Ganga Cleanup: No Problem, CCTV’s: No Problem, Statues: No Problem

Solution: Modi Suit, Kejriwal Muffler, Maywati Shawl

Modi-SuitlThere has been a recent trend in Indian politics to offer freebies so that they can attract voters. The list is long but some examples are interesting: free tablet computers, free TV, free water, free electricity, waiver of loans etc. etc. However when the leaders who offered all these freebies come to power they realize that the math does not add up. Then the choice is for them to either leave their state/voters with unfulfilled promises or to leave a huge deficit for their state. Everyone has their pet projects: PM Modi has his Ganga cleanup efforts, Kejriwal has 15 lac CCTV’s, Mayawati wants her statues etc. etc.

However with the recent auctioning of Prime Minister Modi’s suit for Rs. 4.3 crore has probably triggered off a great rush in the minds of the politicians. I can visualize monogrammed Kejriwal mufflers to be auctioned off to pay for the CCTV’s; Mayawati will auction off her personally monogrammed shawls at her next birthday to pay for the Statues of herself and her icons. This is transparency according to them it does not involve a “Pay it forward” mechanism. What do you think?


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What do Speaker Boehner and PM Modi have in Common!

“A fringe element that is needed to win but hard to control!”


Speaker John Boehner is the 3rd in line to be the President of the United States. By all indications, he holds a very powerful position and is someone to be admired by his supporters and feared by his opponents. However, given the behavior of the Tea Party elements in his own party, he has become a figure of sympathy even by his opponents. They have shot down a lot of his initiatives and shut down the government for 15 days in October 2013. They also have led to the defeat of some easy Senate wins for the Republican Party in Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, etc.

Prime Minister Modi has a similar problem i.e. the fringe elements in and around his party (BJP) who keep making regular comments on religious issues that detract attention from his reform agenda. The PM talks about “Swatch Bharat” (Clean India), a woman MP speaks about Haramzade (illegitimate children); he talks about “Make in India,” and another MP speaks about women having 4 children. It seems like they are just waiting for him to announce an important initiative and you can be rest assured that someone is going to make a loony tune to detract from it.

If Speaker Boehner had a government shutdown due to the fringe, PM Modi had his Parliament shut down due to the statements by the fringe and opportunism by his political opponents.  However. both the Speaker and the Prime Minister cannot do without the fringe as the energy and grassroots of both the leaders reside in these elements of their base. Speaker Boehner and his Republicans got one of the largest majorities in the House in November 2014 and the Tea Party and their opposition to President Obama took a lot of the credit. Prime Minister Modi has won State elections in Haryana, Maharashtra, J&K and Jharkhand. His base apparently was out in full force during those elections. He did suffer a huge loss in the Delhi elections.

I am sure that PM Modi and Speaker Boehner do not check each other’s progress/challenges having to deal with their party’s fringe elements, but maybe they might want to have a “Chai pe Charcha” about this!

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Clothes make a man, can clothes make an election!

modiThey say that clothes can make a man; can clothes make or break elections? In the case of the recently conducted Delhi elections they say that Prime Minister Modi’s clothes might have had something to do with the thumping that the BJP got. One of the reasons that Prime Minister Modi’s story has been so compelling for all Indians has been his unique background as a tea seller and living simply as a karyakarta in RSS. Not being part of any elite clubs or the elite cliques in Delhi his has been the story that everyone cheers and wants to see triumph. His battle against the establishment in the last elections was truly fought not just about governance but also about the anti-establishment going up against the generations of the established i.e. the Gandhi family.

However most analysts would say that his wearing personally monogrammed suits and changing his attire 4 times in a day during the visit of President Obama changed that perception in one fell swoop. A picture they say speaks more than a thousand words. Especially in a country like India where 70% of the population still lives below the poverty line but has aspirations due to them owning a mobile phone or access to TV. An average Indian cannot afford monogrammed suits and might find it hard to distinguish between the perfectly coiffed and out of touch with the aam admi (pardon the pun) former Home Minister Shivraj Patil et al and Prime Minister Modi.

Does the Prime Minister have the right to wear good clothes absolutely! In fact that is one of the things that could be admirable because he gives an impression of a man in control of his and his nation’s destiny while dealing with world leaders. However politics is an entirely different game where perception is everything. Has his perception as a man of the people been permanently changed? What do you think? Your comments are welcome?

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“Barack”: India is an Equal Player on the World Stage

india-02When Prime Minister Narendra Modi called U.S. President Barack Obama by his first name during the President’s recent trip to India, it was a familiarity that is unheard of even in India. Critics from both countries immediately condemned Modi for calling the President, “Barack,” during their joint press conference, especially since the President continued calling PM Modi “Mr. Prime Minister.”

But in a historic trip that has been applauded as opening new doors in Indo-U.S. relations, Modi sent a clear message to India and the world: India is a major player on the world stage. It refuses to be relegated to second-place. It is not subservient.

india-09By protocol, heads of state may refer to each other in a less formal manner as President Obama is known to call British Prime Minister David Cameron, his “bro.” And former President George W. Bush would often say, “Yo, Blair, what are you doing?” to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Nevertheless, for PM Modi, his rapport with the American President started with the moment President Obama landed at Palam Airport in New Delhi. Unprecedented and breaking with protocol, PM Modi greeted the President and First Lady upon their arrival at the airport. PM Modi’s attire during this arrival was described by the media as “swaggeringly stylish,” a gesture that showed the thousands of international cameras that he would not defer the spotlight to President Obama. This confidence of equal par continued throughout the trip as PM Modi’s body language exuded affinity as the two men strolled along the Hyderabad House gardens.

india-08Modi’s poised demeanor during the second visit by President Obama is significant.  What is more commendable than the actual words, body language, or departure from protocols is the fact that his assertion that India is an equal global partner was done in a friendly, subtle manner.  Modi did not spell it out or use any aggressive tactics.  In the simple utterance of “Barack,” which means blessed, PM Modi showed the world that India is determined to assert its leverage as a global superpower.

Compared to previous U.S-India President-Prime Minster meetings, Modi’s dignified composure showed that India is not afraid to engage in bargaining and dealing.

india-21While the issues discussed—defense, climate change, trade, intellectual property and the civil nuclear agreement—have previously been visited (during PM Modi’s U.S. visit in the Fall) and implementing the changes will require further negotiations between the two governments, the affinity gained during the trip will unleash progress that has been stalled in recent times.

In the past, India was often criticized for being timid, inflexible and not using its full might.  But PM Modi demonstrated otherwise.  For example, he voiced his support for the climate change treaty Montreal Protocol while not fully committing to making

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