Feet firmly in the mouth… by Pritish Nandy

We have what appears to be one of the most inept, corrupt and foolish governments India has ever had the privilege of seeing in power. But is it really all that bad? Or is it that this government simply has no clue as to what to do or say in moments of crisis? Every time one occurs, as indeed one did in Mumbai last week, the nation watches helplessly as its leaders make a fool of themselves. Having been a journalist for three decades, one has seen worse, far worse governments, though not perhaps as corrupt. But never have I seen one that has both its feet so firmly in its mouth.

Almost everyone who speaks for the UPA has zero communications skills and, curiously, none of them, from the Prime Minister downwards, have chosen a single convincing person to speak on their behalf. Their speech writers are lousier. More often than not, they make things worse by what they say. Let’s take last week’s bomb blasts and start with what the Maharashtra chief minister had to say: “I think it’s unfair to say there was a failure of intelligence. If there was something available and we failed to pick it up, that would be considered an intelligence failure. This is not intelligence failure.” What was it then, Mr chief minister? Three bomb blasts took place in the city last week and we still have no clue as to who did them. If this is not an intelligence failure, pray what is?

Nitpicking over semantics is the worst way to react in moments of such grievous human tragedy. But Prithviraj Chavan chose to do precisely that before millions of TV viewers. Not once. That would have been forgiven as a badly phrased response under stress. He repeated it several times on different networks, to everyone’s horror. When bomb blasts take place it’s always an intelligence failure. It’s the job of intelligence agencies to prevent such crimes, not float a whole lot of theories afterwards. That’s the job of the media.

The Union home minister was no better: “Whenever there is any information, we share it with the states concerned and vice versa. Unfortunately, this incident slipped through. Intelligence is collected every day, every hour. The blasts are not a failure of intelligence agencies. Whoever has perpetrated the attacks has worked in a very clandestine manner.” I beg your pardon, Mr home minister? All terrorists work in a clandestine manner. That is the very nature of their business. By this argument, no terrorist attack can ever be stopped because the terrorists have not declared their intent by holding a press conference in advance.

The general secretary of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi added to the melee by saying, “It’s very difficult to stop every single terror attack in the country. Terrorism is something that’s impossible to stop all the time. But 99% attacks have been stopped due to strong vigilance and intelligence efforts.” Which 99%, may I ask? If this is indeed true, the intelligence agencies must have stopped 9000 terror attacks by now. How come none of them were reported? How come none of the guys caught are in jail? I don’t think anyone in India, including Mr Gandhi, will find these statistics credible even if they agree with his theory that terrorist attacks are not easy to anticipate and even more difficult to stop. However, a statement like this, immediately after such a bloody strike which left so many people dead and wounded, dismays people. It further erodes their confidence in the government.

The Prime Minister’s statement was bizarre: “The terrorists had the advantage of surprise,” he said. “This time there was no advance indication. Now our task is to find out who the culprits are and how we can work together to bring them to justice.” Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Prime Minister has been caught by surprise. Raja caught him by surprise. So did Kalmadi. And now, even Dayanidhi Maran. Pretty much everyone in his cabinet catches our Prime Minister by surprise, which is something which surprises the rest of us. Maybe he can surprise us all by hiring a communications expert who can phrase his responses better next time. Inanities at crisis time leave everyone exasperated.

Terrorist strikes are always sudden, brutal, and unspeakably cruel on innocent people. Those in power must learn the language of sympathy and compassion and stop speaking in ridiculous clichés that upset people who are already reeling under the impact of a terrible tragedy. Since our leaders are not adequate communicators, why not simply hire people who are, who can speak on their behalf or write down what they ought to be saying? Otherwise, you end up having people like Digvijay Singh talking absolute nonsense and further alienating an already angry and frustrated nation.

As for the official spokespeople and the political opposition, the less said about their comments, the better. For an India impatient with its politicians, they have simply ceased to matter.


4 Responses to “Feet firmly in the mouth… by Pritish Nandy”

  1. Who lacks the ‘intelligence’ is the real question here. Answer – us! for electing them again and again.

  2. Anand Khare Says:

    What is the alternative?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: