Tell me I am mad

How do Nitish Kumar and L.K. Advani become secular? How does rainfall determine monetary policy?

Written by Surjit S Bhalla | Published: June 22, 2013 5:46:57 am

How do Nitish Kumar and L.K. Advani become secular? How does rainfall determine monetary policy?

When I woke up this morning/ Secularism was on my mind/ So I went to Nitish/ Just to ease my pain (with apologies to We Five,“You were on my mind”)

If I had enough hair,I would tear it out. Several “events” of the last few days I am just not able to understand. See if you can. Top of my madness list is the behaviour of Nitish Kumar,Bihar chief minister and wannabe PM. Everybody wants to be PM,just like everybody “must” get stoned. So that is not the problem. The issue is the reason given for Nitish to be a born-again secularist. After being a pseudo-secularist for the last 17 years (being pseudo comes with the territory of being with the BJP),Nitish appears to have suddenly discovered religion. Though we may never know the real reasons,most people see his actions as something less than rank opportunism. The Congress is short of candidates

for PM — does he possibly see himself as a Congress-front candidate (all

puns intended)?

Along the same lines has been the Congress-friendly media’s response to L.K. Advani’s tantrums. The most amusing aspect about the “Sonia is happy” networks was their projection of Advani as the ultimate secularist. The man singly responsible for Babri Masjid — which then led to the Mumbai communal riots,which then possibly influenced the Godhra riots. The man who chose disturbing yatras over fasts as

his main weapon of political destruction. He is the new Congress icon of secularism?

Can we all be honest and forbid

When I woke up this morning/ Secularism was on my mind/ So I went to Nitish/ Just to ease my pain (with apologies to We Five,“You were on my mind”)

If I had enough hair,I would tear it out. Several “events” of the last few days I am just not able to understand. See if you can.

Top of my madness list is the behaviour of Nitish Kumar,Bihar chief minister and wannabe PM. Everybody wants to be PM,just like everybody “must” get stoned. So that is not the problem. The issue is the reason given for Nitish to be a born-again secularist. After being a pseudo-secularist for the last 17 years (being pseudo comes with the territory of being with the BJP),Nitish appears to have suddenly discovered religion. Though we may never know the real reasons,most people see his actions as something less than rank opportunism. The Congress is short of candidates for PM — does he possibly see himself as a Congress-front candidate (all puns intended)?

Along the same lines has been the Congress-friendly media’s response to L.K. Advani’s tantrums. The most amusing aspect about the “Sonia is happy” networks was their projection of Advani as the ultimate secularist. The man singly responsible for Babri Masjid — which then led to the Mumbai communal riots,which then possibly influenced the Godhra riots. The man who chose disturbing yatras over fasts as his main weapon of political destruction. He is the new Congress icon of secularism?

Can we all be honest and forbid the use of the S-word in our political discourse? Apart from delightedly watching all the Congress leaders and Lalu and Mulayam and now Nitish squirm while they attempt to find a new vocabulary with which to communicate with the masses,the banning of the S-word will also help our democracy. The leaders of all stripes will be forced to communicate on issues and not on empty platitudes. So my question to journalists and politicians and spokespersons is: since we get nothing,and actually negative nothings from insipid discussions about secularism,can we ban its usage? If you disagree,call me mad.

Banning the S-word will also help in discussing communal riots and mass killings objectively rather than suggesting that “the Mumbai riots were secular and Godhra riots not secular”. There should be an objective comparison between the three major “communal” events of the last 30 years — the pogrom against the Sikhs in 1984,and the communal riots in Mumbai 1992-93,and Godhra-Gujarat,2002. If Narendra Modi has to be congratulated on any issue,it is in forcing the Indian media to confront the comparison. Let us get some simple facts straight (else call me mad) — there is no comparison between the Sikh pogrom and the communal riots. Note: one was a pogrom,the others were communal clashes. The dictionary defines a pogrom as “the organised killing of many helpless people usually because of their race or religion”. That is what happened in the capital of India in 1984. The army wasn’t called in until five days after the killing had started. The number of helpless Sikhs killed — close to 8,000 with about 3,000 in Delhi alone. In other words,there were more innocent Sikhs killed in the pogrom in Delhi than in the Mumbai and Godhra riots put together — about 2,000 killed,including about 1,500 Muslims and 500 Hindus. Note that both Hindus and Muslims were killed in Mumbai-Godhra — unlike the killing of only Sikhs in the pogrom.

My plea is that we recognise that atrocities have been committed under the watch of both political parties — the Congress was ruling India and Delhi during both the Sikh pogrom and the Mumbai riots and Modi was at the helm in Gujarat in 2002. It is time for truth and reconciliation,rather than arrogant holier-than-thou pronouncements from political leaders. Again,let us shift the debate to governance rather than indulge in vacuous polemics about bad morality.

And then,there is the question of terrorism and development fighters. Why is there not a reasonable discussion,let alone a debate,on the destruction of lives,civil liberties and governance by the Taliban in Pakistan and the Naxals/Maoists in India? Why do learned intellectuals and politicians of a particular ideological persuasion have a lump in their throats criticising these different groups,both in India and Pakistan? Nobody condemns their extraordinary violence outright — it is always qualified. Why? Maybe I am mad.

And now for something (almost) completely different. I find the economic debate in India,as conducted by the RBI,professionals and the media,extremely unenlightening. The economy has literally collapsed,yet we are not looking for causes and cures. Let me illustrate my problem with a recent quote from the monetary authorities. RBI governor D. Subbarao,at an event in Hyderabad,said: “…Most importantly,we also chase the monsoon like millions of farmers across the country. So,the monsoon outlook,the monsoon performance is going to be the important factor in determining the RBI policy in the next three months.”

We all recognise that food inflation is a major problem in India,and that food inflation has been primarily caused by the misguided and wrong procurement pricing policies of the UPA government. But it is for the first time that I have heard of the level of rainfall determining monetary policy in India or any other country. Given the depressing and depressed state of the Indian economy,no matter what happens to rainfall,the argument is for a cut in the interest rates. Assume for a moment the rainfall is bad — growth declines and there is close to a zero effect on food inflation,since the prices of all the important food items are administered. The RBI should cut repo rates to help growth. Assume rainfall is plentiful. Again,not much effect on inflation. But agricultural growth will be up and the RBI should… I get it — the RBI should tighten up because growth will be too high! Tell me I am mad to think so.

The writer is chairman of Oxus Investments,an emerging market advisory firm,and a senior advisor

to Blufin,a leading financial information companythe use of the S-word in our political discourse? Apart from delightedly watching all the Congress leaders and Lalu and Mulayam and now Nitish squirm while they attempt to find a new vocabulary with which to communicate with the masses,the banning of the S-word will also help our democracy. The leaders of all stripes will be forced to communicate on issues and not on empty platitudes. So my question to journalists and politicians and spokespersons is: since we get nothing,and actually negative nothings from insipid discussions about secularism,can we ban its usage? If you disagree,call me mad.

Banning the S-word will also help in discussing communal riots and mass killings objectively rather than suggesting that “the Mumbai riots were secular and Godhra riots not secular”. There should be an objective comparison between the three major “communal” events of the last 30 years — the pogrom against the Sikhs in 1984,and the communal riots in Mumbai 1992-93,and Godhra-Gujarat,2002. If Narendra Modi has to be congratulated on any issue,it is in forcing the Indian media to confront the comparison. Let us get some simple facts straight (else call me mad) — there is no comparison between the Sikh pogrom and the communal riots. Note: one was a pogrom,the others were communal clashes. The dictionary defines a pogrom as “the organised killing of many helpless people usually because of their race or religion”. That is what happened in the capital of India in 1984. The army wasn’t called in until five days after the killing had started. The number of helpless Sikhs killed — close to 8,000 with about 3,000 in Delhi alone. In other words,there were more innocent Sikhs killed in the pogrom in Delhi than in the Mumbai and Godhra riots put together — about 2,000 killed,including about 1,500 Muslims and 500 Hindus. Note that both Hindus and Muslims were killed in Mumbai-Godhra — unlike the killing of only Sikhs in the pogrom.

My plea is that we recognise that atrocities have been committed under the watch of both political parties — the Congress was ruling India and Delhi during both the Sikh pogrom and the Mumbai riots and Modi was at the helm in Gujarat in 2002. It is time for truth and reconciliation,rather than arrogant holier-than-thou pronouncements from political leaders. Again,let us shift the debate to governance rather than indulge in vacuous polemics about bad morality.

And then,there is the question of terrorism and development fighters. Why is there not a reasonable discussion,let alone a debate,on the destruction of lives,civil liberties and governance by the Taliban in Pakistan and the Naxals/Maoists in India? Why do learned intellectuals and politicians of a particular ideological persuasion have a lump in their throats criticising these different groups,both in India and Pakistan? Nobody condemns their extraordinary violence outright — it is always qualified. Why? Maybe I am mad.

And now for something (almost) completely different. I find the economic debate in India,as conducted by the RBI,professionals and the media,extremely unenlightening. The economy has literally collapsed,yet we are not looking for causes and cures. Let me illustrate my problem with a recent quote from the monetary authorities. RBI governor D. Subbarao,at an event in Hyderabad,said: “…Most importantly,we also chase the monsoon like millions of farmers across the country. So,the monsoon outlook,the monsoon performance is going to be the important factor in determining the RBI policy in the next three months.”

We all recognise that food inflation is a major problem in India,and that food inflation has been primarily caused by the misguided and wrong procurement pricing policies of the UPA government. But it is for the first time that I have heard of the level of rainfall determining monetary policy in India or any other country. Given the depressing and depressed state of the Indian economy,no matter what happens to rainfall,the argument is for a cut in the interest rates. Assume for a moment the rainfall is bad — growth declines and there is close to a zero effect on food inflation,since the prices of all the important food items are administered. The RBI should cut repo rates to help growth. Assume rainfall is plentiful. Again,not much effect on inflation. But agricultural growth will be up and the RBI should… I get it — the RBI should tighten up because growth will be too high! Tell me I am mad to think so.

The writer is chairman of Oxus Investments,an emerging market advisory firm,and a senior advisor to Blufin,a leading financial information company

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App

More From Surjit S Bhalla
  • Pro-women, pro-poor

    India may have just witnessed the best four years of inclusive growth, thanks to the Centre’s sanitation programme..

  • Not a question of cash

    Whether demonetisation failed or succeeded is not a moral question. Is it too much to expect that in this data-dependent world, we should discuss hard…

  • No Proof Required: GDP Report – misreading the facts

    Back-series GDP Report mistakenly concludes that GDP growth during UPA-I was higher by 0.5 per cent per annum. GDP growth was very likely lower by…