So the unthinkable happened. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally decided to speak to the nation. Good! I suppose shop keepers, farmers and word-count specialists in the media have finally understood why the diesel price hike and FDI in retail are good for this country. The men and women in our MSM could hardly hide their delight and rushed to gloat over the PM’s speech and how he defended his spectacular decisions and cut the Opposition to their pygmy size. Mercifully, the media stopped at calling it the “Big Bang” reforms and didn’t venture to call it the “Higgs-Boson” of reforms. But there are a few questions that our ever probing media never asked. We will get to those questions in a while.
The best article on the FDI I have read so far is once again from the online news media and not MSM. R. Jagannathan writes in FirstPost: “If these are reforms, I am Amitabh Bachchan”. He explains well that the latest actions by the UPA are nothing more than desperate measures. Of course, nobody has written with convincing data on whether FDI will benefit the ‘Aam aadmi’ or not very conclusively. But there is no doubt in my mind that the decision is not inspired by the urge to “big bang” but by a lot of unfulfilled commitments to investors and lobbyists abroad.
In the meantime, here’s a small conversation between two ladies from the MSM. This was on September 14. What is striking from P. Malini of The Hindu is that she states: “IF the PM is ALLOWED….” The PM, as head of the govt, is the most powerful man in the country. Does he need to be allowed to follow his light or convictions? But her statement does make sense because it indicates the PM hasn’t been making decisions based on the country’s needs or situations but on what he’s allowed to do by Sonia Gandhi and her private club. Cleverly, Sonia Gandhi’s club is divided in two parts as under:
Club-1: A coterie consisting trusted darbaris who help her manage the difficult and troublesome political aspects of running a govt through MMS. If good comes out, she gets the credit. If the opposite happens, MMS or any minister takes a beating.
Club-2: This is an exclusive group of people assembled under a kiosk called NAC. This kiosk is a vending machine for legislations of populist, welfare schemes. Schemes like NREGA, Right to food, Right to this, Right to that. Right to drain the economy!
The reward for MMS is that he gets to be the PM for all the beating that he takes. If courage, light and convictions were to drive him, as the two media ladies were negotiating, he would have resigned on the 7th day after the first month of his job on getting his pay-check. I read somewhere that the most common reason people quit their jobs is because their ‘boss’ is terrible. A real-life Hari Sadoo! In contrast, there are bosses who are with their people most times. In times of personal grief they comfort them. They help resolve work related issues. They seem to know when to intervene and when to keep off. A nation expects the same from its boss. It’s no big secret that MMS simply lacks leadership skills and people skills. Where a warm hug is required he would typically mostly do an “aerial survey” from a distance. I quoted Marcus Buckingham, a Gallup poll researcher, in one of my earlier posts and repeat that quote:
"What a leader does for followers is turn anxiety into confidence. They’ve always done that throughout time and in every different society and situation. When leaders lead well, it’s because they’re able to rally people to a better future and make people spirited when they were previously anxious." Problem is, MMS, not having won a single public election, doesn’t have any followers. He only has a lot of bosses. Which explains Malini’s “if allowed” tweet. And people, as they become more and desperately thirsty, see the mirage and ‘drink the sand’ hoping it would quench their thirst. Nothing does this better than this scene from the movie ‘The American President’(0.36 secs):
Presidential aide Lewis Rothschild (Michael J. Fox): …People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.
The President (Michael Douglas): Lewis, we've had presidents who were beloved, who couldn't find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don't drink the sand because they're thirsty. They drink the sand because they don't know the difference.
That would seem right. A huge population in India isn’t drinking the sand because it quenches their thirst; they seem to do so because they can’t tell the difference. And when they want water what our boss offers is FDI in retail. Drink that! And then he comes out of his slumber to speak to them on TV. No, not because he owes them care and understanding but because the Opposition is supposedly misleading them. If at all he wanted to attack the Opposition he was neither forceful nor convincing. If he wanted to separate people’s concerns from the political ones of his detractors he failed again. In ‘The American President’ the opponent, Bob Rumsen, is constantly attacking the President’s personal life and the bills his girl-friend is championing. After a long silence, like MMS, Michael Douglas chooses to address the issue (3.07 mins):
It’s just a movie. Yes it is. And the bills that the President mentions in his speech mostly didn’t make it. But we have known leaders from time to time to stand up and talk to people and assure them that their leadership is in good hands. They stand up and talk to people and not offer defence for some policy decisions. Did MMS manage to do that? Clearly not! From once being considered an emerging super-power comparable to the league of US and China, a pathetic PM has reduced India to being compared to Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Sure, that is going to bring a lot of comfort to people. What next, will we be comparing ourselves with Somalia in the next speech? Ever heard the US compare itself with Brazil or Sudan? So Indians can drink the sand in the comfort that they’re better off than Pakistan and Bangladesh.
As for the political aspect of it, the media simply didn’t ask the right questions. Hillary Clinton met Mamata Banerjee in May 2012 to persuade her on FDI. That’s not me but a CNN-IBN report that stated it. Oh yeah, the same CNN-IBN whose Chairman recently wrote a book “Superpower”. Mamata’s reaction to FDI last time was no different from now when the UPA brought it up during a parliament session in November 2011. Did they expect her to revolt and even walk out of UPA? Soaked in the dirtiest waters of politics the Congress would have damn well expected it and planned for it. Isn’t that why the cabinet approved the policy last week even when the TMC minister and some Kerala ministers were absent? Did the media ask them if they had spoken to SP and BSP prior to this latest cabinet decision? They did not. And CNN-IBN did have the greatest economist we have as a panellist to discuss the reforms and PM’s speech. Haha! If he sees the Bimboesque tweet from the Social Genius he will be pleased, everything’s fine.
It would be foolish to even assume remotely that Congress would have not taken the SP and BSP into confidence prior to introduction of the policy. All the charade of Mulayam Singh “keeping out communal parties” is just more sound-bites he feeds the stray dogs of the media whose editors then present it as gospel to their audience. MMS did tell the cabinet "The time has come for big bang reforms. If we have to go down, we have to go down fighting". After his speech, let’s just be thankful. I don’t think anyone would really want to see the spectacle of MMS fighting.