Incipient power struggle in the Congress Party?
Yes, Pranab Mukerjee raises the question in time!

The next General elections are near, who would lead the Congress Party’s election campaign? Yes, it will be Sonia Gandhi! Then what is the party’s manifesto? And the Government’s policies on various issues?

Indian polity today is beset with a new set of issues and challenges!  The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) is likely to be Navin Chawle.  He is a tainted official.  Already the CECs, the retired Supreme Court Chief Justices have been nominated to Rajya Sabha and even made ministers. So many of the likely new CEC’s Emergency days activities are now coming in the press.  More likely to come in the future. How the present day Congress Leaders’ MP finds were given to Chawla’s twist.

So, what would be Sonia Gandhi’s attitude towards veteran Congress Leaders now out in the cold>  All Wonders! Surely, she cant continue in her post for ever.  Already she has been there in the job for over 10 long years. Democracy is now already crushed.  How long people have to wait to have good governance?

Sonia Gandhi is reluctant to fill Cabinet vacancies.  Her fears; insecurities, and parannia have weakened the party and the functioning of the government.  In such a scenario, it is natural for the people to expect her to give legitimacy to the Indian political system by following well-laid down conventions.  She should honourably elevate Pranab Mukherjee to the natural successor to Dr.Manmohan Singh to take over the government after the elections.

Mukerjee is a very senior leader and his remarks would have more than mere speculation! Even the Prime Minister must have his own inner thoughts and self-doubts about his continuation as Prime Minister. There are very many clear reasons why there could be a change at the top and also there could be even intense struggle for staking the claims for the prime political post.

Sonia Gandhi may not be the sole decision-maker. Even after she nominated Dr.Singh as the Prime Minister she couldn’t have her way when it came to nominating candidates for the President of India and Vice-President. The Left came in and blocked her favourites. Likewise, this time too after the elections there couldn’t be any certainty. In such a scenario, Dr.Singh might clearly might even become a liability!

After all he has no base of his own. He is purely at the mercy of Sonia Gandhi. Mrs.Gandhi herself might not have the sole decision-making luxury.

There are now more politically savvy friends, allies and even adversaries for Mrs.Gandhi to take note of. There is the Samajwadi Party duo, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh. Also, there could be others. Who knows even her present dependable allies like the DMK or Lalu Yadav might not become so dependable.

The Indian National Congress is an old party, it is with a history of 123 years old, to be exact.

Yes, it is one of the world’s oldest political party like, say the European political parties like the German Social Democratic party or the French Socialist party. In the UK we have the two very oldest political parties, namely, the Conservative and the Labour party.
In the USA of course we have the other two great parties, Republican and the Democrats.
Now in India, we have   a great democratic political tradition and our democratic experiment is six decades old and except during the aberration of the Emergency years, we have had a glorious tradition of defeating the Emergency rule of Indira Gandhi and re-established the democratic polity.

So, this democratic predigree of the Indian polity is India’s great strength and the outside world looks to India as a great success story. All our neighbors are faced with crisis in the democratic experiment and we provide in a more justifiable way a source of inspiration to pursue a more liberal and open society political agenda. This is no self-boast or any empty claim. Our friends and opponents alike would concede we are a nation that stands apart when it comes to some of the great political principles of governance and adherence to some basic civilized norms.

The late Ernest Baker, the great political  thinker and writer and scholar(he was at New College, Oxford from where I had learnt more about his Greek scholarship, he was also a tutor for Harold Laski at the same College and  I was a great follower of Laski in his glory days, though lately now I had to revise some of his more extreme views).Anyway, Baker had said and I read it more than once somewhere that of all the Constitutions of the world, Indian Constitution, said Baker, embodies the best thoughts and ideals of Plato and Aristotle and others. That was a long time ago.

I often wonder whether any of my countrymen, more so the present crop of politicians now in India know these past great thoughts about India and the Indian polity and its Constitutions.

Anyway, these thoughts came rising to me when I read just now what the senior Congress leader, Pranab Mukerjee, India’s foreign minister said about the political succession.
As everyone knows, inside India at any rate, that in India now there is a curious sort of political arrangement.

Dr.Manmohan Singh is now Prime Minister for almost a full-term. He is a learned man, an economist by training and an economic administrator in his career and as such his nomination by Sonia Gandhi has done much good to the Indian polity.

This much is conceded by everybody.

But now, the Indian polity is also undergoing some strains. There is the global economic recession. Then comes the latest Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Now comes the election-eve thoughts, the time for a new election and as such the thoughts are about the new alliances the political parties are forging.

It is in this context, the thoughts of many, inside as well as outside the Congress party are about whether the incumbent PM would be renominated or whether new face would take over.

So, there is some disquiet in the Congress camp. Those who are not happy with Dr.Singh, plainly an intruder and not a traditional Congressman and therefore it is only natural that those who had grown in the ranks of the party would nurture some ambitions to aspire for the highest job in the government.

Now, the peculiarity in the Congress party is that it is seen as a dynastic party. The Nehru-Gandhi family had dominated for long. But lately, the polity became fractured and the new coalitions brought many outside faces. In that tradition only we see  Dr.Singh, an utter outsider, for most part he was a faceless bureaucrat, he was honestly a man with no conviction of his own, he was all  man for all masters, an obedient servant at  that, he was a trainee under the blatant Marxist and Communist, the late P.N.Haksar who advised and misled Indira Gandhi to split the Congress party in 1969 with his “stray thoughts” that led Mrs.Gandhi for astray with the very senior leaders were all ill-treated and that led to the split. Then, Dr.Singh served all sorts of masters, from Chandrasekhar to V.P.Singh to Narasimha Rao.

The Indian media and the establishment had been very kind to Dr.Singh. That is all. That is why he takes credit and he was never open-minded and so he never let anybody knew that it was his master, the Prime Minister, P.V.Narasimha Rao who took the “political” decision to open up the economy, Dr.Singh just went along with the government decision, though he was made the Finance Minister. Rao said that much when he was asked whether it was Dr.Singh who opened up the economy. Rao famously snapped back “He was my finance minister”!

Yes, that says it all.

Now, whatever be the truth, we can see now that when the India economy has been impacted by the economic recession, Dr.Singh, an expert no doubt, hasnt chosen to explain to his countrymen what the economic recession means to India!

Never for once he went on the TV or through a press conference or chose any other appropriate forum to explain and convince the Indian people what the economic recession means and what his government intends to do.

This is no strange aberration. This is Dr.Singh’s pattern or his severe limitation. He always takes the most central of positions on any issues and this we can see even now on the Mumbai terrorism.

What leadership he would give now, in the emerging crisis, no one knows.
In a perceptive analysis, a leading columnist once captioned the article as “Decoding the Manmohan Singh enigma”(The Hindu)

He visited the USA where he said to George Bush face, in a very rather embarrassing manner, embarrassing to Indian people and others “Mr.President, the India loves you”!
The column notes: “After the longest overseas trip the Prime Minister was back.
During his trip, twice, the PM went off the cuff and on September 25, (2008) when he was just a handshake away from the US President, the PM went into a rhetorical over-drive. For nearly five minutes he spoke extempore, the praise he showered on his host seemed to have come naturally out of his heart. This was Manmohan Singh uncensored. Usually such talks are vetted by four of five aides.

Says the column: Usually such an “India loves George Bush” song would not play well at all in Lucknow or Hyderabad, he still belts it out. Did the occasion overwhelm his better judgment? Obviously it did! There was tension, the President was under extreme pressure and the Indian PM team itself was unsure whether such a meeting would come through and when it actually materialised we find the Indian PM giving himself out!

Then came the next question abroad his flight back and the question were: ‘Whether he would the PM candidate again?

“He simply ducked it”: “The Congress party has several leaders who are equally or better qualified than I am “Concludes the column: “He was not going to let the calculating Congress crowd gang up on him”.

Dr.Singh is a calculating man, a calculating politician by now.

So comes the Mukerjee interjection now.

When unasked about the political succession now, in a very different context, during the NRI celebrations in Chennai, Mukerjee deliberately brought in the name of Rahul Gandhi as a possible future Prime Minister.

Why Mukerjee brought in Rahul Gandhi at this juncture?

Mukerjee knows well that Rahul Gandhi is a long way behind. The young man is still too young and inexperienced.

It is clear enough that in any alternative considerations, it is Mukerjee’s claims that stand out. Mukerjee knows this more than anyone else.

Who can come in the way of Mukerjee staking his claim?

None, as we can see as of now.

Mukerjee knows well the time is right now, the time is very near, the time is running fast. So, he had to position himself when the time is right.

So, by throwing Rahul Gandhi’s name, the foreign minister has raised the issue wide open and the subject would at least be debated once again openly, at least for some time.

And above all else, in a time like this and in a matter like choosing a Prime Minister, we have to realise and everyone has to know that India and Indian democracy would be better served only by a leader who is elected in some ways and not by nomination of a career bureaucrat.

Dr.Singh having been his entire bureaucrat has proved to be   needing so many other vital needs of a democratic leader.

Unfortunately, there is not enough in-depth discussion or debate about the Indian democracy and its success and deficiencies. Unfortunately what we have as political literature is all by bureaucrats and not any discussion by political leaders of political thinkers. When we had leaders like Gandhi and Nehru, we were all idealists and they were leaders of high calibre.

Now we have at best all become cynical about the sort of leaders we have now.
This cynicism, under Dr.Singh, only grew and not dimmed.

First, Indian democracy is rated high in the international arena and a Prime Minister must articulate his views more naturally and spontaneously. This Dr.Singh is not cable of. Second, Indian leaders have to interact with world leaders. USA, UK, EU nations, the Middle East and Russia and China and Japan have all have their own strengths. One wonders what sort of grasp Dr.Singh has in international affairs. Certainly, he had diluted India’s image as a Third World leader and a leader of the non-aligned and had almost turned India into a sort of US ally. This, in the long term, is likely to damage India’s image and its stature in the eyes of the world. This is a big short-coming.

Third, Dr.Singh, being a career person, is not a leader and he is not inspiring others. See, he is not capable of spotting talents and even filling up his Cabinet which is empty of many key portfolios.

Finally, Indian Prime Minister must articulate his views on many things. This Dr.Singh doesn’t. He avoids Parliament, press conferences. As a scholar and expert, he hasn’t authored any intellectual writing in the last 40 years. Says his own past students!  And also there is a fatigue of a lackluster face. Let us remember there comes the anti-incumbency factor after some time.

Given the very fast changing coalition formations, with SP making things hard for the Congress in UP, the West Bengal Congress or even the Leftists might give some room for Mukerjee to throw his hat into the ring.

Who knows when pressure mounts up from the Left or from Mayawati, the Congress might opt for some new face, new name. That could be Mr.Mukerjee. God bless him!

Photo Courtesy : www.topnews.in

The Prime Minister is out of action for the time being. Even before that, there was a sort of race for the Prime Ministerial job! Now, after Dr.Singh went through a period of hospitalization and in the meantime, Mr.Pranab Mukerjee took over as the de facto Prime Minister there has developed new tensions within the Congress party itself over the next turn of events very likely even before the start of the general elections and very much after the elections results start coming.

It is the question of “numbers” that would decide the permutations and the combinations of the parties and their respective strengths and their respective mindsets to co-habit and desert the friends and the enemies.

We Indians, both politicians and the non-aligned independent minded elites and the masses are conditioned not to trust ourselves. Rather we are conditioned to trust the foreigners, more so the white men, that too first the Britons, next the Americans. This applies as much to the intellectuals as the common man. So, we seek to have approvals to what we believe to be the best interests of the Indian people. This is unfortunate and yet that is how we Indians seem to believe and behave.

Now, there is a new American President at the White House and how we would react and realign our radar. How India would be seen from the White House radar? Dr.Singh had us to trust his good judgment. So, we believed George Bush Now, Obama is in the saddle and how do we come to term with Obama’s view of the world that is the terrorism and peace in the world?

Whoever becomes the new Prime Minister after the elections, it would be not so easy to carry on business as usual.

Whatever the present stance of the Congress party, I am sure that the party has to think of a smooth transition after the elections. After all, there are new alignments in the political spectrum.

There are now visibly too many aspirants for the Prime Ministerial job.

It may not be out of to make some introspection and say what the Indian Prime Minister must be like if and when a new choice has to be made and when any new face comes to occupy the chair.

What the youth thinks? I just now saw a newspaper report published on the Republic Day. What the young men and women say about India’s future?
They all say they want to see an India that is free of corruption, care for environment and climate change, lots of dreams and even one young woman said she wanted to become the Prime Minister of the country!

So, there is a dream and a big aspiration everywhere in the younger generation.

But how is the current political environment?

There is too much ambition, too much greed and too much denial of opportunities for the youth.

Our Prime Minister, it was reported from his intensive care unit at the AIIMS, wanted to resume work too quickly The Prime Minister is known to put too long hours of work. Fine. So too Mr.Pranab Mukerjee is said to be putting in too long hours of work.

But then they are also holding too many portfolios! The Prime Minister is keeping too many Cabinet posts vacant. At the last count as many as seven or eight Cabinet posts! Even now, when the PM went to the hospital, he and Sonia Gandhi, the party president, deliberated and assigned responsibilities and yet the finance minister’s job was also added to Mr.Mukerjee’s responsibility. Foreign minister’s job itself is too demanding. I used to wonder how Mr.Mukerjee, given his age, has the energy to fly out so frequently. Also, how our Prime Minister is capable of taking on too many portfolios?

Who suffers? Not the two incumbent ministers! The country also suffers!
The President in her Republic Day speech stressed the governance in corporate India. Her Excellency must have thought of the state of governance in her government too!

Farmer’s suicides continue. Unluckily, in the President’s own state! So too the state of poverty, malnutrition of children etc.

The point is that there is too much unprincipled politics and this shows in the prevailing way we govern the country.

Political parties now feel they can align with any other and so capture power by all means. Ideology doesn’t matter. Beliefs

Beliefs don’t matter.

So, the next elections would see the current allies deserting the present relations. Sharad Pawar never hides his ambitions. That is his strength. So, he cultivates the CPI (M) as a possible post-election strategy! The CPI (M) and the CPI are now like orphans. They have no reliable allies. So, they gravitate from Mayawati to Jayalalitha to Telugu Desam to who knows, back to the Congress itself, through some backdoor policy. After all, the Left is known for its tricks and trickeries! Now, the Congress is left alone to co-habit with only the DMK which is also left alone. The SP in UP had gone on its own. Also, it had also made known its ambition to bid for the PM’s job.

In the BJP itself there is much unease after the war veteran, Bairon Singh Shekawat thrown in his hat. Narendra Modi’s the classic case of mobilizing the big business and poor man, he doesn’t realize yet that in politics, that too at the national level you need acceptance on a wider scale in terms of your image as a leader of some metal.

The communal issue would come in the way of a modern Indian state
The issue of the next Prime Minister would not be easy even within the Congress party. Clearly, seeing the outside world, we need a Prime Minister who is capable of suitably aligning with the USA under Barack Obama.
This wont is that easy for the incumbent Prime Minister.

We have made much of the management of the economy. Now, we can see that the next stage of the economic growth won’t come from the old assumptions.

Indian economy would grow depending on the world economic growth only. If at all we have to grow on our own steam that would come, in our view, from our own inherent strengths as I see it, from such sectors like IT and agriculture based trade growth, new innovative corporate initiatives and practices.

So, the way we nurture our human resources, how our grassroots development takes place.

It is my firm view that economic growth is not macro-economic growth only but how it touches the lives of the common people. It means growth of the SMEs, small businesses and small farmers and small entrepreneurs.
Take the IT sector. We haven’t deployed the IT to solve several of our critical governance issues. Our government as it is constituted and functioning is devoid of a democratic governance norms.

There are no serious thought, let alone any serious effort to reform our polity, no party reforms, no serious thought to decentralise power, no devolution of powers, I wonder whether our current leadership has any idea of the panchayat raj working nor any thought of the very economic model we are relying upon. I don’t like to blame any one individual.

As one who believe in a liberal democracy, as a liberal democrat, I believe that if we adopt democratic processes at every stage only we would have the motive power for genuine change. The word, change, had acquired a new force after Obama. But I wonder whether Sonia Gandhi has any thought about such fundamental questions. I can’t blame Dr.Singh. For he was just a nominee Prime Minister. It is time we elect the Prime Minister through a transparent and open manner, as far as possible.

So, whoever contests and wins the Prime Ministerial race, it would be in the interest of our polity and the people that the next Prime Minister must bring with him or her entire motive power of the aspirations of the youth of this country. There must be a broad-based ideological polarization in the polity. For this every party, every leader and nay, every individual, intellectuals and others must contribute. The “election’s or the selection”must be transparent as far as possible.

The Prime Minister’s job is a family inheritance or a family’s gift to somebody else. Prime Minister is a symbol of the aspirations of the people.

It is my firm belief that India after all these years of its Republic is to ensure an equal and an equitable social order and an economic order. So, the people’s expectations and their aspirations would be to see politics and the leaders with a greatdeal of skepticism.

So, whoever can offer the “audacity of hope” in the place of the present skepticism and corruption, he or she may deserve to take the mantle of the Prime Minister’s job!

Photo Courtesy : www.topnews.in

Sharad Pawar, Santosh Mohan Dev and Kapil Sibal
How they are failing the agri/food/technology sectors?
And the huge cost the country is paying!

Santosh Mohan Dev

There is no committed policy to protect and promote farmers’ welfare!
See the various areas of agriculture. Is there anything worthwhile under the Sharad Pawar-led Agriculture Ministry’s agenda?

Pawar is busy with his own political-election strategy? How to improve his chances to become the next Prime Minister. This, he is known to be doing for years now.

That is fine. It is his own business.

See how he is going about each and every aspect of Indian agriculture. The agri credit flow to the farm sector is running behind schedule. This year, almost half the year is over now and yet, it is reported that only one third of the credit flow has taken place. And that too for the co-op and regional rural banks. There is no firm clear policy for the PSBs to disburse priority sector lending. That very priority had been given a go-by under the UPA regime.

The Prime Minister doesn’t care. There are even now, as we write farmer’s suicides from Pawar’s own state of Maharashtra. Also from Karnataka.
Take the case of sugar and the cane farmers demands.

In TN, for instance, also in Karnataka, there have been intensified cane farmers agitations for higher cane price.

Yet what do you see?

The Centre is only drawing up plans, food ministry notes to allow import of raw sugar for “tonne-to-tonne” imports for exports. And that too, if you read carefully, the imports are to increase the domestic stocks to keep the stocks ready for election time!
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The coming of supermarket chains
Our big corporates talked big but have they gone anywhere?
Reliance and Sunil Mittal haven’t gone anywhere, it seems!
How these two developments   help farmers?

Two latest developments that are likely to impact the farmers, the farming future and the very growth prospects of farmers and the rural development are the SEZs and the retail revolution.

SEZs have led to large-scale displacement of farmers, either voluntarily or against their own will, SEZs have led to much new heartburns and questions as to their real value for Indian agriculture future.

The point is that there is no clear analysis of the issues involved here either among the planners, no Planning Commission member or the chief or the deputy chief seems to have delivered any public lecture or there has been any debate or any clear perspective so far.

Now, the industrial development and the SEZs is one thing. The criticism  of SEZs, so many of them, even in states like Maharashtra or elsewhere is whether it was driven by the particular purpose for which land was acquired or land was diverted to real estate or for  some other  purposes.

The matter needs some study in depth by some competent institution, if it is done by some independent development institute or some university study and also its agricultural impact that would help everyone, including the farming community.
In the absence, we have to go by some impressions.

Our own impression is that considering the players like Reliance and players like such India’s big corporates, the SEZs lands were often used to get all the tax exemptions and not for even promoting remotely connected with the stated purposes.
As for the agri-related SEZs, there are clearly no such SEZs as far as we know.
Not even for agro-processing activities in any big way.

And that is one limitation of our vision for SEZs.

As for the future of agriculture transformation, we see the developments in agri processings helps add value to the primary produces. Unfortunately some of the biggest agro processing co.s like Nestle or coffee roasting co.s they are all in foreign hands.
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What is dangerous about agriculture imports?

The conclusion of the so-called Doha Round, that talk  that started  in the Qatar capital in 2001,really called Doha Development Round to indicate  the trade talk  was for promoting.

There is almost a total ignorance among the farmers; I dare say the same thing about our agriculture experts and policy makers about agriculture exports and agriculture imports.

There is an Exim Bank and we don’t see even from their bulletins not much that is critical for the export and import trade in food and agri/horticulture products.
One or two basic lessons. Soviet Russia collapsed because it imported all its food and dependent upon outside supplies! In 1984-85 the USSR grain imports reached 55 million tonnes. It paved the way for Gorbachev and led to eventual collapse, say observes! India and China are the only two countries that are large and also insist on food self-sufficiency.

As for other smaller countries, it is always a risk that importing all food requirements or for countries that depend upon one food crop exports like Ecuodor that is the largest exporter of banana, it is important that such countries negotiate for a favourable terms of trade  for long term supplies.

In India we have realisation about the basic need for food self sufficiency. But we are not sure what our Prime Minister or Agri Minister surely believes in!

That lack of clarity in our current perceptions, in our view, reflects in a way the reasons why our farmers, most of them small land holders, suffer and the farmers suicides are the only Indian agriculture story!

The same distress we see in other small holder farming be it food crops or plantation crops. Small holders in plantation crops or crops from tea to coffee to other export-oriented plantation crops like various spices and other trade-intensive crops like say, bananas, vegetables and fruits also suffer. Almost as a matter of fate!
The important point here is how the agriculture trade, international trade in agriculture products, not only food grains and other bulk commodities but also more value-added  specialised and niche market crops  and  products like some  plantation crops are conditioned by the  historic growth and domination of some trading companies like, say Nestle or Cargill or other commodity trading firms operate.
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