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31 December 2011

Lessons for Congress from Lokpal

Hello Congress leaders,

In the last 7 months or so, you seem to have been on back foot on more than one occasion. All your failures are being highlighted recurrently in various forms of media, while some of your great administrative achievements have been relegated to the background.

In the last 6 months you passed some very far reaching laws and bills which will significantly strengthen India in the long run. You passed the money laundering bill,the Judicial accountability bill, the whistle blower bill and the best of the lot, the right to food security bill. Taken individually each of these bills are significant in themselves, but taken together, these are awesome bills that will strengthen India in more ways than one.

Each by itself should have given you significant political benefits...

But, at the end of 2011, what are you remembered for? What are you famous (infamous?) for? What does come to mind when I think of India in 2011?

One, your sequence of missteps in the battle against Anna Hazare and BJP in the issue of corruption. You started off with sitting with Team Anna to discuss the Lokpal bill, thereby giving the 5 person team unnecessary credibility. You made the team Anna look as if they are the representatives of all the 120 million people of this country. You gave them the status of 'torch bearers' of anti corruption movement in this country and since any issue needs supporters and detractors, you ended up being seen as the obstructionists to a strong anti corruption law (and hence, by default, the supporters of corruption). It did not help that some known corrupt people like Lalu Prasad were your supporters. By blowing hot and cold over corruption issue, by going to airport to welcome Baba Ramdev and then using brute force to disperse his 'anshan', by meeting Anna Hazare and team once and them fuming over them all over the news channels, by opposing action against Kalmadi and Raja and then ending up putting them in Jail, you gave up any political advantage that you could have got out of the corruption issue.

You did not even get the credit for putting your own ministers behind bars on the issue of corruption (which by itself is path breaking..).

The second thing that comes to mind as I think of your performance in 2011 is the issue of FDI in retail. I was hoping that once you have announced your intention to pass FDI in retail, and once you had introduced this bill in Parliament, you will not 'Roll Back' the same. But unfortunately, you ended up rolling it back thereby demonstrating lack of capability for political management.

Personally, I don't care (and I am sure talking about the majority of Indians) much for FDI in retail. But by allowing media, the press and the market to hype it up to the status of 'Significant Piece of Reform', and then rolling it back, you ended up being projected as being 'Spineless' to carry forward the reforms which were your brainchild in the first place.

And when Government is perceived to be 'Spineless', the economy suffers due to 'Negative Expectations'.

During the term of NDA, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha was called 'Roll Back Sinha' for his frequent roll backs. You seem to be bent on snatching that mantle from BJP.

And what are the other areas that you are famous for in 2011?

The 30000 Cr., CWG Scam?

The 170000 Cr. 2G scam?

The Adarsh Housing Society Scam?

What happened to you? Have you lost it? Have you lost your Mojo?

In my opinion, your failed to effectively manage public perceptions. Some of it is related to the huge knowledge gap between older members and younger technology. Some of it is related to poor political mismanagement. And some of it is related to the arrogance of some of your Spokespersons who confused the message with the messenger (I am talking about Manish Tiwari (remember his 'Head to toe' comment about Anna Hazare?) and to certain extent, Abhishek Manu Singhvi). You forgot that when you are in Power, nation expects you to be suave, sophisticated and respectful to opposite views....

First of all, learn to use to technology to your advantage. You may not know this, but this is where your greatest failure lie. Whether you like it or not, technology has come to play a key role in Indian politics now. Opposition is already on twitter. Comments by Sushama Swaraj on twitter gets more publicity than her views expressed in any press conference. The whole of team Anna is on Twitter.

Against this, you got your Shashi Taroor, who complains about having to travel 'Cattle Class', when travelling by airplane is still the dream of majority in this country. None of you senior politicians are using new technology. Remember, in the world of new technology, the medium is the message. No one looks at the message. Just being on twitter, and posting some non-controversial comments (Technology is awesome !!!), will make you look sophisticated, cool and in touch with the nextgen.

Learn to use technology to your advantage. Technology will help you differentiate yourselves from the likes of Lalu Yadavs, Rajniti Prasads and the Mulayam Yadavs of this world. And believe me, you need that differentiation...

By helping 'you the person' reach out, technology will also help you separate your personal beliefs from your political compulsions...

And finally, technology will help you reach your target audience much faster. Technology breaks the distance between the content of your message and the time of its delivery. For example, reach out to nextgen thru Youtube, thru facebook. That is where they are, even in their workplace. Imagine the kind of value you can get by presenting your views cogently on Youtube. It is there for any one to listen to at any time of their choice.

Please remember to use humor in youtube videos, by the way. A drab message do not communicate well....

Secondly, you need learn some efficient political management. Take for example the case of Lokpal bill. It was very clear that the Lokpal bill will not pass in RS in the present form. So why bring it at all? Why not wait till you had the majority in the house to pass the bill? Same goes with FDI in retail. In case of RS Debate, BJP played their cards quite smartly. First of all, Arun Jaitley in his initial speech, made BJP look so 'Pro Lokpal'. His speech was filled with references about how BJP has tried again and again to bring in a strong lokpal and how they were being thwarted at every step by Congress's reluctance.

By bringing 187 amendments, BJP was sure that either, you will not put it for voting on 29th, or, if voted, the bill was bound to fail, in both cases making you look like the regressives.

What happened in the end? BJP ended up being the Martyr and you looked like 'Obstructionists' and unprepared. You were the 'bill tearers' and 'people who were afraid of voting'.

What happened to you Congress? You were the past masters of 'Political Management'. What you have forgotten about Political management is probably more that what the other parties know and remember. And still, on the TV screens on the 29th, you looked like losers.

You need to buck up. There are plenty of your supporters who feel let down by your repeated missteps and your inability to project your achievements. Please help them to help you.