Monday, 25 May 2009

Latest from The Wall Street Journal

Quoting from this article
Without saying so, the U.S. will have to be an intermediary. With Indians, American officials insist the Mumbai attacks woke Pakistani leaders up to the true threat of extremism -- in particular Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister who controls the Punjab. India still distrusts him for past ties to Islamists. President Asif Ali Zardari may be politically weak, but the U.S. points out that India won't get a friendlier Pakistani leader.
Further on
Team Obama wants India to draw down along the frontier to give Pakistan's military cover to shift forces westward against the Taliban. Back have come lectures from Indians about Pakistan's superior force strength on the border. India won't take orders from Washington lightly.

"New Delhi and Islamabad could be encouraged to reopen a back channel to discuss Kashmir and "comprehensive peace." None of this will be easy. But the solution to the Obama administration's so-called "AfPak" problem runs through India."
To me this sounded different to what India's publically stated position is ..

Monday, 18 May 2009

So who are the losers!!

A ramdom list and reflection of my thoughts or lack of it

Urban middle class (UMC): This could be longish again as I try to explain my points. As few people have pointed out that Cong has won seats in most of the urban areas and many have equated that urban middle class has supported Cong and it’s a shift. A possible reason of that could be MMS’s image as reformer which connected well with middle class when he was an FM in PVR govt. But why do I put say urban Middle class in loser category

I believe Fiscal policies and high deficits affect UMC more than any other class. This is the group which is most affected by the any changes into the interest rates and liquidity in the markets. With loan weavers and other bloats we have a very high fiscal deficit (something similar to what we had before 1991) which means the govt is the biggest borrower in the market and leaving very less money for ‘aam aadmi’ to borrow. Thus the total value for money is not going to go down anytime soon would have a direct impact on aspirations of UMC.

Well documented price rise. Again with large deficit and high interest rate govt has a limited scope to make a dent here

If this victory in election can be termed as vindication of the policies that govt was following lets say on Reservations, IIT/IIMs are done now. Which one is next target to propagate social justice? Squeezing of jobs for UMC. Although with Arjun Singh not likely to be in ministry again this one would be interesting to see as I believe MMS and other key people were in principle against the caste based reservation in higher institutions

Infrastructure: last five years were anything but frantic activity on infrastructure build up. We the transport minister expected to retain the portfolio we would see the same pace (or lack of it) although some of the places have benefited check the statewise allocation and their status for NHDP III/IV and you will have your answer.

Communists: now this one is a given, I thought more than the nuclear deal (Cong never talked about it in its election campaign) they lost it because they behaved in Nandigarm, Singur which really showed their ugly face. The killings in Nandirgarm and subsequent refusal to do any course correction made them pay heavy. In Kerala I think numerous run-ins with Church could have had its effect. Now communists will have to worry on keeping their existing flock together rather than expanding. A smaller fallout of this would be they would be missed in LS debates and I always feel this bunch of people are more well prepared for discussions that happens on policy matters.

Modi: Brand Modi was on a roll and irrespective of the overall outcome a collective win in Gujarat-Rajasthan-and-Maha might have propelled him to centre stage faster and he would have become the tallest in BJP after LKA. But now it will require some correction in his brand to get on to centre stage. Media would come after him even harder and a not so good showing for BJP outside Guj just ensured that ghosts of 2002 will continue to haunt him. A win in areas where he was in-charge would have dented some of the voices against him but my guess is he will remain to confined to Guj for quite sometime now.

I think Modi would like to get to the centre stage only when the court cases for 2002 reach to a conclusion either way and his opponents are better off keeping 2002 alive in some form or the other or it might become something like 1984 .. say sorry and move on.

Mayawati: a clear dent in her ambition. She has shown the impatience for the PM chair during the Nuke deal debates in LS. But now with Cong making a severe dent in her upper caste (is it not divisive to talk about caste??) vote bank and her explanation of bad showing in elections means Muslims are still not voting for her party. She would now be worried on keeping her existing votes together. By the way I think BSP is the largest party in India even bigger than Cong and BJP purely from the number of seats that they fought in this election. A smaller fallout is she might not remain a gung-ho supporter of breaking up of UP in smaller states (which makes administrative sense and could be good for that region)

Samajwadi Party: Not because their numbers have been reduced but because they will not be able to play any role in Govt formation. It would take some serious effort from Mulayam to keep this party together and alive as they are not in power in UP and not relevant in Centre.

Laloo & Paswan: First Paswan he has a unique record he has won elections with the margins that has got him into the record books and has remained in central ministry despite different parties ruling at the centre. But he has lost his own seat and LJP failed to win anything. It would take lot of perseverance for him to make himself relevant again. Now on Laloo he has done wonders for Railways and I believe a tie up with cong in Bihar (which he refused and now says was a mistake) would not have made any difference in the final seat tally from Bihar but would have saved a ministry for him. Now with effectively five years out from centre and another atleast seven years (I do not see his party making any real progress in next Bihar assembly election as well) of without power even in Bihar would look like end game for Laloo. But he has very often proved everyone wrong so I would not bet on it.

Grameen Vikas: I thought Raghuvansh Prasad Singh was one of the best ministers not only in the govt but could be counted among the best in other ministries as well. He made serious effort in a ministry which was considered very un-glamorous and gave the country its first social security act in the form of NREGS. The act in itself is brilliant although the execution is a bit problematic with lot of corruption creeping in. This act did wonders for Cong but surely Raghuvansh babu is not going to be part of ministry in new govt and I don’t see someone else working with the same vigor in Grameen Vikas has he has worked.

Srilankan Tamils: Now that the election is over no one in India is going to make similar noices for them. They will now have to wait till TN elections before they again start getting sympathetic voices from India.

Mumbai: the vote share that MNS has received would only mean that they are going to get emboldened in their approach. Mumbai is the only looser with MNS going try to maximize its benefits and with Maha elections round the corner the decibel levels are only going to go up.

There are some others as well like Sharad Power .. it could be end of his PM ambitions as well.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

So who is the winner!!

They are not in any specific order.

India the country: in this uncertain times of recession and financial meltdown one thing that you can settle is a very stable govt. A govt who is not held ransom to whims and wishs of few MP parties totally disconnected with the national issues. So with a clear mandate we have fixed one big problem now what remains is tackling the recession and financial meltdown. Although some of the local problems like bloated sovereign account is the creation of the same govt which is voted back to power. But I still think its still better to have this govt with clear mandate on its side than any other absurd combination. So India as a country is clear winner.

MMS: I think even he would not have pretensions that his name or charm could be converted into seats but that’s precisely what has happened. People have silently voted for MMS and I believe this time he should be running the country MMS as the economist not MMS as the ‘nominated’ PM.

RG: He is certainly a winner as some of his instincts proved right, like decision to go alone in UP and clearly the wining factor is higher in seats visited by him. It simply means he would taken far more seriously outside of Cong as well and BJP knows that the person who would run Cong in future in a sauvé urbane person who can stick to his decisions and even while talking to the oft repeated issues will appear graceful.

Cong: A clear winner, people projected by Cong came as a urbane and has a aura of sobriety around them although at times Cong did appear as if not knowing what they are talking about or they tried to talk in different languages. But clearly everyone liked the sedateness that MMS showed.

BJP: now on this one many people will not agree with me and might turn a bit longish as I try to explain my point. This setback I see a winning moment for BJP. If you look clearly there is a marked difference between the way BJP runs its state election campaign and the way they have run their last two national elections. State elections they focus on their strong points which runs on developments and the clear stress on ‘Go-Local’ but I felt the last two national elections BJP ran on what its idea of India is not on what India as a reality is.

I really thought as a first timer into govt they did very well on most of the parameters including infra, fiscal, foreign policy between 1998 -2004 but they lost 2004 as they ran the campaign on what their idea of India is (a supremely confident of its own ability and ‘shinning’ India) but the reality was in picking correct alliances at local levels (think of it what if they had continued with DMK as alliance in TN in 2004) and india as country is still taking its tentative steps towards being a confident young nation so 2004 election campaign was a premature idea.

Again they had a chance to replicate their success in state elections which they kept on winning one after another till Sheila halted them in Delhi (I am discounting Rajasthan as it was lost more due to infighting than someone really defeating them) but then again they ran 2009 national election as a very presidential style and probably didn’t focus as much on local issues. They kept on discounting third-front (which was right ) but did not realize that most of the third front losses would be cornered by Cong as BJP is simply not in position to exploit the losses made by third front (check the states were third front had a presence).

They can no longer escape from the addressing tough questions like why (middle-class) icons or public figures have stopped joining them. I believe this election setback for BJP came at the right time as it will allow them to focus more on ground realities, move away from bringing premature ideas and will allow them to shed lot of unwanted baggage and I hope what would come out would still be a right-wing nationalist party but without the religious rhetoric as i believe they still have the most comprehensive vision for India as a nation barring the religious rhetoric.

VG: He won a seat for himself and made a name for himself but it would take sometime for BJP to count the aggregate losses made by those CDs.

Nitish: More than winning Bihar handsomely for me he is a winner as despite the continuous media chant he kept thinking from his head and in the end he came out as a statesman. I believe if Nitish continues with what he is doing and desist from becoming an ally of Cong he would be a serious contender for the top job in future.

Mr Patnaik: He took a risk and was rewarded handsomely. I believe it will prepare him to take some of the hard policy decisions which he needs to take.

[there could some more .. but let me count the loosers in my next post]