WHY NITISH KUMAR’S DECISION CAN BE A BLESSING IN DISGUISE FOR RAHUL GANDHI

Rahul Gandhi and Congress may term Nitish Kumar’s act of dumping the grand alliance government of RJD, JDU and Congress in Bihar to join the NDA and form a government with the BJP as betrayal, rank opportunism and treachery, but it may also be an opportunity for Rahul Gandhi to reinvent himself.

The political opposition in India has dearth of credible faces to take on the BJP, the NDA and Narendra Modi at the moment. Nitish Kumar was the strongest of all those contenders who could have provided a viable face against Narendra Modi in 2019 if the political opposition could pull an alliance.

Odisha’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik is another credible face with a clean image who can have acceptability but he is an outsider for national politics and is content with retaining his father Biju Patnaik’s citadel. And he has done well to hold on to the state. But he is certainly not a known Modi-baiter and certainly not a pan-India face to take on Modi in electoral politics.

The other anti-Modi face with a non-controversial image in the opposition camp is West Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee. But she is also in no position to offer a credible alternative to take on Modi on a pan-India level in electoral politics, at least in the context of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Also, as the BJP is trying to emerge as the principle opposition in West Bengal, sidelining the Left Front and the Congress, she cannot risk neglecting West Bengal for her national ambitions, at least for now.

We have seen what happened with the Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal. They tried to fan out too early after winning the people’s mandate in Delhi. Result! AAP created a sort of record with its candidates forfeiting their deposits in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The humiliation outside Delhi continued in the recently concluded Punjab assembly polls. Like West Bengal is for Mamata Banarjee, Delhi is for Arvind Kejriwal. They cannot risk leaving the states before proving their mettle. And certainly it is not the time.

Remember, even Modi had spent almost 13 years as Gujarat chief minister, consolidating his position, before fanning out of Gujarat. The time was opportune for him in 2014 when the country was looking for an alternative political face and he could make the public believe, based on his credentials of serving Gujarat four times that he was indeed the one who could be the answer to the huge anti-incumbency of ten years of the Congress rule under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Manmohan Singh.

The health of any nation’s democracy needs at least two credible political faces who can compete nationally. The more the merrier. The political opposition space in India is looking for someone who can take on Narendra Modi for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls and Nitish Kumar was the most probable contender.

But as Nitish Kumar has been effectively co-opted by the BJP again, that option is gone, and along with it the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Now only a miracle can save the day for them as hardly a year is left before going full throttle on the campaign spree for the next parliamentary election and we know miracles don’t happen in politics. Every step is a calculated move in this game of possibilities where there are no permanent friends or foes and Nitish Kumar has again showed us this.

Now the political opposition needs to look beyond 2019 to take on Narendra Modi and the BJP. And most importantly a face who can stand against Narendra Modi in elections beyond 2019. The BJP, in fact, has become the only national political party with its governments in every corner of the country. With Bihar again in its kitty, the BJP and its allies have now governments in 18 Indian states while Congress is at a historic low and is seeing further decline. And the central reason behind this is the perceived absence of leadership in the party.

CAN RAHUL GANDHI REINVENT HIMSELF?

Though Sonia Gandhi is still the Congress’ president, its Rahul Gandhi, the vice-president, who is the de facto head of the party. But willingly or unwillingly, an image of being a reluctant and non-serious politician has overtaken his political identity. Add to it the spate of electoral losses in states and the huge setback in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and we come across a perception that Rahul Gandhi is neither inclined nor able to shoulder the responsibility.

That he needs to break. He needs to reinvent himself because he has the means to emerge as the pan-India alternative of Narendra Modi.

To represent India in national politics, one either needs a long and influential political career, be it at state level like Narendra Modi has had or at national level like PV Narasimha Rao had or it has to be a dynastic lineage of a political party with a pan-India presence.

The Nehru-Gandhi family has had this advantage, be it Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi earlier and Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi now. It is true that Indira Gandhi did build her political career for many years, including participating in the Indian freedom struggle, but she was a union minister for just two years before she became prime minister in 1966. Rajiv Gandhi was also a sort of reluctant politician before he was made prime minister after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. But once in the office, he did try to evolve. Sonia Gandhi was accepted because she belonged to the family and same holds true for Rahul as well.

Though the Congress has shrunk to just five states and one union territory with only two electorally significant states, i.e., Karnataka and Punjab, in fold and could win just 44 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 General Elections, it is still the only other national political party than the BJP with a pan-India presence with 19 per cent vote share in the 2014 elections. The party is still the principle opposition in many states including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Goa. That is still a great leverage over other anti-BJP political parties.

And as the big three, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik, are effectively ruled out as the anti-BJP face of the political opposition, who could have mobilized the whole anti-BJP opposition to form a credible alternative this is an opportunity for Rahul to chip in and claim the place that he enjoys with his Nehru-Gandhi lineage. What also helps his prospects is the fact that other non-Congress regional satraps like Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, K Chandrasekhar Rao and MK Stalin are limited to their states only with no electoral appeal outside.

Rahul began his active political career around 2008 and since the very beginning he has been the most important voice in the Congress, even if Manmohan Singh was the prime minister and he has worked hard and has campaigned hard in every part of the country in every election. True the Congress is looking like a crumbling bloc these days but Rahul’s failures so far tell us he may be lacking in focus in leading the party out of the mess. The opposition in India is in disarray. Its politics looks flabbergasted. It needs someone who can give it some direction. Can Rahul Gandhi realize the opportunity at hand?

©SantoshChaubey

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BJP’S 70% VS CONGRESS’ 11%

Even if we go by the Congress’ claim that it won three states, Punjab, Goa and Manipur, in the recently concluded assembly polls, it still adds nothing significant to the spread of its influence – geographically as well as in terms of the human headcount. The Congress party has effectively lost the electoral space to act as a national alternative to the BJP.

Assembly elections were held in five states, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur these results of which were announced on March 11. The BJP had swept Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand while its alliance with the SAD had seen a crushing defeat in Punjab where it was in the ruling coalition since 2007. The Congress had emerged as the largest party in Goa and Manipur but the BJP stitched the numbers fast to form coalition governments in both of these states.

The BJP and its allies were already ruling over 60% of India’s geographical area with 43% of its population before the March 11 verdict, and the sweep this time has taken it to around 70% of the landmass and 58% of the population.

With Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur in BJP’s stable, the BJP and its allies are now the ruling party/coalition in 17 Indian states while the Congress, that has ruled India for almost 55 years in its 70 years of independent, sovereign history, has shrunk to just six states with Karnataka and Punjab as the only electorally significant states in its fold. The party has ruling presence in another big state – in Bihar – but it is the junior-most alliance partner in the ruling coalition there.

In terms of geographical spread, the Congress has shrunk to just 13% of Indian territory with only 11% of the country’s population residing in areas ruled by it. Even if, for a moment, we consider that the BJP fails to prove majority in Goa and Manipur and the Congress finally forms the governments, it cannot help the Congress much, apart from giving consolation, as Goa and Manipur represent only 0.8% of India’s area and 0.34% of its population.

The BJP along with its allies, is now in all corners of the country with its 17 state governments, in north India, in central India, in south India, in West India, in east India and in north-east India, the footprint the Congress enjoyed earlier while the Congress has reduced to only few pockets.

India has 29 states and seven Union territories. Polls are held in these 29 states and two of the Union Territories, i.e., Delhi and Puducherry. The states where the BJP and its allies have their governments now are – Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh (NDA partner TDP), Jammu & Kashmir (NDA partner PDP), Nagaland (NDA partner NPF) and Sikkim (NDA partner SDF). The party is number two in Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. The BJP is also number 2 in Bihar if we see it as the grand alliance of JDU, RJD and Congress Vs the BJP.

Other big states barring Karnataka and Punjab, are all with the regional parties who have chosen not to ally with the Congress – Tamil Nadu (AIADMK), Telangana (TRS), West Bengal (AITC), Odisha (BJD) and Kerala (Left Front).

The Congress has ruling presence in only two electorally significant states, Karnataka and Punjab. But in Karnataka where elections are due early next year, its prospects don’t look good and there are very real chances that the huge anti-incumbency against the Congress led government will allow the BJP to easily win the state. The other parties in the Congress fold are all smaller states, i.e., Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Puducherry.

©SantoshChaubey

SURGICAL STRIKE TO SURGICAL POLITICS: WAR OF WORDS

The surgical strike by India deep inside Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir on September 29 has not only sent Pakistan into internal political and military chaos, it has also unnerved many in India on the political lines in the season of upcoming state assembly polls including Uttar Pradesh, the most vital state in the country’s electoral politics. If the BJP wants to gain electoral and political mileage from this long-pending decision(and therefore is morally right because it has shown the political will required), the opposition is trying all to paint the BJP in a selfish and immoral hue. Their sole focus is to paint a negative image for the BJP where it can be seen belittling the Indian Army and can be seen as scavenging on pride and valour of our armed forces for political gains.

Now which way the electoral tide will turn only time will tell but the ongoing war of words is throwing many interesting, contradictory and repulsive comments.

THE BJP WOULD OBVIOUSLY GO FOR FULL CREDITS.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has taken the charge from the BJP side. And his have been honest comments, even if some may question his language. He speaks emphatically about the surgical strikes, efficiency and might of the Indian Armed Forces, what it has done to Pakistan, those in India questioning it and the row over who should get the credit. From October 1 to 12, he gradually addresses all the issue as and when the questions are raised.

October 12: “I don’t mind sharing credits, including the surgical strikes, with every countryman because it is done by our Armed Forces and not by any political party. So all Indians, including those doubting Thomases, also can share the credit. As for myself, I will only share the credit at the most… the major share goes to the Prime Minister but the issue I will at least claim the credit (for) is decision making ability and planning. So I think that should settle the nerves of many people…,” Parrikar said, adding, “I understand quite well because I’m a politician though not a politician by profession… that people’s sentiments are satisfied.”

October 6: “It was a 100% perfect surgical strike. Even when bigger nations do surgical strikes, they are not as successful. No one had doubted bravery of our forces ever, but for the first time recently some people are doubting. There are many people who are not loyal to our country and criticized Indian army, but we don’t have to give them any proof.”

“Someone said that I am straight-forward (seedha-saadha). I think the Defence Minister should not be straight when it comes to ensuring the safety of the country. “In matters of the country’s defence, I can think tedha (wily).”

“People knew the army’s prowess. But a political decision needed to be taken. That has now happened under Modiji’s leadership. The mindset of the country has changed.”

October 1: “Pakistan’s condition after the surgical strikes is like that of an anesthetized patient after a surgery who doesn’t know that the surgery has already been performed on him. Even two days after the surgical strikes, Pakistan+ has no idea what has happened.”

“Indian troops were like Hanuman who did not quite know their prowess before the surgical strikes. The surgical strikes gave our forces an idea of what they were capable of doing. Pakistan is bewildered following the strikes, not quite knowing how to react.”

Home Minister Rajnath Singh has lent him some able support as reflected by his statements – putting India’s perspectives on a solid ground – be it the ‘how and why’ of the surgical strike or our political willpower or credentials of our armed forces.

October 11: “I want to welcome Modiji here as for the first time in the history of independent India he has succeeded in holding country’s head high at international level. He has succeeded in giving message to the world that Bharat is not weak but it’s a ‘damdar’ (powerful) nation. In last few days, we have displayed our strength. We have sent out a message to the world that India is a strong country.”

October 8: “Our heritage is ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam’ meaning the whole world is one family. We do not intend to occupy others’ land. We never open fire first, but if attacked, in retaliation we never count the bullets after pulling the trigger.”

October 2: “The country as well as the whole world is aware of this (surgical strikes)..the way our jawans displayed valour have made India proud.”

And like an efficient team-leader, Narendra Modi caps what his ministers and party members say even if doesn’t mention Pakistan directly. He even warns them to desist from indulging in ‘chest-thumping’ over the surgical strike.

October 9: “We will celebrate Vijaya Dashami in the coming days. This year’s Vijaya Dashami is very special for the country. Being strong does not mean being against anyone. If we exercise for our strength, then the neighbour need not worry (thinking) that it is to target him. I am exercising to strengthen myself and for my health.”

CONGRESS IS IN A STATE OF UTTER CONFUSION.

The party rushed to praise the surgical strike and show solidarity with the government. Sonia Gandhi issues a statement on September 29. Rahul Gandhi reacted on September 30.

Sonia Gandhi – September 29: “This is a strong message that conveys our country’s resolve to prevent further infiltration and attacks on our security forces and our people. The party hopes that Pakistan will recognize that it bears a great responsibility in the continuing cross-border terrorist attacks against India. The Party expects that Pakistan will take effective action to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism that it has supported and it ensures that its territory and the territory under its control is not used for terrorist purposes against India.”

Rahul Gandhi – September 30: “I want to thank him (PM Modi) because for the first time in two and half years he has taken an action that is of the stature of PM. Modi has my full support; the Congress party and entire nation is standing by him.”

But it has been a downhill journey of contradictions and confusions since then. Some of its leaders like Digvijaya Singh or Sanjay Nirpuam are openly questioning the authenticity of the surgical strike, some others, including its many spokespersons, are busy asking for proofs, while some other are still not sure what to say. The common thread among them is that they all are asserting that many surgical strikes were carried out even during the Congress regime but the party never went to take credit as it showed political maturity. And since Congress has been silent on taking any action against motormouths like Nirupam, it shows doing so has tacit approval from the party because all such attempts are aimed at denying the BJP any political gain from the surgical strike.

Rahul Gandhi – October 6: “Humare jawan hai jinhone khoon diya hai, jinhone surgical strikes kiya, unke khoon ke peeche aap (Modi) chuppe huye hai (Our soldiers conducted surgical strikes and gave their blood. Modi is just hiding behind their sacrifices). Unki aap dalali kar rahe ho (trading over the blood of Indian soldiers).”

Like of the BJP leaders, even here the statements are self-explanatory.

P Chidambaram – October 12: “My stand is quite clear. I said, we support the government. We believe the Army and the DGMO. And whatever pre-emptive action the government of the day will take, as a responsible opposition, the Congress party will support the government. Now I said draw a line there, that subject is over.”

“There have been demands from quarters that evidence must be released. That is not questioning the Army action. That is a suggestion to the government so that we can call the bluff of Pakistan. Pakistan’s bluff has takers in some quarters, The New York Times, Washington Post, some sections of the social media, even that forgotten group called United Nations Observers Group. Therefore, to call Pakistan’s bluff, it is for the government to consider whether it would like to release any evidence. But I made it clear that’s a decision for the government to take. Whatever decision government takes, in that respect, Congress party will support that decision.”

On earlier strikes: “Quite rightly. Because the policy of the government of that day was strategic restraint and as part of strategic restraint we left such cross-border action to be handled by the Army at the operational, tactical level. We did not raise it to the government level. I believe UPA’s policy was right. But I am not saying that the present government cannot change that policy…Government has fuller information than any one of us. And, therefore, I concede the right of the government to adopt a modified policy. And, in fact, I go a step further and say after Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Pampore and Uri, any government could be expected to consider a modified policy.”

Kapil Sibal – October 7: “Please stop this poster baazi. Let the army do its job like it has been doing. Amit Shah has said his party will take this surgical strike to the people: this clearly shows they want to politicise the matter.”

BJP ALLIES HAVE REACTED AS PER THEIR COMPULSIONS.

Most of the BJP allies have owned the surgical strike except the Shiv Sena and the PDP. Even they have not criticised the step, but have exercised caution in praising the BJP (Shiv Sena) or reacting on the news itself (PDP). The Shiv Sena-BJP combine is going through a rough weather while the BJP-PDP combine is seen as an unnatural alliance.

Shiv Sena – Uddhav Thackeray – October 11: “After the strikes, I phoned Modi and told him, ‘Narendrabhai, this is the Narendrabhai we want as PM. Modi should now take such an action that not only PoK but entire Pakistan should be known as part of India. Those who said the strikes were fake have rotten brains and water of gutters of Lahore and Karachi and not blood flowing through their veins. Did Rahul Gandhi learn of the ‘khoon ki dalali’ from Bofors (scam)?” How can you show mistrust on Army while criticising Modi? Those who show distrust for our brave soldiers may be offspring of Pakistan.”

PDP – Mehbooba Mufti – September 29: “We in J&K have suffered immensely because of the violence and know very well its dangers and consequences. For the people of Jammu and Kashmir, peace along the borders and within the mainland is of immense significance and I hope the political leadership of the two countries would also treat it with the same spirit.”

SOME IN THE POLITICAL OPPOSITION, ESPECIALLY THE REGIONAL FORCES, SAW THEIR FUTURE COURSE IN DENYING THE BJP ANY SPACE.

Mayawati – October 10: “There is a feeling among people that this (the strikes) could have been delayed for taking political and electoral mileage. Instead of honouring its political leaders after the strikes, BJP should have felicitated the army for it. The credit for the strikes should go to the Indian army and not Narendra Modi.”

Akhilesh Yadav – October 10: Backing Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s ‘dalali’ comments UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said Rahul must have made his comments after much deliberation – “Unhone ye bayan diya hai to kuch soch samajh ke diya hoga. Kuch jankari zaroor hogi.”

Akhilesh Yadav – October 6: “BJP makes up new words. What is surgical? War is a war, the villagers don’t understand ‘surgical’. It’s good that Indian army conducted surgical strike, but we still believe that dialogue is the best way to sort things out.”

Lalu Yadav – October 10: “BJP is falsely trying to take credit of brave acts of the Indian Army (for the successful surgical strikes on the launch pads of terrorists in PoK). The Army is known for its valour and it has given befitting reply to Pakistan’s attempts to push terrorists into the country and would do so in future as well. I am sure if the need arises, our brave Army would do a major surgery like this in future also.”

SOME LIKE NITISH KUMAR HAVE BEEN THERE FOR IT – RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING.

October 3: “The decision of surgical strike taken by the Centre is successful. Everybody knows that the Union Government is making foolproof arrangements to deal with such elements. Our Army and Paramilitary personnel who are deployed at the borders have the strength to deal with such situation.”

September 29: “We are proud of our Indian Army and we salute and appreciate their bravery and valour. We sincerely congratulate the Central government and our brave armed forces for the decisive action taken against terrorism.”

AND ARVIND KEJRIWAL, LIKE ALWAYS, HAS BEEN IN A DIFFERENT LEAGUE – UPS AND DOWNS – UNSURE OF WHAT TO SAY, WHEN TO SAY.

October 7: “I strongly condemn what Rahul Gandhi said about our jawans, this is a matter in which we all need to stand united. I pity Rahul’s mindset. There should be no politics on surgical strike and I am with Modi.”

October 5: Accused the BJP of playing politics over the surgical strike and questioning him for asking proof to counter Pakistan’s false propaganda.

October 3: “My blood boiled when I saw that report. There were reports being published by BBC and The New York Times questioning whether surgical strikes actually took place. Pakistan is trying to damage India’s reputation in the international community. I appeal to the prime minister: Unmask Pakistan’s false propaganda like the way you (Modi) and the army taught Pakistan a lesson on the ground. Unmask Pakistan’s baseless attempt to damage the reputation of India on the global forum. The entire country is with you. We are with you. I also appeal to the people to not fall for Pakistan’s false propaganda.”

All quotes, statements and observations have been taken from media reports.

©SantoshChaubey

SURGICAL STRIKE TO SURGICAL POLITICS

Yes, that is the case right now in India and we are not going to see tempers coming down soon as Uttar Pradesh, politically most important state in India, is going to polls in some months and the BJP, the ruling party in the Centre, will go all out to win the war of perceptions by exploiting the political mileage associated with this military action.

And they are rightly entitled to do so. Wars (or cross-border surgical strikes) are never only military in nature in democracies like India. They need political sanctity and Narendra Modi’s government gave the Indian military this much needed sanctity this time – unlike the previous political establishments.

The opposition and BJP’s frenemies (like Shiv Sena) are fearing this. So, while frenemies are trying to make a sort of balance in appreciating this surgical strike while reminding the BJP of some other nagging (dragging) issue(s) at the same time, the rivals are going all guns blazing against Narendra Modi and his party, as if they are sworn like enemies – going to the extent that they are even badmouthing and namecalling the Indian Army in the process.

So much so that it is now being aptly called surgical politics.

Yes, in order to discredit the BJP and deny it the space it is looking for with the surgical strike, riding on the wave of patriotism and nationalism, the rivals are now busy in doing the surgery of the initial stand they had taken – of supporting the government.

Like Pakistan, except the teams in India that strategized and implemented the surgical strike, no one even in India had imagined that India would do it. So, as the initial reaction, they had nothing but to offer their whole-hearted support and they did so, except the Left Front. And the Left Front now doesn’t have much political currency left in India.

But the BJP had other plans and rightly so. The party decided to promote the surgical strike on national and international platforms. Every small and big leader of the BJP got busy in telling the nation that how it was a result of the efficient and impact leadership by Narendra Modi. There were tweets, Facebook posts, posters, banners, placards and voices. And as earlier said, the BJP was entitled to it.

Now everyone knows how the 2011 Osama bin Laden’s surgical strike helped Barack Obama in winning the second term in 2012 and that would be high on everyone’s mind here in India in these times.

So, as the BJP proceeded with its plans, coupled with increased desperation and panic in Pakistan, the rivals started seeing red. And when it was more than what they could have taken, they started resorting to means that could have denied the BJP this opportunity – even if it meant questioning the Indian Army credentials and terming the whole surgical strike a lie, like Sanjay Nirupam did, or asking for evidence like Arvind Kejriwal or P Chidambaram or Ajay Alok or many other did.

But their changing stands and statements say they don’t know how to proceed. So, while they are shouting over the top, their strategy looks quite muddled. A leader says it was fake. Another leader of that party says it wasn’t fake but the BJP should not politicise the matter. A leader says we need the evidence. Another leader of that party says providing evidence is the sole discretion of the government. Many voice, many stands, but no clear signal! And it is sending a very negative message about them. Because most of them are sounding phoney (and even outrageous).

©SantoshChaubey

JANATA DAL: 1988 TO 2015 – THE STORY REMAINS THE SAME

After much downs and few ups, six factions of the erstwhile ‘Janata Dal’ or evergreen ‘Janata Parivar’ came together to save India’s secular fabric – at least that is what they had claim.

And in process, they thought, they could make a front to revive their dwindling political futures.

But they could not or did not deliberate on ‘state Vs national’ aspect of their ‘coming together’.

Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and Janata Dal (United) in Bihar are fighting to win the upcoming elections in their respective states.

An assembly election loss, after a humiliating show in the Lok Sabha polls last year, would be a heavy burden for Samajwadi Party to bear. The party may not recover from it. Losing assembly polls in Bihar, after complete decimation in the Lok Sabha polls, will make Nitish Kumar and Janata Dal (United), irrelevant in national and state politics.

Rashtriya Janata Dal, after Lalu Yadav’s conviction in fodder scam, is fighting a battle that he has already lost. An association with his corruption taint may be detrimental electorally. Samajwadi Janata Party exists only in three words, literally. Janata Dal (Secular) is losing its appeal in Karnataka.

The family head of the family show, Indian National Lok Dal, has been jailed for 10 years in a corruption case and his party failed to make any mark in the Lok Sabha as well as in the assembly polls.

And these six parties came together to form a combined entity together.

But it was an alliance of political opportunism with no political pragmatism.

Primary issues, potent enough to derail the process, like name, symbol and main party office of the new political entity were not worked out. And they remain elusive.

On ground, four of these parties have no or very less political currency left. RJD may work some political miracle given the prominence of ‘caste factor’ in the Bihar polls, but even that is not possible for others of the lot.

SP and JD(U) are restricted to UP and Bihar only – in their respective states. And they are fighting battles of political survival in retaining these states.

So, there is no conflict of interest – at least politically. SP can help JD(U) and RJD in Bihar and these two parties can do the same for SP in UP. But that needs prior understanding, that wasn’t tried to work out before the ‘grand Janata Parivar merger’ was announced.

After he left Congress, Vishwanath Pratap Singh had formed Janata Dal in 1988 to extend his political interests and as there was no ideology behind the move but a political purpose to somehow form the government, the party started witnessing splits fuelled by political ambitions.

It was Chandra Shekhar’s prime-ministerial ambition behind emergence of Samajwadi Janata Party or Mulayam Singh Yadav’s regional ambitions behind SP. Then Nitish Kumar and George Fernandes walked out with Samta Party. Lalu Yadav did his part by forming RJD in 1997. Om Prakash Chautala started his political family with Indian National Lok Dal. Nitish Kumar had one more split when he split Samta Party and formed Janata Dal (United) in 2003. Then there are more.

Since its formation, if Janata Dal has anything constant to talk about, it is its split after split at regular intervals – over a dozen and counting – splits fuelled by political ambitions.

Though Mulayam Singh Yadav has not walked out of the ‘reunited but still unnamed Janata Parivar’, he has clearly left the two parties of the new entity in Bihar. As told, he is feeling insulted and humiliated over the treatment meted out to his party in Bihar – by the political brethren of his ‘reunited Janata Parivar’.

But the real reason lies in securing the regional power centers first. The leverage that the combined entity can give in national politics comes later. If there is no regional political currency left, thinking of being a force at the national level will be nothing more than daydreaming.

UP being SP’s only power corridor, it needs to save it first, pooling and exhausting all resources to fight the wave of huge anti-incumbency to win the 2017 assembly polls. And it would avoid embarrassing and electorally sensitive elements like aligning with Lalu Yadav and Congress, the party that is its opponent in the state.

So, it was a ‘decision as per the political norms’ when he decided to walk out of the alliance in Bihar. In fact, by doing so, he can reap the benefit in a better way. SP has always been non-existent in Bihar. So, it doesn’t take the state seriously. Now, if the election returns, somehow, with better results this time, with the party again fighting on all seats, it would be a talking point for the UP assembly polls. After all, Mulayam can think of cornering some of Yadav and Muslim votes there – with increasing political isolation of Lalu Yadav (and Nitish would not like to see a politically stronger Mulayam Singh Yadav in Bihar).

Now, it is to be seen whether Sharad Yadav and Lalu Yadav become successful in brining Mulayam back into the alliance – as they are claiming.

But the development has clearly indicated one thing – and again – that Janata Dal was a loose amalgamation of different political groups which had come together to get into the power corridors and it had no ideology of its own – and every ‘satrap’ kept his political interests before the interest of combined entity. That led to its premature or early death.

In 1988, it was in the name of opposing Congress. In 2015, it is in the name of stopping BJP. In 1988, it had a combined identity, a name and symbol. In 2015, the ‘merged’ parties are still fighting elections as separate parties. In 1988, there was no political ideology to back the formation of Janata Dal. In 2015, the story remains the same.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHY MULAYAM SINGH YADAV WALKED OUT OF ALLIANCE IN BIHAR?

Samajwadi Party has no stake in the upcoming Bihar assembly polls. It is politically non-existent in the state.

Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Janata Dal have no grounds in Uttar Pradesh where assembly elections are due in April-May 2017.

Samajwadi Party is in government in Uttar Pradesh where the party won complete majority in 2012 assembly polls and Akhilesh Yadav became state’s chief minister. But the party had humiliating loss in the last year Lok Sabha elections where it failed to win any seats outside the ruling Yadav family and had to restrict to just five seats – all won in SP’s strongholds.

Bihar has Nitish Kumar from JD (U) as its chief minister. When he had fought the last assembly elections in 2010, he was in alliance with BJP. The ruling coalition had got a thumping majority. But due to some reason (read Nitish Kumar’s ego clash with Narendra Modi, the prime-ministerial candidate of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)), he broke the alliance and fought the Lok Sabha polls alone. His party met with a big loss and was decimated to only two seats. Nitish Kumar took its moral responsibility and resigned, installing Jitan Ram Manji, a Mahadalit, as the CM. But Manjhi didn’t turn out to be the sort of puppet he was thought to be. He soon started speaking a language of his own political ambitions – giving indications of even aligning with BJP. That made Nitish uncomfortable. And finally, when Manjhi openly rebelled and declined to toe the line, the party sacked him and Nitish became the CM again – in a scramble to gain victory in the upcoming assembly polls.

In UP, it’s SP Vs them (including Congress).

In Bihar, it’s JD(U) + RJD + Congress Vs them.

And in both states, BJP is the principal opposition. It won 73 seats in UP (with allies, 2 seats) out of 80 and 31 in Bihar (with allies, 9 seats) out of 40 in the last parliamentary elections. And the party is putting its all efforts to replicate the show in the upcoming assembly polls in both states – next month in Bihar and in 20 months in UP.

These two states together share 120 of 543 parliamentary seats in India and are the heartland of Indian politics.

For BJP, winning these states would further strengthen its pan-India appeal and would provide legitimacy to its claims of being the largest political party with a nationwide acceptance. Without having strong political grounds in UP and Bihar, BJP cannot claim so – given the fact that is has been in government in both these states.

SP, JD(U) or RJD are regional parties. In spite of best of their efforts, they have failed to go out of the state they belong to. And their political sanctity and existence lie in securing that home citadel first. Yes, if the citadels are like UP and Bihar, the political nerve centres in India, its gives a big leverage in the national politics.

After parting ways with BJP, Nitish is trying hard to find the way that could win the electoral game for him. Likewise, Lalu Yadav’s compulsion to survive politically saw an ally in Nitish and they both came together. Though Congress has become politically irrelevant in Bihar, to manage caste equations, it was also taken in the alliance. And in the name of reuniting the factions of the ‘Janata Parivar’, SP also joined the bandwagon.

Even if the political realties had the potential to go the other way.

And it seems they are going the other way.

And that has made for another flip-flop by Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Nitish Kumar may win the Bihar polls but his alliance with Lalu Yadav’s party may derail the show. Lalu’s corruption taint has the potential to sully his chances. And it may threaten SP’s chances in UP as well, where there is already a huge anti-incumbency wave against Akhilesh Yadav’s government.

Also, Congress may be politically irrelevant in Bihar, but in UP, it still matters, where it won 28 seats with around 12% vote share in 2012 assembly polls. If Congress and the SP fight together in Bihar but as political rivals in UP, it would create an embarrassing situation that the party would try to avoid – because there would be no answers.

The priority (political) for SP should be saving UP first in 2017 – and focusing on Bihar, with many contradicting factors, would jeopardize efforts – because, going by UP’s electoral history and the anti-incumbency against the SP government, there are real chances that the party is going to lose the 2017 polls.

We need to see the decision of Mulayam Singh Yadav to walk out of the ‘grand alliance’ in Bihar in this context, irrespective of the reason he is speaking about.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

TALKING POINTS ON ONE YEAR OF MODI GOVERNMENT

Given the state of political affairs and style of politics in the country, it is to continue. The Modi government will says it has done everything right and is well on the day to make an India it promised and its opponents will deny every such claim – on every pointer – in every sector – on each promise. After all, we don’t talk of and expect ethics and substance in politics anymore.

Narendra Modi then and now, when he took over on May 26, 2014 and what the indices say now, when Modi is completing his maiden year in the office. The usual flavour of the season will be made of the following elements:

— Major schemes of the Modi government – well, by any count, they are around 20, and could be even more – the most important part of the pro-people and anti-people debate

— Land acquisition in the first year – an important aspect of the pro-farmer and anti-farmer debate – high on agenda after the land bill ordinance by the government

— WPI and CPI trends – the monthly trends and the yearly performance – in May 2014 and now – will include debates on inflation, price rise and the state of economy

— Riots in one year – yearly data of riots – accordingly, religious controversies during Modi’s first year in prime-ministerial office

— Avoidable statements in one year – many by the BJP and the NDA leaders in last one year – surely a point where the government needs to work – the critics are expected to exploit the mileage

— Black money measures – it was a big election promise and campaigning point for Narendra Modi and though the government has not been able to bring the stash back home so far, it does have cleared a law to regulate the menace

— Cabinet size trend – maximum governance minimum government – size of Manmohan’s cabinet – Modi’s promise – and his cabinet now

— Foreign policy – with a prime minister circling the world with 18 foreign tours in his first year – a way to look ahead based on the record so far – India’s image does have improved – and so are the attacks of Modi’s political opponents

— How he dealt with Pakistan – he first invited SAARC leaders including Nawaj Sharif for his inauguration – then he cancelled India-Pakistan talks – it’s an year of no ups and more downs in India-Pakistan ties

— GDP in 2013-14 and GDP in 2014-15 – with contribution of each sector

— Sensex and Nifty then and now – the wealth created – the confidence in Indian economy

— IIP trends – IIP of May 2014 Vs IIP now – recovery Vs status quo Vs fall

— Rupee then and now – maintaining a downward trend these days – though is not attracting the intense debate

— FDI-FII in the first year – what were the figures when Modi took over there level now

— Foreign Reserve then and now – how much has it grown in an year since May 2014

— Reforms in one year – reforms stuck in the last one year – Indian economy and therefore Indian society cannot advance unless its policymaking is reformed – an important facet is about the bills passed and stuck in the Parliament

— Disinvestment then and now – part of the reform process – but not much on the front in spite of claims

— What Varanasi got in Modi’s maiden year – it is not just people in Modi’s parliamentary constituency but even analysts and political opponents are keenly watching the concerned developments

So, in Modi’s first year in the PMO, that he is completing tomorrow, as expected, there is much to talk about. And all of it has begun. And we are expected to hear more of them in coming days.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

AFTER ALL, FIRST NON-CONGRESS GOVERNMENT WITH MAJORITY IS COMPLETING ITS FIRST YEAR..

Tomorrow, the Narendra Modi government, the first non-Congress government with majority, is completing one year in office.

Given the momentous nature of the event, the Modi government, the Bhartiya Janata Party and other parties of the National Democratic Alliance are celebrating the feet with élan.

Narendra Modi is addressing rallies. Arun Jaitley is issuing statements. MPs are visiting and are to visit constituencies and cities to spread the word about achievements of the government. Rallies, exhibitions and pressers are being organized and several events are to be held. The official version of rallies are to be from May 26 to 31.

And as expected, the political opposition is going all out to oppose the government, showing it in a negative light of failures, empty promises and plain rhetoric.

Given the state of political affairs and style of politics in the country, it is to continue.

The Modi government will says it has done everything right and is well on the day to make an India it has promised and its opponents will deny every such claim.

After all, we don’t talk of and expect ethics and substance in the politics of the day anymore.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE BRIEF FOR CONGRESS SPOKESPERSONS POST DELHI ROUT (AND POST RAHUL GANDHI’S SABBATICAL)

Expecting questions on the first family, the party’s top leadership, after the complete rout of the Congress party in the Delhi assembly polls, sources say the party came up with up with a new brief for its spokespersons.

Thanks to a recently shunned spokesperson, who helped with a copy of the brief, here is what it said:

On the Delhi debacle: Party is looking into it and will bounce back soon. There was no anger against the party. In fact, Congress is content that the communal BJP has been shown the door. The increasing fringe voices from the RSS and its affiliate organizations on making India a Hindu nation or the radical agenda like religion conversions have shown the real character of the BJP.

On the Gandhi family: The Congress spokespersons are to follow the same line on the first family of the party, the Gandhis (including Robert Vadra) the way it has been. Its sanctity is not to be touched. But, in the changed circumstances, it is expected from the spokespersons that they follow the line in a way that they must not sound doing so.

On increasing voices of dissent: Though the party follows internal democracy, the liberty to speak out has valid restrictions as propounded by our top leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. If anyone has any grievance, the person needs to approach the top leadership. Party discipline must be respected.

On future strategy: Organizational polls will be held for party positions as per the ‘democratic norms’ of the party’s constitution. It goes with the ‘fact’ that positions like vice-president do not come in the poll ambit. Also, Congress believes in developing consensus and the current president Sonia Gandhi is a world figure and one of the tallest mass leaders whose acceptability transcends party lines.

And with today’s controversy on Rahul Gandhi going on leave (or the sabbatical) during the Budget session of the Parliament, that acquired stormy propositions by the late evening with discussions themed on a possible ‘Sonia-Rahul discord’, the party had to add another one to the list, in a quickly called meeting of the party’s apex communication cell.

And thanks again to the same source, the shunned spokesperson, the addition to the brief was:

On Rahul Gandhi’s sabbatical during the Budget session of the Parliament: It has to be referred to as sabbatical only, nothing else. Party is gearing up to bounce back under the leadership of Sonia ji and Rahul ji. Rahul Gandhi is our leader and he has been practicing innovative politics ever since he got active in politics. He is a leader with out of the box thinking and has taken a well thought sabbatical to reflect on the developments so far to work on the further course of action. He will soon join us to launch a comprehensive protest against the anti-people policies of the Narendra Modi government.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MODI THEN, KEJRIWAL NOW

These eight months proved out to be long enough for anti-incumbency against the BJP led central government, that was seen ruling Delhi through Lieutenant-Governor, to build to the extent that it led to a complete rout for the party’s prospects in the 2015 assembly polls.

In the 70-member Delhi assembly, BJP, the largest party of the 2013 assembly polls that bettered its show in 2014 Lok Sabha polls winning all seven seats and improving its vote share by 15% to 48% and leading in 60 of the 70 assembly segments, was reduced to just three seats.

And the Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal advantage played a major role in it.

AAP had begun its ground work a long before the L-G gave nod to the polls. Kejriwal’s sincere act of apology was finding its takers through his outreach efforts.

He was the most popular CM Candidate in Delhi even when BJP was clearly ahead of AAP in seat projections, survey after survey. And as the polls approached, increased intensity of his efforts took him far higher on popularity scale.

It was further helped by absence of any credible name against him as the CM nominee. Congress had none. BJP had none before January 12. After BJP paradropped her, Kiran Bedi did reach near to him with her announcement but soon Kejriwal widened the gap.

It all made Kejriwal the central target of political rivals. The mighty BJP was there, lock, stock and barrel, encircling him, trying to engulf him. Kejriwal was also in the fire-line of the down and out Congress.

Something that was the case with Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha polls when he was the central target of the political rivals.

It did help Modi then, making him a true mass phenomenon.

It helped Kejriwal now, in the assembly polls, making him the Delhi’s mass leader beyond the perception of popularity scales.

In the Lok Sabha polls, everyone was targeting Modi when he had no direct rival. And Modi had the most intensive campaigning schedule mapping length and breadth of the country. Every development helped him get added scales of visibility – the media time, visibility on airwaves, presence in print media, in top slots trending on Internet and social media. And as the it was coming from a fractured group of rivals including Congress that was sweating from the heat of a sky-high anti-incumbency, their words and acts only helped Modi positively.

In these assembly polls, in desperation, fuelled by the ‘below expectation crowds’ in Modi’s first rally, and Kiran Bedi’s rapidly diminishing impact, BJP started ratcheting up attacks on Kejriwal. BJP failed to realize the harm its negative campaign was doing and kept on doing the same thing with Arvind Kejriwal that opponents did with Modi then, targeting him with the might of BJP’s campaigning machinery that looked to sweep Delhi.

BJP failed to realize that it needed to keep this most important factor in check – the psychology, the inclination of youth, middle classes and poor- to support the one whom they can identify with – and Kejriwal has been certainly identifiable for them – to be in solidarity with the one who is taking on the mightier ones – and AAP is no match for BJP and Congress in terms of resources and experience.

Yes, BJP and Narendra Modi were not poor in resources or experience in the Lok Sabha polls, but Modi’s political past and the allegations of Gujarat riots made him the easy target of every other political outfit that he exploited well with his humble background. The tea-seller on the course to change the future of India and its people – being hounded by the political opponents – because of his poor background and because of his backward caste lineage – was a big crowd puller – and a big psychological connect for the impoverished masses.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/