Vantage point

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A Tailender's Sixer and the Ensuing Silence

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.

I have always said that to me by and large the two parties are similar. They just find some non-issues to attack each other with, lest the voters get confused as to who is who. So the Congress sometimes rakes up the issue of secularism, which is so hypocritical that it is funny. And the BJP, over the past few years has heavily relied on the Foreign Origin issue.

Gone are the days when corruption, or economic ideas, or "gareebi hatao" were differentiating factors.

In such a situation, what Sonia has done is stripped the BJP and indeed the NDA of its sole rallying point. I am sure what hurts them even more is that a tail ender has hit the sixer. And that is why they have all been stunned into silence.

For the past few days, instead of learning from the TDP (which said "we made foreign origin an issue and went to the people. people didnt vote for us. so it is not an issue for us. we accept the people's verdict") and sitting tight for something wrong to happen, they played into Sonia's hands. Every BJP leader and his momma appeared on the cameras with headline-grabbing statements. One lady wanted to resign from the Lok Sacha and tonsure her head. Another lady, a Chief Minister for whom tonsuring her head is routine, submitted her resignation to the party president(!!!)....and not the state's Governor. Other fellas talked of "nationwide agitations".

What this did was hype up the issue even more than necessary. And then, when the hype reached its peak, with all Indians on the internet and on the street debating on whether it was good that we had a supposedly incompetent Italian born PM, Sonia swung her bat, connected, and lofted the ball for a towering six. She declined the post.

While it is a brilliant strategic move, the refusal by itself, in my mind, does not make her worthy of any commendation. Her choice of the PM's candidate however does.

I have in the past praised Sonia's ability to pick the right people, an ability which has been responsible for winning the party many states. Sheila Dixit is obviously one example. And now she has gone and chosen Manmohan Singh. This is a brilliant choice for two reasons - internal and external.

Internally, the Congress' biggest flaw has been factionalism. This flaw has seen them return, time and again to the Dynasty. So Sonia has brought in Manmohan, who has never been in any faction. So while he may not have Congressmen who will dance the bhangra for his success, neither does he have(at least now) any surly Congressmen with a past grievance against him.

Externally, the PM-elect is one of the cleanest, most admired and most intelligent politicians in the country. He has a huge "Re-employment Coefiicient"......

...a detour to explain this jargon....

I was just wondering that if India's Prime Minister had decided to quit politics after leaving office, what could they be re-employed as? Rajiv could have become a pilot, or an executive in an airline. Atalji could have been a.....poet, author or something. Deve Gowda could have become a farmer. Gujral could have become a diplomat. V P Singh could have been the guinea pig for all experiments in a laboratory for mental research.....

You get my point?

Manmohan Singh has the most impressive resume, in the field of economics. And at a phase when the Indian economy is aspiring to take off, who better than an Economist in the top post?

The opposition will find it very hard to attack Manmohan Singh personally. He was not born in Italy, has not received kickbacks, has not stoked communalism, has not collaborated with the Brits, has not fallen asleep in the parliament......and he does not have men in white clothes waiting to escort him to a padded cell.

So fertile was the foreign origin issue for the BJP that it did not bother to find any other point to attack the Congress with.

And until such time as it does not find an issue on the national level to attack the Congress or its PM with, the BJP will be as effective as a defanged cobra with a raised hood.

That for me is something that Sonia deserved credit for, rather than her "noble renunciation" and all that jazz.