Undermining India, Sonia style
That the Maino Era would prove disastrous for the country, especially for the economy, was no secret to those who followed this columnist’s commentaries since it was ushered in after the 2004 Lok Sabha polls. Given the geopolitics of the Maino family, it was inevitable that policies would get followed that degraded the capacity of India to pose a challenge to the EU, the way China was doing. By 2007, the Indian corporate sector that was challenging its European competitors became so weakened by defective policies that it ceased to inspire fear in boardrooms across Europe. By the time that Maino Era II was ushered in by 2009, Indian corporates had become an object of derision in international fora.
Of course, given their pyschological dependence on the Mainos, almost no domestic commentator connected the dots between the steady depletion of India’s economic strength and the policies followed by loyal retainers of the Mainos, with Manmohan Singh as the smiling mukhota between Maino influence and the public. It was only by 2011 that the linkage became too obvious to ignore.
The distinguishing mark of the Maino Era is the way foreign companies, entities and countries have benefitted at the expense of their domestic counterparts. Some days ago, Fraport (which manages the Frankfurt airport in Germany, one of the most soulless and unfriendly terminals, with most operatives behaving in the manner of robots) declared that it was exiting the Delhi airport project. What the company failed to mention was the way it had ensured that the clueless Indian component of the Delhi airport management went in for purchase after purchase of super-expensive items from Europe, especially – you guessed it – Germany. Just as Indian business-persons recover their entire investment in a project by over-invoicing imports and under-invoicing exports, Fraport has ensured enough benefit to its core country interests to safely exit what has become a sinking ship because of its own mismanagement. Fraport shares a hefty portion of the blame for the high costs that have burdened Delhi, just as other Maino Era European partners have made the Bangalore airport just another bus terminal in terms of comfort. Needless to mention, except for a few ghostly hands protruding from the walls, there is nothing Indian about Delhi airport, nor is there anything local at Bangalore. In the Maino Era, the greater the distance from local traditions and ethos that expensive structures have, the better.
Misuse of official investigative agencies
Although none of them would dare to make the information public, for fear of harassment by agencies such as the ED, CBI and Income-tax (not to mention the ever-ready – to commit crimes on behalf of the powerful – police), those close to Indira Gandhi mutter in private that Sonia Gandhi prefers Videsh to Desh. That in dress (outside media attention), diet, lifestyle, travel and house guests, she has sought to ensure that her immediate family (which uses Italian to each other and Hindi to servants) see themselves as distinct from the billion and a quarter people who are steeped in the culture and traditions of this ancient civilisation. Yet so strong is the fear that the Orbassano-born lady generates in the minds of those who know her that even at this stage of their lives, RK Dhawan for instance restrains himself from coming out with the truth about the relationship of Sonia to Indira, including details of her many foreign sojourns during 1966-84, especially during crises, such as the 1977 defeat.
As for the PM, although he must have considerable information about the activities of “Madam” and her close friends and relatives, Manmohan Singh prefers to bury such facts under the grossly misused tag of “official secrets” rather than enforce accountability. In Maino India, the Oath of Office seems to be something to ignore the moment the words get uttered. The only oath which matters is that of fealty to the whims and interests of a single family, which itself is a branch of the clan that has owned the Congress Party since the 1950s.
However, the Maino Era is much more than a continuation of the Nehru Era. Sonia has little time for relatives by marriage from the Nehru side of her extended family, preferring the company of those from the Italian side. When was the last time a Nehru relative was a house guest at 10 Janpath or was even invited to dinner? In contrast, there are a slew of visitors to 10 Janpath and the two other official residences maintained for the family. These guests are from Italy and from other parts of Europe, who enjoy VIP status the moment they alight from their flight. The Mainos do not travel light, certainly not from India, although while coming into the country, there may be a lower complement of accessories brought in. Given the Maino Fear Factor within the media and among other groups, it is no surprise that no RTI application has thus far succeeded in unearthing details of the house guests at 10 Janpath and their travels, as also the travel schedules of Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka, despite the fact that MPs have a moral obligation to be transparent that ordinary citizens do not have.
If ever proof were needed that in the Maino Era, official agencies have degenerated into a collection of domestic servants of the Maino Dynasty, it can be seen in the CBI allegation that the mastermind behind the doings of former Andhra Pradesh CM Rajshekhar Reddy was his son Jagan. Police officers in both Hyderabad and Delhi are fully aware that the only “remote control” that the late Rajshekhar Reddy obeyed lives in 10 Janpath. They are fully aware of the many boxes of mangoes, tomatoes, brinjals and cauliflower regularly ferried to Delhi from Hyderabad by Rajshekhar Reddy. Any – repeat any – of the senior bureaucrats that have worked with Reddy are aware of the frequent occasions when oral orders from Delhi came, commands to bend and twist policies to favour certain interests close to what may be termed the “Congress High Command”. However, not once has the CBI investigated the linkage between the Congress High Command and the many doubtful orders passed by the then CM of AP and his team. Instead, the CBI would have us believe that Rajshekhar Reddy was a Rabri Devi to Jagan’s Lalu Yadav, obeying his son meekly in all crucial decisions.
Having long ago lost any sense of shame, officers in the CBI (and in the investigative agencies of government, led by the IB, whose Director is expected to soon get a gubernatorial position, the way others have, such as former NSG chief Wanchoo,who used to be too loyal to Sonia Gandhi, so deep was his subservience), do not dare to investigate the Congress High Command connection in the decisions taken by the now deceased CM of AP, nor indeeed in matters such as the Coal and Telecom scams. Instead, they protect a particular family, as indeed faithful servants in a feudal society are expected to do. In the process, truth becomes a casualty. Taking the example of Coalgate, those in the know claim, for instance, that the “overwhelming majority” of private beneficiaries of the coalfields practically given away under the nose of the Prime Minister got their largesse because of “the blessings of the High Command”. Will the CBI probe the officers responsible for the allocation, including those in the PMO who have a private line to 10 Janpath? Of course not. This is, after all, the Maino Era, where that clan is immune from any semblance of accountability, and has been so under successive PMs.
Although some of the malefic elements of the Maino Era have been operational since PV Narasimha Rao took over in 1992 and filled his team with those who owed their primary loyalty to her rather than to him, it became full-blown in 2004, when Manmohan Singh became PM. So overwhelmed was the mild-mannered economist-bureaucrat at the honour done to him that several of his instincts and sensibilities seem to have been frozen in the face of the demands made by the “High Command”. While Narasimha Rao at least protected the dignity of his office, and every one in a way showed flashes of independence, especially in refusing to give Sonia any role in the framing of overall policies, Manmohan Singh has been completely steam rolled by her. Indeed, had he not taken over as PM, he would have had an excellent name in history books, instead of going down as an even bigger disaster than VP Singh. The PM has allowed his ministers to routinely bypass him for “consultations” with the many political and other operatives that cluster around 10 Janpath. Of course, each consultation is in reality a command, that results in dubious government orders getting passed.
Given that Manmohan Singh will not – or cannot – back a minister who defies orders from the “High Command”, it became inevitable that his team – without a single exception – regard Madam rather than him as their boss.
Despite her obvious influence in decision-making both at the state as well as the central level, despite the dizzy foreign travel schedule of her family members and their house guests, despite the luxurious way in which they live and move around, thus far the relevant agencies have not found the time to investigate the sources of – for example – the lengthy foreign stays of those close to the all-powerful Madam or who pays for the charter flights so frequently used. Should any officer dare to do so, she or he would be swiftly rostered out and most likely proceeded against by the ever-faithful CBI, hence it would be unfair to throw the blame on them. The fault vests with a Prime Minister who seems paralysed from acting against repeated violations of ethical and legal norms by his party bosses. Had the PM backed the officers of the investigative agencies, he would find enough sincere and decicated personnel in the ED, the CBI and the Income-tax Department to cast off their Maino Era chains and fulfill their obligations to the nation.
By 2014, when Sonia Maino and her merry men face the polls, the country would be on life support. Hopefully EVMs will not get used under an Election Commission comprising of supporters of the ruling dispensation to tailor a result to Maino specifications. Anupam Saraph and this columnist had come across several anomalies in the way the EVMs were used. However, even the opposition parties went by the Maino line that Navin Chawla was a thoroughly disinterested Chief Election Commissioner, and that none of his team had any biases, for example against the BJP.
A 20th century BJP confronted a 21st century problem. The party – and the NDA – needs a 21st century approach.
A 21st century NDA would demand that civil servants refuse to obey an order unless the same be given in writing. Those who listen to oral orders will need to pay a harsh penalty for such dereliction of duty. There needs to be laws passed that can provide for summary punishment for officials guilty of transgressions, through special courts where the Bench will comprise of non-legal experts as well. The judicial system needs to be codified so that decisions get based not on interpretation but on fact, and where appeals become difficult and stay orders and injunctions given only sparingly rather than the lavish way in which they are given at present. The folly of Jawaharlal Nehru in believing that British practices – which evolved over centuries in the peculiar circumstances of that country – could be 100 per cent transplanted to India is getting revealed every day in the slow speed of justice and in the strangulating web of regulations that choke initiative and enterprise in India, regulations that have shot up manifold since 2004, for the first time since the 1990s.
It is no consolation that the Maino Congress has returned to the 19th century, when the economy of the country was strangulated and loot by the rulers reached extortionate proportions.