Friday 28 December 2012

Indian Army at Siachen –The world’s highest battlefield

Recently an avalanche killed 6 jawans in Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield. Situated on the northern edge of Kashmir’s mighty Himalayas with an altitude as high as 22,000 feet, the glacier has become a desert of snow after the continuous snowfall for a week. Army spokesman in Srinagar, Col JS Brar said that a group belonging to 1-Assam Regiment were buried under an avalanche in Turtuk area of the glacier. Indian and Pakistan armies, fighting for the snow waste lands since 1984, have lost more soldiers to adverse weather than fighting each other. On April 7, around 130 Pakistani soldiers were killed besides 14 civilians when a giant wall of snow crashed down on the battalion headquarters of army’s 6 Northern Light Infantry. The effect of the tragedy was such that Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani questioned the rationale of the two countries keeping soldiers on the glacier. On our side, of every four soldiers lost by the army in the mountains of the valley for the past five years, one has died due to weather. Around 242 soldiers were killed in the valley since 2007, out of which 180 lost their lives fighting militants. The rest were killed by natural calamities, mostly snow avalanches.

One of the factors behind the Kargil War in 1999 when Pakistan sent infiltrators to occupy vacated Indian posts across the Line of Control was their belief that India would be forced to withdraw from Siachen in exchange of a Pakistani withdrawal from Kargil. Both sides had previously desired to disengage from the costly military outposts but after the Kargil War, India decided to maintain its military outposts on the glacier, wary of further Pakistani incursions into Kashmir if they vacate from the Siachen Glacier posts without an official recognition from Pakistan of the current positions.

The Siachen Conflict, also referred to as the Siachen War, is a military conflict between India and Pakistan over the disputed Siachen Glacier region in Kashmir. A cease-fire went into effect in 2003. The conflict began in 1984 with India's successful Operation Meghdoot during which it wrested control of the Siachen Glacier (unoccupied and not demarcated area). India has established control over all of the 70 kilometres (43 miles) long Siachen Glacier and all of its tributary glaciers, as well as the three main passes of the Saltoro Ridge immediately west of the glacier—Sia La, Bilafond La, and Gyong La. Pakistan controls the glacial valleys immediately west of the Saltoro Ridge. According to Time magazine, India gained more than 1,000 square miles (3,000 km2) of territory because of its military operations in Siachen.
The Siachen glacier is the highest battlefield on earth, where India and Pakistan have fought intermittently since April 13, 1984. Both countries maintain permanent military presence in the region at a height of over 6,000 metres (20,000 ft). More than 2000 people have died in this inhospitable terrain, mostly due to weather extremes and the natural hazards of mountain warfare. The conflict in Siachen stems from the incompletely demarcated territory on the map beyond the map coordinate known as NJ9842. The 1972 Simla Agreement did not clearly mention who controlled the glacier, merely stating that from the NJ9842 location the boundary would proceed ‘hence north to the glaciers.’ UN officials presumed there would be no dispute between India and Pakistan over such a cold and barren region.

Former Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf  states in his memoirs that Pakistan lost almost 900 square miles (2,300 km2) of territory that it claimed. Time states that the Indian advance captured nearly 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2) of territory claimed by Pakistan. Further attempts to reclaim positions were launched by Pakistan in 1990, 1995, 1996 and even in early 1999, just prior to the Lahore Summit. The 1995 attack by Pakistan SSG was significant as it resulted in 40 casualties for Pakistan troops without any changes in the positions. An Indian IAF MI-17 helicopter was shot down in 1996. The Indian army controls all of the 70 kms (43 miles) long Siachen Glacier and all of its tributary glaciers, as well as the three main passes of the Saltoro Ridge immediately west of the glacier— Sia La, Bilafond La and Gyong La —thus holding onto the tactical advantage of high ground. The Pakistanis control the glacial valley just five kilometers southwest of Gyong La. The Pakistanis have been unable get up to the crest of the Saltoro Ridge, while the Indians cannot come down and abandon their strategic high posts.The line between where Indian and Pakistani troops are presently holding onto their respective posts is being increasingly referred to as the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL).

A cease-fire came into effect in 2003. Even before that, every year more soldiers were killed because of severe weather than enemy firing. The two sides, by 2003 had lost an estimated 2,000 personnel primarily due to frostbite, avalanches and other complications. Both India and Pakistan have around 150 manned outposts along the glacier, with some 3,000 troops each. Official figures for maintaining these outposts are put at $300 and $200 million for India and Pakistan respectively. India built the world's highest helipad on the glacier at Point Sonam, 21,000 feet (6,400 m) above sea level, to airlift supply to the troops. The problems of reinforcing or evacuating the high-altitude ridgeline have led to India's development of the Dhruv Mk III helicopter, powered by the Shakti engine, which was flight-tested to lift and land personnel and stores from the Sonam post, the highest permanently manned post in the world. India also installed the world's highest telephone booth on the glacier. Till some long term understanding is arrived between India and Pakistan, both the countries will have to guard the posts in the most inhospitable terrain and challenging conditions. This cold and barren land is the world’s highest and most sensitive battlefield.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Bharata, My Brother

'A remarkable exposition of the relationship between Rama & Bharata. Provides a glimpse of Ramayana in a simple form with a focus on Bharata's episode in the great epic.'  
Bharata, My Brother
- Bharata's episode in Ramayana in verse form.
 Including Ramayana: story in brief & Bharata's profile.

Written by: Anil Kumar Naik
- Foreword by Shri Asaranna Swami, Durga Parmeshwari temple,
Kateel, Karnataka.

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Friday 21 December 2012

Election Politics – Congress & BJP

With Narendra Modi’s emphatic win in Gujarat and Virbhadra Singh’s win in Himachal Pradesh, the score is 1-1 to Congress and BJP. Is this the precursor to the coming elections. However though Modi won for the third time; Gujarat in 2002, BJP won 127 seats to Congress’ 51. In 2007, BJP won 117 to Congress’ 59 and in 2012, BJP won 115 to Congress’ 61 seats. Though BJP’s tally declined, Congress’ tally increased over the three elections. This is some consolation for the Congress. But for BJP, one has to take into account the Keshubhai Patel factor which did not impact much this election though it did eat away both BJP and Congress votes.

BJP’s supporters feel Narendra Modi’s hatrick in Gujarat qualifies him to be the BJP’s candidate for PM in the centre. There are six such CM’s serving at present, including Tarun Gogoi (Assam), Naveen Patnaik (Odisha), Okram Ibobi Singh (Manipur), Manik Sarkar (Tripura) and Sheila Dikshit (Delhi) hailing from different parties. What makes Narendra Modi special for BJP? Will he be accepted by the rank and file of the BJP in the centre and the states?

Can Gujarat be replicated in the other states. The answer is no. In Gujarat, he appeals to the urban class, who are fairly well-to-do. Congress has a support base in the rural areas of Gujarat. He is said to be autocratic in his policies and actions, and where personality politics hold sway and is very visible in the state. Here it is Narendra Modi all the way and no one else, not even the BJP central leaders. Many feel with this win, he will demand a major role in the national scene. But will he succeed? The answer is a cautious yes and no. He will be able to galvanise the fragmented BJP, appeal to the BJP voters in the urban areas. But with his style of functioning, he will rub many leaders the wrong way. So in the long run, he is bound to have friction with his BJP colleagues in the centre and leadership in states.

Virbhadra Singh’s win in Himachal Pradesh has a lesson for the Congress. If the reins are given to an experienced and influential state leader with a free hand to pick candidates and work out the election strategy, it works to the benefit of the party as the results show in Himachal. The Congress tradition has been to over-ride the state leadership and abide by the high command or the centre diktat. The same Virbhadra Singh was humiliated; he was shifted to the centre and shunted to various ministries. Ultimately a brain wave and a masterstroke of giving him responsibility to manage the election saved the Congress. Can this model be replicated in other states, the answer is yes and no. It depends on the size and demography of the state. But one thing is clear personality politics like Modi in Gujarat and Virbhadra Singh in Himachal Pradesh have proved that strong state leaders carry the party members along as they understand local conditions and state politics better than leaders at the centre who mainly depend on feedback of observers. But there is a tendency to brush away dissidents which could prove crucial at times in close fights.

There is no doubt with this win Narendra Modi is looking at Delhi and national politics. And if he is projected as the PM candidate, will all the allies accept him as the leader? Will the BJP win the 2014 general election? And if BJP does win and Narendra Modi is the leader of NDA and becomes the PM; will he be a good PM? The answer is no. Narendra Modi ruled Gujarat in an autocratic manner, brushing aside dissidents. As PM he will have to deal with the whims and fancies of the BJP allies with their own agendas, which he will find difficult to manage as he is used to imposing his ideas and policies on others. This might not work in coalition politics. And BJP too is not so sure. BJP leaders, including Venkaiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley said the party has not finalized a PM candidate for 2014 polls and the party has many capable candidates.

The immediate problem for BJP is Nitin Gadkari’s term ends this December. Will he get a second tem? If not, who will be the replacement as BJP party President. Will the Delhi Durbar and RSS rift escalate or declare truce. Will the section led by LK Advani who is presently is aloof, throw in his hat directly or through a proxy?

For Congress, the spate of reforms has rejuvenated the party at the centre. They will have to consolidate their position as the largest national party. And hope this rejuvenation percolates down to the state leadership which can translate into votes for Congress candidates. What does Gujarat win mean for BJP and Himachal Pradesh win mean for Congress, the two major national parties in the country? How they move on from here and consolidate their success, only time will tell.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Indian Cricket – Post mortem

With two 4-0 drubbings overseas and now a 2-1 defeat at home, Indian cricket administrators, selectors, coaches and players have a lot to ponder. The Indians looked jaded on the field after too much cricket through the year. And they played against a team, which was far better prepared than them in all departments of the game.

Indians were over-confident predicting a clean sweep of the weak English team. The Indian skipper Dhoni is experienced in leading in all forms of the game, while Cook is new to the job. Apart from Test match-fitness, which clearly reflects on fielding and reflexes on the field, the weak Indian attack and dearth of quality fast bowlers at Test level added to India’s problems. After the retirement of Anil Kumble and out-of-form Harbhajan Singh, Ashwin and Ohja were not experienced to extract much from the pitch and conditions to trouble the English batsmen who are normally vulnerable to spin bowling.

India will not be consistent at home or win Test matches, especially abroad without good penetrative fast bowlers, bowling at 140 plus speed to trouble the opposition batsmen, in case the spinners fail to make a break-through. When you go into a Test with just one fast bowler that shows there is something seriously wrong with fast bowling in India. Bowlers, especially fast bowlers hunt in pairs. New raw fast bowlers should be encouraged. By taking one fast bowler the message you are sending in is two-fold – one, you lack quality fast bowlers and two, you discourage young fast bowlers who then feel there is no point of hard work as you are not going to be picked anyway. Fast bowling is a serious business; whenever the spinners fail, the fast bowlers are expected to do the damage. Every Test team around the world have a couple of good fast bowlers to fall back upon. Near home you have Sri Lanka and Pakistan with couple of good pace bowlers who are capable of restricting or damaging. Till Indian selectors understand this simple factor, India will not be consistent and find it difficult to win series abroad.

And Indian selectors have a tendency to pick players on reputation, not form or fitness. The senior players should be in form and fit enough to last for five days of Test cricket. Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan are glaring examples. They too need a break. The opening slot too is cause for concern. Rahane or Mohan can be tried out in place of Shewag or Gambir if have failed to provide a good start which is very vital for the batting side. Virat Kohli and Pujara are adequate replacements for Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, but they have a long way to go to step in to their shoes. The middle order is shaky and does not hold on in case the openers and one down batsmen fail. India needs good dogged batsmen to stay out there and build-up a good innings. Without the seniors, India looks a team in transition and vulnerable.

India’s biggest strength has been their spin department in sub-continent conditions, and this has let them down badly with no good replacements after Anil Kumble and out-of-form Harbhajan Singh. Through the series, India looked ordinary in batting, bowling and fielding except for a few glimpses of good cricket. Administrators and selectors need to have a good look and form a good pool of players, with a couple of batsmen each in different batting positions, spin and pace bowlers, etc who can replace if one fails or is out-of-form. India cannot rest only on its traditional strength of spin but will have to soon nurture fast bowlers if they have to consistently make an impression on world cricket. This is no rocket science. BCCI should know it by now.

Monday 17 December 2012

Arab Udupi Group

This is the story of an extraordinary accomplishment of an exceptional Indian against odds in UAE. He will certainly be remembered for the Udupi restaurant legacy he created. Felicitated with various prestigious awards, he has been one of the most respected entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry for over 32 years. Is fondly referred to as’ Shekhar anna’ for all his accomplishments by many of his friends..... 

I must admit that I knew very little about the man, Shekhar Babu Shetty except what I had heard and read about him from time to time.

But after meeting him in Abu Dhabi almost daily for couple of months in his office was enriching experience. Our chats and one-to-one interactions provided an insight of the man, the person as husband, a father and as an entrepreneur. And meeting his wife Kushala at his tastefully done-up home assured me of the woman behind his success.

Accompanying him with his trusted aides to the many restaurants and the kitchens spread across UAE -  Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Shrajah, Ajman, Mussafa, etc was an experience in man and time management, planning and execution of work.

The long chats also provided a huge volume of information including those Shekhar Babu Shetty had long forgotten and had being left behind years ago as faded memories.

The entire exercise was eye-opener not only for me as his biographer but for himself too, recollected he had tread this long journey imbibing varied experience, the people he met and the impact it had in this long journey thus far.

He says, ‘As long as there are human beings, restaurant business will go on. Food is an integral part of a human. And cooking is truly spiritual and devotional experience. A part of us gets devolved in the food we prepare and serve.’

After going through voluminous information and data, writing, rewriting, editing the manuscript, I look at Shekhar Babu Shetty in a different light. And I am sure after all the probing chats, talks and prodding for old memories, Shekhar Babu Shetty, I am sure will look at himself in awe of what he has achieved over the years and the galore appreciation it has brought him and the crown ‘Udupi King in UAE.’

Although he had kind words to say about the contemporary ultra-modern restaurants, he had his share of reservation too. ‘Most of the emigrants who come here to earn their livelihood, find it beyond their reach. It compels one to wonder what they would have done, without the wholesome and affordable food Arab Udupi restaurants provide.

This is the story of an extraordinary accomplishment of an exceptional Indian against odds in UAE. He will certainly be remembered for the Udupi restaurant legacy he created. Felicitated with various prestigious awards, he has been one of the most respected entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry for over 32 years. Is fondly referred to as’ Shekhar anna’ for all his accomplishments by many of his friends.

As Arab Udupi Group’s Managing Director, Shekhar Babu Shetty has his feet firmly on the ground and believes in getting the job done. He strengthens his belief that good leadership means getting away from the desk and building personal relationships face to face with all – staff, suppliers and customers.

‘Leadership is about creating a better future. While doing so, a leader will encounter many hurdles and face a lot of resistance. The one thing that will help leaders to move swiftly in the face of challenge is energy and new ideas’.

‘Leadership is a lot like parenting. If the role is chosen after careful deliberation, it will become one of the most wonderful experiences in the world’, he stated.

‘Bosses command and expect people to comply with their instructions. On the other hand leaders expect people to follow their examples and not their instructions. Many a times a leader faces conflicting viewpoints. Instead of running away from the problem a leader should confront it. A leader should create a solution where both the parties can eventually win’.

‘A leader needs to differentiate between the problems that require his attention and ones that do not. And this he should leave it to his associates or employees’.

‘Leadership is a choice that an individual make, it is never thrust upon anyone. Ask yourself the question. ‘Do I really want to be a leader?’ ‘After all, it is lonely, unglamorous, unpopular and often thankless job. There is no guarantee of reward’, he added.

 ‘That kind of loyalty can come when the management shows a real interest in their well being and forms genuine human relationships,’ he said.

‘I realized the importance of the people early in my life and the job I have been in the past 30 years continues to reiterate that. You can’t really understand what your customer wants if you don’t spend time with them one-on-one. In our culture such face-to-face interaction is central to doing restaurant business. The rule, whether you are in India or in Middle East, requires you to spend time one-on-one with people’.

‘Personal interaction was very important for me even as a child. I needed to interact with people all the time. What I learned during the course of childhood and growing up years influences the way I deal and work with people, no matter what their style, need to interact more with others in order to be more effective. I am lucky that I happen to be enjoying it.’

‘In my years in India and Gulf, experienced good, bad and fair things; through all this mixed experience that I loved the most was the people, who serve you well. I might sound like a politician, but these interludes help me appreciate Gulf, its culture, history and I developed some strong friendships with different people of different nationality, religion, etc. And these are the people who helped me in the need of my hour’.

‘This interactions and friendship also gave me experience in leadership. My years convince me that you could work for a large company in a relatively smaller capacity and still bring about a change’.

‘My job in Gulf, I literally grew-up to revive the organizational structure and make some significant changes despite being a lowly employee. I gained a lot of self-confidence in the process. Of course there were some negatives like you are a second class citizen in their land. But there were also things to be learnt at every step of the way which helped me later’.

‘The people I worked with all played a big role in my life. When I went to work for IAL, the philosophy of the company was a huge force that shaped me. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting people in their country amidst their surroundings.

‘The biggest buzz I get is seeing Arab Udupi Group staff grow and develop personally and professionally. This uplifts not only them but their family’s lives too. This gives me a lot of happiness. We have nearly five hundred people on our payroll employed all over U A E. In my over 30 years of heading the group, I have watched many of them progress from junior associates to supervisory associates. I love the restaurant business, every day there is a something new. There is nothing routine about my job’.

‘When I was growing up in Kalathur, my parents were my biggest influence. My father was an agriculturist so he used to interact with other people and I learnt lot from observing him. I was interested in business even at that age. So each step of my career just kept moving me closer and closer to what I would do in the future’.

‘My modest family upbringing has left an impression on my life. Even today, to relax I don’t to go to any hotel or resort. I just need to go home to be with my wife Kushala. My life-partner and soul-mate Kushala enjoy going to functions and attend community programmes in Dubai and U A E’.

‘I have never experienced the life-changing experience of being a father through marriage. But I enjoy being with my daughters Chandini and Roshni who bring joy, happiness and hope to me and my wife. Some day I would rather relax and watch my daughters take over and manage the group’.

‘In Mangalore as a youngster wanted to join the armed forces. But then reality kicked in. Your dreams have to be re-dreamt sometimes. I wanted to go out of my village’s protective environment to Bombay, a big dream those days and circumstances and destiny took me later to Gulf and acquire an international outlook. I wanted to change my attitude and was excited. So my dreams changed’.

‘I have always enjoyed the interaction, the complexity and the need to understand the history of other countries and their cultures. So I dreamt about getting involved in the international arena and it came through’.

‘Where my job is concerned my dream is to establish the Arab Udupi brand all over U A E and other Gulf countries and possibly India, may be Udupi, as I brought Udupi to Arabia, and why not Arabia to Udupi to complete the nomenclature Arab Udupi in the true sense.

‘I also dream of peace and success. I have seen a lot of restlessness, so I know the value of peace and progress’.


Strange New Year Traditions:
*In India and other places a giant old man made of hay, etc and dressed in old shirt and pant is burnt at the stroke of midnight, signifying the end of the old year and the beginning of the New Year.
*In Bolivia, Venezuela, men wear new underpants on New Year’s eve – red underpants for love and yellow for money.
*Spaniards eat 12 grapes at midnight; each grape symbolizing one month of year.
*The Filipinos wear polka dots and arrange round fruits on the dinner table. Polka and all things round signify coins, hence prosperity.
*In Scotland, the townsmen walk around with giant fireballs hoisted on long poles (resembling the sun) to purify the coming year.
* The Danes break glass dishes on the doors of neighbours and friends.
*Estonians eat seven times on the first day of the year to ensure abundant food throughout the year.
*Unmarried Irish girls place mistletoe leaves under the pillow to catch a good husband.

Picture Post
Vetobha Temple, Arravali, Maharastra, India


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Wednesday 12 December 2012

I am God

Alone, and
a moment of silence.
An overpowering
stillness set in.
My body and mind
seemed to recede
into eternity.

I was transported
beyond time and space
to another world,
a vast unchartered
inner universe
which I had
never encountered
an all-encompassing
living entity,
for a moment
I felt like god.

(From the collection of poems by A K Naik)

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Eternal Quest

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‘The story of a young man from Kerala with a humble beginning and his travel to then Bombay as a gawky teenager to work and study to be somebody; after graduating, with great difficulty obtained a law degree while doing small jobs. His struggle in life during the British Raj and later after Indian independence, doing many odd jobs and then working in a government department with all its ills and internal squabbles; rising to be the Director of Enforcement, is an achievement. The story is inspiring.’

*Eternal Quest
A Memoir by Madhav Reghuram Pillai
(Ex-Director of Enforcement, Govt of India)
- Edited by A K Naik 

Publisher: M R Pillai
Pages: 473
Price: Rs 400 + P&F Rs 100 

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Monday 10 December 2012

Purti leak & Aloo dum

Who would have thought Arvind Kejriwal’s hit and run allegation on Purti, would lead to Nitin Gadkari’s downfall and BJP’s trouble? Or for that matter the humble aloo would figure in parliament over the hot debate on FDI retail?

BJP’s opposition leader Sushma Swaraj alleged fast food-chains don’t buy small potatoes from the farmers to make fries. When they were in power reforms were not a dirty word. Now in opposition, FDI is a hot potato? All new policies by the government are flawed?

‘I am honest, won’t resign. Will not accept media trial,’ says Gadkari. Describing himself as a honest man, a defiant Nitin Gadkari ruled out resigning from BJP chief’s post despite knowing that his term ends in December. BJP leaders Ram Jethmalani and Yeshwant Sinha have publicly demanded his resignation saying his continuance in office will compromise the party’s campaign against the government corruption. For the first time the rift between RSS and Delhi Durbar led by Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and others is out in the open. Will RSS keep a distance or will it intervene or impose its choice on BJP?

BJP’s constant plan to embarrass the government has often backfired. In fact it has rejuvenated the Congress, bought the allies closer with a new found confidence, whereas it has raised doubts in the minds of the opposition allies about BJP’s status. The self-goals by BJP leaders are putting them on back foot proving they are no match to the guile of Congress policy makers and floor managers in the house. BJP has a lot to learn. They are still seen as communal. And BJP leaders seem to be content standing behind the success of Narendra Modi in Gujarat and hope his success will help them in Delhi.

Questions are also being raised about Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley’s leadership capability and policies. The old guard led by LK Advani is watching and uneasy, will surely make their presence felt sooner than later. The next test for BJP is coming this year end – will Nitin Gadkari get a next term or will he be dumped for someone else and who will be that someone else. Will he be able to carry all in the BJP?  

Saturday 8 December 2012

Govt wins FDI in Parliament – challenges ahead

The government had already won a vote on retail reform in the Lok Sabha two days earlier. The policy will allow global retailers to set up shop in the country's $450 billion retail sector, and is aimed at drawing more overseas investment and taming inflation. Under threat of losing India's investment grade credit rating, and facing the prospect of fighting a general election during the worst growth slump in a decade, UPA launched the policy amid a flurry of long-delayed reforms in September. Money has flowed into India's capital markets since, and Goldman Sachs last week upgraded India's outlook, but formidable hurdles remain to get the economy back on track. India's economy is set to grow at its slowest pace in a decade in this fiscal year, and the government's overspend on subsidies on fuel and food has prompted global ratings agencies to warn of a downgrade.

While the Rajya Sabha vote was symbolic, the government's victory is a boost for its push to implement a controversial economic reform agenda that is seen as crucial to reviving growth and reducing a bloated fiscal deficit. In the house, the opposition-backed motion got 102 votes and the government 123 votes. Four members, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar was away playing a match against England in Kolkata, VN Singh, Pyari Mohan Mahapatra and Murli Deora were unwell could not vote. Although both votes were non-binding, defeat would have put pressure on Manmohan Singh to roll back the measure. Getting support once again from the unlikely combination of Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party, the government won the day in the Rajya Sabha by 21 votes. Minutes before the voting process began, the SP walked out of the house with its nine MPs, bailing out the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), as it had on Wednesday when the Lok Sabha voted on the issue.
On Thursday, day one of the debate on the issue in the Rajya Sabha, Mayawati on provocation from the leader of the opposition, Sushma Swaraj, had said in the house that 15 MPs from her party would be voting with the government. This was a major set back for the BJP led opposition. Both the BSP and SP support the government from outside. The government on Friday termed its winning of the FDI vote in the Rajya Sabha as a "rejection of the politics of the BJP".

Asked how the Congress managed to work the numbers in its favour in the upper house where it is in a minority, Kamal Nath said: "The content (of the issue) was political, parties decided in our favour."
"I appealed to parties to recognise the BJP's political agenda and vote accordingly, and they did that," he added.

The UPA government got the much-needed impetus as it won the vote in Rajya Sabha on FDI in retail making it easier for the prime Minister to push ahead with more reforms, including the insurance sector. Moreover, the main opposition BJP, having seen its motion to block retail reform defeated; is likely to obstruct moves to allow FDI in the insurance sector. The BJP wants a 26 percent cap set on investment, against the government's proposed 49 percent. Policy gets parliamentary seal of approval but implementation still some way off. Government now has Parliament’s endorsement on FDI, but it needs to get FEMA rules amended in RS. LS has rejected opposition’s objections to these rules. Govt plans to pass amendments to the banking laws on Monday. The Forward Contracts Regulation Act Bill is next in the line.

Thursday 6 December 2012

UPA sails through in LS

With Mulayam Singh and Mayawati walking out, the UPA government won in the Lok Sabha voting on FDI. 253 MPs voted for the government policy and 218 voted against. Again it was a game of numbers, which had the opposition stumped and tearing its hair out after it lost yet again in the trial of strength.

BJP and opposition members shouted hoarse it’s CBI versus FDI, as SP and BSP bailed out the government. But BJP should realize Congress is well acquainted with man management, or say party management. Due credit should be given to the Congress floor managers. They seem to be doing their homework in arithmetic judiciously. BJP and the opposition are left wondering that when 261 MPs opposed FDI, but only 218 voted against it. Congress is a past master in the number game and has always succeeded in the numerous trial of strength in the house since nuclear deal vote.

Now instead of trying to find ways to embarrass the government, BJP should take this opportunity to set their own house in order as the Nitin Gadkari’s corruption charge is going to work against the party where many senior leaders of the party are saying it will have an impact on the elections. The BJP leadership is happy to ignore the issue and hide behind the success they expect from Narendra Modi in Gujarat. The question is will Nitin Gadkari get a second term and if not, who will replace him?

The left and other small parties are clueless after the vote. Trinamool Congress and Mamta Banerjee is in denial mode and making pronouncements the UPA government will fall, but on the contrary the moves by BJP and the others in opposition have helped Congress to consolidate and consistently defy numerical odds to beat the opposition. The UPA has won this round. UPA must use its Lok Sabha victory to push through reforms and end policy paralysis. The UPA has done well to signal its resolve on reform. Will BJP and the left be the stumbling block for the government?

Wednesday 5 December 2012

FDI tussle

After the logjam in parliament and yesterday’s debate on FDI, showed it had nothing to do with FDI but it is a tool for show of strength between the UPA and the opposition led by BJP. The UPA is on a fast forward mode on reforms delayed by appeasing the various constituents of UPA, while the BJP is very keen to embarrass the government and Congress leadership. In this tussle, the real issue of FDI takes a back seat with frivolous arguments made by both sides.

A couple of months ago, government changed gear; the UPA government cleared Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail. Since then the BJP, Left and Trinamool Congress have expressed serious reservations over this policy. The general opposition view is that it will affect lakhs of small and local Kirana shops. While the debate is intensifying, the supporters of FDI are emphasizing the fears are unfounded and are effectively saying do away with India’s antiquated and unorganized retail trading system that lacks quality-control and that generally benefits the middle-men who control the trade and the pricing of foodgrains, vegetables, fruits and other items. It is this traders and middle-men of this traditional bazaars and mandi system that fears FDI.

FDI in retail, with foreign players will usher in a new system of retailing. This new system will also throw up new players. FDI will also help boost India’s industrialization with modern technology. This will in turn help India to progress at a faster pace. As Sushma Swaraj narrated in the debate, middle-men and traders lend money to farmers to help them. Actually traders also double as money lenders. This parallel banking system that traditional traders and middle-men practice hurts the economy and keeps the poor borrower under the influence and control of the lender who regulate the market.

Speaking of the positive side, the case in point is opening of the automobile industry has helped it flourish, generate employment with people flaunting latest vehicles in cities, urban and semi-urban areas negating all fears that it would gravely harm local Indian industry. On the contrary it has provided an impetus to compete and improve, introducing latest technology and helped launch new models of international standards by Indian manufacturers.

Similarly FDI retail will provide job opportunity in various fields ranging from food experts, refrigeration, management, accounts, etc. New players too will come in. And India will not become modern developed nation with a traditional system of retail which served the country well in the years after independence. To be a developed country, India needs to adopt new and modern methods which FDI will offer.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

BJP’s crisis in Karnataka

The most worrying thing at the moment for BJP is not whether Narendr Modi should be Prime Minister or not but that it is in a deep crisis in Karnataka which it chooses to ignore; it’s stronghold in south and perceived to be the gateway to southern India. The powerful Lingayat leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa has broken away from the party after over 40 years and launched his own political party – Karnataka Janata Party. He has been cribbing ever since he has lost his Chief Ministership and BJP has not handled the temperamental leader very well indicating a clear divide between the Delhi Durbar and realties of southern India.  In fact, it has not handled the state very well which explains why there have been three Chief Ministers in four years. According to BS Yeddyruappa, he has the support of 40 MLAs out of the 119 BJP legislators in the State Assembly. The BJP has a slender majority of 6 in the 225-strong Assembly. This puts the very fate of the Jagdish Shettar government in jeopardy.

Opposition leader in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj feels Narendra Modi is good for PM and the leader of the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley says that the party is set to capitalize on him for elections in 2014. But for this they have to win adequate seats in the general elections. They are trying to deflect the real problems within BJP. Endorse Narendra Modi by all means but the BJP must first deal with its internal problems. Modi appears to be the only saving grace for the party?

Nitin Gadkari is in no position no impose discipline in the party or crack a whip which the party boasted of, given that he himself is in big trouble. The BJP is speaking in different voices and seems to be pulling in different directions. Narendra Modi is the only positive thing happening to BJP and all seem to hide the real internal rift by rallying behind him. And the irony is that Modi needs no endorsement from anyone, he is an unchallenged BJP leader in Gujarat though he has his own problems in the state. As I had said earlier, BJP’s self-goals have allowed Congress to consolidate their position and grow in confidence to face the next general election in 2014. 

Monday 3 December 2012

BJP’s Power Struggle

Is BJP on the decline? Do you think the BJP has the capability to recover from its current crisis? Who would be the best bet to lead the BJP back to power? These are questions being raised by many ardent BJP supporters. Whispers of discontent are now getting louder by the day.

Tremors within the BJP, including the  controversy surrounding Nitin Gadkari and his Purti Group, the suspension of Ram Jethmalini and the battle for the top slot. BS Yeddyurappa quitting BJP and vowing never to return for being betrayed by the party is a big blow to BJP where chances of retuning to power in Karnataka are very slim. Now Sushma Swaraj once herself a claimant, endorsing Narendra Modi for PM and Rajnath Singh making statement of second term for Nitin Gadkari, all seem to point something is very wrong in the party, a power struggle or almost on the verge of collapse.

Many already feel the principal opposition party is on the decline. To add to the confusion, the tussle between the RSS and Delhi Durbar, led by Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and others are regularly in the news. Will Nitin Gadkari get the second term is a million dollar question? Day-by-day his chances are getting slimmer. And I he does get – god save the BJP.

LK Advani stated, ‘Good governance comes when you are in power and when out of power, you should be able to give clean politics. Clean politics is the touchstone by which people judge the leaders in a democracy. The BJP would not compromise on this virtue.’ LK Advani’s great ambition to become the PM is diminishing. However he has little support to fulfill his dream.

Nitin Gadkari defending himself says, ‘There is an attempt to defame us. We are clean. There is no need to fear and we are ready to face any probe. I want to assure you that we have not done anything wrong.’ But he has not been able to convince his own party men who have reacted rather strongly.
Ram Jethmalini in his letter to Nitin Gadkari emphasized, ‘I am convinced that you are firmly set on the path of suicide and you are determined to drag the whole party with you. ‘Vinaas Kaala vipreet buddhi’, is an old maxim.’ He has been supported by other senior leaders a couple of who are vocal.

Yeshwant Sinha added, ‘Whether our party president is guilty or not is not the issue today. The issue is that all of us in public life should be beyond reproach. We have no right to let down the people of India.’ Shatrugan Sinha concurs with Yeshwant Sinha and adds, ‘He (Gadkari) is a friend but a person occupying a responsible post should not only be honest but should also be seen as honest.’

The current scenario in the BJP resembles the squabbles of 2004 and 2009, which happened soon after the party lost the Lok Sabha polls. This time, the internal rift is happening even before the elections raising a host of questions. Have senior BJP leaders fallen prey to ambitions? Are they under the influence of RSS? What happened to the BJP’s high moral ground on all issues making BJP a party with a difference? The party seems to have become intolerant to views and opinions expressed which suggests the non-existence of inner party democracy, which BJP always trumpeted while criticizing the Congress. Apart from this there is a growing feeling of isolation among the generation of aging leaders who feel the party has been hijacked by the new generation of leaders who don’t bother about seniors.

The only hope of revival for the party, BJP must win enough seats to be in reckoning; but looking at the events unfolding it seems to be a tall order with the rejuvenation of the Congress, growing in confidence. Possibly the Aam Admi Party of Arvind Kejriwal too will cause few dents in the BJP camp. Will the Delhi Durbar & RSS sort out the internal rift within the BJP?