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No-confidence motion: No confidence within the opposition

Shehzad Poonawalla

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The No Confidence motion was meant to be an attack against the Modi government instead it ended up looking more like a motion of no confidence in the idea of a larger opposition unity against the prime minister! Nobody doubted that the Modi government would win the vote ( the BJP had 273 and NDA including Shiv Sena had 312 odd votes in a House that has 533 members with the halfway mark pegged at 267) but the final numbers ( 325 against the motion and only 126 for it )reveal how floor managers of the Modi government managed to outwit and outsmart the opposition strategists! To have managed to surpass the tally of NDA (312 including Shiv Sena) despite the Shiv Sena abstaining was certainly no mean feat!

The No Confidence motion that was aimed at showcasing opposition unity ended up displaying opposition disunity! It was expected that they would muster at least 140 votes but ended up with merely 126!  Instead of putting the Modi government on test it ended up like a political “Sanjeevni booṭi” that now provides an already popular PM Modi with a cloak of immunity to carry out his agenda inside and outside Parliament as we head into election year 2019! This leads me to ask whether the opposition read too much into the results of a few bypolls and the friction between allies within the NDA? Did it miscalculate both the political mood and political maths by pushing for this Trust vote? What does the result mean for the larger opposition unity? What does it mean for the final showdown in 2019? And how does this translate in terms of leadership and popularity quotient for the possible principal protagonists of 2019 namely Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi?

Political Harakiri

In April 1999 Sonia Gandhi had declared ‘We have 272 and we hope to get more,” outside Rashtrapati Bhavan as she attempted to dislodge the Vajpayee government.

She was unsuccessful in that attempt! Nineteen years later both her words and fate sound eerily similar! “Who said we don’t have the numbers” she asked rhetorically two days before the crucial floor test! As the day unfolded, it was clear that she had miscalculated. By raising expectations on this front Mrs Gandhi missed an opportunity to turn this battle into one between “majority and morality”. Had her articulation laid more emphasis on eroding the moral authority of the government rather than challenging its numerical strength, at the end of the No Confidence exercise, she and the Congress could have drawn some “moral victory” despite the defeat. Clearly, it is not just Rahul Gandhi but perhaps even Sonia Gandhi who seems to have lost her innate political instincts. This reflects at the very least political disconnect and perhaps at the very worst a sense of political delusion.

Modi government’s floor managers also outwitted the opposition by calling their bluff and immediately going in for the Trust Vote. Nobody in the opposition was expecting the motion to be admitted so quickly. They were banking on playing up the rhetoric that the Modi government was running away from a No Confidence motion! Buoyed by the results of the by-polls in Gorakhpur, Phoolpur and Kairana the wider opposition seemed to have a spring in its step and had found its voice! Little did they expect that the tables would turn so quickly! In the hurly-burly of TV sound bites and political rhetoric, often dominated by disgruntled NDA allies voicing their angst against the BJP, the opposition forgot that usually what you see isn’t necessarily what you get, especially in politics! They seriously underrated the ability of BJP President Amit Shah in bringing and keeping the NDA allies together on the same page when push comes to shove!

 

Rahul’s Hug-plomacy 

Rahul Gandhi’s almost hour-long speech ended with him giving PM Modi an unsolicited hug! Many thought it was a smart move to garner much-needed media attention but serious questions on jobs and agriculture raised by Rahul lost out due to his histrionics. The Speaker too disapproved of his behaviour. What made it worse is that Rahul returned to his seat and winked to a colleague which was captured by all the cameras and gave an impression that his entire antics were pre-planned and scripted! Another gaffe committed was him quoting out of his private meeting with the French President while speaking on the Rafale deal! Rahul accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of lying when she said a “secret pact” existed between India and France! Rahul claimed the French President had told him personally that no such pact existed! The Foreign Office of France immediately clarified that Rahul’s claims were not accurate! This left the 48-year-old looking like he was misleading Parliament and also attracted a Privilege Motion against him! Eventually, that entire exchange with Nirmala Sitharaman dented the credibility of his claims. It also gave the BJP and the PM to launch a scathing attack on Rahul Gandhi projecting him as “arrogant” and “untruthful”.

Modi’s Point by Point rebuttal 

The PM speaking last delivered a detailed almost two-hour presentation on jobs, agriculture, his government’s commitment against corruption and spiced it up with his rhetorical and oratory skills! His digs were primarily aimed at Sonia and Rahul Gandhi even as the dismantled the shaky project of “opposition unity” trying to be forged against him. By the time his speech ended, not only did he manage the numbers in Loksabha he also managed to garner back all the media attention and more importantly moral and political authority entering into the countdown for 2019! Whatever little symbolic value it could have had in reducing the Modi government into a defacto lame duck administration was lost in the comfortable manner in which the treasury benches managed to sail through the floor test!

Kumar Ketkar

A 50 years of BJP rule?

Kumar Ketkar

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Despite all these monumental achievements under the Modi-Shah rule of 55 years (2014 to 2069) some skeptics wanted to know, will there be a conflict and power struggle between Bhagwat and Modi?

Addressing the National Executive meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party, president Amit Shah said that not only the grand victory in 2019 is certain, but the party will also decimate the Congress totally and vanquish the so-called “Mahagatbandhan”! Then like Oracle, he proclaimed that the BJP will rule for next fifty years. That is at least till the year 2069!

But this is not a new prediction. According to the ardent “Bhakts” of Narendra Modi, Nostradamus had predicted five hundred years ago, that he would become Prime Minister of India. India will then rise to great glory. Once Modi becomes PM, prophesied by the legendary French philosopher, India will have not just “Acche Din” but fantastic “din”! Amit Shah did not quote Nostradamus but went on to see his own crystal ball.

The entire leadership of the party gathered in Delhi to the war cry for the campaign for 2019, was thrilled by Shah’s prediction. They could not visualize themselves to be in Hastinapur in 2069. But they could believe that Modi and Shah were immortal and could keep winning elections till 2069. They are not power hungry and will take “Sanyas”, that year. They will renounce all worldly pleasures? But what about the other mortal BJP MPs?

However, they felt relieved that in 2069, there would be no Gandhi-Nehru dynasty. That biggest hurdle to the Hindu Rashtra will have long gone. Sri Sri Guru Golwalkar will be the “Rashtrapita”. The geography of the region will have undergone major changes. “Akhand Bharat” with Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal will have merged in the “New Hindustan”. There would be no Pakistan. The question of sending Muslims in India to Pakistan would not arise. They would either have migrated to some Arab countries or be dead. “Akhand Bharat” would be the world leader.

China will be reduced to a secondary power and America will have been disintegrated as USSR did in 1991. Donald Trump was the last president of the United States. He had reversed everything Abraham Lincoln had achieved. The country was divided in North and South. Trump’s efforts to restart the slavery system, had succeeded but led to the Civil War! Modi and Mohan Bhagwat had advised Trump to follow Manu Smriti instead of the American Constitution, but he refused. India, on the other hand, had reclaimed its ancient glory, thanks to Manu Smriti.

But all that was rather a distant future and some skeptics raised questions after the eloquent futurist speech of Shah. Those skeptics were invited to the 36th chamber of “ Shahlin “.In that chamber, there were ways to silence the skeptics. Even skeptics of the stature L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi were silenced. So those doubting Thomases were also convinced of Modi-Shah strategy of eternal rule! Particularly after the skeptics were shown files of the Enforcement Directorate, IT and CBI.

So they realized that fifty years from now, Amit Shah will be 104 years old and still as energetic as in 2018. (The skeptics will have retired from politics or jailed or dead) Shah was born on October 22, 1964. Narendra Modi would be 117 in 2069. But there is a slight dispute about his birthdate. According to his election affidavit, he was born on September 17, 1950, but some other biographers say he was born in 1949.

The skeptics who were not convinced after the national executive meeting said that the futurist scenario painted by Shah does not take into account the future of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and of Mohan Bhagwat, who actually began the process of creating a Hindu Rashtra. Bhagwat had appealed from Chicagoan 2018,  that the Hindus of the World must unite. The impact of his speech was such that all the Indian Hindus in the US and in many other countries got united.

The initiative for that unity of the Hindus was taken by those thousands of software engineers, who went to the US during the nineties. The Vedic and Hindu management courses started in the IIMs, set up by the First Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had changed the syllabus to incorporate courses in Vedic HRD, ancient space travel logistics, and Ramdev Baba’s Yoga. There were regular tours to Moon, Mars, Venus, and Brihaspati-Guru.

This Universal Space travel programme was started by Narendra Modi in 2018. NASA was now an Indo-American space research institution, named as Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Vishwa Avkash Kendra.

The JNU was renamed in 2019, soon after the Congress was permanently demolished, as Atal Behari Vajpayee Vidyapeeth of Eminence(ABVVE). The ABVVE had become global university eclipsing Harvard, Stanford, Yale. In fact, Yale University was renamed as Smriti Vidyapeeth, because Smriti Irani had studied there many years ago.  Native Americans were now re-identified as Ancient Indians. This is how the process of disintegration of USA began.

Despite all these monumental achievements under the Modi-Shah rule of 55 years (2014 to 2069, some skeptics wanted to know, will there be a conflict and power struggle between Bhagwat and Modi? Will the RSS and the Modi-Shah-Doval clique be able to work as one team?  But then the skeptics were firmly told that the RSS would be dissolved and Bhagwat will be irrelevant. Then the decks will be clear for Modi, Shah and Ajit Doval. Arun Jaitley, Piyush Goyal, Sushma Swaraj, Nirmala Sitharaman, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari will be in the new Margadarshak Mandal. But then some rebellious skeptics raised other questions.

The Margadarshak Mandal had proposed to build two statues, that of Modi and Shah, one in the liberated Pak Occupied Kashmir and the other near Ram Setu in the oceans linking India and Sri Lanka. These statues will be taller than that of Vallabhbhai Patel, which itself was taller than the Liberty Statue and Shivaji Maharaj Statue in the Arabian Sea. ( But by the way, the Arabian Sea was named as Hedgewar Hindu Mahasagar ).

Thus, by 2069, the world will have transformed so completely that Gandhiji would not even recognize the country which achieved independence in 1947. That was, of course, the partial independence. Therefore, Rashtrapita Gandhiji’s 200th birth anniversary will not be celebrated. Narendra Modi will be known, by ordinance, as “Akhand Hindustan Pita”. There will be no statue fir Bhagwat in India. It will be erected in Chicago, where Bhagwat had issued an appeal for the world’s Hindus to unite.

Valmiki wrote Ramayana before Ram actually arrived on the scene. Valmiki was a criminal-robber before becoming the great poet. That also proved to be a perfect and divine coincidence in history when Modi and Shah jointly scripted the “Narendrayana”.

This is a story and history of the next fifty years, which will be now part of the history textbooks. Not only geography of the world will have changed, but also history and even the Glimpses of World History, which will be freshly written by two Maharshis of the twenty-first century, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.

So tighten your belts as you enter this Time Machine and begin the great journey to 2069. We will complete the journey in just eight months. So relax and enjoy the magnificent adventure which was started as a small step by the Mumbai-Ahmadabad Bullet train in 2019.

The End!

Since everything about Modi is in doubt, even his age, therefore, is slightly doubtful. His so-called valid graduation certificate is not available. Arvind Kejriwal’s RTI query on Modi’s graduation details (his college, university, subjects for BA and later his claimed post-graduation, etc) could not be obtained. Press reports said, that information about his academic qualification could not be revealed or perhaps even obtained because it is a security issue.

In one of the candid interviews with Journalist Rajiv Shukla, Modi had said, off the cuff, that he never went to any college. So like his birthdate, his exact qualification remains a mystery. So does his marital status. In 2002 and 2007 election affidavits, he did not write that he was married. In 2012 he just stated that he was married. But nobody knew who and where was his wife. When a curious journalist went to Gujarat and located her in some school, working as a teacher, that journalist was whisked away, with camera and notes. The journalist was warned never to visit Jasodaben again.

She was not invited to the swearing-in ceremony of Her husband in Delhi on May 26, 2014, where many celebrities and Hollywood stars including Salman Khan were prominently present. It was natural that she felt upset, but soon she realized she was persona non grata as she was never ever invited to the Prime Minister’s House.

Feeling humiliated, she came to Mumbai, to the famous Azad Maidan, where all protests are usually held. She carried a placard which described her plight. But within a few hours, she was whisked away by the police. Most of the electronic media did not carry these stunning visuals. Except for a couple of newspapers (which carried the news item deep inside the pages), nobody even published the news. It speaks volumes about our media, for whom Prime Minister’s wife’s plight is not even worth a mention.

Courtesy: National Herald

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Abhinav Pandya

Kerala Floods-A time to Rethink Development Policies than Do Aid Politics

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Kerala Flood

God’s own country, Kerala, became the victim of the nature’s wrath and is experiencing the worst floods of the century. It was all over the news, but not for its backwaters, not even for the age-old rightwing-leftwing rivalry, but for the most devastating floods and a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions. The floods left 445 people dead and 15 missing. Within a fortnight, while at least 280,679 people were evacuated, mainly from Chengannur, Pandanad, Aranmula, Aluva, Chalakudy, Kuttanad, and Pandalam.  In the hilly regions like Coorg, floods have caused landslides which have exacerbated the destruction of homes, bridges, homes and road networks.  1/6th of the population of the state has been directly affected, and the central government has declared it as a calamity of the level 3 which means the catastrophe of the severe nature. The flow of water in the deluge has led the opening for the 35 of the 42 dams in the state for the first time.

First of all, it deserves attention to explore why the God’s own country has become a symbol of the God’s wrath. For all the farrago of superstitious explanations for the floods coming from various quarters, it need be clear that the eminent ecologist Gadgil has clearly stated the recent floods as a manmade disaster. The 2011 report submitted by Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil had apparently warned the ill-thought development practices were ruining the ecological sustainability of the Western Ghats hill chain, one of the world’s most biodiverse area. The report had advised many states including Kerala and Karnataka to follow sensible and sustainable development policies by restricting activities such as dams, construction, and quarrying near protected forests in hilly areas. The report was rejected by the Ministry as well as by both states. The worst damage had taken place in areas where the Gadgil committee had recommended protection. Indeed, this is a great warning not just for India for the entire sub-continent. South Asia,has lately been on a development-high economic growth rate spree to improve its infrastructure and cater to its fast-increasing population and its demand for jobs, housing, recreation, and food. With the CPEC, this drove has further strengthened with a strong sense of strategic competition and rivalry. However, the states involved need to exercise caution in this rat-race for development.

Coming back to Kerala, this author would like to address the controversial issue of foreign aid for Kerala floods. Many Indian media platforms are running stories of India rejecting foreign assistance from UAE and projecting it as an example of inhumanity. These media stories have strong undertones of turning the issue into a political vendetta against the existing government. The implied meanings suggest that the aid was rejected because the central government is being partial against the state government as the state is run by a non-BJP regime. Further, one can also sense a subtle intent to give a communal color to the issue as the state of Kerala has a substantial Muslim population working in gulf countries, following a Wahabi school of Islam with strong cultural and economic linkages with Arab nations.

However, it appears that the issue is being blown out of proportion.  The media and intellectual quarters are not applying rational minds, and their op-eds are loaded with political baggage. First and foremost, I would like to mention that there was no formal offer of aid through official channels by UAE. It was merely a verbal gesture. Secondly, the policy of not accepting foreign aid was started by former PM Manmohan Singh when US and Japan offered humanitarian assistance during 2013 Uttarakhand floods. Before that in 2004 also, India did not accept the US aid provided for Tsunami rehabilitation. The reason being India is economically self-sufficient, and it has a robust disaster management infrastructure. India is currently the sixth largest economy and 2nd largest in terms of population. It has the ability to generate surplus plus finds for natural and man-made disasters like Kerala floods.  There are paramilitary cadres and organizations like CRPF, Army and National Disaster Response Force with high-quality expertise in the field.

Further, as stated by Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen. VK Singh in the parliament that over the past many years India has become a nation that has given more foreign aid to other countries than it received in the last three years. He also explicitly mentioned that as the country’s international stature and economic heft grows, India should avoid taking aid from foreign countries. Hence accepting foreign assistance does not rhyme well with India’s growing global stature and economic heft.

Another question that comes to mind while accepting foreign aid is its informal and unwritten obligations. If a country takes assistance from a foreign country, in many ways, it may lose its strategic autonomy. Hence, when India is in the position to finance its relief efforts, it would not be sane to accept foreign aid.  Further, the state and center have done a commendable job in disaster management so far in Kerala. The state has provided shelter to one million people in 3000 shelters, and the center has provided the assistance of INR 600 cr. All Indian states have provided financial and other kinds of assistance to Kerala. Many civil servants, politicians and ordinary civilians have donated their one month’s salary to Kerala.

In an interview to the Economic Times, the state CM Vijayan expressed gratitude to center for cooperating and providing relief assistance-“I need to make it clear in no uncertain terms that the government of India was forthcoming and responded positively. PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited the flood-hit areas and have been understanding the situation fully”.

India has sincerely expressed her gratitude to Pakistan’s new government for offering relief assistance but as per the policy, has not accepted it. However, this need not be the reason to deduce that it is a jolt to peace-making efforts between the two countries. In fact, in official and civilian circles Pakistan’s offer has been appreciated. In India, people have strong hopes with Imran Khan’s NayaPakistan. Imran Khan is already a hero in India because of his tree-plantation initiative in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. His earlier interactions with India during his cricket career and his study of Indian states like Bihar prove in no uncertain terms that he has a better understanding of India and its concerns. I believe that his vast public following, sincerity and out-of-the-box thinking makes a perfect combination in achieving a breakthrough in Indo-Pakistan relations provided he get enough support from the deep state and Pak army. On India’s side, Prime Minister Modi has expressed his commitment to good India-Pakistan ties. He has clearly stated that India is looking for constructive and meaningful engagement with Pakistan.

Hence, there is no reason for biased and the hate-mongering Cassandras to portray India’s refusal to accept Pakistan help as an indication of stiffening relations between the two countries and make doomsday predictions. However, it needs to be mentioned that substantial progress and dialogue between India and Pakistan can take place in an overall atmosphere of peace and goodwill.  If the issue of terrorism is addressed, then the sky is the limit for cooperation between India and Pakistan.

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Karan Thapar

Rafale Deal: Transparent or murky???

Karan Thapar

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Rafale

Depending on who you talk to the Rafale deal is either mired in scandal and controversy or it’s the very epitome of squeaky-clean transparency. It’s hard to imagine two positions further apart. Which is why it may be a good idea to sit back and take a careful look at all that we’ve been told and then ask what it adds up to.

Let me focus on three concerns. First, the decision to reduce the number of planes from 126 to 36. Did this happen in disregard of the Air Force’s requirements? If the government has now issued another tender for over 100 planes how is the reduction justified?

On 1st September former Air Force Chief Krishnaswamy wrote that in 2014 the Air Force made a request for an urgent purchase of 2 squadrons i.e. 36. The present Air Force Chief, B. S. Dhanoa, has defended this “emergency procurement” claiming there have been several instances of similar procurements in the past. In such circumstances, he adds, 2 squadrons is the ideal quantity. But the rest of the Air Force’s requirement is still uncatered for and who knows how long that will continue?

The second issue is the price. In November 2016, the government told Parliament that each Rafale would cost 670 crore. A year later both Dassault and Reliance Defence claimed the price would be 1,660 crore. The latter figure has led many to claim the planes are considerably more expensive than the ones Congress was negotiating.

Arun Jaitley, however, insists the cost negotiated by the UPA included room for price escalation and currency fluctuation and, therefore, today the cost per plane would be 9% greater than what the NDA has negotiated in terms of the simple plane and 20% greater in terms of the weaponized plane. The Air Force’s Deputy Chief, R. Nambiar, has gone a step further. He says the present Rafale deal is 40% cheaper than the earlier one.

In this connection, it’s interesting to note a change in the present government’s position. Initially, it claimed the higher price per plane was because of India-specific add-ons. When Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha revealed the 2015 agreement specified the NDA was buying planes with the same configuration as the UPA’s the government became silent on this subject.

The third issue is the decision to award the 30,000 crore offsets to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence. Critics point out that this company has no experience of manufacturing aircraft whilst it carries a heavy burden of debt. To them, this smacks of crony capitalism.

In his defence, the CEO of Reliance has said Dassault has a right to give the offsets to any Indian partner it chooses, a point corroborated by the Defence Minister in recent interviews. Secondly, no component of the 36 planes will be made in India. Thirdly, it’s no secret Dassault and HAL could not reach an agreement over the 126 aircraft deal. So it’s not surprising the former would choose a different partner this time round.

These explanations would be convincing but for the fact the CEO of Dassault, Eric Trappier, has said the joint venture with Reliance will manufacture components for his Rafale planes. The only question is whether they will be for the planes bought by India or manufactured for other countries.

So, now, what does all of this add upto? To my mind, the outcome is not just uncertainty but confusion. There is no doubt serious questions have been raised but, equally, we don’t have clear answers. Unless you take sides, you probably don’t know what to think.

Finally, when Shourie and Sinha call the new Rafale deal “a major scandal … by far larger than the ones that the country has had to contend with in the past”, it’s worth bearing in mind that so far there’s no money trail nor a discernable smoking gun. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t disturbing questions and a strange resistance by the government to reveal the price, which only adds suspicion to concern. The claim that a secrecy clause won’t permit the latter is a telling example of the ham-handedness with which this issue has been handled. The government seems to be making matters worse for itself.

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