Friday, September 25, 2015

Mecca As an International City: Time to ask for "Vatican" status

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books The horrific tragedies that have taken place in the Holy City of Mecca has led people all over the world to ask the question: Are the Saudi authorities at all capable of dealing with the huge crowds that come on the annual pilgrimage, the Haj rituals. In a space of less than two weeks, three horrible accidents have happened at Mecca and our hearts are are full of grief. However, it is time to think of the status of Mecca. Mecca belongs to the entire Muslim fraternity and not to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi kingdom which legitimizes its brazen dependence on Wahhabi Islam, has taken charge of the two holy cities and the key component of the Saudi kingship is the fact that the Kingdom is the "protector of the holy cities". It is obvious that the Saudi authorities are doing a poor job. The stoning of Satan, a ritual at Mina draws a crowd of nearly 2 million and unfortunately, the Saudi authorities seem to have not learnt any lessons from the mistakes of the past. Each Haj season there are accidents due to the inefficiency of the Saudi crowd management techniques. India manages the Khumb Mela which draws huge crowds of more than 3 to 4 million without major mishaps. Crowd management is needed. It is also surprising that cranes with heavy booms were at the site of the pilgrimage. The collapse of a single crane cause nearly 400 deaths. Of course, the belief that a death in Mecca assures a safe passage to Heaven is not very comforting to the bereaved families. The inability of the Saudi authorities to provide for the security of the pilgrimage necessitates a rethink on the status of the Holy City. Mecca is holy to both the Sunnis and the Shias and the Iranian authorities have always been critical of the manner in which the Saudis manage the pilgrimage. A few years back there was an unfortunate tragedy at Mecca when Iranians dressed as pilgrims fired in the Grand Mosque killing nearly 300 pilgrims. Given the importance the site has for people of Islamic faith and the frequency with which accidents are happening it is necessay to liberate Mecca from the clutches of Wahabi Islam. Like Vatican, Mecca can be made into a Sate under the control of all the important denominations of Islam and this body should undertake to regulate the Pilgrimage. Ithink this is the best solution for the ever recurring problem.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Bihar Elections: Why the BJP will do well

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books Bihar, like Tamil Nadu, is a state with clearly defined dominant castes that are concentrated in geographical zones which enables the dominant castes to turn local influence into political power in the form of seats in the Assembly or Lok Sabha. The BJP in the last Lok Sabha polls swept the state gathering all but 4 of the seats. This in effect meant that the traditional caste equations had collapsed and the development wave of Narendar Modi took everything in its wake. Old alliances were swept aside and Laloo Prasad Yadava who tried to send his daughter to the Lok Sabha was completely defeated. Misa Bharathi lost and lost badly and that too in a Yadava dominated area. This time around the BJP, though sure of a victory, is having to fight for every seat. The alliance of SP,RJD and Congress may look formidable but in reality there is little strength for this Alliance. With the SP marching out, the going has gotten tougher for Nithish Kumar and his JD(U). The BJP has stitched up a loose alliance of intermediate castes and influential sections of the Dalit castes particularly the Paswans and the Mahadalits. The inclusion of Manji in the alliance is undoubtedly a masterstroke as it creates a very broad spectrum of support for the BJP which can count on the Brahmins, Rajput and Bhumiar votes to a substantial degree. The BJP Alliance has now gained traction and Modi's announcement of a special package for Bihar has made the BJP more or less secure. The real challenge for the BJP lies in the rural pockets. Nitish Kumar tried to make this electoral battle into a personal fight between him and Modi. This strategy has failed because the alliance with Laloo Prasad Yadava has raised people's fear of the return of the Jungle Raj. Given this state, it is certain that our of 243 seats the BJP will win around 157 seats.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hardik Patel and the Anti Reservation Stir

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books Another political star is rising in Gujarat and this has the potential of halting the BJP Juggernaut. The Pattidars of Gujarat are essentially an agricultural community which transformed itself into a trading and entrepreneurial class in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and with the onset of Independence the Patels became a dominant political class with tremendous social and economic power. In the Mandalized world of Indian politics and employment opportunities, the tag of "backwardness" helps in getting jobs, admission in professional colleges and even in getting services from the Government. The implementation of the Mandal Report which was based on the Census of 1931, is best with huge empirical and theoretical problems. The criteria on which "backward" status was granted was never spelled out and dominant landed communities like the Yadavas and the cluster of Lagrangian castes like the Ahirs, Kurmis and the like were given backward class status. By giving the dominant caste the benefit of reservation, the poorer sections of the so called forward castes were very deeply affected. Given the social churning that has taken place since Independence, inter marriages have taken place and the children of such marriages bear the brunt of the Mandal discrimination as they are largely set aside by the social groups on both sides of the families. Even if "honour killings" are rare, the fact is that inter caste children are doubly discriminated. The Mandal Reservation has set back the clock as far as social progress is concerned and the rise of honour killings is directly related to the caste resentment engendered by Mandal. Gujart has always been at the forefront of the anti Reservation struggle as the huge economy of the state could provide employment without too much ado. However, the Madal Reservation tilted the balance in favor of the backward castes and the Patels though constituting 17% of the population were the main targets of Mandal Reservation. Though politically very powerful, the Patels began to lose out on the job front and educational opportunities. It is against this background that the agitation for Reservation has to be seen. It is certainly not politically feasible to extend reservation to Patels and by making that demand, Hardik is basically drawing attention to the discriminatory and arbitrary manner in which reservation policy is being implemented. I think Indian social scientists have played a negative role in all this when they embraced the post colonial identity based therms of Inquiry rather than looking at Indian society from the prism of political economy. It is necessary to determine the hard matrix of backwardness and not hinge definitions to identity. An economic criteria is necessary as India has changed a great deal in the last 70 years and old theories do not make sense any more. The violence during the Rally addressed by this 22 year old student leader was unfortunate. The Chief Minister of Gujarat did not handle the issue in a sensible manner partly because being a Patel she took her community for granted. It is unlikely that the Patels will desert the BJP but the economic issues of scial backwardness cannot be wished away.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Vyapam Scam and its political Implications

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books Nearly four years back, I had drawn attention to the Mafiadom prevailing in Madhya Pradesh. The state seems to be in the vice like grip of a criminal gang and the BJP walked into the trap with its eyes wide open and so the political cost is going to be extremely heavy. The problem with the BJP rule is that while the Prime Ministers personal approval rating is still very high, the Party stands diminished before the eyes of the general public. The real reason for the sorry state in which the BJP finds itself in, is due to the lack of intellectual ballast in the kind of politics the party practices. The party hardly finds space for intellectuals and except for the Vivekananda Foundation, there is the same motley crowd that gathered around the Congress is now dancing around the feet of the BJP. The same scamsters who were in business during the rule of the UPA are now back in business and BJP Ministers are now being exposed by the day. Lalith Modi has tarnished the image of the BJP more than any single individuate. It took 10 years for the Congress to become synonymous with corruption. BJP has succeeded in getting the same notoriety in less than a year. And this is unfortunate because Narendra Modi still remains the best bet for India. His Party is failing him. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh was taunted as a rival or an alternative to Narendra Modi. It is true that in the ten years of his rule the state has witnessed some improvement in the social and economic indicators. However, the Vyapam scam is proving to be the nemesis of the Chief Minister. Vyapam is the acronym for Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal, the autonomous body responsible for conducting the public service examinations and the examinations for the Medical seats in the state. The scam surface in 2009 when more than 100 medical seats were exposed as being acquired through dubious means. The tentacles of those in power was so strong that OMR sheets were replace. Bogus answer sheets were prepared and replaced. All this for a consideration of course. It appears that enormous amounts of money changed hands and the Vyapam Board ensured that the person was selected for the post. The Chief Minister's wife Sadhna Singh's name figures prominently in the list of powerful people and perhaps she is the Mantrani referred to in the Exel Sheets of wrongful recruitment provided by a whistle blower. A scam of this dimension cannot be run without the patronage of those at the very top. In fact the FIR names even the Governor of the state, Ram Naresh Yadava as an accused. The son of the Governor was found dead in mysterious circumstances. The alarming thing about the scam and here the BJP is showing itself to be different from the Congress is the fact that nearly 50 persons associated with the Scam have been killed or died in suspicious circumstances. In the case of the medical student, Namrata Damor the state police tried to make an obvious case of murder appear as a case of suicide. The real issue confronting the party is: Is Shiraj Singh Chouhan involved in the scam. Though no smoking gun has come to light, all circumstantial evidence points out to the tacit consent, if not the active involvement of the Chief Minister. The frequency with which the various mafia groups are able to escape after committing heinous crimes points to a steady fall in the standard of administration. The fact that a senior IPS officer, Narendra Kumar was killed while performing his duties and the state government ensured that the killers went scot free suggests that Shiraj Singh is in cahoots with criminal elements. And so his hand in the Vyapam Scandal is certain. After dithering for over 2 years he has handed over the case to the CBI. I am not sure if the "caged parots" will ensure that the guilty are brought to book.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Narendra Modi's women Ministers and the moral crisis confronting the BJP

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books The year old Modi Government is facing a full blown political crisis and the Prime Minister cannot blame anyone but himself. Unlike the Congress which has a long history of ministerial misconduct, the BJP is new to power and is unable to effectively deal with the situation. In fact the ham handed manner in which the BJP put up its defense of Vasundhra Raje Scindia and Sushma Swaraj only made matters worse. The Prime Minister seems to have lost his voice and like Man Mohan Singh before him, has stopped speaking. The last major event he participated in was the International Yoge Day on June 21st, when the entire Rajpath came alive with Yoga exercises. The crux of the problem lies in the fact that the BJP lacks the intellectual ballast that can sustain its politics and its drive for political power. Whatever intellectual support it derives is from the Vivekananda Foundation and some turncoats who are now singing the BJP tune. Bereft of ideas and strategies, the BJP can now only hope that the storm passes away. And that is unlikely. The Ministers appointed are uneducated and do not understand the global and national issues even as they are imploding in the face of the Government. Of course, the Prime Minister has to deal with the material at hand and the worst part of Indian politics is that there is no place for the detached intellectual observer in the arena of politics. Smrithi Irani, a tele soap opera star, was entrusted with the tough task of running the Human Resource Development Ministry and she has doen such a poor job that even those who were inclined to give BJP and Narendra Modi a chance are now questioning the wisdom of voting for Modi. Smrithi Irani speaks good English but her lack of education is very real and she hides her inferiority by being brusque and arrogant. She has failed to make a mark in the field of education and has created unnecessary controversies, like over Yoge, German, the Four Year Degree Program and her silence over Vice Chancellors who have cheated the Government. She seems to be clueless about the issues at hand and appointing a self proclaimed 12 th standard Pass to such a ministry sent a signal down the line that Modi has scant respect for education. The affidavit case has embarrassed the Modi Government no end and this comes in the wake of the scandals of the other 2 women ministers of Modi's cabinet. Sushma Swaraj had earned a pride of place in Indian politics and was even Leader of the Opposition during the long dark years of the UPA. She was quick to corner the Singh Government on various issues stemming from the wanton corruption that went on during those years. She led the Party creditably and perhaps was smug enough to assume that she was the natural choice for being named the Prime Ministerial candidate, However, Narendra Modi pipped her to the post. Though Modi was not keen on giving her a top post, he was forced and the woman let him down badly by using her position to intervene in the immigration issues surrounding Lalit Modi, a scamster and a blackmailer who wasm primarily responsible for bringing the Kochi Tusker scandal into the public domain. He is a fugitive from the Indianlaw and the Foreign Minister of India cannot give an assurance to the British Government that any help rendered to this fugitive will not have a negative impact on India. Maybe the scandal will not hamper British Indian relations, but it has put a huge question mark over the future of Sushma Swaraj who is generally regarded as a performing minister. It has come to light that Swaraj Kaushal the Minister's husband and her daughter are both involved with Lait Modi. Vasundhara Raje Scindia takes the cake. This lady even files an affadavit in favor of the fugitive and has now been exposed. Her son, a BJP MP is neck deep in deals with Lalit Modi. Like Charles Shobraj, Lalit Modi will speell doom to all the three womane polticians of India. The BJP has handled this crisis so badly that the credibility of the Modi Government is dentted for sure.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Return of J Jayalalithaa: Requiem to Dravidian Politics

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books J Jajalalithaa too the oath of office for the fifth time this morning. Wearing a green Sari with an emerald ring sparkling on her right index finger she signed the Register. The Governor Rosaiah was doing his best to look comfortable as her ministers lined up to genuflect before her in the strict order of ministerial rank. The fact that she has been acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in the Disproportionate Asset case made her return possible. Critics have already smudged her copy book pointing out the seemingly glaring arithmetical error which resulted in Justice Kumaraswamy acquitting her on the judicial premise that her assets are within the permissible margin of error. Her critics seem to be unaware that an acquittal can be overturned by rectifying the mathematical calculation. The entire accounting of the assets have to be redone and that will not make any material change in the judgement. Though the acquittal will be challenged in the Supreme Court, the chances of it being set aside are rather slim. So J Jayalaithaa has crossed the last legal hurdle before the 2016 State Assembly Polls. Dravidian style politics is now on its last legs. The ostentatious display of identity symbols, the cloud display of personality cult, the obsequiousness toward party leadership and the immediate family, the wanton disregard to political and cultural values are all part of the political culture of high Dravidianism. J Jayalalithaa did not personally endorse any of these aberration, but had to fall in line with the established code of Dradidian politics. Even the corruption charges for which she was repeatedly prosecuted at the behest of Karunanidhi and Subramania Swamy was more the doing of her inner circle consisting of Sashikala and her Kallar relatives than of her own making. However, the fact is that in the menagerie of Indian politics, J Jayalalithaa enjoys the distintion of being the only politician who has been disqualified twice for corruption and has got back to power. It is very unlikely that Karunanidhi's daughter will escape the punishment as the case against her is water tight with little scope for legal jugglery. It is hoped that this time around she delivers on her promise, The closet politician with whom Jayalalithaa can be compared is Eva Peron. Like Eva, the present Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu is adored by the masses almost bordering on mass adulation. It is a foregone conclusion that she will sweep the next election as the populist schemes launched by her will fetch a rich harvest of votes. Launched in the name of AMMA, or Mother, these schemes all touch the lives of ordinary citizens. This new dimension of using the state and its machinery to redistibute resources has been perfected by the AIADMK and was started by her mentor, MGR. Surprisingly the total cost of these schemes is around 5,000 crores while the state earns nearly 30.000 crores by the sale of liquor through the TASMAC outlets. The immediate task before the present Chief Minister is the restore the confidence of the international financiers and kick start the stalled infra structure projects.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The conceit Jawarharlal Nehru and his brand of ideologically driven politics encouraged was the notion that India had a role in transmitting Western "values" and "institutions" to an Asia that was stagnant, despotic and cruel in every sense of the word. His Discovery of India was little more than a celebration of two thousand years of Indian humiliation and a wanton denial of the grand civilizational role that India had played in world history. The denial of the civilizational ethos of India was not accidental: Nehru's skewered view of Nation State demanded such an approach. The nation state and the quest for a "state centric" history has kept historians of India engaged for nearly six decades and there is little to show except the rumbustious noise over "secular history" versus "communal history".Nehru's ghost haunts the Historiography of modern India like Banco's ghost, a farce turning into a tragedy. There have been several changes in historiographical approaches but Indian historians prefer to embrace the colonial or the post colonial perspectives and while the latter with its dense fog of meaningless jargon finds a receptive audience in Indian academia, the colonial approaches are still the norm among professional historians. Manufacturing a "national history" to justify India's trnasition into a "modern" "democratic" and "socialist"  republic became the sine qua non for Indian historians. The turgid prose of Upinder Singh's successful foray into text book market does little to put India on the map of world civilizations.

During his recent visit to the great nation, China, Narendra Modi as Prime Minister visited the Tomb of China's first Emperor and her we have his pictures in the Tomb with the Terracotta warriors

The message that Narendra Modi was constantly engaged in making public is that China and India had a common Asian and civilizational history stretching over 2,500 years. Even the Communist Party dominated State had to accept the view that Buddhism was a strong and enduring link between the two countries. Nehru in his utter folly allowed the problem of Tibet and the border issue inherited from the infamous Younghusban expedition tomcloud his understanding of China. Modi's vision of an Asia led by China and India is more appropriate to the history that links these two countries.