Posts Tagged ‘NDA’

Why Food Security Bill makes parties insecure

15 July 2013

20130715-081305 PM.jpg

The Centre’s food security ordinance passed hurriedly recently, and the Karnataka government’s Anna Bhagya scheme launched last week, have, in their own ways, provoked a fierce political reaction that is beyond bizarre.

While non-Congress governments and parties are understandably apprehensive that the Congress-led UPA might be rolling out a “game-changer” ahead of the elections, others see in the Centre’s move, an attempt to infringe upon state’s powers.

Other critics see trademark signs of profligacy at a time when the fiscal deficit is soaring although many of them seemingly have no problem if rich corporates and business houses get way-bigger incentives and write-offs.

As Melwyn Pinto writes at The Hoot:

Any populist measures of the government, especially those benefitting the poor, are looked at suspiciously by a section of the media. It does not matter if poor people rightly deserve such benefits from schemes as they have only the government to come to their aid. However, why should any help done to the distressed be seen only as a means to win elections? Isn’t it the government’s moral responsibility to side with the poor and work for their welfare?

Be that as it may, lost in the back and forth is the moral argument. The fact is there are millions of Indians going hungry. The fact is millions of tonnes of food grains go waste. And the fact is, regardless of what it costs, no civilised country can shut its eye to either.

As this picture of women queueing up to pick up their allocation of 30 kilos of rice at one rupee a kilo, at a fair price shop in the supposedly prosperous, post-liberalised “IT” city of Bangalore—in J.P. Nagar 2nd stage no less—demonstrates, parties and governments have much to be afraid of if the hunger pangs of large numbers of people who vote with their feet are suddenly sated.

CHURUMURI POLL: BJP better off without Advani?

11 June 2013

Hell hath no fury like an old man scorned. With Narendra Damodardas Modi‘s nomination as the chairman of the BJP election campaign committee in Goa on Sunday, 86-year-old Lalchand Kishinchand Advani‘s fate as a “two-time former future prime minister of India” was finally and firmly sealed.

But it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

So, a dramatic resignation from the all posts held by him (except the crucial one of NDA chairperson), followed by the leak of the resignation letter, followed by the leak that he did not speak to Modi for six minutes after the nomination but merely 90 seconds. If age equals experience equals wisdom, Advani was showing little of it.

Indeed, the contents of the resignation letter showed a petty and bitter man, unable to come to terms with the reality that the party he had so artfully built on the trail of blood left behind by his rath yatras no longer found him useful. So petty and so bitter that he even seemed willing to destroy its immediate prospects.

So far, the BJP has refused to play ball. It wants him to stay on in his posts but has shown no indication that it will revoke its decision to elevate Modi. More resignations of Advani’s camp-followers may follow, but by all available indications, it appears as if the BJP and RSS (not necessarily in that order) have taken a calculated risk.

Questions: Is BJP better off without Advani? Will Advani’s absence impact the NDA and its prospects in the coming general elections? Is BJP’s (and India’s) future safe with Modi or has Advani shown the opposite?

Also read: Is Advani more acceptable than Modi?

‘The man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred’

POLL: Has Modi’s march to Delhi been checked?

20 December 2012

To nobody’s surprise, Narendra Damodardas Modi has secured a remarkable third, consecutive victory for the BJP in Gujarat. But to the shock of his fanatical drumbeaters and hype masters (and internet trolls), he has ended up with two fewer seats than what he had got five years ago: 115 in 2012 versus 117 in 2007.

The reduced margin does little to take away from the significance of the mandate, but it does throw a nice question mark over the expensive and relentless public relations campaign that had been mounted (through TV channels, magazine covers, newspaper ads) to erase the memories of 2002 and to create the self-fulfilling prophecy of the development giant towering over meek, inactive creatures populating the landscape.

The size of the victory also throws a small spanner in his grand design to swiftly move to Delhi and assume charge of his beleaguered party that is no better shape than the Congress, if not worse.

The fact that he has ended up with fewer seats for all that had been invested into his giant leap by corporates, business and media houses, means that many in the BJP and RSS (and not necessarily in that order), and the NDA, will now be emboldened to question what had been assumed for granted: that he would win a huge win on the scale of his persona, serve out a few months as chief minister, hand over charge to one of his chosen ones, and then move to Delhi to lead the BJP charge in the next general election against the hapless Rahul Gandhi.

He might yet do that, but there can be little denying that some of the air has slipped out of the blimp for the moment.

The BJP reverse in Himachal Pradesh (where he made a big song and dance over induction cookers) shows that he still doesn’t possess the pan-Indian appeal that his supporters thought he does. Sans an emotive issue (despite his efforts to spread a canard about Sir Creek or his derisive labelling of Ahmed Patel as Ahmed miyan), Modi is not the force he was expected to be.

Quite clearly, it would require a superhuman to retain the interest or sustain the hype for another five years. So, when exactly will Modi make his move to Delhi? Will it be smooth? Will he able to stomach a rebuff if his advances are spurned by his party colleagues and allies? And will the “former future prime minister” be given the opportunity to stand from Gandhinagar again?

Also read: How many seats will Narendra Modi get?–II

How many seats for Narendra Modi?—I

 

CHURUMURI POLL: Abdul Kalam for President?

20 April 2012

It is a reflection of the current state of Indian politics that even as boring an exercise as the presidential election has all the markings of a heart-stopping show, which, to use the sage words of Ravi Shastri in an IPL season, “can go all the way down to the wire”.

The elections are still two months away, but the battlelines are getting drawn between the UPA and NDA, with more than a few aspiring (and perspiring) partypoopers lining up alongside. Result: Hopes of a “consensus” in the “national interest” are quickly getting “elusive”.

The Congress-led UPA, whose electoral victories are few and far between, obviously wants its candidate (vice-president Hamid Ansari, according to the prevailing wisdom) to get in, especially with general elections due in 2014. Ansari is suave, erudite, secular, has friends on both sides of the political fence, and oozes plenty of presidential air.

The problem is his conduct as chairman of the Rajya Sabha in the Lok Pal debate—when he called of the session without giving time for a vote—which seems to have rubbed the BJP on the wrong side.

Worse, as a “left wing intellectual” Ansari is anathema to the current diva of Indian politics, Mamata Banerjee, who is part of the UPA. She, it appears, is talking with Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajawadi Party and exploring the possibility of propping up former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam once again. Mulayam it was who had first suggested Kalam’s name in 2002.

Kalam’s name did the rounds at the end of his first term in 2007, but when the parties couldn’t reach a consensus, he dropped out. “Kalam Iyer” has given no indication that he is interested in a fresh tenure but by floating his name at this juncture, regional parties like Trinamool are giving every indication of a faceoff between a Tamil Muslim and a UP Muslim.

Questions: Will Kalam agree to enter the presidential race again? Should he? Does he stand a chance when the numbers are loaded against the Opposition? Could he end up becoming a pawn in the hands of small parties? Or, should the UPA consider him as the “consensus” candidate this time round given his role in defusing the Koodankulam anti-nuclear protests?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will BJP win Karnataka again?

11 February 2012

As if to show that India’s two biggest political parties are cut from the same tainted cloth, the Congress-led government at the Centre and the BJP  government in Karnataka have been slipping from scam to scam, crisis to crisis—and making a mockery of the people’s mandate—in a regular and nearly identical manner.

While the Manmohan Singh government’s scandal-marred second tenure, pockmarked with a brazen assault on free speech, is now part of political lore, the B.S. Yediyurappa-led (and now D.V. Sadananda Gowda led)  regime in the State has fared far worse with more than a dozen ministers under scrutiny for financial (and sexual) corruption.

The communal undertones of one regime is matched by the casteist undertones of the other. Both regimes survive from court order to court order. And both seem convinced that the wise voter is actually a silly fool, who doesn’t read, hear or watch the news; and that she will forgive and forget the excesses if she is thrown a few crumbs and a saree.

But there is one key difference. The BJP government’s conduct and governance in Karnataka makes nonsense of the party’s  sanctimonious posturing and fingerwagging about the Congress. Its always-vacuous claim of being a party with a difference, guided by high morals, is now a pathetic joke that cannot even be uttered in the presence of children.

The Congress’s big test will come in the UP and other state elections. But here’s the other question: will the BJP come to power in Karnataka if there is a snap election tomorrow? Or, like with the faction-ridden, leaderless BJP at the Centre, is the faction-ridden, leaderless Karnataka Congress in no position to exploit the pitiable state the BJP finds itself in?

CHURUMURI POLL: Assembly polls, UPA or NDA?

10 May 2011

Friday the 13th, of May 2011, is clearly D-day in Indian politics.

The fate of the assembly elections in two States—West Bengal and Kerala—over which the Left parties have lorded over for decades will be known. While Kerala has been a five-yearly, on-off affair, it is Bengal that stands at the cusp. Will the Left step back from the abyss, or tumble over against Mamata Banerjee‘s Trinamul?

In Tamil Nadu, the ground zero of the 2G spectrum allocation scam—home of the DMK, A. Raja and Dayanidhi Maran, M. Karunanidhi‘s daughter Kanimozhi, and Kalaignar TV and Tamil Meiyyam and other dramatis personae—is facing an onslaught from Jayalalitha Jayaram and the AIADMK.

If the DMK-Congress pulls off a surprise win, and the Left is humbled in Bengal and Kerala, the assembly verdict will be a shot in the arm for the Congress-led UPA, which has been on the backfoot against a relentless torrent of corruption charges.

If the Left loses both States, it also means that the political centre well and truly belongs to the Congress and throws a big question mark over the BJP’s (and NDA’s) ability to capitalise on big issues like corruption.

What do you think is likely to happen? Is it advantage UPA or NDA? Is it a good thing for Indian democracy if the Left is wiped out from the political map? What does it say about the electorate if voters care two hoots for mind-numbing corruption? Or, are we all speaking too early?

(This churumuri poll allows you to post multiple responses)

Who’s running the Feudal Republic of India? ANC.

30 May 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I met the Ace Political Expert (APE) at Cheluvamba Park doing his yogic walk. After a couple of rounds, he sat on the stone beach.

He beckoned me to sit and I asked him the question that was bothering me since the prime minister’s national press conference last week: “Who exactly is running our country?”

After taking a long breath, APE said: “There is a coalition government but there is collision at each and every step.”

It was a bad pun, but I let it be.

“Could you be more specific? Is Manmohan Singh running the country?”

“It is illusory to feel Manmohan Singh is running the country. He is running away from running the country, by visiting various countries. In effect, he is on the run most of the times.”

“He is not going anywhere. He himself said so during his press conference,” I interrupted.

“He meant Rahul Gandhi may have to wait a little longer to take his place as per the norms of the feudal democractic republic of India.”

“If Manmohan is not running the country, what about Sonia?”

“Well, Sonia is running the country and she is not! Let me explain. She wants the home minister to have a dialogue with Maoists. But Chidambaram is confused whether he should start a dialogue or act like Vedanta’s lawyer and box the Maoists for the bauxite. So he is doing nothing. Worse, he is doing a daily Q&A session with Barkha Dutt on 26 /11 forgetting there is an external affairs minister to do that job in S.M. Krishna.”

“This is all so confusing.”

“S.M. Krishna was busy monitoring and mentoring Shashi Tharoor who is anyway beyond mentoring and monitoring. That’s how he landed in a sweaty soup during IPL.”

APE continued: “Sonia wants the prices of tur dal and loki to be controlled but Sharad Pawar has apparently better things to do. He is busy getting new suits stitched for the post of ICC chief. So Sonia is not running the country either.”

“Sometimes it looks it is the opposition that is running the country.”

“That’s how it seemed to me too looking at the way Arun Jaitley supported the government to take tough action against Naxals and Maoists. I thought he was guiding Chidambaram. But Digvijay Singh’s bashing up of Chidambaram indicates neither UPA nor Congress is running the country. The much tom-tomed opposition unity on cut-motion fell flat on its face. So the opposition are not running the country either.”

I was getting desperate.

“The electronic media is all the time hysterical with their ‘Breaking News’ song-and-dance act. Are they running the country?”

“Sometimes I feel the troika of Prannoy Roy, Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab Goswami are running the country. But their agenda is mostly restricted to the Ruchika case, Aarushi murder case, etc, followed by a lengthy acrimonious debate. If they don’t have any agenda, they bring in Lalit Modi’s IPL3 which always has something to offer—-cricket, Bollywood starlets, midnight parties, millions of dollars, match fixing , N. Srinivasan’s homa before the finals etc.”

“Could the armed forces be running the country,” I wonder.

“It looked like that when we won the Kargil war. But the fudging of records of Kargil war, painting heroes as villains and villains as heroes, and the periodic selling of our defense secrets like in the Navy warm room look belies such thoughts.”

“What about the ministers,” I asked.

“Mostly they are busy with their scams or tantrums. DMK’s A. Raja, the telecom minister is known more for his 2G scam. Instead of being a rail mantri, Mamata Banerjee is in Kolkata trying to overthrow the Leftists there, be it in the state, municipal, or panchayet  elections, or even a local football match. I don’t think ministers are running the country either.”

I was getting exasperated.

“If Dr Singh is running away from the country’s problems, Sonia has no idea, ministers are not running the country, who is in charge or are we on auto-pilot?”

“ANC,” said APE.

“You mean African National Congress?”

“No. The ANC here  is Anarchy, Nepotism and Corruption!” said the APE.

“Are they running the country?” I asked.

“They are ruining the country!” concluded the APE.

Is Manmohan Singh becoming a “Rollback PM”?

27 May 2010

Yashwant Sinha, finance minister in the former BJP-led NDA regime, had a well-earned reputation as “Rollback FM”.

Given the speed with which key policy decisions taken in haste are being “revisited” by the current Congres-led UPA regime—the creation of Telengana, the 33% women’s reservation bill, the insertion of a caste column in the census—is Manmohan Singh running the risk of earning the epithet of “Rollback PM”?

Cartoon: courtesy Prasad Radhakrishnan/ Mail Today

Also read: Anybody Dalit in the media and speaks English?

CHURUMURI POLL: Caste in the census or not?

An open letter to home minister P. Chidambaram

20 May 2010

Dear Shri Chidambaram

This is in response to your repeated taunts in your NDTV interview that “civil society” must respond to the wanton killing by the Naxals. It appears that the interview was tailor-made for getting the consent of the Union Cabinet for more firepower and airpower to combat the Maoists.

The diabolic support of Arun Jaitley, by describing you an “injured martyr”, was designed to achieve his ambition through the support of the mining barons of the BJP-ruled states.

As a member of society, I hope I am being civil in disagreeing with you on your hard line approach against the innocent tribals. I also hope you will not find it too shocking for being accused of being largely responsible for the rise and growth of naxalism, as the following happened on your watch as finance minister.

# Is it not true that naxalism grew exponentially in the last 10 years to become the present menace ? In fact you have yourself identified the time frame of the last 10 years in your interview with NDTV.

# Is it not true that the rise in popularity of naxalism is also coincidental with the rise in iron ore mining profits which increased from around Rs 50 per tonne to over Rs 5,000 per tonne in the last ten years?

# Is it not true that the map of naxalism is also the map of the Indian minerals. These minerals belong to the people of India but have been handed over to mining barons and corporate in a relationship of mutual benefit, more appropriately described as crony capitalism. It is for this reason that Arun Jaitley is your staunchest supporter because the fate of four State governments ruled by the BJP is dependent on the money from the mining mafia.

# Is it not true that during your watch as finance minister for four and a half years, corporates raked in profits of over Rs 2,00,000 crore through legal and illegal mining, mostly in the iron ore sector? How was this profit shared?

# Is it not true that during your entire tenure as FM, the royalty on iron ore was not revised and remained at a ridiculous Rs 7 to Rs 27 per tonne ( depending on the type and grade of iron ore) with the average of around Rs 15 per tonne. This royalty was neither made ad valorem nor was it revised from year 2000 onwards when the international price of iron ore rose to dizzying levels.

# Is it not true that the minerals are owned by the people of the State? Is a meagre 0.5 % royalty on iron ore profits adequate compensation to the owner of the resources? Would you sell your Rs one crore property for Rs 50,000?

Did your fulfill the oath that you took as a Minister to abide by the Constitution, in particular Article 39 (b) and (c) of the constitution which directs the government to use natural resources owned by the people of the country are used to subserve the common good?

Would the Naxal problem have been there if 25% of the mining profit was spent on the poor and the tribal living in the mining area and whose life was uprooted by the greedy corporate/mining mafia with active connivance of the law enforcers and policy makers ?

What prevented the government from nationalising the iron ore mine industry and handing it over to a PSU or the national mineral development corporation (NMDC) whose shares of one rupee were lapped up at a premium of Rs 300 (30000% premium) and using the profit for benefit of the people?

Are you aware that even a resource-rich and affluent country like Australia with a low population base is imposing an additional 40% windfall tax on mining profits?

Can a poor country like India afford to forgo these windfall profits?

Will you reveal as to how many times you have defended the public interest through a public interest litigation (PIL) and how many times you have defended corporate interest during your professional career as a lawyer? The question is relevant because of your empathy for the corporate sector is in apparent conflict with that towards the toiling masses.

Is it wrong for “civil society” to conclude that both as home minister and finance minister you have been protecting corporate profiteers (by first allowing them to loot the mineral wealth belonging to the people and now securing these mines for them) and not protecting the interest of the poor and tribal people who are victims of corporate greed and crony capitalism of the political parties?

You in particular should have known better having been a director of Vedanta Resources!

In your appearance on NDTV you talked about the two-pronged approach and one of them having been weakened. It is the prong of development which has been weakened and is non-existent. The royalty collected is not sufficient to pay for the various types of direct damages done by the mining industry (health, environment, water, roads, rehabilitation etc) let alone the cost of security forces.

Is it not true that the killing of innocent security forces and tribal is the direct result of the policy of securing the mineral wealth for the corporate profiteers and political parties who share the loot?

It was shocking to know that you were more concerned about your CV falling short by a few months of completing five years as finance minister when you met your maker (refer the NDTV interview) than about the blood of the innocents that has been spilled on both sides as a consequence of corporate profiteering.

It is not surprising that all the State governments which get reelected on the money of the mining mafia are interested in using air cover to make mining safe and profitable ever after. You should know better the role of money in elections after having managed to squeak past the post while the DMK MPs romped home with handsome margin. Mr A. Raja retained his portfolio!

What is at stake is the credibility of the State: that it is using force to benefit the mining mafia and that it has a vested interest in the profiteering of the mining mafia which is prospering because of crony capitalism.

To restore its credibility the government should resume all the mines which in any case belong to the people and give a solemn pledge that a minimum of 25% of the mining profits will be used for the benefit of the local people. The solution is not only just but one mandated by the Constitution. It is only after restoring its credibility that the State will have the right to act.

That one hopes, will not be necessary because honest development based on the resources belonging to the people is the best contraceptive against the Maoist ideology. (One is happy to note that according to newspaper report the mining minister has made a similar proposal and not surprisingly facing resistence.)

What happened, Mr Chidambaram, you used to be a nice guy? You resigned over the Fairgrowth affair when you were not even guilty.

Life is not about arguing a brief in court for money. It is about arguing for what is right. You have wrongly accused us of being “neither clever nor being devious “ (refer interview with NDTV), because we are not capable of it. We cannot argue the way you do.

Your arguments in Parliament over the oil for food programme while shielding Reliance from being referred to the Pathak Committee were indeed “brilliant.” Were you being clever or devious in your arguments? ( Refer the book Reliance the Real Natwar written by the undersigned for deciding the issue).

Please do not use “civil society” as an excuse for your omissions and commissions. We have no vested interest except that what belongs to the people should go to the people and that innocents, whether the security forces or the people forced to join the Maoist, should not die for corporate profits.

We are not powerful to tie the State governments with legal cases on police excesses. Those trying to uphold human right violations do so at considerable risk to their life and liberty and deserve our respect and not condemnation as misguided romantics.

On a personal note, Sir, will you resign and argue my PIL before the high court involving Rs 3,00,000 crore of iron ore being gifted by the State to Posco and Arcelor-Mittal (as Nani Palkhivala did to argue the Minerva Mill case) . It will be difficult to lose the case because law, facts and most important you will be on the same side.

If you agree to do so, Sir, I am sure He will give you far more credit than He would for the extra six months that you missed out as Finance Minister!

In case you are interested I will send you a copy of the petition.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

For far too long you have been shifting the blame on “civil society”. We too need answers.

With warm regards

A.K. Agrawal, Bangalore

***

Also read: ‘Either you are with us or you are with them?’

One question I’m dying to ask P. Chidambaram

CHURUMURI POLL: Will the State beat Naxals?

Arundhati Roy: ‘What Muslims were to BJP, Maoists are to Congress’

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Reddy brothers quit?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Mittal Steel get the land?

Even a paper tiger roars when ship starts leaking

14 July 2009

Arun Shourie, the BJP’s resident intellectual for all matters requiring “an IQ of more than 60“—in the famous words of P. Chidambaram, presumably the Congress’s resident intellectual for all matters requiring an IQ of less than 600—has a piece in today’s Indian Express on the debacle of the BJP in the 2009 general elections.

The Magsaysay Award winning journalist, who has emerged as the third man in the dissident triangle after Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha, strikes the grand posture of speaking for all the parties but leaves little doubt over why the L.K. Advani-Arun Jaitley camp has begun to distrust him as to sideline him along with the other two.

“The factor most responsible for the rout has been the state to which the leader and his circle have reduced the party as an organisation, but that is the one factor which the leader and his cohorts will not admit into the discourse. Is the party seen as, is it in fact different from the others? Are its candidates any different? Is every unit of the party not riddled with factionalism?

“That these are the reasons for the setback is manifest to all. But the leader and his circle would have none of them — for that would immediately raise further questions. The party is no longer different from others? Who has allowed the party to sink to this level where it cannot be distinguished from the very parties it has been denouncing? The candidates are no better than those of the rivals? Who has selected the candidates? Factionalism has been allowed to continue? Each state faction has a line to some ringleader in the central cabal? Who has allowed the factionalism to fester and swell?

“They blame others — the rival party; the third party that has stolen their vote; the accidental reason on account of which a section whose vote was to have split got consolidated; the youth; the middle class; the poor who voted on money, the rich who did not vote; the holidays on account of which so many went out of town; the disenchantment with the party’s ally in one state, the absence of an ally in the other; the anti-incumbency factor against us in this state, the advantage that the rival party had in the adjacent state of being in office and thereby being able to use the state machinery; the ‘shameless’ use of money and muscle by the rival… In a word, everyone and everything other than themselves.”

Read the full article here: On the way down

Also read: Don’t laugh: Do journalists make good politicians?

‘Only a vertical split can save the BJP’

The only person to blame for BJP loss is L.K. Advani

BJP defeat is a defeat of BJP brand of journalism

23 June 2009

PRITAM SENGUPTA in New Delhi and SHARANYA KANVILKAR in Bombay write: The stunning defeat of the BJP in the general elections has been dissected so many times and by so many since May 16 that there is little that has been left unsaid.

What has been left unsaid is how the BJP’s defeat also marks the comeuppance of a certain breed of journalists who had chucked all pretence to non-partisanship and made it their mission to tom-tom the party, in print and on air, for a decade and more.

The Congress and the Left parties have had more than their share of sympathetic “left-liberal” journalists, of course. And for longer. But most were closet supporters unwilling to cross the divide from journalism into politics, or unwilling to be seen to be doing so.

However, the rise of the “muscular” BJP saw the birth of a “muscular” breed of journalists who unabashedly batted for the party’s politics and policies—without revealing their allegiance while enjoying its fruits “lavishly“—in a manner that would have embarrassed even the official spokesmen of the “Hindu nationalist party”.

Little wonder, Arun Shourie, the granddad of journalists turned BJP politicians, alleged at the party’s national executive meeting that “the BJP was being run by six journalists.” There are different versions doing the rounds on who the “Gang of Six” were, but some names are no longer in the realm of speculation.

# Sudheendra Kulkarni an assistant editor at The Sunday Observer and executive editor at Blitz, rose to be a key aide to both prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and prime minister-in-waiting L.K. Advani, even drafting the latter’s controversial Jinnah speech.

# Chandan Mitra, an assistant editor at The Times of India, editor of The Sunday Observer, and executive editor of Hindustan Times, found himself “mysteriously becoming the proprietor of The Pioneer, without spending a rupee thanks to the generosity of the BJP and more particularly that of L.K. Advani“.

# Swapan Dasgupta, the scion of Calcutta Chemicals (which makes Margo soap), rose to be managing editor of the weekly newsmagazine India Today, before emerging the unofficial media pointsman of sorts for Arun Jaitley and through him for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

# Balbir K. Punj, the sugar correspondent of The Financial Express, who churned out masterly theses on conversions and other sundry diversions for Outlook magazine, was nominated to the upper house of Parliament by the BJP like Mitra.

# And then there’s a motley crew of fulltimers and freelancers, including India Today editor Prabhu Chawla, Pioneer associate editor Kanchan Gupta, who did a spell in Vajpayee’s PMO, and weighty political correspondents and editors of The Times of India, The Economic Times and Dainik Jagran.

“Journo Sena” was what the tribe came to be called, an allusion to the “Vanara Sena” (army of monkeys) that helped Lord Rama fight the armies of Ravana in Ramayana.

However, in the unravelling political epic, the “Journo Sena” stands trapped in the crossfire of a party struggling to come to grips with a gigantic electoral loss, firing wildly at each other—or are being fired at by the big guns.

***

First, Sudheendra Kulkarni’s “candid insider account” in Tehelka, a magazine whose website was hounded out of business by the Vajpayee government, came in for searing criticism from Anil Chawla, a classmate of his at IIT Bombay, for blaming the RSS for the BJP’s plight.

“The patient is being blamed for all that has gone wrong, without in any way blaming either the virus or the team of doctors who have brought the patient to the present critical state,” he wrote in a widely circulated “open letter”.

Kanchan Gupta, who many believe was eased out of Vajpayee’s PMO by Kulkarni, took a potshot at his erstwhile colleague.

“Kulkarni who undid the BJP’s election campaign in 2004 with the ‘India Shining’ slogan and fashioned the 2009 campaign which has taken the BJP to a low of barely-above-100 mark has written an article for Tehelka, the magazine which tarred the NDA government, causing it irreparable damage, and is now the favourite perch of those who inhabit the BJP’s inner courtyard, blaming all and sundry except those who are to blame,” Gupta wrote on rediff.com.

In a rejoinder in Tehelka, Swapan Dasgupta welcomed Sudheendra Kulkarni’s mea culpa calling it “a welcome addition to the ever-growing literature on the BJP’s 2009 election experience,” but couldn’t resist himself from sticking the knife in.

“Kulkarni has provided some interesting insights but has also cluttered the picture with red herrings. This isn’t surprising.

There are many in the BJP who insist that the problem with Advani was Kulkarni“.

When former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha resigned from party posts, ostensibly miffed at the elevation of Arun Jaitley as leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha despite leading the party to defeat, Dasgupta rushed to Jaitley’s defence, wondering how the resignation letter had made its way to NDTV.

“TV editors I have spoken to have indicated that there were two parallel points of leak. The first was through an associate of Pramod Mahajan (who hates Jaitley) and the other was was the unlikely figure of a cerebral Rajya Sabha MP.

“I gather that the follow-up was done by a disagreeable journalist (one who signed the 20-points during the Emergency) whose nomination to the Rajya Sabha has been blocked by Jaitley on two separate occasions,” he wrote on his blog.

At the BJP’s national executive meeting, the “cerebral Rajya Sabha MP” Arun ShourieMagsaysay Award-winning former investigative journalist and author who became a minister in the Vajpayee government—“blamed six unnamed journalists who, he said, were responsible for articles damaging the [BJP] party interest.”

Whether the journalists were all members of the BJP or merely sympathetic to it, Shourie didn’t make clear.

In drawing attention to the journalists in specific, the former journalist may only have been indulging in the nation’s favourite sport of shooting the messenger but he was also underlining the role his compatriots were playing in the BJP’s affairs.

In his column in the media magazine Impact, Sandeep Bamzai writes:

“Arun Jaitley and his band of journalists-turned-politicocs misread the ground realities and the tea leaves completely. Buoyed by several wins in key States, this core team thought that the mood in the States would be mirrored at the Centre when the general hustings came along.

“Price spikes, terror threats and fulminations against a decent PM Manmohan Singh were the new imperatives crafted by Jaitley and his journo boys.

“The entire strategy fell flat on its face and all the journos who hogged prime time on new telly in the run up to the elections turned into disillusioned critics immediately after the results.”

In the India Today cover story on the BJP’s travails, Swapan Dasgupta’s former boss, Prabhu Chawla, seen to be close to incumbent BJP president Rajnath Singh, found fault with Singh’s bete noire Arun Jaitley for being spotted at Lord’s, applauding a boundary by Kevin Pietersen during the India-England Twenty20 match:

“Jaitley, a hardcore cricket buff, was in London with his family on holiday while his party back home was imploding, just like the Indian team.”

On a yahoogroup called “Hindu Thought”, the former Century Mills public relations officer turned columnist Arvind Lavakare, attacked Swapan Dasgupta, presumably for urging the BJP to junk the “ugly Hindu” image engendered by its commitment to Hindutva.

“After quitting a salaried job in a reputed English magazine a few years ago, Swapan’s livelihood may well be depending on his writings being published in a wide range of prosperous English newspapers which are anti-Hindu and therefore anti-BJP. If that is indeed so, Swapan simply cannot afford to project and push the Hindu line beyond the Laxman rekha. Poor dear,” wrote Lavakare.

The comment would perhaps have gone unnoticed, but Dasgupta gave it some oxygen by responding in kind in a post-script on his blog:

“I have no intention of affirming my credentials. To do so would be to dignify Lavakare’s personal attacks as a substitute for an informed debate on ideas.

“I merely hope that the attacks on where I write, who went to college with me and who are my friends are not in any way an expression of envy. It is a matter of satisfaction for me that I get a platform in the mass media (cutting across editorial positions).

“Engaging with the wider world is daunting but much more meaningful than gloating inside a sectarian ghetto. I strong recommend Lavakare also tries earning a livelihood out of writing for “a range of prosperous English newspapers”. It could be a humbling experience.”

Among the few journalists to have spotted the travails of the “Journo Sena”, or at least among the few to have had the courage of conviction to put it on paper, is Faraz Ahmed.

He writes in The Tribune, Chandigarh:

“When the BJP lost power in 2004, all the branded BJP editors—Kanchan, Swapan, A. Surya Prakash and Udayan Namboodri—were pensioned off to Chandan Mitra’s Pioneer. Today, however, each one of them is finding fault with Advani, the BJP and some even with the Sangh.

“These are ominous signs of the demise of a political party and reminds one of the slow and painful death of Janata Dal in the early ’90s when the ‘Dalam’ was dying and BJP was on the upswing and everyone was joining it or identifying with it because that was the most happening party.

“To be fair to these people who naturally represent the rising middle class, they waited patiently for five years in a hope that the UPA government would be a one-election wonder and would die a natural death in the next round. So much for their political understanding.”

Obviously, everybody loves a winning horse and doubtless the antics of the “Journo Sena” would have made for more pleasant viewing had the election verdict been the other way round.

Still, their antics in the aftermath of defeat raise some fundamental questions about their grand-standing in the run-up to the elections: Are all-seeing, all-knowing journalists cut out for politics? Do they have the thick skin, large stamina, and the diplomatic skills required for the rough and tumble?

From the embarrassment they have caused and are causing to their party of choice, it is clear that there is an element of truth to BJP president Rajnath Singh’s statement that he can “neither swallow nor spew out” the journalists.

Then again, L.K. Advani started his career as a journalist.

Also read: How come no one saw the worm turn?

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

How Chandan Mitra has his halwa and hogs it too

Advani: Prime minister maybe, but not a good sub

How the Congress family defeated Sangh Parivar

8 June 2009

Say what you will, but at least Pramod Mahajan had the courage to come out and face the cameras and, with some humility and a smile on his face, try to provide some answers for the BJP’s shock defeat in 2004. It was as close to a televised confessional as a nation could come to have seen.

In contrast, the BJP’s 2009 debacle has been remarkable because it underlines the axiom that failure is a pathetic orphan.

L.K. Advani hasn’t even had the courtesy to thank those who voted for his party. The hair-splitting, finger-wagging talking heads who had a problem for every solution—Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar, Chandan Mitra, Balbir Punj—have all disappeared. Narendra Modi is happy playing his little mind games, threatening to take the “stationary train from Ahmedabad to Delhi”.

In other words, the introspection that a party must make after being subjected to a rout of such a scale and size has been missing. Not because it makes a good sight, but because India needs the BJP. It’s all very well to crow about the Congress victory, but the prospect of a political landscape without a credible, viable, national opposition party is grim if not catastrophic as the 1984 landslide win of Rajiv Gandhi showed.

Thankfully, Sudheendra Kulkarni, the Belgaum-born, Kannada-speaking former left winger who became a key advisor to both Atal Behari Vajpayee and Advani provides a small corrective in this week’s issue of Tehelka. The BJP’s failure to convince the people, he writes, is rooted in a combination of structual, political ideological, organisational and campaign-related issues.

These are some of the salient points Kulkarni makes:

# “The BJP’s geographical presence in the country is much narrower than that of the Congress. It won only one seat out of 143 that were available in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The Congress won 60.”

# “A principal reason for the party’s success in forming a government in 1998 and 1999 was its ability to forge alliances. After 2004, many alliance parnters left, not becuase the NDA had been defeated but their perception that the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002 was an important cause of the defeat and hence their conclusion that continuation of the alliance would cost them Muslim votes.”

# There is widespread ideological confusionwithin the BJP over what the party’s advocacy of Hindutva actually means. There is a section which believes it lost in 2004 because it “abandoned Hindutva” (Ram Temple, Article 370, Uniform Civil Code) and many angry voices have again said the same.

“It’s a deeply flawed view. It errs in believing that the BJP’s Hindu base is synonymous with the totality of Hindu voters. The fact is, Hindus never vote as a block for any particular party. There is only a small section of Hindus who have voted as Hindus for what they perceived as a pro-Hindu party.”

# “It is high time the BJP seriously debated and decided what it means by Hindutva and also what formulations of Hindutva are not acceptable to it. True the BJP must remain an ideology-driven party. But without clarity on what the BJP’s ideology is, the party cannot win the support of more Hindus, let alone the support of Muslims and Christians.”

# “The mentality of a large section of the party is so dogmatic that any idea of promoting the welfare and development of Indian Musims or of addressing their legitimate concerns is quickly brushed aside as “appeasement”. In five long years after 2004, the BJP did not come up with a single worthwhile initiative which Muslims could welcome. The party gave tickets to only three Muslim candidates. “

# The party has a near-zero presence in 143 Lok Sabha seats. On top of that, it practically writes off 15% of the electorate who are Muslims. In recent years, even Christians hae turned agaisnt the BJP. Even within the Hindu society, the BJP’s support base is less than 25% nationally.”

# “It is obvious that the BJP failed to utilise its five years in the opposition to construct and present a positive agenda that could catch the imagination fo the people beyond its core support base. We harped too much on the UPA government’s failures, without convincing the people how we would perform better.”

#”Never in the history of the Jana Sangh or the BJP was the party enfeebled by so much disarray at the top. The disorder at the Centre and also in several states demoralised the disunited party works down the line, with disastrous results. Although Advani was projected as the party’s prime ministerial candidte, this took place after he had been disempowered after the Mohammad Ali Jinnah episode. The cropping of Narendra Modi‘s name in the middle did not help at all. To the people of India, the contrast was obvious: there is unified command in the Congress, but not in the BJP.”

# “Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul made an essentially weak Prime Minister like Dr Manmohan Singh look strong by backing him solidly. In contrast, the BJP and the Sangh Parivar made a strong leader like Advani, whose contribution to the growth of the party is enormous, look weak, helpless and not fully in command.”

Read the full article: Hindu divided family

How come no one saw or heard the worm turn?

29 May 2009

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: Hindsight, as the moronic aphorism goes, is always 20/20.

And we have been seeing plenty of hindsight dressed as foresight over the last fortnight following the announcement of the results of the general elections, which bucked the “anti-incumbency” cliche and put the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance back in power.

# Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta has said the politics of aspiration trumped the politics of grievance. CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai writes that it is a vote for decency in public life. Outlook editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta sees it as a vote against hate and abuse.

# Journalists aligned to the BJP like Swapan Dasgupta have said the BJP failed to keep pace with the realities of a new India. The BJP spokesman Sudheendra Kulkarni has said stability won over change. Atanu Dey says the Congress managed the media better.

# Many analysts have seen in the surprise Congress win, a vote for youth. Political psychologist Ashis Nandy detects a vote against arrogance. The economist Bibek Debroy among others has attributed the Congress win to its social welfare programmes. Pratap Bhanu Mehta has said the era of votebank politics is over.

And so on and on.

And on and on.

The grim truth is that all this is post-facto rationalisation by media sages, policy wonks and psephologists, ever so wise, as so many of us usually are, after the event.

Like the blind men who felt the elephant, they touch different parts of the gargantuan electoral animal now that it has come to rest, and they feel different things.

The reality is nobody in our media—television, newspapers, magazines—and nobody at the top, bottom or middle, knew what was going on. And what we were being peddled for days and weeks was drivel as wisdom.

Why?

And how does this happen election after election?

In 2004, the media had “called the election” in favour of the BJP-led alliance and was acting as if “We, the People” should only go to the polling booths and fulfil their prophecy.

Well, “We, the People” decided to spring a surprise and put the Congress-led alliance in office.

In 2009, most media vehicles somewhat got the winning alliance right, but chastened perhaps by the 2004 experience, weren’t willing to stick their neck out beyond giving a wafer-thin margin for the UPA over the NDA.

In reality, the huge gap of over 100 seats between the victor and the vanquished; the surprise showing of the Congress in States like Uttar Pradesh where it had been written off; the number of first-time MPs belowed the age of 40 (58); the number of women elected (59), etc, shows that there is something truly, incredibly, unbelievably wrong in our mass media’s connect with the masses.

Of course, the term “media” is a loose, general one because there is no one, single media oeprating uniformly, homogenously in every part of the land. There are various shades to it, in various languages, in various forms, in various States and regions, etc. And then some more.

Still, how could almost all of them get so much so palpably wrong?

Did the tide turn in the favour of the Congress inside the secrecy of the voting booths preventing our esteemed men and women in the media from knowing what was happening?

Or was it building up slowly but we were too busy or distracted to notice?

If it was the latter, why?

Is there a disconnect between mass media and the masses? Is the undercurrent of democracy too difficult to be spotted? Or are our media houses and personnel not equipped with the equipment and wherewithal to detect these trends?

Given the poor presence and even poorer coverage of the mainstream media in the rural countryside, it is understandable that we were unable to get the rural countryside wrong.

Why, even the one English paper with a “rural affairs editor” was backing the wrong horse which, it turns out, wasn’t even in the race at all, all the while.

Little wonder, the electoral magic being ascribed to the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) scheme and the farm loan waiver—moves which were dismissed as wasteful expenditure by the neoliberals in the “free market” media—went largely unnoticed.

But what about the urban pockets?

The powerhouses of our media pride themselves on being fiercely urban and urbane; serving the aspirations of the middle-class and the wannabes. Yet, the fact that so few of them could detect the ground shifting from underneath the urban, middle-class BJP’s feet shines an unkindly light.

The Congress and its allies (DMK, Trinamool, NCP) won all the metros—Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Madras—except Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Why, for example, was it difficult to detect the anger of the urban middle-classes against the BJP’s abuse of prime minister Manmohan Singh before counting day?

Or their thirst for fresh, young faces before they were elected and sworn in?

Certainly, the function of the media is not to serve as a soothsayer. It is not expected to tell us what will happen in the future. Nevertheless, it is expected to have a finger on the pulse. Two successive electoral failures suggest that we are consistently holding the wrong vein and coming to the wrong prognosis.

Indeed, on current record, we seem to be living in an echo chamber, hearing our own voices, and relaying it to the world as gospel truth. Or selling our space and airtime without batting an eyelid.

As a piece on the Satyam scandal on sans serif asked:

Is journalism that doesn’t shed light journalism?

Or puff?

Or PR?

Or Advertising?

Caveat emptor!

Also read: How come media not spot Satyam fraud?

Media owners, journalists holding democracy ransom

Mathew 5:5, Mathew 10:7, Manmohan 2009

27 May 2009

In an open letter that is a work of high art “to the unlikely woman whose tenacity in staying the course changed the contours of Indian politics,” Tehelka editor Tarun J. Tejpal writes:

“Your toil has been worthy. Your ragged army of 1996 is a renewed one in 2009. In the process you have so cleverly — and beautifully — played out two key precepts of your extra god. Thou shalt not covet, the last of the ten commandments, so artfully spun as an act of renunciation that it sucked out the wind from the sails of your opponents. And Mathew 5:5, which is also Manmohan Singh 2004: blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. And both have been cleansing of the public in unanticipated ways.

“Yet let me assert it without any ambiguity. Manmohan 2009 needs you as much as Manmohan 2004. He may be the scythe that clears the weeds, but you are still the arm that wields the scythe. To slice cleanly, the arm and scythe must swing in tandem.

“Since I am convinced that your work is far from over, and since I am on Mathew, let me remind you of the exhortation in 10:7. “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” As one must always do with divine scripture, I could spell out the contemporary burden of every phrase. But that would be fatuous. More than those of us who write of these things, you know best what it is in this calamitous nation to heal the sick and to cast out devils.”

Read the full letter: Mrs Gandhi and Her Extra God

CHURUMURI POLL: Will BJP ever come to power?

25 May 2009

To all but those who have not been following events over the last week, it is clear the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in trouble.

The “Hindu Nationalist Party”‘s claim to power has been patently rejected by a proudly pluralistic electorate. For a party which has boasted of its rise from two seats in Parliament to 182, it has been downhill since its 1999 tally, its seatshare falling by 44 to 138 in 2004, and by a further 22 to 116 this time round. Its national voteshare has dipped from 22.2% to 18.8% in every single State of the Union except Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka where it showed a small increase.

On the one hand, L.K. Advani ‘s cheap, negative and personalised campaign seems destined to carry him into Google cache as the perennial prime minister-in-waiting. On the other hand, the prime minister-in-midstream, Narendra Damodardas Modi, is facing three identifiable impediments. His own State is no longer so secure, the BJP’s voteshare diminishing slightly from 47.37% to 46.52%. His national appeal on the basis of the “development agenda” has been exposed as hype; of the 300-plus rallies he addressed, BJP won but 37 seats (against 75 for  Rahul Gandhi‘s 102 meetings). And slowly but surely voices opposed to Modi’s execrable brand of hate politics are being heard from within his own party, many of whom who have an eye on the chair Modi is eyeing.

Worse, the BJP seems to have painted itself into a corner as a party whose only USP is verbal and physical violence (Kandhamal, Mangalore, Varun Gandhi), and whose vision is inextricably linked with a long ago past (think Ram Janmabhoomi, Ram Sethu) when a younger, impatient, forward-looking country wants a break from divisiveness and backwardness of all kind. The so-called “party of banias” has lost all metros (except Bangalore) and the self-proclaimed “party with a difference” has for years and months offered no viable alternative to the Congress; just a supercilious, resentment-filled justification of everything because “Congress did this, Congressman did that”.

Stranger things have happened in politics, of course, but is it all over for BJP’s brand of politics? Will it ever come back to power?

Also read: 20 questions (and 10 supplementaries) for May 16

Will L.K. Advani ever be prime minister?

L.K. ADVANI: ‘The man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred’

‘Advani offers nothing creative, only resentment’

CHURUMURI POLL: Was there really a Ram Sethu?

Will DMK join UPA team? Will Sun rise tomorrow?

23 May 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: My friend, the Ace Political Expert (APE) who reads political moves like the back of his hand even in his dreams, tried to avoid me when I spotted him at a distance on the lawns of our club.

After I managed to buttonhole him, he agreed to have a drink with me after much coaxing. He ordered for fresh lime and soda instead of his usual whisky-soda combine. The electoral verdict seemed to have sobered him.

“What happened to all your predictions? You were predicting a hung Parliament!” I asked.

“I have never had it so bad in my entire career. The only consolation is I am in the august company of pundits who predicted 1 to 2 % swings, similar to the bowling of Albie Morkel and Praveen Kumar in IPL2 , but were also way off the mark. Nobody takes them seriously anymore.”

“Tell me, did anybody in their wildest dreams expect this kind of result?”

“Nobody. Who could have guessed that the Congress would beat the BJP, beard Lalu and Behenji in their owns dens, rout Chandrababu Naidu and TRS, outwit Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena, erase the Left from the political map of India and cut their own allies to size? It couldn’t have happened so well even if they had planned it out. It all happened at the press of a button and electronic counting.”

“Was it in the Congress grahas (stars)?” I queried.

“Again, no is the answer. Most of the astrologers, who did homas by the dozens in the last two weeks, have lost their deposit too—meaning trust—with their clients. Both political pundits and astrologers have become pariahs after the verdict. It will take a long time before anybody takes us seriously.”

“What is happening right now?”

“Television channels that have done this before are redoubling their efforts. Everyday new terms are being coined such as ‘Rahul Effect’; ‘Rahul Factor’. Soon, other terms such as ‘Rahul Theorem’, ‘Rahul Lemma’, ‘Rahul Express’ will start appearing.  It is not new to them.”

“Do you think Karunanadhi’s DMK will ultimately join the cabinet?”

“Now that his bosom buddy Velupillai Prabhakaran is dead, Karuna is fighting solo for the cause of “Tamils’ rights”. He has taken it up at the highest level, no less than the Prime Minister of India himself. As always, no fight of Karunanidhi is complete without a quick “breakfast–fast-lunch” and a Tamil Nadu bandh. The Tamil problem will be solved as soon as Congress agrees to give plum posts to his children; and some sundry posts to his grand-nephews etc!”

“One final question. You had visited Washington with our Prime Minister  as a part of the press corps. When will US understand India’s point of view on anything?”

“They will never understand. From the time of Eisenhower till now they have always brushed aside India and its concerns. Our external affairs ministers and ambassadors generally have a nice time there. No one has succeeded in making US understand India’s point of view. There is only one way to do that.”

“What is that?” I asked.

“Make Pakistan present our problems and concerns. They will accept it and reward Pakistan handsomely for bringing it to their notice!” replied the APE as he finished second glass of fresh lime and soda.

Does God’s Own Party believe in reincarnation?

22 May 2009

B_Id_80831_cartoon

E.P. Unny in The Indian Express

Why pollsters couldn’t gauge Karnataka’s mood

22 May 2009

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: How did the pollsters go off the mark in their reading of the mood of the electorate in BJP-ruled Karnataka in the 2009 Lok Sabha election?

One obvious reason is that they failed to take note of the political leanings expressed by the voters in the assembly elections held a year ago in the mistaken belief that the voters think differently in the parliament and assembly elections.

The latest parliament elections in Karnataka, has provided more proof that the pattern of voting in parliament and assembly elections are not as different as has been generally believed all these days.

In a way, both are interconnected too.

The thinking of the voters is the same whether the two polls are held separately or jointly.

In the assembly elections, the main parties draw their support from their core voters. In the parliament elections, while the core support remains more or less the same, the extra support comes from the category of voters who had not preferred them in the assembly polls.

This trend was quite discernible in the 1999 and 2004 elections when both the Congress and the BJP picked up more voters in the parliament segment over and above what they had received in the assembly segment.

This trend is clearly visible in the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls held in 2008 and 2009.

The BJP, which had received support from 90.42 lakh voters in the Karnataka assembly polls last year, picked up an additional support of 11.85 lakh votes this time. In this process it etched out victories in six more parliament seats than what the poll trends in the 2008 had indicated and emerged on top.

With this the BJP has been able to increase its lead over Congress in the vote share by 10 lakhs, as against a mere 28,000 after the eight by-elections in 2008.

The Congress which had polled 89.13 lakh votes in 2008 added 3.35 lakh votes this time but was unfortunate to lose five constituencies, where the polling trends of 2008 had put it in the lead and had to end up with six seats, its lowest tally in history.

The only silver lining for the Congress has been that its performanance this time has ended the drought in votes which it had been experiencing since 1999, with the party not being able to get a single extra vote in the three elections held between 1999 and 2008.

Another interesting factor has been that the additional votes it has secured this time, has puts its vote strength almost on a par with the 2004 elections when it had secured 92.47 lakh votes to win eight Lok Sabha seats.

For the JDS, it has been one more instance of the electorate not trusting the party in the Lok Sabha polls, notwithstanding the fact that the party supremo had occupied the gaddi of the Prime Minister and had promised to play a powerful role in national politics if the voters reposed faith in his party.

The party’s share of votes has come down from 48.13 lakhs in the assembly polls to 33.36 lakh votes this time. As a consequence it has won three Lok Sabha seats as against four, as the polling trend in the 2008 had indicated. It incidentally had polled 51.35 lakh votes in the 2004 parliament elections.

The inference is obvious: In a Lok Sabha poll, the bonus in the form of the extra votes comes only to BJP and the Congress to the total exclusion of the JDS. And the two parties have shared the increase in votes in the ratio 3:1.

In the 2004 when simultaneous polls had been held for parliament and assembly, the two parties had picked up extra votes in the same ratio.

This has happened despite 15.29 lakh drop in the polling, the enrolment going up almost by the same number. There has been a drop in the vote share of the JDS and also in those voting for the parties other than the three main contenders considerably.

Pending the release of the official figures of the poll statistics, it is difficult to authoritatively state how the extra votes were apportioned. But it is obvious that the two parties the BJP and Congress between themselves had picked up an additional support 15.20 lakh extra votes, which they shared in the ratio quoted above.

‘Fitting finale to five years of foolish opposition’

21 May 2009

R. Jagannathan in DNA argues that the BJP lost the plot not in March 2009, when the bugle was sounded for the latest election, but in 2004, when it stumbled to a shock defeat:

“The party’s public behaviour since then has been that of a bad loser, and nobody loves such a person. Soon after the defeat, we saw Sushma Swaraj threatening to shave off her head if Sonia Gandhi was made prime minister. The party looked foolish when Sonia abdicated in favour of Manmohan Singh.

“Then there was the unseemly behaviour over the UPA’s decision to induct “tainted” ministers. Sure, there was a political point to be made, but the BJP shot itself in the foot by becoming obstructionist in Parliament. Nobody was amused.

“In every subsequent encounter with the UPA—the Ram Sethu affair, the Afzal Guru episode—the party acted churlishly, opposing for the sake of opposing, and creating a ruckus in Parliament. The party’s thumbs-down to the Indo-US nuclear deal took the cake: it tried to scuttle something it had itself been working towards when in power. Everybody could now see the BJP’s desperation to score points.

“The last act in this tragedy was scripted by L.K. Advani himself, with his ill-thought-out taunts about Manmohan Singh being a “weak prime minister”. It took the Sonia-Rahul-Manmohan combine just two weeks to demolish him, providing a fitting finale to five years of foolish opposition. In short, the BJP was in self-destruct mode from May 2004.”

Read the full article: How BJP lost the plot

Why God’s Own Party, the BJP, is in such a mess

21 May 2009

Loksatta editor Kumar Ketkar argues in The Indian Express that the BJP has become a hybrid organisation pulled in different directions by moderates, hardliners and lunatics.

Result: the party cannot recognise the real face from the several masks it has acquired for electoral persuasion:

“In Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, the vast majority across classes and castes, has found the real plural India. Today, along with the markets, most Indian people have introspected and recognised the the folly of militant Mandir and Mandal politics. That is why we saw the decimation of Mulayam and Mayawati, the marginalisation of Pawar and Paswan, and the discomfiture of Advani and Modi. Plural India has triumphed.”

Read the full article: Mask upon mask in the BJP

What if Yediyurappa had lost the polls in State…

20 May 2009

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Is the phenomenal electoral success of the BJP in Karnataka the cause for L.K. Advani‘s dream of becoming the country’s Prime Minister to be shattered?

There’s nothing rational about it, but political tongues are wagging the superstitious way: that any party which fares well in Karnataka has no chance of occupying the gaddi in New Delhi.

In 1999 while Congress was voted to power in Karnataka, the party could not hold on to the reins in New Delhi, with a BJP government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee being installed.

It happened in 2004 when the Congress-led UPA was voted to power at the Centre, but met its Waterloo in the State. This led to the era of coalitions, which came to end within 40 months forcing the midterm poll to the assembly.

It has happened for the third time now.

The BJP government had been in power in Karnataka for over a year. Just to prove that its victory in the 2008 assembly elections was no flash in the pan, the party pulled out all stops to ensure that it won 19 out of the 28 Lok Sabha seats.

The expectation of the B.S. Yediyurappa government was that a solid support extended by Karnataka for the formation of a BJP-led government in Delhi, would give an additional leverage to the party as well as the chief minister. But the party’s dismal failure to come anywhere near the throne, has overshadowed the euphoria of success in Karnataka.

Maybe, if the BJP had put in a flop show in Karnataka, the chances of Advani becoming Prime Minister would have brightened! But that would have certainly made the position of Yediyurappa more vulnerable.

The good show put up by the BJP has sent the party to cloud nine. But, sadly, it cannot enjoy it because of the poor show across the country.

It’s their opinion that they have done an exit poll

17 May 2009

Exit polls are said to be more reliable than opinion polls in gauging the mood of the electorate since pollsters catch respondents immediately after they have cast their ballot.

But for the second successive time in five years, mainstream Indian media organisations have fallen flat on their faces in their “exit poll” projections, throwing a big question mark over the authenticity of their claims, the reliability of the pollster’s methods, and their use as a media device.

Obviously, the size of the country, the size of the electorate, the multiple parties and issues involved, etc, making prediction an immeasurably difficult task, but the consistency with which polls are getting it wrong throw a big question mark over the role the media is performing in our democracy: do they have their ear to the ground, catching the pulse of the people whose eyes and ears they are supposed to be.

Or have they become a megaphone for uninformed news, views and gossip, no different from a roadside tea shop.

***

In 2004, all the exit polls predicted a return to power for the NDA giving the ruling alliance a lead of 40-90 seats and more; in the end, the BJP-led alliance fell 32 seats below the predictions and was routed by the UPA.

In 2009, all the exit polls predicted a thin lead for the ruling UPA; some predictions sighted a single-digit margin between the two alliances. In the end, the Congress-led UPA ended up almost 100 seats ahead of the NDA.

***

2004 Elections

NDTV-Indian Express: NDA 230-250, Congress + allies 190-205,

Aaj Tak/ Headlines Today: NDA 248, Congress + allies 189

Zee News: NDA 249, Congress + allies 176

Star News: NDA 263-275, Congress + allies 174-186

Actual tally: NDA 187, Congress + allies 219

***

2009 Elections

NDTV: UPA 216, NDA 177, Third Front 15

Star News-AC Neilsen: UPA 199, NDA 196

CNN-IBN-CSDS: UPA 185-205, NDA 145-160

India TV-C Voter: UPA 189-201, NDA 183-195

Headlines Today: UPA 191, NDA 180

The Times of India: UPA 198, NDA 183

Actual tally: UPA 256, NDA 164

20 questions (and 10 supplementaries) for May 16

16 May 2009

1) Is the Indian voter not concerned with “dynastic rule”?

2) Is the Indian voter not concerned with “non-performance”?

3) Does the Indian voter not desire “security”?

4) Does the Indian voter not want “strong leadership, decisive leadership”?

5) Is the Indian voter not interested in “foreign origins”?

5 (a) Is Sonia Gandhi smarter than the sangh parivar combined?

5 (b) Is the Indian voter not bothered about the prime minister’s office being “devalued”?

5 (c) Is the Indian voter not bothered about 10, Janpath being more important 7, Race Course Road?

6) Is the Indian voter not interested in seeing a “TV debate” on the issues?

7) Does the Indian voter not want “a leader who can take tough decisions in tough times”?

7 (a) Is the meek Indian voter happy with a weak, “nikamma” PM?

8) Is the Indian voter not concerned with cash-for-votes, corruption, Bofors, bringing back black money?

9) Is the Indian voter not bothered about “cultural issues” like Ram Sethu, Amarnath shrine?

10) Is the Rahul Gandhi anoinment firmly on course?

11) Will L.K. Advani bethe BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in 2014 too, as Narendra Modi had promised?

11 (a)Bhaiyon aur behenon“, would Narendra Modi as PM candidate have done wonders?

11 (b) “Bhaiyon aur behenon“, is the Indian voter not bothered about Afzal Guru?

11 (c)Bhaiyon aur behenon“, does the plight of the Tamil brethren in Sri Lanka not move us?

12) Is this a rejection of extremist politics of the Left and Right kind? Is this a return to centrism?

13) Will Prakash Karat stay despite having seen the Left tally reduced by half?

14) Is the strength of the Left organisation power at the grassroots just a myth?

14 (a) Is Mamata Banerjee all it takes to fell the mighty Left organisation?

15) Does the Congress’ surprise showing in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Utatr Pradesh mark the return of the “Hindi Heartland” to the centrestage of Indian politics?

16) Is Naveen Patnaik smarter than most people think?

16 (a) Is K. Chandrashekhar Rao dumber than you think?

17) Has the NREGA and farm loan waiver worked far more than, say, “India Shining”?

18) Does Varun Gandhi‘s win show that there is no politics like hate politics?

19) Will Manmohan Singh be prime minister for the next five years or will he hear his “inner voice” after a year and two months and hand the baton to you-know-who?

18 (a) Does a PM really have to be from the Lok Sabha?

20) Do Google ads work?

Three more predictions to totally confuse you

13 May 2009

The Election Commission’s fiat against exit polls during the five phases of polling has resulted in a small cottage industry for political soothsayers in a recessionary period.

Before the “real” exit polls start rolling, three more straws in the wind:

# Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrashekhar asserts no party or alliance will get a majority, but UPA’s numbers will decline from its 2004 tally vis-a-vis NDA’s.

# According to a Reuters report, bookies are giving 140 for the Congress against 125-130 for the BJP.

# Columnist Girish Nikam who claims he accurately predicted 145 for the Congress in 2004, says the party will get 173 this time, BJP 131 and Left 43.

Nikam’s reading for Karnataka: BJP 13, Congress 12, JDS3.

Also read: Churumuri predict-the-verdict contest

CHURUMURI POLL: Who will win 2009 elections?

CHURUMURI POLL: Single-largest party in 2009?

As Ravi Shastri might say, it’s a two-paced wicket

Why BJP will get 18 (or more) seats in Karnataka

CHURUMURI PREDICT-THE-VERDICT CONTEST * **

11 May 2009

The Election Commission has banned exit polls for the current general elections, and the Sports Minister has problems with the IPL lottery.

So, what can you do to entertain your gambling instinct?

churumuri.com invites you to enter the Predict-the-Verdict contest.

Make three simple predictions:

1) Which party will win the most number of seats?

2) Which alliance will emerge the single largest alliance?

3) And who will be the next prime minister of the country?

There are three exciting prizes on offer for all-correct entries, repeat for all-correct entries.

First prize: Rs 2,002

Second prize: Rs 1,001

Third prize: Rs 501

Plus, five books of Rs 500 each as consolation prizes.

______________

* Conditions apply.

** In case of multiple all-correct entries, winners will be decided by draw of lots.

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Who will win 2009 elections?

CHURUMURI POLL: Single-largest party in 2009?


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