GIVE UP PETTY FIGHTS
Subramanian Swamy. Yes, Subramanian Swamy. What do you do about him? What can the BJP, or, for that matter, anyone else do about him when he is hell-bent on being…well, Subramanian Swamy? Having at last been rescued from political wilderness by the kind souls that populate the higher echelons of the RSS, who gently nudged the Prime Minister to nominate him to the Rajya Sabha, Swamy has again begun playing the proverbial bull in the china shop.
Whether or not the RSS apparatchiks realise it, everyone else has already concluded that this two-legged leopard is not going to change his spots. Shooting in the tent from inside seems to be a particular specialty of the Harvard-educated maverick. What it says about the top Ivy League university need not concern us here. But it certainly shows those who pitch-forked him from the margins of irrelevance smack into the heart of Indian Parliament in rather poor light.
Having got a six-year warranty as an honourable MP, he can now disregard all canons of parliamentary democracy and try and wreak his destructive streak against whoever he imagines has thwarted his overweening ambitions.
All through his long political career, Swamy has been impatient for power. And when he finds it is not within his grasp, he targets whoever he concludes is responsible for denying him power. The latest denier, according to him, is Arun Jaitley. Since he decided that Jaitley conspired to deny him the ticket in the last Lok Sabha poll, so he must not be spared. Therefore, no opportunity should be missed to pull down Jaitley.
Some weeks ago, the top-most law officers of Government of India were recipients of Swamy’s gratuitous ire. They must be sacked, thundered the self-styled oracle. The unsaid reason was their proximity to the Finance Minister. Poor Mukul Rohatgi and Ranjit Kumar, the Attorney General and Solicitor General of India, respectively. They had to grin and bear it for the sake of institutional dignity. Next came the turn of the RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan.
Now, whatever the differences between Rajan and the government—and there certainly were many, otherwise he would not have been denied a second term—the relationship was, and continues to be, civil and businesslike. But Swamy launched a low-grade attack, questioning the patriotism of Rajan, and accusing him of “wrecking the economy from inside”.
For sure, you could question Rajan on many of his policy prescriptions, but to impute base motives to his actions, or to a lack of action, was highly irresponsible. Decent public discourse is not conducted through abusive diatribes against all and sundry. But, then, Swamy sets his own rules, doesn’t he? It is another matter those are not worthy of a true democrat.
However, a few days after Rajan announced his decision to return to the academic world when his current term ends on 4 September, Swamy did two things. One, he patted himself on the back for having claimed Rajan’s scalp, and, two, opened another front. This time the target was an equally celebrated economist, Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian.
Happily, the government was quick to repulse the attack, with Jaitley and a couple of other ministers as also the BJP spokespersons, defending Subramanian and nixing Swamy’s criticism. Questioning the excellent academic and professional credentials of the CEA, tearing out of context his words in previous assignments, imputing motives to his performance in his current job, are all meant to target Jaitley since it is he who retained the services of Subramanian after the change of guard in May 2014.
Both Rajan and Subramanian were appointed by the UPA government but were continued by the NDA. Of course, the two were retained because the new government had confidence in their capabilities. Being specialist economists, they would not have an axe to grind beyond the call of their official remits. And if the truth be told, the two would not have clung on to their jobs for want of opportunities elsewhere. They would have job offers galore from the best of globally renowned institutions. But it is the prestige and the opportunity to serve the country that motivates men of great learning and achievements.
Ironically, Swamy himself has impressive academic credentials, but decided to plunge into politics. Unfortunately, on switching professions, his ambition for high political office has made him a veritable loose cannon, firing against all and sundry. Having made a mess of his political career, the 76-year-old Swamy should have been careful not to squander what was probably his last chance to prove that he can be a responsible parliamentarian capable of working as a disciplined member of the party.
It may not be too late for him to make amends. Otherwise, if he continues to tear apart the tent to which he was granted admittance most reluctantly, he might soon find himself ejected out of it. And there would be no one to shed tears at the waste of a once very promising political career. In sum, give up petty fights, Dr Swamy.
GIVE ADS, DICTATE EDITORIAL POLICY
To tell you the truth, Arvind Kejriwal is no less of a maverick. There is so much artifice in the AAP boss’ public persona that it is hard to distinguish between fact and fiction, myth and reality, wrongdoer and wronged. Since playing the victim has become second nature, even on the rare occasion when he may be actually wronged he evokes little sympathy. Because he has lost all credibility. Always addressing himself to the lowest common denominator, discerning observers, however, are able to see through his hypocrisy and deception.
There is now credible evidence that the AAP bosses are using the sizable publicity budget of the Delhi government—Rs 526 crore, to be precise, for just one financial year—to demand positive coverage. An English language daily, notorious for treating news as a mere blank space-filler between ads, seems to have virtually surrendered the task of story selection to the AAP ad-givers.
However, certain owner-editors unable to resist the lure of AAP largesse feel obliged to compromise editorial freedom. AAP now dictates as to which columnist should be continued and whose services should be dispensed with. Such a blatant abuse of taxpayers’ rupees for pelting the freedom of press was not seen during the Sheila Dikshit government.
But then a party which harbours paid-news warriors in its ranks—those, who were giving clean chit to the main accused in the 2-G scam in exchange for crores for their equally thuggish owner-editors—can stoop to any extent in the pursuit of naked power. After all, Kejriwal is the harbinger of new politics, new in the sense that it plumbs the lowest depths of depravity.
Meanwhile, the report that AAP has engaged the services of Dilip Cherian’s Perfect Relations has left us flummoxed. Even if AAP is flush with funds, why waste on a professional PR agency when Kejriwal himself is the best marketer, capable of selling ice to the Eskimos?
SEARCHING FOR A CREDIBLE LEADER IN UP
The BJP is in search of a credible leader to helm its UP campaign. Despite the attempts of Varun Gandhi’s backers to insert himself in the race, there is little chance of his realising the ambition. If the designated legatees of the Nehru-Gandhi family are hard put to pull in voters, there is little chance of the wrong Gandhi clicking.
Another name to lead the UP campaign is that of HRD Minister Smriti Irani. The feisty Irani has a lot going in her favour. One, she is an energetic campaigner, capable of taking the fight to the enemy camp. Two, she has acquired a public image, which fires up the BJP rank and file and enthuses the majority of undecided voters. Her sheer energy and aggression can more than match the likes of Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav. However, her caste is a huge problem. Born a Punjabi Khatri, she married a Zoroastrian. Neither has any pulling power in the highly caste-ridden politics of the state.
In this context, the name of Anupriya Patel, the MP from Mirzapur, often crops up. A member of the backward Kurmis with a strong presence in eastern UP, she also appeals to the young, aspirational classes. A double Masters from prestigious universities, she taught at a well-known private university before plunging full-time in politics. Young and blessed with a winsome personality, she can give Priyanka Gandhi a run for her, or rather her husband’s money, since she is self-made, and has worked hard to be where she is. More importantly, she does not have Vadra in her surname. The only hitch is whether Anupriya would agree to formally join the BJP. Having been expelled from Apna Dal following a family feud over the sharing of spoils, her best chance to grow exponentially is to lead the UP BJP and take on Mulayam Singh and Mayawati.