Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Friday, September 21, 2012
By Raza Elahi
Manmohan Singh is back in form. Ready to pull the bouncers straight behind the ropes. He played exemplary well as finance minister in the 1990s; he remained unbeaten as prime minister during UPA I. He brought cheers to his fans when he opened up the innings again for UPA II. But the continuous bouncers and yorkers from its allies and the Opposition put him in the back foot. Though he ducked and defence many of the them, yet he was not able to score. When the cry for fours and sixers got loud and louder, he thought time had come for do or die. Now, with his changed stance he is set to regain his lost grounds.
The confidence is now seen. Shrugging of protests, his government notified the rules to permit foreign chains into the multi-brand retail segment on Thursday, the day of a nationwide shutdown organised by some of its allies and the Opposition. Besides FDI in multi-brand retail, his other recent bold measures -- like opening up aviation sector, cap on subsidised LPG cylinders -- will certainly revive the economy.
The opponents of FDI in multi-brand retail are reacting in the same manner as vampires react to garlic. It is laughable to hear from them that the FDI in multi-brand retail will be the death knell for petty shopkeepers across the country and will create unemployment. They also argue that farmers will be exploited by foreign retailers. All these are myths.
The political parties like the BJP and the Trinamool Congress are opposing the move spreading these myths just to get their vote-bank strong. While the Trinamool is claiming itself as messiah of garibs, the BJP pretends to be the protectors of banias (who mostly own small kirana shops across the country).
It may not be wrong to remind them that every move of economic reform introduced by the Congress in the country was opposed either by the Left or the right-wing parties or the so-called Third alternatives. Some of them even opposed the introduction of computers. They cited the danger of jobs being destroyed, but see how computerisation has changed the nation.
When the multi-national companies (MNCs) and foreign banks where allowed in the country, the same people propagated the wrong slogans of foreign competition wiping out Indian businesses. Today, the difference is seen. The entry of MNCs and foreign banks has lifted the spirit and work culture of our domestic banks and offices. These critics have been proved wrong all the time. The Indian economy has grown against all the odds.
Coming back on the recent opposition of the retail FDI, I can say with 100% guarantee that the entry of Walmart and Carrefour etc is not going to affect our neighbourhood kiranas. Whether it is Goyalji in Delhi or Gopalji in Muzaffarpur or Govardhanji in South, all of them will thrive in the growing economy because they offer household items on credit to their customers, do home delivery of even single item even at odd hours or at short notices (as most of the Indian housewives have the habit of missing something very important when they enter into the kitchen).
Secondly, all these multi-brand retailers are not going to open their stores in every nook and corner of the country (there are certain government guidelines for opening up stores for them). Thirdly, if certain percent of our population prefer to buy from Walmart or Carrefour even then the remaining percent of population will be in crores, who will continue to depend on the local kiranas.
Further, there have been many instances reported from Punjab and Haryana that the middlemen are making money by giving farmers a very low price for their produce compared to the price the later sell in the market or wholesale mandi. With the entry of foreign retailers farmers can directly sell to them and will certainly get better prices. The opening of foreign retail stores will also create more job openings. So, none of the opponents’ arguments have any merit in them.
The government has done exceedingly well by giving a full page advertisement in many of our national dailies making people aware of the benefit of its retail FDI decision.
Let's hope Manmohan Singh's late attacking innings may put India on a stronger economic note.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Saturday, March 10, 2012
After the hard-fought recently-concluded Assembly polls, which pushed the Congress in the back seat, another round of tough battles is in store for the party. Elections of President, Vice-President and 58 Rajya Sabha MPs are all lined up one after another, but the ruling party at the Centre is in no position to have its sole say.
Will the party be able to find consensus candidates for President and Vice-President posts, or will it concede defeat or will it have some facing solution?
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN RS Polls?: Election for 59 RS seats that fall vacant in April is scheduled for March 20. The six-year tenure of Deputy Speaker in the House K Rahman Khan also comes to an end on April 2. Given the UPA’s numerical strength in the Rajya Sabha, where it finds itself in a minority, it is unlikely that the ruling coalition would be able to have its way, unless SP bails it out(among the seats falling vacant include 10 from UP).
A DALIT TO BE THE NEXT V-P?: While the vice-president Hamid Ansari’s five-year term is going to end in August (a month after the term of the President ends), his successor will depend on who becomes the President. If a Muslim becomes a President, then the V-P's post is likely to go to a Dalit or vice versa.
WHO'LL BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT?: With UPA having just 30% vote share in the electoral college of the presidential election (The NDA has 28% while others command 42% of the vote share) due in July, it is certain that there's going to be a long drawn battle/negotiations among political parties before anyone settles in at Rashtrapati Bhawan.
There are reports coming in media that sympathisers of vice-president Hamid Ansari have begun hectic lobbying for fielding him as a candidate. According to them, he stands a good chance of emerging a consensus choice because, being a Muslim, he is likely to be backed by both Left parties and the Samajwadi Party that now commands a chunk of votes in the electoral college. But being seen as Congress man, Ansari's role on the last day of Lok Pal debate in the RS and may not go down well within many parties. The other names -- Pranab Mukherjee, Gopal Krishan Gandhi, Karan Singh (by the way his name crops up everytime during President & V-P elections, but gets eliminated soon), Meira Kumar and Sushil Kumar Shinde -- are all set to make their way out of the race.
WHAT'S THE OPTION FOR CONGRESS?: There is one name which is seen as NDA candidate, but SP and Trinamool may not oppose, and which Congress should propose is former President APJ Abdul Kalam. He was an NDA candidate (with the backing of SP and BSP) in his first stint in the Rashtrapati Bhawan. In getting Kalam in is a better option for the Congress this time, than facing defeat in the Prez poll. Congress may also find itself more comfortable with Kalam rather than any other NDA or SP-sponsored candidate. If this time Congress proposes his name, NDA may have no problem, and SP and Trinamool may also not ignore him because of his clean image and also being a Muslim candidate.
WHY KALAM AGAIN?: People of the country will certainly not ask why Kalam again because of his magnificent first innings. There is another reason too: Kalam's second innings will also save a good amount of tax-payers money, which the State spends on a former President.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
The 2012 UP polls saw a usual scramble among all parties to woo Muslims, who can tilt the balance in 140 of the total 403 assembly constituencies. Unlike previous elections (say post-1989), when Muslim votes got divided, this time the community has voted sensibly. And thus the outcome: 69 Muslim MLAs, highest since the Independence.
Out of the 69 Muslim candidates who won, 43 belong to the SP. The party had fielded 78 Muslim candidates. The BSP, which gave tickets to 85 Muslim candidates, could get 16 seats. Among other Muslim MLAs, two belong to Congress, 3 to Peace Party (of Dr Mohd Ayub), 2 to Quami Ekta Dal (floated by Afzal Ansari) and three Independents.
RESULTS PATTERN: The Muslims largely voted in favour of SP, which helped the party to comfortably cross the magic figure. Results of the 140 constituencies, where Muslims are over 30% of population, show that SP won 72 seats, while BSP and Congress got 27 and 11 seats respectively.
INTERESTING MISS: Muslim-dominate Saharanpur failed to send any Muslim MLA to the Assembly. Mohd Umar, son-in-law of Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari, lost from Behat in Saharanpur district.
QUICK COMMENT: Muslim voters in UP have realised the strength of their votes. They have preferred SP over Congress and BSP in a larger perspective, but also voted constituency-wise to increase their Muslim representatives in the Assembly. They have shown that no party can take them for granted.
LESSON & CHALLENGE: It is a lesson for Congress that 'crocodile tears' won't work and challenge for SP that promises are not made to break.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
During the poll season, you must have read many columns and seen TV programmes based on the journalists' tour to the poll-bound areas. Each journalist do his/her reporting in individual capacity for the organisation he/she works. But very few know that for the last one and a half decade some of the country's best-known journalists and columnists (around 15-20) travel in a group to check the pulse of the voters and obviously to predict the people's verdict.
At the end of every trip, the group does a poll. The person whose prediction comes close to the actual results of the election is declared winner.
The group, which include Shekhar Gupta (editor-in-chief, The Indian Express),Arindam Sengupta (executive editor, The Times of India), Radhika and Prannoy Roy (NDTV founders), Columnists Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Surjit Bhalla, former Businessweek journalist Manjeet Kripalani, former BBC journalist Sanjeev Srivastava and psephologist Dorab Sopariwala etc, has covered every Lok Sabha poll and important assembly elections - 19 trips so far.
As per the wishes of the organisers, the tours and information about fellow-travellers rarely get mentioned in media. However, recently, a newspaper report carried some interesting experiences of these high-profile journalists when they went out together on poll pilgrimages, but the reporter's efforts to find out frequent winners among those high-profile journalists were not successful.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
As all the parties are busy in wooing Muslim voters in Uttar Pradesh, it is time for the community to think and value the importance of their votes.
It is an irony that Muslim votes, which are around 16% in the state, get divided among the three main parties -- BSP, SP and Congress. There are just 55 Muslim MLAs in 403-seat UP assembly, despite the fact that Muslim votes play a major role in around 125 Assembly constituencies of which 80 seats have more than 20% of Muslim votes.
Although it is too early to predict the UP Assembly polls results, yet it is almost clear that there will be a hung Assembly. No party will likely to be in a position to form government on its own. As of now, two post-poll combinations are emerging and Muslims should also think in term of those combinations before they vote.
As Mayawati is losing ground -- courtesy scams, corruption charges and anti-incumbency factor -- she may not hesitate in joining hands with other parties after the result to remain in power. Congress and SP will certainly not go with BSP. This will leave Mayawati of no choice but to join hands with BJP. And the one likely post-poll combination is BSP-BJP combine with support of (if required) independents and other smaller parties.
SP, the other main party in the state, is leaving no stone unturned to encash all the anti-BSP plank with its strong party cadre. However, SP may also fall short of the magic figure.
The most interesting part of this Assembly poll is to see how Congress performs. Banking on Rahul Gandhi’s magic and his Muslim-Jat-Kurmi vote-bank innovation, Congress is certain to regain its lost glory, but again it also can't form the government on its own. In that case, the Congress will be more comfortable with SP rather than BSP in sharing the power in the state. It will also give Congress the support of SP MPs at the Centre. So, the second likely post-poll combination is Congress-RLD and SP combine with support of (if required) some fringe players.
Now, Muslim should vote in accordance with two things -- first, which of these two combinations suit them, and second how the number of Muslim MLAs can be increased.
It is clear that in most of the Muslim dominated constituencies there are at least two Muslim candidates fighting on the tickets of any of the four major parties -- BSP, SP, Congress-RLD and BJP. So, there are chances of their vote getting divided and wasted. Muslims should first think of which post-poll combinations will be better for the community. With BSP may go with BJP, Muslims should pick Congress-RLD and SP combine.
Now, the question is how Muslims should choose candidates between Congress-RLD and SP.
They should select candidates constituency-wise. Meaning, if any of these two parties (Congress-RLD and SP) has fielded Muslim candidates, then Muslim votes should go to Muslim candidates. If both the parties (Congress-RLD and SP) have given tickets to Muslim candidates in same constituency, then Muslims should pick any one of the two candidates and vote him/her en-bloc in that constituency. It is only then the number of Muslim MLAs can increase and the state can have a government which is better suited for the community.