April 19, 2010

Unholy mix

I know next to nothing about the IPL. Through three editions, I've probably seen a total of about half an hour of TV coverage of IPL matches, and that because I've been in a shop or somewhere else that has a TV on, showing a match.

Part of the reason for all this is that I have no TV.

Part is that the IPL's attitude towards the ICL always struck me as perverse and indefensible. When it arm-twisted cricket boards around the world into "banning" players who signed with the ICL, it lost me forever. (One of several posts I've had expressing my feelings about this: Me saint, you rebel). Yet this "banning" somehow never interfered with the notion some had, that the IPL was the coming of the free market to cricket.

Part is the attitude of the IPL's Grand Vizier, Lalit Modi. There's a smugness in his remarks that leaves me glad that I have never met the man, let alone deal with him. Besides, it amazes me that the glitz of the IPL seems enough to stifle any questions about the time he was charged with drug trafficking, assault inflicting serious injury and conspiracy to kidnap. Enough said.

And now the IPL has claimed a minister: Shashi Tharoor. Everything about the affair is too fresh and well-known for me to need to run through it all. But I think Tharoor brought to Indian politics a taste of openness and frankness that it has not had in living memory.

It dismays me that we have lost that. But it dismays me more that we lost it on account of what the Economic Times called an "unholy mix of cricket, money and corruption".


Anonymous said...

But I think Tharoor brought to Indian politics a taste of openness and frankness that it has not had in living memory.

All over the world, it appears that people yearn for someone who will come from outside the corrupt political system and miraculously transform it. That was part of the Obama attraction. The great Hollywood movie Mr. Smith goes to Washington with Gregory Peck in the lead role is a wonderful rendition of this yearning.

Mr. Tharoor's election was, I submit, due to this yearning as well. He was elected partly because he was seen as someone "clean" and not associated with the "corrupt" system. He was seen as someone who would be a change from the usual, cynical, corrupt politicians. However, changing a political system is not easy as Obama and now Tharoor finds. Obama has not managed to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, something he promised would be done within the year. It is easy to blame Obama but it illustrates how difficult it can be do something that appears to be quite simple from the outside.

It is also easy to forget but "openness" and "fresh" were associated with Rajiv Gandhi too when he took office in 1984. It didn't take long before disillusionment (and Bofors) set in. The lesson, if there is any, in the Tharoor episode is that we should beware of glib, smooth-talking "outsiders." But the attraction of such people will always remain particularly when we are confronted with the figures who dominate our political system.

Frankly, I did not expect much from Mr. Tharoor and he hasn't let me down. I remember an interview where he was asked about his becoming Secretary-General of the UN. He replied - quite sensibly, I thought - that Secretary-Generals tended to be from small uncontroversial countries given that they had to be acceptable to not only the "Big Five" but also the majority of the other countries. As India is neither small nor uncontroversial (at least so far as our friends in Pakistan are concerned), an Indian Secretary-General is unlikely, he seemed to say.

It came as somewhat of a shock when he then announced his candidature against Ban-ki Moon. I lost my respect at that point. Also, the quality of his columns (in the Hindu) had been decreasing over time, mostly repeating the same points.

No regrets, at least on my part, about Tharoor's departure.

Dilip D'Souza said...

No arguments, Anon429am. This is precisely what Obama is facing; he's finding that running a campaign is significantly different from being Prez.

The lesson from that, to me, is to temper our expectations. Not to give up yearning for accountable, open, reasonable, efficient politicians.

You are free to argue Tharoor's qualifications on those counts, as you have. But that's why I had my last line: it saddens me that we lost Tharoor to what the ET calls this "unholy mix".

R. said...

With all due respects, can't compare Barack Obama with a Shashi Tharoor. Obama has kept his poll promises and his integrity is not under question. Tharoor's last job was that of a lobbyist so I'm not sure what openness you werer looking forward to. The first opportunity as a minister he got to make a fast buck
, he grabbed.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Rabin, politicians invariably inspire strong reactions, and neither Obama nor Tharoor are exceptions. Talk to the tea party fellows in the US, and they'd splutter (putting it mildly) at your assertion that Obama's "integrity is not under question."

This is not to say I believe them -- I don't -- but to point out that there is pretty much no politician who does not have detractors (and, correspondingly, those who approve of him).

To me, Tharoor was a change from the Thackeray, Mayawati, Modi, Yadav, Sajjan Kumar, HKL Bhagat (you get the idea) kind of politics that we've suffered too long. I'll take that.

R. said...

The tea party movement isn't about the man but about his race so even if Obama was to abolish income tax they would be out there spouting nonsense. Just responding to your point about tempering your expectations.

Dilip D'Souza said...

OK Rabin, give up on the tea party guys. Try Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Medved, Ann Coulter. Try any number of Republican-leaning blogs. Try the guys who put together these cartoons. Remember Sarah Palin's suggestion that Obama was "pallin' around with terrorists"?

In short, there's no shortage of folks who would question Obama's integrity and a lot else.

Ketan said...


Personally, I was not surprised how Tharoor has turned out to be.

This, mostly because over time I have realized, what we perceive (through PR & media) and what (reality) "is", are two different things. Obama will go down the history as a Nobel laureate, but did he deserve at least at the time when he received the prize? Am not claiming to have special insight into what "is", but when Tharoor entered Indian politics, the only good thing I saw with him was that he was new, & therefore never had a chance to be embroiled in controversies!

In the current situation, he's unfortunate in that Sunanda is not related to him officially. Moreover, Rs. 70 crore is small money compared to scale of corruption others indulge in. Also, that money was not exactly taxpayers'.

But I have also not been able to understant the motive behind Lalit Modi's revelation of Kochi franchise's composition. There are number of speculations, but none of them make complete sense to me.

In our current political situation, where over Rs. 2 crore are to be spent on an average election 'contest', I really see little chance of clean people getting into politics & being able to win elections. A few who are (possibly) clean & effective come off as aberrations to me, & their continued survival surprises me.

Something I believe in is how articulate one is or how one looks - have little relation with what intentions they harbor.

Jai_C said...

I thought Tharoor was going to be a change from the Mayawati, Sharad Pawar, Bangaru Laxman etc. kind of politics as well. Its disappointing it turned out otherwise.


Anonymous said...

Tharoor is/was refreshing, although no Obama. He is not afraid to speak out or take risks. The fact that he was "gotcha'd" is actually a testament to his approach and, simultaneously, to his inexperience. I agree with Dilip. For Tharoor to fall at the altar of the "unholy mix" is unfortunate, but by no means the end. Tharoor is not good enough at "Corruption 101" to anticipate and escape allegations, true or false. Next time he will hedge against accusations and, perhaps, designing women :).

Joseph said...

Obama or Tharoor - I think people have built up so much expectations around those who sells them dreams. And in Indian politics, the charisma, good looks, educated abroad, young-in-the-outline, speaking-good-English have always attracted the mass. Like the people have revered Rajiv Gandhi (or any other good looking Gandhi from the Nehru family, incl Rahul G). I think part of it has to do with our colonial slavery mentality and attraction towards the white skin and English language.

Tharoor and Obama are both over hyped. People did not show the patience to wait for them to produce the results before lauding them. That in turn gave them a confidence that they can continue to be the messiahs of change with just the talk.

Their fandom is so strong that they can't even consider that there "may be" a chance of corruption. They outrightly believe that their celebrity has done nothing wrong and cannot do nothing wrong.

PS: I wonder how tweeting mere incidents of daily life can be hailed as bringing openness and frankness to Indian politics.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Joseph, I've not claimed that I think ST can do/has done no wrong. I don't know. All I can do is repeat what I said earlier on this page: He was a change from the Thackeray, Mayawati, Modi, Yadav, Sajjan Kumar, HKL Bhagat kind of politics that we've suffered too long.

I should admit that I have a tiny personal experience that vouches for his efficiency and responsiveness. Tiny it was, yet that in itself said something to me.

In Indian politics, the charisma, good looks, educated abroad, young-in-the-outline, speaking-good-English have always attracted the mass.

A claim that does not explain the huge mass appeal of Lalu, Mayawati, Sharad Pawar, Thackerays, Karunanidhi, and plenty of others.

As for people being over-hyped: so what? We can still demand substance.

Joseph said...

I've not claimed that I think ST can do/has done no wrong.

Wasn't referring to you, but the number of Tharoor supporters - online and offline.

A claim that does not explain the huge mass appeal of Lalu, Mayawati...

Just to point out - I didn't say that they are the only reasons for mass attraction. There are other reasons too. And the followers of Mayawati, Karunanidhi etc may have found their leaders "charismatic" in their own ways. I believe that they too have started out as change agents like Tharoor (perhaps with no foreign education and soft skills) and we can see the results now. Why don't we wait to see some change and then clap our hands?

over-hyped: so what? We can still demand substance.

Sadly, I don't see many people doing that. Not the number of fans of Tharoor on Twitter and not even here, from you. Not even a line that says perhaps Tharoor should come clean out of this issue and that too is for his own good. If people had demanded substance from their over-hyped politicians rather than hero-worshipping them, a change might have begun to surface.

I also wish if you could explain how Tharoor has brought transparency to Indian politics, if you are not referring to his tweets of course (Tharoor's tweeting, I believe, is his way of keeping his middle-class, internet generation fans on. Anybody who cares about marketing oneself well in the changing world would adopt such ways).

Dilip D'Souza said...

Joseph: You'll note I said "openness and frankness". I chose those words carefully. ST's willingness to say what's on his mind are precisely the things that got him in trouble with a political establishment used to being guarded. Call that naive of him, which it was, but to me that itself was refreshing. And it was just a taste.

Apart from that he did not have the divisive rhetoric and politics of such people as the Thackerays, Mayawatis, etc.

And finally, I mentioned the tiny personal experience.

Those are the pluses I think he brought to the table. That's why this post.

R. said...

PS: I wonder how tweeting mere incidents of daily life can be hailed as bringing openness and frankness to Indian politics.

Just the words I was looking for when I was blathering on earlier...thanks Joseph

p.s. again..what has Obama not delivered yet, thats what I can't figure out , as in why is there a reversal of opinion, atleast partially..

R. said...

Comment Moderation? Why?

Dilip D'Souza said...

Rabin, one big thing Obama has not delivered yet: his promise on his first day in office to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison camp "no later than one year from the date of this order."

No luck.

Comment moderation, because I'm being plagued by comments about buying Gucci bags and the like. Every time I shut off moderation, whoever's doing this shoots into action, and I get dozens of these at a time. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Boss D'Souza,
People have been killed/murderd/slaughtered since 1984 (yes, anything before that is BC) and yet you find time for Modi/Tharoor etc.? What have you started smoking?

Anonymous said...

Here -- give me a puff -- so what's the latest scoop about Sania Mirza and Malik? Other Anonymous -- don't be such a wet blanket.

partho said...

One reason I like visiting your blog, Dsouza ... is the comments by anonymouses like the two immediately above. Does anyone pay any attenshun to them? (Besides me in this comment).

As for the post, I dont care about Tharror really. Instead I would like more examination of Lallit Modi.

Anonymous said...

Partho: Sure they do pay attention. Even we pay attention. We Anonymouses are proud to know the spellings of Tharoor and Lalit. Anonymous is the black-market of the blogorama -- the underground cacophony.