Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Politician bashing is in fashion

The Mumbai terrorist attack has triggered an outpouring of scorn on politicians. Politicians have provided grist to this by behaving in ways that may not be terribly responsible but the reaction also seems overdone. To wit:
  • Maharashtra Dy CM R R Patil was on TV saying that incidents of this kind were bound to happen in a large city like Mumbai. Maybe. But that's not what you say in times such as these.
  • Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh took his two sons and film director Ram Gopal Verma to inspect the carnage at the Taj. Nothing wrong with that, he said. In normal times, yes. Trouble is that today the Taj is not exactly a picnic spot.
  • BJP General Secretary Abbas Naqvi talked of women "in lipstick and powder" taking to the streets to display their anger against politicians. He has a point but, again, timing is the issue.
  • Kerala CM Achuthanandan had some caustic remarks to make about Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan's father for the lack of courtesy he showed when the CM came calling. The CM has reason to feel upset but one has to make allowances for the father's terrible state.
These little incidents, duly played over and over again by equally insensitive TV channels, have added fuel to the fire, so to speak. People are lashing out against politicians for neglecting national security. In the process, film stars, investment bankers, ad-men and socialites have all become security experts.

They have questions. Why have the NSG only in Delhi, why not in other cities? Why did it take so long for the NSG to be transported from Delhi? Why can't we give better equipment to police? Why can't we have better coordination among intelligence agencies?

It was left to Mani Shankar Aiyar to point out drily in a TV programme that while many people might be asking these questions in the wake of the attack, these are questions that agencies in government are grappling with all the time. Given competing demands on scarce resources, a determination has to be made as to what is appropriate. The state of the security apparatus reflects the determination that has been made.

Tomorrow, somebody might ask: why NSG only in the four metros? Why not in 20 other cities? There could be perfectly valid operational reasons. Given the kind of training and equipment they need and the coordination, dispersing them may compromise their operational effectiveness. There are several elite forces in other countries (and elite forces in our own army) that are lodged at one place- presumably for the same reasons. 'Common sense' suggestions are often no more than nonsense- good sense, in professional matters, is unfortunately not all too common.

As for displaying contempt for politicians, this can easily spill over into contempt for the political process. Therein lies a big danger. Because from there to legitimising dictatorship, army rule, a police state is a short step. That would give the glitterati plenty of security and gleaming shopping malls but it would turn 95% of the population into terrorists and hence defeat the basic objective. It is well to remember that the same political system that could not prevent the breach of coastal security this time is the system that gave us the NSG that acquitted itself so creditably.

Let us find ways to strengthen the democratic and political process, not turn outrage over a tragedy to turn into outrage against the political system.


Anonymous said...

good point..nicely written article

Apurv said...

lack of resources is certainly a big issue. I completely agree with that. However the problem is more than that.even when the government sanctions the package the bureaucracy comes in and the money is never used well.Looking at the state of chaos I really wonder that why do we not have more attacks

Moira said...

Dear sir with all due respect after reading an abstract of your blog in Hindustan Times today all I can say is that I am appalled…how can u say and I quote “Politicians…may not be terribly responsible but the reaction also seems overdone”. Would you be writing this statement if it was your son or daughter slain in the attack. I think not,u would rather be a part of the protest. You are a mentor teaching and educating the young generation. The reaction to death of any innocent INDIAN soul is not overdone, we never raised our voices in other attacks we retained our composure. But when will it be enough? No one invited the CM to pay his respect and stating a comment like that shows how little he is.

So no we wont shut up and stay quite and so what if we wear lipsticks and go out to protest. We are Indians and we are fighting for our brothers and sisters who can’t anymore. So sir I seriously disagree with your statement.

Krishnan said...

The stupidity is not confined to India. Here in the US, Deepak Chopra, a con-artist who writes (I understand) self-help books (or some nonsense) essentially blamed the US for the attack in Mumbai.

I have gotten used to the US being blamed for everything that goes wrong anywhere for anyreason - but for Chopra who makes money off gullible and incomprehensibly stupid people and groups here in the US and the world to blame the very system that made him possible is abominable. I have no doubt that he will expect to sell more books or command higher fees for speeches after bashing the US, while enjoying the fruits of the US and it's protections that were not accorded to the innocents who were killed in Mumbai.

There may be no perfect defense against such savagery - perhaps the only weapon is to turn such savagery against the perpetrators by pursuing them to the ends of the earth, or farther.

I can imagine that Israel will not stop till they find the perpetrators and kill them, while in India they will keep pointing fingers at each other and wait for the next attack to organize a truly national security force and apparatus.

Hussain Sehorewala said...

For sure discrediting politicians and the political process is emphatically not the answer. I am sorry but I am of a different opinion.
We need leaders and not politicians for India. Our political system need a reform. It should not be a tolerated any more. Change in India doesn't start from the top down, It starts from the bottom up. Dont miss the bigger picture.
Though the need of the hour is totally different and everyone is aware of it.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Good points!

I cover a similar tendency for knee-jerk responses to the Bombay tragedy on my blog:


Anonymous said...


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JayGal said...


Tanu Shivnani said...
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Anonymous said...

hello sir...
i m a student hailing from new delhi institute of management..
for the first time went through your blod..its jst phenomenal..
kindly keep it updating as it is proving an asset to all the management students world wide. kindly do so whenever time permits you

Anonymous said...

its blog...by mistake..it was written as blod