Sack Shivraj

Incompetence is perhaps his lesser crime

In one of his famous annual reports, General Electric’s Jack Welch classified managers into four types, according to their performance and their values. The first were those who delivered results and lived by the values espoused by the organisation. For them, the “sky is the limit”. The second were those who missed their targets, but lived by their values—these, according to Mr Welch, deserved a second chance. For Mr Welch the “the toughest call of all was the manager who doesn’t share the values, but delivers the numbers”. This type of manager had to sacked “because they have the power, by themselves, to destroy the…culture we need to win.” He didn’t have to say it, but the easiest call of all was the manager who “doesn’t share the values; doesn’t make the numbers”. That person had to be shown the door.

Now, that Shivraj Patil has been an “unmitigated disaster” at the home ministry has been clear for some time. The charitable explanation for his brazen denial of his ministry’s decision to intern illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in camps is cluelessness—that he didn’t quite know what policies his ministry was coming up with. Considering that the question of illegal immigration is among the more important ones for his ministry, his cluelessness further confirms the allegations of incompetence against him.

If competence were the only criteria—as it ought to be in a country were a significant fraction of the population is poor, and hence can least afford the luxury of incompetent leaders—Mr Patil should have been sacked a long time ago. In fact, voters had already sacked him in the Lok Sabha elections of 2004. It was the Congress Party that inserted him—like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself—into the Cabinet.

Mr Patil’s failings though are not merely in the area of competence. His greater failing, arguably, is in the domain of values. Now it is acceptable—though highly objectionable—for someone to see moral equivalence between the death sentence of an Indian citizen guilty of terrorism in India by the Supreme Court of India and the death sentence handed out to an Indian citizen pronounced guilty of espionage and terrorism in Pakistan by the Pakistani judiciary. But that someone cannot be a member of the Cabinet. There are such things as values: constitutionalism, due process, transparency, independence of institutions and rule of law. If Mr Patil can’t see the difference in the processes that led to the similar result—the death sentence—he reveals a lack of basic values that disqualify him from any position of constitutional office. [via Rational Fool]

In fact, Mr Patil’s comparison of the two cases reveals a deeper flaw in his understanding. If Sarabjit Singh was indeed a spy, then the UPA government should not have succumbed to the pressure to ask for the waiver of his death sentence. In this scenario, official intervention on Mr Singh’s behalf was a foreign policy mistake. On the other hand, if the UPA government knows that Mr Singh is innocent, then surely, hanging him is injustice. So how is Pakistan’s hanging of an innocent man similar to India’s hanging of a man declared guilty by the Supreme Court? The only explanation is that Mr Patil is implying that Mr Mohd Afzal is innocent. He has no authority to do that—the task before the President, and the Cabinet which will advise her, is whether or not Mr Mohd Afzal deserves clemency, not whether he’s innocent or guilty. [See an earlier post on death sentence dilemma].

India must be the only country in the world where the government finds ever more dubious reasons to prevent a convicted terrorist—guilty of planning an attack on the national parliament—from being punished according to the law.

Just how shameful is Mr Patil’s statement? Compare his views with those of Sukhpreet Kaur, Mr Singh’s wife. “Myself and my daughters would never like Sarabjit freed in exchange for any hardcore Pakistani terrorist lodged in Indian jails” she said, “nothing is above the nation and we can’t go against the interests of our motherland.”

Neutron Jack would have no qualms in sacking Mr Patil. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, though, is quite unlikely to do so. Neither performance nor values matter to this government. It has already robbed from India’s material future. It is also robbing India’s national dignity. Yet it is important for us, the shareholders, to demand his sacking.

A version of this post appears in Saturday’s Mail Today, in an op-ed titled “It’s high time Shivraj Patil was shown the door”

63 thoughts on “Sack Shivraj”

  1. *If* Sarabjit has committed the crimes he has been accused of, I have no qualms about his punishment and it does not matter to me if he is Indian or Kenyan. He has been convicted, though I am not sure abt equating the Pak SC to ours. In this matter I give credence to Ansar Burney who said there are many loopholes in the case.

    It is important to me that we ensure Afzal Guru received due process- not on the basis of fantastic claims of shadowy STF conspiracies (which BTW would not absolve Guru even if true)- but if true that he did not receive adequate legal representation in the lower court and this was not sufficiently addressed in SC. I dont know law and may be there is no such recourse left now.

    I believe a check on whether the accused received proper representation *ought to* be part of a higher courts mandate to scrutiny, if there doesnt exist such a check already. This is for Afzal Guru, Baba Bajrangi, anybody.

    Once done and satisfied, again it doesnt matter if Guru believes himself to be Indian/ Pakistani/ Kashmiri/ Brobdingnaggian. Sentence should be carried out.

    But there is no link whatsoever between these 2 affairs. From the IE article it was clear that it was played out to bait the BJP and perhaps for what secular politicos *think* will curry favour with ‘their’ constituency. Polls are looming ahead and some thundering over-reaction from the BJP will help remind everybody who the ‘good secular guys’ are. Unfortunately, one can trust the BJP to rise to this and drape this issue in the tired old colors both sides need to take.

    I’d like Shivraj sacked for just this reason 🙂


  2. Dear Jai,

    I’m not sure what you mean by “it is important to me that we ensure Afzal Guru received due process”. He’s had the due process. It’s more than you can say for most other criminals. So I’m baffled by your statement that he needs more “due process”.

    The “due process” ended when the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence. All the things that needed to be said and done were said and done, and you are free to disagree with the verdict. Unless the idea is to continue to demand “due process” until finally he’s let off, or dies of old age.

    Anyway, the Afzal case is beside the point. As you correctly point out, the issue is that there’s no link between the two issues. There’s also no link to what the BJP says about it or whether it’s bait or a trap. It is simply not acceptable for an Indian home minister to run India to the ground.

  3. Nitin, exceptionally well argued.

    Shivraj Patil took office on an oath to protect Indian constitution. Afzal Guru wanted to destroy a constitutional edifice. I believe Patil’s statement is in the nature of condoning, or otherwise willfully underplaying, an attack on the Constitution. There is a valid case here to be brought before a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court.

    Furthermore, Sarabjit, if he was indeed a spy, acted to further India’s interests. Afzal Guru acted against India’s interests. We have somebody occupying high office who cannot tell between these two. This is scary.

  4. Hi Jai,

    Being obsessed with how BJP will react is unhealthy. We should broaden the horizons of our inquiry and speculate how the Left will react as well, especially since they have such influence on the current government.

    As we know, the communists are anti-national. However, they do not openly or brazenly reveal their anti-national tendencies unless the situation at hand precipitates such an outcome leaving them with no choice. A telling example is issues involving India vs China. As you know, commies refuse to take a pro-India stand, and justify China’s belligerence. Another example is their sabotage of the freedom movement during WW-2.

    In the current instance, I fear that they may feel emboldened by Shivraj Patil’s “support” to openly come out in favor of Afzal Guru and other such blackguards.

  5. This is far more incriminating than the headless chicken comments. And one wonders at the lack of reactions to this statement, save for INI and few other bloggers. Should show us where the priorities are for the media and politicians.

  6. Oh, you can’t fire Shivraj. With all other ministers being busy, who’s going to drive the taxi for the maharani?

  7. A friend based in India is saying that he saw the interview and that the media have misquoted him. He didn’t equate the two but linked them. Has anybody here seen the statement made, just curious?

  8. Patil is a living disaster. Just one of the few despicable men who comprise this “government”.

    But more interesting is this gutter polls being circulated by ndtv and the slimes giving manmohan and the UPA great public approval. The proven incompetence of this govt. along with patils nonsense has put them in the doghouse. So you bring out the dog handlers with their “opinion polls”.

    I want to ask these fellows, – Do you do these jobs free or do you charge specially for it.

  9. just for my own information…has any cabinet minister been SACKED before? is there a precedent for this?

  10. The MP from Assam who lives in Delhi and lost the Lok Sabha elections from Delhi has to go first. Catch him sacking someone else who has as little right as he does, to be in the cabinet. Must abolish the Rajya Sabha first. Several state legislatures have already abolished their own unelected bodies, so why not save some time and money? Supposed to serve the arcane purpose of getting good people who are unelected to serve in government, but haven’t we had enough of that nonsense now? Elected jokers are bad enough and expensive enough.

  11. Nilu

    This is from a link cited in the post:
    Speaking in Marathi to reporters in his hometown of Latur today, he said: “Afzal Guru.. Lokana fashi deu naka mhanun sangtay aani Hindustanchya lokana fashi dya mhanun sangtay. Asa kaay karayla laglat? Tya lokana fashi deu naka tumhi mhanayala laglat aani ithe fashi dya mhanayala laglat. (Afzal Guru…You are asking for the death sentence to be waived for people and you are demanding that people from Hindustan should be hanged. What are you doing? You are starting to say that those people should not be hanged and here, you are demanding a hanging). [IE]

  12. If Sarabjit is indeed a spy then he went at the behest of the indian govt. India should try and get him back!

  13. What you have quoted does not result in the moral equivalence you claim. It equates the ends (given that both of them have been sentenced to death by a court of law, that’s factual) and makes a possible philosophical allusion — which is not the same as moral equivalence.

  14. Nilu,

    a. Please define moral equivalence.

    It equates the ends (given that both of them have been sentenced to death by a court of law, that’s factual) and makes a possible philosophical allusion

    b.The difference is not in the ends. As I point out, it’s in the processes that led to the ends. The processes are different because they are animated by different values.

    c. A ‘possible philosophical allusion’…to what?

  15. In fact — here are things you should do.

    1. Define moral equivalence.

    2. Derive moral equivalence from Shivraj Patil’s statements.

    3. Assume nothing else — your love/ hate for Shivraj or his past opinions don’t count in this derivation.

    4. The difference you claim in the processes is irrelevant to this discussion because Shivraj Patil never said anything about them. If you have an opinion on it, good for you. So please explain, how your process matters to a mere statement on ends.

  16. Dear Nilu,


    1. I’m happy to offer the Wikipedia definition:
    Moral equivalence is a term used in political debate, usually to criticize any denial that a moral hierarchy can be assessed of two sides in a conflict, or in the actions or tactics of two sides. [Wikipedia]

    2. It’s right there in the post “the death sentence of an Indian citizen [found] guilty of terrorism in India by the Supreme Court of India and the death sentence handed out to an Indian citizen pronounced guilty of espionage and terrorism in Pakistan by the Pakistani judiciary.” [The Indian Supreme Court has a relative good record of sticking to the constitution and upholding the rule of law. The Pakistani supreme court operates in a murky constitutional environment, pulls out rabbits like doctrines of necessity (which by definition contradict the rule of law.] Also see the link to the Rational Fool’s post.

    3. Thanks. But that’s understood.

    4. On the contrary processes do matter. To contend that processes don’t matter is to engage in moral equivalence. Mr Patil didn’t say so—that’s why I’m accusing him of ignoring the processes.

    5. You didn’t answer (c). What do you think he’s philosophically alluding to?

    6. Do state your counter-argument. Are you saying that Mr Patil is not guilty of engaging in moral equivalence or that my arguments alleging moral equivalence are invalid? Either way you could enlighten us by explaining why.

  17. Nitin….. having a serious discussion with this jackass? Seriously???? Asking him to state counter-arguments? Don’t you know his inane game by now?

  18. Your argument about another country’s process in terms of law is irrelevant to the case Shivraj Patil is making. Pakistan is a sovereign nation that has sentenced someone to death. However flawed their process is in your eyes, it cannot be used to argue moral equivalence that derives from Shivraj Patil’s limited technical point that both are sentenced to death.

  19. Nilu,

    Are you demonstrating cleverness in debating tactics? Unless you want to let Gaurav Sabnis’s comment stand, please respond to my questions and state your case. If you have no case to make then all you are doing is quibbling. That gets rather tiresome when you begin repeating yourself.

  20. I don’t have an opinion on it and maybe Gaurav is right. But that does not make your derivation stand. I am simply questioning how you established what you did.

  21. Nilu,

    I don’t have an opinion on it and maybe Gaurav is right. But that does not make your derivation stand.

    Your not having an opinion and/or Gaurav being right is irrelevant to the standing of my argument.

    I am simply questioning how you established what you did.

    That’s fine. I believe I’ve explained it sufficiently and I have nothing more to add. But you are no more merely questioning my derivation when (a) you want to include Mr Patil’s “philosophical allusion” (without specifying what the object of the allusion is) and (b) you want to ignore “another country’s process” as irrelevant. You are imputing a different conclusion based on selective addition and deletion of parameters. That’s not ‘simply questioning’.

  22. By the way, Shivraj’s possible philosophical allusion to the absolute binary solution space of a death penalty was not repeated by me exactly because it’s irrelevant as well to the accusation I am making. Which is, your derivation is invalid.

    You may believe it is, but I don’t. And I am not making any other conclusion other than saying your argument is not convincing.

  23. Nilu,

    And I am not making any other conclusion other than saying your argument is not convincing.

    Okay. Somehow I find arguments made in such simple language easier to understand. I still don’t know what a “possible philosophical allusion to the absolute binary solution space of a death penalty” means. But it’s okay, you don’t have to phrase it in simple English if you don’t want to.

  24. Ummm, what was not simple about saying that a non binary solution in an essentially binary space is meaningless?

  25. Comrade Nilu, you definitely are a typist. Perhaps you’re a leftist typist, meaning you type with your left hand, but you’re a typist. Here’s wishing you happy typing about non-binary solution in an essentially binary space. Bang away.

  26. Nilu,

    If someone attempts to demonstrate an inconsistency in the reaction to two separate events, then that person is implying that the two events are equivalent in the relevant dimensions. Shivraj Patil claimed that one cannot demand the death penalty for Afzal Guru and at the same time plead for clemency for Sarabjit and be consistent. That claim of inconsistency is predicated on the equivalence of the two events.

    Nitin has made that argument cogently and even elaborated at some length on why he argued the way he did. He is obliged to present an argument but finding you an understanding of the argument is well outside his, or indeed anyone else’s, obligation or capacity. Perhaps your prejudices block your comprehension of a matter that would not strain the intellectual capacity of the average high school student.

    But I may be mistaken about your motives for engaging in this pointless debate. Perhaps you wish to demonstrate your skill in sophistry. If so, you have succeeded admirably and I bow deep in recognition of your abilities in this regard.


  27. Great, I am now prejudiced!

    Atanu, you are basically rephrasing Nitin’s argument and saying sentencing by a Pakistani court is subject to your review while that of an Indian court isn’t (or is, but you do it this way and not that). My point is simple — Patil simply stated a fact. Two people have been sentenced to death. You are neither a judge nor a lawyer (even if you are, not of these cases). And you don’t have access to the facts of either cases. So, Shivraj Patil, mildly, asked you to shut up. I will not be so courteous, but then I don’t care enough to not be.

    And equivalence arises only when the entire gamut of morality is under the same set of rules. Here, clearly, there is something called national interest of two sovereign nations and your argument or Nitin’s does not hold[1]. Hence Shivraj cannot be guilty of telling fellow idiots who blindly ask for one thing or the other to shut up.

    [1] – You will obviously think it does. But that is the reason why different nations exist.

  28. Correction: He is guilty of asking you to shut up. But not of moral equivalence.

    But that guilt is something I will encourage. In fact, I will do it better myself one of these days.

  29. For f’s sake, Nilu, which part of the argument don’t you understand? I am not reviewing any court decision. Learn to reason symbolically.

    Let’s say events A and B have occurred somewhere in the universe. Individual C assigns different values to them. Individual D argues that C is inconsistent in not evaluating both events the way. D’s argument therefore is predicated on his belief that events A and B are equivalent.

    Nitin argued (in your case in vain) that D’s accusation of inconsistency on C’s part reveals that D considers A and B to be equivalent.

    Once again: which friggin’ part of the argument evades your understanding? May I suggest you read Nitin’s original post very slowly, enunciating each word loudly, and if need be force some high school student to explain it to you?

    They say that one should not try to teach a pig to sing; it cannot be done, it is a waste of time and it annoys the pig.

    Now if you will excuse me, I will go write “I will not try to teach a pig to sing” one hundred times on the blackboard.


  30. They also say that it is not a good idea to mud wrestle with a pig; you cannot win, you get dirty, and the pig enjoys it.

    I should have taken Gaurav Sabnis’s implied suggestion to Nitin (comment #24) seriously and not descended into the mud pit with Nilu. My mistake.

  31. In case you still want a fucking lesson in Logic 101, your statement,

    “Nitin argued (in your case in vain) that D’s accusation of inconsistency on C’s part reveals that D considers A and B to be equivalent. ”

    is not necessarily true.

    Now, go away and ask for a refund for all courses in mathematics you may have taken.

  32. At this point, let me just summarise the discussion from comment #14 onwards.

    Even after asking for and getting an explanation, Nilu says he is not convinced by my argument that Mr Patil is engaging in moral equivalence. Nilu has no opinion of his own on Mr Patil’s utterances. This is fine. As Atanu put it, it is not within anyone’s capacity to satisfy Nilu.

    He threw about some post-modernish stuff about philosophical allusions and binary solution spaces which those interested in discussing post-modernish stuff about philosophical allusions and binary solution spaces can explore at their leisure somewhere else…not on this blog.

  33. Umm, to clarify further, I am not satisfied by your derivation and deem it invalid.

    And, there is nothing post-modern about binary solution spaces. Given that you type on a browser.

    The two statements above are not related.

  34. Nitin, others,

    Please skip the post-modernish stuff which Nilu did throw about. Go after his strongest arguments and ignore the weaker ones (believe me it increases respect for your side of the debate, if luckily the other guy goes for some low-hanging fruit on your side, your side will even be adjudged higher by default for his going after it).

    I didnt quite get Nilu’s argument myself, it seems to me that the statement indicates that it is *at least more likely* that D believes in the equivalence of events A & B, than that D believes A & B to be NOT equivalent. But I never was too good at math. I also continue to believe that D made this statement to trip up the BJP, his limited objective was to play on the religious denomination of A & B by playing up C’s bias towards one faith. It backfired (at least in my opinion).

    OTOH this thread is degenerating to F words etc. Probably reached the end of the road for logical arguments.


  35. Jai,

    I’d like to remind you and through you, both Nitin and Atanu about Aristotle’s definition of Syllogism, “A deduction is speech (logos) in which, certain things having been supposed, something different from those supposed results of necessity because of their being so”. (Prior Analytics I.2, 24b18-20)

    In other words, I don’t have an argument — I am just saying Nitin’s is invalid because he refuses to acknowledge that the derivation (or the lack of it) overlooks other possibilities. I don’t need to have a position or an opinion for this — that onus is on the syllogism itself. And hence on Nitin. Not me.

  36. But then, I wanted to quote Aristotle.

    And, where is that Atanu? Is he on his way to ask his refund?

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