Tuesday, 7 September 2010

From Prime Minister to Peace Minister

It is evidently apparent that the Prime Minister wishes for a peace plan with Pakistan. It is a tricky business, (both these words being used after careful deliberation) for peace cannot always be planned, but proper planning can lead to peace. Whether or not the Prime Minister wants this to be his legacy is not clear as yet, but this much is certain: that he is willing to walk more than halfway if Pakistan is willing to show up on the bridge.

To some this attitude appears compromising but there is a method to the Prime Minister’s seeming madness. If the phrase, ‘looks can decieve’ were a hypothesis, Manmohan Singh would be the proof. Beneath the calm demeanour that appears to some as indifferent, incompetent and as the BJP loved to call ‘weak’ before getting hammered in the elections, lies an astute, competent and capable mind that can only be taken lightly at one’s own risk. People often forget that he is the Prime Minister of the country, an office you do not get appointed to for not having any qualities (It is an altogether different case that being indifferent and incompetent can sometimes be remarkable qualities in the circus that is Indian Politics)

So why is the PM willing to bend his back more than is necessary, and as some seem to think, to a point that can lead backache? The logic is simple. India is at a critical juncture in its short but tumultuous life. Thanks to consistent and rapid economic progress, for the first time, the future seems brighter than the past. It is as though the ‘tryst with destiny’ will be fulfilled after all. India and China are being touted as the next great superpowers and this century is being referred to as the Asian Century. The World Bank estimates that by 2050, India will become the world’s second biggest economy, behind China and ahead of the US. This assumption is made on the estimate that India grows at a conservative 7% every year leading upto 2050. And this is the same statistic that has caught the Prime Minister’s eye, for it says something very profound – that India will have to grow at atleast 7% every year, or as a corollary, if India gets its economic progress halted, it cannot reach that elite status. So if you were the PM, you would naturally ask yourself: What is it that could halt my country’s progress? If you were blessed with common sense, and that’s a big if among our politicians, the first thing that would come to your mind would be war. As a general axiom, it is accepted that a major war can cause devastating damage to a country’s economy, setting it back by years. Therefore, to come to the point, if India goes to war with Pakistan tomorrow, India loses out while the rest of the world advances ahead. India at such a point cannot afford to lag behind in the global race, for it is at the threshold of something great.

For this reason, India’s decision to not invade Pakistan in the aftermath of 26/11 should be applauded – for a war then would have served no purpose (Infact, it could have worked perfectly well for the jihadis, propping up more popular support for them) Ofcourse this does not imply that India should never attack Pakistan, for in the event of a major provocation and guarding its supreme national interests, India can and must take whatever action required. But if we can wait a little more, we must. Why? So that India becomes so strong, that fearing economic and military repercussions, Pakistan does not entertain even a single thought of confrontation. That would be a true deterrence. Take for example America’s case. General Pervez Musharraf, the then President of Pakistan, in his autobiography states that in the aftermath of 9/11, Pakistan did not want the US forces to use its territory in the war against Taliban – an ally of Pakistan. But for Pakistan it was a question of ‘with America or against America’. And in such a scenario, there was no choice for Pakistan other than to give in to America’s wishes. Musharraf states that Pakistan didn’t stand an iota of a chance if it were to confront America.

Our Prime Minister understands this all too well. Which is why he has made the transition from the Prime Minister to the Peace Minister. 

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Right Minister, Wrong Ministry

Performing Ministers are a rare breed. They are like an oasis in the middle of a desert. When you find water in a desert, you would be a fool to throw it away.

Back in the days prior to independence, politicians were looked up at and considered worthy role models. The politicians who fought for our independence were an educated lot. Not only did they have a clean image, but also the people’s admiration. But after nearly six decades of sleaze, their image has been damaged completely. So much so that unlike our judicial system where a person is innocent until proven guilty, our politicians are considered corrupt until proven honest. That is, if you enter politics you are labelled dishonest by default. APJ Abdul Kalam was asking a rhetorical question when he said, “Indian parents want their children to be doctors and engineers but not politicians. Why?”

This is why when you know you have got a performing minister in the cabinet, you ought to make the most of that person for the country’s development. And this is precisely what has not happened in the case of Jairam Ramesh.

IIT, Carnegie Melon and MIT educated, our Minister for Environment and Forests has attracted controversy like a flower attracts bees ever since he took office. Earlier, nobody used to take the Environment Ministry seriously. Since he has taken over he has added teeth to the ministry. But I say he has added more teeth than was necessary.

He started his tenure by rejecting the idea of the interlinking of rivers citing environmental noncompliance. This could have been a valid reason except for one little aberration – that Gujarat has already interlinked its rivers. Not only that, but it is also reaping the benefits without any facing any environmental catastrophe that Jairam Ramesh would have predicted. It is no coincidence that cotton farmers in Gujarat are competing with the Chinese products in the international market whereas just 400 kilometres down south, the cotton farmers in Vidarbha, Maharashtra are committing suicide.

Jairam Ramesh’s ministry has also issued an order suspending the ongoing work on the Maheshwar Dam on the Narmada river in Madhya Pradesh. Again the reason given was environmental damage and rehabilitation inconsistencies. Not that these issues are unimportant, they are not – but the benefits of the project far outweigh the drawbacks. The MP Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan says, “Stoppage of the project at this juncture will result in loss of 7.2 lakhs units of power per day starting in 2010 “ This is something a power deficient state like MP can ill afford to do – if it is to progress and eliminate poverty.

Perhaps the most hearbreaking case is of the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company also known as Mahyco.  Having produced hybrids of cotton, sorghum, sunflower and wheat, it is currently researching improvements to more than 30 crops. The development of genetically modified eggplant, known locally as BtBrinjal, was the latest in this string of innovations. Mahyco's scientists toiled for years to figure out how to kill the pest, Brinjal Fruit and Shoot Borer, which wipes out 30% to 40% of India's annual crop. Mahyco conducted 25 environmental bio safety studies supervised by independent and government agencies to ensure that its product had the same nutritional value and is compositionally identical to regular eggplant; finally, it did rigorous field trials in collaboration with two Indian agricultural universities.

Yet on Feb. 9, Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh stopped the seed's introduction – again privileging environmental concerns and ignoring the government's own regulatory process, the committee of scientists who had approved Bt Brinjal after nine years of intensive trials.

Where Jairam Ramesh should have acted with toughness, he chose to be soft. On his only trip to Bhopal as minister, Ramesh uttered this quote on the situation in Bhopal, a remark that defies any limits on its sheer insensitivity, “I held the toxic waste in my hand. I am still alive and not coughing. It’s 25 years after the gas tragedy. Let us move ahead.” To say such a thing for a tragedy killing nearly 20,000 and maiming over a 100,000 more, the  repercussion of which are still felt by the people living in those slums is at best entirely inappropriate and at worst downright condescending.

There is also news coming in that Ramesh has rejected the coal ministry’s demand — backed by the PMO — to increase mining areas by 30 per cent, saying only five per cent is possible. Most of India’s power need are met by coal and till the time alternatives are found, India would need to produce as much power as it can from coal – and while India is the 3rd biggest producer of coal, it is also the 3rd biggest importer of coal – such is the demand supply gap.

While environmental concerns should be given a top priority, India cannot afford to lag behind in the Energy race. In a global scenario where the developed countries are the ones responsible for Global Warming and are failing to take complete responsibility (USA has still not signed the Kyoto Protocol), Jairam Ramesh’s headstrong leadership in the Environment Ministry can prove to be a handicap to India’s progress.

When a performing minister in a non performing government performs so well that a country’s progress suffers, you have an irony of ironies. Which is why Jairam Ramesh is the right minister in the wrong ministry.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Resources Paradox

Richard Auty, in his 1993 publication Sustaining Development in Mineral Economies: The Resource Curse Thesis first used the term the Resource Curse to describe how countries rich in natural resources were unable to use that wealth to boost their economies and how, counter-intuitively, these countries had lower economic growth than countries without an abundance of natural resources.

The term "resource curse" refers to an economic phenomenon in which a dependence on natural resources can skew a country's political, investment, and education priorities, so that everything revolves around who controls those resources and who gets how much money from them and not on productivity and innovation that are essential for a country to maintain its competitive edge.

I have often found this phenomenon unexpectedly true. A great example is the one of Japan and Africa. Africa is the world’s most resource rich continent. It has a large quantity of natural resources including diamonds, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, copper, bauxite, silver and most importantly oil and petroleum. On paper this looks like the dream scenario for wealth generation, yet Africa is the most underdeveloped and the poorest of all the continents in the world. In contrast Japan, a mountainous, volcanic island country, has very few  resources and is the world’s second largest economy.

This paradoxical phenomenon is true even in the case of India. The majority of our resources are in states like Jharkhand, Chattishgarh, Orissa, Bihar and MP. But these are the worst performing and most backward states in India – forming a part of BIMARU – (the term economic analyst Ashish Bose coined in the late 80’s to highlight the never ending ‘sickness’ of economic development in these states.) A state like Gujarat which has no resources to speak of is the biggest and fastest growing state in India while Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are not far behind. This is a classic case where India’s resources are in the east and centre while her wealth is in the West and South.

So what gives rise to this seemingly contradictory phenomenon?

When a country is excessively rich in a certain resource and knows it can make money off it, it stops challenging itself to innovate new products and as such a staleness sets in. This staleness is fine as long as the resource exists, but once it runs out – and there are no alternatives in place - BAM! You have a crisis in your hands. What also happens is that the energy of the citizens is then spent in getting hold of the resources instead of building a knowledge base – and as a result the country’s educational, scientific and democratic systems falter.

Japan knew exactly that it had no oil wells to dig – so instead its people dug in their own brains – and came up with world beating companies such as Sony and Toyota. Likewise, Facebook was not created because a large mine of diamond was unearthed, but because Mark Zuckerberg unearthed a large mine of new ideas in his brain. On every such occasion, people came up with new ideas because they had to – that is, the market dictated that something new and innovative be found – whereas in the case of oil rich countries all you had to do was dig and sell.

This is also why it is no coincidence that the most petrol rich states are also the least democratic states. Oil-backed regimes that do not have to tax their people for revenue—because they can just drill an oil well and sell the oil abroad—also do not have to listen to their people or represent their wishes. Because the money is being pumped in from the oil exports, they do not feel the pressure to reform their systems and make themselves more accountable. Bahrain was the first Persian Gulf country to discover oil and also the first country to start running out of it. Consequently, Bahrain reformed its political system and was the first Gulf country to hold a free and fair parliamentary election, in which women could run and vote.

While the Resource Curse thesis has no proof, and there are definitely countries out there that are exceptions (most notably USA), it nonetheless offers food for thought to countries that do not have much resources as well as those that have plenty – for what truly are the pre-requisites for economic development.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

No the WMDs aren't in Iraq, they're on Twitter!

When George W Bush ransacked Iraq back in 2003, it was on the pretext that the country had acquired Weapons of Mass Destruction - otherwise known as WMDs. While the country was destroyed and America secured its oil supplies, no WMDs were eventually found.  So what became of those WMDs? Well thanks to Lalit Modi, we now know that you need not be in Iraq to find WMDs, you just have to be on twitter.

Twitter? What is that? For those that may be slightly challenged in this age of online social networking, twitter is an online community where you get to send and read tweets of different people. And what are tweets? Well in short, they are 140 characters 'long' messages that were originally started as a way of keeping one’s friends and family informed about ‘what you were upto’

Just how powerful can a 140 character long tweet be?

Consider this tweet that Lalit Modi posted in reply to a certain xxxDEVxxx on the 11th of April at 4:31 PM:

"I was told by him not to get into who owns rendezvous.Specially Sunanda Pushkar.Why?The same has been minuted in my records

What followed this seemingly harmless tweet was complete mayhem. This is how the events panned out:

The opposition, keen on picking up any issue that could hurt the government, publicly pillored Shashi Tharoor. Tharoor himself gave an invalid excuse saying Sunanda Pushkar got the sweat equity in the franchisee for her role as a marketing executive, forgetting that, as MJ Akbar puts, “You do not get sweat equity in perpetuity, which means free and forever, with a starting value of Rs 70 crore, for being an unknown executive of a Dubai company.” The opposition did not buy this argument and the government was forced to accept Tharoor’s resignation –  thereby this becoming the first instance where a minister in the government had to resign for alleged corruption ever since the UPA came into power in 2004.

Having cleaned its own house, the government then trained its guns on Lalit Modi, going through every financial transaction of his. Meanwhile, nationwide raids were carried out on the IPL franchisees to let the public know the government was acting tough. The IPL Commissioner was eventually suspended and the UPA’s ally partner the NCP was brought into the equation as well. Charges were levelled against Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel, and it was just a reminder from the Congress to the NCP as to just who was the boss.

But it did not end there. Somehow it was leaked to the media that Sharad Pawar's phone was tapped at the height of the IPL controversy, including his “conversation” with Lalit Modi. Further reports that followed suggested that this was just the tip of the iceberg and that there was a much wider phone tapping excercise that was going on. This got the opposition united and a cut motion was introduced in the parliament. But during the cut motion, the BJP’s ally in Jharkhand, the JMM voted for the government. This got the BJP worked up and it then decided to withdraw support to the Jharkhand government. The JMM realizing its mistake apologized to the BJP and begged for forgiveness, to which the BJP has said it will consider. And so, as things stand today, the fate of the Jharkhand government hangs in balance.

There is no doubt that had Lalit Modi foreseen what was to follow his tweet he would not have tweeted in the first place. But it’s too late for him now and nothing can be done. This is just the price you pay when you try to become bigger than the system. Lalit Modi thought he could get away by splashing mud on the Kochi franchisee's face, instead he ended up splashing mud on everyone's faces including his own. As for Mr. Tharoor, well it can be now said that he lived by the tweet and died by it.

No one has come out of this episode in shining light – not him, not the government, not the opposition, not the franchisees, not the BCCI, not the IPL and not even the game of cricket. It’s a gloomy episode and a sad state of affairs.

When a tweet from a BCCI vice president can topple a government in Jharkhand, you know the tweet can cause mass destruction. Now only if George Bush knew.

On a lighter note -

Question: If Mayawati owned an IPL team, who would it be led by?
Answer: Dalit Modi!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Global Warming to India's Rescue - Part I

Before I explain the meaning of the above heading, I wish to share a story that I first read in Thomas L. Friedman’s bestseller, “Hot, Flat and Crowded”

He says:

“In October of 2007, I was driving through downtown Hyderabad and passed the dedication of a new overpass that had taken two years to build. A crowd was gathered around a Hindu priest in a multicolored robe, who was swinging a lantern fired by burning coconut shells and praying for safe travel on this new flyover, which would lift traffic off the streets below.

The next morning I was reading The Sunday Times of India when my eye caught a color photograph of total gridlock, showing motor scooters, buses, cars and bright yellow motorized rickshaws knotted together. The caption: “Traffic ends in bottleneck on the Greenlands flyover, which was opened in Hyderabad on Saturday. On day one, the flyover was chockablock with traffic, raising questions over the efficacy of the flyover in reducing vehicular congestion.”

India's growth devoured a flyover that took more than 2 years to build in less than a day!

How is this story related to this column? Let’s find out.

'Global Warming to India’s rescue.' Firstly, is global warming really happening? Well it is and quite frankly if at this stage we are still discussing whether or not it is, as we are, then we have already lost half the battle.

Since this is not an article looking into the scientific basis of global warming, I will spare you the details, but there is no denying that some weird climate phenomenon is definitely taking place across our planet.

Once we have established the reality of Global Warming, we can focus on India’s response to it. And so far, it must be said, our response has been a negative one. Before leaving for the Copenhagen summit, our Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh appeared on all news channels giving interviews that more or less had this to say:  “that India will go there and be strong, that India will not give in to Western pressure to accept legally binding emission cuts.”

And that is exactly what happened. We went there and we basically told the developed countries, “You know what guys, you got to grow dirty for 150 years and well guess what? Now its our turn!”

Now there’s nothing wrong with that statement simply because it is the truth – the fact is that America and Europe grew their economies on cheap and dirty coal based power, but the problem lies in our attitude – for we fail to see the opportunities such a crisis can provide. Why? Because as Thomas L. Friedman likes to put it : “In a world going from 2.5 billion people in 1953 to 9.5 billion people in 2053, the next big industry after IT is going to be ET or energy technology. The country that goes green the fastest will be the one having Energy Security, Economic Security, National Security, Electrical Security, Competitive Companies, Healthy Environment, and Global Respect. There are 3 billion people who will enter the world economy from India, China, Brazil, each one of them having the ‘middle class’ dream of having a house, a car, a fridge, a microwave, a toaster & mother earth just cannot accommodate each one of them. We are heading towards an infrastructural and environmental disaster and therefore if we don’t find a cleaner, greener way to fuel their demands, we are going to burn up, choke up, heat up, smoke up this planet faster than any one realizes.”

The green technology problem is essentially an engineering problem. We must find a clean fuel technology that is better and cheaper than the existing dirty fuel based one. And this is where India can step in. We have so many engineers, all we need to do is simulate 10k engineers in 10k garages trying 10k different things of which 1 thousand will be promising, a hundred will be really promising and 2 of them will be the next green Google and green Microsoft. And why do I sound so confident? Well, has anyone heard of the Nano before?


Global Warming to India's Rescue - Part II


So how do we simulate an environment for engineers to innovate? How do we kickstart the companies into trying to innovate? The answer is as simple as it is straightforward: Remove the Petrol Subsidies and add a Petrol Tax.

It is a bold thing to say. But to give you a proper framework into just the magnitude of the things that we are dealing with, here’s our annual oil import bill:

$ 50 Billion – a year (Rs. 2.5 lakh crores – a year!)

We spend the above amount EVERY YEAR trying to buy enough petrol for our nation. Just how much money is $ 50 Billion one may ask? To give you an account of just what it means, here’s a list of some of the things we can build/buy if we save that money (Note- we can pursue any one of these projects)

      162 IIT’s  - a year!
      291 AIIMS - a year!
      24 lakh primary schools - a year!
      16 Delhi Metro like projects - a year!
      Double our Defence budget, double our Health Budget, send 10 Chandrayaan’s to moon and still have money left to construct 3 Olympic sized stadiums.

I find the last fact particularly startling. We can double our defence budget, double our health budget with the snap of a finger and still have money left to do other things!

And therefore, as the cliché goes, we must act as tough citizens and send a message across to our MPs, “that you can take tough decisions, we will support you.”

Already the government was in two minds regarding the roll back of the petrol prices. If your government cannot even stand by its decision to increase the price of petrol by a rupee or two, then you can be sure the option of complete removal of petrol subsidies is something your government does not even know exists.

But it is easier said than done. Because any MP who gets up in Parliament and proposes such a measure will be drowned by the opposition voices saying, “You want to raise the petrol prices and add a petrol tax! Are you out of your mind? As it is the Indian people are burdened with too many taxes and now you want to add another one. Once the price of petrol goes up, the cost of transportation goes up and once the cost of transportation goes up the price of everything goes up – including essential commodities. No, no we cannot have this tax.”

And there is only one answer to that. You say, “You know what friend, let’s get one thing straight. As far as taxes are concerned we are both on the same side. We are both paying taxes. While I am paying taxes to the Indian government, you are paying taxes to the Saudi Arabian government so that they can build more of their palaces. And  I have just this inclination – that I want my taxes to go into building more Indian schools, Indian hospitals, Indian roads and Indian bridges.”

If that argument does not win, nothing will. To understand the above point all you have to do is look at the spectacular growth of the Arab countries. Where do you think they got all that money from?

Ultimately, I am reminded of that famous saying, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” We know the price of petrol will go up in the future whether we like it or not. We also know that India will be among the hardest hit countries by Global Warming. Why not make the most of it?

Sunday, 11 April 2010

The Dragon's in the Forest

Anyone who still thinks India’s main rival is Pakistan has not entered the 21st century.

Back in the older days, I remember we would be filled with pride upon reading flattering statistics such as the number of soldiers in the Indian Army vis-a-vis the Pakistani Army. But something changed since then. Pakistan stagnated, India inched ahead while China simply pressed the fast forward button.

It was not long ago that India’s defence was superior to China’s. Now even such a thought is considered laughable. This article will make the case that India’s real competition will now come from China and not Pakistan.

In 1947, India and Pakistan were partitioned amidst much civil upheaval and riots. As is normal after any break up, feelings of jealousy and competitiveness arose. The two countries (Pakistan more so than India) made each other the centre of their development goals. So money began pumping in in trying to outdo each other. But while we were still infatuated with our Western neighbour, something was taking place quite discreetly on our eastern borders. A nation was busy reviving itself and clocking massive double digit growth. Having neglected that amidst the heavy illusion of false pride with respect to Pakistan, the result is that today, India is an ENTIRE generation behind China.

Today, China is building infrastructure that is surpassing America’s. Already the world’s fastest train has come up, covering the distance between Beijing and Shanghai in 2 hours 45 minutes (compared to which India’s fastest train the New Delhi-Bhopal Shatabdi express would take about 7 hours 10 minutes in covering the same distance!) A friend of mine, who has recently come from China, summed up the attitude differences very nicely, saying “In India we like to make comparisons with China, In China they like to make comparisons with America”

And this is the scary part. That China is not even bothered about us, taking us to be no more than a regional itch in the back. A mention of India is still hyphenated with Pakistan.

So what should India really be doing? My view is that we must stick to our democratic principles while finding a way out. Because we cannot and should not become a dictatorship, to take on China, we need to summon all our energy and determination to kick-start the democratic engine so that it delivers promptly and properly rather than laggardly and lethargically as is the case now. For that the government must be capable of taking tough decisions. Already the government was in two minds about the rollback of petrol prices. If the govt. is not even strong enough to stand by its own decisions then competing with the headstrong leadership of the Communist Party of China can remain a pipe-dream.

China’s decision making prowess is something that takes even the Americans by awe. But this does not directly imply that a democracy cannot function at high levels of efficiency. Case in point: America’s response to the launch of Sputnik by the erstwhile Soviet Union. That lesson of history, more than anything else shows that if democratic countries can pull up their socks and work in a single direction, they too can become unbeatable.

In the end I am reminded of a quote from Gurcharan Das that I hope will be the guiding light in our attitude towards our neighbours, “If Pakistan pulls us down into an abyss of terrorism and identity politics, China will lift us up, I think, firing our ambition for better roads, schools and health centres” The best example that describes India’s state versus that of China is the endless ruckus over our preparations for the Commonwealth Games and the smooth steamrolling by China at putting up Beijing 2008.

If Sardar Vallabbhai Patel were alive today, he’d be quick to comment, “Well folks the dragon has entered the forest and it’s about time the tiger got prepared.”

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Prime Minister Gandhi?

There is no doubt that anytime from now a new a Congress or Congress led government is formed, Rahul Gandhi will become India’s Prime Minister. It is inevitable some say.

Well it may be inevitable but is it desirable? More specifically, do good intentions translate into good governance?

Let’s examine.

Good intentions are necessary for good governance. But they are not enough by themselves. They have to be supplemented by foresight and effective man management followed by proper and prompt enforcement of the original ideas. As far as Rahul Gandhi is concerned, he may or may not have these qualities. We do not know – yet.

Rahul Gandhi is the dream candidate for the middle class. Educated, English savvy and handsome, he is just the man they would want to see representing India at the high table. But none of this means he will make a good PM. What it does mean is that India will have a...well... Educated, English savvy and handsome PM. That’s it.

One thing that does not work in Rahul Gandhi’s favour is that he has no experience of being in the government (although this does not automatically imply he does not know how governments are run.) He has been consistently (and cleverly?) avoiding any responsibility at the centre, opting instead to work for the party to strengthen its base at the ground level. This has been a move that has paid rich dividends. Not only has he managed to avoid taking any wrong action (how can he when he is not in the govt) thus keeping his credentials for a future PM post intact, but he has also reinvigorated the party workers.

In addition to all this, he has emerged, through what the opposition calls ‘Poverty Tourism’, as a messiah of the poor, thus earning himself the title of ‘Rahul Baba’ among the Dalits – a move that has definitely angered Mayawati. To his credit, he has resurrected his party in UP, and has matured as a statesman.

One can remember the time he made the ill-advised comment stating “that the 1971 break up of Pakistan was among his family's ‘achievements.’” Not only did this invite criticism from several Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi parties (noted historian Irfan Habib remarked that the comments were "..an insult to the Bangladesh movement.") but this gravely undermined India’s moral authority. Such comments are less forthcoming from Rahul Gandhi these days.

Another problem that arises, hypothetically, is how the likes of P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Kamal Nath, Pranab Mukherjee, etc who are so senior to him, will work under him? Or to see it this way: If you are Rahul Gandhi and you see that P. Chindambaram is not doing a proper job as Home Minister, how do you fire him?

But no one can write off Rahul Gandhi. Why? Because the last time someone wrote off a person for not having PM credentials, the person went on to create history. The person in question went on to become only the second prime minister after Nehru to get reinstated after completing a full term in office. He is perhaps the best example of a person who has turned out to be a successful Prime Minister despite no obvious previous record of effective leadership.

Ultimately how good a Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi turns out will largely depend on how he addresses four major challenges for India in the coming decade. On the external front, he will have to deal with an imploding Pakistan and an increasingly aggressive China. Andt at home he will have the enormous task of facing the Naxal challenge and of creating Inclusive growth as India prospers. While the first two issues may not be interlinked, the latter two definitely are. And the sooner he realizes this, the greater his chances become of being a successful Prime Minister.

An interesting fact is that if Rahul Gandhi’s surname was not Gandhi, he would not even be considered for the PM’s post with the current skillset that he has.

Another interesting fact is that no one from the Gandhi family has turned out to be a poor Prime Minister be it Indira, Rajiv or even Pandit Nehru.

So will Rahul Gandhi be any different? Quite frankly, I do not know. Only time will tell. Watch out for this space in 2019!