Sree Iyer: Hello and welcome to PGurus Channel, I am your Sree Iyer, today, we have a slightly different format, we have Abhijit Iyer Mitra as our guest host and he’s going to be talking to Suhel Seth on diaper boy and to know a little bit more about this you perhaps, have seen our trailer and you want to really understand where things are going as far as, the Congress party is concerned and its young leader Rahul Gandhi. So without further ado, I’m going to hand over control to Abhijit. Abhijit take it away, sir. And it’s all yours.
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra: Suhel, how do you market India’s most un-marketable commodity, Rahul Gandhi, and give it some marketing sheen? How does one market the un-marketable? How do you fix this problem?
Suhel Seth: As you rightly said, you can’t make Pasta out of Basmati rice. Or for that matter, any kind of rice. The issue is two-fold:
- There is a problem with Rahul, in his persona. If I see him as a consumer brand, consumers have rejected this brand. The brand needs to go away. You don’t know whether it is an eczema itch that will go away if treatment is given (like a powder), but the reality is that he is foisted on us for far too long; I think enough has been written and said about him – he needs to read the tea leaves and smell the coffee and see what people are saying about him. But obviously, there is a latent fear in the Congress party to let go. I have always felt that the Gandhis’ are the glue but it has stopped working. They are the one that keeps the party together.
- Here is the other thing – this is what is said about the Government of India. What is said about the Government of India that those sectors that the government does not involve in, are the ones that are successful. The states that RaGa does not get involved are doing fine – it is the ones that he does get involved and it kind of spills over. I don’t know if he is going to the right temples or it is not the right time, but something is off. Something is not quite right. Rahul Gandhi is like the bumblebee. Aerodynamically the Bumblebee is supposed to fly but it cannot fly but the bee does not know it and keeps trying. By all parameters, Rahul Gandhi cannot succeed but Rahul Gandhi does not know that – he continues to work happily; in between the cases and fate.
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra: Noted former President of the United States, Obama writes in his book that Rahul Gandhi has a nervous unformed quality about him, like a student who has done his homework and is eager to impress his teacher and that he lacks the passion to master the subject. Does that sound close to your assessment of Rahul Gandhi?
Suhel Seth: In fact, Abhijit, I would like to deviate from that subject a bit. There are some subjects that perhaps Rahul Gandhi does know after all – either he is being briefed properly or by the right people. But by and large, his public utterances are where the problems come and when the comparison is made with Modi, as it should be, it fails. Now Modi is a consummate sloganeer – if hadn’t been the Prime Minister, he would be running a large size advertising company. Everything he does is compressed into slogans or acronyms. Now this fellow (Rahul Gandhi) has a problem for every solution. He finds some of the most complex situations in the simplest of things and then he begins to speak, he gets caught in the muddle – and I believe that Rahul Gandhi is the only person who speaks like a Rubik’s Cube, which has never been solved! The reality is that no one knows what the h*ll he is saying, and then you realize, “Oh My God! Is he really that stupid? But if he were that stupid, how did Congress accept him? Or is the Congress that stupid?” I don’t think that the people in Congress are all that dumb. I don’t think he is all dumb. He is not that dumb as being made fun of. But is he smart? No. Does he have the smarts? No. So Obama’s description is partially right. You know when you don’t have some basic knowledge, then what you do is bluster. In the Parliament you fili-bluster, here you use bluster; you use archaic terminology which you think will impress the other guy but the other guy is a simple commonsensical guy who sees through your person and sees through your bluster and figures out that it is crap. And I think what has happened is that it is a double whammy – one is Rahul Gandhi makes a lot of stupid statements; so does Modi. So does half the BJP cabinet. Let us not assume that all these people are intellectuals. They make mistakes, but they know when to keep quiet. Rahul Gandhi hurtles from one mistake to another. It is almost as if he is shooting the sound of music on the hills of Austria which are filled with errors (The hills are alive with the sound of music) and the hills are rolling down, boom-boom-boom where error after error and it is the error that catches all the moss spots.
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra: To get to the crux of the problem, Modi also makes stupid mistakes, but he doesn’t get slammed as badly as Rahul. And surprisingly, even when Rahul makes fun of a statement of Modi about Alu being put on one side and gold coming out the other, it backfired on him! So why do his jokes about Modi end up being pushed back at him? Not a single joke on Modi, that he might have said something dumb has stuck on him!
Suhel Seth: You were saying why does it not stick on Modi? There are three things happening here Abhijit, and you know it better than I do – number one – the management at the back end by Modi in terms of media and transmission; number two – because Modi is uncertain a lot of people cannot go and repeat that Modi Mahoday you erred, for whatever reasons; third – is that Modi knows how to jump from one issue to the other quickly. But the problem with Rahul is that he thinks his jokes are funny. And it often happens that if you actually believe in your own charisma and intellect, you think whatever you say is funny!
Actually, it boomerangs, because sometimes a joke is very important when it’s done contextually and when it hits its mark, nothing goes in a bad joke and the only thing worst in a joke is losing an election repeatedly. So, Rahul Gandhi needs to worry about the kind of statement that he wants to execute.
And I think you raised a very important point; you cannot beat Modi, by being Modi version 2.0 that’s the stupidest thing to do. In good old marketing, we say, brands either compete or one brand shifts the battleground. You can’t say oh I’ll be a whiter sir, for a whiter tight you then shift the battleground and say I have ABC components. The problem is Rahul Gandhi is trying to play Modi on Modi’s turf, he will never succeed. Modi is a consummate politician, he’s a brilliant communicator and he knows the pulse of his audience, why, because he lives, travels, works within them. See, these are hardworking people, you may or may not agree with the BJP ideology but you can never fault them for hard work and their commitment to their ideology. The congress, on the other hand, is seen as a cool people like us, people like you, kind of party they are friends that you can have that doesn’t win you elections because you’re out of touch with the people as it were and then the utterances that you make are formed out of your kitty party circle or your cocktail drinking circle or your shopping together at khan market circle.
Now look at what Rahul did initially and he did a brilliant thing, he got suit-boot ki sarkar to stick to Modi and it was a vicious and a brilliant move on the part of Rahul Gandhi. You have to give Rahul Gandhi credit for some of the stuff, he’s made it stick. Then, he went on to this whole thing of Indian oligarchs blah blah blah point I’m making is, he doesn’t know how to stay the course. He’s like a ship trying to become a speed boat and then becoming a ship all over again, doesn’t work that way. You got to have a strategy; you got to be committed to the strategy, no matter what. You can’t let communication be your strategy, your strategy has to be how to win an election or how to you know obliterate the effect that Modi has. So, from a pure marketing perspective, you got to understand that Modi is miles ahead, he knows what to do and he does it with panache and sometimes when you do it so brazenly, the others are so taken aback that it doesn’t even elicit a response from that.
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra: you made a very interesting point about how suit-boot ki sarkar was actually one of the very successful campaigns and it sort of aborted that entire set of reforms that Arun Jaitley had tried to introduce the labour reforms and the land acquisition reforms it just completely froze them cold. So, where did suit-boot ki sarkar succeed and where did chowkidar chor fail?
Suhel Seth: Brilliant question, I don’t want us to be a mutually batting club but brilliant question and I’m glad you asked me this question. The suit-boot ki sarkar was something that was within the purview of the 520 or 524 members of parliament latian’s Delhi, national media and one tier below in terms of the media. The average common man didn’t care about the suit-boot ki sarkar, what Rahul Gandhi was trying to do, he was saying that you thought, we were in bed with corporate India, actually, this man is in bed with corporate India. Under this man’s tutelage, under his reign or rule, you will find corporate India getting cosier. So, if you talk about capital cronyism, this is capital cronyism, which stuck with the intellectual, it stuck with the elite, the intelligentsia where chowkidar chor hai boomerang that was a more mass impactful statement and immediately Modi turned it to his advantage because also remember the reality of Modi’s arrival to the central leadership.
If you go back 2011 to 2014 May, were the worst years of trust in an Indian government that was because of Raja, 2G whatever. Manmohan Singh, who I still believe is one of the most decent Prime Ministers we’ve ever had, history, will judge him much better than you and I may. He got clobbered because of charges of corruption of cronyism. Modi came at the back of a corrupt-free India and to give Modi credit it is unarguably the cleanest cabinet, since independent India, there is no question about that, yes electoral bonds, but that’s the money going to the party.
When Modi came to power, he had already established a very solid, very robust perception about the Gandhis and corruption and how their bond existed. It was almost as if corruption and Gandhis were intertwined, he just capitalized on that, he says, can you imagine this man is calling a chowkidar, a chor. He then brought in all the security guards, he brought in the chowkidars, and he brought in the village chowkidars. So, he said look these guys are the entitled, look at what they are saying about us? I have always said there are two people in addition to Rahul Gandhi, who made the Congress, lose two successive elections. At least cause a dent one was Mani Shankar Iyer when he said chaiwala, second was Sam Pitroda’s irresponsible comment when asked about October 31 to November to 1984 as to why the Sikh riots were not condemned, he said, “hua to hua”, this kind of arrogance has been taken advantage of by Narendra Modi and rightly so.
As I have said, Modi is brilliant in the craft that he employs, he knows his onions brilliantly and he’s got a brilliant backup. Congress had an outstanding lady in the form of Divya Spandana, who was handling their social media thing, suddenly she vanished and she was replaced by someone else. So, you’re not even staying the course and I think that’s his problem, his problem is he’s willing to try too many concoctions and none of which work, because Abhijit, as you know this, without a strategy, you can’t win political games, you can’t win political recognition, you need a strategy. Tactics only get you this far and no further.
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra: So, talking about, because you are the guru on this, Suhel. I was always, initially told that the English press doesn’t count for anything in this country it’s the vernacular press and then I grew up a bit to realize that you know a story starts off with the English financial press moves into the English mainstream press and then trickles down into the vernacular press because the vernacular press needs this sort of recognition that they crave the English press’s recognition, it’s the vernacular press and then I grew up a bit to realize that you know a story starts off with the English financial press moves into the English mainstream press and then trickles down into the vernacular press because the vernacular press needs this sort of recognition that they crave the English press’s recognition. So, you know this what is Pappu’s failure is in terms of the Indian electorate, has also been his success in terms of foreign media. Everybody today, every foreign outlet right or left says, India is hurtling towards fascism, authoritarianism, what have you? Why isn’t that message and the intelligentsia message in Delhi the latian’s message trickling down to the vernacular media as we were told it should?
Suhel Seth: Excellent question, again excellent. So, let’s look at now what we’ve come to is the media environment in which both Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi operate. Narendra Modi for many years ever since Godra happened has one rule he doesn’t wish to engage on issues that he finds either uncomfortable irrelevant or prickly. Rahul Gandhi doesn’t get the play that he showed from national media because you and I both know national media, now is largely controlled and hugely shackled by the ruling dispensation. Whether they actually shackle them or not but, sometimes they want to be more loyal to the king than the king himself, having said that, the foreign media is not getting any traction from the Indian government and this is the point I made on a PGuru’s event or a talk, many many weeks ago and I reiterate, the biggest failure of the Narendra Modi government is communicating with the intelligentsia. The biggest failure of the Narendra Modi government is communicating with the foreign press, they believe that it’s like the George W Bush syndrome either you’re with me or against me, there’s no middle path.
There has been no communication from the Narendra Modi government, there’s been no engagement with either the economist. So, if there’s a story that comes against you, you say oh! the economist doesn’t know what they’re talking about, New York Times doesn’t know what they’re talking about, they’re all sold, they have a leftist agenda. Now, Rahul Gandhi is the perfect foil because if you remember many many years ago in the Reserve Bank of India, press conference, the economist representative even went to town and said that we have not been invited and you know, the RBI had not invited them. Now, it may have been a clerical error but it seemed as if, the government is against us. In an environment like that Abhijit, you have Rahul Gandhi, who’s available, who’s willing to say exactly what you want to hear and sometimes the foreign press and you know this foreign press is clever enough to hurt you in a manner to elicit a response that, they believe will play well with their audiences, after all, everyone is catering to an audience.
So, the New York Times will largely support the stand of Rahul Gandhi, because they believe that wow Rahul Gandhi is actually saying exactly what we’ve been saying. But for god’s sake, he will, because he’s the opposition and Modi and his bunch of people aren’t reaching out for whatever reason and my constant advice to the government or to whoever is willing to listen to any advice is that remember reaching out is as important and you have to reach out to all constituents.
The problem with the BJP is they’re a damn good election-winning machine, they communicate brilliantly during the elections but, they are a very poor communicating machine otherwise. You know, what happened during Rafael, Rahul Gandhi came with zero facts, and dismissive figures with the whole process not understood by him and made a mockery. The government was on the back foot, I said oh my god, we may have done something wrong and this is a chap, whose family was involved with Bofors, who managed to turn the tables on a Modi government on a government-to-government deal, but, he managed to do that. So, I’m saying, you are right, this is why I think the Modi government needs to introspect and figure how, because, a person from outside if I’m sitting in New York and I’m a possible investor. Yes, the India story is very attractive blah blah blah but I will worry about the divisiveness, if I’m told this constantly, I will worry if I’m told there are riots, I will worry if I’m told there’s a Hindu-Muslim divide. So, the government needs to engage and now you’ve got a person like Dr Jaishankar, who’s managing your external affairs ministry who’s an experienced diplomat, these are the people, who should go out and reach out to these people.
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra: So, how do you account for the fact that during the Delhi Riots, Jaishankar did not reach out to anyone. In fact, the government did not have a press conference at all and then very cheerlessly when the American Council for Religious Freedoms or whatever decides to send a fact-finding committee, puts out this very tacky kind of a tweet saying, we have denied them visas. What’s the point of post facto visa denial, when you haven’t even put your facts out on the table for the international press and for the international diplomatic core out here? But, if Jaishankar, isn’t doing that and you believe that he is a good communicator, an international communicator that means there’s something wrong with the system of government then.
Suhel Seth: Absolutely, there’s something wrong intrinsically with the structure. You know, Kapil Sibal, in an interview day before yesterday and yesterday said to a lot of the TV channels that he spoke to saying that there is a systemic or a structural issue which needs to be corrected. Also, please understand that in this government all the stuff is left either to Narendra Modi or Amit Shah to handle. Now, it could be that no one else wants to take on the responsibility or no one else is allowed that responsibility, but, the fact is managing India is different from managing a state.
Now, you have to give Rahul credit for one or two things, number one Rahul has not shied away from the press, Rahul has always gone out and met the press because he knows that the opposition, in this case, Modi who’s the Prime Minister is not engaging with the press or is engaging with the press at his term on his terms and conditions. Now, look at what happened in Uttar Pradesh, when Priyanka and Rahul went and they were stopped, they returned, they went back but there’s no consistency. Just when things are hotting up, just when parliament is convened, you go away from the country.
Now, I will never grudge Gandhi, the care that he must exude and the responsibilities, he must shoulder as a son for a mother but surely you could have gone 10 days later or 10 days earlier. And what happens Abhijit here is, it’s the sense of entitlement that we are the Gandhis, we are above parliament; we are the Gandhis, we are above scrutiny; we are the Gandhis, we are above being questioned. This above being is, today hitting people because it’s a different India today, it is not an India which is burdened, subjugated or scared by entitled people. It is not an India that is looking at a hierarchical accord in the sense how much money you have? how much farmland you own blah blah blah. Also, people don’t remember Rajiv Gandhi’s, Indira Gandhi’s of the world anymore. The generation that is existing today, the youngest of the young they’ve not understood, oh Nehru the, Indira Gandhi thi, Rajiv Gandhi the, no, they know that Gandhi is equal to entitlement. And how in the face of democracy, how much will you stretch the irony of having a first family and Modi is always said that, ke aap naamdar hai, main kaamdar hu, means you got the name, I have got to do the work. So, if you look even the NREGA story and how Modi shifted the NREGA advantage to the BJP, it was a Congress idea, actually think about it. Half the things that the government of India today has done including Aadhaar was basically a Congress idea, Modi took it, spun it beautifully. I say, Modi is a consequent marketeer, he’s been selling packaged goods which are essential commodities and made brands out of them. These guys created Aadhar, he’s taken the credit, Rajiv Gandhi did the advent of computers, and digital India will only be remembered for Narendra Modi by Narendra Modi and of Narendra Modi. So, these are the tragedies and it’s playing out in front of us and the congress has bright people but some of those bright people their bulbs don’t light up at the right time. So I don’t even know, what they’re doing.
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra: Right, so that leads us to two marketing questions then one, is the idea of India because there seems to be a competition on the idea of India. But, the second is to the two to the 23 MPs who actually mustered the courage to write that letter to the Congress high command. Now, given what you have said, about congress functioning best when Gandhi’s don’t do anything and simply act as the glue. What would your marketing be, assume these 23 MPs actually formed a cabal and hired you, as their messaging manager. What would you be doing for them with them and to them?
Suhel Seth: No, none of it would work if we didn’t have Rahul Gandhi, either Rahul Gandhi’s buy-in or Rahul Gandhi out of the way, because what has happened is, the Congress is willing to splinter itself in order for some people to protect the Gandhis and for the others to revolt against the Gandhis. I mean, most of these 23 people have again been absorbed, reabsorbed as it were in the last two days and been placed in various committees as advising Sonia Gandhi. So the Congress knows this game and the Congress also knows that half these 23 guys would not be able to win their own elections, but would need Congress support. So it’s not as if all the grassroots people are against them. Yes, if Hooda, if Sachin Pilot, even Sachin Pilot – he made half a move and back. It was like playing the worst case move if you have got a bishop to your advantage, but that’s how he did it, he didn’t even make a solid move. So the point Abhijit is that in terms of communication, you’ve got to decide what you want to do. None of these 23 people is willing to resign. None of these 23 people is willing to put his head on the chopping block. They believe that in numbers will rest their strength, it never does. David Ogilvy famously said, there are no statues of committees in any parks. It’s only of individuals. You will need individual grit, you will need individual determination, individual drive if you want to counter Rahul Gandhi. But the question is if not him, then who. Even that they will not be able to decide on.
It’s very interesting, the point that you raised when you have a strategy of going to war you must recognize first what is the worst-case scenario and then build on the best-case scenario. Amartya Sen in ‘The Idea of Justice’ in his book brilliantly talks about the relationship between Krishna and Arjun and when they were going to war and they were in the chariot, Arjun asks Krishna, he says, ‘My worry is not that I am going to war, my worry is that in the wake of the war there would be damage, there’ll be offence, there’ll be widows, there’ll be carnage, there’ll be destruction and Amartya Sen then goes on to argue, ‘which God would condone war if that God knew that his or her children would be obliterated.’ So the irony places itself for us, we’ve got to recognize and understand if not Rahul then who. It cannot be a family-run company anymore because, this the family needs to be told or needs to know or needs to absorb, the family tree is the biggest asset and it’s the biggest liability. So if you a good chartered accountant you’ll figure out that this is not about balancing the books. This is about preparing the Congress for the next wave. Otherwise, these folks in the BJP are going to rule for as long as we can imagine, and Narendra Modi’s job is not to go out and come in opposition the opposition must create or invent itself.
Abhijit Iyer Mitra: So, taking on from that everybody, all our mutual friends who know Rahul keep telling me that they have told him in as many ways as possible, ‘This isn’t working. You’re not getting it right, you’re shooting your mouth off at all the wrong times. You’re alienating a lot of people, so on so forth’, but it never seems to get through to him. What is a message? How do you package this message to Rahul? How do you package the unpalatable to a person who simply doesn’t listen?
Suhel Seth: So, let’s go back again in time and let’s study cultures. Italian mother culture is a very important thing. I mean we’ve seen it in The Godfather in many ways, but we’ve seen it in life. One of the comments that Obama’s made in his book is very interesting. He says that it was almost as if Sonia was trying to sell Rahul. That’s a very telling pointer Obama made, these guys have got carried away with all the other stuff, that’s a very important point. The love of a mother still runs supreme and above the love for the party and the love for generational shift rr generational change. The tragedy is that most mothers and fathers and most parents believe that legacies have to only be carried and enshrined by their children and not by the cause that the children or the parents believe in. Congress was created to give India Independence. Congress was created to create an independent governance system. It wasn’t created to foster or to promote or to propagate one family. But, what has happened over the years the family has been venerated. I mean, it’s, a very famous Indian actor who I will not name, when I asked him, ‘Why don’t you make-up with Sonia Gandhi?’ and he said he says ‘Yeh Raja aur rank ki kahaani hai, Rank nahi sirf raja tay karega ki kab, dosti phir se kaayam ho.’ which means that the serf cant decide when the king will befriend him, the king has to decide.
Now, when you venerate these people to that level and there I’ll tell you, I tend to agree with everything that Modi is doing including getting some of these artists out of their cosy government paid bungalows. What has Modi done? He has come from the outside, he has no baggage, he has no children, he has no club to be part of, he’s demolishing all the structures. And what do we love as people? We love demolishing these structures. So, what has happened today is, you’ve got Sonia Gandhi, who is given this house for life, yes security reasons, blah blah blah… But look at the support that Modi got when he got Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra to shift out from the government accommodation. You know why? The common man says, ‘haan bhai, yeh sahi banda hai.’ Why? Because he doesn’t care about kiska naam, kiski gaadi. So that’s what it is turning out to be.
Abhijit Iyer Mitra: But, that is also very dangerous that we have noticed with the Indian populace as a whole is shadow fighting, be it bank nationalization down to getting a Rajkumari out of her bungalow. But I am going to come back to something very very revealing, combine two very revealing things that you said. One is the path to reforming Rahul Gandhi if at all possible, is actually to reform the mother on one hand and the other was that, how the Congress was built for independence, it was a vehicle built for independence and how people no longer connect with the independence struggle with Rajiv Gandhi, with Indira Gandhi, with Nehru and all of that. So, you now have to two competing ideas of India, one is the BJP vision of a civilizational country with continuity for about five thousand years, the other is a government structure based idea of India that there was the Mughal Empire then there was the British Empire and then there was the Congress. How are you seeing the marketing for each of these play out, because I’m not actually seeing the BJP market its idea of India as well as say the Congress has marketed its idea of India and yet the BJP keeps winning elections.
Suhel Seth: Absolutely, so what the BJP is doing, is they are indulging in short-termism and they believe that they will exist from election to election. The congress never imagined that they would start losing elections, so their persona was one of doling out largesse, their persona was of patronage, their persona was of giving out, their persona was, come to us and we shall deliver, it was the deliverance vehicle. The BJP is struggling every day. Also the BJP, I think in a very surreptitious, in a very weird kind of way. The BJP would like to be like the Congress in the swappedness in all of that, but because they’re so repulsed by their own inadequacies in that area, that they’ve now gone completely opposite.
Having said that, I think the idea of India, there is only one idea of India. There’s no Congress idea of India, there’s no BJP idea of India and you’re absolutely right, the BJP has not been able to market the idea of India. What they’ve marketed or what has come out or what has come across perceptually is an idea of a perhaps divided India which by the way it’s not. On a PGurus event like this, I made the point when Sree Iyer asked me about August 5 2020. I said no society must make the majority feel guilty for being the majority because then there will be a backlash. The majority will then say why the hell are we being persecuted for being the majority and that anger will spill out against minorities of any hue or colour. So I believe that the idea of a civilizational India needs to be expanded, but it needs to be expanded academically, ideas are not about rudimentary thuggery, ideas are not born out of what I would call lumpen behaviour or lumpen thinking. An idea of India is not about going out and slapping people and Romeo bashing around valentine’s day. That’s against us. If we genuinely believe that India is inspired from a Hindu streak of thinking, then Hinduism is a way of life, Hinduism has never felt threatened, has only absorbed the best of what you know cultures have had to offer in its framework.
I mean sometimes I marvel at our lack of history, Sahir Ludhianvi actually opened Nehru’s eyes in Pyasa when he wrote the song, Kahaan Gaye Vo Log, Mohammed Rafi sang the finest bhajans, Yesudas used to stand outside the temple in the south. So we’ve forgotten all of that. We have now made it into a divide versus integrate and I think over time it will change because I do not believe that India is a country that will vote only along religious lines. To say that Hindus are voting because they are Hindus is an insult to Hinduism is an insult to Hindus, is, more importantly, an insult to democratic India. I think today more and more Indians want the entitled to go away, want us a country where they can harbour and actually you know achieve their dreams and all said and done Modi has created an aspirational ecosystem which didn’t exist earlier.
You know, you will laugh when I tell you this after the lockdown was lifted, I asked a lot of my clients who are very senior industrialists, I said, what do you think? Some of them cribbed about the lockdown but, not one person said anything to the country. They all said the poorest of the poor who used to work in our plants or in the communities, around the plants each one of them got their rations, each one of them got the funds that Modi had promised. Now, you got to give the man some credit but my worry is that Modi’s credit is immediately snatched by the stupid utterances of his colleagues or by the inability of the government to bleed the party to communicate. They have not been able to communicate the good that they’ve done. I mean, a simple argument about August the 5th 2020, should have been, we in our manifesto said, we will address the Ram Temple issue.
Everything that Modi is doing is as per what they have said in their manifesto, he’s not springing a surprise on you, it’s your goddamn problem, you haven’t read their manifesto. So, these are the realities of the political times that we live in. Rahul has none of these and that’s my worry, Rahul is divorced both as an intellectual and as a politician, because if he was an intellectual the intellect would have forced him to apply rigour to his utterances, if he’s a politician he would be smart enough to make the right noise.
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra: Alright, so we’re running out of time last five minutes, let’s shift from Pappu to the BJP. You brought about something that I found quite disturbing and quite true like you usually do which is the insight that you gave us that the BJP is playing a very tactical game not a strategic game. And a tactical game can always go horribly wrong in a very very short period of time and then there’s nothing you can do about it and in this particular case combining what you said earlier that they refuse to engage with the intelligentsia they refuse to play that entire ecosystem game. So, how do you get that intellectual sophistication, that sophistication of nuance of verbiage and all of that through to the BJP or at least convince them of the need for it?
Suhel Seth: I think the BJP is very smart and it has some very smart people, who are also part of the intellectual bulwark as it works for the BJP. Remember the BJP has some very solid people, they just may not be the people who hang around at India International centre go to Davos, but, they are very smart people, they are deeply committed people, they are deeply committed not only to the idea of civilization in India. They are deeply committed to the idea of deep down rock-bottom reform, those are the people that must be given more courage, more impetus and must be given more power to communicate. The point I’m making Abhijit, is that there is no communication strategy, it’s a typical story of operation successful patient dead, the BJP has an armoury, it has the ammunition, it even has the snipers but the tragedy is they don’t use them all the time. And they use them in a very haphazard inconsistent manner which needs to change because if that doesn’t change then, the BJP will always be remembered for the wrong reasons and I don’t want to but, I must paraphrase what William Shakespeare said and in two parts in Julius Caesar and it’s he says that when Mark Anthony asked Brutus, why did you stab Caesar? He says it’s not that I loved Caesar less but I loved Rome more and then is the famous thing, the good is oft interred with the bones the evil lives long after.
My worry is that the fault lines of the BJP, sometimes created by their allies or stupid utterances will stick to the BJP, rather than all the good and there’s a lot of good that they have done and that good began under Atal Ji, it began under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was not only sagacious statesmanlike but a man who embraced the qualities of both opposing intellect as well as embraced the idea of an integrated India. And I don’t think these people are that diametrically opposite but, somehow this whole hawkish tough image gives rise to fear. And remember, one thing Abhijit, societies are always built around the idea of affection, around the idea of absorption, never around the idea of fear or subjugation. You can suppress, subjugate people, only for this long and no longer.
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra: Well, Suhel, that was a wonderful conversation, I hope you had as much fun as I did.
Suhel Seth: You had some really truly outstanding questions and you know thank you for asking that.
Sree Iyer: Please sir, allow me to ask one question from a viewer and then we can wind it up the question is for Suhel, Should India and the United States set up a military base in the Indian ocean?
Suhel Seth: Well, I have to admit there are a lot of things that I know but, there are more things that I don’t know and this is something that I don’t have a clue about, Abhijit writes on define matters let him answer that question.
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra: This program is about Suhel, I’ll answer that separately at some other time but this is to showcase Suhel, so let’s leave it there.
Sree Iyer: Ok, so you have given us the topic for the next hangout with you Abhijit and Suhel as always it’s a pleasure having you man, you are an articulate person, you should be more often on PGurus and this conversation I promise you guys, I’ll get this technology figured out and next time it will be more of Abhijit, while he is asking the questions. I really really apologize humbly to my viewers that we tried something for the first time and we almost got it off for the first five minutes there was some echo but, after that everything settled down fine thanks once again for your support.
We had the highest viewers watching this program today ever in the history of PGurus. So, I thank you both Abhijit and Suhel and once again Namaskar, thank you very much and we’ll be back with more such interesting conversations. I tell you today RaGa Rahul Gandhi had so much to take away, I hope somebody close to him watches this thing listens to Suhel and see what are the things he can do and also for the party the gang of 23 guys, you are being stripped naked for god’s sake stand up show some spine, show some leadership take this country forward the country needs a healthy democracy for that two parties have to be healthy, that’s my hope and once again thank you very much.
Continued in the video…
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