Saturday, May 16, 2009

Great expectations from Manmohan

The good fact being that Manmohan can work more independently without the interference of the Left is a good news for the country. Now, in foreign policies, in increasing FDI caps on crucial sectors, Congress doesnt have to wait for Left's agreement. However, Manmohan Singh must increase the speed of reforms by introducing legislation on one side which improves social sector issues like education, water and electrcity while on the other hand changing economic policies such as disinvestment, reduction in red tapism etc.

This is where I feel Manmohan should retain Finance Ministry, while Chidambaram is better as a Home Minister. The young and dynamic Shashi Tharoor should be given External affairs Ministry while defence to Pranab.

The place where we need to really improve is in the basic infrastructure where Congress record has been dismal. Infrastructure has to grow and we need better railway system in terms of speed and better railway system that connects major cities. Of course, this is too far fledged to expect too quickly to happen, but can surely happen if Manmohan puts in right people. The fact that Congress can retain a majority of portfolios, it should be a positive sign for India. This unique opportunity lies in the fact that Manmohan must put in the right people.

When implementing social sector schemes, fiscal deficit managment is very crucial. As of now, we are in a deep financial mess and our fiscal deficit is too high only because we are spending too much on social sectors without making proper changes in the way they are implemented.

Congress resurrects; BJP ?

In another striking example of how an Indian voter votes, 2009 election will go down the memory lane for a long time. It is because all states where BJP was expected to do good lost marginally (although Rajasthan, Haryana, Mahasrashtra proved to be exceptional cases). BJP still retains the central India completely, but it failed to generate any votes from rajasthan, Haryana, Assam in particular.

The problem with BJP is that it doesn't have a presence in key states like AP, WB, Kerala, TamilNadu which gives you 141 seats. There is virtually no presence. It has worked to the advantage of the Congress. Here, even if Congress had won or lost would not have added any vote to BJP only exception being its allies had they won. BJP gained extremely well in Bihar and Lalu is thrashed out.

It is interesting to note when Jayalalitha said to BJP to do business only if it is able to get 150 seats on its own (minimum), but now BJP should also question Jaya about the fact that she did not win more than 10 seats in TamilNadu. It is however, Congress which wiped out Left parties completely leading to only 20 seats down from 60 in 2004. Left suffered its worst ever defeat in West Bengal. In this election, Left suffered the worst.

If BJP did a good job (if not better) by accepting with humility the defeat, left seems to introspect and did not even happen that Karat offered to resign unlike Advani.

This election is a clean sweep not for Manmohan, but with no option left people voted for Congress in the following way:
In AP, one was sure Congress is going to retain, but not increase its share
In Kerala, it's always either Left/Congress - this time it is Congress next time Left again
In West Bengal, Congress was expected to gain, but not so handsomely
In Maharashtra, Congress gaining again.

The real surprises include:
1)Congress own comeback in UP by winning 20 leaving BJP behind with 13 seats - rahul gandhi strategy worked
2)Congress spectacular gains in Rajasthan by winning 20 seats (last time BJP won more than 20)
3)Congress DMK sweeping TamilNadu

So, if you analyse it properly, it is Congress's gain on its own in places where BJP doesnt exist (except Rajasthan). Even Punjab, Haryana, Uttarkhand, Delhi, J&K voted for Congress.

If at all BJP had to gain, it had to be in Haryana, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan on its own. This did not happen. Had BJP lost even those states where it was very strong, it would have ended BJP completely.

But what next? BJP has to reinvent itself by showing what it has done between 1999-2004 under vajpayee core economic team led by Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha. It has to highlight the fact BJP is more interested in this direction. BJP needs to make its presence felt in south such as TamilNadu, kerala and also in West Bengal. It also has to develop or resurrect the UP unit where it is in bad shape.

It has to nurture more nationally acceptable leaders. Narendra Modi is definitely a very good bet, then Arun jaitely, Sushma Swaraj, jaswant Singh. I wonder if Jaitely had contested and won the Lok Sabha seat...he would be the best opposition leader for which Congress would have to prepare a hell lot to answer his onslaught as he is the only leader across party lines who is extremely accurate in his critiques.

One good thing that has happened in India is that Congress and BJP agree on foreign affairs and economics more or less on everything. The social sector is where Congress emerges stronger as it is more pro-poor although it has never been able to remove poverty and implemented new ideas.

BJP has to come up with fresh ideas, and how they plan to tackle existing challenges. For Congress, it is sure they will win even the next election because Rahul gandhi will be the next PM and people will vote for him.

Graceful entry (MMS) and graceful exit(Advani)

In 2004, MMS became a PM by accident. I, initially, was very happy at the fact that the most qualified person to become PM was MMS and he did become. However, my dreams were shattered when he diluted Right to Information Act, allowed reservations, introduced farm loan waiver instead of restructuring it, and was silent on internal security reforms. One of the only things when I felt happy about him was when he was ready to sacrifice his govt for the sake of nuclear deal.

However, this time in 2009, the mandate was not for MMS ,although he gracefully enters this post because he was Congress's choice from the beginning. Manmohan also now matches Vajpayee record of twice to come to power on succession and the only non-Gandhi member to have become PM twice from the Congress party. The fact is Congress expanded at the expense of both Left and other regional parties like SP, BSP, TDP and AIADMK.

Mr. Advani showed what he really is in terms of commitment to public service and dignity when he chose to quit the post of Leader of the Opposition. He had resigned earlier when Jain Commission had charged him of hawala and chose not to contest until he is cleared. This time he admitted with humility the defeat and chose a graceful exit. Now, he will go down eternally as PM-in-waiting. He is definitely among those who have shown no lust for power, but a serious intention to do public service. Imagine Deve gowda (I am ashamed to bring this man into the picture while dealing with a dignified Advani)..who still contests, wins and aims to be PM again!!!

Advani definitely has done a great favor by publishing his autobiography giving us a lot of information about how our country has travelled since independence..

Although Advani was acerbic on MMS and vice versa...both have demonstrated extremely good public gesture when Advani said he would co-operate completely with him and MMS saying that he needs their support to run the country and come out of many challenges we are facing. I feel even Rahul Gandhi accepting the fact that Advani is a senior most person and that he fought a strong election was a good gesture on his part. I still remember when Advani told in a press interview that he once told Rahul that the situtation that should worry both BJP and Congressi s that both the national parties are not able to expand and regional parties continue to grow.

However, there are very few leaders who have maintained public decorum, decency, dignity and most importantly commitment to public life and to name a few include Nehru, Patel, Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Vajpayee, Jai Prakash Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohia...and MMS of course.

These are some of the few leaders who stood beyond their party lines when it came to the nation. How can we forget when Advani told - "There are 2 moments in which I was elevated - one when Bangaldesh was liberated and second when country conducted its first test - both under Smt. Indira Gandhi.

We really miss such leaders - both in the Congress and BJP. These 2 are the only parties that can ensure a stable India.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why is Congress sending confusing signals to the electorate?

If there is one party that must be happy that it is doing good in Lok Sabha polls, it is the Congress. Yet, ironically, Congress has been sending real confusing signals.

Look at these:

1)On one hand, they talk of Jayalalitha and on the real ground have allied with DMK
2)On one hand, Congress esp Rahul Gandhi says he will support Left if they win 170-180 seats and says that Left will support congress if they fall short of majority. This at a time when they are fighting together with TMC which is Left's main enemy
3) He praises Nitish Kumar upsetting Lalu and Paswan. It is a joke where at the Center Lalu and Paswan share the ministry with Congress while are fighting against each other in Bihar.
4) He praises Naidu when his own party leader YSR is doing pretty good in Andhra Pradesh.
5) Congress secretly is trying to woo Mayawati and their relationship with Samajwadi is like an on/off state...some days it is at its best and some days it is at its worst.

And lastly, it looks like Congress is too nervous. Are they looking for new allies or retaining existing allies? The biggest blunder Congress has done is not fighting this election as an alliance. This is in fact the biggest risk it has taken.

While BJP can't gain in Kerala, West Bengal, COngress is still going very strong and may ultimately emerge as the winner.