All my dreams start with Venkatesh Prasad bowling a slow leg cutter, which lands in the middle of the cricket pitch and takes an eternity to reach the batsman.
I never see the batsman’s face.
But yesterday was different. I saw the batsman’s face and it was P Chidambaram.
Before I could see what Chidambaram was able to do with the slow leg cutter, my dream moved into a large hall (like Vigyan Bhavan) in Delhi.
Chidambaram was seated on the dais with a few mikes in front of him.
I was in the middle of the hall.
“Why is there no one else here?” he asked.
His voice reveberated into my ears.
“Oh that’s because it’s my dream,” I replied, matter of factly.
“Ah, I see. And what am I doing in your dream?”
“I wish I had an answer.”
“So who will have an answer?”
“Venkatesh Prasad should know because he was one the one who bowled you a leg cutter,” I explained.
“Venkatesh who?” he asked.
“Never mind. But I have a question for you.”
“Shoot. Now that I am here, let me do something useful.”
“It’s about the fiscal deficit.”
“Fiscal deficit?” he said. “You dream about fiscal deficits?”
“Yes, sometimes I do, when Deepika and Katrina are busy somewhere else.”
“Ah, them. Good girls. So shoot.”
“But I want an honest answer.”
“You will definitely get one. It’s only a dream after all.”
“So what is your latest view on the fiscal deficit?” I asked.
“Are you worried or not worried about it?”
“As I said yesterday, the government will not cross the red line set at 4.8% of the GDP(Gross Domestic Product), when it comes to the fiscal deficit.”
“Yes. And we will rein in spending and cut subsidies to meet this target. I see, food subsidies as one area where spending would need to be addressed in coming months.”
“Interesting. Has Sonia ji cleared this?”
“Of course. Of course,” replied Chidambaram, not expecting the question.
“Why should I believe you?”
“Why would I lie to you in a dream?” replied Chidambaram, trying to convince me that Sonia Gandhi would allow the government to rein in her favourite food subsidies.
“And what about the yuvraaj?”
“What about him?”
“What if, he goes against his mother again?”
“Ah, wasn’t that such a cute thing to do. I loved the way he said, main aaj bhi feke hue paise nahi uthata, hain!”
“Oh, but when did he say that? That was Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar, and the hain was from Agneepath.”
“Arre yaar Vivek. We are in a dream. Don’t analyse too much.”
“But there has got to be some logic even in a dream.”
“What I meant was that I loved his classic angry young man act. And so did mauni baba as he told me later.”
“When Amitabh could play Lal Badshah at the age of 57, and bowl the maidens over, Rahul baba to is just 43!”
“Yes, still some time to go,” I conceded.
“So are we done yet?” asked Chidambaram. “There are other better dreams that I need to get into.”
“Let’s get back to the fiscal deficit. Numbers declared by the Controller General of Accounts, which is a part of the ministry you head, show that the government has reached 74.6% of its annual fiscal deficit target of Rs 542,499 crore, or 4.8% of the GDP, in the first five months of the financial year (i.e. A
pril to August 2013).”
“These numbers were declared on September 30, 2013. You dismissed any worries about these numbers when you spoke to reporters the next day i.e. October 1, 2013. “The 74.6% number is irrelevant. We deliberately front-loaded our planned expenditure,” you said.”
“Yes, I did.”
“So on October 1, you were not worried about the fiscal deficit, but yesterday you were so concerned about it that you even stated that the government will have to control Sonia madam’s favourite food subsidies. What changed in six days time?” I asked.
“Oh, you can’t hold me responsible for something I said six days back, come on. You know that’s not the way it works,” Chidambaram said, trying to scuttle my question.
“Oh, and I also checked some numbers. The total planned expenditure between April and August 2013 stood at Rs 1,83,091 crore or around 33% of the Rs 5,55,322 crore that has been budgeted to be spent during the course of the year.”
“The government has spent only 33% of the planned expenditure in the first five months, so where is the front loading you were talking about?”
“Eh. You come so well prepared even in a dream. As I said you can’t hold me responsible for something I said six days back. What is that saying you guys have in Hindi?”
“Yeah, night over, thing over.”
“Ah, raat gayee baat gayee.”
“So, it’s not my fault that reporters don’t do their home work well enough and don’t cross question me when they need to,” said Chidambaram. “I say different things in on different days.”
“Also, on October 3, your ministry put out a press release in which it said that the government plans to infuse capital into public sector banks. In the budget an amount of Rs 14,000 crore had been provided for. But this amount will now be enhanced sufficiently, the release said.”
“Yes, it did,” replied Chidambaram.
“And this additional amount is being provided so as to enable banks to give two wheeler and consumer durable loans, with the hope of stimulating consumer demand.”
“Where is this extra money going to come from?”
“I think its time for me to leave the dream and go to mauni baba’s dream. He doesn’t ask so many questions.”
“Isn’t this going to put pressure on the fiscal deficit?”
“Ah, looks like there is no one in Katrina’s dream today, as well. Let me go there.”
“Let me try and explain this to you in a different way.”
“Have you seen this movie called Andaz Apna Apna?”
“What was your learning from it?”
“I remember reading somewhere that Aamir Khan and Salman Khan did not get along while the movie was being shot.”
“So? What is the learning there?”
“Superstars, often don’t get along.”
“Yes. Isn’t that obvious? Anything else?”
“Oh, and the length of Salman Khan’s hair kept changing throughout the movie. In one scene he had long hair up to his shoulders. In the next scene he had short hair.”
“I guess the producer would have run out of money and the Salman would have cut his hair meanwhile.”
“So? What is the learning there?”
“Producers, like governments, often run out of money.”
“Arggh..” said Chidambaram, getting slightly irritated.
“So what do you think is the learning?”I asked.
“Do you remember this character called Crime Master Gogo played by Shakti Kapoor?”
“Yes, I do.”
“So one of his signature lines in the movie is aaya hoon kuch to le kar jaoonga (now that I am here, let me take something as well ).”
“So I have made this line my guiding principle, by replacing one word.”
“Yes and I like to say, aaya hoon kuch to keh kar jaoonga (now that I am here, let me say something as well).”
“And that’s the principle I follow when I meet the press. Everyday is a new day.”
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on October 8, 2013
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)