Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Smrithi Irani and the Controversy over her Educational Qualifications

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

The new Prime Minister of India, Hon'ble Narendra Modi was barely sworn in and a new row has erupted. The Prime Minister keeping in mind his promise of Minimum Government, Maximum Governence appointed a rather lean ministry. large infrastructure ministries which were considered cash cows by the UPA regime have been clubbed together in order to eliminate  overlapping jurisdictions and minimize time expended on getting clearances and permits. Jawaharlal Nehru created a byzantine bureaucracy which was totally beyond accountability and Modi has set out to rein in this wayward officialdom. He followed it up with a spectacular gesture of inviting all the heads of State and Government of the SAARC. Narendra Modi's swearing in ceremony became a mini summit meeting of all the SAARC nations. The invite to Shri Nawaz Sheriff. the Prime Minister of Pakistan, was a diplomatic masterstroke. The presence of the Pakistan Prime Minister added significance to the occasion.

Unlike the UPA with its huge maga Ministry of nearly 90 ministers, Modi's Cabinet has only 24 Ministers of Cabinet rank. There are 10 Ministers of State with independent charge over their ministries and 14 Ministers of State. Many BJP heavy weights were denied cabinet berths and a number of younger men and women were brought in as Ministers with Cabinet rank. Obviously there will be a lo9t of disappointed MPs who were expecting the be made members of the Cabinet. One particular appointment however has generated some controversy. Smrithi Irani, a well known TV artist who acted in the mega serial Kuanki Saas bhi Kabhi Bahu thi was appointed Minister of Cabinet rank for the Ministry of Human Resource Developemt. Higher Education comes within the purview of this Ministry and it is quite likely that Narendra Modi may take that particular Department and meld it with some other Ministry. He has spoken of the 5 Ts governing his administration: Talent, Tradition, Technology, Transparency, Tourism. Keeping this principle in mind perhaps the Department of Higher Education may be merged with some other Ministry. However, the Congress party raised the lack of educational qualifications as a major talking point.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development was created by Rajiv Gandhi and was headed for a long time by Arjun Singh who used his office to literally sell licences to establish "deemed universities". The Supreme Court had to intervene in order to regulate the spate of deemed universities that have sprung up.With the exit of the State from the field of Higher Education, private players have entered the field in a big way and Higher Education is one field in which the coll refreshing breeze of liberalization has not been felt. Indian Higher Education continues to be over regulated and there is no place for innovation or initiative in the field of Higher Education. Indian Universities are in a state of terminal decline and Higher Education requires immediate attention.

Smrithi Irani has clearly stated that she has studies only up to the 12th Standard and the Congress party says that her lack of educational qualifications makes her ineligible for the job. Indian Ministers of Education have at times been over educated like Dr Nurul Hassan who inflicted enormous damage to the cause of education by making higher education drift in an over charged ideological milieu. Irani will certainly do no such damage and it is best not to allow ideological agents occupy that position. In the two previous instances of non Congress rule, the Congress and its ideological allies mounted serious challenge first to Dr Chander, the Minister for Education under the Janata Party in 1977-79 and also to Dr Murali Manohar Joshi who served as MHRD Minster under Atal Behari Vajpeyee. By entrusting this portfolio to an  minster who will not be perceived as partisan, Narendra Modi has insulated the field of Higher Education from the kind of pulls and pressures which it has seen in the past. Smrithi Irani will obviously be guided in her brief by the Prime Minister.

One of the most damaging consequences of the long innings of Dr Nurul Hassa as Minister of State for Education was that all important Institutions were brought under the tutelage of the Congress party and its affiliates: ICHR, UGC, ICSSR, ICCR, CSIR etc. It is time to democratize these institutions and the time is now.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Gopalakrishna Gandhi and his "Open Letter" to Narendra Modi: A Political Critique

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

In the Hindu dated May 19th 2014, the grandson of the Mahatma himself has issued an epistolary declaration of war against the newly victorious Narendra Modi. Open Letter to Narendra Modi is bad both in form and in taste as unbridled impertinence passes off as political wisdom and  liberal posturing masquerades as sage wisdom. Goplakrishna Gandhi has flagged all the traditional liberal issues without admitting that these issues have lost their relevance and resonance in India today which is aspiring for economic growth and social progress. At least he is honest enough to admit that the results of the elections surprised him and this speaks volumes about the disconnect between "intellectuals" like this Gandhi and the Indian reality of today.

Elitism has found a new language:it pretends to be couched in the garb of morality, egalitarian sentiments and social inclusiveness. Why else will Gandhi say that he was sickened by the "chai wallah" barb of another veteran of the liberal brigade, the notorious and crass Mani Shankar Iyer who lost his deposit in the recent poll.It is entirely irrelevant whether the likes of Gopalakrisha Gandhi find Hon'ble Narendra Modi acceptable or not. He is our Prime Minister by the choice of the people of India and any democrat must respect that. Gopalakrishna Gandhi cannot presume that his idea of India ought to enshrined in the India that Modi seeks to build. These days everyone has his/ her own Idea of India and in a  multi vocal and multi party democracy like India, everyone has the right to advocate his/her Idea of India. The liberals like Gandhi are only interested in imposing their idea of India as an assemblage of fragments as Partha Chaterjee famously said  on the rest of us. Narendra Modi has his Idea of India and he has won the mandate to refashion India after that image.

Stoking the fears of the minorities is another of the tried and tested methods of men like Gopalakrisha Gandhi. The just concluded elections prove that Narendra Modi's appeal transends the traditional faultlines of India society: dalits, muslims, tribals, the OBCs, the SWC and Sts have all voted for the BJP much to the chagrin of men like Gandhi. Instead of recognizing the fact that identity politics which played havoc with India has been set aside, Gandhi bemoans the demise of traditional identity politics. This shows that onl habit die hard and men like Gandhi are stuck in the Jurassic Park of identity, Idea of India, fake secularism and Dynastic fascism. But for his last name, who would give time of day for men like Gopalkrishna Gandhi.

There is a reference to communal violence in nhis article, the sub text being that Narendra Modi is still suspect for the 2002 events. The Supreme Court has found Narendra Modi innocent and yet Gopalkrishna Gandhi and his fellow IIC stalwarts always insinuate the involvement of Modi in the 2002 events. Do they pause to ask the Congress party why for 10 days the police was not called out in New Delhi in 1984. Do they ask why the Amry which is quartered in New Delhi itself was not called to maintain law and order. And we habve evidence that nearly 297 rioters were killed in Gujarat in the immediate aftermath of Godhra. I do not expect men like Gandhi, ideologues of the Establishment to be honest. But facts must be recorded and History cannot be distorted to score trivial political points.

Citizenship implies common laws and common responsibilities and speaking about citizenship is not "monarchist language" as Gandhi terms it.Modi rightly speaks of 125 crore Indians without fragmenting them into narrow domestic walls which in reality ghettoize the minorities. He seeks to bring them into the full sunlight of citizenship which liberals like Gandhi who play to the gallery of identity politics find very threatening. And last comes his absurd and impudent advice that Narendra Modi should accept the recommendations of the NGOs for names to the panel on SC and STs. Why did Gandhi not give the same advice to the UPA.

The press is already started blowing the bugle of war against Narendra Modi and those of us who want India to be strong and peaceful must be unitied in our re4solve.

Friday, May 16, 2014

"India has won": The implications of Narednra Modi's massive Electoral Victory, 2014

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

Regular readers of my blog would have realized that I have always predicted a  Naredra Modi victory and my estimate even of the seats won by the BJP has proved to be accurate. The Congress party, just as I predicted lost and lost so badly that it does not even qualify for the Post of the Leader of the Opposition. It appears that the Electorate has voted decisively and such magnificent electoral mandates carry with them the danger of evaporating just as fast.  It is necessary to understand, grasp and analyze the el corruption was also election of 2014 as it will set the benchmark for several subsequent elections.

The BJP has become a National party in that in the elections just concluded the BJP has secured nearly 50% of the votes polled and in a Parliamentary form of Democracy this is massive. Second, the Party which had just 2 members in the Parliamentary Elections of 1984 has now secure on its own 282 seats and along with its allies reached the 332 mark. This means that Narendra Modi led Government will be strong ans stable and will not be subject to the politics of blackmail that bedeviled the Congress Regime. Infrastructure building ministries like Ports and Telecom were assigned to regional political parties and the 2G Spectrum scandal and the Coal Allocation Scandal were the direct outcome of coalition politics. Narendra Modi does not have that handicap and being personally incorruptible he will either keep these ministries with himself or assign them to an aide whose loyalty he is assured of.  The trust that Narednra Modi has made with  revolves around the promise of Developmenmt which will pull the country out of the morass of economic stagnation. The development will be financed by large Infrastructure projects and the return of investor confidence is crucial to the success of this project. The youth have voted overwhelmingly for Narendra Modi in the hope that his promise is delivered upon.

The fact is that the Congress led UPA regime apart from being embroiled in egregious corruption was also undermining the social fabric of the country by resorting to identity po9litics of the lowest kind. Every political decison was taken keeping the interests of the ruling party and its vote bank in sight. Narendra Modi now has the elbow room to stay away from identity politics. The Communal Violence bill is a good example of such misguided initiatives. In India it is well known that all previous instances of communal violence were instigated by the Congress party and even in the 2002 Riots for which Narendra Modi was blamed and eventually cleared, it was the Congress that participated in the large scale killings that went on. In fact nearly 200 Congressmen are facing the courts for their role in the riots. Under Narendra Modi social peace will prevail and that is what India needs at the moment. The statecraft of Narendra Modi is predicated upon economic issues and so will be driven by the need and desire for social and political calm. In fact the Indian ruppee has already started rallying withoing hours of the modi victory.

The Governance of the country, or to put it in the words of Modi, "minimum governance, maximum governance" will be based on extensive consultations will all the constitutionally mandated authorities. The National Development Council in which all the Chief ministers of the States are represented, will play an important role and to that extent the Planning Commission will be rendered redundant. Of course, planning will be necessary but that will be done on the basis of rational criteria. The Reserve Bank of India has changed the interest rates and the new Government will take steps to increase foreign trade and reduce the widening trade deficit,  Roads, Powers and Hi Speed Raiways will be give due importance and in all these the involvement of China will be welcome.

India;s foreign policy is in shambles. The previous regime did not pursue any kind of strategy in the pursuit of Indian foreign polcy. The Americans made it a habit to take India for granted in the name of the "strategic partnership". Under Narendra Modi the "look East " Policy will be firmly in place Perhaps the first country Narendra Modi will visit after taking office will be China. Narendra Modi has written extensively on the impressive economic growth of China and his development plank owes some of the boiler plate to China. With USA in terminal decline, nothing much can be expected.

The massive mandate will bring peace and to some extent prosperity to India both of which were massively dented by the Congress..

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Narendra Modi: India's New Prime Minister Leadership and Vision

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

For the first time in India's electoral history, a single individual has been able to overcome the inherent contradictions of a complex electoral system which makes it difficult for any one candidate to emerge victorious as the first past the winning post system imposes its own conditions. And for Narendra Modi to prevail in the face of this hugely complex electoral system  and surge toward the 285+ mark makes us stop to think, ponder and reflect.  He has clocked 300,000 kilometers of travel by road, rail and air. He has addressed nearly 500 rallies all over the country and had participated in over 4600 gatherings called "chai pe chercha". An Indian version of a Tea Party. The hard work has paid off and the BJP and its Allies in the NDA are poised to form the next Government in India.

Narendra Modi was born on 17th September 1950 in a family which belonged to the OBC section of Indian society. Modi himself did not present himself as an OBC leader as his strategy involved the emphasis on development rather than identity. It was only when the Congress party insulted his politics by calling it "low level" politics (neech rajniti) that Modi decided to hit back and turned a barb into an emphatic endorsement of his vision. Priyanka Gandhi made sweeping and rather crude remarks against Modi and that turned the tide in his favor into a flood.Having shot her mouth about Modi's "low politics", Priyanka and the dynastic fascists tried to  mend the damage but it was too late. She came across as an arrogant woman insulting a self made man.

Narendra Modi spent his formative years in the RSS . The RSS, a nationalist and patriotic organization has always remained the bete noire of the Indian establishment because it was the only politcal force which opposed the Nehruvian Plan of Partition of India. The Congress made ,made what Nehru called the "tryst with destiny" but that tryst was predicated upon the unity of India not division. Because the RSS opposed Partition, Nehru and his cohorts labelled it "communal" and when Gandhi was murdered in January 1948, Jawarlal Nehru tried his best to implicate the RSS in the killing. Three National Commissions of Inquiry have exonerated the RSS and yet the Congress and its allies always rake up the past in order to undermine the organization. Narendra Modi came under the influence of Vakil Sahib and owes his world view and personality to him. It was Inamdar who encouraged Modi to study and he graduated with a B A degree in political science from the University of Delhi and later took his M A again in political science from South Gujarat University. Right form an early age Narendra Modi has remained a voracious reader with a formidable memory. During his long years as  Prachark of the RSS, Narendra Modi stunned people by his accurate recall of names and events from times past.

An incredible capacity to juggle with the nitty gritty of  organizational details and a dedicationto the mission and vision of the RSS ensured Narendra Modi's transition from a Pracharak to the General Secretary of the BJP during the years when L K Advani was the President. As General Secretary of the Party, Narendra Modi realised the importance of the newly emergent technologies, particularly the Computer and has always shown a willing ness to harness technology for political purposes. In the recently concluded Parliamentary Polls, Narendra Modi successfully integrated Information Technology, GIS and the Internet to propel the BJP forward. All his meeting and rallies took place well within the limits of the Code of Conduct of the Election Commission of India.He adhered to the time limit and there were days when he addressed a rally in North East India in the morning, a rally in South India in the afternoon and another in Western India all on the same day,. Few politicians have put themselves through such a grueling task. Even before setting off in the morning his Research Staff would have prepared the dossier for the next days rally. Even Generals planning a campaign or war hardly show such dedication to detail.

The new Government will have a completely new policy on almost all the important social and economic issues of the country. Massive funding on projects like the MNREGA, the flag ship scheme of the UPA will not be undertaken and the emphasis will shift to infrastructure. Investment in Roads, Ports and Railways can be expected to increase together with greater emphasis on Primary Education. Social Welfare will be targeted  keeping real  poverty levels in view and there will be less salience on identity issues. The hyped statements of the Congress that a Modi victory will lead to chaos will prove to be empty rhetoric. Even with the Muslim population, the Modi Governemnt will be fair.  Since the narrative has changed from identity to development, social temperature will remain normal. I would not be surprised if new high speed trains are introduced between the different major metros.

On the foreign policy front, the strategic embrace of the USA will be reconsidered as it is not in India's interest. Modi has always been an admirer of China and will try to bring about good relations with China. The confrontational policy will not continue and Modi will walk the extra mile to remain on friendly terms with China. With USA the relationship will remain normal, but the special bond between UPA leaders and USA will not be there.India under Modi will not strut about on the international stage as there are great challenges here in India. With Israel there will be excellent ties and normal relations will continue with the Middle Eastern countries. With Iran, the stalled Gas Pipe Line project will be revived. As far as the neighborhood is concerned, India will retain its predominance and will not follow a policy of letting the tail wag the dog.

On the economic front, the Current Account Deficit will engage the attention of the Government. Investment climate will certainly improve. Corruption will not be totally eliminated, but Narendra Modi is known for his integrity and his zero tolerance for mis governence and corruption. After 10 years of stagnation< India will at last have a Government which will work.

Modi as a young boy

With Vakil Saheb, a major influence in the Prime Minister's life

Friday, May 9, 2014

The 2014 Parliamentary Election Campaign and its Aftermath: A Bitter War of Words unleashed by the Congress party

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

The dust is slowly settling on the unusually long, and even by the standards of Indian electoral rhetoric, a very ugly campaign season. The Congress party set the trend when its President, Sonia Gandhi in an election rally accused the BJP of sowing fields of poison, an Indian expression which cannot be rendered easily into English. Zehar ki Kheti, the phrase used by Sonia Gandhi implies a deliberate cultivation of poison inorder to entrap innocents. The ugliness inherent in this remark set the benchmark for others to equal or exceed the shock quotient of Sonia's vulgar and tasteless rhetoric. And the BJP returnrd the compliment in kind.

Throughout the last two years, Hon'ble Narendra Modi in his speeches has been trying to focus attention on three issues: development, corruption and security, both internal and external. He deliberately set aside all divisive issues so that the Electorate makes up its mind in an informed manner. The old style Indian electoral politics of raising caste, religion, region and language controversies were set aside for a highly civilized campaign based on performance and governance. The Congress party rattled by the response that Modi was getting decided to go on the offensive and picked up caste and religion as weapons from its well stocked armory.  The wild charges leveled by Priyanka Gandhi on Narendra Modi set the stage for the rivals to rake up the controversial land deals of her husband, Shri Robert Vardra. This uneducated man with absolutely no resources was able to build up an empire with assets of nearly 1,000 crore rupees. His business model was simple and ingenious. He would approach a real estate or construction company for a soft loan to buy land and use soft loan to buy land from Congress rules states and get the land use changed and subsequently sell the same land back to the same developers for windfall profits. The BJP called this model the R S V P Model, each letter standing for Rahul, Sonia, Vadra and Priyanka respectively. The Congress retaliated by accusing Hon;ble Narendra Modi of gifting land to industrialists at throw away prices and their ire was directed against Adnani a business tycoon who like most businessmen in crony capitalism friendly India was equally close to the Congress and it turned out that much of his deals had materialized during the Congress regime.

The personal attacks on Narendra Modi were both vulgar and intense. Any lesser man would have wilted under the intense and well orchestrated campaign of vulga personal attack directed at Narendra Modi. The fact that Hon;ble Naendra Modi had married Jodhabehn when he was very young was raked up to question his marital status and of course the calumny that a man who abandoned his spouse cannot be trusted. This campaign was a clever one inthat it touched a nerve right at the heart of Indian social values. Fortunately, the clarification issued by the brother of Modiji's spouse cleared the air and the campaign of Rahul Gandhi just exploded on the face of the Congress party. Then the Congress shifted its attack on the Other Backward caste status claimed by Narendra Modi. Having brought in the dimension of "high" politics and "low" politics into the electoral discourse the Congress stirred up the caste cauldron hoping to conjure up the witches brew. The unseemly remarks of Priyanka Gandhi came in handy during the last phase of the Polls which were to take place for 33 seats in UP and Bihar, and the BJPwent to town over the remark and made it appear that the Congress was dividing the people on the basis of caste. The thoughtless remarks of an uneducated and unsophisticated young woman, Priyanka Gandhi came in handy to tear the "inclusive" character of the dynastic fascist outfit, the Congress party.

The conduct of the Election Commission was not above board. India has a constitutionally mandated Election Commission whice usually does a good job. In Varanasi where Narendra Modi is also contecsting against the AAP candidate Arvind KLhejriwal Narendra Modi was denied permission to hold a rally while Rahul Gandhi and Kejriwal were accorded permission. The discrimination was brought before the public of Varansi in a huge way.

The election process spread over 50 days has led the politicians particularly the Congress apprehensive of impending defeat to use identity issues to degrade the election. However, the next Government is likely to be the Narendra Modi's.