Friday, April 22, 2011

Thank God... It's Hazare!

We all wanted something like Anna Hazare’s movement. We all wanted something like that to happen, though none of us wanted to do it ourselves. When none of us knew what to do, he found a way out. There was will, so there was way. I wonder if he took his inspiration from a wrong person like Chandrasekhar Rao the separatist politician. I know I am committing a sin by comparing these two gentlemen who have no commonality whatsoever. I don’t even know if it is fair to call one of them a gentleman. Anyways, my apologies for that!

When the whole of middle class India is rejoicing its success (it’s not just the success of Mr. Hazare, but of the entire frustrated Indian middle class), a number of politicos and others are voicing their opinions against the Gandhian’s approach. And, some smarter souls have started their smear campaign against him and his team mates as they have always been doing – just to stall the progress towards a corruption-free India, which would affect their bottom line. This is not the first time they do such thing. They are the masters in tackling their threats. This should be the biggest threat that they ever faced in their lifetime. Will they keep quiet?!

Starting with Omar Abdullah, who is considered to be one of the decent chief ministers of our time, every one that has a role in democracy has a question about Hazare’s approach. All of them are valid questions. There is no denying that their questions are valid, but I doubt their intentions.  How should they have handled this if they were really worried about the nation? If I was a clean politician with no wrong intentions, I would have first appreciated Mr. Hazare for what he has done despite being a simple non-political individual and then talked about the problems in his approach at some other time.

If it is so disturbing and I can’t reserve it for some other time, even then I would have appreciated Mr. Hazare and then said why it is not a good precedent and why others should not use this approach for all their problems in future. I would have spent days together explaining why Chandrasekhar Raos (even if his demand is justified) and Hazares are not the same, because politicians anyway have plenty of time to spend explaining and justifying what they do to their people.

Having said that, we should also admit that there are some sincere souls that have the same questions. For their sake, let’s be open to their questions and for a discussion. OK. Now… what is their biggest question of the moment?

This is undemocratic. What if everyone in the country starts blackmailing the government like this in future? Even for selfish, anti-national and anti-democratic demands!

A common man’s answer is – “I don’t care.”.

“I don’t understand whether democracy is the best model or something better than that exists anywhere. All I want is a clean system. If that is possible only in an undemocratic model or approach then I would love that more than democracy. I have no reason to love anything blindly. It is not my invention or my grandfather’s. I am not benefited directly by it unlike some great grandfather’s great grandchildren. It’s the headache of those who advocate democracy – who want to keep it alive at all costs – at the cost of billion lives. I am okay with revolution if it could get rid of my problems. This country with its huge size and all its complexities is not conducive for a revolution. If I dream of it, I am sure I would die without seeing that in reality like all our communist grandfathers did.”.

However, though it is not my responsibility (at this point, you should visualize the face of a street-smart colleague who always highlights every silly extra thing he does just for the sake of highlighting it!), I can go an extra mile for the benefit of my democracy-crazy politician friends, who don’t want to waste their brainpower on not-so-critical issues like this.

Here are the options that the Governments have in front of them:
1.      The Government can ignore those who fast for wrong demands and allow them to die. This has a risk of losing people’s support in the next election, but if you respect the individual’s demand and meet it, you might still lose more people’s support. This dilemma is exactly what is killing Congress in Telengana. But, what our Governments and leaders have to realize is that governance is not cakewalk any more. They are there to solve our difficult problems. Even a manager who handles a small function in a private company has difficult problems to solve. Then why not these highly powerful – overly respected people?

2.      I am not sure if such a bill is already there. If not, they can pass a bill strictly prohibiting such fasts in future. They will have to jail everyone that sits to fast unto death and forcefully feed them unto death. Seeing this live on 24X7 news channels, no one would ever dare to do it again. But, even this would gain negative publicity to Governments if people like Hazare do it for attractive causes like what he did now.

3.      The third option is a mixed one – like situational leadership. One should use judgment here. What is reasonable and what would gain quick popularity with people have to be accepted and other demands should be ignored. If it is just a popular demand and not very reasonable, the demand should not be accepted and a team of retired judges should be nominated to look into the issue and come out with a report before or after the death of the demand or the demander. I think, we are more or less falling in this category now.

4.      Fourth one seems to be the simplest option. Governments and people in high offices could be little more sincere and little more accountable to their people so that nobody would ever have a reason to fast unto death. This is what I expect from our Indian leaders. If they can’t, what would happen is, one by one, frustrated youth in jungles will take arms in their hand. And then it would spread to the nearby towns. And then they would together take the law in their hand. And then it would spread to even the corporate world. And then they would together take the land itself in their hand. Then what will happen? Those who wanted to keep democracy alive won’t be alive themselves. Nor will their democracy!

Accepting or not accepting Telengana demand would have only cost them a state government. If they had not accepted Hazare’s demands, I am 200% sure – it would have cost them the central government itself sooner or later. So, as usual, Congress has played its game well. They have willingly lost it this time knowing that they would have a bigger loss if they try to win.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Old is Gold! New is?

Every time
I hear the songs of the soil
They make me go mad
I feel like dancing
In the center of the streets

The drum sound
Heard in childhood
The anklet sound
Of all forms of traditional dance
Discordant voices
Of folk singers
All of these
Make me nostalgic

The old songs
I hear partly
Closing the ears
In cold breeze
During night travels
Make me crazy

Even then
I am not convinced
With the complaint
Old is cooler than new

Old is gold
It's cold, too

Old is always great
Even that was new once
And it came before the new

Even that is a kind of gratitude
Does it become
Slavery at times?

I am not okay
With only old being gold

Just like
Saying only new is kewl...

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Courage and Its Cousin

Two earliest virtues that went into my mind very strongly in childhood are courage and honesty. To put it simple – “don’t fear” and “don’t lie”. But, I did learn later about fearing the fearful and lying for good – like all of you did.

“Courage is not the absence of fear but conquering it”, they say. I think, most of our courage is only the absence of fear. Rather, it is the result of our failure to think of the worst – to think of what thoughtless courage could land us in. The courage that we have been having from childhood is also one such thing. We are courageous because we don’t know what would happen if we don’t fear the fearful.

We don’t know that fire burns until we experience it first time or see someone else experience it or hear from someone (who has experienced it or seen it or heard it). Eventually we all learn to fear certain things out of experience (for a moment let’s ignore those who don’t do that even after enough experiences).

Courage, like many other virtues, is another misunderstood concept. Picking up fights with strangers in public is such courage. Getting into something without adequate preparation is such courage. Failing to gauge risks properly is out of such courage. Every anti-social element is an owner of such courage. All those who are behind bars today were born or brought up with such courage.

Courage is not just about winning every time, but is also about losing the right games. That’s when enemy loses focus. Crouching tigers are the most courageous creatures. You don’t have to sprint from the beginning in a marathon. You may have no energy left in the end. This is where tortoises win over rabbits. Losing a league match could be a strategy to win a knock-out match later.

Likewise, aggressiveness (the close cousin of courage) is okay as long as we stay in our comfort zone. When we come out to unknown places it becomes a problem. Thoughtless aggression with everyone only lands us in trouble. After getting into too many such troubles, I decided to stop being aggressive with aggressive people. :)

Although it was initially very tough to stomach failures of submitting to the mighty, I realized that submissive reactions did give me more peace of mind and more time to do better things eventually. To both the parties! Then I fell in love with the virtue of flexibility. Submissive behavior in glorified terms!

I remember the first Saturday as college student when an elder told me “standing up for what you think is right is a great character, but if you want to be peaceful in life, you have to bend in places where it is required and you have to salute people who expect it.”. It very clearly went into my head at that young age and the personality makeover started happening from that moment. From then on, every event and comment that I came across around aggressiveness versus flexibility attracted me and consumed a lot of my time in thinking about it at length.

Finally, when I met a friend who was more courageous and resolute than me in heart but very flexible in actions, I had to submit. I realized then that flexibility could earn more rewards than standing up straight for what we think is right. Because, when you stand up for the right, there is always a victim and you make an enemy every time. It’s just human to be on the wrong side at times, more so because what we think need not be the right thing always.

So, by standing up too often for silly issues, you end-up creating too many enemies and that gets all your roads filled with obstacles - stones, thorns and at times land mines. Then what would you achieve at the end of the day? Where will your energy and focus be spent? In achieving the end result or in managing the enemies and clearing off the obstacles thrown and planted by them?

That forced me to bring in some focus in life. Instead of fighting for everything that we think is right, it is better to narrow down on the most important things for which all the energy could be spent in fighting. If you want to achieve all your major goals, you have to compromise on smaller things. If you want bigger things like house and car, you have to compromise on weekly shoppings and weekend parties. Makes sense?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Chief Ministers - Who is the Best?

Who is the best chief minister in India?

It’s always interesting to talk about top tens, top fives, the bests and the worsts. It makes the job of evaluation easier. Even in appraisals, our bosses rate us based on comparison only, although they say not to compare when we do that and go back to them for justice (!). It makes the analysis interesting and it would help us also identify what makes someone the best or the worst. It’s like reverse engineering. While you identify the best or worst based on few parameters, you also get an opportunity to better understand the parameters that make them so. It also helps us shut up people who give reasons (actually excuses) for not doing something that someone else is able to do in the same role. For example, if someone says it is not at all possible to be a politician and not corrupt when we criticize a corrupt rogue, with this kind of analysis, we can easily show someone who is able to run an able government without being corrupt.

The moment that question came to my mind, the names that quickly popped up are Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar, Omar Abdullah and Sheila Dixit. And, I should be a mentally retarded fellow to think of anyone from Tamil Nadu in the last forty years. May be, if it’s for the worst, I can proudly nominate them along with Mayawati and many more crooks. After Mr. Kamaraj, the one who was regarded as the best in the country during his time, everyone else that came has been horrible in Tamil Nadu.

When I did a Google search with that question, I saw that almost everyone was saying Narendra Modi. The ones that come next are Nitish Kumar and Sheila Dixit. Omar Abdullah comes to my mind because I have been watching him for a long time with some kind of admiration. Not to forget, the two communist chief ministers Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Achuthanandan are surely on top two if I just look at cleanliness in politics, which is surely a basic requirement to be in public life. But, that is not all. They haven’t done anything great to their states. They haven’t even done what some of their corrupt counterparts have done in other states. It’s not their fault. Until someone proves it wrong, I would say communist governments in democracy have failed. At the same time, there are also talks that the communists are not as clean as they used to be some time back. Even in Kerala it has become very common to see communist ministers demand commissions for everything like their corrupt cousins in the neighboring states do.

Despite being one of the most hated politicos by some segments of the society, if everyone says Narendra Modi is the best chief minister in the country, then there should be something in him. Giving a fair chance to his critics, this is what we would hear against him – “English-speaking – internet-savvy – upper class people are generally fancied by the idea of hardcore Hindutva, so there is nothing to get surprised when they admire someone who is seen as so much anti-Muslim.”. But, as I had written some time back in an exclusive post about Modi, in recent times, there are also stories of how he has started attracting Muslims also in Gujarat, though it would take some time for him to attract the Muslims in other parts of the country. It’s not so easy to forget the lives that were lost in the communal riots, but if we just consider the administration abilities and corruption-free governance that he is giving in a country full of scams and corruption stories, I think, he would surely come in No.1 or 2. Even those who hate him are not able to level any corruption charges against him or blame him for poor governance. When Tamil Nadu could be fooled with freebies like color televisions the same thing could not succeed in Gujarat so easily. Despite giving such promises, Congress was routed in Gujarat because of the single factor called Modi. Because, he had shown to his people what good governance really was. I don’t think there is any threat to his position throughout his lifetime as long as he continues to give this sort of good governance and ensures there is no another Godhra and post-Godhra.

In my opinion, Nitish Kumar scores better than Modi on two counts. What are they? One, Nitish Kumar doesn’t have the communal stain that Modi has. He is more inclusive. He doesn’t have any hatred towards any particular group of people based on their caste, religion or language. The next thing is that the state that Modi took over from his predecessor was already in a good condition scoring high on almost all parameters, whereas when Nitish took over Bihar, it was nothing more than a jungle. There was absolutely no governance. Lawlessness was Omni-present. He had to civilize his people first in the first term and then think of development. Now Bihar is well on its development track. May be, it is still not completely corruption-free like Gujarat, but it is not that easy. If Gujarat came from 60 to 90, Bihar had to come from 0 to 40 or from -90 to 0 first and then from 0 to 40. So that way I think Nitish should be No. 1. But, what I also heard is that, even he is not able to control the corrupt subordinates and clean-up the bureaucracy as fast as he wanted to. If he is not able to show good progress in this term he might be in trouble in the next election.

I haven’t heard much about Sheila Dixit. But, in any survey, she comes in one of the top few positions. When I tried to find out what she has done other than winning three consecutive elections, this is what I got to know. She has been development-oriented all along. She has very clean image though all others that got involved in CWG chaos were corrupt and screwed it up. Her administration is one of the best in the country. I still think she is not great because the area that she manages is very small though it has its own challenges. It’s easier to manage such a big city than a state that has a mix of all sorts of unmanageable geographies, because there is some sort of civic spirit in cities whereas the rural fellows don’t even know what they want from their government. Governance or management of anything is easier when you know the expectations from you and you have enough resources to achieve them. Cities like Delhi have both. But, when you manage states of bigger size with higher complexity, there is neither clear expectation nor are there required resources. There, people just think it is only color televisions that the government has to give them.

Omar Abdullah, I thought, was a potential next generation leader and he could play a great role in shaping up this nation. Unfortunately, he didn’t succeed well in his current role. May be, he is not good to be in state-level politics. It doesn’t suit his personality. He could be more successful in peace than in war. Performance shouldn’t be the only factor to judge one’s abilities at all times. There are other factors that change the course in unexpected ways. I was impressed with the way he presented himself. I thought he was shrewd. But, I also learned that that’s not enough in politics. You also have to be a leader of masses, for which you have to spend a great amount of time being with them, which apparently he didn’t do. May be, I am not sure though, a manipulative guy like Lalu would have done a better job in that position. He should better adapt to the demands of his current role if he wants to play a larger role later. I wouldn’t say he is No. 3 or 4, but he is someone that has the potential to be there.

Being a Bangalorean, I have to say how my chief minister Mr. Yeddy fares, though I don’t have to be compelled to put him on top of the list just by the virtue of being in the state governed by him. He looked promising for some time initially but has gone horrible now. I think, he is not strong enough to remain good against all odds. To put it very mild, I would say, he has got used to the system or he has allowed the system to corrupt him. BJP doesn’t have any charismatic leader to succeed him here. Now, I would say, Karnataka is in a kind of leadership crisis (not worse than Tamil Nadu though). From Congress perspective, S M Krishna should come back to state politics to make it little better if not great. Gowda family… I am so sorry – I don’t even like using some names in conversations.


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