gossipy debate

i've more drafts than posts in my dashboard - so i've decided to publish this slightly old draft even though i haven't said half of what i intended to say through it. my hope - publishing it might get me interested in the subject again.

an article in The Financial Express reviews three years of UPA rule:
At the same time, I have yet to see the senior minister or his compatriots in the National Advisory Council (NAC), or even the keepers of the Marxist faith to which he has professed sudden allegiance, come up with a coherent development strategy that will secure the welfare of the aam admi. Because, as West Bengal after three decades and China since 1978 have demonstrated in different ways, there is no simple alternative strategy or a short-cut that can address the trade-off between growth and equity. Rapid growth remains the necessary condition for reducing poverty and improving the aam aadmi’s condition.
the writer is being unfair to mr.aiyer - he actually does have a development policy. let's look at the relevant parts of his now famous speech to the cii:
In these circumstances, when a proposal came before the government to spend Rs 648 crore on the Gram Nyaya department, we were solemnly informed by one of the most influential ministers in the government to remember that we are a poor country. I was delighted when the next day he was with me in a group of ministers and I reminded him of his remark and said in that case can we stop spending the Rs 7000 crore on the Commonwealth Games and he said, “No, no, that is an international commitment and a matter of national pride.” This national pride will of course blow up if you spend Rs 7000 crore on the Commonwealth Games. We will be on the cover of Time and Newsweek.
isn't that interesting? the 1982 asian games were promoted by the gandhi family fan club in the congress, which means most of the congress, as a shining example of india's national pride and their 'success' was offered as incontrovertible proof that the then heir apparent, rajiv gandhi, who was the prime driving force behind the decision to hold the games, had what it takes to be the leader of a nearly hundred year old party. and mr.aiyer had shortly after that inveigled his way into rajiv ('hope of the nation') gandhi's innermost circle of 'smart friends and aides'. even though he was still a member of the indian foreign service. so why does mr.aiyer inveigh against wasteful expenditure now? here's the answer:

I was always something of a leftist. But I became a complete Marxist only after the economic reforms. Because I see the extent to which the most important conception of Marx — that the relationship of any given class with the means of production determines the superstructure — holds.
he's a chamcha, just as narendra modi's guru is indira gandhi more than golwalkar. he was always something of a gandhi loyalist. but he became a full blown chamcha much before rajiv gandhi's death. because that's the family which determines the superstructure of the congress, more than anything else. that's what the congress had steadily become over the years, and completely so since the advent of the indira gandhi reign. so it was okay when rajiv gandhi chanted the technology+growth mantra twenty years ago, even though the marxists, those righteous pals of mr.aiyer's, had opposed the introduction of even computers in banks and in government for a good decade or so, around the same period. and now that the current head of the family, aiyer's new master, feels a vaam-panthi posture is vital to dissociate the party, and more importantly, the family, from all things that spell narasimha rao, except, of course, from whatever gratuitous credit that comes its way because of the economic upturn engendered by policy initiatives undertaken during that usurper's era, mr.aiyer suddenly finds that he too had always travelled along the same road as the marxists. going back to the article:

Three years of UPA rule is testimony to this ongoing tussle between two schools within the Congress. This is also well in keeping with the party’s traditions. One school subscribes to high GDP growth. But, as I argued in this column a fortnight ago, this has to be supplemented with an expanded coverage and better delivery of public goods and services through administrative reforms. The other school seems to believe that growth-inducing policies per se are inimical to the interests of the poor. Therefore, they focus their entire attention on increasing public spending on welfare or so-called poverty reduction measures. The underlying logic (sic) of this school is that if by some means purchasing power can be put in the hands of the aam admi, the demand impetus so created will induce the needed supply response and generate growth.
analysts attach too much significance to whatever the congress does, attribute non-existent lines of thinking, leanings etc., to whatever congressmen do. the congress, right from the ward level, hasn't had a proper election within its organisation in the last forty years or so - if the party itself doesn't care for what its members have to say, and if the partymen themselves have long given up their right to expression, why do the pundits care? i find it very amusing that mr.aiyer's speech is being quoted in the media and the blogworld as proof of conscious dissent, of the existence of two schools of thought etc., within the congress. who's mr.aiyer dissenting against anyway? his prime minister? well, he's in good company because the prime minister himself seems to disagree with what his government is doing - helping the rich (according to him). in all the over-analysis of both these statements, and of all 'assertions' of congressmen, the critical lesson that is often missed is that none of them indicate any dissent against the house of gandhi. congressmen make those statements because they are allowed to make them. like all good courtiers, they can sense the mood of the ruling family. and the mood of the family has swung leftwards, in the last few years, as a reaction to the short reign of the modern day sher shah i had referred to earlier.

i am dredging up an old bugbear? dragging in the family into a debate on critical national issues? let's see what a wise man, dr.subroto roy, who claims to have authored the script for india's liberalisatiom program at rajiv gandhi's behest has to say on this issue:
All such questions would be ones of feminine gossip or TV-soap operas in case of any ordinary woman but assume political significance for Indians because of the inordinate impact she, her father, her sons and their widows have had on India’s modern history. Why all of India’s national-level politics have acquired a gossipy joint-family tone about them is because she projected onto them no high and universally known political principles whatsoever, but merely her own personal experiences and desire for popularity.
he is talking about indira gandhi and her family. she projected onto them no high and universally known political principles whatsoever, but merely her own personal experiences and desire for popularity. replace the word she with they and you could be talking about any political party in the country. or at least, most political parties. that's what the family has done to one institution, political parties, that is required to play one of the most important roles in the functioning of our democracy. any democracy.


Anonymous said...

Hello, In reference to the quote from my work, you are welcome to it under the normal "fair use" rule, though do mention me by name as stated.


Dr Subroto Roy

kuffir said...


thanks for visiting. and for permitting the use of your work - especially because i find your writing very interesting and i plan to quote from your articles in the future too.

i've updated the post- it mentions your name now (and doesn't just refer, indirectly, to you like it did earlier). thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Hello again, Thanks for the update. It is interesting you say that I wrote the origins of the 1991 reform at Rajiv's "behest". Do look up my 1984 work and the London Times editorial on it, and then what I have said about the Hawaii perestroika-for-India project. My description of my encounter with Rajiv Gandhi is very precise. Certainly the September 26 1990 meeting was at his behest and may be said to have officially started the Congress Party's change in thinking. But my academic work before that on Indian reform had nothing to do with him, and it was at the September 18 1990 meeting that I suggested to him to create a modern agenda. The September 18 1990 meeting would not have occurred but for Siddhartha Shankar Ray, and I would not have met Mr Ray but for my mother, now aged 81, having insisted upon it in a fmaily matter.

I recommend you (and most people on the Internet) identify yourself by name, as it is very rarely indeed that one needs to be anonymous in expressing an opinion.

Best wishes

Subroto Roy

kuffir said...


it's been a while since i read the relevant articles (of yours)- so i jumped a few years, i guess. but in this post the article at the back of my mind was mostly the one on indira gandhi's legacy. it puts her years in the right perspective - and the insights it offers are very accurate, in my view.

your suggestion on dropping the pseudonym - i'll definitely think over it.

Aditya Swarup said...

Interesting. Your feelings against the Gandhi family are evident. Surpisingly, public diplomacy has failed to tackle this situation.

Also I appreciate your linking the SEWA post at blogbharti.

kuffir said...


sorry for responding late to your comment. my feelings aren't exactly against the gandhi family - they are against what they have done and what we allowed them to do.

and the post was good - i found it very readable.

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