The title might seem a bit harsh on Shekhar Gupta. Well, there are many sporting events and matches which are inspiring. There are individual and team performances that simply stun and overawe us as a miracle. Above all, there is nothing more enjoyable than an underdog turning the tables on a favourite. That is how Shekhar Gupta analyses UPA-2 in his article ‘Decide on the Doctor’ in IE, October 1. It sounds like Gupta wants to nurse the UPA back to health. Hmmm, playing nurse, eh?
Okay, so he starts with an analogy and theory of Test Cricket with a team following-on and facing defeat. Miraculously the team following-on wins, and that’s the probability that Gupta applies to UPA2 to put it back together. So here’s his honest theory (Quotes in blue):
“A recovery is not impossible. Some of the most stirring fightbacks in cricket history have come after follow-ons. But team managements and captains have to do something bravely different to make that happen. Like, for example, changing the batting order. Or threatening some irresponsible batsmen with the sack. Is the UPA (or rather Congress) management capable of doing that?”
I completely agree with Gupta there. But first, let me bring him up on some facts about Cricket. As of date, there have been over 2000 test matches played. A team following on has won only on 3 occasions. Alright, so if you think that is not a fair look into the facts then here’s more: there are over 290 matches where follow-on has been enforced and the number of victories by the team following-on still remains 3. So while the possibility cannot be denied, Gupta doesn’t really examine the theory of probability or past experience in any way.
Two of the greatest victories after follow-on were in 1981 and 2001. In the first, Eng V Aus, an out of form Ian Botham had been removed from captaincy in an on-going series and in the first innings had scored a fluent 50 while his team crumbled. After follow on, even when his team was slipping he scored an amazing 149. In the second match at Eden Gardens, India V Aus, V.V.S. Laxman scored a fluent 50 and then went on to score 281 in the second after following on. That is as much for statistics. Now let’s really examine how his theories pan out.
One of the most brilliant minds of our times has to be the scientist, Richard Feynman and here’s what he had to say: “In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is - if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. That is all there is to it.” That was said in quite a different context but can fairly be applied to any major theory like the one of Gupta. It is not ‘decide on the doctor’.. In fact Gupta IS playing the “doctor” himself.
“First of all, the Congress has to decide whether it wants to continue with Manmohan Singh as its prime minister.” Aha! So who exactly does Gupta mean by Congress? The party? The CWC? The Congress parliamentary party? Shekhar Gupta feigns ignorance of the basic qualification required to be a Congress PM, and WHO decides it! The unwillingness or inability to identify the exact person/captain who must make the decision is the first flaw in his theory. Of course, that is easier in Cricket, isn’t it?
“Next, tell Chidambaram, who has been keen to get back to Finance, to wait just a bit, that he will move sideways into his preferred half in North Block as Pranab moves into Rashtrapati Bhavan. That will settle the issue with — and between — these big two.” So Dr.Gupta’s advice is to gently get rid of Pranab and get the unartful Chidambaram back into finance. Well, this clearly reflects the concern not of a journalist opining but that of a politician playing games. Hmmm! It is exceptionally dishonest not to admit that PC not only needs to be kicked out but also faces serious trouble with the SC sword hanging over him on 2G and a court case on election fraud. Even discounting those issues PC has simply failed as a performer both as a Finance minister and as a Home minister. It has to take an extraordinarily bad captain to retain him unless the merit is ‘loyalty and protecting family jewels’! Ambitious as he may be Pranab is still the one who has fought many battles for the Congress successfully on many fronts. Even L.K. Advani is on record stating in the parliament that he wouldn’t know how Congress would face all its troubles without Pranabda. No mean compliment that! No matter how thorny he might be, only a bad captain would throw him to the Rashtrapati Bhavan just yet. But Dr. Gupta would.
“Who will then replace Chidambaram in Home? Start now, by bringing Sheila Dikshit into the cabinet. S.M. Krishna, one of the nicest, most gracious people you’d meet in politics, has to be most respectfully offered a Raj Bhavan. Sheila Dikshit’s induction will achieve several things. One, you will bring an experienced, true-blue Uttar Pradesh politician, with experience and thick skin, in the cabinet. See how skilfully she handled the CAG report on CWG compared to how many other Congressmen blundered. She would be the first woman in the Cabinet Committee on Security since the passing away of Indira Gandhi, and she would also be the first member from the Hindi heartland in this most powerful body in UPA 2. By next year, she can be a deserving replacement for Chidambaram in Home. Of course, the second benefit would be the end of blood-letting between her and Ajay Maken, provided he is appointed Delhi chief minister. The challenge of winning Delhi for the fourth time in 2013 will keep him busy and quiet."
Okay, I was already under the impression that Krishna was brought into the cabinet from a Raj Bhavan and Gupta wants to send him back to one. Reason? Unclear! So I have to assume that of all in the cabinet he has been singled out as a non-performer and should be rewarded with the Raj Bhavan. Pretty much Congress style isn’t it? And cleverly, Sheila Dikshit must be promoted because she has handled the taints of CAG and CWG smartly. And that itself is supposed to have cleared her of all the taint. Bravo, Dr. Gupta! And no matter what, Chidambaram must return to the ‘old boys club’ as Finance Minister. He has failed as Home Minister and wanting PC as Finance Minister is like asking a bad wicket-keeper to open the bowling.
The rest of Gupta’s article is dedicated to how these shuffles and foot work might help win the general elections in 2014 or 2012, whenever they happen. This is where Dr.Gupta’s analogy with the cricket follow-on fails miserably. He forgets, the follow-on happens in a ‘current’ match and winning it and not about winning or losing the next match. A strong political leader recently said in a rousing speech that most political parties on coming to power get busy with how to win the next election instead of focussing on good governance. I wonder if Gupta heard that speech. I suppose not, but he falls into the same category of politicians who is very concerned about the next election and not the current match on hand. The current match is about returning to good governance, punishing the corrupt and getting rid of the tainted and accused. The one thing Gupta doesn’t dare to question or answer is – should Manmohan Singh remain or not. He leaves that to the ‘party’. He has recommendations for all others. That’s the perfect doctor prescribing shoulder surgeries for brain tumours.
If you carefully go through his whole article the names of Sonia and Rahul are mentioned only once. That is in reference to the CWC as their being LS members. This is servantile journalism at its best. Dr.Gupta does not dare to even estimate what should be the new role for Sonia or what decisions she must take. He does not dare to question or decide whether Rahul Gandhi should be in the team or the water-boy. Frankly, any discussion on changes, shuffles and foot work in Congress is at best disingenuous if it does not include a discussion on Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Rahul has, by his own stupidity, proved beyond doubt that he is no PM material. Dr. Gupta won’t recognise that or even deal with the question who should be the PM if not MMS. As for Sonia Gandhi, she is untouchable and out of bounds for him. So for all that his ‘doctoring’ is worth his article only yearns to see Congress remain in power. Politics maybe a game, Dr. Gupta, good governance and country are not.