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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rahul Gandhi, BCG’s ‘problem child’!

In marketing, Boston Consulting Group’s growth share matrix (or BCG matrix) is an instrument used to assess the current state and predict the future performance of a product (brand) or product line. In marketing parlance, the grid determines a product’s ‘attractiveness’. The grid plots a product’s relative market share against market growth to analyse its current state and predict its future. The four quadrants in the grid which represent the life cycle of a product are named ‘dogs’, ‘question marks (or problem children)’, ‘stars’ and ‘cash cows’. While ‘stars’ and ‘cash cows’ are every marketer’s dream the ‘question marks (or problem children)’ are a real dilemma. This is because if these products make the ‘success test’ in the market place they move into the ‘stars category and eventually into the ‘cash cows category. But while they consume large amounts of resources for promotion, they do not generate immediate revenues. If they gain market share, they move into the ‘stars category but after years of consumption and effort, if they fail, they degenerate into the ‘dogs’ category. Even as ‘dogs’ they pose another dilemma to the marketer. Some marketers believe that although the ‘dogs’ do not generate large net revenues; they are still useful because they split overheads. More importantly, from a human resources standpoint, they help in maintaining employment potential. Occasionally marketers have to choose the hard option – bite the bullet as it were – and shed the ‘dogs’.

What does all this have to do with the politics? Well, political philosophies are like product lines and individual political leaders are like products. Remember, how the ‘India shining’ campaign turned out to be the undoing of the BJP in 2004. Not even its enemies predicted the BJP would lose the election. For the common man, prices were stable and inflation was under control. The era of licences and permits and scarcity was well and truly past. There was an abundance of never before choices in the marketplace. The sun was shining on a billowing economy; presaging increased employment generation. ‘God appeared to be in his heaven and all well with the world!  Why then did the campaign bounce back? It is perhaps one of those marketing enigmas. The story is quite similar to that of brand Churchill who won the Second World War for Britain with his slogans, ‘All out for England’ and ‘V for victory’, who was then quietly shown the door by the British electorate! 

As we advance to 2014, the Congress party wishes to launch brand Rahul. The teasers for brand Rahul have been in the air for far too long, that people wonder whether they would see the première at all. An elementary principle of brand management is that even the fattest advertising budgets or the slickest commercials will not be able to help a marketer if a brand does not have inherent strengths.

In 2008 Barack Obama rode to power on the flood tide of his oratory. One is yet to see Rahul delivering his ‘Gettysburg address’! From what little one has seen Rahul’s oratory does not exactly seem to set the Ganga on fire. In all these years since he came to represent the family fiefdom of Amethi in parliament, one has heard only one ‘Kalavathi’ speech from him and no other intervention, not even to ask a question!

Although according to his sycophants Rahul ostensibly represents youth in spite of his 43 years, he does not seem to inspire the youth brigade of the internet age with his profound wisdom. As students of Mumbai discomfited Barack Obama, their brethren in Patna and Ahmedabad made Rahul squirm. What is the vision he has for the youth of this country? How does he plan to educate and employ them? No one knows, for no one has heard him elaborate. The only solution his party comes up with in times of crises is offering freebies and proposals of reservations and more reservations.

Notwithstanding his pilgrimages to Dalit homes and second class suburban travel, his understanding of men and matters leaves much to be desired. (Gujarat is larger than the European Union!) One fine morning he decided to take up the cause of the victims of Bhatta-Parasul village whose lands were forcibly acquired by the UP state administration. Narrating the horrors he witnessed of people (presumably) killed and burnt, he informed the media that there were ‘70 feet of ashes’, whatever it meant!

If the piece in The Economist (Adams Robert. The Rahul problem. September 10, 2012) is anything to go by, even his biographer (Ramachandran, Aarthi. Decoding Rahul Gandhi) was hard put to paint a colourful portrait of him. AR says, this is the moment for Congress to dare to think of something radical: of reorganizing itself on the basis of policies, ideas and a vision of how India should develop.’ According to his biographer (as cited in the article) Rahul wants to apply the principles of management he learnt from Toyota to modernise the Congress party’s youth organisation. 

For brand Rahul the time has come to move from the quadrant of ‘problem children’: up, to the quadrant of ‘stars’ or down, to the quadrant of ‘dogs’, to be dropped eventually. As of now there is nothing to indicate that brand Rahul can become a ‘star’!  

Friday, September 07, 2012

The ‘Naroda Patiya’ Judgement in context



The August 29 judgement of Judge Jyotsna Yagnik in the Naroda Patiya massacre case is as unprecedented as the crime it seeks to adjudicate. It may or may not be the first time in independent India that sentences on several counts in a criminal case were ordered to be run consecutively. The usual practice in India unlike in the US is to order sentences to be run concurrently. That is why we have never heard such bizarre sentences as, for instance, ‘105 years in prison’ as we do from US courts. The judge also dispensed with the definition of ‘life’ imprisonment which in her own words was usually 14 years because she felt that it would be ‘grossly disproportionate and inadequate’. Be that as it may, in the present case, one of the key accused, Maya Kodnani, a BJP MLA was sentenced to 28 years in prison. This in effect means the middle aged Kodnani is unlikely to come out alive from prison. The judgment however mentions that ‘there is no evidence that she, in fact, has physically contributed commission of any offence’. She was punished more for her role in instigating the rioters and abetting the crime. Babu Bajrangi, another key accused was sentenced to life imprisonment with no remission permitted if one understands the judgment correctly. The judge felt that these were the minimum terms that would meet the ends of justice even while keeping in mind the agony the accused suffered with a sword hanging over their heads for ten and a half years. Nowhere in the judgement, which runs to about 2000 pages was there even a hint that links Narendra Modi to the violence. 

The secular establishment shrugged off the sentences as their real target is not the 32 convicted, but Narendra Modi. For over ten years, he has been pilloried by the secular establishment, for what he had not done rather than (at least) acknowledging what he had done to contain the 2002 riots.

First, let us see what he had done:

He had had the army deployed in 48 hours. His police fired 10,000 rounds of bullets to quell the mobs. In the process some 77 Hindus and 93 Muslims were killed. 27,901 Hindus and 7,651 Muslims were arrested as a preventive measure. (According to some sources, the number of Hindus arrested was as high as 35,000.)  The riots rendered 40,000 Hindus homeless, a fact which was not even whispered by the secular media. They were sheltered in relief camps for a long time alongside the Muslims uprooted from their homes. Finally, one has to keep in view that 254 Hindus were also killed in the riots along with 790 Muslims. Therefore the riots were not as one-sided as they are made out to be.

Let us see what would have satisfied the secular establishment:

1. The bodies of the 59 Hindus (more than half of whom were women and children) who were burnt to death should not have been brought to Ahmedabad to be handed over to their families. Would the secular establishment rather that they were buried in Godhra as orphans? Did they not deserve some consideration in death, of a decent cremation, when they were denied life? Should their kith and kin not be allowed to keen in grief and pay their last respects - to the unfortunate victims of a pernicious ideology, who had to die for no fault of theirs?

2. The police/army should have taken sterner action. It is difficult to comprehend this logic. What could the police or for that matter the army, could have done more? Should the police/army have shot everyone at sight and killed hundreds of people? Had the Gujarat Home Ministry given such an order would it have been obeyed? What would have happened if the police had disobeyed an order of the government? P. V. Narasimha Rao had faced a similar dilemma in 1992 at the time of the ‘Rama Janma Bhumi – Babri Masjid’ demolition. He too had been accused of not calling in the army to shoot the agitators at sight. (What else would he order the army to do?) In the end Narasimha Rao had decided that it would not do for the army to revolt. (This is according to an unimpeachable secular source!)

3. The courts should have worked faster and hanged everyone accused (especially the politicians including Narendra Modi), with the least possible delay. How could the Gujarat government have facilitated this? Why, by somehow rendering the defence of the accused in the courts, ineffective. In other words the state government should have obstructed the course of justice, and do to the Hindus what it has been, though falsely, been accused of doing to the Muslims.  


However, a despicable aspect of the saga of (Naroda Patiya) was the conduct of the secular intelligentsia which circulated a story about a womb being ripped open and a foetus gouged out. Arundhati Roy concocted the story in her article in Outlook of  May 4, 2002. It was not exactly calculated to bring about harmony between communities at a time when the atmosphere was still rife for another round of explosive violence.Thousands of people from both communities uprooted from homes were still living in camps. In view of the reputation of the 'source' the story was repeated without verification, thousands of times since. Human rights outfits of dubious reputation like New York's Human Rights Watch went to town with it.

Three postscripts with respect to the judgement deserve mention here:

1. This could also be a rare judgement in which the principle of secularism as defined in the Indian constitution was invoked in delivering judgement in a criminal case. (p. 1955)

2. The judge primarily relied on an ‘extra-judicial confession’ (her expression) of a key accused made in a ‘Sting Operation’ to convict him. 

3. The judge also dispels the myth about a foetus being gouged out of a womb when a pregnant woman was killed. In her opinion only a trained gynaecologist or someone more experienced in such procedures could perform such an act. (p. 1686-89) The secular establishment perpetuated the myth unmindful or oblivious to the  consequences of putting out such a story, especially during the early days of the riots when the atmosphere was palpably incendiary.