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India: Congress reduced as a minor party, BJP growing nervous

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It appears, the neutral Tamil voters without party affiliations and who had earlier voted for any party just freely: either AIADMK, or DMK or Congress or BJP or some other parties in order not to waste their franchise, now seem to think favoring the newly formed PWF, making it to emerge a strong coalition to take on the ruling AIADMK and leaving the DMK-Congress stay far away.

These neutral voters would welcome the emergence of People’s Welfare Front (PWF) as a genuine party to work for the welfare of Tamils and the state and as such consider the Vaiko-Vijayakanth led coalition as giving to public a natural hope of popular identity and real progress.

The arrival of the DMDK led by the matinee idol in Tamil films Vijayakanth to align with PWF led by Vaiko has not only considerably strengthened the coalition, but also annoyed DMK and BJP – both were eager to get Vijayakanth to their side to be used for elections and thrown out after the poll, sooner or later. BJP as a genuine people’s party with similar ideology, is worst affected by Vijaykanth’s decision to join the Vaiko’s PWF

Not only the Hindutva BJP but even the Congress party, abandoned by the ruling AIADMK, is placed much better than BJP in Tamil Nadu is now reduced to be a minor player in the ongoing poll scenario.

Worse, having been kept away by two major Dravidian parties AIADMK and DMK, the BJP which declared it would form government in the South Indian state for the first time is nowhere in the picture.

In fact, the BJP is the now worst affected, rather “betrayed” party as not only Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi but even Vijayakanth could not trust its hidden agenda as part of Hindutva ideology. Politicians in Tamil Nadu, who had earlier promoted the Hindutva party for their own marginal benefits, now, after knowing that BJP has used them to increase its vote banks and seats in the state, is fully aware of poisonous BJP agenda and have distanced themselves from the BJP. In fact BJP has no real partners to get votes while those that have nowhere to go for alliance have decided to transfer their meager votes to BJP which makes no difference to the emerging poll equations in the state.

Earlier BJP had no presence in Tamil state and no seats in the TN assembly as Tamils did not like the party but later BJP floated a proxy Hindu Front in Southern part of the state in Kanyakumari district and won an MLA seat from Padmanabhapuram constituency – a traditional Congress (Kamaraj faction) and communist fort but BJPs’ propaganda machinery succeeded in poisoning the Hindu minds, winning the seat. BJP applies the RSS formula to catch the Hindu attention by insulting Muslims straight from the public platform. The policy of Islamophobia and terrorization of Muslims simultaneously worked well as a usual powerful strategy for the Hindutva party as it began getting party cadres to work for an overtly Hindu party and increase Hindu vote bank. Later, BJP’s alliance with AIADMK and DMK alternatively at state level helped it increase its vote share as well as seats in assembly; it even sent MPs to parliament. Today the Modi government has a minister representing Kanyakumari district who had won the seat by its alliance with DMK. BJP would fear that it would lose its place in the state soon.

The two main Dravidian (DMK and AIADMK), national (Congress and BJP) and Left (CPI and CPM) parties have watched helplessly as a string of Tamil nationalist and caste-based parties ate into their vote-shares but sought to make amends by co-opting them through electoral alliances. Though the Narendra Modi wave of 2014 saw the BJP-led NDA create a powerful third alternative, the coming together of the BJP, Vijayakanth’s DMK, S Ramadoss-led PMK and Vaiko’s MDMK has also unraveled.

Earlier, Congress, ruling the Centre, used DMK and AIADMK alternatively for electoral gains. BJP also used the same strategy to but increased its presence in the state. The Congress’s decline that began in 1996, after the split and the formation of the Tamil Manila Congress by Mooppanar, eroded Congress base in the state and it has continued unabated in the ensuing two decades. Though the BJP made some gains in the 1999 and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, it can be safely said that national parties, including the Left, which was the main Opposition party in the 1950s before the ascent of the DMK, have lost the plot in Tamil Nadu. However, the party has retained some seats in the assembly.

Though the Congress was ousted from power in Tamil Nadu in 1967, it has, for the larger part of subsequent decades, been a significant political presence in the state. The Congress contested alone in 2014 and secured just 4.3 per cent of the vote share and drew a blank. After it gave up ambitions of retaking Tamil Nadu on its own steam, the Congress reconciled to playing second fiddle to the two main Dravidian parties through an arrangement where it cornered a lion’s share of the Lok Sabha seats. Both the DMK and AIADMK were keen to woo the Congress, mindful of its stature at the Centre and its power to dismiss democratically elected state governments under the much-misused Article 356 of the Constitution.

The Congress is now truly a shadow of its former self. The DMK, even while renewing ties with the Congress, was keen on enticing Vijayakanth and offering him a significant share of the seats. However, Vaiko, a former firebrand leader of the DMK who was expelled to make way for Karunanidhi’s son MK Stalin, making him ‘rise’ politically to replace his father in due course, has kept the idea of the third alternative alive through the People’s Welfare Front, which includes the Dalit party, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Kachi (VCK), the Left parties, and now the Vijayakanth’s DMDK also.

Between 1977 and 1999, both the DMK and the AIADMK aggressively pursued alliances with the Congress. This resulted in a situation where the Congress won 14 out of 15 seats it contested in 1977; 20 out of 22 in 1980; 25 out of 26 in 1984; 27 out of 28 in 1989 and all 28 seats it contested in 1991.

The Congress under Rahul Gandhi launched a talent search across Tamil Nadu to rope in youngsters but the plan fell flat in the absence of a concrete political agenda for the future. The BJP in Tamil Nadu has also offered little beyond the tired slogans of Hindu consolidation. An AIADMK win in 2016 will not signify the consolidation of political space, but the fragmentation of its bipolar politics.

The charismatic leaders like MG Ramachandran, Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi on the one hand and competitive populism on the other have shaped the agenda of the AIADMK and the DMK. The newer Dravidian parties have also imitated this strategy of leader-centric parties and populism. More damagingly, they were quick to enter into alliances with the DMK and AIADMK, and are no more seen as credible alternatives.

BJP leader Arun Jaitley’s remark that the Congress has been reduced to playing a tail-ending role to regional parties rings true in the context of Tamil Nadu. Its southern ally, the DMK, is hesitant to part with the 63 seats that were offered to the Congress in 2011. The Congress had come a cropper in that election winning only five seats forcing the DMK to rethink the utility of this alliance in the Lok Sabha elections.

While the Third Front is unlikely to win too many seats, it will snatch away many anti-incumbency votes from the DMK, but a couple of analysts say that might help the AIADMK improve the chances of retaining power.

In order to win the poll against the powerful AIADMK, rhetoric alone may not be sufficient, the PWF has to work more with a proper strategy, get votes of those who think they are unnecessarily supporting the corrupt parties in the state and they must consider a credible alternative to change their fate. People should now know why they should use the poll to change their destiny under threat from the DMK and AIADMK and also Congress and BJP. Vaiko should not miss the bus.

People of Delhi removed both the Congress and BJP, powerful national parties that were ruling Delhi state alternatively, with just one stroke last year and replaced them with a new common people’s party – Aam Aadmi party (AAP). While Congress party which rueld a few term consecutively couldn’t win even one seat in current assembly while BJP somehow managed just 3 seats in the 70 seated Delhi assembly. AAP got a historic mandate from Delhiites for its selfless service to the state.

People of Tamil Nadu can also do the same by choosing the People’s Welfare Party. Yes, why not?

Meanwhile, Dr Ramdoss’s PMK party needs to ponder over its decision to go it alone in the poll. If its key goal in the election is to change the corrupt DMK/AIADMK alternative governments, his party would be able to secure the majority need for a government formation. But by entering into poll alliance with a likeminded PWF, it can achieve it. That would give considerable hopes for other states with corruption index very high to opt for genuine pro-people government. Still there is time PMK for rethoughts!

The poll process in Tamil State has just begun with each party and coalition beginning to screen the candidate for each constituency and choosing the “right” persons for the contest. AIADMK, DMK and PWF seem to have completed much of the selection process, while BJP, still in a state of confusion, stands confused even at this stage.

Whether or not Tamil Nadu would succeed in choosing a truly new party or people’s coalition to rule the state would work for the people – and not for the parties, leaders and families – remains to be seen.

Tamil Nadu requires a fundamental change.

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South Asia

Post-UNGA: Kashmir is somewhere between abyss and fear

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Hailed as a hero for calling out New Delhi’s draconian measures in occupied Kashmir, Imran Khan warned the world of a “bloodbath” once India lifts its lockdown of Jammu and Kashmir. He persuaded global leaders to denounce the brutalities and human rights violations unleashed on Kashmiris ever since the disruption of the decades old status quo, which had been granted by the symbolic autonomy of Articles 370 and 35(A) within the Indian constitution. The constitutional coup d état ensures the alienation of Kashmiris in IOK beyond the point of redemption with massive spillover effects across the LOC. Pakistan is home to 4,045,366 self-governed and independent Kashmiris as per the 2017 census, who are desired of more than a political and diplomatic support for their brothers in IOK. India and Pakistan have already fought three wars on the Kashmir issue.

Focusing on the brazen denial of core human values, Imran Khan prognosticated a more radicalized world as the scourge of radicalism finds more fodder in a discriminated society. If climate change is ignored, the clichés of religious affiliation continues and the inherent right of self-determination remains disregarded, violent reaction is inevitable. He said, “we all know that marginalisation leads to radicalization”… “No one did research that before 9-11, the majority of suicide bombers in the world were Tamil Tigers. They were Hindus”, but Hindus rightly escaped the blame since belief and religion has nothing to do with desperation.

Imran Khan talked more like Gandhi than the nation of Gandhi itself. He reminded the world of the reincarnation of the progrom and racial ridden medieval periods when religion and state were inseparable .It has reshaped and now resides more in inter-state relations while negatively stirring regional cooperation and globalization. Already enwrapped in a world of deprivation, the fifth largest population of South Asia is fearfully seen at the brink of a nuclear war with there being very few options left for a seven times smaller nuclear state of Pakistan, which has been already driven to the wall. The speech was well received and touched a chord with many Kashmiris reeling under the unprecedented communications blackout and travel restrictions in place since August 5.

“It felt like there is someone to watch our back. It felt that someone is talking for us, that we are not alone”, was the feeling commonly displayed. Hundreds of affected Kashmiri stakeholders came out of their homes, shouting slogans in support of Imran Khan and calling for the independence of Kashmir despite the movement restrictions and deployment of additional force by India in Srinagar.A fresh charge sheet has also been filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India against the chief of Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front, (JKLF) Yasin Malik, and other leaders including Asiya Andrabi, and Masarat Alam on October 4, 2019.

Conjuring up his dystopian vision, Prime Minister Modi made no mention of the disputed region of Kashmir in his read-out speech at the UN along the lines of diplomatically bureaucratic explanation. He only ticked the fanciful boxes of development, progress, and world peace, annihilation of terrorism and protection of environment. This speech however, was soon followed by a threat from his own government’s defence minister calling for the liberation of Pakistani Administered Kashmir as the next step in India’s quest for regional dominance.

Moreover, Imran Khan has also expressed his fears in his erstwhile meetings with Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the General Assembly session. Trump has offered mediation, but only if both Pakistan and India agree. A senior US diplomat for South Asia called for a lowering of rhetoric between India and Pakistan, while saying that Washington hoped to see rapid action by India to lift restrictions it has imposed in Kashmir and the release of detainees there. Similarly, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China, Wang Yi, in his address to the General Assembly on 27 September stated that,;”The Kashmir issue, a dispute left from the past, should be peacefully and properly addressed in accordance with the UN Charter, Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements.”

Nonetheless, an arrogant denial by India to the support of Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir by Turkey and Malaysia is more of an inept understanding of diplomacy and international commitment. India needs to step out of the skeptical comprehension of the role of the UN that was pronounced by Ms. Vidisha Maitra India’s Permanent Mission to the UN. The sway of diplomatic terms espoused with preconceived historical interpretations could be misguiding for political leaders. Modi needs to keep his ears close to the ground to save his political future. It is an extensional battle for Kashmiris. No concertina wire can blur the contradiction in his approach to the issue, “when they are in India they say it is an internal issue and when they are on the international forums, they consider it a bilateral issue,” said one of the residents of Srinagar. Confusion exacerbates the fear, which consequently becomes a forerunner to terrorism. Same goes for the US whose mediator’s role gets paradoxical by Trump’s close alliance with Modi in his perusal of Asia-Pacific policy. Though, Imran Khan is perpetually using his political and diplomatic influence proactively, to mobilize both the international community and his own people, the anti-India feeling, the pro-militancy sensitivity and the general sense of despair — is stronger than before in Kashmir.

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Kashmir Issue at the UNGA and the Nuclear Discourse

Haris Bilal Malik

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The Kashmir issue has more significance in view of the nuclearization of South Asia as many security experts around the world consider Kashmir a potential ‘nuclear flashpoint’ between India and Pakistan. The revocation of the special constitutional status of Kashmir by the BJP government on August 5, 2019, also referred to as Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act 2019 and the subsequent lockdown in Kashmir has since considerably increased political and diplomatic tensions between India and Pakistan. India’s recent moves and actions in Kashmir have once again internationalized the Kashmir dispute. This was evident during the UN General Assembly’s 74th Session, where the Kashmir issue remained a crucial agenda item for several countries.

During this year’s session prominent leaders of the world condemned Indian brutalities in Kashmir. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the international community for failing to pay attention to the Kashmir conflict and called for dialogue to end this dispute. Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said that Kashmir “has been invaded and occupied” by India despite the UN resolution on the issue. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also discussed the issue and called for a peaceful resolution of the dispute based on the UN Charter and Security Council resolutions. Based on the grave importance of Kashmir as a potential ‘nuclear flashpoint’ between India and Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the UNGA warned the world community about the dangers of a nuclear war that according to him might break out over Kashmir due to Indian atrocities. The current situation appears to be the most critical time for both the countries and the region as both countries are nuclear-armed.

However, unfortunately, the Indian leaders and media perceived Prime Minister Imran Khan’s warning as a nuclear threat and termed it as ‘brinkmanship’. Contrary to this perspective, it is worth mentioning here that the Indian leadership itself is involved in negative nuclear signaling and war hysteria against Pakistan in recent months. For instance, the 2019 Indian General Election campaign of Prime Minister Modi was largely based on negative nuclear signaling comprising of several threats referring to the possible use of nuclear weapons against Pakistan. Furthermore, as an apparent shift from India’s ‘No First Use’ (NFU) policy, on August 16, 2019Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, while on a visit to the Pokhran nuclear test site paid tribute to the late former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and asserted that India might review its NFU policy. He stated that a change in future circumstances would likely define the status of India’s NFU policy. Since then there is no official denial of this assertion from India which indicates that India might abandon its NFU policy.

Moreover, India’s offensive missile development programs and its growing nuclear arsenal which include; hypersonic missiles, ballistic missile defence systems, enhanced space capabilities for intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance and the induction of nuclear-powered ballistic-missile-capable submarines clearly indicate that India’s nuclear weapons modernization is aimed at continuously enhancing its deterrence framework including its second-strike capabilities vis-à-vis Pakistan. This is also evident from India’s military preparations under its more recent doctrines such as the 2017 Joint Doctrine of the Indian Armed Forces (JDIAF) and the 2018 Land Warfare Doctrine (LWD)which are also based upon more proactive offensive strategies and indirect threats of pre-emptive strikes against Pakistan.

As evident from the above-mentioned developments, it seems likely that India aspires to increasingly project itself as a regional hegemon and a potential superpower. The BJP government under Prime Minister Modi inspired by the Hindutva ideology is taking offensive measures under the notions of ‘a more Muscular or Modern India’ based on strong military preparedness. In such circumstances, Pakistan’s threat perception would likely remain increasingly inclined towards its eastern border. Pakistan due to its economic constraints would also likely face considerable difficulties in competing with India toe to toe with respect to its military modernization plans. Pakistan is already punching well above its weight, and nuclear deterrence would be the only way through which Pakistan can maintain a precise balance of power to preserve its security. This could only be carried out by deterring India with the employment of both minimum credible deterrence and full-spectrum deterrence capabilities. This posture clearly asserts that since Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are for defensive purposes in principle, they are aimed at deterring India from any and all kinds of aggression.

Hence, at the present India’s forceful annexation of occupied Kashmir and the resultant nuclear discourse at the UNGA has further intensified Pakistan-India tensions. Under present circumstances, the situation could easily trigger another politico-military escalation between India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Modi has bet his political reputation on his move to annex the region and his political career is on the line. The same way Pakistan’s politico-military establishment is equally unlikely back down from its stance on Kashmir. It would be difficult for both countries to come down from the escalation ladder because politico-military reputations would be at stake at both ends. Consequently, Pakistan might be forced to take action before India’s modernization plans get ahead and might respond even sooner.

The nuclear discourse in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech against the backdrop of the Kashmir crisis at such a high forum like UNGA would likely keep the issue internationalized. The situation demands the UN fulfill its responsibility of ensuring peace and to prevent billions of people from the dangers of a nuclear war. However, Indian blame game, aggressive behavior and offensive nuclear signaling against Pakistan all present a clear warning of nuclear war. It would greatly limit the prospects for international mediation especially by the United Nations whose resolutions on Kashmir clearly provide a right of self-determination to decide Kashmir’s future.  

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1.2 trillion rupees on the move: Modi’s greatest piece of purchase yet

Sisir Devkota

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Last week, the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) was taken aback by more than a surprise. Just when it was dealing with the uncomfortable series of events that led to the transfer of surplus 1.2 trillion rupees into the government of India; social media erupted. It quickly realized that losing the battle regarding the transfer would only add fuel to the hoax of closing down nine commercial banks. RBI enjoys considerable amount of autonomy and independence in the largest democracy, and still, it had to kneel down to Modi’s alleged quick fix.

The RBI would have to vouch for the government in times of need, it is primarily what is expected of the institution; but there was a great deal of discomfort in how the government justified it. A committee set up under the ex-governor, Mr Bimal Jalan, cited how central banks would not need so much of surplus to carry out their affairs. Effectively, it was an order, not a request, which became the underlying discomfort behind RBI’s hesitancy in adhering to the views of capital transfer committee. Not that anyone expected the central lender to protest longer, it did however, request Mr Jalan to reconsider the decision at the face of various consequences. To say the least, it was embarrassing for a premier financial institution to be put under the public eye. The social media hoax was another ridicule of the sickly RBI. In the tales of grand conquests, the victorious army steals the wealth from the losing party. Similarly, the BJP led government in India are redefining all forms of state tools in favour of their interests.

Stolen wealth is most often than not used to correct economic blunders. Just like in the tales of grand conquests, the decision to transfer national wealth from the reserve bank is nothing new. It is nevertheless baffling, that the money transfer is looping in the same direction. While the BJP government in India were imposing a comprehensive GST (Goods and Service Tax) policy, they would not have anticipated complaints from large industries over decreased consumer consumption. For a party that is now known to redefine the legitimacy of governance, falling prey to NBFC’s (Non-bank Financial Companies) incompetence or bankruptcy is a visible defeat. Unlike many other soaring economies, there are large group of subsidiary lenders operating in India. On hindsight, economic policies are barely creating tunnels through which the capital is getting recycled in the same loop. Revenues are not generating further revenues. It is merely closing down on its self-inflicted gap.

The Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) almost played with fire. Uncharacteristically, it proposed a framework to work together with the RBI in order to claim outstanding defaults from high value clients. The RBI was never going to agree with a defaming offer as such but the incident did fuel the argument of capital shuffling. It only makes the bluff look more real. A strategic plan to counter all measures that would have blocked the transfer of trillions. As Mr Jalan sheepishly implied how the importance of central bank and what is does is only limited to the public perception, RBI fought a fix in between larger or rather dangerous political agendas. Consolidating requests from SEBI to only fall into the whims of the government shows the lack lustre personality of the central funding institution. For the time being, Narendra Modi has his way, a theft of national treasure-like his opposition colleague Rajiv Gandhi expressed in the media. However, there will also be a far-fetched evaluation of Modi’s actions. A move of 1.2 trillion rupees in the same pot. Not by any means, a cunning cover up.

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