Fighting corruption by embracing it

#1. The 1995 winter session of Parliament was among the least productive on record (constant disruptions resulted in only 36% of the total time being productive, according to Parliamentary records).

The constant stoppage of play was led by the BJP, which was protesting the continued presence in the PV Narasimha Rao cabinet of Telecom Minister Sukh Ram, against whom charges of taking a bribe and favoring HTL in the awarding of cable supply contracts had begun to surface.

The BJP kept the pressure up — until, in 1997, he broke from the Congress and founded the Himachal Vikas Congress — at which point the BJP sought and obtained his support for the Prem Kumar Dhumal-led BJP government in Himachal Pradesh. Ram joined the government — and was persuaded to quit in March 1998 when charges were finally framed against him. The story of how he finally relented is a classic case study of realpolitik.

Continue reading

A WTF sequel to the earlier WTF

The wife is not just apolitical — she is completely detached, by choice. On the rare occasions, I try lecturing her on the need to be more involved, she quotes an old Tamil song of which the refrain goes: “Raman aandalum Ravanan aandalum” (Loosely translated, what difference whether Ram rules or Raavan?)

But even she has been in a bit of a state these past 24 hours, marking the passage of almost every hour with “God, what do you think he is going to do?” The “he” is Modi, and her numerous invocations have to do with the speech the PM was to make today, and what new headache scheme he was likely to announce.

Domestic tranquility has been restored. Modi spoke, and it was totally unexceptionable. Some stuff about the “new India” that is about to dawn in 2022. And a new scheme — Saubhagya. As follows:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today launched the ‘Saubhagya scheme’ to give free electricity connections to poor families in both cities and villages by 2018 with a total outlay of Rs. 16,320 crores, which will be funded largely by the centre. No poor person will have to pay for electricity connections, the Prime Minister has said.

Continue reading

WTF Just Happened: Sept 23

#1. March 28: PM Narendra Modi outlines seven-point scheme to double farmers’ income. Yesterday in New Delhi: Modi asks cooperatives to get into new business streams to double farmers’ income. By 2022. Varanasi, today: Modi says his government is trying to double farmers’ income by 2022.

Back in 64 BC, the orator par excellence Marcus Tullius Cicero was contesting for the post of consul of Rome. His brother Quintus, a Senator, wrote a primer on how to fight elections, titled How To Win An Election. It is an interesting read — the recommendations of then continue to figure in the playbook of today. One such tip, which should be familiar to anyone who has followed any election, anywhere, runs:

Promise everything to everybody.

Back in 2014, Modi in course of his election campaign told farmers that the minimum support price formula would be rewritten — “the entire cost of production, plus 50%”. This was in line with the MS Swamination Commission’s recommendations made during the UPA regime.

Continue reading