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Punjab – AAP Debacle, Or Just The Start?

Published March 14, 2017 by vishalvkale

The recently concluded Elections in Punjab, in particular, returned a surprising result; few people had foreseen such a massive victory for the INC. While even the UP elections were rather of a surprise, the difference was that the UP results were not as suprising, given that on-ground reports from my friends in UP were very gung-ho about the BJPs prospects. But there was nothing in the air regarding Punjab that at least I read, with the result that I got a complete surprise.

In my opinion, after studying the entire results data constituency-wise, as well as the history of elections in terms of results, the question that comes to my mind is this : were we guilty of expecting too much? Historically, Punjab has always been a two-way fight between Congress and SAD; and the AAP was a rank newcomer to the scene. This reality has to be kept in the backdrop. Second, the win in New Delhi for AAP was in a different political and ground reality, and the realities in Punjab were slightly different. Third, as others writers have also noted, there were mistakes committed in the run-up. Fourth, there was also the scepter of internal issues in the AAP. All of these were known to us.
Expecting too much is not the same as accepting defeat after a loss. By expecting too much, you let your ambitions and desires soar; the resulting crash leads you to ignore the benefits that have accrued, as you go into the mode of post-mortem. And the reality is that a new party has exploded onto the scene in the state with a significant vote-share; never in the history of Punjab has any party apart from these two won 20 assembly seats. Only the Janta Party in 1977 won 25 seats; even the BJP got 18 and 19 seats twice. Thus, this is a very respectable opening for a new party. Note that 77 was a different pollical atmosphere and 97/07 BJP numbers were from an established party. The AAP is a rank newcomer.
Looking further into the numbers, the AAP garnered a vote-share of 23.7%. Dig deeper, and both issues, as well as areas to focus on, start becoming apparent. In the seats which AAP won, it got an average margin of 9.58% over the 2nd candidate; this number is 19.79% for the INC and 18.99% for the SAD-BJP combine. The AAPs margin of victory is far slimmer, meaning that the other parties are deeply entrenched into the local people. This also goes to prove the splendid job that the AAP did achieve, given the circumstances and all that happened in the campaign.
It is noteworthy that they managed inroads in a state which has had only two major players since independence. The slimmer victory margin underscores the strong support for the existing parties, as well as shows AAP the way forward – Consolidate on the gains acquired, and grow from here. The Janata Party in 77 could not consolidate, neither did the BJP having acquired a similar level of strength. But what is truly in AAPs favour is its newness to the political scene. Far from being a problem, this newness is actually a great big advantage in its favour-  provided they develop their policies and their core base properly. Another data point also supports this contention – the SAD-BJP, despite having only 18 seats, had a vote share of 30.9%, again showing deeply entrenched followership.
What is more, when you go deeper into the data, what transpires is even more heartening. Of the 10 seats where the INC had the slimmest margins {upto 5.25%} over the next best, 9 were AAP candidates, who lost by a few thousand votes only. This indicates that it is feasible that the AAP is eating into the INC vote share and support base {though this cannot be a definitive conclusion, need more data and facts}. Again, this gives the AAP a strong starting support base which it can develop into a core base, from which it can grow in the years to come.
There can be no doubt that the AAP did not do as well as expected; in our first past the post system, yes – the AAP lost. But it wasn’t a comprehensive loss by any definition of the word. There are enough indicators of the way forward present, and it is now upto the AAP to pick up steam and develop their core base from here onwards. Given their overall strategic approach, I for one have no doubts. The AAP while it has committed errors, has also shown the ability to learn fast. In 2014, it tried for 432 seats pan-India. Since that experience, they have now altered approach in favour of a steady growth state-wise. The ball is now firmly in AAPs court.
The last point that I make here- these elections have been very heartening indeed, in that in three cases, the results was a clear one. That is what we need – two or three main parties in contest, which ensures stability of policies and governance. It was heartening to see the BJP emerge as the single party in charge; as also the INC in Punjab. We also need to keep track of NOTA… in Punjab, NOTA managed a share of 0.69% overall, emerging as the 4th or the 5th choice in 60 of the 117 seats. This again proves the contention above-  the emergence of two or three strong choices. This bodes well for our Demoracy!

REFERENCES : 
  
1) assembly elections 2017 results – HT  2) Punjab Assembly Election 2017 Results – Elections.in    3) Raisina Series – AAP’s Punjab post-mortem…    4) Firstpost – Punjab Election Results 2017: Congress wins 77 seats; Amarinder Singh to be next CM
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Trumped!

Published November 10, 2016 by vishalvkale

TRUMPED!
The title says it all : the whole world, it seems, has been trumped, or rather, to be accurate : Trumped. That capital “T” is rather important, you know. And thus it is that one of the most idiotic, amusing, divisive, unfathomable and surprisingly illogically logical elections comes to its conclusion, the swansong of what I can only call “The Trumpection”. For this wasn’t a normal event, this beloved “Trumpection”; it was an event unto itself, a roller coaster, amusing and hilarious event. {Sorry, my American friends, but from where I stand, it was, well, Hilarious!} I know that at least I looked up Trumpection at the end of a hard day for a barrel of laughs. I enjoyed it, and will certainly miss the entertainment provided by Trumpection! But, sadly, all good things must come to an end; there are only so many slices you can cut out of a Chocolate Cake, you know.
My regular readers will by now have no doubt noted a marked shift from my normal analytical, factual, annotated and researched writing style towards a seemingly disrespectful and flippant style. But when words fail me, and yet thoughts flow – a curious combination, that : this rambling style is the only possible, feasible result, as any writer ought to confirm. What else can I do, how else can I react, as an Indian, when I am treated to a pantheon of rib-tickling episodes interspersed with racism, xenophobia, manufactured along a seemingly strong skeleton of development, social emancipation et al? I was of the confirmed belief that no one, but no one, could ever top us Indians in the sphere of elections for sheer drama : boy, was I wrong! And how! The USA – please accept my sincere apologies; Trumpection was an event unto itself, and mighty fun it was too, absolute tops in the Electiodramatics school of entertainment!
We have some Indians Celebrating on the streets {!!!!!}, we have images from across the world in varying shades of shock and delight, we have the scenes from the USA… but, for me, a Citizen of the magical and beautiful land of India, it is Indian  responses and the impact on India which is of greater concern; and that is what I found the most rib-ticklingly sad of all. The general consensus is that Trumpidency would be  good for India {Trump + Presidency + Assumptions = Trumpidency, please excuse the flippancy here – I mean no insult; using it to highlight a point}. Amazing conclusion, that – given that the man himself, like as not, has precisely no idea of how to go about dealing with us, as he is yet to occupy the Oval Office!
You are in a moving Vehicle, going along at a nice clip of 60Kmph {Americans, excuse – but you really should get to  using standards all of  us do – pl divide that 60 by 1.62 to convert to Miles; for mathematically challenged people – meaning all of us – it is that “/” character on the Calculator in the Tools section of your UI on your Cell} . Now where was I?? Aah, yes : doing 60Kmph. How do I turn – always assuming I want to in the first place – do I just twist the round thingy called steering wheel 90 degrees? Do that, and a nearby hospital gets one case closer to its annual target. That is pretty much a guarantee, my dear friends.
DO I – OR RATHER TRUMPIDENCY – WANT TO TURN?
There are two points raised above : do I want to turn my Vehicle? And two – if I do, how do I turn, always assuming I want the Vehicle continue moving at a healthy rate after executing the turn? Let me take these two assumptions head-on. {Head-on as in metaphorically, meaning let me get to brass tacks, which in turn means dealing with real issues. Confused? Sorry, USA, so am I} Now this is a moving vehicle; with people in it. The driver cant just twist that round thingy all by his sweet lonesome. The decision to turn or not is most often an issue of common consensus among those who matter. So where is the evidence that there is a desire to turn?
Let us examine in the only meaningful paragraph in this entire article. We have had statements, and they are a dime a dozen; we cannot assume policy decisions basis empty statements. When taking policy calls, views of all impacted interest groups are called for; and thus, we have to look beyond this Trumpidency towards the ground reality as it currently exists. There is already a strong pro-Indian tilt in the USA along some lines; thus, is it any surprise that a new President would not factor that in to his calculations? So where is the change here? It doesn’t exist, not in the realm of business & trade at any rate!
That leaves the second aspect- strategic policy, which in the real world in independent of Trade decisions, for the constituent factors are not common, bar one or  two considerations. And in that sphere, though the new incumbent may want to change a lot – he will be constrained to taking calls basis the current ground reality. He may want to come far closer, call Pakistan’s bluff, but the situation should allow it. He will  not allow any fundamental change if it in any way impeded US interests- neither should he


The ground reality is firstly, there is more than a small share of support for Pakistan in the USA corridors of power; there is a strong presence in Afghanistan that can only be catered through Pakistan, there is a prevalent incorrect belief in the Americans that Pakistan has to be dealt with my humoring  it & not calling its bluff – and so on and so forth. {Yes, that is a second meaningful paragraph. I said one, wrote at least two. I can bluff too, cant I? And you believed me, right? Does that tell you something?}  
HOW DOES ONE TURN?
Short para, I promise you. Then this boring lecture can conclude. There are two ways – sudden, and gradual. Sudden – not the western character Sudden – I mean sudden as in an overnight change – you really want that? I don’t think so. Have we adjusted ourselves to the idea of a genuinely close {please stop ROFLing, my Indian friends} USA? Do we have the systems, people, the trust and the ideas in place to take advantage? I think not. And a gradual change, which will give both sides the time to place the right people in the right places, develop trust and so on and so forth takes time. The question is, will there be a gradual strategic shift in US approach under the new regime? {Note – here I say new regime, not Trumpidency. Refer Trumpidency Definition above}
THE CONCLUSION

For that, we have to wait. We have to wait for the flippant term Trumpidency to become redundant, and be replaced by Mr Donald Trump, POTUS. Then and only then will the cards be opened. Trumpidency implies a set of speculations basis statements, based on subjective desires as per individual readings; a Trump Presidency implies decisions basis the long-accepted science of proper decision making in a developed system of Governance


Till that time, we have to wait.  A lot has been said, both on Strategic and Trade Aspects; I don’t visualize a dramatic change in Trade realities, given the commitments, investments in place and the Economic Scenario; but on strategic aspects – USA, read as “Pakistan’’ for most India {some will say Chinistan – as I do} – we can only speculate. And it is always a bad idea to speculate on strategic aspects. Let us wait and watch…. 

Modi Sarkar : The First Year… Worrisome Portends and Trends

Published May 23, 2015 by vishalvkale

This is a short and truncated analyses; the full analysis will take time, and will be rather long – and will appear on my main blog, @Reflections in the due course of time. I am only covering the main points here. Please follow me if interested. 

Before I present the negatives : Let me state that it is too early to call this Government good or bad; one year just isnt enough. The following points are indicators that can be used as guides. I am not presenting the positives; there arent very many, as per me. There is far more to worry about, and far more that needs to be explained. 

My View : Negative at worst, and Zero at best… {First time I find myself in agreement with the Congress / Rahul Gandhi!}

Note : All Block-quotes are from my own articles

A lot has been said – and repeated ad nauseum by media and fans alike – way too much of the positives, which may or may not have any bearing with reality. Let me present the other side… the worrying aspect…

1) CENTRALISATION OF POWER
There is a clear and marked trend of centralisation of power; this brings uncomfortable memories from the past. This Government is decidedly about one man, and one centre. Not my idea of an ideal Government, frankly. For a distributed and diverse nation, centralisation is not the answer; a judicious mix of central command with a federated approach is the need of the nation. This is clearly absent; where present – as in Economics, the follow-through is exceptionally poor. This Government is about one man. And that is bad, period.

2) URBAN FOCUS

Read : Farmers see income gains vanish in Narendra Modi’s inflation war

Not one of the problems of Agriculture has been dealt with; as a matter of fact, there is rising discontent within the farming and rural community that is going to hit the electoral prospects of this Government in the near future. What do we need more : Smart Cities, Bullet Trains – or Rural Roads, Seeds, Canals, Schools, Connectivity, Market Access, Fair Remuneration and Price Realisation?

The villages of India have clear priorities : they are primarily agrarian economies, with farming and related activities as a base. The fact of the matter is that digitisation, urbanisation etc are not their primary concerns, Their primary concerns are bread and butter – same as everyone. And in that, they require bridging lab-to-farm knowledge, irrigation, better and faster access to markets, credit terms and avenues, seeds, better price realisation at farmgate… what is being done in these fields with the same level of Government attention, focus, speed and execution urgency? Nothing!

Take Smart Cities Concept as an example. There are two data points available : 5th Economic Survey, 2005 and NSSO 2011, Both tell the same story: Smart Cities are nothing but a fantasy. They are premature, they are the future, but very premature. The Idea is right, but a decade or two too early.

As per the first, there are 41.83 Million establishments in India; 76% of these worked without any power; employing 100.9 Million; 46% were own account establishments. As per NSSO 2011, 66% were OAE; retail trade slipped from 42% to 30% and ,manufacturing grew from 23% to 31%. Own Account Establishments were 60% of retail, 72% of Manufacturing, and 63% of service. Contribution to the GDP : between 46-58%. Statement of Simple Fact.

Now try and fit a smart city somewhere in all that.

What does the nation require? Research shows that nearly 93Million of our farmers are losing 800-odd per crop; data shows the level of poverty in our nation; consumption trends corroborate, with the top 10% growing at a rate of 3% as opposed to 1% consumption growth for the bottom 40%. Farmer suicides are going up; the economic fundamentals are shaky; the global economy is in unprecedented turmoil, and all we can think of is Smart Cities?

Our Armed Forces are in dire need of funds; and all we can think of is Smart Cities? Wow. Fantastic priorities.

We spend the lowest in GDP terms on Education, Defence and Health, and all we can think of are Smart Cities?

Besides, a Smart City requires – DATA CONNECTION. Being a Telecom guy, I now how ridiculous and ill-conceived that notion is; We in India have average & unreliable speeds of around 1,5mbps; the developed nations have a speed of upwards of 22mbps. They have high penetration of credit and debit cards and acceptability of online commerce; we dont. India has precisely 73Million broadband connections – this is including individuals with a double connection; I have three. Less than 69 Million Indians consume more than 512mbps of data on a monthly basis; and cashless transactions are unknown outside the protected environs of top places.

The logic is sound, I clearly stated that concept is needed – but a decade or two too early. This will work in a relatively corruption-free atmosphere, where the Land issues are under control. That we dont have. Next, this works in economic reality which enable the above, which again we dont have, as I have been at pains to point out.

The shift to the small cities will not happen in the industrial sector; the vast majority – upto 90% – of the actual producers are concentrated in only a select few agglomerations, namely Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, followed by Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune, Ahmedabad. Other second-level sites are Nashik,Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Ludhiana, Kanpur, Rajkot,Surat. No one else comes even close to these cities, although Jaipur, Chandigarh, Hissar, Nagpur and a couple others do try hard.

The shift will not happen from these established centers; there is in existence an ecosystem that now is impossible to replace,. with manufacturing facilities being deeply interlinked with their vendors and suppliers who have now set up in the same or nearby areas. In B2B industries, a symbiotic relationship has started with the consumers and the manufacturers sometimes co-located, or located within 8-10Kms of each other.

The proof is in the manifest failure of industrial areas in other wannabe metros, like Indore and Bhopal, which have simple failed to take off. They remain consumption and trading centers, not producers, despite an incredible level of support given to them by successive Governments. The failure of Bhilai to rise as a comparable center to even Nagpur, let alone Surat & Rajkot, is a case in point.

What nonsense are we talking about?

We dont need Smart Cities, We need Schools, Colleges, Primary Health Centers, Rockets, Mortars, Fighter Aircraft, Missiles, Satellites, Seed Research, Irrigation, Water Purity for Agriculture, Extension Workers to teach our Small and Marginal Farmers, Redoing our Duty and Taxation Structures, Fair prices for farmers at farm-gate, cement or pukka roads, etc etc. A smart city can come after that.

3) DEFENCE, EDUCATION AND HEALTH
Let us take just one – Education as an example  :—->
Is This Government On The Wrong Path? :


Now look at education. You first shout to all and then some – education is the focus, we need a school every so-and-so Kms… And then dont budget for it. And on top of it all, in a classic mark of crass stupidity, increase allocation to states – without ensuring a mechanism for extracting value of this excess fund flow to the states, quite a few of whom are known for fiscal profligacy of the worst kind. And then, you expect the states to implement what is in essence a centrally thought plan. While the plan to devolve to states is laudable, there is a dire need to pull up recalcitrant state governments. Interested people can go through this report : State Finances – RBI Report

What has been done to ensure buy-in by stakeholders at the state level? What has been done to improve efficiency of monetary utilization in the states, and ensure that the excess funds dont get spent in idiotic schemes, for which quite a few of our states are famous? If the states were so efficient, they would have already improved on-ground governance, which they havent. One look at state budgets is enough. What mechanism has been implemented – or is being planned to be implemented – to ensure that the states’ budgetary health improves, and that real value for money spent is obtained? This is what I expect a good PM to do, a good central government to do! 

4) FOREIGN POLICY
Too early to state anything here : results – positive or negative – require time to present themselves. I only state this : 

In FP, image means nothing; it is immaterial. FP is a matter of hardcore strategy, deliverance on words, hard power, and economic give and take. How a nation is perceived is of no relevance. Thus, a better global image makes us feels better as Indians, but counts for precisely nothing in Diplomacy, and that is an absolute.

If you sift away the hyperbole and focus on the hard facts, there are no achievements – precisely zero as on date in FP by this Government. FP changes take time to reveal themselves; let us wait and see.

Now, for example, if the Government had played hardball with USA, and negotiated well with EU, taking Brics along there was an even chance of splitting the combine straight down the middle; in FP, the $$$$$ reigns supreme. It matters little if you are an asshole or a murderer {Read history for real examples of both – Pakistan, or any number of other evil leaders who were hailed by The West} : if you can deliver $$$$, you are a good man, Read the 1971 war and its prelude, or Iraq or any number of other facts. This is beyond debate, I am afraid – and is not open to question.

So far, I have seen nothing except talk talk and more talk.

Talk is cheap. Even I can talk! Look above {EU example} for proof! Where;s the real action????? He has changed many a paradigm of our FP, and the effects in FP can only be observed over a long period of time. Personally, I am extremely uncomfortable with the FP as on date; at least insofaras USA, Israel and China are concerned.

There is no record of even one nation {non-European / Developing} that has benefited from a close association with the USA; quite the opposite. Add to that the recent revelations on arms aids, intelligence – the net result seems negative. Recall the previous time India and China tried to come close.

And ME-Israel? That is a sea-change : requires deep analysis for a thorough perspective. I am worried.

5) BUDGET

The budget document is also a strategy document, it reveals your real priorities. If you are not putting your money where your mouth is, it clearly raises the suspicion that you are insincere in your words, or you have no idea what you are doing – or you have compromised. And dont have the guts to say so openly. And that is precisely what this Government’s actions in totality are stating to me as a worried and concerned citizen. I am already on record accepting that this is the best Government we have had in a long time – and if this is the best we can do, we had better get seriously worried!

Full analysis here : The Union Budget 2015-2016 : Glaring Holes

This budget has been justifiably praised on any number of points; sadly, it has got no praise for the two biggest points in its favour : The focus on the unincorporated sector, and the change in the duty structures. But most critically, there has been little critical appraisal of its faults, which are numerous.


This is a budget for Corporate India, and the top 20% of society. As I noted in my previous article on this budget,  Defence, Education, Health and Rural India are the priority sectors for us.

If poverty is reduced, in addition to a growing economy, we also require an educated and healthy population, which means an effectively functioning primary and secondary school set up, increase in facilities and so on. We already have an excellent higher education set up. If on the one hand you are pitching yourself as pro-poor, and on the other, you are increasing focus on high education and cutting on schooling spends in terms of a percentage, this does beget the question : are the priorities correct?

What we are in effect saying is, Corporate India, Middle Classes can reap immediate benefit, while making no efforts to tackle the real problems beings faced by Rural India, like reducing middlemen, education, etc. This is a majority government, they can easily take hard decisions. And yet they are not doing so – as I had foretold much earlier. And that is what makes this budget completely unimpressive, and very UPA 3-ish.

My rating : 2 stars. As I expected….

Asia’s third-largest economy spends about 1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on public health, compared with 3 percent in China and 8.3 percent in the United States. Indian states manage their health budgets separately. From : India keeps tight rein on public health spending in 2015-16 budget

6) HIGH DECIBEL PROGRAMMES WITH POOR FOLLOW-THROUGH

Swatch Bharat Abhiyaan and the Toilet Scheme are just two example that  have now been on for one year almost, and already shoddy implementation, and fanfare and media attention. Enough said; that said, like FP above, early days. Let us not criticize unduly!

7) ARROGANT AND UGLY UTTERANCES AT ALL LEVELS
The most worrisome aspect. It is not acceptable for leaders of a nation to belittle the past leaders at every stage and platform with utterances that reek of sheer arrogance and bravado, like “Good Government after 10/60 years”; “Indians now feel proud”, and any number of other examples. These are statements we should be making – this is proof positive of a total lack of humility and sheer arrogance; it is also unacceptable – as it is beoynd debate that at least UPA-1 made many a good decision. Give credit where credit is due- which this Government doesnt. To top it all come the polarising and deeply offensive voices from people connected with the ruling party – I have heard more than a few. 


THIS IS NOT MY IDEA OF A GOOD GOVERNMENT… THE 7th POINT ALONE IS WHAT HAS DRIVEN ME COMPLETELY AWAY – note the capitalisation. I dont support a set of arrogant people, howsoever good may they be.  

Was the UPA better? I honestly dont have an answer. My recent studies have led me to a rather uncomfortable possibility that UPA-1 at least was a good Government, but to be honest, I need to study a lot more before I can make any such assertion!  

Modi Sarkar and The Farmer : The Achilles Heel

Published May 2, 2015 by vishalvkale

MODI SARKAR : THE ACHILLES HEEL

It has taken a long time to manifest itself, but at long last, we see a developing Achilles Heel in our famed Modi Sarkar; a sad development indeed, given that this is the best government we have had in the past several decades. The only good thing is that the Achilles Heel has manifested itself from a totally unexpected direction; not only that, it also holds serious potential of rekindling a genuine opposition on a national scale, which is a needed and vital component of a functioning democracy.

It has taken twin developments in two connected areas for the weakness to manifest itself : Farmers’ Suicides, and The Land Bill. Taken together, this has created a situation in which, if properly strategized, the opposition can rebuild itself, while simultaneously undermining the central government.

THE CONGRESS : AWAKENING
The sad part is that once again,  it is the Congress that has the opportunity to rise from the ashes. This is sad because it has yet again failed to democratize, and has placed its faith on Dynasty. I have nothing against Rahul Gandhi; he may be an excellent potential leader for all I know; then again, he might not. That is not relevant; what is relevant is the fact that The Congress does not have any leader it feels can connect with the people, despite having some good people on its roster.

Be that as it may, the  Congress has taken what seems to be the right step; change track from the all-too-familiar “communal politics” track to a far more sensible and development oriented focus : that of the farmer and their issues. This bodes well for our democracy, for our economy and for our society, as now there is a chance the real issues might get a much needed attention and focus.

The best way to tackle communalism is not to fan it; all the while building solid relationships within communities. A politically charged message has a polarizing impact, and if the community specific plank is being abandoned by all parties, this is a development worth celebrating. If all parties can abandon a community specific focus, the only way India can go is up and forward. Aag ko jitnaa tool doge, jitni hawaa doge, utni failegi.

And harping on the communal message, which was not making a connect with any definable voter base was always a suspect strategy. Besides, there has to be a provable base for such a strategy that can be directly traced back to your opposition; and this is clearly absent in the BJP.


THE BJP : SLEEPING!
The BJP, meanwhile, is basking in the glory of its rise to power, and ignoring these undercurrents, which might yet turn into a deluge. While it is doing excellent work in any number of areas, its approach and presentation to the people on these two issues is strange and more than a little disturbing, given the party’s admirable understanding of the pulse of India and the Indian people.

Please note my choice of words : in this article, I am taking no position on the Central Government’s Agricultural and Land Policies – that is the subject of another, research based and supported article/s that I shall take up a little later on the Agricultural challenges being faced by India. I am only analyzing the potential impact of the presentation in front of the people, and the angst among them.

It adheres to a top-down development ideology, counting on investment in infrastructure, amenities to drive rural upliftment and employment, while attempting to ensure good governance at all levels of Government. It has also taken a few good steps in the Agriculture sector {Analysed on my blog here : Union Budget Analysis}; these will require time to properly strategise and implement.

What is more pertinent that it has done little to meet head-on the anti-farmer label that is being leveled against it by some, beyond messages to the farming community by the PM. More and more parties and  groups are now coming into the open, calling its policies as pro-Urban India and anti-farmer. The most important aspect that the BJP seems to have forgotten is the population of India – the top 200 Urban Agglomerations account for only around 15.46% of population as per Census 2011

Thus, any message targeted at the rural community that is focused not on ideology, religion, regionalism but rather on their bread and butter is certain to get the attention of the people. That is a foregone conclusion; the needs of the stomach will take primacy; that is a primordial fear. The BJP is giving a message of development : how is this message being received by the population? Is it making a connect with the people?

THE HISTORY
For Urban India, it means investments, growth and jobs. What does it mean for Rural India? What have the prior experiences of Rural India been in this regard? It should mean the same for them : but is this the way it is being perceived in Rural India? Farmers stand to lose their lands; what will they get in return? Each piece of land further supports landless labourers, input vendors etc – we are talking of snatching an entire ecosystem.

What is the history, the prior experiences of the farming community in India? As This Article : Why Farmers Have Every Right to Feel Gypped explores in painful detail – there is a sad, almost terrifying history of governmental failure of monumental  proportions behind this rising tide of protests against the BJP Government with regard to the Agricultural Sector;  what is sad is that this Government has actually started a series of steps that drive some hope into the refurbishment of this sector in the budget, which makes this image of anti-farmer a real tragedy in itself.

And look at the third and recent case reported this month in The Times of India which makes you want to cry and laugh – both at the same time!
The gist of the case is: in 1998, the Railways acquired land from Mela Ram and Madan Lal to lay the Una-Amb track in Himachal Pradesh. As usual, the Railways adopted delaying tactics when it came to paying up. The farmers filed a case for enhanced compensation. After a fair amount of legal to-ing and fro-ing,  in 2013, the HP High Court directed the railways to pay the money within six weeks. “But the railways hasn’t deposited the amount until now”, the farmers’ advocate AK Saini said a few weeks ago. Typical.
So, on April 9, 2015, Mukesh Bansal, the additional district and sessions judge of Una ordered the attachment of the train if the railways failed to pay compensation to the two farmers!! The court said if Mela Ram and Madan Lal did not get Rs. 8.91 lakh and Rs. 26.53 lakh respectively, the train would be stopped at Una station at 5 am on April 16 and attached by it. The farmers were asked to select one out of four trains – and they selected The Delhi-Una Janshatabdi Express!


SUMMARY
My point is simple : the steps taken by the BJP Government have exposed a chink in their armoury, one that is now being exploited by the opposition. This is the Achilles Heel; their weakness. And there is nothing they can do about it; not over the short term. I have purposely taken an isolated case history above : the point is that there is a feeling of inadequacy and helplessness that is rooted in genuine truth and a terrifying history of crass incompetence on the part of successive central governments over the years.

And this atmosphere is giving rise to an opposition movement that is, for the first time in my memory {correct me if I am wrong}, focused on real issues that make a powerful connect with the target audience in Rural India as on solid whole. For the first time, we now have an issue-based discussion in Indian Politics, which is bringing this issue mainstream.

All it really requires to bring the BJP juggernaut to a grinding halt is a solid loss in a few upcoming state elections; were that to happen, coming on top of the shock in Delhi, things will get interesting, as the BJP will be forced to recalibrate and reassess its approach and its communication. Unless the BJP can get its house in order and connect with Rural India and its real issues in light of the historical experience and the on-ground realities and challenges in Rural India, they stand to lose ground…

New Delhi’s Astounding 67: Why The BJP Should Not Panic

Published February 11, 2015 by vishalvkale

The astounding 67… a major victory of the Aam Aadmi Party, and an almost seminal event in Indian Politics. Any election that returns 95% successful candidates is an astonishing event, deserving of accolades as well as hopes of genuine change. But let us not go overboard and read too much into this, for a deeper look at the ground realities and figures reveals a slightly different picture.

This cuts both ways and has major positives as well as negatives. The positives have been exceedingly well documented and commented upon, including the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party as a significant player in the consideration set of voters. Once can be a fluke, or euphoria; twice cannot. The AAP now has emerged as an acceptable alternative in front of the people.

It is being said that this is a setback for the BJP, and a comment on Narendra Modi and the current Government. That it is – but only up to a point. On this, I agree with the BJP Government, but the reasons are different. And that reason is not connected to this being a state election, or limited to one city-state alone.

Firstly, this election does not represent an rejection of the BJP government by the electorate : their vote share remains intact at 32.2% vis-à-vis the last state election in New Delhi. What this essentially means is that those voted for the BJP and Narendra Modi, elected to do so again, by and large. Thus, prima facie, there hasn’t yet been a major shift either way for the BJP, neither is there any discernible dissatisfaction with their performance among its supporters. To know more, we shall have to wait for more detailed figures and psephological analysis to emerge, as well as more data from other coming state elections this year. As of now, it is too early to comment.

The biggest, and indeed only, defeat of the BJP has been its inability to expand  its voteshare, and appeal to a broader cross-section of the society. It has apparently not been able to appeal to a larger cross-section, which should be the cause of deep introspection within its ranks. If they think they have nothing to worry about in other areas, they may just be right. A few days ago, Indore returned the BJP in a majority in the municipal elections. The BJP remains limited to its core set of followers, and this is both a strong point as well as an Achilles heel.

In a straight one-on-one contest between two parties, the BJP was decimated. Nowhere else in India can this be a reality, thus making the chances of BJP victories elsewhere as well as in 2019 almost certain, or at least making it the only strong contendor. The learning for the BJP is that the moment the fragmented vote consolidates; it will get decimated by the electorate.

It needs to take a deep look at its own failures and tone down the fundamentalist aspects of some of its people to grow beyond this share. It also needs to take a deep look at its economic policies, as well as how it markets and sells them to the people. There is a good chance that the recent episodes of fundamentalist proponents, and the attendant silence of the officialdom at the top, has ensured that its appeal has not grown despite a good performance in the central government till date. This is combined with the other economic issues, creating a lack of growth.

This is a worry because you are performing well {excellent, in fact}  in the government, and are yet unable to win the electorate. This also places at risk your existing vote share, in that they may get swayed by the negative coverage of some of the policies and aspects. If you are doing a great job, you should grow : this is a clear basic aspect of life itself. And this election shows that despite an excellent performance, it has not been able to grow.

In other states, the electorate gets divided, with other strong contenders who have their own set of followers, which ensures a division of the non-BJP vote bank; with the BJP maintaining its appeal, their victory becomes easy, as recent history has proven. Thus, there is no reason to hit the panic button – but there is reason to worry for the BJP.
In one way, this represents a clear rejection of at least some aspects of the BJP’s agenda; what precise aspects of the agenda have been rejected is not yet fully clear, and will require more data. But, as I observe above, they have completely failed to convert non-voters into their agenda, who remain unconvinced regarding the BJP. That is why, in the presence of a credible single alternative, with a pedigreed track-record of the past year when the AAP did ground-work, the BJP was decimated.


And that is also why this election has thrown many questions for us as a people, as well as clarified once and for all the full scenario. Furthermore, as we shall see in the next article in this mini-series, this election has also actually relegated the AAP to the level of a regional small outfit, with very little chance of growing into a national player as things currently stand. Thus, this election represents in a small way a major electoral triumph of the BJP. For the nation, this election is a cause to celebrate as well as worry, as I look at in the next part of this series, which will deal with the Aam Aadmi Party…