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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Given a free run, can the PM reproduce the 1991 magic?

"The last time we faced this problem was in 1991. Nobody was willing to lend us even small amounts of money then. We came out of that crisis by taking strong, resolute steps. One can see the positive results of those steps. We are not in that situation today but we must act before people lose confidence in our economy," said Manmohan Singh in his earnest effort to lift the anti-people label that the Congress has been stuck with recently. His emphatic claims of 1991 reforms' success is meant to drive home the point that he and his team will be able to recover India’s clout squandered by the recent slowdown.

However, the economic scenario of 1991 is not even remotely similar to today. The foreign exchange reserves in June 1991 were below $ 1 billion, barely enough to sustain a couple of weeks of import, whereas today it has crossed $ 290 billion, enough to cover seven months of imports. The GDP growth in 1991-92 was barely 1.3 per cent; in stark contrast, last five years' growth trajectory stands at 7.95 per cent. The domestic savings have bettered from 20 per cent of GDP in 1991 to 31.6 per cent in 2011; and FDI flow, that had a modest figure of $ 500 million in 1991 has reached $ 42 billion today.

In spite of two decades of rigorously implemented reforms, the economic state is not at all stable today mainly due to policy paralysis and truculent opposition and coalition partners, who often flex their muscles on reforms measures. The opposition and Trinamool Congress’ stand on liberalising retail, where a justified Manmohan Singh has asserted that in a growing economy there is economic space for everyone, is blatant populist politics. His effort to boldly state that money doesn’t grow in trees, as a justification to insulate the country from oil subsidies, has met with ridicule from NDA and TMC. It’s not that there was dearth of policy oppositions with the Narasimha Rao government, when reforms were announced in 1991, but opposition lines didn’t cause stalemate in the government functioning. The Left and the third front leaders staged protests against privatisation of public sector manufacturing units and labour reforms – but at least the allied parties gave tactic support.

The economic condition that time was such that any party jeopardising those reforms would have taken the country to total disaster, while today it’s more of a constructive give-and-take realpolitik situation. Moreover, that time India was passing through an economic turmoil while today the entire world is engulfed into it. The economic downfall led to several protests even in the most advanced countries, from Occupy Wall Street in US to the anti-austerity drive in Southern Europe to Arab Spring in Middle East. If India's economy continues to tumble, India might even witness a similar mass uprising. Already, currency free fall, untamed inflation and plummeting industrial production are significant whiplashes faced by our economy. It is a litmus test that Manmohan Singh and Co must pass.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

The Maheshwar project is a telling account of why privatisation in power projects has not worked. Raju Kumar reports

Why is it that economic reforms have not worked in the power sector as they have in the others? The sordid answers to this complex question are best reflected in India's first private power project, pegged to generate 400 MW of power, which two decades down the line has been unable to produce even a flicker.

The Maheshwar dam project on the Narmada river was billed as the life-saver for Madhya Pradesh which, at its peak was expected to generate 400 MW of power. As part of the many electricity projects in 1978, the Maheshwar Power Project was proposed under the aegis of the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA). The state government changed plans in 1989 and planned to construct it under the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board but after economic reforms the project was handed over to private players.

Since then, this ambitious scheme expected to be a trailblazer for private investment in the country's power sector, has been mired in a dreadful saga of mismanagement, financial irregularities, rehabilitation and assessment issues.

The latest spanner in the wheels of activating this project is a decision by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to grudgingly allow a total of 154 meters of water storage capacity in the dam's reservoir.

In the normal course of things, it would be considered good news, but environment activists would have us believe that at this height, hundreds of people would meet a watery end. The company in charge of building the project and the district administration, on the other hand, say that 154 metres is fine and that fears are unfounded and unsubstantiated.

The confusion has been compounded because the technical expert Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has been quoted as saying that at this height, it would be impossible to generate even 40 MW of power! If that was not enough chaos and confusion, it is believed that if the height is raised to 154 metres, rehabilitation issues for those who are affected would take on drastically different proportions, compensation for which will necessarily have to come from the company.

The project had been handed over to the rromoters of the company S Kumars in 1992 and it became the first private investment in India's power sector, weaving dreams of a superbly-lit India.

S Kumars in turn set up a new company, Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Ltd to execute the project. Privatisation in the power sector was based on the premise that private players would force a pace of execution which was unknown in government companies.

However, that never happened. Foreign investors who had shown initial interest in the project backed off realising that it did not look a promising enough investment.

Says Khargone District Collector Navneet Kothari, "The NGT has allowed that under the guidance of experts, 154 metres of water can be stored in the dam. A three-member committee will decide on the modalities of filling in the water after which we will begin work.'' Till date, no notification has been issued for setting up this expert committee.

Alok Agrawal of the Narmada Bachao Andolan says the company and the district administration have furnished bogus surveys to the NGT in an effort to deliberately lessen the impact of rehabilitation. "On August 7, when the Maheswar Dam had about 154 metres of water, about 400 families in nearby villages were affected, submerging a lot of cultivable fields. A similar situation had arisen in August 2011 as well. No compensation or land has been paid to farmers affected by the project. It also goes against the Supreme Court order which has made it clear that before the farmers can be removed from their lands, a comprehensive rehabilitation plan has to be in place.''

But key questions remain unanswered. Will 154 metres suffice or should the storage capacity be pushed further up to 162.5 metres, as in the original proposal, so as to guarantee the total power generation?

Says Antar Singh Patel, resident of Sulgav village, "We four brothers have 18 acres of land submerged under water. The company is not willing to compensate us by providing an alternative land site.'' Points out Umrao Singh of the neighbouring Jalud village, "Some of the villagers got compensation in the beginning but now they are being told that they are not original residents of the village.'' There are numerous such tales of neglect that abound in the area.

Activists are not amused. Says Alok Agrawal, "The government believes that only 22 villages will get submerged. Our information is they number 61. What option do the people have except to approach the courts? The other issue is a question of ethics. Why should the government be hell bent on promoting a private company overlooking all irregularities? Why should the state government offer counter guarantees, as it has done in this case? According to information culled from a RTI reply, the company proposes to sell electricity at Rs 10 per unit, assuming it begins generating electricity. Who will bear the cost of this costly power.''

Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Ltd's Corporate Communications chief Gulab Gupta is quite cool. "After the NGT's directives of filling in water, the company will keep its three turbines running. All civil works have been completed. The height of the water will determine entitlement for compensation for those are hit.''

But even the company is in no position to say when power generation would begin. With such splendid uncertainties dogging its way, it is not difficult to see why private investment in the power sector in the country is not likely to take off for a long time to come.


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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Madhur Bhandarkar's brand of slickly-packaged-realism cinema is one that is all his own.

Madhur Bhandarkar
Madhur Bhandarkar
In a conversation with Pratishtha Malhotra, the director of Chandni Bar, Page 3, Fashion, and now Heroine, attributes much of his success to luck even as he admits to being sensitive to box office returns.

Looking back, there were a lot of hurdles you faced in the course of making Heroine. Do you consider this to be one of the toughest films of your career?
No, no... I think all’s well that ends well. The film is very essential for me. I am very happy with the way the movie has shaped up, very excited…

What is the budget of the film like? What about promotions and marketing?
The budget of the film is about 22-23 crores. Promotion and marketing is very important in today’s day and age. Marketing was estimated to be another 10 crore. We hope to get good price from the satellite, and we have also joined a lot of brands that Kareena endorses, so expecting at least 13-15 crores from there. We are safe that way.

Which aspect of a heroine’s life intrigued you the most?
I think a lot of aspects; there is not just one. The film is not about a single celebrity. It is about coping with people on a day to day basis – the love interest of their life, the media, the marketing people and the PR agencies. So there are a lot of things which they have to handle on a day to day basis.

After Fashion, why the subject of Heroine?
It was always there on my mind. I always wanted to make a film talking about the politics in today’s film industry. I did not want to make a film on a yesteryears actress or a period film. I wanted to make something contemporary.

Between critical acclaim and box office success, what is it that you focus on when envisioning a film?
The first and foremost priority is box office success. I am sitting and giving you this interview because my film is successful at the box office. Success is very essential for me. The film should work at the box office, and then critical acclaim will follow. The awards are definitely later on. But it cannot be a conscious decision. You cannot customise a film thinking that this will work well with the audience and this will work well with the critics and this will get a national award. No. A film is made with a lot of conviction and hard work. I have made different films, but I am lucky that I got both box office success and critical acclaim. It is very difficult to get all aspects right for any film maker.

Do you feel your films have proven to be turning points in many an actor’s career?
I do not know. I just work with my instincts. It has been almost 11 years for me in the industry. I am very happy with the kind of success, the kind of appreciation, the kind of box office successes, and the four national awards that I have received. I think it has been a great journey. I always make a film the way I want it.

Did you have any trouble with the Censor Board over Heroine?
No, I did not face any problems with the Censor Board at all with Heroine. There was an instance when they wanted to put a warning about cigarette smoking at the bottom of the screen, but we won the case at the Delhi High Court. The Censor Board liked the film. They did not cut even one single shot, nor did they mute any dialogues. There are some words used in the film which we thought would be muted or some scenes that we thought will be cut. But absolutely no changes were made. They did not touch a single frame!

I think that the Censor Board has been very liberal and moderate about this film.

What, according to you, is the best thing about your heroine?
The best thing about my heroine Mahi (played by Kareena) is that it’s the first time I’ve made a very complex character. She’s very complex, very edgy; she is layers within layers; she reacts to situations: at one moment, she’s very fragile and lovable and in the next, she’s cunning and manipulative. So I have changed the character according to my situations. This is something new for my actress as it has never been done before in my movies. It always has been one-dimensional. But in this movie, all of a sudden you’ll feel ‘Oh my god! What is she up to’, while you also notice her fragility. That’s the beauty of this character.

When is your next film expected?
I don’t know. Let me see the reaction that Heroine gets. I really don’t know. I am so much into Heroine right now. I want to get feedback and responses. For the first time, it is a completely different cinema. It obviously has the Madhur Bhandarkar stamp on it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

From Hindutva poster boy to a mellow right winger, Narendra Modi wants to wing it from regional to national politics.

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi
22nd September, 2012
Sankheda, 50 kms. off Vadodara

Modi: “Are you all satisfied with development in Gujarat in last 10 years?”
Crowds: “Yes”
Modi: “You receive water for farmlands? Are you happy? Be louder?
Crowds: “Yes”
Modi: “Roads and flyovers are across Gujarat now. Are you happy?”
Crowds (now screaming in frenzy): “Yes”
Modi: “But I am not happy.”
The crowd is stunned into silence.

Modi continues: “Last 10 years I only made up for the mess created by Congress regimes. From January 2013, I will begin building a Divya, Bhavya (sacred, glorious) Gujarat.' The crowd breaks into resounding cheers. Modi is not finished: "I removed all dirt from the state in 10 years. Now it is your turn to remove the dirt in these elections". The 9,000 plus crowd goes berserk. They laugh, slap each other’s backs and applaud the implied pun and sarcastic delivery of Modi's punch line ahead of the assembly elections later this year.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi plays the crowd like a piano. He is a master of crowd management, a theatrical Pied Piper mesmerising people with his studied gait, rasping voice and careful weaving of oratory with provocative statements, and made-to-order pauses. This gift of the gab combined with a slew of ‘visible’ development initiatives such as roads, highways and industries has won him two terms as chief minister despite the stigma of 2002 riots always hovering in the background.

That Narendra Modi has a clear chance of a third shot in the corridors of power at Gandhinagar is certain. Despite accusations of a dictatorial working style and arrogance, anti-incumbency seems to be just an irritating fly to be swatted away by Modi. Many believe that it is only a matter of how many seats will the BJP corner in round three. Pundits indicate that it may be a tall order for BJP to surpass their earlier record of bagging 127 seats in 2002, and 117 seats in the 2007 assembly polls. But Modi has a different plan.

Party insiders say that the man is hoping for his biggest seat tally yet in the upcoming assembly polls which will help consolidate his position in the state and also in national politics. Modi, known to micro manage every election, has his eyes set on 151 seats in the 182 seats assembly. He dreams of surpassing the record 140 seats won by former Congress CM Madhavsinh Solanki in post-Emergency elections. An overwhelming mandate in the state will likely give Modi the power and the glory to drive all the way to New Delhi and the prime minister's office in 2014.

Everything that Modi has done for the last one year is tailored to achieve this ambition. It began with the Sadbhavna Mission which Modi flagged off in September last year after the Supreme Court appointed SIT gave him a clean chit in the 2002 riot cases. It was an attempt to build bridges with the minority community, shed his saffron persona, and effectuate a secular makeover – a must for realising any political ambitions at the national level.

The makeover is not merely cosmetic. The last year has seen Modi meet a slew of Muslim delegations to understand the issues affecting the community. He has also attended Muslim functions, praised the community for its role in Gujarat’s success story and even inducted some Muslim faces into his party.

Likewise, Modi’s campaign this poll season is built around Swami Vivekananda, a known secularist. The Yatra which kicked off on September 11 has already seen Modi address over 50 large public meetings across Gujarat including Saurashtra, a region known to be the stronghold of rebel BJP leader and former Gujarat CM Keshubhai Patel. A life size statue of Vivekananda travels with Modi’s impressive fleet of some 40 SUVs, cars and buses wherever he goes for public meetings. His party mangers say that Modi will reach out to almost one crore people directly in under a month during the Yatra.

The text of Modi’s speeches in 2012 has also undergone a sea change from 2002 and 2007 in keeping with his ambitions. His 2002 speeches had overt Hindutva overtones. Remember the infamous remark about polygamy among Muslims and family planning? 'Hum paanch hamare pacchis,' Modi had said to frenzied crowds, many of whom had still not forgotten the flames of the post-Godhra riots.

Cut to public meetings in 2012 and his stinging communal brickbats are conspicuous by their absence. He credits himself and the BJP for development in Gujarat and slams the Congress for price rise and corruption. The rest of the time he plays to the gallery but plays it safe. “He is taking his personality above communalism. He knows that only AB Vajpayee like secular credentials can take him to the prime minister’s chair,” explains Ahmedabad based columnist Vishnu Pandya.

The manner in which Modi refuses to even acknowledge local Congress leaders in his rallies – training his guns only at Manmohan, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi lends further credence to his burning desire to play a role at the national level. All of Modi’s scathing remarks and repartees about the functioning of UPA II have come at his public meetings.

But the more things change, the more they remain the same. It will not be easy for Modi to corner the desired 151 seats this time and procure a one way ticket to New Delhi. In the cold, harsh world of realpolitik there are three things working against Modi’s national ambitions. Much water has flown in the Sabarmati since the 2002 riots but its spectre still haunts Modi. Decade long trials such as the Naroda Patiya case are winding down now and Modi is finding himself tarnished with the same communal brush he has tried to do away with. This is a far cry from the image of growth and development that Modi wanted to convey with the polls so close.

Secondly, what was an almost decimated opposition at the state level is fighting for a comeback. The Congress is playing the populist card ahead of the assembly polls with sops such as free land and more. Modi in turn is also playing the same game especially in rural areas where there is widespread discontent over handing of large tracts of pasture land to big industrialists. “Giving away of gochar or pastoral land of villages for industrial use has become a big issue in Gujarat. There is huge resentment among Maldharis (cow breeding community) due to this,” says Gautam Thakar, secretary, PUCL, Gujarat.

There is also Modi’s acceptability as a potential prime ministerial candidate among the BJP top brass and NDA allies. NDA ally Janata Dal (U), for instance, has publicly announced that they would walk out of NDA if Modi is projected as the prime minister. JD(U) is also fielding candidates in the assembly polls, polarising BJP votes. Despite all the negatives, a third consecutive term in Gandhinagar is not an impossible feat for Modi. Sheila Dixit in Delhi and Naveen Patnaik in Orissa have already shown the way. His development agenda has ensured that Modi continues to shine as the blue eyed boy for Gujarat’s ever expanding middle class. Terms such as Vibrant Gujarat and his latest Divya, Bhavya Gujarat further pander to Gujarati parochialism – making Modi’s persona synonymous with Gujarati pride. The jury is still out on whether the national middle class will embrace Modi with the same fervour come 2014. 

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

After a period of relative inactivity, Rahul Gandhi is beginning to get involved again in party matters. Pramod Kumar examines what it means in the run up to the 2014 elections

For the Nehru-Gandhis, to enter national politics and immediately establish their suzerainty is but a natural sequence of events. Contemporary Indian history, from Jawaharlal to Sonia, will willingly vouchsafe for it. Neither in the case of Indira nor Rajiv was the transition to active politics ever in any doubt.

Then what it is that is keeping Rahul Gandhi away from the family occupation? There is that something that continues to raise question marks over his leadership, indeed even his entry into national politics.

Since the disastrous UP assembly election results, these interrogatives have grown in number. Was Rahul’s entry into politics not well timed? Or did it come at a time when political conditions were adverse for the Congress?

This strange, slightly unexplained vacuum at the top has prompted a series of strategic discourses. There is one school which says the time to introduce sister Priyanka Gandhi has come – an oblique hint that the heir apparent may not have what it takes to handle the hurly-burly of Indian politics.

The other school of thought believes that like father Rajiv, Rahul will gradually mature into politics, learn the ropes and come into his own.

There is also the view that laptop experts in Rahul’s central Delhi office may know a lot about information technology but precious little about India’s political ethos. But nuances notwithstanding, central questions remains unanswered. When will Rahul reveal his magic? Could it be too late before he shows his hand? There are those like UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav who believe that Rahul should agree to a position either in the government or the party and then take it from there. Congress insiders say that Rahul could accept a super general secretary kind of position in the party. Showing due deference to party elders, Rahul had accepted the relatively humble position of general secretary; in reality he could have got anything he wanted.

But it is quite likely that this deference has been seen as a weakness by party stalwarts. The kind of statements issued by senior Congress leaders in the run up to the UP elections without Rahul ever interfering once, has given him the image of a 'soft’ leader. With his elevation as general secretary of the party’s youth wing, Rahul had hoped to develop a dedicated band of Youth Congress workers. A failed talent hunt through the states put paid to his plans.

There are many reasons being attributed to this aborted mission, the most prominent of them being that virtually every senior Congress leader wanted his son or daughter to join Rahul at the cost of dedicated party workers – with preferably a party ticket to boot!

Proof of this typical Congress skullduggery has come in Uttarakhand where Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna’s son has got the Congress ticket to contest from the Pauri Lok Sabha seat, ignoring claims of senior notables. The result of such a machination is that Rahul is having a tough time answering questions to people in his own constituency.

But party insiders say that with the Congress rout in UP and his aborted mission to develop a dedicated youth cadre, Rahul is on the introspection trail. He has adopted a lower profile than ever before and is known to ask party workers to give their complaints in writing.

It is also said about Rahul that his ability to communicate with the common worker is not as effective as it should be. Intervening with words like 'let me tell you’ or ‘let me elaborate’ just did not go down well with the electorate in UP.

But Congress leaders insist that if the Congress scion elaborated on central assistance to the state governments, there was no harm in it, considering that other Congress leaders were not doing the same. In addition, they say, that UP is a caste laboratory where it is not too easy to unravel the winning combination. If it were, the Congress would not have been out of power in the state for so long.

Some indication of this has come in the Anthony Committee report on the UP poll debacle submitted to the party high command. According to it, about 122 A-plus assembly seats personally selected by Rahul Gandhi would have yielded good dividends if senior leaders had decided not to shoot their mouths off.

Rahul’s next litmus test is going to come in Gujarat, expected to go to polls by the end of 2012. Already the Rahul Gandhi vs Narendra Modi chorus is growing into a crescendo, with punters attaching the tag of a semi-final before the 2014 General Elections. Party insiders admit that Modi is nearly certain to return, albeit with a slimmer majority.

That leads to other problems. Party leaders fear in the eventuality of Modi coming back, knives will be out for the Congress leader sooner rather than later. In Gujarat too, the problem is the same as UP. Big party leaders have abdicated their responsibility and handed over the state to powerful opposition leaders on a platter.

The larger question is this: if the Congress fails yet again in Gujarat, could it mean a full stop to Rahul’s fledging political career? There are no clear answers. With the UPA poised to bring in legislations like the popular Food Security bill after the Gujarat elections, it is hoped that the tide will turn in its favour.

The Congress has also taken Mulayam Singh Yadav’s attempts at cobbling up a Third Front seriously. The top party leadership is loathe to lending outside support as they did in the forgettable decade of the 1990s when a slew of rank outsiders came to occupy the country’s top post with Congress’ outside support.

Nonetheless, the year-and-a-half left of Manmohan Singh’s rule is time enough for Rahul to consolidate the party’s base. There are indications that after a period of relative inactivity, Rahul is beginning to leave his imprint on the functioning of the government.

Handing over additional charge of the Railway Ministry to Rural Development Minister CP Joshi, the appointment of Nirmal Khatri as president of the UP Congress against stiff local opposition and the removal of Digvijay Singh as Congress UP observer in favour of Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, are all indictors that Rahul is beginning to flex his muscles again. There is also talk of a larger revamp in the party organisation.

Congress leaders claim the situation is not as bad as people believe. There is talk of an organisational shake up and many few faces could be thrown up from the states. "If the party works on the plans charted out by Sonia Gandhi, the results of the 2014 would come as a pleasant surprise to us,’’ says a leader. If that happens, the time for Rahul’s redemption could well have arrived.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

While senior DMK functionaries maintain a studied silence, grassroots workers of the party, according to our survey, might actually be weighing in for Narendra Modi come the 2014 elections, reports Appanasamy

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is facing a bit of an embarrassment. While it is still firmly behind the Congress in the UPA government, the mood among the lower level party workers seems to be different. According to the survey conducted by TSI, more than 39 per cent of DMK voters in Tamil Nadu will support the BJP if Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is the prime ministerial candidate. Compared to that, the Congress heir apparent Rahul Gandhi has scored a mere 19 per cent.

Not unexpectedly, the result of the poll left the middle-level leaders of the party red in the face, scrambling to explain. “These are things that only the party high command can decide. We should not be talking about it till such time as a decision is given out by them, not even within party circles. Our leader (M Karunanidhi) will take the right decision for the party and we will abide by it. Till then, we cannot further comment on this,” said one, on the condition of anonymity.

The Dravidian parties, like most other regional parties, have always vacillated between the Congress and the BJP. Tamil Nadu had been a Congress stronghold before Jayalalithaa and her AIADMK swept the Parliamentary elections in the state in 1998 in alliance with the BJP. The DMK would go on to adopt the strategy next year and win even more seats in the Lok Sabha election of 1999. Both parties have, since then, supported the Congress time and again. But even the most rabid party worker knows that these alliances have been mostly opportunistic.

This time around, the balances seem to be tipping in favour of the BJP. The image of industrialisation and pro-progress activism that Modi has cultivated and promoted through popular media and news channels has gained quite a bit of traction among DMK workers, particularly the middle class. What has been more beneficial for Modi is his handling of the major earthquakes in the city. The common man seems to be firmly behind Modi's media-propagated image of a shining beacon. One DMK supporter, Dravida Mani from north Chennai, was quite unambiguous when he said, “If we do have an alliance with the BJP, we will work our very best to put Narendra Modi in the prime minister's seat.”

On the other hand, the last few years of UPA rule have not been the best, marked as it was with scams, allegations of corruption and economic strife. The recent “harsh decisions” taken by the government by way of FDI in the retail sector, diesel price hike and rationing of LPG cylinders have done nothing to cement support for the UPA among the middle class. Naseer from Ambattur echoes popular sentiment when he says, “The eight years that the UPA government has been in power has only aggravated dissatisfaction of the common man. Is BJP not a better option?”

To compound the problems for the grand old party, Rahul Gandhi has not exactly been able to solidify his claims to being a national leader. The debacle that the Congress faced in Uttar Pradesh is largely attributed to his strategies and that has not been missed by the public in Tamil Nadu. Adds Naseer, “The experiments made by Rahul in the 2011 provincial elections proved disastrous. His tireless propaganda did not produce anything near to the expected levels. So at present, the only hope is Modi.”

However, too much should not be read into the survey reports. “The idea of more volunteers wanting Modi to become the prime minister is not entirely true,” says AS Paneerselvam, the readers' editor of The Hindu. Even in AIADMK, no one knows whom to support except Jayalalitha. Actually, they are waiting for her lead, Paneerselvam adds.

While the popular sentiment is important, the final decision, as always, will lie with the chiefs. “In India, parliamentary elections are not held on the basis of prime ministerial candidates and their popularity. The members of Parliament ultimately decide the composition of the government and who becomes the prime minister, not popular sentiment,” says senior journalist Sigamani.

Both Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa have been known to rule over their parties with quite the iron hand. And the party members, too, have been only too willing to swear “complete loyalty” to their respective leaders. And why not? It does help later on to reap the benefits of power. DMK supporters declare vehemently: “Even if we personally favour Narendra Modi, in the elections we will vote according to our leader's choice. We will never betray our charismatic leader.”

Therefore, as far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, it is clearly all a question of who eventually gets the blessings of M Karunanidhi or J Jayalalithaa. Everything else can only be regarded as mere speculation at the present juncture. There could be many a twist between now and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. 


Monday, November 12, 2012

The first post-Independence Hindutva political outfit, Jan Sangh, was forged in Bengal but the state has resolutely kept that historical legacy at bay.

CS Bhattacharjee probes the reasons why India’s third largest state in terms of Lok Sabha seats has never embraced rightwing nationalism

The Bharatiya Janata Party has never been more than a fringe player in West Bengal despite the fact that several Bengali leaders played a crucial role in the evolution of India’s Hindu rightwing. Jan Sangh, BJP’s forerunner, was founded in 1953 by Shyamaprasad Mookerjee, once a member of Nehru’s Cabinet. NC Chatterjee, father of leftist stalwart and former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, was a president of the Hindu Mahasabha. But neither his son nor any Shyamaprasad kin ever flirted with a Hindu outfit. The state as a whole has traditionally perceived the BJP and its progenitors with a degree of suspicion.

As a result, the Shyamaprasad legacy hasn’t impacted politics in the state. Experts cite several factors for the inability of Hindutva forces to secure a firm toehold in Bengal. Says Tarun Mondal, SUCI (Communist) MP: “Bengal’s cultural heritage was shaped by freedom fighters and social reformers, towering personalities like Surjya Sen, Pritilata Waddedar and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. They preached true secularism – not the secularism of today’s politics. No single political party can take credit for the state’s progressive secular left-leaning moorings that have kept communalists at bay.”

Barun Dasgupta, former Guwahati bureau chief of The Hindu, cites another reason: “RSS and Hindu Mahasabha never participated in the freedom movement. So their acceptability among the masses has been limited from the outset.” He adds: “After the communal riots triggered by Muslim League's ‘Direct Action Day’ on August 16, 1946, the stream of refugees from East Pakistan came under the influence of the Left. The weak Hindu rightwing parties, neither the dying Hindu Mahasabha nor the rising Jan Sangh, could garner much support among the displaced. Even a popular leader like Shyamaprasad Mookerjee failed to make his party acceptable in Bengal.”

This state, says Professor Tarun Sanyal, president of the pro-change Forum for Intellectuals, Artists and Authors, has always been culturally pluralistic. “Unlike North India, Bengal never supported Brahminism. In the 15th century, during Hussain Shah’s reign, Bengal produced a religious leader like Mahaprabhu Chaitanya Dev. The 18th and 19th centuries produced Indian renaissance leaders like Raja Rammohun Roy, Vidyasagar, Rabindranath Tagore and others. Their vision engendered two distinct streams — one nationalistic, the other left-revolutionary. Both regarded Bengal as a separate cultural entity. BJP, preacher of Hindi-Hindu-Hindusthan, does not quite fit here,” he adds.

Psephologist and political scientist Biswanath Chakraborty asserts that Bengal’s left-revolutionary culture is a bulwark against BJP. “Bengal’s elite never supported those that were behind the 'Great Calcutta Killings' during Partition. This intellectual class opted either for the Congress or the undivided CPI, different from today’s communists. Bengal was the land of the renaissance in the 18th century and India’s industrial resurgence began in this part during the British period. That is the reason why the concept of both nationhood and class-based politics emerged here first,” he explains.

But that is not to say that Bengal did not send Sangh parivar representatives to the Lok Sabha after Shyamaprasad Mookerjee and NC Chatterjee. Tapan Sikdar and Satyabrata Mukherjee were Union ministers under Atal Behari Vajpayee. One of BJP's founders, Vishnukant Shastri, was a Rajya Sabha member in 1992. In 1977, he won the Bengal Assembly elections on a Janata Party ticket. Haripada Bharati was also an MLA at that time. Jan Sangh was dissolved into Janata Party in 1977 and the two leaders rode the wave unleashed by Jayaprakash Narayan’s anti-Emergency agitation. In this millennium, BJP has won an Assembly seat only on one occasion. Badal Bhattacharya won the Habra seat in the 2001 election with the help of the Trinamool Congress (TMC).

The sudden 1991 spike in support for the BJP, which polled 11 per cent vote, says eminent journalist Debasish Bhattacharjee, should be attributed to inner contradictions in the CPM and the people’s disenchantment with a ‘corrupt’ Congress. “Since then, the BJP’s vote share has hovered around 3.5 per cent but the party has not been able to consolidate its support in any single constituency quite to the extent to actually win a seat. Badal Bhattacharjee became a BJP MLA in 2001 only because TMC helped him.”

Analysing the role of Sangh Parivar-BJP politics in Bengal, Professor Chakraborty says BJP’s ‘core’ ideology of ‘Hindutva’ has never spread here since its inception in the 1980s. “In 1991, BJP’s vote percentage went into double digits owing to several factors, including mass disenchantment with both the Left and the Congress. Data shows that the BJP vote influenced the final result in up to 65 Assembly segments, and in most of the cases Left was the gainer,” he said.

In the early 1990s, BJP strengthened its presence in the border region — from North 24-Parganas down south to Jalpaiguri and Cochbehar in north Bengal. “But, the Babri Masjid demolition pulled its vote share down. Muslims, in search of social security, returned to either the Left or the Congress,” says Chakraborty.

Interestingly, BJP increased its tally from 1 to 2 in late 1999, when Tapan Sikdar got himself re-elected and Satyabrata Mukherjee also won. By that time, a breakaway Congress faction became TMC and formed an electoral alliance with BJP. Says Chakraborty: “Left’s departure from class-based politics, the United Front’s failure to rule the nation, and Tapan Sikdar’s handling of the ‘East Bengal refugees’ issue helped the party.” A section of the state did accept Vajpayee’e liberal attitude as an ‘alternative’ to the Nehru-Gandhi politics and supported the BJP. But the 2002 Gujarat riots halted the BJP’s progress in Bengal, he points out.

BJP leaders too are aware of the situation. One of them says on condition of anonymity: “A reason for our diminishing influence is over-dependence on the Marwari and other non-Bengali communities.” BJP leaders like Paras Datta and Colonel Sabyasachi Bagchi have joined TMC. With a sole active warrior in Sikdar, the party seems doomed to be an also-ran in West Bengal.

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Saturday, November 03, 2012

The trouble that began for the Congress in 2009 now threatens to breach the party’s poll prospects in 2014. Krishna Sairam has the larger picture

While the Congress is under pressure in several states, nowhere is the situation as piquant for it as in Andhra Pradesh. In 2009, the state was a major contributor to the party’s Lok Sabha kitty, a walloping 33 out of 42 seats. Now, experts predict, the results would be quite the contrast. The rising unpopularity graph of the Congress has been put down to a cocktail of heavy taxes, soaring fuel prices and deadly political instability stemming from the proposed creation of a separate Telengana state.

If the recent byelection results and various surveys on the functioning of Congress government are anything to go by, there are disturbing signs ahead. Of 18 Assembly seats that went to the bypolls, Congress just about managed to retain two in addition to losing the important Nellore LS seat. In a pointer to what may happen in the foreseeable future, all these seats, barring Tirupati, were represented by Congress MLAs since 2009.

The party’s hard luck story in Andhra, post-YSR Reddy, continues. Dyed-in-the-wool Congress representatives in the constituencies going to the bypolls, one fine day and without any preliminaries, switched their loyalties to YSR Congress, launched by the late chief minister’s son Jaganmohan Reddy. The candidates may have lost the preliminary membership of the Congress but more than made up for it with thumping wins on the YSR Congress tickets. Today, without a shadow of doubt, the YSR Congress has emerged as a strong third force capable of delivering body blows to both the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

And that is precisely what it has done. It secured 46 per cent votes in the bypolls and that in multi-cornered contests. The fledgling legacy of YSR is fast spreading its base among the three prominent political regions in Andhra Pradesh – coastal Andhra, Telangana and Rayalaseema.

What has hit the Congress really hard is the Telengana issue: does the party and state government support the creation of a separate state carved out of Andhra, a long-standing political demand? The issue has virtually split the Congress vote bank with divided regional loyalties. By and large, party leaders in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema favour a united Andhra. In contrast, the people of Telangana are in ferment, their agitation for a separate state growing in magnitude by the day.

The Telengana issue has now become a mill around the party's neck. The party had 'promised’ to sympathetically look into the demands in the run-up to the 2004 and 2009 general elections. In reality, it has done very little. In contrast to the BJP, the Congress remains ideologically opposed to the idea of small states and has since 2004 pursued a meaningless policy of wait and watch. The BJP-led NDA government had presided over the bifurcation of UP and Bihar into Uttarakhand and Jharkhand respectively. If that was not bad enough, under acute local pressure, the Congress committed a grave error in December 2009 by recklessly announcing that the process for the formation of Telangana would be initiated. The announcement started a huge flap in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema.

Political analysts say that the central government succumbed to the pressure exerted by ‘muscled’ coastal leaders, whose interests are intrinsically linked with affluent Hyderabad and the central leadership of the party had no option but to go back on its somewhat tentative announcement. The results are there to see. From 2009 till date, the Congress has lost all elections in Andhra with huge margins. For the same period, the state has been virtually on the boil.

Says S Sudheer Kumar, an IT executive in Hyderabad, "The government has been unable to control agitations, leaving the people to fend for themselves against mobs. Obviously, people are seeking alternatives. Why should I vote for Congress again?’’ Kumar’s view is representative of the public ire.

Economically, too, the state is in a mess. In the last decade, Andhra Pradesh rarely witnessed power cuts in the monsoon season. Now for the first time, an 8-hour power cut in rural areas and 6 in urban, have added to people's frustration. Power holidays for industries are being enforced. There is no new industrial policy. Employment opportunities have fallen drastically and sales tax on fuel products are the highest in the country leading to all-round discontent.

The Telengana-driven political instability has kept investors away; not too long ago, this largest state in south India was a preferred destination for entrepreneurs. Slowly, many corporate offices are moving to Chennai, Bangalore and New Delhi, what with agitations and strike calls vitiating the working atmosphere to a significant degree.

The year 2009 can be considered a landmark for the Congress. "Since the 2009 elections, there have been three chief ministers but until the Telangana issue is settled, there will be no progress in the state. Either way, the government should take a call on the bifurcation and forcefully stand by its decision,’’ says Sethuraman, a Tamil merchant.

Inflation is a bugbear. "In the last three years, prices of essential commodities, including milk, oil and vegetables, have doubled. Why should I vote this government?" questions an indignant T Janaki Rani, a homemaker. Some preliminary poll surveys have given the Congress nine Lok Sabha seats out of 42. The worry is that if this trend continues till 2014, it will make its return in the state and perhaps even the centre, difficult.

The party’s high command is seized of the issue and the people's strong anti-Congress sentiments. Once Andhra paved the way for the formation of UPA government in 2004. But, in 2014, it shows all the signs of becoming a victim of deadly anti-incumbency.

Friday, October 26, 2012

In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which account for 120 Lok Sabha seats, Narendra Modi might loom large in 2014. so the Muslim vote could, as always, decisively tilt the balance

The question has the ring of a national pastime: who will the Muslims go with in 2014? Before and after every major election in this country, political analysts and pollsters go into overdrive with their prognostications or post-mortems on the voting patterns of the minority community. But do Muslims really vote en masse as part of a tactical approach to keep forces inimical to their interests out of power?

Independent Rajya Sabha member Mohammad Adeeb says: “Muslims do resort to tactical voting. They do so out of compulsion. Hindus and Muslims were together in the freedom struggle but after Independence the minority community developed a sense of fear. They felt that their identity was in danger. So they voted for secular parties. Muslims have generally gone with the Congress. They are in futile search of another Gandhi.”

Khalid Ashraf, lecturer in Delhi's Kirori Mal College, echoes Adeeb: “Tactical voting by Muslims is a compulsion. The issue of security is top priority for them.” He laments that “communalism and casteism are ingrained in this country’s DNA”. He adds: “Only a small segment of the population is non-communal.

Otherwise it's only a matter of degrees. Some are very communal, others are less so. This is true of every community.”

Former Rajya Sabha member Shahid Siddiqui dismisses the theory regarding tactical voting by Muslims: “It is a myth. Muslims do not vote only for Muslim candidates either. They vote for anybody who they find suitable whereas that is not true with Gujjars, Brahmins or Yadavs. If anything, Muslims vote sensibly. They do not vote for one party or one community. They vote for the Muslim League in Kerala, the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen in Andhra Pradesh, JD(U) in Bihar, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party or the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, the Left or Trinamool Congress in Bengal and the Congress in Karnataka.”

Siddiqui elaborates: “The Congress fielded the largest number of Muslim candidates in the last UP Assembly elections, but the community didn’t vote for them. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, however, Muslims had supported the Congress.” He adds: “The media treats Muslims as a herd. The impression is sought to be created that Muslim vote en masse. That is absolutely wrong. In the last UP Assembly elections, 60 per cent Muslims voted for SP while the rest voted for other political parties. By and large, the Muslim community votes like the Hindu community. Both vote differently in different states”.

Navaid Hamid, general secretary of the Movement for Empowerment of Muslim Indians, says: “Post-1986 elections, Muslims started exploring the strategy of tactical voting. The Shah Bano agitation and the hype of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement created serious reservations among Muslims regarding the Congress and obviously BJP. The new situation forced them to think about a new political alignment. The Bhagalpur riots, the Nellie massacre, and a sequence of communal riots led to disillusionment with the ruling Congress party. So wherever there was an alternative to the Congress Muslims voted for that alternative. But where there was no alternative, Muslims stayed with the Congress like in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.”

He believes that as of today, the Congress would get the Muslim vote because there is no third front. “Unfortunately, issues like corruption get a secondary place because security and discrimination come to the fore as they are directly linked to Muslims. The corruption issue gets sidelined also because the principal opposition party, BJP, is itself involved in large-scale corruption,” adds Hamid.

President of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen Asaduddin Owaisi, MP, stresses the need for Muslims to develop their own political entity because even tactical voting has failed to serve its purpose. “In Assembly elections, regional considerations come into play. Wherever there is an alternative other than the Congress Muslims do vote for them. However, in states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi or Maharashtra there is no choice, so Muslims by default vote for Congress. It is time Muslims develop their own political space. We are not the sole torch-bearers of secularism.”

“It is a tragedy that a large section of the population does not accord importance to national issues like corruption and misgovernance and votes just to keep one political entity out of power. This approach can neither serve the interest of the nation nor of any particular community. People may call it tactical voting but for me it is insensitive voting,” says Rajesh Kumar, special correspondent of The Pioneer and resident of Bihar’s Sitabdiara (the birthplace of Jayaprakash Narayan).

Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have significant Muslim populations. The two states account for 120 Lok Sabha seats. So how the Muslims vote in these two states does impact the final outcome of the general elections. Senior journalist Zafar Agha visualises three possible scenarios for UP in the 2014 elections.

Scenario 1: If the present phase of economic reforms works out, fetches results, money starts flowing, everything improves and no Assam-like riots erupt in the Congress-ruled states, then Muslims could go with the Congress.

Scenario 2: If Modi wins in Gujarat and BJP projects him as its prime ministerial candidate and the fight narrows down Rahul versus Modi, Muslims will go with the Congress. In this scenario, the decision of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar would also be a deciding factor.

Scenario 3: In case the decline of the Congress continues and BJP projects Modi as its candidate then Muslims may go with the regional parties. In that situation the chances of a third front emerging brightens as Muslims will do tactical voting to keep both the Congress and BJP out and facilitate the formation of a third front government with the outside support of either BJP or Congress.

Shahid Siddiqui says: “SP would be the biggest loser in western UP in the next Lok Sabha elections as the number of Yadavs is not significant in this area. Here, Muslims would vote for the main force at the Centre and Congress could gain. In eastern UP, however, all the key parties will have a chance. In 2014, Muslims would certainly not vote the way they did in the Assembly elections. The Lok Sabha election is a different kettle of fish.”

Predicting a poor show by the Congress, Mohd Adeeb says: “In 2009, Muslims voted for the Congress thinking that the party would carry forward the work of UPA-1. They believed that it would fulfil its promise of implementing the Sachar Committee recommendations. These recommendations have remained on paper for the last seven years. Though the Congress would suffer setbacks in the 2014 elections and regional parties would gain, the possibility of any third front coming to power is rather remote.”

In Bihar, too, Muslims appear to be losing faith in regional parties. They are beginning to look towards the Congress. Therefore, if the Congress goes in for a pre-poll alliance with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) then the BJP-led NDA could face the music in the next parliamentary elections. Another factor that looms large over the minds of Bihari Muslims is the possibility of BJP projecting Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. Though the minority community appears to be happy with Nitish Kumar for now, the Modi factor could undermine the chief minister’s chances in 2014. Patna native Arif Siddiqui, who works in Delhi, says: “There has been overall development in the state, and the law and order situation has improved appreciably. So Muslims in Bihar will vote for Nitish.”

However, there are those that club Nitish and former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav together and allege that both are opportunists who have only exploited the community. The Bihar state president of the International Human Rights Security Council Arif Hussain says: “In the last 22 years, the ruling parties have sown the seeds of casteism among Muslims. Muslims are now sub-divided into several castes and this has been done by the regional parties. This factor could also tilt voters towards the Congress. What is the harm in projecting Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate? He has a clean and secular image”.

At present, JD(U) has 22 members in Parliament whereas BJP has 13 MPs from Bihar. If this alliance breaks then the present tally could change and Nitish's tally could go up. Muslims constitute 14 per cent of Bihar’s population. In 12 of the 40 LS seats in the state, the Muslim vote is decisive. These seats include Kishanganj, Araria, West Champaran, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Katihar, Bhagalpur, Gopalganj, Munger and Patna Sahib.

Social worker Ashfaq Husain says: “Lalu used to say he would not allow Praveen Togadia to enter the state. Nitish targets Modi in a similar manner. But Muslims here are leaning towards the Congress.” Hussain believes that Nitish will back BJP at the Centre no matter how the alliance fares in Bihar. Muslims are unlikely to ignore that eventuality when they go out to cast their vote in the 2014 general elections.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Partymen feel Priyanka has a magic wand. sadly, it doesn't work when the chips are down

Every election (and increasingly in between), Congress workers work themselves into a frenzy asking for greater participation by Priyanka Gandhi in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. That apart, on half a dozen online fan clubs devoted to her, admirers write in with heartfelt pleas set to variations of “it is the need of the hour and only you can do it”. While there is no denying Priyanka’s charisma and her people skills, it is equally true that her presence does not translate into votes. In UP’s elections this year the party was handed a stunning defeat in the family strongholds of Rae Bareli and Amethi where it netted only two of the 10 seats. This, after an intensive 17-day campaign where even her children made a brief appearance.

Her brother has failed more spectacularly. In Bihar, his campaign ended with the party losing five of the 9 seats it had won in 2005. In UP, his extensive criss- crossing of the state, egged on by theatrics such as tearing up an opposition party’s election manifesto, helped the party crawl up to 28, an addition of six to its previous tally. Yet, Congress netas fell over themselves to take blame for the defeat.

In all fairness though, Rahul’s failure seems bigger only because his stage is larger. Priyanka has confined herself to what the media refers to as the family boroughs. She has also stayed away from commenting on contentious issues behind a non-committal 'I will do as I am told' facade. UP’s newly anointed Congress chief Nirmal Khattri takes the familiar party stand when he says that it is not just the party but the people of the country who look up to the Nehru-Gandhi family but it is for the head of the family to decide when a member should be initiated in politics. He is however quick to admit that there are other issues that the party needs to address more urgently.

“Somewhere our contact with people is broken. We need to be with them on the ground, fighting for their causes. The morale of the rank and file needs to be built,” says Khattri. Annu Tandon, the party’s MP from Unnao believes that it is too early to pronounce Rahul a failure. “He has not been given a chance to participate in governance. When will be a good time for that is not for anyone else to decide. If we look at the Congress performance like a half-filled glass, then the filled part is Rahulji, the empty part is the party.”

She rubbishes comparisons between the siblings. “Priyanka too has not been given the chance to prove herself in governance. Comparisons are thus irrelevant.” Such logic however does not drive the action of Congressmen who during UP’s Vidhan Sabha elections went into overdrive about the ‘leadership potential’ they had spotted in Priyanka’s two children even as their amused mother told the media that she had just brought her city-bred children to “see” rural life.

Even otherwise Congressmen have displayed remarkable lack of judgement when it comes to The Family. Remember Salman Khurshid wishing that Rahul would shed his ‘cameo’ role and provide ideological direction to the party. But Khurshid, who proved himself the party’s biggest liability in the UP polls, only voiced what many in the party feel. One Congressman says, “You cannot parachute into the state and expect spectacular results. He is more missing, than in action”.

But to assume that Priyanka is more suited to a lead role is putting hope over experience. Rahul is burdened by destiny to prop the Congress. He gives the appearance of being a sincere but unwilling politician somewhat out of touch with ground realities. To hope that his sister would do better on the field is mere speculation.

Unfortunately, speculation is politics' favourite pastime.

Friday, October 12, 2012

We face the problem of 'image vs reality'

IIPM Review MBA 2012

In an interview on a wide range of topics, the BJP party president, Nitin Gadkari tells TSI that this time around the party is concentrating its energies on the rural poor, the unorganised sector and the adivasis

Nitin Gadkari
Nitin Gadkari
What is going on in the BJP?
Things are on the right track though some time we face the problem of 'image vs reality’. We are a democratic party, not a family or proprietary concern. We are a collective leadership. BJP's critics say that the party is opportunistic, changing its policies to suit the situation of the moment. This has alienated your supporters. Comment. This is not true. There has been no change in the party’s policy. After my taking over as the BJP’s national president, we have been concentrating on five segments including SCs and STs to augment our vote bank. We are mobilising the unorganised sector. The Bharatiya Shramik Mahasangh held a conference of nearly 20,000 workers in New Delhi. We have been taking the help of the ‘Friends of BJP.’

At present, the BJP has 27 cells and groups working on different projects. Our 'good governance' approach is one of the measures to reach out to the new segments of the population. Besides Manipur, we will be fighting elections in Uttarakhand, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Goa. In Punjab and Uttarakhand, the challenge is to retain power.

Are you banking on the non-performance of the Congress?
We don’t wish to get elected on a negative plank. We are according priority to villages, the rural poor, the unorganised workers, the agriculture sector and on the economic issues. For us it is important to work for removal of poverty, employment generation and transforming agricultural and rural India economy.

We are evolving our strategies on these issues. At present, we are preparing documents on 32 subjects under the title ‘The Difference that We Made.’ This will highlight the good work we have done in the BJP-ruled states. Like, the Public Distribution System (PDS) in Chhattisgarh that helped in rooting out corruption. In Gujarat, the 14 per cent rate of growth tells the success story in this BJP ruled state.

So far, we have held 17 conclaves on different topics. Our other priority is tourism development. It is my dream that transport in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand runs on electricity because they are a power surplus state. Another thrust area will be the BLOT (build-lease-operate-transfer) model, which can materialise projects worth Rs 5,000 crore without investing any public funds. Simultaneously, we are working in fields such as bio-fuel, organic farming and yoga. They have a huge employment potential.

What about the Ram Mandir issue?
The path for the Ram Mandir has been cleared. The verdict of the Allahabad High Court is unambiguous. At present, the matter is before the Supreme Court.

What is your position on Foreign Direct Investment?
We are not against FDI per se. In the present situation, bringing FDI in retail will result in creating unemployment in this sector. There are an estimated five crore families in small and medium enterprises. We implemented FDI in power and infrastructure when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was leading the nation.

Do you support the malls of Reliance, Birla and Tata?
Indian industrialists have every right to open malls in India. But it is also true that small retailers face difficulties because of big players.

Today, the shared view is that BJP is a party of leaders. That it lacks cohesion and party workers?
I do not claim that everything is all right with us. But no, this is not true. We have several prominent leaders both at the centre and in the states. Our NDA-BJP chief ministers are doing extremely well. The GDP has shown a growth of 11 percent in Bihar. Madhya Pradesh, once called a sick state, has achieved a rate of 8.5 per cent growth. There is a perception that the RSS has appointed you... No. It is not correct. The RSS never appoints anyone in the BJP.

Does the RSS give you directions?
The RSS has been an integral part of my life. Only once in the last two years, has the RSS asked me to stand firmly behind Narendra Modi. Because he was facing difficulties. No other message has come from the RSS to me. You may write about the RSS but do verify the facts. The RSS never interferes in the functioning of the BJP.

You claim to be working on a strategy of winning 200 seats in the next Lok Sabha elections. Where are you going to get these seats?
Let me ask this question the other way round. Tell me the states which are favourable to the Congress? In the last election, we had won only 7 out of 70 seats in Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. This time, our tally in these states will easily go to 35-40.

Why is the BJP is called a communal party?
We may be called a communal party till we win 170 seats.

Will the BJP support the Lokayukta and Lokpal Bill?
Public sentiment demands action against the corrupt. I have told all elected representatives that politics is not a business to make money. We don’t claim that everybody in our party is honest. But it is our endeavour to provide a development oriented administration .

Do you support the agitation launched by Anna Hazare?
We support Anna’s movement. Some of the points raised by him are relevant.

Will Anna Hazare's agitation help you in the coming elections?
Anna is agitating to rid this country of corruption. We support his efforts. We will not seek his backing in elections. Your take on re-induction of Uma Bharti in the BJP. The party needs everyone who believes in BJP’s policies and programmes. Uma Bharti has her own image as a leader.

How do you rate Mayawati as a leader?
UP has suffered due to casteism. Mayawati indulged in caste politics and called it social engineering. But people are fed up with this now. They don’t want Mulayam’s goonda raj to return as well. The only options are the BJP and Congress.

Do you think the BJP will be able to put the Congress party on the back foot in the coming elections?
The Congress can’t answer questions on corruption, price rise and black money. Its credibility is lost due to 2G and Commonwealth Games scams.

During UPA-1 , there was an excuse that certain policies could not be pursued because of the Left Front. But that is not the case in the UPA-2. The Congress has finished the aam aadmi.

What is your stand on the issues like the food security bill?
The definition of the line of poverty must be revised to decide who are genuinely poor. They must be provided food at cheaper rates. It is not creditable to our country that people die of hunger.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Planman Media: PowerBrands Rising Stars 2012-13 book launch in Dubai

IIPM Review MBA 2012

Taking emerging Indian brands beyond national shores, ‘PowerBrands Rising Stars 2012-13’ gears up for its superlative launch at the PowerBrands International event in Dubai later this month.

An initiative by Planman Media, the event will be a celebration of achievement and success comprising of the PowerBrands Rising Stars 2012-13 book launch, brand appreciation awards, PowerBrands Leadership awards and PowerBrands Hall of Fame ceremony.

Prof. Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief Planman Media and Honorary Director IIPM Think Tank said, “The last decade or so witnessed India growing phenomenally stronger in the global arena. It climbed the growth chart in every facet of industry, and the Indian branding industry has been a healthy part of it. These are the brands that share their inspiring stories of growth, innovation and success in a complex market. These remarkably gripping brands represent the changing face of contemporary India”.

The Hall of Fame ceremony seeks to honor and celebrate the success of the living legends across industries in India and UAE. Understanding the nerves of the market, these leaders have established their inextinguishable presence on a pan-India level, a feat easier said than done. His Highness Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahayan - Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, UAE, who is also a member of the Royal Family of Abu Dhabi will grace the occasion as the esteemed Chief Guest. His Excellency Sanjay Verma - Consul General of India to Dubai will be the Special Guest of Honor.

Attendees will include people like Paras Shahdadpuri , Chairman – Nikai Group of Companies; Dr. Ram Buxani, President – ITL Cosmos; Vasu Shroff, Founder Chairman – Regal Group of Companies; Dr. Rana Kapoor, Founder Managing Director and CEO – Yes Bank; D. Shivakumar, Senior Vice President (Sales) India, Middle East and Africa Region – Nokia, Designer Manish Malhotra, Yogesh Mehta, Managing Director - Petrochem Middle East, Tej Raj Lohia, MD - Eagle Hunter Solutions Ltd., Vandana Luthra, Founder - VLCC amongst many others. Actors Arjun Kapoor & Ranveer Singh along with many others will be present too. Backed by rich experience, few of these renowned personalities will share their views on the Indian and UAE markets.

Deepak Kaistha, Chief Executive Officer – PowerBrands further added, “While brands play such an important role in the economy, there have been very few initiatives that have looked at Indian brands with a holistic perspective. Our PowerBrand Rising Stars 2012 recognises brands on the rise, that have etched a strong early impression, and encourages them to ‘elevate’ and capture the imagination of a resurgent India. Be sure that it'll be a proud embellishment in the world of branding!”

PowerBrands Rising Stars 2012-2013 is a revolutionary tale of success stories of the brands, who will be empowering our today for tomorrow. This coffee-table endeavour will act as a strategic tool to reinforce the supremacy, legacy, sustainability and credibility of the chosen few Indian brands. It is a salutation to the grit and determination of these emerging brands for having created a dominating space for themselves in the Indian marketing industry.

Some of the brands illustrated in the book, include Asian Tiles, Modicare, Cocoberry, Mad Over Donuts, Astral, EasyCabs, Neesa Basmati Rice and Sanjay Ghodawat Group, to name a few. PowerBrands Rising Stars 2012-13 promises to provide an elated experience to the brands as well as the readers by aiming to reach the next level of brand showcase and opulence.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

IIPM Review MBA 2012 - Delhi Bangalore Jaipur Lucknow Admissions

IIPM admissions 2012 for MBA program at any of the IIPM campuses are ongoing. The most preferred of all the campuses is IIPM Delhi. Bangalore, Jaipur, Lucknow & Noida are some of the other campuses that are popular. Each year a number of students take admission into various branches of the Indian Institute of Planning & Management Delhi (IIPM Delhi).

IIPM's Review on MBA Fee Structure

The IIPM fee structure mentioned below is for the 2012 admissions to MBA programs. The fee structure mentioned here is subject to change.

IIPM offer for different kinds of MBA programs. Each of these programs has different highlight offerings and accordingly different fee structure.

They offer two type of courses for MBA:

1. PGP International Courses:

A. IIPM PGP COURSE (with Resident ship):- 
This is a two year full time course. You get triple specialization option. Marketing is compulsory for all the students, then you choose between HR and Finance. After that you have 8 super specialization, out of which you choose one. Student will be studying 72 papers.
We take you abroad for your study tour either to USA/UK/Europe for 2 to 3 weeks.
Degree- IMI, Belgium
Diploma- IIPM
Certificate- Advance global management.
Total fee- 13.25 lac

This is a two year full time course. You get dual specialization option. Marketing is compulsory for all the students, then you choose between HR and Finance. We take you abroad for your study tour to European Countries.
Diploma- IIPM
Certificate- European Management Certificate
Total fee- 12.15 lacs

C. IIPM PGP (Regular GOTA):-
This is a single specialization course.
There is study tour to Dubai/ Brussels.
Degree from IMI Belgium
Diploma- IIPM
Total fee- 11.45 lacs

2. National U.G.C. Recognized course:

This is a single specialization course.
There is a study tour to Malaysia .
Degree- IMI, Belgium
Diploma- IIPM
Certificate- Malaysian University
Course Fee- 8.55 Lacs

B. ISBE (b):-
This is a single specialization course. You can choose between marketing/HR/Finance/Marcom/IT.
Degree- Gulbarga University
Diploma – ISBE
Course fees- 5.5 Lacs

This is precisely the IIPM fee structure currently. It includes a personal laptop for each student and guaranteed foreign trip/s. For all those who are looking for IIPM 2012 admissions should rush as the admission process will close soon.

For those who are keen on IIPM 2012 admissions or wish to know more about the programs offered, can fill up the IIPM form and one of the IIPM Counselors will get in touch with the interested candidates.