Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014
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Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014
Analysis on the Indian General Elections 2014.The best appear here. Curated by Vijai Vir Singh Nair .Home: www.sasfor.org
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If #Modi wins, he must go after #SoniaGandhi - by Francois Gautier

If #Modi wins, he must go after #SoniaGandhi  - by Francois Gautier | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it

The story of Prithviraj Chauhan and Muhammad Ghori has a strong relevance today, ahead of the results of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Ghori’s obsession was India, which he attacked savagely many times, though he was first routed in present day Gujarat by Rajputs and again in Kayadara near Mount Abu, in 1178 A.D. where again he was resoundingly defeated. 

He then decided to enter India through a different route and first encountered Prithviraj Chauhan at the battle of Taraori in 1191. Prithviraj’s cavalry charged and routed the Muslim cavalry and captured Ghori. 

Ghori begged for his life and Prithviraj allowed him to go, despite his generals begging him not to do so.

And surely enough, the following year Ghori came back. Prithviraj advanced with his army and sent a letter to Ghori, asking him to turn back as he had been defeated the previous year and was spared his life. 

Ghori replied that he was in India on the orders of his brother, Ghiasuddin, and that he could only retreat after he got a word from his brother. 

This letter was sent in the evening and after sending the letter Ghori moved his camp back a few kilometers to feign retreat. On receiving this letter and seeing Muhammad move his camp back Prithviraj assumed that Ghori got the message and was retreating. 

But Ghori knew that Rajputs did not fight in the night but only after sun had come up. Thus, Ghori treacherously attacked in the early morning hours when Prithviraj and his army were sleeping and was able to win this one battle. 

Prithviraj was captured, beaten up and taken in chains to Ghor in Afghanistan There, he was presented before Ghori and he fearlessly looked straight into his captor’s eyes. 

Ghori ordered him to lower his eyes. A defiant Prithviraj scornfully told him how he had treated well Ghori as a prisoner and that the eyelids of a Rajputs eyes are lowered only in death. On hearing this, Ghori flew into a rage and ordered that Prithviraj's eyes be burnt with red hot iron rods.

Prithviraj was regularly brought to the court to be taunted by Ghori and his courtiers and ultimately put to death. Thus ended the story of the brave but unrealistic Prithviraj Chouhan.

There is absolutely no doubt that Narendra Modi is going to become India’s next Prime Minister.

Will he, like Prithviraj Chauhan, forgive Sonia Gandhi, who has been mercilessly going after him for the last ten years, using shamelessly and ruthlessly the arms of the law - the CBI, the IB, the judiciary, compliant judges, the Election Commission, etc. ?

Don’t laugh: Mr Vajpayee did it before him. He came to power and could have done anything he wanted, but he gave orders that Sonia Gandhi be left alone. 

His Man Friday, Brajesh Mishra, is even said to have rescued  Rahul Gandhi, when he was detained in Boston. Did it earn Sonia Gandhi’s gratitude? Not at all! The BJP lost the next elections, as Prithrivaj lost his next battle to Ghauri and Mrs Gandhi efficiently and ruthlessly went all out after the BJP and Narendra Modi.
This is not about good or bad, as in the American cartoons. There is no absolute evil. 

Certainly Sonia Gandhi has qualities, otherwise she would not have earned so much respect from her peers in the Congress. But its still about truth and Dharma. 

The values Mrs Gandhi stands for – westernization, socialism, anti-Hinduism, Marxism - are values which are inimical to India and harmful to Her interests. 

Even if she is not in power anymore, she will be there watching and waiting in her fortress of 10 Janpath, and the dynasty syndrome which grips India, will allow Rahul to take over. 

Even if Rahul is not there, Priyanka might become the darling of Indians, always in love with the scions of their rulers,however worthless they are and incumbency, boredom desire of change, might allow the Congress to come back another time

It is thus important that Narendra Modi goes after Sonia Gandhi once the BJP is in power. 

There are plenty of  legal justifications to do so: Priyanka’s husband alone has unethically multiplied his fortune by 600 times in a few years. 

Moreover, this family who has ruined India since independence, and it has ruthlessly been after Hindus, side-lining them, ostracizing them, imprisoning their gurus, allowing Islamists to bomb their temples and kill them.

The danger is that once Mr Narendra Modi becomes PM and comes to Delhi, it’s a whole different game from Gujarat. 

Here in this luxury ghetto that is Delhi, there will be so many buffers between him and the people of India, not only because of security concerns, but also because of the Nehruvian power apparatus, which he won’t be able to get rid off so easily. 

Finally because Delhi is an artificial capital, far away physically and psychologically from the South and Central India.

This is why  a couple of us friendly journalists have suggested to him, as I had proposed to Mr Vajpayee and Advani (who had accepted the idea, but never implemented it, with the results that you know) that he should constitute an independent Advisory Committee of journalists, which will consist of twelve members, friendly to the causes of the BJP, but not affiliated to any party.

They will provide him with an outside window on how the people of India feel about his government once he is in power. 

The BJP’s last tenure has proved three things: 1) That the Indian (and foreign press) do not really reflect the people’s sentiments; 2) That at some point the BJP lost sight of the Indian voters’ sentiments. 3) That the BJP tried to please the Indian press and foreign media (and failed).

This committee should meet with the PM and his Cabinet once a month and its criticism or suggestions should be taken (or not) into account.

The mandate of each member is for one year, to be renewed at his discretion.

May God protect Mr Modi and the mistake of Prithivaj Chauhan be not made again.

Vijai Vir Singh @ballot2014's insight:

" May God protect Mr Modi and the mistake of Prithivaj Chauhan be not made again."


#AccountabilityCommission and the survival of #Mission272 

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#CongressDebacle : Congress defeat dents Gandhi family business - by Amy Kazmin

#CongressDebacle : Congress defeat dents Gandhi family business - by Amy Kazmin | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it

Like many young Indians pushed unwillingly into family businesses, Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Congress party’s illustrious Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has struggled to provide effective leadership to the organisation he inherited.

Handsome and amiable, Mr Gandhi, 43, often appeared ill at ease, distracted and out of touch with India’s rapid social and economic changes, as he sought to rally his party’s traditional but shrinking core constituency, the desperately poor, while campaigning in just-concluded elections.


His lacklustre performance, along with strong anti-incumbent sentiment, has led to a crushing defeat of the Congress, whose parliamentary seat tally has plummeted from 206 in the previous legislature to just around 50. Mr Gandhi – great-grandson of independent India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru – even faced a tough battle to retain his own seat, Amethi.

Now, the young politician – whose grandmother, Indira Gandhi, and father, Rajiv, were also both former prime ministers, and both assassinated – faces the Herculean task of trying to reinvent the historic party, make it more relevant to contemporary India and its young, aspirational population.


It is a challenge some see as nearly impossible – even if Mr Gandhi were inherently better suited to the job – because, they believe, the crux of the Congress’ problem is the family itself.


“The dynasty and the party are in long-term decline,” says Hartosh Singh Bal, political editor of Caravan magazine. “You can’t separate the party and the dynasty from each other. If you could, the party might have a chance.”


The Congress party has long relied on the Gandhi family’s star-power and pan-Indian appeal to woo voters at election time, but the family’s pulling power has faded among a demanding new generation of Indian voters seeking more than mere pedigree from their leaders.


Read More here: 


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Overheard from Varanasi: Political conversations from the streets by Richa Taneja #BattleForVaranasi

Overheard from Varanasi: Political conversations from the streets by Richa Taneja #BattleForVaranasi | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
Overheard from Varanasi: Political conversations from the streets - Over gup-shup, garam chai, ghats and Ganges: Gauging Varanasi’s political mood


Is the scene in Varanasi going to be as vibrant as our news room in Noida? Are there people talking about these nitty-gritties in Kashi too? The whole world has set its eye on the political match in India, but how serious are we in giving direction to one of the most high-pitched, defining elections in the history of India? I had my share of doubts, curious, I decided to bagpack for a two-day sojourn to the holy city.. Banaras.. Kashi.. Shiv Nagri... Varanasi.

My doubts flew out of the window as I stepped into the taxi that took me to my hotel. My taxi driver, an old, experienced, erudite and well-articulate man talked to me at length about the political choice he has made.


Backed by facts, a studied look at all the candidates, Maurya ji, spelled in very simple words, the course he sees for Varanasi. Pleased by the engrossing conversation I had, I was eagerly looking forward to such happy surprises ahead.


Unable to contain my excitement, I marched towards Kedar Ghat at 4 in the morning to see the much talked about 'sunrise on the ghats'. While the sun showed up, tearing the thick clouds, the holy chants filled the atmosphere with sublimity. At that very instance, my boatman, Kaju ji, caught me by surprise. He emphasised, "Madam ji, you know, no one can run the country better than the Congress. Ajay Rai is a local man, why vote for outsiders?"


When I asked about his knowledge over the infamous scams the party is caught in, he dismissed my question, saying, it would be wrong if any other party came into power except Congress. Murli Manohar Joshi from the BJP has had his fair chance. What difference did he make, he counter-questioned instead.


Ah! So a local person identifying with a local face, some one he thinks his own, someone he feels is approachable. Well played, Congress, I thought.

The fisherman around that place seemed to disagree and opened up his shirt. Underneath it, was a caricature of Narendra Modi printed on his T-shirt. He yelled, "Modi hamare dil mein hain.." (Modi is in our heart). He gleefully posed for the shutterbugs and was delighted that his choice got registered. Varanasi will become like Gujarat, ab acche din aane wale hain! (The good days are going to come!)


Seeing him getting clicked, the local boat organiser, came up to voice his choice. These BJP fellows have turned a blind eye to the realities. How can we forget the peaceful reign we saw during Mayawati ji's time? The city was so peaceful then. I hope good sense prevails and people wake to voting for BSP's Vijay Prakash Jaiswal and not the Gujarati who is going to sit in Delhi!


With another local opinion in tow, the ride back to the hotel, turned out to be quite illuminating too. Auto driver Bablu bhai was not a bit uncomforted by calling Varanasi people 'bael' (Bulls).  He said, the bulls are chanting Modi, Modi, Modi. The secular ones, rising above caste and religion, and making corruption their enemy, will only vote for Jhaadoo. I went to Kejriwal's rally with a Swaraj topi on my head. I am a proud AAP follower, will tell all people I could, to vote for honest politics this time.


The fearless, free-flowing conversations were only getting better! Secret ballot seemed like a passe. With people wearing AAP caps, Modi t-shirts, holding Congress flags or admiring BSP's reign, there was a mixed wave, I sensed. Mixed views, backed by thought. Good sign of democracy, I thought. I was already loving this trip and it was just 6:30 am. An early start just adds to so many hours to the day. I am already charged up, and so are the people of Varanasi.


On my way, I observed, a chaiwallah (tea-vendor) was sporting an AAP cap, while a man with saffron cap was cleaning the road using a jhaadoo (broom). I smiled at the irony. It was just too well-interspersed, or was I thinking too much? Varanasi's political mood was palpable, infectious too.


I spent the entire two days by being amidst the devotees, chaiwallahs, cab drivers, paanwallahs, rickshaw pullers, an auto drivers, shopkeepers, guards, peons, college students, boatmen, pandits, pujaris, datun, shikanji, comb-sellers, foodies, guides,  shopkeepers or just about anyone on the streets... Was sometimes talking to the people, other times, enjoying their intense political discussions and seldom choosing to be a mute spectator to the political discourse on the streets.


So, over gup-shup, garam chai, ghats and Ganges, I tried to gauge Varanasi’s political mood.


Here are some of the arguments and counter-arguments, directly from the people's mouth, the ones who are going to resonate what India wants.


Here are some interesting one-liners I picked:


"It’s okay if behenji makes statues, the goondagardi on roads in her time was minimum."


"Ajay ji won on independent seat, Ansari ji is supporting them, so would Muslims. He has bright chances!"


Person A: "The crowd that I saw during Modi ji's rally was a sight I have never witnessed in my life! Seemed like the whole Varanasi was on the streets!"


Person B: "Yeah, yeah, half of them were called from Gujarat and Delhi!"

"I want to see a person as honest as Kejriwal to be in the Parliament, Modiji' will anyways win from Vadodara!"


"Hum sabne to 90 per cent mann bana liya hai Kejriwal ji ko hi jeetayenge yahan se. Dekhiye kitni mehnat lar rahe hain, 12-12 sabhayein large gain din mein. Rural area par to chha gaye gain janaab." (We have made up our mind, we shall vote for Kejriwal. He is an honest man, is holding 12 sabhas a day, rural area people have become his fans and followers.)

"All Pandit votes would go to Chaurasia ji from SP, I can give you in writing! "


"Truth will triumph. AAP has emerged as new hope for Indians.


Goondaraj, dynasty politics, dividing voters in the name of religion must end and Varanasi will show the way to all."


"Muslims to AAP ko ya Congress ko hi vote denge. BJP ne galat bayan kiya na Muslims me khilaaf." (Muslims will vote only for Congress or AAP, BJP passed unfavourable statements which were against Muslims.)


"Arey, jo to Dilli se bhaag gaya tha, yahan kya lene aaya hai?"


"Modi to pehle Ram ki, ab Ganga ki rajneeti larne aaye gain, unhe Janata ki parwah nahin!" (Modi first played politics in the name of Rama, now, in the name of Ganga!)


Person A: Gujarat is A-one city now!
Person B: Have you been there? 
Person A: Now, but I have heard his rallies. 
Person A: What if he is lying?
Person B: Just shut up! "


"Har har Modi, Modi ji is best, best!"


"Jo Kejriwal se darta hai, woh do seeton se ladta hai!" (The one who is afraid of Kejriwal, is fighting from two seats.)


"SP will bring back goondaraaj, but hostile BJP goons are an intolerant lot."


"Where ever he goes, Kejriwal recieves a slap. He should have not hurried and taken care of Delhi first."
"Modi Vadodara kyun chhodenge? So toh wahan me hain. Woh to Banaras chhodenge! Humare yahan lagta hair phir se chunaav honge!" (Why would Modi leave Vadodara seat? He is from there no. He would abandon Varanasi and sit in Delhi. We will have re-elections)
The political banter went on and on, but I missed a few voices, I later realised. Those of women, the Christians and Sikhs there. I am wondering what are they must be deliberating upon. They are the invisible minority, it seems. Yes, women too. Mainly involved in homely chores or praying in the temples, I did not get to hear them much during the two days.  Women are less participative in publically voicing their opinions, but when cajoled, they don't shy from putting forth their choice...


Rest, the visible and the invisible will be crystal clear on May 16, the poll-result day. Not sensing a very clear wave or a sweeping slogan all across, I reckon a close fight and  a fractured mandate. Let's wait and watch till then, just as I did, as I put the two day of an exciting and learning journey at Varanasi to its befitting end, by immersing myself in the mystical Ganga aarti. What a soul-balming experience! Truly rewarding.

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Priyanka Vadra Erred in Saying Amethi Will Never Forgive Modi - by Patrick French

Priyanka Vadra Erred in Saying Amethi Will Never Forgive Modi - by Patrick French | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
Congress must stop referencing Rajiv Gandhi, writes Patrick French.


Patrick French is an award-winning historian and political commentator. His books include 'Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division', 'The World Is What It Is' and 'India: A Portrait'.

Politicians like to embrace well-known figures from the past, and to be identified with their status. Jayalalithaa does it with M. G. Ramachandran, Narendra Modi does it rather cheekily with a former Congress home minister, Sardar Patel, and Sonia Gandhi does it with several forebears from her late husband's family. Just about everybody does it with Bhagat Singh, an all-purpose revolutionary historical hero, in part because of the reputation of popular films like Shaheed and Rang De Basanti.
How well does all this play with the voters? It depends very much on the reverberation of the name from history, and whether or not people today feel a sense of inspiration or respect when they hear a mention of the distant figure from the past.
Sometimes the reverence for the departed leader is confined mainly to the internal theology of a particular political party, which is why it was a mistake for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, on the basis of slim provocation, to accuse Narendra Modi of insulting her martyred father in Amethi and to say that the voters would never forgive him.
If the average Indian is now aged 26, it means that he or she was only one year old when Rajiv Gandhi was voted out of office in 1989, and just three when he was assassinated. Although he was by all accounts a likeable personality and a good airline pilot, even his admirers would not claim he was a brilliant prime minister, which is to be expected given that he was swept into power without any experience or qualifications. Few of the new generation of voters will be making their decision about which button to press in the privacy of the polling booth on the basis of the apparent accomplishments of a prime minister from back in the 1980s.
Yet despite this, the Congress continues to invoke Rajiv Gandhi's name with an expectation that it will carry influence with the electorate. On his birth anniversary last year, one national newspaper carried no fewer than 10 advertisements praising his achievements.

One of them, presumably paid for by the taxpayer since it was credited to the Ministry of Power, suggested, "His vision guides Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, a Programme to bridge the urban-rural gap and provide reliable and quality power to rural India." Another advert, this time promoted by the nation's Ministry of Steel, said: "A True Winner Always Comes Out On Top."
Although the ministers whose names featured alongside the late leader's surely hoped that such publicity would enhance their position with the party leadership, it will bring them little clear benefit on polling day. Dynastic or hereditary politics is by no means exclusive to the Congress, but the endorsement of figures from the past has less impact than it once did. How inspiring it would be if political parties focused only on the stars of the present and future when making their pitch to lead the nation: fame by association is always less impressive than fame by achievement.

Vijai Vir Singh @ballot2014's insight:

Patrick French is an award-winning historian and political commentator. His books include 'Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division', 'The World Is What It Is' and 'India: A Portrait'.

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Good News for the New Govt: Why India Will Soon Outpace China - by James Gruber

Good News for the New Govt: Why India Will Soon Outpace China - by James Gruber | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
India has long been an economic laggard to China but that may be about to change.


On the face of it, the title of this article will seem absurd to many. While China’s economic growth has slowed, it’s still running at a brisk 7.4% annual rate. Moreover, the Chinese government seems to be successfully slowing credit in order to rein in a burgeoning debt issue. And it’s implementing a plethora of reforms which should propel the next phase of growth.


Meanwhile, India’s a mess. This fiscal year’s GDP will be below 5% and near decade lows, government and corporate debt is high, the current account deficit has been out of control until recently, inflation reached double-digits late last year, business confidence and investment are at extreme lows and corruption remains rampant.


Dig a little deeper though and the picture doesn’t appear as favourable for China’s economic prospects vis-a-vis India’s. First, it’s highly probable that China’s GDP growth rate is slowing much more than the fraudulent figures put out by the government (I’m not picking on China here as many governments are guilty of this). Second, credit tightening in China will almost certainly take years rather than months given the boom which preceded it. Third, Chinese economic reform will be a drag on growth in the near-term, as can already be evidenced by the crackdown on corruption and its impact on retail consumption.


On the flip side, there are many signs that India’s economy may have bottomed. The current account deficit has significantly eased, the currency has stabilised, inflation has substantially pulled back and corporate earnings are improving. With inflation down, interest rates will soon be cut, which may prove the catalyst for the next investment cycle. The election of a new, economically-friendly government should ensure an acceleration in investment and improved productivity.


There are other positive developments which augur well for India too. For instance, there’s an ongoing boom in the agricultural sector with rising investment and wages. This has resulted in India becoming a net food exporter – an important development given the country’s dependence on agriculture.


For a long time, India’s decentralised, often chaotic economic model has been seen as inferior to China’s authoritarian, top-down model. A reappraisal of that view may soon be in order.


How India became a mess

Morgan Stanley’s Ruchir Sharma has noted that India seems to go through cycles of economic crisis and reform every decade or so. In 1991, a balance of payments crisis preceded widespread economic deregulation which is credited for driving the rapid economic growth of the following two decades. In the early 2000s, another crisis resulted in further deregulation and privatisation of key industries.


Here we are about ten years later and there are economic troubles again. GDP growth has slipped below 5%. Inflation peaked in double digits before marginally declining of late. The fiscal and current account deficits have widened sharply.


The government is again largely to blame for the problems. The ruling Congress Party fell into the trap of thinking that economic growth in the high single digits during 2003-2007 was perfectly natural. But it was just the result of reforms from prior governments.


In response to the 2008 crisis, the ruling party initiated a large stimulus package. This worked for a time as the economy recovered faster than most other emerging markets. But combined with large-scale subsidies to bribe rural voters, to the tune of 2.3% of GDP, inflation soon lurched out of control. A lack of reform driven by infighting in the Congress Party and a judicial crackdown on political corruption didn’t help.


Foreign investors and bond rating agencies became increasingly nervous about India. In 2012, the ratings agencies threatened to downgrade the country’s sovereign rating to junk status. Mid last-year, the rupee tanked as foreign investors grew concerned about the current account deficit following hints of QE tapering at that time.


These events were enough to spark the government into action. It’s since liberalised foreign investment in retail and airlines. It’s also started to cut back on energy and agricultural subsidies. More recently, the new central bank governor hiked interest rates to stabilise the currency and tame inflation.


Signs the economy has bottomed

There are a number of signs though that India’s economy may have bottomed and better times lay ahead:


1) The current account deficit (CAD) has eased significantly. The last quarter saw the lowest CAD number in five years due to improved exports and lower gold imports. Bank of America Merrill Lynch forecast India’s CAD will be 2% this fiscal year compared with 5% in 2013.


2) Inflation has pulled back. Due to lower food prices, WPI inflation is at its lowest level in more than four years.

3) The rupee has stabilised. Interest rate hikes and the declining CAD have helped.


4) Corporate earnings seem to be improving. The earnings revision ratio has been rising for the past eight months. Yes, it’s still not great but at least it’s heading in the right direction.


5) Nomura’s composite leading index for India suggests growth is bottoming out.

The key to an economic recovery though is business investment. There are tentative signs that this may be set to turn around:


Business confidence, while low, has improved of late in anticipation of a new government coming into power.Regulatory constraints for new projects should be eased post election. A Cabinet Committee on Investments has already started to reduce bottlenecks, but this should soon accelerate.Higher interest rates are forcing Indian companies to reduce leverage by shedding assets. The process of decreasing debt, particularly among infrastructure companies, is necessary for businesses to be in a position to accelerate investment.

Asia Confidential doesn’t foresee a quick turnaround in capital expenditure given high corporate debt levels. But with the prospect of sharply declining interest rates and a new economically-friendly government soon in power, the conditions are in place for a gradual pick-up in business investment.


Modi: friend or foe?

The big question is whether the almost-certain-to-be new leader, Narendra Modi, can deliver on the inflated expectations of him. India’s stock market is certainly answering in the affirmative as it hits new highs (though it’s noteworthy that small caps have significantly lagged).


Modi’s economic track record is undoubtedly impressive. He’s been chief minister of Gujarat, a state with 60 million people, for 12 years. During that time, he’s cut red tape, built substantial infrastructure and contained corruption. Business and investment have thrived. Gujarat GDP has grown 3x under Modi’s leadership.  


The state now produces 25% of Indian exports yet accounts for just 5% of the nation’s population. Most social indicators in the state have also improved under his watch.


As leader, Modi has promised to replicate his Gujarat policies of improving infrastructure, reducing regulatory hurdles for businesses and ultimately achieve higher growth rates. Granted, he’s been vague on how he’s going to finance some of his promises. Given the fiscal situation, there’s not much room for a substantial boost in spending.


The big blight on Modi’s track record is his hardline Hindu nationalism. In 2002, Muslims in the Gujarati town of Godhra set fire to a train carrying Hindu pilgrims back from a town in Uttar Pradesh. 59 people died on the train. After the attack, Hindu groups called for a protest. This resulted in several days of violence directed at Muslims. 1,000 died and 200,000 were displaced.


Being chief minister at the time, Modi had the option to ban the protest or call in police, but he chose not too. This was condemned at subsequent investigations. And Modi’s refusal to apologise for the incident continues to anger Muslims. The US actually revoked Modi’s visa, suggesting “he was responsible for the performance of state institutions” in the riot.


The facts of this incident are damning but must be weighed against his economic track record and leadership qualities. They must also be weighed against the ineptitude and arrogance of the governing Congress Party over the past decade and for much of the past 50 years.


What matters most though is the opinion of the Indian voter. There’s a chance that Modi could win an outright majority of votes in the general election, which would allow him to rule without coalition partners. The most probable outcome is that he’ll win a near-majority and will be able to build a coalition with a small number of partners.


By voting for Modi, Indians will be clearly saying that they’re tired of the Congress Party’s policies of protectionism, the bribes disguised as subsidies and corruption which goes along with these. They’re demanding policies to promote economic growth, development and jobs. And they want decisive leadership rather than bumbling and infighting.

It may be a stretch to suggest that voters favour market-driven solutions over government-driven ones. But the tide has certainly swing in that direction.


Ultimately, Modi is expected to be given a strong mandate for change and his business-friendly credentials bode well for the country’s economic prospects.


Broader, ignored positives

Besides a bottoming economy and new, potentially improved leadership, there are also several other positive developments which point to a brighter future. India’s much-maligned legal system and decentralised political system have proven strengths of late.


It’s the judiciary which has led the way in fighting corruption. There’s little doubt that corruption remains a huge issue in India. There are some estimates that it’s cost the country US$80 billion over the past decade. According to Transparency International, India ranks 94 of 177 countries in its global corruption perception index, behind the likes of China and Brazil, both hardly paragons of clean administrations.


The courts have been central to curbing some of the rampant corruption. The cancellation of 122 mobile phone licences and jailing of the telecommunications minister in 2012-2013 being but one example.

It’ll be up to Modi to accelerate the crackdown on corruption. It’s crucial that he does as corruption takes valuable money away from productive investments which can boost economic growth and keep inflation in check.


Undoubtedly, political decentralisation has helped the spread of corruption. But the upside from decentralisation is that India’s growth has been shared by rural areas as much as the cities (unlike in China).

In fact, rural areas in India are booming. Wages have risen by close to 15% per annum over the past ten years, compared to city wages which are down more than 2% over the same period.


Decentralisation provides part of the answer for the boom. Urbanisation – people moving from country to city – has also played a role as it’s resulted in a tightening in the rural labor force and contributed to the rise in wages and investment.


A moment in the sun

All of the above isn’t to suggest that India will displace China as Asia’s next economic giant. Far from it. With GDP per capita of just US$1,250, India still has an enormous way to go to catch up with China (GDP capita of US$6,700) and the rest of the developing world (GDP per capita of close to US$10,000).


What Asia Confidential has sought to demonstrate instead is that India has more scope to surprise than China on the economic front. Part of that is because India’s coming from such a low base.


Moreover, this author can foresee a time in the not-too-distant future when India’s economic growth matches, and likely surpasses that of China. The media may then be lauding the superiority of the Indian growth model over China’s!


AC Speed Read

-  Despite slowing, China’s economy is still growing at a much faster clip than India’s.


- But that may be about to change with signs that India’s economy has bottomed while China faces serious downside risks.


- With inflation falling in India, interest rates there are set to drop and this, combined with a new, business-friendly government, should provide the impetus for the next business investment cycle.


- For a long time, India’s decentralised economic model has been viewed as inferior to China’s authoritarian, top-down model. A reappraisal of that view may soon be in order.


This post was originally published at Asia Confidential:

Vijai Vir Singh @ballot2014's insight:

AC Speed Read

-  Despite slowing, China’s economy is still growing at a much faster clip than India’s.


- But that may be about to change with signs that India’s economy has bottomed while China faces serious downside risks.


- With inflation falling in India, interest rates there are set to drop and this, combined with a new, business-friendly government, should provide the impetus for the next business investment cycle.


- For a long time, India’s decentralised economic model has been viewed as inferior to China’s authoritarian, top-down model. A reappraisal of that view may soon be in order.


This post was originally published at Asia Confidential:

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Indian Foreign Policy Under #NarendraModi - By Sudha Ramachandran

Indian Foreign Policy Under #NarendraModi - By Sudha Ramachandran | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
The frontrunner in the Indian elections has revealed little on foreign policy. How would it change?


The likely defeat of the Congress Party in India’s 16th general election has prompted considerable debate about the impact a change of guard in Delhi will have on foreign policy. What would India’s foreign policy look like in the event of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government coming to power, either on its own or with the support of allies?


Many in India and abroad believe that India’s foreign policy is poised for a “sea change” under a BJP government, especially one headed by the strident Narendra Modi.


According to Sreeram Chaulia, professor and dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs in Sonipat, India, foreign policy under Modi-led government will see greater emphasis on commercial diplomacy, “more assertive actions in response to [Pakistan backed] cross-border terrorism,” greater attention to long-term policy planning with a view to formulating grand strategy for scenarios in 2020 and beyond, “a bigger role for the military in shaping India’s national security and formulating doctrines,” and a greater say for the states in the government’s formulation and execution of foreign policy.


Not much is known of Modi’s foreign policy thinking. Even the BJP’s election manifesto, which is said to carry his “definite imprint,” sheds little light; just a over a page of the 52-page document is devoted to foreign policy.


A controversial and polarizing figure, Modi has often poured scorn on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s “soft” response to terrorist attacks emanating from Pakistan and to Chinese incursions into Indian territory. This has contributed to a widely held perception that he will be tough in his response to Pakistan-backed terrorism and would not baulk at the use of force. Modi is also expected to take a tougher stand in dealing with India’s territorial disputes with Pakistan and China.


What “tough” might mean in practice is unclear at this point, and how far Modi will go is hotly debated. Some have even argued that he may reserve the right to use tactical nuclear weapons against Pakistan in response to a major terrorist attack. Most, of course, don’t go that far.

According to Chaulia, in dealing with terrorism emanating from Pakistan, Modi could go for “clinical counter-strikes” and covert operations, including targeted assassinations of key figures in the Pakistan-based, anti-India terrorist network. But he “will try to avoid war with Pakistan at all costs because of the obvious danger of nuclear exchange,” he says.


While agreeing that Modi will appear tough with Pakistan, T P Sreenivasan, a former diplomat who spent 37 years with the Indian Foreign Service, argues that “this toughness will not go beyond a point” as he will realize soon that with “war not an option anymore, a tough approach will go only so far.”


In fact, foreign policy under Modi, Sreenivasn says, “will not change in any significant way.” It would be “continuity rather than change, because former diplomats would be advising Modi, foreign policy not being his forte.” Changes if any will be in nuance and not fundamental in nature.


Indeed, a striking feature of India’s foreign policy is its continuity. Certainly there have been shifts, but as Manjari Chatterjee Miller points out in a recent article in Foreign Affairs, “the broad shape of Indian foreign policy has remained the same for nearly five decades.” Even when shifts do occur, they are not “sudden,” “have rarely, if ever, been political,” and “have had little to do with the prime minister’s political ideology.”


It is in emphasis and style rather than substance that the Modi government’s foreign policy will differ from that of the UPA. Modi will be less patient with Pakistan and can be expected to base his relations with all of India’s neighbors (and not just Pakistan and China) on reciprocity.

But like another BJP prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1998-2004), Modi would try to reach a final settlement with Pakistan on Kashmir, Chaulia says.


In fact, Modi is reported to have already reached out to Pakistan by sending his emissaries to confer with its leadership.


Vajpayee was assertive in his conduct of foreign policy. Within three months of coming to power, his government conducted a string of nuclear tests, declared India to be a nuclear weapon state, and abandoned the decades-old policy of nuclear ambiguity. His government’s relations with Pakistan were often tense; the two countries fought a near-war at Kargil in 1999 and tensions soared repeatedly over major terrorist attacks in India. Following a terrorist attack on India’s parliament in 2001, the Vajpayee government ordered a massive, year-long mobilization of the security forces along the India-Pakistan border to push Pakistan to dismantle the anti-India terrorist network on its soil.


This toughness notwithstanding, Vajpayee also set in motion a peace process with Pakistan, engaged in dialogue with it at the highest level, reached a ceasefire agreement that remains in force and initiated a direct bus service between the two countries.


So will Modi mix toughness with talks in dealing with Pakistan as did Vajpayee?


Modi’s critics point out that unlike Vajpayee he is not liberal in his outlook and has not demonstrated the vision that would be required to pursue a lasting peace.


What could force Modi to moderate his positions, however, is the priority he is expected to give economic development at home. That will require regional stability if it is to succeed and could force Modi to tone down his confrontationist approach and reach out to India’s neighbors.


Sreenivasan says that Modi’s emphasis on economic matters will require him to adopt a “soft policy towards the rich countries.” In this, the U.S. will be of “primary interest” to the Modi government, he says. Indeed, shared economic interests will see Modi and the U.S. put aside past differences – since 2005, the U.S. has denied Modi a visa over his complicity in the Gujarat riots of 2002 – and do business with each other.


However, it is with Asian powers such as Japan, China and Singapore that Modi’s economic diplomacy will be the most energetic. Having established strong economic ties with these countries as chief minister of Gujarat, he is likely to build on this foundation. In this Japan will hold special appeal to Modi. Not only is it a rich non-Western country in Asia, and thus more acceptable to the BJP’s thinking, but Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ownnationalistic and militaristic policies will strike a chord with Modi.


Modi’s efforts to attract foreign investment to Gujarat are revealing of his likely economic diplomacy as prime minister. As chief minister he built a strong relationship with China, visited it at least four times and successfully attracted Chinese investment into Gujarat. Neither his nationalist outlook nor national security concerns stood in the way of his wooing of Beijing. As prime minister, he can be expected to court China for investment, setting aside the “expansionist attitude” with which he has labelled Beijing.


Modi is expected to allow state governments a greater say in the formulation and execution of foreign policy. He has said that states that have special links with other countries, whether due to shared borders, historical links, or cultural commonalities should be consulted in framing policies and crafting strategies with that country. He has spoken of India’s 30 states as partners in his government’s execution of foreign policy and of wanting to entrust them with “the task of forging beneficial foreign relations with at least 30 corresponding partner countries.”


However, it is doubtful that Modi would treat non-BJP state governments, especially those of the Congress, as partners in his foreign policy execution. He may cede to demands from non-BJP regional parties in power in the states that are his allies in government. For instance, should the All-India Anna Dravida Munetra Kazhagam, the party in power in Tamil Nadu, join his government, Modi could be expected to allow its views to prevail in the crafting of India’s policy to Sri Lanka. But much will depend on how dependent he is on the AIADMK.


Overall, Modi is likely to be comfortable with federalizing foreign policy only with regard to the states courting foreign investment. On other matters it will be his government that calls the shots.


Of course, all this assumes that Modi will be able to form a government, on its own or with allies.  Should that assumption prove false, then India may well end up with a coalition of regional and national parties. Such a coalition is very likely to be unstable, with little in common among its constituents. Preoccupied with survival and pulling in different directions, expect Indian foreign policy to be somewhat chaotic, lacking the robustness or purpose that could be expected of a strong BJP government.

Vijai Vir Singh @ballot2014's insight:

Mr TP Sreenivasn Why is War Not an Option ??


 " In fact, foreign policy under Modi, Sreenivasn says, “will not change in any significant way.” It would be “continuity rather than change, because former diplomats would be advising Modi, foreign policy not being his forte.” Changes if any will be in nuance and not fundamental in nature."

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Four pitfalls for #Modi and the #BJP by Victor Mallet

Four pitfalls for #Modi and the #BJP by Victor Mallet | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it

Most voters have now cast their ballots as the world’s largest exercise in democracy – otherwise known as the Indian general election – draws to a close, and Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are still favourites to win when the votes are counted on May 16.


But even if the opinion polls are right and the party wins more seats than any other, the BJP and its controversial leader face innumerable dangers before they can say their positions are secure. Here are four of the biggest:


First, Modi could lose in Varanasi.

His decision to stand for the constituency in the holy Hindu city on the Ganges was a calculated move to enhance his appeal among Hindus generally and among the voters of Uttar Pradesh in particular – because the state is the most populous in the unionand returns the most MPs (80 out of the 543 elected) to the Lok Sabha or People’s Council.

Almost everyone you talk to in Varanasi is convinced that Modi will win when the city votes on May 12 (the last of the nine voting days in the five-week process). But then Indians were certain that the BJP would win the 2004 election with its “India Shining” slogan, and the poll in fact ushered in a decade of Congress party rule.


Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the fledgling Aam Aadmi or Common People Party (AAP), founded less than two years ago on an anti-corruption platform, has boldly decided to confront Modi head on in the constituency and could win the support of the Muslims who make up a quarter of the voting population. That is a big voting bloc that would damage Modi’s chances if its members all voted for the same candidate.

Luckily for Modi, it looks as if the anti-BJP camp will be divided between the AAP, Congress and regional parties, which gives him the advantage in the first-past-the-post electoral system. If he loses, he will still have the safe seat of Vadodara back in his home state of Gujarat – see our post on India’s unusual tolerance for double candidacies – but his credibility could be fatally undermined.


Second, the BJP might struggle to secure a parliamentary majority.

Of all the political dangers confronting the BJP as it contemplates the end of the campaign, this is probably the most likely to materialise. If the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance wins, say, 220 seats, it would need a further 52 from allies to reach the magic 272 that constitutes a parliamentary majority.


The biggest risk is not that the BJP would be unable to secure support – politicians tend to gravitate towards power in India as much as in other countries – but that Modi and the party would be forced to make unpalatable concessions to ensure a stable government. This is the point at which regional leaders such as the imperious Jayalalithaa from Tamil Nadu or the populist Mamata Banerjee from West Bengal would tend to put their regional concerns ahead of the national interest.


Investors would be disappointed and the rupee and Indian shares would suffer. As Pankaj Vaish, head of markets for south Asia at Citigroup, put it in a CNBC-TV18 interview:


There will be a knee jerk sell-off in the market for sure. I think we have probably built in a 250 now and if you get to 220 there will be disappointment, there will be a sell-off. Hopefully the political masters will go to work and cobble something together.


Third, the BJP’s performance could be so weak that Modi would be dropped.

If the BJP wins less than 200 seats after such a relentless campaign led by the charismatic Modi, there would be severe damage to the reputation of the party and its leader. And although the BJP would almost certainly still have more seats than any other party, it would be difficult to form a coherent national government with the motley collection of allies that would be required.


In the course of the campaign, this scenario has been made more likely by the resurgence of regional parties in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the populous north Indian states where the BJP needs to perform well to secure a majority. In Bihar, for example, Lalu Prasad Yadav and his Rashtriya Janata Dal party have been making a comeback in recent weeks.


The Congress party – the incumbent at the national level – remains exceptionally weak and could win fewer than 100 seats in this election, but it could lend its support to a so-called “third front” government of left-wing and regional parties if the BJP cannot build a coalition.


Fourth, there could be a terror attack or a resurgence of communal violence.

Such events could expose what his enemies see as Modi’s greatest flaw – an aggressive Hindu nationalism that he has deliberately softened in his campaign for a national election victory. Indeed, some say that in the last few days he has already provoked violence with his campaign rhetoric.


The killing of more than 30 Muslims in the north-eastern state of Assam, apparently by Bodo separatist militants, has prompted the government and its allies to blame Modi for stoking anti-Muslim feelings in West Bengal and neighbouring Assam. He has certainly called for “Bangladeshi” migrants to go home.


K. Rahman Khan, India’s minority affairs minister, said at the weekend: “Statements of BJP leaders including their PM candidate Narendra Modi have led to this massacre. It is the NDA government which was responsible for creation of Bodoland Autonomous Council against the will of the majority of population of the region.” Omar Abdullah, chief minister of the mainly Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir, also blamed Modi for the Assam deaths because he had tried to “incite people against Muslims.”


An international terror attack – such as the ones against India directed from neighbouring Pakistan in the past – would pose a potentially more serious dilemma for a Modi government. Doing too little in response to an attack would undermine his nationalist reputation among his supporters, while an over-reaction would open him up to accusations of extremism and war-mongering.


Neither Modi nor the BJP, however, yet hold the reins of power. The party first has to overcome the political obstacles to forming a stable government.

Vijai Vir Singh @ballot2014's insight:

Assessment: Is the Congress (I) gearing up to promote communal strife 

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Navin Chawla Controversy Revisited: CEC wants Naveen Chawla sacked

Navin Chawla Controversy Revisited: CEC wants Naveen Chawla sacked | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
There is a split within the Election Commission after Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswamy asked for his colleague, Navin Chawla to be removed in a report to President Pratibha Devisingh Patil. Gopalaswamy has pointed to several instances of Chawla's apparent misconduct in the report, which is also raising the political temperature in the country.


There is a split within the Election Commission after Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N Gopalaswamy asked for his colleague, Navin Chawla to be removed in a report to President Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

Gopalaswamy has pointed to several instances of Chawla's apparent misconduct in the report, which is also raising the political temperature in the country.


In a stinging indictment, Gopalswamy has listed 12 instances of Chawla's unfair conduct in his report to the President.


"I will only say that a report has been sent to the President. It is privileged document. I will not talk any more on this," was all Gopalswamy said.

But Chawla is unwilling to give in. There are many within the legal fraternity too who are backing him.


"Why should I resign," Chawla has said.


Controversy has chased Chawla right from the time he assumed charge as an Election Commissioner in 2006, with the BJP going to the Supreme Court asking for Chawla's removal.


The court referred the matter back to the CEC asking him whether he had the powers to act against his fellow commissioners.


Even then the CEC had contended that article 324 (5) empowers him to remove his fellow election commissioners.


Article 324 (5) states that the Chief election commissioner can be removed only by process of impeachment just like the judges of Supreme Court. But two fellow election commissioners can be removed on the recommendations of the CEC himself.


It is silent on the distinction between the CEC giving an opinion on his own and the CEC acting in consultation with the executive. It's on this point that many are questioning Gopalswamy


"The election process is going to start in April and at this stage to create a crisis is wholly improper," said former Union law minister and senior advocate Shanti Bhushan.


"It is constitutionally completely out of line," said N Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu.


The CEC himself retires on April 20 and Chawla was his successor. After the damning revelations, the elections commissions’ objectivity will continue to be suspected for some time.

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EC Navin Chawla Controversy Revisited: My Take: What is happening in the Election Commission of India? via @Charakan

EC Navin Chawla Controversy Revisited: My Take: What is happening in the Election Commission of India? via @Charakan | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it

Election Commission of India is in the news daily for all the wrong reasons.

The Chief Election Commissioner[CEC] Mr Gopalaswamy has recommended to the President to remove Mr Navin Chawla from the post of Election Commissioner.

There are mainly 2 opposing viewpoints expressed [ by the 2 main political parties of India] for the reason for the fiasco.Let me examine it in detail and come to a conclusion.

The information I have is mainly from 2 newspapers, New Indian Express and The Hindu.Interestingly these 2 newspapers are divided in their opinion.The New Indian Express which is a pro-hindutva newspaper supports the BJP's point of view while 'The Hindu' which can be called an anti-BJP newspaper [or some may like to call it pro-Left/Congress] supports the Congress viewpoint.

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#Modi vs EC : Is this a confrontation the #BJP ’s prime ministerial candidate can afford?

#Modi vs EC : Is this a confrontation the #BJP ’s prime ministerial candidate can afford? | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
Is this a confrontation the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate can afford?


In an election that has all too often seen lines of propriety and civility being crossed, BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi crossed a new one on Sunday. In rallies in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, he targeted the Election Commission. Modi’s charges — of widespread rigging and violence in Bengal, Bihar and parts of UP — may possibly need to be probed further. But Modi’s style — of straightaway indicting the EC for unfairness, and then taunting it, daring it to take action against him — needs to be censured immediately.


Of course, the EC must ensure that each and every attempt to distort the playing field or tamper with the people’s verdict is thwarted or corrected. And for that, it must remain vigilant through this multi-phased election. But the sweeping manner in which Modi has cast aspersions on the functioning of one of India’s most dignified and trusted institutions, with a hard-won reputation of impartially conducting and supervising elections, is unbecoming of the prime ministerial candidate of a major national party. Worse, it smacks of a disregard for institutions.


Taken together with Modi’s comment, or threat, also made in a rally in Bengal, of deporting all those Bangladeshis who do not “observe Durgashtami”, and his close aide Amit Shah’s description of Azamgarh as a “base” for terrorists in UP on the same day, Modi’s challenge to the EC would appear to shore up apprehensions that have been stoked by his dizzying political ascent: that minorities would not be safe or respected in a Modi regime, and that his brand of muscular politics would be careless or cavalier with due process and institutions.

Sunday’s statements also directly undercut the image that Modi’s own campaign in this election, for the most part, has energetically sought to project — as a man of development, whose self-proclaimed mission it is to implement the “Gujarat model” in Delhi, and whose only “holy book” is the Constitution of India. In the last few days, when statements of bigotry have been made by those in the parivar, such as BJP candidate in Bihar, Giriraj Singh, or the VHP’s Praveen Togadia, the BJP has attempted to distance itself from them by holding up Modi’s own apparently unwavering focus on governance issues. Modi’s statements on Sunday make it difficult for the party to hold up that fig leaf.


If there is anything that keeps India’s democracy lively and growing, it is a shared respect, despite the aberrations, for the settled rules of the game. Institutions like the EC are vital in undergirding it. Even a campaign that is centred on a personality, as Modi’s is, must acknowledge that. Any ill-considered attempt to rush headlong into the institutional wall will only bruise Modi, not the EC.

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#Amethi will never forgive him for insulting my father: #PriyankaGandhi Vadra on #NarendraModi - #DynastyFreeIndia Start with Amethi

#Amethi will never forgive him for insulting my father: #PriyankaGandhi Vadra on #NarendraModi - #DynastyFreeIndia Start with Amethi | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
Hours after Narendra Modi targeted the Gandhis on their turf, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra hit back at the BJP's prime ministerial candidate for insulting her father Rajiv. "On Amethi's soil, they insulted the memory of my martyred father. The people of Amethi will never forgive them," she said this evening.


Amethi: For the first time today, Narendra Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate,  who was campaigning inAmethi, attacked Priyanka Gandhi directly for her "arrogance."  She was unflinching in her reply,  vowing that Amethi "ka ek ek booth se jawaab aayega (each polling booth will exact revenge".)  Without naming Mr Modi, Priyanka said, "They have insulted my martyred father in Amethi....the people here will never forgive him."

Amethi was the constituency of  Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who was assassinated in 1991.  His son, Rahul, older than Priyanka by a year, has represented it in parliament since he entered politics in 2004.

Priyanka's near-daily confrontations of Mr Modi through her public speeches has become the new normal of the final stages of the national election, which is expected to deliver a crushing defeat for the Congress. 

So far, in his rallies, Mr Modi, 64,  has been scathing of Rahul and his mother  and Congress President Sonia Gandhi; he has  accused them of helping Priyanka's husband, Robert Vadra, of amassing an illicit fortune through sweetheart land deals. However, he had been gentler on Priyanka, saying that he understands her need "as a daughter" to defend her mother and brother, whose campaigns she is managing.  

Today's turnaround comes after Priyanka  responding with a dismissive "who?" when reporters asked her yesterday about Smriti Irani, the BJP's candidate from Amethi. ("Who?" Asks Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Smriti Irani)

"Look at the arrogance of the Congress, one of their leaders says 'Who is Smriti Irani?'," Mr Modi, 64, said today. (In Amethi, Modi takes on Priyanka, slams her "arrogance") 

Amethi votes on Wednesday. Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has put up Hindi poet Kumar Vishwas as its candidate.

In a litany of taunts to the Gandhis delivered at his rally in Amethi today, Mr Modi said, "Let them abuse me as much as they want to. There are just days left now... I'm glad I could at least serve as an outlet for their anger." (Highlights of Narendra Modi's speech)

Vijai Vir Singh @ballot2014's insight:

For a #DynastyFreeIndia - Start with #Amethi



"In a litany of taunts to the Gandhis delivered at his rally in Amethi today, Mr Modi said, "Let them abuse me as much as they want to. There are just days left now... I'm glad I could at least serve as an outlet for their anger." (Highlights of Narendra Modi's speech)

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How #Modi eclipsed Congress in #Gujarat - by Patrick French

How #Modi eclipsed Congress in #Gujarat - by  Patrick French | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
Although the Congress party won nearly a 40 percent share of the vote in Gujarat at the 2012 assembly elections, it has been structurally and perhaps more importantly psychologically eclipsed locally by the BJP.


Although the Congress party won nearly a 40 percent share of the vote in Gujarat at the 2012 assembly elections, it has been structurally and perhaps more importantly psychologically eclipsed locally by the BJP. At his office in Ahmedabad, its leader Arjun Modhwadia told me forlornly last month that Narendra Modi had 'captured the mind of the people' through his mysteriously effective use of the media. It was noticeable that the party seemed to have few ideas of how to improve its position.
Until the 1990s, Congress was the natural party of government in Gujarat, with chief ministers like Chimanbhai Patel and Dr Jivraj Mehta. Patel was a shrewd and shady political operator who promoted the state's industrialization. Mehta was the first chief minister after the creation of Gujarat out of the old Bombay State in 1960. Born in Saurashtra, he was an eminent medical doctor in London before the First World War, and for a time served as Gandhi's own physician before becoming prime minister of the princely state of Baroda. His wife Hansa Mehta was also historically significant: she altered the wording of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from: 'All men...' to 'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.'
Today, figures of this kind can only be remembered as belonging to a distant era. New young leaders and activists are being thrown up by Congress in Gujarat, but they suffer from a disconnect with the older generation of party stalwarts. Shankersinh Vaghela was at one time Modi's colleague in the BJP, but is now leader of the opposition in the state assembly. He hopes to win back the seat of Sabarkantha by wooing a traditional vote bank of Thakors, Rajputs and OBCs, but he did not seem to be optimistic about his chances of reviving the fortunes of Congress in Gujarat.
'We do not have a presidential system like in America, but our chief minister is giving speeches all over the country saying he's a saviour and a bold administrator. But he's not! A high growth rate is in the blood of Gujarat. He makes these vulgar speeches saying Rahul Gandhi is a shehzada or a calf. You never hear such language from Mrs Sonia Gandhi. They come from a reputable family. This man sees his own colleagues not as equals, but as his bonded labourers! I can't think what Modi would do if he became prime minister. His first target is not Pakistan but the United States. He will say to all the Americans in India - you have 48 hours to get out!'
Vaghela made for entertaining company, but if this impromptu speech was anything to go by, his politics are purely reactive. His statements defined themselves as being in opposition to the agenda being set by Narendra Modi and the BJP. Does the conduct of a single leader in one state represent a repeating national trend? Probably not. But if Congress is this inept at stating its case, and so restricted in its ability to appeal on the basis of popular inspiration, then it's in for a tough few years.

Vijai Vir Singh @ballot2014's insight:

(Patrick French is an award-winning historian and political commentator. His books include 'Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division', 'The World Is What It Is' and 'India: A Portrait'.) 

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#Dynasty : An Uneasy Inheritance of India’s Political Dynasty: by Gardiner Harris- #RahulGandhi a Tragicomedy

#Dynasty : An Uneasy Inheritance of India’s Political Dynasty: by Gardiner Harris- #RahulGandhi a Tragicomedy | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
Questions are growing in the Indian National Congress party as Rahul Gandhi, the scion of a political dynasty, appears poised to preside over a devastating defeat.


On a visit to the rural constituency that has sent him or his relatives to Parliament for decades, Rahul Gandhi, the scion of India’s most powerful political dynasty, was asked a simple question: Can you name five party workers from the area?


The question, asked in a pre-election review meeting two years ago by a party worker unhappy with Mr. Gandhi’s attitude toward politics, led Mr. Gandhi to shrug and admit that he could not name anyone, said a flabbergasted Shakeel Ahmad, 60, a second-generation Indian National Congress party leader in the politically vital state of Uttar Pradesh who was at the meeting.


Mr. Gandhi has represented the area since 2004, “and he does not know a single name?” Mr. Ahmad asked. Politics is the Gandhi family’s business. The clan has produced three prime ministers, including India’s first, Jawaharlal Nehru. Mr. Gandhi, long groomed for high office, seems to have inherited few of the political skills for which his forebears were renowned, Mr. Ahmad said.

“Can you teach a fish to swim?” he asked.


The question is being asked with increasing urgency among members of the Indian National Congress, the political party that Mr. Gandhi’s family has led since India’s independence in 1947. The party is staring down what recentpolls have predicted will be a landslide for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu nationalist organization led by Narendra Modi, one of the most controversial political figures in Indian history.


The results of the six-week election process are scheduled to be announced on May 16. The odds of Mr. Gandhi’s becoming the next prime minister have dropped so low that Mumbai bookies have stopped taking bets on him.


Mr. Gandhi appears poised to preside over the most devastating defeat in the history of the Congress party, which has governed India for much of the past six decades. Analysts who have watched Mr. Gandhi struggle against a vast political tide as well as his own seeming ambivalence find themselves comparing him to characters in works by Shakespeare and Vyasa, the great Hindu sage.


“It is a tragic drama just like ‘Hamlet,'” said Inder Malhotra, a political columnist. “It is the end of a dynasty because this fellow cannot make up his mind. He can’t even decide whether to be clean-shaven or have a beard.”


Mr. Gandhi, 43, was for years India’s absentee crown prince, a member of Parliament who rarely spoke in public, disappeared from public view for long stretches and had a reputation for partying. He was expected to replace Manmohan Singh as prime minister, but his own ennui and poor political skills led to repeated delays in his elevation, said Sanjaya Baru, a former media adviser to Mr. Singh, echoing the comments of many others.


“In my life I have seen my grandmother die, I have seen my father die, I have seen my grandmother go to jail, and I have actually been through a tremendous amount of pain as a child,” he said in a televised interview.

Those sympathetic to Mr. Gandhi say that he will not be unhappy if his party loses the election. Rasheed Kidwai, who wrote a biography of Sonia Gandhi, said that Mr. Gandhi believed that his own father, Rajiv, became prime minister too early in life and made terrible mistakes as a result.


“From Rahul’s point of view, he is not in a great deal of hurry to become prime minister,” Mr. Kidwai said. “I think in the back of his mind, the example of his father is always there.”


The Gandhi family’s latest decade-long reign atop India’s government was bound to create some anti-incumbency feelings, Mr. Gandhi said in another television interview. But the governing coalition also gave voters plenty of other reasons to want change, including a sputtering economy, a host of corruption scandals, and a weak prime minister.


Congress party insiders said in interviews that to win, the party needed to tar the opposition as an unacceptable and even dangerous alternative.


With Mr. Modi as the principal opponent, this strategy should have been fairly easy to execute, they said. Mr. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat, a state in western India, when more than 1,000 people died in riots in 2002, and he has been linked through a top aide to murders of Muslims by a police assassination squad.


But Mr. Gandhi has until recently shied away from mounting a frontal attack on Mr. Modi’s record. He scolded Congress party leaders when they criticized Mr. Modi too sharply, and in an interview he avoided discussing the 2002 riots despite being prompted several times.

Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party can scarcely believe their good fortune.


“We thought he was the natural inheritor,” Arun Jaitley, the leader of the opposition in Parliament’s upper house, said laughingly of Mr. Gandhi in a televised interview. “But I don’t think that’s how things are working out to be.”


In recent days, with most of the nation’s voting already completed, Mr. Gandhi and his mother changed tack and finally started attacking Mr. Modi directly. But many analysts say the change has come far too late.

Despite the disorder in the Congress party, few are ready to write the Gandhi family’s political obituary. Indian politics are difficult to predict, and polls are often wrong. The Gandhis have long relied on votes from India’s vast numbers of rural poor, and some believe that those voters — especially the women — will still turn out in force for them. At a recent rally in Mr. Gandhi’s constituency, Amethi, a huge share of those gathered to shower him and his sister, Priyanka Vadra, with rose petals were women, which is unusual in northern Indian political gatherings.

And in a culture in which many politicians serve into their 80s, Mr. Gandhi has decades to reinvent himself.


“Indian politics is like an unending cricket match,” said Shekhar Gupta, the editor in chief of The Indian Express. “There are always new innings.”

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The coming war on dynasty #DynastyFreeIndia

The coming war on dynasty  #DynastyFreeIndia | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
To consolidate its 2014 success, the BJP must weaken the Congress.


In his victory speech at Vadodara, Narendra Modi asked the voters for 10 years. Many think that given the magnitude of the BJP’s victory and the Congress’s defeat, this is likely. However, whether the BJP can be successful in replacing the Congress as the party synonymous with governing India in the 21st century is up for debate. For the BJP to replace the Congress as the natural party of governance it, like the Congress in the past, has three options — display an ability to govern, develop a national presence and organisation, and either co-opt or eliminate the opposition.


The Congress ruled India for many years because the party was perceived as one that best represented the policy preferences of most Indians — centrist on economic policy and a keen supporter of the rights of the underprivileged. The Congress’s policies floundered amid poor delivery of policy, and corruption that undermined its ability to appear capable of governing. In the 2014 National Election Studies (NES), respondents were asked whether they received benefits from flagship government policies like home loan schemes (awaas yojanas), the MGNREGA, free health benefits and various types of allowances and pensions. Less than 30 per cent of the beneficiaries of any one of these policies gave credit to the Central government for them.


The BJP won the election by presenting Modi as an agent of change — a change in how a country could be governed, with Gujarat put forth as a shining example. Regardless of the debate surrounding the “facts” on Gujarat, CSDS survey data suggest that most people perceive Gujarat as a well managed state. Now that Modi is in power, the image of Gujarat can no longer be used to mobilise votes. Voters will be assessing how the BJP and Modi govern from Delhi. Unfortunately for the BJP and Modi, reforming governance in India is a long and arduous task. Given the demographics of India, especially because so many people need the state for their well-being, no elected government can introduce radical policy changes, especially of the right-wing variety. The BJP also cannot afford to alienate its core supporters, the urban middle classes.


Attempts to appease both groups can only yield incremental policy changes. The maiden budget presented by the BJP government reflects the difficulty of making rapid changes in a large and complex society. The BJP could make its mark by changing archaic laws, making the government work more efficiently and creating a more approachable and open government, but not appearing partisan while doing so. These tasks are difficult by their very nature, as the recent controversy over the appointment of Nripendra Misra as principal secretary to the prime minister shows. To put it simply, major changes in governance that will transform the face of the state in the next five years will be difficult to achieve for anyone, including Modi, who is reportedly a man in a hurry. To remain in power for longer than five years, the BJP and Modi cannot rely on providing results through better governance alone.


To replace the Congress as the natural party of governance, the BJP needs to build a wider and deeper organisational base. The success of the party in the 2014 elections is attributable to the organisational skills of Amit Shah in Uttar Pradesh. However, repeating the exemplary performance in UP or maintaining the stunning vote-seat conversion ratio that the BJP achieved in the 2014 elections will be difficult in future. Therefore, the party needs to deepen its pockets of influence in eastern and southern India.


In the 2014 elections, the BJP indeed managed to attract a larger chunk of “vote mobilisers.” Vote mobilisers are individuals whose support for a particular party goes beyond simple voting, and instead involves monetary donations, door-to-door canvassing, leaflet/ poster distribution, among other mobilisational activities. In 2014, the BJP had more mobilisers than any other party. The BJP also had more vote mobilisers in 2014 than in 2004, while the Congress had far fewer individuals willing to mobilise votes for it at the local level. The NES 2014 data show that these mobilisers, while capable of increasing both turnout and vote-share for their chosen party, display little party loyalty or partisanship.


Instead, they are drawn to a winning candidate or party. Indeed, 54 per cent of the BJP’s vote mobilisers stated that they were motivated to vote because they believed they were voting for the winning party, while only 38 per cent stated that they simply voted for the party they wanted to vote for (see figure). Since it is “winnability” that motivates mobilisers, their support for a party is shallow and potentially fleeting. And, if India’s tradition of anti-incumbency bias holds, vote mobilisation may be even easier for the Congress and regional parties in the next round.


Given this data, it becomes even more incumbent for the BJP to appear as the winning party in the next election. If governance will not necessarily yield winnability and the support of vote mobilisers is fickle, the BJP will have to turn to a third option to ensure future electoral success — weakening the Congress.


How can the BJP weaken the Congress? It has two options. The first is to co-opt the Congress’s elite into the BJP, a strategy used by the Congress in the past. This is virtually impossible for the BJP because of the resistance it would face from its own cadre to giving defectors senior positions within the party. The second option is to create conditions for the disintegration of the Congress’s organisation. For well-understood reasons, the dynasty lies at the centre of the Congress’s organisation. The dynasty is the glue that holds together the various local and state factions (and the national-level coterie) that compose the Congress party. If the dynasty goes, it’s likely that the Congress will fragment and no longer be able to present itself as a party that can win a national election and govern India in future. This would provide the possibility for the BJP to present itself as the only national party capable of governing from Delhi.


On this issue, Modi’s politics is quite distinct from the BJP of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Modi made ridding India of the Congress a central part of his campaign message. He attacked dynastic politics directly and made sarcastic comments about both Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. He broke an unwritten code by holding a mega rally in Amethi (Rahul Gandhi’s constituency) in the last hour before the campaign period ended. At the rally, Modi not only attacked the mother-son duo but also minced no words in going after Priyanka Gandhi, her husband Robert Vadra, and even the late Rajiv Gandhi. The recent notice given to the Congress by the income tax department on the National Herald issue and making the Congress run from pillar to post for the leader of opposition status is a reflection of a politics that will make every effort to undermine the dynasty. The Congress coterie comparisons of the treatment of Indira Gandhi by the Janata Party and the BJP’s contemporary attacks are not apt. Neither Sonia nor Rahul have the political capital that Indira carried. There are many more people now who dislike the dynastic character of the Congress party’s organisation, and Modi and the BJP are likely to antagonise only a few by directly attacking the first family of the Congress.


If the BJP wishes to replace the Congress as Condorcet winner, that is, in pairwise comparisons with other parties many people would prefer the BJP to govern India nationally, it needs to introduce better governance, develop a more robust organisation, or undermine the Congress. The first two tasks are difficult, but the third can be carried out with more ease. As the BJP steps up its attacks on the dynasty, the Congress’s coterie, whose very existence is threatened by these efforts to isolate the dynasty, will protest. In the coming days, we expect that these voices will only get shriller.

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Pradeep Chhibber ,Rahul Verma : The writers are with Lokniti-CSDS and the Travers Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, US.

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#CongressDebacle : How Rahul Gandhi-led Congress to a historic defeat - by Mehernaz Patel

#CongressDebacle : How Rahul Gandhi-led Congress to a historic defeat - by Mehernaz Patel | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
How Rahul Gandhi-led Congress to a historic defeat - The Congress’ White Knight Rahul Gandhi has not only suffered through an embarrassing campaign rife with controversy and personal attacks, the unseasoned and overprotected political prince has suffered a disastrous loss as the Congress numbers have fallen to double digits in the Lok Sabha.


The Congress’ numbers have fallen to the extent where it is questionable if they will be the opposition leaders in the parliament. The much criticised second term of the UPA was plagued by a series of scams, instances of corruption and what the nation most widely considers one of the most indecisive and henpecked Prime Ministers in our nation’s history.


Rahul Gandhi has however emerged victorious in his family’s home turf Amethi however by a margin of 70,000 votes, a shameful display in comparison to his 2009 win by approximately a 3.7 lakh margin. Rahul Gandhi has not only been the butt of an entire nation’s jokes but also was constantly prodded by the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi who referred to him continually as ‘Shehzaada’.


The finale arrived in the form of a press interview where he and Gandhi matriarch Sonia Gandhi took full responsibility for the Congress’ loss and admitting humbly their respect for the will of the nation. She even further went on to say that the mandate was against their party and that they congratulated the BJP on their victory. A statement that does pose a contradiction to the previous days where the Congress openly accused the BJP of divisive politics. The two didn’t take an questions after the statement.

However in a strange display, Gandhi smiled through the entire interview and looked strangely calm whereas Sonia Gandhi showed a fiery countenance and clearly was disapproving of her son’s behaviour. To the extent where he seemed to want to answer the press till he was dragged away, albeit subtly, by Sonia Gandhi.


This begs the question o what extent would Gandhi have been a true leader and not just another Prime Minister who for the most part seemed to be under Sonia’s control? Although his defeat seemed apparent right from the get go, the entire blame might not lie on him but perhaps on the Congress’ and Sonia Gandhi’s insistence to shape him in their image.


Sadly however, as this election season has displayed, the image is far from perfect and left the nation wanting.

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Rahul's roadshow: Why Congress is no pushover in Varanasi- by Sanjeev Singh

Rahul's roadshow: Why Congress is no pushover in Varanasi- by Sanjeev Singh | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
The Aam Admi Party has been crying itself hoarse about how they are the ones taking the fight against Narendra Modi down to the wire in Varanasi; Rahul Gandhi’s road show on Saturday may just make them shout louder than before.


The holy city of Varanasi has been the centre of attention for the past month, especially when Arvind Kejriwal decided to become the unguided missile that started hurtling towards BJP’s prime ministerial candidate’s efforts to move out of Gujarat and project himself as a popular, pan India leader. But the Congress believes otherwise, the silence of their candidate Ajay Rai could well make the difference in this high octane election.


Rai was the last man to jump into the fray and has been going about his campaign in his own quiet style. And if anyone had doubts about his ability as a crowd puller, it was put to rest on the last day of campaigning. The AAP will be watching the Rahul Gandhi road show closely because it started in predominantly Muslim areas and the warmth of the locals was there for everyone to see. The crowd gathered stretched to almost a kilometre when it was flagged off at Pilikothi area. Rahul Gandhi had every reason to smile, and why not. He has an axe to grind against Modi, especially after his speech in Amethi last Monday.


The point that Rai tried to make to the media was also not lost when the late Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan’s family members played Shehnai during the show of strength. Even though they may not endorse any political party openly, they had even declined Modi’s offer to be his proposer but the message has been conveyed. "Varanasi has seen almost every neta of the country come here asking for votes for some candidate or the other. But I think a lot of people would be thinking of voting for Ajay Rai" says Mohd Ashfaq, a local resident. "Jhadu (AAP) has been campaigning hard, but in the end it’s about who can take on the BJP," he adds.


AAP’s high profile campaign has made it look like it’s a two-way contest between the BJP and the AAP, but no local is willing to write off the Congress. Not so much because of the party, but more so because of their candidate. "Modi has come here three or four times during the entire campaign, he will come even lesser times after the election is over," reacts Ajay Rai. "He talks about building a dam and other fancy things for the ghats, nothing will happen.


 He doesn’t understand the local mood." Rai has strategically allowed the BJP and the AAP to hog the limelight in national media, while his team has relied on locals campaigning by word of mouth. The underlying theme of his campaign is built around the "outsider vs local" battle in Kashi.


Two weeks ago, it looked as if the Congress had lost the plot. Kejriwal had adopted the "Delhi" model of campaigning where each worker meets each family at least three times during the entire campaign. It had done wonders for them in Delhi last year, and their campaign managers claim to have touched around three lakh households in Varanasi. The Congress high command in Delhi was wondering whether they did the right thing by choosing Ajay Rai over other high profile names. As Rahul Gandhi paid tribute to Pt Madan Mohan Malaviya's statue at the Banaras Hindu University on Saturday, the patience has paid off for them now.


The BJP has already cried foul over Modi being denied permission to hold a rally in Beniyabagh, even though he did take out a road show on Friday. BJP has termed the allowing of Rahul’s road show as smacking of political motive. "Why was a roads how permitted when our candidate (Modi) was denied permission in the same area?" asked Arun Jaitley, senior leader of BJP who was also present during the dharna outside BHU to protest against Election Commission’s decision not to grant permission to Modi to hold a rally.


Congressmen see it as desperation on BJP’s part. Staying with the central theme of Ajay Rai, senior Congress leaders hailed Saturday’s road show as historic. "Rahulji’s Jan Sampark programme in Varanasi a huge success. Like the candidate, the participants are also local residents," tweeted Ajay Maken, senior leader and in charge of the party’s communication department.


The AAP’s campaign has kept its focus on how both the BJP and the Congress are promoting crony capitalism, and Rahul Gandhi touched the same raw nerve of BJP in Varanasi. "45,000 acres of land in Gujarat has been given to an industrialist by Modi. He gave them agricultural land at the rate of Rs 1 per square metre, but when it came to the Indian Air Force, he was demanding thousands of rupees for the same land" Rahul said as he launched a scathing attack on BJP’s PM candidate. The Congress is hoping that these allegations will stick to the BJP, while they can slip out due to the fact that they have a local candidate to help them counter it.


Though most consider Modi as already having won the election, and that has the BJP worried as they want people to come out and vote in large numbers. The main fight will be given by the party that can convince the almost three lakh plus Muslim community about their intentions. People do feel that AAP has a good agenda, but they are yet to be convinced. Kejriwal realises this more than anyone else, and almost the entire AAP is present in Kashi doing the same. Ajay Rai is no novice either, the local MLA has made sure that Mukhtar Ansari (Qaumi Ekta Dal) has supported the Congress, and that has given him the advantage over Kejriwal. With the local tag and an endorsement from Mukhtar (lost by 17,000 votes in 2009) has put him ahead in the race, what else could explain the huge turnout in what can be termed one of Rahul Gandhi’s best road shows in these elections.

The holy city of Varanasi has been the centre of attention for the past month, especially when Arvind Kejriwal decided to become the unguided missile that started hurtling towards BJP’s prime ministerial candidate’s efforts to move out of Gujarat and project himself as a popular, pan India leader. But the Congress believes otherwise, the silence of their candidate Ajay Rai could well make the difference in this high octane election.

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/politics/rahuls-roadshow-why-congress-is-no-pushover-in-varanasi-1517343.html?utm_source=ref_article
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Why Narendra Modi Shuffled the Caste-Card- by Sanjay Jha

Why Narendra Modi Shuffled the Caste-Card- by Sanjay Jha | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
Desperate attempt to snatch votes, writes Sanjay Jha.


Sanjay Jha is the National Spokesperson of the Indian National Congress party. He is co-author of the bestseller 'The Superstar Syndrome'. Mr. Jha is a former banker, and also a leading Management Consultant in training.

Political discourse, chronically inferior during the entire Election 2014 campaign, touched an abysmal nadir, courtesy its undisguised champion, Narendra Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.

When Priyanka Gandhi Vadra referred to Modi's archetypal provocative speech laced with personalized attacks at Amethi as "neech rajniti", Modi was seemingly stunned by the prompt riposte.  Clearly flummoxed and flustered at being on the receiving end,  he came up with a cunning twist , using the lowest common denominator available to appear trumps.

Modi, mustering all the glorious theatrical melodrama possible,  sounding like a disturbed soul who had been grievously insulted, lamented that he was being attacked because of his " low caste".  In a hugely competitive campaign laced with abundant vitriol, occasionally people do inadvertently commit faux pas. But Modi was mischievously orchestrating a brazen lie to add another color to his communal pitch, in particular to the Uttar Pradesh electorate:  the caste-card.  

The first signs that the so-called Gujarat development model  ( a carefully-constructed facade for the real agenda of Hindutva ) was cracking was when Modi talked of the " pink revolution", another sly distortion on meat exports and cow slaughter ( rising exponentially in Gujarat itself, it doubled during Modi's first ten years as Chief Minister) to ignite a communal slant .

The hate-brigade of Praveen Togadia, Giriraj Singh , Ramdas Kadam and Amit Shah then assaulted  secular sensibilities with their periodic inflammatory outbursts imbued with perverse sectarianism.  

Mr Modi, true to character, maintained a deafening silence which implied an implicit endorsement. Of course, when the media hysteria went skyrocketing, he sent an innocuous tweet to appear self-righteous. This was kindergarten stuff; evidently Mr Modi thinks the people of India are gullible enough to fall for his infantile tactics to appear " above it all".  

Of course, he seemed oblivious of Baba Ramdev's repugnant, derogatory remarks against Dalits; so much for his excruciating expressions of anguish for the disadvantaged classes of India.

I suspect the mirror cracked with every successive phase of the election, and the BJP has pressed the panic buttons with its electoral fortunes seeing an irreversible downward slope.  Thus at Faizabad,  Mr Modi finally acknowledged the hidden Hindutva objective by having large backdrops of Lord Rama and the Ram Mandir, while talking of Ram Rajya.

Amit Shah added fuel to  the fire by branding the whole of Azamgarh as a terrorist-haven. Political desperation leads to the naked exposure of real intent. Thus, the caste-card should not really surprise us.

The BJP seems to have become a victim of its own propaganda machine; delusions of grandeur had set in until obviously ground realities hit them in the sweltering summer sun and the dust-storms.  With UP seen as a key battleground ( Bihar will see a resuscitated Congress-RJD make a strong comeback)  Modi discarded the toffee model in the dustbin.  It is altogether another matter that even as I write there are serious allegations that Modi's own OBC status maybe a manipulated one.

Mr Modi's frantic last-ditch attempt to snatch votes using caste-polarization, like his deeply-embedded religious divisiveness goals, has rightfully met with raspberries.

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BHARAT BALLOT 09: ELECTION BODY GETS NEW COMMISSIONER: V.S. Sampath Unimpeachable | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Former Power Ministry Secretary V.S. Sampath on April 21 assumed charge as one of three commissioners on India's Election Commission, following the retirement of Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami.

Sampath is the junior member of India's three-member Election Commission (EC), the constitutional body that conducts and supervises elections in the country. He joins current commissioner S.Y. Quraishi and Navin Chawla who was elevated to Chief Election Commissioner. Sampath's appointment comes months after Gopalaswami's controversial recommendation to the Supreme Court for the removal of his colleague Chawla for making judgments favoring the Congress Party.

Many hope Sampath's appointment will help put to rest infighting and restore stability in the EC, particularly because it is in the middle of managing a complex nationwide parliamentary election. END SUMMARY.

The Great Hope to "restore credibility" in the Commission ---

2. (SBU) According to political contacts, Sampath is the consensus choice of the incumbent Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

He is a senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, highly regarded by his colleagues. Originally from Andhra Pradesh, he is said to maintain close ties with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S.R. Reddy. Many believe that Reddy fast-tracked Sampath's nomination through the UPA bureaucracy and see in it a sign of the Andhra Chief Minister's growing influence in the party.

One of the most attractive attributes of the Sampath choice for the UPA no doubt is his age. At 59 years, he will serve until retirement at age 65 in 2015 and will likely be Chief Election Commissioner if parliamentary elections are held on their five-year schedule in 2014.

3. (SBU) In his previous position as Power Secretary, Sampath built a reputation for "honesty and decisive decision-making."

Aditi Phadnis of the Business Standard told us that Sampath is perceived to be "pro-Congress," but his integrity is such that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party would have difficulty questioning his impartiality as an Election Commissioner. Phadnis further indicated that his appointment would help to restore credibility in India's highest ranking elections body, following years of bickering and infighting between former Chief Elections Commissioner (CEC) Gopalaswami and current CEC Chawla.

4. (SBU) The Election Commission (EC) is an autonomous, three-member constitutional body responsible for delivering free and fair elections in India. It was established under Article 324 of the Indian Constitution. The EC presently consists of one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners appointed by the incumbent government.

Taking its directions from the President, the EC is insulated from GOI executive orders. It is responsible for planning and executing the whole gamut of complex operations that go into the conduct of elections. The entire state and national government machinery, including para-military forces and police, falls under the EC's control during elections.

A History of Infighting ---

5. (SBU) There have been continuing reports of infighting and differences among election commissioners since Chawla's appointment in 2005. Chawla has been a political target of the BJP for over three decades. As a young private secretary during Indira Gandhi's 1975-77 State of Emergency, Chawla oversaw the arrests of political opposition, many of whom are NEW DELHI 00000910 002 OF 002 BJP leaders today.

When he was appointed to the EC in 2005, the BJP started to build the case against Chawla, citing his close and continuing ties with the Congress' Nehru-Gandhi family (ref).

6. (SBU) The controversy heated up in January, when former CEC Gopalaswami called for Chawla's removal from the EC, accusing him of trying to influence the timing of Karnataka state elections in favor of the Congress Party.

The Congress and Left parties questioned the legality and timing of the recommendation -- two months before the general elections and 78-days before the CEC's retirement from government service. The CEC's charges did not cause lasting damage to the Congress Party. However, the controversy (and the negative press it has generated) cast a dark shadow on EC.

It brought home the flaws in the system for appointing election commissioners. Under the Indian constitution, election commissioners are appointed by the incumbent government, a contrast to other constitutional appointments such as the Central Information Commission and the Central Vigilance Commission, which must be selected by a bi-partisan panel comprised of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. Many have argued that biased EC selection process could threaten the credibility of the Commission and the elections it oversees.

Bio Notes ---

7. (SBU) Veeravalli Sundaram Sampath is a senior officer of the Indian Administrative Services (IAS). Prior to his appointment to the Election Commission, Sampath served as the Indian Power Secretary. Born January 16, 1950 in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, he joined the IAS in 1973 in the Andhra Pradesh cadre. Sampath has held several senior positions, including: Secretary of Chemical and Fertilizers (2008-09); and Principal Secretary of Finance with the State Government of Andhra Pradesh.

Sampath holds a MA in English Literature. He completed a five-week course on Personnel and General Administration from University of Illinois in 1992. BURLEIGH

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@AAPkaBinny needs to read very carefully. Our next Govts only have place for very meticulous persons.  

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The good old fight: How Arvind Kejriwal survived the BJP’s psychological warfare in Varanasi- by Rahul Pandita

The good old fight: How Arvind Kejriwal survived the BJP’s psychological warfare in Varanasi- by Rahul Pandita | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
How Arvind Kejriwal survived the BJP’s psychological warfare in Varanasi


Every morning, when Arvind Kejriwal leaves for campaigning from his party’s office in Varanasi’s Shivaji Nagar, the air is already so hot, it almost leaves one stupefied. His car passes by a row of houses where people have put up Bharatiya Janata Party flags on their balconies. On the main road outside, he encounters one of the many giant posters the Congress party has put up in support of its candidate, Ajay Rai. It has Mr. Rai standing in the backdrop of a ghat, his eyes closed, and his hands folded in prayer. He looks like a raffish Zen master.


Mr. Kejriwal’s car is escorted by a police jeep. Behind him is another party car, carrying a few volunteers who help him negotiate his way through the surge of people. Many people want to shake hands with him or hand over a piece of paper on which they have scribbled their grievances. He lets himself be guided in and out of a gathering, as streamlets of sweat trickle down his sunburnt face. They sometimes fall on his spectacles which he then wipes clean with the hem of his untucked half-sleeve shirt. His party cap that he wears all the time is so heavy with perspiration, it could sink in water.


Supporters and listeners

In the last few days, the number of people who have attended Mr. Kejriwal’s public meetings has increased. The crowd that gathers to listen to him is divided into two groups: people who sit on the chairs or around them are those who have already decided to vote for him; the other is of people who stop by, mostly across the road, or those who peer out of their houses or shops. These are people who are voting for other parties or are still undecided.


In his speeches, Mr. Kejriwal tries to get the second group of people to cross the road. “Some of you may be Narendra Modi supporters. That is fine, but do hear me out,” he addresses them directly. While he is at it, his volunteers distribute pamphlets among people. The pamphlet is titled: “Mein Modi ji ke khilaaf chunaav kyun lad raha hun? (Why I am fighting elections against Mr. Modi?)” He repeats most of its content in his speeches. “Modi ji has sold off Gujarat to industrialists,” he says. One volunteer then hands over a bunch of documents to him. He lifts them up for everyone to see. “Documents don’t lie,” he tells the people. He goes on to say how he had filed an FIR against the industrialist Mukesh Ambani after he became Delhi’s Chief Minister. He tells them about a letter that Mr. Modi purportedly wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking him to increase the cost of gas.


“I wrote to Mr. Singh, asking him to keep in abeyance the decision to increase gas prices, but he never replied. Then we went to the Election Commission, asking them to put a stay over the increase. They passed orders and that is how we ensured that you don’t have to bear the rising cost of gas for two months,” he says. He tells them that increase in gas price will lead to increase in cost of electricity and food items as well.


“They may kill us, they may cut us into pieces, but we won’t let them increase the gas prices,” he shouts. There is a wide applause.


“Mr. Modi uses Mr. Mukesh Ambani’s helicopter. Rahul Gandhi uses Mr. Ambani’s helicopter. Whosoever wins, it is clear that Mr. Ambani will run this country. That is why it is crucial to defeat both Modi ji and Rahul Gandhi,” he says.


At Pandeypur, in Varanasi city, Ramdeen, who is an employee of Banaras Hindu University (BHU), gets down from his cycle to listen to Mr. Kejriwal. In 15 minutes, he has crossed over to the other side where Mr. Kejriwal speaks. “One thing is there, whatever he says,” he says looking at Mr. Kejriwal. “It makes sense. He is right.”


In the last elections, Ramdeen says, he had voted for Mayawati’s candidate. “But this time, I want to give a chance to the Aam Aadmi Party,” he mumbles.


Change in perception

On March 25, when Arvind Kejriwal visited Varanasi and announced his decision to contest against Mr. Modi, he was ridiculed by BJP supporters. They threw eggs at him, and ink, and pelted his car with stones. Many AAP volunteers found their pockets picked. A month later, on April 23, he filed his nomination for the battle in Varanasi. The very next day, Mr. Modi filed his nomination, too. The roadshow that he led was shown live across television channels with many grossly exaggerating the number of people who took part in it.


Mr. Kejriwal’s roadshow a day earlier had drawn less people, but it was significant since the AAP hardly had any cadre in Varanasi. Many people had turned up from outside Varanasi to lend support to Mr. Kejriwal. But so had they for Mr. Modi’s show.


After the elections in Delhi, many senior AAP leaders reached Varanasi to connect with people. For about a week or so, a senior AAP leader says, the response was lukewarm. But by the last week of April, it had become clear that Mr. Kejriwal had managed to secure a foothold in Varanasi.


So, how did this happen?

A part of the BJP’s strategy, say insiders in the local party unit, was to intimidate Mr. Kejriwal and portray him as bhagoda – a deserter who had quit the Delhi Chief Minister’s post after 49 days. Everywhere they went, Mr. Kejriwal and his associates would be confronted by abusive BJP supporters who disrupted their meetings. “We countered them politely by asking them to engage in a discussion with us,” says Manish Sisodia, a close associate of Mr. Kejriwal. “But they lacked patience, while it was our strength.”


On April 17, Mr. Kejriwal and others visited the famous Keshav panwala where some of Mr. Modi’s supporters started to abuse them. Mr. Kejriwal, say eyewitnesses, threw a garland at them. They reacted by throwing stones. At this time, the police intervened and escorted Mr. Kejriwal and other leaders to safety. “One of the BJP supporters climbed atop a wall and threw a big stone on Mr. Kejriwal’s car,” recalls Rohit Pandey, an AAP volunteer.


The next day they were connecting with people in Company Bagh when a group of BJP and Congress supporters began shouting slogans against them. At one of the ghats, another gang of BJP supporters began hurling abuses at them. An eyewitness says Mr. Kejriwal went to them and asked them why they supported Mr. Modi. One of them replied:


because Mr. Modi’s mother lives in a six by six feet room. Mr. Kejriwal is believed to have replied: “Isn’t it a shame that while Mr. Modi lives in the Chief Minister’s bungalow, he has not bothered to call his mother there? My parents live with me.”


AAP volunteers say two meetings on April 27 made a huge difference in people’s perception. One was held in the Lanka market where a group of BJP supports began to shout “Arvind Kejriwal, go back” and “Narendra Modi zindabad” as soon as Mr. Kejriwal began to speak. He listened to them patiently and told them he was all for a debate. “Give me three reasons why Mr. Modi should win,” he asked them.


On the same day, a sabha was organised in Khojwa area in front of the BJP mayor’s house. About 2,500 people attended that rally. “We went to meet the priests,” says Mr. Sisodia. “They told us while they wanted Mr. Modi to become Prime Minister, in Varanasi they would vote for Mr. Kejriwal since only he was capable of cleaning up the Ganges and the ghats.”


In Shivaji Nagar itself, where AAP’s office is located, AAP volunteers say they have begun to notice a remarkable difference in the attitude of the people in the colony who are predominantly BJP supporters. “They now offer us water and tea,” said a volunteer, Akshay Malhotra.


In his speeches, Mr. Kejriwal always points out that while he had taken a dip in the Ganges, Mr. Modi chose to take a helicopter even from the airport to BHU. “Modi ji says he will clean the Ganges like Gujarat’s Sabarmati river. Do research on Sabarmati on the internet, it is the third most polluted river in the country,” he says.


He refers to the BJP supporters calling him bhagoda. “Where did I run away? Did I go to Pakistan? No, I am here,” he says. He then pulls at the hearts of the Hindu majority. “Bhagwan Ram is lucky, there was no BJP in his time. Otherwise they would have called him a bhagoda, too, when he went to the forest.” And some more: “I came out of the Kashi Vishwanath temple wearing a rudraksh and the BJP supporters threw eggs on me. Is this Hindu culure? Is this Kashi’s culture?” And in the end: “Har Har Mahadev” in response to BJP’s “Har Har Modi.” “Some people are chanting Modi ji’s name as if they are on opium. They need to break his spell,” he says.


Mr. Kejriwal’s sustained campaign has left the BJP worried. The attacks on AAP supporters have increased. On April 30, a group of students campaigning against Mr. Modi outside BHU were heckled by BJP supporters. The group then approached the Lanka police station to file an FIR. They were still at it when a few journalists received calls from Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, a self-proclaimed fan of Mr. Modi, whose party, Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena, has been in the past responsible for assaulting AAP leader Prashant Bhushan.


“Go to Lanka police station, our people have stopped anti-Modi campaigners,” he told them. He has been camping in Varanasi.

“We had expected this in a broad sense, but we never thought the BJP will lose sense of balance like this,” says the AAP’s Yogender Yadav.


<b>A sense of foreboding</b>

The violent streak of the BJP supporters has left the old residents of Varanasi worried. The author Kashinath Singh, whose Hindi novel Kashi ka Assi chronicled the changing political landscape of Varanasi, says he no longer goes to Pappu tea stall, close to Assi ghat, that he made famous through his novel. “It has been taken over by BJP supporters.


They won’t say anything to me, but to people of other ideologies they have begun to say: Go to Pakistan!” he says.


The people of non-BJP ideologies now frequent another tea stall called Poi ki dukaan. “Here, we have tea like the good old times, we discuss politics, we fight over it, but it never goes ugly because the BJPwalas are in a minority,” Mr. Singh says.


Poi ki dukaan is full in the evening, and people assemble here, drinking tea, reading newspapers and debating the current political scenario.

The debate invariably veers towards Mr. Kejriwal.


“Kejriwal is right, the people here seem to be opiated with Modi,” says one.


“Do you think Kejriwal can conjure a miracle?” asks another.

“No miracles are possible with opium,” the first one replies. “It can only induce hallucination.”

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Navin Chawla Controversy Revisited: Navin Chawla and the Great Indian Political Circus via @amreekandesi

Navin Chawla Controversy Revisited: Navin Chawla and the Great Indian Political Circus via @amreekandesi | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
It is election season. Congress is in power, and BJP in the opposition. The games have begun. Navin Chawla, a 1969 cadre IAS officer born three years before


Navin Chawla, a 1969 cadre IAS officer born three years before Gandhi died, is at the center of the latest controversy. The chain of events kicked off a few years back is finally reaching the end game.


BJP is seeking termination of his duties as one of the gang of three super powerful election commissioners, on grounds of political bias towards the Congress.


The story began in 2006 when the BJP presented amemorandum signed by 200 MPs to the then President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam, requesting removal of election commissioner Chawla.


The 13-page memorandum says: “We believe that the Election Commission must be absolutely impartial. It must also appear to be impartial. The degree of close proximity that Mr. Chawla has to one political party and its leadership does not indicate any form of impartiality.


A few months, a petition was filed with the supreme court seeking Chawla’s termination. This petition was subsequently withdrawn when the chief election commissioner (CEC) contended that he had the power to remove another election commissioner.


Earlier Navin Chawla was in the news for his role as secretary to the lieutenant governor of Delhi during the 1975 emergency.

Shah Commission which inquired into the excesses during the Emergency, indicted Mr Chawla for having been ‘authoritarian and callous’ and for gross misuse of power “in cynical disregard of the welfare of citizens”. [link]

He was very close to Sanjay Gandhi and wielded unprecedented power in his official capacity as Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor of the Union Territory of Delhi Kishan Chand during the emergency in 1975-77.  [link]

Not confining himself to dictating to his boss as to the persons to be arrested, he also prescribed how they were to be treated in prison. [link]

Last year, BJP submitted another memo to the chief election commissioner to remove Chawla. After a long drawn out drama, the CEC finally recommended his removal to  president Pratibha Patil.

A major part of the CEC’s complaint relates to the manner in which Chawla is believed to have leaked information to outsiders — in most cases Congress leaders. [link]


Apparently, the election commissioner used bathroom breaks during meetings to pass on information to Congress members.[link]

President Patil in turn forwarded this request to the PM’s office. Funny, since the Congress party appointed Chawla in the first place. This is a classic conflict of interest. The same party/person responsible for his appointment is also the only one with the power to remove him!

How do we have free and fair elections if the body responsible for overlooking the election process is biased towards the ruling party?

Mockery of democracy, did someone whisper?


The CEC also wrote another letter to the president regarding the need for neutrality in the appointment process, and also a suggestion that the election commissioners not be allowed to join any political party for ten years following their term. This step would go a long way towards removing political bias from this post, but only time will tell if this proposal gets accepted.


The Congress is understandably not happy. Union law minister H Bharadwaj slammed CEC Gopalaswami for recommending removal of Chawla, saying that he has overstepped his powers.

“The CEC overstepped his powers. His allegations are unfortunate. He cannot behave like a political boss.”[link]

This quote is particularly interesting. The CEC cannot behave like a political boss? What exactly constitutes a ‘political boss’? Removing people unfit for their job? Making sure that the democratic process is not dragged into the ground by political appointees?


For now, Chawla is all set to take over as the CEC once Gopalaswami retires in April.


The election commission is one of the rare agencies that Indians still believe in. Incidents such as these tarnish the image of what is supposed to be the enforcer of the democratic process. What happens when the democratic process gets subverted at the election commission itself?

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Navin Chawla Controversy Revisited: Why CEC’s recommendation with regard to Navin Chawla must be accepted by Government | Sri LK Advani's Blog

Navin Chawla Controversy Revisited: Why CEC’s recommendation with regard to Navin Chawla must be accepted by Government | Sri LK Advani's Blog | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it

The current controversy surrounding Election Commissioner Shri Navin Chawla reminds me of a conversation I had had with Benazir Bhutto when she visited Delhi during the NDA regime. She had lunch with me that day and she shared with me a delicious dish of Sindhi curry, which my wife Kamala prepares excellently.


In the post lunch chat we had that day, I posed a question to Benazir: “How is it” I asked her, “that though both India’s as well as Pakistan’s political leadership had imbibed a similar political culture under British rule, India had managed its democracy with remarkable success but in Pakistan democracy had been a total failure.” Benazir’s reply was succinct: “I attribute your country’s success to two factors: firstly, your Army is apolitical; and secondly, your Election Commission is constitutionally independent of the Executive.”

Benazir had rightly identified the two guarantees for Indian democracy. For the first of these ― the Indian Army never nurturing political ambitions of any kind ― the credit goes entirely to our armed forces and those who have led it since independence, while credit for the Election Commission’s independence must be given to the Constituent Assembly.


There were, however, eminent participants in the Constituent Assembly debate on Art. 324, who wanted the Election Commission to be invested with even greater independence than given to it. These members did not approve of the fact that the Election Commission was to be appointed by the Central Government, and that the safeguards provided to the Commission were limited to its removal. Speaking on the occasion, Pandit Hriday Nath Kunzru said:



“ We are anxious, Sir, that the preparation of the election rolls and the conduct of elections should be entrusted to people who are free from political bias and whose impartiality can be relied upon in all circumstances. But, by leaving a great deal of power in the hands of the President we have given room for the exercise of political influence in the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the other officers by the Central government. The Chief Election Commissioner will have to be appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, and if the Prime Minister suggests the appointment of a party man, the President will have no option but to accept the Prime Minister’s nominee, however unsuitable he may be on public ground”.



In 2006, the then Chief Election Commissioner Shri B.B. Tandon, in a well-argued letter addressed to Rashtrapati Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, had pleaded with Government that just as in the case of the Central Vigilance Commission and the National Human Rights Commission, the appointments are made not by the Executive but by Committees in which the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Leaders of Opposition in Parliament are also included, in case of the Election Commission also, a similar Committee should be authorized to do so. Shri Tandon concludes his letter to Dr. Kalam with the observation:



“This approach would not only be in keeping with the spirit and sentiment flowing from the debates in the Constituent Assembly but also further strengthen the faith of the people of our great democracy in the continued impartiality, neutrality and credibility of the Election Commission.”


In the context of the current controversy about Shri Navin Chawla, it would be educative to compare Art.124 dealing with the Supreme Court, with Art.324 laying down provisions relating to the Election Commission. Art.124 provides that neither the Chief Justice of India nor any other judge of the Supreme Court can be removed from his office except by a process of impeachment laid down by Parliament. In case of the Election Commission, however, this kind of protection is provided only to the Chief Election Commissioner, and not to the Election Commissioners. In case of the other Election Commissioners the Constitution says that they “shall not be removed from office except on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner.”


On behalf of the BJP, Party General Secretary, Shri Arun Jaitley has rightly argued that the word ‘recommendation’ used in the second proviso of Article 324(3) must be construed as a binding recommendation. Jaitley has drawn attention to Article 217 of the Constitution relating to appointment of High Court Judges where the appointment is to be “after consultation with the Chief Justice”, the Chief Justice’s views has always been regarded binding.


The Party therefore, feels that the Chief Election Commissioner’s recommendation with regard to Shri Navin Chawla must be forthwith accepted by Government.

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Campaign finance in India : #BlackMoney power : #IndignityOfDemocracy

Campaign finance in India : #BlackMoney  power : #IndignityOfDemocracy | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it

WITH seven of nine phases of voting finished, there is still argument about the “Modi wave” that looks likely to bring Narendra Modi of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) surging to victory. Is it in fact a tsunami, to sweep away the Congress party and its allies—or something less than a ripple, as a Congressman claims hopefully? Landfall is due May 16th, when the results are tallied.

In the past few months, at least 14 of India’s biggest industrial houses have taken advantage of a new law to set up electoral trusts, hoping to make wavelets of their own by giving money to their favourite political parties. The legal framework for these trusts was introduced in January 2013, ostensibly with the idea of bringing transparency to the way campaigns are funded. For the first time, in this election private firms can donate money to political parties without any restriction—in exchange for disclosing what they have donated.

Wave or not, there has been an immense sloshing to and fro: picture the elections as a dark sea of liquid assets, mostly undocumented cash (and a lot of liquor too), overspilling the dykes that were meant to keep it in check. An estimate by the Centre for Media Studies in Delhi puts the total cost of this season’s campaigns for seats in India’s parliament and state assemblies at $4.9 billion. That would make it the second-most expensive in world history, trailing just behind America’s of 2012, which cost $6 billion. According to some estimatesIndia’s election will cost even more; total expenditures could exceed 0.35% of national GDP. The money raised by the electoral trusts is only 2.2% of the total reported by the parties; a drop in the bucket—but a limpid drop, with its donors and recipients clearly labelled.


In America the game of raising and spending billions in pursuit of maximising vote share is called “campaign finance”. The understanding is that the citizens and firms who give money to politicians seeking office will seek to influence the candidates who become public servants. Regulation (at which America’s Supreme Court is chipping away) is supposed to protect everyone from the donors’ influence, mainly by means of keeping tabs on who gives money to whom.


India strikes a more puritanical pose. Here the term of art is “money power” and it is the role of the state to eliminate it, lest the better-funded candidates benefit against their rivals. The Election Commission (EC) takes its mission to be curbing the role of money power, as well as that of “muscle power”—the kind that threatens physical safety of the voters and voting apparatus.


Money power has proven to be the more powerful by far. The EC sets limits on both fundraising and expenditures, but they are laughably ineffective. Political parties and candidates must break the rules in order to stand a chance of winning. This drives them into the arms of the criminal underworld, especially at the local level: that is where they find the men who have ready access to the “black money” that escapes the official banking sector, and the networks to disperse it.


A former prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is often cited as having said that “every legislator starts his career with the lie of the false election return he files”. The cap set by the EC has been revised upwards but never beyond a pitiful fraction of what it takes to be competitive. This year the limit is 70 lakh (7m) rupees ($115,000) per campaign for a parliamentary seat. In fact a candidate might spend 50 to 100 times more money than that, if he hopes to win. Even the Chief Election Commissioner knows it.


In a remarkably frank conversation sponsored in 2012 by a think-tank, the Observer Research Foundation, parliamentarians from both Congress and the BJP discussed spending as much as 20 crore rupees ($3.3m) to awin seats where the official limit is 16lakhs ($26,000). The EC obsesses over the rare cases in which they catch candidates overspending.  It chases them around the districts, totting up the costs they can see and adjusting the candidates’ filings by a few lakhs. Where the margins of error are vast, enforcement is capricious. One candidate’s jeep is stopped for using two loudspeakers instead of one; meanwhile a national party takes out front-page ads on every daily newspaper the day Delhi goes to the polls. (Maddeningly, there is no limit to what the parties may spend.)


There is almost nothing a politician cannot use to try buying a voter’s loyalty in the days before an election. The most visible expenditures are the least of it: transport, billboards, seats and refreshments for rallies—this is what catches the EC’s watchful eye. But discreet wads of cash and chits for liquor are the mainstays of this shadow economy. The EC stops vehicles during the election and bust up safehouses, boasting of its haul. “Foreign currency worth 92 lakh in Bihar”; in the southern states alone 161 crore rupees; more than 13m litres of alcohol. In all 2.6 billion rupees have been seized. As in the “war on drugs”, such seizures are hard to celebrate. And don’t forget drugs: also 104 kg of heroin—especially useful in Punjab, a centre of addiction. More wholesome gifts abound elsewhere, including fried chickens and stacks of saris. “An Undocumented Wonder”, an engaging new book by a recent EC chief, lists 40 ways to beat the expenditure police (#34: “Distributing free seeds and manure”). As for other forms of free bullshit, legitimate media costs are rising everywhere too, especially online and on cable TV. So is “paid media”, a polite term for bought coverage.


The indignity of a democracy fuelled with free booze is perhaps a distraction. Whatever spending is used to sway sceptical voters, their votes are cast freely. Even in a notorious state like Bihar, a strong majority believes in the sanctity of the secret ballot (cited here, p 129). It is still the case that no amount of money can guarantee victory.  There is still a pure competition for votes—as well as for money.


The rules that govern contributions are even flimsier, and ultimately more dangerous. They make it a mystery who pays India’s politicians. E. Sridharan, the director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for the Advanced Study of India, explains that it began in 1969, when Indira Gandhi ran a socialist government that faced a serious challenge from Swatantra, a pro-business party. She banned corporate donations outright, and ever since the parties’ scrounging for monies has gone below-board. Reforms in 1985 made it possible for firms to give up to 5% of their average net profit from the past three years directly to parties. But today 93.8% of the income reported by Congress, and 91.3% of the BJP’s, comes from unlisted sources.


Black money pours through many loopholes, but one is so gaping as to make the others redundant: parties are not required to account for any contribution worth less than 20,000 rupees ($330). In practice, this means they are not required to account for any contributions whatsoever: 100,000 rupees can be given in five blocks of 20,000 each (or 19,999, to be fastidious) and so on. Then the only hurdle to moving it into the pockets of the voters is the physical transfer of banknotes; hence the EC’s obsession (and occasional success) waylaying lorries stuffed with cash.


An area of darkness

The academics who try to measure campaign funds devise ingenious proxies for this invisible movement. Having noticed that real-estate developers are especially dependent on the favour of elected politicians, in a famous study from 2011 Devesh Kapur and Milan Vaishnav found a cyclical correlation between election seasons and the price of cement. With all of their available resources poured into politicians’ campaigns, the builders have nothing left to spend on building. (Sure enough, this quarter the biggest cement-makers are complaining of weak demand.) Mr Vaishnav is curious to see whether zoning certifications rocket after this election.


Others count the losses run by sugar mills in Maharashtra, to see how certain industries boost their liquidity when elections are nigh. The exercise threatens to become comical, and the democracy cynical. Adani Enterprises, an industrial giant based in Mr Modi’s home state, seems to be flying their favoured candidate to his rallies every day. Adani’s valuation has shot up 30% this year, no obvious thanks to its fundamentals but perhaps with thanks to the expectation that Mr Modi will form the next government.


None of the parties are eager to tackle the problem of opaque financing. The new, reformist Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is an exception. With no sordid past to haunt them, they have called on all parties to adopt their practice of identifying all donors, no matter how small. Amounts of less than 20,000 rupees might have been a pain to tally back in the 1970s, but with modern computing power the AAP seems capable of doing so gracefully. (The odds against their winning many seats are equally impressive.)


Transparency is the chokepoint.  The new electoral trusts are supposed to marry the public good of audited contributions with the private good of audited business expenses. Tata Group, India’s biggest business house, established the model in 1996. Many of Tata’s firms are publicly listed; the original point was to help them account openly for their contributions. The new law means that any company that calls a subsidiary an “electoral trust” can use it to make tax-deductible donations to any party in any amount.


As India’s big businesses become bigger and more international in their reach, the great hope is that their internal needs for fair auditing will restrain them from muddying the waters of Indian democracy. Jagdeep Chhokar, a founder of the non-profit Association for Democratic Reform, is doubtful. He reckons the new electoral trusts are but another ruse on the part of the political and corporate players; everyone in the game has too much to gain by keeping it hidden. At present there is nothing to keep black money (which is already tax-free) from pouring into campaign coffers in parallel with anything that goes into a spruced-up trust.


Coming clean would certainly cost these firms in the short term, if only for the reason that they would have to admit to both national parties—the BJP and Congress—that they are also giving to their opponent. So presumably they would owe more to each if they were to achieve the same influence, as American corporations tend to do to the Democrats and Republicans. Mr Sridharan points out that of the 36 firms that gave funds legally to either the Congress or BJP, 24 gave funds to both. They are not about to relinquish their money power. But were they to reveal how much they are giving, and to whom, they would be giving the ordinary voter something very valuable indeed. 

Vijai Vir Singh @ballot2014's insight:

"Transparency is the chokepoint.  The new electoral trusts are supposed to marry the public good of audited contributions with the private good of audited business expenses. Tata Group, India’s biggest business house, established the model in 1996. Many of Tata’s firms are publicly listed; the original point was to help them account openly for their contributions. The new law means that any company that calls a subsidiary an “electoral trust” can use it to make tax-deductible donations to any party in any amount."

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UPA backs off, ‘snoop’ probe left to new govt- #SnoopGate

UPA backs off, ‘snoop’ probe left to new govt-  #SnoopGate | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it
‘Demanded a bungalow, staff, official vehicle and office space’


Under attack, including from within the UPA, for seeking to appoint a judge to lead the probe into the alleged snooping incident involving the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi days before the end of its term, the Centre Monday beat a retreat and deferred the decision.

It said it would wait until May 16, the day of the Lok Sabha poll results, leaving the decision to the next government.


The announcement came hours after a meeting between President Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. The minister, however, denied any link between the meeting and the decision.


It also came after UPA allies NCP and the National Conference opposed the government push at this late stage of its term.


Sources said the Centre’s turnaround came despite a former judge consenting in writing to head the commission. He, however, is learnt to have demanded a bungalow, staff, an official vehicle and office space, which were turned down by the home ministry. Eventually, Shinde, who was to select the judge, is learnt to have ruled in favour of postponing the appointment.


Shinde had been given a list of judges to pick, ministry sources said. However, he could not move on it as the judges who consented did not do so in writing. The one judge who gave his consent via e-mail made the demands the ministry rejected. Shinde, it is learnt, discussed the issue with his colleagues and decided to defer the move after having announced that a judge would be appointed before May 16.

Law Minister Kapil Sibal had backed the announcement, causing the BJP to slam the UPA.


The Union cabinet had in December approved the setting up of the commission after two news portals claimed that a young woman architect in Gujarat was the subject of illegal surveillance in 2009 and this was done at the behest of Modi and his aide Amit Shah.


The allegations were, however, refuted by the woman’s father who said in a written statement that the surveillance was conducted at his request and that the women was aware of it.

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#Rahul’s record as Amethi MP abysmal: #BJP - For a #DynastyFreeIndia start with Amethi

#Rahul’s record as Amethi MP abysmal: #BJP - For a #DynastyFreeIndia start with Amethi | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it

In an all-out offencive against Rahul Gandhi ahead of polls in Amethi, BJP on Monday released a video on under-development in his constituency and a “charge sheet” on his performance as an MP, accusing him of not raising a single issue of the area he represents for a decade.


“By the standard of performance of an average Lok Sabha MP, his record, to say the least, is abysmal,” BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said in Delhi, as party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi stormed Amethi, asking its people to “vote for change”.


“What is more interesting is in last 10 years, Rahul Gandhi has not raised a single issue in Lok Sabha relating to Amethi. He asked zero questions on Amethi in Parliament in last 10 years. This shows his abject failure and utter disregard to solve the problems of the people of Amethi,” BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said.


He said in the last five years, Mr. Gandhi’s attendance in Lok Sabha has been 42.99 per cent compared to the average of 76 per cent of an Indian MP and he participated in two debates in Parliament compared to an average of 38 for an MP, while his record in asking questions on Amethi is zero compared to an average of 300 for an MP.


“In 37 years that this family has represented Amethi, neither has the basic amenities in Amethi changed or improved, nor has the life of people of that constituency improved. He has not even been an average member of Lok Sabha in the ten years that he represented that constituency. The question is why should the people of Amethi vote for Rahul Gandhi in this election,” he said.


The video of “lack of development” in Amethi, a Gandhi-Nehru family bastion, shows it in shambles without proper infrastructure and broken roads.


According to the ‘charge sheet’ released by BJP, about 60 per cent of the houses in Amethi do not have electricity and 80 per cent of the houses lack a proper toilet, while 44 per cent of schools in Amethi do not have proper toilet facilities for girls.


“This makes us think what has Congress candidate from Amethi, Rahul Gandhi, done for his constituency,” he said.


“We are absolutely confident that our candidate from Amethi Smriti Irani is going to win by a thumping majority and if there was anything which was needed to add to the strength of the campaign was being done today by Modi addressing a massive rally today,” Mr. Sinha said.

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BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said.


He said in the last five years, Mr. Gandhi’s attendance in Lok Sabha has been 42.99 per cent compared to the average of 76 per cent of an Indian MP and he participated in two debates in Parliament compared to an average of 38 for an MP, while his record in asking questions on Amethi is zero compared to an average of 300 for an MP.

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Puri seer to campaign against #Modi in #Varanasi

Puri seer to campaign against #Modi in #Varanasi | Election Watch: Indian General Election 2014 | Scoop.it

Puri Shankaracharya Swami Adhokshjanand Devtirath on Thursday said that he would go to Varanasi to ask religious leaders to oppose Narendra Modi, whom he held responsible for the 2002 riots in Gujarat.


Speaking to reporters here, the Shankaracharya claimed that Mr. Modi was trying to mislead the people in Varanasi from where he is contesting the Lok Sabha elections.


“I will be there to expose him,” the Shankaracharya said, adding that those “who divided people to come to power should be exposed.”


He said that he would not campaign for any particular party but just wanted that secular parties should win.


“He has committed sins and no justice loving person can ever like him,” the Shankaracharya said.


He also accused RSS of using religion to mislead the people and said the outfit should come to the fore as a political organisation rather than a social-cultural body.


Shankaracharya, who was speaking at the residence of SP MP Chaudhary Munavver Saleem, also said the restrictions imposed on Azam Khan by the Election Commission should be lifted.


When asked about Muzaffarnagar riots, the Shankracharya alleged that the Gujarat riots could not be compared with what had happened in other states as senior officials in the western state had a role in the violence.


He said that winning of elections did not mean that sins are forgiven.

Mr. Saleem said unlike Gujarat, the UP government had done its best to stop the riots in Muzaffarnagar.

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