Byline for January 6th, 2013
Leave it to GodM.J. AkbarThe most intriguing international story of 2012 was the election of the new Egyptian Coptic Christian Pope. His name need not detain us. It is the method that matters; the process is ennobling precisely because it is humble. It leaves the last word on the subject, the final choice, to the Almighty speaking through a child. Coptic elders put together a short list for Pope, write the names on pieces of paper, and put them in a chalice. A blindfolded child then picks a name, and that is the end of all controversy.It seems to me that the three most powerful organisations in India, the Congress Party, the BJP and the BCCI (which may not control India, but does own its most valuable asset, cricket) should immediately adopt the Coptic method to solve their biggest problem. All three have leadership issues, and do not know how to sort them out.The BJP, unsurprisingly, has twice the problem. It needs, immediately, a president, since it is split between those who want to retain Nitin Gadkari and those who would much prefer him to concentrate upon the problems of Vidarbha. I gather Coptic elders narrow their final list to three names. The BJP could be allowed to keep six names in the chalice, since it has more high priests than the Copts. A blindfolded child could then do the honours. No one can accuse the child of either bias or rigging.Then comes the bigger hurdle. Who shall be the BJP’s choice for Prime Minister? This is more complicated, as the whole NDA alliance will have to be involved, explicitly or implicitly. NDA leaders do not limit their suspicions to human beings. They are wary of God as well, just in case God does not agree with them. If that child, for instance, picked up the name of a certain person from Gujarat, not only would the NDA shiver but at least one party would take the matter to the Supreme Court, arguing, quite forcefully that neither the child nor his presumed mentor, God, was on the voting list.The Congress would have an easier time with the concept. For starters, it could be sold with due sanctimoniousness to an obliging media. If the last mile can be attributed to God, it absolves the High Command of responsibility, always a welcome factor. The child would also have an easy time, since there would be only one name in the chalice. There may be as much ambition lurking in the breast of many a Congress leader as there is in BJP, but Congressmen are not so stupid as to make any public show of secret desire.But there is a more troubling scenario possible. It could become a life-threatening dilemma if the chalice was discovered to be empty, with no name in it. This could easily happen. Rahul Gandhi might be too busy holidaying to bother about becoming candidate for PM. Some of his loyalists, however, explain that he is only building up energy for a general election, and when the moment comes the chalice shall reveal its single choice. They may well be right.The BCCI’s crisis is even worse than the BJP’s. Not only do they need a captain, they need a new team. M.S. Dhoni might survive the greatest licking ever seen against England and Australia, but being punctured by Pakistan is a different matter. Dhoni should have seen those pompous, stupid ads before the series: lose to anyone else, but not to Pakistan! Indian cricket has learnt to like cool, but this is frigid to the point of impotence. Back to Cairo, then. We should get the simpler bit out of the way. There seems to be only one player who can be confident of retaining his place, Virat Kohli, so better give him the captain’s gong without fuss. To find a dozen-odd chaps to help him lose the next series is more onerous. Perhaps we could try an Indian variation and put choices into categories: first, pace, seam, spin; and then anyone who can bat anywhere in any circumstance since a fixed position is too much of a luxury. We need a flexi eleven. The present selection committee would include their own edgy spin of regional quotas and present five options for each spot in the team into the chalice. After that it would be left to the blindfolded child, and God. It would be laborious; and BCCI certainly has enough funds to pay the child merited overtime. But it would be less rancorous. And it would certainly produce a better team since there is no way any combination could be worse than the current lot.Of course Sachin Tendulkar would always be chosen automatically, irrespective of age and form, depending on His own will. After all, God cannot select God.