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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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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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The balance-sheet the day after, with some caveats

The Aam Aadmi Party’s maverick ways, especially its 36-hour-long Rail Bhavan dharna led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal himself, have drawn unprecedented flak from its political opponents, the middle class, and the media: “utterly irresponsible”, “political posturing”, “descent into anarchy”, “anti-constitutional”, “holding Delhi to ransom”, “threat to the Republic”… Some commentators believe AAP has either “lost it” altogether, or has larger, devious plans for the national elections. AAP’s supporters however see the dharna as an audacious means of citizen mobilisation to change the rules of India’s political game and bring governance down to earth (literally!)—a confrontation from which AAP has emerged a “clear winner”.

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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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The AAP conundrum: Steering clear of doctrines

AAP claims to have no ideology or affinity to doctrines like socialism, secularism, liberalism or Hindutva. Ideology, it says, is “for the pundits and the media…” AAP is itself content to be “solution-focused”. It deplores the “tendency to pin down political parties as Left, Right, Centre…”

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BJP’s Forward March Slowed Down: Has Kejriwal eclipsed Modi?

In an optimistic scenario, the BJP’s “three-state” gamble may pay off. More realistically, it may not. The BJP has the advantage of having emerged as an urban winner in a few states. For instance, in Gujarat, it bagged 58 percent of city votes, to the Congress’s 28 percent. But Gujarat is 40-percent urbanised. The BJP can’t replicate its performance in Bihar and UP, with their 11 and 22 percent urbanisation rates.

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India’s Changing Political Equations: AAP set to gain, Congress to lose

The Aam Aadmi Party’s dizzying ascent to power in India’s capital should make all political parties revisit their long-held assumptions about what platforms and strategies succeed in elections and how they shape the equations underlying national politics.

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Floating On Anti-Politics Discontent: But can AAP deliver?

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?

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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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Rahul Gandhi: Neither fish nor fowl

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.

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RSS Anoints Modi As PM - Candidate: Stooping to a new communal low

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.

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Winning by polarising the Gangetic plains?

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.

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No clear reason in the Kudankulam judgment

in a judgment giving the green light to the Kudankulam nuclear project, our Supreme Court tells citizens, without a hint of irony, that they must put up with “minor inconveniences” such as exposure to radiation, which causes cancer or genetic damage and is always harmful, because enormous “economic scientific benefits” (sic) will come from nuclear power, which “remains as an important element in India’s energy mix”. “Minor inconveniences”? Tell that to the families of the estimated 34,000 people who died from Chernobyl, to the mothers of thousands of babies which have early thyroid disorders thanks to the Fukushima disaster, to the 80% plus French people who oppose new reactors, or to the countless protestors against Indian nuclear projects, including Kudankulam (Tamil Nadu), Jaitapur (Maharashtra), Mithi Virdi (Gujarat), Kovvada (Andhra Pradesh), Fatehabad (Haryana) and Chutka (Madhya Pradesh).

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Violence in W Bengal

rinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mamata Banerjee must be India’s most abrasive and volatile political personality. She goes hysterical at the slightest sign of dissidence. But she exceeded even herself with the tantrum she threw when confronted by a protest in Delhi by Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) activists against her trivialisation of the custodial death of Students’ Federation of India leader Sudipta Gupta in Kolkata as a “petty” matter.

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