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India after 2014 General Elections December 10, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Kumar, Vikas , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

Mamata Banerjee, the union railways minister, is brazenly courting extreme left insurgents, who according to the Indian Prime Minister are the single biggest threat to the Indian state. The Congress Party that leads the coalition government at the Centre is overlooking these overtures because, in the forthcoming provincial assembly elections, Banerjee’s regional party is likely to end more than three decades of Left-rule in West Bengal. Also, the Congress is selectively using investigation agencies in terror cases purportedly involving close affiliates of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). By trying to incapacitate its national competitors, BJP and the Left Front, the Congress is jeopardizing its own interests as well as the Indian federal system, even though inadvertently. Its myopia is particularly puzzling given its comfortable electoral position. The Congress is all set to stage a comeback, howsoever modest, in Uttar Pradesh, the state which is crucial for BJP’s return to New Delhi, and West Bengal, the citadel of the Left. Also, provincial/ethnic parties will not be able to marginalize the Congress any further while the latter is quite likely to improve its tally in future assembly elections. Moreover, unlike the Congress, which has a stable leadership, other parties are struggling with leadership crisis due to either intra-party ideological struggles or succession struggles within reigning families headed by ageing patriarchs. Even the recent mega-corruption scandals have not seriously dented the brand Congress. In short, barring some bizarre development, the Congress will return to power in 2014 with a clear majority and that is when the Indian federal system will be severely tested.

One is reminded of the early 1980s, when provincial and ethnic conflicts erupted across the country after the Congress returned to power with a thumping majority following a brief spell of non-Congress rule. Lack of effective opposition drove people towards particularistic organizations to counter the threat of centralization under the Congress. This efflorescence of parochialisms severely strained Indian federalism and ended with the end of the Congress rule at the Centre. History is likely to repeat itself. (more…)

Civilian casualties, IDP camps and asylum seekers December 9, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Serge DeSilva-Ranasinghe

Editor’s note: This article was first published in The Sunday Leader and the full article may be viewed at this link.

Father Rohan Silva is a respected senior Catholic priest who has been actively involved in building bridges between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities in Sri Lanka through the Centre for Society and Religion, a Catholic charity which he heads. His work has seen him play a role in assisting Tamil civilians recover from the impact of the civil war. In this context, he told the author earlier in June this year, about the impact of the final months of the war on Tamil civilians who were caught in the crossfire, the conditions in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and the factors leading to the flight of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka.

Father Rohan Silva

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Change in Andhra December 2, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , comments closed

Brian Stoddart

The current evolution in Andhra’s political order provides an almost-perfect model of the intricate checks and balances to be maintained in any Indian state, and it is likely that the success or otherwise of the changes will be seen as a pointer to the shape of the national order over the next two to five years. Some background is necessary to set the scene, however.

In 2004 Congress returned to power under Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in a largely rural backlash against the technocrat-driven administration of Chandrababhu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) that was founded by his father-in-law, the Telugu movie star N.T.Rama Rao who was also Chief Minister. YSR emphasised more rural development, and  particularly pushed irrigation development that has been a political and economic driver in the region now for over 150 years. Congress held office convincingly in 2009.

The new Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy.  Source, Wikimedia Commons

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Corruption in India: bad or worse? December 1, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, India , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

Corruption in India is, of course, nothing new.  But the recent accusations appear to put the country into the category of one of the worst African ‘cleptocracies’.  They have also paralysed the Indian parliament and gravely damaged the reputation of the hitherto successful Congress-led government of Manmohan Singh.

The following account of some recent cases gives a sense of the scale and cost of corruption in India.

Social audit of NREGA in Rajasthan, The Hindu, 17 August 2009

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