Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Make in India, How ?

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's characteristic one-liners, the one that got decidedly the most resonance is 'Make In India'. It has been warmly received not only at home but in the US, where Modi's current tour has been a huge draw and the liberal American opinion is in favor of fast developing India. Everybody knows India has got the right size, and the right demographics, to replay the 'China story' of three decades ago. But the persistent question is: has India got the political will to make the transition from a predominantly agrarian economy to a modern one which is sustained by manufacturing. At present, only 15 per cent of India's GDP is from manufacturing while that of South Korea is 31 per cent and, with China, it is 35 per cent. Is such a huge handicap manageable?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Narendra Modi, rock star

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Narendra Modi had promised better governance and "Achchhe Din" before his spectacular electoral victory. But now he's a diplomacy addict, going places, banging drum with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the island nation and hosting Xi Jinping, the all-powerful Chinese President, at Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad, his home town. However, his moment of truth will be in the US later this week, where he was declared unwanted and denied visa in 2005 under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) provisions of US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), for his alleged failure, between February 2002 and May 2002, to prevent violence in Gujarat.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Will Modi wave last?

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, BJP"s spectacular victory was attributed to a "Modi wave" because of the decisive nature of the result. With BJP winning 282 seats on its own, it was the first time in 25 years that a single party could gain majority in the parliament. Before him no party other than the Congress, and the post-emergency Janata Party, could cross the victory line of 272 seats. Political pundits had assumed that the polity would remain balkanised. Modi proved them wrong. And that gave rise to the popular conviction that it could not be due to BJP"s merit alone; it was due to a "Modi wave" that blew across the nation.

But will the wave last through the upcoming elections, notably for the assemblies of Maharashtra, the richest state, and Haryana, which has undergone a rapid transformation from agriculture to service and industry? Besides, will Modi"s popularity sustain beyond the assembly elections, through the subsequent years of his leadership of government? It is a fact that the BJP did not appear to be anchored in concrete in the ongoing round of assembly by-elections at least till last week (when this article was written), having won in only four of the 10 seats in Bihar that went to poll recently.

However, by-elections are hardly the bellwether to gauge the mood of the nation. Elections for assemblies of mainline states are a somewhat different matter. Because assembly polls hinge on a face, which is that of a state"s towering political personality, they have the potential to throw up national figures. Modi himself graduated from a state leader. Vishwanath Pratap Singh was essentially a state leader who successfully challenged his Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.

It is in this context that the future of the so-called "Modi wave" should be gauged. Who are Modi"s challengers left on the ring? Are they all in full form and in a position to turn every lapse of the Union Government to his or her favour? In 2004, the Vajpayee-led NDA government fell because by then Sonia Gandhi, the Congress president, had cobbled together a large enough alliance of parties opposed to BJP whose constituents wanted NDA to exit from power at any cost. Is a similar counter-wave building up against Modi?

Doubtful. The Congress today is stung by its humiliating defeat and the consequent leadership crisis. It will be some time that it can gather enough self-confidence to take on a opponent of Modi"s stature. The biggest problem of Congress is that, with Vice President Rahul Gandhi not able to make a mark as boss, and his mother, Sonia, not keeping well, for some time, it must look for new life. But it cannot do that because it is a divided house and an image deficit across the board has turned it into something like the house of the seven dwarfs that Snow White had discovered in the forest. Besides, the popular expectation that Prime Minister Modi is bent on bringing about systemic changes in governance is still high. It is therefore premature, to say the least, to expect that either Maharashtra or Haryana will throw up a verdict that gives NDA cold comfort.

Beyond Maharashtra, the anti-NDA national leaders are all so hobbled that none of them can hope to fight back any time soon, if not ever. Jayalalitha, the AIADMK supremo, should by now be trembling to hear the verdict of the CBI court in end-September on the ongoing graft cases against her to engage in any sparring with Modi. Her D-day is September 23 and she is a scared person today. Things are no better with Mayawati, yet another ambitious leader. In the UPA period she had almost managed to get the Income Tax and disproportionate assets cases against her leave in a frozen state. Come NDA, and judicial activism has brought the cases back to life. So dispirited is she that her party BSP did not put up candidate in any of the 11 assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh where by-elections were held, knowing well that in the absence of her party"s elephant symbol it is quite likely that most of her Dalit voters would press on BJP"s "lotus". She is going alone in Maharashtra and Haryana. Going by revelations of CBI Director Ranjit Sinha"s famous "guest book", Mayawati"s confidante S. C. Mishra visited the top cop"s residence, so high is the level of anxiety in the mind of bahenji, once considered indestructible as granite.

In Kolkata, Mamata Banerjee, who was once regarded as an icon of simplicity and integrity, is now so inextricably embroiled in a scam involving plunder of a Ponzi scheme that her popularity is at its lowest in her state. The condition of Mulayam Singh Yadav, once a symbol of secularism, is no better. In Uttar Pradesh, two years of hellish mis-governance by Akhilesh, Mulayam's swell-head son and chief minister, has reduced his own stature to a ridiculously low level. In Bihar, Lalu Yadav is on bail and hearings on his appeal will commence soon. It will surely churn up much of the dirt from his past. By embracing him in a marriage of convenience, Nitish Kumar, the only secular person who had the moral credential to challenge Modi, has scored a self-goal by siding with corrupt Lalu.

Modi's pull is sustaining because of the hypocrisy and self-deception on which the capital's politics is based. Tainted leaders who deserved to be in prison cell could use their clout to paralyse the judicial process and strut about like big shot. Such a vain political class had to go some day. It is strange that it could survive so long. The Modi wave of course needs a counter wave. Just as democracy is meaningless without an opposition. But it has to be reborn and rise, like Phoenix.

Who are Modi"s challengers
left on the ring to
create a counter-wave ?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Modi: Love in Tokyo

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

There is hardly anything unusual about an Indian Prime Minister visiting Japan, and Japanese dignitaries visiting India. In fact, former prime minister Manmohan Singh visited Japan as late as May last year while, in a somewhat unusual gesture, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were both in India, the first visit by a Japanese Emperor after 1960. So the two countries are neither long lost friends nor strangers, apart from Buddhism and many cultural ties that they share, Japan has left its signature on two items that are so prominently visible on the Indian cityscape: the Maruti car, and the Delhi Metro.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

'Achchhe Din' have arrived, some can't see: Javadekar

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Prakash Javadekar was a dejected man when he was denied Rajya Sabha seat and not given Lok Sabha ticket either. But there was windfall all of a sudden. The Prime Minister gave him three portfolios -- environment & forest, information & broadcasting (independent charge) and minister of state for parliamentary affairs. And above all, he is the eyes and ears of the PM. Lokmat Times' National Editor Harish Gupta caught up with him on the eve of completion of 100 days of Modi government in office.