Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Weakness or strength - Modi as PM candidate

Too much of ink has been wasted on Narendra Modi's weakness and why he should not become the PM of India. I wondered aloud and took a look at the weakness Modi-baiters list, to present their case. The very reasons that are showcased a weakness’s are actually valid reasons for him to become the PM candidate. Let me explain...

One of the biggest weakness analyst’s claim for Modi, is, that he is a polarising figure. Look at the various past elections, the people have been uncertain and splintered in their voting patterns that we got smaller Parties calling the shots. There was hardly any figure who could polarise the voters, enthuse various groups to vote (for or against) and not splinter them into many groups. So if Modi is the PM candidate, chances of a more solid mandate in favor of either big party is possible. And isn't that an ideal situation to push reforms?

Another reason given is that Modi is an autocrat. Takes decisions quick but without other's inputs. Now this is possibly what India needs after 8 years of policy paralysis. Sonia, Cong, Rahul, NAC, Cabinet and allies have been pulling the PM in so many directions that PM is unable to drive the vehicle of governance. So an autocractic PM might be a better choice to pull India out of the sad economic and other policy hole the Nation has fallen into. An autocratic decision maker would be better than a PM who can't and won't take decisions.

In a way, these two so-called weakness are so much in contrast to current PM Manmohan Singh that they end up looking as strengths and 2 big reasons why Narendra Modi should be the prime PM candidate.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Economic resolve or political posturing

I thought it only happened in Hindi movies. A man completely paralysed and handicapped for years, suddenly jumps on his feet and starts dancing around the trees. But you will be excused if you think you are seeing the same scene enact with UPA govt. Whether it is true (as media wants us to believe) or whether it is just a dream sequence will be known in next few days.

I won't go into pros and cons of the announcements made. Too many people doing it, many with their half baked knowledge. So I will steer clear of that orgy and try to look at politics of these steps or should I say announcements.

If we look at last few years, while the government has been under fire from industry on lack of reforms, it has always been in denial mode. Congress has smartly ignored and hid their internal differences and painted other parties or people as villians be it Left, Mamata, BJP or Pranabda. Things reached a stage where even RBI Governor had no qualms about hitting out at then FM Pranab Mukherjee. Then came the major reshuffle of key portfolios bringing the protege-mentor team of Subba Row and PC back in the economy play. Finance Minister badly needed Subba Row to cut rates while Subba Row spoke of cuttting rates only after government moved on reforms. Now with fuel price hike and other announcements, PC has made that first move. Expect Subba Row to latch on to this excuse to cut rates and make the government favourable among industrialists against. This despite the fact that inflation has risen and not reduced.

Isn't it surprising that Congress took such major decision without taking allies into confidence. Isn't the sudden bravery of the government very suspect? A government and a party which claims it let its ally loot the country because of coalition Dharma has suddenly turned disdainful towards the partners. Hard to digest, isn't it? The criticism of some of the steps have come from Digvijay Singh. What he says today, Rahul says tomorrow and Manmohan Singh has to do day after tomorrow.

The timing of the announcement is suspect too. On 14th Sept in the morning, SC took the government and indirectly the PM to the cleaners on Coalgate. And within few hours the announcement was made though cabinet had met the previous day. If the Congress wanted to divert attention from it's scams, it surely has succeeded as of now.

All these points are enough to make us believe that government is just posturing and not serious on reforms. My feel is that the next few steps will be:

Subba Row cutting rates. Banks have already cut rates on FD by .5 to 1 percent. This makes the government a darling of business again. A move aimed at increasing war chest for elections.
Then citing pressure from Congress and allies, government will roll back (fully or partially) the diesel price hike. This will be followed by go-slow on some announcements and total stop on other reforms.

Timidity has been this Government hallmark and I will be glad to be proven wrong if I refuse to accept that it has suddenly become brave. It is just a dream sequence we are seeing. The man (government) is still sitting on the wheelchair, immobile

Friday, August 24, 2012

Parliament logjam

Remember an old ad which ended with "and the argument continues"? The media and political discourse on Parliament disruptions is turning out to be the same though just one-sided. I don't see any commentator pondering for a moment on many issues behind the current Parliament logjam.

Rather than just lamenting that BJP is disrupting the Parliament, it would help to see what generally helps in keeping Parliament peaceful and working?

A good Ruling Party - Opposition Party relationship
Between 1991-1996, India possibly was in its most crucial phase which politically was also the most stressful one. Yet, Narsimha Rao government could navigate through landmines of economic liberalisation with great ease inspite of a minority government. What helped him was his ability to reach out to main opposition BJP and build a consensus on crucial issues. Narsimha Rao gave necessary respect to the opposition and ensured he does not act with arrogance or disdain towards them. Now come to 2004-2012. And what you see is complete lack of respect for the opposition. PM Manmohan Singh has only shown intellectual disdain and power drunk arrogance towards the opposition. To top it, he also indulged in unholy act of buying MPs from the opposition (PVNR too did it but from smaller fringe players, not main opposition). So why should opposition bail out Manmohan Singh when his government is under pressure?

For any ruling combine to push important bills, it is necessary for them to build a broader consensus with all parties. This means openness from the government to accept other viewpoints. How many times has UPA done this? It has ignored BJP throughout its tenure. For other parties, it has used or rather misused CBI to get their support. When everything fails, they step on federal spirit to browbeat or bribe smaller parties into supporting them. Is this a healthy democratic manner to run a government?

Yes, debates are one of the pillars of the Parliament. But they become just decorative pillars (and not protecting pillars) if the government does not act on the debates specially points put forth by the opposition. Take Lokpal for example. It saw some of the most brilliant debates seen in recent times. But what was the result? Government used it allies in LS to water it down and misused the office of RS Speaker to prevent a vote.

If one does an honest review of UPA government on above points, one can see their absolute failure in respecting the sanctity of the Parliament. Does then such a government deserve any sympathy when it finds itself in a corner.

Parliament has some of its institutions like PAC and JPC (whenever constituted). Congress has been consistently abusive and dismissive of the PAC led by Murali Manohar Joshi. He has been hauled over coals for asking the government tough questions as PAC chief. As for JPC on 2G, the less said the better. Congressmen in the JPC feel it okay to call an old and ill Atal Bihari Vajpayee for a probe but won't call P Chidambaram or Manmohan Singh for the same. They have reduced JPC to a joke this time.

Against this entire backdrop, one will find that disruption of the Parliament is the only option right now. All other options like debates, JPC, PAC have failed to get senses into a corrupt, power drunk, arrogant Congress. They care a damn for democratic values and to fight them just on those values did not help us in last 8 yrs and won't help in future too.

People forget that for a large part between 2004-2010 (except during Cash4Vote), Parliament functioned smooth. But what was the result? How many crucial bills were passed? Did the government bring in any major bills or initiatives then? Except 2, I can't think of any. So to say that reforms and governance can happen only if Parliament functions smoothly is a major blame shifting activity.

Coming to the current session, some of the key bills 'planned' are Women's Reservation, Lokpal, Pensions reforms, Insurance reforms, Banking reforms, Whistle Blowers Act. Now while everyone knows the long journey of first 2 bills and government's lack of will to pass it, Pensions and Insurance reforms are pending since more than 4 years due to opposition from UPA allies. Whistle Blower Act too is a watered down version of what was shown last year. So the valid question is why just blame current disruption when most of the pending business has been pending since years because of the UPA government. To just blame BJP for it is sheer lack of understanding democracy.

How serious is Congress about Parliament can be seen from the attendance sheet of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Their silence in the Parliament speaks a great deal about their disdain towards the institution. Add to that the fact that PM is always on a foreign trip during a session. I can't recall a single PM who was so casual about Parliament and its business.

You generally have to use a thorn to remove a thorn. The UPA is much more than a thorn in nation's soul. So to remove that, current tactics used by the BJP are valid last options.

Liberty - just a shoe brand or more?

Hardly any subject (except sex) has been as closely discussed or followed like Free Speech or Liberty is. As India stares at web censorship by a desperate government, we find ourselves in mdst of the same discussion.

So what is freedom of speech? I am a no google experts or a think tank or a rent a quote master. I will use a simple definition I and my friend Sai had used in an online group called Bindass Bol. Liberty is freedom of a person to swing his stick wildly. But it should not touch anyone's crotch. If it does, the other person has the liberty to react. That is freedom for me.

People will say "oh but, xyz is indulging in hate speech disguised as free speech". Well to start with who defines what is hate and what is not? For e.g. For many, Imam Bukhari or Raj Thackeray are indulging in hate speech. But for a sizeable section, they are just giving words to their woes (whether true or not). If left to people, judging hate speech is very subjective and will just increase friction and intolerance. Letting government do it can result in misuse of it to quell disset and promote appeasement. Only courts should be allowed to say what is a hate speech and what is not.

The only way to fight hate speech or misuse of liberty is to fight it legally. Take people to court. In M F Hussain's case, I agree with those who filed cases against him but not with those who threatened violence against him. India has enough laws which if followed carefully work perfectly well.

Coming to the recent case of blocking few twitter handles. The list will clearly show you that the idea was to muzzle anti-government voices and not to stop hate speech because very few in that list were guilty of hate tweets. And if government is keen to work on stopping hate tweets, it has to act against many IDs from across political and religious spectrum. Blocking a few Hindu Right is more politics than security. But expecting a balance from a government keen on minority appeasement is plain foolishness.

What about the role of common people in upholding liberty? A very crucial role. While many in current saga rushed by the sides of those blocked (irrespective of ideological differences), a large number of so-called liberals either kept quite or supported the blocks. The duplicity of those supporting the blocks and such cases hurts liberty as badly as strikes by the intolerants. Many media stars who cry foul on media regulation were the first to welcome these blocks. Very few, like Shivam Vij, Salil Tripathi, Sadanand Dhume had the courage to say the right things inspite of ideological differences. But many others including few friends failed that crucial test. To uphold free speech, self regulation and unbiased approach are the only options.

As long as we don't do the above, Liberty will remain a shoe brand and no more.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Internet Hindus - entire interview (more or less)

The chat between me and Jason *reference the article in Global Post)



Jits Gajaria, Jason Overdorf



Jits Gajaria: And after Ghose used that term, more and more youth
started asserting themselves as IH or right wing.

Jits Gajaria: I have always maintained that disagreements have full

space in democracy but abuse does not. I have called up abusive

tweeple more than a few times for crossing the line. I feel abuse

weakens your argument and chance to win a debate

Jason Overdorf: In what ways do you think the pro-Congress bias

manifests? We certainly see a lot of articles slamming Manmohan Singh

for kowtowing to the coalition, and plenty of anti-dynasty pieces and

articles about Rahul's incompetence....

Jits Gajaria: Well.. To give a simple example, the silence of national

media on death of a terror accussed in a jail in Maharashtra. Had it

been a BJP ruled state, national media would have been all over it

unlike the current near silence. If you observe carefully, anti-BJP

news are amplified and positive stories from BJP states either

downplayed or grudingly accepted

Jason Overdorf: Or is the national media just automatically tilted a

bit toward the ruling party? Things seemed pretty cosy in the days of

"India Shining," the Gujarat riots notwithstanding.

Jits Gajaria: If you compare the 2 periods, media has a lot more

traction and viewership today. Also the kind of criticism the govt

should take for the current state in India, is not coming from media.

A simple Q - even a kid knows this govt can't do anything without

Sonia Gandhis permission. Why is then media shying from questioning

her? Sonia Gandhi's NAC is largely responsible for the mismanagement

of economy, how many media houses have bothered to call that out?

Jits Gajaria: Maybe more than pro-Cong, Media is pro-Gandhi family

Jason Overdorf: What have been the biggest successes of the Hindu

right (or whatever) in social media? (i.e. Any big wins?)

Jits Gajaria: They have been able to offset and balance out a lot of

false stories. For eg - when Business Standard published an op-ed on

Guj showing Guj growth story a myth followed by rediff and BBC, the

counter in form of data and facts given by a twitter used Vijay

(centerofright) was so spot on, all had to withdraw their stories

because their data was wrong ( or intentionally fudged). Many such

cases of levelling the information fields

Jits Gajaria: And even traditional media houses will have to accept

that information field is getting levelled or they risk being called

out for their unintentional or unintentional bluffs

Jason Overdorf: Do you agree that the Hindu right / Hindu nationalists

are more organized and focused in their use of social media than the

left / secularists?

Jits Gajaria: Hindu right\Hindu nationalists are a part of the

society. They generally represent the country's middle class... And it

is this class which is pre-dominant on the net given its upwardly

mobile status since NDA rule. Hence you will always see them more on

social media. Also they seem more organised because of a common sense

of hurt and disappointment vis-a-vis traditional media

Jits Gajaria: Let's not forget most of the people in this section a

Jason Overdorf: Fair enough.

Jits Gajaria: Are extremely nationalists in their own way

Jason Overdorf: One does seem to find that the right is more

passionate than the left about politics these days in the States as

well. Maybe that's true here, too. (Apart from in Kerala & WB ;-)

Jits Gajaria: Oh yes.. Maybe because there is hardly any Left left in

India.. Many seem to have moved towards centre and are enjoying fruits

of govt eg NAC

Jason Overdorf: One of the common threads in political discussions is

that the middle class is too small to make a difference. Are they

underestimating your potential?

Jits Gajaria: I think they are. There are 80 parliament seats in core

Urban areas and further 40 in semi urban. Also middle class is found

in rural areas too now.. Roughly I wud say middle class can impact

around 180 parliament seats if it comes out to vote

Jason Overdorf: Here's one more for you, then we can wrap it up...

What's your view of the 'battle for the youth?' Are the 'Internet

Hindus' a bigger force than Rahul Gandhi's recruitment drive? Are

your tweeters actually joining the BJP/RSS to get out there and drum

up votes? And can Hindu nationalism compete with regionalism / caste

politics in today's India?

Jits Gajaria: My theory is whenever economy is in doldrums, middle

class votes big.. Add to that the anti-corruption drives and it gives

you an angry middle class and 180 LS seats where they can swing votes

Jits Gajaria: To the last Q. Yes I think this is a much larger

platform to get youth into politics. Won't compare with Rahul's drive

since it has been found how numbers were highly fudged in TN n other

places. So don't know the result of Rahul model. But coming to social

media, I see more and more youth ready to make a switch from online to

offline too. On an average I get 3-4 requests a week for same

Jits Gajaria: Nationalism is the only thing that can take on regional

and casteist politics. Its a glue which binds the ppl and not divide



i wasnt able to save the chat before this since my Blackberry died for a few seconds but here I will just summarise what I said

On Internet Hindus - i feel the term is very derogatory and by using this term people are showing their bigotory and lack of intellect. Sagarika and others stand guilty of bigotory and racism by coining and using this terme

on whether RSS or BJP runs a cell for organised social media and if i have been ever aske to do it - no, the right wing on social media is an unorganised loosely knit group of people across globes who care for India. no organisation or party has so far tried to make special cells for it.

i rest my case

Monday, May 14, 2012

Nitin Gadkari and 2nd term

Too much being written and said about Nitin Gadkari and his possible 2nd term in social media. Sadly the unkindest cuts have come from people, office bearers of organisations or media columnists who declare themselves as staunch BJP supporters. Before coming to 2nd term, let's have a look at how Gadkari fared in his first term and conditions in which he took the leadership.

After 2009 LS debacle, BJP looked not only like a house divided but also looked like someone within would bomb it to oblivion. Vasundhra Raje was sulking in Rajasthan after overseeing a campaign which saw BJP nearly whitewashed in state in LS polls. Khanduri was removed under pressure since BJP lost all 5 seats there. Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, Jaswant Singh were all feeling left out and in a mood for an open rebellion. In terms of seats, BJP had been washed out in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Assam, Delhi and done badly in Gujarat, Maharashtra, MP in relation to what was expected and past performances. Parliamentary performance in LS and RS between 2004-2009 was worst BJP show for years. It won't be unfair to say that party was in self-destruct mode.

RSS had no choice but to step in. RSS too was going through a generational change in leadership. Many BJP leaders were considered to the top post. Some refused to take the tough job while others were objected to by either RSS or BJP leadership. A decision to bring younger leadership was already taken. While Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley were chosen as leaders of the party in LS and RS, the Party President was still not decided. It was then that Nitin Gadkari was chosen as a consensus candidate.

Many things have happened since then. Let's see at the positives.
To start with, Nitin Gadkari set upon to put the house in order. While Vasundhra Raje was pacified in Rajasthan, Yashwant Sinha was given the respect he deserved. Same with Murali Manohar Joshi. Jaswant Singh was brought back into the party after being unfairly expelled earlier. Over a period of time, fences with Gopinath Munde were mended. Uma Bharti too was brought back into the party.

A Party President's value is generally done on basis of performance in elections. In Bihar, Nitin Gadkari with Arun Jaitley and Dharamendra Pradhan worked with local leaders over campaign strategy and ticket allocation. By agreeing shrewdly to JD-U's opposition for Modi, BJP ensured Laloo could not make the contest Hindu vs Muslim. Result was a stupendous performance. While BJP had no role in WB, TN, Kerala, it did lose some ground in Assam. In the meantime BJP swept local polls in Urban Maharashtra, Delhi, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat. Even in Rural Maharashtra, BJP increased number of seats from what they won last time. In Uttarakhand, Gadkari smartly brought back Khanduri and BJP won 31 seats against earlier surveys of total washout with 7 seats. Same in Punjab. Compared to 2009 and contrary to public perception, BJP did manage to win 8 seats. After long, Goa got a single party power under BJP. BJP has been making smart gains in Andhra Pradesh specially in Telengana belt,.

In last 3 years, BJP has put up a sterling performance in Parliamentary debates and proceedings.BJP kept up the pressure within Parliament on 2G and CWG issues. BJP has been able to corner the government on corruption, price rise and other important issues. BJP's stand post Ram Janmabhoomi HC judgement was praised by critics too. Even the last India Today polls showed BJP gaining. A lot of ground still to be covered but still better position than in 2009.

Coming to the negatives. First and foremost to everyone's mind is UP elections. How many seats did BJP lose? 6. How worse was the performance from 2009 elections? Well, just about the same. While one can blame Nitin Gadkari for taking false decisions (like Kushwaha, where he erred in beliving local inputs), one can't blame him for not trying. Unlike 2007 VS and 2009 LS campaigns, this year UP campaign did see worker motivation at a high. Time is ripe to build on it. Another accusation hurled at him is his 'mishandling' of Karnataka. How exactly do people expect him to handle it? He could have braved it out like Congress and let Yeddyurapa stay but strongest opposition was from party seniors. Fact is Gadkari has been doing tight rope walk on this issue which honestly now is now a ego issue. Imagine his condition, for electoral success if he brings in a corruption accussed he is criticised, and if he removes someone accussed of corruption, he is criticised. Same on Jharkhand RS nomination. Fact is BJP didn't have numbers and Mishra was propped by MLAs across parties. BJP never had numbers to put up their own candidate. So MLAs could support whoever they wanted. For that matter even 2 Cong MLAs had supported Mishra. Neither media nor Cong supporters hauled Sonia over coals for this.

One can debate endlessly on gains and losses. My personal view is he has done the best given the circumstances in which he took over. He ensured that the party does not slip into coma as it looked like in 2009. Yes, he might have made some mistakes but show me a man who hasn't erred. Some people talk of stature. But how many remember the BJP Party President in period 1998-2000 when BJP had most electoral success nationally? It was Late Kushabhau Thakre, never counted as a man of stature by the media or party supporters (not party members). To win elections, you need a public face. But much more than that you need someone who can handle the party cadre and get them to work on the ground. In BJP's case, you also need someone who can get RSS ecosystem to be working zealously and seamlessly with the party. BJP failed in doing that in 2004 and rest is history because just a public face does not guarantee electoral success.

Coming to current political situation, one can not predict if and when government will fall. Everyone can sniff mid-term polls. Having a Party President yet in a transitory state during elections isn't a smart thing to do. Most parties maintain status quo in organisation structure during an election year because new people need time.

Hence in current situation, Nitin Gadkari getting a second term is the best available option with BJP. If the proposal is presented and approved during National Executive Council meeting in May in Mumbai, it would again draw up criticism from some quarters. While one agrees that supporters have right to voice their views, supporters too need to know that once Gadkari is made the chief, the party will go to battlefield with him at helm. You can choose if you want to join (with full faith in him) or sit on the fence and continue giving free advice.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Revisiting 1996?

Elections are rightly called the dance of democracy. Nothing captures the change of dynamics in a democracy better than elections. Right from local elections to general elections, it is a game of 'join the dots'. The elections is few states have just concluded and also we have crossed the half-term mark of UPA2. What better time than this to play a political pandit and see how things are shaping up for next general elections in 2014.

Let's take a electoral tour of India, as we try and see how parties are faring in various elections since 2009. Starting with states with more number of LS seats.

Recently concluded elections in UP showed how SP and BSP have literally squeezed out the national parties BJP and Cong in the state. While for BJP, the worry is that it is unable to take an upward turn from 15-16% where it has been stuck since 2007 Assembly polls. So it should plateau at around 10 seats if it does not improve it's leadership or fields winnable candidates in 2014. But for Congress, it is a matter of worry because UP gave it atleast 10 more seats in 2009 than expected. In current scenario, highly unlikely that they can cross 5 seats. It would be safe to assume that SP and BSP should share the remaining 65 seats (40 and 25 respectively)

A lot has changed in Maharashtra since Assembly 2009 and LS 2009. While NCP has either managed or grown it's rural base, Congress has been a laggard in both rural and urban centres. It has lost badly in local body polls. NCP while growing in rural areas, seems to have hit a plateau in urban centres. BJP on other hand has improved its standing in Vidarbha and also in most urban centres. Shiv Sena on other hand has been on a downward spiral except in the urban centres. MNS is slowly and steadily occupying the space that Shiv Sena is vacating. But the real game changer in Maharashtra are the RPI (Athawle group) alliance with BJP and SS and the tacit understanding between BJP-SS and MNS before and post local elections. In 2009, BJP-SS had lost nearly 10 seats due to MNS. 2014 won't be the same. Also I see NCP contesting independently. I see BJP-SS-RPI improving majorly under current scenario with NCP marginally improving. MNS should make it's debut in Parliament with a couple of seats. Congress seems to be losing touch with ground reality in Maharashtra and could end up in single digits.

Andhra Pradesh
AP has seen a huge churning since 2009. Jagan's exit and subsequent showing in by-polls has pushed Congress to merge PRP with it while Telengana movement has led to massive political changes. Not only has Congress lost by-polls in AP, it has lost them badly with TRS continuing it's grip over the region. TDP on other hand seems to be dealing with internal demons as of now. In last 2 general elections, Congress win was powered by its showing in AP. Seems next to impossible for it to repeat it until and unless they do both, merge Jagan's party and ally with TRS. Highly unlikely. TDP can surely hope to do better and tap the double incumbency. This is where I feel Congress losing seats and regional players (Jagan, TRS, TDP) gaining a few.

West Bengal
Now this state will be a tricky one. Not only is Mamata having a rocky start to her tenure as CM but her relation with the Congress are bad at the best. Does not seem Left Parties have picked up steam after it's last defeat. And Congress still is dependent on TMC. Mamata and Congress had more or less peaked out in last elections. So there are chances that while Mamata could still hold onto her seats or lose a couple, Left Parties should pick up seats in Cong areas and increase its tally. Given the nature of relation between Mamata and Congress, I think it safer to think she will be scouting for alliances in 2014

The most spoken about state when it comes to how people defy traditional logic. Also it seems Bihar's love affair with JD-U and BJP is still not over. Also the RJD and LJP have failed to recover from the string of defeats. As for Congress, it really looks an uncared child. Looks like they are squandering away whatever chance they have of occupying the space once taken by RJD. While JD-U and BJP had done exceedingly well in 2009 and looks set to repeat it as of now, some local MP level anti-incumbency could cost them a few seats to RJD. But nothing alarming.

Tamil Nadu
A Dravidian party is always in centre irrespective of who rules. And I don't think that rule will change in 2014. AIADMK and DMK will possibly fight elections independently and share seats. Post elections they could gravitate towards one or the other front depending on the 'value'. AIADMK is more likely to go with NDA but with maverick Jaya, you never know.

Madhya Pradesh
MP for long is now as BJP bastion. It's performance in 2009 LS polls was quite disappointing considering it ducked anti-incumbency in 2008. Some seats lost were facing same MP fatigue as losing MPs were multiple times winner from those seats. Interestingly SP did well in LS 2009 in MP and now being in power in UP, could shock Congress in the border areas. As of now, looking at absence of any major wave for or against, one could bet on a status-quo or a few seats more for BJP in 2014 with Congress losing some.

The Lotus state in south. While BJP has faced troubled both within and outside, it has not impacted its performance in the by-polls. It has won most of the by-polls in last 3 years. Reason could be lacklustre leadership of Congress and the utter nepotism of JD-S. A lot will depend on how these parties gear up for next Assembly elections in 2008. If the BJP internal bickering is taken care of and governance put on a good track, Karnataka should give BJP 20 MPs in 2014. Else it is back to the 10-14 figures where it was earlier.

The NaMo land. While one can safely say this is a BJP fort for years gone and more to come, it's contribution to BJP's LS kitty has been very poor in 2004 and 2014 compared to the 90s. In the 90s right from 1991, for 4 elections, Gujarat sent more than 20 MPs for the BJP, twice even 25. In last 2 elections, the figure is down to 15. The reason behind this needs to be analysed. For 2014, BJP should try and change the trend back to 90s and increase it's tally instead of being at constant 15 level.

In 2009 LS, Rajasthan was another state which sent a big contingent of MPs for Congress. BJP still smarting under the loss in Assembly then was left with just 5 seats. Much has changed since then. On one hand, Congress government has serious image issues, on the other BJP under Vasundhra Raje is making a smart recovery. Much would depend on how both perform in Assembly polls in 2013 end. But for now safe to look at BJP gaining lot of seats at the expense of the Congress.

For the other states with less than 20 seats, here is my view:

Kerala seems to be happy with Congress as of now and hence it should not have much trouble getting a lion's share of the seats in LS. Orissa is where Congress could make smart gains due to rising unpopularity of Biju Patnaik government. Last time BJD swept the polls but could be vice versa now with Congress and BJD swapping seats and BJP winning a couple. Congress should also hold on to Assam due to absence of any credible opposition. Haryana could surprise the Congress which swept it last time. But going will be very tough as seen from the LS by-poll is Hisar. BJP with Kuldeep Bishnoi is making smart inroads and could win more seats come 2014. Punjab too could witness the same. With SAD-BJP bucking anti-incumbency, am sure it has learnt its lessons and could win more than 5 it won last time. Delhi is there for BJP to sweep if it picks candidates carefully. Dreadfully out of MP race in Delhi for 2 terms, corrupt Sheila regima has given enough reason for BJP to return with a bang. Jharkhand which went in favour of BJP should this time highly likely that BJP will have to share seats with Congress. I would put both parties at even. Chattishgarh is another place where BJP is ruling for 2nd term now. Nothing seems to have gone wrong for the party there yet and should continue it's strong showing. For rest of the states, I see BJP and Congress winning equal seats in J and K, HP, Uttarakhand, Goa and Congress sharing with regional players in North East.

Talking of parties and fronts, one can see that in 2009, Congress peaked out in a few states and is slipping big there while holding on in couple of smaller ones. For the BJP, 2009 was one of its weakest campaigns in 2 decades. Hence it could not maximise even in its bastions. Now its on a path to steady recovery. But while one can see Congress losing major ground and BJP gaining some ground, it is not enough to replace it completely. Hence part of the vaccum is being filled by a group of regional players and left front. Since in TN, WB, AP, UP, Bihar there are more than one regional players, one player will move towards so-called 3rd Front while another will inch towards BJP or Congress, depending on who is in a better position. As of today BJP is surely better placed and so one could see a bigger NDA during and after LS polls.

Coming to the 3rd front, it always needs a strong fulcrum, this time it could be SP which could be a central figure. Add to it a Left, NCP, DMK or AIADMK, Jagan or TDP or TRS, RJD, BJD and one gets a stronger alliance than UPA.

So if I have to be a political pandit for a while and take my picks for LS2014, I will say NDA largest alliance , 3rd front second largest and Congress in a supporting role for 3rd front post elections if needed. Reminded of 1996, aren't you?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

not about justice and rehab, silly

Titling the post so because in most of the op-eds or columns written about Narendra Modi hardly one is about justice and rehabilitation. People have demonstrated amazing lack of memory just to drive to one point - Modi should not be the PM. While some of these columns have been outright vitriolic, few are so low on facts that it surprises Specially the one written by Salil Tripathi had me surprised since it was not expected from him to have selective memory. So let me try and get the record straight for real life Ghajinis like him and many others.

To start with, Salil tries to draw a parralel between Narendra Modi and Rajiv Gandhi in a way that would possibly make Rajiv look like an innocent poor grieving kid all his tenure. Truth unfortunately is far from that. Even if I neglect Rajiv's role in 84 Sikh riots, how can you forget the 5 years rule which saw riots at Meerut, Moradabad, Bhagalpur, Baroda, Ahmedabad, Godhra (yes, the town was under curfew for months) and many more places. Was it just a sheer coincidence that all were Congress rules states and faced internal political wranglings? Rajiv's 'extra-smart' moves on Shah Bano and Ayodhya ensured communal harmony was never the same again. Compare this to the peace that one sees in Gujarat. Some might argue that it is just forced peace. Well, forced or otherwise, the fact that no major riot has broken (except one in Baroda during road widening) out in Gujarat since 2002. This despite the fact that state saw Akshardham Temple attack and bomb blasts in the interim period. Also the sensitive issue of demolition of religious structures for infrastructure projects. Neither the Muslim nor the Hindu radicals were allowed to misuse the situation and had to fall in line. If this does not speak of Modi's ability to ensure impartial strong administration, nothing does.

Next Salil speaks about the speed (or rather lack of it) with which Modi administration worked. It is public knowledge that Gujarat had requested the neighbouring states for additional forces. But none complied. And who ruled Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra then? Yes, the supposed torch-bearers of secularism, Congress. Many commentators even talk about 'delay' in deployment of army. They surely do not remember that the riots happened just after Parliament attack and India had mobilised its armed forces on the Pakistan border. Well, such facts are conveniently forgotten when the aim is not justice but demonisation of an individual, organisation or community.

Next thing most people speak about and specially Salil did is that the riots went on for months. While riots did go on for a month and half, for the remaining period there were stray incidents. But isn't this a common thing in places rocked by big riots? Mumbai riots took nearly 2 months to settle down and for calm to be restored. When a small city (in kms n size) can take 2 months to return to peace, here we was a state much bigger in size and with a history of communal disharmony. Why not look at Gujarat itself in 80s. Baroda, Ahmedabad and Godhra saw curfew and riots for months. And how did then CM Solanki and PM Rajiv Gandhi fare post that politically? While Solanki became a Minister of External Affairs, Rajiv Gandhi adorns half a dozen welfare schemes and a Bharat Ratna to boot. And yes, no Salil Tripathi or his friends could stop or protest it.

I won't try and argue on figures about Gujarat's economic growth because figures can be used selectively to strengthen a position and that's what Salil has done. If there is a testimony to Gujarat's growth and its impact on riot victims, Kutubuddin Ansari is a good case enough. Once known as a face of the riots, today he lives happily and peacefully in Gujarat. Not only that he is economically doing much better than he was in his foster states - West Bengal and Maharashtra. His reluctance to revisit those days and advice to all to move on obviously has no takers with Salil and ilk.

Finally, the often made argument that Modi deserves no praise for Gujarat's economic progress because it was always a state of people with business acumen. If same argument is taken forward, how can you call Modi as having sown seeds of communal disharmony when the fact is that Gujarat was rocked by riots since 1967. Why should he take the blame for a legacy when he is not being credit for other things attributed to legacy.

All just goes on to show one thing and that is - the aim of most of these writers and commentators is not to ensure justice, progress and peace for the victims and state of Gujarat.

I declare the field open for anyone to counter what I say specially Salil Tripathi for whom I have greatest regards.

Link to Salil Tripathi's aolumn - http://www.livemint.com/2012/02/29202235/Incredible-impunity.html