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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The spider’s web

Mr Pilot is not cut from the same cloth as the BJP is, or so we believed. He should have channelled all his energies to help the people fight the pandemic as well as get the state’s economy back on its feet.

Written by P Chidambaram | Updated: July 26, 2020 8:50:27 am

rajasthan, rajasthan political crisis, rajasthan government, sachin pilot, ashok gehlot, coronavirus, coronavirus india news, india china, india china border news, india china ladakh standoff, p chidambaram

If you search the Internet for information on The Spider’s Web, you will find what is described as ‘Six surprising facts about spiderwebs’. Read on, and you will find that

1. Spiders have a design sense,
2. Spiderwebs don’t intercept prey; they attract them,
3. Spiderwebs are shiny for a reason,
4. Spiders are sneaky,
5. Spiders think big, and
6. Spiders often replace their web every day.

If you are thinking like me, you will say “how appropriate!”. They seem appropriate to the gravely uncertain situation on the India-China border. They seem appropriate to the losing battle we are waging against the coronavirus. They seem appropriate to the despair among ordinary people facing a rapidly sinking economy and joblessness. And they seem appropriate to the luxury tussle in Rajasthan that the two principal political parties are locked in.

Rajasthan

Mr Sachin Pilot is a young man with big ambitions. Nothing wrong with that, except the timing of his strike has WRONG written all over. The nation, including Rajasthan, is facing a triple challenge of the kind it has never faced before. The BJP, both party and government, have thrown in the towel as far as the economy and the pandemic are concerned. Against the Chinese threat, the government is floundering and not revealing the true situation on the border. The government’s spokespersons have an unenviable task explaining the contradictions. I would be surprised if Mr Lav Agarwal (the Union Health Secretary) understands what Mr Anurag Srivastava (the MEA spokesperson) says or if either of them has noticed the green shoots the Finance Minister sees every week.

Mr Pilot is not cut from the same cloth as the BJP is, or so we believed. He should have channelled all his energies to help the people fight the pandemic as well as get the state’s economy back on its feet. He had before him the example of the unflappable Mohan Lal Sukhadia (he became the Rajasthan Chief Minister at the age of 38, and remained the CM for 17 years). Mr Pilot should have prepared to run the marathon — and he could have been chief minister for as long as Sukhadia was. Uncharacteristically, he didn’t have a design sense and he tried to intercept his prey. As a result, he is in mid-sea not knowing toward which shore he should row his boat.

The Economy

Look at the economy or what is left of the wreck. We are in for a deeper and more prolonged recession than was estimated earlier. The first quarter is gone, yet there is no sign of a fiscal stimulus or any effort to boost consumer demand for goods and services. The only ones who think that monetary measures will be sufficient to revive economic growth are Ms Nirmala Sitharaman, Mr K V Subramanian, Mr Rajiv Kumar and the Prime Minister’s speech writer. There is still one finger left on a hand, and there is nobody who wants to be counted with the quartet. Every feeble measure will amount to nothing if our rulers do not have a sense of design about re-constructing the economy that has practically collapsed.

Coronavirus

The virus shares many — not all — of the characteristics of the spider. It has sneaked into every country and, in a country as large as India, into every state and every district. It has adapted to the vastly different conditions of every country — demographics, climate, people’s habits, health infrastructure, income levels, preparedness and the government’s administrative capacity. When the Indian people were assured that the battle against the virus would be won in 21 days by no less a person than the Prime Minister — who compared it to the 18-day Mahabharata war — little did they know that it was a false promise based on neither medical science nor medieval beliefs. We have now learned that there is no weapon against the virus until a vaccine is discovered, proved and distributed. The people have given up on the governments, Central and state. Those who can afford to do so, have isolated themselves; those who cannot, have shed fear. Life will return to a new ‘normal’ that will include a certain case fatality ratio. The joker in the pack is the totally useless ‘lock-unlock’ epileptic fits of governments. No matter how often governments change their web, they can make no difference whatsoever.

China

China is the archetypal spider. It shares all the characteristics of a spider. Above all, it thinks big and attracts its prey. Eighteen meetings with China’s leader in six years, including a State visit and three Summits, can flatter any ascetic. Mr Narendra Modi is no ascetic, he has a big ego (all prime ministers have) and bigger designs for his party. Mr Xi Jinping took an accurate measure of Mr Modi, flattered him with a High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue, offered to encourage mutual investments, and promised him a world-sized stage in 2020 declared as the ‘Year of India-China Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges’. Then in January 2020, he gave the go-ahead to the PLA to invade India. For China, India is just another fire that Mr Xi started along with other fires like Hong Kong, Taiwan, South China Sea, Belt-and-Road initiative and an incipient Quad with Pakistan, Turkey and Iran. If the fire singes some, so be it, China will powerfully rise. Ask yourself, which world leader except the unpredictable Mr Donald Trump has condemned the Chinese aggression against India? If China is the spider, India is the prey that was attracted to the spider’s web.

Spiders never rest.

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