Monday, May 5, 2014

Invoking Ram Rajya - Rajiv Gandhi to Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi and Rajiv Gandhi
Narendra Modi and RAjiv Gandhi
Today (5th May 2014), Congress has accused Narendra Modi for invoking Lord Ram Rajya  during the Election Campaign at Faizabad (UP), in the viscosity of Ayodhya.  Congress has also blamed Modi for using the picture of Ram as a backdrop. Even Mahatma Gandhi was dreaming of Ram Rajya, to denote better governance.  It remains to be seen how the EC is going to deal with this accusation. 

Inyterestingly, Rajiv Gandhi started his 1989 Election Campaign from the same Faizabad (UP) invoking Ram Rajya.  Wall Street Journal, one of the leading Amnerican newspaper wrote an article on this issue.  I quote the relevant portion from the following link.

He (Rajiv Gandhi) launched his campaign from the neighboring city of Faizabad in the autumn of 1989.
On a large field, before a crowd of thousands, he gave a speech from notes that had been prepared by Mani Shankar Aiyar, his special assistant and speechwriter. But, said Mr. Aiyar, the prime minister slipped in an unscripted reference to “Ram Rajya.”
The phrase connoted the ideal governance that Lord Ram had practiced when, Hindu scripture says, he ruled Ayodhya thousands of years before. It had been a term used by Mahatma Gandhi during India’s independence struggle. But it also was used by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to promote the movement to construct a Ram temple. When Rajiv Gandhi used the phrase, his opponents accused him of pandering to divisive Hindu sentiment. 
Still, Mr. Gandhi further embraced the Ayodhya issue soon after. In early November 1989, just weeks before the general election, the prime minister sent Buta Singh, the home minister, to the town to participate in a “shilanyas,” or symbolic temple foundation-laying ceremony.
Interestingly, in 1980s, both Congress and BJP were competing with each other in wooing Ram Bakthas to capture votes.

Political snooping in India - How Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi snooped in the past?

Narendra Modi and Shinde
Narendra Modi and Shinde
Now Congress is levelling charges against Modi for snooping a girl at Gujarat. Though the Union Cabinet passed a resolution long back to appoint a judicial commission, till date the Congress Government has not appointed any judge to head the commission.  Now Shinde has been making announcements that he would appoint a judge before the announcement of results. The alliance parties of Congress NC and NCP have objected to the hurry of the Government.   Many political analysts suspect the motive of the Congress Government to hype the so called snooping by Modi Government.  As I am writing this article, I get the news that the Government has deferred the appointment of Judge and leave it to the next Government, under pressure from the allies.

Interestingly, in the past, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi have snooped Menaka Gandhi, Zail Singh and P V Narasimha Rao. 
Even recently, under UPA II, news came about how the then Home Minister Chidambaram was snooping Pranab Mukherjee, before he became the President. 

India Today has carried a story on the political snooping.

Famous instances of snooping in Indian politics

Former Intelligence Bureau (IB) joint director Maloy Krishna Dhar, in his book Open Secrets: India's Intelligence Unveiled, has revealed several instances when the intelligence agency bugged the homes and offices of top politicians.

Indira Gandhi

Around 1980, as Indira Gandhi planned to make an electoral comeback, the IB bugged the phones of the former prime minister and several of her aides, including R.K. Dhawan, allegedly on the orders of the government. It had planted discreet watchers around Indira's 12, Willingdon Crescent home. Dhawan's parental home at Atul Grove Lane was under blanket intelligence coverage as was his Golf Links house.

Maneka Gandhi

The IB was ordered to carry out a "silent Watergate-type nocturnal break-in" into the offices of Surya, a glossy magazine run by Maneka Gandhi, to retrieve the original manuscript of SHE - the censored chapter of Indira aide M.O. Mathai's autobiography that was said to have "scurrilous" details of the rumoured relationship between the two. 

Maneka was said to be circulating the document among IAS officers as a tool to defame her estranged mother-in-law. Dhar says in his book that he, along with his deputy K.M. Singh, broke into Surya's offices late in the night and managed to recover the manuscript.

Zail Singh

Dhar was asked to covertly record the conversation that took place during a meeting between then Union home minister Zail Singh and an emissary of Sikh priest-turned-extremist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale at the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara in Delhi. 

The meeting between Zail Singh and the emissary was said to have "produced tonnes of vital intelligence on the developing imbroglio in Punjab". The orders came from someone close to Indira Gandhi.

P.V. Narasimha Rao

In his book, Dhar claims he "stumbled upon another techInt (technical intelligence) operational coup rather accidentally" when he was asked to sweep then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao's office with bug-detecting devices in January 1992. 

Dhar tumbled upon a forgotten micro-recording monitoring machine, implanted inside the phone of an aide to the PM by the IB during V.P. Singh's rule. "The end products, I understand, were delivered to Rajiv Gandhi even when Chandrashekhar warmed the seat for the former. In the melee of fast political and bureaucratic changes, someone had forgotten to remove the spy contraption from the PMO," says Dhar.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Can a Rajya Sabha Member become the Prime Minister? - Era Sezhian quotes the Parliament debate.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh files his nomination papers for Rajya Sabha elections, in Guwahati on May 15. Photo:PTI
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh files his nomination papers for Rajya Sabha elections, in Guwahati on May 15. Photo:PTI
This is an article by Shri Era Sezhian (92), a well known Parliamentarian in the magazine Frontline.

The highest traditions of parliamentary democracy require that the Prime Minister be a person elected to the Lok Sabha. It was also a solemn declaration made in 1966 by the Congress and its government. By ERA SEZHIYAN

AFTER his heavy responsibility and laborious work for over 17 years to bring about a functioning democracy in India as head of the Interim Government and as Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru breathed his last on May 27, 1964. His demise plunged the country into deep and inconsolable melancholy.

Within 17 months of that came the bombshell of a news: the death of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in Tashkent on January 10, 1966. It benumbed the nation, particularly the Congress party. Its president K. Kamaraj had in 1964 managed to have Lal Bahadur Shastri elected unanimously as Prime Minister. However, he faced a more difficult situation in choosing a Prime Minister in 1966 as Congress leaders such as Morarji Desai, Jagjivan Ram, Y.B. Chavan and Gulzarilal Nanda (caretaker Prime Minister) were in the fray.

The Congress Parliamentary Party relied on Kamaraj to find an amicable solution.

He was keen to have as Prime Minister someone who would be able to lead the Congress party in the general election of 1967. Ultimately, he decided on Indira Gandhi. He was aware that his friends Morarji Desai and other members of the group called Syndicate would not accept Indira Gandhi at any time. However, Kamaraj proceeded intensely to mobilise support for Indira Gandhi by contacting important leaders and Chief Ministers.

At the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting on January 15, 1966, only Indira Gandhi and Morarji Desai remained as contestants. Mediapersons were waiting anxiously to know whether it was a “girl” or a “boy”. At the end of the counting, the announcement was that it was a “girl”.

Indira Gandhi was profusely thankful to Kamaraj who was solely responsible for the unforeseen event of her becoming the Prime Minister. In the formation of the Cabinet, Kamaraj insisted that Indira Gandhi retain most of the Ministers of the Shastri government, and she acted accordingly.

In her biography Indira Gandhi, Pupul Jayakar noted: “She [Indira] needed Kamaraj’s support and therefore she assumed the role of a pupil, agreeing to every move suggested by him” (page 178, Penguin Books).

Kamaraj’s ‘mistake’ 

In June 1966, Indira Gandhi made a drastic devaluation of the Indian rupee, by 35.5 per cent at one stroke. Pupul Jayakar wrote in her biography: “It was shortly before the devaluation of the rupee that she spoke to Kamaraj. He was very upset and angry and felt that the Prime Minister should not have relied on bureaucrats and advisers who had little understanding of the political scene. Speaking to a friend, Kamaraj commented on the great mistake in making Indira Prime Minister: ‘A great man’s daughter, a little man’s great mistake.’” (page 197).

In the chessboard of politics, a small error in moving a pawn may result in a great defeat because of the well-placed formidable queen piece on the opposite side.

When Indira Gandhi was appointed Minister for Information and Broadcasting in the Shastri Cabinet, she was not a member of either House of Parliament. She got elected to the Rajya Sabha on August 26, 1964. She retained the position when she became Prime Minister in 1966.

“Unhealthy conventions” 

H.V. Kamath, a Member of Parliament noted for his acumen for constitutional and parliamentary procedures (as revealed in his active participation in the Constituent Assembly on each and every Draft Article taken for consideration), moved a private member’s Bill in the Lok Sabha for the amendment of Articles 75 and 164 of the Constitution.

The Bill said thus in the Statement of Objects and Reasons: “The highest traditions of the parliamentary democracy, with a bicameral set-up, demand that the Council of Ministers at the Centre and in the States, should consist of members who are directly elected by the people and that the Prime or Chief Minister should in no circumstances be a member who has been elected indirectly.”

As Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was not an elected member of the Lok Sabha, the Bill attracted the attention of the media and MPs in the labyrinthine political situation of 1966. Initiating the discussion of the Bill on April 15, 1966, Kamath said: “India should set an example in this matter of constitutional and parliamentary manners. The Constitution should stipulate categorically that the Prime Minister of the Union should be an elected member of the Lok Sabha…. Of the 16 Ministers of the present Cabinet, seven are from Rajya Sabha and nine from Lok Sabha. No other parliamentary democracy in the world shows such an example with regard to its own Cabinet. I am sorry to point out that one member who had been defeated in the last election had been appointed to the present Cabinet….

“The point I am trying to make out is that we are establishing bad traditions, setting up unhealthy conventions, which are antithetical to the principles and spirit of parliamentary democracy and to even the letter of the Constitution.”

As a large number of members wanted to participate in the debate, Hiren Mukherjee, leader of the Communist Party of India, suggested: “The time may be extended. This is a matter of great importance and [the] Prime Minister should have been here. Some Cabinet Minister ought to be here. The government disregards this debate, because they have a majority.”

Regarding the constitutional conventions of the United Kingdom, Kamath said: “In Great Britain, regarding the House of Commons from whom we have borrowed much of our Constitution, no member of the House of Lords has been the Prime Minister since the resignation of Lord Salisbury in 1902…. Is it not a mockery of the spirit and letter if the Cabinet is headed by a person who is not a member of that House to which the Cabinet is collectively responsible? When in 1945, the British government was carrying [on] in full swing the war against Japan after the fall of Germany, still general elections were held in Great Britain. Here the government is fighting shy to conduct even a byelection in the country under the excuse of an emergency. But in [the] fitness of things, Srimathi Indira Gandhi should get elected to this House and I am sure that she will face a byelection successfully, and after winning come here.”

Pointing out the practice in other parliamentary democracies, Kamath said: “In Canada, another Commonwealth country, all Ministers in charge of departments of government must be members of the House of Commons…. In Ireland, only the members of the Dail Eireann can be members of the Executive Council…. In Germany, the Federal Chancellor, nominated by the Federal President, must be then elected by the Bundestag, which is the lower House.”

Prime Minister and Lok Sabha membership 

In conclusion, Kamath remarked that he was not against the Rajya Sabha. He had respect for that House, and his only demand was that the Prime Minister should be an elected member of the Lok Sabha.

H.N. Mukherjee, CPI leader, said: “I cannot understand why the House does not take this matter seriously enough. Government seems to think that this is a matter which being a constitutional amendment has not the foggiest chance of being passed and, therefore, they can make short shrift of it. Here is a matter of principle, as Congress member [Harish Chandra] Mathur has made it clear. Congress members may not agree with all the provisions of the Bill, but the main point is that the Prime Minister must belong to the Lower House…. It is not against any particular Prime Minister. It is based on a principle…. Lal Bahadur [Shastri] is dead and his seat is vacant. Was it not possible for the Prime Minister to contest that seat, which ought to be a very safe seat for a Congress candidate? This kind of thing like the Prime Minister being a member of the representative elected House becomes a categorical imperative. To quote Erskine May: ‘It is the Prime Minister’s duty to express the sense of the House on formal occasions on motions of thanks or congratulations and motions of confidence.’”

H.N. Mukherjee warned about emerging Chief Ministers who would indulge in the process of choosing Prime Minister: “Already there are indications in the country that the Chief Ministers—satraps—Kamath described them as subedars—are becoming too powerful, and if in addition to the power which they have come to enjoy in the Congress set-up—they dominate in the discussions to decide who is to be the Prime Minister..., then, Sir, where is parliamentary democracy leading us to?”

As more members wanted to participate in the discussion, the House adopted a motion extending its time.

Yashpal Singh (Independent) and Viswanath Pandey (Congress) moved amendments to the Bill seeking circulation of the Bill for public opinion. Kamath welcomed the idea.

Harish Chandra Mathur, a senior Congress leader in the Constituent Assembly and also a member of the Rajya Sabha (1952-56) and the second and third Lok Sabhas, spoke: “As far as the basic principle of the Bill is concerned, I think there can be no two opinions and it will have my full support…. So far as the Prime Minister is considered, it is the first time that we are faced with a difficult situation…. I feel that the only correct thing could have been for the Prime Minister, even before taking the oath before the President, to have resigned from that House. Without being a member of any House, she could be the Prime Minister for six months and then the election should have followed…. I have been advocating all the time that it is time to do away with the emergency…. But it is very significant and important that the government and the Prime Minister make a policy decision that they subscribe to this particular view.

“You are probably aware that the late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had made [it] abundantly clear to all the Cabinet Ministers from the other House that if they were to continue in the Cabinet after the elections, they must contest the elections and come to this House. I think at present, all that is necessary is a clear enunciation of that policy and a commitment by the government.”

Healthy convention or constitutional amendment? 

Said R.K. Khadilkar, a senior Congress leader from Maharashtra, a valiant participant in the freedom struggle from 1930 to 1948, a founder-member of the Congress Socialist Party and a member of the second and third Lok Sabhas: “I support the principle of the Bill; whether it should be by amending the Constitution or by a convention should be left to the House, because in Britain, as Kamath pointed out that it is by convention…. Those who have popular support, those who are in touch with the people, with their aspirations and all that, alone lead the country and lead the government and for that it should be a healthy convention.”

N.C. Chatterjee, Independent member in the first and third Lok Sabhas, said: “It is not merely in the fitness of things, but really parliamentary democracy will not be working properly, if that member is not responsible to the really elected democratic chamber…. How can you compel the Prime Minister or move a vote of no-confidence against the Prime Minister unless he is here, a member of the House directly responsible for this House. Without casting any reflection on anybody, without making it a party question, I think all members of this House should support this measure that in the Constitution we should have a provision that the Prime Minister should be an elected member of this House....”

The Bill evoked 32 members of the House to participate in its consideration—19 from the Congress party and 13 from the opposition. All but one of the Congress members participating in the discussion supported the Bill in principle but wanted to develop it by convention.

Speaking on April 29, 1966, on behalf of the government, Jaisukhlal Hathi, Minister of State for Home, said: “I may say at once that so far as the government and the party and all of us are concerned, those who believe in democracy, in parliamentary method, there can be no doubt in principle that the Prime Minister should be normally a member elected to Lok Sabha.”

Further he stated: “Therefore it is a question of having conventions, and nobody would deny that we should set up healthy conventions and such conventions as have force more than any law, more than any written law.”

Hathi lastly observed: “While the spirit behind the Bill is acceptable, it would not be proper to have such a provision in the Constitution. There may be occasions—that too for a limited period—[when] a Prime Minister has to be from the other House.”

In his reply, Kamath said: “I thank the warm support not merely in the House, but in the press and among the people as well. It has been said by several honourable members that we may not amend the Constitution for this purpose. Why not a convention, a healthy tradition as it has grown up in other countries to support the grand edifice of parliamentary democracy…. I wish, and pray to God also, that such a tradition grows in our country. I would like to remind you all that of the manifold ways in which healthy traditions have not grown in this country, but also traditions are set at naught in various ways. I would only point out one or two instances….

“Press reports recently have said that in Himachal Pradesh, the warrant of precedence has been newly devised: to put the President of the local Congress Committee to come next to the Chief Minister. I do not know under what provision this has been devised. It is almost like putting Kamaraj next to the Prime Minister. Next, the Governor of Kerala flew from Trivandrum to Delhi to take part in the party election and indulge in partisan attitude. When the matter was raised, the convenient argument was trotted out that there was no code of conduct for Governor. Because of these things, as traditions detrimental to parliamentary democracy have been built up; hence I would like to have the Constitution amended for this purpose.”

The House was adjourned on that day (April 29, 1966). At the next session of the private members’ business on May 13, 1966, the voting was to be taken as per the Rules of Procedure in respect of a Constitution Amendment Bill. As the government opposed the amendment Bill, the Bill was negatived when the division was taken.

Indira Gandhi successfully contested the 1967 election to be a member of the Lok Sabha and attended the Lok Sabha on March 7, 1967, as the Leader of the House.

The Leader of the House is an important functionary directly and immediately responsible for issues in that House to which the Cabinet is solely accountable.

When in 1991, P.V. Narasimha Rao was elected Prime Minister, he was not a member of either House of Parliament; however, within the time prescribed, he won a byelection from the Nandyal Lok Sabha constituency by an enormous lead of over five lakh votes—a Guinness record.

When major parties such as the Congress, the Janata Party, the Janata Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party formed governments, the Prime Minister was invariably a member of the Lok Sabha.

After the 2004 election, the Congress was to form the government with the support of 14 of its electoral allies and the outside support of the Left parties.

At the time, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had been elected to the Lok Sabha. Though she was called by the President to form the government, she chose Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister.

Solemn commitment 

The question is: What happened to the solemn commitment made by the Indira Gandhi government during the Lok Sabha debate of the H.V. Kamath Bill in 1966?

Speaking on behalf of the government, the Minister of State for Home said: “So far as the government and the party and all of us are concerned, those who believe in democracy, in parliamentary method, there can be no doubt in principle that [the] Prime Minister should be normally a member elected to Lok Sabha…. It should not be that there should be a total ban or bar. In exceptional circumstances for a limited period, there should be no objection if the Prime Minister is also from Rajya Sabha…. Therefore it is a question of having conventions and nobody would deny that the conventions have force more than the law, more than the written Constitution.”

The following issues need to be clarified:

Was the appointment of Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister in 2004 not a departure from the solemn declaration made in 1966 by the Congress government and the Congress party on the acceptance of the principle that the Prime Minister should be an elected member of the Lok Sabha—a principle to be implemented by “convention having more force than the written Constitution”?

The government stated in 1966 that “there may be occasions—that too for a limited period—a Prime Minister has to be from the other House”. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has continued in the post of Prime Minister for over nine years. Is it a “short period” as visualised in 1966?

In the Lok Sabha debate in 1966 Congress member Harish Chandra Mathur referred to the decision of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that “all the Cabinet Ministers from the House [Rajya Sabha], if they were to continue in the Cabinet after the elections, must contest the elections and come to Lok Sabha”. Is there an exemption to the post of Prime Minister in the case of Manmohan Singh?

H.V. Kamath pointed out in the Lok Sabha that one member who had been defeated in the prior election was appointed to the Cabinet of Indira Gandhi—incidentally at that time it attracted wide criticism and evoked critical comments in the media. Has this point any relevance now in the case of Manmohan Singh who, despite being defeated in the 1999 general election from the South Delhi parliamentary constituency, continues to be Prime Minister?

Regarding the preference for parliamentary system over the presidential system, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting Committee, explained: “Under the non-parliamentary system, such as the one that exists in the U.S.A., the assessment of the responsibility of the executive is periodic. It takes place once in two years. It is done by the electorate. In England, where the parliamentary system prevails, the assessment of responsibility of the executive is both daily and periodic. The daily assessment is done by Members of Parliament, through questions, resolutions, no-confidence motions, adjournment motions and debates on addresses. Periodic assessment is done by the electorate at the time of the election which may take place every five years or earlier. The daily assessment of responsibility which is not available under the American system is, it is felt, far more effective than the periodic assessment and far more necessary in a country like India. The Draft Constitution in recommending the parliamentary system of executive has preferred more responsibility to more stability.”

The daily assessment can be done only by the Lok Sabha in India; hence the Prime Minister should necessarily be an elected Member of the Lok Sabha.

Role of Prime Minister in a parliamentary system 

In his meritorious treatise Cabinet Government, Ivor Jennings stated: “The government owes a responsibility to the House of Commons alone. A vote in that House can compel the government either to resign or to advise dissolution of the House. The Prime Minister is not merely chairman of the Cabinet; he is, also, responsible for the party organisation. That organisation matters in the House of Commons and does not matter in the House of Lords. Even when the government has the majority in the House of Lords, the effective decisions are taken in the lower House. It is essential, in practice, that the Prime Minister should have his finger on the pulse of Parliament; that is in the House of Commons” (page 24).

More categorical was the assertion of Walter Bagehot in his The British Constitution: “A Prime Minister must show what he is. He must meet the House of Commons in debate; he must be able to guide the Assembly in the management of its business, to gain its ear in every emergency, to rule it in its hours of excitement. He is conspicuously submitted to searching test, and if he fails, he must resign” (page 58).

In his nine years of adorning the venerable post of Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh has failed miserably in all his duties which require no searching test; the only option before him is resignation.

Era Sezhiyan was a Rajya Sabha member. Email:

General Elections 2014 - Predictions by TN Ashok

T N Ashok, political analyst (inset)
2014 general elections is getting curious. There is a tremendous
ground swell for Modi as the Prime Minister from the BJP led NDA judging by the programmes and advertisements beamed day in day out by almost all the TV channels, at least in northern India. Its bordering on a hype being created by the channels, which some political observers claim, is a determined objective to occupy the mind space of the voters before the elections so that they remember the BJP symbol and Modi as the man to vote for.

BJP has also put up some weak candidates against some powerful adversaries. One could say it’s a token fight as BJP itself knows that the outcome is not going to be in their favour. Take for instance Smriti Irani, a BJP MP and a onetime popular TV serial actress, is contesting against the mighty Rahul Gandhi. She is a political light weight against Rahul because she longer enjoys the TV serial advantage. Also AAP has put up a verse writer Kumar Vishwas in the same amethi constituency of Rahul Gandhi, he is popular but not a giant killer.

So the strategy of the leading political parties is very clear: While the canons are arraigned against each other, top leaders are spared – BJP dare not oppose Sonia Gandhi, Congress dare not oppose Modi, AAP dare not oppose Rahul or Sonia. So it’s all token fights ‘while public posturing may be different to keep a semblance of a fight in front of the voters.

On AAP, which is campaigning vigorously in the northern belt of UP and Bihar and even in Maharashtra in Western India, the party came with a lot of expectations from the people in the Delhi assembly polls capturing some 28 of 40 seats, but faltered by first seeking its adversary Congress’s support to form the government and 2) resigning in haste over the lok pal bill betraying the trust of the Delhi voters. My reckoning of election trends and views from trusted sources in the political firmament, the party has lost its momentum and cannot muster more than 20 seats maximum, But that’s enough for them to create havoc at the centre with the lung power they will have through their intellectuals and might of knowledge power.

Areas they could get votes: UP, Haryana, Delhi, Punjab, Karnataka and some scattered seats in rest of India.

Gut feeling: For all the so called Modi hype in the media, the BJP Led NDA front is just crossing the 200 figure mark with or without the allies???? But that would be a setback for the BJP. Both Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries and Gautam Adani of the Adani industrial group, both hail from Gujarat  land of Modi, are known admirers of Na Mo and his style of development in Gujarat. Wanting the same in rest of the country and obviously irked by the policy paralysis in the Manmohan Singh government, they are said to be funding the election campaigns
of Na Mo to the hilt.

Some NRI s from USA and UK and some parts of Europe are also said to have pumped in huge quantities of money in the elections on fears that Modi might be their last best bet for stable, effective and good governance for the country, as any 3rd front alliance based on opportunism and no clear objectives or ideals on investments or economic policies could take the country down further from where the
Congress led UPA alliance had left the country with its populist
schemes of an expenditure splurge in the midst of a recession that showed no signs of abating. All major industries are backing Modi as they want the country out of policy paralysis. Evidence can be seen in the statements of trade bodies such as CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM.

Again we have some uncorroborated reports purportedly fed by
Intelligence agencies that the BJP in its last ditch effort to seize
power at the centre, having found a powerful candidate such as Modi to catch the imagination of the people, had splurged upwards of Rs 100 crore each on top TV channels in terms of advertisement and endorsement support. No one has any idea of how much the campaigning in the electronic media has cost the BJP but, it’s in hundreds of crores , informed sources said.

Whether the election coverage by some of these TV channels helps create a hype around Modi as the possible saviour of the country in the political and economic front bringing in stability in both spheres is something that has to be tested because the BJP election campaign has to successfully translate into votes.

Is the Modi hype a balloon or real?  : How strong is the ground swell for Modi, will it stay inflated or burst is the million dollar
question. One hopes the Modi hype does not end up as a damp squib as the India shining campaign of 2009 because this time around the BJP has mustered all its strength to swing it to power – projecting a charismatic candidate such as Modi, who has the power of oratory and the magical skills of marketing. Enormous funding for the election campaigns, a huge army led for the first time by its potent grass root force the RSS which has jumped into the election fray.

It’s no secret that in political campaigns, cadre based parties always hold the trump card, BJP has a tremendous cadre in the RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Baj Rang Dal etc. Barring the CPI and CPM or the DMK, none of the other political parties have this advantage of a cadre based working system

What seems to be clear is that with the new 10 crore voters in the age group of 18 to 25 voting for the first time, the possibility of a 3rd front emerging to form the government as in the period before 2004 does not seem a possibility. Majority of them are said to be anti-congress because of unemployment situation during the recession and they are said to be going either with BJP or the AAP. They will decide the new government as they hold the swing vote.

Based on the above scenarios emerging, it’s safe to make some educated guesses as to the outcome of the people’s verdict based on some pre poll surveys.

Scenario One: Modi Wave: Based on his personal charisma and Gujarat model of development as BJP led NDA’s election campaign USP.

BJP + plus NDA allies = 270 to 300 seats.
(BJP 190 to 250 seats and allies 80 to 50 seats)

Scenario Two: Vote for change not necessarily based on a Modi WAVE.

BJP + plus NDA allies = 200 to 220 seats.
(BJP 180 to 200 seats and allies 40 to 20 seats)

Key states which matter:

Uttar Pradesh (80), Bihar (50), Rajasthan (25), Madhya Pradesh (40), Punjab (13), Maharashtra (48), Gujarat (26), West Bengal (42).

Media reports suggest that BJP has put in max efforts in UP and Bihar to get anything between 80 to 90 seats destabilising the current war lords there in terms of BSP led by Mayawati and SP led by Mulayam Singh Yadav and obliterating the Congress. Rajasthan, MP and Chattisgarh, where BJP regimes already administer the state, are expected to get them the additional numbers. Maharashtra where BJP is tied up with the potent Shiv Sena and Gujarat, home state, could provide the swing, unless division in the shiv sena ranks as between the rivalries of Uddhav and Raj Thackeray upsets the apple cart and splits the votes in favour of the Congress and NCP in Maharashtra. Low voting in the state has also causes some fears.

Guestimates: Uttar Pradesh -- BJP 49, BSP 16, SP 14, and Congress 06.
                        Bihar:                  BJP 24, JD (U) 13, RJD
10, Cong 04
                        Rajasthan           BJP 22 rest others
                        MP                       BJP 27 rest others
                        Punjab                 BJP+ SAD 19 rest others
                        Maharashtra        BJP + SS   24, Cong+NCP 20
                        Gujarat                 BJP 20, Cong 04, AAP 01.

As per this projection, BJP should get 185 out of 315 seats in seven key states in north and west and central India. This not an entirely a wave but something short of it.

In the south projections for key states are: Karnataka: Congress will do well with 18 seats, BJP 10, JD(S) 8. Andhra Pradesh: YSR Congress 19 seats, Congress 06, TDP 15 and TRS 08. Tamil Nadu AIADMK 23, DMK 10, Congress 02, BJP alliance 04.

This projection gives BJP 204 out of 382 seats in 10 key states. The remaining 13 seats with 161 seats hold the key to government formation.

It’s anybody's guess that with the most powerful publicity blitz ever launched by a political party in a general election centred around one personality, the BJP will emerge as the single largest party. But will it fall short of the mark or succeed in mustering the right numbers to form the government? Wait and Watch. The suspense has not yet abated. May16 is not far away. Lot of surprises could be in the offing.

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By T N Ashok (a former election analyst of pti). 

Debate on the Gujarat Development Model

Gujarat Development Model

The 2014 General Elections is in full swing.  Nearly four-fifth of the nation has voted, indicating its preference for candidates. While the early days of poll campaigns have been marked by debates on issues such as secularism, communalism, discussions are now swinging towards the advocacy of the Gujarat Model of Development for the nation as being canvassed by its proponents. 

As is normal in a democracy, there are also opponents to the recommendation of this model of development for the whole nation as they question the credentials and veracity of reports of success of such a model. 

Leading the political leaders who criticised the Gujarat Type of Model of Development was the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J Jayalalitha, claiming Tamil Nadu had a better model of industrial development. Soon enough, the media labelled the issue, ‘Modi vs Lady’ and sought to fan a controversy.  

Stalin, son of the DMK leader, M Karunanidhi , leading opposition party leader,  added his own bit to the topic by including ‘Daddy’ (referring to his father, Karunanidhi), claiming the DMK regime under his father brought in more development. Congress Vice-President, Rahul Gandhi, in his keenness to counter Modi, inadvertently supported his political rival, Jayalalitha. 

Amidst this flurry of pros and cons over the Gujarat model of development, I decided to investigate what it was about the Gujarat model under Modi’s regime that has drawn so much discussion in the public domain and sucked political leaders into a virtual verbal maelstrom. 

I visited Gujarat in the third week of April 2014 and had interactions with many people, including some Government officials, political leaders, and the general public.  Whatever the official claims of efficacy from the departments of the state government advocating the Gujarat development, one can find visible evidences of growth,  improvement in irrigation systems, infrastructure development and e-Governance, uninterrupted  3-phase electricity in all villages, linking of rivers and creating more water bodies.  Other states are trying to implement the Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS) model introduced in Ahmedabad.  

In the last 10 years, Official sources claim that Gujarat has laid 5000 kilometres of six-lane roads. After the 2002 riots, Gujarat has not witnessed a single riot and curfew till date, the sources said.  

After 2003, Modi has been focusing on good governance, the sources I talked to said, pointing out that the issue of ration cards, driving license, property card, redressal of grievances, getting electricity connection – all get done with consummate ease, without having to pay a single rupee as consideration to any government official or anyone in the public administration machinery.  

Empowerment has been effectively delegated to various functionaries.  The Chief Minister personally reviews the functioning and the status of public grievances through video conferencing with all Districts and Ministers, every fourth Thursday of the month, I was told.

Modi had set a vision, ‘BIG2020’ to make Gujarat a globally preferred place to live and conduct business.  Within five years of the announcement of this vision, the state attracted Rs.6500 billion crore of foreign investment in 687 projects, official figures shared with me claimed. Gujarat is one of these rare states that utilises in entirety, the funds allotted by the Central Government for the state development projects.

Definitely, there are other states which have enough development in their regions to showcase. But in my personal opinion, the main difference between Gujarat and the other states is that Modi has succeeded in making the six crore people of his progressive state to feel they themselves part of the great change   That is evidence for you as to why Modi has won the state elections for four consecutive terms and the right to govern the state, as people pinned great hopes on him to change their lives further. 

I hope all political parties and panelists maintain a healthy debate on the Development Models that they propagate during the rest of the campaign, corroborating their claims with credible evidence, so that the electorate can make out for themselves what real development is and what is on paper. My interactions with responsible people in Gujarat has pointed to the efficacy of the Gujarat model of development.

By K. Srinivasan

Narendra Modi, Prime Ministerial candidate – An analysis

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi
Early days of Narendra Modi

Even as political parties hit the campaign trail with their leaders delivering spirited speeches to elect them to power, it is worth looking at the profile of the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, who has virtually become a household name in every nook and corner of the country. Billboards dot every city in the country showing the vest-coated Modi with the slogan “Ab ki baar, Modi ki sarkar” (this time round it is Modi’s reign). Radio spots tout a woman called corruption, wanting to quit the country after 10 years because Modi is now coming to clean the stable (the country) of corruption.

After having missed the bus in 2004 despite a successful run by then PM, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and again in 2009 because of party in-fighting, BJP has now mounted a powerful nation-wide campaign, projecting Narendra Modi as the man of the hour to fight corruption and inefficiency, and to take bold decisions to kickstart the economy that has remained stagnant during the past few years. 

BJP’s gamble on the strong, no-nonsense man, Modi, acclaimed for his Gujarat-type development model, has evoked mixed responses nation-wide, with some swearing by him and some others questioning the efficacy of his economic fundamentals. Yet, sixty-four year old Narendra Damodardas Modi,  born in Sep 1950 in Vadnagar, Gujarat, has occupied mind space across the nation.

Let us look at the profile of this much discussed man, described by his detractors as an autocrat of Hitler’s mettle and some others calling him a strong administrator, who could crack the whip to get the administration and its bureaucrats moving. In 1970, Modi joined the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a full-time pracharak (propagandist).  He also helped his father and his brother in the family business of a tea stall. He was an average student at school, but he was recognised for his brilliant oratory skills. 

Modi was appointed the National Secretary of BJP after the successful 1995 Gujarat Elections, during which campaign he demonstrated his organisational skills and his ability to return his party to power in the state.  He continues to successfully retain power for over a decade, winning every election since then, convincingly.

Bharath Matha Mohan, one of Modi’s close associates from 1978 till date, said, “Modi is affectionate with all the people, and is deeply committed to the nation.  He has never shied away from taking up any challenging responsibility.  He has an amazing, photographic memory and he can remember a person and recall the association and the conversations even after many years”.

Taking over as Chief Minister of Gujarat

Narendra Modi led BJP to a massive victory in 1995 (121 seats) and 1998 (117 seats) in the State Elections in Gujarat. BJP came to power in 1995 for the first time and since then it has retained power. In January 2001, when Keshubai Patel was the Chief Minister, a massive earthquake devastated the state, hitting Bhuj. Nearly 20,000 people died and properties worth thousands of crore were  damaged. Keshubai Patel was not in good health at that time and the administrative machinery was not equipped well enough to handle a calamity of such magnitude. BJP faced much criticism from the public. 

Seeing his immense capabilities, the BJP leadership then entrusted the task of Chief Ministership to Narendra Modi. Modi was not even an MLA and lacked any experience in governance. After a long deliberation, BJP confidently decided to make him the Chief Minister because of his effective organising abilities and dedication.  “It is a rarest of the rare decision in politics” said Mohan, recalling those tumultuous days. On 7th October 2001, Modi took charge as the Chief Minister, from Keshubai Patel.

Major challenge – History of Communal riots 

With minimal experience in disaster management, Modi rose to the occasion displaying his remarkable leadership skills in organising relief to the victims.  He rebuilt the entire devastated area within three years, which normally could have taken more than 10 years.

Gujarat has been in the grip of communal riots since 1714. Even in the post-independence era, thousands of people belonging to different communities continued to die in communal clashes. Justice Reddy Commission and Justice Davy Commission, which examined the issue of communal riots in Gujarat, recorded 2938 such instances  in the 1960s. Though the official estimate of the death toll in the 1969 riots was 5000, the actual death toll was reported to be more than 15,000. 1980s and 1990s also saw many communal clashes, resulting in huge loss of human lives and properties, belonging to the Hindus and the Muslims. Many parts of Gujarat were under curfew for many days.

On 27th Feb 2002, 58 Hindu Karsevaks were burnt alive by some miscreants in Godhra Railway Station.  This sparked a communal clash between the Hindus and the Muslims the following day, in 36 different places in the state.

Though the army took control of the situation the following day i.e. on 1st March 2002, 1100 lives of both communities were lost by that time.

Facing adverse criticism as a man new to the government, Modi resigned and dissolved the assembly in July 2002. The Governor however, requested him to continue in office. On 24th Sep 2002, the famed Akshardam Temple was attacked by Pakistani terrorists.  This created yet another big challenge to the Gujarat Government.  In the Dec 2002 elections,  BJP, led by Modi, secured 127 out of the 182 seats in the Assembly, and he became the Chief Minister for a second term.

A more confident Modi launched initiatives to overcome the challenges, facing the state, and he set himself to improve the governance of the state.

In the 2007 elections, he secured 117 seats and in 2012 elections, he secured 115 seats. Modi thus assumed his office for the fourth term as Chief Minister, a rare feat by any chief minister. The closest anyone has come to this record is the Congress ex-Chief Minister of Delhi, Ms Shiela Dikshit. She was successfully elected for three terms. She is now the governor of the state of Kerala.

After 2002, not a single incidence of communal clashes or death has been reported in Gujarat.  The state has not placed any area under curfew ever since.

New initiatives

Narendra Modi is both the most admired as well as the most abused or maligned politician of this nation. We gathered some first-hand information from different sources in Gujarat to find out why this was so and how much of it was myth and how much of it, reality.

Modi introduced new systems to improve the state governance and to maintain peace in the state.  The State Wide Attention on Grievances with Application of Technology (SWAGAT),  launched in April 2003,  is an initiative to redress public grievances. On the fourth Thursday of every month, the Chief Minister holds a video conference with all his ministers, his secretaries, the district collectors and other field functionaries to review pending grievances and the progress of projects in the pipeline.  

United Nations Award for better Governance
United Nations Award for better Governance

In 2010,  the United Nations presented an award in the category of ‘Improving Transparency, Accountability and Responsibility in Public Service’ to the Gujarat Government .  “The real test of good governance is its grievance redressal system. In an ideal democratic system, people should be able to voice their problems freely and also get them resolved quickly”, Modi had stated in one of his speeches.

In order to give more microscopic attention to the villages and towns, Modi increased the number of districts from 26 to 33 and also divided the Taluks to facilitate better attention to the welfare of the people.  He introduced the Apno Taluko, Vibrant Taluko (ATVT) Scheme to empower the officials at the grassroot level to take quick decisions.

Since 2003, Modi has been organising a three-day ‘Chintan Shibir’ (brain-storming session) annually in one of the resorts. All his Ministers, State Secretaries, and field-level IAS officers as well as other functionaries are invited to participate.  Many eminent people like Dr Abdul Kalam, Secretaries from the Government of India, and experts from different fields were invited as guests, to share their views.  During these three days, various group discussions are held on different problems, and at the end of it, the officials returned to their offices, equipped with effective decisions and solutions. 

Modi would spend all the three days in the same campus.  He would interact with the officials in small groups, during the breakfast, lunch and dinner sessions, to understand their problems.   This Shibir is a unique governance model practised only in Gujarat and successfully running for the past 10 years. It is learnt that other states are planning to replicate this model. The Gujarat Government has received several awards at national and international levels, for its model of governance. 

Prime Minister Dr Man Mohan Singh presenting Excellence in Public Administration Award to Gujarat Government in April 2013
Prime Minister Dr Man Mohan Singh presenting Excellence in Public Administration Award to Gujarat Government in April 2013
In 2013,  the Prime Minister presented an award for public administration to the Gujarat Government.

When we spoke to one of the District Collectors of Gujarat (name withheld due to the moral code in force), he said that Modi used to motivate all the officers with his oratory skill and would individually encourage them.  “I am fortunate to work with Mr Modi.  He is a good motivator.  At the same time, he also ensures that projects are completed on time. He does not behave like a boss.  He is always a leader and a mentor”, the IAS officer said with pride.

Another senior bureaucrat from New Delhi said that Modi had been focusing on infrastructure development, education, healthcare, industry and trade for long term benefit.  He would refer to the example of interlinking the rivers, Sabarmati and Narmada, as this has helped improve the irrigation and water supply in many parts of the state.

“Agriculture productivity is 9%, as against the national average of 2%. The latest reports indicate that this national average has now touched 4%. Modi is one leader capable of using existing and available  resources for development”, the bureaucrat added.

Criticisms against Narendra Modi

Although the people of Gujarat have voted Modi’s government into power for the fourth term in succession, the opposition parties and some Muslim leaders criticise him, comparing him with  Adolf Hitler and allege his involvement in the post-Godhra riots. They also allege that discrimination is shown by Modi to the people of a particular religious faith.

Some of his critics say that the development story of Gujarat as projected by  Modi was a farce and they claim that many villages in the state, still do not have power and electricity.

How others perceive?
On behalf of ezine, PreSense, I spoke to Dastagir Sheik (56), a car driver from Ahmedabad.  He has been living in Gujarat since his birth.  He said that he had seen riots and curfew for many years in the earlier decades, but after 2002, the state had remained peaceful. The Hindu and Muslim communities were engaged profitably in their own avocations.  “Earlier, some people from both the communities were not gainfully employed. Thus, they used to engage in rowdyism, creating communal tension.  They were also involved in illegal activities.  But now, the progress in the state’s economic development has ensured that everyone was occupied. A strict vigil by the authorities deters people from unlawful acts”  Dastagir added.

Jaffar Sadig (32), a shop-keeper from Vadodra, endorsed similar views.   He raved about the leadership of Narendra Modi.  “Mr Modi is not a Hitler.  He is a strong person.  He has control over the entire administration. Corruption is minimal in Gujarat.  We should not linger on the past riots.  We need to move ahead.  I will definitely vote for Modi, who is standing from our constituency.  Besides me, a majority of the Muslims will vote for him”, he added confidently.

“It is pointless to continue accusing Modi for what happened in 2002.  Even the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court has not found any valid allegation against him. In the past 11 years, there has not been a single instance of riot reported.  I do not understand why the media is spreading false information and not covering the success stories.”,  Mohan added.

The District Collector (name withheld), with whom I spoke over the telephone, said that whenever the people came with their grievances, the Administration examines the issues to find suitable solutions for the people.

“In our district, we used to have low voltage and power fluctuation for various reasons.  Immediately, we added a few more sub-stations and resolved the problem within a few days. We do not believe in ignoring the grievances.  We believe in resolving them. Narendra Modi has set systems in place like Chintan Shibir, SWAGAT, ATVT, for effective functioning of the systems”, he added.

When asked about the negative projection of the Modi Government by the media, all of those interviewed were unanimous in saying, “Let anybody visit Gujarat and see for themselves.  We do not understand why the media is projecting incorrectly, when there are many positive results to cover and share”.

What is unique in Modi that differentiates him from others?
When there were many leaders in the party, why was Modi chosen as the Prime Ministerial Candidate?  What is the uniqueness in him that made him the PM candidate?  When I asked this question to Mohan, his long-time friend, he immediately responded  that his organising ability and effective administration were the main qualities and reason.

Mr.N. Vittal, retired IAS officer from the Gujarat cadre and the former Central Vigilance Commissioner of India, was closely associated with Narendra Modi in 2003, in establishing the good governance model.  “The so-called secular English electronic media pry into Modi’s affairs with microscopic scrutiny.  Even trivial issues are exaggerated to malign him.  In the past 10 years, he has brought about good model of governance.  The media does not bother to talk about this”, Vittal says.

“I have worked with several politicians. Mr Modi is a great listener and learner. He is like a sponge, which can absorb water immediately.  He can absorb knowledge quickly.  When you say something to him, he is able to comprehend and think ahead quickly.  I have seen this quality only in Rajaji (C.Rajagopalachari)”, Says Vittal. 

It was Dalai Lama who said, “When you talk or speak, you are only reiterating or recalling what you already know. But when you listen, you are on the learning curve; you learn a lot.”  
We can say that Modi is among the rare breed of politicians who has developed the ability to listen to others to emerge with solutions to public problems. 

By K. Srinivasan and T N Ashok

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