First published in Future Directions International on 4 April 2012
The Indian decision to vote in support of the March 2012 US-sponsored United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution on Sri Lanka seems a departure from its stated doctrine for an Indian sphere of influence.
Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi stated, in the so-called “Indira Doctrine”, that ‘India will neither intervene in the domestic affairs of any state in the region unless requested to do so, nor tolerate such intervention by an outsider power.’ By supporting the US resolution, India, in some sense, has outsourced its regional stake to an external power.
But, is this a complete change in Indian foreign policy at the behest of Tamil Nadu, or part of a new Indian approach to broaden the stakeholders in the region? India has, in recent times, opted to stand in the shadow of multilateral processes to deal with regional issues. In Nepal, the Indians preferred to watch the UN’s UNMIN special mission manage the peace process. In the Maldives, India outsourced responsibility, with the Commonwealth Secretariat taking the lead. (more…)
The Fifteenth Prime Minister of India January 24, 2011Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Kumar, Vikas , 2comments
The Left Front and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the only non-dynastic, national, and ideological competitors of the Indian National Congress, are struggling with leadership and ideological crises. BJP’s national defence credentials have been compromised due to allegations of Hindu terror whereas the pro-poor credentials of the Left have been compromised in Singur and Nandigram. Regional parties like Shiva Sena and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) are in disarray due to succession struggles within reigning families headed by ageing patriarchs. In contrast, the Congress, with a transparent succession policy and a bland centrist agenda, seems to be a safe bet for voters. Also, in this age of Raja of Niligiris, no Raja of Manda can credibly leave the government. So, barring bizarre developments, Manmohan Singh will complete his second term, the Congress will return to power in 2014 with a clear majority, and Rahul Gandhi will become India’s fifteenth prime minister.
But is the next general election indeed going to be a cakewalk for the Congress? Not if a reasonable number of opposition parties join hands. I have argued earlier that in the next general election young, inexperienced leaders of provincial parties are likely to shy away from the uncertainty of coalition politics and play the son-of-the-soil card. However, the coordination problem can be surmounted if the opposition can choose its leader in advance. The prospective leader should have the right age and good governance credentials to challenge Rahul Gandhi. Otherwise, the leader of a coalition of provincial parties cannot afford to raise particularistic issues.
Let us have a look at the probable candidates. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya (Left Front, West Bengal) is stuck in Singur and Nandigram. Narendra Modi (BJP, Gujarat) has mounted a tiger and is unable to dismount. Chandra Babu Naidu (Telugu Desam Party, Andhra Pradesh) is a spent force. B.S. Yediyurappa (BJP, Karnataka) is besieged in his own province. V. S. Achuthanandan (Left Front, Kerala), Parkash Singh Badal (Shiromani Akali Dal, Punjab), Prem Kumar Dhumal (BJP, Himachal Pradesh), M. Karunanidhi (DMK, Tamil Nadu), and Navin Patnaik (Biju Janata Dal, Orissa) will be more than 65 years old in 2014. Neiphiu Rio (Nagaland People’s Front, Nagaland) is constrained by his province’s cartographic rhetoric. Raman Singh (BJP, Chhattisgarh) is vulnerable due to his support for Salwa Judum. Ramesh Pokhriyal (BJP, Uttarakhand) and Omar Abdullah (National Conference, J&K) lack experience.
Pawan Kumar Chamling (Sikkim Democratic Front, Sikkim), Shivraj Singh Chouhan (BJP, Madhya Pradesh), Nitish Kumar (Janata Dal United, Bihar), Kumari Mayawati (Bahujan Samajwadi Party, Uttar Pradesh), and Manik Sarkar (Left Front, Tripura) are the only leaders who have the baseline qualifications: developmentalist credentials, optimal age, and substantial public experience. However, a prospective leader of the opposition alliance should have additional qualifications, listed below.
|National level experience||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Access to a national political network||No||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Large (primary) support base||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Acceptable to BJP as well as the Left||No||No||Yes||No||No|
At present, Chamling lacks additional qualifications, which leaves us with four contenders, belonging to four different parties.
K Kamaraj and the Midday Meal Scheme July 25, 2010Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Sundaram, Manu , Comment
Kumarasami Kamaraj (1903 – 1975) was a political leader, freedom fighter and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Kamaraj is widely remembered in his home state of Tamil Nadu for the reform policies introduced during his tenure as Chief Minister (from 1954 to 1963) which revolutionised the education system. In honour of his contribution, the Government of Tamil Nadu has declared that the birthday of Kamaraj (15 July) be celebrated as ‘Education Development Day’.
Kamaraj, admired for his simplicity and integrity, had a long and illustrious political career as Member of Legislative Assembly from 1954 to 1967 and as Member of Parliament initially from 1952 to 1954 and then from 1969 to 1975. He also served as President of Tamil Nadu Congress from 1940 to 1954 and as President of All India Congress from 1963 to 1971.
The story of Kamaraj’s political ascendancy mirrors the socio-political changes in Tamil Nadu. The rise of Kamaraj – a member of the backward Nadar caste – to the highest echelons of the Tamil Nadu politics took place alongside the growth of the Dravidian movement against caste-based oppression and the creation of opportunities for people from downtrodden classes.
As President of the Tamil Nadu Congress, Kamaraj oversaw the election of four Chief Ministers namely T Prakasam, Omandur Ramawamy Reddiar, Kumaraswamy Raja and Rajaji. During the tenure of Rajaji, the Government closed down nearly 6,000 schools citing financial constraints. Furthermore, Rajaji introduced a hereditary-based vocational education scheme which required students to learn the traditional caste occupation of their families. This scheme immediately met with strong opposition from all political quarters and Rajaji was forced to tender his resignation. Following this, Kamaraj was chosen to be the Chief Minister by the Congress Party. (more…)
Boat people as blanket categories April 19, 2010Posted by southasiamasala in : Roberts, Michael, Sri Lanka , Comment
The Australian government’s decision to embargo the processing of asylum-seeker applications from Afghans and Sri Lankans is widely attributed to electoral posturing. But it can also be read as a continuation of the control philosophy that has been the bedrock of Australia’s border policy for decades. The fact is that the number of refugees admitted in the last two to three years has been a tiny tithe of the total number of migrants (for example in the year 2007-08 roughly 6 per cent relative to the 206,135 “permanent migrants” [Graeme Hugo, “Refugee and Humanitarian Settlement in Australia: Recent Trends,” presentation to Symposium on Child Refugee Health and Wellbeing, National Wine Centre of Australia, Adelaide, 29 October 2009]
By emphasising the increase in the number of boats penetrating Australian waters, but avoiding any reference to the proportion of such boat people in comparison with (a) refugees officially admitted and (b) permanent migrants under the skilled and family reunion categories, the media has catered to the fear-mongering pressed by some politicians. In sum, therefore, one can surmise that the hoary Australian paranoia about ‘Asian hordes’ and foreign ‘contaminants’ permeates the hardline position in an insidious fashion.
India: Anna and the Dravidian Movement February 15, 2010Posted by southasiamasala in : Sundaram, Manu , 3comments
Let Tamil be your dream of victory, let Tamil culture be your armour,
Let wisdom be your weapon. Let virtue be your guide and companion.
C.N. Annadurai (Former Chief Minister, Tamil Nadu)
C.N. Annadurai (or Anna for short), regarded by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as one of the country’s finest Parliamentarians, was a stalwart of the Dravidian Movement. To his supporters and followers he was known as “Arignar Anna” (Arignar in Tamil means genius) for his outstanding intellect and razor- sharp wit. He was also the first non-Congress Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu when he led his party to victory in the state assembly alections in 1967. Arignar Anna’s tenure as Chief Minister was all too brief: he died, while still in office, in 1969. But during this stint, he managed to elevate and embolden the Dravidian Movement like no other leader.
The Dravidian Movement first started as a social reformist struggle against caste-based discriminatory practices in India during the 1920s. After Independence, the Union Government of India started phasing out English and instituting Hindi has the official language. Protesting against this, the leaders of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) took to the streets to register their opposition. Students and activists turned up in great numbers in response to the clarion calls of Arignar Anna and other Dravidian leaders. Renowned for his oratorical eloquence and leadership abilities, Arignar Anna held numerous meetings and demonstrations to fight against the imposition of Hindi on the Tamil speaking population in the South. During one such meeting, Arignar Anna was told of the argument that Hindi should be made the official language due to its “numerical superiority” as it was spoken by the majority of Indians. To this, Arignar Anna responded: “If we had to accept the principle of numerical superiority while selecting our national bird, the choice would have fallen not on the peacock but on the common crow. Why should we then claim the tiger as our national animal instead of the rat which is so much more numerous?” (more…)
‘Alex’ Kuhendrarajah and the Australian media January 20, 2010Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Roberts, Michael, Sri Lanka , 2comments
The waves of boat people in October 2008 made headline news in Australia. So did ‘Alex’ of the Jaya Lestari. The Australian media stirred the pot: they ran with both the hares and hounds. They catered to the sympathy for these people among Australians of liberal disposition who regard all asylum-seekers as victims of intolerable situations. In the same breath they promoted opposition to illegal immigrants by underlining the surge in numbers of these “queue-jumpers.”
Alex is at the heart of this conundrum. He also underlines the ‘double act’ performed quite deliberately by some arms of the media. Investigative reporters at Merak, where the Jaya Lestari is berthed, chose initially to present his voice without probing deeper. Alex became the face of the poor persecuted Sri Lankan Tamil people fleeing their homeland. The details attached to this message included: (a) they had embarked in Malaysia and were heading for Australia; (b) passages could have cost as much as $15,000; (c) Alex himself, as befitting his Canadian accent, had been educated abroad, but was deploying a pseudonym because his wife and children would be in danger from the Sri Lankan government. (more…)