CONGRESS HYPOCRISY IS SHOWING

Honestly, it is rank hypocrisy to try and stall Parliament over the Prime Minister’s rather clever response to his predecessor for his downright provocative description of demonetisation as “organised loot and legalised plunder”. What had possessed the usually meek and soft-spoken Manmohan Singh we cannot tell, he was not known to speak in such offensively hyperbolic terms. Those remarks were particularly odious. Not even the worst critics of notebandi had called it an “organised loot and legalised plunder”.

It was certainly badly executed, but there was no doubting either the laudable objective behind the scrapping of big notes, nor the gains that are eventually set to flow from it. To tell the truth, the real guilty are those who had allowed the money supply to more than double from six to over twelve per cent of the GDP under their watch. In fact, Modi most courageously undertook to reduce the excessive cash sloshing around in the economy. Modern economies have four to five per cent money in circulation. If the US and Japan have more, it is due to entirely different reasons, the former because it is a global currency and the latter because the old and ageing Japanese tend to keep a lot of cash handy.

Indeed, one likely reason for excessive cash in the economy might be the open “loot and plunder” of the public sector banks during the UPA decade, something P. Chidambaram ought to realise, when he now feigns surprise at the rising NPAs. If the bad debts of banks are now mounting, it is not because the Modi ministers are nudging the banks to lend to all comers, as was the case under the previous regime. It is because Modi has stopped evergreening of the old and failed loans, a practice so prevalent under UPA that hundreds of crores were given to Vijay Mallya, in spite of resistance by various banks.

We have digressed. To get back to Modi saying that only Manmohan Singh “knows the art of taking bath in the bathroom while wearing a raincoat, no one else does” there are two straightforward ways to quell the howls of protest from the Congress. One, by dwelling on what the PM most probably meant. Simply put, that in spite of presiding over one of the most corrupt governments in free India, in spite of himself handling the coal ministry when the coal scam happened, Singh continues to bask in his lily-white innocence.

The veteran opportunist—he was rooting for controls and restrictions on economic growth literally a few days before Narasimha Rao made him Finance Minister—who saw the Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh scams under his direct watch, continues to believe that his own financial integrity is reason enough for him to go unscathed. Frankly, he is not the only clean politician around. Why, even the Congress had honest leaders such as Gulzari Lal Nanda, U.N. Dhevar, Lal Bahadur Shashtri, to name but only the three that come to mind. Of course, the non-Congress bloc boasts of a large contingent, from L.K. Advani, Nitish Kumar, M.M. Joshi, to a host of others. Moreover, none of them had personally glossed over corruption so that they could be allowed to retain their senior ministerial posts. Why, then, should anyone make special allowance for someone who though financially clean was responsible for running a corrupt finance ministry and, later, prime ministry?

The other way to respond to the Congress criticism of Modi’s raincoat remark is, of course, to hold the mirror to the loudmouths. Rajiv Gandhi had publicly dismissed Manmohan Singh and his fellow members of the Planning Commission as “a bunch of jokers”. Rajiv Gandhi’s promising son, Rahul, in fact, had gone a step further in showing respect, as multi-faced Chidambaram demanded in the Rajya Sabha last Thursday, 9 February, for the office of the Prime Minister of India. The ordinance issued by the Singh government, the Congress heir had called “nonsense”, while dramatically tearing it up at a news conference. Was, according to Chidambaram, Rahul being dignified and respectful towards the PM, a PM who belonged to the party virtually owned by him? 

The larger point, of course, is the generally low-level of public discourse. The Vajpayees and Hiren Mukherjees, Madhu Liamayes and Bhupesh Guptas, alas, are no longer around. Now parliamentarians on both sides of the aisle no longer debate policies, programmes, ideology et al. It is unremitting mud-slinging and distasteful tu, tu, mein, mein both inside and outside legislatures. The advent of Arvind Kejriwal has only further sullied the atmosphere. Easily, the most obnoxious politician around, he sleepwalks through the day and night hurling abuses at all and sundry, including the Election Commission—virtually, anyone whom he might suspect of thwarting his prime ministerial ambitions. 

NOT SO HONOURABLE, THIS?

Playing to the gallery comes easy to most people in positions of power. That a senior judge of the apex court would fall prey to the human failing has, however, come as a surprise to the Bar and to his own brother-judges. Your Honour—they are all honourable, aren’t they?—endorses without demur all the proposals on the table and then, a day or two later, issues statements questioning the very decisions he was party to in the in-camera proceedings. 

Besides, though keen to acquire an anti-establishment image, he pointedly keeps in regular touch with people in authority. Of course, we know the name of the gent in question, as do most members of the Bar, but will refrain from mentioning it. Because we still believe in old-fashioned values which enjoin upon us to conduct ourselves honourably whether in public or in private. 

RAJNI TO STEP -FORWARD? 

Apropos of the on-going power struggle in Tamil Nadu. Following the death of its supreme leader J. Jayalalithaa last month, the fate of the AIADMK hangs in the balance. Neither the pretender successor Sasikala Natarajan nor the stop-gap Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam can contain the clashing ambitions of party members. That is why it may be time at long last for the reigning cine icon Rajnikanth to plunge into the political arena. He is possibly the only one who can not only fill the void left behind by Jayalaithaa but, more importantly, foil the attempt of the rival DMK, which is already salivating at the mouth, certain of an early return to power, to gobble up a large part of the AIADMK. A little bird tells us that a certain gentleman who is a hardcore Sangh loyalist may be already trying to persuade Rajnikanth to rise to the occasion.

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