Monday, May 18, 2009

Congratulations India!

I don't know if all of my readers are happy with the results of the recent Loksabha polls but I am!
Apart from the fact that this win has given India the much needed stability it also says a lot about our leader Dr. Manmohan Singh. Amidst the constant accusations from the opposition for being "the weakest Prime Minister" India has ever had, Dr.Singh has been a silent leader. India's foreign policy showed a significant improvement over the last five years. India has not made a lot of unnecessary "noise" as it did when she was in the hands of the NDA alliance. She has impalpably grown, sometimes even at a GDP of 9% and forged relations with all the world leaders.
The Congress (or now the UPA) may have been accused of dynastic politics but the one good thing about this alliance is their adherence to the "secular" and (almost) "non-aligned" image that India made for herself post independence. Add to that the plethora of "scholar-leaders" that they offer including the PM himself. It is also heartening to know that people like Shashi Tharoor have decided to get their hands dirty by stepping onto the shop-floor with Congress. However, it is a great responsibility and I hope that they shoulder it well.
The biggest task any leader does for his followers, consciously or unconsciously, is giving them an identity. Fortunately (or unfortunately) in India, there are a lot of "two minute noodle" identities available for politicians to stick on the foreheads of their followers. Just being a Brahmin in India has so many variations! You could be a "Chitpavan" from Maharashtra or an "Iyengar" from the south. Every group has hundreds of different rivulets of people joining it from all sides. So it is very easy for politicians who don't do their homework everyday and just want to make some quick scores before the exam to label the people of India on religious grounds.
India is finally casting off her religious labels. In a recent study it was found out that amongst the G20 countries, only two are growing at positive rates. China at 6.5% a year and India following at 5%. Considering that India is still a fully working democracy, this growth rate is speaks volumes about us. So when Indians are making their own "Indian" identity, I don't think there is any need anymore to think "religiously"! :)

22 comments:

Eeshwari said...

Yes you are right Saee, Indian people have finally realised that religion is a lame reason to support an alliance and have started looking at figures and growth rates to cast their votes. Another interesting thing is that with recession, Mumbai terror attacks and other political issues we still have Indians showing great support for the Prime Minister. Also, the parties that had religion as a vote gathering agenda fell flat on their faces. The results say loud and clear that now hate politics in India is passe and people now want to see results and growth rather than a minority group being ridiculed in political campaigns.

Btw, I am happy with the Lok Sabha Election results and this is just a mild statement !! :-)

jheerofantom said...

Hi Saee,
It is indeed heartening to see India vote for a secular pro-development agenda. I really liked your point that these last 5 years were 'silent' in comparison with the NDA rule. It felt as if Pramod Mahajan and co thought running a govt is essentially a PR exercise. However I am even happier at the thought of the defeat of socially divisive forces for they I feel pose a bigger threat, a point which seems to be lost in your post.

Saee said...

@ Eeshwari
Thanks for the comments
@ Rajendra
Yes, that is true. I forgot to mention that. I think even the "poor" is one such two minute identity.
And what I really liked about these elections is that the Congress did not specifically use Rahul Gandhi as their mascot. Even after the elections, people are talking more about Manmohan Singh than Rahul Gandhi.

Anon said...

Saee,

Much as they are your personal opinions, I don't think you have contemplated over what NDA and UPA stands for.
Interestingly, the so-called 'secular' policies followed by UPA are really not secular. They are 'appeasement' policies. Looks like while talking about the 'silent' rule, you seem to have forgotten the 'very loud' Reservation Drive.

How can an educated self even think about supporting a party which supports OBC reservations? And they weren't silent by any standards. Thousands of doctors and students were sitting, protesting against this. It called for the largest congregation of students under the title 'Youth For Equality'.

If this is what it gives, we surely have a nice government in place.

Saee said...

@Anon
I do know and I do oppose reservation myself. But just as a personal choice, I choose to make my peace with that than the "Hindu" brigade of RSS and BJP.
Personally, I also think that Narendra Modi is an excellent CM. He has done a lot of good things for the industry in Gujrat and people of Gujrat love him for many reasons. But if you ask me to choose Narendra Modi or Manmohan Singh as a OM candidate, I would definitely choose the latter.

No one is perfect. Congress has also had a histroy of corrupt past. Even Rajiv Gandhi had a bofors gun hanging over his head. But if a political party polarizes a nation of 1 billion people on the grounds of religion, it is like making a verbal atomic bomb. The world is getting increasingly insecure every day.
And as world citizens we should all make choices that avoid escalation of this trend. Even if it means that everything does not go the way we want it.
If reservation deprives you from the kind of education you want, religious riots whenever they errupt in India, rob extremely poor people who cannot afford to protect their wives and children from their lives. Which one is more severe?
It is just that in a land of a billion people a few thousand being raped and murdered in a gotforsaken slum somewhere is not as big a deal as doctors not getting into post graduate courses?

And it is not just me, it is the mandate. Because we do not have a majority of doctors and engineers fighting for a degree, we choose what we choose. I did not even get to vote! But if I had, I would have definitely chosen NDA.

Saee said...

*I would have definitely NOT chosen NDA. :|

AJ said...

I think believing in the Hindu v/s secular agenda is over reliance on media projections of political parties (after all, like political parties, even the media needs a "viewer bank"). I do not remember any significant pro-Hindu policies of the NDA government.

On the other hand, I think the Congress played it extremely well. And often, good politics might just be sect appeasement (remember the farmer loan waiver thing - how much did that cost in taxpayer money?). It was really good politics, however, I don't think it was splendid economics.

On the whole, I am happy about the fact that there is no huge coalition - with the Left threatening to cease support on every single decision.
To be honest, sparing a few names here and there, I don't think it matters much which party comes to power. Its good that the majority is relatively big so that something can happen!

P.S. Growth rate over a 5-year period is NOT a good indicator of current governance. It depends more on history and foundation over a longer term.

- Ajay

Saee said...

@ AJ..
The religious agenda for me is more of a personal choice. And I write about it only to make more people think about it.
But I think BJP's loss has more to do with the fact that they seem to appeal more to the business class or the upper middle class in India. I think we still have a HUGE rural India that is not reached even by the ruling party.

And I agree that the growth rate for the previous 5 years does not say anything about the current leaders. But most of it is the policies chosen by Jawaharlal Nehru during the first ten years.
I also think that the nationalization of banks that was done by Indira Gandhi in the 80s was a very smart move.
And I agree with the pro-farmer policies. More than the tax payer money, sometimes these policies have failed to stop starvation even though the state had surplus food.
Anyway..thanks for the comment.
Cheers
Saee

AJ said...

I don't think the waiver implies a pro-farmer policy. If I were a farmer who finished repaying his debt before this was announced, I would have felt like killing myself, especially if I had to work hard to make ends meet.

Nationalization of banks - may be, may be not a smart move. It depends on how "left" or "right" you are.

The opening of Indian markets in the early nineties by Dr. Singh was certainly crucial. To be honest though, it was forced. India had barely any revenue to survive a couple weeks.

I do think its the people more than the parties that count. And I am happy that the majority is big!

- Ajay

Anon said...

Saee,

Religious peace and riots are nice terms concoted by the media, which largely will find its roots into Congress owned agencies. If you havent noticed, not a single newspaper, or news channel is remotely pro NDA.

Anyway, if Gujarat riots, which were spread across a state happened under the rule of BJP, we cannot ignore the nation wide riots against Sikhs spread by Congress! Can we?

If two parties have almost the same kind of evils against riots, then I am sure, foreign affairs, economics do count!

The rural base is large and it needs to be upgraded howeever,we need to ensure that the middle class, the same middle class which is responsible for creating the image India is today, is not targetted. One cannot keep taking them forever for granted.

Congress sucks bigtime.

Anon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Saee said...

@ Anon
The only two sources that I actually consider when I write,is the BBC world website and Times of India. Although recently even TOI has lost its previous detachment.
And I have been far away from the other Indian media.
You could also say that I have been influenced by the writings of Amartya Sen to a certain extent.
However, I think that the analysis of BJP's loss is mostly in not convincing the majority (which is largely STILL poor).
And politics is equally dirty either way. So I am not saying that UPA people are saints.
And the Sikh riots that happened post Indira Gandhi's assasination were equally shameful.
But I support UPA because they do not use religion as their campaign tool.
I agree that even BJP has stopped doing that considering it has started making them exceedingly unpopular. But then it takes time to forget.
Anyway, there is no need to get agitated.
Thanks for the comments
Cheers
Saee

jheerofantom said...

First of all I would like to say that, given a chance I would have voted for the UPA because I feel on a person to person basis (much like the player to player comparison they show in football matches) IMO the UPA has much better policy makers in having a higher percentage of technocrats.

On the other hand, the major issue in the previous comments has been the issue of secularism and its portrayal by the media.

I think what happened in Gujarat suffices to put a big red flag in my mind against the NDA. I do not believe that the NDA or the BJP were active participants of the riots but their refusal to curb these divisive sentiments and Narendra Modi's inflammatory speeches indicate the BJP's greedy approach to the issue of Hindutva -- which is sacrificing secularism for a few more Hindu hardline votes.. a thing well illustrated by their approach to the whole Varun Gandhi issue. I think quoting examples in this context is important because supporters of the BJP wrongly transfer the blame to the media while the BJP continues to sacrifice secularism for a few more Hindu votes

@Anon:
I think the issue of reservation cannot be made a point of distinction between the BJP and the Congress. In fact as far as I remember, the BJP govt. in Rajasthan a few years back was considering reservations for Brahmins which ridicules the concept of reservations and affirmative action.. and I am aware such reservations may already be in place in UP. I think the issue of reservations has reached a state where it would be suicidal for any political party to say it opposes reservation. I would say both Arjun Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi have been equally absurd in their policies and it would be difficult to pick one who seems to have done more damage.. In fact I find it very surprising that one person ( V.P. Singh ) could do so much harm to the entire system of governance.. (ref. to the Mandal comission). I think it is one of the most important problems along with the issue of caste to face independent India and the future depends a lot on how people like us more than others deal with it, because it has now come to the point that administrators across party lines cannot afford to change the govt. policy on this issue.

@Ajay: The debate on the economic policies is ofcourse wide open. But I believe there is a case for continuance of policy structure irrespective of who is ruling at the centre.. I believe that even when the NDA govt. came to power in 1999, there were no major economic changes other than pursuing the agenda of liberalization started by Chidambaran earlier. Hence in the absence of distinct policy changes, the issue then becomes one of investor sentiment and I personally think the UPA seems to be better suited currently at providing a stable set of economic policies as compared to the NDA with whom you never know what may happen if the RSS/VHP start flexing their muscles.

Saee said...

@ Rajendra..
WOW
Thanks for saving me all the research.I really wanted to write a comment like that but I had half forgotten the names you mentioned. :)(like Mandal ayog)and I was in between experiments these two days.
The only things I remembered from reading Indira Gandhi's biography was the nationalization of banks.
And I strongly agree with your point when you say that UPA has a good team. It indeed does.
And I would also like to say that since BJP has gone to "moderation" with their religious agenda, they have exceedingly lost control over the nation. Which makes a point about their other "policies".
Religious tensions in India are a post-colonial change. It is very unfortunate that Indians have spent the past two dacades or so wasting their time with divisive politics. India has seen a lot of religions being born,matured and even crossbred with each other. And moreover "Hindu" religion (I hate to call it Hinduism or Hindutva) has been extremely tolerant of other religions, races and cultures.
So the "Hindutva" brigade is not only an extremely selfish way of gaining votes but also shows lack of maturity and conviction.
And again, I personally oppose reservation but as you said it is suicidal for anyone to change that.
And having said that, it is not that it does not help. A lot of poor people belonging to lower castes are being helped still due to that. Women are being empowered and educated. So if we consider the bigger picture, it is still helping India get stronger.
And majority of cabinets since independence have belonged to Congress so I also think that the economic development is almost entirely due to their policies.
Another BIG plauge that haunts India is the economic inequality. People tend to focus more on the fast growing middle class but there is VAST poverty in India even today and we are looking at the effects of this divide in the north east where Maoist insurgents are causing havoc.
If the governments do not address the needs of the poor soon enough, there could be a new kind of class-dictated rich Vs poor revolution. So we cannot keep sand-papering and glossing over the shiny buildings in cosmos and lauding the hardworking middle class all the time. There are definitely horizons beyond that, that every rich/educated/cultured/peaceful person needs to look at.
Having said this, I do not think UPA would manage all of this right away! But governments aside, we need to think about it ourselves.

Anyway, thanks a lot for that Rajendra.
Cheers
Saee

Anon said...

@jheerofantom

If someone today said that hardly any economic policies were followed during NDA regime, he probably is one of the lesser informed people. The kind of economic policies that NDA took catapulted the nation into the main league.


Interestingly, there isnt any reservation for Brahmins in any state no matter how many times you state it.

Prices were under control. There were jobx. There was foreign influx, there was telecom boom. There was nuclear independence.


@ Saee,

Reservation doesnt help anyone for sure. Never does. The caste lines get more entrenched. IITans have a policy of stating their AIR as well as category during ragging. do you see it as signs of reducing disparity? Their success is grudged.
Also, it only benefits the people who already are well off. Its cumulative in nature in the higher echelons. A SC IAS office is well off but his son still gets reservation! How do you count it is beneficial for any sector?

Most of the points stated here are coming from the big picture created by media. "Big picture" is being talked about but if the middle class which you so conveniently disregard while yourself sitting in Australia, is the power that forces change in a country. Sadly, the middle class does not vote and no one cares about it.

Majority of students, middle class migrants (people from UP Bihar working elsewhere ) do not get to vote hence the disparity in votes.

Also, if one doesnt care for uyour top doctors sitting in the sun and conveniently put them in prison when they lawfully protest, we have a beautiful government at hand.
The man you haev high praises for, Shashi Tharoor, himself was standing against reservations and now conveniently has jumped on the congress plank. Wow!

Looks like your 'No religious" policies translate into "Anti-Hindu, pro Muslim" policies for that is all the congress keeps doing!

Congratulations India indeed. Hah!

jheerofantom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jheerofantom said...

@Anon: If you had a chance to read my comment carefully, you would have noticed that I did not say that the economic policies followed by the NDA were not up to the mark in any way.. I mentioned that this issue is wide open and neither side has a distinct edge over the other. I also said, currently the UPA seems to be a better choice w.r.t. to continuance and sustainment of growth achieved over last 5 years.

Again,
@Anon: The point I made was that the BJP was considering this and that it did not happen could be credited to the opposition as well as a few sane voices in that administration.

@Anon. 1. A system similar to reservation-- the affirmative action has been a great success in the US to the extent that one of the African American community has now risen to the top post, but I would agree with you to an extent in saying that it has not got the same success in India and that its misuse is rampant. But saying it benefits only those who are well off is fool hardy and ignorant.

Personally I believe that reservation in higher education is a populist move which could have been avoided. But I strongly believe that the NDA would have followed a similar agenda had they been in power. In fact even during the doctor's strike you mention, the political parties voted in unison for the bill which passed the reservation.. only 2 out of the 540 odd Lok Sabha members abstained. All of the remaining 538 members voted for it. (Ref.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_Indian_anti-reservation_protests )

Saee said...

@Anon
LOL. I am really amused at your anger and passion over this issue. And I really don't get how reservation is pro-Muslim all of a sudden. Like rajendra says, even if NDA comes to power there is going to be no change in the reservation policy.
And if like you say, the middle class is not voting and that is why NDA loses, then isn't it their own doing? And whereever I am and whatever I do, it does not take away the freedom to express my opinion and I would rather you make logical arguments than lash out at everyone in fury!
And it is a RIDICULOUS statement that reservation has not helped. We are talking just 62 years after independence. For one human being this may be a long time but for a nation it is not. Over these years there has been a transformation in many areas because of the opportunities the people of the lower class have recieved and ESPECIALLY women.
If you look at our neighbor Pakistan and the kind of education and equality in that nation you would come to appreciate how much education has changed India. Education and a healthy democracy.
And in IITs are like cream of intelligence. Offcourse there would be a grudge against reservation there. But IIT is a vert small part of the whole educational system.
When you travel to rural areas and see girls or backward class people educating themselves out of poverty, you know how much it has changed the life of people. And there are almost 80% Hindus in India. Out of them most are NOT high castes. And this is the reason why even NDA would not choose to reverse reservation.

And no matter how angry you are and how much more lashing you want to do, India would not have been the same without the early initiatives to establish an equal (or more than equal) opportunity policy for these people and women right from the pre independence era.

And I am not saying this from the "big picture" as you say. I have met people who work in educating school kids in rural parts. I have met women IAS officers who have come from a sceduled caste background and are doing a very good job as community leaders. I personally know someone who has a PhD from an extremely humble university from rural Maharashtra and has gone to work for BARC later only because he could apply for the fee reduction from reservation and could not afford to pay full fees.

And even as we have doctors sitting in the sun, we also have a lot of humble success stories that are left unheard.

Anon said...

@Saee

You may be amused for whatever I say but that does not take away the truth. I am angry because I am passionate about this issue.

You are free to express any view you may like. That is a beauty of India. Freedom of speech.

Anyway, I have never said NDA will change it. Its such a sensitive thng today that no party can change it but at least it can do us all a favour by NOT introducing it.

Between, you repeatedly talk about poor people who have done well. Shouldnt the reservation be based on things like economic indicators rather than caste? What about the son of an IAS office belonging to schedule caste. Why should he be treated differently? Esp when majority of so called forward castes are really poor and do manual labour. And how do you define a backward caste? Is there any proper justification for the same? Its really PATHETIC to see that educated people today in India are in support of caste based reservations. With such a thought process, nothing is ever going to change in India. The caste dynamics are going to be worse now.

There are small things which continue to irritate the so called upper castes. Even if a family is normally middle class depending on the salary of one person, he she is forced to pay full fees, get awesome marks to secure a seat. And what about the sons of rich affluent schedule castes which get away with all these?

If you personally know people who have done well due to reservation, I personally know people who have suffered due to this! So many students of IIT are never able to complete their degree because they werent capable of handling that pressure and wer there in IIt only because of their social status: SC.

Looks like there has to be some eye opener. Do read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forward_castes
And see the figures of 'forward castes".

If Congress stays in power, very soon it will press for Reservation in private sector, the move for which was proposed last year but was strongly cut down by the industry. I am sure, then you guys might be delighted.

And just for info Saee, you probably know me: Aparajita.

Saee said...

@ Aparajita..
IIT and Medicine are not the only courses available in India. When I say reservation helps I mean the whole of the nation and ESPECIALLY rural India. I have seen this happen myself.
People from rural backgrounds value education in even the most simple forms. Even a simple diploma in electrical engineering takes a village boy to a whole different level. And in these kind of areas where they are still solving water,roads and electricity problems, an educated young girl or a boy makes a big difference. Moreever it is relevant because caste system and economic status are still similarly related in these areas.
And reservation just gives these people an edge over others.
And Indian educational system also offers very smartly designed vocational courses that are very popular in rural areas.
And when I mean reservation helps, it helps these kind of people.
And I should not even start on how it has changed women. Education adds a new dimension to women.I did not realize it because I has assumed these kind of basic nessecities for myself. But education has changed the face of women in rural India. It is totally different to even my grandma's version of society at her time. My grandmom was an elite Brahmin who completed her postgrad education in the 40s. At that time, she was one of the only two girls in her class and I think it was possible only because she was a Brahmin and came from a progressive family.And I think this is where reservation and concession has really helped. And even now we have people not sending their girls to school even though it is free.
IIT does not represent the whole of India. Nor does medical education. I agree that they have been eclipsed because of the reservation.
However just the way I accept that it is not a necessity anymore, I also refuse to accept that it has not helped.
And for people like you and me it is matter of entering into the google window and getting "wiki" answers on everything. But no amount of "geeky" internet research is going to prove that reservation has not helped India grow.
So I guess it is time to stop googling statistics and throwing it at each other.
Let me sign off by saying that I am NOT against YOU in this argument and I would urge you to think about my point of view as well. It would not change the reality at all but it will make you calmer than you are.
When you are forced to accept something in a democracy, it is always good to look at the brighter side of things than weep about your misfortunes.
I am going to stop writing any comments on this post henceforth.
Good luck!

Nikhil K said...

I was encouraged by the rousing victory that Shashi Tharoor managed to secure. I had been wondering ever since he entered the ring if he has made a mistake by joining the muddy ring of Indian politics. Even now I wonder at the trajectory that an idealist newbie politician might follow. It seems to be going well so far. And we are fortunate to have a intimate view of his struggles through his twitter page which he updates regularly at http://twitter.com/ShashiTharoor
Go through the entries on the day of the election results and what emerges is a portrait of an individual who goes from missing the charm of Manhattan to reveling in the warmth of Kerala's electorate.

Saee said...

@ Nikhil
Yes, it is extremely inspiring isn't it? I have seen his twitter page but I am not much of a twitter person..or even an FB person.
I don't know if he as a person would make a big difference but I really think this is a new trend. We do not find many politicians with a PhD (that too at as young as 22) even in developed countries.
And did you read about Agatha Sangma? She is the youngest minister at just 28!
I think team Manmohan (aka team Sonia) have done a good job even allocating the ministries. And we cannot really escape the dynasty politics completely. Since it an inherent part of India's culture. So we have it everywhere (Cricket,Bollywood and even Industry) :)
Thanks for the comments
Cheers
Saee