Monday, December 28, 2009

Jharkhand - elections and leter

In early part of this decade, 3 new states were formed - Uttarakhand, Chhatishgarh and Jharkhand. All the 3 states carved from bigger states had natural resources in abundance but development had eluded them even after 5 decades of Independence. So when the NDA government carved these states, there was a lot of optimism in local population. While the former 2 went on their path of development thankfully due to stable governments, Jharkhand has been deteriorating due to instability. So all eyes were on this elections to see what mandate was thrown up.

The mandate that was thrown was even more fractured that the previous ones hinting at deeply divided thinking process at various regions and classes. Shibu Soren who was written off before the elections turned out to be the biggest winner, closely followed by Babulal Marandi. Both these leaders derive a lot of flak and disgust in urban living rooms but between them they acocunted for nearly 40% of the seats in the state, which hardly has any urban centre. What does this show? This shows that India and Bharat still think very different.

When Shibu Soren staked his claim to be the CM with BJP support, media and political observers went about questioning BJP. But what they forget is that Shibu Soren was given the higher pedestal first by Narsimha Rao and then Manmohan Singh. While Rao's government survived on his support, Soren was a cabinet minister in UPA1. Questions which weren't asked then are being asked now. The question one has to ask is was there a government possible without Soren? Answer is no. Any government that had to be formed needed JMM and that is the only way to bring some stability to the state. The last phase of unstable government of Madhu Koda and Congress has virtually stripped the state of it's resources and hope. Wish that this time's verdict though fractured, does soemthing for one of the most neglected places in the country.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

BJP - Starting a new chapter

Something that we all waited for has finally happened. The baton has been passed in BJP as the party has a new of leaders with Nitin Gadkari becoming the Party President and Sushma Swaraj taking over as Leader of Opposition. Arun Jaitley has already been the leader of the party in Rajya Sabha. This also means that the eternal yatri of Indian politics and the kartavya purush as I would like to remember him moves away from the limelight and becomes the mentor for the party as it weathers the toughest storm it has faced in it's history.

Many people I spoke with, asked about how does this team expect to be an alternative to Rahul Gandhi. Well, when people say that they forget that there is a basic difference between BJP and Congress. While Congress follows a top-down approach where in the Gandhi Family decides the party and government policies, BJP follows a grounds-up approach where the strength comes from the grassroots. This is infact the reason why there has been an organisation change in BJP. Like BJP, Congress too lost elections in 1996,98 and 99 but there was no change at any level. Even after 2 consecutive debacles, Sonia Gandhi ran the party. Whereas in BJP, electoral defeats results in introspection on leadership, ideology and approach. This is the more democratic manner of functioning and a healthy sign for a national party in a long run.

Taking a look at the choice of Nitin Gandkari are Party President, one get's a feeling that the idea is to get a person who is a doer and someone who have proven skills as a manager. Nitin Gadkari is long remembered in Maharashtra as the person who showed how infrastructure can be developed without bowing down to corporates or without burdening the common man. His work as PWD Minister and his vision for infrastructure during NDA regime proved to be the catalyst for the infra boom India saw. While Nitin Gadkari is a person who understands the concept of Hindutva, he also is not a hardliner. His concepts of Hindutva, secularism are very clear and one could see from his interview on NDTV that he is ready to take this debate beyond the television studios. He is unapologetic about his ideology which helps the grassroot workers to throw their weight behind him. Add to this the clean image he enjoys. All this makes his new inning one worth watching. The future of Indian democracy will depend heavily on how he delivers in next 3 years.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Division of states

As India prepares for one more state in form of Telengana, there are voices of dissent about how India is getting broken into states and how dangerous it is for the country's unity having seen the lingustic jingoism in various states. While one can agree with this to some extent, there is no black and white when it comes to division of states.

To start with, the initial division of states was faulty since it was done only on lingustic grounds. That itself sowed the seeds of division. And who else but the 'great' Nehru to blame for this mistake in his already huge list of mistakes. No one can deny that a country as vast and populated as India needs smaller states for better administration. US for example with half the population of India has 51 states and so there is nothing wrong in having smaller states for better administration.

If one looks at the last 3 states formed out of bigger states during Vajpayee rule - Jharkhand, Chattishgarh, Uttarakhand, one can how they have performed better as seperate states and even better than the original states they were carved out from. So this also proves that neglect does lead to smaller states and once seperate they can become viable states as well. And they have not been formed on basis of language.

Most of the times, demand for a seperate states stems from decades of neglect. Uttarakhand was long neglected in UP and so the demand. Same is with the demand for seperate Vidarbha state in Maharashtra. In Telengana's case, while Telengana region acocunted for more than 50% population of the state, they were given only 40% representation in the state assemby. Their share of development fund was even lower since the leaders concentrated on the larger pie. This situation can be changed or saved only by having an administration which divides the development pie equally amongst the regions. This has been successfully proven in Gujarat where one used to hear cases for Kutch state. But in last few years, those have died down because the development was taken to those who so far were neglected.

Finally to the dirty politics played in Telengana case which lead to the situation becoming so volatile. Congress has played with the emotions of people in Telengana for long. To start with they merged the first Telengana party and agreed to its terms and made Chenna Reddy the CM of AP in 70s. But they did not nothing about the seperate state for years. In 2004, they got into an alliance with TRS on promise of seperate Telengana state but put it in cold storage after that only to bring it up again during no-confidence motion last year to save the government. Again they played the Telengana card during this year's assembly and general elections. But again put the demand in cold storage. This led to the violent reaction this time. More than 30 people have lost their lives over the politics played by the Congress and it was so distasteful to hear their MP Hanumantha Rao say on CNN IBN this morning how Telengana people should thank Sonia Gandhi for giving them a piece of pie like a mother as if India was an Italian Pizza to be divided.

Myths about terror, communcal divide and 6th Dec

one of the most common statements one hears from political spectrum is that India faced terror only because of the incidents on 6th Dec 1992 when the disputed structure was brought down. Also commonly said is that Hindu Muslim divide is a result fo that day. Nothing can be farther from the truth than the above 2 statements.

Terror reigned in India even before 6th Dec 1992. One just needs to remember how Delhi was constantly ripped by bomb blasts in mid-80s. Indira Gandhi was assasinated much before the day in question. People need to think if Pandits were forced out of Kashmir after 6th Dec 1992? Answer is no, they were pushed out and terror ruled Kashmir even before that day. Mizo trouble, Assam rebels, Naxal violence - all were seen much before the day. Infact the fist act of terror seen in India was way back in time after partition when Nizam of Hyderabad and his Razakars terrorised not only Hyderabad but also states around the border. So to say that terror is result of that day is just a convenient political tool and gives justifcation to terrorists.

Communal divide has for long been attributed to that day. But communal divide was actually the cause and not the result of 6th Dec. Had there been no communal divide, Muslims would have gladly given the land to Hindu organisations for the temple (no namaz was offered for decades there). It would have been the most unifying gesture in modern history but this test was failed miserably. Shia Board was ready to negotiate and even gift the land for the temple. But the AIPMLB and Babri Masjid Action Committee (heavily represented by Sunni Muslims) was not ready to talk or even honour ASI findings on temple's existence. They were hell-bent on showing their political clout (aided by new found radicalism after Shah Bano case). Riots were not new to India. Meerut, Bhiwandi, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Bhagalpur and many more places had seen bloody riots in the period between partition and 6th Dec 1992.

So to say that the demolition was the cause of terror and communal divide is just a way of not letting truth .prevail

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Indian leaders and books

Few months back, at a book store, a thought came up in my mind. I started looking at how many Indian leaders have either written books or have books written on them by other authors compared to the leaders from the Western World. Since then I used to look at the histroy and biography section of every bookstore I entered. What surprised me was that from pre-freedom days, the only leaders who have books on them seemed to be Gandhi and Nehru family. I have seen just a couple of books on Subhash Chandra Bose and equal number on Sardar Patel, two of the talled leaders India ever produced. There is hardly anything on other leaders including Lokmanya Tilak, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Bhagat Singh and others. Similarly in post Independence period, one sees books on Indira, Rajiv, Narsimha Rao and those written by L K Advani, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Jaswant Singh etc, one can hardly find any books on Jayprakash Narayan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Chandrashekhar, Morarji Desai who have been the stalwarts of the anti-Congress front. Compare this with the tendency in the West where most of the leaders have either their memoirs or their biographies written and we find that amount of information that one gets about any leader outside the celebrated circle (read Nehru, Gandhi, Ambedkar) is extremely less. Only in recent years, one sees attempts by L K Advani, Jaswant Singh, Arun Shourie, P C Alexander to present a new and a fresh look at the history. One really wishes to know more about the leaders who like Lokmanya Tilak, Bhagat Singh, JP, Vajpayee who all came from extremely ordinary families and reached the high altar of Indian hearts and souls. It's time history remembers the ones who are languushing in deep corners of the forgotten.

Awaiting an Indian leader's Bicyle Diaries.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The political roundup

Lot's happening as always in India. Right from price rise to a timid foreign policy, Government seems to be running out of answers and so senior ministers have resorted to either losing their temper in Parliament or using same old tune of "dont politicise the issue" which in pure terms means don't try and make us accountable, we aren't.

Price Rise - The price of essential commidities are shooting up the roof. Vegetables look a luxury for middle and lower middle class, while one wonders if the fruits soon will become a festive season item. Not to mention sugar which leaves a sour taste for most and there is no possiblity of that going down since Sharad Pawar has to repay his voters (sugar mill owners and big time farmers) for voting them back to power in Maharashtra. What an irony that while small farmers have to agitate for better price for sugarcane, the sugar prices seem to rise higher and higher. So wheres the money going, Mr. Pawar? And we have distinguished (or should it be extinguished) economist as our PM and he can't act against corruption and mismanagement by his own senior colleagues.

Naxal Violence - Naxals and Maoists are running amok in the many states in India and in response we have a central government response which is driven more by who is ruling the state. While Central government was quick to send enforcements to Eastern Maharashtra when Naxals attacked Gadchiroli, their own cabinet ministers have been doing business with Maoist in Communist ruled West Bengal. While Central government cannot make up it's mind in how to tackle the red menace, scores lose their lives and no one including media is bothered because ones who die are those who don't matter for the system.

Foreign Minister missing in action - Who is India's External Affairs Minister? Ah, did the question not stump you? When was the last you heard or saw him? He seems absent when China is armtwsiting India to abaondon projects along the border and he is nowhere to be seen when developed countries are putting pressure on India for emmision cuts. He is not to be found when Pakistan goes about it's drama of 26/11. S M Krishna is currently doing to External Affairs Ministry what Shivraj Patil did to Home Ministry for so many years.

We are not accountable brigade - Pranab Mukherjee, the seniormost and possibly the most able minister in current government has joined the "we are not accountable" arrogant brigade. He first lost his temper on Opposition Leader L K Advani on 26/11 victim compensation and later on Communist leader Brinda Karat on price rise. Both the issues were important but instead of answering the queries, Pranab Mukherjee lost his temper and accused leaders of politicising issues. Since when did asking questions becomes politicising? Isn't the government acocuntable? Does it not have the duty to answer for it's glaring mistakes? Atleast his government does not seem so.

26/11 Ram Pradhan report - So the nautanki is over. Media, sponsors, government all made hay at the cost of feelings of the victimes, their family and millions others who wanted to see some change. Ram Pradhan report has not been made public. The report did talk about how the system failed and how the police top brass mismanaged. Now the Maharashtra government talks about another committee to do a further investigation. All this at tax-payers cost.