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Sunday, March 22, 2009

How did India manage to stick with democracy

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Hello to all the followers of my blog. I am really sorry for being away for sometime.

So finally my MBA came to an end and I left home to join my job. At one of the bookstalls at the railway station I managed to find a copy of the book that I had been planning to read for sometime. It is "India after Gandhi" by Ramachandra Guha. From what has been my experience has been so far ( read around 400 the 770 pages), I would seriously recommend you this book. This book is a must for every Indian. Our NCERT History books just talk about India's history till Independence. So other books include the first six months of Independence till the death of Mahatma Gandhi. There is whole lot of history of India that included unification of Indian Union with its princely states, linguistic division of India into states, emergency, the three war, and many more such exciting stories. Here is one of them. Although the author doesn't directly point out this story explicitly, but it is quite implicit.

How did India manage to stick with democracy and secularism? According to a statistical analysis of the relationship between democracy and development in 135 countries found that 'the odds against democracy in India were extremely high'. Given its low levels of income and literacy, and its high levels of social conflict, India was predicted as a dictatorship during the entire period' of the study(1950-90). Since in fact, it was a democracy practically the entire period studied, there is only one way to characterize India, namely as 'a major outlier'. (Source: India After Gandhi)

So why didn't we go down the route of dictatorship. Based on my understanding, I believe there were two basic reasons. The first reason was that our freedom movement was not just a struggle of a certain section of the society. Nor was it an armed movement of revolutionaries. It was a non-violent people's movement from the very beginning. The ordinary citizens were made part of it and involved. This created a certain sense of awareness among the people. And with 4 years of independence, India had its first general elections. Unlike the West, in our democracy was based on adult suffrage(i.e. every adult has a right to vote). In the West, the democracies initially started with voting rights restricted to only the people who were literate.

Secondly, India was lucky to have a stable political leadership its first 20-25 years. It was Mahatma Gandhi who chose Nehru as his political successor. Infact the Congress Working Committee had voted for Sardar Patel to lead the country. This decision proved to be critical. Firstly, because Nehru had the stature and respect that he commanded from the ordinary public. Secondly, Nehru was a firm believer in secularism. And finally, the most important point is that Nehru was much younger. For instance, Sardar Patel died in 1950 at an age of 75, while Nehru was only 61 at that time. The Father of the Nation of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah also died soon after indepence at an age of 72.

With a relatively young charismatic leader at the top, coupled with a weak opposition parties, Congress was in power for the first 20-25 years with any serious challenge to it. It was this environment that allowed a new untested democratic institutions of a fledgling state to take shape and grow stronger. Today we have an independent judiciary, a free press and an impartial election commission these forces make sure that we remain firmly on the path of democracy. A brief look at Pakistan tells us that it had 7 Prime Ministers between 1947 and 1958 and they also lost their biggest leader Jinnah. Jinnah commanded respect in Pakistan and his presence could have made Pakistan a stronger state.

While India faced many challenges during the Nehru's era like Wars, Division into states on linguistic basis, national language issue, etc but Nehru's Congress was an undisputed leader at the Centre thus ensuring stability. This stability may or may not have led to our development. This is debatable. But what is important to understand that it is this very stability that allowed democratic institutions to flourish.

Ofcourse, a lot of people might say that India did not really develop under the Congress rule. True, absolute power corrupts and makes people complacent. But nevertheless, it provides stability and ensures a strong Govt. at the Centre, thus enabling it to deal with various kinds on challenges posed to the integrity of India, be it Kashmir, Nagas, Mizoram, etc.

I will now get back to the book and I must say I am looking it. And I promise I will be back with more stories from the book.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mayawati: Is she really destined for a larger role in Indian Politics

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Mayawati, a hindi speaking dalit woman managed to secure a simple majority to become a Chief Minister of UP the largest state of India, a state that has produced most number of Prime Ministers of India. She is now eyeing a larger role and had reportedly demanded to be declared the Prime Ministerial Candidate of the Third Front. She could still end up on the Prime Ministers Chair given that the country is heading for fractured verdict. Her party the BSP has risen phenomenonly and is now trying to expand its reach beyond UP. It recently one a couple of assembly seats in Delhi, but remains largely a marginal player. Given its rise, many political commentators are predicting that BSP is soon going to be a dominant force through the country.
I beg to disagree with that and be presenting my counter arguments in the rest of the article.

My First point is that there seems to a political saturation in our country. Political parties throughout India have consolidated their positions. If we analyze of the political upheavals in the last decade, there aren't too many states where the major political parties have changed. For instance, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh,Delhi still has only two major players Congress and BJP; Kerela still has LDF vs UDF, Tamil Nadu still has AIADMK vs DMK with PMK, MDMK, Congress and BJP being marginal players. Maharashtra has seen minor re-allignment with NCP first breaking up and then allying with Congress. On the ground, the state still has two major players both alliances.

So which are the states having new players? These are Orissa, Karnataka, Bihar, UP and West Bengal. Let us look closely why in these places new players were allowed. In Orissa, Naveen Patnaik split the erstwhile Janta Dal to ally with BJP. Karnataka used to witness direct contest between erstwhile Janata Dal and Congress but the split in JD led to growth of BJP. Bihar again has a similar story. Leaders from JD split into JD(U) and RJD. In West Bengal, Mamta split the state Congress to create TMC and hoped to occupy the non-Left political space in the state.

Now comes UP. In UP, BSP wasn't really a major player and did well in reserved seats only. In the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, BSP won just 5 seats out of which one was Mayawati. It all changed when in 1996 Congress under Narasimha Rao decided to ally with BSP. Congress fought on just 125 seats leaving around 300 to BSP. This meant transfering of Congress vote to the BSP, and also that the national party was accepting a minor role in the state politics. Mayawati hasn't looked behind while Congress hasn't been able to regain ground in the state. Subsequently Mayawati has even wooed the upper castes and with the BJP collapsing in the state, BSP has effectively replaced it as one the major player in the state.

In all the above cases, one thing is common - the rise of a new player meant that an existing player had to go. It is no wonder that the BJP hasn't been able to even open its account in the Kerela assembly despite trying for almost two decades. In Tamil Nadu, PMK and MDMK continue to remain marginal players because both AIADMK and DMK remain strong. With Karunanidhi ageing and there is a posibility of a split because there are 3 players within the DMK - Stalin, Stalin's elder brother and the Marans. Actor Vijaykanth started a new party DMDK but failed to have any impact. This is because there isn't enough political space for a new player. NT Ramarao created his own political party and became the Chief Minister in less than year. But that was 1982 and Chiranjeevi is unlikely to repeat that. The recent surveys of CNN-IBN just gave him 7% vote share.

Just look at things from a logical point of view. If I am an aspiring politician from Kerela, I would rather go with either LDF or UDF than go with BJP. So it is quite evident that BJP in Kerela cannot attract local talented leaders. Therefore, I would like to conclude my first point by saying BSP cannot emerge as a major national player unless one of the two BJP or Congress has a major split.

My second point about why BSP cannot emerge as a national force is internal. BSP as a party has remained undemocratic with Mayawati being the sole leader. To rise to a stature of a major nation party, BSP needs to reform itself by giving more space to other leaders. But is the party and more importantly is Mayawati ready for this. BSP only ideology seems to be dalit vikas, but beyond that there isn't much. To be a more broadbased party like Congress or BJP it needs to reinvent itself. Merely inventing a slogan of 'Sarvajan Samaj isn't going be sufficient.

So far we have only seen the rise of Mayawati. But she is trying to rise too fast without consolidating her existing position, which is a recipe for disaster. In the last assembly elections, BSP 30% of the votes, giving a clear 3-4% lead over its nearest rival SP.In the current parliamentary elections, she can hope to maintain that with rising support of Muslims, largely because of the community has switched sides after Kalyan Singh joined SP. But that does not guarantee her an unlimited rule in the state.

She has used every trick in the book to increase her tally. She has allied with almost everyone, and invited almost everyone. She has even accomodated a man who tried to molest and kill her in 1996. This is a major problem for her because her MLA's are not there because of any ideology but because they are powerhungry. BSP has suffered maximum number of splits largely because others found it easy to woo her MLA's. She has also given seats to the Ansaris from Azamgarh who are well known for their criminal record.

So far she had never ruled the state for a full term and thus could hit at her rivals for non-performance. However, in the last 12 months she has hardly done anything significant while being the Chief Minister. She has spent more time outside the state like campaigning in Karnataka elections. Caste based politics do not guarantee anything and one needs to back it up with development work. Moreover, both BJP and Congress are alarmed by its rise and neither of them is going to repeat the mistake of Congress in 1996.

Here is the most likely scenario (according to me). 2009 Lok Sabha elections throw up a hung Parliament. Mayawati becomes Prime Minister of a Third Front Govt. formed after getting outside support of Congress. Congress is likely to withdraw support within 12-18 months because it would not allow BSP to make any gains. I am pretty sure that they will find some excuse for withdrawing support. By that time the BSP Govt. in UP will be 3 year old and given its past record, its likely suffer a heavy defeat in the 16th Lok Sabha elections which would most likely take place in 2010. Since West Bengal is also headed for polls in 2011, a 2010 election would mean that an anti-incumbancy facing Left too isn't a major player in the final count.

Bottomline is that BSP shall remain at best a regional player.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Is Sehwag overrated?

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Sehwag scored a hundred and the media was gaga about him. He broke Azharuddin's long standing record dating back to 1988. Can we really compare the two innings. I thought it would be a great idea to find out more about that 1988 match. Here is the link to the scorecard of that match and here are my reasons for considering the two innings comparable:
  • Sehwag got his hundred in New Zealand where the grounds are really small and the attack is inexperienced
  • Azharuddin batted at number six Sehwag opened the innings. This clearly means that Azhar batted his entire innings without any field restrictions while Sehwag batted under field restrictions for 15 of the 23 overs that he played. By that time the restrictions were over, he had already won the match.
One should remember that Sehwag has got a a lot of his hundreds while India is chasing. This is because whenever the team is chasing and Sehwag manages to stay for the first 15-20 overs, the required run rate invariably comes down. This forces the opposing captain to continue with aggressive field settings and thus effectively it does not matter whether or not the restrictions are over. On the contrary when India is batting first and Sehwag survives the initial overs, the opposing captain invariably goes defensive. This means fewer opportunities for Sehwag to hit boundaries. Now Sehwag is a boundary hitter and most of the times he gets dismissed in the 60's and 70's because he takes extra risks to get the boundaries. This is where Tendulkar is different because he makes sure that he stays till the end and in the process also ends up scoring hundreds.

On a flat pitch, Sehwag is unstoppable something he has shown in the past on sub-continent pitches and now in New Zealand. But when it came to a seaming pitch in the fifth ODI, he just didn't had the maturity to hang around. Once again, this is where Tendulkar would have played differently. He would have attacked the lesser bowlers of the opposition and would have played a long innings. Nevertheless, Sehwag has a special role in the side. He straightaway puts the opposition on the backfoot. He is effective even in Test matches. In Australia, he wasn't for the first two matches, but proved his worth in the next two. Against England in Chennai, India successfully chased 387 in the fourth innings. Now what is important to note that while Sehwag played a critical role, Tendulkar played an equally important role. With almost 400 runs, Peterson had given himself a chance to continously have an attacking field. What Sehwag did was to quickly knock-off 100 runs thus bringing the runrate down to a manageable 3 runs an over. Equally important was Tendulkars knock where he withstood some of most difficult spells from the English bowlers. Both knocks were complimentary and eually important.

A lot of India's recent success is not just because of the likes of Sehwag and Yuvraj going after the opposition. It is also because Gambhir, Tendulkar and Dhoni have played sensible cricket and invariably one of them anchors the innings. In the final ODI, Tendulkar wasn't playing while both Dhoni and Gambhir got out cheaply. Sehwag once again threw away a good start after Vettori withheld the powerplay. It just goes to show how critical a sheet anchor role is. In Australia, it was Tendulkar who won back to back man of the match awards in the best of three finals because of which India could win the VB Series. This Indian Team may be good but without Tendulkar, only Dhoni is the man who has shown remarkable consistency under different conditions.

It was good to see Dhoni promoting Rohit Sharma, but what about Yusuf Pathan. Yusuf got into the ODI side after his excellent performance in the IPL last year. But ever since getting into the side, Dhoni has been using him at number 7 in the power packed lineup. Moreover he has hardly been used as a bowling option with Dhoni preferring Yuvraj over him. Clearly, if Dhoni doesn't considers him as a bowling option, it means that he would prefer Rohit Sharma over Yusuf Pathan on a long term basis provided he gets some consistency. Yusuf hardly got any opportunity to either bat or bowl and when he did get to bat in the last ODI, he threw his wicket. He has shown what he can do in the IPL and also in the T20 against Sri Lanka recently. Unfortunately it seems that he is not in Dhoni's scheme of things in the long run.

Sehwag is here to stay. But he is now near the greatest batsman as some people in the media are suggesting. He can only play this way because there is a Tendulkar and Dhoni in the side.

How Musharraf was cornered

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Here are the links(13 parts) to the Q&A with General Musharraf at the recently held India Today Conclave where he was asked some really uncomfortable questions. Just look at his hypocrisy. He refused to answer questions on Kargil and kept on putting the blame back on India. Do watch the seventh part where he was taken apart by an Indian Muslim.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Negative voting revisited

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It gives me immense pleasure to inform the followers of my blog that my earlier article on Negative Voting has been referred to by the Economic Times in its article on the same topic.

"Echoes of this sentiment can be heard across websites. The right to a negative vote is being viewed as a demand for more accountability from government . In, Sandeep Bansal says, “The negative voting option has the potential to bring about changes to the overall political system just like RTI is bringing about changes in our bureaucracy,” he writes."
There is one interesting aspect which I had not considered in my earlier article and that has rightly been raised. BJP’s Sudheendra Kulkarni says that it is the democratic right of a voter to choose ‘None of the above’ . ‘‘ But in that case, voting should be made compulsory ,” he says. This is quite logical as a candidate should not be barred from contesting simply because some % of people feel it that ways.

But then can our democracy really make voting mandatory. Imagine if voting is made mandatory, there will be a backlash in a number of regions where people are dissatisfied with democracy. These regions are particularly the Naxal affected regions and Terrorism affected Kashmir. Democracy is supposed to win over people, and not impose itself on them.

Monday, March 9, 2009

India's diversity - is an asset

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I read this story a long time ago in a newspaper article but I don't remember the exact source and hence I am not mentioning the source here.

Since the 90's, India has made rapid advances particularly in the ITES sector. The ITES sector has increasingly become the preferred employer of a large number of youth while India has become the preferred destination for ITES. Much of this credit is given to our command over the English Language, thanks to our British colonial past. India is perhaps the biggest English speaking community outside the West. The obvious question arises, why is it that other British Colonies have been unable to emulate the success of India's ITES sector. To add to it, our neighboring Sri Lanka(also a former British colony) has a very high literacy rate of 80%. Bangladesh too has its own advantages. It has one of lowest wages in the world. So why is it that it was only India that succeeded.

All countries of South Asia - India, Pakistan, Bangladesh(East Pakistan) and Sri Lanka were British colonies and became independent roughly at the same time. But things changed soon after independence. In all other countries - the nationalist forces prevailed. These forces considered English to be as an alien and therefore decided to throw out the language. Their education system was based on local languages and English was just kept as a means to keep contact with the rest of the world. So it was Singhalese in Sri Lanka, Urdu in Pakistan and Bengali in Bangladesh.

So how did India escape from these forces. Or is it that somehow, the Indian politicians got it correct this time. The answer to both these questions is no. Such nationalist forces were in place in India as well. Hindi was declared as the official language but English was supposed to be continued till 1965 beyond which Hindi would replace as the official language.

Here came our rich diversity to our rescue. Becoming official language meant that all official work would be conducted in Hindi. This directly meant that it would be difficult for a large number of people, particularly those south of the Vindhyas to seek Govt. jobs. There were hardly any jobs in private sector in the 50's or 60's. Widespread protests occurred in states such as Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Karnataka, Pondicherry and Andhra Pradesh. As a result of which Parliament enacted the Official Languages Act, 1963 provided for the continued use of English for official purposes along with Hindi, even after 1965. So, it was our rich diversity that saved the day.

Diversity surely forces to examine each and every aspect before arriving at any decision. Unfortunately this also means that often it may take years before taking a decision, something that communist China can do instantly.

I have found the source article from where I read this story. Here is the original article.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy Women's Day

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After 20 posts, I have realized that most of them are about politics. Since the description of my blog says otherwise I decided to make amends.

Today is "International Woman's Day". The recent attacks on women by fanatics like Pramod Mutalik and also on couples on Valentine's Day once again goes to show the alarming levels of gender inequality that is still prevalent in India. More importantly, while 54% of the population is under 25, most of our politicians are over 50 who wish to stick old ideology and beliefs. The problem is also that none of the younger leaders are prepared to speak up. Rahul Gandhi, claimed to be popular among the youth by the Congress, didn't even opened his mouth against the pub incident. He publicly stated that he doesn't believes in Valentine's Day. (Read my earlier article on Rahul). Other than Renuka Choudary and Brinda Karat, there haven't been too many voices even from the women politicians. This is despite the fact that organizations like Sri Ram Sena lack mass support.

Issues such as sex-education, pre-marital sex, etc can just not be discussed openly in India. It is horrific to hear from such organizations claiming that 'Love is foreign to India'. People like Khushboo who have voiced their opinion publicly had to face enormous hardships. If this is the case in urban areas, what about rural India where centuries old practices and beliefs are still prevalent.

A lot has already been written in the mainstream media about the importance that gender equality and empowerment of women plays in the overall development of any society. So I do not wish to repeat what has already been said and to a large extent well understood as well. The more important question is How do we achieve it? Moreover how do we achieve it within the constraints that democracy poses us. India is a democracy unlike China. China had its cultural revolution from 1966-78, aimed at bringing about cultural change. This was imposed on the entire population and was not at all peaceful. In India, any acceptable change has to be brought in an extremely careful manner.

Honestly, I do not have any answer to this. If answering this question would have been so simple, i am sure that there are smarter people around who would have cracked this. So I have chosen this occasion to talk about the impact of "Reservation of 1/3rd seats for women in panchayats" which was brought in place in 1993 after an amendment. This has been referred to as "the greatest social experiment ever". Upon adding the numbers, there are more women elected representatives in India than the rest of the world.

Skeptics might argue that it is still the men who take most of the decisions and women are mere proxies. Most probably it is true. But atleast it has brought some amount change in the general attitude of the people towards women. This has got them an entry point, something that would not have been possible without reservation. Changing the rural mindset which has considered women as doormats for centuries is not easy. With such a system in place, it would atleast stop such outdated ideas from percolating to the next generation. Bringing about social change is never easy and it should never be forced. Change has to be brought about at the grassroots level. The effectiveness of this system cannot be judged as yet. The system has been in place for only 15 years and it would take atleast two generations of such reservations to really break the barriers created over centuries.

Woman sarpanches are slowly making their presence felt. They known to work much more on drinking water and education. They are much more honest. The success of this reservations clearly goes to show that reservation for woman at the top may not make such a huge difference as would reservation at the panchayat level. Increasingly there have been demands to increase the reservation to 50% since the woman population is roughly 50% of the total population. Some states like Bihar have already done. Moreover, reservation is important because it has been observed that once the seat is dereserved, almost 40% of woman choose not to contest. India's poor record on HDI index can expect to recieve a boost in the long run.

A professor(with over 25 years of teaching experience) of mine was once discussing this issue. He recalled, how over all these years the pschyche of female students changed. While female students of the 80's and 90's would be vocal and aggressive about their rights, the present day female students almost assume equality. Unfortunately, we are still ruled by oldies who have not broadened their thinking. So honestly, I do not really expect large scale change in the short term. As they say, democracy works slowly.

Happy Women's Day.

How not to criticize

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Vir Sanghvi in his column Counterpoint in today's Hindustan Times has written an article titled The same people? Surely not. In his article, Sanghvi questions the fact that whether Indians and Pakistanis are really the same people. Before criticizing his conclusion let me first list down some of the points that he made:
"Three Indians won Oscars: A.R. Rahman, Resul Pookutty and Gulzar.Their victory set off a frenzy of rejoicing. We were proud of our countrymen. We were pleased that India’s entertainment industry and its veterans had been recognised at an international platform. And all three men became even bigger heroes than they already were. But here’s the thing: Not one of them is a Hindu. Can you imagine such a thing happening in Pakistan? Can you even conceive of a situation where the whole country would celebrate the victory of three members of two religious minorities? For that matter, can you even imagine a situation where people from religious minorities would have got to the top of their fields and were, therefore, in the running for international awards?"
The article goes on praise India, where a Hindu like Dilip Kumar can change his name to A.R. Rahman and nobody really gives a damn either way. So what is wrong with this article.

First of all, My Sanghvi needs to work on his weak General Awareness. Danish Kaneria, a regular member of the Pakistani Cricket team for atleast the last 4-5 years is a Hindu. So, his basic point about whether this can happen in Pakistan or not is completely ridiculous.

Secondly, Mr Sanghvi has been lazy enough to check his facts. While Pakistani Hindus comprise of just 1.6% of their population compared to 13-14% for Muslims in India. If we compare the total populations of the two countries, Pakistan is no where near to ours. Thus, there much more Muslims in India than there are Hindus in Pakistan.

Therefore, the number of Muslims in India that have achieved fame and recognition is much higher than the number of Hindus in Pakistan. I do not wish to defend Pakistan in any way. Nor do I have any sympathy for it or its citizens. I just wish present the facts in just and fair manner and not dilute them. Moreover, Indians should realize that even in our system, not everyone is satisfied and the state has failed to meet aspirations of many sections of our society. This is why I regularly follow the Indian Muslims blog.

My advise to Mr Sanghvi is that before jumping to any conclusions, he must think it through and also try and very some facts. Even if had not heard about Danish Kaneria, he could have searched for it on Google. Wikipedia mentions two more prominent Pakistani Hindus, fashion designer Deepak Perwani, and Justice Rana Bhagwandas of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Political Dynasties knows no boundaries

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I came across a nice article on the Political Dynasties around the world. While in India, we may sulk about how our Politics has been captured by a few dynasties who continue to rule us, this isn't a unique phenomenon in India alone.
  1. George W. Bush got elected as president eight years after his father left the White House. This is the second instance of American history of a father-son presidency. Kennedys remain as the most famous Western political dynasty.
  2. Former U.S. vice president Al Gore’s father was a senator, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's son was a Cabinet official under Clinton and campaign manager for Gore. Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa's son is now filling his father's shoes in the same slot.
  3. Makiko Tanaka inducted as Japan's foreign minister some 25 years after her father was premier.
  4. n North Korea after the death of President Kim Il-Sung, his son Kim Jong-Il became his successor in 1994, thereby creating the communist world's first dynasty.
  5. After the death of Syria's President Hafez al Assad, his son Bashar became his successor.
  6. South Asia has proved the most fertile ground for political dynasties. Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal all have a resilient tradition of electing dynasties to the top office. Take Nepal, for instance. After the recent massacre of the entire royal family, the king's brother took over. Prime Minister G.P. Koirala's two other brothers were prime ministers as well — the only instance of three brothers serving in such high elective office. Sri Lanka started its tradition in 1960 when Prime Minister Solomon Bandranaike's widow, Sirimavo Bandranaike, became prime minister. Now her daughter, Chandrika Kumaratunga, is president. Bangladesh will see the coming electoral contest between two iron-willed women, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, daughter of President Mujibur Rahman, and Khaleda Zia, widow of President Ziaur Rahman.
  7. India's Nehru family is probably the world's oldest democratic dynasty, now spanning four generations, producing the only team of grandfather-daughter-grandson prime ministers, ruling for 37 of India's 53 years as an independent state.
  8. In Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was prime minister during 1971- 1977, and his daughter Benazir was elected for two stints as prime minister during the 1990s, the first woman from a Muslim state to head a government.
  9. In the Philippines too, dynastic politics is quite widespread -- President Gloria Macapagal is daughter of a president, and political dynasties dominate local politics so much that there have been demands for laws against these dynasties.
Even in India, its not just the Congress that has been indulging in dynastic politics. Omar Abdullah is just 38 but he became the Chief Minister even though there are many senior leaders in the party. Similarly, elsewhere Karunanidhi has been grooming his younger son Stalin, the Patnnaiks in Orissa, Shiv Sena, Dev Gowda's JD(S), RJD in Bihar are no different. Even in BJP, son's and daughters of several leaders like Jaswant Singh, Vasundhra Raje Scindhia, Yedurappa and Pramod Mahajan are being promoted. In Congress, besides the Gandhi dynasty there is the Sandeep Dikshit, son of Shiela Dikshit; Ashok Chavan, son of late SB Chavan;Deepender Singh Hooda son of Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The list goes on.

The three reasons for this that were given in the article were:
  1. Money
  2. Political connections
  3. Public recognition and thus easy Acceptability from the public
Access to the political system in most countries is costly in terms of money and only those who can afford the time, money, resources and have the requisite connections find an entry into what is often an exclusive if not closed club. Political lineage buttressed by money helps facilitate that entry.Bush, Gore, Tanaka, Macapagal-Arroyo fit the bill for what can be termed as politicians from Establishment families, with enough credentials due to a famous political surname to ensure a place on the political pedestal.

Then there are those who are respected for rendering services to their country during crucial periods, such as an independence struggle — hence, their legitimacy is unquestioned and widely accepted. The Nehru family in India, Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, Megawati Sukarnoputri in Indonesia, Hafez al Assad in Syria, Kim Il-Sung are some examples from this genre. Finally, there are those whose leadership is etched in the popular imagination, and for people to identify with such a charismatic leader comes almost automatically.

Bhutto, Bandranaike, Peron of Argentina, Ziaur Rahman and Mujibur Rahman in Bangladesh, the Kennedys in the United States all were populists with charisma, which is then sometimes "transferred" to their scions and close relatives.

By and large, these reasons are logical. Moreover, these reasons not only explain why such a large number of political dynasties exist, but also explains why such a large number film stars and sport stars have made it to political offices. They satisfy two of the three conditions - Money and Public recognition.

South India is famous for its film stars turning into politicians and Chiru is the latest one to join that list. In north India, we have Shatrughan Sinha, Vinod Khanna. Rajesh Khanna, Dhamendra, Amitabh Bachan, Govinda, Sidhu, etc. Even in the US, we have Arnold who is now the Governor of California.

But there is a major between India and US. US has a presidential form of Govt. and hence the president is directly elected by the people. Moreover, his term is restricted to two. Also, there is complete inner party democracy in US. In India, the leader is elected by the elected representatives and there is no limit on the number of terms. This ensures the hold of dynasties. And if someone tries to raise the issue of dynasties, he/she is instantly thrown out. For ex: Sharad Pawar was shown the door in Congress. Maran was also recalled as a Union minister by the Karunanidhi.

So unlike popular belief, dynastic politics isn't the real issue. The real issue is lack of inner party democracy. Dynasty and Movie/Sports stars shall continue to play major part in democracy everywhere, whether we like it or not.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Aam Aadmi or Khaas Aadmi

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In the last polls, the BJP came up with a slogan India Shinning. Congress came out with its own slogan, Congress ka haath, aam aadmi ke saath. After five years, how much has the govt. really served the aam aadmi. The Indian Muslims blog has an article on this. Some of the interesting points presented are:
  1. The five years of UPA rule was supposed to benefit Aam Aadmi (Common Man) but it has only served the interests of Khaas Aadmi. UPA’s Common Minimum Programme was replaced by Uncommon Minimum Programme based on four ‘achievements’: Indo-US nuclear deal, Chandrayaan moon mission, 9% growth and Slumdog Millionaire Oscar win! None of this is directly related to the common man.
  2. Indo-US nuclear deal is still no-clear deal to many; it will take at least 8 years to generate nuclear power. Chandrayaan moon mission is part of a satellite programme which any government would have followed it. The “9% growth rate” is indeed related to the fellow Indians but nobody is asking this: what percentage of Indians have benefited from the 9% growth rate? Merely 10%! This figure sums up the economic policy of the UPA government which is ironically headed by an economist and has the “dream economic team.”
  3. The government of “Aam Aadmi” has shown remarkable generosity in subsidizing big business houses and SEZs (Special Economic Zones). UPA has tacitly ignored small and medium enterprises which constitute the majority of Indians.
  4. The rich-poor divide has widened but yet UPA is singing a tune of good times! In the last five years India has not witnessed economic prosperity but economic regression. This fact can be gauged from Human Development Index of United Nations Development Programme where India’s rank has slipped from 124 to 132 in 2008. Even countries like Bhutan, Algeria, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Iran have performed better than India!
  5. What is the role of UPA government in a British movie with Indian actors? The euphoria over Slumdog Millionaire at best can be described as an act of individual creativity. The movie depicts the story of India’s poor and the bottom-line is the survival spirit of Mumbai. The movie must remind our shameless politicians a fact that gathers dust in government files that at least 30% of India’s population still leaves below the poverty line. There are at least 260 million Indians who still go to bed hungry every night.
  6. The UPA, very subtly, is doing an NDA. It is building a momentum similar to NDA’s India Shining campaign. NDA had pumped 4000 million rupees of Indian taxpayer’s money in the form of advertisement just to communicate Indians how good they are feeling! P. Sainath, rural editor of The Hindu had commented then, “The fastest growing sector in India Shinning is not IT or software, textiles or automobiles. It is inequality.” His comment still holds relevance.
  7. If Congress has miserably failed in its economic policy then BJP has floundered in making it a real issue which affects fellow Indians irrespective of their caste and religion. BJP is still trapped in its stone-age politics despite the fact that its allies have made it abundantly clear that they don’t support BJP’s Ram Janambhoomi movement. The BJP’s poll strategists have forgotten a fact that Indian economy was performing better in NDA’s rule.
Although I agree some of these points, I do not agree on all. Firstly, the author failed to mention RTI act and NREGA. Though NREGA can hardly be regarded as a success, it surely is a promising step. RTI surely is great step, something that will benefit us in years to come.

Regarding the other criticism levelled against UPA for support to SEZ's, the author should also recall that India is a signatory to WTO. Whatever growth in IT and manufacturing that we have seen is because of WTO. The price that India has to pay for this is the SME sector. At a time when we are competing against China, which specializes in mass productions, our own SME sector cannot compete. Chinese toys have already taken over our domestic market. We need SEZ's to help achieve the scale. On the HDI front, surely we are lacking. But the author should understand that it is easier to achieve improvement for smaller countries. Moreover, it is the state govt. that should be held more responsible for HDI than Central Govt. The Central Govt. can only come up with schemes like NREGA, its upto the states to implement them.

Though all is not well. The NDA Govt. had passed the FRBM act to check fiscal deficits. In the past five years the UPA hasn't done anything to improve that and the fiscal deficit is expected to be around 5.5%. It should be recalled that our economy has been growing at roughly 7-8% for the past 5 years. This means that the fiscal deficit has actually increased in real terms. This deficit is surely going to affect our sovereign S&P ratings. Moreover Chadrayaan was started under the NDA. Terrorism is another major threat. The UPA first revoked POTA and then came up with its own version of the law.

All may not be well. But what is most important is to understand that democracy is slow because it has to consider each and every aspect and also because it undergoes scrutiny every moment. We have two examples in our own neighborhood, Pakistan and China. Neither can be called developed. If China grows at its current rate for the next 20 years, just 2% of its population will become world class consumers. So, my only advise to the writers at Indian Muslims blog is believe in democracy, to accept that it will be slow and continue scrutinizing the action of the govt.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Attack on Pakistan: How should India respond?

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Whether it is politicians, media or the even the common people on both sides of the border, we all take more pleasure in enjoying the pain of the other than the welfare of our own. For the last two decades, Pakistan and its citizens have ridiculed India's claim that Pakistan was the epicenter of the terrorism. Several Pakistani newspapers and websites have ridiculed many times about India's ambition of becoming a superpower. Surprisingly, very few of them have actually criticized their own Govt. and its achievements of the last 60 years. Even now if you visit the homepage of the The Dawn, it has a link to an article titled India - not Shinning, which ridicules the achievement of Slumdog Millionaire at the Oscars. Surely, even one of the most respected newspapers of the country feels it necessary to hit out at India rather than talk about the turmoil of their own country.

Economist rightly puts it, "IF PAKISTAN’S leaders had ever united against Islamist militancy as they have against India over the past three weeks, their country would not be the violent mess that it is. They are united against India because fulminating against India is more fun"

In such a scenario of extreme hatred and mistrust, it wasn't surprising at all when some sections in Pakistan blamed Indian agency RAW for these attacks. A minister in Pakistani Govt. claimed that this was India's response for Mumbai Attacks. Some Pakistani channel played Sonia Gandhi's recent election speech where she said that "Hum muhtodd jawaab denge". But how should India respond to these attacks in Pakistan. Do we also celebrate in the same manner as our neighbor has been doing for the last two decades or do we behave differently?

If 26/11 was termed as an attack on the very idea of India by P. Chidambaram, the latest attack on the Sri Lankan Cricketers is surely an attack on the whole of Pakistan. Pakistan, a country which has faced an identity crisis right from the very beginning. Pakistan neither has any history or any distinct culture of its own that unites its citizens as a nation. There are only two things that unites its people together - religion and cricket. Imran Khan once famously said that terrorist would never dare to target Cricketers. But even he has been proved wrong.

Pakistan may provide ideal fodder for our politicians to use it during their election speeches. But ideally, politicians should resist such temptations. History of Pakistan suggests it is hatred for India that unites Pakistan. The only entity that has benefited from 26/11 attacks is the Pakistani military. Now they could become even stronger and perhaps the stage is set for another coup. At such a time when the civilian govt is struggling to manage the economy, containing extremists in SWAT and also facing the ire of lawyers and opposition, India just cannot allow democracy to fail. Lahore is just 30 minutes from Amritsar.

Its not just Pakistan that is the problem. India's other neighbors such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are also facing internal troubles and Nepal although stable for the moment is undergoing change. With such a trouble in our neighborhood, we cannot turn a blind eye towards it. The Islamic Fundamentalism is on the rise even in India particularly in certain districts of UP like Azamgarh. Though it is still restricted to small pockets, incidents like Babri Mosque and Godhra riots don't help the Indian democracy.

In the hindsight, the UPA govts. decision to resist war mongering and using coercive diplomacy to great effect is commendable. Going forward, India should strongly dismiss all suggestions that point to a foreign hand in the Lahore attacks. At the same time it should not make matters worse for the weak civilian govt. If possible, confidence should be built along the border so that Pakistan's armed forces can be deployed in larger number in the troubled areas of SWAT and NWFP and Pakistan cannot blame tensions with India for not deploying enough troops.

India should not forget that the latest attacks are not just going to affect cricket in Pakistan, but the entire sub-continent. Jacob Orab has already expressed his reservations on the IPL. The Asian Block is known to have been united for a long time now. It should be recalled that in 1996, when several teams refused to visit Sri Lanka due to security concerns, a joint Indo-Pak cricket team led by Azhar play a match with the Sri Lankans. Therefore it is in our own interests that the Asian block pushes for the return of cricket to Pakistan as soon as conditions return back to normal.

Perhaps. the IPL would have to bear the immediate impact of these attacks. It will be nearly impossible to provide continuous security to eight teams each of almost 25 member plus the coaching and supports staff and umpires over a period of one month, at a time when the General Elections will be taking place. The Indian Government won't be willing to take any chances in an election time. Any attack on IPL would be raised by the opposition as a failure of the Govt. This is particularly the case after Mumbai attacks and was visible when tour to Pakistan was canceled. The problem is that postponing IPL is not an option because then then the IPL might interfere with the Future Tours Program and the foreign players might not be available.

India is going to host the Commonwealth Games next year. The security of the Games village and the visiting athletes and officials. This will be an important milestone for India as a successful hosting might give India future opportunity to host Olympics. The games are also important because it offers India a great opportunity to showcase itself as a tourist destination with its heritage and culture. But without adequate security, this will not materialize.

Without ensuring a regional stability, we cannot hope to remain as an attractive destination for FDI as India would continue to be labeled along with rest of the troubled South Asia. It is therefore in India's own interest to take the lead and ensure stability in the region.