A dose of scepticism is also good at the same time.

english-slider-vibrant-gujPrime Minister Narendra Modi has done once more! He does things in a grand manner. The invest-soliciting for Gujarat state was done in an impressive way. All the top Indian industrialists, some known for long as close to the PM, the likes of Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani had pledged huge investments in Gujarat. The international faces, US Secretary of State, UN Secretary General were all there and so the show made a great splash in the media. Of course the participation of the US President Obama gave Modi further endorsement.

The Indian economy, the visitor-cum the World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, endorsed that the Indian economy has the potential to grow 6.4 per cent. Of course, the World Bank chief warned an enduring “bias” on caste can impede prosperity. This is indeed a very encouraging endorsement. So too them, it looks, the global economy is also looking up. The world’s great economy, the US ,is also predicted to grow at 3.2 per cent, after waiting for 15 years to see China and the emerging markets take the lead.

In fact, it is now after 1999 we see such a US turnaround. The IMF data, the Labour Dept statistics about jobs growth, payroll and the drop in unemployment etc show this resurgence of the US economy.

This is good news and the US as the driver of the global economic engine must also impact to India’s advantage in the present and emerging political climate in India.

Of course, It is very important to note how the World Bank chief has alluded to the caste discrimination in the sharing of the prosperity across all the caste groups. May be he was also cautious he didn’t mention the BJP’s penchant for communal polarisation. He didn’t mention the exclusion of the minorities.
This is a timely warning.

Indian economy is not strictly a free market economy as it is understood in the West.

In the US in particular where the big corporations had enjoyed lots of freedom.
In India, the big corporations are only now coming into the public domain when the PSUs are shrinking and the new liberalisation of the economy under Modi sees so much talk about the really bigger corporations, like the Ambanis and the Adamni group.

While we are all for supporting Mr.Modi in his endeavour, for the first time, let us admit this, when we hear so much of optimism for economic growth. Ironically, under the UPA-II all we saw was a depressive atmosphere where we saw the big corporate went a brisk and corruption had a free run.

So, this time we might see a sea change, hopefully so. The issues of corruption and back money haven’t gone off the radar, we hope. And also the cronyism is also would be brought under tight watch.

Anyway, it is early times for such topics. But already there are some other irritants. One is the spate of ordinances. One on the land acquisition act is also causing serious concern within the Sangh Parivar. The Swadeshi Jangran Manch is also worried and also the labour unions within the RSS.

Will it be all about big business or is there any area for small and medium enterprises and the grass roots employment opportunities.

Again, it is too early for these minor quiblings?

Anyway, it is a fact, a hard fact indeed, that India with all its great growths in many areas, it is a country with the world’s largest poor; the largest population of malnourished children, the health indices of the infants and maternity are very shameful.

So, it is not just the slogans about Makr in India, Clean India and good Governance, it is also the unspoken ground level reality of India as the most inequal, inequitous and also the most exploitative society in so many critical indicators.

The point here is not to decry, it is not our intention. The point is that when we see the very high and mighty on a stage we, Indians seem, to be carried away.
We are a people of great many fantasies, not rooted in sound scepticism.

A dose of scepticism does enormous good, especially in the light w of what happened when we really believed when the UPA-II was tellis the people.

So, we welcome the Modi’s grand show and the same time, it our duty to warn the government as well as the people.

Farmers’s consent is critical for the land acquisition bill!
Narendra Modi in his first nine months!
Nine ordinances in nine months!
The first humiliating defeat in Delhi Assembly elections.
The PM faces his acid tests in the Parliamentary session.

Picture-6The Prime Minister last time was an invincible hero of sorts for not just his party men, but also for the people at large. Politics is always a spectacle in India. Politicians in  power are mistaken for  their invincibility.

Given Modi’s run of luck, in successive state elections, after his massive Lok Sabha win, it looked the Modi ‘rath yatra’ was unstoppable. Alas! Came the upset Delhi Assembly elections along with an elusive enemy in the shape of Arvind Kejriwal. He promised the moon to the haggered Delhiites. The underclass rose in revolt almost in its entirety and in its full fury. Went down the  series of heads from Kabir Bedi to whom you have! All the Delhi heavyweights in the BJP went off the screen so to say.

In came the avalanche of the Aam Aadmi army! The foot soldiers were all lucky, except for one or two bright lights, alas. Shazia Illmi and one or two were plain unlucky.  Changing one’s party, one’s convictions  should not have come to the really educated and enlightened crowd like the AAP founder members. Nor to one like Kiran Bedi. She is the real scapegoat.

Also, Modi and Shah should take the blame. One doesn’t know what they said and later what they did. The nonchalance with which both the PM and his confidant dismissed the outcome as a bad dream is only right and proper. Why shed tears on split milk.

It is a bad dream and at the same time a sort of aranging to them and also others as to what power politics in this country has come to. See how the other party, the Congress was left out in the cold. The very same people, who once ruled, for 15 long years, both the Chief Minister and he deputies nor the MPs who paraded their artificially coloured plumes and straddled the power platform. Why, the very  epitome of sobriety, wisdom and what has you, the Prime Minister who presided over the party for 10 long years.

It is really inexplicable, the subject of Indian psychology, the psychology of the  Delhi Lutyen zone bungalow tenants, from the top to the not so top, the middle and  the upper-middle hierarchy, why, pray, what happens when you get the plum posts and once when you are down you feel let down?

You choose to sit in such bungalows for nothings and yet you don’t have any remorse for not doing your bit when the party is fighting back to the wall.

The Congressmen of Delhi are a very strange lot. Utterly self-centered.

One great satisfaction is that the Delhi voters showed a new way of taking revenge.
This is the first time they voted in such fury that the BJP was left bewildered beyond their dreams! They just were left with some three miserable MLAs.

Now, Mr.seems to have realised that he went for an over-kill. His Rs.10 lakhs suit, his swagger and his imagination that he had become an overnight global leader etc all went to his rash moves.
Now, he seems to have become wiser and seems to demonstrate a different persona.
He seems to be trying to tilt the public perception of him in his favour.

He visited the Janata parivar family wedding; he smiled and stood close by with Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulaym Singh Yadav. That was really a new gesture on the part of the PM.

Now, he has to tame the Opposition which after the Delhi election results is baying for his blood.
The Land Ordinance seems ready for a some dilution. Anna Hazare had come to Delhi. And could do anything at any time. Who knows!

Farmers’s consent is critical for the Bill to be passed in Parliament. There are equally important other bills. The Bihar episode, the BJP-PDP coalition in J&K, the compromises to win over both the outsiders and insiders like the RSS(over the very basic commitments as in J&K)and also to the corporates, the ease of doing business, FDI and much else still remain mainly as promises. Some visibility on the ground needed to be shown.

This the test Modi has to win. Then only he can win the trust of all sections. Wish the PM good luck.

What lessons are  there for India?
Yes, there seem to be some lessons India can learn from Sri Lanka

z_pol350The just concluded Sri Lankan general elections were more than an election in India’s neighbouring  nation.

Sri Lanka ,many Indians may not know, why even in other countries might not know had the most Westminster-type Constitution in the world, of course just outside the UK. The most  distinguished Constitution expert, the late Ivor Jennings, we students from the Commonwealth countries studied in the UK universities was so famous in our times.

In fact, Jennings also wrote the  first  Constitution  of Pakistan. When we were students at Oxford in the late 1950s  there were many students from  Sri Lanka and Pakistan and in fact some of my contemporaries went on to become great political leaders in their respective countries. This was true for Sri Lanka and also for Pakistan.

Also for Africa.

In my time, I once invited the late distinguished journalist, Kingsly Martin  to speak to the Indian students and he wrote back to advise me to invite the “Pakistanis”, Pakistani students had their “Majlis” and they happily responded to my invitation and that meeting address by Kindly Martin, the great friend of India and Pakistan remains in my memory as one of the most successful India-Pakistan students get-together.

Now we read for our Constitutional History course many distinguished Constitutional experts and Oxford had plenty of them and one was clearly Sir Ivor Jennings.

When I was in Colombo recently I found  Jennings’ books everywhere and he remained as Vice-Chancellor of Colombo university as well.

Now, the point I was to draw the readers to be that lately Sri Lanka, like many other Commonwealth countries including Pakistan, didn’t live with its original Constitution.

This is in sharp contrast to the Indian Constitution which was drafted fully with Indian talent and as such it survived all the other Constitutions that were drafted by outsider talent!
Does this statement say anything about the Indian Constitution or the Indian talent?

I am of the view that why a country’s Constitution succeeds of fails is a difficult question to answer so straightaway.
India had leaders who, again, were shaped by a different type of leadership qualities. Both Gandhiji and Pandit Nehru were also of different types of human beings.

May be, who knows, that the Indian people, their psychology, their past history, in particular their history under the British rule and may be their religion, their culture, the often-quoted, unity in diversity and much else might have contributed to the success of the working of the Indian Constitution and also the Indian democracy.

Now, the one lesson I want to draw to the attention of the Indian people is that lately Sri Lanka had undergone a great transformation. The government there under  President  Mahindra Rajapaksha had won a bloody civil war that ranged for over 30 long years. Given Sri Lanka’s geography, its proximity to India, Tamil Nadu, the war won by the Sri Lankan government had traumatised  the Sri Lankan citizens, both the Tamils and the Sinhala population beyond easy description.

Also, the Sri Lankan electoral scene had produced a state that is still not normal and also the political parties, big and small are all so polarised and the present election saw that the electoral process had become a sort of basically a Presidential election.

Two candidates  are only in the public domain and on the one side the ruling party, may be one or two other allies (I don’t know for sure), on the Opposition we see a clear unity among the various Opposition parties, Chandrika Kuamaratunga  and Ranail Wickeramasinghe and other Tamil and other leading politicians who  defected from the ruling party and thus, there were two clear cut alignment into two political forces supporting two candidates.

Whatever be the outcome, the Sri Lankan democracy is now almost run on the Presidential form of government. Certain sophistications are needed here. But the broad theme is cearl.

What I want to say here in comparing the Indian general elections of, say, the 2014 Indian election, is that Mr.Narendra Modi emerged in India all of a sudden from nowhere, so to say, by isolating his own senior rivals from within the BJP and threw a challenge directly  at Rahul Gandhi.

Ironically, the Congress party of 130 year history, an all India spread party network almost collapsed at the first knock of Mr.Modi!

In fact, the  Congress found itself isolated and depleted of all support even from within itself!

The other parties that aligned with the Congress or those who fought at the state level, like the AIADMK or the BJD or even the Trinamool, didn’t make much impact and  they, these state level parties. politically became irrelevant.

The votes in a sense were “wasted”. Now, my suggestion  for the Indian political system and for the parties, big and small, is in future the Opposition parties now must join together and announce support for a common candidate as the Opposition candidate against the ruling party’s candidate.

This is important also for another reason. The Congress under Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi is run like a family fiefdom and as such is already a weak unit.

It has no chance, it seems, any future in terms of electoral prospects. There is also no indication the Congress will reform itself. May be it has to be isolated by the emergence of other parties or alliances like the imagined Janata Parivar.

It is also unlikely given the age and diverse temperaments of the leaders. So, the next elections can be experimented by my suggestion. Let us zero in on one candidate who has the stature, all India acceptability, capability, vision and personal charisma and of course the ultimate test of standing up to Mr.Modi’s many qualities of mobilising big money and also distorting ground level realities. His current mantras or slogans: Development, Governance and Clean India, Make in India.

All these could end up as mere bluster and bluff, after all. Where is the  intellectual foundation? Ideology?

One thought lingers, however. After Gandhi and Nehru even the Indian National Congress could get an ideology. All was slogans and also just promises.

So, what basis is there for Modi to provide an alternative?

Is there a rise of authoritarianism in the world?
Are the democratic forces stifled?
Some troubling questions for the democracies of the world.  India is no exception?

Russia's President Putin meets with India's PM Modi during the BRICS Summit in FortalezaDemocracies in the large countries need some international oversight.

The UN reforms must focus on these new challenges. This new awakening could only help the human rights and other violations that threaten international peace and security.

President Obama cautions about China on the unusually quick rise and consolidation of power by the Chinese President Xi Jinping. The US President is interacting with his Chinese counter-part, had only come back from Beijing after a summit meet and had obviously watched the rise and rise of XI Jinping and so his words must be taken not lightly. In fact, Obama had referred to the former strongman of China, namely, the late Deng Xiaoping and how Dentg presiding over China for some 16 years unleashed the private market forces and also for the rise of capitalist path for faster economic growth. The outcome is the current status of the Chinese economy as the world’s number two, only after the USA.

Now, what Obama is worried about is the fact that China under Xi is also resorting to appeal for Chinese nationalism so that the country becomes more united and more powerful under the slogan of Chinese nationalism.

Also, Obama points out that how a newly stronger China invoking nationalist pride and its assertions had been causing much fear and insecurity in China’s neighbourhood.

In particular, Obama points to the maritime disputes with Japan and also in other South East Asian countries like Philippines and Vietnam over the South China Sea.

We were in Philippines and also in Cambodia recently and there the people of those countries refer to China’s various moves disturbing and they all commonly call China as a “bully”.
As for India, we can be sure of one thing. We are of course friendly towards China, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also show much friendship and yet we saw how China behaved by massing some thousand Chinese troops across the Indian border.

One can be sure what Mr.Xi felt over his troops so placed when he was on a state visit to India. But one can be sure, given the new Chinese President’s modern education and also a modern outlook with his equally cultivated life partner beside him, they, the duo must have been extremely embarrassed by the developments. Of course there are various explanations. One is that the Chinese army, called Chinese Liberation Army, is not directly under the control of the Chinese government but under the Community party.

We don’t know for sure what is the position correctly, but the fact remains that China with its new economic and political clout is not seen as strength to its neighbours but as a threat. This is not good.

Also, Russia is also not a source of strength to world peace and security but the opposite is what we see.

In a recent annual speech ranging from economy to school tests, the Russian President Vladimir Putin the other day evoked religious imagery and defended the Kremlin’s aggressive foreign policy as necessary for his country’s survival.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March this year following the ouster of Pro-Russian President Victor Yanukovich and was later accused of supplying pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and later annexing the Ukraine region by sending the Russian troops. This was seen as against the international opinion and practice. For the first time in modern times, we see a great country like Russian doing this. What would happen if other big nations do this sport of things.

So, Putin’s speech given at the Grand Kremlin Palace  was seen not as good but as creating further tensions in that part of the world.

Now, the outside world, the USA and the EU imposing sanctions, Putin openly accuses the West as having caused an economic crisis of enormous impact on the Russian economy and lives of the Russian people.

Putin is also talking of nationalism, describing his action as Russia’s spiritual ground and “our Temple Mount “and added that “national pride and sovereignty are necessary condition for survival”

This is again causing disquiet and also some untold fears about Russia’s future actions. Already along with this news of Putin’s speech come the terror strikes in Chechnya and killing   19 in gun battle.

Chechnya is a troubled spot within the Russian soil. The re-emergence of terrorist attacks in the capital city of  Grozny recalls the old wound that saw almost this state  was about to  break away. Even now, the state is led by Kremlin appointed leader. There are complex and complicated issues here.
This gun battle and the killings came just hours before Putin gave his state of the union annual speech at the Kremlin.

The crucial point here is that Russia is already a sort of dictatorship, the internal situation is not normal, Putin himself  is in power for too long and in too unusual manner and also the  new challenges after he sent his army into Ukraine he lost the trust the international community.

Putin had to receive a very cold reception in the latest G-20 summit and he had to leave before the concluding ceremony.
These are not very happy times for the Russian leader.
Now, the Russian leader is to come to India where he would address the Indian Parliament. This takes place just before in January US President comes to participate in the Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi.

Of course these are also important days for India under Mr.Modi.
How about nationalism in India?

This is again a troubling question for Indian people.
There are many incipient signs for Indian people. First, there is the Sangh Parivar keeping the flames of Hindu communalism simmering. Ram Temple issue might pose a challenge. Second, the more disturbing trend is the rise of communal flare-ups in 2014, till Oct, as many as 550 flare-ups! In which 90 people died and 1,688 got injured.

UP state tops the list. Of course, the statistics for the previous year’s shows equally high figures.
The BJP government is often talking in terms of a new Indian nationalism, Hindutva nationalism nationhood and much of the new found victory that spells many new unexpected likely twists and turns.

The point here is that the talk and the rise of nationalism, the invoking of nationalism in the three major countries of the world, namely, China, Russia and India also raises some troubling questions.

Can we say there is the trend towards a new form of authoritarianism in these countries?

Are there setbacks to the progressive rise and spread of democracies, democratic institutions in the years to come?
Is nationalism something that could spell not much good for the lives of the people, for the human rights, for the spread of an open society?

These are some of the troubling questions   for our times, for our generation.

The promises and the performance on the ground.

Of course, as we write Mr.Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, is making more news abroad. He is there on extended road shows, it seems. He is everywhere.

modi210In Varanasi today, Myanmar tomorrow and Melbourne and Sydney and off to Fiji. As far as road shows go this side of his performance has no parallel in recent Indian history. Of course, we had had past leaders like one Gandhi or a Nehru. Even Indira Gandhi didn’t have this luxury of enjoying and demonstrating of power in such razzle-dazzle of sartorial variations, as one news column put it. How many times the Indian prime Minister in the past had ever had the attires changed in a day? Never. Obviously Mr.Modi enjoys power and in displaying it in style. We have to concede ground for Mr.Modi for whatever value it might have.
Now, what are the gains the Indian Prime Minister had got for India?

Many, it must be said. First, he took India to a new height of world attention. He is also canvassing hard for his original agenda of FDI and many other benefits. Now, Australia promise uranium we can expect our nuclear industry might proceed with its agenda.

As for his other successes, he had really won the hearts and minds of the overseas Indian population.

In fact Mr.Modi had already displayed himself as a Prime Minister as for the non-resident Indians as he is for the resident Indians as well! Now, back at home he is faced with an enormous task of restarting the economic engine.

Has he succeeded in the first six months at any rate in his original mission? The black money? FDI? And in restarting the stalled infrastructure projects?

As per the latest data available, the Centre for Monitoring Indian economy and other sources, there is a huge over-run of costs of the long delayed projects. Of the 613 Central government infrastructure projects a staggering Rs. 5.7 lakh crores is required.

Rs.5.5 lakhs crores had already been spent. Some projects are running over two decades without any light of the completing dates! The cost of over-runs is as much as, to put it in a populist term, building  1.5 crore houses for the rural poor!
So, Mr.Modi has a great deal to deliver on his promises.
Yes, his Australian visit has been highly visible. So much good we can expect.

But at the same time some restraint is called for. In spite of the hype and hoopla, we have to note that the Indo-Australian bi-lateral trade is just 15 billion dollars while that of the trade between Australia  and China is 150 billion dollars.
All this doesn’t mean we have to underestimate the goodwill Modi has created between India and the Australian Diaspora.

These are all nitty-gritty of actual governance.
There are other emerging issues.

The UP Governor, Ram Naik has “hoped that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would pay attention to the complex issues”(The Hindu, November 18)The Ram Temple be built to fulfil the aspirations of the Hindutva crowd? The Governor paid a visit to Ayodhya and said this. The newly inducted  junior Cabinet Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti from Fatehpur had also spoken about the temple be constructed and “it was the duty of all countrymen”.

Is there any hidden agenda here? One has to ask this rather sensitive question.

The Barbi Masjid at Ayodhya was mentioned in a prominent way. The RSS, the VHP are also demanding, though subtly and also in not so subtle manner some of the voteries.

Also, are issues like further agenda of saffronisation of education, rewriting history etc.

Of course on the more substantives and subtle issues like  democracy, seculairism or communalist agenda and of course a range of issues from corruption and non-performance of  the new ministers.

Development is a word Modi made much of. But then what is development? It can mean many things to many persons. Development is a word that camouflages many  tricky questions. Development forward or development backward?

In what category the Ram Janmabhoomi issues can be placed? Development is not just economic development alone. It is also a political agenda and a social and even religious- religion-tainted agenda as well.

A senior minister of Akhilesh government had questioned these statements. Very soon Modi’s foreign travels would slow down and slowly the reality  would hit the government.

As one editorial in a leading newspaper states the time has come to stop accusing the previous government. The new government has to face the reality of land acquisition for the infrastructure projects, environment clearance, funding, why even the FDI inflow etc would have to be addressed.

Not the least is the much more ticklish issues like imposing taxes on foreign MNCs. We had lost the Nokia, we had also hurt the operations of other MNCs, and Vodapone is one such case. Now  we see the oil MNC, Royal Dutch Shell Group which won a tax case involving Rs.17,920 core transfer pricing case.

Every MNC, the established or the forthcoming ones would study the Indian taxation mess that we ordinary Indian citizens go through every day.

Modi has to streamline the bureaucracy, not an easy task.
To cut down red tape, to speed up decision making will call forth his physical presence at the PMO. Are we right to tell the readers that so far, after six months in office, that Mr.Modi hasn’t brought back one single rupee of black money!

Are we right in calling  forth the truth that after six months in office Mr.Modi, despite his shows abroad and rock star ratings he hasn’t brought to India  one of FDI?

Yes, Mr.Modi has to prove his credibility. He is still on trial. He would be scrutinised for his words and actions. Whether they match or sound discordant.