Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Broken Politics of West

One of the most fulfilling aspects of any election in a democratic system is when 'right issues' which affect people's life surface in political debates and voting generally happens for those issues. Politics in a democratic system is broken when the debate is so distorted that such 'core issues' do not surface correctly. 

Few lament about Polarization of American System and call that as the reason for broken politics. I would say, polarization per say is only one aspect. Otherwise also 'parliamentary politics' works in rest of the world where job of Opposition is simply to oppose and criticize the government and in the process to surface 'flaws' of the government. What is broken in USA Politics is failure to whip up issues which impact our lives. ObamaCare is no perfect, but while enjoying all its fruits to keep criticizing it on hustings and deceiving Republican Base that ObamaCare can be repealed without putting any alternative; how is that supposed to help us? Worse is such politicians are simply not required to pay any electoral price at all. They pay electoral price in their primaries when they do not do such demagoguery!

When Americans needed government stimulated demand in recession, they were all hoodwinked in bothering about deficit by comparing what a family does in recession. (State needs to do opposite of that.) When 'deficit' is not an issue any more, hypothetical 'job killing regulations of Obama' becomes an issue. Where are the competing proposals from GOP to spread job gains? Again and again GOP advocates failed policy of 'giving more tax cuts to rich while kicking down poor'? If Government becomes a problem, put ideas to make it work. You do not throw out the baby with the bath water. It seems as if American Politics has completely lost any ability to discuss issues which impact Americans most. No wonder a dad who tragically lost his son in yet another gun carnage berates Congress while 'climate deniers' go on their merry trips when local officials scramble to deal with rising sea levels.

Europe has joined America in this broken politics. First, it devises EU contraption such that nations loose their ability to print its currency. (ECB chief Draghi adopted the Bernanke medicine late, by then substantial damage was done. In Sweden where policy makers pulled the punch bowl early, Krugman points how those policy makers created non-existent problems props up.) Any substantive stimulus got clamped down by the German fear of 'money transfer' within the Union. What have European voters done then? Instead of voting politicians who would try to address these problems, it elected xenophobic politicians who want to break the entire EU project and stop the immigration which otherwise would be supplying fresh talent to economies which need all these fresh productive consumers.

And while we are at Anglo-Saxon world, one can see how Paul Ryanization of Australia is essentially ruining its social fabric.

Clearly democratic polities in West are not working.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Rājyābhiṣēka (Coronation)

In Hindu mythology Ram ascended to the empire after his victory over Ravana and unleashed the happiest kingdom. That is the allure Narendra Modi's oath taking ceremony at Rashtripati Bhavan has. Very rarely has Luteyan's Delhi seen the kind of power show which is unleashing. For thousands of years the pinnacle of power in Indian Subcontinent was defined by the height of Mughal Empire. That is the context for the historical uniqueness and unprecedented nature for Modi's subtle Hindu Nationalism unfurling. (No Muslim MP in his 282 strong Loksabha contingent. Why would not Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif come forward then to imply the sole Muslim representation in the sub-continent? MK Gandhi tried all through his life to undermine what Muhammad Ali Jinha wanted - Pakistani State as the singular representation of Muslims in the sub-continent....we are dwelling too much into the history. World has changed, we move on... )

But then we are in 21st century. This is the same mighty leader of India who has decimated not just a dynastic polity but caste based politics as well. We are possibly talking the next chapter of what Babasaheb Ambedkar started way back. Look at Mayawati - how her caste based politics has drawn blank. Look at Mulayam Singh Yadav - the master of caste and religion based politics - who has to contend with only 4 seats, all shared among himself and his immediate family. So the Modi phenomenon is for real, has some leg and for sure can be authentically interpreted as steps towards more Hindu unity. After all, it was another Gujrathi a century ago who had the courage and wisdom to guide Indian Subcontinent and found the nation to take us to a caste-less society. Narendra Modi does exactly right in starting his momentous day by paying homage to probably the greatest Gujrathi ever and embarking upon a mission to unify his country to unleash prosperity and free spirit. One thing is for sure - Modi has got all the optics right: first he stays in Gujrath knowing well that election results would vault him to the top. Then he starts his journey by bowing to his mother. (Which sub-continent mom would not like that? She deserves that and he delivers it like a true son of the soil.) Next stop, thanking Vadodara; his pocket borough followed by highly cinematic visit to Varanasi and Ganga Puja. What Advani's Rath Yatra failed to achieve, Modi's Ganga Puja attained: surreal sense of belonging-ness for Billion Hindus...that magical moment for practicing Hindus. And now comes homage to a fellow Gujrathi followed by subcontinental summer evening open air coronation on the sprawling Rashtrapati Bhavan - quintessential definition of liberal imperial background of Luteyan's Delhi. 

Invariably this sky high good-will and popularity will go down. (Ask Barack Obama.) There will be time to argue about agenda of Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh (the true king maker in this affaira fantastically mature political mind any democratic polity will love to have it, probably superior to Karl Rove & David Axelrods of the world). But today is the day to celebrate exceptionally strong democratic spirit embedded and manifested by Billion plus polity of India. In a way, this is a great news for the entire humanity which India's SAARC neighbors rightly affirm. Modi should thank his neighboring countries since the path of India's glory goes through all of them. 

What a great day. (Smells like Jan 20th, 2009.)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Talent Management - Jurgen Klinsmann Style

As shock waves of dropping California hero London Donovan from the USA squad to humanity’s greatest show – FIFA Cup – propagate, one tries to grasp the leadership style of Klinsmann.

"No one should think Klinsmann is punting on Brazil. The United States has an incredibly difficult draw, to be sure, but the notion that Klinsmann is conceding games against Ghana, Portugal and Germany is obtuse; Klinsmann is not “rebuilding” at the World Cup. He is too competitive for that."

Contrary to what history we learn, Stars and Strips does not seem to have any choice apart from following this German genius. May be the 'tenure security' is providing Klinsmann all the 'space' to make his moves. 

Well, all that what matters is whether it produces any results. In a month or so we will know. USA Squad is not expected to clear its Group of Death. Compared to those expectations it will be easy to assess - whether Klinsmann game plan is all about future or even for 2014.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Clear Mandate

Many observers of Indian Politics had noted that in the end Indian Voters have tended to vote decisively in recent elections. That is what seems to have happened and Narendra Modi is likely to get very comfortable majority and a stable coalition. Winning seats all across the country, not just in central and western traditional strongholds of BJP, Modi's majority will be a true representative of the entire country. By obtaining such a clear and decisive mandate, Narendra Modi has substantially 'united India' in some sense.

Just few months back things were not so clear. Two things happened - Rahul Gandhi woke up too late to Corruption (where was he when all those scandals were getting exposed all years along in UPA Term 2?), ran inapt campaign and could never figure out a core problem of Congress: how to claim 'credibly' Term 3 to embark upon a clean governance given its baggage? He could not enforce a line on awarding nominations to 'clean candidates' nor enforced transparency in election money to start with. May be regardless of what he did, Congress Party and UPA were destined for a historic thumping (first ever Indian Loksabha where Congress Party member count is in 2 digits) considering a decade of corrupt governance.

Second thing was before Arvind Kejriwal to burn out all the goodwill he earned, there was a genuine possibility that Aam Adami Party would have offered a credible alternative at least in some regions. But Kejriwal did stupid things while being Delhi CM and threw the towel on the first occasion. As political potency of AAP collapsed, a major stumbling block got cleared for Modi and BJP.

Of course Modi and BJP ran better campaign than others. Though there have been lot of in-fighting within BJP, in the end RSS discipline will keep them together and Modi Government will be able to complete its term. I was not so sure about any such clear mandate for BJP and felt a real possibility of NDA falling short of majority. But Indian voters have removed any such uncertainty is great for the country (no wonder Bombay Stock Market is exploding right now).

Some of the challenges for Modi Government are:
- Market and business community expectations would surpass what realistically Modi Government can deliver resulting in a financial bubble;
- Modi Government fails at a critical juncture in retaining religious harmony; and
- Modi is unable to bring down corruption as much as expected from him because different States ruled by non-NDA parties.

Though chances are high that Modi government will be able to avoid these pitfalls. But jury is out.

As far Congress, the urge of it's base to bring in Priyanka is hopless and of no use. She is equally un-experienced as like Rahul with nothing much to offer apart from the family name. Here is yet another chance for Congress Party to undertake a deep evaluation of culture of Corruption and excessive reliance on Gandhi Family for leadership it has allowed to develop over decades. However, it is unlikely that Congress Party would undertake any such 'soul searching'. More likely it will attempt to muddle through, without resolving tensions created by the dynastic rule and will settle for decades old formula - waiting for BJP to make mistakes. But this time neither it will be so lucky as BJP would like to avoid 'shining India mistakes' of past BJP government nor Rahul or Priyanka exhibit any deeper understanding of India's problems. Gandhi Family does not offer any solutions what India needs badly - transparency. Ironically, the loss of Congress party is so complete, it will be only Gandhi Family which will be left to take care of empty cupboards of Congress brand, no one else will be interested to run that shop at this point. For aspirant Indians, there are better forces of change like AAP. In a sense, this colossal loss is likely to make Congress Party even more desperately dependent on Gandhis when the real need is to allow fresh political talent in its tent.

Note - Some noteworthy results of this election: Arun Jaitley, projected as Finance Minister of BJP, lost. Nandan Nilekani could not make it. Both losses deprive India some otherwise useful talent.

The other good news is complete decimation of Left.. Mighty Left at one time was around 50+ MPs, now is around 10. With BJP and its brand of Market friendliness firmly on ascend, clearly it seems Indian voters are not much enamored with Socialistic policy prescriptions. 

Similarly washout of BSP points to going away from Caste Based politics in some sense as well as equally SP getting only few seats indicate that playing politics of Muslism-Yadav vote banks have limits.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bring Back Our Girls

Twenty Female Senators in Congress did a right thing in urging Sec. Kerry to ask UN to declare Boko Haram as the terrorist organization. As some wise Islamic religious leaders have declared, "selling girls on market" is no way of Islam nor of any religion. No cause in human life is worthy enough to endanger our own progeny in 'hellish life'. 

All that one can say is days of Boko Haram should be numbered for this 'excess' and mindless act. What we need President Obama to do is:
- keep providing appropriate military assistance to the Nigerian Government so as all these girls are brought back safely to their parents and
- at some appropriate time point to pull off a 'cool cat act' on this non-human Boko Haram leadership like as when President Obama got OBL killed.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

GOP - In Search of an Election Issue?

Now that ObamaCare topped with 8 million enrollment (actual paid subscribers will be less) and Economy kicking into a high gear;  GOP is kind of desperate for an issue. Sure, President Obama's low popularity is still a millstone around Dems neck and his foreign policy is so less inspiring according to his critics[1]; but facts on ground must be indicating GOP that they have to search for another issue to play 'politics' in these Mid-term elections.

What better way than to go after Dem's effective incumbent - Hillary Clinton, especially as Democrats start to align themselves publicly with her? If GOP succeeds, GOP would be thinking Hillary will be finished and conventional wisdom is that with the lack of any other viable Dem candidate, White House will fall in the Red Column. Then there after the party time - with all three branches of American Government under Republican control; Ryan Budget will be passed, rich will have better times, ObamaCare will be dismantled and tooth fairy will make lives of Americans happy. These are the dreams Republicans are having.

Nothing wrong to have dreams - like a person, same for the party. But it is unlikely that GOP's path to glory will go via mucking Benghazi. First it is doubtful there is any culpability to any Administration official. Second, originally Susan Rice was vilified for talking points, but as Public sees that those talking points were backed by intelligence agencies in early hours of that episode, there is no political red meat there. Finally, if Hillary comes through clean from yet another investigation - which she is more likely - there will not be any political cost left for her to pay. Over her career, Clintons and Hillary in particular have acquired the knack of escaping from all these allegations unscathed. Nothing essentially sticks her.

Meanwhile, GOP's focus on yet another irrelevant committee will make Americans's realize how far Republicans are as a party from American's real life. Add to that, disastrous policies of Paul Ryan as articulated in his budget which most Republican House members backed. No wonder Democrats are bringing Ryan Budget in the campaign. They should, it will create a difficult situation for Republicans. Republicans have stalled Immigration as well as substantive tax reforms too (with the thinking that after 2014 midterm elections they will have both chambers of Congress, and then they can present a fait accompli to this president). Just creating ruckus for Benghazi will hardly help Americans nor will it deliver politically to Republicans.

[1] I do not see much merit in criticizing President Obama when he eluded for ones and twos instead of home runs. In top class Test Cricket it is 'hammered into minds' of best batsman that you keep rotating strikes, keep pilling ones and twos and that is how big scores are done. The idea is you do not take risk for four runs and sixes, you do that only when a loose ball comes. Till then being patient and nudging around is the best strategy to keep moving. Such an approach is so well accepted in the Cricketing world, that no one would fault for someone reiterating that.