Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Chennai Floods, Water Management and the wisdom of the Madras Presidency Administrators: The Buckingham Canal

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books
The recent devastation caused by the phenomenal floods in the city of Madras caused large scale loss of life and property. The entire city was almost submerged by the surging waters and parts of the city, particularly along the watercourses were significantly inundated. To make matters worse nearly 34,000 cu secs of water was released from the Chennambbakam Tank without prior warning as the storage capacity of the tank was reaching the high-water mark. There was a fear of the tank breaching and so water was released and the nearby Puzhal Tank breached leading to flooding in Madipakkam and Pallikaranai. Only people living in high rise buildings were comparatively safe as the ground floor was completely submerged in large swathes of the city. Out of the nearly 3000 water bodies documented in the City of Chennai, more than half have been encroached by builders and the rapid unplanned urbanization of Chennai has led to the decline of the environment and the recent floods had demonstrated that Chennai was living on borrowed time. It must be clear to everyone that had the Buckingham Canal been allowed to function the large scale floods could have been avoided. The rulers of Independent India deliberately neglected the Buckingham Canal because they were enamored of dams which were considered the "temples of modern India". The blind rush toawrds industrialization resulted in the Buckingham canal being neglected and the 786 km canal has all but disappeared. Even in the 2001 Tsunami the vestige of the one kilometer wide canal which stretched from Markanam to Kakinada in the East Godavari District absorbed the shock of the waves and thereby protected part of the coastline. The worst damage was in the areas south of the canal.The history of the canal began in 1817 when a 11 kilomwter canal was constructed from Madras to Ennore. Gradually the canal was extended to Pulicat and during the devastating famine of 1877-79 the canal was constructed as famine relief work. Historical documents show that in the late 19th century rice was sent from Godavari region to Madras along the canal. As the cost of transportation by water was always cheaper, Madras as Chennai was then known, received its grain due to the canal. The canal was a life line for the people of the region. Independence meant that the administrative jurisdiction of the canal was fragmented and the whole project was allowed to decay. The canal was joined to the Adyar River and thereby a natural system of drainage came into existence. Had the Adyar River been dredged and the flow of water kept without major impediment, the damage in the recent floods could have been avoided. The Buckingham Canal took nearly a century of effort and Independent India as a nation run by corrupt people without wisdom allowed this great feat of engineering to decay.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Donald Trump and his Muslim exclusion comment: Why this fuss?

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomavy and Books Donald Trump, the Republican Presidential candidate, seems to have outrage the liberal public opinion with his comment that people from Muslim countries should be barred from entering the USA until America leadership figure out "what the hell is happening". This comment during the course of an election rally ought not to have created such a huge international controversy. What he says for getting votes from his constituents is of concern only to the US citizens, I am commenting on this statement only to expose the hypocrisy of his opponents. USA has practiced racially profiled exclusion ever since the establishment of the first settlements in New England. There was racially sanctioned slavery for over 300 years and even the Civil War was fought not to liberate the slaves but to defend the Union and the abolition of slavery as a war aim was proclaimed only as a strategic move in order to make the plantation workers/slaves rise in revolt. Generations of White historians have interpreted American History keeping the ideological objectives of USA in mind. During the COld War period USA was the leader of the "free world" as though the rest of the world was "unfree".Now the rhetoric of social inclusion is dominant and yet no one seems concerned that USA follows a policy of excluding the Spanish speaking Mexican from their territories and except for cheap labour the Spanish speaking people are not valued for anything else. No outrage over the proposed legislation which would identify illegal immigrants and repatriate them back to their home countries, breaking up families exactly like the slave laws once did. My purpose is not to suggest that USA IS SOME KIND OF A DEMON. It is only to put some perspective on Trump's remarks. USA has a system in which the Federal Government is the only empowered agency to regulate entry into the US and the adherence to International Law is questionable. We need only to recollect the instances of the "extra ordinary rendition", the attempted assassination of foreign leaders, the trumped up charges against Saddam Hussein and armed intervention in Libya are only some of the more egregious examples of US banditry. To top all this USA had the gall to put our Hon'ble Prime Minster on the exclusion list and ever one kept quiet. What Donald Trump has said comes from the same mind set that led to all the instances I have cited above. Historically too USA has imprisoned its own population in concentration camps on mere suspicion during World War II and still no reparations have been given to the interned population of Hawaii and California. It is sheer madness to condemn Donald Trump. If he is elected he has everyright to exclude whole populations on the grounds of national security and USA has been following this policy.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Killing of the Old and the Aged in Tamil Nadu: Talaikuthal, a savage tradition

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books Tamil Nadu is generally regarded as a progressive state with an "empowered" population, thanks to the Dravidian Movement. It is customary in Tamil Nadu to credit the Dravidian Movement for all progressive measures such as nationalization of Temple property, abolition of hereditary priesthood in Hindu Temples, stranglehold of the dominant agrarian castes over the political structure of the state, and the use of Tamil as the official language. Few people, especially the so called liberals and the progressives, do not realize that the Dravidian Movement brought in a highly intolerant society which was anti Hindu and anti Brahmin, in much the same way as the Nazi movement in Germany was ant Semitic. The exclusion of Brahmins from the civil society and cultural life of Tamil Nadu has resulted in a debasement of the very fabric of Tamil society. Today anti Dalit atrocities are particularly rampant in Tamil Nadu and the landed agrarian castes which are essentially the dominant backward castes are seldom punished for the human rights violations that they carry out. Indeed, human rights hardly exists in Tamil Nadu given the preponderance of political and administrative power enjoyed by the backward castes. This weeks nnews magazine called The Week (Nov 22, 2015) has exposed an ugly social practice that prevails in Tamil Nadu and it is time that the Central Government took note of this custom and instituted steps to prevent it. I have always wondered why there are no old people in Tamil Nadu. The c=state is no country for the Old and the infirm. The Week has exposed a horrible practice of talaikutal which prevails in Tami Nadu. According to the news magazine,the old are put to death in Tamil Nadu by the members of their immediate family, especially if they do not have independent means of financial support. A leisurely bath is administered and after that some poison is given in milk or tea and the old person is killed. This practice of talaikuthal seems to have social sacntion as there are no investigations if an old person dies. The magazine highlighted the case of a 92 year old woman from the village of Reddiapatti who was put to death by administering a lethal injection after the more traditional methods failed. Nowadays, pesticides and sleeping pills are used to kill the aged and the infirm. It has been reported that the village quacks willingly participate in such socially accepted and sanctioned senicide. When the English East India Company was battling the scourge of female infanticide in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, they empowered the Collectors to imprison anyone suspected of being involved in the killing of female babies, As a step to contain and discourage the practice of female infanticide the East India Company officers were required to register the pregnancy of women in their jurisdiction and monitor the birth of the child and if the child happened to be a girl child ensure its survival. In a similar manner the old must be regitered in Tamil Naduand if the death happens to be suspicious police invstigation must be launched. Tamil Nadu is fast losing its reputation of being a progressive state.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Harbans Mukia and his Critique of Indian Historiography

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books In the Hindu dated 27th October 2015, Professor Harbans Mukhia published a scathing critique of Indian historiography and with the hyperbole that comes naturally to the Left Liberals he terms the present political situation as a threat to "historiography". Is there any substance to this argument? It has become a fashion to decry the nationalists in and out of season and even if the nationalists are absolutelu quiet, it appears that the liberals would like a dog fight. For the past sixty five years, India has not seen any major shift in the paradigm within which History is debated: Communal versus Secular, Marxist versus the rest. Such contrived debates do little either to the profession of History or to the tasks that Historians have to perform in their societies. As memory keepers, Historians play a vital role in ensuring that the past does not become a victim of Lethe, the River of Forgetfulness. In India, we have seen a concerted attempt at rewriting the past keeping the objectives of the Nation State of 1947 in mind and as a consequence Indian Historiography is truncated and distorted. Can we study Kushana History without taking the larger context of Eurasia into consideration. Similarly can one study the Delkhi Sultanate without taking the Mongol context and how can one study the so called "Slave" dynasty without looking at the fact that the same Selujek Turks ruled Persia and Anatolia around the same time. My argument is simple: Indian historians rushed in to manufacture a so called National Secular Historiography and enshrimed that in the portals of the University and any attempt to question it was lampooned as "communal" and "reactionary". Can we forget the manner in which stalwarts ofIndian Historiography like Sir Jadunath Sarkar and R C Majumdhar were deliberately set aside as "Rankean" and "Reactionary". Mercifully Dipesh Chakravorthy has in his Calling of History studied the towering work of Sarkar. The need to satisfy the left of Center regime that came into power with Indiara Gabdhi in 1971 resulted in a virtual moratorium on debate in Indian History. The agenda of Historical Research was now set by the Left which was keen on looking at social and economic history to the exclusion of Political History. R S Sharma's highly original intervention in Indian Feudalism made historians discover feudalism everywhere. The appropriation of Indian Historiography entirely by the Left made meaningful debate impossible. For example, at the theoretical level, one must investigate the notion of feudalism as a metaphor for the medieval period as a whole. It has become passe to invoke James Mill and admonish anyone who seeks to ask searching questions as a blind adherent of the "colonial" school. The Left Liberals captured the UGC through Professor Satish Chnadra, the Ministry of Education through Professor Nurul Hassan and theICHR through Professor R S Sharma and his students. While the House of History has many rooms, Indian Historians stated letting out the rooms only to their shosen tenants and turned the MANSION OF HISTORY into a mere appartment block. The fall of the Congress Government has created the climate for new questions to be asked and these questions have remained ignored for the past several decades. For example is the Arayan/ Dravidian dichotomy a valid premise for early history of India. Similarly, did Sanskrit as a language serve only the instruments of religion and power or was there as Sheldom Pollock points out, there was a Sanskrit Cosmopolis. These question remain unanswered inspite of nearly seventy years of socalled research. The Left Liberals were guily of hounding the dissidents to the point of death. Harbans Mukhia himself was a victim of the intolerance of th Left and he should remember. The manner in which the Bhatariya Vidhya Bhavan series was ridiculed by these scholars goes to prove their intolerance. The Let Liberals have finally realized that sarkari historiography with a post colonial flavour will not wash.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Supreme Court of India and the Judgement on NJAC

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books The Indian Constitution envisaged a Parliamentary Democracy in India and over the years, thanks largely to the unmitigated abuse of power and corruption of successive Central Governments, particularly the Congress Party and its Allies, the political system as it presently states is viewed with suspicion by the rest of the country. The decline in the legitimacy of the political institutions has led to un elected elements like the CAG, the EC and quasi autonomous bodies to relegated a degree of freedom to themselves which was not envisaged on desirable in a democratic country. The Judiciary has always been a law unto itself as it does not subject itself to any scrutiny and of late, THE CREDIBILITY OF EVEN THE SUPERIOR judiciary has been called into question. A few years back there was a raging controversy over a Chief Justice, and the matter about his involvement in certain judgments still lingers on. The Constitution states quite clearly that the Executive which is accountable to Parliament must have a major say in the appointment of justices. It was Indira Gandhi's fascist talk of "committed judiciary" that alarmed the Judiciary and as the Central Government became weak under an assortment of non Congress Government. the Collegium System evolved which essentially meant that judges appointed judges. It is this imbalance of giving primacy to the Judiciary in matters relating to appointments that sought to be rectified in the National Judicial Appointments Commission which envisages a role for both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the selection of the Judges. In every democratic country the Executive and the Legislature appoint the higher judiciary. In USA the President nominates and the Senate confirms. Even the USA does not have a Judiciary which perpetuates itself by appointing itself and arrogating to itself the right of appointing judges in the name of Independence of the Judiciary. The concept of Indepemdent Judiciary does not embrace the notion of an unaccountable judiciary which is the situation under the Collegium sysytem. The basic flaws under the judicial collegium system was rectified by the present law which was passed by the Parliament unanimously. The Lok Sabha for all the flaws in our existing Parliamentary system is the representative of the Sovereignty of India and the Supreme Court cannot and should not undermine that. It is likely that some amendment will be made and the role of the Executive in the appointment of Justices will be restored. By striking down the Constitutional Amendment, the Supreme Court has undone the basic structure of the Consitution which makes the Parliament the source of law and the fountainhead of political will.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Dadri Killing and the Liberal Reaction

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books In Dadri, a suburb of New Delhi, located in the state of Uttar Pradesh a murder took place. A man suspected of killing a calf and eating its flesh was set upon by a furious mob and killed. This unfortunate incident took place when the state was ruled by the Samajwadi Party and the ruling Party at the Center, the BJP has nothing to do with the event. Yet, Azam Khan, better known for the alacrity with which the police of UP traced his missing buffaloes, made it a point to politisize the killing and insinuate that the BJP is general and one particular leader was responsible for the crime. The fact is that the Law and Order situation in UP is appalling and no one but the state Government can be blamed. First Azam Khan wrote a letter to the United Nations complaining of this incident. When India is trying to deal with the terror network sponsored by Pakistan, it is highly condemnable that a politician from the troubled state of UP should chose to write to the UN.The killing of the man was unfortunate. However instead of identifying the ral culprits, the state police sought to give a political spin and pin the blame on the BJP. Such mindless politicization of essentially criminal acts result in the real culprits escaping the long arms of the law as the police are more keen to help their political masters by providing fodder for the internecine wars between the so called "secular" alliance and the nationalists. Then the cry went out: Modi should speak. It defies logic to demand a statement from the Prime Minister whenever a petty crime takes place. Narendar Modi, like the US President made a routine statment condeming the killing. Whenever there is a white on black killing or there is mass shooting deaths in USA, President Barack Obama comes out with a statement. Do such statements reduce the number of killing. Apparently not. In the last decade or so there have been 18 reported instances of mass shootings in USA. Nobody demands the resignation of the President as if he is responsible for the crimes. Here the liberal Media,immediately gets into hyperactive mode and the Barkha Dutts and the Rajdeep Sardesais and the Karan Thapars come out of the woodwork to link the BJP with the crime. A few months back there were a spate of attacks on Christian religious institutions and the White countries lined up to condemn India as if the Government was responsbible for encouraging the attacks. It turned out that Bangladesh immigrants were responsible for the crimes and the liberal media did not report the facts. There is a law in place banning Cow Slaughter. Now the liberals encouraged by the white world are using this law to paint a picture of India as if the ban on cow slaughter is a symptom of religious fanaticism. We may say that all over the world the vegan movement is gaining strength and in India, beef consumption is taken as a sign of how "secular" one is. Rightly then gropus of people, armed and ready to protect Cattle from being slaughtered are gaining strength all over North India. Cow Protection Leagues are sprouting all over North India and cattle transporting trucks are stopped and the cattle freed. There is a law in place against the illegal killing of cows and that law is not being enforced. Therefore, people are taking the responsibility of enforcing the law into their own hands. One unfortunate fallout of the Dadri killing is that some octogenarian writers have started surrendering their state awards. Nyantara Sehgal who received the award 2 years after the biggest killing os Sikhs in 1984 by the goons associated with the Congress Party has suddenly found the virtue of secularism. Similarly another poet, Ashok Vajpayee has given up his award. It is time for the state to stop giving awards and later such awards become the basis for propaganda. Wriers have a right to dissent, but political correctness cannot be the basis of dissent.

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.

Monday, May 11, 2015

J Jayalalitaa and her legal travails: Why Justice seems a distant dream

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

Two judicial verdicts have caused considerable consternation in India. The first is the curious case of Salman Khan and the stay granted to his conviction by the Sessions Court within 2 hours. The cose was filed more than 13 years ago when Slaman Khan allegedly ran over 7 pavement dwellers killing one of them. According to the Police he was drunk at that time and following the Supreme Court judgement in the Perriera case, he was sentenced for "culpable homicide" not am mounting to murder. The fact that the judgment was stayed and the celebrity actor back home without spending even a single day in prison for killing a human being is cause for concern and people are asking questions about the integrity of the judicial process.

In Jayalalithaa's  case the matter is different. A vengeful DMK regime charged her under various provision relating to what we in India call Disproportionate Assets. A person should be able to show the source of income from which he or she has purchase assets. Failure to do so would amount to acceptance of the charge. The DMK went to town over the case and hyped the DA case to the tune of 100 crores. In fact the whole sordid episode stems from over enthusiasm on the part of the DMK regimes which tried to exaggerate the value of the assets seized from J Jayalalitaa after her defeat in the 1996 elections.  The judgement of the Trial Court was also strange. Instead of relying of the value of the assets and its source, Michael Cuhuna, the trial judge, pronounced her guilty on the basis of a totally extraneous piece of legislation: the Prevention of Corruption Act. Having assets disproportionate to known sources of Income does not constitute corruption, as one can inherit assets, acquire by exchange or gift and there are other pieces of law governing the acquisition of assets through these different means. The punishment handed in by the trial court was extremely harsh: 100 crore fine and 10 years rigorous imprisonment. The harshness of the verdict and the questionable legal grounds on which it rested have raised eyebrows in India.

Today the Bangalore High Court has on the appeal of Ms Jayalalitaa acquitted her of all charges. It is nobody's case that the former Chief Minister is above board. However, her acquittal has sent thrills of joy down the spines of her partymen and Ms Jayalalithaa is expected to return as Chief Minister soon. It is becoming difficult to convict VIPs guilty of major acts of corruption.

Both the case discussed in this blog suggest that corruption and VIP misdemeanors need to be addressed with greater vigour.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Jawaharlal Nehru, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, the RSS and the Myths of Modern India

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

Jawaharlal Nehru whom the Indian liberal worships as the very epitome of secularism and democracy based his politics on two huge and monstrous lies  both of which stand completely exposed today. The first was the state sponsored and encouraged propaganda the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (the RSS) was behind the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. So sustained and relentless was the aggressive campaign of vilification that even today there are "intellectuals" like Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukerjee and a host of congress acolytes who carry this false notion like a mark of "secular" identity. The facts is that Jawaharlal Nehru was well aware of the dangers posed to Gandhi, especially after he decided to go on a hunger strike to get from the reluctant regime of Nehru the money owed by India to Pakistan. Nehru chose to ignore all the warning and on the fateful day when Gandhi was shot, Nehru must have been relieved as the nation's attention would now be focused only on Nehru and not Gandhi. In fact, Gandhi was reluctant to share the mid night hour with Nehru and his absence on August 15th 1947 suggests that Gandhi and Nehru had parted ways. While it is not clear if Nehru had a hand in the assassination, what is amply clear that Nehru knowing well that the RSS was not in any way involved in the crime chose to implicate the leaders of the nationalist organization in a crime that shocked the nation. By discrediting the RSS and its opposition to the formation of Pakistan and Partition, Nehru successfully deflected attention from his own failure to prevent the Partition and more pertinently by agreeing to Lord Mountbatten's request for an early date for Independence, Nehru ensured that an unprepared Nation was faced with the horrendous reality of violence and ethnic cleansing on both sides of the border. Nehru's lack of statecraft is clear from this example. However, he sought to vindicate himself by blaming the RSS.

With his younger colleague, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, Nehru maintained less than cordial relations. Netaji was a towering intellectual with a first class degree from Cambridge University, unlike Nehru's "gentle man " pass degree, a successful passage through the ICS Examinations and Nehru was not a patch on this great man. In spite of the growing lure of Soviet style Socialism over his intellectual horizon, particularly in the 1930's, Nehru was astute enough not to take his socialism to the point of disrupting his relationship with Gandhi. In other words political expediency ensured that Nehru continued to pay homage to Gandhian ideals, whereas Bose was man enough to declare his opposition to the Gandhian methods. Bose escaped from Calcutta to Germ,any from where he continued the struggle for India's independence. And after the collapse of the Quit India Movement of 1942, the English decided to quit India but at at a cost" Partition and Quit. Netaji's contribution to India's Independence was beyond doubt of outstanding moment and was also an important element in the legitimization of the new Indian state which was born in 1947.Had Netaji been alive, Nehru stood no chance of towering over the Indian Nation like a colossus, of course, with feet of clay. The disappearance of Netaji was essential to ensure the survival of Nehru's regime.

On August 18th  1945 Netaji escaped to Russia via Manchuria and the plane crash theory was floated in order to cover up his tracks. Nehru was quick to declare Netaji dead and tried to appropriate the legacy of the Indian National Army by covertly suggesting that Netaji could be tried as a "war criminal" by the Allies due to his alliance with the Japanese Empire and Germany. There is some evidence to show that Nehru wrote to Clement Atlee suggesting that Netaji could be tried as a war criminal. It is against this background that Netaji decided to fake his death and escape to Soviet Russia. There are credible witnesses to that fact that he was seen in Russia, perhaps Siberia as late as 1963. The Mookerjee Commission also rejected the death in an air crash theory propagated by Nehru and his gang.

The recent revelations that the regime of Nehru used the Intelligence Bureau to tail the Bose Family and maintained total surveillance on the Sisir Bose Household comes as no great surprise. Nehru was mortally afraid of a return of Netaji.

Therefore the entire politics of Nehru in the post Independence era rested on two great lies.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Red Sander Smuggling and the tensions between Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh

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

The gunning down of 20 Red Sander smugglers in the forests surrounding the famed Tirupati Temple in Chitoor District of Andhra Pradesh has created a stir and politicians in Tamil Nadu have raised the issue of human rights violations and have accused the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Chandra Babu Naidu of wanton killing. The record of Tamil Nadu Government on the human rights front is rather bleak. Recently the Minister for Agriculture Thiru Krishnamurthy was arrested for abetting the suicide, of the Chief Engineer of the Department who was forced to sign papers appointing men as drivers in the Department from whom the Minister had taken bribes ranging from 3 to 5 lakhs.  The record of the earlier DMK Government is no better. Who has forgotten the suicide of Bash, an accused in the 2G Scam and earlier the killing of DG of Police Mr Durai. The Dravidian Movement and its political offshoots has led to the growth of corrupt, fascist forces and both the DMK and the AIADMK are both tadpoles from the same cess pool. Such being the case the sudden concern for the rights of the tribal on the part of the Tamil politicians is not sincere.

Since 1967 the tribal areas of North Arcot District, the Jahwadi Hills have been neglected. There have been no schemes for the up liftment of the tribal. Even elementary schools are lacking in the area. As far as health facilities are concerned even the Primary Health Centers are not present. The entire social welfare budget of Tamil Nadu is spent on the landed backward castes who already dominate the political and administrative structures of the state. The tribal population has only the choice of choosing the path of ethnocide or eternal poverty and marginalization. Against this background, the sudden love of our Tamil politicians for the tribals is both ingenuous and hypocritical.

Red Sander is a valuable timber which is found in the Seshachalam forests and is listed as an endangered tree and whose cutting is forbidden by law. There is a huge demand for the products from this tree in East Asia for making furniture and also in the construction industry. The tribals who are kept in a state of abject poverty as a calculated policy of the backward caste dominated regime, are induced by politician to venture out into the forests and cut down the trees. It takes just 30 minutes for an experienced tribal to cut down the tree and debark it and make it ready for transport. The forest guards are usually  paid to ignore the entire timber smuggling. More than 20 men who were appointed as forest guards were killed by the timber Mafia and hence the AP Government decided to appoint a special task force. We must remember that the mass killer Veerappan was also  a timber smuggler, except that he chose the less lucrative sandal wood trees to cut. And he too enjoyed patronage on both sides of the border: The DMK regime in Tamil Nadu and the Congress regime in Karnataka. The AP Government decided to act before the menace became too great for the sate to handle. The YSR Congress, like its parent organization is a crime syndicate and its local leaders are political front for the smugglers.

The killing of 20 tribals is indeed extremely sad and deserves to be investigated. The fact is that in the past the smugglers have killed forest guards and even in this case the Special Task Force was attacked with bows and axes and the firing was resorted to in self defense. Of course, excessive force was used. However, the primary responsibility rests with the Government of Tamil Nadu which has not done anything for the welfare of the tribals and force them to make a living thus.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

BBC, The Nirbhaya Documentary and Indian Public Opnion

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

The Western World or the White world pretends that it is upholding a higher civilizational standard than the non- Western world of which India and China are the most illustrious icons. On what basis are such claims made. The fact that less than 65 years back, Germany killed 13 million people in the Concentration Camps, a record of barbarism that still remains unsurpassed, is generally ignored as that country is officially part of the so called West. The rising tide of racial discrimination in most European countries is again set aside and in UK, the internal surveillance of the Muslim population is reaching alarming proportions. In USA almost every week a man, usually a non white and generally derelict person is being killed by the trigger happy internal militia. And since the subject is rape, the percentage of women in USA and Europe who are raped is extremely high. In MIT, a campus survey found that 60% of the female students had complained of unacceptable sexual behavior on Campus. I are repeating all these facts not to cover up the enormous tragedy that shocked and traumatized  the entire nation. India set up the JP Verma Commission and tightened the laws and there is growing awareness of the issue of gender violence. Can the same be said of USA and Europe.

The BBC has produced and broadcast a documentary entitled, India's Daughter, which is based on a series of interviews with the killers of Nirbhaya. The dead victim of the tragedy is made to relive the trauma once again by the shamelessly titillating exposure given to one of the rapists who is under the sentence of death. It appears from the way in which the documentary has been edited, that the main purpose is to shift the focus of the debate from rape to the death penalty in general and that of the impending execution of the rapist killer in particular. I cannot understand how the UPA Government was so insensitive that it allowed the BBC to film the interviews with the killer and that to in Tihar Jail located in the Capital. Will the Indian Media get access to any prisoner awaiting execution in USA. One example will suffice: The American Government did not permit the Indian Law reinforcement personnel to interview David Headley Coleman even though he stands accused in an Indian Court for having planned and organized the 26/11 Massacre in Mumbai. That being the case, how is it that the BBC enjoys privileges that it is not entitled to. How was the filming allowed without the script being whetted.

India's Daughter projects India is an extremely bad light and that is precisely the purpose of the documentary. It seeks to portray India as a land of barbarians in which women are not safe and it needs the skills of a white film maker to hold a mirror to reflect the ugly face of India. India exploded in anger at what happened in Delhi in December 2012 and does not need a white woman to tell us or inform us of the ugly reality which stares us in the face. The arrogance of the BBC which justified the broadcast is unconscionable: it serves a real purpose of informing the world says BBC. Indian law which prohibits the name of the victim from being made public was deliberately and insensitively violated and the Government of India is well within its right to ban BBC from India for this one serious act. I think, the country must adopt a zero tolerance to such provocations. India law cannot be violated by foreign media. We do not have give extra territorial rights to BBC and their correspondents. India should force the BBC to ether publically apologize for the violation of Indian law or be forced to quit India.

Nirbhaya is a symbol of the kind of unspeakable brutality which no civilized society can tolerate. The BBC has no right to rape the victim again and again. Shame on BBC. It now turns out that the rapist Mukesh Singh was paid by BBC for this interview. In other words BBC made commercial profit out out this immense tragedy and paid the killer too.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


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

Alapuzha or Allepey is sometimes called Venice of the East. It was an important port from where spices were exported to all parts of the world in the medieval period. To facilitate the movement of spices, canals were constructed on which the typical long boats of Kerala used to ply. The beautiful Vembanar Lake, a large water body forms a breath taking and a scenic backdrop to this beautiful city. I had reasons to visit this city recently as I was invited by a student of mine to deliver the keynote address for a National Seminar in a College there. We spent three wonderful days and I want to share my experience with my readers> Here goes:                                                    
Norton Church
The Lighthouse
The Spice Warehouse
A House by the Canal
The Rajarajesvari Temple
A Beautiful Lamp
The Mullaly Market
The Sunset on the beach
Saint Joseph's College for Women which is doing a splendid job in educating girls
The Ambalapuzha Temple
The same Temple
An excellent place to get snacks by the Boat Jetty

The first Protestant Church built in 1816
The Altar of the Church
A view of the canal

Our trip to Allepey was wonderful and will remain in our mind for a long long time. Well worth a visit.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

One Part Woman: Perumal Murugan and his novel of Misrepresentation

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

Tamil literary scene is said to be vibrant and the recent novel by Perumal Murugan, One Part Woman is touted as an example of a renaissance in Tamil Literature. Caste is always simmering under the surface of Tamil society and the Dravidian Movement has made caste the central icon of Tamil identity and politics which valorizes a politicized linguistic consciousness. The Brahmin was the focus of much of the venom unleashed by the Dravidian Movement and even E V Ramaswamy Nayakkar or Periyar as he is fondly called made Brahmin bashing an acceptable part of Tamil public behaviour. Today when  brahmins has been driven out of Tamil Nadu and the intermediate castes which inherited the spoils of the Dravidian Movement and its politics are busy fighting among themselves and are united only against the dalit population. The ugly reality of Tamil society today is that caste is the only theme which writers want to explore. Murugan, a teacher of Tamil at Namakkal has published a novel which the intermediate landed caste of the Konku region, the Konku Vellalars, find extremely offensive. The novel, One Part Woman is set in the Konku region around the town of Tiruchengode, a taluq headquarters in Salem district.

Konku which consists of the hilly tracts of the Western Ghats was the last frontier of Tamil society and throughout its long history was bone of contention between powerful neighbours. The Pandyas, the Cholas and the Hoysalas all contested for supremacy over this region. Obviously the area has a violent and turbulent past which can be dealt with in a fairly interesting and engaging manner. However we do not find this novel doing either.

There has been outrage in Tamil Nadu against this novel. The writer/novelist in a dramatic facebook post declared that the novelist Murugan is dead and only a "stupid teacher" Murugan  is alive. This provided the signal for all the usual suspects of the Tamil Literary scene, N Ram, A R Venkatachalapathy, Meena, Chandru and others to rally in support of the author on the ground that his artistic freedom has been curtailed by the forces of "cultural fascism". Nothing can be more untrue than this. A conspiracy theory was floated that because the Vellalar Gounders are running Teaching shops in the form of cram schools in Namakkal that community is funding the anti Murugan agitation and the author played along by pretending to be a martyr to the cause of freedom.

There is a great deal of ethnographic information available about the Konku region and there is no material which supports the central theme of the novel that the Ardhanarisvara Temple situated atop a hillock near Tiruchengode was ever the site of the seedy scene that Murugan describes. He argues that women visited this temple to beget children and were impregnated by men who were not their husbands. Obviously the Konku Vellalar community is up in arms against the depiction of their women as unchaste and more pertinently, causing a veil of suspicion to fall on the  ancestry of the community. The Konku Vellalars are divided into 24 territorially  segmented nadu grouping as suggested by the ethnographic research of Brenda Beck. Under these circumstances it would be impossible for such a custom to be even plausible. A false and contrived social custom is sought to be foisted on to the Konku Gounder community. There is no historical or ethnographic material to even remotely suggest the existence of the surrogate impregnation that Perumal Murugan has described in his book. I do not contest his right to write rubbish, but let him not say that he has written a piece of social history in the form of a novel.

The language used in the book is vulgar and tasteless. Kinship is respected in Tamil society and the elder brother's wife is called anni. It is not possible for a brother to say in the context of Tamil society' "Just find out and let me know if my sisters-in-law will take care of that" (86). The context of this quote is so tasteless and vulgar that I have refrained from quoting it in full. And there are many such instances of vulgar, tasteless language.

On page 98 Perumal Murugan writes: At the peak of the celebrations all rules were relaxed. The night bore witness to that".

This book does not deserve the attention it has received. Of course, I do not say that it should be banned. It is just a piece of trash thta deserves to be ignored.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


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

The victory of the AAP in the recently concluded polls came as a complete shock to many of us. While the victory of the AAP was predicted the scale of the victory was unprecedented to say the least. The BJP had won all 7 Lok Sabha seats in the May 2014 General Election with a vote share of 37.5%. There has been a slight fall in the vote share  but the BJP won only 3 seats leaving 67 seats to the AAP. What explains this debacle?

1 It is now clear that the projection of Kiran Bedi as the Chief Ministerial candidate mid way through the polls was a flawed strategy and doubly so because that move was not welcomed by the grass root workers of the party. Her high handed conduct alienated party workers and the net result she lost the Krishna Nagar seat, a safe constituency of the BJP.

2 The BJP went into the elections without a Manifesto and that meant that the people of Delhi did not know what to expect from the Party. The Vision Document released was largely a symbolic statement huge on rhetoric but short on specifics. Now in retrospect that was  a factor.

3 The BJP was on a roll winning state after state and had become used to the habit of winning and assumed that Delhi would be a piece of cake. The AAP has built a good net work of supporters in different localities and had the city well covered. A committed band of volunteers worked night and day to make the victory possible. The AAP was able to tap the misguided idealism of the youth who believe that the AAP brand of politics will augur change in India.

4 The BJP under the State President Shri Satish Upadhya was handicapped by the lack of support from the top duo of the Party, Modi and Shah. Satish Upadhya himself was denied a ticket to fight the Polls while defectors like Krishna Tirath were given tickets. The ticket distribution was faulty and there were far too many para troopers wafting from above queering the pitch.

5 The perceived "negative campaign" of the BJP against the much vaunted financial and ethical probity of the AAP is also touted as a reason. The fact is that the AAP is guilty of using shady and dubious finances during the campaign but turned its own misdeeds against the BJP. The AAP is very good at turning all criticism against its conduct as a trial between the forces of good and the forces of evil a kind of eschatology which may lead to short term gains but not long lasting results.

6 The BJP has lost and like a mature political party has started introspecting. The first clear indication of change is the reluctance to enter the dirty cess  pool of Bihar politics. The BPJ will  learn its lessons and get its house in order before the Bihar polls later this year.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Barack Obama in India: Republic Day, Nuclear Deal and Indo-US Relations

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

The Republic Day 2015 has quite a few firsts to its credit. For the first time in 66 years a serving US President was the Chief Guest at this important public event. And for the first time too significant political and economic agreements were signed, particularly the agreement on Civil Nuclear Deal. Let us put all this in perspective. A year ago, no one in India would have deemed it possible for a US President to be the Chief Guest on the occasion of the Republic Day. The commentators here have simplified the whole issue into one of "chemistry" between the two leaders. Nothing can be more wrong than this. USA has finally realized that India has changed and it is no longer possible to ignore India. The fact that USA was used to equating Indian concerns with Pakistan's sensitivities was the crux of the whole relationship, India was usually hyphenated with Pakistan. For the first time the joint statement issued after the talks made an unequivocal commitment to end terrorism and in the usual diplomatic parlance took a firm step towards ensuring that the 26/11 suspects are brought to book. I think this shift in US policy in the most important outcome of the visit.

The Civil Nuclear deal between India and USA was signed sis years back and there was little progress on the issue because of the "liability" clause in the Act passed by the Indian Parliament. The legality of the liability clause can be debated but the fact is that the BJP insisted that the clause which makes the supplier and not the operators of the power plants liable for the cost of any accident. The US power industry was naturally apprehensive about this clause and Modi was able to talk the US President into using his executive powers to iron out the differences. I think this is again a huge shift in US position. The fact that a Democrat has been able to muster the political will to make a huge shift in India's favor is a sign that Indo-US Relations are improving. I am personally in favor of a more even handed approach so that the Chinese Government does not get too highly perturbed over the growing ties between the two countries. However, the deal was struck within 7 months of Modi coming to power and this goes to show that in the domain of  foreign policy Narendar Modi has rare grit and talent.

The other important takeaway from the visit of Barack Obama is the US endorsement of the "Make in India" campaign launched by Narendar Modi. The long and dreary years of Congress rule staring with Jawaharlal Nehru saw India adopting a model of development which was based on the importation of technology in the knocked down version and the factories reassembled in India. The Ambassador car is a good example of this. Reassembly of kits, manufacturing on the basis of expired patents or process innovation were the hall marks of Indian industrialization. And this charade was called "thrust toward self sufficiency". Rightly has India rejected this model of development and Modi in his Make in India Campaign seeks transfer of technology, partnership and skill development all of which were absent in the Nehruvian model. The Make in India campaign  figured prominently in the Davos Meet.

The recent comments in China in which the Obama visit was sought to be downplayed has to be viewed seriously. China has very perceptively understood that there is a major shift in the very principles of Indian foreign policy. I am sure that Narendar Modi during his forthcoming visit to China will reassure  China that Indo-US relations are not directed at China and so far Narendar Modi has sent out all the right messages.

The Republic Day began with Narendar Modi paying tribute to the Indian Army at India Gate which was built by the British to honour the war dead of India in the Great War, 1914-18. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Manohar Parikker and the "Deep Assets": How I K Gujral compromised India's security

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

The Defence Minister of India, Shri Manohar Parriker made a statement recently in which he alluded to "deep assets" which had been built up over 20 or so years which had been compromised. The Congress Party went to town condemning this statement and even accused the Hon'ble Minster of being irresponsible. The statement has to be viewed in the context of the recent interception on the high seas of a boat which has been identified as a boat whose mission was to deliver a consignment of arms and explosives to a module of the Indian Mujahideen in Gujarat. The boat was intercepted as the radio exchanges were monitored over a period of 2 to 3 days and when confronted by the Coast Guard, the boat and its crew chose to detonate explosives and destroy the boat, cargo and the men on board. It is clear from the intercepts that nearly 50 lakhs were being paid to each of the men on board and this certainly makes it a high risk venture. It is against this background that Manohar Parikker made his forthright remarks.

Unlike USA, Israel or even Pakistan India has not been able to create an efficient Intelligence Agency. The recent disclosures made by R K Yadava in his Mission R&W make shocking reading: we have as R K Yadava  points out an intelligence agency which is badly organized, working at cross purposes with other agencies like the IB and worse full of men who are eager to be recruited as double agents. Worse nearly 6 men have defected to USA and India has not been able to bring them to book. When the country's leading Intelligence Agency is facing a crisis of this magnitude, the statement by the Defence Minister has to be taken seriously. There is no scope for bravado.

When I K Gujral became the Prime Minster after the dismissal of Deve Gowda, the new Prime Minster unleashed  volley of measures which virtually disbanded the operational capability of the R&W in Pakistan. He wrongly believed, perhaps because he was born in Pakistan, that it would be possible to have peace with Pakistan. With this false ideological and emotional motive, Gujral systematically degraded Indian intelligence assets in Pakistan. A top secret unit called CITX was disbanded and all the operatives recalled to India. India lost its ability to monitor the movement of military units and the deployment of troops. It had even penetrated the middle level of the Pakistani military establishment when Inder Kumar Gujral brought the whole process down.

As irony would have it I K Gural was saved from assassination by the very R&AW that he chose to attack.

What Parikker has said is true and there is no point in making a political issue of it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Kiran Bedi and the Delhi Assembly Polls, 2015

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

Once again the same questions and again loud, incoherent noises passing off as political wisdom. The BJP inducted Dr Kiran Bedi into the party and is projecting her as the Chief Ministerial face of the campaign for the Delhi Assemble polls scheduled for February 2015. The BJP has lost its advantage in terms of the Modi factor and has therefore "parachuted" Kiran Bedi screamed Arvind Khejriwal. Not to be outdone, the Congress leader Ajay Maken, yes the same Ajay Maken from Hans Raj about whom the dynastic fascist leader, Mani Shankar Ayer said some unpleasant things a few years back, declared that there is dearth of local leadership in the Delhi unit of the BJP. Therefore both the AAP and the Congress are reading mixed political signals in this new development. Added to the motives attributed to the induction of Kiran Bedi is the fading halo around Narendar Modi which according the APPtards has alarmed the Party. Let us see the validity of these arguments.

Dr Kiran Bedi is a prize catch as she is a well known crusader against Corruption and has shared the limelight along with Anna Hazare and his acolyte, Arvind Khejriwal. Since APP will again try to rake up the Lokpal Bill and the response of the BJP to the promise to pass a strong Lok Pal Bill, it makes sense to have the mascot of the anti Corruption movement to confront Khejriwal. None of the other leaders from Delhi match up to the record and stature of Kiran Bedi. Dr Harsh Vardhan would have been ideal, but for some strange reason he is in the dog house for the moment. Satish Upadhya cannot take on Arvind Khejriwal one on one and the BJP leadership has rightly understood this. I must add that even without Kiral Bedi, the BJP could still sweep the polls in Delhi, but there is a definite edge to the BJP Campaign now. Second, Delhi has a large Sikh population which will not vote for the Congress given its abysmal record in 1984 and Kiran Bedi being a Sikh will certainly help bring some of the votes now that the alliance with the Akali Dal is getting unstuck. Lastly, the administrative experience of Kiran Bedi cannot match anyone of her rivals. There is a strong undercurrent of support for Kiran Bedi even in the Juggi Jonpuri colonies due to her track record of service through the NGO she heads.

Now the results as I see it. Before the induction of Bedi. BJP would on its own have won around 35 to 38 seats. Now it will cross 40 though it will not reACH 49 SEATS IT ONCE HELD IN THE FIRST ASSEMBLY. Therefore Amit Shah and the BJP central leadership have pulled a coup by bringing in Kiran Bedi.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Je suis Charlie Hebdo: The Indiscreet charms of Islamic Terrorism

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

The attack on the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo the satirical magazine which won international notoriety for publishing offensive cartoons pertaining to Mohammad, the founder of Islam. Two or three heavily armed men stormed into the building by forcing the woman at the gate to enter the access code of the high security building and fired 37 rounds of ammunition from Ak 47 rifles before making their escape they shot dead a critically injured policeman. That the attack was well planned and meticulously  executed can be gleaned from the flawless getaway, escape from the scene into the woods surrounding the Parisian countryside. The French President, Francois Hollande declared that the killers would be hunted down and that the attack on the journalists was an attack on French Laws which guaranteed "freedom of expression". The French, American and Western media have framed  the attack in terms of the opposition between the liberal West which has the civilized approach to life and liberty and the barbaric totalitarian jihadists who  kill in the name of religion. This way of framing the issue privileges the superiority of the West which is allegedly governed by "laws" and not "men".

Charlie Hebdo was known all over the world for its irreverence and indeed hostile caricature of non White/ Western cultures, religions and  personalities. It may be pointed out that when one of the early satirical magazine, a predecessor of the contemporary, Charlie Hebdo, published a spoof on Charles de Gaulle way back in 1970, it was banned and all copies of the magazine forfeited and destroyed. It is therefore clear that the French claim that they respect Freedom of expression rings hollow. As long as the target of attack is not European or White then it is OK. This seems to the limits set to freedom of expression in France. Can the right to offend be subsumed under the right to freedom of expression.

The western world has seen the disenchantment of the sacred and in most parts of the world people do regard certain personalities, beliefs and symbols sacred and beyond ridicule. Unfortunately in India where political discourse is derivative and based on the pretentions of the western world there is a tendency to equate the freedom of expression with the right to offend. Nothing can be more disingenuous than this argument. In the west only political and national symbols command allegiance of the people. In India we have a whole menagerie of animals, hosts of symbols, a horde of personalities all of which clamour for attention and respect and notional symbols of a recent transition to nationhood are at best second or third tier allegiances. Hence, there is no use of equating the freedom of expression with the right to offend. Reasonable freedom can exist only within the limits of mutual respect and the attack on Charlie Hebdo  only demonstrates that the boundary between freedom and respect has been irrevocably broken or breached.

There is a lesson in this tragedy for France. Even since Nicholas Sarkozy became the President of France it has followed a policy of intervention in the Islamic countries and in this there is a pattern of continuity between what was happening under the rights regime and the present pseudo socialist one. The attack on Libya, Tunisia and the provocations in Syria all anger the Islamic societies and added to that is the cultural arrogance of caricature.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014 in India : A Retrospect

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

2014 will be remembered as a year in which India reinvented itself. The year began under a spell of gloom as the Congress regime was floundering under charges of corruption, dynastic fascism and political instability. The involvement of Robert Vadra in a series of land scams in states such as Haryana and Rajasthan only showed that even the First Family of the Congress was deeply implicated in corruption. The Congress could not mount an effective answer to the charges and resorted to the usual game of promoting identity politics and raising the bogey of communalism, an undefined and inherently self contradictory concept. Rahul Gandhi tried to lead the Congress counter charge, but the people of India have moved well beyond the narrow limits of dynastic politics.

Enter Narendar Modi. As Chief MInister of Gujarat he performed well that he was repeatedly elected with higher margins than the the previous occasion. He personally led the NDA campaign in the Parliamentary Election of May 2014 and by addressing thousands of rallies all across the length and breadth of India he drove home the message that India can hope for a better and a more secure future provided it abjured dynastic rule and its inherent corruption. He got a  fantastic mandate from the country and formed the Government.

In the six months that Modi has been in power, there has not been any dramatic new development but incremental steps have been taken. His "Make in India" campaign has certainly stimulated investment in the industrial sector and though the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India,  publically criticized this policy, the fact is that industrial growth has picked up. The price rise has been checked and along with price rise we also find the Government addressing the issue of trimming the ever burgeoning subsidies that bedevil the social sector. The Direct Cash Transfer scheme brought in by the previous regime is being streamlined and strengthened. The various Rural Employment guarantee schemes have spawned monumental corruption and the Modi Government is taking steps to ensure that the 100 days employment goes only to the really poor and needy.

The mission to Mars has put India in the big league of Space powers and the successful launch of the GSLV rocket is a huge step in the direction of developing the indigenous cryogenic engine. Apart from these the interlinking of rivers will be another huge task along with the modernization of the Railways by the involvement of Chinese technology and capital. All in all there are positives all around.

The liberal press has been flagging the issue of the religious conversion of Home Coming, Ghar Vapsi as it is called. Narendar Modi has reined in the hot heads in his party and the issue has dies a natural death. He refused to issue a statement in Parliament on the issue, but quietly and effectively dealt with the  controversy. The people of India have begun to look to the future with hope and an aspirational India has pinned its faith in Narendar Modi.