(A satirical column published in DNA edition dated September 4, 2010.)
One of our widely acknowledged failings as Indians is a general reluctance – or, worse, an incapacity – to leverage our exceptional skills and take them to the global marketplace, where there’s an enormous demand for the kind of things we particularly excel at.
I don’t mean such skills as writing software code or offering other outsourced services, where we’ve actually acquitted ourselves reasonably well. No, the big opportunities that we’re passing up are on the high-stakes stage of partisan politics and over-the-top brinkmanship – where our political leaders’ consummate skills, unmatched in the world, remain inaccessible to people from other countries where they’re desperately needed.
Just two instances are illustrative. In Australia, the recent general elections produced a hung parliament, but even two weeks after the results came in, the government formation process remains deadlocked. That’s because the two principal political formations, unused to the nuances of forming coalition governments, have failed to win over the support of marginal parties or independent MPs.
It’s just the kind of wheeler-dealer situation that someone like Amar Singh would have resolved sooner than you can say ‘suitcase’. Yet, while our politically inept friends Down Under flounder, Mr Fix-It is wasting his prodigious talent and instead tilting at political pygmies in the Samajwadi Party. Were he to set up a global consultancy on the art of political give-and-take, his services would be much sought after, given that hung parliaments are becoming fashionable even in evolved democracies like the UK.
The second instance is an even more glaring case of our leaders not seizing a fortuitous moment to showcase their demonstrated talents to a wider world. All of America is now caught up in an intensely divisive debate over a planned mosque near the site where the World Trade Centre towers stood. To the extent that the controversy is about a mosque on or near a plot that’s considered ‘hallowed’ ground, the issue marks, in spirit, an ‘Ayodhya’ moment in American politics. US right-wing politicians are looking to leverage it for political gain in the upcoming Congressional elections, but their campaign is low on sizzle.
The situation is straight out of the BJP manual of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the Ayodhya campaign was at fever pitch. Given that they aren’t particularly busy in India, BJP leaders might well profit from offering their consultancy services to US Conservative politicians on running an over-the-top hysterical anti-mosque campaign. L.K. Advani could help Newt Gingrich plan a rath yatra across America. Uma Bharati and Sadhvi Ritambara could coin colourful slogans for their sorority sister Sarah Palin to chant.
For Amar Singh, Advani and the BJP leaders, who must feel like caged eagles within the unrewarding confines of Indian politics, this is an opportunity to spread their wings and soar. They have nothing to lose but their current irrelevance.