Posts Tagged Prime Minister

As an Asian Giant Departs the World, the Tributes and the Assessments of the Imprint He has Left Behind, Pour In.

An internet tribute from a Singaporean which appeared after his passing away.

An internet tribute from a Singaporean which appeared after his passing away.

Much has been said and written about Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the builder of modern Singapore, during his lifetime. The man himself has talked and written extensively about his journey and his experiences in nation-building since 1965, when he found himself in charge of a newly independent nation which Malaysia had cast adrift.

This piece is a compilation of obituaries, write-ups and images that appeared soon after the news broke, on the morning of 23rd March, that he had passed away during the early morning hours. It includes my own observations and comments on some social media networks.

To start with, here is the announcement by his son, the current PM of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong.

A compilation, by The Wall Street Journal, of LKY’s life and times .

Check out the obituary by The Guardian and The New York Times.

This is what The Australian and The Atlantic had to say.

Here is a compilation of some of his more interesting and, at times, controversial quotes.

“If you can’t think because you can’t chew, try a banana.” (Remark to a BBC reporter, 2000 who asked questions about Singapore’s chewing-gum ban & said that without chewing on gum, he couldn’t think)

“If Singapore is indeed a nanny state, I am proud to have fostered one” – from his book, The Singapore Story, 1965 – 2000

“I wouldn’t call myself an atheist. I neither deny nor accept that there is a God. So I do not laugh at people who believe in God. But I do not necessarily believe in God – nor deny that there could be one.”

“There is an end to everything and I want mine to come as quickly and painlessly as possible, not with me incapacitated, half in coma in bed and with a tube going into my nostrils and down to my stomach.”
“Even from my sickbed, even if you are going to lower me to the grave and I feel that something is going wrong, I will get up.” — Mr. Lee Kuan Yew (1923 -2015) on religion and on his death.

On his observation that people should generally marry keeping their educational levels in view:

“If you don’t include your women graduates in your breeding pool and leave them on the shelf, you would end up a more stupid society… So what happens? There will be less bright people to support dumb people in the next generation. That’s a problem.”

On the high pay of cabinet ministers and senior civil servants:

“You know, the cure for all this talk is really a good dose of incompetent government. You get that alternative and you’ll never put Singapore together again: Humpty Dumpty cannot be put together again… and your asset values will be in peril, your security will be at risk and our women will become maids in other people’s countries, foreign workers.”

“In new countries, democracy has worked and produced results only when there is an honest and effective government, which means a people smart enough to elect such a government. Remember, elected governments are only as good as people who choose them.”

Lee Kuan Yew, in an interview with Fareed Zakaria, a few years ago.

Lee Kuan Yew, in his later years, talking to students of the National University of Singapore (NUS).

My edited comments on SM networks:

A towering figure among 20th century political leaders, I have seldom, if ever, seen the kind of charisma & presence that Lee Kuan Yew had. Many Singaporeans, particularly in their 50s & 60s, regard him truly as a father figure and are possibly feeling orphaned at the news of his demise.

A lot has been said and written and will continue to be written about the Singapore model. What, to my mind, differentiates Singapore from success stories like Hong Kong or Dubai is the fact that Lee Kuan Yew had his priorities right and implemented them singlemindedly. Among other things this included a really good schooling & higher education system through world-class universities and polytechnics, affordable public housing (housing ownership for Singaporeans is among the highest in the world, at about 90%), zero tolerance for corruption, highly pragmatic and efficient systems & processes which are regularly tweaked and adapted to changing situations as often as needed, a world-class infrastructure for businesses & individuals, an efficient bureaucracy built on meritocracy and a truly world class airport and sea port which have firmly established Singapore as a key tourism destination and a logistics hub in Asia Pacific. He also put in place a system of succession planning which ensured that all these will remain in place and be nurtured across generations. He set the bar for quality and customer service high in all that he planned and implemented.

Even after Singapore became a first-world country, an oasis among a whole host of third world countries in the region, he kept pushing Singaporeans to strive hard and excel in their chosen spheres and not become complacent or mushy. He may have exercised strict control in many spheres of daily life but he ensured that Singaporeans and residents had what it takes to not worry about the essentials of life and an environment where they could focus on doing well for themselves and their families. Among other things, the sense of safety and security one has in Singapore can hardly be matched by most other Asian countries and only by a small number of countries globally. As LKY said, if Singapore is indeed a nanny-state, the credit largely goes to him for making it one. Anyone accustomed to the standards and efficiency levels of most things in Singapore, can’t quite be faulted for getting irritated and frustrated with what he or she sees in virtually all other South and South-East Asian countries.

Typical of the efficiency of the place, tourists or business travellers could look forward to getting off their flight, clearing customs and immigration, picking up their baggage and reaching their hotels or offices downtown in less than an hour’s time. Businesses could be registered and be up and running in a week’s time. There can be no better testimony about systems that work clinically and efficiently.

No one is perfect or should claim to be. The downsides of his period at the helm and even later, as a key influencer and mentor of the government of the day, have been discussed in some of the obituaries referenced above and I have nothing further to add on that count.  All I can say at this instant of his departure from the world stage is, ” Farewell Sir, you have been inspiring in many ways and your achievements and vision will be remembered and admired for a long time.”

LKY-tribute-6

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India Adrift

 

 

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The observations and comments here are derived from my several posts and comments on the issue in various social media networks. 

The first para largely pertains to a discussion about the TMC’s and particularly Mamata Banerjee’s time in power since her victory in 2011.

Politics is as much a game of building up perceptions (even illusions for that matter) and communications as it is of actually ushering in good governance and delivering on promises made. Mamata falls quite short on at least the first count and matters haven’t been helped in the least by her periodic outbursts, loose comments, whimsical and knee-jerk reactions to events and propensity to put her foot in her mouth on several occasions. Her media managers have done a pretty poor job so far and if at all she has a P.R. agency managing affairs for her, either she needs to replace it with one far more competent and adept or pay greater heed to their suggestions & recommendations.

I can’t help drawing comparisons with someone who has capitalized on the masterplan laid down by his high-powered, expensive, U.S. based P.R. agency and adroitly turned around a disastrous situation which stared him in the face in 2002 to one where he has become a cult-guru of sorts for a section of the middle-class urban Indians who have started believing the carefully cultivated hype that he will return India to double-digit growth days in a trice and solve most problems of governance with a wave or two of his ‘lathi’.

Consider some of the following inconvenient facts, even in Modi’s home state which has been relentlessly touted as a model of development.

  • Gujarat ranked 17th overall within India in terms of literacy when Modi took over. Currently, after more than a decade of Modi-rule, it ranks 18th.
  • Gujarat’s fiscal deficit a year back was the 3rd highest in India, behind W. Bengal & U.P. While W. Bengal & U.P. have never even remotely claimed that they are model states in terms of fiscal management & development, Modi has built his whole reputation on those premises.
  • Hunger & malnutrition are worse in Gujarat than several other large states and the U.N. development Index report of 2011 (which uses govt. data) indicates that 45% of children in Gujarat are malnourished.
  • No political pundit or veteran columnist seems to have qualms about the fact that a man who has little formal education, a family life which is murky (Is Modi married or divorced? Why doesn’t he answer questions about the woman, supposedly his wife, languishing in some village) and whose background largely includes being an on-again, off-again RSS ‘pracharak’ and  tea stall owner previously may not quite be the right choice to run a country as large and as diverse as India and tackle the economic complexities, foreign affairs and social media exposures & inquisitions which are a given in 2014 and beyond.

Check out details about some of these ‘facts’ and issues in these reports:

Deccan Herald – Fact-checks & Statistics about Gujarat

TOI report based on the U.N. Human Development report 2011 pertaining to Gujarat

A word cloud of Narendra Modi’s speeches over the years (most of them used to be in Gujarati & Hindi to the unwashed masses in his early years) would surely show up streaks of his personality and governance style which may not be quite palatable to the discerning. The almost indisputable fact that his P.R. agency and media managers gamed the system by pushing in over 50% fakes to build up his 1 million plus followers on Twitter also doesn’t quite indicate a man who can be ‘trusted’ to lead India in 2014 & beyond.

Some unpalatable truths about Modi’s social media strategy

Ramachandra Guha’s piece in The Hindu about the implications and fallouts about Narendra Modi as PM in 2014, makes some incisive and well-argued observations. Here is the link to the full piece.

Ramachandra Guha piece on Narendra Modi in The Hindu

The alternative to Modi, Rahul Gandhi, attempted to be projected by the Congress, is largely a non-starter too. Rahul Gandhi is widely perceived to be well-meaning but vacuous with no vision or original ideas for governing India.  He is also perceived as someone who has achieved little or nothing during the years that he has been in politics. He seemingly lacks the drive or the decisiveness needed to provide effective governance. While he may come across as charming, he also comes across as someone who has been unwilling to roll up his sleeves and get hands-on when it really matters. As a friend mentioned, had he really wanted to turn things around for the Congress in U.P., he should have shifted base to Lucknow for a couple of years at least and gone about the task with gusto and singlemindedness, rather than the fleeting visits, periodic speeches and occasional photo-op moments that happened to be part of his U.P. campaign over the years. He has also often been silent or even absent when visibility was the need of the hour and hasn’t given any indication over the years that he has either the political instincts or the panache to ‘seize the moment’ which is so important for a politician to position himself in the perceptions of the people.

Ramachandra Guha again touches on several of these points in this interview with IBN

Ramachandra Guha on Rahul Gandhi as a Prime-ministerial candidate

Surely India, a country of 1.22 billion people, with its great diversities and complexities as well as its huge talent pool and major potential, needs someone at the helm, other than these two gentlemen who don’t quite have the attributes to measure up to the task,  who is potentially capable of steering the ship safely past the icebergs after the general elections in 2014!

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The Case Against Mr. Teflon, Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

Why is Narendrabhai Afraid of the Indian Media

I am reminded of the erstwhile CPM MP & Lok Sabha speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, who, as a minister in the late Jyoti Basu’s cabinet, used to brag about signing millions & billions worth of MOUs for industries to be set up in W. Bengal. Unfortunately very little, if any of it, was visible on the ground or ever became a reality.

The problem with a lot of reporting in India is that there is little checking & analysis of facts on the ground before commentators and anchors start spewing rhetoric & opinions which, more often than not, are scripted & pre-decided.

If some of Modi’s ‘facts’ are more like ‘imaginative pieces of fiction’, his biggest project till date has been a failure and despite his claims to the contrary, corruption at every level in the bureaucracy is very much a fact in Gujarat even today (this I know based on first-hand accounts of friends who operate there), then this man is indeed an impostor who has successfully managed to project himself as a ‘doer’ and as a viable alternative for the position of PM of India.

Gujarat was never an impoverished state by any stretch of imagination and Gujaratis, who happen to be counted generally among the most enterprising Indians, had always seen to it that their home state happened to be among the top 5 most prosperous Indian states economically.

If the UPA loses power after the next general elections, a coalition like the NDA is most likely the alternative. A man with Modi’s megalomania & arrogance will just not be able to function in a coalition where the regional chieftains have a lot of say and wield a lot of power.
(Disclaimer: I have nothing against this man personally; neither do I have anything for him. It would be interesting to read about alternative points of view based on hard facts, reason & cold logic but shorn of empty rhetoric and pointless rants )

The Emperor Uncrowned – Caravan Magazine

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