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The waves

As the Wind Blows

Location: Chennai, Tamilnadu, India

27 May 2004

Well said, Hindu ! The leader in Hindu today advises the new government not to turn a Nelson’s eye to Bofors issue. Having expressed its delight in seeing a new government in place, the publication has taken the responsibility of reminding the call of duty. Though the Delhi High Court ruled last February absolving Rajiv Gandhi, the issue is not over yet – though much of the sting is gone. CBI is going ahead with its plans to appeal in Supreme Court.

What is significant in Hindu taking up the issue now is that, 14 years ago, it was Chithra Subramaniyam a correspondent of this publication who drew the country’s attention by breaking news about a deal. After the High Court ruling in February this year, which showed Rajiv Gandhi as a wronged man, the Asian Age story of Sten Lindstorm broke. Again there were accusations and counters. Mani Shankar Iyer, in response to all the inconvenient questions raised ( for the hundredth time??) by Lindstorm, he countered with his brand of answers. For all the code names mentioned in Lindstorm interview, Mr. Iyer had equal amount of alphabets thrown in his response. As the questions on involvement of “N”” “Q”, “A.E;” and other letters of the alphabets were discussed, the nation watched yet another volley of accusations and defense from all sides. Interestingly, one of the alphabets mentioned in the now famous / notorious diary of Martin Ardbo, stood in last election under a BJP ticket !

Hindu writes that the new government, by continuing the investigation till the guilty are pinned, would be going through an acid test to establish its “commitment to uprightness and the rule of law.”

True. Very true.

Meanwhile, for the benefit of some of the younger generation who would have been too young to follow when the story broke 14 years ago, here is a link that gives a bird’s eye view of the case.

22 May 2004

Interestingly, cricket lingo seems perfect, to describe the current political developments in India. I came across at least two such analogies – one in on a group blog, “Dialog Now” –
“One of the most remarkable televeision cricketing moments for me was in 1997 when Rajesh Chauhan hit a towering six off Saqlain during the last few balls of the one dayer at Karachi.
The six itself is not what made it remarkable, but the crowd reaction. The Karach crowd which was crying itself hoarse with joy at the prospect was stunned into silence as they realised that the match was lost. You could hear a pin drop.

The reaction of the BJP to the events in the last couple of days has been somewhat similar. The woman they have been calling a political novice has just pulled a fast one on them. I am sure that the BJP leaders would gladly trade this feeling for a kick in the solar plexus, were that possible.”

And another in Hindu Ed: “……In fact, the Manmohan Singh Government would do well to launch its innings, Sehwag-like, on a high democratic note……..”

I am not an avid cricket fan. But I enjoyed the parallels.

So, Dr. Manmohan Singh has won the toss and has started his innings with 67 ministers taking oath today. Let’s us wish the team good luck. Btw, it would be fun if some one could post interesting counterpoints / comments here, in the same cricket lingo ! any takers?

Rediff had asked for readers' experiences with Dr. Manmohan Singh. I sent in yesterdays post. So, here is the rediff Special today.

21 May 2004

The person that Dr. Manmohan Singh is

I was in Delhi at that time when I met him on two occasions in 1999, in the course of my work as a journalist. I was contributing to Tamil Weekly Kunkumam from Delhi.

Once I did an exclusive interview and another time I trailed his campaign in the 1999 General Elections. He lost that election; but his personality sparkled during those meetings, which seemed significant than the poll results – at least I felt so.

During that free wheeling interview, he gave a glimpse into his way of life, his philosophy and his idea of governance. And I have given some excerpts from the interview, translated from Tamil, to get a peep into his persona:

Asked about his vision for India, he responded optimistically. “ Whether Indians have faith in God or not; I don’t know; But God still has some faith in India. While civilizations across the world are wiped out over a period, our Indian civilisation, which is over 5000 years, has stood the test of time and is still vibrant. This is what gives me hope that God has not yet given up on India.” He believes in the dictum of Bhagavd Gita, “ To do one’s duty without the expectations of the results” and says that the dictum has been his guiding light on many occasions. “In fact all our Indian scriptures, including our Guru Granth emphasize this philosophy” he observed.

When I asked him where would his emphasis be if he prepared the budget, he immediately said that he would lay emphasis on reinforcing the confidence of the people in their country. “ What is essential today is to revive the people’s confidence, in themselves; on the country and on the government.”

All right. How would he do it?

“ Why, undoubtedly my first job would be to reduce inflation. It is the duty of the Finance Minister to ensure that inflation doesn’t hurt the common man, even as he implements plans which are focused on improving the economy. Some people argue that high inflation is the price we pay for a robust economy. I don’t agree with this. It is important to bring down the inflation.”

What kindled his interest in economics was “ Our India”, the book written by Minoo Masani. Manmohan Singh’s father wanted him to study for medicine and he had also joined a medical college. But somehow he realized that economics was his forte and not medicine and made the switch.

He feels highly indebted to society at large. “ Since most of my education was funded by one or the other scholarship, I feel I have to give back something to the society. Although I have had several offers from abroad, I feel India is my place. In general, life has given me everything that is good. I am contented with my life. There is no sense of want in my life now.”

Other snippets from the interview: Amartya Sen was his senior in Cambridge. Besides economics, his interests pan reading ( politics, history, biographies etc), Classical Music ( Among his favorites, MS.Subbulakshmi tops the list), appreciates the simplicity of South Indians, enjoys south Indian Food(“ it is tasty and has varieties too” ).

In the campaign trail, he came across as your next door neighbour. There were songs and dances by the party workers as he moved from house to house in his constituency – South Delhi. As he moved along with the campaigning crowd with folded hands, he actually looked lost. He had that look of “ ugh! how- did- I- get- into- this-mumbo –jumbo”. ( Did I hear some one say that he still has that look ?!) When there was confusion among party workers about the route or any other aspects of campaigning, he stood aside silently and watched them sort out among themselves. He was not overbearing or threw his weight around. Absolutely lacking the “politician” air !

However he was co-operating completely as the party workers wanted him to. When the crowd got beyond control, when they literally held his hands and took him to some other direction – another house or a gurudhwara, he smilingly obliged without making any fuss. He was a green horn in electioneering, but the public didn’t seem to mind that. “ He is one sane man in today’s rotten politics” said one bystander and another extolled his honesty and simplicity. A shop keeper remembered him as the person who put Indian economy back on the wheels.

Lack of mass base is one drawback pointed out about him in politics. But I think it is his sense of humility that keeps him back from projecting himself as the leader of the mass. I hope his performance would speak for himself in future and bring about that mass base also.

19 May 2004

So this is how history is made!!

Watching the scene of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi coming out of Rashtrapathi Bhavan after giving letters of support to the President I was feeling overwhelmed. I was watching the TV alone. Yet, when I saw read out the letter from the President inviting him as the leader of CPP, to form the government, I spontaneously felt an impulse to give a standing ovation. Not just to any individuals. But to the spirit of democracy, to the wonderful situation it has brought us today – a scene never visualized by anyone even a month ago.

The atmosphere in the forecourt of Rashtrapathi Bhavan was bon homie and there was so much lightness in the air. Even Sonia Gandhi, who is usually very stiff and formal, was seen actually laughing throwing her head back and looking so much relaxed!! After a bit of “Pehele aap, nai, nai, Pehele aap” (“ you – speak first – No- no- you speak – first) kind of exchanges between Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, Manmohan began to address the press. And my god he was transformed! The confidence with which he handled the press gave a glimpse of the Leader he is going to be. As Sonia Gandhi put it in her address, “ The country is now safe in the hands of Dr. Manmohan Singh.”

I am happy to be living at this historic moment. I am sure Sonia would go down in the history for proving to the world that one could actually turn down such an offer on a platter and that one could serve the country without really hankering after power. The headlines in ET were apt. “ Sonia does a Gandhi!!

True. Very True.

Now let’s get down to bras stacks. Will there be back seat driving government now? What would be the kind of governance with two power centers? Some of the key concerns. But in my opinion I feel, there will be a kind of clear harmony – Sonia looking after the managing the people part – the coalition members and her own party people and Manmohan Singh looking after the affairs of the governance.

And in any case, even if she were the Prime Minister, she would have definitely been in consultation with persons like Manmohan Singh on day-to-day affairs of running the government. As Arundhathi Roy puts it, in spite of learning so much and doing so much, she always seems unsure of herself. It doesn’t mean she lacks self-confidence as a leader, but in matters of state, she falls back on experts and does enormous home work to be in the know of things; to steer the course in correct direction.

So I don’t think one needs to worry about remote controlling. I am sure Sonia Gandhi respects the democratic norms and so she would be on an adversarial role and not as a master, holdings the strings.

Singapore's Radio Oli wanted some sound byets from me on the latest poltical developments. Checkout the audio here at 5.15 pm IST and the repeat at 5.15 am IST on 20th - tomorrow. If you are living in Singapore, tune in at Oli - 7.45 pm sg time today and 7.45 am sg time tomorrow, 20th. and let me know your feedback.

18 May 2004

The Verdict of different kind !

So she has proved to be the dignified person I expected her to be. If she had agreed, I would have disappointed in her – notwithstanding my faith in her as a good person. I feel relieved because she has proved to be a sensible human being and averted all kinds of future chaos based on her origin of birth. Critics may point out that she has scripted a smart move. But seeing her read the text of her decision this evening, seeing her face and the expression, she comes across as genuine – and determined in her decision. This post is written soon after the CPP meeting tonight and one can never predict what is in store for you tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I have this to say about Sonia’s Foreign Origin issue.

She IS Indian. Nothing more and nothing less. Just a simple fact.

I am apolitical. My judgments about people are not based on any political leanings. I believe in larger good and I have always felt that Sonia is genuine – as a person and as an Indian.

When our fore fathers wrote the constitution they made sure that the origin of birth should not be a base for any kind of discrimination. And that includes citizenship, provided the requisite merits of domicile status are met. Some argue that the authors of constitution did not envisage this kind of situation. This doesn’t hold water and I feel it is an insult to the memory of those great men. Let us not under estimate the vision of those stalwarts.

I stand by my strong faith in seeing people as human beings first. Geographical barriers, caste, creed, or any aspect of birth should not come in the way of upholding universal human values /sentiments. And choosing one’s nationality and living to that effect, to the best of one’s sincerity, is one such value.

One problem with us is that we always look for “precedents”. Preferably from the west. I can assure you, if the nations in the west were to allow naturalized citizens to hold top posts, there would not have been such uproar here today. Why can’t we set a precedent, to create a more meaningful society, transcending man made barriers and build a society on human values? Why can’t we set a precedent to build a more pragmatic, society? Pragmatism has been the unique character of Indian civilization. And that is the reason why the civilization has survived while many older civilizations have been wiped out.

However, for arguments sake I want to ask a few questions to those who rail against this factor.

1. Hypothetically speaking, if Mother Theresa had, by any queer chance of destiny, was in a position as Sonia is today, would the origin of her birth been an issue? I don’t think so. Because she was seen as an Indian.
2. If a foreign origin Indian citizen wins Nobel Prize would his/her origin be an issue to claim his/her identity as Indian? We would be the first to proclaim to the world about the person’s Indian “Identity”.
3. Another hypothetical situation. If a person with Indian parents is born abroad and grows without any touch with Indian roots; value systems / heritage; grows completely as a citizen of that country in outlook, tastes and lifestyle, except for his/her “Indian” physical features, would he /she be accepted by our people, should he/she returns and stakes claim to India’s top post, after taking up the citizenship here? In short, Could People of Indian Origin who have lived and settled abroad as the host country’s citizens for all their lives, come back one fine day and have the claim on Top Posts in India – purely on the basis of their Indian Origin status? Where would his allegiance and attachment be? To the foreign country where he was born and grew up or to the origin country – that is India? What guarantee is there that this person would not do a Fujimori or a Hope Cook? This situation can happen too – given the dynasty mindset of our people. Second and third generation of our present leaders are potential candidates for this.

Meanwhile, just to remind ourselves of our Preamble and the Citizenship Definitions, I have given below:



WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a _1[SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC] and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the _2[unity and integrity of the Nation]; IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.

Amendments: 1. Subs. by the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976, s. 2, for "SOVEREIGN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC" (w.e.f. 3-1-1977).
Amendment: 2. Subs. by s. 2, ibid., for "unity of the Nation" (w.e.f. 3-1-1977).

Articles on Citizenship:

5. Citizenship at the commencement of the Constitution.-
At the commencement of this Constitution, every person who has his domicile in the territory of India and-
(a) who was born in the territory of India; or
b) either of whose parents was born in the territory of India; or
(c) who has been ordinarily resident in the territory of India for not less than five years immediately preceding such commencement,
shall be a citizen of India.

8. Rights of citizenship of certain persons of Indian origin residing outside India.-
Notwithstanding anything in article 5, any person who or either of whose parents or any of whose grand-parents was born in India as defined in the Government of India Act, 1935 (as originally enacted), and who is ordinarily residing in any country outside India as so defined shall be deemed to be a citizen of India if he has been registered as a citizen of India by the diplomatic or consular representative of India in the country where he is for the time being residing on an application made by him therefor to such diplomatic or consular representative, whether before or after the commencement of this Constitution, in the form and manner prescribed by the Government of the Dominion of India or the Government of India

9. Persons voluntarily acquiring citizenship of a foreign State not to be citizens.-
No person shall be a citizen of India by virtue of article 5, or be deemed to be a citizen of India by virtue of article 6 or article 8, if he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of any foreign State.
11. Parliament to regulate the right of citizenship by law.-
Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this Part shall derogate from the power of Parliament to make any provision with respect to the acquisition and termination of citizenship and all other matters relating to citizenship.

13 May 2004

The Great Boomerang !!

It is amazing how poll after poll, Indian electorate gives its verdict defying all expectations. And gives it so clearly.

Even as we wait for Sonia Gandhi to come up with her choice of the person to do the job of heading the government (or accepts pleadings from the party cadre to take on the mantle). As things appear, it is most likely we are going to have the privilege of having a PM of non-Indian origin. Though there have been examples in other parts of the world like Fuji and Mauritius, the pragmatic approach of the Indian populace is still rare in the international scene. Notwithstanding the heated debates by BJP & co about her foreign origin, it never really mattered to Indians at large.

Whereas, the basic problems of living a decent life did.

I think the BJP’s war cry of “Say no to foreign origin” and flagship sale point of “ India Shining” actually boomeranged on them in this election.

When people didn’t have basic infrastructure like drinking water and health care, slogans about number of cell phones sold and bloating foreign exchange reserves looked as crude joke on the man on the street.

And in India, they are the ones who care to exercise their franchise. Unlike in the US or elsewhere in the world, where the voting percentage increases according to the level of social status in terms of education and economic progress of the individuals, in India the reverse has always been the case. It is the poor and the uneducated, who turn up in large numbers at the polling booths, while the middle class literates enjoy the polling day as one more holiday. While many of my relatives remarked, - without a trace of guilt – ‘oh, I have never voted.. who will do all that etc…’ my maid wanted a day off on the polling day. I said OK, but asked why? ‘ I have to go to vote.”

You should have seen the pride and enthusiasm in her voice.

For them, it is a job of great pride – to exercise their right. A precious moment when their vote matters. They believe so.

And believe me, IT DOES.

So, if you are an Indian reading this, make it a point to vote – take pains to find out the means to do so long distance; if you are living elsewhere from your native place. Make sure your name is in the voters list; if not, get registered much ahead of next polls which, god willing, ( read coalition partners willing ) should be five years away from now J

After all, we get the government we deserve.

11 May 2004

You are what you think you are – says Vincent Roazzi, millionaire and author of best seller “Spirituality of Success – Getting Rich with Integrity.”

So do I believe too - only, am just short of a few millions ! :-)

Nonetheless, I do believe that our lives are carved on the lines of our thoughts. And I stumbled upon one more interesting passage to day, which reinforced my faith in the power of thought.

Economic Times, in its daily capsule of “Citings” quotes this passage by the author.

OK: here is the quote:

“ Your ego is the source of all your pain. Periodically your ego may help you to achieve something because someone challenges your picture of yourself. Unfortunately, the achievement doesn’t last very long. It withers away and dies because it doesn’t have its roots in a firm foundation. Your ego is not reality and therefore, cannot sustain anything worthwhile for any length of time. Your ego is a block to your full potential. Whenever the ego is present, disappointment will surely follow.

Every action, every thought, every emotion could be likened to the planting of a seed. And every seed bears fruit, good or bad. Everything we do, everything we think, everything we feel matters, and has consequences. The consequences may not be readily apparent, but every seed bears fruit eventually. This knowledge should prompt us to redefine our behaviour, our thought patterns, and our beliefs, not only in regard to success, but also to life in general. Remember – negativity kills! Go where the path takes you. Get in the flow, and like the seed blown by the wind. It’ll take you where you need to be.

Along with the intention, you must have the belief. If the intention is the seed in sculpting your reality, then belief can be likened to the sun and the rain that nourish. The more the intention is nourished by belief, the greater it will manifest itself in reality. So what you have are varying degrees of success determined, ultimately, by you.”

If you want more on the book or the author, checkout this or just google around with his name.