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Prof. Subroto Roy's comments: a discussion.



This was so well written that I thought I'd like to attempt a response.

On Sat, 19 Sep 1998 sroy@vgsom.iitkgp.ernet.in wrote:

> My initial thought is that it is a brilliant and very
> worthwhile enterprise, and the people involved deserve much credit and
> encouragement.  

Good. I am going to put this blurb up on the web, saying, "[This] is a
brilliant and very worthwhile enterprise, and the people involved deserve
much credit and encouragement." I hope you have no objection to the "use"
of this statement, properly attributed. A bit of a marketing strategy!

> My next thought is that the document as it stands now
> betrays a tremendous political naivete. 

Yes. I endorse this completely. The reason: this is a part time effort of
a few - very few - who are active participants, or have been active
participants in the past six months. The tendency of the "more brilliant"
ones on this list has been to sit and watch as others sweat it out in
front of everyone else.

But you will surely give an A+ to the 'organizers' for making sure that
participation levels increase, the quality of debate becomes better, and
that we are able to attract the best in all fields to come to IP and start
contributing their best. By iterating this process through the minds of
the best Indian brains, I hope that this will lose its political naivete.
Your presence on this list is a strong indicator that we are about to

> A nation may be great in many specific things and yet it
> may all add up to nothing because the "political technology", to coin a
> phrase, is backward or obsolete.

Very profound, indeed. I think that India has suffered immeasurably from
this absence of good political technology.

> I believe each of the main political configurations in the country today has
> something to add to the national interest:  (a) the BJP is correct to have
> established that Indians should stand up straight and not be ashamed to
> being or being called Indians; (b) the Congress and its splinters are
> correct to have established that India as a polity cannot survive other than
> within a secular fabric; (c) the Left is correct to have established that,
> in India as elsewhere, the interests of the power elite and the interests of
> India's people are frequently at odds.

While the first two of these points are already incorporated in the
manifesto, and while I understand somewhat what is implied in the point
(c) above, I would like to request a little clarification on the word
"power elite." In my mind, the entire political spectrum of India is Left
of center. And it is these Left power elites that have managed to create
rents and exploit these rents, while at the same time talking as if they
were 'innocent.' So how have these folks - the entire bunch of ruling
elites in India, the Left, themselves established the conflict of interest
cited above? When these Leftist folk have designed laws specifically to
capture petty rents, then what possible convergence do these folk have
with India's interests? 

> This said, the realities of Indian politics today seem to me to be dominated
> by the following facts which I pose as rhetorical questions:  1.   How is it
> that a party with as great a history as the Congress is today reduced to a
> position of such degeneration that it has a necessary dependence upon
> Shrimati Sonia Gandhi for its survival?     I have met Shrimati Gandhi only
> once, in December 1991 at her home, in connection with her husband's
> assassination.    I could be widely off the mark but I expect that she
> herself may have asked herself precisely the same question.

The task of the Congress before independence was different from the task
after independence. It performed the first task superlatively. In the
second, it was a disaster from day one. In my view, the degeneration
started with planning, and chaining of the Indian economy, and consequent
rent creation/seeking. Corruption in the Congress during Nehru's time has
been well documented. Nehru was clearly free of such moral degradation,
but he was unfortunately dominated in his economic views by his
class-mate, Mahalanobis, whom he trusted without much thinking, ignoring
excellent advice from other quarters. The failure of the Congress was not
the failure of its 'objectives' but of its methods. These methods have
cost it dearly. 

Even the recent report by Jal, from Pachmarhi, shows that its file and
rank is dominated by incorrigible hypocrisy: showing to the public that
they are honest, but promoting only those policies which ensure their
ability to dig into the government kitty on the sly. A code of conduct on
the one side, and strong emphasis on socialism on the other. Asking their
members to not collect money from businessmen, and to give one month's
salary to the congress, on the one side, and fudging all accounts of
expenses at the time of elections. The objectives are therefore
immaterial. What counts is the action. 
 
> 2.   How is it that the leaders of the Left parties are blind to the fact
> they are themselves part of the power elite they once upon a time might have
> deplored, and hence, because the Left has no creativity or credibility
> remaining, there is no genuine voice at the national level for the Indian
> masses (to use an old-fashioned term)?

I consider all parties to be Left parties. There is neither a centrist
party nor a Right party. These are the only power-brokers in India today
whose only claim to fame is that they can fool people by repeatedly
telling them how well they are interested in serving them. What crooks!

The only (most) leaders I have as my bosses in the IAS are corrupt to the
bones. And all preach socialism. I care not for their 'voice' which is
soft and gentle, since their actions are designed to feather their
pockets. They do not represent me. Hence I speak. Hence I ask that others
speak. IPI is going to be that voice for truth, honesty, explicit
exhibition of each contender's self-interest. No hiding, no cheating. If
you need to spend Rs. 2 crores on running an election campaign, then you
must. But tell us from where you got the money, tell the CEC that you
spent Rs. 2 crores. Don't cheat at this critical stage.

Don't make money from tax payer's money meant for school buildings, money
meant for power plants, from guns and submarines meant for the defence
forces, from transfers and postings of your officials to 'plum' postings,
and so on. Don't ask to be paid Rs.4,500 as salary for being my
representative (MP). Ask to be paid Rs.20 lakhs a year, and we will pay.  
Don't make a fool of the people for ever. And be an honest boss to the
young Indians you attract into the very competitive government services.
Don't ask them to provide you money. Don't kick them around if they don't
provide you money by stealing the tax-payer's money.

Pardon me a bit of my exaggerations, but tell me: what do you expect from
such leadership?

> 3.   As for the present Government, I believe they have had quite
> significant successes in a short period due to Pokhran as well as the
> raising of the average competence level of the Council of Ministers; but
> where is their novelty and creativity?  Specifically, knowing that a nuclear
> exchange with Pakistan is unthinkable, why not reach out to Pakistan and
> offer them what is obvious:  A Common Defence, A Common Market and a Common
> Kashmir?   If there was a Yes/No Referendum on both sides of the
> India/Pakistan Border on that formula (implemented as it must be over,say, 5
> years), is there any doubt that the masses of India and the masses of
> Pakistan would overwhelmingly vote 'Yes'?  Yet the present Government seems
> quite bereft of good ideas, and sometimes seems well on its way to becoming
> at one with its predecessors.

I like this point. In my (incomplete) book which is on the web, I talk of
a re-union of India and Pakistan as the only long-term solution. However,
that is not going to be easy. So I will go by your view at the moment.
Please elaborate a bit and then this can go into the manifesto.
 
> A new political manifesto that has any chance of being read by anyone must,
> it seems to me, begin and end in political realities, especially as these
> realities are comprehended by people living in them.   

I have lived these realities. I now need to participate in changing these
realities, since these realities are not acceptable to me as an
individual, and I believe, to none of us as individuals. The first step is
becoming very, very clear about how a better deal can be provided to us,
the citizens of India. That is the task here.

>There is vast room
> for a superior manifesto and agenda than presently exists anywhere in India.

We will continuously update, improve and make simple, the work on IP.
Hopefully, somebody somewhere will think of it as a serious, concerned
document, and try to implement it.

> But it will ultimately require not words and web-sites but right political
> action on the ground,  which implies either existing leaders have to come to
> be successfully persuaded or new and progressive political leaders must
> arise with mass public support to carry them forward.

I don't care much for the existing leaders. I detest most of them (not
all). I am willing to write them off. If they care to contribute and help
build a better manifesto, that's good. If they don't care, I couldn't care
less. In reality, by looking at the manifestos of actual, real, political
parties, you will notice very serious deficiencies, and lack of any
attention to policy. If the part-time work done by a few of us so far gets
a B- from you, then these folk will generally get a D-. These leaders have
come to power based on personality-worship techniques. Not based on
issues. They can't help much, in most cases. They are very smart in people
skills, very powerful orators, etc., but they are hollow from within.

The alterative is what I am looking for: new and progressive political
leaders. Leaders are not born on "leader" trees, however. They have to be
sought out in every corner of India, in fact, created. That is why the
first step is to let all the people debate and the future leaders ruminate
on these debates. Then, one fine day, you WILL find the leaders that you
(and I) are looking for. They will arise and lead once they find that they
are the ones responsible for the decay and degradation of India. When they
find that by keeping a low profile, by keeping quiet, and by being kicked
around by inferior people, they are actually harming themselves and their
children, then they will rise.

To paraphrase Marx, "Good folk of India, Unite!! For you have nothing to
lose but the dirt." Good people have been pushed till they have bitten the
dirt. Sand is in their mouth. Now, the time has come to rise and give
fight. No one is going to come from heaven and help us.

SS


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