Within days of making a stunning electoral debut in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party finds itself in a dilemma. Both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have offered to support AAP if it forms a government with 28 members in the 70-strong Legislative Assembly. Should it accept the offer and assume governmental responsibility? Or, should it, in keeping with its “idealism” and the popular mandate, stay out of power until it wins a majority?
Praful Bidwai, speaking in September 2013 on the need to reduce the power of military and militarism in India. (Audio recoding via sacw.net audio archive)
'The Congress can't return to power unless it reins in prices, lowers interest rates, taxes the rich,' says Praful Bidwai. 'If this means sacking those most responsible for the UPA's pro-big business policies including Finance Minister Chidambaram, so be it!'
Three recent developments should jolt all thinking Indians into introspecting on the colossal harm that blind faith is inflicting on this society.
''The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress has emerged triumphant in the just-held municipal elections in West Bengal, and reduced the Left Front to insignificance. The TMC’s victory run, from the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the 2011 Assembly elections and rural panchayat polls last July, has established it as Bengal’s pre-eminent party, ahead of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM). ''
The agreement reached between Iran and the P-5+1 (the UN Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany) is a big step towards resolving the crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme. Even better, it could eventually bring about a historic rapprochement between Washington and Tehran, whose relations were ruptured by the Islamic Revolution of 1979. If the agreement leads to stable long-term arrangements that limit Iran’s nuclear activities to peaceful purposes, it will become a game-changer in West Asia and radically alter power balances between its major states.''
Swiss radiation experts have confirmed the worst suspicion nurtured by independent observers of West Asia—namely, that the death of Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat in 2004 in France was not natural. Doctors were unable to specify the cause of Arafat’s death, which occurred barely a fortnight after he vomited during a meeting and then lapsed into a deepening coma. No autopsy was conducted in keeping with his widow’s request.
''Militant-nationalist euphoria is invariably conjured up whenever India conducts a seemingly sophisticated scientific experiment or makes lethal bombs, missiles or submarines. India’s entry into a supposedly “select” or “exclusive” high-technology “club” is uncritically celebrated, although the club’s members are willing to rain mass death upon innocent civilians—as are all nuclear weapons-states—or seek a figleaf of legitimacy to cover up heinous crimes against their own citizens. ''
Whatever its other sins and there are many one charge can never be made against the Sangh Parivar: that of having produced a halfway tall intellectual. No star in its firmament, from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s founders, to the present leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Sangh’s 30-odd other affiliates, remotely approaches the description ‘intellectual’.
On October 15, the Central Bureau of Investigation did something unusual in the coal block allotment scam—if only under the Supreme Court’s goading. It filed a First Information Report against top industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla and former coal secretary PC Parakh for illegally allotting two coal blocks in Odisha in 2005 to the Aditya Birla group-owned Hindalco Industries to generate electricity.
What is the significance of Manmohan Singh’s visit to Moscow and Beijing, probably his last one as Prime Minister? Beyond all the pomp and show, military and energy deals, and talks on settling India’s Eastern border, lies the real substance. Singh is finally rethinking the approach of putting all of India’s eggs in the United States basket and exploring a consolidation of India’s economic-political relations with other countries, especially China and Russia.
So addicted has India’s power elite become to being treated as the proud representative of a rising great power embarked on an unstoppable march forward that it finds India’s declining global stature and influence in recent months simply incomprehensible. The signs of decline are unmistakable. The “India Story” is no longer the world’s flavour of the month, “the Next China” metaphor has faded from the Western media, and the seamy side of Indian reality is being highlighted, including the country’s raucous politics, poor social indicators, and the embattled state of a government mired in internal strife and corruption.
Three recent developments highlight the issue of weapons of mass destruction and India’s policy towards them. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has gone to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), dealing with armaments that figure prominently in the Syrian crisis.
As many Indians expected, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has succeeded in scuttling an odious ordinance which would have enabled lawmakers sentenced to jail for two years or more to hold on to their seats. It took the cabinet a mere five minutes to withdraw it.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has succeeded, as expected, in scuttling the odious ordinance which would have negated a recent Supreme Court judgment and enabled lawmakers to hold on to their seats despite being sentenced to jail for two years or more. It took the Union cabinet a mere five minutes to withdraw the ordinance.
Vo Nguyen Giap, the brilliant Vietnamese general who died last week at the age of 102, became a legend in his lifetime as one of the greatest military leaders of the 20th century. Equally important, he became a source of inspiration to millions of young people the world over who spiritedly opposed and protested against the United States’ invasion of and war on his country. The antiwar movement ignited some of the most radical and creative mobilisations the world has ever witnessed, including the landmark May 1968 revolt in France, and politicised a whole generation.
Indians have long, and rightly, taken pride in the robustness and durability of their country’s democracy (interrupted only during the Emergency), and the relatively apolitical nature of its armed forces. India stands in sharp contrast to many Third World countries where the military has meddled in politics, or defied and suborned the civilian leadership, or directly usurped power. However, recent disclosures of former army chief VK Singh’s shenanigans, as well as other developments pertaining to tensions between the army and civilian-political leadership, demand a severe revision of this complacent assumption—and some urgent corrective action.
If the Bharatiya Janata Party is deluding itself that Narendra Modi’s stormtrooping methods will miraculously ensure its victory in the next election, the Congress is no less dangerously mistaken in thinking that Rahul Gandhi will craft its return to power by assertively signifying his importance in the party—by bypassing it. Gandhi may have scuttled the odious ordinance that was designed to prevent convicted lawmakers from holding on to their seats pending legal appeal—as might have happened by the time these lines appear in print—but he has not brought the party or himself any credit by the manner in which he went about doing it.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has committed a historic blunder by allowing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh—a secretive, conspiratorial, unelected body with a deeply sectarian anti-democratic agenda—to dictate the choice of its Prime Ministerial candidate for the next election. It’s no surprise that the candidate is India’s vilest and most hated political figure, who has blood on his hands, pure aggression in his veins, and a slavishly pro-corporate agenda in his heart.
The shortest, if dirtiest, route to victory in the circumstances is to polarise politics along religious lines by engineering communal violence. This is exactly what happened in Muzaffarnagar-Shamli in Western UP. A minor incident—a youth allegedly made lewd remarks to a girl of another community—was converted by RSS-VHP-BJP rumour-mills into “love jihad” (seduction-abduction of Hindu women), triggering Jat-Muslim clashes, in which 40 people were killed and 50,000 displaced.