Dump the wrong cultural models of corporate governance

Culture matters in every sphere of society. Whether politics or corporate administration. Whatever the cultural traits of a particular society is reflected in the functioning of other branches of the society. India is more deep rooted in the traditional culture yet confusedly addicted to the Western culture. Due to this paradox it faces a chain of problems in all arenas of the society. The fungus and virus which are infecting the Indian society needs to be uprooted. The process also need to protect the Indian systems from the evils of Western model of development. Over celebration of the Western system and giving it a clean chit is very myopic and factually negative way of painting the development sector. The Western world is also full of flaws. What is required is a new and clean model of development. Whoever develops it needs to be practiced.

R. Gopalkrishnan writes in The Economic Times on 3 May 2010,

Urban middle class Indians think in English but act in Indian . For example, flexibility and compromise is very Indian. Nee katru, naan maram, yenna sonaalum, thalai aattuven (you are the breeze, I am the tree, my head will sway whichever way you blow), sang Hariharan in the 1998 Tamil film Nilaave Vaa.

Praising to persuade is quite Indian. Hanuman allowed himself to be captured so that he could deliver Rama’s message personally to Ravana. Everyone in the Lanka court wanted Hanuman executed. Only Vibhishana interceded by first praising Ravana and only thereafter suggested a lesser punishment.

Judging through background and appearance is Indian. Urban middle class Indians think that educated Indians (like them) who speak English are likely to be more reliable than their vernacular counterparts. The truth is that unless the raja and leaders are honest, the praja will not be honest.

In the Mahabharata, Duryodhana said, “Contentment and patience, though the virtues of ordinary men, are not virtues in kings.” With that pompous statement, he invited Shakuni to deploy his wiles at his court leading to the battle of Kurukshetra. Why culture matters: Culture matters in many things, including in corporate governance.

The Indian practice need not be completely different from the west, but it must embed cultural influence. The western mind is shaped by the Greek philosophical tradition of analysis, linearity and abhorrence of ambiguity. It believes in a unitary sense of right and wrong and lays great emphasis on meritocracy.

On the other hand, the Indian mindset represents integrative and perambulatory thinking with a great tolerance for ambiguity . Nothing is black or white, everything is shades of grey. Merit is important, but so are age, connections and lineage. These show up in many ways:

Alan Greenspan was Fed Governor in the US till 2006, just before the meltdown. In his book, Greenspan viewed instability analytically and wrote, “Regulation, by its nature, inhibits freedom of market action, and that freedom is what rebalances markets… I fail to see how adding more government action can help.” Dr Y V Reddy was India’s central bank governor.

He viewed the undefined issues of instability intuitively and wrote, “The challenge shifted from managing the successful integration of the Indian economy with the global economy to managing the impact of the global crisis on India.” Very different ways of seeing the same thing.

Indian events are a Grand Spectacle where a few are doers; a few more are lurkers, while many are watchers. For example, think of the doers, lurkers and watchers at our airport security, at a district government office or at an Indian wedding. Even cricket fits the doer-lurker-watcher pattern: four doers, 18 lurkers, and thousands of watchers!

Although the Mughal Empire had long spent its course by 1857, when the soldiers of the Gangetic plains wanted a leader for their movement, they agreed on an illogical choice: the defunct Bahadur Shah Zafar. Dynastic choice was thought to be less unacceptable than a merit-based choice.

Why institutions matter: Politics and government are poor examples of governance. The government is a poor custodian of public assets.

In a recent case at the Panaji bench of the Bombay High Court, the local government lawyer unabashedly stated that “the ants had eaten up 24 kg of charas from the official godown where the government had stored the charas seized from drug traffickers .” The drug racket by local public functionaries is not Goa’s best-kept secret!

Political leaders preach corporate governance , but are silent about political governance . Party accounts are never published, let alone quarterly or being audited by rotating auditors. Parties expect Anglo-American corporate governance but practise Indian political governance.

A few years ago, the government sold a majority shareholding in a PSU through an open process; the concerned minister was unhappy about the buyer and he expressed his unhappiness in several ways. Memorably , he wagged his finger that he would not allow the buyer to implement changes as it was ‘his money’. The 26% owner was warning the 45% owner that he would thwart attempts to change! And he got away with it.

The high-handed behaviour of some government directors on PSU boards and indeed the very functioning of many PSU boards set a poor example to the private sector. The message is right, but the messengers are not credible. How do we live with such contradictions?

It may be because of an awe of rulers. For 25 of the last 30 centuries, citizens’ local issues were sorted out by local panchayats. The ruler or king was a remote person, even thought to be God. Be it the Mysore Dussera Festival or the Nizam of Hyderabad, royalty has always been awesome to common folk.

May be that is why industrial captains are in awe of leaders either or may be for reasons of enlightened self-interest . Exceptions apart, many corporate leaders subconsciously adopt a subservient role in their interaction with ministers.

Politics and business share some things: dynastic leadership, confounding arrangements , one-upmanship and disdain for rules at higher levels. There is a further implicit connection between politics and business. Politicians used to view business as an akshaya patra for funds.

As deregulation denuded the akshaya patra, politicians themselves entered business with benamiidentities — as suggested by the ownership of IPL cricket — the mushrooming higher education colleges and private airlines. Though most politicians avoid garlands of currency notes publicly, they do possess enough currency to make many garlands!

While government pretends to govern, influential citizens pretend to obey them. Highly-connected offenders roam freely with the attitude that they can expose others or that the law is corruptible and inefficient, so nothing can happen to me.

In the US, allegations of the misuse of corporate funds or insider trading, like with Vinod Gupta or Anil Kumar, are brought to speedy conclusions. India cannot emulate this despite adopting the American corporate governance principles.

Like other institutions of democracy, the corporate sector too is flawed. The relationship between shareholder democracy, authoritarian leadership and company growth is not linear and it defies a neat mapping. Some thoughts: I am not sure how, but corporate governance practices need to be tweaked from being precise and prescriptive to being directional and intuitive.

Investors and independent directors should watch behaviour, not only compliance. A structural weakness in India is the poor performance of the institutional shareholders . They need training and encouragement.

They must focus on honesty of purpose and intent rather than just on the rules and regulations. The hard truth is that if the owner, CEO and CFO conspire, no corporate governance system can work. You can arrest the auditor and jail the director, but that will not prevent the next incident where evil intent is present. The Satyam case is the best evidence of this.

The giveaways of bad governance lie in behaviour. Pratip Kar, while at Tata Management Training Centre, showed that one or more of five signals from the C-Suite provide early warning: constantly being applauded by the media as being visionary and daring; displaying excessively risky but exciting ambitions ; showing high connections and lifestyle ; being hubristic and egoistic; being surrounded by ‘non-smelly’ individuals, yet appearing ‘smelly’ .

As former Sebi chief M Damodaran has said, Indian executives regard the boss or the promoter as the karta of the Hindu Undivided Family. The promoter is the ultimate. The top leadership may have managers who kiss up and kick down; who are eager to please the boss. These are telltale signals that need to be considered by intelligent investors.

Review related party transactions with care like a Lakshman Rekha. All related party transactions are not bad or suspicious. But this is the line that is normally breached to achieve differential enrichment . Just as Lakshman drew the line for Sita for her protection, independent directors should regard related party transactions as the watch-line for shareholders and be very alert in an intuitive way.

Independent directors need to be emotionally accountable to minority shareholders. Independent directors represent the interests of minority shareholders. They are elected by the shareholders. The role of the lead director can be strengthened and the lead director should feel accountable for initiating steps to protect minority interests. He can be answerable in writing or in person where necessary.

Focus the rule book on what a board cannot do. There are too many regulators and rules, but too little regulation. Corporate governance rules describe in minute detail how a board is to be composed and all that a board has to do.

In sports, the rule book tells you what you cannot do, and the rules are, therefore, simple. In football, you cannot touch the ball with the hand, you cannot physically push the opposing player and you cannot be ahead of the last opposing player (other than the goalkeeper) before receiving a pass to shoot for the goalpost.

Western intellectuals are reviewing their own model. Sir David Walker, the senior guru of UK’s corporate governance, has wondered whether the western system should be copied by the developing world because the eastern model seems to have advantages.

Magdalene College senior research fellow, Stefan Halper, has wondered in his new book The Beijing Consensus whether the market authoritarianism of the east has some virtue. I wonder whether India needs a modified kind of corporate governance rule book.

Return of Violent Politics

ritaThe UPCC chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi’s below par statement is highly condemnable. Equally censorable is Mayawati’s harsh words against Mahatma few weeks ago. But the former’s house got torcher but the latter went scoot free. Anyway after one and half decades of peaceful politics India seems to be returning to the violent era. Along with the Lucknow episode, Congress violence in West Bengal signals this phase. It is highly worrisome.

The Times of India writes (17 July 2009)

An insensitive and condemnable remark by UP Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi has BSP chief and state chief minister Mayawati hopping mad. The
Congress leader has been booked under the SC&ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and her house in Lucknow was torched allegedly by BSP cadre. Mayawati has refused to accept Bahuguna’s claim that her remark was taken out of context. Bahuguna was wrong to reduce rape to a rhetorical debate regarding compensation and drag Mayawati’s name into it, but the UP chief minister’s over-the-top response smacks of vindictiveness. Mayawati must graciously accept Bahuguna’s public apology and arrest the arsonists instead.

The BSP chief has sought to interpret Bahuguna’s remark as an insult to Dalits and representative of a Congress mindset towards the community. Clearly, Mayawati wants to make the incident a political issue and consolidate her Dalit support base, which in recent times has been wooed by the Congress. The Congress, with Rahul Gandhi as its face, has been trying hard to regain its erstwhile Dalit vote base, especially in UP where they constitute nearly 20 per cent of the population. In the recent Parliament elections, the Congress saw a revival in the state. Its seat tally went up from nine in 2004 to 21. However, the BSP, hoping for a repeat of the 2007 assembly elections which it had won, did not do as well as expected: the party won only 20 seats and its vote share fell from 30.5 per cent in 2007 to 27 per cent in 2009.

The aggressive response to Bahuguna’s speech may, or may not, help BSP consolidate its Dalit base. But a polarisation will not allow the BSP to further its sarvajan politics. Sure, the attempt to build a rainbow coalition of Brahmins, Dalits and few other castes may not have helped the BSP in the Lok Sabha elections. Such caste coalitions are bound to unravel sooner rather than later if not backed by good administration. Mayawati must realise that the Congress didn’t gain in UP by positing an alternative caste alliance to the BSP. It won votes on a development agenda.

The BSP should take the cue from the Congress and reinvent itself as a party of governance. Mayawati needs to protect the social and economic interests of Dalits in UP but she must not forget that as chief minister her job is to ensure the social and economic development of the whole state. That’s the way forward for the BSP if it wants to establish itself as a serious player in national politics.

Innovative Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad

india_fat_babyThe union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is bubbling with unexplored ideas to control population growth. His suggestion to postpone the marriage age and encourage television viewing in rural areas to control frequents sex are laughable. Hope he won’t push the nation to the western lifestyles which is regretting now.

The Times of India writes (18 July 2009)

Going by what Ghulam Nabi Azad said on World Population Day, the idiot box isn’t idiotic at all. If the rates of reproduction of TV sets head
north courtesy village electrification, human reproductive rates could head south. For, amorous couples would watch late-night shows instead of making babies. That’s what you call an idea pregnant with possibilities. Power in every rural household may breed couch potatoes with suppressed libidos, but look at the bigger picture on the small screen. A one-billion-strong nation can avoid a population explosion. Poverty, inflation and crime can be vanquished. Why, as Azad suggests, Naxalites can be bloodlessly routed. Who could conceivably hope to sell misguided revolution to swelling rural masses of nocturnal TV addicts, late bloom of our healthy consumerism?

India’s health and family welfare minister wasn’t kidding when he said TV could reduce “80 per cent of population growth”. Indeed, think of what could be achieved by busting potential baby booms through a profitable public-private partnership. When duly incentivised idiot box sales soar in a fast-electrified countryside where demand is buoyant, precipitous population decline would spur GDP growth, much to fast-growing China’s chagrin. Plus we’d score over China’s coercive one-child policy pushers. Our family planning mission would be infinitely superior, promoting voluntary use of televisual contraceptives. In any case, international research says TV’s good for rural women, saas-bahu rona-dhona notwithstanding. Those with cable access have been found to resist spousal pressure to keep trying till they produce a male child. Admit it: Azad makes more horse sense by the minute.

The minister also wants people “awarded” for marrying late and putting off changing diapers till 30-31 years, a grand old age compared to India’s early-stork norm. Accordingly, he publicly awarded a 12-year-old said to have refused wedlock. That’ll win Azad a huge fan in Sharad Yadav. The JD(U) leader wants the hit TV soap ‘Balika Vadhu’ banned for its ‘unconstitutional’ theme of child marriage. Contrary to what it seems, however, creative artistes have escaped lightly. Of all the ‘unconstitutional’ things treason, murder, arson, dacoity, human trafficking routinely depicted on screen, Yadav wants artistic licence denied only to portrayers of toon betrothals.

Equally motivated by child welfare, Maharashtra authorities sometime ago wanted kiddies out of TV shows infringing child labour laws. Well, tiny tots may soon find themselves unemployed anyway. If TV viewers’ patriotism gets fired by Azad’s birth control brainwave, they might want more adult fare than ‘Chak De Bachche’ to compensate for night-time celibacy. Talking of entertainment suited to people of consenting age, the irrepressible Rakhi Sawant might be asked to do her bit for the country. She’s providentially in the middle of an interminable reality-TV swayamvar. The agonising suspense of who’ll win the finicky lady in the marriage sweepstakes is enough to make TV viewers forget about their procreative urges.

Infighting in CPI(M)

achuthanandan_pinayari248The ideological and practical confusions among the Indian communists have completely isolated them from the masses. The just concluded Lok Sabha election had proved that the people have rejected them electorally and given the Left body blow by giving them historically lowest tally in the Lower house. The infighting and dubious handling by the politiburo by sideing with the culprits is going to erode the communists forever from the Indian political scene.

The Times of India writes (15 July 2009)

These are not the best of times for the CPM. Its parliamentary strength is at the lowest since the party’s formation in 1964. The leadership is  divided over the factors that led to the massive defeat in the 2009 polls and the remedial actions needed to regain the confidence of voters. The confusion at the top has manifested itself in the ad hoc measures taken by the party’s central leadership to address factionalism within its Kerala unit.

The fight between two groups, one headed by the state party secretary, Pinarayi Vijayan, and the other by the chief minister, V S Achuthanandan, has paralysed administration in the state and contributed to the Left Front’s defeat in the Lok Sabha polls. However, the steps announced by the CPM central leadership are unlikely to improve matters within the party or in the state administration. This week, the CPM, after an unusual two-day session to discuss factionalism in Kerala, chose to expel VS, a founding leader of the organisation, from the party’s highest decision-making body, the politburo. However, Vijayan has been allowed to continue as state chief even though he faces a CBI case over his alleged role in the multi-crore SNC Lavalin corruption case. A truce between the two factions seems unlikely, which will be a drag on governance.

It is strange that a party should penalise a member but want him to head its government. It is equally rare for the CPM, which emphasises probity in public office, to defend a leader facing corruption charges at the risk of dividing the party and alienating sympathisers. The only possible explanation is the Machiavellian logic that while VS is relatively more popular than Vijayan, the latter has control of the party. That the CPM leadership prejudged the case against Vijayan and gave him a clean chit has complicated matters. The party failed to convincingly argue its position and defend its leader without obstructing the investigation. It lost credibility over the Lavalin controversy and that was a major factor in its electoral loss. Now, the party leadership finds it awkward even to ask Vijayan to step down till the case is concluded.

By so blatantly favouring one faction, whose leader is an accused in a corruption case, the party’s central leadership has gone against its own interests. While the Left’s withdrawal of support from the UPA government was packaged as an act of morality and ideological purity, it will be hard to maintain that appearance in the face of the expulsion of VS. Prakash Karat, general secretary of the CPM, was the key mover behind both those decisions. His authority is bound to be eroded when the party comes face to face with their consequences

Mayawati Mend Your Rule

BSP-Mayawati-Kumari-Rally-007Madness has crossed all levels in the head of Mayawati. without this symptom she cannot be building statues of her own, Kanshiram and elephant all over Uttar Pradesh. Not only she is wasting the public money but also the golden opportunity provided by the voters of her state to a “Dalit ki bheti” to rule the country’s biggest state. If she is not going to change her governing style by mending ways, BSP will be routed in the next assembly elections. The first jerk was given in the concluded Lok Sabha elections.

The Hindu editorial writes (3 July 2009)

The Supreme Court’s notice to the Mayawati government for its spending on memorials and statues, drawing heavily from the Uttar Pradesh State exchequer brings welcome public scrutiny to an emphasis that has attracted considerable controversy. Constructing memorials for Dalit icons has long been an article of faith with the Bahujan Samaj Party, with the Chief Minister according high priority to it in all three of her earlier tenures. Yet thanks to her image as an able administrator enforcing discipline and bringing a sense of purpose to governance, the memorial building drive received little public attention. But in contrast, Ms Mayawati’s fourth term as Chief Minister has been shadowed by controversy even as she is criticised for what is seen as an obsession with statue and memorial building. In the two years since Ms Mayawati assumed office, the BSP government has not only acquired hundreds of acres of fresh land in the name of memorial construction, but also ordered the reconstruction of many projects already completed. A Public Interest Litigation petition, in response to which the Supreme Court has acted, alleged an expenditure of Rs.2,000 crore on the constructions, among them a memorial each of Babasaheb Ambekdar and Kanshi Ram and dozens of statues of Dalit icons, including of Ms Mayawati herself.

The U.P. government justified the constructions in court, citing the example of the Nehru Memorial Centre in New Delhi. The comparison is dubious. The Nehru memorial is a leading centre of research in social sciences and houses one of the finest libraries in India. The point of stressing this difference is not to belittle Ambedkar or Kanshi Ram but to underscore the greatness of the two men. Ambedkar was a leading visionary who gave India its Constitution. Kanshi Ram took the Dalit movement to iconic heights. But the excesses currently on display in Lucknow and other U.P. towns only serve to detract from their phenomenal achievements. In May 2007, Ms Mayawati exceeded the wildest expectations to form U.P’s first majority government in 16 years. Regrettably, by 2009, she appeared to have squandered the goodwill, with her party finishing third behind the Samajwadi Party and the Congress in the Lok Sabha election. It was 14 years ago that Ms Mayawati brought a strong sense of empowerment to a community grievously wronged by history. It is her historic task to ensure that the collective sense of empowerment is consolidated through programmes designed to increase the social and economic clout of this historically deprived community. Ms Mayawati must remember that her voters will feel truly empowered only when she goes beyond the politics of symbolism.

BJP Abandon Minority Bashing and Adopt Sincerity

bjp-4409313Politics means publicity and selfishness. The BJP was a different party decade ago. Now after tasting power in the centre and few states it has bred many selfish leaders who are keen to score points to achieve their own mobility. At this cross road it should allow some people inside the party to hijack. It should bring back its sincerity and honesty to serve the public. The minority bashing should be abandoned and inner party reforms should be fully implemented. Without these there is no scope for BJP in the future.

The Hindu editorial writes (24 June 2009)

The Bharatiya Janata Party went into its two-day national executive meet — the first since its defeat in the 15th general election — as a bitterly divided house but emerged from it in somewhat better spirits and shape. The situation was redeemed by a near-consensus on redefining Hindutva as an ‘inclusive, tolerant’ ideology suited to modern, changing India. The meet expressed itself against the virulent brand espoused by Varun Gandhi, with some members virtually scapegoating the Philibhit speeches for the BJP’s poor performance in Uttar Pradesh. The shift to lower-key Hindutva was led by Lal Krishna Advani, the veteran of many campaigns and the ideologue of the BJP’s ‘cultural nationalism.’ In his valedictory address, he declared that the party could not and would not accept “any narrow, bigoted anti-Muslim interpretation of Hindutva.” The Advani imprint was also visible in the political resolution’s characterisation of “theocracy or any form of bigotry” as “alien to our ethos.” The part-positive, part-stoic note struck at the conclusion of the meet helped mitigate the impression that the BJP was on an irreversible descent into chaos.

After all, the internecine war that saw a group of formerly powerful members trading accusations and shooting off letters charging the leadership with a lack of accountability, favouritism, and what not had left little to the imagination. BJP president Rajnath Singh’s opening remarks at the national executive meet further muddied the waters. He reiterated the party’s commitment to Hindutva, underlining the core issues of the Ram temple, Article 370, and a Uniform Civil Code. This combined with Maneka Gandhi’s stout defence of son Varun — she was quoted as saying Muslims did not vote for the party anyway — raised the question: was the party heading back to its unapologetic Jana Sangh days? The answer came in the form of loud protests: State leaders such as Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Sushil Modi argued that in Madhya Pradesh as in Bihar the party had successfully practised a ‘more inclusive’ politics. The BJP’s Muslim face, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, added his weight to the proposition, and finally Mr. Advani himself offered a sharp counterview to Mr. Rajnath Singh’s ‘back to the basics’ speech. Nobody of course seriously expects the party of Hindutva to change its nature, although it does not lack the skill to paint over its spots. It is too early to say whether the new line will find favour with the BJP’s rank and file — or for that matter with the party’s minder in Jhandewalan. But Mr. Advani, who in this hour of crisis has displayed the fortitude and shrewdness of a redoubtable defeated general, can be satisfied that he has given it his best shot.

Stock Taking the Election

elections

In every election political parties and leaders promise betterment of aam aadmi’s life. On the contradictory it worsens. This general election is not going to be different. Although there a pot full of poll promises it is going to be empty ones. We need new energy and vision for rejuvenating the nation.

Risabh Bhandari writes in the Times of India, 11 May 2009,

The general election for the 15th Lok Sabha unfolded with a customary hullabaloo expected of it. Sloganeering politicians, quixotic campaigns and maverick pronouncements have all contributed to a burlesque extravaganza intended to enthuse or even entertain the electorate. Meanwhile, psephologists and astrologers alike speculate feverishly over the results. Yet irrespective of the next administration’s shape, there’s no escaping the enormous challenges that await it. And prime among these will be tackling India’s worsening fiscal deficit.

Earlier this year, the financial services firm Goldman Sachs noted that India’s fiscal deficit, including the Centre and states, ranked among the highest in the world and was likely to exceed 10 per cent of GDP in the current fiscal year. The sums involved are staggering. In the interim budget presented in February, the government admitted that in 2008-09, the deficit at the Centre had swelled from an initial estimate of Rs 1,33,287 crore (2.5 per cent of GDP) to the boggling reality of Rs 3,26, 515 crore (6 per cent of GDP). As a consequence of this profligacy, the prudential obligations imposed by the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act had to be ‘relaxed’.

The real question posed by such stupendous borrowing is whether this political addiction to debt is sustainable in the long run. Who should be especially concerned? The middle class on whom the brunt of repayment will fall through taxes certainly ought to be. It’s time they began asking some hard questions of their elected representatives.

At a time when the global financial crisis has left governments elsewhere in the world bracing themselves for a post-fiscal stimulus era of austerity with public spending freezes and an overdue return to prudent book-keeping, what’s noticeable in this general election is that neither the BJP nor the Congress have articulated a coherent response on this front. Instead, both parties have preferred to side-step issues relating to detail in favour of regurgitating pious humbug.

Their respective manifestos are far from illuminating. With a fine sense of historical irony, the Congress manifesto declares that the party “promises what it can do and will do what it promises”. It extols flagship expenditure initiatives over the last five years including the NREGS and the Rs 65,000 crore farmers’ loan waiver scheme, inviting voters to believe in their efficiency as an article of faith and tempting them to forget the many reports of systemic leakages and operational failure. A list of well-intentioned expenditure schemes for the next five years is outlined. But in typical fashion, no details on funding are offered. The inconvenient truth that these will have to be paid for somehow is overlooked entirely.

Yet if the Congress manifesto can be faulted for its uncosted assumptions, can the BJP manifesto be far behind? After a frightfully tedious lament for India’s past, the BJP manifesto turns to the present day by promising “massive investments” and listing some proposals without bothering to address costs. On the one hand, it fulminates against the Congress party’s reckless spending. But on the other hand, it also advances plans of its own which resemble much the same. For instance, the party affirms its intention to waive agricultural loans but doesn’t spell out where the moneyfor this will come from. Neither does it indicate whether it will be prepared to rethink or even revoke existing Congress spending plans where it disagrees with them. For all its criticisms of the NREGS, the BJP balks at taking a specific policy stance in relation to it. That indecision or timidity comes through quite clearly.

The unacknowledged truth is that the next government will not have the luxury of choice that its predecessor had. An era of high economic growth and revenue buoyancy allowed the Congress party to spend unheeded as it fancied. But that time has passed. Contracting growth and diminishing revenues mean that public expenditure will come under strain. Neither the Congress nor the BJP have alluded to this inevitability. If the intention is to carry on borrowing, it has not been disclosed. This reluctance is driven by the populist exigencies of an election campaign. But it places too low a premium on a voter’s intelligence and this opacity diminishes public life.

At a deeper philosophical level, the issue is that both parties remain wedded to the idea of state control. It is now generally assumed that the onset of liberalisation in the early 1990s marked a fundamental reorientation in Indian politics. Liberalisation came to India not as the apogee of an intellectual movement but merely through the nadir of necessity. It has not supplanted the Congress party’s essential instinct for centralism and intervention. Nor has it led the BJP to an alternative vision of localism, individual autonomy and smaller government.

Nevertheless, despite such ideological misgivings, the reality is that the next government will have to curb expenditure to effect a much-needed fiscal course correction. Hopefully, it may have little option but to shrink the state by cutting waste, exercising restraint and encouraging private enterprise. From the ashes of this financial tumult, if a fiscally conservative phoenix arose eventually, it would not be such a terrible outcome after all.

More than politics the people good quality life. If the politics is not going to provide that, politics is going to suffer irreparable damage in the future.

Cash flow election in Tamil Nadu

electionTamil Nadu is well-known for all sorts of politics. Money, muscle and brain mingle freely in the elections and in administration. Unprecedently this Lok Sabha polls witnesses a huge flow of money in the election battle. The Hindu editorial voices its concerns, 5 May 2009, No political party can claim to have adhered to the Model Code of Conduct in letter and spirit all the time. Several parties, big and small, ruling or in the opposition, across India have honoured the guidelines in the breach. Tamil Nadu’s ruling party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, has crossed previous limits by its transgressions of the Code — in utter disregard of the Election Commission of India, which is vested by the Constitution with the “superint endence, direction and control of elections.” The Code is meant to provide a level playing field to all parties, with its crucial Part VII designed to ensure that the ruling party at the Centre and in the States does not misuse its official position for campaigning. By effecting a Statewide reduction in bus fares just days before the Lok Sabha election without even a formal government order, the DMK government has fallen foul of the rules of the game. If the overnight reduction without any prior announcement was bad enough, worse was the explanation offered to the Election Commission by the Chief Secretary: that the managing directors of the State transport undertakings took the decision on their own. That all the transport corporations ordered a downward revision on the same day without consulting the Minister was such a tall tale that the Election Commission was able swiftly to dismiss the explanation and ask the State government to withdraw the fare cut. However, the bus fare cut is only one of several violations of the Code. Madurai, where M.K. Azhagiri, son of Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, is contesting on the DMK ticket, is witness to money power and muscle power undermining the democratic process. Ruling partymen have been distributing money to voters and attacking political opponents who objected to their ways. Several cases have been filed and the Chief Electoral Officer has sent a report to the Election Commission. Evidently, an attempt is being made to replicate the formula worked out in the by-election for the Thirumangalam Assembly constituency in Madurai district in January. Then as now, huge resources were placed in the hands of the ruling party’s campaign managers; and the Election Commission had to step in and transfer officials seen to be favouring the ruling party. The DMK won the constituency by a huge margin, and Mr. Azhagiri was seen, within the DMK and outside, as the protagonist of a New Way of winning elections. It is now up to the Election Commission of India to act decisively to ensure that dadagiri, whether by ruling partymen or others, has no place in the elections scheduled for May 13 in Tamil Nadu. Only the tough election commission decision can save the Lok Sabha polls from the usual abuses

Shekhawat Coup in BJP

sekhawatThe former vice president of India and a RSS stalwart Bhairon Singh Shekhawat stirred several political controversies. The man known for party discipline and gentleness had overturned his image overnight.  He is firing one political missile after the other. First he expressed his open interest to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha poll. This was not well received by the BJP top leaders including the president Rajnath Singh. He ruled out that the former president should not degrade his August position by contesting any election. Of course there is a valid refrain in what Rajnath said.

 

Shekhawat ran a strong anti-Vasundhra Raje campaign in the recently held Rajasthan assembly election. The internal factions triggered by the former vice president and Jaswant Singh are considered to be win killer for BJP in the state. After openly demanding a enquiry commission into the bribery allegations against Vasundhra Raje Scindia, Sekhawat rakked in the missing Rs.2.5 cash in the BJP central office. Indirectly he is demanding his place against L.K.Advani for the prime ministerial chair. Apart from the personal power hungry of Sekhawat, BJP’s opponent parties may be playing the inducer role. There is less chance for other parties to play such a role because all others are in the same trouble. Pranab Mukherjee raised Rahul crowning as Prime Minister in 2009.

 

There is a total decay in the political culture of the country. Any one, any where any time can contest has come into force without ethics and moral standard in public life. Although Shekhawat has ethical standards he should demean his previous position – vice president of India by jumping again into the electoral fray. Certain offices are highly valued and respected despite the person occupied demits office. President, Vice President, Supreme Court Chief Justice, chiefs of armed forces, election commission chairpersons, governors and other high positions. These posts require unbiased handling and utmost sincerity. Sekhawat handled his Chairpersonship of Rajya Sabha and vice presidentship despite his lifelong opponent party Congress came to power.

 

Now he should safeguard his respect and dignity by not contesting any elections in the future. This will set a bad precedent for the future leaders. A seasoned politician and long old hand in the Indian politics, Sekhawat should set good example for others. He can involve in socio-cultural activities. If his health permits he should tour the country as former vice president and inspiration people in the national developmental activities. So far no other presidents or vice presidents have jumped into the electoral contest after demitting office. Shekhwat should not occupy the dubious distinction of the first August office holder to break this age-old high tradition.

 

Sooner or later the government should bring a legislation banning the high profile constitutional office bearers from contesting elections. Especially the high profile election commission, judiciary, public service commissions, apart from president, vice president and governors should be barred from contesting elections and occupying posts lower than their previous ones.

 

Naturally most human beings are not inclined towards safeguarding their previous status. They will go down to any level when they are power hungry. Only strong legislation and strong enforcement can check these high standard violations.    

Silly to speak of war

tanksOnce again the war clouds are gathering around Indo-Pak border. 2002 situation seems to be back again. After the attack on Parliament in December 2001, Indian troops were massively mobilized and parked in the border areas with Pakistan. Although there were no major firing and killing, mere mobilization of troops sent shivers across several spines. Forgetting the dark episodes of Kargil war, Parliament attack and several other explicit Pakistan sent terrorist acts, Indian government exercised patience. Without wasting much time, peace process was put in place. But for the past 6 years after the threat of war a lot of progress has happened in the peace building between the two countries. The increasing attacks in India by Pakistan grown terrorists bring the whisper of war again.  

 

There is frustration in the power corridors of India over the inaction by the Pakistani government against the list of terrorists it handed over. Over 120 countries envoys of India were called to New Delhi by the external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjhee for possible international intervention. In this hour of helplessness it is natural for India to speak of war against Pakistan. According to the popular opinion, least Indian government can do is to perform surgical strikes in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) which is the breeding ground of anti-Indian forces. Most of the Indians are not against full-scale war but for surgical strikes. This is nothing but short-sightedness.

 

Not just PoK is nurturing anti Indian attackers but the global terror network aided by the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan government has penetrated deep into several parts of the country. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari there is a wide network of Pakistan abetted sleeper cells. Silently they have established fast operating bomb makers and gun firing squads. The latest discovery of anti-India operation is a tunnel from Pakistan to India in the desert region of Rajasthan. This tunnel in Baramer is used to smuggle drugs and counterfeit currencies. The plot to disable India is not the handiwork of one country or one group. I sincerely suspect the involvement of multi nations and many groups in this grave design against India.

 

After failing in the four direct wars with India, Pakistan operates clandestinely against its neighbor. By sending heroin, virus infected animals and fake currencies, by defacing important websites, by instigating insider trading, by organizing speculations for the Indian economy downfall and many other non terrorist damages. All these indirect external threats can be countered by a country which has given responsibility to uproot it. But many people involved in this anti-India battle are bought over cheap bargain and bribes. Combining with the internal weakness is the collaboration of external enemies.  

 

The international politics work in a different way. It is subtle and strong. When the Indian government sends strong war message, the Pakistani rulers smilingly say that “We have China with us for anytime support”. This statement coming from none other than the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousaf R Gilani should alert the Indian government that it is not a straight battle between the two.

 

I am opposed to even the talk of war for many reasons. It is a well-known fact that Pakistan is involved in anti-India activities. This history is the history of two countries since independence. Sixty years old animosities cannot be eliminated with few peace measures or some bombardments. The onus squarely lies on India. Firstly it should strengthen its calmness and peace of mind. The battle is against many hidden enemies. It can unplug the enemy power-points only with a long-term vision and strategies. Second, local and global intelligence should be gathered and acted upon. Three, sensible people in the governance should build a strong coalition against indirect warriors silently. Four, sanitizing the armed forces, intelligence, power corridors from corruption. Fifth, putting the Civil Defence Force (CDF) on the ground action rather than paper presence.

 

The friendship between the two countries and its people must continue. Any amount of damage inflicted by Pakistan directly or indirectly should be swallowed bitterly. To answer it India should follow the above mentioned five steps. It is a long and sleepless fight to give good night sleep to the generations to come. This can happen only if the Indian government players and public understand its strength and weakness. The ground situation is that India is surrounded by open stateless terrorists supported by hidden national enemies. Are we ready for this sustained war through strong mind to put an end to killing spree forever?

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