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Can Nepal unlock its potential? May 25, 2014

Posted by ruthgamble in : Guest authors, Nepal , Comment

Sujeev Shakya

In April 2006, when the second people’s movement, popularly known as ‘Jana Andolan II’, brought an end to 240 years of the Shah monarchy, there was little planning to ensure the country’s rapid political transformation.

The 10-year insurgency that had claimed over 13,000 lives came to an end with the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN) joining mainstream democratic parties. Nepal was declared a federal democratic republic in May 2008 after elections to the Constituent Assembly, and the Shah dynasty came to an end in June when the last ruler, King Gyanendra, vacated the palace and his position without resistance.

The process of writing a constitution began after the election for the Constituent Assembly (CA). The drafting process was extended on three occasions, adding two years to the deadline to finalise the document, but the 601-member CA engaged mostly in intra- and inter-party fighting and failed to write a constitution. As a result, the assembly was dissolved on 28 May 2012. An interim government of retired bureaucrats led by the chief justice was formed in March 2013 to hold yet another election for the CA. (more…)

Will the Indian National Congress survive? May 25, 2014

Posted by ruthgamble in : Guest authors, India , Comment

Arun R. Swamy

The best summary of the 16th Indian General Election just concluded was offered by a rueful leader of the Indian National Congress party (INC): ‘Our performance was worse than the worst case scenario’. It may get even worse in the years to come as regional factions seeking to remain viable at the state level consider whether association with the national party reduces their appeal.

The outcome is astonishing. In terms of seats, the resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) exceeded the predictions of all but one exit poll. By winning 283 seats the BJP has assured itself a majority of the lower house even without its allies, the first party in 30 years to do so; while the INC dropped to an all-time low of 44 — too low to meet the minimum threshold required to be recognised as the official opposition party. The BJP’s allies alone won nearly as many seats as the INC and its allies together. Three former INC factions that broke away to form regional parties in the last 15 years collectively won more seats than the INC, and two regional parties each have almost as many seats as the INC. Even more stunningly, the INC dropped to 19 per cent of the national vote, a historic low, while the BJP scored its highest vote share ever with 31 per cent. (more…)

Modi: from tea shop to India’s top spot May 25, 2014

Posted by ruthgamble in : Guest authors, India , Comment

Peter Drysdale

Last Friday, Narendra Modi scored a remarkable, historic victory over the Congress party dynasty that has dominated the Indian political scene for decades to become his country’s next prime minister. His rise from lower caste origins, the son of a tea-stall vendor, to the top job is the stuff of Indian soap opera. His success in winning such a huge mandate from a wide cross section of the Indian electorate, whatever baggage he carries from the Hindu nationalist right, is a heart-warming story of the triumph of a social underdog over the political establishment.

The stock market surged as the scale of the pro-business BJP government’s victory became clear. Big business has been solidly behind Modi who has portrayed himself as the can-do chief minister of the state of Gujarat, in office for the past 12 years and with three victorious state elections under his belt. In Gujarat, he says, the roads are paved, electricity never stops, and entrepreneurs get access, permissions and support. His supporters call it a ‘Gujarat model’ of economic progress. Modi aims to make it national. Yet among India’s states, Gujarat ranks around the midway point on most indicators of human development, such as primary school education, female literacy and child nutrition. (more…)

Modi’s Sweeping Victory in India May 25, 2014

Posted by ruthgamble in : India, Jeffrey, Robin , Comment

Robin Jeffrey

The crushing victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its anointed prime minister Narendra Modi brought joy to India’s stock markets, satisfaction to many millions of exasperated voters and apprehension to religious minorities and others who don’t subscribe to ‘Hindu values’ as defined by the BJP.

The victory was everything the Hindu-chauvinist BJP hoped for — a majority in its own right in the 543-seat house, the first time India has had such a clear result since 1984. With its coalition allies, the BJP-led government will have more than 330 seats.

The defeated Indian National Congress party (INC), which led coalition governments for the past ten years, was reduced to fewer than 60 seats — the worst performance ever by Asia’s oldest political organisation. (more…)

SAM recommends May 22, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, South Asia Masala Recommends , Comment

David Brewster, visiting fellow, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, The Australian National University, examines the geopolitics of the search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, the role of India and Australia, and implications for regional cooperation in Indian Ocean maritime security.

‘The geopolitics of flight MH370′, by David Brewster. Pragati, 2 May 2014.

David Brewster is the author of a new book, India’s Ocean: the story of India’s bid for regional leadership.

Reign of radicalism in Pakistan April 30, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , 1 comment so far

Abdul Razaque Channa

In recent times, a lot has been articulated in the endeavour to understand the roots of radicalism in Pakistan. Based on the print media’s discourse, the Ziaul Haq rule remains the root of the present face of fundamentalism. A few columnists have even named two-thirds of the total population born after 1977 as ‘Zia’s children’. The question for deliberation is why they are called Zia’s children. Where are Quaid’s children? Why has there not been enough resistance if there were ever Quaid’s children? [Quaid refers to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.]

Right-wing politics and fundamentalist discourse have been engraved into the Pakistani masses and it is not a phenomenon created in 1977 or one that has arisen afterwards. In fact, its development is based in various regimes of power and its function is ubiquitous. The taxonomy of such regimes of power can be divided into four eras: pre-partition, post-partition (up to Zia), Ziaul Haq’s rule and finally post Ziaul Haq to today. During all these regimes, fundamentalist discourse based on binary opposition has succeeded significantly. By fundamentalist binary opposition I mean Muslims and non-Muslims (read, the infidel ‘kaafir’). The binary opposition has always existed in Pakistan. During pre-partition it was based on Hindus versus Muslims and after independence it was mixed up with Americans/Israelis/Indians versus Muslims.

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CNN-IBN-ADR’s “Rate your MPs” survey raises questions April 22, 2014

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Guest authors, India , Comment

Ankita Pandey

In an election season, survey-based programmes can help to attract an audience. No wonder sting operations that exposed pre-election surveys have already been forgotten by the Indian media and it is business as usual. We continue to be presented with a variety of surveys, whose methodology is doubtful. (more…)

Caught between Ramraj and Swaraj April 1, 2014

Posted by ruthgamble in : India, Kumar, Vikas , 1 comment so far

Vikas Kumar

In the run-up to the forthcoming parliamentary election in India, a few political parties initially tried to choose candidates through innovative methods. For instance, the Congress, India’s oldest political party, briefly flirted with the idea of holding elections within the party to select candidates. On the other hand, a key feature of the selection procedure of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), one of the youngest parties, was a nomination form for prospective candidates, which checked among other things if applicants were familiar with the book Swaraj written by the party’s National Convener. Candidates were given eleven lines to share their opinion regarding this “manifesto of the India of tomorrow”. The mini-book reviews were supposedly meant to serve as screening devices. We can use the book for other purposes, though. For instance, it can help us understand the counter-institutional policies of AAP’s short-lived government in Delhi. Here we will use the book to compare the historical narratives that inform BJP’s Ramraj (government fashioned after the epic state ruled by Lord Rama of Ayodhya) and AAP’s Swaraj (self-rule). (more…)

Why are children dying of hunger in Sindh, Pakistan? April 1, 2014

Posted by ruthgamble in : Guest authors, Pakistan , Comment

Mustafa Talpur

Watching helplessly as children die from starvation in their mother’s embrace is truly horrible.  When I began to see this happen recently, I repeatedly assumed that the children were sleeping peacefully in their mother’s arms. But when I looked closer, I realised they were never going to wake up; I realised that they were dead. The individual scenes themselves were shocking, but most shocking of all was the number of times the scene has been repeated in Tharparkar, Sindh Province Pakistan. According to media reports, more than two hundred children have died through causes linked to malnutrition in recent months. And perhaps most shocking of all was the fact that responsibility for this devastating repetition lay with the democratically elected government of Sindh, who could have prevented these deaths if it had fulfilled its obligations.

The hunger that leads to starvation is an acute form of poverty, and a denial of a fundamental human right. Making sure that children have enough to eat should be a basic function of government. Yet my experiences, and the experiences of other development workers in the region, suggest that this function is not being fulfilled by the government of Pakistan generally, and the Sindh provincial government in particular. (more…)

Hard times force Pakistan to privatise March 27, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , 1 comment so far

Sajjad Ashraf

On returning to power after 14 years in 2013 the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government led by Nawaz Sharif faced a bankrupt economy. While mostly caused by an abysmally low tax-to-GDP ratio, the public sector enterprises (PSEs) had also haemorrhaged US$25 billion over the previous five years. Sharif remains desperate for immediate IMF support to keep Pakistan afloat. A condition of the IMF’s US$6.7 billion bailout package is the privatisation of at least 65 PSEs in two tranches within two years. During Sharif’s two previous terms the government privatised 76 companies. He seems eager to begin the privatisation process from where he left off in 1999. But the task is enormous and full of challenges.

The majority of these PSEs are overstaffed and under heavy debt; they were created to accommodate retiring favourites and party loyalists. Only subsidies that drain national resources keep them afloat. Since any layoff is a politically charged subject it is not easy to restructure the PSEs before sale. Yet few investors will venture into buying moribund companies with conditions on staff retention.

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