Sense of Timing
Divided We Stand
Bearding the Lion
What Do You Say?
On the morning of Friday, June 24 the Britons woke up to discover that they have lost their much- trumpeted claim that Americans were significantly dumber than they are. And they had reasons indeed to believe in the superiority of their intellect over their distant American cousins. As a matter of fact, claiming this superiority was more popular in Britain than playing cricket or darts or snookers.
Come June 23 and asked to vote whether to stay put in the European Union or opt out, Britons proved to the world that Americans aren’t after all really the most stupid of the lot among Home Sapiens: and this title is now indisputably theirs. Unknowingly, playing the game of referendums - the national sport of the Swiss - the Brits did irreparable damage to their national sport of treating Americans like idiots.
There is just one hope left for the Brits, and that is: come November, Americans will come to the rescue of Britain and prove to the world that Americans can be dumber than the Brits. Amen.
I looked carefully at the red and blue map of what was once upon a time called the Great Britain as to how it voted on the Remain vs. Exit referendum. Scotland and Northern Ireland stand out as islands of sanity. They could now join either the European Union or opt for the United States, leaving what’s no longer the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It for them to take the call.
Nothing of late seems to be going right for the Congress party. Didn’t the Bard forewarn: “When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions!”?
The party is losing elections, helplessly watching ideological drift, has a pressing leadership problem and is facing rebellion at various levels. These, however, are the manifestations of a far deeper reality. The Congress is struggling to stay relevant in a country that has changed in profound ways in recent years that took the Party leadership utterly unaware.
The votes of 14 Congress legislators in Haryana were found invalid in the recent elections for the Rajya Sabha because the pen meant for voting was mysteriously replaced. How do you explain that. If Agatha Christie was around she might have penned a thriller The Missing Pen.
AAnd that’s not all. Former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi has decided to float his own political party. A rebellion by a group of Congress legislators in Uttarakhand led to the imposition of president’s rule in the state. That the courts later reinstated the Congress government is another story. Factionalism has led to the loss of power in Arunachal Pradesh. Assam is now ruled by its bête noire, the Bharatiya Janata Party. Depressingly, the list goes on and on.
Sense of Timing
No one really can beat Prime Minister, Narenda Modi when it comes to timing; be it his government’s major announcements or showcasing his administrative achievements in the backdrop of spectacular shows. And many of his big-ticket announcements in the past have come just before his embarking on foreign trips.
The latest announcement of further liberalization in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) rules in a host of sectors including defense, civil aviation and pharmaceuticals too has been timed well—this time to allay investors’ sentiment following the farewell talk of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan.
BBesides the timing factor, the FDI announcement also indicates that there is a continuing momentum in the government and a sense of urgency as it enters the third year of its term to push the reforms juggernaut ahead.
Divided We Stand
There are deep fault lines in the Uttar Pradesh administration along allegiance of officers to various factions within the Netaji Mulayam Singh Yadav household. The much-talked-of violence in Mathura appears to be a direct manifestation of that.
The manner in which the district magistrate and the superintendent of police handled the situation speaks volumes. In the higher echelons of administration, it is no secret that they were working at cross-purposes.
TThe reasons, as they say, are not far to seek. The DM owed allegiance to Ram Gopal Yadav and the SP belonged to the Akhilesh Yadav camp. Ram Vriksh Yadav, who squatted on the government’s 240-odd acre horticulture land in Jawahar Bagh and occupied even defense land, derived his power from his proximity to one of these factions. As a result, the DM was wary of taking action against the encroachers, whose number had swelled to over 2,500 since 2014. Similarly, the SP was driven to action to put down the rival camp, and not to uphold the rule of the law.
Bearding the Lion
Isn’t it interesting that whoever leaves the Congress Party in a huff claims that he alone is the true beacon of the Congress ideology? Remember when Rajiv Gandhi decided to discard the over-ambitious Pranab Mukherjee, the first thing Pranab Babu - our present President - did was to form the Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress, the real true representative of Indira Gandhi brand of socialism to which he claimed to adhere to.
Now, having been eased out of Party, Ajit Jogi, an ex-Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, has finally formed his own regional political party named ‘Chhattisgarh Janata Congress (Jogi), claiming it to be the real, true beacon of the Congress ideology. And he has vowed to work for the people of the state. Whom are others working for, I don't know.
What I find amusing is Jogi’s choice of venue for launching his new Party, namely, the Kabirdham district of Madhya Pradesh which is the home turf of the current Chief Minister Raman Singh. Aren’t you reminded of the phrase to beard the lion in his own den?
I understand the phrase dates back to the first Book of Samuel in the Bible, which tells the story of David, a shepherd who pursued a lion that had stolen one of his sheep. To cut the long story short, David bravely seized the lion “by his beard” (i.e., chin whiskers) and slew him.
II advise Raman Singh should fortify the watch on Jogi’s movements.
Does the present generation of scribes remember C D Deshmukh, HVR Iyenger and L K Jha? Distinguished civil servants and seasoned administrators. Indeed. And I G Patel. Yes, a part of the steel frame on which rested the administrative structure of civil order before Independence and even thereafter. He also had the distinction of heading the world-renowned London School of Economics and Political Science whose director he was selected by an international board and who also was P V Narasimha Rao’s first choice as his Finance Minister, an offer he declined to live a retired life - a rare gesture of a fulfilled life in a world where self-proclaimed experts shamelessly hawk their indispensability till the very end.
There’s another attribute common to all the above distinguished persons I’ve referred to above, and that is they were all governors of the Reserve Bank of India at some stage in their distinguished careers.
RBI has had since its inception in April 1935 the good fortune of being headed by Governors who had made a mark in their careers as experts in their fields, and more importantly, the Bank survived after their departure.
Raghuram Rajan isn’t therefore the only one-eyed person - to repeat his most infelicitous choice of phrase - among a group of the blind (by both eyes). At its very best you can say Rajan has been, like many a predecessor of his, a commendably competent Governor of the RBI. That he carried a little too far his obsession with containing inflation will be debated for years by experts in whose company I don’t at all fit in.
RRajan did his job well. And that was expected of him. However his quasi-political comments every now and then to hog news space were uncalled for and he paid the price for it.
“Are Americans really stupid?”
No, I’m by no means the first to ask this unsavory question. This indeed was once asked by a European acquaintance of the famous Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz - a naturalized distinguished American - who was also a Nobel Laureate. Milosz, who will, for ever, be remembered for his monumental 1953 work on totalitarianism, The Captive Mind, made a memorably guarded attempt at an answer.
The more I read of Trump the more I feel compelled to repeat the question. All I’ve done is to add the word all before Americans. This grudging addition will exclude most Democrats and their choice of Hillary as the Democratic candidate for American presidency.
It is for you to decide, dear readers, if all or most Republicans are Stupid?
Rome has elected the first female mayor in its 3,000-year history with the 37-year-old lawyer vowing to take on the Mafia and, hold your breath, His Holiness the Pope.
Virginia Raggi of the 5-Star protest movement stormed to victory after capitalizing on anger over political corruption and deteriorating services in the Italian capital.
In what is known as the ‘Mafia Capitale’ case, dozens of local businessmen, officials and politicians are currently on trial for their involvement in a criminal network that ripped off the city to the tune of tens - if not hundreds - of millions of euros.
Raggi has also pledged to pursue up to £310million in allegedly unpaid taxes on the Vatican’s real estate holdings and some of its assets. She has claimed that previous administrations have been afraid to take on the Vatican over the issue.
What Do You Say?
I’ve often wondered what role do accidents play in human affairs. Let me cite a couple of such decisive accidents.
In 1848, the chemist Louis Pasteur got a job at a university in French wine country, where he started wondering why wine goes sour. He followed a hunch—it’s because of a microbe—and leapt from there to the hypothesis that microbes make us “sour,” too. Voilà, the germ theory of disease. We get much longer lives, plus better wine (and beer and milk!) in the bargain.
Here’s another great accident.
In 1928, a dish of Staphylococcus bacteria in the lab of Alexander Fleming was accidentally contaminated with Penicillium notatum mold. Ernst Boris Chain and Howard Walter Florey took up the development of penicillin in the 1930s, and the three shared a Nobel Prize for their work in 1945. The number of lives that have been saved by the drug is impossible to know.