Thursday, 29 October 2015

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30 oct 2015

Prepared By Ashok Sharma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hindu october 30, 2015 00:14 IST Ideology over science



The Science and Technology Ministry has directed all laboratories under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to begin "self-financing" their research. The ostensible purpose is to make financing for scientific research more accountable. But taken together with other developments, this must flag serious concerns about the priorities and the ideological agenda the government is bringing to bear on the scientific community. The decision on "self-financing" was announced at a "Chintan Shivir" in Dehradun this June, in consultation with the RSS. The fact that laboratories were also asked to be mindful of the government's "social and economic agenda", therefore, comes as confirmation of the creeping influence of Sangh Parivar affiliates in the science, health and research landscape. It raises questions about the intent behind a similar "self-financing" mandate to the Department of Health Research, which recently shut down the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau, India's only agency collecting data on nutrition deficiency among marginalised populations. It is not only that the BJP-led government's failures to support science and public health are being foregrounded. It is, just as menacingly, that the Sangh Parivar's ideological assault on reason and scientific temper is being institutionalised. The results are showing. The Ministries of Science and Technology and Health are actively seeking private partnerships to keep research projects going. The international public health community is tracking the developments with alarm. Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had consistently and deliberately sidelined the health sector since coming to power. He warned of an impending "collapse".



The Modi government's inherent discomfort with "scientific" evidence that may run counter to views shaped largely by the Sangh's leanings has grave public policy implications. For example, when data collection on nutrition is undermined, policy design can be disconnected from desired outcomes easily. So Madhya Pradesh's BJP government has stopped serving eggs as part of the mid-day meal scheme, removing an important source of nutrition for schoolchildren. None of this is surprising. Whenever scientific data become inconvenient for the government, it has no qualms in suppressing the research. The CSIR is the backbone of scientific and technological research. Expecting researchers to fund themselves with help from industry and setting "deliverable targets" for them to further a socio-economic agenda too is a clear way of curbing dissent. India's social sector is already strained for funds, and the increasing politicisation of science is an attempt by the government to force its objectives on research. No two disciplines are less compatible than politics and science. But then, the government and the Sangh personnel behind these decisions have anyway privileged ideology over science.

 

·        os·ten·si·ble

Stated or appearing to be true, but not necessarily so

 

·        man·date

An official order or commission to do something.

 

·        fore·ground

Make (something) the most prominent or important feature.

 

·        men·ac·ing

Suggesting the presence of danger; threatening.

 

·        as·sault

Make a physical attack on.

 

·        qualm

An uneasy feeling of doubt, worry, or fear, especially about one's own conduct; a misgivin

 

·        curb

Restrain or keep in check.

 

·        dis·sent

Hold or express opinions that are at variance with those previously, commonly, or officially expressed.

 

The Hindu: October 30, 2015 00:14 IST

A gathering interrogation

 

As leading historians, filmmakers and scientists join the ranks of writers, artists and students to protest against increasing "intolerance", civil society's interrogation of the Narendra Modi government is getting more sharp, and inescapable. Scientist P.M. Bhargava and filmmakers Dibakar Banerjee and Anand Patwardhan are among those to return their national honours. Eminent historians such as Irfan Habib and Romila Thapar lead a list of peers to sign a letter detailing the acts of omission of the government. Each one questions the government in an individual capacity, but together they frame a collective response to incidents of lynching, murder of rationalists and writers, and a general atmosphere of intolerance towards people belonging to minority communities. As their numbers grow, they draw into focus the unchecked activities of so-called fringe elements who draw sustenance from their association with the BJP. The questions they pose demand responsive engagement from the Union government. Civil society has started a conversation that Central Ministers and BJP spokespersons cannot dodge by questioning the individual record of protestors. They cannot get away by evasively blaming State governments for failing to maintain law and order. The questions civil society members are articulating and threading together challenge the discourse and activities of persons and organisations intimately invested in the BJP's political project. The question they collectively convey is this: how should a democratically elected government respond to citizens who are openly saying they have lost faith in its sincerity to ensure liberty and justice? It is a vital question.



When students of the FTII in Pune called off their 139-day old strike on Wednesday, their struggle may not, on the face of it, have yielded anything. Their demands for the removal of the head of the institute and three other NDA appointees remain unmet. Yet, the simultaneous act of return of national awards by a filmmaker like Dibakar Banerjee succeeded in connecting the students agitating against specific official appointments to a larger current of discomfort against a majoritarian politics and lumpen mobilisation. The response from the government and its Ministers has been dispiriting, and only exposes a refusal to engage with a widely-shared critique. For his part, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has remained resoundingly silent. In questioning the intent of the protestors rather than the substance of their protest, the government hardly distinguishes itself. But it must know that disengagement is not the answer. Neither is character assassination, or belittling of intellectuals and creative individuals. Each wave of protest refreshes and clarifies the questions posed of the government and its political intent. A response of name-calling and silence on the core issues too only reinforces those questions

 

·        e·vade

Escape or avoid, especially by cleverness or trickery.

 

·        dis·course

Written or spoken communication or debate.

 

·        lum·pen

(in Marxist contexts) uninterested in revolutionary advancement.

 

·        re·in·force

Strengthen or support, especially with additional personnel or material.

 

 

Business Standard

Widening the net



The Union power ministry appears to have cast its net wide to select the best global talent to head NTPC Limited — India's largest power producer, in which the government owns a stake of around 75 per cent. The ministry has published an advertisement in The Economist seeking applications for the post of chairman and managing director of NTPC Limited. Such a notice from the government in an international publication is extremely rare. The obvious desire is to tap the global talent pool to steer a company which, with over 24,000 employees and an installed capacity of about 45,500 MW, was ranked 431st in the Forbes Global 2000 listing of the world's biggest companies. The move is welcome. Every effort should be made to get the best talent to head an organisation like NTPC, and a global search will obviously help. It also shows the government's positive, progressive and open approach towards the selection of top personnel for public sector undertakings, coming as it does after recent successful attempts to rope in private sector professionals to head a few of the state-controlled banks.



There are, however, some problems too. The basic pay that comes along with the responsibility is estimated at $24,000 a year, or about Rs 15.6 lakh at the current exchange rate. As a report in this newspaper has pointed out, this pay package is less than half of what an average American earns. Even when compared to top Indian companies similar to or even smaller than NTPC, the promised pay is insignificant. NTPC has an annual turnover of over Rs 75,000 crore and a net profit that exceeds Rs 10,000 crore. Yet, the total annual compensation including incentives and allowances for one of its former chief executives was only Rs 50 lakh. For the latest move to succeed, therefore, the government must shift NTPC Limited out of the straitjacket of pay scales mandated for different categories of public sector undertakings, allowing the board to devise compensation packages for its personnel in tune with the market. Pay for the top officers of a hugely profitable company like NTPC Limited cannot be the same as for another loss-making or not-so-profitable public sector company, in the same or a different sector. A company's paying capacity and market realities should determine the salary, not the government.



It may be argued that there is much more that the chairmanship of a leading public sector undertaking offers by way of intangible benefits, and so this salary should be attractive enough for global talent to line up for job interviews at the NTPC headquarters. This is unrealistic. If the purpose of advertising the job in an international publication was to get the attention of top managers globally, the effort should have been more comprehensive. A host of other changes are needed — like providing the chief executive greater operational autonomy and laying down transparent norms of accountability that rule out overt or covert interference by the government. These changes should be the harbingers of an overhaul of the system that governs the management of public sector organisations in the country.

 

·        steer

(of a person) guide or control the movement of (a vehicle, vessel, or aircraft), for example by turning a wheel or operating a rudder.

 

 

·        strait·jack·et

A strong garment with long sleeves that can be tied together to confine the arms of a violent prisoner or mental patient.

 

·        har·bin·ger

A person or thing that announces or signals the approach of another

 

Indian Express

Regulate, don't ban



Should the government distinguish between Indians and foreigners who want to have a child via surrogacy? On Wednesday, the Indian government iterated its lack of support for commercial surrogacy — where the surrogate mother is paid a fee, as opposed to being merely reimbursed for expenses, a practice referred to as altruistic surrogacy — to the Supreme Court, and indicated in an affidavit that only "needy infertile married Indian couples" would be allowed to use altruistic surrogacy. The affidavit was filed in response to specific issues raised by the court in a matter relating to commercial surrogacy, presently legal in India — one of the few countries where that is the case. Both contentions raise difficult questions about the proper legislative structure to regulate surrogacy.

Over the last decade or so, India has become a major destination for what has been referred to as "reproductive tourism" for foreign couples, owing to the relatively lower costs of in-vitro fertilisation and other treatments as well as the lax regulatory framework to protect the rights of surrogate mothers and the babies. In the absence of comprehensive laws to prevent exploitation, there have been instances where surrogates have died as a result of complications during pregnancy and the unavailability of good post-natal care. Contracts between surrogate mothers, who are often poor, and the intended parents are sometimes structured in a manner that the former assumes all medical, financial and psychological risks, absolving the latter of liability. There are horror stories of multiple embryos being implanted in the surrogate's womb to ensure a higher chance of success. There are cases of babies born with disabilities or an unplanned twin being abandoned by the intended parents.

Clearly, India needs a law to regulate what is estimated to be a $2.5 billion industry. The government's latest draft of the Assisted Reproductive Techniques (Regulation) Bill seeks to impose heavy penalties on couples who refuse to take custody of a surrogate child born with disabilities, and prioritises the rights of the surrogate mother. But it also differentiates between Indian and foreign parents, which risks driving surrogacy clinics aimed at the more lucrative foreign market underground, further endangering both mother and baby. Instead, it should take the pragmatic approach and build in adequate safeguards to protect surrogates, with added checks and balances to prevent exploitation by foreign couples.

 

·        sur·ro·ga·cy

The action or state of being a surrogate.

 

·        it·er·ate

Perform or utter repeatedly.

 

·        re·im·burse

Repay (a person who has spent or lost money)

 

·        con·ten·tion

Heated disagreement.

 

·        prag·mat·ic

Dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.

 

 

Oct 30 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)

Let IITs Breathe





Government must not undermine the autonomy of higher educational institutes

When the autonomy of India's finest institutes of higher education seems to be under threat, it's time to be afraid for the future of education in the country . This week the human resource development (HRD) ministry once again meddled in the affairs of IIT Delhi by asking it to review its decision to cancel the admission of a PhD student, who had submitted incorrect information regarding her work experience. Though the institute's senate rejected the directive, the incident has brought the issue of the ministry's repeated attempts to undermine the autonomy of IITs ­ the lynchpin on which their excellence rests ­ back into focus.

In December last year IIT Delhi director R K Shevgaonkar resigned his post following differences with the HRD ministry . Earlier this year nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar too resigned as the chair man of the board of governors of IIT Bombay , citing interference from the HRD ministry . The latter has not stop ped short of intervening even in petty matters. For instance, HRD minister Smriti Irani issued a directive to IITs and IIMs last year, asking them to seg regate vegetarian and non-vegetarian students in their dining halls.



In short, the government has been making regular stabs at thrusting its own agenda ­ and people ­ on these institutes. In the same vein, it foisted B-grade actor Gajendra Chauhan as director of Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, triggering student unrest that went on for months. The point is that the excellence of these institutes, which makes them a bulwark against the largely shoddy quality of the Indian education system, has been built on their autonomy . The government runs the risk of destroying them and stifling scientific thought and research ­ and much else besides ­ if it persists in interfering with them. Along with writers and artistes, the mood of India's scientific community is sullen today . Scientist P M Bhargava plans to return his Padma Bhushan in protest against the "government's attack on rationalism, reason, and science".



Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke eloquently at the Africa Summit yesterday about the need to develop scientific capabilities and human capital. Perhaps a start can be made towards tackling pervasive mediocrity in Indian higher education by inducting talent at the head of the human resources ministry itself. Smriti Irani has strong political instincts; she can be moved to a political role.



·        med·dle

Interfere in or busy oneself unduly with something that is not one's concern.

 

·        linch·pin

A pin passed through the end of an axle to keep a wheel in position.

 

·        bul·wark

A defensive wall.

 

·        shod·dy

Badly made or done.

 

 

·        sti·fling

(of heat, air, or a room) very hot and causing difficulties in breathing; suffocating.

 

·        tack·le

Make determined efforts to deal with (a problem or difficult task).

 

·        per·va·sive

(especially of an unwelcome influence or physical effect) spreading widely throughout an area or a group of people

 

·        me·di·oc·ri·ty

The quality or state of being mediocre.

 

Oct 30 2015 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)

Real Potential Beyond Summit Pageantry





More power to Indo-African partnership

Africa is the land of immense growth potential. India's presence in Africa has been muted -the trade is pegged at about $75 billion, far lower than that of China and the European Union, investments have been higher than with either the EU or China. Going beyond the traditional ties, the shared history of colonialism and struggle against imperial powers, the third edition of the IndiaAfrica Forum Summit is an effort to chart the course of future engagement between India and the African continent to build on the potential for growth. For India and the 54 nations of the African continent such an engagement is a win-win proposition. The government has done the right thing by expanding the scale and scope of India's ongoing cooperation with African nations.

India's concerted outreach to Africa must not be viewed as a reaction, or in comparison, to China. While the level of trade between China and Africa far outstrips that with India, New Delhi is not starting off with a blank slate. India has considerable invest ment in Africa's economies. The focus on sectors like clean energy , sustaina ble habitats, public transport and cli mate resilient agriculture points to building a partnership for the future in a world that will be constrained by climate change. It will build on India's presence in the services sector such as telecom and pharmaceuticals. Technology has been slated as a key partnership area, particularly in agriculture. With 60% of the world's arable land, Africa presents a key for food security , especially for countries like India, which have a burgeoning population. For Africa, agriculture provides a path to prosperity .



The outreach is not limited to trade and development. India will work with the African nations to combat terrorism, which has emerged as a major debilitating factor -not only does it pose a security threat for its people, but terrorism also presents hurdles to growth. India does well to reach out to Africa to work together at multilateral negotiations on climate change and the WTO. India's goal should be to empower while taking care not to patronise.



·        im·mense

Extremely large or great, especially in scale or degree.

 

·        bur·geon

Begin to grow or increase rapidly; flourish.

 

·        out·reach

The extent or length of reaching out.

 

·        de·bil·i·tat·ing

(of a disease or condition) making someone very weak and infirm.

 

·       
pa·tron·ize

Treat with an apparent kindness that betrays a feeling of superiority.

 

The Guardian

view on the war of knives in Israel and the West Bank



ff-duty soldiers go jogging with submachine guns slung across their chests. Men and women who have never owned a firearm hesitate at the door of gun shops after the laws on weapon ownership were relaxed. People eat at home, and plan their trips to the supermarket or their bus journeys to avoid the places where the Palestinian stabbing attacks, which have surprised and frightened Israelis in recent weeks, seem most likely.



On the Arab side, parents worry that a loved son or daughter will decide to trade their own life for that of an Israeli, or that a family member will be caught in crossfire. The technical security people call these stabbings "inspiration attacks". Rarely can a word have been more ill chosen, because it suggests something uplifting, and there is nothing uplifting about this latest descent into violence. It is not that the death toll is, by the dismal standards set in previous bouts of violence, so high on the Israeli side: at the last count, nine Israelis dead, although with more than 60 Palestinians killed as armed Israelis reacted to the attacks or tried to forestall attacks they thought imminent. The Palestinian dead include some who were demonstrators, not perpetrators, some who were killed in error, and some who just got in the way.



The casualties are deplorable, but this new war of the knives is especially dangerous because it is so difficult to see how it can be stopped, and because it threatens to sever some of the few remaining human links between the Jewish and Arab communities. The word "inspiration" refers to the fact that the attackers are individuals motivated almost randomly by what they see on the internet, Facebook or television.



They are not part of an organisation which can be identified and neutralised by the Israeli or the Palestinian security forces. If there is incitement, as the Israelis charge there has been, no specific act can be directly connected to a particular speech or sermon. Their "orders" come out of the ether, their money – no more than a bus fare, really – comes out of their own pockets, their weapons come out of the kitchen drawer. Like the lone jihadis who are a nightmare for European intelligence agencies, they are hard to spot and hard to intercept. The obvious recourse is to confine and curfew Arab communities, so that the stream of people going back and forth can be sifted at checkpoints, with all the delays, disruption and humiliation that such checks always involve. Such a policy will make Jews feel only a little safer, and Arabs a lot angrier. It is not a solution, even in the short term.



The fear that Israel was planning to alter the status of the holy place Arabs call Al-Haram Al-Sharif and the Jews the Temple Mount set off the violence. Was there such a plan? The Israeli government says it has no such alteration in mind, and that seems to be true. Some Palestinian figures and media may well have fed the flames by exaggerating the threat of a formal change. But what is also true is that Palestinians feel that the status quo at the site is being eroded, as the Israelis limit their access, while increasing that for Jews, including religious Jews who only barely respect the rule that non-Muslims may visit but not perform religious acts. For example, an Israeli minister on a recent visit was not ejected after he began praying.



The understandings that have more or less kept the peace on the Temple Mount during the past 12 months are unwritten and fragile, and need reinforcing. US secretary of state John Kerry last week brokered an agreement between Israel and Jordan to reduce tensions there, including 24-hour video monitoring. But while fears over the Temple Mount sparked the violence they are hardly its only cause. For one thing it is hard to imagine that the influence of jihad movements beyond Israel's and Palestine's borders has not played a part in inflaming young minds, a development that must be bad news for both Israelis and Palestinians.



But the fundamental point is that without a settlement there cannot be a true peace. Binyamin Netanyahu's recent outburst about the grand mufti and the Holocaust would be ludicrous if it hadn't been so utterly ill judged. But it was typical of a leader who has never grasped that there must be a real political horizon for both peoples. Speaking before the Knesset's foreign affairs committee on Thursday he once again offered the sterile formula that an Israeli newspaper described as "verbal consent to dividing the land … while in practice adopting policies that thwart the realisation" of such a division. That is a recipe for endless trouble.

·        sling

Suspend or arrange (something), especially with a strap or straps, so that it hangs loosely in a particular position.

 

·        bout

A short period of intense activity of a specified kind.

 

·        fore·stall

Prevent or obstruct (an anticipated event or action) by taking action ahead of time

 

·        im·mi·nent

About to happen.

 

·        de·plor·a·ble

Deserving strong condemnation.

 

·        hol·o·caust

Destruction or slaughter on a mass scale, especially caused by fire or nuclear war.

 

·        lu·di·crous

So foolish, unreasonable, or out of place as to be amusing; ridiculous.

 

The NewYork Times

Telling Mideast Negotiators, 'Have a Nice Life'



In the Times review of the American Mideast negotiator Dennis Ross's important new history of Israeli-U.S. relations, "Doomed to Succeed," a telling moment on the eve of the 1991 Madrid peace conference caught my attention. The Palestinian delegation had raised some last-minute reservations with the secretary of state, James A. Baker III. Baker was livid, and told the Palestinians before walking out on them: "With you people, the souk never closes, but it is closed with me. Have a nice life."



I was struck because that kind of straight talk has been all too absent from U.S. Middle East diplomacy lately. Israelis and Palestinians — way too long at war — are trapped in political hothouses of their own making, incapable of surprising each other with anything positive, and desperately in need of a friendly third-party dose of common sense.



Listening to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel claim last week that the Palestinian grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini — who met Hitler in the early 1940s — gave Hitler the idea for mass murdering all the Jews, you can only conclude that Bibi is in a sealed bubble, with no one around him able to say: "You know Bibi, that is probably historically false. You might want to keep that one to yourself."



We forget how much the parties need America at times to play the reality principle to break the paralysis in their internal politics. Sometimes their leaders need to say to their cabinets: "I would never agree to this, but those damn Americans broke my arm. See it dangling here! It's broken! I had to say yes!" Israeli and Palestinian internal politics are brutal. As Baker learned, if you don't get in their faces on a regular basis, you're listed as "nap time" on their daily schedules.



What would such a U.S. message sound like today? It would start by saying publicly to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, "You rejected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's unprecedented September 2008 offer of a two-state solution, in which, as The Jerusalem Post later reported, 'Olmert essentially agreed to forgo sovereignty of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Judaism's holiest site, and proposed that in the framework of a peace agreement, the area containing the religious sites in Jerusalem would be managed by a special committee … from five nations: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, the United States and Israel.'



"The Post also said, 'Olmert laid out for [Abbas] … a large map upon which he outlined the borders of the future Palestinian state,' which included a roughly equal swap of Palestinian land in the West Bank to house Israeli settlements in return for parts of Israel.



"Abbas, Olmert is still waiting for your answer.



"It's clear that with the Palestinians now split between Hamas-led Gaza and your Fatah-led West Bank, there is no single, legitimate Palestinian Authority to formally approve a comprehensive peace deal. And it is also true that you have been committed to nonviolence — and bless you for that. But where is your creative plan for an interim solution that can at least move the process forward? Why do you just sit there like Buddha, rejecting creative ideas like the one put forward by Secretary of State John Kerry?"



As for Netanyahu, the blunt U.S. message might be: "You are going to be a historic figure: the Israeli leader who left Israel with nothing other than a one-state solution, in which Israel will gradually give up being Jewish or democratic. We know exactly what a one-state solution looks like. Just look out your window: Palestinians grabbing a kitchen knife and stabbing any Israeli Jew, and masked settler vigilantes retaliating back."



I visited Monday with Israel's very decent defense minister, Moshe Ya'alon. Hearing him describe Israel's strategic theater is hair-raising: The nation has nonstate actors, dressed as civilians, armed with rockets, nested among civilians, on four of five borders — Sinai, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria — and he does not want to chance opening a fifth one by just evacuating the West Bank. I get it.



But there has to be some alternative to doing nothing or doing everything. It needs to be an alternative that at least tests Palestinians to really control some territory — and creates some hope that the two communities can separate securely. And it has to involve Israel at least stopping all settlement-building in the heart of the West Bank, in the areas long designated for a Palestinian state. Some 70,000 of Israel's 400,000 settlers now live in those areas, and it's making any separation increasingly impossible.



This is what Israel's friends are missing. Israel has so much creative energy — in science, tech and medicine. But you don't see it today in diplomacy. It's true that Israel can survive this war of the knives. But will it thrive? Will it remain a place where you will want to visit and raise your kids?



It may be that Israel has no choice.



But Israel is a really powerful country. It's not a disarmed Costa Rica. No one expects it to give up everything. But fewer and fewer can understand why it puts so much energy into explaining why it can't do anything, why the Palestinians are irredeemably awful and why nothing Israel could do would affect their behavior. I truly worry that Israel is slowly committing suicide, with all the best arguments.

 

·        doomed

Likely to have an unfortunate and inescapable outcome; ill-fated.

 

·        souk

An Arab market or marketplace; a bazaar

 

·        thrive

(of a child, animal, or plant) grow or develop well or vigorously.

 

The Moscow Times

Russian Political Opposition Must Make Real Changes (Op-Ed)



Cognitive dissonance is the state of discomfort one experiences when confronted with behavior or attitudes that conflict with and challenge one's beliefs about how the world is ordered. It's the feeling you might get if, for example, you were to see the Dalai Lama kicking a dog.



Or when you see dedicated, intelligent political leaders hoping to make a positive difference in Russia reach nonsensical conclusions and undertake inconsequential actions in trying to further their cause. There is no pleasure in criticizing well-intentioned people. But wrongheaded decision-making serves no one. As they say: It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.



It was reported last week that leaders of the RPR-Parnas opposition party held a feedback session on their recent unsuccessful Kostroma election campaign. The lessons drawn from their electoral efforts apparently were that they needed to shorten the name of the party, use better-designed campaign literature and abandon the tactic of meeting with voters in their courtyards.



Legal filings to shorten the name of the party have been made because, according to party chairman Mikhail Kasyanov, the current name is too cumbersome and difficult for voters to identify.



The party most certainly does have an identification problem, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with its name. The identification problem for voters is understanding what the party stands for. This is because the party has never made a serious effort to build its brand in any meaningful way that would resonate with citizens.



What to do to rebrand the party was an issue party leaders faced long before the Kostroma election, but to believe that a positive brand can be established through a name change and more appealing campaign literature belies a reliance on only the most superficial comprehension of what branding a political party entails.



There are examples to draw from in this regard. Some years ago, the Yabloko party branch in St. Petersburg recognized that parties out of power, especially those which register barely a ripple in the mind of the electorate, need to operate between elections more as NGOs than as political parties. Under Maxim Reznik's leadership one of the things the party branch did was align itself with the civic movement to prevent the building of the Gazprom tower in the city.



It did not attempt to usurp the leaders of the movement, but actively joined with the campaign, helping it to collect signatures on petitions and reaching out to other organizations to assist in strengthening the coalition of organizations opposed to the construction.



To be sure, such active civic involvement has its risks as well as rewards for a political party. It probably was a major factor in keeping Yabloko off of the ballot for the 2007 regional assembly elections. But they nevertheless continued their work — building their brand — and it paid off four years later.



When they had to collect signatures to gain entry to the ballot for the 2011 elections, their civic engagement work provided them with a much larger pool of activists to enlist support from. More importantly, it had established them as a party that stood out from the others and which shared the interests of a substantial portion of the citizenry, which was enough to garner them six seats in the regional assembly.



In short, political party brands are best established by creating real relationships with voters through broad-based civic activities the party undertakes to better society as they think best. This builds positive brands and valuable "up-close-and-personal" relationships with voters and activists.



Name changes are irrelevant and a waste of time in this process. You can slap a new coat of paint on your Lada and tell your friends it's a Mercedes, but that is not going to keep it from breaking down on the highway and preventing you from getting where you need to go.



Building personal relationships with voters is also the key to successful electoral campaigns. This is why the decision to abandon the tactic of meeting with voters in courtyards is also puzzling and disconcerting.



Time and again across the globe it has been proven that person-to-person encounters are the most effective means of voter persuasion and mobilization. So, unless voter contact through courtyard meetings is being abandoned in favor of even more personal door-to-door tactics, the party leaders are making a grave error in walking away from this methodology.



Rest assured that Russia is not the exception to the rule that person-to-person voter contact is the best means of voter communication on the planet. In the face of this reality, the first stop should be not to do away with proven methods but to ask: How might we execute them better?



If these decisions are a sign of the direction the party is heading in leading up to next year's elections, it does not bode well for their success in State Duma or regional contests, or for that matter beyond those elections for any reasonably foreseeable timeframe.



In assets like Leonid Volkov, the Democratic Coalition — in which RPR-Parnas is the major player — has the good fortune of being able to count on the expertise of some of the brightest and most savvy political campaign technologists in the country for their success in elections. The least the party could do is give these talented experts something to work with by endeavoring to build something in the way of a viable and credible organization between elections.

 

·        cognitive dissonance

>the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change.

 

·        con·front

Meet (someone) face to face with hostile or argumentative intent.

 

·        cum·ber·some

Large or heavy and therefore difficult to carry or use; unwieldy.

 

·        bode

Be an omen of a particular outcome.

 

·        en·deav·or

Try hard to do or achieve something.

 

 

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