A distinct possibility is the very same distinct character of the Bengali renaissance political and cultural history.

West Bengal is no more the  strong hold of any party other than Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool  Congress. And Mamata, remember, is a stormy petral of the Indian National Congress itself.

The 35 year old dogmatic ideology of the Marxist Party is now gone. Not many can  recollect the leaders of the old CPI(M),leader like Jyoti Basu and many other veterans who were both formidable theoreticians as well practical achievers. Nor the current crop of Trinamool grass root workers any way lacking in the muscle and other grassroots skills including indulging in violence.

mamathaNow, the BJP is struggling to build up its cadre in a state where the cadre -based politics is also the strength of the Trinamool.

The RSS is strong but not at the very heart of Bengali politics. They are somewhere near the borders of Bangladesh and where Muslim vote is concerned it is very strongly in favour of the Trinamool only.

The BJP hasn’t been able to build its base for ,as observed by many observers, Mamata herself is a devotee of the Hindu gods and the Hindu icon like  Bankim, Tagore, Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Bose! So, however hard the BJP may try to appropriate these Bengal icons they are already appropriated  by a wider section of the Hindu society not just inside Bengal but also outside.

And it may not be irrelevant to point out that again however hard  you try to appropriate  the icon of Swami Vivekananda he Swamiji is already a secular Hindu icon as well. To put the Swamiji’s  robust secularism into the rather un and even anti-intellectualism and such serious  rationalism of the Swamiji’s exposition of Hinduism itself doesn’t make sense and that is the only genuine explanation, in our view why the RSS or the BJP leaders like Amith Shah and Narendra Modi doesn’t cut ice with the well-evolved  Bengal middle class elite as well as the mass of the Bengalis society and polity.

That was one significant reason why Amit Shah couldn’t muster  enough credibility when he called to see the intelligentsia and that section roundly refused to take the bite!

So, it is very likely that after the much debated and much controversial panchayat elections in which 34 per cent of the seats went uncontested and that explains the hold the Trinamool has over the imagination of the Bengali mass.
Yes, Bengali mass is still in a sort of Dark Age ,when seen from the other extreme of a similar  state like  Tamil Nadu where too the hold of the Dravidians eths of similar ethnic identity holds the BJP at bay.

In neither of these states the BJP can hope to make any advance for the people in these states have gone  further and further away from the so-called mainstream like advance the BJP made in one swoop in the year 2014.

Bengal had adopted an eclectic sort of  Hinduism in  the likes of lives and service of the saints like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. So, any number of slogans like Jai Ram and the processions of Ramanavami and Hanuman Jayanti won’t cut ice with the voters.

So, what chance for the BJP in Bengal?

May be one or two marginal rise in vote share or seat share. Given Mamata’s penchant for energy and  a daring thrust at the enemy camp, be it the CPI(M) or the Congress where the leaders are very weak and  also from the BJP ranks where too leaders like Mukul Roy and Ritabrta  Benerjee are no match to Mamata’s current crop of energised new leaders, there are too many to narrate here their individual  contributions to the collective strength.

What is the chances for Mamata’s claim for New Delhi crown?
Her sheer numbers. She could hopefully bring to the table the entire 42 MP seats.

Once she demonstrates her pull, may be the other alliance partners who are also otherwise allergic to the dynastic claims of the Congress, the party might have no other choice but to fall in line.

The Eastern Indian segment might also opt for Mamata.

Why, even other states might coalesce  with the others in the very jockeying for a share in power.

After the Amartya Sen-Rajiv Kumar TV Debate on the economy
Now, the great game of the 2019 election!

amartyaYes, there are some dramatic  moments in  the political and  economic debates in recent times. One was of course the much-talked about No-confidence debate in the Lok Sabha. In a significant sense, this debate gave Mr.Rahul Gandhi the much needed boost to prove his credentials as a leader of the great national party, the Indian  National Congress. It looks as if the ruling party, namely, the BJP  seemed to have imagined itself as a powerful party that wanted to replace the INC, the slogan was the Congress-mukth  India! This won’t cut much ice, everyone knows and yet the very boost the party gave itself showed that they really believed in creating such a scenario.

Now, after the no-confidence debate and the outcome, though everyone knows, were as expected. The  BJP gave in to the way Mr.Gandhi came out with a well-prepared and  well-rehearsed  speech that took everyone by surprise and even with some shock. Rahul Gandhi with this s;pee3ch seem to have arrived on the national stage, we have to admit, however grudgingly. Yes, he produced an impact and the ruling party itself was take a back with Gandhi’s    flow of speech which had itself and flow and ended with a shocking hug he gave to Mr.Modi. The PM himself was unprepared and we have seen how he was caught unawares and yet managed to respond in a way that also gave him some credit. The real bonhomie brought the much need civility and some dignity also to the very  august house and that is how it should be at the end of the day.

So, of all the old times, starting from the 1963 Acharya Kripalanai’s  no-confidence speech against Pandit Nehru to the other such events, in all some 26 no-confidence motions in the Lok Sabha, this one too was a landmark event. After all, Mr.Modi managed to avoid any such move in the last four yats and also it is a fact that the very massive setback to the Congress made the party unnerved to move a motion on its own. So,  the current move gave rise to a new development.

A new confidence to take on Mr.Modi on the coming Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Also came in before the debate in Parliament another well-timed debate, this time between the government economists, Rajiv Kumar who heads the Niti Aayog, the planning body of the m Modi government. The debate on the NDTV, well-timed and also well-titled, “Prove it!”And the “Challenges accepted.

We saw after a long break, Prof.Sen  taking on Modi government for its lacklustre performance on the economic front, as Sen Saw it. After all Sen is an expert on the Indian economy, why even on the global economic scene and so we had for the first time saw Sen quoting enough evidence, statistics from a range of issues, from education to health  to the very economic growth scenario, from Bangladesh to Indonesia to Sri Lanka to show ,to prove that on sheer general data, these countries were performing much better than the great Indian economy.

Yes, Rajiv Kumar quoted enough date to show how under the Modi regime  many sectors of the Indian economy were performing very creditably. And yet, as Sen proved ,yes with a touch of sarcasm and with, that we have to prove by credible data. Yes, on this basis, we have to concede why we need a much more better account to prove that we are doing really well. We have to take our economic experts, advisers and independent experts with a pinch of salt, as we saw from Sen’s type of analysis that we need a much more critical insights.

As Sen said that we need more critical economists, very credible economists, unfortunately, the official economists are a bit unreliable, see how many were sent out or they themselves migrated as soon as their official tasks are over here!

This sort of “patriotism” nor the lack of it somehow dents the credibility of the USA-based Indian economists. Fortunately, Sen said that he spend more time these days in India. That is welcome and does him much good, we  feel! If one Sen had based himself more on the Indian soil his wisdom and credibility would have much more good for the larger good of  the country.

Now, the latest buzz is that the coming great challenge for Mr.Modi is the 2019 general election. Now, after the no-confidence debate we see the Congress is having a rethink, that is not to project Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate that is how it should be.

Instead they should project a candidate who has really credibility. Not necessarily, a female candidate, Mayawati or Mamata Banerjee. But others too are also in the race. H.D.Kumaraswamy or a Chandrababu Naidu. We need a much more broad based debate, an objective debate. Not the media-inspire prejudiced  media-led talk.

Surely, we feel that Mr.Naidu has the ideal qualifications. His proven administrative abilities make him an ideal candidate for the Prime Minister’s job in place of Modi, if the Opposition parties seriously give up their own narrow agendas and seek a nationally-credible fight.

Also, it is important to point out that the Congress must shed its obsession with dynasty. Mrs.Sonia Gandhi seems to be still playing an active role, not even from behind the scene and so too the dummy candidate of Dr.Manmohan Singh. Who knows the desires of people? Dr./Singh might still be projected as the dummy face of the dynasty. Such narrow dreams must be exposed and a real-well-debated candidate
or candidates who might emergence from a genuine democratic debate.

Indian democracy faces multiple challenges!
We can’t take for granted the current realities alone!
There can be unanticipated developments!

opposition-unity-2Politics is now all the passion and superficial concern of the dominant sections of society. Every one, I mean the citizen, who has made some progress in life, earned wealth and an ambition to further his or her prospects in life takes interest in politics. That seems to be the only way to gain further foothold in life, so to say.

So, we seem all sorts of people, Tom ,Dick and Harry, are eager to ‘enter’ politics. Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi Chief Minister, is a outspoken man  and he had called the Prime Minister as ‘a not educated person’. Of course, this is a rude and uncourteous remark for  whom we can call an educated person and others ‘uneducated’. The late Kamaraj was an ‘uneducated’ person or for that matter there are so many not so-well-educated but they had left great legacies. We can name many.

He had cited Dr.Manmohan Singh as a well-educated person. Yes, he is but that alone didn’t give him any glory. The series of scams in his tenure brought the Congress party to such a disgrace. Politics is not a simple subject. It is a serious subject. It had given the world much of its civilisation. The story is told many times. We ourselves had covered the topic many times in these columns. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are only few names. There are others from ancient Greece to Rome, to Italian Renaissance to the French and the European Enlightenment.

The point here is that in India we live at a time when there are very many issues that cry for debate and discussion and that is our concern here.
You see that Indian democracy is our prized legacy and that is facing challenges.

2019 Lok Sabha elections is becoming a priority with every other political party and the new-found unity of the Opposition parties in Bangalore the other day unlined the new temper of Indian politics.

What will be the debating point in 2019.Re-election of Mr.Narendra Modi for another term? Yes, it is! Displacing Mr.Modi by the Opposition parties? Yes, that is also the high priority for the Opposition parties?
The BJP has an ideology. But what about the Opposition parties?

There is no clear agenda that could bind the Opposition parties. The Congress has all the weaknesses of an exhausted party.
The old hands hang on in Delhi, most of them are high networth individuals, so to say, they are also professionls, lawyers and others, feudal and ne nouveau riche!

The party in many states is in shambles.
What is the vision or a core agenda?

For other parties, for Mamata Banerjee, K.Chandra Shekhar Rao, or even Chandrababu Naidu, Sharad Pawar or other regional parties? As far as we see we don’t hear then speaking out!

Here are some concerns and priorities.  Indian democracy is great with 1.25 billion people. It has worked unbroken since 1947, though in the Commonwealth countries it was not so.

Yet, today there is a sense of unease widely in the country. Why is this so, no one asks. It is because there are some tensions and pressures built in the system. Parliament is not functioning and we haven’t found out ways to deal with this situation.

Parties are becoming more casteists, communal, as even in Karnataka we have found lately. This process of castes and communalism consolidating is likely in the coming days.

Media is under stress, why even judiciary, why even the many other independent or autonomous bodies like the anti-corruption bodies, CBI, ED and even  the existing Lokayukthas are not functioning. Political opponents are targeted. Our leaders talk but not many or convinced. The many claims are not seem validated.
Now, it looks more sinister games, yes we can only call then games, not policies are on.

One such anxiety arises from the latest news item that the government is set to engage a private agency monitor online activities of individuals and social groups, why even organisations, newspapers, news channels, collect “digital media charter”. The aim is to give a ‘positive’ slant and “inculcate nationalistic feelings in the masses”. Brain washing?

This step seems to be very disturbing. What we like to highlight here is that we need a new charter of electoral reforms, reform of the Election Commission, punishing criminal elements in elections (this category of persons are growing faster!) funding of the political parties, undoing the electoral bonds schemes, why even the reforms and structure of the political parties is over-due, so that political corruption and the tendency for the parties to become more unaccountable to the public and thereby, the parties perpetuate themselves, as dynasties, why even as business empires(see the scale of corruption in TN, for instance, as  receivers of black money from the capitalists, from the capitalist class which is becoming more and more monopolistic and cause for exploitation of the poor and the vulnerable sections.

Today’s democracy is not transparent for various reasons but we have to restore and purify democracy in all its glories!

A robust social agenda that would take   the excesses of monopoly capitalism and at the same time combine the private capitalism as the engine of economic growth.

This seems to be the most critical agenda for the present generation.
It is a long story. From  the time of the previous generation of intellectuals, from Lord Keynes to Joseph Schumpeter to Fredrick von Hayek to other intellectuals like Karl Marx to Karl Popper to Isaiah Berlin.

You want do without capitalism but it has to be tamed to function under a robust democracy, that too a parliamentary democracy and an independent judiciary and an independent media and other NGO watchdogs! Do any political party cares for such concerns?

There is no other alternative, please take note! This is our agenda for the 2019!

Lessons learnt and unlearnt!
A new political horizon seems opening in India at the moment.
It is the outcome of the election verdict and the immediate developments.!
The Karnataka Assembly election results surprised everyone  concerned.

collage 2_6There are many stake-holders, so to say. Of course it is another matter that stake -holders also had their own separate agendas! Who won and who lost, the strategies and their own faces? There will be long drawn out debates in the days and months, why even to the last minutes of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections! That is the importance and the impact of this one assembly elections!

The  hung Assembly led to some irrational political action. The Governor called the single largest party, while the combined Congress and JD(S) parties commanded a majority. The Governor followed precedents but there were many contradictions. What  the Centre did in states like Goa, Manipur this time didn’t do in Karnataka.

So there was a hue and cry and this led to the Congress approaching the Supreme Court and through an all-night hearing, this in itself was somewhat unusual and the apex  court gave a verdict that stunned the ruling combine at the Centre.

The Governor’s  generous  time of 15 long days was cut short by the apex court and  reduced to just 24 hours! Thus the Supreme Court had set a new precedent, one hope that would now become a standard in the much abused horse trading that have unfortunately come a standard practice till now. So, in a way this verdict has more than one implication.

First, the Governors’ rather arbitrary exercise in the name of so many arguments would now become a thing of the past and might set a new restraint in the exercise of Constitutional powers by high Constitutional authorities.

Why, the coming into existence of the Congress-JD(S) government, whatever be the nature and duration of the government has now led to ask some  serious questions for the coming 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister and his party president  are now open to criticism for the many other unsavoury speeches and comments and controversies during the one most keenly contested state elections. The Karnataka election was perhaps the last one before the next general election in 2019 and the one that had upset the calculations of the BJP regime in Delhi.

Also the way the  Governor’s planned or natural selection of a Chief Minister went the way it did the Opposition parties for the first time, it seems, have got a rare opportunity to come together in their ambitious  attempt to form a federal front to take on the much-stronger and also in a way much-feared strength of the BJP party.

How would the Opposition parties and their leaders  conduct themselves from now onwards is the one subject on which the political debate might turn on. How, also, the critical question, whether Rahul Gandhi, as the formal president of the Congress party could lead the debate or some other regional leaders like Mamata Banerjee, K.Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), Mayawati and Akilesh Yadav, Sharad Pawar and  some dark horse even!

Politics is both a power struggle  as well as a principle-based belief system. In India politics still now and more so right now is seen as a power-grab and any means is justified.

The time has come, the Karnataka verdict gives us a warning that politics has to be pursued with some restraint, and Constitution has to be scrupulously followed.

Right now, how far we are  from the observation of Constitutionals propriety? This has to be  examined by the incumbent government? There are very clear indications for anxiety.

Already some uncomfortable words and observations had been made both by the ruling party and also the Opposition. The very words and observations and also the way the government has conducted in the Karnataka affairs give room for much anxiety. The famous political philosopher, Thomas  Hobbes(1588-1679) had called political power and man’s instinct is that political power struggle is “solitary, poor, nasty and shorter”.

Politicians, please read these words carefully. Don’t rush and turn the established principles, know the Greek and Roman traditions, the rule of law etc.

You can’t violate  the time-honoured traditions and history. Julius Caesar violated  the code of Command and crossed the Rubican and the rest is history.

Now, coming to the current realities on the ground,  the whole exercise in government formation to selecting the ministers and their portfolios are all small matters as far as the impact on the whole country is concerned.

As one expert, Sanjay Kumar, director of Centre for  the study of developing societies (CSDS)  the next big  thing is all about how this state election  would upon the leadership of Rahul Gandhi and also the role of the Congress party.

Another impact, though the expert didn’t talk much about it is the likely shape of the federal front. This is the most challenging task of all two have the genius for leadership and a sort of vision and even a coherent ideology that would bind  the Opposition parties.

In India, unfortunately, according to my thinking and study of issues there is no thought whatever at the top leadership levels across all the major parties as to the role of Opposition in a democracy like ours. We are not China or Russia, we are a sort of Western democracies for all of which the role of Opposition is well defined and well-understood.

Here individual ambitions and egos seem to be  the  only driven forces. Parliamentary democracy is not well-understood here. After Pandit Nehru no big leader seems to have spoken about it. Here, some points only.

Who would be the next Prime Minister if the Opposition wins?
Rahul Gandhi said he would be if his party wins. There are not takers for this claim right now. Given the new dimensions of the new political landscape it could be many others too with much more talents and superior wisdom of experience and acceptance.
Any other leader, be it Sharad Pawar or Chandra Babe Naidu, why, even Mamata Banerjee or K.Chandrashekar Rao, Mayawati are acceptable if the current scenario is taken into account.
So, individual ambitions and egos have to be given a goby and every player has to restrain his or her ambitions and see first that a federal front really emerges as a coherent goal.

Also, an ideology and vision document is also crucial.

You can’t have your pet projects, separate state or regional autonomy etc. in such a new challenging situation. Of course, the front has to be anti-Hindutva, religious polarisation has to be ruled out, or new caste equations strengthened. To put it short, we have to subscribe to a liberal democracy, secularism and a sort of autonomy for regional parties and at the same time a wholesome Indian unity based on tolerance, social harmony and an equal and egalitarian society and polity.

Now, it is time for the aspirants to come out with their own positive contributions.

As for the Congress party which I know somewhat well from the Delhi angle, Rahul and Sonia Gandhi have to change their ways. They must be accessible and also more modesty, how to handle the new set of players on the national front would their biggest challenge.

Public perceptions and the public opinion!

The Prime Minister completes four years in office. The Prime Minister’s office (the PMO) is perhaps

narendra-modithe most powerful political office under our Constitution. Our laws are also very different from those of the US government and the US Constitutional practices. See there the role of the law officers. Can we have such powerful law officers? We can’t. Also, only now we have a very different sort of political change. After almost 70 long years we have elected an Opposition party into a ruling party. So, too the very ideology of the BJP party if very radical in the sense it has no history before some thirty or forty years ago.

Our very ideological thinking for long was derived from the British Constitutional history and the two party system of Britain. Also, we have the judicial system. Also, the very Constitutional principles and practices.

It is unfortunate that in the last twenty or more days of our last Parliament session  we have completely lost our Constitutional balance or went off track and we find, to the surprise and shock of the enlightened sections of public opinion  that our elected representatives failed the people. This is for the first time, it seems. We don’t know for sure what the future holds for us.

The public perception is that our MLAS and MPs, our elected representatives in general seem to become a section of selfish men and women, much like perhaps the rest of the society, one that is cringing for more salaries and no intent to work dedicated manner  to make people realise they are  for the  service of the people. None of the Parliamentary questions were answered, the House was disrupted continuously, and we all know who the disruptors are and who are the triggers of such disruptions to hold the House to ransom.

Of course, there are many more serious issues, many issues can’t be discussed freely for the simple reason the atmosphere in country is no conducive for freer debate.

The media is fearful of the authority. The judiciary is in some distress as people see from a distance.

Is this a very positive situation? We don’t know for sure.
What the future holds for the country, for our democracy and for much of the high institutions that are all seem to be in some confusion.

Of course, the ruling party has much role to play in the days to come.

So too the top leaders of the ruling party. No less is the responsibility of the Opposition party and parties.
The most seniors among the Opposition parties have a special role.

The state level leaders also have much responsibility.
The country looks to such veterans like Chandrababu Naidu, Deve Gowda and others to play some pro-active and pro-democracy role.
Democracy can easily derail and we might be caught in some unpredictable course.

There are many warnings from the past.
There are some distressing histories.

A.J.P.Taylor, the famous Oxford historian, an authority on the two world wars had shown how even such extremes like Hitler’s rise and also Lenin’s capture of power took place under extremely well-established democratic governments! This is not the place for further elaboration on the historic situations.

Surely, our current leaders, on both sides of the political spectrum, we say with a heavy heart and a heavy sense of personal responsibility, are playing with fire and with, if we can say so, a sense of not fully understanding the grave issues.

In politics, more so than in any other sphere, it is very risky to predict the future. So, we would urge all concerned to realise what is at stake now.

There is a sense of widespread disappointment and pessimism of sorts.

We urge everyone to show restrain in speech and acts.