Politics Now

The Kejriwal Kaleidoscope

There is a fine line between a government that is deemed successful and a government incapable of tending to even the most basic needs of its own citizens. Is Kejriwal a success, or has he proved to be a total failure? Has Kejriwal remained loyal to his pre-election manifesto, or does he still loom among the corridors of uncertainty? Ask any aam aadmi and it does not require much of wit to come up with an answer that bears strict resemblances to the latter proposition of failure.

It would be worthwhile to disclose that I had, on a personal level, supported Kejriwal in his second run for Chief Ministership. Although his previous government had a tenure of a mere count of forty-nine days, that tenure had some glimpses of positive reform in it. President’s Rule followed, and then came the big State elections. People felt that the Aam Aadmi Party deserved a second chance; a chance that pardoned any blunder that the government might have made earlier, and a chance that promised a fresh start to the party. There was an ambient sensation that there was, finally, a political startup that had all the right ingredients: a reputation unblotted by the taint of any unethical offences, and a promise to bring in populist reforms by cutting down on corruption. As history has it, Kejriwal took the vow of office on the fourteenth of February, 2015, pledging to remove all traces of corruption and misgovernance. That pledge now looks no more than a cruel irony to me.

At the end of this period, the only thing that has kept Kejriwal’s party alive is the rhetoric of blame-game politics. From verbal wars with the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi to branding the Prime Minister a ‘psychopath’, he has left no stone unturned in this dirty game of his. It is possible that Kejriwal might have had no practical experience of running a government before. It is acceptable that the claims inscribed in his pre-poll manifesto may have been, after all, hollow and rather tall. However, that is no excuse to run away from the responsibilities. Over the present incumbency, instead of trying to rectify the domains of concern and areas that required a vigilant eye, he has played with the victim card. As a Chief Minister, that is an indefensible and lame rationale to justify his position. If you start something, you have to be the person to take the initiative to make it a success, and you have the sole responsibility to bring it to a terminating point. That essentially means to discharge one’s responsibilities in the most efficient way possible. Despite several litigation cases and his personal attacks on State dignitaries, Kejriwal has had no time to rest. Mud-slinging has become his day job, and the common man in Delhi has to bear the brunt of the Centre-State friction. In politics, it is expected that there would be tensions. Although unhealthy, the State administration has no right to put the populace in trouble by trying to point fingers at others. That is not good management, that is poor administration at its height. Going by the rigorous standards, Mr CM has scored a big zero. Perhaps, a negative mark.

The second of the unpardonable mistakes that Kejriwal has committed in his second stint is the failure to realise and implement his manifesto highlights. Plans of installing a million security cameras, making free Wi-Fi a reality in Delhi, establishing nine hundred public health centres, halving electricity bills and a promise to make potable water available free of charge have all gone haywire. The Public Works Department under State control could not carry out repair works pegged at less than two crore rupees, due to an acute lack of funds as per government sources. Is it not ironical that the party had sanctioned 526 crores in its advertisement and media campaigns, from the public exchequer, and then shamelessly professed the cause of severe deficiency of funds? This is a clear case of illicit duplicity and two-facedness. It has also failed on its pillar point in the manifesto: to get rid of the VIP Culture. If a four-hundred percent increase in salary is not a mirror of the VIP culture, I do not know what that means.

Kejriwal has not only politicised the issue of rapes and safety of women in the NCR region but also made a fool of himself in the domestic sphere due to the state of affairs that clearly show the tables have turned. For example, the Muffler Man used to launch diatribes against Sheila Dikshit, the former CM:

More often than not, we find Kejriwal the helpless person. In fact, when questioned about rising deflowering statistics, he has replied with the same rationale of the Delhi police being under the Central government and not directly reporting to the State administration. Under his administration, rapes have gone up by 27% from 6488 in 2014 to 7566 in 2015. Despite assurances of explicit arrangements being made to avoid any excuse or slip-up, only nine fast track courts have been established. What is worrying is that the trial for ninety-three (93%) percent of the accused are pending for the last three years. How perfect an example of hypocrisy is that?

There are a thousand other realms where he has equivalently failed. He has metamorphosed from an idol of reverence to just another uncontended politician looking to serve his own interests. He has transfigured from the ideal democratic figure to the unwanted dictator in the group. The expulsion of senior henchmen like Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan only offered a peek into the divisiveness and factionalism that pervades the group. Their expulsion sent a clear message that Arvind has sought to be the chieftain for his own political mileage; and that he is not ready to sacrifice it for anything else. While going through the news today, I found that Kejriwal has again resorted to hasty decision making, his supreme nemesis and his bete noire, by asking for the rollback of the demonetization move. Is he unaware that a rollback of the demonetization at this point of time is just a silly proposition, and that it has no pragmatic value attached to it? As a responsible politician who uses his office of legislature well, it would be his duty to suggest changes and amendments. Kejriwal, who seeks exclusivity from the rest (but yet finds solace confiding in Mamata and the Thackerays) has made it his signature move now to make such abrupt demands that are difficult to comprehend in any possible interpretation.

As a previous supporter, I feel betrayed, and this is perhaps the case with the vast majority of Delhiites who trusted Kejriwal with sixty-seven out of the seventy seats in the Delhi Legislative Assembly. Every Delhiite feels robbed of his voice and feels crushed under the onus of misgovernance. Running a State Government is not a child’s play, and hence Kejriwal should realise immediately that no amount of excuses can render him free from all allegations of poor governance. No one would listen to how the Centre did not cooperate. After all, when life gives you lemons, you ought to make a lemonade. His childish moves and comments have irritated all sane-thinking people (including me), and I would be eagerly awaiting the next State elections. There is no point warring with the Lieutenant Governor when you cannot resolve your internal disputes and cracks. Arvind Kejriwal has mutated into a dictatorial figure with no clear aims, a rudderless tug-boat venturing in the stormy seas of national politics.

If people say he is an anarchist, I would heartily agree with it.

The Victimization of Muslims

One of the most puerile and nascent ways to inspect terrorist attacks is to place the absolute liability of the attack on the entirety of the Mohammedan populace that exists in the community. This worrying trend is now a reality and serves as a brilliant example of religion-based prejudices that still exist in the contemporary society. Ever since the onset of the second millennium, the world has witnessed a host of terror attacks. These attacks have not only annihilated thousands but also have decimated rationality with every dreadful blow.

It is perfectly natural to react outrageously to such strikes. The public perception is an important yardstick to gauge the severity of the attack, and the consequent penalty imposable. The 26/11 attacks were despicable, condemnable, and reviled by all human beings that live in this world. I, too, am a part of this bandwagon: and I will stand up against all forms of terrorism in the future. However, it is equally indispensable to note that popular opinion often bears appreciable resemblances to fickle-mindedness, subject to change with changing whims.

Terrorism is definitely not a post-modern concept, it existed for ages before that. It would also be wrong to categorize terrorism as a war between the Muslim and the Christian ideologue. A Jewish terrorist organization, Sicarii, was established in the first century AD to combat the Romans in the Middle East. This only iterates how terrorism is not a present-day dictionary term. Post the Second World War, terrorism started to be linked with violence to advance political demands. From the seventies, most of the uprisings and revolutions took place in the African landscape, dominated by theological states adopting Islam as its guiding light. Revolutions are chaotic and usher in instability more than anything else; and consequently gives birth to a plethora of other tangible problems. This, unfortunately, is how we know terrorism today: the bloodied face of Muslim fidayeen who devote their lives to a false promise of acceptance into heaven, a stable future, and a good remuneration.

As per the statistics revealed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, hate crimes against the Muslims have risen 67% from 154 in 2014 to 257 in 2015 in the United States alone. In the United Kingdom, activist group Tell MAMA reports that religion-based bias against the Muslims witnessed a surge capped at 326% over the course of just one year. It prognosticates ghastly situations after Britain formally declares a clause to exit from the European Union. If we are to look into the domestic situation, tensions are at an all-time high: a string of lynching and cow-vigilantism activities took its due toll on the fragile communal joints in India.

All of these hate crimes can effectively be summed up in one word: Islamophobia. While going through a CNN report during my research work, I found a line that appealed to me: and I shall not refrain myself from sharing it with you all. Daniel Burke, the regional editor of CNN, says:

Muslims live in fear that they will be attacked. Americans live in fear that Muslims will attack them.

How apt is the above line! Islamophobia is for real, and it breathes its life in every corner of the society. As a devout follower of any other religion, one may be inclined to shrug off these concerns. But taking that route would deem one similar to an escapist who eludes the reality. What if we were the innocent Muslims, and at the receiving end of unwarranted brickbats from the entire community? What if our children were dragged out of our homes and abused in front of us, and we were to watch helplessly? What if our wives and sisters were molested in the name of religious prejudice? What if our family members are murdered and all we could do is to watch these fleeting events in cold blood? That would be completely unacceptable, a direct contradiction and a gross violation of our fundamental human rights guaranteed not only by the State but also ratified by the United Nations Charter of Fundamental Rights.

FBI Statistics on Hate Crimes in the United States (2015).

If we cannot internally accept even the remotest thought of such attempts to demean us at an individual level, why do we reciprocate inherently such violent actions towards a minority group? As an enthusiast for all things Afghani, I consider myself fortunate to get hold of a book named “A Fort of Nine Towers“. This book is a revelation of the raw reality that exists: ordinary citizens like you and me trapped in the deluge of war. Incomprehensible, and often tough to believe, the actuality is strikingly difficult to acknowledge. Should it not be that these people be given a fair opportunity to prove themselves, instead of being judgemental and labeling the entire band of these people as traitors?

While the initial fury is justifiable by the tenets of human psychology, continued discriminatory actions are definitely not. As that apt remark by Burke explains, both parties involved in this strenuous relationship are at daggers drawn, which essentially means that fear prevails and there are no winners involved. As the economists forecast, the US and European states would move into a period where they lack sufficient youth population to sustain their behemoth economies. Most of these men and women, of whom many may be immigrants, are resourceful and best of all, in their prime. This would not only provide them employment opportunities, but all of them would act as individual catalysts to propel the res publica forward.

It is in peace that we find prosperity. It is my most humble appeal to my dear readers, to discard the religious card you may have. Think of the infantile children who undergo such a lot of awful hardships. Are these innocent Muslims, whoever they be, not a product of the Lord? I do not care whether I end up taking a note that may brand me as yet another “anti-national” in the eyes of a few jingoistic parties: for I believe these pertinent concerns must be addressed immediately.

As Tagore would plausibly quote,

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls…
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

 

 

India and the Nukes

Modi’s love affair with Japan seems to know no boundaries. In his second State visit to Japan in under two years, he has managed to ink a civilian nuclear power deal with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe. However, as expected, there were instances of domestic resistance in both the countries: a people’s movement against nuclear plant establishment in India, while a general sentiment that nuclear deals should not be made with non-NPT (Nuclear Proliferation Treaty) states prevailed in Japan.

Although the former is a concern that can be tackled with the count of years, the latter is something to contemplate upon. Would the public opinion in Japan be more disposed to India’s cause if India were a member of the Nuclear Supplier’s Group? Is it not valid to speculate that Japan would have unilaterally decided to permit such a deal had India been a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty?

Bilateral Nuclear Deals

The nuclear deal with Japan has come at a cost that can have dynamic ramifications. In a first of its type, India has explicitly highlighted that it would not conduct nuclear tests in the future. As per media reports, American firms dealing in nuclear technology have significant relationships with Japanese establishments of the same nature.  Commentators have brought out the fact that this bilateral agreement bears many resemblances to the 2005 nuclear deal under the Bush administration. The Indo-US deal was hailed as a game changer in the diplomatic circles, whereby India was not only implicitly recognized as a responsible nuclear state, but also transformed India’s image in the international sphere from a nuclear pariah to a partner. The Bush administration, as per opinions, broke the ice by finding a modus vivendi with India. However, an exception cannot be made everywhere.

The Japanese, on the other hand, also have strategic interests in concluding the agreement. The Sino-Japanese rivalry has only heated up in the last few years, whose credit primarily goes to heightened tensions over the South China Sea dispute. Even if we are to move past the nuclear deal, there are a thousand other ventures where Tokyo would like to cooperate with New Delhi. Take for instance the bullet train, a field where Japan is keen and enthusiastic to invest. All of this essentially boils down to an advantage for India, as it can now effectively snub Chinese attempts of regional ascendancy.

India’s desire to get into the NSG

It must be noted that India has been desperately trying to get into the exclusive NSG club, wherein it would have untold benefits as far as nuclear commerce is concerned. As mentioned earlier, an important consideration of this consortium is that the members must be a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. India has not signed the treaty for it considers it discriminatory, and rightly so. At this juncture, there is a vital consideration. Should India up the ante to get into the NSG despite opposition from global players? If the answer to that is affirmative, there are perils attached to it.

India’s entry into the NSG as an independent exception cannot bear expected results from the Indian point of view. This is mainly because Pakistan, too, seeks a place in the association: and an unbiased exception is incredibly difficult to justify. China would then pester and lobby for Pakistan’s admission: and thus India’s cardinal intent of joining the NSG would be nullified. Geopolitical tensions are always a top concern in South Asia. A recent development in the form of Parrikar’s personal musings about how India should abandon the “no first use” of nuclear weapons policy would only act as yet another deterrent.

The Last Say

As of now, it seems unlikely that India would get a stamp of approval to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Henceforth, it would be worthwhile to ensure that India lives up responsibly to its image of a peaceful nuclear country. It would be demoralizing on a diplomatic level to vigorously canvas for India’s entry into the exclusive club and then get an outright rejection. Moreover, regardless of any inherent lack of logic, China would always play the rhetoric of “no exceptions”: for India would not sign the NPT in the foreseeable future.  In my opinion, the world would definitely watch how India shapes its strategy as far as the India-Pakistan strains are concerned, as a litmus test for India’s commitment to international conventions.  Thus, the only feasible way to get out of this tangible mess of affairs is to exercise careful restraint in actions on an international level.

The Trump Card

The Big Brother of the World has a new captain in the form of Donald J. Trump. In a sweeping and unanticipated win, Trump has been elected the forty-fifth president of the United States of America.  Claiming the Presidential seat has been a rather tumultuous ride for Trump- or for that matter, Republicans themselves- with the former having to battle a string of sexual assault allegations from women weeks before the elections, apart from the regular outrageous racial comments that provoked criticism from all quarters.

Critics have pondered over whether the world is preferring a transition from the unadventurous and hackneyed politics to choosing extremist politics whose very pillars lie on frustration and anger. Tapping into the subconscious fear has for long been a good way to convince people. The Trump campaign, based on the cornerstone of ‘Make America Great Again’ tried to exploit general concerns over security, and reinstill a sense of belief in the stereotypical ‘Great American Dream’.

Obama, who will be taking the exit to vacate the Presidential office for Trump and co., has said he prefers a smooth changeover. In an official White House release, Obama mentioned about the need to give the President-elect a fair opportunity to lead the people.

“We have to remember that we’re actually all on one team…We’re not Democrats first, we’re not Republicans first, we are Americans first. We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country.” – President Obama, 9th of November, 2016.

The decision was expected to be tight, and indeed it was: the Presidential elections of 2016 would be one to remember for a long time ahead. Although the Democratic nominee won by popular vote, the Electoral College made the last-mile difference in choosing Trump as the inheritor of the White House. Primarily, both candidates had drawbacks. First, Trump had his bohemian way of looking at things. From suggesting a blanket ban on Muslims entering the States to proposing tight restrictions on rights of Latin Americans, he has done it all. Personality, however, proved to be his redeemer: for his image was more of an “I do what I do”-like than his comparatively tamer opponent, Clinton. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was in a spot due to unpardonable questions over her integrity in respect of the email scandal. Despite a whole host of celebrities putting their weight behind Clinton, her glittery speeches failed to gain considerable traction with the masses. And the result is what we presently have at hand: a Republican administration led by Trump at the commanding helm. After the election results were out, Clinton accepted her electoral defeat and echoed Obama. In a public tweet, she asked the populace to accept Trump with an open mind.

From an Indian perspective, questions can be raised on the new bilateral relations that would develop between Washington and New Delhi. Trump has had double standards as far as India is concerned: while he has acknowledged his desire to cooperate and work closely with the Indian government, he has also explicitly made clear his wish to repeal H1B visas. A lot of the Indian diaspora based in the States live on H1B working-class visas, and cutting off the H1B as part of chauvinistic reforms would definitely affect the community. However, there are positives to take as well from the result. Trump’s constant emphasis on eliminating terrorism in all of its ugly forms could result in stronger Indo-US defence ties. Consequently, closer defence ties would give birth to deeper trade relations, currently valued at almost $44.7 billion (2015).

Nevertheless, it is heartening to note that experts in the policy-making circles believe with a sense of complacency that irrespective of whatever temporal cracks that may develop, the bilateral Indo-US relations would be on a positive track. In stark contrast to the pages of history, America’s initial indifference towards India was soon washed away when it became evident that New Delhi could not be ignored if America were to protect her interests in South Asia. Also, Capitol Hill focused its lights on India in a special way after India stepped into the era of globalization, initiated by the late Prime Minister, Rajeev Gandhi. This touched the zenith when in 2005, under the Presidency of George W. Bush, the Civil Nuclear Deal was inked with the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.

If we are to assess Trump’s foreign policy in sections that have Indian interests intertwined, we would find that it tilts by a good slant to favour India. His long-standing grudge against China would definitely reflect on the policies, including a probability of drawing sanctions for economic strong-arm tactics that Beijing often uses. Pakistan has woken up to a state of disillusional quandary: for it hesistates to go the distance, given the President-elect’s discountenance with Pakistan’s open secret of using terrorism as a State weapon against India. The threat of Islamic fanaticism and an increasingly authoratarian China also possess security challenges to both India and the States, which if handled well, could assure a safer world. On numerous fronts, he has lambasted Pakistan for being a harbour of terrorists and a safe haven for all activities underground. That is rightly evident from his official Twitter account.

On a personal front, it is my firm conviction, and I believe you would undeniably agree, that with great power comes along a sense of responsibility. The temptation of power is a lot like lust: it can lead people astray. However, when the baton has to be passed on to the next successor, the realization kicks in early: the President of the United States of America can never afford to have a happy-go-lucky attitude in complete disregard of official protocol. The American elections once again reaffirm how unpredictable the popular choice may be. And if all is well, we definitely have one line that sums it all:

Abki Baar, Trump Sarkar

Read also from the same author: India’s growing bonhomie with the United States (June 2016).

Big Bucks Banned

While the stern move is definitely welcome, the dictatorial style of the government is not… There is, at the end of the day, no definite assurance that counterfeit currency would not be produced any further.

The Modi government is good at bowling googlies when one would least expect them: in an unprecedented move, the Prime Minister has announced that the Indian currency notes of denomination worth five hundred and a thousand rupees would cease to be legal tenders from midnight today.

The bold move has been taken in order to curb corruption and reduce the number of transactions involving black money. According to official statistics, 250 out of every 10 lakh notes are identified as counterfeit currency. However, despite the government officials taking yet another opportunity to brag about their radical step, the common man looks to be left in an uncomfortable spot.

The banks remain closed tomorrow, and that has added to the general worry. The order to declare the denominations invalid from midnight of 9th November has come across as the biggest shock. That simplifies the equation to something that is sure to disturb our thoughts: for a minimum of two days, all your five hundred and thousand rupees notes stand worthless: until they are exchanged, that is. The exceptions, where the aforementioned notes would still be valid till the eleventh of November, are airports, railway stations, crematoriums, chemists, bus stands, airline counters, and a few more of such public facilities. Think of all the high-value transactions that falls outside of the domain of the exemption purview that the government has drawn: all such dealings need to be now made in hundred rupee notes within these days. The other concern is the astronomical lines that would plague the bank counters the day they reopen. To make matters worse, ATMs would not function on the ninth and tenth of this month.

The move is sound on paper. However, on a second thought, this would be causing unrivaled tribulation to the public at large, in an unwarranted manner. Things could have been much smoother and the public response more affirmative had the time for the notes being disqualified been extended even by a day. Ironically, the announcement was made at 8 PM to phase out the notes from 12:00 AM. That is overriding the public with your whims. I agree all of this would lead to long-term benefits, but there are more efficient ways to accrue them instead of harassing the public in such a manner. Some have rightly pointed out about the minnows whom we have left out of the equation altogether: the petty vendors, the ones who sell at the bazaars, how would they manage to get so many hundred rupee notes until all those glittery grand notes are exchanged? How would the common man manage? How would the teenager who orders a good sum worth of goods online under Cash on Delivery (COD) pay that amount over hundred rupee notes? That is a point to ponder on. The bank remains closed on the following day. What happens to the people who are desperate to exchange their money at this point? They are left in the lurch. While the stern move is definitely welcome, the dictatorial style of the government is not.

In a nutshell, the pertinent questions that still remain are:

  1. The Government should accept absolute responsibility for the trouble faced by a billion people throughout the nation, and must make last mile arrangements to ensure that no one is denied the right to exchange such currency despite geographical limitations, or otherwise,
  2. I still do not understand the use of the denomination worth Rupees Two Thousand. The RBI could have introduced a new format for the thousand rupee note in a similar way, akin to its counterpart being sacked,
  3. There is, at the end of the day, no definite assurance that counterfeit currency would not be produced further. While it may take some time to duplicate the new patterns, deceiving people is very easy: and cheats are good at this business. What happens then?
  4. Those who stash away their money in Swiss accounts are not imbecile to keep their wealth in liquid cash. They keep their wealth distributed over movable and immovable assets. What impact would the move have over these people?

If this works out, it would indeed be nothing short of a historic move worthy of being recorded in the record books. If not, a failure of monumental scale for the NDA government that is already receiving brickbats from the Opposition for such an insensitive and hasty move.

EDIT: As of now, I can independently confirm that the rumors relating to the notes having GPS tracking abilities are baseless and fake. No such measure would be incorporated into the new notes.

UPDATE: Fake currency notes have been detected within days of the release of the new notes.

 

Politics, made comprehensible

The last time I was having a debate on a political subject, I overheard some bystanders claiming politics is hopeless; that it is a game of luck, a game plagued by the vices loathed by the society. This is an absolutely puerile way of describing the subject matter at hand: politics expands into dominions so large that it can be incomprehensible to many. This remains an undeniable fact, and to deny it would only prove oneself a fool.

Hence, I have taken on myself this endeavor- Politics Now- as a medium to simplify politics into something that is intelligible to the masses. This murky mess of affairs, in reality, offers an excellent scope for analysis, let alone political critique. While you would get your daily dose of news on almost any other news website on the giant network called the Internet, Politics Now would strive to be unique by offering a one-on-one analysis and how that would affect you, or the community, on an individual level.

But this would suffice for the first post on this new venture. I would definitely be looking forward to your active participation in sharing your views which would be more than welcome. And with a good sense of food humour, I thus make my point:

Politics Now- Palatable Politics, served fresh.