Sunday, March 12, 2017

BJP VIctory in Uttar Pradesh: Implications for 2019

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

The BJP sweep in Uttar Pradesh did not come as a surprise to this blogger as he had predicted a tally of 300 seats. In reality, the BJP got well over this number and we have to ask some hard questions which have serious implications for the General Elections of 2019.

THe first question is: Did demonetization play a positive role in galvanizing the poorer sections of society in favour of the BJP. The conventional wisdom emanating from the wooly leftist commentators was that demonetization to prove a disaster and voters would register their protest in the polling booths. This did not happen primarily because the political messaging that accompanied the move was clear: the policy was aimed at unearthing black money and was meant to keep the pledge of rooting out corruption and hoards of hoarded wealth. The Congress and the BSP the most vocal critics of the MOdi initiative have had to bite the dust because they did not understand the baci purpose of the policy and its political implications. Even the small trader and daily wage worker soon adjusted to the new reality of a cashless or less cash economy and there was no major social unrest following the demonetization initiative. At the political level it shifted the focus of politics away from issues of identity to those of class, and employment along with livelihood.

The demonetization policy was effective in breaking the stranglehold of caste and power brokers over the electorate. Even in Muslim majority areas the Party has done extremely well. One obvious and a clear possibility is the Muslim women have voted in favor of the BJP given the stand taken by the party on the contentious triple talaq issue. But this alone does not explain the fact that even in predominantly Muslim areas like Deaband which has nearly 70% Muslim electorate, the bJP quite easily won the seat. Here I postulate a hypothesis that the younger Muslim voters are increasingly getting alienated from the sort of divisive politics that the traditional parties practice in the name of "secularism". Tokenism at best and condescension at worst is the main feature of Indian secularism. Modi's message, Sab Ke Saath, Sab ka Vikas is not a mere statement of intent. It is now emerging as a new contract between State and Civil Society.

In 2019, the BJP will be able to do well. However by that time, the state Government may have been in power for more than 2 years and hence the strong winds of anti incumbency will be felt. I suggest, though the BJP hot heads may disagree, that the present mandate is not for identity based issues like the Ram Mandir and BJP must resist playing identity politics on the issue except play the occasional tune to the die hard mandir addicts. The social coalition consisting of Brahmins, Rajputs, Trading castes and sections of the OBC and non Jatav SCs is a fragile and rather short sighted. It would be best not to put total faith in the sustainability of this coalition and continue to build up support.

An interesting feature in these Elections has been the substantial increase in the vote share of the BJP. Even in Goa where BJP got less seats than the COngress, the Party has more share of the votes polled and the same in Manipur. Uttarakhand and Punjab did not come as a surprise to anyone and I am sure that the BJP was expecting a poor show. Probably the showing of the AAP may have come as a surprise.

All in all, if this trend continues the BJP will cross 305 to 320 seats in the Lok Sabha Elections of 2019.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Communist Killings in Kerala: Pinarayi Vijayan's Government must be dismissed

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

When there were riots in Gujarat, after 59 passengers returning from Varanasi were burnt alive in Godhra, the Media went to town claiming that the then Chief MInister was responsible for the violence that followed. The Hindu, a left leaning newspaper carried reports from the following day onwards about flag marches that had been organized to check the violence and it was pointed out that several people were killed in police firing against rioting mobs. Not satisfied the dynastic fascists and their leftist allies created an international buzz over Narendra Modi and Hussein Obama obliged them by putting the Hon'ble Chief MInister on the list of people who were to be denied US visa. The general opinion that was advocated was that the Chief Minister by failing to bring the riots under control was abetting in the violence that followed. It was forgotten that after the demise of Indira Gandhi, the dynastic fascists went around killing nearly 4,500 Sikhs in the capital city itself and Rajiv Gandhi justified the attacks by saying famously that the ground shakes when a big tree falls.
In Kannur District of Kerala. over the past one year more than 100 Karyakartas of the RSS have been brutally hacked to death and not a single arrest has taken place. It is clear that the State Government under the notorious Pinarayi Vijayan is actively encouraging its essentially tiya social constituency to hunt and kill sympathizers of the BJP or the RSS. The list of potential victims is vetted by the state secretariat and a hit squad organized with the active assistance of the CPM Kannur District Committee. So far more than 100 young men have been killed and there is not a whimper of protest from the so called defenders of freedom and free speech. Their silence is eloquent. They are only saying that the space for political dissent and freedom is to be occupied only by the leftists and no one else. Such one sided and perverse interpretations of freedom is a sure sign of growing intolerance on the part of the left and creeping fascism, which does not brook any kind of dissent. The Prabhat Patnaik's of the world will be quiet when leftist goondas kill political  opponents.
It is now time for the Central Government to intervene. The State Government is using its considerable police force to protect the cadre of the CPM involved in such systematic killings. Rajnath Singh, the Home MInister is as usual quiet. Hoping that the problem will just slip away and he can take his mind on to more weighty issues like crafting a political future for his son and grandson. We have faith in our Prime MInister. We expect him to act.
There is enough evidence on hand to sdemonstrate that the CPM is actively colluding with the CPM criminals involved insuch killing. We expect the Prime MInister tto dismiss the CPM Government and prosecute Pinarayi Vijayan.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Deep State and Democracy: Something wrong in the way US Democracy is functioning

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

One of the fundamental attributes of a mature democracy is the civilian control over the Military and Intelligence Services. In USA, it is quite clear that President Donald Trump is the elected President. However, what is surprising is that within less than a month of his assumption of the Office of President, he is being dragged into a unholy mess in which the Media, the Academia and the Intelligence Community all seem to be working in tandem. His popularity or unpopularity is not the issue. The viciousness with which he is being attacked and the studies and co ordinated manner in which he is being undermined in less than a month in Office leads me to suspect that there is something more than mere political posturing.

Donald Trump is certainly an obnoxious man. But that does not disqualify him from holding an elected post. President Barack Obama, had poetry on his lips and blood on his hands and the American public was quite exited over him. Perhaps, the fact of being black and sophisticated had something to do with his popularity. Obama was ruthless in his pursuit of the American objectives or where they American objectives. He sustained the Sunni USA Alliance against Iran even though he made a fairly good deal to restrict Iran's nuclear ambitions. He created the ISIS and set it loose against the last progressive state in the Middle East, Syria and turned a blind eye to the atrocities against the Christian and other sectarian populations in Syria. His policy of undermining the fledgling Democracy in Egypt was sold to his subject population by demonising the Muslim Brotherhood and this organization is certainly less of a problem than ISIS. Obama came to India as a guest of the Prime Minister of India, and had the temerity to say some scathing things about Narendra Modi and his Government. Trump has not had the time even to put together his policy platform and all hell is breaking loose.

Russia is not at war with USA and so having conversations over any diplomatic or strategic issue with Russia is not a crime and certainly not any act of treason. Robert Flynn the National Security Advisor, The alleged involvement of Russia in the hacking of the Democratic Party Server is a ruse to create a cloud of illegitimacy over the election of Trump. In fact what the hacked emails of Podesta brought to light was the systematic rigging of the primaries against Bernie Sanders who if nominated would have defeated Donald Trump. Instead, foreign involvement in the political affairs of USA has become the war cry which is being used to hammer the Presidency of Trump. The American Media went along with the Bush Administration when he used it to create a cloud of suspicion over the Weapons of Mass Destruction allegedly held by Saddam Hussein. We in India were clear that it was a just a ploy. But the Deep State created such a miasma of war and terror over this issue that questioning the narrative from the White House and the theatrics of Colin Powell was considered un American and suspicious. Something similar is happening now. The Deep State is unhappy with Trump and is trying to create hurdles for him and his policies.

Trump has said that he would like to have Russian support in the war against ISIS and why is the Deep State afraid of this. It is now quite certain that ISIS cannot be defeated militarily. It has to be dealt with politically by forging an alliance of like minded countries. USA and its Deep State is willing to allow terrorism to flourish and American security threatened all over the world than to take the logical step toward stability. The ban against immigration from 7 countries is not a Muslim ban as there are 40 muslim countries and this policy was initiated by Barack Obama. Further, it was Barack Obama's policy of wanton and sustained bombing that led to the collapse of these countries. Trump rightly want this "American Carnage" to stop. Why is the Deep State not allowing the American Carnage to be checked if not totally halted.

There are wheels within wheels. One need not be a conspiracy advocate to connect the dots. Obams's record of ruthless and wanton bloodshed is not questioned at all and the cries for revoking the Nobel Peace Prize are still muted. Trump has incurred the hostility of the nebulous and faceless cluster of financial, strategic, academic and military interests whose face, at least in public is the elected President. Trup is the first American President who has confronted what Eisenhower had long feared, "the Military Industrial Complex". At this rate I suspect that he will not be allowed to complete his terms and physical removal is also a possibility as the Intelligence Community has gone rogue.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sasikala Convicted and Punished? Nemesis or Retribution

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

The ancient Greeks believed that the jealous gods are ever vigilant to catch an ordinary mortal strutting about as though he was a god himself. Hubris, the quality of immense pride and overweening lust for power, inevitably led to Nemesis, the very destruction of pride and a divine retribution for competing with the Gods. This belief entered western ethical praxis through Christianity with its emphasis on strict separation between the world of God and the World of Mortals, at least since the biblical Fall of Man. Hindu religion, unfortunately, lacks a well defined ethical universe and consequently the religion invariably becomes a web of transactions between human beings and the realm of gods. This lack of an ethical foundation is the real reason for the huge and egregious instances of corruption that crops up from time to time. The idea is share the loot with God and everything is fine. USA has a powerful judiciary and a strong state which is capable of enforcing a modicum of accountability on its public/political class. In India, the election of 2014 is the turning point with the State showing zero tolerance towards corruption and the Judiciary displaying the strength to pronounce harsh judgements.

The "Disproportionate Assets" Case against Jayalalithaa and Sasikala and her extended kin is an instance of the sort of wanton corruption that thrives in the kleptocracy called the Indian state. While Jayalalithaa herself came from a well to do background and she herself had a thriving career as a film star, Sasikala came from a lower middle class with a deep sense of insecurity and a lust for property that was not quelled even after 20 years of prosecution for corruption. She has now been found guilty of amassing wealth using her proximity to the then Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa. The later made the huge mistake of allowing this corrupt semi literate woman to live in her house and therefore became a party to all the property deals that transpired during the first term of Jayalalithaa's Chief Ministership. The Supreme Court inits unprecedented 570 page Judgement indicted the late Chief Minister as the Ist accused stating that since her residence was used for making the deals she ought to have known what was happening under her own roof. Jayalalithaa herself may not have been corrupt,but she paid the price for bring this semi literate woman called Sasikala into her household and allowing her the freedom to interfere in official matters. A house maid got transformed into "chinnamma" and even claimed the mantle of Chief Ministership as the anointed successor of Jayalalithaa until nemesis caught up with her in the form of the Supreme Court Judgement.

There are swirling rumours of the possibility of Sasikala being involved in the death of Jayalalithaa. A doctor at Apollo Hospital has made the sensational disclosure that the late Chief Minister was brought to the hospital dead on September 22nd 2016. If this is the case, then the members of Jayalaithaa's household and the authorities of Apollo have a lot of explaining to do do. Ignoring her own dubious role, Sasikala decided to stake her claim to the Chief Ministership barely a week before the Supreme Court was to pronounce the verdict. Inducing all her loyalists to seek refuge in a Holiday Resort at Kuvathur on the East Coast Road, Sasikala unleashed a full blown factional war forcing a reluctant Governor to order a floor test in the Assembly.

With the conviction of Sasikala upheld by the Supreme Court it is curtains for the political future of this woman. The AIADMK will sputter on till the mid tern polls are held and it is quite unlikely that the party will return to power. Hubris led to a huge Nemesis.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Tamil Nadu Politics: Sashikala, Paneerselvam and the Ghost of things past

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

The death of Jayalalithaa has created a real storm in Tamil politics. The AIADMK with 134 MLAs in the house is poised to split between the two warring factions:Sasikala and O Paneerselvam. The fact is that the Party and its higher leadership has lost all credibility will make the task of polituical recoverry extremely difficult. Added to the political turmoil unleashed by the death of Jayalalithaa is the mass protest on the issue of jallikkattu. The crowds of young people who protested on the beach of Marina were not displaying their love for the sport of bull taming. They were expressing their anguish at the sudden and disastrous turn in the politics of Tamil Nadu. In fact the restoration of the sport following the promulgation of an Ordinance by the Chief Minister, O Pannerslvam hardly caused a ripple in Chennai, the ground zero of the protests.

O Paneersevam, the acting Chief Minister, was the choice of Jayalalithaa whenever she had to vacte the position due to frequent conviction in corruption cases. In fact, in all the cases in which the late CM was procecuted, the real beneficiary was Sashikala Natrajan and her extended family which goes under the sobriquet, Managudi Mafia. The strangle hold acquired by Sashkala over the party can be gauged from the fact that 129 MLAs have come out in open suppport of her. While O Pannerselvam has the support of a small handful of MLAs, there is no doubt that the rank and file, the cadres of the AIADMK are solidly behind him. The corruption cases against Sashikala are not the only rerasons for her unpopularity in the AIADMK. The real reason is that Jayalalithaa herself had expelled Sashikala from the Party for anti party activities and threw her out of the Poes Garden Residence in 2011 and was admitted back in favor only after giving an abject letter of apology in which Sashikala shook off all ties with her family. Indeed one of the factors that contributed to the defeat of the AIADMK in the 1996 election was the excesses committed during the wedding of Dinakaran, the nephew of Sasikala. The vulgar display of ill gotten wealth was so revolting that AIADMK paid a political price for that mistake. It is rather surprising that even with this legacy, Sashikala was able to seize control over the Party and have herself declared the General Secretary of the AIADMK. In fact her agrteement with Paneerselvam was that he would not be disturbed in his position as Chiel Minister.

The successful manner in which Paneerselvam handles the Jallikkattu crisis and earlier in overseeing the relief work following the Vardha Cyscle that hit Chennai in December 2016 alarmed the Sasikala faction. It became clear as daylight that if he is allowed a free hand, he would get the mandate of the people. From that point onwards effort was made to destabalize Paneerselvam. A section of the senior leaders began asking for the installation of their "Chinamma" as the Chief Minister. And an unlikely rebel was born.

Paneerselvan made a dramtic appearance before the grave of Jayalalithaa on the Marina Beach and "meditated" near her grave for 40 minutes and  announced to the waiting crowd that he had always been the choice of Jayalalithaa to fill her post whenever vacancy arose. It is now clear thta sensing popular anger at the manner in which Sasikala had usurped the post of General Secretary of the AIADMK and her shamless occupation of the poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa, Paneerselvan raised the banner of revolt. The Governor Vidyasagar Rao did not exactly cover himself in glory by completely neglecting his constitutional duties during the 72 says Jayalalithaa was kept in Apppollo Hospital. Now questions are being asked about the manner of Jayalalithaa's death and the possible involvement of Sasikala in it. Appollo has not come out clean and still there are questions. The rumours that the late Chief Minister was pushed down the stairs in her residence and was brought dead to the hospital on September 22 are making rounds, O Paneerselvam raised this issue in his press conference and speculated about constituting a Judicial Inquiry. It is now quite obvious that Jayalalithaas death has become a controversy due to the mutual recriminations between the rival factions.

As Paneerselavam hardened his stand and Vidyasagar Rao the Governor not showing any haste is settiling the issues stemming from the resignation of O Paneerselvam, Sasikala took all her MLAs hered them in three luxury buses and sequestered them in an exclisive resort on the East Coast Road near Mahabalipuram.

I venture to speculate that the corruption cases against Sashikala will come back to haunt her. Her faction thought that having the position of Chief Minister will protect her. This is very unlikely. Paneerslevam though much weakened as he rebelled only after his own position had become untenable may continue for some time more. Tamil Nadu is heading for a mid term poll.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Modi's Financial Gamble: Did Demonetization Succeed or was it a Failure

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

On November 8th 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi  announced a slew of measures which amounted to a drastic overhaul of the existing financial structure: The demonetization of the 500 and 1000 rupee notes. The legal basis for this policy is certainly questionable as macro economic policy comes squarely under the jurisdiction of the Reserve Bank of India and the RBI may have been consulted. However, the suddenness of the policy and effective manner in which it was implemented took everyone by surprise. What were the objectives of this measure:

First and foremost the unaccounted wealth, called Black Money in India, was becoming alarming huge. Some estimate that the parallel unaccounted economy was almost as large as the legitimate economy and was getting interfaced with high crime, political crime. Since unaccounted wealth was increasing and the tax paying population of India was extremely small, the Central Government had to find new sources of revenue. The upcoming Seventh Pay Commission would impose a huge financial burden on the economy and the One Rank One Pension introduced by the Modi Government would need a huge outlay. With tax revenue constant and expenditure increasing, the Government had necessarily to widen the tax net. The Finance Ministry under Arun Jaitley had imposed a number of measure, including amnesty for tax dodgers, but very little black money was disgorged. With one fell swoop the parallel economy was laid waste and this is a huge gain for India.

Second, the infrastructure projects needed investments and the flow of investment into India by way of foreign investment is not all that encouraging. A number of important projects like the High Speed Railway projects, the Sagar mala por project, the National Highway Scheme need funds and one way of freeing funds for infrastructural investment is to tap into the huge hordes of illegal wealth trapped within the country. It has been estimated that more than 250 lakh crores has now been freed and has flowed into the banking system. The Government wisely allowed hoarders of black money to deposit their illegal wealth in the banks and many did so thinking that once the banks have received the cash, black money is converted to white. Such financial alchemy was not on Modi's mind. The accounts in which monies have been deposited will now be investigated andit is hoped that with the GST rolling out from April this year, the tax base of the Government will also increase as the Government of India has to compensate the loss incurred by the states for a period of 5 years. Therefore, the objective of identifying potential tax payers has also been met.

There has been some criticism, especially the corrupt and criminal dynastic fascist party, the Congress about the demonetization policy. There was a major disruption in the financial sector in the wake of Modi's demonetization. The cash crunch caused a paralysis in the economy. Banks were restricted to a maximum payment of 2,000 rupees per individual. ATMs ran out of cash and many, nearly 59% of the cash machines have not been calibrated  to handle the new 500 and 2000 notes. Even till today cash withdrawal is restricted to 24,000 per account per week. This restriction was sold as an incentive to migrate to a digital economy with e payments and non material payments through credit/debit cards ect. However, the migration to a cashless economy is proving very difficult as internet access and literacy is limited.

The long queues at the banks did lead to needless suffering and at least 140 persons died while standing in bank queues. The opposition raised a hue and cry over this as though the corrupt dynastic fascists have ever been interested in the welfare of people. However, the situation ahs eased and now the queues in the banks is almost nonexistent.

Will this policy yield the desired political benefits. Though there was considerable difficulties, the ordinary India who is tired of the corruption and the venality have applauded the policy of Modi. It is no exaggeration to say that demonetization, though of limited economic success is a resounding political victory

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tamil Nadu after Jayalalitaa: Politcs of uncertainity and despair

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

December 6th 2016 witnessed a political funeral  in Chennai, the like of which remains unprecedented. Jayalalithaa was laid to rest on the sands of Marina Beach along aside her political mentor, M G Ramachandran. A Brahmin woman being buried and not being cremated raised eyebrows and the large presence of the Manargudi Mafia in the ceremonies pertaining to the funeral of the Chief Minister did not go down well with the public. However, the treatment given to Deepa, the daughter of the brother of Ms Jajalalithaa was deplorable. She was made to wait a few hours in the rain outside Apollo Hospital to catch a glimpse of her aunt and was turned away by the security. Funerals are very revealing. The present one has already shown that the ruling didpensation in the AIADMK does not want to share the space with the family of the late Chief Minister.

Jayalalithaa was a cinematic icon before she left the arc lights to join politics under the mentorship of MGR. In the Madurai Conference of the AIADMK in 1983, MGR symbolically handed the torch to Jayalalithaa there by indicating that after him the leadership would pass on to his leading lady. Both had acted in nearly 60 films together and the chemistry between them sizzled on the screen. In 1984, Jaylalithaa was elected to the Rajya Sabha and she spent a full term there. This exposure to National politics stood her in good stead as she acquired a national visibility even before she became the leader of the Party in Tamil Nadu after the death of MGR in December 1987.

Jayalalithaa became Chief Minister for the first time in 1991 when she swept into power on the wave created by the revulsion towards the DMK for its alleged proximity to the LTTE. The DMK has not been able to shke off the perception that it allowed the LTTE to take root in Tamil Nadu and the massacre in Kodambakkam only reinforced that opnion. The subsequent death of Durai who was the DGP at the time of the LTTE killings created an aura of suspicion. Her first term was marred by large scale corruption and disregard to the political consequences flowing from her decisions. The sacking of Government servants who participated in a strike was very unpopular and it ensured the total defeat of the AIADMK in the Lok Sabha elections. Being a consummate politician she made tactical alliances even with inveterate opponents like Vai Gopalaswami (Vai Ko) as he is known today, Vijay Kant and others.

In 2011 Jayalalithaa came back to power with a huge majority and in 2016 she was returned to power. And she in the only Tamil politician after MGR who has managed this feat. This term was marked by populist schemes like the AMMA branded schemes, AMMA Canteens, AMMA Cement, Amma Pharmacy, AMMA Water etc., These schemes were hugfely popular and cemented her alliance with the electorate in a manner that had not happened before. In 2014, she was convicted and I believe wrongly, in a dis  proportionate assets case in the trial court at Banglore and spent 21 days in jail. Her health strted taking a tailspin since then and Jayalalithaa never recovered for the treatment meted out to her in Bangalore Jail. It is likely that her health issues were deliberately neglected by the jail authorities at the behest of certain political lobbies. In any event having the Chief Minister of a State being prosecuted by another state government is hardly constitutional.

Jayalalithaa will be remembered as a politician who had a link with the elctorate a magical bond that transcended caste, religion and language.