Political crises, motives and polls

There are signs of panic and financial chaos all around. The US has got a credit downgrade, European countries are struggling with recession and Japan is yet to recover fully.

We cannot escape this global confusion, but I think that in India the immediate impact will settle down after the weekend. We have a favourable demographic pattern, a good monsoon, and now the Food Security Bill. But let’s not grow complacent. Every government will fight to restore normal conditions but countries like China and India are bound to see a drop in growth projections, partly because of their own compulsions, but mainly because no country can register high growth in isolation.
In the US, President Barack Obama and the Democrats are on the defensive on the debt issue. America’s GDP growth rate, which is below projections, is unlikely to accelerate in the immediate future. I wonder if the downgrade by Standard & Poor’s had something to do with the electoral battle already raging in the US. In politics, and I know this from experience, major events are sometimes triggered for political reasons!
We watched unfortunate events unfold in the UK as riots spread across several cities. There were indications of a “class war” erupting over social benefits being withdrawn. But all we saw on TV were lumpen elements walking the streets, burning buses and cars, looting shops and attacking policemen and firemen.
The Indian cricket team was locked away in a hotel during the riots. Thankfully, the riots have been quelled and the India-England series has resumed. India’s performance was decent despite all the disturbances in the city of Birmingham. The bad news is that Virender Sehwag again got out off the first ball he faced in the second innings. The Indian batting has been a huge disappointment during this tour, but this is a story for another day.
My thoughts go back to Delhi’s Commonwealth Games 2010 when small issues were magnified and India-bashing had become the flavour of the season with many, including UK cable networks and print media. Look at the balanced reporting of the UK riots in our media. There was no shrill talk of pulling out the cricket team and no sceptical pondering about the Olympic Games in 2012. I wonder what the ECB (English and Wales Cricket Board) would have done if there was an identical situation in India?
We have seen the middle classes protesting against the high cost of living in many countries in Europe, including Greece, Spain, Portugal, and, in recent days, even in Israel. But how does one interpret the events in the UK? The events there look very similar to the disturbances in Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and Bahrain where thousands of youngsters are still agitating to secure a better future for themselves. The London riots were clearly more than a middle-class protest against “rising prices”! Arrests have been made and the court is in session. The government will look for reasons and solutions, but no government can allow organised arson and mayhem, which was what we saw in the UK.
A crisis like this brings about a great deal of reflection and politicians suddenly become aware of issues which have festered for months, even years. In India, for example, the issues of corruption, extortion and criminality have dominated the news and political agenda this year. The growing perception amongst the people is that the fruits of governance are being appropriated by a few in the power circle — this circle is no longer limited to politicians; the pillage extends to the three wings of governance and includes many in civil society as well. These issues will not go away and will claim their victims.
The 2G and CWG scams are dominating the goings-on in Parliament. As usual we have the traditional thunder and lightning associated with parliamentary debates. But I think the public is three steps ahead of both the ruling party and the Opposition. The money embezzled was public money and these are “public” issues, yet both these cases went unnoticed for years. Action was initiated only after pressure was mounted and the courts intervened. No smart arguments or documents can hide the reality of this situation.
The appointment of Suresh Kalmadi as the chairman of the CWG organising committee is the latest issue over which the UPA and the NDA are quibbling. But does it really matter who appointed Mr Kalmadi as the head of the OC? Will that answer explain the lack of action from 2004 to 2009 despite letters from the sports ministers? And what about the group of ministers which was supposed to oversee the preparations for the Games. What did the GoM do for five years? The chief minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, was cheered for her role at both the opening and closing ceremonies of the Delhi Games and, if I remember correctly, Mr Kalmadi was booed and jeered by the public. The chief minister of Delhi and her team, along with officers deputed by the Prime Minister’s Office, saved the day and our reputation. I have not read the audit report of the CAG but neither has anyone else, and that’s why I was a little surprised to see the deputy CAG release the audit report like a best-seller at a press conference. Is this the normal practice for audit reports? Was this purely an audit report release or something more?

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