• General Elections 2004: Heirs The Buildup
    Mar 01, 2004

    As Indian citizens, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi have every right to enter Indian politics (The Angelic Hierarchy, Feb 16). Only time can tell whether they can succeed in restoring the Congress to its glory days. However, one feels sorry for the oldest party in the country when its senior leaders have to rely on two youngsters whose only qualification is that they belong to the Nehru-Gandhi clan.
    M.J. Mansharamani, Nagpur

    One need not make an issue of Priyanka and Rahul contesting in the forthcoming elections or campaigning for the Congress. It will only give them unwarranted political mileage. At the same time, the two should realise that the preferential diving board they are being given to jump into the political fray without a scrutiny of their merit is only by virtue of their family background. Without using this as an advantage, they should make sincere effort to become leaders of calibre.
    K.S. Iyer, Mumbai

    During a 1977 election speech, prominent cpi leader Roza Deshpande uttered the following prophetic words, "Today it is Indira Gandhi, tomorrow it will be Sanjay Gandhi, then it will be some other Gandhi but they all have forgotten Mahatma Gandhi." For those who weren’t around then, it may be told that in 1977, and later in 1989, the cpi and the cpi(m) had joined hands with ‘communal forces’ to counter the threat of the ‘Dynasty’.
    Smitha Manian Kapoor, Bangalore

    Yesssssss... I said last week itself that Outlook’s latest edition will carry large pictures of Priyanka and Rahul. Luckily you people somehow manage to get something pro-Congress every week.
    Anurag, on e-mail

    Swallowing this story requires some stretch of the imagination, all the way from Delhi to Rome.
    Pradyumna, Bangalore

    Indians have yet to come out of the hangover of dynasties. There have been dynasties of several leaders and their proteges. But none have been as lasting as the Nehru-Gandhi one. Starting from Motilal Nehru in the pre-Independence days to the present potent combine of Rahul and Priyanka, it has been a saga of sustained sovereignty.
    J. Koneti Rao, Visakhapatnam

    There are dynasties and there are dynasties. Omar Abdullah is the political heir of a prominent dynasty. He was also one of our most intelligent, articulate and capable ministers. It was a loss to the nda and the country when he resigned. Then there’s Vasundhararaje who surprised all those who had written the bjp off in Rajasthan. There are yet others who have nothing going for them except their bloodline. Karunakaran, for example, who’s desperately trying to fix up both his children and himself as the top three in Kerala. Finally, there are the.... Need we name them?
    Anand and Swati Sriram, Mumbai

    Perhaps the Congress should go look for more and more imported Gandhis to improve its electoral prospects since local Gandhis are not of much help. Already an Italian Gandhi is leading the party, and with a bit of luck, she could even be the PM of this country. There is every prospect of a Colombian being added to the Gandhi family. In the future, Congressmen could well be taking out processions urging her to save the party and India.
    A. Srikantaiah, Bangalore

    Where is Priyanka or Rahul’s commitment to Indian politics? For the last so many elections they have turned up for election campaigns and then vanished into their elite lives. The Congress is still living in the ’60s and ’70s when most of India was uneducated and they cashed in on it.
    Ramanujam Chary, Brighton, UK

    Priyanka and Rahul cannot become the prime ministers of India since Pramod Mahajan says children of foreigners do not qualify. But they can well become chief ministers. Ask Vasundhararaje of Mahajan’s bjp and the chief minister of Rajasthan. Her mother is a Nepali.
    T.R. Parmeshwar, on e-mail

    Thank you Mr Mehta for enlightening us regarding the eagerness of our subjects to anoint the Prince and the Princess to their thrones. Please advise the amounts we need to send to their relatives in Italy to enable ourselves to be in their good books. I too had a party at my house the other day and had invited over 500 people from the four metros and the same topic of discussion gave exactly the opposite result. But then I’m only educated (as most of our literate people are) and not "educated" as "intellectuals" like you are. Hence my vote does not count.
    Sachin Raj Kumar, New Delhi

    I appreciate the pains Outlook has taken to assure the ‘anti-bjp wing’ through its farce of an opinion poll that Priyanka and Rahul’s entry into politics would change its fortunes. In a nation of 100 billion, construing the views of a mere 800 as the national opinion is nothing but outright insanity.
    Saikrishna Kondaraju, Tirupati

    Vinod Mehta is back to his fake surveys. How can 800 people represent all of India? The sampling details too are inadequate.
    Abhay Verma, New Delhi

    The fact that the Congress is orchestrating the entry of the Sonia kids into electoral politics through such means as fabricating favourable "opinion polls" shows how desperate the party is to induct them. That, in other words, is acknowledgement of the fact that the Congress knows that Sonia’s foreign origin is indeed an issue with the voters.
    Raghu Reddy, Bangalore

    Vinod Mehta’s dog definitely takes after its master. How else can an editor snuggle up to a foreigner and her kids and create one more of the "famous" Outlook surveys for Madam’s consumption. But do it with a little more style, sir, else you’ll give Ed an inferiority complex.
    Ankita Saikia, Guwahati

    How can a sample size of 800 people represent the billion-plus population of India? It’s a joke. I can’t understand why a party with a history of more than 100 years does not have any leaders of experience to project.
    Deepak Raina, Boston, US

    Among the active political families of India, the Nehru-Gandhi parivar has always advocated and practised secular and modern values. The Sangh parivar, in contrast, has spread only retrograde and reactionary values through its various outfits. ‘India Shining’ and the ‘Feelgood Factor’ are the result of the foundation leaders like Nehru built. I hope the Indian electorate will be wise enough to preserve the secular and modern values of our country so that feelgood and India Shining can become permanent factors.
    D. Rao, on e-mail

    It was enlightening to know the views of the scions of the Congress’ first family (Sibling Revelry, Feb 2). Instead of any substantive or serious opinion, the duo gave us absolute gems, such as "unemployment is a very bad thing" (really?) and "shameful... leaking thatched huts, people without jobs or without enough to eat". Perhaps Priyanka, in her infinite wisdom, has realised that these have originated during the nda rule and 50 years before that India was a developed nation (with more than a passing resemblance to Italy). God help us if such amateurs were to rule us tomorrow, as they and the Congress aspire to do.
    Vikram Singh Chauhan, Jabalpur

    Oh, c’mon Outlook. You’re 20 years behind. Get updated. It’s only my great-grandmother who thinks Mahatma Gandhi is still leading the Congress and casts her vote for it.
    Vijay, Abu Dhabi, UAE

    Priyanka and Rahul must enter active politics. If nothing else, it will trigger a ‘feelgood’ factor in the Congress.
    Abhilash Thadhani, on e-mail

  • Bye Bye Democracy
    Mar 01, 2004

    Philosopher Thomas Aquinas preferred monarchy to democracy because he believed that the latter bred dissensions and corruption (Our Privy Purses, Please, Feb 16). Even 55 years after we broke free, our democracy has failed to provide for basic necessities like bijli, sadak and paani. Our laws have been rendered futile and our system of checks and balances has proved worthless. No wonder tribals of the Northeast still have faith in the problem-solving abilities of their kings and chieftains. This benign contagion in fact seems to have afflicted places like Rajasthan where people recently chose to elect Vasundhararaje, a scion of the Gwalior royalty.
    Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai

  • Villains to Heroes
    Mar 01, 2004

    Rajiv Gandhi and George Fernandes both have been given clean chits in the Bofors payoff scandal and the defence stores purchases scam (Newsbag, Feb 16). Earlier P.V. Narasimha Rao and Jayalalitha were acquitted in the Lakhubhai Pathak cheating case and the Tansi land scam respectively. I won’t be surprised if the stamp paper scam kingpin Abdul Karim Telgi is also let off the hook and, perhaps, even given one of the Padma awards for having helped the government tide over perennial shortages in revenue papers as well as helping stamp offices sell more stamp papers than produced by the Indian Security Press.
    K.P. Rajan, Mumbai

  • Big Is Better
    Mar 01, 2004

    The BJP, as always, is a party with a difference. Whatever it does, it does on a large scale. Where others take bribes in issuing driving licences, it takes payoffs from arms dealers. Where others organise hatred, it orchestrates a mass slaughter of 2,000 people. Where others pilfer lakhs, it spends Rs 400 crore of our money on promoting itself (Opera Atalier, Feb 16). Meanwhile, Hindutva fanatics tie themselves in knots trying to justify it, eventually relying on insults since they cannot logically defend a corrupt, brutal, anti-people and genocidal government.
    Shankar Gopalakrishnan, Chennai

    It amuses me no end that the very magazine which can’t get enough of running down the ‘India Shining’ campaign is itself carrying two full-page spreads of the very same ad. A classic case of hypocrisy. What is it they say about biting the hand that feeds you?
    Rushabh Sadiwala, Mumbai

  • American Shield
    Mar 01, 2004

    It’s sheer irony that Pervez Musharraf chose to pardon A.Q. Khan, regardless of his role in assisting Korea and Iran with nuclear knowhow on the grounds that the scientist tendered an innocuous apology (Neatly Buttoned Up, Feb 16). On the one hand, Pakistan has peace proposals to persuade India, on the other hand, it has clandestine deals in wmd. ‘Run with the hare, hunt with the hounds’ neatly sums the double game Pakistan is playing. The Bush-Musharraf partnership in the Global War Against terrorism’s been reduced to mere farce with Big Brother himself condoning (supporting?) Pakistan’s proliferation capability.
    R. Ramasami, Tiruvannamalai

    America will realise Pakistan’s nuclear potential only after it’s found itself at the receiving end like it did during 9/11. It’s high time the international community took a deeper look at these mis-usages or else the whole world will be put to danger at the hands of Arabs, North Koreans and the Pakistanis.
    Chandrasekar, Hartford, US

  • Next to IIMpossible
    Mar 01, 2004

    Murli Manohar Joshi’s ill-advised intervention in institutions which have nurtured some of the best technical and management talent in the country should not be allowed (No One’s Too Poor for the Class, Feb 23). The alumni network should rise to the occasion and use all means at its disposal to block this move. No right-thinking Indian can allow its best institutions to be destroyed by the misguided ideology of one politician.
    Harsh Chopra, Gurgaon

    Instead of slashing the fees at the IIMs, the government should probably hike it and withdraw the subsidy which only benefits the rich. When the first IIM at Ahmedabad was conceived by Dr Vikram Sarabhai, he expected the centre to produce management graduates who would help in the uplift of the region with their management expertise. But try explaining that to the IIM alumni. They shun their country for the greenbacks the mncs offer. They wouldn’t have got their overseas jobs were it not for the subsidised privileged education they’ve received back home. Isn’t the honest taxpayer of the country justified in asking those IIM and IIT students who have settled abroad to give something back in return for the expenditure the government has incurred in providing them this subsidised education. Milton Friedman’s slogan "There is no such thing as a free lunch" is very popular among management gurus. It’s time the IIMs got a taste of this mantra.
    Umesh S. Shukla, Ahmedabad

    Joshi’s attempt to tinker with educational institutions—especially the iits and IIMs—is akin to the medieval church’s response to men of science and reasoning—control them or eliminate them. Similar impulses could bring Joshi’s ilk into conflict with private enterprise and divestment policies.
    Ajay Gupta, Minnesota, US

  • Catch In The Phrase
    Mar 01, 2004

    The timing and content of Strobe Talbott’s book (Strobe-Lit Memoirs, Feb 9) holds a hint for India. The US wants the BJP to come back to power as it has set a nice equation with it. Not that it has anything against the Congress but perhaps the latter seems unlikely to make it with the same majority, and the emerging hodge-podge in that condition may not exactly be to America’s liking. Vajpayee is the Atal choice as the bjp’s brand ambassador, but the US, of course, is looking at his age and seeking an equally worthy successor. And Jaswant Singh seems to fit that bill quite well.
    Anand Rajadhyaksha, Mumbai

  • Grist For My Mill
    Mar 01, 2004

    Paul Danahar pays me several compliments in his review of my book, The End of Saddam Hussein—History through the Eyes of the Victims (Feb 16), but questions my credentials for writing any book on Iraq on the grounds that History cannot be seen through the eyes of the victims if one hasn’t gone to the country concerned and spoken to them. If this were so, most of the history books found in university libraries would be worthless.

    Let me emphasise that reportage is not research. It is essential raw material for researchers. My book is an examination of the clash between realpolitik and public accountability—enforced by the media—in the making of US foreign policy. This clash first occurred during the Vietnam war and occurred several times since. But it’s in Iraq that it has been the most prolonged.

    Public accountability has placed increasing limits upon the autonomy of governments, especially in foreign policy. Their response has been to redouble efforts to "manufacture consent". My book exposes the frantic efforts the US made to manufacture consent for an action it began contemplating in ’92—the invasion of Iraq—but could not reconcile either with its commitments as a UN member or with more deeply-seated beliefs about what is a just war.

    Far from considering the media naive, my research would not have been possible without the painstaking reporting of journalists who questioned the incessant spin of the official media managers. As for the mysterious man who pulled down the Saddam statue, Paul should take a good look at the person getting off the usaf plane at Najaf right behind Chalabi, and his identity will become crystal clear.
    Prem Shankar Jha, New Delhi

  • Soft Spots
    Mar 01, 2004

    Vinod Mehta’s Delhi Diary (Feb 16) once again shows that he might hate the BJP but he has a soft corner for Vajpayee.
    Vijay Upadhyaya, Nagpur

    Grudging it might have been but a compliment it was for Vajpayee—"Tall in a land of pygmy leaders". Sonia, a pygmy leader?
    Lalit Bagai, Denmark

    Apropos the item Calorifically Empowered where Mr Mehta describes what Castro and Advani eat. My only query: What good is all one’s money if you can only nibble at the goodies in front of you?
    Zohra Javed, on e-mail



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