Tuesday, May 5, 2009
“Rahul” ….Naam Tho Suna Hoga Na ?
“Rahul” – Hope or Change or Both?
An immensely tantalizing promise in a person to a nation in a hurry to find its own Obama. Unlock the magic of the name Gandhi again in a fast polarizing tri polar hot, crowded, flat and terror struck world! A step closer to the throne of probably the most powerful hot seat in the third world!
Rahul Gandhi finds himself in a unique situation. He has all the elements of the best magic formula: youth, good looks, a disarming dimpled smile, a scion & a most eligible bachelorhood, lead by a widowed Italian mother, son of a martyred father, grandson of a slain grand mother, lineage of the foremost leader of India struggle to Independence as a great grand father; more than supportive uber charismatic sister;
Good intentions and importantly a vision for India in the making inside his head plus a clear sight to step over petty issues focusing on the larger & longer term picture of India as a influencing power at world stage. He passionately urges the young of one of the youngest nations in the world to wake up to the call of changing the futurescape of a nation with abundance of promise of global good.
And most of all, the mythic Gandhi name. Unlocking its promise in India this general election 2009, though, is to walk a labyrinth, made up of daunting imponderables.
Rahul’s tryst with the Gandhi name — its burden and it’s a huge gift — has come at a time when it is more difficult to grapple with than it ever was for those of his family who went before.
The Congress has long lost its supremacy in India. In fact, it is at one of its lowest ebbs. His mother in 2004 had to sacrifice the top job which elevated her to a revered status quo with in the party as its iron fisted high command. Opposition raises a war cry that Manmohan Singh is keeping the seat warm for Rahul Gandhi.
Yet. National politics is a minefield, festered by myriad of regional parties & fractured mandates. Caste calculations, religious vote bank politics and Unpredictable, Uncomfortable coalitions. PM prospects..? A melee of suspecting and unsuspecting incumbents.
The gap between the rich and the poor has never been wider. Voters have never been more cynical (43 % Voter turnout in Mumbai 156 days after 26/11). As a nation we are sandwiched by troubled neighbors in precarious and pernicious position fighting internal emergencies. Taliban in Pakistan, Mass killing in Bangladesh, Insurgency in Nepal, LTTE Cleansing at the cost of innocent Tamils in SriLanka. A global recession bringing major economies to a grinding halt; in some cases negative growth.
The Gandhi name, in this scenario, maybe a powerful dynastic talisman, but it is not an automatic one. In many crucial ways, Rahul’s tryst with the Gandhi name is different from his ancestors. It’s not just the circumstances that are different. His engagement is also both more voluntary and complex.
Rahul’s decision to join politics unlike his famous sibling Priyanka is his own answer to his calling. It is an active one. As his aides opine –“He is not a man who takes decisions without thinking them out. He is happy and enthused about entering politics, he is not feeling pressured. He will take on the job with gusto”
Ever since he leap forged in to the cesspool of Indian politics, he has been learning to swing with the sharks and yet stay scathed but not cannibalized. In his sojourn thus far; He immersed himself in development work in Amethi, focusing on education, working with a network of NGOs.
The party whispered ominously about his lack of charisma; the media discussed it volubly: his body language is wrong, he doesn’t reach out to people, he doesn’t know how to connect, he has no ideas, he has no fire, and he has no vision. His maiden speech on education in the Lok Sabha was mocked as a high-school performance. Few took note of his question on sugarcane farmers in Parliament. His Kalavathi example – a reference to the poor often ridiculed on the floor of the house with loud jeers. The absence of his more obviously charismatic sister, Priyanka, was everywhere.
Rahul persevered. As he told a journalist in conversation, “The media wants things done in an instant. They want everything done yesterday, but it doesn’t work like that. It takes time.I would be foolish to say I am going to do things in a week. I will do politics my way and in my time. Nobody can force me to do anything.”
The idea of the journey is central to every heroic epic. Very few heroes are ever airdropped, ready-made, from heaven. But does Rahul Gandhi have the luxury of making a journey of learning and self discovery? Will he be allowed to feel his way, step by step, into squaring with his legacy, and finding the key to his own potential?
As a Gandhi scion, Rahul is the ace that no other party has: a young leader with the potential for a pan-Indian appeal.
Rahul seems to have taken that daunting plunge. He seems to have released himself from the paralyzing calculations and faux wisdoms of Delhi — a city of intrigue and counter intrigue, of backstabbing and slander, where nothing is what it seems — and started a search for finding the face of the “poorest and weakest man”.
This journey has been made before: by Mahatma Gandhi, by Nehru, and in different ways by Indira, and Sonia; but to his credit, Rahul does not assume a dynastic knowledge of the poor of this country. Dalits and tribals — along with Muslims and Brahmins — have been the traditional umbrella constituency of the Congress.
As a peg back two steps backwards, this time Congress were made to fight the ghost of the 1984 Sikh riots when a shoe got hurled at the Home Minister. One of the most powerful slogans of his grandmother Indira Gandhi was “Garibi Hatao”. Neglect, feudal assumptions of intimacy, the rise of identity politics — many things drove them away from the Congress. Rahul is trying to revitalize the relationship, re-lay foundation stones.
Is this “the foresight and astuteness of a long-term player”, as one veteran family loyalist puts it, or political suicide, circa 2009, with general elections around the corner and adversaries like Left who left the coalition ; NDA, Third Front , Fourth Front ; Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Paswan,Jayalalithaa,Nitish Kumar, Narendra Modi and Chandrababu Naidu’s Mahakootami to confront?
What India witnessed today at the New Delhi Presser was all the ingredients of the promise showing incisive sparks. Rahul was deft at handling the questions fielded by the journalists. His answers guarded yet spontaneous.
His pitch raising above petty issue base politics homing on the “What’s in it for the Commoner”. Rightful acknowledgements of the good governance by his parties arch rival in AP ; Chandrababu Naidu and admitting his respect for him. Candid approval of the good work done by Mr.Nitish Kumar – A potential ally.
Admission of the issue around black money at Swiss Bank accounts as raised by his opposition leader Advani. Reiterating concurrence and ideological meeting point and the policies for the poor from the Left and assertively differentiating the reformist and growth based fulcrum of the UPA.
An unflinching support for Manmohan Singh and asserting the virtues of the Nuclear Deal with US and India gain there in. Owning up the plank of secular politics with reforms integrating the two India’s .et al all hit home a compelling pitch quite unseen thus far.
Right now he too, like his genial mother is refusing a ministerial berth and professing strong focus to grow a potent youth congress, a strong cadre and a functional democratic framework delivering his fathers dream of reaching more than a mere 10 paise of the rupee to the poor of India.
On the young brigade he already has starry and vote worthy company in Omar Abdulla, Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Naveen Jindal, Jiten Prasada,Jyotiraditya Scindia, Priya Dutt for company. If ever the finicky urban voter sat on his fat bottom, Rahul’s sound bytes at today’s presser will surely kindle a refaith in politics on multiple counts. For starters here is some one they can identify with easily.
The Indian electorate is a famously unpredictable one, and it is true no one can accurately calibrate what effect Rahul’s point to point contact with the masses will have. The report card on his charm, body language and ease with crowds has shot up unanimously in the past month.
Only time and adversity will tell whether Rahul will answer to his genes and become a powerhouse political leader — with all that it takes: courage, creativity, cunning, decisiveness, the ability to build bridges. What he has going for him already is humility. A purity of intent, which itself is a rarity in Indian politics today.
He knows he has to hit the long, hard, dusty road. A Journey which will reach the first goal post this May end and ultimately flourish in good measure if things go as planed in year 2014 or earlier ( If a weak coalitions which in all likelihood will). He knows he has to go to the people.
The Congress might be in a hurry, but Rahul’s tours are just a beginning in his own journey. And in the search for the key that will unlock the magic of the Gandhi name and find India’s answer to Obama. Until at least some one else emerges from nowhere to take this prime pole position.
Above narrative put togather with inputs collated and edited from the web; images deserve their necessary credits as well.represented here are contents purporting to be non commercial and limited to private circulation.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
I am gathering my thoughts in this blog amidst some very unprecedented events which unfolded in the week. Hate and counter threat speeches by Varun Gandhi, Bal Thackeray, Lalu Yadav, Rabri, Vaiko, D Srinivas and Venkiah Naidu. Am inspired Sardar tossing a potent shoe “Just did it” for Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar!! Of what I call a “Spate of Hate” season aside an important suffix called Joothawala. It may be Jarnail Singh Joothawala today but promised to be many more in a follow up act of shoe fling.
The listed above are a rich political legacy yielding to undesirable proponents of populist and often self combusting agendas to win an electoral mandate. Amidst such cacophony, I often times resign to a bleak fate of India as a nation.
India today is one of the youngest nations in the world and their political classes aren’t representative of the young nation with several octogenarians still ruling roost at national parties. The average age of the parliamentarian and the chief ministers will be greater than 65 plus years.
This is when it strikes you that why Omar Abdullah’s speech delivered on the eve of the nuclear debate creating huge traffic on Youtube. I believe that every harvest season the farmers sift the paddy to separate grain from chaff.
A significant under current is sweeping Indian politics were the likes of Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora, Akilesh Yadav, Dayanidhi Maran, Omar Abdullah and Agatha Sangma who at the age of 27 as one of the youngest politicians and the likes are making a significant mark and creating a bench of young leaders in waiting for their turn to build India.
At home city Hyderabad a certain and young 40 something Chandra Babu Naidu during the late 80’s with his characteristic dynamism took on the reigns of Telugu Desam party in an unprecedented coupe. In hind sight none I would imagine will complain as it gave the state of Andhra Pradesh one of the most successful Chief Ministers and as many believe left the most significant impact as a reformist and creator of AP State as a leading destination in the global Information Technology market.
A regular visitor at the Davos World Economic summit over 9 year he attracted some of the biggest names in global business with his charisma and bold reformist thinking. His friends and peers were the fellow leaders from Asia – Tun Mahatir Mohamed of Malaysia. Before it became fashionable for politicians today, Naidu was instrumental in hosting two of the biggest Bill’s of our century. Bill Clinton and Bill Gates. Their visits global attention as well as global investments to the city of Hyderabad.
Now he is no Yuva but; Chandra Babu has inspired many Gen X and Gen Y! Yuvaks to take up the path of political leadership. Close to his home in the recent times it has been the promotion of a dynamic Jr. NTR to the campaign forefront ahead of his son Narra Lokesh who was given the charge of the crucial strategic charter to deftly handle back office to forge synergy of a complex yet formidable “Maha Kootami”. An exercise which may well catapult TDP to power in the state and play king maker in the national politics with the third front.
Not only that, it is said that the daunting process of candidates selection in about 100-150 constituencies has been given to Lokesh, wherein he will scrutinize each and every applicant, both fresher and experienced, and only after through examination, will Lokesh give the nod to his dad. Both Narra Lokesh and Jr. NTR are playing their part to inject fresh blood into the party ranks.
Narra Lokesh as many believe was the force behind Rambotla to be fielded as a MP candidate from the prestigious 200 year old Secunderabad constituency. Rambotla is a 40 some thing Harvard Educated Sauvé first time political aspirant.
Similarly Jr.NTR had already pulled in his influence last election to field his friend and mentor Nani Kodali who won the Gudivada elections last time around with thumping majority when the part as a whole fared abysmally. This time Nani Kodali and Vallabhaneni Vamsi are two powerful Yuwa’s certain to win this occasion as well cementing Jr.NTR clout. Ironically both are Jr. NTRs producer friends as well.
Much of what I gather about Nani Kodali is from my close ex colleague at IBM Lakshmikanth Kodali who is Nanis brother. Unlike Nani, Lakshmikanth is a high quality software management professional. Lakshmi’s excite is palpable as he has the good fortune of seeing the young czars creating an new breed of political leaders amongst a larger society of “I don’t care what happens at polls urban youth” who rush head over heals to pursue lucrative careers in US
None has been more effective than Jr.NTR the campaigning trails this season wooing mammoth masses to sway in favor of “Mahakootamai” before an unfortunate accident grounded him to recovery and recuperation.
Closer to grass roots I have the great privilege to witness the transformation of my school friend and fellow cricket team mate into a promising political leadership material. The kind of right leadership that the nation needs so desperately.
Meda Venkatarama aka “Raghavan” is the eldest of the three sons. Purposeful networking skills and his sharp humor made him quite an entertainer in his college days endearing him company amongst friend’s .His younger brothers took up lucrative careers in banking at US and family business while Raghavan much against the traditions of typical middle class family backgrounders took up politics.
His beginnings were humble. He worked hard and sincerely at the constituencies under the mentorship of another charismatic leader Sai Anna. A three time member of the assembly who has never lost an electoral battle and aiming for a record forth term at the office.
Both hailing from a SC and ST background had a hard time to scale up to prominence in the party. But under Chandra Babu’s patronage – Sai Anna reveled well and emerged as a strong loyalist and an astute politician who gauged the pulse of the electorate precisely.
Many of Sai Anna’s political strategies and electoral forays were managed by yuwa leaders like Raghavan. Here is where Raghavan is making a difference with his approach to politics.
Firstly, he is a good student of politics and every day picks up vital learning’s every day. Raghavan bases his approach to politics on strong value systems and great common sense. He always believed that a positive mind often is better than a mass muscle at work. In his positioning of his party standing; he seldom attacks the opposition under the belly. Some things which is regressively fashionable now a days which even veteran like Advani don’t hesitate to gain political mileage.
Focus for him is to squarely on developmental and economic aspects. He takes pains to understand the issues faced by his fellow citizens and pays a patient hear before taking his stance. Rarely does his play his caste card. Is seen with the people of the constituency more than he can be seen at the party head quarters.
These very attributes are which propelled him as one of the youngest councilor in the newly formed MP constituency – Malkajgiri.
Due to delimitation his mentor had to move to another constituency. Yet Raghavan like a loyal foot soldier tirelessly campaigns for both his mentor at Secunderabad and fellow party nominees Sharada Mahesh at Malkajgiri.
In a day an age when most want to take their pound of flesh, he remains composed and level headed in matters related to internal politics and steadfastly focuses on building the party image and strength through incisive poll strategy and compassionate understanding of people issues.
His understanding of the machinery of democracy, public budgets, revenue collection, and exchequer expenditure are pronounced. He has an opinion of his own and does not yield to sycophancy. Be it opposing the mindless populist freebees thrown to lure cheap votes or condemning the hate and divisive politics, he is the first to condemn.
Already he has a beeline of younger boys following him. Boys like Teja are his 15 hour a day companions learning every day on the job from his already 15 plus years of active field experience. He has taken the onus of mentoring the next batch of youngsters with a right value and uncontroversial politicking. Raghavan also enjoys life outside of politics. A loving family man and an entertaining friend to even his closest political rivals from BJP, Congress and PRP. This man sure knows to balance life in good measure.
At the end of the day nothing that changed his personality. I can for instance take him to a local chai shop with my arms around his shoulders spending an evening with laughter, humor and wit just like we used to do 25 years ago as school friends.
Many such unchronicled young leaders in the waiting wings are what which makes the hope of India a viable dream. Sporting, sportive, sanguine, suave, sensible, social, secular and sure young unassuming politicians in the making like Meda Venkatarama aka “Raghavan” A dream away from the present hatred spilling young Turks and old warhorses whose time will come to retire after this visit to the electorate. “Change” therefore is beginning to take shape and the effects expected to fully flower by the next elections. For now its been a promising start.