And, my column last week for the DNA – on the UPA retrospective
Ever been to a theatre to watch a film that on paper sounded fabulous — great director, good casting, top-of-the-line banner, great promos? But when you get inside the theatre the film simply won’t get over.
Every moment drags; every dialogue in the film has the monotony of something you have heard before, and no matter what you do, you cannot escape from the highly intrusive soundtrack. Worst of all, you cannot get out of the movie hall. Most of us have at least watched one such film, trapped inside the theatre for, what seems like, days, unable to get out, unable to move our eyes from the screen while asking the question “what on earth were they thinking about, when they put this together”. And, when the end credits start rolling, you clap out of the sheer relief that the film is over, and you can get into the bright lights and fresh air outside, and scrub all memory of the movie from your subconscious. Think Ram Gopal Verma ki Aag or Kites. Know the feeling? It is pretty much the way that most felt while watching the last two years of UPA II — it just dragged on, and on, and on.
As the credits roll, this column takes a look at some of the characters and scenes from UPA II:
A for Anthony: The Minister for Defence. A man who confused inaction with integrity and took the old adage ‘if you don’t get out of bed and get on the road, you won’t get run over’ seriously. Unfortunately, that is no guarantee for the ceiling falling on your bed.
B for Bills: The trouble with leaving most of your key bills to the last minute of a five-year Parliament is that nothing is thought through, the sense of dissonance is high and like a bad film, certain elements are put in just to give a sense of faux completion.
C for CWG: The Commonwealth Games that really marked the begging of the end.
D for DMK: The key ally then, fence sitter now and the hands behind the 2G scam.
E for Elections: #Elections2014 and the UPA hoping for a sequel, ie. UPA III. But when a film is such a box office dud, will you really buy a ticket for the sequel?
F for Food Security: Nobody, with a conscience, will disagree with the concept of Food Security — the principle that no individual should go hungry, but as with all concepts, the devil is in the implementation. And, implementation in this particular case is fraught with internal opposition.
G is for Gandhi: The name that ruled the Congress for the best part of the last 45 years. And, it seems that the aura is finally waning, though Sonia Gandhi still has some of that aura. But for all his earnestness, it does not seem that Rahul Gandhi has that aura — the aura of wanting to handle power.
H is for High Command: See Gandhi above. All organisations need hierarchies, and a chain of command. But, if all power is concentrated in one set of hands , then currying favour rather than competence becomes the order of the day, leading to poor decision-making
I for Indian National Congress: The grand old party. It seriously needs to introspect and reinvent itself for the new millennium.
J for Janata: That is us, the people. The voters. Just get this over with seems to be the general sentiment all around.
K for Kaajneeti: That is on hoardings across the country, with voters looking at each other and asking “what is that”?
L for Leadership: Conspicuous by its absence through the five years, especially towards the end.
M for Mani Shankar Iyer: The architect of the Chai pe Charcha campaign. Enough said. M is also for Manmohan Singh, who didn’t say enough.
N for Narendra Modi: If politicians in the Congress spent as much time in talking about what they did right, as they did about why Modi is wrong, they may have fared better in both perception and the ballot box.
O for Ordinance: When bills aren’t passed, the route is ordinance. But, in Parliamentary democracy, bills are meant to be debated, deliberated on and passed. It is a good job that the last few bills were not passed via an ordinance, because…
…P for Pranab Mukherjee: He put his foot down and said ‘no’. A leading character in UPA I and in the first part of UPA II, his political skills would be sorely missed, even if his economic skills were not.
Q for Questions: That the people had, for which there were no answers. In fact, part of the UPA’s problem was the fact that it rarely spoke to the people or the press, and when it did it was either so stage-managed or so full of wordplay that it alienated.
R for Robert Vadra: The son-in-law. The man who could get away with everything, or so it seemed.
S for Sheila Dikshit: The Empress of Delhi, who is now the Governor of Kerala after losing her seat to Arvind Kejriwal.
T for Telangana: The disaster of the last five years. While smaller states are not a bad idea, pandering is.
U for UPA II: Coming to an end in a few months from now
V for Voter: That is us. Are you even registered?
W for Win: Winning seat by seat, state by state, to take the nation. From all accounts that is a tough one.
X for X: Marks the spot where we vote, and UPA II hopes that it is for their constituents.
Y for Gen Y: The first and second-time voter who cares less for the ‘isms’ of yesterday and more for how good their tomorrow will be.
Z for Zero Loss: Made famous by Kapil Sibal when confronted with allegations of misallocation of spectrum. If only humility was in action instead of hubris, this government may not have ended up in this state of being generally disliked.