BJP and its demand for a vote on FDI. It appears the government has circled the wagons and has agreed to a vote. The government is making a mistake by putting an Executive decision to vote in Parliament. It was never about numbers, as the collective dislike for the BJP is always much higher that even the dislike for the worst of the UPA policies. It was always about propriety. That the Executive should be left unfettered so that it can take fast decisions; not hobbled by bureaucratic procedures that it slows down even more.

Must make the BJP wonder about why no one wants to side with it. Even after joining the public protests against FDI, the DMK has opted to support the UPA than join the BJP. Surely, its to do with avoiding early polls. But if that were true, the AIADMK would have been singing paeans about everything the BJP does. It isn’t and its stand of supporting the BJP is calibrated. It’s the same with the BJD, which while opposing FDI, is careful not to ally with the BJP. The Left of course wants to have nothing with the BJP. No doubt, some of these parties will join an NDA alliance if the BJP comes to power, but it’s not a happy situation for the party. The BJP’s core ally, the JD(U) also has been making unseemly sounds for a few months now. Even on the FDI issue, it was happy to be on the UPAs side and have a discussion without voting.

The Moody’s retention of the “stable” outlook for India should be seen in the context of our fractious politics and its absolutely insensitive orientation towards economics. The country needs reforms. It needs more investment irrespective of where it comes for. One is not talking of “favoring” foreigners; one is only talking of ensuring they pour in their dollars as well, even as Indian businessmen pour in their rupees. India is an attractive market alright, but even so, it needs to woo these investors. Reforms are not aimed only at foreigners, but at all businesses. We don’t want Rahul Bajaj and Mukesh Ambani to invest in other countries. We want them to continue investing in India. We also want Japanese, American and European companies to invest in India. A slightly wrong policy, and the flow of investments could reverse. We must look at how other countries woo global investors. Singapore set its timezone to align with Hongkong in spite of being so much to the West of it, at least partly because it wanted to compete with it to become the 2nd most important financial hub in Asia after Tokyo. Chinese people picked Christian names for themselves because they want it to be easy for foreigners to pronounce them. Countries bend over backwards to woo investors; but in India we try very hard to shoo them away!

The passage of the Lokpal will pacify large sections of the middle-class. It may not have everything that Anna wanted, but does have enough teeth to become a functional body. We are awaiting details. Hopefully, the Lokpal hasn’t been made into an unmanageable monster with Saddam Hussein like powers. Hopefully, it will be restrained in the same manner as all other democratic institutions are. The PM is already under its ambit. The CBI Director’s appointment will now be made by a multi-member body. The CBI team working on Lokpal-referred cases will report to the Lokpal. Prosecution is hopefully separated from investigation and the two from the judging process. It’s a good start. Let’s give it five years and see how it fares. Amendments are always possible at a later time.

The real truth is unfortunately bitter. The moot point is whether the known opponents of the government are ready to give it credit when it does something right. Whether their focus is on issues or on opposing the government. Unfortunately, it appears the latter is true.

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