Sunday, May 24, 2009

Nothing personal, this is Business

Nothing personal, this is Business
By M J Akbar

Fish, said Mao Zedong, do not swim in pure water. Dr Manmohan Singh is no Maoist but he should, by now, know a thing or two about swimming upstream. He could, of course, point out that pollution is not very good for the health of fish either.

Realists know that integrity is a variable virtue. If Dr Singh were to impose fiscal-virginity on his cabinet ministers, Saint Antony of Kerala would be burdened with too many portfolios. Those who choose to believe that the kerfuffle with the DMK was only about incompetence, or its elder brother corruption, or a triple-deck sundae with one family layer too many, is confusing facts with television coverage.

The operating law in politics owes much to a management principle made immortal by Mario Puzo in Godfather. There is nothing personal about it; this is business.

The Congress has begun its campaign for the next general election. It shed some allies during the polls; it has begun to pluck feathers from others after the results. It wants to check today those it seeks to displace tomorrow. Tamil Nadu has entered its radar screen since the Congress increased its share to 14 seats in the alliance. Why not 39 tomorrow?

As Kanshi Ram, the founder of BSP, used to say if there was anyone around to listen, elections are the only time that a party grows in substantive terms. Congress has done far better than expectations in Maharashtra, so it makes no sense to settle for stagnation. Its stark message to Sharad Pawar has political logic: merge, or find your own way to nirvana. Old allies may be tolerated during transition, but on a basis of diminishing returns.

The feast of 2004 was egalitarian. The menu at the high table in 2009 will differ sharply from that at the low table. Allies who want something better than peanuts are welcome to dine elsewhere. In 2004 the mood was inclusive, barring odd guests like Mulayam Singh Yadav. In 2009 the door is wide open for those who want to leave, and barred for late arrivals.

Neither tears nor trauma are useful in such circumstances. On Thursday evening Lalu Prasad Yadav, who once floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee, wondered why he was being treated like a fly without a wall. (The wall may be my contribution to the image, but the fly was certainly his metaphor even as he promised that he would return.) The sharper allies picked this up quickly. When it comes to political poker, Karunanidhi plays blind with his eyes open. When the stakes were raised, and his government in Tamil Nadu was threatened, he doubled the stakes. If he was at risk in Chennai so was Dr Manmohan Singh in Delhi. Karunanidhi was right.

Dr Farooq Abdullah’s flight to some salubrious Friday evening entertainment was equally to the point. Everything is political, even a ticket to a T20 semi-final. Sharad Pawar is the supremo of IPL. Pawar and Abdullah are close friends. The signal from South Africa was in double code. Delhi deciphered it quickly. On Thursday evening, Dr Manmohan Singh tried to disguise the hard news that there was no place for Farooq in the cabinet with a soft, even sentimental touch. By the time Farooq had landed in South Africa, the hard news had changed. He would become a cabinet minister by Tuesday. Two men leaving on a jetplane, one to Chennai and the other to South Africa, turned the inaugural ball of Friday evening into an interim arrangement.

The Congress has not won power in order to lose it. But a fundamental question has shifted on its axis. In 2004, it was about how many friends the Congress wanted. In 2009, it is about how many adversaries the Congress can afford as it maneuvers its way to the next plateau. A cost-benefit analysis is being done for every state. It is easy to be high-minded about Shibu Soren in Delhi, but his displeasure will draw blood in Ranchi.

Congress and Mamata form the perfect fit, because they are still only half-way to a common destination, Writers Building in Kolkata. She wants a stable government in Delhi because there is compatibility in Kolkata. Both are determined to destroy the Left. Mamata wants supremacy in Bengal, the Congress has primacy in India. Her needs in Delhi, unlike the DMK’s, are limited. She would not know what to do with a second cabinet post, for it would force to promote one person from a tier of deputies, creating volatile peer resentment as throwing up a parallel star within her orbit.

Sharad Pawar and Congress remain married but don’t look as if they are made for each other. Maharashtra, like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, is an inevitable target for Congress expansion, and there is an Assembly election in four months. Congress won 15 seats, Pawar only nine. The Congress will demand a restructuring of the seat in the Assembly around that ratio. Will Pawar be able to absorb a cut without marginalizing his party? Or will try and emulate the courageous Naveen Patnaik, break free and offer himself as the next chief minister of his state?

The results were a verdict on the past; government formation is about shaping the future. A comprehensive victory has created some apprehensive allies.

Appeared in Times of India - May 24, 2009

8 comments:

david mcmahon said...

Ah, the easy-flowing, passionate writing style I have been familiar with November 1977. Only you could weave a political post about (and I agree with the premise) government being a promise of the future, with Mao, T20 and Mario Puzo thrown in for good measure.

Maybe one day you should tell your readers about the never-ending cup of tea at Telinipara.

(As you know, I never forget a good yarn.)

david mcmahon said...

That should have said ``familiar with SINCE November 1977'' ....

parikrama said...

This certainly is the best post I have read which summarizes the drama that is unfolding.

The exuberance of decisive mandate sometimes seems to be marred by the tussle (read "plain politics) that follows.

R.Alamsha Karnan said...

Very good post. Not only Congress but also MJ has mellowed down and could see beyond the imaginary walls of his writers guild. Sure, the walls are breaking down.

Babri masjid demolition shook the ordinay Muslim masses from their sound slumber. But the the cronies and crooks appointed as Muslim leaders by Congress thought it's impossible for Muslims to live without them. Muslims have proved it wrong. They have started breaking the invisible wall between Hindus and Muslims.

All the Muslim candidates fielded by SP and BSP were shown the door by Muslims. Good bye to AIBMAC, Shariah and the guardians of Muslims. In other words, just get lost and don't come back.

R.Alamsha Karnan said...

My own attempt to break the barriers:

Why, I want to become a Brahmin...

Hard facts:

1. It's impossible for Indian Muslims to delink themselves from Pakistan factor 100%, howsoever loud they may scream. Majority is NOT willing to buy the Muslim patriotism and loyalty stories. A deep suspicion exists. If i were a Hindu, i will do the same.

2. The ghost of 1947 partition will always haunt Indian Muslims. Just impossible to escape.

3. Insulting Islam and criticising Muslims will be perceived as nationalism whereas crticising Hinduism will always be perceived as anti-nationalism, especilly, if it comes from a Muslim. Again, if i were a Hindu, i will do the same.

4. Pakistan is the ultimate benchmark for all evils. Unless Pakistan, the land of the pure, purifies from all the evils and gets the good conduct certificate from India, India can NOT move forward and get out of the Pakistan obsession factor.

5. If anything goes wrong between India and Pakistan, all fingers will unconsciously point towards Indian Muslims and Muslims will jump into the "I love my India, I am a patriot, I hate Pakistan" chest beating mode. Pathetic, but can't help it.

6. Finally, neither Islam, Hindu, Muslim, Pakistan and India will change. Nothing will change.

My personal desire and conclusion:

On this basis, i conclude that i can NOT live as a Muslim and practice my faith Islam peacefully in my country. I am NOT rich enough to go and settle elsewhere. As a citizen and son of Hindustan, the land of Hindus, i live under constant fear and threat because i am a Muslim. People like VG are asking us to go to Pakistan to live as a Muslim. They don't trust our patriotism and loyalty. They don't think that we are living in our own land and India belongs to us as much as to them. It has become a crime to be born as a Muslim in India.

Whereas, i see an excellent opportunity to live a better life with dignity in Hindustan, with the same skills and qualifications, if i were a Brahmin. A casteless Hindu, an outcaste, is again a Shudra and i don't want to get into that hell hole again left by my forefathers. Let me get it right, this time. The best path is to become a Brahman. I would have become a Christian, if i were a citizen and native of a Christian nation. Same goes with Budhism and Islam, as well.

I wish to become officially a Brahman priest and perform special poojas like Maha Kumbhabhishekam. Tell me, what's the procedure for conversion as a Brahman?. Please help me.

R.Alamsha Karnan said...

You just can't hate Hinduism or Hindustan. Try it:

Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world, which has it's roots even 10,000 years before. We can take Mahabharata as the most critical milestone to begin with. The ethics and verdict of Mahabharata+Gita have survived intact till today. Whereas Islam is the youngest religion, 1400 years old, with more than 1.7 billion followers and 57 OIC Islamic nations.

Islam without Hinduism:
Imagine Islam without Hinduism. You will see Pakistan. Lesser said, the better.

Hinduism without Islam:
How about Hinduism without Islam?. We have to go, atleast 1200 years backwards. Thank God, it doesn't exist today. Why?. Inherently, Hinduism opens the door for you to get out and seek whatever path you want, wishes you all the best and says don't come back. At the same time, it does NOT stop you from taking the great values, if you like, along with you and reinvent to suit your needs. Even, you can call it as another branch of Hinduism like Budhism. It's forbidden in Islam and Christianity.

If everything is white, you can't see anything. You will be lost, like Pakistan. You need a perfect backdrop to see life and seek the truth. Hindusim provides the perfect backdrop for you to see what you can't see otherwise. It does NOT force you to see what someone else wants to see.

As i have repeated very often, Budhism, Christianity and Islam came as an answer to liberate mankind from slavery. In this context, Islam and Hinduism acts like a mirror for each other to see their ugly face. 100% Islam or Hinduism is unpalatable and suffocating. Take the best of both the worlds and use each other as a force to bring some sense, mellowness and tolerance in our life and the society.

My earlier 2 blogs are just an effort, in my own way, towards this direction.

http://alamsha.sulekha.com/blog/post/2009/05/i-want-to-become-a-brahmin.htm

http://alamsha.sulekha.com/blog/post/2009/05/why-i-want-to-become-a-brahmin.htm

This is possible only in Hindustan, the land of Hindus, and this is the reason i fall again and again in love with my Hindustan. I am truly proud of it.

Just you can't hate Hinduism or Hindustan. Try it.

CHAMARULAL said...

IT IS TIME FOR CREATING BI PARTY SYSTEM IN INDIA.ALL THE SMALL AND REGIONAL/STATE PARTIES NEEDED TO BE MERGED WITH EITHER OR BJP OR CONGRESS.IF THE BJP WOULD DECLARE PUBLICLY THAT ITS DOOR FOR ALL ARE OPEN AND IT IS PARTY OF MINORITIES,WITH SOME GOOD GESTURE BY HARDLINERS.BJP NEEDED TO HAVE PAN INDIAN PRESENCE.IS PRESENCE IS LIMITED TO NORTH INDIA WITH ONE SOUTH STATE OF KARNATAKA.IT HAS FAILED IN EASTERN AND N.E. STATES AND ALSO SOUTHERN STATES.LIKEWISE CONGRESS SHOULD GET ALL ITS ALLIES IN ITS FOLD MERGED.IF THE STATE PARTIES ARE UNWILLING NOW THEN THEY WOULD BE SLOWLY FIND THEMSELVES IN WILDERNESS.
WE WANT INDIA WITH US LIKE ACTIONS AND LAW WITH EXECUTIVES FULLY STRONG TO SERVE ITS PEOPLE WHEREVER THEY ARE.WE WANT THAT OUR TAMILIANS IN SL SHOULD HAVE BEEN SETTLED WITH ALL THE FREEDOM AND RIGHTS OF A CITIZEN.INDIA HAVE TO MAKE IT CLEAR WITH STRONG WORDED STATEMENTS.

Nazish Rahman said...

Nice post...as thats what politics is all about isin't it!!! Nothing is guaranteed in politics so thats why Congress is not being aggressive...but taking gradual steps. Politics is not exact science but its an art...so u have India's best artist in the political arena!!!

I think the general election will not have that impact on assembly elections as most of the time its been seen that both respond differently!!! Congress still know that its not completely in dominance in most of the targeted regions where it wants to dominate. I think its just one of a election result that we got a clear complete result...doubt weather will ever get a similar result...n that so so soon!!!! Regional Parties are here to stay and its and wake up call for leaders like Mulayum, Lalu Prasad, Pawar and may more to strengthen their roots and stop playing backdoor politics of blacking mailing the national parties.