What is politics? Why politics is a high priority?

politicsYou see that ever since the time of Plato, from the 5th century BC to the present times, we are all bound and live by what we call politics, a process of power that we, without knowing fully well, take our political binding as given. At any time, we are citizens of a government!

We are born into politics. Then, what is politics?

Many have answered that question. Even Plato himself had given his lessons. In Plato’s time itself the Athenian politics was seen with violence and corruption! So, Plato was disgusted and along with his friend and teacher, Socrates, Plato asked questions and sought answers.

Plato was not just a theoretician, he was a practical person, and he travelled and advised other kings (as in Syracuse) and also wrote Constitutions.

So, politics was essentially seen as power, political power that had an over-riding power over other forms of power, economic power, military power or religious and divine powers too.

Till now, this political power was seen as confined to the limits of some territorial geography.

Olden days we had had empires that went beyond national boundaries. For example, Roman Empire spread almost to the then known world. Also, such empires also denoted certain well-defined civilisational conduct of the people living within that boundary.
Roman empire was seen as the most extensive and also the most civilised empire.
So, arose from the Roman Empire all the modern world’s political institutions. Senate, the emperor, his paeretorian guards, the courts, the treasury, prisons, law and military and the civic amenities, roads, water channels, civil buildings, the city etc.

Now, politics means that the people become citizens and we see the first democracy in Athens, the concept of liberty. Pericles becomes the role model for later-day rulers.
Now, modern day politics is also about power and the exercise of power.

National territories define the limits of modern state power. The state has the coercive power over the lives of citizens.

How to ensure the citizens gets the fulfilment, the enjoyment of freedoms and security?
The point here is that every citizen now realises the state has power and also the state has duties.

Politics becomes a supreme form of the exercise of power and therefore we are at a point of time in history that politics and that too democratic politics too calls for new aspirations and new rules of governance.

A touchy question. No one asks and no one seems to be anywhere near to come near attempting an answer either!

The party is in clear decline. It is a leaking boat or a sinking ship. The signs are ominous.
Mrs.Sonia Gandhi is clearly not interested in the job.

congress-mainSee, even after one month passed since it got a drubbing in UP and Uttarkhand and also lost the opportunity in bidding for power in Goa and Manipur, she never bothered to call for an immediate meeting of the CWC or the other bodies to deliberate the causes and take suitable remedial measures.

She just vanished away from public view. And yet we are also seeing everyday antics, if we can say so, by Congress party members in the Rajya Sabha where the senior members haven’t done any great thing except to draw the wrath of the Chairman or Deputry Chairman for not following established rules of the House business.

Also, as if to add to our dismay we see some weak remarks, neither in the name of any new idea or any substantial reflections from the former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.

Yes, Singh is an expert, his expertise in economics, finance etc. Not in politics and governance. Even the latest Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report of Parliament indicted the former PM for being “evasive” on many crucial decisions ,from the Commonwealth Games to other big projects and so the heavy loss to the exchequer.

In a book release function in Delhi the learned scholar-turned political leader has warned of “disastrous consequences, by quoting, of all people, the great inscrutable Mao Zedong! To tell the Indian audience that the Chinese leader said something about the French Revolution! And we should be beware of such a warning.

What does that warning mean?

Does Singh imagine that India might face a situation like 1789 French society and politics? A Revolution? Singh’s fears or predilections? We can just ignore such lazy talks or murmurs!

Such serious topics demand certain gravitas and certain deeper reflections! Not harmless book release functions that are dime a dozen in Delhi!

It is an irony, no, a tragedy of great day and time when the country cries for a robust democratic polity, the Congress leaders are indulging in small nitpickings!

The Congress today has become almost an ICU case from which there doesn’t seem to recover so easily.

Take the party’s functioning in the states. In many states, the party doesn’t exist. my own state, Tamil Nadu, a state once known for the great leaders like Rajaji and Kamaraj and many luminaries in law and administration, both in the pre-independence and post-independence times is today in a pathetic position.

The recently seen AIADMK party split led to many comical scenes. A by-election was held in a Chennai city constituency where the split units contested elections that was marked by large-scale money distribution to voters.

The dominant wing of the AIADMK mobilised funds as much as Rs.90 odd crores, the distribution was so meticulously planned that the Income-tax department raided the premises of the ministers and caught the funds distribution red-handed and so the election was post-poned by the Election Commission.

Where was the state Congress party? What its leaders were telling the voters?
The PCC President, a rank outsider and turncoat to boot, said that the DMK would be winning! Is he a PCC leader or an agent of the DMK. The Congress party in the state is now led by party defectors and actresses! In Delhi one actre, namely Nagma participates for the protesting farmers and in the state the party is inactive and simply witnessing the Armageddon of blatant money distribution that led to the cancellation of the very election!

AIADMK, a new phenomenon!
In fact, I like to tell the readers outside Tamil Nadu, that a candidate like T.T.V.Dinakaran who contested the by-election, I don’t see as an individual. He is a phenomenon, along with the incumbent minister, the duo make up the new phenomena in Indian electoral politics.

So, even after the demonetisation and the huge claims made by the Prime Minister Modi and his colleagues, we can say with some certainty that it is still possible to mobilise big black money hordes as done by the AIADMK heavyweights.

Now, the Income Tax Dept has indicated that it would call some six ministers to find out how they had so much money collected to distribute to the voters. Including the incumbent Chief Minister is cited as one more member in this list of ministers to be examined by the Income Tax Dept!

So, there must be now real action at the electoral reforms after all this comical election battle, if we can so call it! We have surely reached the lowest common denominator in Indian election politics. So, it is time to really act and do something radically. Who would take the lead? In all fairness, we can say that the Congress party must do this job.

Their leaders, some of the most competent lawyers and experienced politicians are ideally placed to come out with some definite electoral reforms. Manmohan Singh can lead from the front. That would also add legitimacy to their image as a party of some weight and character.

This, the Congress party must now do as a top priority. Instead, they seem to be preoccupied with some other agenda. May be they are hesitant by the fact that Sonia’s mind is not in such activities. She might be only intent on promoting her son and that is what is limiting the initiatives on a wider front.

It is for independent voices to articulate what needs to be done to reform the electoral system and punish and prevent the freebooters like the ones who manage to collect huge some, all black and unaccounted and that goes unnoticed by those who care and who are committed to do things as the situation demands.

Where are the leaders from Delhi?
What Sonia Gandhi is doing? Where is Manmohan Singh?

They didn’t stir out for one full month after the disastrous defeats in the Assembly elections?

Are there people yet in India who chooses to put their trust in Sonia Gandhi’s capabilities?

Can anyone even within the party can come out in the open and say this?
It is time she makes a graceful stand-aside and makes way for a change for others.

And the very former Prime Minister talks in a glib manner about French Revolution and Mao Zedung. The book that was released is all about cultivating hope in a challenging democracy! Irony and it is a supreme irony indeed.

The author of the book is none other than an one-time minister who had the audacity to correct the CBI report on the role of the then Prime Minister in the coal scam!
What we want to say here is that the leaders, however big or powerful he or she might be, must be persons of some basic credibility. They in their own roles, in various capacities and various roles must be observing some basic ethical and moral standards. Every one of us needn’t become the Mahatmas. We should at least be seen as persons of some moral calibre.

You lie blatantly, you do the wrongs knowing well this may rebound on you one day and also seen as leading a very self-imposed restrained life and look and do things in an ethical manner. You should not give yourself seemingly some undeserved luxuries of government bungalows and security that doesn’t really deserve your present position, right? Only when you go around in Delhi you realise how much public money is squandered in the name of protocol and keeping up forms and show!

I can’t be a mute witness to the destruction of the party that was built by great sacrifices. So, I am a bit restless and bitter in some respects. I can’t keep myself silent beyond a point.

Hence these rather seeming some harsh words. I have no intention to hurt anyone’s feelings and self-image. But then my self-image is not made by me alone. It is also made by others who view me and judge me for what I am really worth.

The outward image of the high offices would go away one day ,for sure. I would then be viewed for what I have done or what I had false imagined that I am worthy of what I imagine myself to be a person of some intrinsic value.

Sonia Gandhi seems to have arrived at her last phase as the leader of the Grand Old Party. It is time a new leadership change is brought about.

The way the party is agonising at the dilemma it finds itself is very discomforting to say the least. I look at the Indian history in a long-term perspective. The long past and also the long future.

India has now emerged as the world’s largest democracy. But the world’s largest democracy at what height glory?

As I have said often that when Pandit Nehru was at the helm it used to be said that India counted in the world forums. India mattered. But now? When India has grown strong economically and expanded in many areas of technology and trade, when the world itself had transformed what is the stature of India?

India has suddenly fallen silent, even after Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come about and gone around the world. Why this stoppage and what are Indian foreign policy priorities?

Take for instance the latest bombing of Syria on its own citizens. The chemical bombings killed some 90 off people, mostly civilians and children the visuals of which had shocked the whole world. A great democracy, India, didnt raises its voice! For that matter the heirs to Pandit Nehru’s legacy, the Congress party leaders, the seniors and learned persons like Manmohan Singh even dint give any statement.

What sort of message the Congress party is sending out? It is still in confusion whether to raise Rahul Gandhi as the new leader or postpone the decision? How long can you postpone? You have been indecisive for far too long. It reaches a breaking point, right now!

Time and tide don’t wait for anyone, right?

With a deep sense of moral responsibility and commitment, I say here these words.
It is of course hard to digest but the reality is so bitter. I feel that Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and now they, the party insiders, also throw in now and then the name of Priyanka Gandhi as the three key strategists for the party to draw up plans for the next round of elections. This is unacceptable for a wide section of the part. They are lightweight. Let us see things realistically. The family might have predigree but no credibility or capacity whatever to lead the party any further. The BJP is strong and could only become stronger. Modi’s stature has grown and his oratory, commitment and leadership qualities already are drawing people, more so, from the Congress party, to make BJP almost invincible for quite some time.

Neither have they any moral stature nor any education and other qualifications to articulate new ideas or policies. Modi is already talking about, not 2019,but 2020!
As it is, they are heavily protected and hidden from public view and interaction. They are also already becoming inaccessible. They have to live like that for the rest of their lifetime, it seems..So, what chance is there for them to come out and interact and mingle with the crowds and otherwise.So9,let us see common sense and start deliberating honestly.

Otherwise, other events might push things in an unpredictable manner. This is history that could only repeat itself!

So, the time has come for the party to face the realities. Some leader or some rebel must break this self-imposed punishment and come out openly against Sonia Gandhi and context for a new leader who should be elected as the new party President.
Please don’t create an impossible situation that can’t be tolerated anymore.
All subtle and not so subtle warnings have gone unnoticed. This time it might prove to be rather explosive!

The functioning of government in Delhi today, that is, after the UP Assembly victory for the BJP, seems a bit directionless. The PM is talking suddenly about working for a New India! What this New India means?

No one is explaining!

At AICC, #7, Jantar Mantar Road, New Delhi in the year 1967

At AICC, #7, Jantar Mantar Road, New Delhi in the year 1967

As for the Delhi political scene, we see a certain emptiness. Mr.Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi government chief minister is the other politician in the Capital to create some news or other. But he too seems to be indulging in some theatrics or other. He has imposed a debt of nearly Rs.3.5 crores in the form of litigation expenses on the Delhi citizens. Mr.Jethmalani is charging this fee for fighting a defamation suit filed by Arun Jaitley against Kejriwal. Or Kejriwal is also a good candidate for this type of news. One other was his expense for a lunch or dinner for a few at the coast of Rs.13, 000 odd for each guest! What serious news we have in the form of substantial issues.

Is this mock fight of superficial issues what grips public attention? None it seems. As for substantial issues, there are many basic reforms. Electoral reforms, why even economic reforms cry for attention and action.

The other day, the President Mr.Pranab Mukerjee participated in a forum that was attended by the Chief Justice of India, Justice Khehar and the next senior most judge of the Supreme Court. It was said that the electoral reforms cry for serious attention as more and more electoral malpractices, like the latest one from Tamil Nadu where the now-split AIADMK parties had brazenly distributed cash in such blatant manner that while the election campaign is still on, the income tax raids too place across the state! Cash was found in crores and the state election commissioner could do nothing!

It is no secret that the Election Commission (EC) under the existing provisions can’t do much. It can’t even disqualify the candidates violating the conduct rules and even to postpone the elections takes time! The EC is really impotent in the emerging new political realities.
So, the President, the Chief Justice and the senior most judge, all wanted reforms. Who would take the initiative?

There is simply a standstill in the top echelons of the government today. As for the political parties, the two major parties have their own priorities. The BJP wants to spread out and capture power in all the states. So, it is concentrating all its energies on building up the party. The BJP is becoming more and more aggressive in its confidence to bring the whole of the Indian states under one party rule!

What the Congress is doing?

As for the Congress party it is still in coma! There has not been one single initiative since it was routed in 2014. Not a peon has been changed at the AICC!

The faces you see at the AICC at any time of the day are not the real faces! The real faces are hidden in various government bungalows allotted to the old functionaries who also double themselves as members of the Rajya Sabha and other bodies or under some bending of the rules to occupy some piece of real estate in New Delhi’s cosy Lutyen’s bungalow zone.
What would you normally expect the defeated party heavyweights would be doing?
They would go back to their constituencies? They would be busy doing party revival work?
No, not in the Congress party!

All the heavyweights, those who enjoyed power, enjoyed ministerial positions, Cabinet rank and what have you are right in New Delhi and doing their own private work!
Yes, some of the bright lights of the party, first, are also first rate lawyers who are busy with their court cases. Some are first rate criminal lawyers? Some are also experts in various branches of law.

Also, some also act as party spokespersons!

They are all so busy that you can’t hope to encounter them at the AICC .The offices at the AICC are always empty, only the lower functionaries are hanging around. What about such leading lights like Manmohan Singh, Kapil Sibal or P.Chidambaram are doing?

Manmohan Singh, as the Prime Minister for two terms without contesting an election is now busy; it seems, with his Rajya Sabha work!

One would ordinarily expect such a leading intellectual and expert to sit at the AICC and concentrate on putting forth a working paper for others to deliberate on the ways in which the party can be brought back to some serious alternative path to power. No, it doesn’t seem to be Singh’s priority at all. Not a single word he had uttered in the last three years on the revival of the Congress party back to power.

There is not even any hint that he met Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi in this regard!

As for the lawyer-politicians, the less said the better! Leaders like Kapil Sibal and P.Chidambaram could do a much better job. In Delhi, the constituency of Sibal he could have inspired a team of loyal workers. He could have given much input in the form of alternative points of view, be it economic or education or even in secularism etc.

As for PC he could have revived the Congress, given his clout at various level in the state. The TN Congress is at the lap of the DMK! This after three years! And the new TN Congress has rank party defectors, from the very same Dravidian parties, defectors, turncoats and film actresses and what you expect in a state like TN!

So, we needn’t dwell further on the state of the Congress, it seems. The Congress party is clearly a leaking boat! The Congress party is sinking. All the seniors, PCC presidents, all respected names are deserting the party.

And the supreme irony is that no one around Sonia are leaving her to function even freely. The coterie is surrounding the party so that they can continue to enjoy the perks and privileges, whatever they are!

I was in Delhi recently for a few days and as it is my wont I was soaking myself, so to say, in the history of Delhi, more so the Mughal history. The more I read the latest books, the more I was drawing to the last days of the Mughal days. I took pity on the last Moghul, Bahadur Shah Zafar. I was suddenly, why rather rudely reminded that poor Zafar; his last days were spent in some penury.

While, I wondered, the present Congress party even in Opposition seems to enjoy a bigger treasury! There is so much unaccounted funds with the political parties! Where there is money, more so the unaccounted money, there would be party crowds, right?

That may be one reason why the politicians, defeated and others, still hover around the New Delhi scene. Back in the states, in their rural hinterlands, what work they would be inclined to do?

Judicial system overburdened

Anyway, in the forum we mentioned above where the President of India and the Chief Justice of India participated the working of our independent judiciary was also touched, though briefly. Certainly, the judicial system is over-burdened.

As discussed by a distinguished lawyer, Kaleeswaram Raj (Rethinking Judicial Reforms, 2017) fighting in the courts have become now a five star lawyers’ wars. The author refers to “Supreme Court litigation is a multi-crore affairs, very few can afford. This he says is an irony in a socialist preamble in its Constitution, the Legal aid to the poor does not enable the poor to choose the lawyer, nor the lawyer to choose the poor”. Yes, such ironies abound in the country increasingly.
Also, see what the Opposition party, namely, the Congress sis doing.

Manmohan Singh, the former Prime mMini8ster is now a member of the Rajya Sabha. It seems he busies himself with his Rajya Sabha deliberations. He, in one latest instance, it seems, urged his colleagues to given in to the passing of the GST bill, not to move any amendments. He was hailed by his colleagues that Singh is a statesman, not a politician! Fine, fine!

We thought that Singh, after bring about such a monumental defeat for the party might be turning his attention to rebuild the party, he might devote his time to this task. No, he is busy with the Rajya Sabha deliberations! Irony of ironies. This is the same statesman who the other day called the demonetisation as “organised loot, legalised plunder”. A statesman indeed! That is the plight of the Congress party in distress.

Who knows, the Congress must be praying in secret that”! God, Lord or whatever, give us show us some light for us to exit honourably!”.Given Rahul’s tantrums that send out many senior Congress men and women to leave the party, what exit route the party has to deliver itself an honourable alternative path? A day thought indeed!

Fighting black money! Is it the target now?

black-moneyBlack money is a topic most public opinion makers, old and young better avoid it. Even in New Delhi, in the leisurely leafy environments, the subject of current politics people avoids. We had spoken to AICC office bearers, they in fact are very nice and very courteous and they all avoid any current politics. They are there, we don’t know for what purposes. May be the comforts of living in Delhi, with a government quarters, is the most prized possession you can imagine in Delhi.

Yes, otherwise you have to travel long, at least an hour’s drive either to Guregaon or Noida! These outer spread of the city takes much more time. To travel back into the city to keep up an engagement is a day’s task!

So, you know what life in Delhi means. So too to run the parties, political parties, we mean!

The days when politics was al clean or at best earnest affairs. That day gone long before. A JRD Tata can write to Pandit Nehru a cheque for Rs.one lakh, as said one in a letter also openly as a contribution for the Congress party. Yes we too in our times in the 1960s did work at the AICC and we didn’t get any big money.

Now to travel from Delhi to any state capital by flight and the expenses for two or three days must easily cost Rs one lakh and above. Then calculate how much the AICC alone must be spending in a month?

So, any political party is nowadays is fund-flush!

So, doing politics is a rather big money game. That is you need so much money and ironically also there is big money, unaccounted money, black money, fund without known sources, call by any name, black money, in one word, is a conundrum!

As per a latest book by a JNU professor, black money in India roughly equal to 62 per cent of the GDP!

What are the implications?

The learned Prof.claims that black money has been costing India an average of 5 per cent of the growth since mid-1970s. If we add 5 per cent to the rate of growth over the past four decades or so, our economy whose size would be Rs.1,050 crore or about 15 trillion dollars! This would mean that if we had controlled black money as we want Indian economy would have become the world’s second largest economy, after the USA. Before China!

Now, we know what we are losing out. To put in another way and in populist language, the poor of this country must know that our rulers, all the past party presidents and the Prime Ministers, now the BJP government and the BJP party faces must all know and must openly acknowledge that 40 per cent of our economy is in driven or held in black money or unaccounte4d money! Black money generated through all sorts of bribes, illegalities, more illegalities and more political compromises, our many departments, Income tax depts. to other CBI, Ed and such supervisory and investigating agencies bring out many uncomfortable news but most powerful people manage to keep them away from media glare! Media channels are controlled or browbeaten to black out such uncomfortable news!

Can the Election power would be increased? We doubt.

Can anyone really dare and tell the public that he or she would take oath before they enter any office, party or government office?

So, dear citizens, you ask yourself and be satisfied. This is what G0d has given you. This is you lot!

Political thinkers and political leaders are all not political animals. They are also criminals and conspirators!

How the party can recover, if at all?

The latest Assembly elections in five states proved many truths. The Congress party lost so badly in all states, except in Punjab. In UP, it was decimated. The most important state, UP, the very heart land rejected the party completely.

Instead of dwelling on the reasons for the massive drubbing, we can better search for reasons for Modi’s success.

58088211Modi, immediately after the result, spoke of a New India he would create with so many promises, chief among them is economic growth, jobs, fight terrorism, corruption, fight even casteism and of course communalism too. He didn’t give one ticket for the Muslims who constitute 19 per cent. The very significant reason, in our view, is his new hegemonism, the dominant theme and the dominant tone.

A known Hindutva pracharak transformed into a man driven by a new N energy to turn the tables against his opponents by a combination of an energy, a man possessed and his soaring oratory, his resort to some of the low-down uses of words and phrases and that created almost a stir in the minds of people, the mass as well as the middle classes, the media looked subjugated, it was very obliging, his orations filled the media wave and there was a sense of helplessness on the part of the opponents, Akilesh Yadav and by his side Rahul Gandhi seemed running behind the Prime Minister, the whirlwind rallies, the three days in Varanasi had three or more rallies and it looked the PM was simply caught by a last brave attempt to brow beat the combined forces of his opponents.

The series of blunders, the retreats his much rated campaign opponents, Priyanka Gandhi disappeared as soon as she showed her face, Mulayam Singh Yadav was not visible for the most part of the campaigning, so too others from the Opposition side. In contrast, we saw a battery of fiery speeches by the hot heads, thought their rhetoric avoided or made to leave out the more contentious campaign promises. Hindutva ideology was thrown overboard this time. It paid decisively.

Now, what is the road ahead for the Congress?

We were in Delhi this time and we saw some Congress bigwigs. On a previous occasion we met A.K.Antony and Motilal Vohra. This time we met Sheila Dikshit and reached Manmohan Residence, apart from the AICC where we are accustomed, as often to the sense of total neglect and no one is interested to see you, let alone talk to you.

The only alternative to the present despondency at the AICC is to request Sonia Gandhi to polity make way for others. So too Rahul can be given rest. The duo can be accommodated at the CWC or elsewhere keeping in mind the close identity they had established and the many legal and other tangles in which they are involved.

Seriously, the others attached to the AICC, occupying the real estate in the Lutyen bungalow zone must be sent out.

A new committee, that too drawn from states, also not members of the negative factions must be excluded. A new CWC, or a broad consensus group, better invited to send their willingness to join such a consensus group must be accommodated.

There must be new ideology formulations, reiterating the party’s traditional values and a honest commitment to revive the party on its core ideological values.

The party is historic, 132 years, with historic values. India inherited the best from the West, democracy, Constitution, Parliament, Secularism etc.

So, this international ideological perspective must inform the Congress party whoever is assigned this task.

Inner party democracy, party funds made public, the many queries before the apex court cases, the EC must be taken up and made public.

Once the dynasty is done with, no other way at all, the very credibility of the Congress leadership would be restored.

As for Prime Minister Modi’s New India, it is still a work in progress only. As it looks, the government in the present ideological scenario looks a hegemonic structure. It spells certain danger if you have sense of history. Democratic India where there is a large underbelly of poor and the deprived won’t remain hungry for an indefinite time, right? An unequal and an inequitable India stares at us, right?

Fighting corruption, a clean and efficient bureaucracy is so important. They need many new steps like Lokayukta and Lokpal. The country is young, the youth is aspirational and social media is active and so the Prime Minister in a Parliamentary democracy has much work on his hand.

It is a tough journey. People are awake!