Thursday, July 24, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
How to not win friends and not influence people by Public Speaking or Why Rahul Gandhi should hire a ventriquolist!
I suppose it is nothing surprising to find a bad speaker in Parliament. However the context is important. Here was a vote most important to India's future, where parties fielded their most experienced speakers to express their views. Mr.Gandhi got a chance solely because he is the son the Congress President(and the son of the former PM and the grandson ...). He was one of the youngest speakers, especially from a major party. Considering the so many hymns sung to the youth of India, there was a brilliant opportunity to speak for this huge demographic of the Indian population. It is not that he lacks education or a skill in language either. His CV lists some of the most prominent educational institutions.
To begin with, it was a most uninspiring speech, delivered in the most deadpan tone possible. The interval between words was monotonously long. Mr.Gandhi was obviously disconcerted by the interruptions which were not even directed at him and he kept re-starting his sentences every time he was interrupted. His location was most unsuitable for some one whose speech would be so closely examined and worse of all, he looked most baffled. There were occasional flashes of irritation and amusement but most of the time he looked heavily under pressure and so maintained a very grim face.
Each one of the mentioned points is in itself not a problem but together they badly tilt the scales against any speaker. What finally cooked Rahul Gandhi's goose was his subject and the way he chose to approach it. His limitations would have been bearable if he had chosen a technical approach to the debate. He however chose to personalize it. He declared he was speaking as an Indian and not as a politician. He tried to bring in the pain of other Indians to the debate. He specifically brought in Sasikala and Kalavati, two women whom he had visited. He then tried to appear bi-partisan, continuing his earlier narrative of speaking as an Indian, by praising A.B.Vajpayee. He tried to paint the picture of the new Indian century urging the MPs to think how India could change the world rather than vice versa.
When a speaker personalizes an issue, he/she takes a considerable risk. The risk is that the gravity of the issue becomes inseparable from the speaker's credibility. The speaker must be credible enough and sound credible enough to convince the audience of the highs and lows of the experience he/she describes. It is not necessary that the audience buy the speaker's message in full, it is enough that the speaker opens up the audience. This requires experience and skill honed by long years of practice. Else the speaker sounds like a bored teacher reading out a story. The tone descends to condescension both for the subjects of the story and the audience. That is exactly what happened yesterday.
Again, a good speaker's greatest ally is not his/her talent but the context. Even the most insipid speaker can be carried by the wave of the situation. On the other hand even the most well-intentioned speaker will turn out to be a damp squib if he/she mistakes the mood of audience and the context of the speech. Rahul Gandhi's speech would have worked well if he were addressing, say, corporate employees who would have marveled at the initiative displayed by him. But there he was, talking Kalavatis and Sasikalas to people who had spent a lifetime among them, who had worked their way up by working(at least in name) among people like them. No wonder there were snide comments while he was speaking! A confidence vote is a battle-field, platonic appeals won't even be audible. The context requires a specific amount of combativeness, you are defending your own government after all, not delivering a "Distinguished Lecture". Bi-partisanship is not (as Barack Obama would seem to suggest) a magic potion to solve all ills. A skilled politician/manager realizes that and utilizes the odd sectarian message at required intervals to perk up his own people, to enthuse them and to prepare them for the battle ahead.
The Congress and the UPA did not require much from Rahul Gandhi. A simple but effective speech, delivered in a firm,precise and decisive manner. The emphasis on power was a great idea and it should have been presented as a macro-message, a statement on the behalf of the youth for instance or any other over-arching statements conveying determination and great pride in his government, even his disappointment or confusion on the way things were happening. This speech would have inspired his fellow MPs and even enabled him to claim moral high ground by not attacking anybody. But disappointingly all the Government got from the MP from Amethi was a bland narration of personal anecdotes! What a waste and what a Shame!!
7:19 The PM rises and so does Md. Salim. He seems to be running for "Most visible MP of session" Award
7:20 The PM cannot be heard at all. Hardly any surprise as there is a very powerful female voice, among others heaping abuse on him
7:21 The PM files his reply. What a shame! The Speaker calls for voting and calls it for the "ayes"(the government). Demands for a division.
7:25 NDTV is running a list of viewer responses to the cash-for-votes scandal. Sample quote-"Today is the darkest day in Indian democracy"-;)
7:26 Another vote. The Speaker calls it for the ayes again. There will still be a division
7:30 The division is on
Total is 487??? What happened to the others? Mass boycotts?
7:31 Looks like all the MPs who couldn't cast their votes will be filling in slips. This is going to take ages! The UPA is celebrating already though things actually still seems close.
7:48 A lot more of uncertainty. More outrage on the networks..."Can't our MPs press a switch".."In a country so well-known for its achievements, can't we have a proper system in Parliament" are common sentiments.
7:54 Rajdeep Sardesai at CNN-IBN calls the situation a tragedy and a farce and asks everyone's favourite question "Why don't they change the system"...Too many "Singh is King" jokes...
8:23 (by which time even this blogger lost patience)- The Speaker calls it for the Government-275 for and 256 against with 10 abstentions. Seems like some majpr cross-voting has happened.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
6:30-Power is back...A lot seems to have transpired.The Lok Sabha seems to have been adjourned and a new money for votes scandal has come up-damn!
6:32 Some "small-small parties" have been called to speak. A. Owaisi the MP from Hyderabad from the MIM is speaking. He can hardly be heard though. It seems like some MPs were offered money to abstain. Too much noise. It won't be surprising if even the PM will not be able to speak.
6:40 Mehbooba Mufti freely concedes she hardly knows anything about the deal. Lalu was very accurate when he said that. She concludes as shouts of "Pradhan Mantri Sharam karo" fill the air.
6:43 Maneka Gandhi and Ram Vilas Paswan have declined to speak and Omar Abdullah is in full flow " I am an Indian and a Muslim!" His speech seems to be getting a great reception and he does deserve it too. It is unfortunate that his party has only two MPs. He deserved some more time. He ends with a rousing declaration that the Amarnath yatra will continue as long as Muslims are there in Kashmir.
6:44 M.P. Virendra Kumar M.P, M.P from Calicut is raising technical issues aganist the deal. A bit late in the day one thinks.
6:48 Sansuma Bwismwthiari from Assam can hardly be heard. He brings in the issue of reforms for Bodoland.
6:51 Speaker urges members to listen to MPs from the North-East. It's pretty sad really. Two MPs from Kashmir speak and 2 from the whole of the North-East! Mani Charengemi from Manipur claims that the PM has assured him the revision of the territorial boundaries of the North-Eastern States will be looked into.
6:58 Yerran Naidu has been called and is abusing the government at an amazing volume. Manmohan Singh looks physically hurt. This must be a scene from his worst nightmare-"illegal, immoral, unethical"..sigh!
7:06 Yerran Naidu has been cut down in full flow and Ranjeeta Ranjan from LJSP begins. She seems as vociferous and is a Punjabi for sure. There are frequent shots of Govinda who looks as though he has not recovered from last night's hangover. Aoww..Ms Rajnan goes a bit overboard as she compares Rahul Gandhi's tours across India to that of Mohandas the Gandhi.
7:07 She is now attacking the Akalis. A Punjabi woman MP from Bihar lecturing the hidebound Akalis on Sikh principles. Great fun!
7:14 Hemlal Murmu from the JMM seems to be an amateur yet compulsive shayar while trying to pretend that his party was always an intimate friend of the UPA. What tosh!
7:19 The PM has risen.
2:05-15 The session has begun and Brijesh Pathak claims that BSP MPs have been instructed to vote for the government if they are to save Mayawati from the CBI. A lot of MPs expressing outrage on this issue. Is this, as Beni Prasas Verma from the SP is suggesting a prelude to the opposition losing. Anyway this exchange is better than Rahul Gandhi .!
2:20 The Left also demands a house committee to enquire into the charges as does the NDA. The Speaker has an amazing sense of humour no doubt and seems to be especially good at snubbing MPs from the Left.
2:25 Rahul Gandhi has been called again Horror Horror!!
2:26 This guy is really bad..we can expect an entire self-sustaining round of jokes from his speech. He is trying to praise Vajpayee’s role in the process. What is this- a lame attempt to be Obama-like bipartisan?
2:30 Rahul Gandhi is trying to redefine the debate by bringing in the aspect of a great Indian century with nuclear energy as the key. Problem is-He is not convincing. But still the UPA applauds especially Sonia Gandhi who applauds longer and more fiercely than others.
2:35 He is concluding, having established nothing. Feel sorry for the guy. It seems he believes in what he says. But that is all he has for him.
2:36 Rahul’s Kennedy moment- worry not how the world will impact us but worry how we will impact the world.
2:40 He is done..Hardly any reception. I guess even I over-estimated him
2:40 Ananth Kumar of the BJP begins. He apparently has only 5 minutes.
2:43 He brings in Bofors as a comparison to the deal….interesting!
2:45 He too brings in the moratorium on future testing. Why on earth is the BJP so insistent on future testing. Pokharan II was bad enough. He is out of time and has hardly started..good riddance though. This was a classic bad speech which just consisted of repetition of speech points with no new perspective or even proper examination of already mentioned perspectives.
2:50 Accuses PM of not upholding sovereignty of India and promptly gets chastised by the Speaker. He quotes Chidamabaram who was quoting Keynes to prove that inflation is bad. Why make all that effort!
2:55 Lalu is on. Translating Laalu is impossible. Simply speaking he is hilarious. He is clinically scathing comparing the Left to Kalidas cutting the branch he was sitting on.
2:57 “Chaar Saal Pehle Tumse Hamko Pyaar Tha..Aaj Bhi Hain, Kal Bhi Rahega”…amazing. Specifically brilliant is his ability to mock all players in one single sentence!
3:00 Anand Geete rabble-rousing again. No clue why!
3:08 Cites the refusal of the NDA to condemn the Iraq war. Damn!! I lose elcectricty at home it will come back only at 5 or 6.
Lalu is a great orator. I do not identify one bit with the politics he espouses and I too have often joined in the community Lalu –bashing but I realize for the first time that the guy is a classy speaker. His voice modulation is splendid and he has the very useful ability to muster arguments which fit together perfectly like pieces in a puzzle. Even better he is great at instant repartee and has the gift of delivering a most hilarious comment with a straight face. Rahul Gandhi…are you watching???
P.Chidambaram speaking... He seems very subdued relying mainly on facts while defending the performance of the government, especially in the field of agriculture. His take on the nuclear deal is from a classic legal perspective trying to bring out the finer points of various aspects of 123, the Hyde Act and Vienna Convention on treaties
He seems to be targeting the NDA so far rather than the Left.
Ooops he uttered the C-word and the Left is up in arms! This strategy always seems to work, mention China and all comrades go red in the face. A lot of mallu MPs including N.N.Krishnadasfrom my district) rising and shouting. The prize however goes to P.Salim who is in full flow. I am pretty curious about Mr.Salim since I haven’t heard much of him. He was the first speaker for the CPI(M) to yesterday. Mr. Chidambaram ends with a exploration of the contradictions between the Left and the NDA
Speaker Somnath Chatterjee seems to be on a roll. After all those issues with his party, he seems to have acquired a greater aura and is on the way to becoming a new media icon.. His conduct of the house seems almost similar to that of a school teacher. How else would you explain-“Silence in the House!!”
Vijay Kumar Malhotra of the BJP seems to have taken up the role of the chief attack dog of the BJP since L.K.Advani has become Prime-Minister-in Waiting and by default elder-statesman. He is bringing in all the dirty linen. Nuclear energy won’t be very useful, it is mainly a corporate ploy, even criminals are being brought into parliament….wow even the speaker got angry on that one…the opposition is getting more agitated……and the house is adjourned. sigh!
Somnath Chatterjee delivers an impassioned request for order and a clear expression of disgust….and then goes on to say “…Power is not everything”!!??
Mr.Malhotra continues. He seems to be on course to taking up all his party’s time. He quotes Mani Shankar Aiyyar declaring in “The Devil’s Advocate” that the UPA needs a course correction. Aiyyar rises to clarify. Why would anything said in that show be considered as a valid statement in the first place..it's like a stress interview anyway. Why isn’t MS Aiyyar one of the speakers? He would really have risen to the occasion.
Sonia Gandhi seems to have a blinking disorder. She blinks furiously every time the camera is focused on her.
Aha! Amarnath has been introduced..and soon is followed by its conjoint twin for the BJP-the Haj subsidies. Renuka Chowdury and an NDA MP are engaging in shout-match where the latter’s sole response seems to be “Hindu hain to zameen lotao”.
Malhotra levels accusations of softness on terrorism, a demand for the return of POTA .Boy! I really hope there are no elections. Malhotra has exceeded his time limit but goes on.
He concludes by calling the Government Dusshasan! ;)
Rahul Gandhi has been called….
This guy is going to get a full post. He is phenomenally bad. The response he is getting seems to be mainly snide remarks.
A huge uproar suddenly..no clue as to what is happening. At least Rahul is not saying anything offensive. A lot of BSP MPs waving documents and the session has been adjourned for lunch with Rahul Gandhi’s speech still incomplete.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
1:03 pm. Rahul Gandhi calls opposition a bunch of uncomprehending nincompoops.
1:03 pm. The UPA benches rise up and applaud the statement
1:04 pm. Rahul Gandhi says the government exists only to serve the nation.
1:04 pm. The UPA benches rise up and applaud the statement
1:05 pm Rahul Gandhi pauses because he has nothing else to say.
1:06 pm ....
You get the drift.
The US primary season saw loads of bloggers covering every single utterance, gesture and non-gesture during the debates between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Considering the importance of this moment in Indian history, it truly is sad that there is no such thing of this sort.
PS.The NDTV website has an article on the responses of Indians settled in America to the crisis. A typical extract:
".. politicians of any party should stay away from national security interests. They can politicise internal issues,''
PS2. People who appreciate the sentiment expressed in this post would surely remember the 1996-98 period as the high-point of No-confidence motion debates. The 13- day government debate and the Gowda and Gujaral debates saw a bevy of distinguished and non-distinguished speakers in a series of slug-fests which were truly exciting. Sigh.. those days!
PS3. Actually I just noticed that both NDTV and CNN-IBN(possibly other media organizations as well) have constant updates on the debate on their websites. However they exist mostly in the realm of reporting with none of the analysis or reflection that blog-reporting would bring to the debate.So...
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Allow me to propose a very valid derivative(at least as valid as the original)-"The Ambani Theory of Conflict Accentuation"
It goes like this:
"Any country whose industry is populated by two sibling corporate moguls will invariably witness rampant corporate influence on government and will descend into political chaos and ultimately civil war!"
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Saturday 11 July 2030
The Union Health Minister Ms Chintamani Anbumani Ramadoss (d/o ex-Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss s/o PMK leader late Dr. P.K Ramadoss) has revealed the latest set of proposals designed to "remove the scourge of tobacco from India". The minister revealed this plan in an exclusive interview with the Daily Pheesh yesterday. These steps are part of a larger anti-tobacco drive that has been championed by the Government ever since the Minister's father occupied the position of the Health Minister in the first decade of the century. Some of the proposals include:
1) All male citizens whose annual income is less than Rs 1,80,000 per annum have been prohibited from marrying. According to the Minister "..this will prevent these people from spreading their genetic material among the populace of India".
2) All male citizens whose annual income is between Rs 1,80,000 and Rs 6,00,000 per annum(henceforth referred to as "subject") have been given permission to marry on the fulfillment of the following conditions.
a) The woman who is to marry the subject has to sign a No Objection Certificate(NOC) which shall state that she is responsible for all ill-effects that shall affect the subject,herself and whatever offspring that are emergent from the marriage.
b) The subject shall pay a "Special Tobacco Tax" of Rs.60,000 per annum and shall carry around a sign with a "skull and crossbones" on his neck.
3) All male citizens whose annual income is higher than 6,00,00 per annum are exempted from any restrictions on smoking. This exemption also extends to all employees of ITC which is one of the largest and most successful corporations in India.
The Minister, during the course of the interview, spoke out against "special interests and business corporates" who were preventing the proper implementation of the anti-tobacco drive. However she went on the defensive when asked about the ITC exemption and her only response was "Health is very important but business must also go on". When the Pheesh asked the minister about the growing number of women smokers in India, the Minister sported a very pained look and declared in a stern voice "Indian women do not smoke". ---DP
Exaggeration? Paranoia? Over-reaction?? Check this out!!
Sunday, July 6, 2008
However as always there are those days, those moments, those magnificent displays when you cannot help but put aside every bit of various baggages and stand in awe of sheer genius. These are the moments when you forget how exclusive some sports are, how they are a stage for this, a reason for that and what not and feel your your entire soul being carried on a huge wave with those of innumerable others-up, down,up again and again down. Your speech turns guttural, your analysis loses all relevance and turns into a mere parody and the faint of heat and the truly passionate lose all ability to even glance at the contest. These are the briefest of moments, a flash and then, the world is the same again. Yet for that small instant in time, you feel something that is very difficult to describe, something that definitely varies from person to person yet calls on something similar. As Rafael Nadal said while answering a senseless question, “It’s impossible to describe how I feel,...”,. That moment of being at a loss for translation has to be brief, it would be sad otherwise and it is a never-ending pilgrimage in search of such moments that represents sport to me.
We saw a glowing stretch on that pilgrimage yesterday!
Friday, July 4, 2008
Here's C.Gouridasan Nair at the Hindu. Here is his translation of the controversial chapter. Notice that the lesson is translated as "Jeevan the casteless" instead of "Jeevan the one who does not follow any religion".
Here's an article from "Pragoti" which goes into some detail on the merits of the textbook
An acquaintance who is obviously a strong Party supporter
BVN as usual is tongue and cheek.
A very bad attempt at being neutral.
The most intriguing one of them all. The blogger first posits that there is nothing objectionable in the controversial chapter. However in the next post, he studies the rest of the text and comes up with certain objections.
If you have already noticed that I haven't expressed my own view yet, I shall shield myself by emphasizing the fact that I haven't seen the entire book :P. However from what I have seen online..what terrible artwork!!
(HT:Alex for most of these links :)
Thursday, July 3, 2008
friday 4 July 2008
The Daily Pheesh has come into possession of a classified document which reveals the Samajwadi Party's master plan with details of the true demands of the party and its vision of the future, Contrary to popular perception, the master-plan(which was approved at the Parliamentary Board meeting of the party) does not involve the replacements of the Finance and Petroleum Ministers alone. The SP has, in fact, outlined the contours of of a new-look cabinet which they believe, is the need of the hour to solve the multitude of issues the nation faces. Here's a sneak peek into the SP "Dream-Team".
1) Prime Minister-Hon. Sri Mulayam Singh Yadav(purely honorary position)
2) Finance Minister- Sri Subroto Roy Sahara
3) Minister for Home Affairs- Sri Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya
3) Minister for Human Resource Development- Sri Amitabh Bachchan
4) Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas- Mr. Anil Ambani
5) Minister for Law and Justice- Mr.Vikas Yadav
6) Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Women and Child Development- Srimati Jaya Bachchan
7) Minister of State for Environmental Protection- Mrs. Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan
8) Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports- Mr Akhilesh Yadav (son of Hon. Sri Mulayam Singh Yadav)
9) Minister of State for Migration, Immigration and Emigration(MIE)- Sri Abu Azmi
10) Special Government Coordinator on Youth Inspiration and Promotion of Poetry Effort (YIPPE)- Sri. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
i)Chief Executive Officer, Chairman of Governing Coalition, Chief Spokesman, Chief Motivator of the Armed Forces, Minister for External Affairs, Chief Negotiator (to be addressed as Chief)- Sri Amar Singh
Government of India Notifications:
a) The Ministry of Defence has been formally abolished. The three armed services will deal with all necessary details. All defense contracts shall be a part of the mandate of the External Affairs Ministry. All foreign trips for diplomatic/trade/defense purposes shall be undertaken by Chief Amar Singh in his capacity as Chief Negotiator
b) The Revenue Department which deals with taxation, unauthorized wealth etc has been detached from the Ministry of Finance. The HRD Minister Sri. Amitabh Bachchan has kindly consented to take charge of the department
c) President's Rule has been declared in Uttar Pradesh. The Government has issued a special order declaring ex-CM Kumari Mayawati guilty without trial and sentencing her to death by "statuification"(use of human body as mold for a bronze statue.For historical parallels re.Mughal-e-Azam) for her crimes against the nation and its people.
d) "Kya Aap Panchvi Pass Se Tez Hain", hosted by Shah Rukh Khan on Star Plus has been declared an obscene, immoral television program and the the host shall be prosecuted for endangering the moral health of the nation.
e) Mrs. Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan has been appointed the Indian Ambassador to France. She will shoulder this responsibility in addition to her position in the Union Ministry.
f) The Government has decided to confer the Bharat Ratna on Sri Amitabh Bachchan for promoting culture, Mr. Anil Ambani for promoting entrepreneurship, Smt Jaya Bachchan for promoting family values and Chief Amar Singh for promoting Chief Amar Singh.
The Daily Pheesh has also come to know that Mr. Vikas Yadav(guilty in Nitish Katara murder case, co-guilty in Jessica Lal murder case and prospective Law Minister) has resigned from the BSP, the party which he joined recently with his father D.P.Yadav. In an exclusive interview to the Pheesh he said "Kumari Mayawati is power hungry and does not care for the people. I share the vision of Hon. Sri Mulayam Singh Yadav and Chief Amar Singh."---DP
Never in the field of Indian politics was so much demanded of so many by so few.
While I do not think that any(or for that matter, all) of these demands will be accepted, it's a fine time to reflect on the Finance Minister, whose position, for the first time, seems a bit shaky(yes..the you don't know what you have till you lose it time ;). Mr. Chidambaram has not done the best possible job as the Finance Minister. His policies have more or less remained on the same track as that of the NDA with certain sweeteners like the NREGA and the loan-waiver scheme added for public satisfaction. The defects of this strategy have come back to haunt the government now. A couple of days ago, Mr.Chidambaram appeared on Karan Thapar's show "The Devil's Advocate" with a one word mantra to salvage the current scenario-"communication". Unfortunately this mantra(we are actually great...why don't people see it?) has become the standard tool employed whenever a government realizes that the people are turning against it. One remembers L.K.Advani, in the waning years of the NDA government, consistently bemoaning the inability of the Government to educate the people about its achievements.
The elementary answer to the Finance Minister's flawed argument is that there is nothing to communicate. The Government has reached a dead-end. Any substantial development will have to involve a considerable policy-shift by the government and the Congress Party. This is something neither of them can/will do. They are too far gone. So the only option is to sit back,hope/pray(check out the CM of Andhra's solution--"CM relies on rain to save reign") that the various 'crisi' will subside over time and talk about vague,generalized solutions like communication.
However the removal of the Finance Minister or the RBI Governor is no solution either. Their removal will in no way bring about any change in policy implementation or the framing of policy not to speak of the underlying assumptions that give rise to policy. Mr.Chidambaram will most probably be replaced by another Sonia-bhakt who will walk the very same path. The governor of the RBI will be succeeded by another career office with the same training and approach. This is one case where a symbolic gesture could not only not improve things but possibly make them worse. Better a Chidambaram than an Arjun Singh any day I say!
PS. The real fun will be if this rumour is revealed to be just that ! A rumour.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
We are proud to present the Katrina Award to:
Despite what chauvinists would say, Kashmir does not comfortably fit the position of the crown jewel of the "Wonder that is India". It is true that Kashmir's accession to India was as valid in legal terms as that of many other princely states, where the wishes of the people were not consulted. But it is also true that few states have been the site of so many controversies and violence as J&K has. J&K has also had the misfortune of possessing and having to interact with leaders who have had no sense of the complexities of the issue.Some members of this glorious group have been almost deliberately blind whereas others have stumbled and bumbled along like bulls in a china shop. Our awardee of the day belongs to the second category. An absolute lack of foresight in managing his own cabinet, a bureaucracy led by a seemingly diabolic-ex-governor, the PR of the government and the protests on the street has ensured that Azad has come out with an egg on his face, communal forces on either sides of the spectrum have got huge breathers and whatever superficial normality that Kashmir seemed to be limping to, is again, a thing of the past. Well since he was the hand-picked by 10 Janpath, I guess it was bound to happen.
I guess I better get down to business before this sounds like one of my diary entries.