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Bigotry, big money and India

Two weeks ago, many public-spirited Indians complimented the country’s Election Commission for banning public campaigning by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Uttar Pradesh chief election manager Amit Shah, and the Samajwadi Party’s fiery Azam Khan, both of whom spoke provocatively for or against specific religious groups.

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Baru’s book: too much hype, too little real disclosure

The Accidental Prime Minister, the book by Sanjaya Baru, media adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2004-08, has become a sensational best-seller primarily because its release was timed to coincide with the election campaign. Unsurprisingly, the BJP seized upon it to repeat its pet charge about Singh being India’s “weakest-ever” PM, and otherwise malign the Congress.

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Shrinking base: The Left is painting itself into a corner

India’s Left parties, among the world’s biggest parties belonging to the Communist tradition, face a huge crisis as the Lok Sabha election approaches. The election will largely decide if they can reverse their recent setbacks, or go into a steep decline, with waning political-intellectual influence and growing organisational disarray.

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Why Kejriwal can dent Modi's campaign

'AAP's real value must be measured not by the number of Lok Sabha seats it wins in the election which may not exceed 10 or 15 and not even by the number of votes it takes from the BJP, but by its ability to deflate Modi's superhuman '56-inch chest' image and the charisma so assiduously manufactured around him by the corporate-controlled media,' says Praful Bidwai.

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Hitting The Poor, Pampering The Rich - Disaster on four wheels

The Rs 1.5-lakh-crore cut in plan expenditure, which represents productive investment, will impoverish the infrastructure and affect growth. But even more unkind is the 31-percent reduction in the current financial year’s allocation to schemes which benefit the poor and address long-neglected areas like health and education. Indian society will pay dearly for this artificial state-induced automobilisation—through greater road congestion, slower commuting speeds, horrendous levels of air pollution, widespread health damage, and increased fatalities and injuries from road accidents.

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India’s Left Faces Major Challenges as Elections Approach

India’s Left parties, among the world’s biggest parties belonging to the Communist tradition, face formidable challenges as they approach the 2014 national election. The election will play a major role in deciding if they can reverse the setbacks they recently suffered, or go into a steep decline, with a fall in membership, decreasing political influence, and growing organisational dissonance.

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AAP Jumps Into The National Arena: Not by ad hocism alone

The Aam Aadmi Party has made a shrewd, calculated, well-planned move by quitting the Delhi government and taking a plunge into national politics. The issue on which it ostensibly precipitated its action was the Delhi Assembly’s vote against the tabling of AAP’s Jan Lokpal Bill, its trade-mark platform, based on the ground that its introduction wasn’t approved by the Central government.

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AAP: Moving beyond doublespeak to decisive action

Is the Aam Aadmi Party sinking into the same mould as our “normal”, cynical, mainstream parties which routinely use doublespeak and venal means to make short-term gains? Recent developments suggest the answer is yes. Take how former diplomat and founder-member Madhu Bhaduri was heckled at AAP’s national executive for moving a sober resolution rightly calling for an apology to the African women in Khirki who were racially profiled by Somnath Bharti and subjected to degrading medical tests. When Bhandari reminded Arvind Kejriwal of his professed insaniyat (humanism), and pleaded that rape shouldn’t be linked to prostitution, she was humiliated.

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Misplaced Hubris Over Microsoft CEO: Bringing Nadella down to earth

“India makes a power point”, announced a front-page Times of India headline with triumphant finality when Hyderabad-born Satya Nadella was named the CEO of the global software giant Microsoft, referring to the company’s well-known “Power Point” programme. “India on the move!” and “India raises its toast”, exulted other major papers. What this crass self-congratulation and nationalist hype exposes is the middle-class Indian’s willingness to suspend critical judgment and read the success of a handful of individual non-resident Indians (NRIs) as a tribute to the Indian nation’s collective virtue, merit and accomplishment as a “talent machine”.

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How rising inequality threatens our democracy

A vitally important issue that has altogether fallen off India’s economic-political discourse is growing economic inequality. In part, this is because of the continuing hangover of the euphoria generated by economic liberalisation, and the growth of social-Darwinist ideas and moral indifference towards the poor within our burgeoning middle class. In part, this also reflects India’s Rightward political drift, and the declining ideological-political influence of the Left and its own retreat from egalitarianism.

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A Poll Without Real Alternatives?: AAP’s costly missteps

A month after storming to power in Delhi following a spectacular electoral debut, the Aam Aadmi Party has tarnished its image by taking three false steps. First, its law minister Somnath Bharti and women and child welfare minister Rakhi Birla indulged in obnoxious vigilantism. Second, AAP’s top leadership, including Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, defended their conduct and even commended Mr Bharti’s actions. Third, AAP’s official Hindi organ “Aap ki Kranti” on January 24 recorded on its website “shortlisting of Bangladeshi infiltrators” as one of the 15 achievements of its government. Although not widely noticed, this was disturbingly reminiscent of the Hindutva forces’ past attempts to illegally expel or summarily deport Bengali-speakers by branding them Bangladeshis.

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Congress Out, BJP Down, Regional Parties Up: Where does AAP stand?

What AAP will do with its growing leverage remains unknown. Its character is as yet somewhat hazy and fluid. AAP is India’s first political-party product of a civil society mobilisation since the 1970s. NGOs. AAP’s leadership (or political base) is strongly middle class and dominated by technocrats and professionals. But its social base, which voted for it, is “a coalition of extremes”.

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Khobragade and nationalist hysteria

It speaks poorly of India’s public discourse that the slightest perception or allegation of “hurt” to “national prestige” instantly produces a disproportionate, indeed hysterical, reaction.

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Audio Recording: Dangerous Militarisation in India and the Militaristic Mindset in Society

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)

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Welcome shift from US obsession

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.

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India’s Troubled Security Council Bid: Seeking false prestige

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.

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Theatrics isn’t leadership

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.

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Rahul’s Leadership By Theatrics: Congress’s identity crisis

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.

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VK Singh’s Shady Covert Ops: When generals play with fire

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.

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Perry Anderson interviewed by Praful Bidwai (November 2012)

An outstanding Marxist scholar, historian and essayist, and editor of the New Left Review since 1962, Perry Anderson is known for a rich, incisive body of work spanning European history, the contemporary world, the Western Marxist tradition and intellectual history. The distinguished professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, now trains his lens on modern Indian history. His latest book, The Indian Ideology, just published by the Three Essays Collective, is a scathing critique of the dominant celebratory discourse of the Idea of India, or the lionising of the democratic stability, multi-cultural unity and impartial secularity of the Indian state as a miracle. His three recent essays on the subject in the London Review of Books have already generated considerable debate. In an e-mail interview with columnist and writer Praful Bidwai, Anderson discusses his book at length

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