Saturday, April 11, 2009

Advani should avoid TV debate with Manmohan Singh


BJP prime ministerial candidate L.K.Advani is desperately seeking an American-style TV debate with Congress prime ministerial candidate Manmohan Singh. Advani has a certain confidence in his persuasive, if not oratorial, skills. The BJP leader does not indulge in the rhetorical flourishes like his more famous colleague and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Advani sticks to hard facts. He bases his arguments on information and he manages to give a clever twist to the argument once in a while. It is this confidence in his ability to argue his case that prompts him to challenge Singh to a debate.
But he would be mistaken in his assumptions. Singh is not great ortaor either. But his store of information from where to pull out his arguments is far greater, far vaster than what Advani can command. This is not just with regard to the economy, where Singh holds the obvious upper hand. The Congress prime minister can go back into history and literature with enviable ease and without appearing to be working hard on it.
As a matter of fact, the weak point of Singh is when he getas down to deliver those direct punches against Advani, which are well directed and sharp but they do not carry much weight.
Advani on his part can score some points against Singh in matters of political detail but nothing more.
Advani also does not have the able aides who can brief him well on complex policy issues. Take for example, Advani's well-considered view on Mohammed Ai Jinnah being secular. It is a debatable issue and it would ultimately go against Jinnah. But Advani could have argued his case with much vigour where he could have said that it was the Congress Party that drove a moderate and secular Jinnah into the arms of the Muslim League after conservative leaders of the Congress like Madan Mohan Malviya refused to listen to Jinnah's plea for a compromise. Jinnah left the 1928 Congress session at Calcutta with tears in his eyes. Advani could have fleshed out his case but he did not have the information and he did not have the argument worked out beforehand.
It is for this reason that he can not hope to punch his way through a TV debate with Singh.

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