Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Look who’s recruiting whom: Congress goes for Nilekani, BJP for Yeddy

Media reports confirm what has been known to be a possibility for long. That Yeddy is desperate to return back to the BJP, and the BJP is desperate to take him back. Both need each other badly, corruption or no corruption. In the meantime, the Congress is mulling putting Nandan Nilekani, the poster boy of India’s IT industry, and the genius who conceived and quickly implemented the world’s biggest biometric identification project, as its candidate from Bangalore. Shows what kind of people both parties are attracting.

The story around Yeddy also shows us something more about Narendra Modi’s thinking and his political strategy. The one thing that we know for sure is that he has raised the Hindutva pitch. Maybe the BJP is not directly involved in Muzaffarnagar, there surely looks like something’s going on there. The maximum number of politicians charged for the incidents there belong to the BJP. The benefit of the polarization in that region goes mostly to the BJP. Modi’s Hindutva strategy is well known; after all, he was chosen for the PM’s nomination primarily by the RSS. After all, that’s why he sent Amit Shah there.

Now we also have an insight into what else Modi’s beliefs are. By inducting Yeddy, Modi is sending the signal that political clout matters more than corruption. When corruption in Karnataka first became a big deal, the BJP hemmed and hawed over Yeddy. When it finally removed him, under massive pressure from the media, it tried to make a big deal of it, claiming that it had “zero tolerance” towards corruption. Now, if Yeddy is welcomed back to the party, the tables would be turned over. Corruption would not be a reason for the party not to welcome someone in. Votes matter more than the corruption record of the person. So does it mean that the BJP is officially distancing itself from the corruption plank?

It would look so, considering that Modi has never really believed in fighting corruption. It’s not that he doesn’t cherish the “clean” image his PR machinery has built for him, but he has a different way to achieve that image. By simply not allowing a Lok Ayukta to come up in his state for more than a decade. Simple! No Lok Ayukta, no corruption complaints. Clean image. Do what you want to do with land, crony capitalism, fudged figures… one needs to know.

We first came to know that corruption was a mere political rhetoric for the BJP when it first pretended to support Anna and later back-stabbed him, over the issue of including Lok Ayuktas within the Lokpal Bill. All that was just political opportunism. Those days, the camera was focused on Anna, and the BJP wanted to be seen on his right side. The moment Anna was out of favor, the party turned over.

Look now at the Congress’s move to induct Nandan Nilekani. Before Nilekani, there was Shashi Tharoor, a professional diplomat who truly represents the kind of India that I personally feel proud of – educated, cultured, liberal. Nilekani makes it two of the same kind. He is a successful professional, who made India proud, by making it the hub of the world’s outsourcing and IT business. He is progressive, going by his preference for technology-based solutions to age-old problems. He believes in inclusive growth, going by the extensive philanthropy work he and his wife do. And he is liberal without doubt. Nilekani adds to the Congress’s image of being a magnet for such people. And Nilekani benefits from the Congress’s image of being a liberal, progressive, caring party.

What is interesting is that Rahul Gandhi is credited with getting Nilekani in. Rahul’s advantage in being young, in comparison to a much older Modi, is becoming visible here. Equally, Rahul’s inexperience in running a government has its advantages, as he is not bogged down by the grim realities of that. He is free to dream. Dream that one day, the likes of Nilekani and Tharoor will play a more important role in building modern India.

Yeddy and Nilekani both come from Karnataka, and yet the two couldn’t be more apart. Yeddy may have a higher chance of winning (with the BJP’s support) than Nilekani, but that doesn’t matter. The import of who supports whom and who inducts whom goes far beyond Karnataka. It speaks volumes of how the two parties function.

The real truth is that inducting Yeddy back will prove that the BJP cares little for corruption. Inducting Nilekani shows that Rahul wants to build a party of committed professionals. Apart from secularism and inclusive growth, this is another point of difference opening up between the two main parties….

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