Saturday, September 28, 2013

NaMo RaGa

I have been wasting a lot of my time for quite some time monitoring the build up of 2014 central elections. As many of you might have already noticed, we could classify people in two different categories, both obsessed with the emerging new leaders of the two front running parties. There are some overlaps as well between these two classifications, but for clarity it would still make sense to keep them separate. The first classification is dominated by two major groups. One that vehemently condemns each and everything that NaMo does and the other that blindly believes he will be the saviour. In between those two vocal groups, there is also a minor group whose voice is almost unheard due to the noise created by these two groups. That group neither believes NaMo is the saviour nor believes he is going to be the destroyer of 'secular' democracy. The second classification is unanimously one sided, with a large group of people who think RaGa is good for nothing and the minority group that is desperately trying to project him as the one who can steer the nation in the right path.

It is always easier to be in a majority group. You will have very few questions to answer. When there is something hard, you will find hundreds of people trying to support you in competition. Unfortunately, I have a disease of associating myself with the 'minority' group. My brain finds ways of convincing itself that they are always the ones naturally suppressed by the other group and the one that needs the support. Though I was a big supporter of NaMo at one point, I have been gradually drawn to the minority group that thinks Modi can never be the answer to our problems. On the other hand, I had a blunt hatred towards the 'Royal' family at one point, but gradually started becoming 'sympathetic' to RaGa, looking at the way people criticize him. Perhaps there is a pattern for my change of opinion on all these personalities!

I read a lot of criticism on RaGa's CII speech and his remark on 'poverty being a state of mind'. Tempted by those criticism, some time back I watched his long speech at CII's annual convention. To be honest, I couldn't really believe that it was RaGa who gave that passionating speech. There wasn't anything worthwhile criticizing in that speech. Even if there was, it would be really stupid to criticize RaGa for that. They should have criticized the person responsible for that speech instead of the medium that expressed it. For anyone who had also seen the Q&A session that followed the speech, it would have been very obvious. I thought even the questions will be given earlier in those conferences so that they get enough time to prepare for the answers, but probably that didn't happen there. Instead of targeting him for his lack of awareness, I would really appreciate him for his courage to take those surprise questions. Even on his popular poverty statement, he was bashed with unwanted criticism from all the sides. Clearly, he wouldn't have come up with that quote on his own. The quote also started with a story of a woman who came out of poverty using her confidence and self-help group. It was very evident that the author was trying to project the importance of self-confidence  among the poor people. Burying that good intention and projecting him badly based on the out of context quote is surely not worthy of criticism. I would be really surprised whether any of them really understood the strength of that statement even when quoted out of context. Perhaps they have never seen any poor people living happily despite their dire poverty.

People criticizing RaGa for everything should really spend some time trying to put themselves in his shoes. Have you ever tried how difficult it would be to talk some one else's speech that you don't really understand? If you have tried, perhaps you would understand the pain that RaGa is taking for his people. It is easy for someone smart to understand these things easily. But not everyone is same. We need to appreciate the efforts as well. I feel it is a tremendous achievement by RaGa to even show up in those meetings/rallies and address the crowd. Even for an expert, it isn't that easy to face a group of experts. When you don't have that intellectual luxury, you would need to put mammoth effort in bridging the gap. For some one who is really undecided about his goals, the mental strength required to overcome that would be even greater.

Of-course, I don't think any one would argue against the fact that it is the country that is in need of RaGa's service and not the other way round. RaGa would surely have enough money to buy a small country if he wishes. It is also very clear he is not really that interested in the politics of this country. He is being forced by his party and the fellow country-men to be in politics. Whether they are right or not, he has to value their opinion. After all we are a democratic nation, it is not the right or wrong that decides the outcome in a democracy. It is the number that drives everything. If people are ignorant and want him to be a PM, who are we to question them. More importantly what right do we have in finding fault with RaGa who is just respecting their opinions. Just let the people decide that instead of criticizing him for others mistakes. I don't even understand the argument that he can't make up a good PM. They forget the fact that they have already seen 10 years of his rule. Even our PM feels proud to serve under his leadership. When such highly respected people recommend his ability to lead the nation, what is the issue with these common people who don't understand anything about governance. Why are they getting so annoyed when this is all about an official process for change of name?

That is why I feel really bad when people comment about him without realizing what he is really going through. What he really need is some support and appreciation for his efforts.

The topic of NaMo is certainly more complicated. He is clearly a divisive personality. You hardly see anyone taking a middle ground when it comes to NaMo. Either they desperately want him to be the PM or they hate him with all the venom they have!

I have tried a lot to get to the truth of much talked about NaMo development model. The most convincing I could get was Mayank Gandhi's blog. I am not a big fan of pseudo seculars who only talk about riots and fake encounters. Looking at some of the bio-data of the encountered people, I really don't understand why people are making such a big fuss about those encounters. Obviously, the law doesn't allow that. But a country where hundreds of innocent people die everyday doesn't have the right to cry foul for the human rights of criminals. The riot is certainly a black mark on NaMo's record. But attributing all the killings to his name is also blatantly wrong. Perhaps an honest evaluation would be to look at the past records of all communal violence, what was the trigger, what were the losses and mapping that to Gujarat riot. That would give a better indication of how many innocent lives he had failed to save. Further, I don't see much logic in separating the riot victims from other victims. Innocent people don't die only due to riots. There are also a lot of other deaths a government is  directly or indirectly responsible for. Like death due to road accidents, poverty, malnutrition, crime etc. I don't think anybody can claim that these deaths are inferior in nature compared to the riot deaths. Deaths are deaths. When it is unnatural, the only classification should be whether it was preventible or not. So, the real question should be 'how many deaths NaMo has failed to save under his rule compared to other CMs'. I don't think anyone has bothered to check that data. Perhaps it isn't even easy to get any authentic data on that.

So my issue with NaMo isn't that he is communal or he was communal once. People who are after power don't really care much about the religion. He has already shown that in action by demolishing illegal temples and sidelining some of the hard core hindutwa groups. Perhaps the only 'communal' action that we could expect from him is bringing the uniform civil code and bringing the minorities to mainstream. That would certainly polarize  the votes again for him in another election. In the pretext of suppressing the minorities, he might end up as the greatest reformer of muslims of India. So I am certainly not worried about his safron colour. My main problem with NaMo is the authenticity of the development that he has projected to outside world. My problem is in understanding whether Gujarat really saw the magical development under his leadership or it is just the success of a well planned publicity gimmick. My problem is about those crores of people who really think the country will change magically after he assumes the power at centre.

Mayank provides the data showing some crucial points regarding the myth of 'vibrant Gujarath' in his blog. The same data is also available in few other places like this.
  • Gujarat has seen high growth since last 20 years. No surprise there as everyone knows that business skills are in the genes of Gujaratis.
  • Gujarat's focus was mainly on urban development and industrialization and not the rural part
  • Gujarat is only ranked at 11(out of 20) as per as the poverty alleviation is concerned. The tribal(17%) have actually become more poor in NaMo's rule
  • Tough NaMo is clean and reduced the corruption at lower level, he hasn't done much in reducing the corruption/irregularity at higher level. That should be very evident as he hasn't done much to pass a strong Lokayukta act in the state.
  • 2013 lokayukta act is just a face wash and criticized heavily by the activists
Perhaps I can even conclude NaMo's elevation won't make any drastic difference without looking at these data. NaMo is certainly an 'individual' with a difference. But he doesn't represent a system that is different. If he was a 'system', he could have surely made some miracles in the last 12 years of his rule in Gujarat. The number of seats that he has won is almost the same in last 3 elections. That itself says his 'development' hasn't reached everyone. If it was a miracle, surely more people would have acknowledged him as the leader. Certainly he might have delivered better than others, but that is not the change we should aim for. His performance is going to be even poor in the central compared to state. A lot of states would still be under a different government and it won't make much difference to them. We have already seen how corrupt the Karnataka BJP government was in the past. Having a strong PM with weak state governments will not make a big difference to the people who are in need. The same set of corrupt legislators won't bring much changes however strong their leader may be, unless he is a dictator controlling them with a gunpoint.

If there is any hope for this country, that is only from the new Aam Aadmi Party. That brings a real change in the system. A system that can scale well for this large diverse country. A system that doesn't suffer from the weight of the legacy compulsions. A system with a vision for decentralizing the power completely to the right group of people. A party that doesn't need to return the favour of illegal money of its election fund. A party that is capable of making miracles in a short span. I hope they will win the Delhi elections first and then spread to other parts of the country like an unstoppable tide. They have certainly brought some optimism about the future of India. If we fail to give them a chance in next 10-15 years, we must permanently forget the hope of seeing a better India. We don't even deserve to see a better India. Those who think they have been let down by their ignorant fellow citizens should really think seriously about migrating to some other country with a hope of better life.

However, when it comes to 2014 elections, it won't be that easy for me to decide as whom to vote(though I may not vote, I can still influence a lot of votes). Despite my 'sympathy' for RaGa, I don't think any sensible person can seriously consider him as a PM candidate. AAP is certainly the party that has brought the hope back. But looking practically, 2014 is too early for them to contest in the central elections. They would need to win the Delhi assembly first, prove themselves that they weren't just talking in the air and then strengthen the party in other states before really attempting anything for the parliament. Only three months after the Delhi elections is too short a time for doing all these. We have waited for 60 years and another 5 years wouldn't make it any worse. So the obvious choice has to be NaMo. Not because I have any hopes of seeing something dramatically different under his rule. But only because it will clear the illusion of crores of people expecting a miracle from him. I will also be able to validate the 'NaMo magic' myself instead of relying on others stories. The change that a clean new system like AAP can bring would surely be unmatchable compared to that of a corrupt system with an able leader. Dream big, don't settle for anything less! Though we have waited for unusually long time, it would surely be worth the wait!


Anonymous said...


Nagesh Adiga said...

If AAP wins elections, it is good news. However,
(i) Loksatta party had good people too. They did not win anything
(ii) Often, parties will have good intention and click initially. Later opportunists join the party and the intensity of the party fails (especially when they spread all over India).

NAMO: Not sure if he can change things drastically. My thought is to at least give him a chance for 5 years, and see what he can do.

Sathisha said...

Thanks Nagesh,
I will keep the long answer for some other day.
(i) Loksatta party has good candidates too. But they have failed to grab the attention of people. AAP is very different in that perspective. It is very evident if you follow the recent activities and surveys conducted. So we have to admit that Kejriwal is much more focused and intelligent than JP.
(ii) That is certainly true. But decentralization and transparency in party activities can reduce it to a greater extent, if not completely eliminate it.