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Monday, August 15, 2011

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(Published in on 12 August, 2011, retrieved from

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All of a sudden, the man who was celebrated a few months ago as the President who rid the world of Osama is now the President who can’t seem to do anything about an economy that’s careening towards rock bottom, and threatening to take the world down with it.
As the US Presidential elections approach, Barack Obama needs more than his confidence and articulation to convince voters that he can stop the American Dream from turning into a global nightmare.
And the goings-on in the current session of the Indian Parliament seem to indicate a bunch of our MPs, who have been re-elected in spite of themselves, could be useful career coaches for arguably the most powerful man in the world.
One wonders which of our political leaders is best equipped to dole out tips, and Lalu Prasad seems to do pretty well overall. Here’s what he and his colleagues may decide to start with.
Lesson 1: Stop spending. Voters don’t matter.
The man who was invited to business schools across the world, including Harvard, for posting a fund balance of Rs 11,280 crore in March 2006, could teach Obama several tricks in this department.
Having turned the railways into a profit-making enterprise, by means including saving on laundry costs, seat repairs, insect repellent and other trifles, Lalu Prasad turned his sights to his constituency.
According to the ministry for statistics and programme implementation, he hasn’t spent a single rupee of the Rs 5 crore he is entitled to annually under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MP-LADS). Of course, he is joined by several others, including Highways Minister C P Joshi, MoS for Parliamentary Affairs V Narayanaswamy, Jyoti Mirdha, H D Kumaraswamy and nine others.
Congress Crown Prince Rahul Gandhi, who may relate to some of Obama’s birthplace-and-ethnicity-related controversies, may be able to chip in too. He has spent just 18 lakhs on his constituency, of the 10 crores he could have used in his tenure so far.
Lesson 2: Make funny speeches. Everyone loves a PJ!
This one would fall to Lalu, again. His Budget presentations, responses to questions, and objections to discussions in Parliament were liberally sprinkled with shayaris, PJs, and homilies in broken English that had his fellow-MPs, newsmen and the public in such a state of convulsion that they couldn’t pay attention to much else.
Now, Obama’s proficiency in the English language is clearly good enough for him to start writing limericks, haikus and maybe even a couple of sonnets, which he may choose to reserve for special occasions, given that they’re longer and all that. And speaking brokenFrench may work, especially if he travels to the states bordering Canada.
Lesson 3: Change the two-party system
Any of our MPs could tell Obama that. The problem with the US government is that the Democratic Donkey and the Republican Elephant focus on issues such as God, abortions, sexual orientation, race politics and other grave considerations that don’t allow for politicians to break into spontaneous pillow-fights, flower-pot-throwing-parties, marches-to-the-well and other stress busters.
What they need is a multi-party system, with each party sprouting factions, which makes for a healthy ratio of vested interests and petty politics, to ground realities and crucial discussion.
Lesson 4: Get your wife into politics
Again, our hyper-hereditary system has worked out so nicely for re-election of a name, if not a face. And Michelle Obama has made all the right noises, saying she doesn’t plan to enter politics. That line should sound familiar to all the Gandhi betas. Remember the pilot who wrinkled his nose at the idea? And then there’s Rahul, who at one point of time was exploring other career options than becoming Prime Minister.
Oh wait, we have a while to go before the Obama betas can stand for election. Where were we? Michelle, yes. Now, she’s an independent woman whose commitment to her family is obvious from the fact that she – like all our MP wives – has taken on her husband’s name.
And she’s shown us that she can recover from setbacks pretty well. I mean, anyone who began her stint at First Lady with a black dress that seemed to have undergone a baptism by ketchup and managed to make it to the Best Dressed List within a year deserves kudos.
Now, what would Obama gain by getting his wife into politics? People would start talking about Michelle’s costumes, and then drawing comparisons between her and her husband’s leadership skills, office decor, parenting commitments, oratory aptitude...well, you get the picture.
Lesson 5: Blame the previous government
When all else fails, this works. From explaining Kalmadi’s appointment and the powers the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee had, to inflation and rural poverty, our ministers have regularly blamed the previous ruling government. And if you happen to get elected into office again, well, you can still blame all your current problems on resolutions that were passed more than seven years ago. In Obama’s case, this tactic would be particularly useful, as his first day in office was a bit of an...umm, am-Bush.


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