Donald Trump And His Known Knowns


People all around seem rather agitated with the start of a new regime in the United States. And yes, I am using the word regime, which the Western media usually uses for rogue and unpredictable governments for only one reason: the new administration in Washington is unpredictable and can indeed go rogue, or so some Americans would want you to believe.

Donald Trump, the new president, has ignited passions in a manner unseen in recent memory – upsetting not only hordes of Americans, but also intelligent folks around the world who seem to widely believe that he might be the ultimate disaster to hit all of us.

However, it is not the end of the world, Not yet.

Let’s be fair to Trump and the process of democracy that brought him to power. Those who are complaining are Americans who either did not vote for him or many like us who are citizens of other countries and, therefore, ineligible to vote in U.S. elections. Both these constituencies have no reason to crib, so let’s hear what Trump is saying. There is a fair chance that if he is making sense to some, he might start making sense to all.

Lets also understand that Trump, who has never held a government office or been in military, will click very differently than many of his predecessors who were active in politics or military before they assumed the high office.

Since Trump is essentially a businessman, an unabashed profiteer and a salesman (who has done well to create his own brand across many countries), for him world affairs, global diplomacy and international trade will always be about negotiations and deals – both of which he is good at.

Should we complain about a man – whatever his past may be (and Trump’s not exactly without in-your-face blemishes) – just because he is different from his predecessors and doesn’t conform to our “global” definition of a politician or a president?

Eventually what matters to Trump and those who voted for him is whether he delivers what he promised to. There is no problem with his “America First” for Americans. If the rest of the world has a problem with it, it is not Trump’s problem and the 45th U.S. president seems to know it well – at least for the time being.

China, Europe and even Indian IT companies can fret because Trump’s policies can hit their businesses in the United States; for Trump what matters is looking after his country’s interests – whether they be jobs, infrastructure or Islamic radicals. As president of his country he is first answerable to and responsible for the people of his country. In short, national interest will drive him just as it did his predecessors.

We may not appreciate his front-foot statements and awful tweets, his name-calling and his orange hair or even lack of political and diplomatic etiquettes. What, however, we do need to remember is the world will have to deal with President Trump at least for the next four years.

Governments and businesses will have to, therefore, quickly learn to deal with his idiosyncrasies, his unpredictability, his awful spokespeople, his son-in-law who Trump says will resolve the issues in the Middle East and his purported closeness to Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. Americans will also have to deal with a man who doesn’t’ fit the role; the very reason he got elected and one who will do everything to undo whatever his predecessor Barack Obama did.

In the weeks and months ahead all of us have to get used to a new narrative from Washington. We have to get used to dealing with a penny-pinching, hard-bargaining businessman who will keep his interests (or should we say America’s interests) high on his list of things to do.

And that brings me to what former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s once-considered-gobbledygook theory of the known knowns, the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. I’d put Trump in the first category. We do know him, and we also know what he will do — not very different than what he has been saying he would. What we still don’t probably have the foggiest idea about is that whether he is going to be around for four years or eight.

Good luck, everybody!

RS

 

 

 

It’s The Jobs, Stupid


By Rahul Sharma

Caravan Daily

There is a very good reason why Narendra Modi speaks to India’s young and exhorts them to vote the current Congress-led government out. He understands the simmering discontent among the country’s massive young population that is out looking for jobs and not finding any unlike other politicians who still believe only in politics of dole, caste and religion.

The state of the young in India is dismal and the mood gray. A slowing economy and high cost of living have only added to their woes. Add to that the fact that business sentiment will continue to be poor for the next several months in the run up to the elections – and even after that if a sustainable government doesn’t come to power – and you see a horribly potent recipe for social unrest.

Modi knows that if the young – a brand new, vibrant constituency — start believing that he will get those jobs and the financial sustainability that would let them buy all the gadgets, goods, automobiles and apartments, they would come out in throngs and help him win next year’s general elections.

Given the state of India’s shrinking job market into which 12 million youth trundle in every year, Modi’s call resonates well not only in large urban centres, but also the smaller towns where aspirations and opportunities have made traditional roles redundant.

So how badly off is the situation?

If you believe a new Confederation of Indian Industries-Economic Times (CII-ET) survey of India’s young, it’s pretty nasty out there. Of its 1.2 billion people, 800 million are less than 35 years old – and they seem to be really upset with the way things are.

According to the survey, findings of which were published in The Economic Times, three out of four of them believe that the economy today is worse off than it was in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crises. More than half say it is the worst time to look for jobs and nearly 60 percent have postponed buying a house, a car or having children. Worse, nearly 40 percent of the people polled in 28 cities said they won’t mind taking a pay cut if that improves their chances of holding on to a job.

It can’t get worse for the Congress; and it can’t be better for Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is still looking for that one issue that could change its fate and bring it out of its decade-long political wilderness.

“This is the most disturbing micro impact of the macro slowdown,” the newspaper quoted Rajya Sabha MP and entrepreneur Rajeev Chandrashekkhar as saying. According to him, educated Indians looking for their first or second jobs are hurting the most.

Thousands of engineering, medicine and businesses schools in India produce millions of graduates each year. But they hit a hard wall when they get into the job market. The impact is two pronged. Fewer jobs also mean there aren’t many takers for the seats in the graduate and post-graduate schools, many of which are beginning to shut down.

“The following set of numbers shows the young have read the grim job market right. Andhra Pradesh has over 700 engineering colleges and 350,000 seats – the highest in any Indian state. But just 200,000 seats were filled up this year. Why? Because just 20% of the class of 2013 have got jobs. When young Indians give up the chance of getting an engineering degree, you know there’s something very wrong,” the Economic Times wrote.

The other, bigger, impact is on the consumer, automobile and real estate markets, which are now losing their sheen as poor demand pulls the economy down. No wonder, the government is being forced to ask state-owned banks to offer cheaper loans for consumer goods and two-wheelers to boost demand in an otherwise depressing economy.
These are problems only politicians can address. There is a need for a fresh thinking and new policies that could create more jobs, both in the manufacturing and services sector. There is a need to lift business sentiment so that investments on hold can be channeled into infrastructure and other industries that would create jobs. These are issues that can’t be solved overnight, but if you have a large chunk of your population that is either unemployed or underemployed, you have a huge problem on hand.

If you believe Modi, then he probably understands the issues better than other politicians. The Congress doesn’t seem to have a solution, nor can it explain its lethargy in fixing the situation in the 10 years that it has ruled India. The grand old party is not even talking about jobs – at least not yet. A disgruntled youth is not good for politicians and the country. The leader who can show a way to the youth stuck in between a rock and hard place is likely to win the next election.

It is up to politicians and the next government to take the right steps.

Modi Leads The Charge For Now


By Rahul Sharma

PRMoment

More than two years ago a taxi driver in Kerala told me that he would vote for Narendra Modi if he ever got an opportunity. A year later – and this was before Modi won the Gujarat state elections for the third time – a hotel doorman in Chennai said the same thing. And earlier this year a young engineer working with a technology company in Bangalore echoed similar sentiments.

In the two years since the Kerala cabbie voiced his support for Modi, the perception that the Gujarat chief minister (and yes, he continues to be in that role) is a strong administrator, decisive, incorruptible and a man who keeps his promises has only strengthened. In New Delhi, in Kolkata, in Lucknow, Bhopal, Jaipur and Mumbai, Modi looks down upon us from posters and billboards – half smiling, half mocking, challenging everybody – especially the Congress that seems to merely follow his political agenda.

Never has an Indian politician been “branded” as Modi has been. We have NaMo phones, we have NaMo tea stalls, there are already two biographies out in the book stores and a biopic is underway. We also have a NaMo kurta, and probably many other products to come as the election temperatures rise.

Pitched as Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) potential prime ministerial candidate after the 2014 elections, Modi is setting himself up against a much younger, yet non-branded, Rahul Gandhi – the scion of a political family that has either ruled or helped rule India for a very long time. A perception battle between the two – amplified by the media – is probably the most top-of-the-mind dinner table discussion these days and one that Modi seems to be winning, at least for now.

As Modi launches his political blitzkrieg, mowing miles with his first-mover advantage, it is amply clear that he is working to a sharply targeted multimedia strategy put together by a war room that is propping him as a leader who can change India. The early start bodes well as it will give Modi and his team enough time to convert the fence sitters and break away those charmed by the Congress.

The media is helping by headlining every word Modi utters and television panel discussions are only cementing his position as a man who matters. Slowly, but surely, Modi’s image of a steely leader is getting entrenched into the political and social frequency of an election that is still some months away.

On the other hand, Gandhi seems weak, indecisive, and battling his own party, as he tells people his mother was upset with his choice of words when he interrupted a party press conference to oppose a proposed ordinance allowing convicted parliamentarians to keep their seats that was cleared by the prime minister and his cabinet.

Set up against a wily politician and an orator who can transfix the crowds, Gandhi’s image of a reluctant inheritor only gets a fresh shine every time he speaks.

The battle is between a man who thinks on his feet and seemingly wants to lead this large and diverse country, and another who still doesn’t seem to have made up his mind about whether he wants the job. In the public relations battle, Modi has won the first set. He’s still got to win the match though.

The shift in perception since the days when the national media called Modi a “murderer” after the deadly 2002 religious riots in Gujarat has been slow but huge.

No longer is Modi the pariah he once was. No longer is he hated or reviled as he was. No longer is he a political embarrassment (to many) as he was. No longer is he in the headlines for the “wrong” reasons as he was. Feted by the industry, the youth seeking jobs and a middle class frustrated with the Congress government over poor governance, dynastic politics and inflation, Modi seems to have grabbed people’s imagination and emotions.

Gandhi is sincere, but he lacks the power to hold the crowds and veer them to see his point of view. That’s because while Modi is all over, Gandhi pops in and out with statements that only raise more questions. New Delhi’s political citizenry is widely convinced that the young man wants Congress to lose badly so that he could then clean up the grand old party’s corrupt, wobbly script.

I remember watching Modi make the crowds dance during his election rallies in his home state back in 2007. Thousands of people wearing the “Modi Mask” followed the slow wave of the man’s hand from left to right – hypnotized by the sheer power of his oratory and stage theatrics. It scared many a political pundit. Gandhi is no match. In fact, the entire Congress party is made of weak speakers who sound unconvincing even when they mean business.

But let’s remember that a few months is a long time in politics and a lot could happen between now and the elections due by May next year. Winning a public relations and a perception skirmish is only part of the larger battle that Modi has to fight to help the BJP return to power after a decade in the wilderness. Voters might love Modi, but they might still choose not to cast their ballot for his party.

Eventually, Modi will have to make people believe that he is not as divisive as many believe him to be if he wants the top job. That’s easier said than done. The posters and potshots are fine for now. The winner in the public relations battle between Modi and Gandhi will only be announced next year – the day the votes are counted. Until then, watch the political theatre and enjoy.