If ubiquitousness in TV Studios, pompous pronouncements and mendaciloquence are measurements of ministerial success, Kapil Sibal certainly stands head and shoulders above his fellow cabinet colleagues. Even the contemptible condescension of Chidambaram, increasingly chastened with the possibility of 2G venality consuming him, pales in comparison before the clowning glory of this part time Sarkari computer salesman and full time peddler of dubious UPA propaganda.
Sibal’s rise fits largely with the pattern of those from the privileged power elite for whom success appears inevitable and largely pre-determined. Born in to affluent household and educated in a blue chip foreign university, Sibal was a much soughtafter supershot Delhi lawyer whose memorable accomplishments included his sterling defense of politicians like Jayalalithaa and Laloo Prasad in corruption cases and extraordinary rescue of an allegedly corrupt Supreme Court judge who faced parliamentary censure for his acts of omissions and commissions. With such impressive legal credentials to back him and deep connection with Delhi ruling complex, it was no wonder that Sibal found his natural habitat in the Congress party of India. Thanks to Laloo largesse, he managed to win a Rajya Sabha seat from Bihar in 1998 and formalized his entry in to byzantine intrigues of Lutyens power corridor.
UPA 1.0 assumed office in 2004 and rather expectedly we had a massive need for an enlightened Delhi technocracy, who with their innate genius and know-how, would design and deploy centralized solutions and help realize the ‘social democratic’ ideals of ruling dynasty. Not so immodest Sibal, with proficiencies in fields as diverse as nuclear fission to geopolitics to primary education, was naturally a key player in the UPA 1.0 scheme of things.
Notwithstanding the pliant media regurgitating his ministerial broadcasts as accomplishments, Sibal had an undistinguished tenure in UPA 1.0 running an obscure science and technology ministry. Self-effacing Prithiviraj Chauhan, who succeeded him, did a much better job before he was dispatched to clean up the muck in Mumbai.
Our know-all attorney was re-elected from a gerrymandered Karol Bagh in 2009. His Batla encounter related conspiracy mongering contributed in no small measure to this electoral success. In UPA 2.0 he elevated as the Union HRD Minister stepping in to the illustrious footsteps of Churhat Raja.
During the heady days of Nehruvian socialist shibboleths, natives were objects of catastrophic economic experiments called the 5 year plan. Grandiose schemes were announced with rhetorical flourish but at the end of the 5 years, little to nothing was accomplished. But one needs to give ample credit to Congress party and Sibal for having learnt lessons from those socialist days. UPA 2.0 came up a more aggressive and ambitious 100 day plan for every problem that confronted the country. And Sibal was first to be off the block, unleashing a farcical 100 day agenda on the unsuspecting nation.
In his typically grandiose manner, he announced a 100 day agenda to usher in “path breaking reforms” in education sector. Not surprisingly his agenda envisaged a massive statist expansion in to education, assault on spirit of federal structure by overreaching in to state domain on primary education, long list of legislative interventions which involves creation of gargantuan bureaucracy and some blatant trespassing in to the domain of health and law ministries.
Sibal also opened a parallel populism track to please the chattering classes. Sibal’s fired his salvo against the examination system, calling for it to be abolished. We were told that man was so riled by the education system engendering rote learning that he felt duty bound to rescue our potential Picasso’s and Steve Jobs’s from the tyranny and dreariness of the NCERT textbooks and examinations. Mindless middleclass, little realizing that these were camouflaged steps towards introduction of entitlement and ad-hocism, lustily cheered him on. Luckily not much has been heard on this since that.
Sibal hastily piloted the Right to Education Bill which represented a death knell to the flourishing low cost private schools which were doing an extraordinarily good job of broad basing primary education based by offering cost effective education to the aspiration urban and rural poor. For all the showmanship and haste with which Sibal pushed this piece of legislation, as things stands a mere 10 states have notified the RTE rules. Centre and States are involved in protracted negotiation on funding and consensus still eludes them. The way in which the act was conceived, well paid teachers (wages prescribed by GOI) were supposed to be the key pivot but currently a massive shortfall of about 14 lakh teachers is impeding any meaningful progress. Faced with massive teacher shortage and other infrastructural hurdles, forked tongued Sibal is accusing the states of failing and now claiming that it will take another 3 years for the act to have meaningful impact. Consistent with communal engineering agenda inherent in any UPA law making, educational institutions run by religious minority were kept out of the gambit of RTE act with a gentle advisory to follow the spirit of the law.
The National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutional Bill, Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010, Educational Tribunals Bill, and Prohibition of unfair practices in Technical Educational Institutions Bill also are stuck in deep legislative limbo. Sibal’s utter lack of consensus building was exposed when Congress MP K. Keshava Rao was allegedly egged on by the high command to sabotage the Educational Tribunals Bill piloted by him in the Rajya Sabha. Another of his bombastic announcement, creation of National Commission for Higher Education and Research is caught in the quagmire of interdepartmental turf war.
Meanwhile when Raja found his way to Tihar, PM entrusted the Telecom portfolio to Sibal with the explicit task to clean up the Augean stables of the ministry which has become hotbed of crony wheeling dealing and unprecedented venality. Just few days before assuming the mantle, Sibal as government spinmaster was asked to defend the indefensible 2G loot. Sibal did a lousy job and came up with something so astounding that, given his bankruptcy of accomplishments otherwise, posterity is likely to remember him only for that – the infamous Zero-loss theory in 2G scam. Stunned nation finally woke up to dangers of this man. Sibal singularly contributed to huge image loss of UPA 2.0 with his brazen defense which otherwise certainly enhanced his notoriety as a ruthless legal bulldog.
His fetish for the 100 day thing appears to have not gone way easily as he announced one for Telecom ministry as soon as he assumed office. And predictably it’s a familiar tale of dismal failure.
Finally what should us get more worried on someone like Sibal is his cozy cohabitation with the media Permanent studio guest in one of Congress friendly media channels, he has created a aura around himself using his media management skills and seldom does one see critical reporting or scrutiny of his accomplishments. For instance even before specifics of 100 day HRD agenda was announced by him, disgraced divas of access journalism were already going gaga and chanting “Kapil the reformist” repeated 1000 times in chorus. To be fair the media love fest with Sibal has never been unilateral. Sibal has reciprocated by exclusively premiering his technological wizardry in TV studio were one could find starry eyed anchors in awe over our man’s desi Steve Job act
It’s just half life in to UPA 2.0 and Sibal has a choice – either continue to amuse us or give up the temptations of television archlight and as a cerebral man that he is get down to foucs on nitty gritty of governance and deliver. Key ministers in UPA 2.0 have mistook articulation for actual accomplishments . Friendly media could present them as reform oriented performers but objective appraisal of their performance reveals a hugely disapponting trackrecord.
Tags: UPA 2.0 Half-life Review