Thursday, April 30, 2009

2 stars of Indian Politics in their own rights

We are 15-16 days away from a new Parliament term & maybe a new Prime Minister as well. While there are a hundred aspirants to the throne, including the 2 that i am going to write about, only a handful have the credentials to get there. Of the folks who don't make the cut with me - 
  • Deva Gowda (fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on ME!)
  • Jayalalitha (nope amma, your good English skills & mediocre Hindi skills don't hide your narrow thought process)
  • Mayawati (She is Jayalalitha Ver 0.0.1)
  • Prakash Karat (No, Thanks. I don't want to live in the 19th century!)
  • Sonia Gandhi (too much baggage Ma'am - You fled to Italy during the 1971 Indo-Pak War & your procastination in getting Indian Citizenship till your Cabinet Minister husband are 2 reasons why you should never be India's PM & not your foreign birth!)
  • Sharad Pawar (What, he wants both ICC Presidency as well India's PM post!)
  • PA Sangma (what! If your abilities as Lok Sabha Speaker are any good measure, the country will be in chaos during your term!)

On to the 2 gentlemen that i wanted to highlight today. Not because, they are my choice for Prime Minister but because they have skills in certain areas that are much needed. No one could predict that Laloo Yadav will revolutionize Indian Railways. I believe that the same will happen if these 2 folks get anywhere close to the PM Chair. 

Drum rolls, for Person 1 - Narendra Modi ...

Let me make the case for Modi. Have anyone see the way Gujarat has jumped up the charts in economy & Human Development Index in spite of the continued marginalization of the Muslims. Do you see how respected Industry leaders sing his praises? Do you see the amazing amount of passion in him to lead his state? Do you see the dwindling rural-urban divide in Gujarat where rural development has been given as much importance as urban growth? Sentiments & party membership aside, does India have any leader who has Modi's "Ready-in-2-minutes-PM" candidature?

Now, for the negatives - his non-apology for post-Godhra riots. I have 2 issues with Modi on this attitude - Marginalization of minorities always leads to radicalization of society and is the first step for downfall of any civilization. For the last 7 years, Muslims have been using 2002 riots as the excuse for nearly every terrorist attack in India. Modi's attitude towards Muslims needs radical shift. While Modi will never fall in love with Muslims, at the very least he needs to show genuine concern for Muslim & other minorities. Else, he is no different than the narrow-minded Mayawati to me. The second issue with Modi on the Godhra incident is that his non-apology has made folks focus on post-Godhra riots and there has been next-to-zero empathy for the victims of the train attacks. Had Modi succeded in avoiding post-Godhra riots, the focus over the last 7 years would have been on the radicalization of Muslims and their inability to join the mainstream. That could have bought shame to right-wing Muslims thereby reducing their numbers. Modi, you did a major dis-service to the nation by not taking action post-Godhra attacks. 

The second person that i want to highlight is Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Laugh all you want, but i would take MSY anyday above some of the other leaders in view. His anti-English & anti-computer stance are meaningless populism measures that he himself will abandon post 2009 elections. I recall a Shekar Gupta story on the Sukhoi-30 defense deal. Mulayam worked together with Vajapayee, Jaswant Singh & finished a deal that was started by PV Narasimha Rao & Manmohan Singh. Reason? The deal was good for India. That's the bottom-line. Politics was left outside the door when it came to our strategic interest. Second example, Mulayam Singh was the key reason why the Indo-US Nuclear deal was signed. The UPA goverment was in shambles after the Left Front abandoned them & when APJ Abdul Kalam called Mulayam Singh for a meeting & provided his support for the deal, Mulayam agreed to prop the UPA government. In effect, the anti-US SP provided support to the nuclear deal rather than the pro-US BJP.While some can contend that Mulayam's support was opportunistic (and it might well be the case!), we should acknowledge the fact that Mulayam put India's interest before his own interest. And by the way, Mulayam was all for giving APJ Abdul Kalam a second term as President. In fact, Mulayam was one of the early proponents for Abdul Kalam as India's President in the first place in 2002.

The case against Mulayam has been well documented. His pro-Muslim lean along with anti-Hindu stance is the mirror image of Modi's stance. 

The nation will be well-served if we had a 50:50 mix of Modi & Mulayam.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Karunanidhi & fasting ...

So, we have all heard about Karunanidhi's dramatic attempt at indefinitive fasting in Chennai today which started after breakfast and ended before lunch. 

What a noble attempt. Right? Karunanidhi's action speaks for itself
  • 19 July 2008: Karunanidhi doesn't go on fast but senior leaders of his party do. Reason - Protest killing of fishermen by Sri Lankan foreces
  • 1 October 2007: Karunanidhi goes on indefinite fast protesting the dealys in the Sethusamudram project. 
  • December 2003: Karunanidhi ends fast within minutes of starting one protesting the arrest of partyman.
  • 2002: Karunanidhi goes on fast protesting attacks on his MLA office in Chennai. 
  • June 2001: Karunanidhi goes on fast protesting his arrest by the Jayalalitha regime
You make your own judgement. Is Karunanidhi today's version of Mahatma Gandhi or is he a selfish politician?

WTF Moment of the Day - Ram Temple & Secularism

Sonia Gandhi was in Mumbai & before she reached the rally venue, Ramdas Athavle uttered this WTF sentence:
"Only the UPA (Congress-led United Progressive Alliance) can build a Ram Mandir because we are secular.
I mean - what was that & where did that come from?

I was always under the impression that Secularism meant that Hindus donate away their temples to Muslims & Christians. I was under the impression that those pressing for building the Ram temple (BJP, Shiv Sena) are called communalists. As per your definition, BJP is the most secular party in India. Isn't it so?

If this wasn't the election season, i would have sympathized with this man believing that he was in the midst of suffering a heat stroke. Personally, i am tired of this chalta hai attitude of the public - Politicians can state whatever they want & get away before the elections. 

By the way, Mr. Athavle, did you know that this UPA government that you believe will build the Ram temple doesn't even believe Ram ever existed! That's what they told the Supreme Court of India in September 2007 before withdrawing it in the face of widespread protests & condemnation.

IMHO, Congress wants to have the cake & eat it too! They want both Hindus & Muslims to believe that their interests will be addressed only by Congress and that's why we get to hear these WTF statements.

The Big Fight - Sri Lanka

I watched the Big Fight: Sri Lanka Shadow in Tamil Nadu Politics last saturday. What a fight it was.

There was quite a panel - Jayanti Natarajan (Congress - She escaped by the proverbial skin of the teeth when Rajiv Gandhi was assasinated); AIADMK leader (didn't get his name); L Ganesan (DMK - recently switched back from MDMK); Dr. Subramanian Swamy; Catholic Priest who sympathizes with LTTE; N Ram, Editor - The Hindu; a pro-LTTE mid-30s student leader; Anti-LTTE journalist.

Before analyzing these folks' comments on the show, let me salute to the 2 brave girls & one guy who dressed down the pro-LTTE student leader for his comment that Prabhakaran should be compared to Bhagat Singh & Bose. The 2 girls, in particular, shook down, a vehemently patronizing comment from the stupid LTTE student leader and landed quite a few punches. The power of Youth at it's best & also the reason, why India 20 years down the line will be in much safer hands. Kudos to all 3 of you.

My thoughts on each of the leaders & their party/party position:

1. Jayanthi Natarajan: Had such thin-skin that it was incorrect to get her to come to the show. She had the opportunity to get leverage to Congress in the opening remarks & missed it completly. She couldn't send a strong message that the UPA govt saw the difference between LTTE (for which it has no sympathies) and the Sri Lankan Tamils. However, kudos to her, for slapping down the LTTE student leader when he displayed patronizing behaviour towards the 2 girls.

2. AIADMK Leader: Whatever you drank before the show, from your performance, never drink it again. You cannot call the nation's NSA advisor, a "chaprasi". Shoes might be the rage of the season, but never again call anyone chaprasi if you don't want a mob to beat you up. Moreover, you cannot ask that a secular nation be forced to bifurcate with the demand for "Eelam". Why is Pakistan wrong when asking for seperation of Kashmir while India is correct when calling for Eelam seperation?

3. L Ganesan: You look drunk! Period. And remember that this is 2009 & not 1989. The rights of Sri Lankan Tamils is different that LTTE.

4. Catholic Priest: You got too worked up by SL President and called the current situation a "genocide" & "humanitarian crisis" by the evil Rajapaksa. Never mind that you don't know the definition of genocide (def. not 40 civilian losses a day) and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar called that the relief camps in Sri Lanka were much better than the relief camps in Tamil Nadu for Sri Lankan Tamils or the Kashmiri Pundit relief camps. How can you not comment on the recent photos showing LTTE holding civilians hostage at gun point? You were yet another disaster in the show.

5. Subramanian Swamy: Nice opportunity for you to mention the February lawyer attacks as well as showcase your legal expertise. I don't like you a lot, but am impressed by your knowledge.

6. N Ram: Dignified, calm response in volatile environment. Just what we expect from him everytime

7. Pro-LTTE student leader: Counldn't defend a thing! Uttered rubbish statements like "Prabhakaran is equivalent to Bhagat Singh & Bose". To you - Bhagat Singh & Bose were ready to sacrifice their lives for the needs of their fellow citizens; Prabhakaran has murdered many a Tamil & non-Tamil leaders for his cause; Prabhakaran has abused the political process to get out of tough situation; Prabhakaran has a death sentence warrant against him & never against compare him to great people.

8. Anti-LTTE Journalist: Great summary of LTTE's war crimes against fellow Tamilians.

Vikram Chandra did a great job. He called out people when they uttered non-sense but i felt that he could have been more decisive and pressed the leaders for depth in the topic.

What's my take:
  • I won't feel sorry when the LTTE is decimated. They don't belong to the present times. They hurt too many Tamilians to generate the sympathy that they have today.
  • Rajapaksa has the golden opportunity of correcting 60 years of mistakes and prove that he is a World leader rather than a narrow-minded state patriarch. Announce the repeal of "Sinhala Only" Act completely; provide for affirmative action for Tamilians in educational & government for a period of 20 years; provide a federal structure within which the Tamils get enough autonomy to rule the Northern & Eastern states where they dominate; repeal the military constitution and replace with a civilian constitution.
  • Indian Government: Pressure SL by recalling our ambassador & contemplating firing their envoy if Tamilians don't get political benefit
  • Indian political parties: Avoid making stupid statements against a soverign nation. You could be booked under NSA.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

My Vote is for Sale - 3

In 2008, we saw history created in United States, when they elected Barack Obama (47). In 2009, India will create history if we elect LK Advani (82) as the Oldest Prime Minister to take office. Manmohan Singh at 78 looks positively young!

I am amazed how developed economies can find fit leaders in their 40s & 50s to lead their countries while we find no such non-dynasty leaders. So, my vote is for the party that will bring a change in Indian politics. No more room for oldies who doze off in cabinet meetings. My vote is for the party that will limit the age of Ministers to 65 and limit the age of MPs to 70

That means, we will see 35 retirements from the 2004-09 Lok Sabha - the highest number of 70+ MPs that Indian Parliament has ever seen. Maybe half of them will be replaced by their kids, but i am hoping at least the other half to be new blood.

If my rules are followed, we won't see the 80s club - Bagun Sambrui (85), Jalappa (84), Kuppuswamy (83), LK Advani (82), Sis Ram Ola (82), Radhakrishnan Varkala (82), Lakshminarayan Pandey (81), Ripple Kyndiah (81), Bhanwar Singh Dangawas (80), AR Antulay (80), Kailash Joshi (80) and Venkatswamy (80).

The members of the 70s club won't be missed much either: Kalyan Singh (77), Ajit Singh (70), Subrata Bose (77), Deva Gowda (76), Pranab Mukherjee (74) amongst others.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Not funny

Quick post.

I heard about the Fake IPL Player Blog. The blog cornered space today's edition of The Hindu - in my mind, the most conservative Indian newspaper when it comes to gossips. When i read the blog, i was surprised that it had ZERO humour & was very prosaic. 

A few years back, Drew Bledsoe - an above average American footballer (the closest Indian comparison is Saurav Ganguly!) was replaced by a upcoming, young, good looking, Jessica Simpson-dating Tony Romo. A few weeks later, came to life that was a fictional first-hand commentary of Drew Bledsoe (who thinks he is God's gift to mankind!) criticize Tony Romo's actions. Great blog, amazing humour & must-read for even non-American Football fans.

So, to the author of Fake IPL Player blog, you can gain some lessons from TonyHomo. Happy surfing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

WTF News of the Day - "Oscar" Child up for adoption (sale!)

Shock is an understatement when someone hears a story like this. I have a few questions for Mr. Rafiq:
  1. Why should the producers of Slumdog Millionaire pay anything more than what they are contracted for?
  2. Isn't it your duty as the father of the child, to provide her education & appropriate living conditions?
  3. If you cannot fulfill your duties as a father, why have a child?
Rafiq can learn from Rajendra Sonkar - the father of the girl who was showcased in "Smile Pinky". He didn't go around offering his kid for adoption. He wants to ensure that her daughter gets good education. Mr. Sonkar isn't any richer than Rafiq but there is a vast difference in their manners & thought process. I am disgusted with folks like Rafiq who take kindness for weakness. That he wants to reap £200,000 (Rs. 1.4 crores!) for giving away Rubina shows that it isn't anything but a sale. 

Rafiq - There is a special place in hell for folks like you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Biggest theft in Indian History: How Western India has lost!

Care to guess the most valuable item in independent India?

Gold - Nope. Folks have tons (if not Kgs at home!)
Water - Getting close. But inspite of the perennial Cauvery, Krishna, Ganga water fights, it isn't Water.

Giving up?

The answer: MP seat. Yup. Do you disagree?

When the Lok Sabha was created, the founding fathers divided the kitty to states by their population representation assuming that each of these states will have near-equal status in various parameters like Growth, wealth, HDI etc. And why not? If the Gangetic & Indus plain was good for agriculture, the south had their own Godavari, Krishna & Cauvery basins. States that lacked good agricultural area had natural resources wealth - Jharkhand, Orissa, Rajasthan.  However, the last 20 years has shown how there is a huge North-South divide in terms of revenue generation. So, i wonder - why should we still use population as the only criteria for allocating MP seats. Why not use more progressive elements as well - GDP & HDI came to my mind.

So, i did a quick calculation. Let me not bore you with the gory details but the weightage for Population, GDP & HDI were equal. If you need more clarification, revert back to me. 

The results are startling. I wasn't expecting what i saw. Check for yourselves.

What was i expecting? Southern states to be the victims of the system while UP & Bihar were the major beneficieries. But, i was astounded to see that Maharastra (16 lost seats), Gujarat (6 seats), Delhi (5 seats) and Harayana (4 seats) have been the losers. The only Southern Indian state that can harbour a grudge - Karnataka (robbed of 3 seats). AP & TN have a long way to catch up on HDI & GDP parameters with the rest of the country. 

What's more - UP & Bihar have been the greatest robbers. UP deserves no more than 66 seats while Bihar should receive only 29 seats. That's a reduction of 25 seats or 20.8% of their current quota.

Will our politicians agree to such an excercise, where the MP seats are decided by factors other than plain population? I am not going to hold my breath for that to happen.

Till then, let us enjoy the next episode of "Greatest robbery show"

Monday, April 06, 2009

My vote is for sale - Part 2

It was quite a coincidence that i wrote a blog & the BJP manifesto (asking for "Swiss black money" to be returned) was released. Let's see if there is any other political party that answers the questions in this blog.

Issue #2: My vote is for the party that will flight "shadow black money system". 

Chidambaram came up with a fantastic idea in 1997 - VDIS'97 - Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme where unaccounted income could be disclosed & with tax paid on the same, the money would be regularized. If my memory doesn't fail - there was huge publicity and the ads were displayed on TV during Sharjah series cricket matches as well. The end result - the government netted Rs. 10,000 crores on "black assets" of 33,000 crores. The highest  payment came from Andhra Pradesh when a gentleman declared black assets of 500+ crores and paid 170 crores. Phew!

I think the time for VDIS II has come. With the real estate boom & the criminalization of politics, it is time for the government to remove black money from the system - estimated at 18 to 20% of GDP ($210 to 234 billion). Thus, putting together the offshore loot & local black money - it's an astounding $1.5 trillion! And to see no politican speak of it ...

.. isn't a surprise. Most politicans are the beneficieries of this ill-gotten wealth. Let me take one example of a recent addition to the political environment. Actor Chiranjeevi -my favorite Telugu actor & the star of Andhra Pradesh. 

Chiranjeevi filed his nomination papers for Tirupati MLA seat on 4th April 2009. As part of his papers, he declared assets worth Rs. 88 crores in the name of his wife & himself. No information on assets belonging to his children were released. That seems normal for a film icon whose 30 years in film world has produced more hits than one can count. However, one particular detail caught my attention. Chiranjeevi declared owning a site in Mount Road, Chennai  measuring 4,092 sq. yards (36,828 sq feet or 15.345 "grounds" @ ground = 2400 sq ft) worth Rs. 2.046 crores.

The calculation works to Rs 13.33 lakhs per ground for the property! That's a joke. We don't get property for Rs. 13 lakhs, 50 kms outside Chennai forget at the heart of the city. The actual value of the site is worth at least 25 to 50 times the declared rate at the least (Rs. 50 to 75 crores). Assuming the same kind of under-declaration, Chiranjeevi & his wife would be worth at least 300 to 400 crores if not more. And Chiranjeevi is contesting as a champion of middle-class! What travesty!

I am not singling out my movie-idol Chiranjeevi, but this is the trend amongst all politicians in India. 

The single largest source of black money in India is in these land-holdings. Let me explain how black money is created & funded. Assume Chiranjeevi wants to sell the land. The government guideline value might be Rs. 4 crores for the 4092 sq. yd land (i have no info on the guideline value in Mount Road). The seller buys stamp paper (11% of sale value - Rs. 44 lakhs) for Rs. 4 crores but the actual sale price might be Rs. 40 crores (assumption). In this case, Rs. 36 crores of black money is either created or routed. The government is also a loser - instead of receiving Rs. 4.4 crores as stamp duty, it receives Rs. 40 lakhs. The modus operandi of Indian politician at it's shameful worst!

Friday, April 03, 2009

My Vote is for sale - Part 1

I see nothing wrong in putting my vote for sale. In fact, i am thinking of writing an entire series of demands to the person seeking my vote.

The party that goes after money stolen in India and deposited outside gets my vote. So, here is what i want my party to do.

Step 1: Prepare a list of all countries that act as tax havens and publish it publically.
Step 2: Call the envoys/ambassadors of these nations for a meeting and give them an ultimatum. They have 3 months to produce a list of account holders and the amount stored in the banks in their countries.
Step 3: If the countries refuse, we ban these countries - economically & politically. All companies HQed in these tax havens will be refused license to operate in India. Citizens from these countries won't be allowed to travel to India and vice-versa. A complete black-out.

It is rumored that 700,00,00,00,00,000 (70 lakh crores!) - a full 162% of India's GDP of 43 lakh crores - is boarded outside India. Time to bring back the money.