This appeared in Sunday Times today....
Playing Musical Chairs in Delhi….
Musical Chairs was one kiddie game I detested as a child.And continue to detest even today.I used to wonder why over wrought mommies would want to encourage toddlers to occupy someone else’s just vacated kursi? Where did the thrill lie? What were the special skills on display? Why were kids made to run around a row of chairs to music that stopped and started arbitrarily? Did the game make any sense to those playing it? Worse, did anybody really enjoy it? As I remember this dreadful diversion, the only person getting a kick out of it was the one controlling the music…. and causing panic. Those poor innocents looking bewildered and feeling confused, frequently ended up in tears, or on their butts, as more aggressive children rushed past them to grab a free chair.Often, I would witness insensitive parents admonishing their bachchas for not being fast enough, smart enough, agile enough, to grab that free chair, leading to more tears. And yes, it was always the class bully who won the prize.
Political musical chairs are played in a similar fashion. It happened this week. And the game is likely to continue. After Pranabda was given the most prestigious kursi (and a horse carriage ride) in India, without having to run around too much, everybody thought the music had stopped. But they were wrong. Madam had merely pressed the pause button. Pranabda’s old kursi couldn’t be left empty for long. If anything, given the unholy mess he had created as F.M. that was one chair which needed someone’s derriere to warm it quickly. Before other ambitious contenders could stake their claim, Madam moved swiftly and brought in an old hand ( P.Chidambaram) to kick start the sluggish economy and get the much needed money flow going. Some said P.C. (not Priyanka Chopra, mind you) would occupy this particular hot seat for a shortish period, while Madam plotted the next move. If he managed to convince skeptics that he was capable of some bold initiatives that would undo the damage inflicted by his predecessor, he’d be promoted and given an even better kursi ( keep guessing which one) . Meanwhile, P.C.’s old job was going… and Madam brought in another party faithful to warm that chair. Sushil Kumar Shinde’s first day as Home Minister did not get off to a great start, unfortunately, what with his cancelled trip to Pune overlapping with the blasts that rocked it. Not the most auspicious beginning, made worse by his tepid response to the explosions.Terrible timing all around, considering Shinde’s just relinquished Power portfolio and the monumental blackout that crippled 60 crore people in North and East India the very next day.Shinde’s quotes on Pune were almost as bad as newly minted Power Minister Veerapa Moily’s on the worst power failure ever, when he assured very angry citizens that he wouldn’t ‘allow’ such a calamity to recur. Right! Through all these natural and man- made disasters, two people remained dumb struck and characteristically quiet – our Prime Minister, and the Son of India, Rahul Gandhi. The former is waiting for instructions as to which chair he will be allotted next. And the latter probably believes every chair is rightfully his – all he has to do is choose.
That brings us back to Madam. And the difficult job in front of her. Playing musical chairs at this delicate stage is riddled with risks. Nobody is in the mood to indulge her beyond a point. There are heavyweights like Sharad Pawar, who need not one, but five chairs, minimum. And are willing to shove others out of the way, if needed. Everybody is eyeing just one kursi – the one occupied for now by Manmohan Singh. If Madam so decides, she could easily move P.C. into the top job after testing the waters for a few months. P.C. would be the apt person to keep that kursi garma garam for Rahul Baba – provided Rahul Baba wants the job in the first place. Given the unmistakable signs of indifference and apathy on our Baba’s part ( poor guy…. let him party in peace in London and Jeddah, if he wants to, yaar), Madam will have to accelerate the tempo of the music and remove a few chairs from the long row. Finally,there will be just two people left in the game. God help us if the bigger bully wins! Well… if that happens, India will have to switch to Kho Kho and Kabbadi.