YES, RBI GOVERNOR NEEDS A LONGER TENURE

K R Nayaranan and Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam established the President of India as the country’s highest office in real terms. They were the highest officials of the country who acted independently and not as the rubber stamp of the elected government in India that is run by its Prime Minister. They brought honour to the office. They made the ‘Rashtrapati Bhavan’ a respectable place. They, for the first time during their respective tenures, made Indians believe that the President of India was indeed the nation’s highest Constitutional custodian.

Obviously when we say so, we don’t include luminaries like Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Zakir Husain and Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. They commanded respect and they got it. They were in the league of pre-Independence greats.

Then comes the Election Commission – one of the most important institutions – an institution that is imperative for the Indian democracy to march ahead. Before T N Seshan, the EC was just any other institution, running under the flow of our political system. Seshan made what the EC is today – a Constitutional organization that works tirelessly and independently and ensures that the largest elections in the world, here in India, are run transparently and smoothly. The Indian Election Commission has become a model throughout the world.

And that is what Dr. Raghuram Rajan has done with the Reserve Bank of India – India’s central bank. Before Rajan, the RBI was just like many other organizations – like the EC was in pre T N Seshan days. Though the RBI is the most important financial organization of the country regulating the flow of finances in the system and thus maintaining the fiscal discipline (and health) in the country, it always worked in the shadow of the Finance Ministry – before Raghuram Rajan was appointed in 2013.

Born in India, (Rajan’s parents still live in Chennai; they said that Rajan could have stayed had the Government of India decided earlier on extension of his term), Rajan is an economist respected worldwide. Though those who preceded Rajan were no lesser intellectuals of their field, we need to accept that no one had a global stature like Rajan. He became the youngest chief economist of the International Monitory Fund in 2003. He predicted the global financial meltdown of 2008 in 2005. He is a professor of finance in the University of Chicago where he has said he would go back to after completing his term as the RBI Governor of September 4 this year.

He was appointed by Manmohan Singh in 2013 and his three year term is coming to an end. And when Dr. Rajan says three years is a short time, it makes sense. Reforming a banking system that has NPAs (non-performing assets) to the tune of Rs. 8 Lakh Crore cannot happen in just three years. We are still an economy hugely dependent on the whims of Monsoon and thus so inflation prone. That requires a consistent policy alignment with the elected government. Then there are bottlenecked issues like the banking sector reforms, corruption in the financial systems and opening and expansion of the overall financial sector.

That makes the position of the RBI Governor a critical one for India’s economic health. The person needs to settle down. He needs to map the scenario as complex as India’s banking and financial sector – and that takes time. He needs to understand the priorities of its inflation-focused economy and how to maintain a balance among the stakeholders – the government – its financial institutions including banks – the people of India – and even the weather. He needs to draw his roadmap based on all these factors – with volatility always lurking in the background. You cannot predict weather. You cannot gauge the mood of a financial system with such a large share of bad loans and assets. And thus you cannot be sure of the intent of the government. To take everyone on board again takes time.

Once you have got what it is and you can see where to go and how to go – you chart your way ahead that requires time – to see your efforts realize their potential. A person who has started on a roadmap ahead after deliberating on such a complex scenario needs time to implement his decisions – as Dr. Rajan who has put a system in place but he, now, cannot see how it moving ahead. He will not be here to monitor its implementation beyond September 4. And the next person may not follow what Dr. Rajan has begun.

It is not about good or bad. It is about consistently and three years really fall short of the requirement.

©SantoshChaubey

ONLINE PIRACY: CINEMA GOING IS A SOCIAL HABIT

Going to theatres to watch films is a social habit and by the growing number of films doing business over Rs. 100 Crore, we can say online film piracy has not hurt this habit so badly as is projected.

In fact, the Box Office collection trend has shifted the business threshold for the blockbuster films to a much higher value – Rs. 500 Crore.

A good case in point here is the major Hollywood hits.

Any major Hollywood film that is released in India has its good print already available to download from the internet. In spite of that they do good BO business. The Revenant is a 2015 Hollywood hit that was released in India in February 2016 and in spite of that it earned Rs. 3.5 Crore in its opening weekend, an impressive figure for a Hollywood film in India.

Interstellar, Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World and Mad Max: Fury Road were the five most pirated Hollywood films of 2015. Yet they were the major BO blockbusters of the year.

Similarly in 2014, again the most pirated films – The Wolf of Wall Street, Frozen, RoboCop, Gravity and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – were notable global BO earners.

Back in India, the country’s most expensive film till date, Baahubali, that is also credited with having the highest BO collections so far, had seen its ‘good quality’ print pirated online within no time of the theatrical release. Yet the film went on to become a favourite on the ticket windows.

People who enjoy free time with films will always do so in the theatres – and they like to do so in the first week of the release of a film – with family – with children – with friends. For many, cinema going is a social pastime with good picnicking experience. They make plans for it in advance. Cinema going, in fact, is one of the most routine weekend activity in all societies.

According to a Deloitte report, a film in India earns as much as 60% of its total BO collection it the first week of its release. And a good business, increasing BO collection of the major hits and an ever increasing threshold of the revenue minted at the ticket windows support this finding.

Yes, there is always this expectation that the film could have earned much more had it not been pirated online. But filmmakers should see that as an ‘opportunity cost’ that they need to bear because online piracy ensures an unbeatable word of mouth publicity with a global outreach that no marketing machinery can match.

They, in fact, should see it as an added advantage, because practically it is impossible to check and curb online piracy of films. If regulators block 100 sites, thousands more crop-up. And a server making some content available in India may be based in any country that makes it impossible for the law enforcement agencies to proceed in the matter.

Though there is no empirical data, we can say that online piracy with its buzzword around a film helps many to make up their mind about going to a cinema to watch that film.

©SantoshChaubey

WHAT REJECTION OF SADHVI PRAGYA’S BAIL PLEA TELLS US..

That all those who claim that all is lost should go back and try to tweak their mouth-organs to see the realities!

And the realities are:

Both the good and the bad co-exist in our society – the good people and the bad people – the good ideologies and the bad ideologies – the good objectives and the bad objectives – the good behaviours and the bad behaviours – the good language and the bad language – and so on.

Something that is good for the proponents of that ‘good’ may be ‘bad’ for others – and vice versa.

But they co-exist as long as someone or some of them doesn’t/don’t look and found breaching the norms of laws in our democratic society.

For many Sadhvi Pragya is a terrorist who should be put behind bars for her alleged role in propagating terror in India.

For many, she is a crusader of Hinduism who did a brave job.

For many others, she is someone who was made a scapegoat and she had nothing to do with all the terror activities she has been alleged for.

Accordingly, there have been allegations and counter allegations on attempts to implicate or exonerate her in the cases – involving the 2008 Malegaon terror strike case.

The political sides with their differing ideologies would always see and would want to see the event from their own respective perspectives.

So, some say that all has been lost and everything has been compromised – especially after the NIA removed her name from the supplementary chargesheet it filed in the case and removed the MCOCA charges on her.

Those with rival ideologies say nothing like that happened and law is taking its own course.

That is the normal diplomatic discourse in the our democratic country.

The good thing is – the spirit of law is still maintained. Yes, corruption has afflicted all wings of our administrative institutions including the judiciary – but if curative and responsive hopes lie somewhere, it is in our judiciary only – and it upheld that today – when it rejected Pragya Thakur’s bail plea.

The court made it very clear that though framing of the charges may be the domain of the law enforcement agencies but deciding on the merits of the case lies well within the judicial domain – and thus the judicial interpretation of charges and counter charges.

©SantoshChaubey

ONLINE PIRACY THREATS: CATCH THEM WHERE THEY ARE!

If the DVD business is dying – due to increasing digital distribution, cloud storage and piracy – if the Box Office collection has to remain under the shadow of piracy threats – then why can’t cinema be taken to more and more people – people who see the online access as the preferred reference point for their cinema-watching experience?

Why restrict cinema only to theatres?

Why can’t a movie be released simultaneously in theatres and on the internet?

Why can’t it be made available on cable television’s on-demand services – the day it is released in theatres?

According to a recent Google India report, one in ten online searches on Google is cinema related. Movie junkies on the internet frantically search for downloadable links whenever a new film hits the theatres. The next stage is obviously about sharing the file and in no time the film is all across the internet.

Even China could not prevent images of Wukan protests from going viral on the Internet and therefore in the whole world. Wukan is a Chinese village that was the epicentre of the anti-corruption protests in 2011 and had seen months long police-villagers standoff. Villagers alleged that their land was taken from them by the government officials and they were not paid proper compensation.

Even Russia could not effectively censor political bloggers and activists like Alexei Navalny for writing against Vladimir Putin. The internet is a maze where monitoring content is a tiresome process with no guarantee of results.

If China and Russia cannot stop the internet sites from hosting the material that they do not want, how can we expect the same from filmmakers – even if they have formed specialized agencies for the purpose and regularly hire top ex-cops?

Then why can’t it be used to advantage then? It is better to befriend an adversary whom you know you can never win.

Many people would come forward to pay for downloading a film on their smartphones or computers if they get the chance to have an authentic print with on the same day the film is being released in the theatres. Many would jump to this prospect of getting a original BluRay or HD-DVD quality digital print – as everyone loves a hassle free cinema-watching experience.

When filmmakers cannot stop online piracy, whatever they get by making their films simultaneously available on the internet platforms will only increase your revenue.

©SantoshChaubey

WHY MAURYA’S EXIT WOULDN’T IMPACT BSP’S SOCIAL ENGINEERING

Because the OBCs don’t figure in this!

Though the opinion is divided on the possible impact of the exit of Swami Prasad Maurya, the OBC face of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on BSP’s prospects, it is beyond any doubt that the prospects can prove detrimental.

It is further bolstered by the fact that Swami Prasad Maurya is yet to come clear on his future political plans.

On June 22, Swami Prasad Maurya, a BSP MLA and the Leader of Opposition of the party in the Uttar Pradesh assembly quit the BSP alleging Mayawati of being dictatorial and corrupt. He alleged that the OBC workers were being ignored in the BSP and Mayawati was indulged in open auctioning of the party tickets for the next assembly polls. Mayawati hit back and said Swami Prasad Maurya felt ‘suffocated’ in the BSP because she denied tickets to his son and daughter and that she herself was soon to expel Maurya from the BSP.

Two senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leaders, Shivpal Yadav and Azam Khan, rushed to praise Swami Prasad Maurya soon after it. They said he was a good person and a respectable politician. Azam Khan went on to the extent to say that he wanted Maurya to join his party. Akhilesh Yadav, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, found him a popular leader.

But next day he became a ‘mentally unsound’ and lowly fellow when Maurya said that there was no question of joining the SP, a party of ‘goondas and mafias’. And it was the same Shivpal Yadav who described him with these words.

So Maurya is not joining the SP. He also met with the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and there are chances that he may find a place there as the BJP is trying to strengthen its OBC plank – with an OBC president and Narendra Modi himself being an OBC.

But it doesn’t impact the BSP. If Maurya’s move can at all be any threat, it will for the SP, the party UP’s OBC voters traditionally have voted for.

Swami Prasad Maurya has been the BSP’s OBC face. He is an influential leader and can help strengthening the balance of the OBC votes in the favour of the BJP. The SP is trying to check the split in the OBC votes, an SP forte, in case of any threat presented by another influential OBC leader, Nitish Kumar, the Bihar chief minister, and his party JD(U).

Projections, surveys and political analyses have started predicting a lead to Mayawati’s BSP.

In a television opinion poll in March 2016, she was shown winning 185 seats in the 403 members UP assembly along with 31% vote share, while the SP was shown reduced to just 80 seats with 23% votes. The projection showed the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging as the second largest party with 120 seats and 24% votes.

Besides, Mayawati has also been cosying up with the Congress. Her decision to support Harish Rawat in the court monitored trust vote in the Uttarakhand assembly was a clear signal to the Muslim voters that she is against the BJP.

Her projected 31% vote share would make a formidable alliance when taken together with the Congress’s 12% that it got in the 2012 UP assembly polls.

That is more than enough for the party to sail through given the fact that the BJP swept UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls with a 42% vote share. The BJP along with its ally Apna Dal won 73 out of 80 UP Lok Sabha seats then.

Then there is another pillar of the BSP’s social engineering – the Brahmin votebank. Brahmins constitute around 13% of voters in the state and were an important factor in ensuring the BSP’s emphatic victory in the 2007 UP assembly polls.

These developments – coupled with the sky-high anti-incumbency against the Akhilesh Yadav government and a rock-bottom law and order scenario in the state – and with the BJP’s insistence on the OBC votes (the BJP made an OBC state president in UP by removing a Brahmin) gives the BSP an ideal platform to exercise its social engineering experiment – like it had done in the 2007 assembly polls that had sent Mayawati to Lucknow’s Secretariat with a complete majority in the UP assembly.

The Dalits constitute 20% of the state population and are seen loyal to Mayawati. They form a deadly alliance with the Muslims (18.5%) and the Brahmins (13%). That is a whopping 51.5% – more than enough to give the BSP an absolute majority.

And a Swami Prasad Maurya cannot do anything to hurt this prospect. Let’s see how the UP politics rolls out further. Let’s see if Mayawati can replicate her social engineering experiment of 2007 by building on the factors that again look in her favour.

©SantoshChaubey

LOK SABHA TV V RAJYA SABHA TV: BJP AND CONGRESS IMPRINTS

The Rajya Sabha speaks in the voice of the Indian National Congress and the political opposition that see its ideological and political survival in BJP bashing.

That is the sole reason responsible for the logjam around important Bills like Land Acquisition, tax reform bills including the Goods and Services Tax Bill, the Whistleblowers Bill and so on.

Both the Houses define each other as tyrannical and anarchist – and the debate always rages.

And this skewed discourse is best reflected best in the content of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha television channels.

As the names suggest, the Lok Sabha TV comes under the control of the Lok Sabha Secretariat and the Rajya Sabha TV under the Rajya Sabha Secretariat.

The content and the manpower selection and retention are thus aligned accordingly.

Yesterday, while randomly changing channels – I came across a perfect testimony to this – on June 25, around 3 PM.

NEHRU-MOOKERJEE COLLAGE

The Lok Sabha TV was showing a programme on Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, once a minister in the Jawahar Lal Nehru’s cabinet who quit the Congress due to his difference with Pundit Nehru and formed the Bhartiya Jana Sangh, the predecessor of the BJP.

Like him or like any other political figure or ideologue associated with the BJP or its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha (RSS), most in India would not see much of them on TV (especially on the state run TV channels). But they are now all over, especially on the state channels run by the government like the Doordarshan, India’s national broadcaster.

Likewise, on the Rajya Sabha TV, still under the control of the Rajya Sabha with its control gear in the hands of a Congress member, it still revolves around political, ideological and historical figures of the post-Independence India – like Pundit Nehru.

The Lok Sabha TV was showing a programme on the Zamindari Abolition Act with Pundit Nehru in focus.

The two programmes on these two channels – in the same time slot – on the same day – indicated only this – reaffirmed only this – though it may be an unrelated, random event.

©SantoshChaubey

AKHILESH YADAV PREVAILS..FOR NOW!

Finally, the Samajwadi Party-Quami Ekta Dal merger is off – after Akhilesh Yadav, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister and the SP’s state president made his anger public today. He said he would always oppose entry of people like Mukhtar Ansari into the SP. He said that he had no involvement in this decision and he would always speak his mind wherever necessary.

On June 21, the Quami Ekta Dal (QED), the political party founded by Mukhtar Ansari, a notorious gangster and criminal-turned-politician who is presently lodged in jail, merged with the SP – in spite of the stiff opposition from Akhilesh Yadav. The merger was obviously to exploit Mukhtar Ansari’s appeal among the sections of Muslim voters who see him as some ‘Robin Hood’ figure.

So displeased was Akhilesh with the merger that he sacked his senior minister Balram Yadav, the mediator behind the merger deal, and cancelled his all official engagements of the day. Later, Shivpal who is said to have masterminded the deal along with Amar Singh, another recent SP re-inductee into the party, tried to pacify Akhilesh by saying that the deal had blessings of Mulayam. Balram Yadav, too, reiterated this claim. But it didn’t work.

BUT IT DOESN’T END HERE

Akhilesh Yadav, the 42 year old chief-minister of Uttar Pradesh from the SP, is a sulking man even though he prevailed today – amid the flurry of inductions into the party that Akhilesh is not comfortable with.

And he is facing a resurgent Shivpal Yadav, Akhilesh’s uncle and a senior UP minister, who is seen being not on good terms with Akhilesh ever since Mulayam promoted his son Akhilesh instead of him as the UP chief-ministerial face in 2011. He looks calling the shots in the party now – even if the QED merger deal has been called off.

Huge anti-incumbency against the Akhilesh Yadav government and a rock-bottom law and order scenario in the state are giving the SP nightmares on how to solve the 2017 assembly polls riddle. Four years ago, when Uttar Pradesh had voted Akhilesh Yadav in, he seemed to have a force of his own – a young face, fresh energy, a corruption-free vision – that effectively spoke to the voters – giving the SP 228 assembly seats in a House of 403. People saw that there was a person in the SP who could wash the taint of SP being a political party harbouring criminals.

After four years of Akhilesh Yadav’s in the Lucknow secretariat, all those hopes have gone. The force looks dissipated. Though there have been no allegations of individual corruption on Akhilesh, no one can deny that UP has parallel power centres run by Mulayam Singh Yadav, Shivpal Yadav and Azam khan – and Akhilesh is not in control. They all behave as if they are the chief ministers of the state.

It seems the top brass of the SP doesn’t believe anymore in the development credentials of the Akhilesh Yadav government to bring home the electoral victory when the state goes to polls the next year. And the top brass has its own way of doing politics – the old SP way – setting and basing everything on caste equations.

SETTING ‘THEIR’ PRIORITIES RIGHT

So, the SP is trying to check the split in the OBC votes, an SP forte, in case of any possible threat presented by another influential OBC leader, Nitish Kumar, the Bihar chief minister and his party JD(U) coupled with the BJP’s drive to rally the OBC votes by quoting Narendra Modi’s OBC credentials and by appointing an OBC, Keshav Prasad Maurya, as the state chief.

And the SP is trying to ensure that the Muslim voters remain loyal to it – the base of voters that, with the OBC votes, gave the SP a thumping victory in the 2012 Assembly polls.

Mukhtar Ansari is a minority face. The QED’s merger tells how desperate the SP is to attract the Muslim votes. There is a clear chance that Muslims will vote for Mayawati this time as they had done in 2007 that had given Mayawati a clear majority. The Muzaffarnagar riots, its aftermath and the Dadri lynching incidents have eroded the credibility base of the SP among the Muslims.

The SP top brass including Mulayam wants to win it back at any cost – even if it means antagonising Akhilesh. The failed QED merger with the SP to exploit Mukhtar Ansari’s appeal among the Muslim voters is just an example.

FIRST CLEAR INDICATIONS

When seen in the context of mergers and inductions in the party in the recent months, it tells us that the SP is not convinced with the winnability of Akhilesh.

The first clear indication to which way the wind was going to blow in the SP came in April 2016 when Mulayam made Shivpal incharge of the SP’s UP unit, a position that effectively makes him the election incharge for the next polls. The responsibility was given to Akhilesh in 2012. Though the reports said today that Akhilesh would look after the upcoming elections, there was no official word about it.

Next month, in May 2016, Amar Singh, an old SP hand and a Mulayam favourite, who was expelled from the party, and a person whom Akhilesh doesn’t like, was taken back in the SP fold. Amar Singh is seen as a master deal-broker in the political circles. The same month, another influential OBC leader and an old SP hand, Beni Prasad Verma, Mulayam’s friend-turned-foe, was re-inducted into the party after nine years. Both Amar Singh and Beni Prasad Verma are now Rajya Sabha members from the SP.

BSP’S STRIDES

Projections, surveys and political analyses have started predicting a lead to Mayawati’s BSP. In an opinion poll in March 2016, she was shown winning 185 seats in the 403 members UP assembly along with 31% vote share, while the SP was shown reduced to just 80 seats with 23% votes. The projection showed the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging as the second largest party with 120 seats and 24% votes.

Besides, Mayawati has also been cosying up with the Congress. Her decision to support Harish Rawat in the court monitored trust vote in the Uttarakhand assembly was a clear signal to the Muslim voters that she is against the BJP.

Her projected 31% vote share would make a formidable alliance when taken together with the Congress’s 12% that it got in the 2012 UP assembly polls.

That is more than enough for the party to sail through given the fact that the BJP swept UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls with a 42% vote share. The BJP along with its ally Apna Dal won 73 out of 80 UP Lok Sabha seats then.

Then there is another pillar of the BSP’s social engineering – the Brahmin votebank. Brahmins constitute around 13% of voters in the state and were an important factor in ensuring the BSP’s emphatic victory in the 2007 UP assembly polls.

BACK TO THE OLD SP SCHOOL

As a result, the party leadership, sans Akhilesh Yadav, has probably decided that it is now the tried and tasted way of identity politics ahead – an identity politics in UP that is riddled with caste and community equations that goes to any extent to appease voters – even if it means marching with dreaded gangsters like Mukhtar Ansari.

Before the 2012 assembly polls, the old monks of the SP top brass led by the SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav were all prepared to induct DP Yadav, a criminal-turned politician, into the party. But Akhilesh put his foot down declaring that since DP Yadav was a criminal, there was no place for him in his party.

If DP Yadav is a criminal whom Akhilesh Yadav cannot see in his party, Mukhtar Ansari is synonymous with terror. And even though Mukhtar’s brother Afzal Ansari said that the QED had nothing to do with Mukhtar, who is in jail in a murder case, no one was going to take it.

In and out of BSP, Mukhtar Ansari formed his own political outfit QED in 2010 after he was ousted from the BSP. He had almost won the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Varanasi. BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi could win only with a thin margin of 17000 votes in the last rounds of the counting. He won the 2012 UP assembly polls from the Mau constituency. And this all in spite of him being a dreaded criminal.

WINNABILITY IS THE PRIORITY

To remain in the race and to maintain its winnability prospects, the SP is trying to consolidate its traditional base of voters – OBCs and Muslims – and the way to do that is – ‘making deals and poaching personalities’ – no matter what.

And all these have blessings of Mulayam Singh Yadav – even if Akhilesh doesn’t like Mukhtar Ansari or Amar Singh. Beni Prasad Verma and Mukhtar Ansari are influential caste leaders and they can effectively swing votes. And Amar Singh is a strategic taskmaster expert in political deals.

The SP needs such faces more than ever as it seems Akhilesh Yadav is no more a face for them who alone can win the next assembly polls for the party.

©SantoshChaubey

NSG DIDN’T COME INDIA’S WAY..AND IT WAS EXPECTED.

NSG didn’t come India’s way – and it was expected.

It is not at all a diplomatic failure. It worked where Narendra Modi has been burning his midnight oil – in strengthening relations with major powers like the US, the UK, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Japan, and so on – and all of them supported India’s bid. In fact, the US vehemently pushed for it.

It was the NSG’s 26th plenary and there will obviously be the 27th one. India’s NSG membership issue has been on the table for quite some time though India formally applied for it on May 12 only – something that set in motion a formal process. And mind you there was no direct no.

The members, in fact, agreed for more discussion on the issue and decided to lay down criteria for inducting the non-NPT members – the sole point of contention behind China’s ‘no to India’ attitude. That, in fact, is a win for India.

The gain that India got could be gauged from the fact that a special session was organized the last night to discuss India’s NSG membership request only even if China had said initially that ‘India’s membership’ was not on the agenda.

In Fact, barring seven countries (some reports say 10) – China, Brazil, New Zealand, Austria, Ireland, Turkey and Switzerland – all other countries in the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) supported India’s entry into the grouping that represents major nuclear trading nations of the world.

More or less, this was the same block of the countries which was opposed to any exemption to India in 2008. Like this time, China was the major roadblock even then. And the sceptics were – Austria, New Zealand, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway, and the Netherlands. The NSG used to be a 45-nation bloc then.

The India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Deal or the 123 Agreement signed in July 2008 came after some intense negotiations before the NSG allowed exemptions to India – after a pledge by Pranab Mukherjee that India would not carry anymore nuclear tests. The NSG exemptions allowed countries to do nuclear trading with India – lifting provisions of the NSG and other export control regimes.

It made possible the 2008 India-US deal and paved way for further such agreements. Today, India has bilateral nuclear trading relations with France, the UK, Australia, Canada, Russia, Kazakhstan and some other countries. And the list is expected to grow as India is poised to grow – as Indian market needs an ever increasing scale of energy consumption for its growing economy that is slated to be in the world top three. And that means good business for everyone.

Yes, it is some worthwhile food for thought for another line of discussion that how Narendra Modi’s government committed another Image Management hara-kiri by blowing the incident over the top – as if it was the grand finale and India was going to get a grand entry in the NSG – reaffirming again that ‘Narendra Modi’ is the best thing to happen to India.

It was better as ‘India’s NSG push’. The government shouldn’t have allowed it to get ‘India’s NSG bid’ perception.

©SantoshChaubey

AKHILESH YADAV NO MORE A WINNING FACE FOR THE SP?

One can easily read this writing on the wall going by the developments in the recent months.

A sulking Akhilesh Yadav, the 42 year old chief-minister of Uttar Pradesh from the Samajwadi Party (SP) – amid the flurry of inductions into the party that Akhilesh is not comfortable with!

And a resurgent Shivpal Yadav, Akhilesh’s uncle and a senior UP minister, who is seen not on good terms with Akhilesh ever since Mulayam promoted his son Akhilesh instead of him as the UP chief-ministerial face in 2011 – looks calling the shots in the party now!

On June 22, Swami Prasad Maurya, a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA and the Leader of Opposition of the party in the Uttar Pradesh assembly quit the BSP alleging Mayawati of being dictatorial and corrupt. He alleged that the OBC workers are ignored in the BSP and Mayawati is openly auctioning party tickets for the next assembly polls. Mayawati hit back and said Swami Prasad Maurya felt ‘suffocated’ in the BSP because she denied tickets to his son and daughter and that she herself was soon to expel Maurya from the BSP.

Yes, these types of ‘ins and outs’ from every political party are expected to pace up as the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls approach near. The UP assembly is completing its term in May 2017.

But what makes Maurya’s move significant and indicative of the SP’s old wing taking control of the things is the fact that the top SP leadership rushed to praise Swami Prasad Maurya soon after the BSP LoP quit his party. They said he was a good person and a respectable politician. Azam Khan went on to the extent to say that he wanted Maurya to join his party. It says a lot that who would have curated the move then. Later in the day, Swami met with Azam Khan and Shivpal Yadav and it is expected that he will be inducted as a cabinet minister in the scheduled expansion of Akhilesh’s cabinet on June 27. Akhilesh was not so quick to react on the development though Akhilesh praised Maurya today.

Swami Prasad Maurya has been the BSP’s OBC face. He is an influential leader and can help maintaining the balance of the OBC votes in the favour of the SP which is trying to check the split in the OBC votes, an SP forte, in case of any threat presented by another influential OBC leader, Nitish Kumar, the Bihar chief minister, and his party JD(U). So Akhilesh should welcome the move – as he was seen doing today.

But when seen in the context of other mergers and inductions in the party in the recent months, it tells us that the SP is now not at all convinced with the winnability of Akhilesh Yadav when the state goes to the polls next year.

Projections, surveys and political analyses have started predicting a lead to Mayawati’s BSP. In a television opinion poll in March 2016, she was shown winning 185 seats in the 403 members UP assembly along with 31% vote share, while the SP was shown reduced to just 80 seats with 23% votes. The projection showed the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging as the second largest party with 120 seats and 24% votes.

Besides, Mayawati has also been cosying up with the Congress. Her decision to support Harish Rawat in the court monitored trust vote in the Uttarakhand assembly was a clear signal to the Muslim voters that she is against the BJP.

Her projected 31% vote share would make a formidable alliance when taken together with the Congress’s 12% that it got in the 2012 UP assembly polls.

That is more than enough for the party to sail through given the fact that the BJP swept UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls with a 42% vote share. The BJP along with its ally Apna Dal won 73 out of 80 UP Lok Sabha seats then.

Then there is another pillar of the BSP’s social engineering – the Brahmin votebank. Brahmins constitute around 13% of voters in the state and were an important factor in ensuring the BSP’s emphatic victory in the 2007 UP assembly polls.

These developments – coupled with the sky-high anti-incumbency against the Akhilesh Yadav government and a rock-bottom law and order scenario in the state, are giving the SP nightmares on how to solve the 2017 assembly polls riddle.

As a result, the party leadership, sans Akhilesh Yadav, has probably decided that it is now the tried and tasted way of identity politics ahead – an identity politics in UP that is riddled with caste and community equations that goes to any extent to appease voters – even if it means marching with dreaded gangsters like Mukhtar Ansari.

Before the 2012 assembly polls, the old monks of the SP top brass led by the SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav were all prepared to induct DP Yadav, a criminal-turned politician, into the party. But Akhilesh put his foot down declaring that since DP Yadav was a criminal, there was no place for him in his party. Akhilesh seemed to have a force of his own then – a young face, fresh energy, a corruption-free vision – that effectively spoke to voters – giving the SP 228 assembly seats in the poll. People saw that there was a person in the SP who could wash the taint of SP being a political party harbouring criminals.

After four years of Akhilesh Yadav’s in the Lucknow secretariat, all those hopes have gone. The force looks dissipated. Though there have been no allegations of individual corruption on Akhilesh, no one can deny that UP has parallel power centres run by Mulayam Singh Yadav, Shivpal Yadav and Azam khan – and Akhilesh is not in control. They all behave as if they are the chief ministers of the state. And they have their own way to do politics – the old SP way – setting and basing everything on caste equations.

We all saw the most visible testimony to this when on June 21, the Quami Ekta Dal (QED), the political party founded by Mukhtar Ansari, a notorious gangste and criminal-turned-politician, merged with the SP – in spite of the stiff opposition from Akhilesh Yadav. So displeased was Akhilesh with the merger that he sacked his senior minister Balram Yadav, the mediator behind the merger deal, and cancelled his all official engagements of the day. Later, Shivpal who is said to have masterminded the deal along with Amar Singh, another recent SP re-inductee into the party, tried to pacify Akhilesh by saying that the deal had blessings of Mulayam. Balram Yadav, too, reiterated this claim.

If DP Yadav is a criminal whom Akhilesh Yadav cannot see in his party, Mukhtar Ansari is synonymous with terror. And even though Mukhtar’s brother Afzal Ansari said that the QED had nothing to do with Mukhtar, who is in jail in a murder case, no one is going to take it. Now it is upto Akhilesh that how he justifies it to the electorate.

In and out of BSP, Mukhtar Ansari formed his own political outfit QED in 2010 after he was ousted from the BSP. He had almost won the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Varanasi. BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi could win only with a thin margin of 17000 votes in the last rounds of the counting. He won the 2012 UP assembly polls from the Mau constituency. And this all in spite of him being a dreaded criminal.

Mukhtar Ansari is a minority face. The QED’s merger tells how desperate the SP is to attract the Muslim votebank – the votebank that supported it in the 2012 assembly polls. Now there is a clear chance that Muslims will again vote for Mayawati. The Muzaffarnagar riots, its aftermath and the Dadri lynching incidents have eroded the credibility base of the SP among the Muslims.

And the SP top brass including Mulayam wants to win back it at any cost – even if it means antagonising Akhilesh! The QED has been merged with the SP to exploit Mukhtar Ansari’s appeal among the Muslim voters who see him as some ‘Robin Hood’ figure.

The first clear indication to which way the wind was going to blow in the SP came in April 2016 when Mulayam made Shivpal incharge of the SP’s UP unit, a position that effectively makes him the election incharge for the next polls. The responsibility was given to Akhilesh in 2012.

Next month, in May 2016, Amar Singh, an old SP hand and a Mulayam favourite, who was expelled from the party, and a person whom Akhilesh doesn’t like, was taken back in the SP fold. Amar Singh is seen as a master deal-broker in the political circles. The same month, another influential OBC leader and an old SP hand, Beni Prasad Verma, Mulayam’s friend-turned-foe, was re-inducted into the party after nine years. Both Amar Singh and Beni Prasad Verma are now Rajya Sabha members from the SP.

To remain in the race and to maintain its winnability prospects, the SP is trying to consolidate its traditional votebanks – OBCs and Muslims – and the way to do that is – ‘making deals and poaching personalities’ – no matter what.

And all these have blessings of Mulayam Singh Yadav – even if Akhilesh doesn’t like Mukhtar Ansari or Amar Singh. Beni Prasad Verma, Swami Prasad Maurya and Mukhtar Ansari are influential caste leaders and they can effectively swing votes. And Amar Singh is a strategic taskmaster expert in political deals. The SP needs them more than ever as Akhilesh Yadav is no more a face for them who can win the next assembly polls for the party.

©SantoshChaubey

YESTERDAY MUKHTAR, TODAY SWAMI PRASAD MAURYA: WHAT DOES IT SAY?

Yesterday, it was Mukhtar Ansari’s Quami Ekta Dal.

Today, it is BSP’s Swami Prasad Maurya.

Quami Ekta Dal doesn’t exist anymore. Swami Prasad Maurya is not in BSP anymore.

In and out of BSP, Mukhtar Ansari formed his own political outfit Quami Ekta Dal in 2010 after he was ousted from BSP. He is in Agra Central Jail for the murder of BJP leader Krishnanad Rai. He had almost won the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Varanasi. BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi could win only with a thin margin of 17000 votes. He is a dreaded gangster-turned politician.

Yesterday his political party of 2 MLAs, QED, merged with SP.

Going by the reputation that CM Akhilesh Yadav had built by saying no to another gangster-turned politician DP Yadav before the 2012 assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, it was least expected, if not totally unexpected.

But it has happened, even if a miffed Akhilesh has expelled the leader behind this merger, Balram Yadav, from the party – even if it contradicts personal projections of Akhilesh Yadav – only months before the next assembly polls.

And today when senior SP leaders including Azam Khan and Shivpal Yadav praised Swami Prasad Maurya after his exit from BSP, it became clear that the realization has dawned in the party that all is not well and it is facing a bleak future.

Maurya’s act, fueled by SP overtures, is another testimony to the fact that SP is staring at the possibility of an electoral defeat in the assembly polls next year after surveys have stated projecting a BSP win – given the high anti-incumbency against the Akhilesh Yadav government and the worsening law and order situation in UP.

Seeing this, senior leaders and old monks of SP have started coming together to try everything else – other than development – setting caste and community equations before all – something that has long been a hallmark of SP politics (and UP politics) – to appeasement votebanks.

Mukhtar Ansari has been taken in for the minority (Muslim) votebank. Swami Prasad Maurya, the Leader of Opposition in the UP assembly till today, is seen as an influential OBC leader. Another influential OBC (Kurmi caste) leader and a party hopper, Beni Prasad Verma, is already back in SP fold and has been rewarded with a Rajya Sabha seat.

And it seems just the beginning. To set caste equations straight, SP may go scouting for parties and leaders with influence in different votebanks, irrespective of their political history and criminal background.

Or Akhilesh Yadav is going to do some more ‘no to DP Yadav’ acts like the last time?

©SantoshChaubey