Friday, May 29, 2009

The 'Lalu Effect' on Indian Railways

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

As Mahmohan Singh's team takes charge and the country rejoices voting a stable government at the centre Lalu Prasad Yadav has turned out to be the biggest casualty in this ekection. His dwindling away from the Congress just before the elections not only cost him dear in Bihar but it also meant that India's most successful Railway Minister would not be getting back his ministry which he truly deserved.

Yesterday I got a proof of the Lalu Effect on Indian Railways. I got a email saying “Thank you for using IRCTC's online rail ticket booking services. From 1st April’09 Railway has revised the passenger fares. As you have booked tickets prior to 1st-April’09 an amount of Rs.32 towards the difference of fare for the ticket booked vide PNR No XXXXXXX has been issued to electronic payment gateway on 01-Apr-2009. Same shall appear in your account within three to four working days. You are requested to please check with concerned bank regarding the same. We regret the delay if any, in crediting back the refunds. We solicit your continued patronage to our services”

I had long ago booked the tickets and even forgotten about the adjustments but the Lalu Effect chased me to refund my money. Critics would say what about the lakhs of people who book tickets in the counters how will they get back their refund. But the question ho many of us fill our proper contact details in the form while booking tickets. Even if the Railways wants to refund money through post it won't be due to the lack of proper address for correspondence.

Anybody who has travelled in a short distance or a long distance train in pre and post Lalu era will swear by the performance of the Bihar strongman. Lalu had done the unthinkable reduced fares but at the same time increased efficiency of the Indian Railways. He brought the poor railway porters under the payrolls of the Indian Railways but at the same time showed profits year after year during his entire five years tenure.

What was certainly a sure ministry for Lalu had he not committed a political blunder has been taken over by a uncertain Mamata Baneejee. She had almost made the Railways bankrupt during her previous tenure at the Rail Bhavan and this time too top railway officials are worried. Lalu not getting the ministry after such a wonderful performance is a shame on Indian Democracy.

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam had once said political parties have to strike a balance between 'Party Politics' and 'Developmental Politics'. In this case Party Politics has won over Developmental Politics. True Lalu may have backstabbed the Congress during the elections but the Congress is backstabbing the Indian Railways by not giving its charge to a performing candidate. Can Dr Mahmohan Singh hold his heart and say performance is the mantra for his government when a Lalu is dropped and a Vilasrao Deshmukh is brought in?

Life has turned a full circle in the life of Lalu Prasad Yadav who has lost the confidence of the people as well as his political peers. Its ironical that when he had turned Bihar into Jungle Raj he was being voted in turn after turn but when he delivered he was left alone in the wild. Well is this the reward that Lalu deserved for his performance? Is performance the criteria for allotting ministries in this democracy that we are so proud of?


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Manmohan's team has been finally selected

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

After the most closely fought elections in the country's history and tug of war with the allies over ministerial berths Manmohan Singh's team is finally ready. After the initial swearing in ceremony of on the May 22 which say only 19 heavy weights take oath it was the turn complete team to take oath at the Rashtripati Bhavan from President Prathiba Patil.

14 Cabinet ministers and 45 Minister of State were sworn in today taking the total to a whooping 79 in the 543 member house which is a record. Three DMK candidates M K Azhagiri, Dayanidhi Maran and A Raja were sworn in as Cabinet Ministers. This after DMK had stayed out of Friday's swearing in due to dispute with Congress over ministerial berths.

Other well known faces to take oath were former J&K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, former Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, Former Himachal CM Virbhadra Singh, Pawan Kumar Bansal, Jairam Ramesh. Also among the sworn in ministers was Shashi Tharoor whose destiny seemed to lay in the Indian parliament rather than becoming the Secretary General of the United Nations.

The youth brigade was not far behind with Sachin Pilot, Agatha Christie Sangam, Jiten Prasad, Jyotiraditya Scindia The government seems to be a rich mix of young and old with former Karnataka CM SM Krishna being the oldest at 77 who was already greying at 50 when the youngest Agatha Christie Sangam who is 27 was born.

The swearing in of 60 ministers could not have gone through without its share of goof ups. Congress' Jairam Ramesh who was fumbling forgot to sign the register after taking oath while V Narayansamy requested time from the President to settle his papers. The best of the day however came from Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Ray who did not even wait for the President to give him the official cue while taking oath.

Now with the swearing in ceremony completed the country has got a government for the 15th Lok Sabha under the leadership of Dr Manmohan Singh. The immediate tasks will be to revive the economy and overhaul the security set-up in the country. Mahmohan and his team have to live up to the faith shown by the people of the nation upon them.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pakistan falls victim to terror again

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

As we rejoice the success of biggest democratic elections the world has ever seen the attack in Lahore reminds us of the kind of volatile neighbourhood we are in. Pakistan has become a victim of its home grown terror. The terrorist outfits it had nurtured over the years to fight against India and create tension in Afghanistan has turned into a Frankenstein's Monster for it. The war lords no longer take commands from Islamabad in fact dreams of running over it.

Many in India might feel Pakistan is getting what it deserves. After all a country which has waged a proxy war against us for over two decades is finally facing the music. Pakistan which supported terror outfits in Kashmir and elsewhere now cannot handle the monster it created. But a war torn Pakistan is never good for out growth as they say we cannot choose our neighbours. If Pakistan is run-over by Taliban their next target will definitely be India.

Pakistan alone is not to be blamed for creation of the Taliban or the Al Qaeda. The United States and Saudi Arabia are as much responsible for creation of these organizations as Pakistan is. If Pakistan nurtured them the arms came from the United States while Saudi Arabia always pitched in with the money needed to run these organizations. Initially they fought the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan and then turned their guns towards India once Soviet army withdrew from Afghanistan.

The 9/11 attacks on America meant that the entire geo-political equation of the region was changed. US taking on the Taliban and the Al Qaeda meant flirting with a beehive. The US might have scored initial victories by dismantling certain amount of terror infrastructure in Afghanistan but it created more volatility in the region when these terrorists sneaked into Pakistan and blended among the tribals of North West Pakistan.

As America tries to create an escape route for itself out of the region, it is Pakistan which is bleeding the most and posing a serious threat to India. There are chances that the Pakistani Army and the government may be run over within a few years. Although there is some ease in the tension along the Indo-Pak border due to the epicentre of the war being on Pakistan's North West, India cannot afford to relax as the Taliban is now at a striking distance from Indian border.

India should actively help Pakistan in its fight against the Taliban as it will be for our own safety in Indo-Pak border. It is any day be easier easier for India to talk with a civilian or a military government in Pakistan than to have a bilateral discussion with Taliban war lords.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mamata wants to run Railways from home!

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

After drawing first blood against the Left Front in the Lok Sabha polls Mamata Banerjee is no mood to let the momentum go of the hooks ahead of the Assembly elections in West Bengal. In a demand which may sound bizarre to many the fearsome Mamata wants to look over the Indian Railways from home! Well not quite literally she wants to report to Eastern Railway Headquarters in Kolkata rather than in Rail Bhavan, New Delhi.

Mamata has set her eyes on the 2011 Assembly Elections and she wouldn't like to divert her attention from her home state. With the Left facing its worst political crisis in over three decades Didi is planning to tighten her grip over the her political opponents. With both the Urban and the Rural voters giving their consent to her in the Lok Sabha polls Mamata is planning to topple India's longest running state government.

The people of West Bengal who are tired of one party rule in the state for three decades might rejoice Mamata's attention towards the state but the worrying factor lies with her handling the key portfolio of Indian Railways. The country's biggest mode of public transport will need full attention from a Minister. Railways are key to the growth of our economy and any amount of neglect might proved costly for the country's growth.

Many top officials in the Indian Railways are worried that Mamata might halt the process of modernization in the Indian Railways started by her predecessor Lalu Prasad Yadav. It was under the leadership of the Bihar strongman that the Indian Railways made huge profits and improved its efficiency by leaps and bounds. Once the biggest loss making government body the Indian Railways started swelling in profits once the RJD boss took over in 2004.

Critics might argue that it won't be too difficult for a minister to handle a ministry from a metro like Kolkata. True, but there are two points which needs to be remembered. First Mamata's performance as a Railway Minister in the past had hardly been anything to talk about. Secondly she is stepping into big shoes perhaps India's most successful Railway Minister since independence. Hope Indian Railways is not sacrificed in the name of a state election.


Monday, May 25, 2009

IPL is over, what next?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

For the better part of last one month most Indians were busy with either the Lok Sabha Elections or the second season of the Indian Premier League. The evenings meant catching up matches on the idiot box for most Indians thanks to the to tournament being shifted to South Africa. Be it the Chargers, the Riders or the Royals all teams had their dedicated fans who followed them throughout the competition.

If the start of the tournament was spent praying for no rain delays and trying to figure out the perfect team combinations the later half meant calculating the chances of our respective teams in the semi-finals. Many of Kolkata Knight Riders fans like me were relieved of the second half job as it was quite evident the KKR would be the roots of the IPL tree this season!

Now as first season's chokers Deccan Chargers have won the tournament fans wonder what will they do next? It will take some time for things to settle down after the electrifying cricketing actions that lasted for non-stop 37 days. If last year IPL came out with flying colours when it came grabbing eyeballs this year in spite of the General Elections the television sets were buzzing with life feeds from the Rainbow Nation.

There are a lot of people who will rejoice that the Indian Premier League has ended for this year. Topping that list will be the producers of the never ending saas bahu sagas who have been the biggest victims of the IPL in both the seasons. Also the fans of these shows will be happy as they won't need to fight over the remote with their family members. The workaholic bosses will breathe a sigh of relief as their subordinates won't make excuses to go home early. IPL 2 has ended in style with a nail biting match that went down to the wire.

The die-hard cricket fans will be eagerly waiting for the T20 World Cup in June but that tournament would not be as much of an entertainment package as the IPL. The reason is nationality where we won't be able to digest anybody else winning other than India where as in IPL the looser team's supporters could easily switch sides! Hopefully IPL Season 3 will come bigger and better, after all it will be home coming for the tournament after a year's foreign stint.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pranab da should bring goodies to Bengal

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

For the better part of the last three decades politicians from West Bengal have occupied the opposition benches in the Lok Sabha. The Left Front MPs time and again failed to grab developmental projects by the Centre. What that meant was Bengal remained aloof from the national race to become a global superpower from a third world nation. When the Karunanidhis, Modis, Naidus and the Krishnas were grabbing huge pies from the Centre politicians from Bengal lived up to tag of being OPPOSITION in every sense.

As the country went ahead post liberalisation era Bengal was living in the dark shadows of poverty and underdevelopment. This resulted in huge brain drain out of the state which cost dearly so much so that once the most flourishing province in the days of the British Raj is today counted among the most backward states in the country. Although most of the Bengali ‘bhadralok’ like us would not like to accept this in open but deep down in our heart we cannot even counter it.

The results of the 15th Lok Sabha polls brought in a lot of surprise to the state. The writing on the wall was clear and the people of the state decided Bengal’s car at the Centre won’t have a Left Hand Drive for the next five years. Manmohan’s new Cabinet team will have a record number of representations from the state with Congress’ all weather man Pranab Mukherjee will hold the key portfolio of Finance and Left’s thorn in the flesh Mamata sitting in the engine of the Indian Railways.

The people of the Bengal and surrounding areas in the East and North East will hope to get some special attention from Pranab da. Let us be honest Central Ministers have always showered goodies on their own states holding key portfolios be it the Lalus and Nitish Kumars making Bihar and unofficial hub of Indian Railways or the Naidus and Marans driving lion’s share of the Telecom and Information Technology revolution down south.

The entire Eastern part of the country including the North East has remained backward due to poor representation at the corridors of power. But with Pranab’s command over the Finance the people of Bengal finally have something to rejoice. They hope the UPA government to shower some goodies to the state keeping in mind the assembly elections of 2011. If West Bengal flourishes the tremors of development will reach other neighbouring states as well.

The only worry is the whether the Left will play the role of a responsible opposition at the Centre and speed up development being in the driver’s seat in West Bengal. They have to do a lot of rethinking more so with their ideology. They have to shed their Anti-Americanism and become pro-development in their approach. The problem with them is they oppose the increase in the price of American soft drinks but keep mum when Russia blackmails us to pay them $2 billion dollars after the agreement was signed for $500 million dollars for the Aircraft Carried Admiral Ghroshkov.

It is now over to Pranab Mukherjee and Mamata’s Trinamool to assure the people of Bengal that they really voted for a change. All of us can hope some 'winds of change' will finally blows in West Bengal.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Who wants to be a 'Minister'

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Just when the people of the country and the markets were breathing a sigh of relief having voted a stable government there are first sign of trouble. The friction has started even before Manmohan Singh assumes office as the 18th Prime Minister of India. The reason well the most expected one 'ministerial berths'. After fighting the election as a part of Congress led collation all the UPA partners want a share of the pie.

The DMK is at loggerheads with the Congress over the number of ministries it wants to hold in the Union Cabinet. DMK had demanded as many as 8 Cabinet berths for itself which is unacceptable to the Congress. The Congress is riding on the confidence that it can form a government at the centre without the help of the DMK which need to bow down to save its government in Tamil Nadu which survives on Congress' support. In a scenario where DMK and Congress part ways Jayalalitha will not waste a minute in holding Congress' HAND.

Who says Congress alone promotes dynasty politics DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi wanted to have his son M K Azhagiri, daughter Kanimozhi and grand nephew Dayanadhi Maran in the Union Cabinet which was agreed upon by the Congress. The bone of contention has been the name of TR Baalu former Cabinet minister for Shipping, Road Transport & Highways. The Congress wants to keep him away for his corrupted background.

Sharad Pawar's dream of becoming the Prime Minister will remain unfulfilled. This time with Rahul making 'ekla chalo' as the buzz word in state elections means that the Maratha leader is at the mercy of the Congress. He is likely to hold Food and Agriculture Ministry while his party colleague Praful Patel will get Civil Aviation.

Mamata Banerjee who holds the second largest number of seats in the pre-poll UPA alliance will surely drive the Indian Railways. Lalu Prasad Yadav's political blunder meant that he isn't getting anything in 'Taatkal' and most likely he isn't even a part of the 'Waiting List'. For the first time Congress and TMC believe Left can be defeated in West Bengal so it won't be surprising if more if goodies are showered upon the MPs from the state with Pranab Mukherjee already getting Finance.

Other partners like the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference, Kerala Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League will have to take whatever elder brother Congress gives them. With the kind of numbers Congress has this time its allies unless united together won't be able to blackmail it anymore. Gone are the Karats, Lalus and Paswans of Manmohan's previous government. The Singh is King finally!


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Knight Riders end on a winning note

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Comparing cricket and politics is like comparing between cucumber salad and mutton curry in a menu. But with the change of political guard in West Bengal there seems to have been a change of fortune for the team from City of Joy at the IPL. The Kolkata Knight Riders finally stuck form although the tournament was over for them long ago.

It is very interesting how cities ride on their own luck. Kolkata for quite sometime has been in news always for the wrong reasons. India's once most flourishing city had been turned into a political cowshed over the years. As people cheered a change in political guard which took almost three decades to come the Men in Black and Gold brought in some unexpected cheers from South Africa too.

Their back to back wins to end the tournament brought in some smile for their fans who had almost stopped following the tournament after their team went through a humiliating nine consecutive losses. Although their win could not do them any good in the tournament it might save some players and support staff from facing the axe ahead of the next season.

Looking back at their performance Kolkata could have had a couple more wins had they not lost their nerves. The team was so short of self confidence that they gave away two matches to Bangalore Royal Challengers and Deccan Chargers Hyderabad after occupying the driver's seat. It was expected the Knight Riders would dent somebody's fate in the tournament and it was the defending champions Rajasthan Royals. Their dream of second consecutive IPL trophy got halted by KKR's last minute sparkle.

There are rumours of Shahrukh planning to sell the team and also a major overhaul is on the cards. Perhaps some changes are necessary to prepare a better team for the next year's tournament. KKR who did not have a very impressive performance even in the first season will definitely require some changes in their fragile middle order. It is no surprise that the teams which have good number 3, 4 and 5 are doing well in the tournament.

All is not over for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League and they can bounce back in the next season. Perhaps they should take cue from the Bangalore Royal Challengers and the Deccan Chargers Hyderabad who after a dismal show last year came back strongly this year. After all a hundred thousand fans will cheer for them at Eden Gardens in the next season humming Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo Re....


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What went wrong for the BJP?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

If the results of the 2004 Lok Sabha polls were surprising for the BJP the results of the 2009 polls came as a rude shock. The party had not expected to sweep through the polls this time but didn't expect its tally to end up being almost half that of its arch rivals the Congress. The loss was not only in the number of seats but the saffron brigade lost a pie of their vote share across the nation barring a few states.

Poll analysts hadn't predicted a huge show by the BJP but felt that the part could emerge neck in neck with the Congress. With a recession hit economy, sky-rocketing inflation and Mumbai terror attacks some believed the tide was shifting towards the BJP just before the elctions. But alas the Indian voter thought otherwise and a pan Indian mood shattered LK Advan's dream of occupying 7, Race Course Road.

As the BJP tries to find out the reasons for its humiliation it will have the company of its arch rivals the Left Front who too are shell shocked. One thing common between both this parties has been they failed to understand the mood of the Indian voter. While BJP was in no mood to come out of the clutches of Babri Masjid and the RSS, the Left Front doesn't want to accept the fact that the Cold War has ended almost two decades ago and anti-Americanism doesn't appeal anymore.

BJP's campaign was centered around negativism and similar to what Pakistan has been doing for years. Our western neighbours have been time and again focussing on destroying us. Had they put in the same effort towards their development we could have had a better neighbour. BJP leadership hardly talked about development and believed in mud slinging and the results are here for us to see. The only states (Bihar, Chattisgarh) where they talked development they won handsomely.

The BJP leadership tried to point out the failure of the UPA government rather than focussing on their election manifesto which had so many developmental projects like linking of rivers, high speed internet connectivity, Rs 100000 fund for a girl child soon after her birth. Did the voters even know about these promises by the BJP camp. The answer is a 'NO'. Well how could they the BJP leaders were not even interested in talking about them. They were busy patronising a Varun Gandhi more than talking about developmental issues.

BJP failed to understand that fact the nation has moved from their Hindutva wave. People are more interested in jobs and a better future for their families than a Ram Temple being built in Ayodhya. The urban people like to practise religion as their personal subject rather than it be made a political compulsion by some party. They were unaware of the fact that a majority of Indians want peace in their everyday life rather than fight over the issue of a temple.

The absence of Atal Behari Vajpayee in the campaign process also cost the BJP. There is no better star campaigner for the party who appeals to all even people among the opposition camp. BJP also ignored the fact that India is a young country and there is a need to project young leaders. BJP only had a controversial Varun Gandhi while its opponent the Congress had an army under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi who created a huge impact in this election.

In the end it was a failed campaign for the Iron Man of Indian politics Advani whose dreams of occupying the highest chair will most probably remain unfulfilled. As for the party it will be an uphill task of rebuilding and bringing back to its past glory. If BJP wants to create an impact in 2014 it will have to start building itself from now. It wasted the 5 years between 2004 and 2009 in building strong leadership and the results are here for all of us to see.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sri Lanka proves terrorism can be crushed

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

After three decades of violence which cost the lives of 70000 people in Sri Lanka the guns have fallen silent in the island nation. Tamil Tigers chief Velupillai Prabhakaran who led one of the most dreaded terrorist outfit in the world has been finally eliminated. The top brass of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam which was trapped in a one square kilometre area finally gave up their fight.

In the end Prabhakaran could not keep his promise of not falling to a Sri Lankan bullet. Prabhakaran had taught his fighters to consume cyanide capsules rather then fall into the hands of the Sri Lanka authorities did not seem to have enough courage take his own life. He was gunned down while trying to feel in an ambulance.

It is a huge victory for President Mahindra Rajapakse and his government who fought against all odds to crush the terrorist outfit which once ruled over one third of Sri Lanka. Rajapakse also had to fignt a humanitarian crisis in Northern Sri Lanka where the rebel outfit had made the helpless Tamil civilians their human shields in a bid to escape the onslaught of the Sri Lankan armed forces.

In the end it was the political resolve of the Sri Lankan government to fight terrorism which led it to victory. Big Brother India which has been a victim of terrorism across the country especially in Jammu and Kashmir and North East should take a cue from their southern neighbour. Terrorism can be crushed if the armed forces are backed by a political resolve and it was proved in Punjab when KPS Gill and his man broke the backbone of the terror outfits.

India's war against terrorism lacked political resolve and it has always been looked through the lens of politics and elections wins. Be it in Jammu and Kashmir or the North East the armed forces time and again have been let down by the political leadership in fighting militancy. India has also failed to take a tough stand against Bangladesh which harbours anti-India outfits also across the borders with India. It brands Pakistan as perpetrators of terror but doesn't raise the same voice against Bangladesh.

The political slogan which India needs to adopt is “If LTTE can be defeated any terrorist outfit can be destroyed.” After all LTTE was the most feared terrorist outfit in the world which was running a parallel government in Sri Lanka. There are not many terrorists outfits in the world which had a Naval and an Air Force wing like the LTTE. Hopefully the Indian government at the centre and the states take inspiration from Sri Lankan fight to end terrorism.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Has Bengal had enough of Left?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The results of the 15th Lok Sabha polls hasn't been too surprising but in the context of West Bengal 'shocking' is the word. The Left was expected to perform badly but nobody thought they would crumble in the manner they did. Not even the worst of the political critics of the Left Front could have predicted this just about two years ago. Mamata's 'Maa Maati Manush' appealed to the people and they did the unimaginable.

The Left parties are finding it tough to understand what went wrong for them. How could a fortified structure they had created in three decades fall like a pack of cards in three years since the violence in Nandigram? From the urban middle class to the Muslims everybody voted against them. They even lost credibility among the rural masses once their stronghold thanks to the mishandling of the Singur and Nandigram crisis.

What was surprising was to see the Trinamool Congress win in most of the urban constituencies and doing a clean sweep of Kolkata. Many would have believed this to be impossible after the dissent that the urban Kolkata had with Mamata Banerjee after she chased away the prestigious Tata Nano project from the state. Many people believed West Bengal did not even have a choice to throw the Left out after the Nano mess.

The thing that went against Left was the consolidation of votes. The urban voter especially the youth always felt let down by the Left rule voted against it. Combined with the Muslim and the rural electorates it formed a lethal combination against the Left. As for the Red Front it was left with votes from their supporters who believed in their ideology and its a known fact that this group is shrinking.

Although the Left leaders may be pointing fingers at Prakash Karat for this humiliation the actual reason for their defeat was within Bengal. The truth is a person in rural Bengal doesn't even know who Prakash Karat is and doesn't care what is his stand on the nuclear deal or about his ego issue with Manmohan Singh. The fact is this person only cares about his basics which was being threatened by the Left as was evident in Singur and Nandigram.

The violence in Nandigram exposed the ugly face of Left. People in the rural belt who always considered the Left Front as a saviour suddenly felt threatened with there sentinels. The cadre based strong local units that the Left had created over decades and which won them election after election lost the trust of the common man and led to its debacle.

Ironically with 35 seats in 2004 Left had delivered its best performance in the state. In a matter of just five years tide seems to have blown in the opposite direction in West Bengal. The 2011 Assembly elections will give a better picture whether a obituary for the Left can be written or this election was an one off incident. But one thing has surely changed, the myth that 'Left cannot be defeated in West Bengal'


Thursday, May 14, 2009

The 'King-Makers' come alive

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

As expected most of of the Exit Poll results have predicted a hung Parliament raising the political mercury levels across the country. With a photo finish being predicted between the two national parties all the allies and regional parties are keeping their potions open. Post May 16 some pre-poll alliance are expected to break and UPA would not mind dumping Mamata Banrejee and Karunanidhi if the Left and Jayalalitha come in with more numbers.

Barring the Congress and the BJP and few of their allies all the other parties are calculating the pros and cons of going either way. From the Jayalalithas to the Chandra Babu Naidus to the Mamata Banerjees all want to be 'king makers' in the 15th Lok Sabha. From important ministerial berth to regional demands, almost any bargain is justified as long as support is pledged to a national alliance. Nobody wants to miss a share of the pie in New Delhi.

The last phase of polling seems to have made some of our leaders do a reality check. With a dismal six seats predicted for him Lok Janshakti Party chief Ramvilas Paswan has already said he will do anything to keep the NDA out of power thus unofficially lending his support to the UPA. The dream of a Fourth Front seems to be over for this Dalit leader. Lalu faring poorly in Bihar will loose no time in getting back to the UPA train and try getting his own bogie (read Railway Ministry)

The actual 'king-makers' might come from down south this time. Jayalalitha and Chandra Babu Naidu might have larger roles to play than the Lalus and the Amar Singhs. As for the NDA it will try to make sure that it gets the support of these two leaders. If by any equation it can get Mayawati on board L K Advani can realistically look at being the next resident of 7 Race Course Road, New Delhi. As for the Congress other than the BJP it seems to be reaching out to all others.

But again Exit Polls are no results and in the last Lok Sabha Polls they proved how horribly wrong they can be. In 2004 a substantial number of sets has a narrow victory margin and thus the Exit Polls went wrong. In another two days the actual results will be out and they might surprise us more than the Exit Polls. It remains to be seen if the king-makers can protect their own kingdoms in their home states. Well someone rightly put it as the 'Dance of Democracy'.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Third Front seems to be crumbling

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The formation of the Third Front had made huge amount of political noise. Some analysts believed that this rainbow coalition would change the tide of the election. They promised to form a non-BJP non-Congress government at the centre which sounded almost unbelievable in reality. But with the uncertain wave that is blowing in this election, political pundits did not have the courage to write them off.

The impact was so much that when Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh and Ram Vilas Paswan did not find space in the Third Front they formed their own Fourth Front although still pledging support to the Congress led UPA. But for many the Third Front was a dooms day combination from day one as it had the castist, leftist, regionalist and opportunist in the same side. If that was not all almost every party had its own Prime Ministerial candidate.

Now as the Electronic Voting Machines buzz for the last time to elect the representatives to the 15th Lok Sabha the rainbow coalition seems to be crumbling. First it was the TRS chief K C Rao who attended NDA's grand rally in Ludhiana and now HD Kumaraswamy of the JS(S) met Sonia Gandhi secretly attempting to hide his face from the media persons while entering the 10th Janpath.

If there was one thing that the Congress and the BJP agreed on in the campaign process it was that a government at the Centre has to be led by either of them. They always believed that they could attract the fringe elements from the Third Front by giving them ministerial berths once it comes to the formation of the government. The NDA was better placed that the UPA as unlike the later it did not have alliance with people who have their state rivals in the Third Front.

The Third Front from the start had planned to cash in on the Left and Mayawati. Left is most likely to loose seats in its bastion West Bengal and Kerela while Mayawati is not expected to surprise in UP. Alliance partners like the TDP, the AIADMK will not have much ideological difference in siding with the NDA in a post poll scenario. The JD(S) is in back door negotiations with the Congress while Left has made it clear that Congress is not untouchable. This might leave Mayawati alone in the Third Front but again BJP always has a door open for her in spite of the multiple divorces they have had in the past.

What seems most likely is that post May 16 there will be intense activity going on in 11 Ashoka Road and 24 Akbar Road. The so called Third Front leaders will be busy with their arithmetic. It will not be very surprising to see many of the allies in what is today the Third Front sitting in different sides of the house in the coming 15th Lok Sabha.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kolkata Knight Riders hit by racism row

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Kolkata Knight Riders cannot win. This seems to be the statement which is the talk of the town in the cultural capital of India. If the multiple captain theory, more than needed media promotion and the fake IPL player blog wasn’t enough now we have the worst thing imaginable in sports RACIAL ABUSE. All this is taking a toll on the performance of the team and the loss to Royal Challengers Bangalore just about an hour ago has proved that this team has lost the self belief of that they can win a match.

As far as the racial abuse case is concerned it is nothing new to the sport. Any sub-continent player of the yesteryears will tell you what they faced it on the ground regularly. Let us not talk about the apartheid as it is a completely different issue. In the recent years racism has considerable reduced due to ICC’s strict code of conduct. Also because of the fact that the focus of the game shifted to sub-continent from its colonial master’s country. The players from the sub-continent started giving it back in the last two decades or so.

The revelations by former Indian cricketer Ajay Jadeja about Indian players being racially abused have shocked many. It is not that people weren’t aware of black-white divide in the team but racism was too much for the people of Indian let alone Kolkata to digest. When an Indian player of international repute (most likely Ajit Agarkar) is being racially abused by the coach and the supporting staff what will be the state of the uncapped Bengal players in the team.

The thing most hurting is that this is happening in what is called as the INDIAN PREMIER LEAGUE. Just because the league has moved out of India have the white man got their chance to racially abuse us? How can some coach or support staff who is employed by an Indian racially abuse an Indian or a person from any other origin for the matter? May be the dropping of Kolkata as the prefix gave the coach and the support staff the feeling the Knight Riders is something out of a white man’s book.

It is surprising that there has been no strong reaction from the BCCI as well as the IPL governing body on the issue. Have they forgotten that this tournament’s main aim should be to improve the quality of Indian cricket. Are they so involved in money making and branding that they will let such issues slip under the carpet? Should Indian cricketers silently take the racial abuse just because it comes from a white man?

In this entire episode where is Mr. Shahrukh Khan? He was busy selling everything about KKR before the league but when his team started loosing he completely abandoned them. Is this what an owner should have done when his team needed him the most? The KKR camp is just waiting for the tournament (read nightmare) to get over so that they could get back home. It will need a huge overhaul and some tough calls to make sure that the team does not humiliate itself in next year’s tournament too. The Knights seem to have even forgotten how to play for pride at the moment.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Has the Left Fort been shaken in West Bengal?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

West Bengal was one state in India which was always painted red. Many people would have learnt to live with the idea that Left Front couple not be defeated in the Bengali heartland. But for the first time since the polls post Indira Gandhi's death in 1984 Left seems to be on shaky ground in its own bastion. Analyst believe the Trinamool Congress and Congress alliance might cause a dent in the Left stronghold.

The politics in West Bengal has mostly been isolated from the rest of the country. The Babri Masjid demolition or the politics or 'Mandal and Kamandal' hardly made any impact of the poll results here. West Bengal seemed to have been insulated from liberalization, saffron wave of the 90s, the castist politics or recent India Shining campaign. It was all about a political ideology preached by the Left which worked in what was once India's most prosperous state.

The question in West Bengal was never who but it was by how much? People knew who was on road to Delhi, the unknown factor was number of votes. Most political parties over the years actually fought for the second place in West Bengal. But for the first time political pundits seem to be interested in the outcome of the polls here as it is unpredictable. For the first time a non-Left coalition seems to be sniffing victory in a substantial number of seats.

In the last assembly election out of the 294 seats the Left Front won 227 while the Congress and TMC managed 51 seats. In the last Lok Sabha elections LF bagged 35 out of the 42 seats. But a lot of water has flown down the Hoogly since then and a lot has changed. The urban rural divide became more evident during the Tata Nano crisis. The Left Front which had championed the cause of the poor farmers suddenly turned Land Grabbers from Land Reformers.

The high percentage of voter turn out and violence may signal a change wave going on around in West Bengal. The rural voters who were once the die hard supporters of the Left Front suddenly seems to have lost trust in the party which had done a lot for them in the grassroot level. The negligible suicide rate among farmers in West Bengal is a result of such reforms in the state. But the farmers now see the LF turning a back on them after Singur and Nandigram.

It will be amateurish for anybody to write off the Left Front in West Bengal but the Left leaders surely are having sleepless nights this time around. The May 16 results will show if truly the 'Didi Factor' worked in the Red State. For the Left Front it remains to be seen if Singur and Nandigram becomes their Waterloo.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Zardari wants peace with India

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

In the heat of the ongoing election and the Indian Premiere League we seem to have forgotten our neighbour Pakistan. Since the Mumbai terror attack last November the two countries have been engaged in allegations and counter-allegations. Now Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said in Washington that he wanted peace with India and hoped for new dialogue to start after his country's historic rival completes national elections.

Zardari who is in Washington for a three-way summit involving Afghanistan said Pakistan always wanted peace with India. He added that he will work with India towards the peace process once the new government is formed in New Delhi. One thing Zardari clearly knows that his government is in danger of being run over by the extremists and he needs his army to focus on the Taliban and not be obsessed about fighting a proxy war with India.

Zardari also attempted to pressurize the US to convince India for a troop pullout. His argued that in such a case Pakistan can mobilise more troops to fight the Taliban in the SWAT valley and the Pak-Afghan Border. This argument fell into deaf years as Washington did not see Pakistan having any serious threat from India even with a massive troop pullout. Pakistani Army recently pulled out 6000 troops from the Indian border and posted them on the western sector.

From India's perspective the big question arises can we trust Pakistan? Going by previous records a ordinary Indian would say a straight 'NO'. Pakistan over the last two decades has always taken interest in the composite dialogue with India and talked about peace between the tow countries . But at the same time supported terrorist activities in India through its notorious spy agency the ISI.

The recent peace call by Zardari seems to be filled with selfish motive. Islamabad is now facing the monstrous Taliban which once created, trained and supported to fight a Jihad in Afghanistan. The grimness of the situation can be understood from the fact that Pakistani government and the army is slowly loosing its grip over the nation and is being forced to sign peace deals with the Taliban at its own terms and conditions.

In such a scenario Pakistan cannot afford to fight wage a war against India and thus extending us its hand of friendship. But what should be India's stand in such a case. We definitely cannot close our eyes and let Taliban run over entire Pakistan. In that situation we will have to directly talk to the terrorists rather than talking to the educated people who support terrorism.

India should treat this as a opportunity to flush out more terrorists from the valley as it can afford to withdraw some troops from the borders. But New Delhi cannot afford to completely trust Islamabad and Mr Zardari as he is not the real centre of power but it General Kayani who calls the shots in what remains Democratically Administered Pakistan.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Obama sings the 'Bangalore' jingle again

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

What does the President of the world's greatest superpower do after completing 100 days in office. Well looks back at his election campaign promise and hums the same tunes which brought him to the White House. In an expected move US President Barack Obama promised lesser tax rates for companies which create more jobs in the US than outsource it to countries like India.

In a White House event attended by many industry leaders Barack Obama said “It’s a tax code that says you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, New York.” Bangalore is no longer a city it has become a metaphor. The growth that this city has seen in the last two decades is good enough to make a person in Manhattan jealous.

Barack Obama might have created history by becoming the first black President of America but he seems to have forgotten the biggest idea around which his nation is built CAPITALISM. American companies know the profit and loss theory better than anybody in the world and that is why they are biggest economy on the world. They have been smart when it came to acquiring offshore business and smarter when it came to dumping such businesses.

Business is driven by logic and not by emotion and more so in a capitalist country like the US. Obama might want US industry giants to believe in his election promise but there will be very few takers. Many MNCs like the GE, IBM and Citi Group employ a large number people in India. These companies get quality labour at a fraction of the cost which they would have spend employing people in Buffalo as Obama wants them to.

What this Harvard law graduate doesn't seem to aware of is Bangalore without tax intensives is still far cheaper than Buffalo. No mater what is the percentage of tax he levies on MNCs outsourcing jobs to India it will still be cheaper than running operations in Buffalo. Secondly American MNCs never came to India to do charity a thing which is least expected of a country where hiring and firing are the two sides of the same coins.

Obama's speech may bring some relief to an unemployed person in California and sound like a victory speech but it is unlikely to have any major impact on the outsourcing. The reaction of the India Inc. on the issue has shown that Obama's Bangalore to Buffalo call is unlikely to sound alarm bells in Bangalore or any center of outsourcing in India.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Is Nepal heading towards another armed struggle?

A lot has happened in Nepal in the last 48 hours starting with the dismissal of the Army Chief Rukmangad Katawal by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda'. Then President Ram Baran Yadav stepped in and countermanded the ruling of the Maoists leader and reinstated Gen Katawal as the chief of the Army. Prachanda submitted his resignation in protest throwing the Himalayan nation into uncertainty.

The bone of contention between the Prachanda and Katawal is over the recruitment of Maoist guerrilla in the Nepalese Army. Gen Katawal is strictly against the recruitment of indoctrinated fighters into the Army. His argument is that army as an institution doesn't ally with any political faction and thus these 19000 guerrillas are not fit for the army. Also the fact that Katawal and Prachanda fought a war against each other for 10 years makes it impossible for the two men to have a working relationship.

According to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which was signed when the People Liberation Army (Maoist Guerrillas) entered the mainstream these rebel soldiers were to be recruited into the Army. But Gen Katawal has stood against it and even extended the service for eight senior generals who support him on the issue. There were rumours that he was even planning a coup in Nepal with the support of his Army.

From India's perspective Nepal is becoming another serious security threat in the neighbourhood after Pakistab, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Prachanda's openly blaming India for the present political crisis streamlines the current trust the PM in Nepal has over India. The Indian government had helped (both financially and militarily) the King and the then Royal Nepalese Army fighting against Prachanda and his men during the 10 year civil war.

Prachanda's close ties with the Communist leaders in China is another worrying factor for India. Prachanda and his man have always supported their Maoist counterparts in India. Nepal being its protectorate New Delhi had always maintained cordial relationship with Kathmandu especially during the Shah dynasty's reign. After the Maoist takeover the relationship between the two countries haven't been the same. Both the sides not trusting each other is not helping the cause either.

The coming days will be very crucial for the political stability in Nepal. The vast political divide between the political parties and the Army seems to be the perfect ingredient uncertainty in the nation. In a worst case scenario an armed struggle between the Army and the Maoists cannot be ruled out.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Are we heading towards another bull run?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

For a share investor in the Indian market the last one month has been encouraging. After months and months of losses which saw crores go down the drain the markets seems to be finally looking north. Many investors who had burnt their fingers with declining stock prices all throughout 2008 are again ready to put their money in the market but with some caution off course.

In the first month of the current financial year 2009-10 the BSE index has gained close to 17.5% and is up from 9708 in March end to 11403 at the end of April. The NSE's Nifty wasn't too far behind gaining 454 points in April to close it 3474 registering a growth of more than 15% from 3020 where it closed on the 31st of March. Now this growth will surely bring back some confidence among the investors towards the market.

The first one hour of trading in April the BSE index shot up by more than 500 points. This is a great sign considering in the backdrop there is a huge political uncertainty looming over the nation. Although the IMF (International Monetary Fund) has predicted the global slowdown to last a little longer Indian markets have shown positive signs in the last two months. A seasoned economist will tell you stock market and economy don't always correlate.

Now is the big question is, whether this is the start of another bull run in Indian? Crossing the 12000 mark in the first trading day of April has come as a huge psychological factor. The 15% growth in one month might well be a price correction but under no circumstance is this a 'bear market' figure. Touching the magical 21000 mark might be a distant dreams but a 5-7% growth is on the cards for the next few moths. The markets are bound to stabilise in the coming months between 13000-15000 mark provided the a unthinkable political coalition doesn't take command of the country.

Many analysts feel that the worst may be over for the Indian markets although the recession is not nearing its end soon. One of the reasons for the Indian markets doing well is because of the foreign investment. For a global investor India is still one of the safest bets. GDP under all circumstance will grow by over 6% this year which might sound a distant dream for many other countries in the ongoing recession.

The month of May and June will be very crucial for the Indian markets. Since the results of the general elections and the government formation will take place during this time we might see lots of crest and troughs. If the stock market can sustain a growth rate of 6-8% in these two months the Indian markets may be all set for another bull run and raise market to great peaks in no time. The bull run after all doesn't leave people with too much time to think!!

Also Read....
Is the worst over for Indian markets?


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