HT Image
HT Image

O, for an Obama

Can the Indian political system throw up an Obama-like figure who exemplifies in his own person, the ‘change we can believe in’ tagline? Rajdeep Sardesai examines...
By Rajdeep Sardesai | None
UPDATED ON JUN 12, 2008 10:45 PM IST

In the week when 46-year-old Barack Obama was being anointed the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in the US, Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi was being felicitated on his 85th birthday. While Obama made a stirring speech in front of hundreds of cheering young Americans, the DMK patriarch mumbled a few words on stage in the company of his two sons, M.K. Stalin and M.K. Azhagiri.

The contrast could not have been more stark. In America, Obama represents ‘change’ and ‘equal opportunity’; a charismatic Afro-American Harvard-educated lawyer who has risen up the political ladder through merit and hard work. In India, Karunanidhi & Sons are symbols of a static order, where a political party is a family business. Obama is the man from nowhere, throwing open the doors of the Washington establishment, renewing the stale political processes, with a completely new energy.

Can the Indian political system throw up an Obama-like figure who exemplifies in his own person, the ‘change we can believe in’ tagline? Unlikely. Leave aside the two cadre-based parties, the Left and the BJP — and every political formation in this country is an extension of a presiding family with strict rules of entry and upward mobility. In tightly knit regional parties, this phenomenon gets accentuated. Parties like Lalu Prasad’s RJD don’t even have elections for office-bearers. The decision on who to appoint is the sole prerogative of an individual. Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party may claim to be encouraging ‘young’ talent, but can the Baramati boss say with any conviction that his successor will be someone other than his nephew or daughter? The National Conference in Kashmir, the Akalis in Punjab, the Biju Janata Dal in Orissa, the TDP in Andhra Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party and the Shiv Sena — most political parties in this country are dynastic in structure, run like feudal oligarchies.

Could the Congress throw up a leader outside the Nehru-Gandhi family? Very doubtful. That a section of the Congress still chooses to push for Priyanka Gandhi, even though she has made it clear that she doesn’t want to join politics, is proof of how the party is unable to look beyond a family for leadership. Even the BJP, which can legitimately claim to have stayed away from actively encouraging dynastical politics, is hardly a meritocratic organisation. The assembly elections in Karnataka provided a glaring example of how party tickets in several constituencies were distributed on the basis of money power alone, and not on ideological commitment or organisational ability. That, in over four decades, the BJP has thrown up just two ‘national’ leaders — A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, both now octogenarians — is evidence of a rigidly controlled party structure that is unwilling to open itself up to change.

A geriatric leadership has been the burden of the Left too. At 64, a Prakash Karat may be a representative of the next generation of Left leadership, but his ascent is also the culmination of more than 40 years within the party apparatus and he cannot be seen as someone who has carved a dramatically different path for the Left or has infused it with original, distinctive ideas.

In structural terms, Indian politics seems to have lesser and lesser space for fresh, independent minds; individuals who will question the prevailing orthodoxy, challenge entrenched mindsets and build new constituencies. Instead, the focus remains on those who are either part of the ‘family’ system or are rewarded for flattery and for practising status-quoist politics. India’s generation next politicians may dress and talk smart, but how many of them can claim to be truly empowered?

Contrast the passion and excitement that Obama has ignited within the younger Americans with the cynicism and apathy that our netas seem to generate. A Rahul Gandhi, for example, may have chosen a Twenty20 cricket tournament to encourage youth in Amethi, but can that ever be a substitute for a concrete programme of action for the young to enter public life? When is the last time any Indian politician matter made a serious effort at reaching out to young India, or redefining the rules of political power? In the end, the Obama phenomenon is not just about him being the first African-American to have won a major party nomination for the US presidency. Obama won because he was able to symbolise a generational change, an America fatigued by the Washington consensus and itching to break away from the Clinton-Bush duopoly over power.

Ironically, the one Indian politician who comes closest to embracing the Obama principle is Mayawati. There are many aspects of Maya Raj that are undesirable. But at least she offers her supporters the hope of a new political order, however flawed. She may have alienated middle-class India with her corrupt, autocratic ways, but for the next generation Bahujan Samaj, Mayawati is the only representative of real change. If Mayawati had been fortunate enough to go to Harvard, perhaps she too could have created an entire new menu for Indian political and social life, a new discourse, a new counter-culture that is truly Indian (unlike the Left) and truly revolutionary (unlike the Congress). For the moment, India awaits her Barack Obama.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
As many as 20 ITBP personnel were vaccinated Saturday( HT photo)
As many as 20 ITBP personnel were vaccinated Saturday( HT photo)

Over 3,000 personnel get Covid vaccine

By Rahul Singh, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 03:20 AM IST
All earmarked military hospitals have been supplied with the first consignment of doses and the vaccination drive will gather momentum in the coming days, said a second official. Sepoy Sunil Das from the Army Medical Corps was the first one to receive the shot in Leh.
Close
Dr Jose Chacko Periappuram
Dr Jose Chacko Periappuram

‘Not the time to lower your guard’

By Ramesh Babu, Thiruvananthapuram
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 03:08 AM IST
“It is a good beginning. But it is not the time to lower our guard,” Dr Jose Chacko Periappuram said. The government has warned recipients of the vaccine to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread before the second dose of the vaccine is given.
Close
Additionally, 3,429 people were vaccinated in defence institutions.(@adgpi/Twitter)
Additionally, 3,429 people were vaccinated in defence institutions.(@adgpi/Twitter)

Vaccine drive held smoothly, no serious side effects: Govt

By Rhythma Kaul, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 02:59 AM IST
As opposed to the target of vaccinating about 300,000 people on the first day, according to the health ministry’s data, 191,181 health care workers were vaccinated at 3,351 centres. There were 16,755 personnel involved in the vaccination programme.
Close
The concerns surfaced on Saturday, when at least two doctors groups – the Tamil Nadu doctors’ association and a group of doctors in Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia hospital – indicated they were reluctant to take Covaxin.(HT_PRINT)
The concerns surfaced on Saturday, when at least two doctors groups – the Tamil Nadu doctors’ association and a group of doctors in Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia hospital – indicated they were reluctant to take Covaxin.(HT_PRINT)

Experts warn against partial immunity, mutation risks

By Binayak Dasgupta, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 02:47 AM IST
The two experts also said that it is important to ensure that immunisation programmes avoid controversy that could fuel vaccine scepticism. For instance, the approval to a vaccine without efficacy data “was not a good idea”, according to John P Moore.
Close
“India is one of the largest ecosystems in the world. Today, more than 41,000 startups are engaged in India and involved in different types of initiatives."PM Modi said.(PTI)
“India is one of the largest ecosystems in the world. Today, more than 41,000 startups are engaged in India and involved in different types of initiatives."PM Modi said.(PTI)

PM Modi unveils 1k-cr fund for startups

By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 02:29 AM IST
“This fund will help in the launch of new start-ups and their growth,” the PM said at Prarambh, the startup India international summit jointly organised by the department for promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT) and the industry.
Close
The Co-WIN app is meant to facilitate real-time information of vaccine stocks, storage temperature and individualised tracking of beneficiaries, besides assisting programme managers across national, state, and district levels.(AFP)
The Co-WIN app is meant to facilitate real-time information of vaccine stocks, storage temperature and individualised tracking of beneficiaries, besides assisting programme managers across national, state, and district levels.(AFP)

Process goes manual at several locations

By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2021 02:39 AM IST
Due to difficulties in uploading data on the app, which has been developed by the central government to monitor and track the inoculation process, health care workers in some districts had to put up information about the vaccine recipients on the digital platform manually.
Close
Manish Kumar said it wasn’t a coincidence that he was a part of the first batch of frontline staffers at the premier AIIMS to be vaccinated, all of whom received a jab of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.(REUTERS)
Manish Kumar said it wasn’t a coincidence that he was a part of the first batch of frontline staffers at the premier AIIMS to be vaccinated, all of whom received a jab of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.(REUTERS)

Manish Kumar first to take shot in Delhi

By shiv sunny, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 01:20 AM IST
Manish Kumar on Saturday emerged as the face of a months-long global effort against time to develop an inoculation against the infection that has killed over two million people. He said he always believed in the efficacy and safety of the vaccine.
Close
No comments were made on the reports that many doctors expressed apprehension about taking the Covaxin shot.(Bloomberg Photo )
No comments were made on the reports that many doctors expressed apprehension about taking the Covaxin shot.(Bloomberg Photo )

Concerns over Covaxin as some cite ‘lack of data’

By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 01:14 AM IST
The controversy escalated during the day as reports said those receiving Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin were asked to sign consent forms before being inoculated because the jab had been allowed by the government in “clinical trial mode”.
Close
The drive began simultaneously across dedicated vaccination centres set up across the country, where doses of Covishield and indigenously developed Covaxin were administered to people.
The drive began simultaneously across dedicated vaccination centres set up across the country, where doses of Covishield and indigenously developed Covaxin were administered to people.

Shielded and vaccinated: India begins mammoth immunisation drive

By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 01:04 AM IST
According to data compiled from states by HT, 200,297 people were vaccinated. The number was shy of the 300,000 that was being estimated but still far higher than what was recorded by any country on its first day.
Close
Employees welcome health workers carrying Covid vaccines at a hospital in Mumbai on Saturday.( Bloomberg)
Employees welcome health workers carrying Covid vaccines at a hospital in Mumbai on Saturday.( Bloomberg)

Nation receives a shot in the arm

By HT Correspondent, Chandigarh, Ranchi, Kolkata, Jaipur, New Delhi, Raipur
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 12:31 AM IST
Union Health ministry figures showed that roughly 191,181 people received doses at 3,351 sites. This was short of the 300,000-plus target but still well above numbers recorded by any other country on the first day of inoculation
Close
Nidhi Razdan said in January last year, she got an email from an “alleged Harvard human resources person” from what appeared to be an official Harvard email ID, with an offer letter and agreement.(Yogesh Kumar/Hindustan Times )
Nidhi Razdan said in January last year, she got an email from an “alleged Harvard human resources person” from what appeared to be an official Harvard email ID, with an offer letter and agreement.(Yogesh Kumar/Hindustan Times )

Razdan furnishes details of hiring fraud

By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 12:22 AM IST
Nidhi Razdan said she was invited in 2019 to speak at an event by the Harvard Kennedy School, and one of the alleged organisers told her of a teaching vacancy. “A few weeks later I was ‘interviewed’ online for 90 minutes. It all seemed legitimate, the questions were thorough and professional,”.
Close
Wearing masks, hundreds of healthcare workers (HCWs) – some anxious, others impatient – queued up to get their first vaccine shots. (AFP PHOTO).
Wearing masks, hundreds of healthcare workers (HCWs) – some anxious, others impatient – queued up to get their first vaccine shots. (AFP PHOTO).

BMC begins mass inoculation as healthcare workers queue up for first vaccine jab

By Rupsa Chakraborty
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 12:13 AM IST
  • All ten vaccination centres across the city sported colourful curtains and were decorated with flowers. Some centres at BYL Nair hospital and Covid-19 jumbo centre at Bandra Kurla Complex also placed selfie spots with ‘I got my Covid-19 vaccine’ message in the backdrop.
Close
The demand was raised by Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), Lokshakti in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court on Saturday alleging bias against the three members in favour of the farm laws. (PTI PHOTO).
The demand was raised by Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), Lokshakti in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court on Saturday alleging bias against the three members in favour of the farm laws. (PTI PHOTO).

Farmer union seeks removal of 3 committee members alleging bias, appeals to SC

By Abraham Thomas
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 12:00 AM IST
  • In its response, BKU-Lokshakti through its advocate AP Singh told the Court that the Delhi Police application was unnecessary as Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code is already in place in central Delhi which restricts gathering of five or more persons.
Close
“Do you have a clear strategy in mind that could be summarised in three sentences?’’ Rahul Gandhi was said to have asked Jaishankar.(PTI)
“Do you have a clear strategy in mind that could be summarised in three sentences?’’ Rahul Gandhi was said to have asked Jaishankar.(PTI)

Rahul, Jaishankar spar at panel meet

By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 11:58 PM IST
As the minister concluded an hour-long presentation, the Congress leader said it appeared to be a “laundry list” rather than a concerted strategy to deal with the Chinese threat. S Jaishankar responded by saying a simplistic approach could not be adopted in a multipolar world.
Close
HT Image
HT Image

Over 3,000 personnel get Covid vaccine

PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 11:50 PM IST
New Delhi The armed forces on Saturday kicked off the first phase of the Covid-19 vaccine drive at multiple locations across the country including Ladakh, Delhi, Mumbai and Visakhapatnam, where thousands of “Covid warriors”, including military doctors, nurses and paramedics were vaccinated against the coronavirus on a day India rolled out the biggest vaccination campaign in the world, officials familiar with the development said
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP