Washington, Nov.7 : Imagine not inheriting a permanent bureaucracy. Freedom to bring in your own babus. It is every Indian politician's dream. Here in 'the land of the free', it is a privilege that the President enjoys. He is not encumbered with a permanent bureaucracy. So on January 20th, when President elect Barack Obama becomes President Obama, he will bring with him a whole new team.
He will not have to inherit a bunch of babus looking down their noses at the inexperienced head of government, something that happens in India every five years!
Barely 12 hours after having made history, Obama was closeted with his trusted aides in Chicago working on his team. The President elect has said that he wants to make it "cool" again to work for the federal government. Obama held discussions with Vice President elect Joseph Biden and aides of former President Bill Clinton.
Remember Obama has no daddy's friends like George W Bush. He has to get his team together while battling lobbyists and loyalists, all wanting a piece of action for the next four years. They don't have twenty five to thirty years to make hay like the Indian civil service.
Presidential transitions are never easy. The new bunch of bureaucrats will have to battle to get their work done with the permanent bureaucracy. There are many who will advise the new President to reduce appointments, reorganize, slash the number of committees. All promises made during campaigns but when in office, work has to be got done and for that, bureaucracy is a necessary evil.
John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton messed up by not making early choices and then succumbing to pressures. Unlike in India, where ministers cannot really fire their bureaucrats, here they can. At least they can fire the people they hire. And because there is accountability and meritocracy, the system works a wee bit better.
According to Washington rumour mills those who will certainly be on their way out will be Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Rice's teary press conference yesterday where she tried to establish a race kinship with the big O just did not jell. News networks were dismissive of the show of emotion. She will have to seek a job outside of Washington. This is a cruel city.
When Bill Clinton's team of babus had to quit office to make way for George Bush's team, they pulled out the alphabet 'W' from the keypads of computers in the White House. It's a cruel planet, that bureaucracy! A former president once said if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. Ask poor Bill Clinton, he had more friends in the Indian political and bureaucratic set up than in Washington in the past eight years.
So, will the former president find a job in the O cabinet? A special envoy for the Indian subcontinent with the task of bringing peace between two nuclear armed neighbours and peace to Kashmir? Sure. Clinton is welcome to come to New Delhi and Islamabad and discuss Kashmir. There are about 5,000 Kashmir experts in both capitals who would love to discuss the issue to death with him. He can even go on the 92 odd television channels from Srinagar to Thiruvananthapuram, from Karachi to Khyber, chatting with chatty anchors about 'Kashmir' and how he was instrumental in ending the Kargil war.
And then we have Kashmir specialists in the bureaucracy who will meet him in South Block and give him the much needed message....we will all muddle through without you ( with apologies to Eliza Doolittle-My Fair Lady).