Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ideal Government Manifesto

The manifestos of the parties fighting elections vie with each other to get the epithet of most boring, uninspiring and lacking in vision or pragmatism. They seem to be more of the ghosts of the past and no fresh air of new thoughts is allowed. What are the pressing problems of India today? What is it that India needs the most today? It is very sad that election debates never move to these issues and are rather lost in the desert of dead habit discussing "emotions", "pride" and all other issues where one can speak for days and months with nothing concrete in the back of his head.

This is the incomplete list of expectations from a Utopian government that I think will lead India to progress.

1. Basic Education: The state of primary education in India is very bad. The lack of infrastructure, proper training to teachers, lack of teachers and political intervention in the curriculum are the major problems in this area. The government should promise that in five years every person shall have access to a school within 2 km of his house. The school shall have a proper (set some standards to be satisfied) play ground, classrooms, benches and black boards, cyber access and a good library. The curriculum making body shall be institutionalised and shielded from political intervention by parliamentary legislation and curriculum making exercise shall be completely scientific with inputs and scholars from all over the world helping in the process.

Adult primary eduction shall be taken up in a big way and every adult shall have access to evening school within 4 Kms of his residence.

2. Basic Health: The Government in co operation with private sector shall initiate and implement a legislation giving the fundamental right to good health to all its citizens and residents. The Government shall provide health insurance to all below poverty line persons and any enact law that no person shall be refused medical care due to lack of finances. In event of lack of finances the government (insurance agency) shall bear the cost or provide means for finances through easy loans or grants. Also there should be a primary health centre with in 5 Km of any person in India and a general hospital with 50 Kms. The private hospitals should be roped in to provide free health care to the financially weak.

General sanitation and hygiene issues shall be taken up on a large scale and within 5 years all open drains and other potential disease spreading areas shall be acted on.

Special care shall be taken of the new born and mother and free food shall be available for the pregnant, new born and mother as primary health centres to ensure healthy babies and low mortality rate.

Special financial incentives shall be given to families adopting family planning and counselors shall visit each primary health centre at least once a fortnight to advise parents about the health, education and future of the child.

Major co operation with Private sector should be there to implement above provisions effectively and strictly.

3. Food Security: The government shall enact and implement a legislation guaranteeing the fundamental right to food and freedom from hunger to all its citizens and residents. Any person shall be able to realise this right at the nearest primary health centre, where any famished person shall be given free food. The school should continue the mid day meal scheme and it should be expanded to evening schools for adults.

4. Water Security: The Government should enact and implement the fundamental right, of every resident of India, to access to portable water. Every Panchayat shall have a water cleaning plant.

The rain water harvesting shall be taken up in big way and every village and city shall have rain water harvesting and ground water recharging centres which shall save the amount of water equivalent to the consumption by the village/ city. In case the saving is less the consumption shall be brought down as well or credits can be traded for money with a city saving more.

5. Infrastructure: The government should enact and implement the fundamental right of every citizen to power and connectivity.
Every village and city shall be connected to the vast web of road networks in India by a 2- lane metalled road.

Every village and city shall have have 24- hour supply. The renewable sources of energy, the Indo-US nuclear deal, the shortcomings in the distribution network leading to 40% losses shall be exploited to realize this goal. A national master plan should be formulated and acted on in five years to realize this dream.

One India- One day connectivity goal should be realized so that any person/ commodity in any part of India can travel to any other part of India in one day in reasonable price. A network of faster travel like the magnetic rails should be realised with railways and other networks acting as support systems to realize this goal in a sustainable manner.

6. Poverty Elimination: Every citizen should be assured the fundamental right to protection from poverty. The current BPL standards should be made realistic by increasing the income limit for BPL families from the present 1970 's standards. Within 10 years this should become the fundamental right of very citizen of India. Avenues for education and employment shall be given to every such citizen and adequate professional training shall be provided. The list of such unemployed, skilled and BPL citizens shall be maintained and concessions shall be given to companies hiring such people.

7. Entrepreneurship: The environment for entrepreneurship and innovation shall be created by loosening all governmental controls and imparting training at school and college level to all students in entrepreneurship. The government formalities for opening up a firm shall be made hassle free and and a one day -one centre process for any sort of firm.

8. Fight against Corruption: The government shall take up fight against corruption on a mission basis. It shall set up a body of experts, with powers to change the procedures, to examine every information system of the Indian government offices and change them appropriately to mechanize the work or reduce the chain of work flow and impact of arbitrary whims of the officer. The system of checks and balances shall be enforced with power to every citizen to easily bring to notice any acts of corruption in any department of the government. The action against corrupt officials should not require consent from the government and intra departmental enquires shall be banned. The corruption sentences should also take into account the direct consequence of the mis deed. If it leads to death of a soldier due to bad equipment then the officers guilty should also be tried for the murder of the soldier.

Social audits should be mandatory and must be organized by every civil department twice an year. The duty to publish act must be passed and a independent body set up by the government shall decide what should published by every department and the deadlines for the same and take up cases of missing the deadlines or consciously hiding the public information.

Every budget shall also also have a larger document pin pointing to which place and for what project the funds have been released by the government. It shall be the duty of the media to inform the public of the particular area about the funds released for work in that area. Same information should be readily available to all public online and at appropriate government office and public representative.

9. Administrative Reform: The administrative reforms are long pending. The bureaucracy needs to be upgraded and specialized for different tasks. The general training imparted for the IAS is not sufficient. Long time back there was a talk of admitting student right after class 12 and then imparting specialized training to them with them parting in different directions after some time. This needs to be implemented.

The bureaucracy needs to be raised from slumber. Every work shall have a deadline and the citizens should be given a legal right to move the courts against the officers if no answer is provided for not acting on the application of the citizen. A commission should be appointed that shall decide the time frame required for every government work. Mechanization shall be undertaken where ever possible to speed up the process.

10. Political non intervention in Reservation: A quasi legal commission should be set up with experts from various fields which conducts surveys and estimates the backwardness of every caste or group on scientific basis and assign reservations for each group in various spheres of life. The commission shall be completely shielded from political intervention and be an institute in itself which shall be the final authority on all reservation issues. Any disagreement should be directly handled by the Supreme Court of India.

11. Judicial reform: There are a lot of pending cases lying in the courts for very long. To make the justice dispensing speedy a multi pronged approach should be used. Laws and rules which not codified properly should be either scrapped or rewritten. Specialized courts should be set up for offenses occurring with high frequency to enable the judges to have better expertize in the area (Financial crimes for example). People's campaign, to remove irrelevant cases and to have out of court settlement with arbitration in civil cases, should be launched. The number of judges in courts should be increased and mechanization of most of the regular procedures should be done to reduce the work load of judges.[thanks to arbitya]

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fragmentation of Polity and Empowerment of Small Groupings

People have varied views on fragmentation of Indian polity. Industrialists, who have no other goal than to see their business flourish hope that single parties strengthen and the myriads of smaller parties loose influence in the policy making. Well this trend is well in sync with the global industry trend, even 60 years back when industrialist backed Hitler for a strong government and bolder policies which allow them to make most profit. Recently the captains of industry, flattered by Modi's policies of quick land acquisition and low interest rate loans (which are not available to farmers), openly proclaimed that Modi should be the PM of the nation. No wonder he may introduce a loan waiver for all the big industries.

Next come to the political analysts and psephologists. Some rightly feel that government looses direction when a motley group of parties come together to form the government. But they all agree that multiple parties have made the roots of democracy even deeper in our society. Also it makes the prediction game so much more fun. Sadly it also reduces the elections to a game of alliances and cold arithmetic.

In view of the Small groups, multiparty system has proved to be a boon. These days where there are triangular or more contests, the margin of votes polled for the winning party and the next in line is very small. This empowers the minorities (not just religious minorities but any group with small numbers but different demands). Also it makes the party more receptive to the needs of a larger section of people. Before they could easily neglect a group with 3% vote share but not today. The must take into account the demands of every section of the society. This is a very welcome development. Also the government formed is viewed as their government by a larger chunk of people. Though due to a disparate vote base the direction of the policies of the government and its stability may be shaky but such a democracy is very strong where every one has a stake in the government making.

I often wonder that when we wonder for more decisive governments are we actually indirectly craving for an autocrat to sit on the top of the government if not a dictator. Many praise Indira Gandhi for her decisive style but was it democratic and did it help the nation in the long term? much of the decay in Congress and subsequently in the nation is attributed to her dictatorial style. She started the system of nomination in Congress replacing internal democracy. She started giving rewards to bureaucracy based on their loyalty towards her rather than upmanship starting the royal rot of Indian babus. Is this what we want? Can we call Nehru or Lal Bahadur Shastri a strong leader in terms of what we today. Did they not bow to popular demands many times, whether it was the issue of the first president, linguistic re organisation of states or the issue of Hindi as a national language? Every time these leaders held the public opinion superior to their judgement the nation was strengthened beyond imagination. The only trick is when to bow to the public opinion and when to go against it? Had Nehru bowed to pressure against Hindu Code Bill, today would have been a very different one. Case in point is Rajiv Gandhi who did not uphold the principles of secularism in face of public leanings to the other sides. Whether is was the Shah Bano Case or the unlocking of the Ram Mandir ghost. Both cases he proved to be wrong.

It seems like that certain principles should be held more dear to the public opinion and personal whims should always be crushed under the weight of democracy. But who shall differentiate between principles and whims? Gandhi's Talisman is one device to help one out. Also if one recognises the need to conserve the diversity of the nation as a principle, many things are sorted out. Anything against this principle should be debated against in our minds and only after intense debate if it passes the Gandhi's Talisman one can be bit more sure that the idea may not be a bad one.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ineteresting Articles

  1. Allies pile back-to-Left pressure on Cong:

  2. Chauhan and Atal dwarf Advani

  3. Advani didn’t want terrorists freed... Atal told me explain it to him, I did

  4. SUBVERSE | Pariahs in our own home

  5. Local issues trump "religion card" in Indian poll

  6. Legacy of the Raj (A very good article)

A possible but very absurd future

Indian politics can throw up a lot of surprises and absurdities. The present government enjoyed the left support for almost 4 years while the congress and left were adversaries in West Bengal. Consider this outcome. Both congress and BJP are not able to gather number from the existing UPA and NDA which is very likely. Also in Orissa and Andhra the thrid front gets a majority by a slither, very possible again, and need every MLA in their fold even the Communists. Take the case of TDP combine, if it goes with NDA in center, quite possibly the left will withdraw support at state level and pave way for a congress government in AP. Thus TDP must keep left happy and may have to grudgingly support UPA, from outside of course ;). Simmilar may be the case with BJD if Mr. Naveen Patnaik's vanity forbids him to ask for support from BJP in Orissa post poll.

Well a very complex machine indeed. But important to note such an outcome will be suicidal for the Congress. It will have to tone down it opposition in both Orissa and AP thus goign down the West Bengal Way waiting for BJP or another offshoot of Congress to take over. Also such a structure is very unsatble indeed, the national poilitics will be held hostage to local squabbling and removing even a small stone will make the whole structure come crumbling down. It may be wise for the Congress to sit in Opposition or rather support the third front for a brief time while it strengthens and oils its machinery for a mid term poll. It will be a unpopular move but never the less the only wise one possible. Actually Congress in Opposition will be a boon in disguise if a sane government can be formed at the centre. This will help the congress to have a greater leverage in negotiating with various regional parties since it has nothing to loose. But a extremely fascist government manipulating the system and spreading hate and carnage may spell doom for the congress. Thus supporting a third front government from "outside" may not be a bad option. It gives an immense amount of bargaining power and chance to strengthen the organization and when ever the auguries are good,just pull the plug.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bhartiya Jan Sangh vs BJP, Vajpayee vs Advani

Bhartiya Jan Sangh (BJS) was a hindutva based party founded by Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in 1951. It existed till 1981 and then was transformed into BJP. Still there are a lot of differences one could point out in the working of two organisations.

Mr. Mukherjee was against the two nation theory all his life. But the Calcutta riots 1946, shook his beliefs a bit. Still he was not anti-Muslim in sharp contrast to Veer Savarakar. While in Hindu Mahasabha he advocated the entry of Muslims into the party but failed in his attempts. Later after the assassination of Mahatama Gandhi, Mr. Mukherjee left the mahasabha to found the BJS. He was the father figure for the veteran BJS members. Toady the BJP has gone the Savarakar way. The old guard of BJS including Mr. Vajpayee have faded. No wonder we see such a contrast between Vajpayee and Advani or Modi and Vajpayee. It is said that when Janta party formed government in 1977, the bureaucrats removed all images of stalwarts of Congress form the offices including the portrait of Pandit Nehru. Vajpayee was always critical of Nehru but yet was like Nehru in someways. When he entered the foreign office in 1977 and found Pandit Nehru's portrait missing he quickly asked that the portrait be put back in place. Even his obituary speech in Parliament after Nehru's Death was a very impressive one. These very facts of respecting his adversaries and other views made him a national figure in Indian politics. He was definitely a fan of Nehru, hence no wonder he felt flattered when people compared him with Nehru.

Vajpayee wisely kept out of any opportunistic politics played by Mr. Advani riding the rath to Ayodhya. Vajpayee even cautioned Mr. Advani that his ram sena may turn into vanar sena and lamented on the demolition of the mosque. The only unpardonable offence done by him was his shameful silence during the Gujrat riots.

Contrast it with Savarkar, Advani, Modi or present BJP in fact. Savarkar was the first one to propose the two nation theory and had completely communal views. His vision of India did not include Christians or Muslims. Opportunist he was, and hence hence he did not participate in any national movement whether non cooperation or civil disobedience or quit India. Rather he even influenced Hindu mahasabha to not only not participate in such movement but go against the very grain of it. He and the Hindu mahasabha were actively recruiting soldiers for Brtish in 1942 to gain favours from the British and expand their organization. Completely at odds with non violence preached by Gandhi Savarkar was one of the main accused in the murder of the Mahatma. Fearing backlash at that time RSS had tried to distance it self from Savarkar only to see his ghost returning to the organization with full fervor that his portrait is hung in the parliament hall along with Nehru and Gandhi.

Modi came to power in Gujrat replacing the Keshubhai Patel. Had Gujrat riots not happened BJP would have surely lost the election with a huge margin. But then the Nero took up his flute and not only looked the other side when Gujrat burned but his ministers actively helped the rioter and constrained the police from acting. No doubt the bloody harvest was sweet for Mr. Modi. He became the poster boy of Savarkar worshiping RSS and eliminated all opponents and even humbled Vajpayee. Soon he jumped onto the development plank and actively started portraying the hard earned achievements of enterprising Gujrati's as his own.

Mr. Advani has never missed any Rath which could him any momentary gains. Whether is was the nation breaking Rath yatra in 1990's or his comments on Ambedkar recently or his autobiography (don't think he could count on any historian of some standing to write positively about him ). While his own party veterans and founders were very critical of Ambedkar and Mr. Shourie shows no kindness to Dr. Ambedkar in his book "Worshipping false Gods", Mr. Advani did not have any qualms about lambasting the congress for being responsible for Dr. Ambedkar's resignation and he does not concede that it was the statesmanship of Gandhi and Nehru in particular and Congress in general that Dr. Ambedkar drafted Indian Constituion and was the law minister. While Nehru supported the Hindu Code Bill presented by Dr. Ambedkar, the hindutva gang (BJS and even portions of Congress) bitterly opposed it finally leading to Dr. Ambedkar's resignation. Also Mr. Advani 's autobiography is one of the worst blunders. The books raised many questions about the integrity of the person when he wrote that he was not informed about the foreign minister accompanying the terrorists, despite being the home minister that time.

Mr. Advani is really experienced in the rat race for prime minister ship. I feel that his sudden attacks on Dr. Manmohan Singh are a reflection of frustration of a man who tried for decades now to be the PM and even bowed at Jinah's grave and then ate his own hat, while Dr. Manmohan Singh a apolitical man of no dreams to be the prime minister became one so easily. Such frustration lead to the worst of the strategy BJP could ever have in a poll season. they attacked Dr. Manmohan Singh for the very values the ordinary Indian likes in him i.e. he is apolitical, soft spoken, consesus seeker and clean. It would have been hard to to sell this argument to the informed public when Dr. Manmohan Sing sports a six page resume that not even 10 people can vie with. On top of it, they told that Dr. Singh was inept at handling the global economic crisis highlighting the every fact that Dr. Singh is a world renowned economist and Mr. Advani is not. The final blow cam from the PM Dr. Singh who bravely handled the foreign exchange crisis in 1990's while Mr. Advani wept when hoodlums tore down the Masjid. Dr Singh bravely stood for Indo Us Nuclear deal while Mr. Advani opposed it just to see the government fall and sat over the Gujrat riots and Parliament attack. Clearly, lessons were not learnt from 26/11 when BJP tried to cash in on a national tragedy.

While both Vajpayee and Advani espoused the Hindutva cause one was patient, long sighted and statesman the other is frustrated, opportunist and very fickle. People have the right to support what ever ideology they like but not allowed to force it on us and create fear in the hearts by using undemocratic means.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

BJP-RSS Labs: Distorted past; perfect pill for violent future.

Well it wont be wrong to say that the memory of Indian voters is really short and yet they like to brag to about history and culture that was supposedly there 2000 years back. As we go for the 2009 general election I would like to refresh your memory and make us all realize that we stand today at cross roads where the idea of India may be at stake.

Last time when the NDA government was voted in power, the civil society and liberals had many nightmares during the six years of saffronization. The RSS initially modeled on the same lines as Hitler's Natzi party in Germany let out a blitzkrieg on the the idea of India and ravaged many important landmarks in the culture and history of India.

For the first time we could see a party with a communal agenda ruling the country and it made sure that even if it lost power it starts dismantling of very idea of India, built carefully grain by grain by Gandhi, Nehru, Bose, Tilak.... The young minds are often compared to wet clay which can be imprinted by anything they are taught in the innocent years of childhood. So to make the case strong for the Hindutva agenda and creating a false sense of unity among disparate Indian and gluing them with hatred for other communities, history text books were changed. As explained beautifully in "The Argumentative Indian" by Amartya Sen, the hindutva movement based on imaginary premises, needs to desperately re write the Indian History. The Hindutva movement needs to keep together its diverse components and generate fresh loyalty from potential recruits.

"The rapidly reorganized National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) became busy, from shortly after BJP's assumption of office, not only in producing fresh text books for school children, but also in deleting sections from books produced earlier by NCERT itself.... The speed of the attempted textbook revision had to be so fast that the newly reconstituted NCERT evidently had some difficulty in finding historians to do this task who would be both reasonably distinguished and adequately compliant."

The well respected historians did not look at such attempts to distort history kindly and came out openly against such malpractice [1]. Such a curriculum was prepared without the co operation of state governments which were mostly under non BJP rule at that time. Predictably the ministers from various state governments came out openly against safronization of education but BJP ruled states complied almost immediately.

In this distorted version of history the Indus Valley civilization was shown to be a part of the Hindu culture and renamed after the mystical river Saraswati. to prove the point archaeological evidence was forged and even after the forgery was found out the text books continued with the hindutva view. Chapters on liberal rulers like Ashoka and Akbar were toned down and more emphasis was given on the Hindu Muslim conflict and the massacre of Hindu's at behest of Muslim rulers. Very recently the Himachal Pradesh board [2] removed a chapter on eminent artist M F Hussain from the text books citing reasons that there are better local artists who should be known to the students. The true reason is an open secret i.e. the fanatical opposition of Hindutva groups to M F Hussains paintings where they accuse him of disrespect of Hindu Gods even after loosing the argument in the Supreme Court.

Such distortions of the Indian history have a potential of changing the liberal and secular Indian society into a very conservative and belligerent one. The manifestation of this country wide experiment by hindutva labs was evident during the Gujrat riots where the administration openly colluded with the rioters and the complete state machinery broke down yet the Nero, Mr. Modi, was christened the king and saviour of RSS and BJP and given more influence over the state and party affairs.

1. http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1817/18171090.htm
2. http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?sectionName=indiasectionpage&id=88e9ebf0-3368-4e95-8b8f-8345db1b0bf8&Headline=HP+to+remove+chapter+on+painter+MF+Hussain

Monday, April 6, 2009

NDA vs UPA viz a viz Congress vs BJP

This election is most strange one. If you allow me, I would call it the quantum era of politics. There are no clear lines drawn between any two or three sides. You don't know who are your friends and who are your enemies and above all, effects of your actions may be very contrary to intuition and common sense.

It is a thrilling exercise to see the political situation evolve pre and post elections in India and even more so this time. The coalitions stitched together them selves are the first battle ground for various forces clamoring for influence in national politics. The force that binds these alliances is so loose that they virtually do not exist. UPA is a fit case to illustrate this theory. Its no secret that Mr. Pawar and Lalu, Paswan and Mulayam will happily shift to the third front if and when ever they get a chance. Such a chance will be bestowed only by the poor performance of Congress ("Their ally") and good performance of Third front and their respective parties. Congress very well understands this logic and hence is in no mood to relent in seat sharing talks with these parties. On the other hand things are smoother with Trinamol Congress and DMK. Well the logic is simple Mamata will need Congress in Bengal state elections and hence wont be able to play tricks after the election, also the only option other than congress present to trinamol is BJP (with no presence in state) which will hurt its vote base in liberal Bengal. The reason for fraternity between congress and DMK is the dependence of DMK on congress to be in power in State.

So now lets look at how has alliances at present worked for Congress. It seems congress has played well in most of the cases. The only thing that went bad was rupturing of alliance in Tamil Nadu which may hurt the party and the allaince in generall. In bengal Trinamol can be considered as an inseparable part of the congress alliance as it has no where to go at least until the state elections and even later if the party is not myopic. The alliance troubles in UP and Bihar are more for SP, RJD and LJP which are the dominant players. The congress on the other hand could have done marginally well in these states in alliance with these parties but it is these parties that stand to loose more and hence the UPA looses but congress may win by strengthening its moribund organisation in these crucial states. These developments also mark a end of Mandal politics which lead to the down turn of Congress and appearing of these parties on the regional scene. With their decline it seems that voters have shunned caste issues if not wholly but partly. This stance of congress seems very optimal since any strengthening of UPA at cost of congress or UPA where the allies are stronger will be harmful to congress as 1. Allies may switch to third front or demand important ministries in centre. 2. This will lead to down ward fall of congress similar to its decay in UP and Bihar with "allies" getting more and more dominant and asking for more and more influence and seats. Well the second reason also includes it alliance with trinamol in west bengal which has been seen as a sell out. But the shape of the alliance in state election will depend on the ground situation then and also the shape of the Central Government and utility of Trinamol.

Things are not very different for BJP and NDA as well. The same logic explained above lead to the hard bargaining of seats with BJD and the eventual break off. The seat sharing went ahead with JD(U) as the Bihar government rests on BJP support. But BJP without allies in South does'nt not bode well for the party as it has no base in the 3 Dravidian states and no goodwill (that congress enjoys in UP and Bihar). Thus it will see the allies driving a hard bargain.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Political Ironies- Coalition Politics brings up the level of Political debates in election 09

The bitter taste of 2004 election debates still remains in mind of a very few people. That was the election fought on the assumption that NDA will get a thumping majority and obituaries for congress were being drawn up though in not very kind words. Whether it was the issue of nationality of Ms. Sonia Gandhi or the Gandhi family in general, below the belt attacks disgusted most of the people. Well the congress victory of 2004 elections manifested the uncertainty of Indian elections and made many to eat their own hat.

The moral of the 2004 elections story was very well understood by all political parties. Today no one dares to throw obscenities at any prominent leader of any political party. You never know what rabbit shall come out of the election hat and what roles each one will have to play. Thus the debates have shifted, for good of all, to the policies and programmes, various parties follow.

Its heartening to see Mr. Mulayam Yadav and Mr. Amar Singh singing praises of Ms. Sonia Gandhi and Dr. Manmohan Singh and cautiously criticising Congress arty for its policies and management. They were the worst hit with 2004 election results. Having 39 MPs but no role in the center for 4 years hit them hard in the state elections where their non performance cost them not only the CM chair but also the very existence of the party. Thus both are very cautious not to repeat the 1999 folly of pulling out of the Congress stitched coalition and embarrassing Madam Gandhi.

Well, they are not the only leaders forced to follow etiquette. Lalu and Paswaan are also all sweet when they talk about congress and too sweet when asked about Madam or Dr. Manmohan Singh despite bitter seat sharing war that ensued in Bihar and Jharkhand. Very carefully the master politician Mr. Lalu has stitched a wider alliance with Mulayam Yadav and Paswan and has kept him self open to joining to joining UPA or third front which ever yields more profit. I wonder why people get surprised that this man turned the loss making railways into a golden bird. With such a large alliance, if they combined get more seats than Mayawati and third front does well, then Lalu may have a chance to fulfill his long cherished dream of getting prime ministership. Other wise he will be happy to join UPA and enjoy the spoils as before. Only possibility of Lalu out of cabinet is that either his party performs very badly in polls or NDA wins the election. In any case Lalu has done better than he could in these circumstances.

Well Mr. Nitish Kumar is not far behind in this game. There are already feelers of warming up of relations between congress and JD(U). One of the reasons that Mr. Fernandes was not fielded in lok sabha elections may be to make JD(U)-congress alliance more possible in future. Just to remind those who don't know, Mr. Fernandes is a bitter critique of the Gandhi family. Also one can feel the discomfort of Mr. Nitish Kumar working with the communal BJP, whch become evident by the fact that he has been more in news for criticizing BJP than congress. Rather he accused Lalu of being ungrateful to the congress. Really there are no enemies in politics and no place for hard feelings.

Same is the case Mr. Pawar who has (God knows how) kept good relations with the Congress, Left, BJP and Shiv Sena. but of late it seems that he has realized that the strenght of NCP on the ground doesn't go well in supporting his ambitions for the PM's post. Well but you never know, when Mr. Deve Gowda can be the PM why not Mr. Pawar. Well for this to happen he must keep Madam happy and not annoy any one else as well.

In the south the situation is pleasantly more complex and Madam Jayalalitha even more sweet when she talks about the congress. Well at stake is not just the central government but the state government as well. Congress support is crucial for DMK to stay in power in Tamil Nadu and this is the reason why congress had no hassles in seat sharing talks with DMK this time. But if the elections throw up a very bad result for the DMK, relations may warm up between AIDMK and Congress.

Well this phenomenon is not restricted to UPA or Congress wooing allies alone. BJD chief Mr. Patnaik may have parted ways with NDA for the time being but has kept his options open. Same is the case with BSP supremo Ms. Mayawati and to a lesser extent Mr. Sharad Pawar. AIDMK and TDP have always been vulnerable in this sense and may be the first ones to jump from the third front to the NDA bandwagon if things go well for the BJP. But it is worth noticing that BJP due to its ideology is more of a liability to the alliance partners in long term. Ms. Mamta Banerjee openly admits that her alliance with BJP did hurt her vote base in Bengal especially among the Muslims but also among the left leaning people who could have voted for Trinamol otherwise. Same is the case with JD(U) in Bihar which has been under the secular regime of Lalu for nearly 15 years. No wonder the first statements against any communal comments by the BJP comes from Nitsh Kumar. TDP also suffered due to its alliance with NDA as it lost rapport with Muslim voters. Hence the stance of these parties towards BJP is not that soft as that of other parties towards Congress. Interestingly and on the contrary alliance with Congress adds to the brand values of many parties in many states. That was the reason that SP was so bent on having alliance with Congress in UP despite congress having no considerable presence in the state. Alliance with the congress would mean a direct swing of Muslim votes in favor of SP and not only that recent articles in Hindu suggest that there is an immense amount of goodwill among people in UP for congress and high regards for Dr. Manmohan Singh. This may not be surprising considering the Indian nature of criticising those who are in the race for power in the state and praising those who are not major players as there are no reports of them misusing power (they don't have ). The reason is same for Trinamol allying with the congress and also for the compulsions of Pawar who must defend his secular credentials in light of friendly meeting with Shiv Sena helmsmen.

Though we all remain sceptical about the capabilities of our politicians but hats of to them for the way they adapt to rapidly changing situations and despite so many differences are able to provide stable coalition governments.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Political Ironies -Coalition era

The coalition era which India is going through has thrown up a lot of ironies and a perfect case for 'chaos' theory. The politics in India is in such a turmoil that one never knows what tornado a single small act or event may bring about.

Coalitions are funny but let me bring about the positive sides of coalitions. Today due to necessity of coming together and sharing the spoils of government, the noble thought that 'people are good their ideas may be good or bad' has come into practice in the most ironical way. One day you will see a politician spewing venom over the TV screens telling how bad one party is and what not. The other day you find him hugging the leaders from the same party. One would obviously like to how is this hypocrisy positive? Well the way I see it is that it enforces the basic axiom that people have the right to express their beliefs and criticize the beliefs of others but more importantly one should fight against thoughts and ideologies and not people who follow them. One should be ready to accept that there are many views prevalent in the society and no view or belief is supreme. This is a manifestation of old philosophy of middle path or finding the middle ground while acknowledging that others may not concur entirely with my views. This is largely positive as it does not lead to formation of enmity between people but the wars are fought at a higher level i.e. the realm of ideas and arena of the mind. A nobler analogy to this phenomenon will be our independence movement which was against colonialism and India not only got her freedom but also was vocal in making sure that all the countries in the world are freed from clutches of colonialism. Yet we shared very cordial relationship with the British. The first Viceroy of free India was a Britisher. This proved to be a very good strategy as India found her stature elevated in the world as the first country to have a bloodless revolution where revolution was not marred by reciprocal hared of the erstwhile victims on their oppressors. Such a movement lent India the respect which even US vied for. Such a movement inspired similar movement in US and South Africa.

Another positive point which we conveniently ignore is that coalition era represents the deepening of Indian democracy with more options for the Indian voter. More than often there multiple view points on the same issue and two parties cannot adequately represent them. Thus this era gives voice to many many sections of people hitherto expressionless. Also coalitions make sure that there are no autocratic decisions or unilateralism exercised by any party or group.

Well the story does not end here. Contrary to intuitive and over simplistic beliefs coalition era has seen a stronger manifestation of national unity and secularism. Most of the leaders of a region would refrain from making comments against people from other states else they may become untouchable at the national level. Same is the case with secularism with most of the parties. Also regional parties have lead to a better understanding of unity in diversity among Indians. I don't think that many Indians feel unrepresented ideologically when there are a myriad of political parties filling up the thought space. Such a phenomenon is very healthy for democracy where the people who feel left out don't turn into rebels against democracy but use democracy to achieve their ends and such multitude of parties big and small gives them hope that other parties can make it to the national arena why cant they.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Beautiful Prayer

This is a poem taken from Tagore's Gitanjali
" This is my prayer to thee, my lord - strike, strike at the root of penury in my heart.
Give me strength lightly to bear my joys and sorrows.
Give me the strength to make my love fruitful in service.
Give me the strength never to disown the poor or bend my knees before insolent might.
Give me the strength to raise my mind high above daily trifles.
And give me strength to surrender my strength to thy will of love"

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fight Against Stranglehold on our thoughts and freedom

As an arbit Indian, I am more concerned about the daily chores of my life than that of building a temple or any such issues. I am more willing to debate about the bread and butter issues than issues that drive men like sticks drive sheep. I am very skeptical of emotive issues and hijacking of right to define nationalism or any religion and culture. Such attempts leave me completely helpless. In the name of protecting religion women are raped, foetus are sliced and heritage and spiritual monuments are destroyed[1], young boys and girls are humiliated and lead to commit suicide[2] and no one dares to question how it help in protecting one's religion? In the name of nationalism stones are pelted at Anjali Wagmare[3] for representing Ajaml Kaasab in court. Can I dare to ask how is delaying the procedure of justice and hence delaying the pronouncing of the sentence on Ajmal Kaasab nationalism? In the name of protection of "culture" girls are beaten at pubs[4], we are not allowed to celebrate any festival that is not considered "Indian"[5], we are not allowed to visit parks or any public place, Charlie Chaplin's statue cannot be put up on the beach[6]. Can I dare ask who gives you the exclusive right to define culture and enforce it on others?

Why cant we let our country awake "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where Knowledge is free;
Where World has not broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the deary desert of dead habit;
Where the mind us led forward by thee into ever widening though and action;"

Why do we forfeit our intellectual freedom to define and redefine culture, nationalism and religion according to our rationality. The culture is what we are today and not a moribund entity that was frozen five thousand years ago. Our land is blessed to be an ocean where cultures from all over the world fill into and mix forgetting their identity but always adding their flavor to things. We are the only nation in the world that has the privilege to enjoy the best of so many cultures. We can listen to any music form from classical to sufi to rock. We can relish so many cuisines from Kashimiri to South Indian to Muglai. We are the only nation in the world that benefits from more than 5 different medicinal systems whether it is the old Ayurvedic or Unani or Acupuncture or Yoga or Homeopathy or modern system of medicine. We are the only nation in the world where we have the choice to wear anything from lungi's to salwar to jeans. We are the only nation in the world where we can learn philosophy from so many view points and look holistically at theology. We are the only nation in the world where we can say that the major problems of the world have been pondered at length here and solutions to them have been found. We are the only nation in the world that can claim to modern and yet deeply connected with the past traditions. Why shall we leave all this to accept a narrow view of Indianess or our religion or culture. Why shall I fall in league with Taliban when I can make the world envy about the richness of my culture, nation and religion. I want to make every day of the year special by celebrating every possible festival in the world and imbibing in the society the good message the festival promotes. I want to celebrate Holy, Diwali, Eid, Christmas, Easter, Guru purv, Navroz, Guru Poornima and Valentines day with equal fervor. Am I doing harm to my culture by doing this? Am I going against my religion for wishing so? If it is so then I may not like to follow the religion that prohibits me from the same. I want to be friends with every person I meet irrespective of his/her religion. I want to learn about the answers different religions and holy men provide to the deep problems of life and ponder on them. I want to experience the full range of cultural tastes which I am fortunate to get in this country. Am i Wrong in wishing so?

1. http://www.frontline.in/stories/20090410260702600.htm, http://www.indianexpress.com/oldstory.php?storyid=3188, http://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/2002/india/, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/jun/29/india.arts
2. http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1228415, http://www.indianexpress.com/news/moral-policing-girl-commits-suicide-in-mangalore/422628/
3. http://www.hindu.com/2009/04/01/stories/2009040153550100.htm, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Opinion/Editorial/EDITORIAL-COMMENT--Denying-Justice/articleshow/4346217.cms
4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7yg-bdlmko, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Mangalore/Girls_assaulted_at_Mangalore_pub/articleshow/4029791.cms
5. http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1229747, http://www.expressindia.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=41891
6. http://www.hindu.com/2009/03/16/stories/2009031660881400.htm
7. Gitanjali

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Party vs Candidate

As a voter I have had questions about whether to vote for the party or the candidate in an election. Well for this election I am pretty clear to vote for the party irrespective of who the candidate is. There are plenty of reasons for the same. No matter how good the candidate is, its ultimately the party whose policies and ideology gets implemented. consider the case of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The ratings tell that the nation was more in favour of him than the NDA. This was beacuse of his moderate image and high respect he got pan India. Yet under his rule we saw Gujrat riots, Mr. Vajpayee wanted so much to sack Modi but he could not due to party pressures and there the public was betrayed.
Well on the other side take the case of Ms. Indira Gandhi. She was certaily not the person who could be caged by the party (unfortunately). In her case vioting for her instead of the party would be wise choice if one agreed with her policies. But todays politics offers no strong leaders like her who can single handedly change the entire party view and dogmas held for so long. So the party rules supreme no matter how good or bad the candidate is. This rule applies specially to parties with dogmas and more fatally to BJP where its divisive ideology and emboldenment of fundamentalist Hindutva organizations at its victory make it all the more important to avoid the party even if the candidate has very good credentials.