Friday, February 15, 2008

Sonia Gandhi knows her game

Sonia Gandhi chose the perfect candidate for her Prime Minister. Her choice was controversy free, one who did not have history in politics, one who would forever be grateful, one who did not threaten to establish a power center of his won, one who would fall in line. As for some other ministers (viz. Ambika Soni, Arjun Singh, Shivraj Patil, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Jaipal Reddy, Kapil Sibal, Pratibha Patil among others), there’s little doubt on where their loyalty lies.

It is baffling to know that the man who ushered in economic revolution in India could be so ineffective. The general feeling about him not being the strongest of PMs is owing to his tentative nature of leadership. There’s hardly anything our PM is passionate about, not even the Indo-US nuclear deal or Project Tiger, to which he promised personal involvement. A lot was expected of him when he came to power. But, he continues to be indecisive.

The much discussed economic revolution was brought about by the very same man who is India’s PM today. There’s little doubt about that. And there’s no denying his contribution in that respect. But this wasn’t because of Dr. Singh’s foresight. The economic crisis that faced the nation in the early 90’s had a big role to play in the economic reforms. In 1990, the then PM, Chandra Shekhar Pledged India’s gold when we couldn’t pay our loans. The subsequent P V Narsimha Rao govt. had to re-think our economic policies & concluded that liberalization was the key. Thus entered Dr. Singh who took India’s GDP from a mere 1 or 2% in the early 90’s to a booming 8 – 9% by the mid 90’s. Whatever the circumstances, the progress made, was highly credit worthy. This coupled with his honesty & integrity added to his aura.

But how credible is Dr. as a PM? When he was the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, he threatened to resign, he repeated that during the securities scam of the early 90’s & then again, recently, during the Left opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal. All of them proved hollow, he never resigned. Perhaps he wanted to survive being in power.

Dr. Singh has never failed to assert that his loyalties lie with the First Family of Congress, the Gandhi family. There’s a big correction to be made here, the PM’s loyalty lies only towards the nation & no one else. The high command does not govern the nation. This shows just how clipped a PM is he. The fact that he has the Gandhi family in his mind, ahead of the nation, is hardly comforting. Sonia choosing Dr. Singh as the PM was indeed well though. He isn’t a clever politician, his first election victory was in 2004. He hasn’t developed a coterie that rivals Sonia’s authority. He has proven Sonia right in his conduct as the PM. He has never asserted his will on any matter, has never opposed any policy or scheme, has never driven any agenda that wasn’t convenient to Sonia’s. Is loyal to her & her family (Rahul & Priyanka). Has never pulled his weight behind anything. Follows the UPA diktat of going slow on terrorism, appeasing Congress’s vote bank to the hilt. All of these are quite evident from the reservation policies, special treatment accorded to the minorities and such measures that are counter productive.

Sonia’s choices for the various ministries are also indicative of how she has made sure power lies with her. With having placed her loyalists in the ministry, the reigns lay with her. And being the UPA chairperson allows her to drive all matters on her agenda & yet not be accountable to the nation on account of her not being in the ministry. She has a lion's share in the UPA's disappointing tenure.

When India is faced with such grave issues like terrorism, minority appeasement should take a backseat & the terrorists must be dealt with strongly. When India faces poverty, schemes like the NREGS are counter productive, they may provide some employment to the poor, but does little to help them gain sustainable employment, helping them gain some skills will empower them. When India faces numerous border disputes, we need strong diplomacy to tackle such issues. When India faces lack of quality workforce (along with poverty), providing reservations for minorities & lowering their merit requirements is counter productive, focusing on quality education for all will help. Practicing partisan politics like caste based reservations, Muslim & Christian appeasement only leads to deepening the chasm between religions.

Sonia’s UPA agenda is clearly not well thought, neither was it developed in the national interest. Surely, Dr. Singh is mature enough to realize this, yet he continues to follow the Sonia plan. If the spin doctors stay away, it’ll be interesting to see how Dr. Singh goes down in history as a PM & Sonia as the Congress leader.

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