Monday, 19 May 2014

Can the Tiger Ride the Elephant? (or, The Future of India under Modi)

It can only be good for our country that there is someone with a clear mandate - rather than a hung Parliament, as was widely feared. Modi is a seasoned administrator and a wily politician, with a clear vision of what he wants to do. Even if he hasn't spelt his policies out, his inclinations are fairly clear from his actions in Gujarat and, though his hands will be tied due to the terrible state of India's national finances, his credit is huge at the moment, and he will no doubt make full use of that.

However, an overwhelming mandate, such as Modi has, brings with it not only striking advantages but also rather strong disadvantages.

The advantage is that he can do basically whatever he wants. Of the 245 seats in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of parliament), the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance has only 62 seats. However, of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament), as a result of the recent elections, BJP alone has a staggering 336 seats. That gives BJP a total strength of 398 out of 788 – giving it a clear majority in any joint session of the LS and RS. Such a joint session can override states’ rights, so it will be interesting to see in what areas and to what purposes Modi uses this power.

The disadvantage is that, if he does not succeed in any objective that is set for him or that he sets for himself, he will find it difficult to point to a scapegoat and will have to shoulder the entire blame himself.

My guess is that after the honeymoon period is over (six weeks after he is sworn in or earlier, because that is the deadline for him to present his first budget), India will clearly make some or considerable progress economically and militarily. By “some” I mean that we can hardly do worse under BJP than under the UPA in the last phase of its rule, and people won’t remember the earlier good that UPA did. By “considerable”, I mean something matching the massive expectations that our people now have. I hear giddy forecasts of 12% and even 15% growth. The reality is that Modi inherits responsibility for an economy that is facing stagflation, a rather poor fiscal situation with a massive deficit, and a current account deficit that has been artificially subdued but will promptly raise its head at the least provocation – so the most realistic expectation could be something around 7% instead of the current 4% (which would be a huge improvement, of course).

The sort of numerical strength in Parliament, to which I drew attention above, also brings Constitutional changes much more easily within Modi’s reach.

So, with all this power at his disposal, what will Modi actually do?

1. Will he continue the regime of subsidies, quotas and guarantees or will he move to radical economic reform? Attracting the kind of foreign money he has drawn to Gujarat may not be particularly difficult, as he should be able to reduce or eliminate policy uncertainty, streamline administration, tackle our infrastructure challenges, boost power supply, rationalise power tariffs, and encourage and create a flexible single market throughout the country. But how will he deal with rising inflation, shrinking manufacturing and India's banking sector stress? Given that we have created less than 8 million jobs per year over the last seven years, what programs will he initiate to generate the 15 million new jobs every year that we need in order for our demographics to become a blessing rather than a curse?

2. How will he address India’s glaring income inequality, and ensure progress specifically for dalits/ OBCs/ poor people?

3. Will he attack corruption in order to systematically eliminate it - or will he merely centralise it as he did in Gujarat?

4. Will he now encourage, or will he strangle as he has done in Gujarat, genuine freedom and debate in the Indian press, and among Indians as a whole?

5. Will he actually set to work on the RSS agenda of integrating Kashmir, eliminating personal rights of Muslims, promoting Hindutvisation and attacking dissenting Hindus – and, if so, what will be the reaction, and how will that be handled by him? Or will he abandon the divisive agenda on which he has ridden to power for an inclusive model as the Constitution requires?

6. What will be the international response to a much more assertive India? Our historic challenges and interests relate to China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Will these countries now draw even closer to China, or will a strong India encourage them to reach for some equidistance between China and India? What about South East Asian nations who do want a counter to China? What about Middle Eastern and African nations? Europe and the USA?

Lots of questions. And it is not just India that watches with bated breath for answers, but the whole world.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

So who will run India after the National Election results are announced next month?

People keep asking me ...!

As if I know...!

The fact is that, at present, it is impossible to anticipate the upshot: all the prognostications in Indian and foreign media are either wishes or imaginations – we must remember that Indian elections have usually upset all commentators, observers, forecasters, and psephologists.

However, as I am as foolish as any other person, I will venture my opinion too!

Here are the 5 possible outcomes, with my probabilities quantified:

(a) Modi becomes PM with an outright majority: 1%

(b) Modi becomes PM though as a result of an alliance with other parties: 5%

(c) A BJP-led alliance with someone other than Modi as PM 45%

(d) A non-BJP coalition comes to power 48%

(e) A party other than BJP wins an outright majority 1%

Any assignment of probabilities is completely artificial of course.

But this gives you a feeling for my reading of the national mood.

And you see that the biggest probability is that India will be run by a non-BJP coalition of parties.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Indian National Elections and the Lens of Relationships

Our world has too much of damaged trust, and broken relationships.

What has that to do with elections, such as those starting on Monday, 7 April, in India as a whole?

Well, let's work that out, starting with a consideration of relationships and how broken they are in our world.

I am thinking not only of divorces, and children’s suicides because of lack of understanding with parents, but also of recent Indian newspaper headlines such as:

- "Coal India Limited executives go on a 3-day strike" (

That, surely, is about damaged relationships between a company and its executives.

Or consider this story:

- "Indian businessman in jail (

Does that not reflect broken trust between the businessman and India’s Supreme Court, as well as the businessman and society at large?

Further, I am thinking, within our country, of damaged trust between our politicians and our people.

The current elections are like a beauty parade in which there is no one who is actually beautiful, so you are forced to look for who you consider the least ugly.

What has caused me to have such mournful meditations? Well, I have recently been asked to chair the Relational Thinking Network or RTN (

Relational Thinking is a lens for analysis, a framework for understanding, and an agenda for action (

As a lens, Relational Thinking (RT) enables us to bypass materialism and individualism. Instead of prioritising income or profit as the goal for personal, corporate or government decisions, RT prioritises relational wellbeing– since ultimately it is our relationships that matter most in life.

Learning to think relationally calls for a Copernican revolution: instead of placing material wealth, or individual rights and freedom, at the centre of our values, with all other things including relationships revolving around them, we place relationships at the centre, to reflect better what we ultimately value.

Consider a simple decision such as buying a microwave oven: you can look at the decision financially (can I afford it?), or spatially (is there room in the kitchen?), or environmentally (how does this affect my carbon footprint?).

Instead, we should look at the decision relationally: would having a microwave enhance or lower relational well-being in our household? What is it that we need to do in order to ensure that the reduced time spent on preparing food permits more time for talking together over the meal, rather than leading to family members eating at different times and not talking together at all?

As a framework for understanding, Relational Thinking challenges the ruling consensus which pursues economic growth whatever the social cost, and leaves the resulting poverty and broken families for ineffective tax and redistribution policies. Instead, putting relationships first asks for the protection of families and communities while pursuing growth, and thus avoiding the need for subsequent redistribution and social intervention.

For example, a relational system of criminal justice would replace the current emphasis on retribution or mere rehabilitation of offenders with the primacy of reconciling relationships between offenders and the victims of their crimes, because that is what will permit offenders to be restored as responsible members of their community.

And Relational Schools would not focus on enhancing the ability of each child to maximize individual achievement. Rather, relational schools would focus on nurturing the ability to relate well to others, to take responsibility, to contribute to the well-being of family and community (both local and global), and to what it takes to build a lifelong relationship as the foundation for a new family.

Relational Businesses would reject the idea of maximizing “shareholder value” whatever the cost to the other stakeholders. Rather, a relational company would seek to maximize relational well-being among all stakeholders. Short-term profits often come at the cost of long-term sustainability.

Relational Thinking also provides a framework for analysis of personal as well as organisational relationships. The principles for analyzing relationships were originally outlined in Michael Schluter And David Lee’s book, The R Factor and subsequently developed into the Relational Proximity Model™ by the Relationships Foundation:

• DIRECTNESS considers whether and how the degree of presence in a relationship is mediated by technology (email, phone, texting etc.), time, and other people.

• CONTINUITY: the currency of relationships is time! What matters is how much time is spent on a relationship, as well as its overall length and stability.

• MULTIPLEXITY examines the breadth of knowledge in relationships: work, family, hobbies, community involvement, past experiences.

• PARITY deals with power in relationships; is the relationship is not that of equals, does the use of power foster participation and respect?

• COMMONALITY considers the extent to which goals and/or identity are shared; where they diverge, especially through hidden agendas, tension is created in relationships.

This is all very good. But, in most of the developing world, including India, do we not usually have excellent relationships with our family and friends?

Our challenge in India is rather that we have damaged or broken relationships with society as a whole (e.g. people of other castes, religions, languages....). We also have broken relationships with the natural environment. It could be argued that these are a direct consequence of our broken relationship with God (or Truth or our conscience – call this what you will)... but that takes us into a very wide field.

So let us restrict ourselves to this: at a time when our national elections loom, do we also have a broken relationship with our country?

Most of us seem to be obsessed with: “How can I do well?".

Some of us evidently even think: "How can I exploit my country for my own benefit?"

How many of us really care if such attitudes lead to the weakening and perhaps even the destruction of our country?

By contrast, Relational Thinking encourages us to ask “What can I do for my country?”

That is because, at the heart of Relational Thinking is the feeling of generosity, the knowledge that there is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for even one person’s greed.

Elections are merely a mechanism for choosing some individuals as our representatives. But these representatives cannot serve the people if they have no sympathy or generosity.

So, in the elections, should we really vote on the basis of ideology or caste or family or muscle power or wealth or intelligence or corporate experience or so-called "track record"?

Should we not vote rather on the basis of heart qualities?

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Alleged foreign funding of Aam Aadmi Party

A friend sends me a long mail which allegedly "proves" foreign funding of AAP.

Here is my response to my friend.

Dear XXX

Thank you for sending this to me.

Regarding it, there are three things to consider:

1. Are ANY of our parties free of foreign funding? How much foreign funding comes in to BJP and Congress?

2. Which is a greater curse, foreign funding or looting by our own people (that is, by BJP and Congress)...

3. The material you have sent me may have some merit (I will go through it with a fine tooth-comb) but on first reading, it seems to be riddled with suppositions, allegations without proof, and allegations with "proof" (that should be checked) - further, it mixes up money given to individuals with money given to organisations.

And, just for the record, I don't support AAP because it is "perfect"; I support it because I don't want our country run by a criminal (that is, Narendra Modi - the case against him is set out, for example, in Nor do I wish to have other corrupt individuals in BJP and Congress running our country. I support AAP because it is the only party which is somehow in the tradition of Gandhiji, and supports a relatively simple lifestyle for political leaders, consults and respects the opinions of the people, and is willing to upset the established and corrupt ways of our political system. Also, just for the record, I think that its economic policies are quite wrong - but then I also think (for different reasons) that the economic policies of BJP and Congress are hopelessly wrong.

Politics is about the art of the possible; and AAP is the "least worst" alternative as far as I can see - for THIS National Election. The next time around, I hope there might be a better alternative.

In any case, I always support the underdog, the others have had their chances; AAP should now be given a chance.

warm regards


Saturday, 15 March 2014

Which was India's very FIRST "Ram Rajya Party"?

I don't know for sure, but the following might provide a clue (it is in FROM PURDAH TO THE PEOPLE (Editor: Frances Taft), by Padma Shri Laxmi Kumari Chudawat, Rawat Publications, Jaipur and New Delhi, 2000, page 128 - though, except for the translation of the name of the Party, all the material in brackets in the quote is mine):

"The first election to the (newly-constituted) Rajasthan Assembly was to be held in 1952, and the Rajputs organised (themselves in order) to prevent the Congress, which was committed to jagirdari abolition, from controlling the Assembly. So with great fanfare the Rajputs inaugurated a political party, called Ram Rajya Parishad (Ram's Rule Party) which co-operated with several other parties as well as independents to oppose the Congress. They were led by the Maharaja of Jodhpur Hunuwant Singhji"

That party did not get anywhere...

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Laxmi Kumari Chundawat, famous Rajasthani writer and former Member of Parliament, but already forgotten in the English-speaking world

Sheer good luck that, in a 2nd hand bookshop in Portland, Oregon, I came across a copy of Laxmi Kumari Chundawat's autobiography FROM PURDAH TO THE PEOPLE (Edited by Frances Taft), and promptly bought it because it looked so interesting as the memoirs of a Rajasthani writer from the last century (the book was published in 2000 - so not that long ago, but the Kumari was born in 1916, and was still living last year, as far as I can work out).

The curious thing is that a Google search reveals not only NO review of the book, but not even any other reference to the book - and only a couple of stray references to her as a famous Rajasthani writer (which, by the way, give the date of her birth as 1911 - apparently wrongly!).

Apart from being a famous writer, she was for three terms a Member of the Rajasthan State Legislative Assembly, and a Member of India's national Parliament from 1972 to 1978.

In any case, as a member of an Indian royal family, one would have thought that there might be some basic information on her: at least parentage and family, perhaps a list of her books and other achievements - but no such luck.

By the way, that Google search also led me to the Rajasthan Studies Group (now, apparently, defunct)....

I am unpopular for holding the view that the Internet is only a very partial source of information, specially on anything to do with the entire period before the rise of the Internet (say about 1995).

This book is evidence that the Internet is only a very partial source of knowledge even on the period up to the year 2000.

Anyway, I've just finished reading FROM PURDAH TO THE PEOPLE, and I find it very well told. Moreover, it reveals a wise and admirable woman.

FROM PURDAH TO THE PEOPLE should be compulsory reading for all Rajasthanis and for all Indian women - though it is of course far more widely instructive on a vast array of subjects from purdah itself, to Hindu-Muslim relations, sati, the contemporary influence of Jainism and Arya Samaj, and indeed almost all subjects impacted by the transition from pre-Independence to post-Independence Indian life, cultures, society and history.

An enormous pity that the book was published by a small outfit from Jaipur.

If any member of her family comes across this post, may I urge them to scan the whole book and put on the Internet.

If no other site is available, I will happily arrange for my own site to host it.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Kejriwals response to Mukesh Ambani's issuance of defamation notices to TV channels for broadcasting Kejriwal's statements

I have just received the following by email as the text of Kejriwal's response to Mukesh Ambani, who has issued notices of defamation to many TV Channels for broadcasting Kejriwal's statements regarding Ambani at a Press Conference; I have no idea whether any of the following text is valid or accurate; however, I provide it below in the public interest - please check the text against other sources (or of course with the principals, if you have access to Kejriwal and AAP); if the text is wrong in any part, I will happily amend or retract it:

"Dear Mr Mukesh Ambani,

"You have recently sent a defamation notice to a number of TV channels. Their “crime” is that they aired the press conference held on the 31st October 2012 and 9th November 2012, by Prashant Bhushan and me, live.

"In our press conference, we presented before the country how you had illegally pressurized the government into increasing gas prices. We also told the country that your associates and your companies have accounts in Swiss banks where black moneyhad been stashed away. Many TV channels aired our expose live. All these TV channels have now received defamation notices from you.

"I find it quite perplexing. If you felt that you have been defamed by what Prashant Bhushan and I said, then we are the real culprits and, if you had to send a defamation notice, it should have been to us.The TV channels merely broadcastwhat we said. Despite this, instead of sending us the defamation notice, you have sent it to the TV channels.It is evident that your sole purpose of sending this notice was to steamroll the TV channels into subservience.

"The people of India want to ask you some straight questions: Is it not true that the list of those who have accounts in Swiss Banks, as received by the Government of India, includes your name and the names of your relatives, your friends and your companies? Is it not true that a balance of Rs.100 crores is shown against your name in this list? Is it not true that you have paid the tax on this amount after this list was received by the Government?

"If the above is true, as we suspect it is, it proves that you have admitted your guilt. As per the law of the land, you should be tried and if the charge of tax evasion is proved, you should be sent to jail.

"However, this would never happen.Why? Because the Government of India is intimidated by you. You have been reported as saying that the Congress Party has been bought by you – it is your dukaan, to be precise.

"You are right. according to some media reports, Mrs. # Sonia_Gandhi sometimes travels by your personal aircraft. People believe that Mr. Jaipal Reddy’s ministry was also changed because of your influence.

"Why only the Congress? Even BJP and many other parties are in your pocket. Earlier, Mr. Advani used to make a lot of noise about Swiss Bank accounts, but since your accounts have been exposed, BJP has suddenly gone quiet. BJP has not mentioned a single word in the Parliament about your accounts.

"It appears that almost all parties are afraid of you. Most leaders are scared of you, too. However, the citizens of this country are not scared of you. All parties could be your dukaan but India is not up for sale. India is ours, it belongs to the people of this country. You can purchase political parties and political leaders with your money but we will not let India be sold.

"You say that the TV channels have tainted your reputation by airing our press conference live. That’s wrong. I would urge you to answer this question honestly – Did # Prashant_Bhushan , myself and the TV Channels defame you or did you defame yourself through your own misdeeds?

"1. In 2002, you gave 1 Crore shares with a market price of Rs. 55 per share to Mr. #Pramod_Mahajan at just Rs. 1 per share. This was a straight bribe to get “Full Mobility”. When you were caught, you took back the shares. Presently, the matter is In court. Didn’t you defame yourself by doing this?

"2. You have made your multistoreyed residence on # Wakf_land. This land had been set aside for an orphanage. You have stolen the right of poor and orphaned Muslim children. Didn’t you defame yourself by doing this?

"3. A few gas wells belonging to the Country were allotted to you in 2000. You were supposed to extract gas and give it to the government. The gas belongs to us, the people of India. We are the owners of this gas.

"You were only a contractor appointed to extract the gas. However, cleverly you became the owner of the gas. You started “selling” the gas to the government. Because the Congress is in your pocket, it always bowed before your bullying.

"The Congress kept increasing the price of gas under your pressure and the nation kept wailing. Because of you, the prices of electricity, fertilizer and cooking gas kept rising. When it crossed all limits, Mr. # JaipalReddy opposed you. He was the Minister for Oil and Gas at that time. You got Mr. Jaipal Reddy transferred. Because of you many things have become increasingly expensive in India and the people are groaning under the load of these high prices. Do these shenanigans suit you? Do such acts not defame you?

"The list of such illegal acts done by you is quite long. The majority of the traders, businessmen and industrialists want to do their work honestly. But the system forces them into wrongdoings. But when a businessman like you brazenly subverts the system for his personal benefit, the entire industry and business world gets a bad name.

"You are on one side with immense wealth. On the other side are the people of this country. The people have now awakened. Fire is raging in their heart. History is witness that whenever there has been a clash between money and such rage, the rage has won.

"Kindly do not try to intimidate the media of this country. There may be some mediamen who may have done wrong things themselves. Such media-persons may succumb to your pressure. However, the majority of media persons keep the interest of the Country at heart even today. They are not going to capitulate so easily. History witnessed that whenever the judiciary, bureaucracy and legislature crumbled, it is the honest fourth pillar, comprising such media-persons that kept democracy alive.

"You have invested in some media houses directly or indirectly. It is possible that these media houses do your bidding. However, the journalists working for such media houses will not barter their integrity so easily.

"What is your dream? Do you want to become the world’s richest person through dishonesty? Suppose you became the owner of all the wealth in this country. Would that make you happy?

"Happiness does not increase by accumulating more and more wealth. Happiness comes with sacrifice. If you stopped doing business dishonestly and contributed your wealth for the development of the nation, this country will remember you with pride forever.

"With regards, "Arvind Kejriwal".

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Upsetting India: Aam Aadmi Party (article published in the current issue of THE INTERNATIONAL INDIAN MAGAZINE, Dubai)

Everyone was shocked by the results of the Delhi elections: Aam Aadmi is a political party which did not even exist a few months ago.

Most Indians have still to recognise the significance of the results: the notable thing is that even though BJP won a plurality of seats, it actually lost votes - in spite of Narendra Modi’s supposedly charismatic and magnetic drawing power, the BJP’s vote share actually declined.

The results were not only a slap on the wrist for Congress, they were also a shock for BJP – after the announcement of the election results, the BJP leadership initially boasted that they would still provide the government for Delhi, but when it actually came to the decision, they did not dare to come up to the platform.

AAP had already announced that it would not work with anyone’s support, and wisely made clear the minimum agreement necessary before it would work with any party. Its 18 point minimum demand is too extensive to list here, but included items which were bound to be totally unacceptable to both Congress as well as to BJP, such as: The VIP culture to be stopped in Delhi: no MLA, minister or Delhi official to use a red beacon on their cars, nor live in big bungalows or be provided any security greater than is available to the ordinary citizen; locally-relevant decisions to be taken directly by the local citizens in ‘mohalla sabhas’ in every locality and colony; complete statehood status for Delhi: the Central Government’s hold on organisations like the Police and the Delhi Development Authority to be ended; an audit of all electricity companies in the national capital from the time these were privatised: licences to be cancelled for any companies that refuse to participate; all unauthorised colonies to be regularised (thirty percent of Delhi’s population lives in such colonies); clean and affordable ‘pakka houses’ (properly built houses) for those living in slums; regular jobs for all those working on contract; roads, electricity, water and other basic facilities to all street traders; setting up enough courts and appointment of a sufficient number of judges so that all uncleared cases are dealt with within six months; and, all sexual harassment cases to be investigated, prosecuted and judgments delivered within three months.

As one person put it on an internet chat group: “AAP had guts to put conditions and its conditions are exactly the demand of people”.

Another put it this way: “I am a supporter of Congress and if they do not agree on most of the AAP’s points, I think I will have to think about realigning my support”.

I am sure the refusal of BJP to support the AAP agenda will also have led to most BJP supporters to reconsider whether their support for BJP should be discontinued.

In any case, it was clear to me and to any other clear-eyed observer that no such minimum agreement would be forthcoming (it is entirely contrary to the spirit and modus operandi of both Congress and BJP).

So it is also clear that we will have a re-vote for Delhi around the time of the National Elections – and that, unless AAP does something extremely stupid before then, or BJP or Congress do something extraordinarily smart, AAP should then win the Delhi re-vote by a clear if not outright margin.

What AAP’s triumph signifies is a shock to the entire political culture in India which has slowly declined since Independence, and became totally reliant on money- power, muscle-power and caste-based calculations.

While caste-based calculations still have some hold in the less-developed parts of the country (that is, of course, the actual reason those areas are less-developed), it is clear that their hold is declining and will soon be a thing of the past. At least if ethics- and law-based parties such as AAP deliver administrative performance that matches their promise.

Given the economic and political structure of our country, that cannot be delivered if any such party forms the government only in a few states. As the entire structure of the country is steeply pyramidal, with economic as well as political power concentrated at the top levels of the Central Government, it is necessary for such ethically- based parties also to have power at the national level.

The challenge before AAP and similar parties elsewhere in the country is that of scaling up their effort - and there are indeed efforts for such parties to come together on the basis of a minimum common agenda in order to form a united national Rule-of-Law Front.

It is already evident that many if not most eminent thought leaders from the country will be with such a front, once it is formed.

Can India move beyond the upset of the Delhi elections to upsetting the entire direction of corruption and incompetence in which it has gone increasingly in the decades since Independence? If so, it will upset many who are currently benefiting from the incompetence and corruption.

But some upsets are good ones.


For the full text of the current issue of THE INTERNATIONAL INDIAN MAGAZINE, please see