Showing posts with label India. Show all posts

The North South Divide of India Narendra Modi Can Bring Back.

Everyone agrees that the self appointed next Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is a fragmenting character. Did the US Ambassador to India, Nancy Powell see the writings on the wall and decided to throw in the towel because Washington won’t see?

Can the United States and the rest of the world, already beleaguered by a divisive and aggressive Putin in Europe, deal with a North South divide of a strong India, a guarantee against aggressive China, on top of all other kinds of splintering Narendra Modi seems to have abetted so far?

To list out the divisions Modi has achieved so far, critics can point out his hype of Gujarat Model Development, his professed Urban support base, his orchestrated cyber follower base, the blind admiration of young techies he has mustered and numerous other factors which the rest of India lack, as Modi’s own versus the rest of India which divide the  fabric of India in some undesirable way.

 “Give me three hundred seats and I will empower the nation”  Narendra Modi , who has so far been refused a US visa on account of his role in 2002 religious riots in Gujarat, has stated in a pre election speech.

It is the political ambition of Narendra Modi beyond India which should get everyone, especially the United States, worried. Like Vladimir Putin, who in his quest for asserting his authority to the world  seems to be blowing up Russian passion and nationalism, Narendra Modi, seem to inflame old Dravidian and anti Hindi feelings and accelerate a North South divide, basically weakening India.

Dictators  had often orchestrated some legitimate ploy like getting ‘elected’ to a leadership position of some apparently democratic body  or a less dignified coup of another dictator,  to appoint themselves to positions of absolute power.

What Narendra Modi has done to be his party’s Prime Ministerial candidate, though ostensibly democratic, is nothing less.

By staging a sort of Internal coup upon his own mentor and PM hopeful L K Advani and other senior leaders, Modi has simply usurped the power and authority he needed to  push ahead with his campaign to grab the power in Delhi and decimate the party.

Modi, in his quest to fulfil his ambition, has split his own party, which is clear from the  squabbles before and during the distribution of seats and selection of constituencies which were enforced upon grumbling  party seniors and other candidates by Modi and his henchmen.

Modi, with the religious ideology of Hindutwa, a fact which has been held against him right from the beginning of his career, is a polarising leader and poses the greatest threat of division for the secular  India along religious lines, irrespective of whether he wins the election.

His control of BJP seems complete as the campaigners of the party now say Narendra Modi indeed is the BJP. However, the repercussions of his winning the election on the rest of India’s political system, which seems to be heading for a divide will define the course and place of India in the world in the coming decade.

Judging from various opinion polls, the  hugely funded and managed campaign of the investors to install Modi in New Delhi seems to be succeeding, abetted by a wrongly placed enthusiasm of India’s new generation of voters who believe Modi will deliver them all western comforts they crave for.


However the abundance of western money which has flown in to India in the past couple of decades has accelerated different parochial ambitions, which were present and manifested from time to time even when India was really a poor nation.

Many of these regional parties have been asserting their authority over the government in New Delhi by causing all sorts of obstructions inside and outside the parliament, making the governance of India by a central government all but impossible.

India in 2014, with the breakup of the southern state of Andhra, and the ascend of regional parties in other states like West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, is indeed more fragmented than in the previous elections but not subscribing to the Hindutwa ideology as much as the BJP would have liked.

Though many of them have aligned with the BJP in previous governments, there is a very strong feeling among these regional parties that Modi’s intentions are really sinister, which has forced them to come out openly against  Narendra Modi and any post poll alliance with him.

This means even if Modi and his BJP can muster an absolute majority in the parliament and form a constitutional government based on the seats they gain from the Hindi speaking northern India, in reality, Modi will be faced with the same obstructionist environment as the present government, rendering any big ticket development  promised by Modi  virtually impossible.

Ascendancy of an aggressive Modi will crystallise this anti Modi sentiment to a formidable force making governance all but impossible.  If Modi and the BJP fail to get a majority, despite the surveys, the same forces might form a new government,  but the reality of the North South divide will remain
and perhaps acquire clearer shape and character.


Either way, India as a secular Union of people with different language and culture is losing credibility and clout which it deserves and for which it freedom fighters fought for generations. Whether the rest of the world will gain or not will be a matter of history. 

Why Does Its Manifesto Make Not Just the BJP but Everyone Else Too So Nervous?

BJP has finally released a Manifesto on the election day. The Congress party and others have questioned the delay and BJP has come with enough plausible explanations which have been ridiculed by various opponents.

As one congress leader put it, If the BJP can’t take out a Manifesto in time how are they going to manage the country’s affairs?

But  the real reason for the BJP to be so defensive and nervous about publishing its manifesto well before the start of the election instead of putting it off till the last moment is in the Manifesto itself.

Perhaps the simplest of explanation is that with the reference to Ayodhya and Article 370, the BJP Manifesto resembles the proverbial Wolf in Sheep’s clothing.

The BJP was not sure if, for the one billion voters of India, it will look anything but a dressed up version of the old wolf they have shunned twice. The party obviously didn’t want to scare them away by the inevitable media exposure, scrutiny and debate the Manifesto would have generated in the crucial weeks before the election.

All stock explanations for the last minute publishing and brushing away by its spoke persons become suspect just for the presence of those contentious issues, without which the BJP’s raison d’ĂȘtre  would have become questionable.

One incredibly funny argument put forth by the BJP for the last minute release of the Manifesto is that it wanted the voters to remember its promises on the way to the polling booth!

That gives some credence to the claim of Congress’s Abhishek  Singhvi that BJP has taken the whole country for granted. In fact the BJP can be accused not just for bending the rules of the nation but also for questioning its intelligence.

The reality is that the BJP has indeed taken an enormous risk by including those contentious issues, especially if it happened after intense and protracted debate within the party, as is being reported.

In fact the BSP leader Mayavathi has recently articulated the uneasy question lurking in the minds of a large number of Indians at least in her recent speech. Are we going to see an India akin to the one the world saw in 1947 if BJP comes to power with Narendra Modi as its Prime Minister?

It is not just Mayavathi who seems to think so. Numerous political leaders of all parties including the BJP itself and various prominent persons of India has expressed the same concern time and again, though no one seems to have declared it as a definite outcome other than the blunt leaser of the BSP itself.

No doubt, the BJP top brass is well aware of this eventuality, which they have willingly or reluctantly embraced in their quest for power. By moulding and releasing the Manifesto in its current form, they  seem to have consciously pulled out the sacks and put them out for drying hoping no one will notice them on the way to their polling booths.

Perhaps they are right. In a country where the party leaders themselves get to read their Manifestos days after they are released, the average voter who can barely read his ration card has no way of knowing what his Manifesto really means.


For BJP, just keeping their agenda written but hidden from its voters will give them the blank cheque they need to draw what they want when the bank opens with their account.
Monday, April 07, 2014
Posted by Sreedhar Pillai

Why Does John Kerry Let the Devyani Imbroglio to Explode in to His Benghazi?


With the recent Chinese belligerence over air and naval supremacy, the US secretary of state John Kerry has a lot of tofu on his platter. Then, it is really baffling why the US state department is letting a bizarre brawl between an Indian diplomat, her Indian maid and an Indian Attorney of a new York district turn in to a Benghazi like crisis.

The looming diplomatic crisis is not between any two countries. It is between, as many Americans claim, the oldest and the biggest democratic nations in the world. For any other country, the diplomatic mission to the USA is the most important, whether some countries admit or not. For the USA, the diplomatic mission from India, the biggest democracy, is bound to be vital for the whole idea of the democratic system.

Then why humiliate the acting head of the Indian mission to the USA, who happens to be a lady, for a six months old dispute with her Indian maid, by public arrest and, reportedly, with cavity search under police custody? Surely, there were better ways to deal with the issue, which has actually sent out a message of utter humiliation to a country of 1.3 billion people. Devyani Khobragade, a medical doctor turned diplomat and acting head of the Indian mission, had this to say about the incident although disputed by US authorities.

While I was going through it, although I must admit that I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, hold up with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity, I got the strength to regain composure and remain dignified thinking that I must represent all of my colleagues and my country with confidence and pride.

The predictable reaction from the Indian government has not just opened up an immense sore in the forty years old amity the USA has been trying to build up with a country with a huge population next door to China but has exposed the US mission in Delhi and other Indian cities to Benghazi like vulnerability, in country where terrorist were easily able to strike at the parliament and other famous targets. The treatment of Devyani by the US government has also lead to unprecedented public anger and outrage in India, in the Indian media and social networks which seems to beescalating with the lukewarm reaction from the US government to solve the issue.

Make no mistake, it is not an election issue.

Despite the general impression that the Indian outrage is to do with the impending election, and both the ruling UPA and the main opposition BJP have political stake in taking a tough stance against the US on account of national pride, the issue is more fundamental and hurting the Indian psyche.
In reality not many people in India are familiar with "cavity search" or understand what it involves. That is until Devyani has let the nation know .
In a country not familiar with people hiding drugs and weapons in body cavities where no police procedure exists for searching of such niches, even strip searching of a woman have connotation to the barbaric denuding of mythological characters, the whole things have only one meaning. Barbaric and utterly humiliating.

Don't Kill the messenger

That, such treatment was meted out to a country in which a large majority look at American capitalism and hegemony with suspicion despite an educated section believe in building bridges and cooperation with the US, hasn't gone well at all, no matter any amount of rationalising and justification.
USA being a nation living on Nike shoes to a million other things made with cheap labour from China and sweat shops from Bangladesh and India, and out sourcing work to India at quarter of the rates, the argument about the wages to an Indian made appear nothing but a farce.

The US has touched the Indian Caste Nerve.

To make things worse for John Kerry and the US, Devyani Khobragade happens to belong to a schedule caste, a factor with extremely sensitive socio political implications in India and something which its most outspoken leader, Mayavathi, has already taken on herself to fight for.
The US State department may be adept at dealing with diplomatic crisis, but certainly not equipped for Indian caste system which many astute Indian leaders find hard to tackle.

Born an Indian, always an Indian.

The US Attorney General, Preet Bharara may have political ambitions and a need to prove himself by following Giuliani and Christie by acting tough. But for 1.3 billion Indians, he is just another one of them, no matter what he does in New York, the villain of the piece and someone who is out to harm India.

The timing couldn't be worse.

Unfortunately the whole episode of humiliation of one of their folk in a friendly foreign country has coincided with the painful anniversary of the mass rape and murder of a girl, which has shaken the conscience of the country and many abroad.

John Kerry and the State Department undoubtedly has a crisis of unprecedented gravity at their hands which seems to be escalating by the day. An effort to assess correctly and not underestimate the Indian sensitivities is the need of the day.

One Shot And Two Birds Of Raghuram Rajan

Can't blame Raghuram Rajan, the new Governor of the Reserve Bank Of India, for springing a surprise on everyone concerned with the Indian stock markets and the growth of Indian economy by hiking the interest rate instead of lowering it.

Every sensible Indian who is able to think for himself and even a little for his country would do the same if he or she were in the RBI Governor's shoes.
It may not be rocket science the Indian Media and financial market has started to expect from a financial whiz who is famously credited with correctly  predicting the last world financial crisis, but it certainly smacks of a well thought out political strategy, in resonance with the need of the hour and the ruling government.
If the media, especially the Indian set up which struggle to prove to be a biting one has failed to see the truth, it is because their myriads of persons touting a mike with a satellite dish at the other end, somehow forget to ask the right questions at the right time.
It may be an understandable lapse, especially when the celebrity they are facing is someone as charismatic  and charming as the young RBI governor who seems to have turned the press meet to be an occasion more glamorous than the  latest Bollywood release of a super star.
How else can you explain why none of the media persons and expert reporters at the Governor's press meet raised the question with Rajan if his measure had anything to do with the impending state elections?
Reuters have sited analysts explaining out the governor's action as "interesting experiment".
"I am not saying whether I know it will work or not, but I think it sort of shows the RBI's hand in the sense that they really want to focus more on the inflation side of things than on growth at this point."
However, the Governor's actions seem to be only the beginning of a well thought out strategy which goes beyond economic policy.
At his first-day press conference on assuming charge of the RBI Rajan had hinted at a comprehensive action plan to bolster the rupee and strengthen financial markets but also joked his job was not to accumulate "likes" on Facebook.
Somerset Maugham once said If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom, and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too. 
Whether Raghuram Rajan ever read any of Maugham, he seems to have had some similar insight guiding his actions when he accepted his new post as the Governor of the RBI. Why else should he take some steps which has wiped out a large chunk of capital off the market in a few minutes, when country's Industrial lobby had been hankering for concession in the name of growth.
Rajan seems to believe that by harnessing and clamping inflation for once, he can bring the  much needed stability to the economy, which as an ex IMF economist he knows is what the foreign investors love. But doing that now has also advantages which are not strictly financial, at the least.
For one thing, a lower steady inflation over a few months leading up to any election is what the voters like. On the other, there is no big merit in fattening up a lobby working against the government just before the elections, giving it additional clout, especially when things can wait until after the general elections.
The proof of the pudding in this occasion is the lack of visible whining from the North Block about the Governor's action. It was only a short while ago statements like "if we have to, we will walk alone" emanated from the Finance Minister when RBI actions did not meet its expectations.

One thing was clear from his "tounge in cheek"  responses punctuated by disabling smiles and jokes at the press meet. Rajan was seriously wondering why no one was raising the obvious question he would have found so difficult to answer. Has it got anything with the coming elections ?

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