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People globally against parties identified with crony capitalism


The Bihar results are a milestone in Indian political history, of course, but they also link up with a worldwide phenomena: the crumbling of the world order erected after the fall of the Berlin wall. A brief look at history to follow the trend.

Collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 signalled the advent of the Sole Superpower which immediately embarked on a project of full spectrum global dominance beginning with Operation Desert Storm in February 1992.

The firepower of the world’s most muscular war machine was for the first time brought live into our drawing rooms by Peter Arnett of the CNN from the terrace of Baghdad’s Al Rasheed hotel.

The Iraqi army was pummelled. For one set of global TV audience, the outcome was undiluted triumphalism. But for the Muslim world, it came across as yet another defeat, further humiliation.

The world, divided into two distinct sets of audiences, was treated to more TV fare – the two intefadas, the daily brutalization of Bosnian Muslims and the four-year-long siege of Sarajevo which agitated Turks (because of their historical links with the Balkans) to such an extent that they brought Nekmatin Arbakan’s Islamist Refah party to power. Arbakan’s disciples Abdullah Gul and Tayyip Erdogan toned down their Islamism to cope with Turkey’s Kemalist constitution.

Turkey found the electoral response to Western provocation. Anger in most of the authoritarian Muslim world created a space for militant schools with a ready faculty left over from the Afghan jehad. The world galloped towards 9/11, after which the world was enlisted in the war against Islamic terror.

The global war on terror became the strategic preoccupation for nations all under US auspices.

Let it be added as an aside that even Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was alert to the main chance. When 56 ‘kar sewaks’ were burnt to death in the Sabarmati Express at Godhra on February 26, 2002, he promptly took the case away from Collector Jayanti Ravi and handed it to the Director General, Anti Terror Squad, Vijay Vipul. Without any preliminary inquiry, the Godhra train tragedy was to be treated as an act of terror. Modi was firmly on the anti-terror bandwagon.

The second mantra handed to the post Soviet World Order was “Development”. The Soviet collapse was not sold as the victory of democracy, freedom, human rights; it was sold as the triumph of the market.

Two party systems beholden to corporates, linked to mega multinational corporations became the trend. These powerful establishments, with the media in attendance, could suppress stories of unspeakable corruption and crony capitalism only up to a point. But not for long.

The dominant reality since 2008 has been the gradual decline of the US. Systems erected in anticipation of the American Century are crumbling. This objective reality has given heart to the people hemmed in by two party systems in cahoots with corrupt sources of finance. Electoral eruptions have taken place even though it would be premature to describe the current situation as revolutionary.

Greek Left Wing party Syriza came to power but powerful countries like Germany forced it to compromise its anti-austerity, anti-capitalism platforms.

Greece is only two percent of Europe’s GDP. Spain is 14 percent. Syriza, before Greece’s compromise, did infect the voters in Spain. Spain’s communist party, Podemos, made dramatic gains in the local body elections. But a degree of demoralization afflicts Podemos as it prepares for the national elections on December 20. This because the lesson learnt from Syriza’s compromises that excessive Leftism may be unrealistic in Spain’s current economic situation.

All right, Spain’s leftism may have to be toned down but it has already shamed political corruption and crony capitalism to such an extent that it can never be business as usual after the December elections.

The trend continues in Portugal where a socialist-communist combination is in contention for power. What a far cry from Tony Blair is the new labour boss, Jeremy Corbyn, as is Canada’s Justin Trudeau from Stephen Harper.

Joko Widodo in Indonesia and Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi are not exactly Left but they come from a similar reformist anti-corruption stable, quite as effective in corroding the neo liberal structures.

Modi came to power riding the world’s most expensive campaign. He harvested the prevailing disgust at the time against Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, tied to India Inc. and the World Bank.

When Modi’s personal image was on test in Delhi, he was decimated. Big business, police, Lt Governor, the BJP, Congress and the drum beating media simply waylaid Kejriwal from day one of his innings. The affront to the idea of Modi and market economics in the form of Kejriwal must not be allowed to stand. In one respect, an old Persian saying “gunah be lazzat” (sinning without pleasure) may well apply to Modi. He has not done for all his capitalist clients everything he may have wished to do. But the tag of crony capitalism hangs from his neck.

And now Bihar has administered a knockout punch. Of course a singular lack of culture in the Hindutva brigade’s anti-Love Jihad and anti-beef campaign recoiled on the BJP. Where will Modi recover ground now in the coming state elections: West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh?

The front page of Times of India (November 13) is emblematic of the mess Modi is in.

Asked about growing intolerance, Modi told the media in London, standing beside David Cameron: “No place for intolerance” in the land of Buddha and Gandhi.

Above this three column story is a bigger headline: “Cow brigade now out to stop leather shoe sales.”

Lower down the page is another story about death threats to playwright Girish Karnad by Hindutva groups against airing his admiration for Tipu Sultan. But all of this is against the backdrop of Modi’s perceived proximity to names like Adani which tend to distance politicians from the people.

And now that Nitish Kumar is about to replace Rahul Gandhi’s mug shots as a would be counter point to Modi, he would do well to remember a simple mantra: steer clear of something which is in bad odour globally – crony capitalism.

(Saeed Naqvi, IANS)


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Come April, government will be more comfortable in Rajya Sabha

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs

Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
  • In April, the opposition may lose its edge over BJP in Rajya Sabha
  • NDA led by Modi has faced many embarrassments in Rajya Sabha in past few years
  • This is expected to change soon

Come April, the opposition in the Rajya Sabha may lose its edge in the numbers game and the power to stall any government bill, as the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition is set to catch up with its rivals, though a clear majority will elude them for a while more.

BJP to soon get more comfortable in  Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia commons
BJP to soon get more comfortable in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

As 58 MPs, including three Nominated and one Independent, are set to retire in April, the Rajya Sabha math is going to change. It is set to favour the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the trend may continue in the elections to the Upper House later too with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having solid majorities in a number of state assemblies, especially the ones it won after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

With this, while the Congress-led opposition’s numbers will come down to around 115 from the present 123, the numbers of the BJP, its allies and sympathisers together would climb to around 109 from the present 100-odd members.

And the gap, once wide enough to let the opposition invariably have its say, will keep narrowing further in the coming months.

Of the 55 retiring members (excluding those Nominated), 30 belong to the opposition camp while 24 belong to the BJP and allies. Of them, a large number of NDA candidates are set to return while the opposition will lose a chunk of its members.

As things stand now, the Congress-led opposition has 123 MPs (including 54 of the Congress) in a house of 233 elected members (apart from 12 Nominated), while the NDA has 83 members (including 58 of BJP) plus four Independents who support the BJP (these include MPs Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Subhash Chandra, Sanjay Dattatraya Kakade and Amar Singh).

Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.
Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.

Also, for all practical purposes, the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), that has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha, is also with the NDA. This means the NDA’s effective strength in the upper house of Parliament is 100.

The gap was wider till just a few months ago. This meant that during any battle between the government and the opposition in the Upper House over bills and major issues, it was the opposition that invariably had its way. The recent example was the triple talaq legislation that the opposition stalled in the upper house, demanding that it be referred to a Select Committee.

For over less than four years, the Narendra Modi government had faced quite a few embarrassments in the Rajya Sabha thanks to the majority of the opposition, forcing it often to take the money bill route to avoid a clash in the house. Under the Constitution, a money bill needs to be passed only in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cannot stall it.

Also Read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

However, after April, the NDA will be in a far better position.

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs (including AIADMK). But at least 30 from the NDA are set to get re-elected. So the number will rise to 106. Add three members that the government would nominate to the upper house and the final NDA tally will roughly be 109 MPs.

Further, there are fence-sitters such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the YSR Congress, which are not virulently against the BJP and would not oppose the government unless for very compelling reasons.

Now, for the Congress and the rest of the opposition, they are set to lose 30 MPs (including one Independent, A.V. Swamy) through retirement and would be left with around 93 members. The Opposition may win roughly 22 seats, which means that its final tally after April is likely to be around 115 members.

Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.
Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.

The gap has clearly narrowed and the government may not be at the mercy of the opposition during crucial votes and can have its way in the Rajya Sabha if it musters its numbers by deftly wooing “floater” MPs.

The three newly-elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members may remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress, though the party is friendly with some of the major opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress.

Also Read: BJP MP Seeks Amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill

In an interesting development recently, the AAP actively participated in the opposition’s walkout and the day-long boycott of the Rajya Sabha over long intra-day adjournments of the Upper House by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.

The AAP, which was not welcome at any opposition meetings earlier, particularly those held in Parliament House, was invited to speak at a joint opposition media interaction on the day. But nobody can be sure as to how long this bonding would last.

Partywise tally of those retiring in April-May from the opposition’s side include 13 from the Congress, six from the Samajwadi Party, three of the Trinamool Congress, two each of the Nationalist Congress Party and Biju Janata Dal and one each of the CPI-M, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons
NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

From the ruling side, 17 MPs of the BJP, three of the Janata Dal United, one of the Shiv Sena and two of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are retiring.

In terms of state-wise vacancies to be created in April, the highest number is from Uttar Prdaesh (9), followed by Maharashtra (6), Madhya Pradesh (5), Bihar (5), Gujarat (4), Karnataka (4), West Bengal (4), Rajasthan (3), Odisha (3), Andhra Pradesh (3), Telangana (2), Uttarakhand (1), Himachal Pradesh (1) and Chhattisgarh (1). IANS