20.4.10

Jaswant and Tharoor

Jaswant and Tharoor
by Farzana Versey

April 20, 2010


You had a stand-up comedian in your midst and you did not even notice. The beauty of Jaswant Singh is that he is so subtle he makes a snake look like a rope and even manages a rope trick or two.

Why did he tell Pakistanis that the Quaid-e-Azam was secular when they have to mention their religion in most documents? Transforming Jinnah into a sound byte was perfect timing. He threw a pebble in the puddle and asked you to see yourselves in it.

On the other hand, Shashi Tharoor is less ambitious. All he does is use his fingers to type 140 characters to announce to the tweeting world that visa rules must be relaxed because not everyone is a terrorist, knowing well that such a comment is patronising.

The two gentlemen might appear as different as chalk and cheese in demeanour and politics, but scratch the surface and you’ll get more surface. You will find no ideology. There is product placement.

Let us go beyond it. How many people have bothered to think about why Jaswant Singh stayed for years in a party whose manifesto right from the start has been to construct a good temple for the nation to pray in? He gave the spiel about his hands being tied. It was, in fact, perfect synchronisation and chances are that he was responsible for his own martyrdom. The BJP asked him to quit; the RSS, known to be the big boss, made it easy for him. They issued a diktat to infuse fresh blood. The main motive was to ensure that L.K.Advani was out and Modi became lord of the inner ring. Jaswant would remain the preserved heritage site.

After cribbing, “I am being treated like Ravana” (the epic demon king), he let his son contest and win elections for the same party and walked into the Sialkot sunset as a knight in shining armour. He chose to appeal to the larger enemy to lessen the heat on the lesser enemy.

Now he has got together with a band of boys, former Pakistani and Indian leaders, and this consortium of “collective wisdom’’ plans to find solutions to the Kashmir and water-sharing issues. This is seriously funny stuff. Is this the honourable Rajput of old Mughal courts or Birbal trying his smart act?

Tharoor’s honour rests on pretending to be the outsider who wants to change the way things work, when he does not even know how they work. As minister of state for external affairs he had nothing important to say about attacks on Indians in Australia or about immigrant issues in Britain.

He represents the complete disregard for diplomacy by making the right noises where action is needed. The social networking is not a device to connect him to the citizens but to get ‘followers’. It is a westernised feudalism. As an imported denizen from the grand UN, he thinks he is breaking the rules and shunning the typical.

What he has actually done is exposed the face of the dumbed down politician with a ‘just back from the sauna look in my open pores’ facile frankness. It is the deception of form that is disturbing. Both these men are the management gurus of politics. They appear to operate on their own terms when in reality they have their corporate images in place.

It works well with a segment of Indian society for whom facets are only a measure to rate diamonds with. Criticism is a mere tinkle of glasses and a huddle of whispers. Nuances are unexplored. Shashi Tharoor’s squeaky clean image has got a bit muddied, but that won’t affect him.

Suddenly, the prodigal became the man who had something to hide. It was a closet crucifixion. He may be a loser in the battle for stakes but, as with Jaswant Singh, his trickery is the treat.

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Courtesy Express Tribune

22 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. FV: "As minister of state for external affairs he had nothing important to say about attacks on Indians in Australia or about immigrant issues in Britain."

    FV, I think he did make one comment that every mother wanted her son safe, whether in Australia or elsewhere, back when the attacks were on the front pages.

    Tharoor had his strengths in putting across points with sophistication but he has not been in government long enough for anyone to have a proper opinion, so let us see what he achieves for Trivandrum in the rest of this tenure as MP.

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  3. Al:

    That is not important enough given that he has been commenting on several things. Sophistication pr sophistry?

    Politics, especially an important portfolio, is not about giving time. He is not the only one who does not deliver, but it is easier to pick on them. He had it on a platter and there is nothing he did for Trivandrum. He should have been based there, but the mai-baap ensured he got a cushy post.

    BTW, he has had to resign because of his role in the IPL franchise bidding, as you know.

    - - -

    The deleted comment is mine. The issues of the goof-ups re this piece were being resolved. Too late, but...

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  4. FV: "BTW, he has had to resign because of his role in the IPL franchise bidding, as you know. "

    Right, and good he at least had the sense to resign (or was he forced out). I think his years as a public figure has made him careless with words, and his 700000 tweeting fans probably did not help with his judgement either. He already knew that a lot of people within his own party were gunning for him, and yet that did not give rise to caution in him.

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  5. Although I think Jaswant Singh is an Opportunist as all the other politicians, I do believe in his comments about "breaking down the berlin wall between India and Pakistan" is appropriate.

    Pakistan has all the bad habits of India (corruption etc.) minus democracy but otherwise it is a waste of resources (human and capital) for these two countries to be at each other's throat like they have been for past 60 years.

    But, these wall is unlikely come down until the ruling classes are under threat from external circumstances. India is very reluctantly marching to the capitalism and Pakistan is equally concerned about compromising its sovereignty in America's War-on-Terrorism. Eventually ruling classes may just emigrate out to some safe sanctuary (Shanghai anyone ?) until the dust settles and that may be chance for people of south asia to demolish these structures that have been erected by vested interests.

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  6. Jaswant as heritage site!!Super.I would not have put him and twitter together but you have and it does not sound bad.Nice psycho reading.Tharoor had potential,don't know what happened

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  7. fv are paki politicians better ?

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  8. Anon,
    The question should be "Are USA's politicians better?" or "Are Sweden's politicians better?" (and the answer is "yes").

    It never helps to compare with people with worse standards than yours -- always best to just compete with oneself in doing better than in the past.

    The question "Is India better than Zimbabwe in X?" is neither useful nor interesting.

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  9. Farzana,
    At the outset thanks for a wonderful thought exercise in bringing about a comparison between Jaswant and Tharoor. You are being very very accurate in your indictment - " but scratch the surface and you’ll get more surface" .
    Extending this little further - both Tharoor and Jaswant have been symptomatic of two different factors. One - and IMHO a prominent reason - being "token face" of Indian foreign policy with the actual powers that be enacting the real script residing in PMO and D.C. (Washington). Two - the lack of "long term scripted performance" (aka "Strategy" in corporate parlance) in our own foreign policy. Outside these two reasons the vanity of token roles acquired a larger than life picture expressing itself using "Tweets" and courting the semi-retired politicains expressing longing for "peace".
    It were Vajpayee and Musharraf who were "known" for the "peace process" not Jaswant Singhs, a perception pretty much corroborated by the subsequent buildup of personal chemistry between Vajpayee and Musharraf.
    Another important factor has been the foreign policy challenges faced by subsequent governments in India. Only two such challenges of International stature does my mind recall - one being India's declining to militarily participate in Iraq, another being long protracted negotiations in Climate summit. Beyond this - nothing else challenging enough to add to the "institutional memory" leaving mostly space for the "vanity of tweets".
    Cheers,
    Mahesh.

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  10. A senior bureaucrat sent me this note:
    “Having known the gents in question for some time, I notice certain other common traits. They are;
    Fondness for good life (whatever that means!).
    Hubris.
    As a corrolary of Hubris, to believe that others are not only less gifted, but actually fools of a fairly high order.
    With experience of their own misadventures, a belief..somehow we shall blunder through.
    The beauty of democracy is that such characters manage to occupy center-stage every once in a while.”

    Al:
    He already knew that a lot of people within his own party were gunning for him, and yet that did not give rise to caution in him.
    So, he problem is people gunning for him and not his own follies, and that is a tame word.

    Hitesh:
    Why did Jaswant Singh not get this idea earlier? The ruling classes are under threat from outside forces, as you say, but also from their own political needs. Corruption is one factor; the other si to keep the people guessing and benefit from it electorally as well as in real terms. Kickbacks, opportunistic alliances etc.
    The walls in the minds need to tumble.
    KB:
    Psycho reading, indeed. Tharoor had potential just as almost anyone does with some level of exposure.
    Anon:
    fv are paki politicians better ?
    I was not comparing.
    Al, in your reply to Anon you say:
    The question should be "Are USA's politicians better?" or "Are Sweden's politicians better?" (and the answer is "yes").
    What are the yardsticks? How disparate are these societies?
    The question "Is India better than Zimbabwe in X?" is neither useful nor interesting.
    It is like the US saying the same about us or the old Brit colonialists. Of course, we have come a long way but Zimbabwe exists and if its people were to look up to us, which they well may, then we can afford to have such a cavalier attitude.

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  11. Mahesh:

    Thank you.

    1. The ‘token face’ becomes dangerous when it grows wings, for whatever reasons, because by exposing the masters it really is buying power for itself.

    2. I suspect lack of strategy is a strategy to keep options open. It works sometimes, sometimes it backfires.

    I agree and have maintained that it was Vajpayee and Musharraf who developed and wanted to make some headway in the peace process.

    We are not important players in the international arena. I’d add the nuclear deal as a carrot and stick situation where we blundered badly but I think there was method in the madness. If there wasn;t then we are more stupid than one thought.

    Our ‘institutional memory’ remains Nehruvian socialism, as internal policy as well as foreign public face.

    I hope you are looking forward to Jumma :)

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  12. Farzana,
    You said :
    "1. The ‘token face’ becomes dangerous when it grows wings, for whatever reasons, because by exposing the masters it really is buying power for itself. "
    Tharoor's vanity aside - does this "accepted reality" that you allude to (as in hinted to by 'token face') speak well for the
    de-centralised functioning ("democratic centralism" as known in "democrat/socialist/leftist/liberal/progressive" parlance - notwithstanding how much of it is practised by the mostly left leaning colleagues) of the cabinet ? Is it such a bad thing to strive for at all ? The centralisation of decision making was what I was hinting at. Tharoor's vanity may be traced beyond tweets in not fighting the issues "within", however un-fashionable it may be. BTW, do we recall late ex PM V P Singh did try dissent during Rajiv Gandhi "regime" ?
    "2. I suspect lack of strategy is a strategy to keep options open. It works sometimes, sometimes it backfires."
    Here I must express just plain dis-agreement as such a strategy you hint at being a possibility has hardly ever expressed itself as a pattern. Between us - both we and pakistanis (pakistanis - as in Pakistani establishment and ditto for "us" represented by our own establishment) have squandered enough opportunities to come to terms with each other. As an example, my best expectations - in terms of statesmanship - would had been both PC and the pakistani counterpart both together publicly proclaiming (at the very least in the form of joint statement) action to bring the 26/11 perpetrators to book. But alas, Siyasat on both sides of border appears much more primitive than my expectations.

    Quite likely we are looking at things through different spectrum of the prism and may not necessarily agree as we have dis-agreed in the past.
    Cheers,
    Mahesh.

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  13. Mahesh:


    1.My response was to your comment about Tharoor and Jaswant being the token face of foreign policy. Their growing out of their stratified position was/is dangerous. The quote is self-explanatory from my POV.

    This does not work as centralised or de-centralised functioning, but individualism that rides on the back of Establishment power and chooses its method of dissent. The example of V.P.Singh is that the dissent was ideological and was later taken to its conclusion, irrespective of how some people saw it. This wasn’t about growing wings. Fighting the system from within does not happen unless you are ready to risk another system or get ostracised. Tharoor and Jaswant don’t have the courage or the courage of conviction.

    "2. I suspect lack of strategy is a strategy to keep options open. It works sometimes, sometimes it backfires."

    Here I must express just plain dis-agreement as such a strategy you hint at being a possibility has hardly ever expressed itself as a pattern. Between us - both we and pakistanis (pakistanis - as in Pakistani establishment and ditto for "us" represented by our own establishment) have squandered enough opportunities to come to terms with each other. As an example, my best expectations - in terms of statesmanship - would had been both PC and the pakistani counterpart both together publicly proclaiming (at the very least in the form of joint statement) action to bring the 26/11 perpetrators to book. But alas, Siyasat on both sides of border appears much more primitive than my expectations.


    And what are we saying that is different? The obfuscation in our relationship is a deliberate strategy. However, how would it help anyone if PC and the Pakistani counterpart issued a joint statement? They had this little meeting and it helps hoodwink the public.

    Quite likely we are looking at things through different spectrum of the prism and may not necessarily agree as we have dis-agreed in the past.

    If you insist. And anyway prisms are not static even when one person looks through it.

    Have a good weekend.

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  14. Farzana,
    In #1 You said :
    "This does not work as centralised or de-centralised functioning, but individualism that rides on the back of Establishment power and chooses its method of dissent. The example of V.P.Singh is that the dissent was ideological and was later taken to its conclusion, irrespective of how some people saw it. This wasn’t about growing wings. Fighting the system from within does not happen unless you are ready to risk another system or get ostracised. Tharoor and Jaswant don’t have the courage or the courage of conviction. "
    By saying this if you are implying that in my POV Tharoor was putting up a fight from within then let us go back to earlier response which had following line : "Tharoor's vanity may be traced beyond tweets in not fighting the issues "within", however un-fashionable it may be.".
    In #2 You Said :
    "And what are we saying that is different? The obfuscation in our relationship is a deliberate strategy.". Well - you see obfuscation as a deliberate strategy, me sees it more of a chancy (actually "intellectually lazy" would be more appropriate word here) behavior than anything else. My earlier response clearly stated this : "..... as such a strategy you hint at being a possibility has hardly ever expressed itself as a pattern.".

    You said :
    "However, how would it help anyone if PC and the Pakistani counterpart issued a joint statement?"
    Immediately after 26/11 such a gesture could've shown stubborn refusal in inching towards exchange of mortar fire between armed forces of two countries. Instead we chose to bicker with helpless and impotent anger by paying allegiance to the so called "public sentiment".
    And yes, though not expressed earlier in my earlier response it was rather naive to expect such a behavior from the ruling class. Probably this is where we may be agreeing.
    You too have a good of "whatever is left of it" weekend.
    Cheers,
    Mahesh.

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  15. FV:"So, he problem is people gunning for him and not his own follies, and that is a tame word."

    I just meant that, unless both conditions existed, Tharoor would not have had reasons to worry. He has not exactly been very smart even in being in control of his own image....he wanted to impose a tweetatorship and failed.

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  16. "What are the yardsticks? How disparate are these societies? "

    The question is what have the politicians of these countries managed to do for the the interests of their country. Let's not exactly get into what Dr. Mugabe is doing to Zimbabwe...used to be called Rhodesia before its independence.


    "It is like the US saying the same about us or the old Brit colonialists."

    Not really. I just mean that improving oneself consciously cannot be done by trying to compete who have lower standards to yourself. Mugabe was just greedy and destroyed his country under the guise of liberating it form colonialists. He was not even smart enough to understand all the techniques of running those farms and instead just sent his thugs in and is the cause of much misery today. The worst part is the fellow Mugabe has no intention of doing anything about it.


    " Of course, we have come a long way but Zimbabwe exists and if its people were to look up to us"

    Why should we be concerned anyone else is looking up or down on us, if we know we are?

    " which they well may, then we can afford to have such a cavalier attitude."

    I don't know what you mean by cavalier but I seriously dislike Mugabe's idiocy. As I mentioned earlier, as long as one competes with oneself and people with tough standards for themselves (not others), one can't go wrong, IMO, etc.

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  17. FV:" Fighting the system from within does not happen unless...."

    IMO, it is not about fighting the system (from within or without) but providing reasonable alternatives to real problems that is key to correcting it...the system is us.

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  18. Tharoor is shooting off his mouth too much. He should try silence for a while.

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  19. Mahesh:

    1. I did not dispute your POV wrt Tharoor, but added that I see this as individualism rather than facilitating or being representative of decentralised/de-centralised functioning.

    2. A pattern is not embedded and obfuscation can recur in similar fashions to simulate a pattern.

    I agree with you about catering to public sentiment, for whatever it is worth in the context. However, a statement issued is just that and why have we not asked for such statements during other attacks?

    And yes, though not expressed earlier in my earlier response it was rather naive to expect such a behavior from the ruling class. Probably this is where we may be agreeing.

    This is where we may not. I do not think it is naivete; it is acceptance of the deep-rooted conflict and complexity of the nature of terrorism and its political response. You probably see the complexities differently.

    However, for th most part I think we were taking off at tangents rather than disagreeing.

    - -
    Al (various):

    He has not exactly been very smart even in being in control of his own image....he wanted to impose a tweetatorship and failed.

    He chose the easy path and he had an image ready and an audience that fell for it.

    "What are the yardsticks? How disparate are these societies? "
    The question is what have the politicians of these countries managed to do for the the interests of their country. Let's not exactly get into what Dr. Mugabe is doing to Zimbabwe...used to be called Rhodesia before its independence.


    Do the interests of the country override personal interests/image anywhere?

    Ridding the country of colonialists may be driven by greed, but no one individual can do it alone. Much as I may dislike some of these leaders, it is important that they took that step.

    " Of course, we have come a long way but Zimbabwe exists and if its people were to look up to us"
    Why should we be concerned anyone else is looking up or down on us, if we know we are?


    Right. Say the same thing about the US or any European nation.

    FV:" Fighting the system from within does not happen unless...."

    IMO, it is not about fighting the system (from within or without) but providing reasonable alternatives to real problems that is key to correcting it...the system is us.


    Who decides what the real problems are? If we are the system, do we have uniform needs and problems? Are all alternatives different?

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  20. FV:"Ridding the country of colonialists may be driven by greed, but no one individual can do it alone. Much as I may dislike some of these leaders, it is important that they took that step. "

    The difference is like that between Gandhiji and Jinnah -- Gandhi had the larger interests of his land and its people in mind, Jinnah was looking out for consolidating his power among his support group. Mugabe did the latter, and I am not really in favour of revolutions and the like if it is being done by some power-monger rather than someone working for the interests of the people.





    I: "Why should we be concerned anyone else is looking up or down on us, if we know we are?"

    FV: "Right. Say the same thing about the US or any European nation."

    Do that all the time too, seriously. I find other people's opinion of me (ignoring race/nationality) interesting only so far as to whether I am exhibiting traits that are not in my best interest in any manner, in which case, I would have to work on fixing myself . I have been doing that since I read Richard Feynman's "What do you care about what other people think?" back in my teens.


    "Who decides what the real problems are?"

    Hopefully the people running the country and those assisting them from the outside in figuring out the answer to that question, because one needs a good idea of the current state of the world to decide what the burning issues for the day are. For example, in India today, energy and education are key goals that must be fulfilled for the country to stick together and not fall apart in anarchy. However, it must be kept in mind that it is about dealing with multiple problems simultaneously -- solving problems in sequence only works in a controlled environment.

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  21. Al:

    Too many disagreements here.

    1. Gandhi had his own power games.

    2. You should read, if you haven't 'Surely you're joking, Mr Feynman!' It comes with a toolkit to get fixed :)

    3. You are a dictator if you think a controlled environment is conducive. Political jurisprudence is not an experiment.

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  22. "1. Gandhi had his own power games."

    Maybe but his motivation for being involved was very different from Jinnah's -- that much is clear based on their respective actions.

    "2. You should read, if you haven't 'Surely you're joking, Mr Feynman!' It comes with a toolkit to get fixed :)"

    Of cours, read that first :) but has been a while, so I don't quite recall.

    "3. You are a dictator if you think a controlled environment is conducive."

    Mentioned controlled environment because reality cannot be controlled, and reality is what we care about...

    " Political jurisprudence is not an experiment. "

    FV, not sure what that means, but my main point is that solving many things at the same time (to different levels of success/failure) needs a different type of thinking from solving one thing at a time.

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