Prepared by ashok sharma
Pluralist vision triumphs in Bihar
The clear mandate for the Grand Alliance of the Janata Dal (United), the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress in Bihar is not only a vote for social welfare and economic development, but also a vote against all forms of divisive politics of communal hate and religious intolerance. Between the Lok Sabha election of 2014 and this year's Assembly election, politics in Bihar saw unprecedented churning, bringing together parties of different ideologies and social bases in the face of a rising tide of aggressive majoritarianism stirred up by the Bharatiya Janata Party. Indeed, for the BJP, its very success in last year's Lok Sabha election in Bihar proved to be its undoing. As fringe elements allied to the party and within the Sangh Parivar misinterpreted the 2014 verdict as public endorsement of their hidden agenda, opposition parties realised that they stood no chance if they did not jointly resist this common threat.
As a matter of fact, the seeds of the BJP's defeat in Bihar in 2015 were sown even before its spectacular victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. As Mr. Modi became the national face of the BJP in 2013, the prime mover of the JD(U), Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, was quick to recognise the social cost of his political alliance with the saffron party. After his attempt to emerge as the sole alternative to the BJP ended in failure, with the RJD and the Congress occupying the political space for a secular opposition, Mr. Kumar pieced together the Grand Alliance with his long-time political foes. Lalu Prasad, whom Mr. Kumar had pilloried for running a "jungle raj" in Bihar, thus became his principal ally against a marauding BJP, which was feeding into a highly divisive communal agenda. That Mr. Prasad had been disqualified from contesting elections following his conviction in a corruption case must have helped in settling the issue of the leadership of the Grand Alliance. Without standing on political ego or false prestige, the RJD chief seemed all too willing to forgive Mr. Kumar, and went to great lengths to accommodate him politically. In both vote share (18.4 per cent) and the number of seats (80), the RJD did better than the JD (U) (16.8 per cent and 71 seats), but Mr. Prasad had already made it clear before the vote count that Mr. Kumar would be the Chief Minister irrespective of the number of seats the RJD won. The efforts the two leaders put in to make the alliance work seem to have paid off in the end.
But it was not just the electoral arithmetic that worked against the BJP. In the months since the Lok Sabha election, the party pushed the Hindutva agenda very hard even while paying lip service to growth and development. Eighteen months is too long a period to not deliver on the promise of 'vikas', or development, which was meant to translate into jobs and raise standards of living for the people. To make matters worse, the Hindutva agenda seemed as if it were designed to divert public attention from livelihood concerns. That much of the campaign in Bihar was taken up by issues such as cattle slaughter would not have gone down well with a vast majority of the voters, who would have expected the BJP to come up with some ideas on bettering the achievements of Mr. Kumar as Chief Minister. Instead, the party seemed to confirm Mr. Kumar's assessment of it being socially reactionary and divisive. Statements of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat calling for a review of the reservation policy providing for quotas in education and employment also worked against the BJP.
Mr. Kumar must now use the mandate to scale up his vision for Bihar and build on the efforts to improve governance. A lot was done in the last ten years to alter Bihar's image as one of the most backward States in the country, but he needs to do more. For a start, he could hold Mr. Modi to his promise on providing a Rs.1.25 lakh crore package to Bihar. But most importantly, the new government in Bihar will need to counter the socially disruptive agenda of Hindutva elements, who are just as dangerous whether in or out of power. After all, the vote is for a pluralist vision of India, for an idea of Bihar that is both inclusive and progressive.
The setback in Bihar should lead to some serious introspection by the BJP's top leaders, including Prime Minister Modi and his Cabinet colleagues. The party always seems to be under the compulsion to cater to its core constituency of hard-line Hindutva elements, although it cannot possibly expand its base without presenting itself as the agent of economic growth and social progress. There is no way the BJP can ride both horses at the same time. Indeed, the Hindutva agenda is in direct conflict with the economic agenda. Sooner or later, the core will have to yield to the pressures from the crust. Else, not only will the Grand Alliance's success be replicated by other players in other States — but, more crucially, India will suffer severe damage to its social and democratic fabric.
An official order or commission to do something.
Never done or known before.
Agitate or turn (milk or cream) in a machine in order to produce butter.
Move a spoon or other implement around in (a liquid or other substance) in order to mix it thoroughly.
An ornamental border of threads left loose or formed into tassels or twists, used to edge clothing or material.
An enemy or opponent.
Put (someone) in the pillory.
· pay off
1. To pay the full amount on (a debt).
2. To result in profit or advantage; succeed: Your efforts will eventually pay off.
3. To pay the wages due to (an employee) upon discharge.
4. To pay (a plaintiff) to settle a lawsuit out of court.
5. To bribe.
Last week, the government unveiled its Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY), with the intent to find a permanent solution to the financial mess that the power distribution is in. Massive accumulated losses have made these state-owned entities not only hugely dependent on banks but also unable to service their huge debts. It is a travesty that India has over 270 gigawatts of power generation capacity, but is currently using only half of it, because distributors refuse to lift power that they are forced to sell at a loss. As a consequence, several parts of the country are still suffer long periods of outages. The solution to the problem is technically obvious, but politically challenging. The first phase of the solution is to buffer the finances of the distribution companies, or discoms, from the subsidies that state governments may want to provide for power. UDAY attempts this by asking states to issue bonds to banks as repayment for discom dues. This will accomplish the significant objective of forcing states to put their money where their mouth is on power subsidies. They will now have to directly bear on their budgets the entire cost of the subsidies. From the discoms' perspective, the shifting of the debt burden to the state government changes their financial picture significantly and, presumably, allow them to buy enough power to meet aggregate demand in their domains. This is all to the good.
But, the next step, that is implied by the policy but not explicitly articulated, is where the challenge lies. Two previous attempts to break the financial logjam in this sector, both of which essentially involved sequestering funds from central transfers to pay off the discoms' dues to various suppliers both ended up unsuccessful precisely because the next step was not taken. Fundamentally, unless discoms are allowed to charge prices that reflect cost of delivery, including a return on capital, they will always be on the financial brink. This could be done in two ways; let the consumer pay the full price, as determined by state regulators, after which the state governments can directly transfer subsidy payments to selected groups. This way, discoms' financial health is protected and the subsidy becomes an explicit contract between the government and the beneficiary. A more practical but also more risky approach is to build the subsidy into the tariffs, but have an annual budgetary provision for subsidies, which is transferred to discoms at periodic intervals. This is risky because it is difficult to enforce. In essence though, whatever approach is taken, UDAY will meet the same fate as its predecessors unless it is followed up by meaningful tariff reform.
The political hesitancy in implementing this is somewhat surprising. Over and over again, consumers have demonstrated their willingness to pay higher prices for services as long as supply and quality are consistent and assured. From education to healthcare to water to energy, quality improvements are essential to meeting mass aspirations. But state governments still shy away from re-writing the contract on power supply and tariffs with their constituents. If the same reluctance persists after UDAY, it will bring the commendable efforts of the central government to solve this problem to nought.
Remove a veil or covering from, especially uncover (a new monument or work of art) as part of a public ceremony.
A false, absurd, or distorted representation of something.
A period when a power supply or other service is not available or when equipment is closed down.
In an explicit manner; "in his foreword Professor Clark puts it explicitly"
A crowded mass of logs blocking a river.
An extreme edge of land before a steep or vertical slope.
After the counting comes the reading
The mandate, even one as unambiguous as the one Bihar's people have given, lies in the reading. What will the prime minister who plunged into the state assembly fray in a manner no PM had done before take away from his party's resounding defeat? How will the chief minister who has won a third successive term take forward his heady triumph? Long after the noise of the firecrackers burst to celebrate this decisive verdict — in Bihar and in India, Amit Shah please note — has died down, what will remain is what this scorecard says, to two men, in their moment of solitude.
For Narendra Modi, it would be so easy to dismiss the verdict as the sum of caste math, to see it as overdetermined by the arithmetic of the coming together of the RJD with the JD(U). Or to call it only a state verdict. The PM should read the writing on the Bihar wall. Bihar's voters are telling him that they reject the false opposition and hypocrisy that his and his party's campaign tried to peddle. This was no battle of modernity/ development versus obscurantism/ casteism, with the BJP representing the former against Lalu-Nitish. In reality, both sides boasted of development credentials, and in forging their respective coalitions, both also energetically played the caste game. In the end, Bihar's voters have chosen the Nitish model, with its particular priority and emphasis, its specific meshing and mingling of caste and development.
Though the base he started with was spectacularly low, and much remains to be done, Bihar has shown visible development on all the indicators that matter during two terms of Nitish rule except, perhaps, industrial investment and jobs, even as the government has reached out to the most disprivileged castes and women. Roads and bridges have been built, electricity has reached the remotest corners, the government school has been revived and so has the healthcare centre. In a state of fierce inequalities, those at the bottom-most rung of the caste and privilege ladder — the Mahadalits, the Extremely Backward Classes and women — have felt touched by the state, be it through the creation of public goods or by targeted schemes and programmes. The Modi model — louder and glossier on infrastructure and job creation, but with less to show for it in terms of its sensitivity to the needs of the marginalised, or ground-level implementation — has lost to the Nitish model. Of course, PM Modi can choose to restate his faith in his own model and framework. But this is a moment for him to acknowledge, at the very least, that there is work left to do, and arguments yet to be won.
On another issue, the Bihar verdict has ended the argument. In 2014, the people voted so handsomely for Modi, as the carrier of hope and the promise of change, but in 2015, they don't seem to take to Modi, the polarising leader. The PM attempted, especially towards the last stages of this campaign, to stoke religious polarisation — he spoke of Lalu-Nitish conspiring to gift backward caste quotas to Muslims and of the "Darbhanga module", even as his party chief spoke of a BJP defeat in Bihar setting off fireworks in Pakistan. The results can be said to have shown, conclusively, that those efforts did not work to the BJP's advantage — if they didn't actually contribute to the magnitude of its defeat.
For Nitish Kumar, this victory is affirmation that hard work brings votes, even when the opponent is the prime minister of India himself, backed by the ruling party's big fat election machine. Let there be no doubt about it: Even though the support and organisational strength that Lalu Prasad brought with him into the Mahagathbandhan was crucial, it did not win Nitish this election, anymore than Mohan Bhagwat's comments on backward caste reservations did. Lalu only made it possible for Nitish to win. With Lalu by his side, the anxiety of numbers diminished for Nitish supporters, and made it possible for his governance record to take centrestage, and shine. In turn, Lalu supporters who had lost hope of the RJD coming back to power after 15 years in the wilderness, saw in Nitish their best chance to win the election and rallied behind the Mahagathbandhan. In the end, the synergy delivered, but though Lalu thundered more, the star that shone the brightest was Nitish.
In a government formed along with Lalu, it will be Nitish's task to keep to his trajectory and convictions, and if necessary, to guard them from Lalu. In many ways, Lalu made it possible for there to be a Nitish, and Nitish has taken forward the work begun by Lalu. In the 1990s, Lalu had upturned the equation between caste and power. In his two terms, Nitish took the project of empowerment deeper into the backward castes — from the OBCs to EBCs, from Dalits to Mahadalits (even though the line between the latter two now stands extinguished). It is also true, however, that Nitish is also the anti-Lalu. Having radically unsettled congealed upper-caste dominance, Lalu made no effort to link the politics of dignity to an agenda of governance. In fact, he disdained the need to do so.
Nitish must keep his partner by his side, but he must lead from the front. Much depends on the way the Nitish-Lalu experiment now unfolds in the state. It will influence the politics of the future in Bihar — and in the country.
An official order or commission to do something.
Jump or dive quickly and energetically.
(of a fabric, rope, or cord) unravel or become worn at the edge, typically through constant rubbing.
(of a sound) loud enough to reverberate.
A great victory or achievement.
The state or situation of being alone.
The practice of deliberately preventing the facts or full details of something from becoming known.
(of the teeth of a gearwheel) lock together or be engaged with another gearwheel.
The great size or extent of something.
The action or process of affirming something or being affirmed.
The path followed by a projectile flying or an object moving under the action of given forces.
Solidify or coagulate, especially by cooling.
Nov 09 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)
Bihar Earthquake Shakes Delhi
Bihar's voters sweep Nitish Kumar in and deliver course correction message to BJP
After a fractious election campaign that turned into a presi dential-style contest between Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the absence of a BJP chief ministerial candidate, Bihar's 15 million voters have delivered an unambiguous verdict. The mahagathbandhan's sweeping victory is a clear signal that an overwhelmingly negative electoral discourse does not work.
NDA swept to power at the Centre last year with a positive and uplifting message of hope. By contrast its campaign in Bihar sowed negativity and division, and it paid the price. For the second state assembly election in a row, BJP's poll strategy of demonising its political opponent has failed to deliver, as it did with Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi. In an election where both sides claimed to stand for development, Nitish's record of development resonated with the vast majority in Bihar much more than Modi's promise of it or allusions to a return of `jungle raj'.
Bihar was certainly not a referendum on the national government but it does have national implications. First, the politics of divisiveness and intolerance doesn't work, whether in a rural state like Bihar or an urban state like Delhi. Bihar saw new lows in communal rhetoric, especially in the last phase. BJP president Amit Shah's comment that "crackers will be burst in celebration in Pakistan" if BJP loses, the party's advertisement portraying a woman hugging a cow and state leaders calling the election a choice between those who eat beef and those who want to stop cow slaughter did not result in the creation of a larger `Hindu' vote.
Of course, there were objectionable and inflammatory comments from the other side as well, such as Lalu Prasad's `nar-bhakshi' jibe.Yet BJP, which started off focussing on governance, seemed to get side-tracked by culture wars and personality clashes along the way . The underlying message is that voters want material change in their lives and economic mobility , rather than identity wars.
Second, by choosing to keep faith in Nitish for the third time, voters have shown their preference for a tried and tested local face with a decent report card. Third, by stop ping the Modi juggernaut, this result will enthuse the wider opposition in Delhi.
The Opposition will now enter Parliament's winter session with its tail up and NDA must rethink its approach. It must deviate from the RSS script, empower moderate forces within, be conciliatory towards the Opposition and try to co-opt sections within it. At the very least, it will require a new politics of consensus to get through key reform measures such as the crucial GST Bill or labour reforms.
Fourth, BJP won Maharashtra and Haryana without projecting a chief ministerial candidate but that tactic failed in Bihar. Along with the PM, party president Amit Shah also featured prominently in BJP's Bihar campaign posters. Following this reverse, the demand for greater decentralisation and delegation to state units and local leaders should be wholeheartedly accepted.
Fifth, the great comeback story of this election is the resurrection of Lalu Prasad, whose RJD has won more seats than Nitish Kumar's JD(U). How this plays out politically within their alliance remains to be seen. For now, Lalu says that while Nitish will concentrate on running Bihar he will focus on the national opposition pushback to the NDA. Much will depend on how this equation evolves in practice.
Sixth, Congress's 27 seats (up from just 4 in 2010) is another surprise. By choosing not to go it alone and focussing on being the glue in the opposition alliance against BJP , Congress has gained an unexpected windfall which may serve as a template in several states.
Finally, BJP must refocus on fulfilling its 2014 promises. It has spent too much of its political capital trying to win power in states.Though it has made significant inroads in some states due for election in 2016 (West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry) all these are non-Hindi speaking states, and the BJP poll strategy of parachuting in the PM to address pre-election mega rallies while Amit Shah pulls the campaign strings has not worked even in Hindi-speaking states such as Bihar and Delhi.
NDA must stop getting distracted by state polls while keeping its eye on the big prize: 2019 Lok Sabha elections. For that it must refrain from divisive politics, lower the communal temperature and start doing the heavy lifting on development.
(typically of children) irritable and quarrelsome.
An expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference.
A general vote by the electorate on a single political question that has been referred to them for a direct decision.
A huge, powerful, and overwhelming force or institution.
Intended or likely to placate or pacify.
Nov 09 2015 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)
Cesses are Excess, Switch to GST
The government's decision to charge a 0.5% cess on all servi ces in addition to the 14% service tax will make services more expensive, and also clutter the tax system. The proceeds will be used only to fund the Swachh Bharat initiative, true, but a better way is for the government to fund the programme through tax revenues. Article 270 of the Constitution allows the central government to levy and retain any cess: the educa tion cess of 2% and the secondary and higher education cess of 1%, for example, still continue on income and corporate taxes The two cesses have been subsumed only in service tax. How ever, the 0.5% cess, effective from November 15, will raise the service tax rate to 14.5%. Moreover, credit will not be available to offset the cess paid on inputs. And a higher burden hurts both service provid ers and consumers.
The Constitution entrusts the tasks of public health and sanitation to state gov ernments, but cesses are excluded from the divisible pool. States have repeatedly sought its abolition or making cesses and surcharges part of the divisible pool. The Comptroller and Au ditor General (C&AG) too has found lack of transparency and incomplete reporting in accounts on the utilisation of cess collections. Rightly , successive finance commissions have fro wned on cesses and surcharges. Moreover, the levies are only meant for short periods, which invariably is not the case. Vari ous cesses -on roads, petrol and diesel -are already in force Adding one more is not the right way to go.
To raise resources for sanitation, the best course is to adopt the goods and services tax (GST) that has automatic set-offs for all taxes paid on inputs. Ideally , cess and surcharges must be subsumed in GST to ensure that the input tax credit chain is not broken, and production becomes more efficient.
A collection of things lying about in an untidy mass.
Include or absorb (something) in something else.
The action or an act of abolishing a system, practice, or institution.
TODAY, the National Assembly will re-elect Ayaz Sadiq as speaker of the house.
The PML-N has already flexed its political muscles and turned what should have been the immediate re-election of Mr Sadiq at the start of the new session of parliament into a celebration of the PML-N's electoral superiority over the PTI.
Even the otherwise dignified Mr Sadiq was unable to resist landing a few punches against his political opponents after the bruising battle that was the by-election in NA-122 last month. But what are Mr Sadiq's, and the federal government's, plans for reinvigorating parliament itself?
Almost halfway through its term, the federal government appears to have no legislative agenda – and the National Assembly itself has once again become a desultory body largely oblivious to its constitutional role of oversight of the executive.
Clearly, there is a problem of political will. When it comes to contesting by-elections and purportedly protecting the sanctity of the National Assembly by ensuring that the speaker is not tarnished by rigging allegations or the inability to retain his seat, the PML-N has shown no shortage of enthusiasm.
In the NA-122 by-election campaign, ministers, MNAs, MPAs and Sharif family members were deployed as though the fate of democracy itself hung in the balance. But parliament itself has largely been treated as an inconvenience by the PML-N.
Having delayed the start of the new National Assembly session for an unprecedented three months to ensure Mr Sadiq could return to the speaker's office first, the PML-N has not even made a pretence of unveiling a legislative agenda.
Just two facts tell the story of the PML-N's parliamentary indifference. First, the country still does not have a full-time law minister. The ever-busy Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid doubles as law minister and a group of aides and advisers are steering the day-to-day affairs of the law ministry.
Without a law minister, can there really be a governmental legislative agenda?
Second, the only significant legislation passed by the present parliament has come at the behest of the military – infamously, the 21st Amendment and before that troubling changes to anti-terrorism laws.
Where could the government start? If it wanted to, there is the issue of electoral reforms – something that Mr Sadiq himself should take a personal interest in, given his electoral troubles.
If elections are to be free and fair – and parliament is to be seen as legitimate and representative – there must be electoral reforms. Putting together a parliamentary package on electoral reforms should not take very long; there have been long debates and many suggestions and ideas mooted in recent years.
Another potential area for quick legislative action, given the composition of the Senate and Chairman Raza Rabbani's interest in legal reforms, could be speedy justice reforms. As ever, the space for action is vast, if the government demonstrates the will.
Bend (a limb or joint).
Having or showing a composed or serious manner that is worthy of respect.
Causing a bruise or bruises.
Give new energy or strength to.
Lacking a plan, purpose, or enthusiasm.
Believed or reputed to be the case
Lose or cause to lose luster, especially as a result of exposure to air or moisture.
The system of ropes, cables, or chains employed to support a ship's masts ( standing rigging ) and to control or set the yards and sails ( running rigging ).
A person's orders or command.
view on Ahmed Chalabi: mission incredible
The death of Ahmed Chalabi is a moment to consider the great man theory of history. He was not a great man, and certainly not a good one; he was an adventurer of astonishing energy and chutzpah. But he may have changed the course of history and had he not existed his life and unique career would have seemed ridiculously improbable.
We tend to think of history as the product of impersonal forces and so to suppose a great catastrophe like the invasion of Iraq must have had great causes. But considered through the lens of Chalabi's career, it seems more like a bitter farce out of Graham Greene. One man of unlimited ambition managed to recruit the most powerful army in the world to his private purposes. Almost in passing, he wrecked both his own country and much of the wider Middle East.
Chalabi was a prosperous Iraqi Shia exile, a gifted prestidigitator both financial and mathematical, with a doctorate in knot theory from Chicago and a talent for spinning yarns that people wanted to hear. He made a fortune from a bank in Jordan, although he had to leave that country concealed in the boot of a car after a misunderstanding with the depositors, and could never return there because of a 22-year sentence for fraud imposed in his absence – he blamed it all on Saddam Hussein, of course.
That was the background against which a group of Washington insiders, later known as the neocons, decided that he was the man to bring to Iraq the benefits of democracy and the rule of the law. They thought of themselves as idealists, compared with the brutal realists who would rather have replaced Saddam with a more pliable dictator. Or perhaps they imagined that Chalabi himself would prove their pocket strongman.
He knew very well what they wanted to hear. He told anyone who would listen that the Iraqi people would rise against the hated dictatorship, and that they yearned for western freedoms. His people told selected journalists and intelligence officers endless stories about weapons of mass destruction. It is difficult to work out now which story was less credible, but there were plenty of powerful people who wanted to believe both. There is even some evidence that he believed his own claims about their longing for democracy, if not about WMD.
And when an invasion of Iraq became plausible, after the US had been maddened by 9/11, Chalabi was there to explain to everyone that it was right, and that it would work. He even promised it could be done with very little force. After the war, when everything fell to bits, his lies were duly exposed but by that time it did not matter much to him. He was back in Iraq; he had profitable posts in successful government, and he set himself as a client of the Iranians instead of the Americans. It was only the disillusionment of the Iraqis themselves, like anyone else who had ever trusted him, that put an end to his political career. Still, he died old, and rich, and out of jail, and back after exile in the country he had done so much to help ruin.
The obvious moral is that the wicked do sometimes prosper. But we knew that. What is really astonishing is the gullibility of the powerful. Chalabi was an extremely clever man, but he had nothing more than charm and conviction backing him when he persuaded official Washington to believe his incredible yarns. Seldom has wishful thinking had more dreadful consequences.
Shameless audacity; impudence.
So as to invite mockery or derision; absurdly.
The state of being barred from one's native country, typically for political or punitive reasons.
Magician: someone who performs magic tricks to amuse an audience
Easily bent; flexible.
Have an intense feeling of longing for something, typically something that one has lost or been separated from.
(of an argument or statement) seeming reasonable or probable.
Causing or involving great suffering, fear, or unhappiness; extremely bad or serious.