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The caste of the Modi effect May 30, 2014

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

Vikas Kumar

Before this year’s parliamentary election, it was a truism that the national parties of India were led by English/Hindi-speaking upper castes. Even Chaudhary Charan Singh, the Jat leader from western Uttar Pradesh who was the prime minister during 1979-80, did not lead a national party in a parliamentary election. The other side of the glass ceiling erected by the upper castes spawned regional caste-based parties, whose founders saw no future for themselves and their communities within the national parties. Narendra Modi has broken the glass ceiling and joined the national leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), hitherto a bastion of upper castes. Unlike Bangaru Laxman, a Dalit leader from Andhra Pradesh who served as the BJP president during 2000-01, Modi is not a convenient façade for a party otherwise dominated by upper castes. Equally importantly, unlike his prime ministerial predecessors who with the exception of Deve Gowda were primarily based in Delhi, he spent most of his political career in a medium-sized non-Hindi speaking province. His spectacular rise needs to be examined from the perspective of how it reworked caste equations within his party and how caste played a subtle role in his successful campaign.

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A Modi landslide? May 29, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Babak Moussavi

Narendra Modi’s victory is less impressive than it appears

When the results of the Indian election rolled in, the surprise was not over who was winning, but over the size of the victory margin. No single party had won a majority of the seats in the lower house since Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress victory in 1984, soon after the assassination of his mother, Indira. 30 years on, Narendra Modi has achieved this. He is now set to lead a majority Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government with 282 seats, but is likely to retain his pre-election coalition grouping, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), giving him 336 seats in a 543-seat parliament.

The scale of the victory is unprecedented in recent decades, and the power that incoming Prime Minister Modi is likely to command is more than most expected. Not only are the anticipated checks of coalition politics largely loosened by his single party majority, but the opposition is so fragmented that a divide and rule policy could allow for total domination of the political agenda. If he can muster a two-thirds majority, the government could even change India’s sacrosanct constitution. The 44 MPs of the Indian National Congress, the country’s oldest and once-dominant party, would barely muster a whimper. And if it continues to be led by the notoriously self-restrained Rahul Gandhi, even that might be something.

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Alliances not leaders will decide 2014 Indian elections February 19, 2014

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Arun R. Swamy

Political posturing in India has not changed since 1999, when there was a fascist party posing as a conservative one, and a royalist party posing as a liberal one. The posturing continues, but since then the Indian National Congress (INC) party has embraced coalition politics. And it may now be in a stronger position to attract allies than its rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

INC president Sonia Gandhi’s recent decision not to publicly project a prime ministerial candidate for the upcoming elections has met with disappointment in the party and derision outside. But Gandhi may be shrewder than her colleagues. With the two largest parties typically receiving only a little more than half the votes, the decisive contest between them is for the support of regional parties, not voters. In that contest the INC continues to have an edge — and publicly committing to a prime ministerial candidate would hinder their efforts.

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Sam recommends ‘Don’t play it safe’ August 12, 2012

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Rajdeep Sardesai

First published in the Hindustan Times on 12 July this year, Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief , IBN 18 Network, assessed that “Salman Khurshid is easily among the brightest politicians in the country: a former Oxford don, he became a union minister at 38. When he speaks, it is with a certain elegance and intellect that is all too rare in public life today. Which is why when Khurshid suggests ‘Rahul Gandhi has only been seen in cameos of his thoughts and ideas, but he has not woven it into a grand announcement. This is a period of  waiting,’ his remarks must be taken seriously. Khurshid has since been forced to clarify his statement, claiming  he was only urging the Congress’ younger leadership to play a more central role, but his reflections lie truly at the heart of  the UPA’s present dilemma.

A fortnight ago, in these very columns, I had written on the NDA’s leadership crisis: who will be their leader in the next general elections in 2014? What is true of the NDA is equally applicable to the UPA. If the battle between Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar threatens to open a chasm within the opposition, Rahul Gandhi’s seeming reluctance to take greater responsibility within the Congress, has left the ruling alliance in a state of  growing uncertainty.

What are the options if Rahul were to decline to take up the challenge of being the UPA’s prime ministerial nominee? Manmohan Singh will be 82 in 2014, and while being an octogenarian is no disqualification in the ageing world of Indian politics, there is a general belief  that after two full terms as prime minister, Singh may finally be ready for voluntary retirement … ”.

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Cricket, money and politics April 27, 2010

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

Brian Stoddard

Chennai Super Kings might have beaten the more fancied Mumbai Indians in the final of the Indian Premier League (IPL), but the match was a sideshow to the real battles now faced by cricket bosses, industrial barons, political leaders and even movie stars.

The problems began just a few short weeks ago with the auctioning of two new franchises in what had become the IPL money-mill.  A consortium bidding $333 million to have Kochi in Kerala host a team was successful. Shortly after Lalit Modi, the IPL Commissioner, posted a note on his Twitter site that the bid was flawed, and that the flaws were associated with junior External Affairs Minister Shashi Tharoor, the former UN diplomat and prominent writer who was already struggling in his post. Tharoor struck back with the suggestion Modi wanted the Kochi bid voided so that his more favoured Ahmedabad franchise might then slip in. (more…)