Watched two fascinating films back-to-back. 'Bhuddah...." and 'Delhi Belly.' Reactions to both in my column on monday. Sunday is a day of rest... ha! If only!!!
This appeared in Asian Age today....
Lame Duck P.M. stars in ‘Editors Ki Adaalat…’
Oh Oh – sizzling tennis over our P.M.’s tepid talk show? Ummm… no contest. Tennis has dum. Tennis is about pure, unadulterated testosterone when two beefcakes in shorts sweat it out on a packed Centre Court. How can poor Manmohanji compete with those hunks for eyeballs? Somehow, this whole new wooing game… reaching out to the media and what not, smacks of damage control at its clumsiest. A weekly gup shup with hard boiled, hand-picked ‘cynics’ from the media ? Why? What for? Is this latest ploy a hollow p.r. exercise… or a panic attack? Let’s face it - our Manmohan Singh is a mumbler. He is not the world’s best communicator. After keeping mum for seven years ( three measly interactions with the detested scribe-tribe during this period) the P.M.’s sudden decision to go a-courting sounds suspicious and disingenuous. Unless, there is a bigger agenda, of course. This may be a well thought out strategy to influence and manipulate voters before the next elections. What better than a monopoly over a potent and powerful medium like television to air the party’s ambitions? To define and defend policies. To test the waters before a big announcement. This can be dangerous.Especially in a country that calls itself a democracy. Our affable Manmohanji trundled along happily all this while without bothering to clarify a single issue – well, at least to the satisfaction of critics. Now he wants to alter the uneasy equation and meet the very same ‘accusers, prosecutors and judges’ on a regular basis. Maha mistake, my friend. Definitely something kaala in the lentils. Or the man who insists he isn’t a lame duck ( ‘langda batak’ to you) is under pressure from you-know-who to go out there and do the dirty job others are shying away from. Poor guy. It can’t be much fun having to provide explanations for any and every lapse, especially when the buck stops with someone else – the very same person who he sweetly says is ‘not an obstacle’!Manmohan Singh sounded heartbreakingly like a hen-pecked husband who has his wife’s permission to admit as much in public!Now, if instead of Singh, Sonia had taken the bold step of participating in such a dialogue on national television, believe me, Wimbledon or no Wimbledon (Tsonga could have done the Full Monty after thrashing Federer for all we care), India would have come to a stop and heard the lady out. That’s never going to happen – and everybody knows it. So, we have to settle for a person who is not really in the best position to respond to even a simple question like, “How’s the weather up there?” Given the state of paranoia, chances are such a query would be over- analysed for hidden motives and responded to by a super guarded, “Depends what you mean by ‘weather’ and ‘up there’…”
Let’s be honest - what did our man end up saying that we don’t know? Zilch. He sounded defensive and evasive when he blamed the opposition for virtually all the failings of the government led by him. Though, perhaps , one needs to redefine ‘led’. According to the P.M. it’s all about propaganda. Everything. Corruption included. He said he was ready to take full responsibility “for all the bad things this government has done.” But how? It sounds heroic and noble, but he knows and everybody knows it amounts to nothing in real terms. If he is playing the martyrdom card, even that will backfire. One expects a real leader to assume real responsibility. But Manmohan Singh sounded apologetic… more like a fall guy, left with no alternative but to take the flack. The time to project a more assertive image was seven years ago, not now. The UPA show is virtually over. What’s the point of sabre rattling and baring teeth at this late stage? Sorry, but there are no takers for the P.M.’s newest initiative. It’s a little like a reality show that appears fully fixed. Or a recycled talk show that is so embarrassingly awkward, one prays for the host’s safety. All talk of stepping down and letting Rahul take his vacated kursi sounds phony, even if the voice and body lingo are artificially pumped up to display a newly acquired bravado. Manmohan Singh is no Rafael Nadal. Neither is Rahul Baba. I mean…someone who actually means business, goes ahead and actions plans. What we got to hear on the tv show was some meaningless mewing about corruption having ‘caught the imagination’ of the people. No kidding! Really! So…. like …corruption is only about ‘catching the imagination’… like… the latest book, movie or tv show? The P.M. went on to say his government would ‘deal with it.’ Sure, bro. How? When? Tell us!!!
We, the people of India, are not gullible school children who have to be reminded that our P.M. does not possess a ‘magic wand’. Hell ya… we know that! You ain’t Cindrella’s Fairy God Mother! And nobody expects ‘instant solutions’ either. But, please Sir, start by offering one – just one – solution. Take your pick from the vast array of problems waiting for solutions – from the 2G, CWG and all the other ‘Ji’s’ that keep popping up. Today’s janata is pretty clued in, and talking in circles does not fool the aam aadmi. This approach may have worked thirty years ago, when our attitude towards netas was one of reverence. Big mistake! We didn’t know better back then. But, hello! Today, we do. Public opinion spares nobody and nothing. If anything, our journalists are a bit too polite, well mannered and reverential. Try pulling off such a farce anywhere else in the world. Try talking to those bulldog editors in Britain , America, Australia, Canada, France or Germany. They tear into interviewees mercilessly and confront the person with hard evidence, facts and figures, while demanding straight answers – not obscure explanations, justifications and yes… lame duck excuses. Manmohan Singh got away a bit too lightly, a bit too easily, a bit too quickly. And at the end of this round, we, the voters , remain as clueless about his position and views on key national issues, as before.
You know what? The old maun vrat P.M. was a better bet. Now it’s official – there is indeed a lame duck at the helm of affairs in India. Quack! Quack!