Friday, May 22, 2009

Much to look forward to...

Now that the dust has finally settled on the election season and we know for sure that this government will in all likelyhood last the full 5-year term, the nation can breathe a collective sigh of relief. The Indian voter has spoken and spoken decisively. We've said no to the politics of religious fundamentalism, caste based divisiveness, no to the regional parochialism of the Yadavs and the Mayawatis and no to the blind dogmatism of the Left. And as the results from Bihar show we've said yes to good governance. It seems the Indian voter has finally wisened up, and its about time.
The Congress have been handed a mandate, and a decisive one at that, with a very obvious message. Deliver on the promises, clamp down on  corruption and remove the tired old faces and replace them with the young energetic MPs voted in in such large numbers for the first time since Independence. With 200+ seats in the Lok Sabha there is no risk of the Congress being held to blackmail like the last time. This is an opportunity the likes of which the Congress will probably never get again especially if they fail to make the most of it. Only time will tell if they will flatter to deceive.
But if Rahul Gandhi continues to surprise as he has done in this election with the Congress' performance in UP, the Congress will definitely have sunny days to look forward to. He has displayed a sense of purpose and self-discipline not seen before in an Indian politician. He has been underestimated by almost everyone outside the Congress but this election and especially the results from UP are a vindication of Rahul Gandhi's political acumen. His stress on changing the quality of political leadership in India comes as music to my ears and if he continues in the same vein he may even make a convert of me. But for that he has to bring to fruition his lofty aims of internal democracy in the Congress and merit over everything else. 
Either way the journey of Rahul Gandhi is something to look forward to. Here's hoping he stays the course. God knows our country needs many more politicians who sing the same tune. On a personal note, the victory of Shashi Tharoor from Thiruvananthapuram is particularly gladdening. I've been a fan for a long time and his victory is a sign that all is not lost in Indian democracy.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The King's men- In his image

IPL2, despite all the initial hiccups, has finally taken off and even though it may not be attracting as many eyeballs as the previous edition given the ongoing elections, the speed and efficiency with which the show has been put up is definitely worth commending.
The same however cannot be said of the performance put up so far by the Kolkota Knight Riders. Easily the most hyped team in the IPL and atleast on paper just as competitive as any other team on display, team KKR have displayed an amazing ability to lose the plot often from a position of certain victory as was evident in the match against the Rajasthan Royals. But the team has been plagued by controversy even before the a ball had been bowled. Coach Buchanan's 4 captain theory, the decision to strip Ganguly of his captaincy, Shahrukh's arrogant response to Sunil Gavaskar's sane counsel all added to the drama off the field. Unfortunately none of that has helped the team on the field. As a team KKR looks completely deflated and rudderless. Captain McCullum, going through a lean patch with the bat, has not been able to inspire the team. They look and play like they are just waiting to pack their bags and go home.
So what is it that plagues this team, that boasts the likes of Ganguly, Gayle, McCullum and Ishant Sharma in its roster?
To answer that we need look no further than team owner Shahrukh Khan. For a man who's based his entire career on a hyped up star appeal, and has promoted that "Badshah" image at the cost of any acting prowess he displayed at the early stages of his career, its only natural that his team is the best outfitted, most hyped and has the most high profile fan base regardless of whether they actually play well enough to merit all that hype. KKR is the only team with a partner news channel, the respected NDTV! An inspired move one would have thought, but the channel has now been reduced to dissecting everything that has gone wrong this season for its team. Even the Bangalore Royal Challengers, owned by megalomaniac Vijay Mallya, has focussed on the players in their TV ads. But for team KKR, Shahrukh is front and centre everywhere, be it in the ads, the team anthem or the press conferences. Even the front page of the website has only SRK. One begins to suspect that this entire enterprise is just another one of the man's never-ending attempts at self-promotion. A very costly one. But as SRK himself said, he has spent the money and he can chose to do with the team as he sees fit. But any cricket team that goes by the name of Kolkota has to have Sourav Ganguly at its heart.
By the end of this edition KKR will have provided some of the best entertainment the IPL2 had to offer; the funniest ads, the coolest tean anthem video and the very entertaining, juicy and mysterious fakeiplplayer blog. Sadly not much of this entertainment will come from performances on the field. Much like Shahrukh Khan, this is a team that is more hype than substance.

Starved for Choice

At a time when another hung parliament is very much in the offing and the need for the hour is for the two major parties to display their national credentials and appeal, both the Congress and the BJP have gone and shot themselves in the foot.
The fact is that, despite its completely sycophant culture and dynastic obsession, the Congress is still the most acceptable national party. But time and again it fails to behave like one. The decision by the Law Ministry to recommend to the CBI to withdraw the Red Corner Notice against Ottavio Quattrocchi is the latest in a series of calculated moves by successive Congress governments to bury the Bofors case once and for all. But the timing couldn't be worse. It has brought the Bofors scandal, which was a complete non-issue at the beginning of this election season, front and centre. Various Congress spokepersons have been running from televised debates to press briefings, crying themselves hoarse that this latest decision has nothing to do with the Congress party or Madam Sonia and that various non-Congress governments have also not been able to bring the Bofors case to any sort of conclusion. But the fact remains that every single step taken to free Mr Quattrocchi from the clutches of Indian law has been taken during Congress rule, be it the defreezing of his London accounts or his much delayed and bungled up appeal for extradition in Argentina. And given that Mr Quattrocchi's connection with India is based entirely on his ties with Sonia Gandhi, its obvious where the pressure on the CBI comes from, whatever Abhishek Singhvi may say.
The BJP claim to be the only viable alternative to the Congress with pan national appeal. But the recent directive by the Supreme Court to probe Narendra Modi's role in the Gujarat riots is a slap in the face of those nationalistic ambitions. As long as the BJP believes they can get away with their rabid Hindutva politics as symbolized by Mr Modi they will have absolutely no chance of ever coming to power on their own. Obviously there is a need and space for a right wing conservative party in India's political spectrum. But not for one that denies basic fundamental rights to a section of our citizenry based on their religion. And definitely not for one that seeks to promote as a future Prime ministerial candidate, a man who failed to provide law and order during the worst genocide in Indian history; however much he may have worked for development thereafter.
Thus both these parties, have by their actions, opened the doors for the most lumpen elements of Indian politics to have a shot at power at the Centre. And given the current global scenario and India's slow but steady rise to a position of eminence in international affairs, a Third or Fourth front government ruled by the likes of Ms Mayawati or Mr Laloo Prasad is the last thing India needs.