All India Radia: K sera sera...? | Cover Story | Times Crest
Popular on Times Crest
  • In This Section
  • Entire Website
  • Dying to get in
    July 13, 2013
    At its AGM held on June 29, 2008 it was resolved to put a 5-year freeze on membership applications at Bangalore's most coveted club, the…
  • Club hits
    July 13, 2013
    Despite their restrictive membership rules, colonial trappings and archaic dress (and gadget) codes, India's private clubs haven't lost…
  • Finer tastes
    July 13, 2013
    It is the culinary tradition and its grand interiors that Bengal Club is justifiably proud of.
More in this Section
Leaving tiger watching to raise rice Ecologist Debal Deb, who did his post-doctoral research from IISc in…
The crorepati writer He's the man who gives Big B his lines. RD Tailang, the writer of KBC.
Chennai-Toronto express Review Raja is a Canadian enthusiast whose quirky video reviews of Tamil…
Don't parrot, perform Maestro Buddhadev Dasgupta will hold a masterclass on ragas.
A man's man Shivananda Khan spent his life speaking up for men who have sex with men.
Bhowmick and the first family of Indian football At first glance, it would be the craziest set-up in professional football.
From Times Blogs
The end of Detroit
Jobs in Detroit's car factories are moving to India.
Chidanand Rajghatta
How I love the word ‘dobaara’...
Can ‘bindaas’ or ‘jhakaas’ survive transliteration?
Shobhaa De
Anand marte nahin...
India's first superstar died almost a lonely life.
Robin Roy

All India Radia: K sera sera...?


CHIDANAND RAJGHATTA Musings on life, politics and economics from TOI's Washington correspondent

The term "lobbying" is said to come from the gathering of lawmakers and peers in the hallways (or lobbies) of the Parliament in the mother of all democracies viz. , England, before and after parliamentary debates. A more colorful explanation comes from its progeny, the United States. The story goes that President Ulysses Grant used to repair occasionally to the lobby of the Willard Hotel, located a block away from the White House, to enjoy a cigar and brandy after a day's work. Political wheelers and dealers, fixers and nixers, hung around the lobby, hoping to talk to him - and thus the term lobbying, already in existence, got wider currency. lobbying has a pejorative ring to it (advocacy sounds more respectable), Willard has not been vilified for its contribution to the political lexicon, probably because it has more engaging literary bragging rights: Among its guests, Martin Luther King finished his "I Have A Dream" speech, and Mark Twain wrote two books here. CharlesDickens and Walt Whitman stayed here, as did a host of Presidents and Prime Ministers, including Dr Manmohan Singh. Most times, visiting Indian cabinet ministers stay here, swishing through the lobby where Lincoln walked and Grant talked.

Today, Washington DC is the world capital of lobbying. Most lobbying enterprises are located on the city's "K Street, "now a derogatory metonym for influence peddling, much like Dalal Street in Mumbai and Wall Street in New York City are metonyms for the financial world. Lobbying, a multi-billion dollar business, has attained a near industry status because it employs some 40, 000 people directly (including nearly 20, 000 registered lobbyists) and many more indirectly. So pervasive is lobbying in the U. S that the two-mile long "K Street"has also engendered an eponymous HBO TV series.

India is a relative greenfield in the business of lobbying where even the U. S is struggling to contain its pernicious growth. We have no equivalent of K Street, although there has been an uptick in lobbying in the modern sense from the time liberalization kicked in in the early 1990s (influence-peddling has existed since times immemorial). The Radia episode is a warning that those who seek to loosen or thwart regulations also need to be regulated lest they cross the line in the sand, push the envelope, or whatever metaphor you choose to use.

While much of India is horrified at the so-called lobbying scandal, it is instructive to note that the Government of India and Indian industries have begun to use lobbyists extensively in Washington DC to lubricate the system to New Delhi's benefit. For decades, the Congress government employed a sole individual, a Nehru-Gandhi loyalist named Janaki Ganju, as its lobbyist in the U. S. In the early 1990s, New Delhi found it prudent to employ an established American lobbying firm with connections on the Hill to win friends and influence people.

Lobbying firms came in handy to mollify lawmakers in the aftermath of the nuclear tests in 1998 and later to lubricate the passage of the nuclear deal, even as there is a raging debate in the U. S about the revolving door syndrome to describe the traffic between the corridors of power and the salons of influence peddling. Ironically, bureaucrats and staffers who were inimical towards New Delhi when they were in the administration and Congress later lobbied for India when they joined K Street.

More recently, Indian industries have begun employing lobbyists as trade between the two countries has burgeoned. The Tata group itself employs several lobbying firms in the U. S - among them Pace LLP for automotive lobbying. David Kelly, among those who handle the Jaguar-Land Rover account, was formerly the chief of staff for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator. His colleague Lane Scott was on the White House Presidential Advance Staff and later Director of Legislative Affairs for the National Auto Dealers Association. You can't have anyone better to advice Tatas on the policies and regulations governing the US market.

Despite many Presidents, including Obama, railing against influence peddling, the White House itself isn't immune to lobbying. There is an apocryphal story about President Roosevelt telling a business delegation, "Okay, you've convinced me. Now go out there and bring pressure on me. "So for all the efforts to reform and regulate the industry, the feeling in Washington DC is K sera sera: when it comes to lobbying, whatever will be, will be. Here's yet another area where India need not follow the American way.

Reader's opinion (2)

Navin Chand GuptaDec 10th, 2012 at 23:05 PM

India is a greenfield governance so far even with 1120 million people. It is a mediocre country and still to learn the governance for long. We have to develop rulers with depth,vision, knowledge and management skills with an iron hand attitude.

Ravi NagDec 2nd, 2010 at 13:27 PM

You make lobbying so very legit!
But finally it is what it is - 'Pimping'.

Other Times Group news sites
The Times of India | The Economic Times
इकनॉमिक टाइम्स | ઈકોનોમિક ટાઈમ્સ
Mumbai Mirror | Times Now
Indiatimes | नवभारत टाइम्स
महाराष्ट्र टाइम्स
Living and entertainment
Timescity | iDiva | Bollywood | Zoom
| Technoholik |


itimes | Dating & Chat | Email
Hot on the Web
Book print ads | Online shopping | Business solutions | Book domains | Web hosting
Business email | Free SMS | Free email | Website design | CRM | Tenders | Remit
Cheap air tickets | Matrimonial | Ringtones | Astrology | Jobs | Property | Buy car
Online Deals
About us | Advertise with us | Terms of Use and Grievance Redressal Policy | Privacy policy | Feedback
Copyright© 2010 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service