'Kaushal Vikas A Boon For Underprivileged’

Vipin Kumar, 51, has closely worked with Kaushal Vikas Yojna, the NDA government’s ambitious skill development scheme, in Bihar for four years. He believes the programme is set to bring about an entrepreneurship revolution in the country

I came into the skill development sector in 2014, before which I was serving in the Indian Air Force. A year later, when the NDA government launched the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna, I knew I had to be a part of it. Currently, I am the state head of JITM Skills, which is one of the partner firms collaborating with National Skill Development Corporation for running various skill training centres on a pan-India basis.

I take care of around four centres, namely Banka, Khagaria, Saharsa and Madhepura (in Bihar) with 750 students in each centre (3,000 students in total). How we differ from many other skill development firms is that we don’t wait for students or those in need of skill development programmes to come to us; we go from village to village to evaluate and mobilise the youth. We asses them and then pick up only the ones that look promising; those who wouldn’t drop out midway and those who have the capacity to take initiative to learn about a particular skill.

The training and assessment fees are paid by the government. This dedicated mobilisation initiative on our part is what is leading our particular centres to flourish. The sheer number of students means we have to run two four-hour batches.

I can say that this programme is successful because so far we have been able to give placement to nearly 70% of our students from under-privileged backgrounds. Part of the training partner payment structure is linked to the placements – at least 50% placement in a particular centre is required. So far, we have faced no financial losses as partner firm, in fact we are opening new branches. What is more heartening is the fact that more girls taking admission in our various courses than boys, and this is the same across all our four centres despite the difference in demographics. The two most popular courses in Bihar are Health and Apparel.

I would consider the Kaushal Vikas Yojna a successful initiative, though I believe the success of these centres depends a lot on the soft skills of those in charge of running them. A lot of youngsters coming from villages are hesitant to ask questions regarding the course or the job opportunities and it is our duty to make them feel comfortable and give them the correct information as well as the strengths of a particular course.

We make sure that students choose industry-relevant skill training programmes wisely because they would also be investing their time for at least 3-4 months. The NSDC also makes sure that everything is run smoothly and so far we have faced no official roadblocks.

So far we have had only freshers come to our centres, meaning that no one who has already done a skill training programme somewhere else has approached us. We hope people living in the area where our centres are running can also avail the benefits of our various training programmes.

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Youth Views On Unemployment

Watch: Youths Slam Govt Over Jobs

https://youtu.be/kDxpb9CKUok

Team LokMarg moves out to find if figures of rising unemployment are true. Are shrinking job opportunities causing any discontent among the youth? Are the inspirations of our youth being considered by Modi government?

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'Skill India Course Better Than A Degree’

Undergraduate Bhikhari Raout, 24, from Bihar has enrolled himself at a skill development centre where he learns CCTV installation. The eldest child in his family of seven, he is confident of finding a suitable placement at the end of his training.

I got to know about the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna when I saw large banners related to it being placed at strategic points over large distances. Whenever we would go out we would see these banners and it piqued our curiosity.

I also met a few people from other centres under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna who were able to find decent placements after their training. Therefore, although I am currently doing my graduation, I enrolled myself at the skill training centre. Whatever little doubts I had regarding the programme were cleared when officials from the centres came to visit our village for encouraging youth to take up skill development. Around 10-15 boys have joined the course from my village.

The centre that I am enrolled in is in Banka: it opened around March 2019 and ours is the first batch. I am confident that it will help me get better employment opportunities than what my regular college course would facilitate.

The best thing I like about the skill development centre is that the classes are held regularly and the medium of instruction is in a language we understand. The teaching methods are simple and there are “practicals” to help us to grasp concepts easily. Colleges in Bihar don’t follow a regular schedule, so the consistency in quality as well as regularity in conducting classes means we feel very enthused to come here every day.

I am enrolled in the course where they teach about CCTV installation. Even though I have chosen Arts stream for my graduation, my heart beats for new technology. A few years ago, I had worked in a technology firm where I used to handle the store.

I believe this is a good initiative for students like me. One thing that I will like to share from your forum is that these centres can only impart you with skills, but you will have develop your own attitude towards work and livelihood. I feel the students must have a positive attitude so that they can give the learning process everything they have. This course provides us a springboard. How high we jump using this depends on our courage levels. I make sure I do not miss a single class. In fact I eagerly wait to attend classes every day.

We are a family of seven and I am the eldest child. Thus securing a job early is very important for me in order to take care of my family. Plus, if I get a job of my choice, my younger siblings will also be more confident about the employment opportunities available to them. I am fairly confident that I will land a good job after my course ends in August 2019.

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Modi IN combative MOOD

Modi Must Tackle These Real Issues

In his second term, Mr Modi will have much more to deal with than have his party gloat and boast about how many seats it can win in 2024

The second lead story in an Indian national daily newspaper recently quoted a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader proudly proclaiming that in the 2024 parliamentary elections, the party wants to win 333 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. That is the kind of braggadocio that the BJP needs to avoid. The BJP recently won 303 seats in the recent elections, topping its 2014 tally of 282. Now, it wants more. Greedy proclamations of that sort are exactly the things that the BJP should avoid. Its performance in the past two elections have been spectacular with its prime mover, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, emerging as the strongest political leader that India has seen in a long time.

ALSO READ: Modi India’s Best Hope Despite Liberal Hostility

Yet, the BJP and its leaders must shun all urges to gloat over its recent victory. True, it has decimated the Opposition parties, chiefly the Congress, which is in shambles. It has humbled well-entrenched regional parties, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, both places where it has wrested seats against big odds. But now, as Mr Modi embarks on his second innings, there are more important things for him and his party to focus on. In his second term, Mr Modi and his government’s performance will face greater scrutiny than it did in the first. The people have spoken with their ballots and given him a renewed lease on the government but now he will have to deliver. Here are some of what the new government must put on top of its agenda. They are about economics and politics, but they have little to do with setting targets now to get more seats in 2024.

Economics. Through NDA-I’s five years, Mr Modi himself, his ministers and other officials in his administration have always maintained that the economy has been in fine fettle. Much of that claim is hot air. India’s GDP growth rate, often mentioned as being the highest in the world in recent years, is based on a revised methodology on a new base figure that many believe has artificially enhanced the official rate to higher than it actually is. India, the sixth largest economy in the world with a nominal GDP of $2.62 trillion, does not have a proper system to measure employment rates. True, large a swathe of Indian enterprise is informal and undocumented but in 2019 not being able to precisely tell how many people are employed is ridiculous.

ALSO READ: Six Things To Expect If Modi Returns To Power

Employment generation is without doubt the main task that any Indian government must focus on. According to some estimates, India’s unemployment rates have touched the highest in 45 years during the Modi 1.0 regime. Sixty-five percent of India’s 1.3 billion people are below the age of 35. A large proportion of them is youth of working age. Estimates of how many people are added annually to the numbers of those seeking jobs varies between 5 and 12 million. In contrast, the number of jobs generated annually is a small fraction of those numbers—doesn’t matter if you take the lower or the higher one as the base. In many instances, Mr Modi and his colleagues in the government have been in denial about their track record in employment generation. It is a time bomb that is ticking away and, eventually, it could have electoral consequences.

A lasting solution to India’s agricultural economy is another task that needs urgent attention. Well into the 21st century, nearly three-quarters of India’s population depends on agriculture but the sector’s share in GDP is just 17% and declining. The fact is India’s rural youth have to live on farms toil away at unremunerative and unproductive tasks because there are no other jobs available for them.

Mr Modi, in his first term, launched several catchy-sounding schemes—some were to create universal banking; others to hone the skills of young Indians so that they were employable; and yet others with the objective of increasing investments (and, hence, hopefully, employment) in the manufacturing sector. None of these has achieved results that are anywhere close to the targets that were promised. In his second term, tackling and solving these economic problems have to be Mr Modi’s topmost priority. Otherwise, India will be sitting on a tinder box ready to explode.

Politics. Political pundits in India are a dime a dozen. Indian editors and journalists who scoured the length and breadth of the country to ostensibly gauge the mood of the electorate horribly mis-predicted the outcome of the election with none (except for a few exit polls done by psephologists) getting anywhere close to the numbers that the BJP won. But the BJP’s politics, as the often-vicious electoral campaign this year bore out, is one of divisiveness. Its majoritarian tack has made India’s minorities (of its population of 1.3 billion, 14.2% are Muslims, and in absolute terms that is a huge number) insecure and anxious. A second term could strengthen those in the right-wing nationalist organisations (read: BJP, RSS and the Sangh Parivar’s other constituents) that are inclined towards hard-handed treatment to minority communities. This cannot be allowed to happen. In his second term Mr Modi ought not to keep silent (as he has largely been) when there are instances of violence, discrimination, and worse perpetrated by cohorts that swear allegiance to him and his party. The hard-handed treatment should be reserved for those cohorts and not their targets.

ALSO READ: India’s Fissiparous Politics, An Essay

If Mr Modi, as he and his colleagues often proclaim, want the BJP’s footprints to spread—in the east, the north-east, and the south, he would also have to get a buy-in in terms of regional interests. That would mean assessing, appraising, and understanding the special needs of different regions of India—not just the northern Hindi-dominated states. There have been little signs of that during Modi 1.0. In his second term, he will have to carry those regions with him by more empathetic strategies and policies.

International relations. Just before the elections this year, India sparred with its neighbour and arch enemy, Pakistan, and used the airborne sorties, surgical strikes aimed at alleged terrorist centres, all combined with high doses of jingoism, to try and score electoral points. That does not help India’s relations with Pakistan. Nor does it solve the dispute between the two countries over the northern state of Kashmir. Mr Modi will have to think out of the box when it comes to dealing with Pakistan, which is by itself a troubled state where the army, militant terrorist groups and others hold the government to ransom. India, as the much larger state, has to devise diplomatic strategies that go beyond the chest-thumping rhetoric that hawks on either side of the border favour.

Elsewhere in the world, Mr Modi will have to deal with powerful China, which is building roads and sea routes in India’s part of the world that could hem in India—both economically as well as in terms of security. IN Modi 1.0 we saw media-friendly visits, gestures, and other cosmetic (and mainly ineffectual) in the name of diplomacy with China. India is puny in terms of defence and economic capabilities compared to China. It has to think on its toes when it comes to dealing with that nation and keep its own interests rather than photo ops in mind. Ditto for the US and Russia, two other powerful global powers whose foreign policies have changed quite radically. If India is to make a mark on the global arena and get its due in terms of recognition and of economic benefits, it has to have far more effective plans of dealing with such powers.

In his second term, Mr Modi will have much more to tackle than have his party gloat and boast about how many seats it can win in 2024. There’s a lot to do in the five years till then.

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2019 Swearing In Ceremony

Hometruths & Priorities For Amit Shah

Called as ‘Chanakya’ for his organisational abilities that ensured a series of successes in the elections as the BJP president, Amit Shah’s entry into the North Block gets a profile faced with many challenges.

A trusted lieutenant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah makes his debut at the Centre being given the crucial Home Ministry, a portfolio he has handled as a minister of state in Gujarat under Modi.

Called as ‘Chanakya’ for his organisational abilities that was marked by series of successes in the elections as BJP president, Shah’s entry into the north block gets a profile commensurate with challenges like terrorism, Maoists violence and the problems in Kashmir.

Replacing another heavyweight Rajnath Singh in the ministry, the BJP president will have to address issues like scrapping the special status of Kashmir under article 370 of the constitution, an issue dear to the party and the Sangh parivar for long and a promise included in the manifesto during the recent elections.

Shah’s first responsibility will be to ensure that Pulwama like attacks on security forces or on civilians, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, do not take place for which he has to take steps to revitalize the security establishment.

The other major issue that will come up for review in the Home Ministry will be whether to continue with the muscular anti-terror policy being pursued in Kashmir and whether the government would give an opportunity for internal dialogue with various stakeholders in the troubled state.

Shah brings with him a vast experience in the political arena. He was party in-charge of Uttar Pradesh in 2014 and helped BJP and its allies win 73 out of 80 seats. In 2019 too, Shah managed BJP election campaign and also rigorously campaigned at the same time, which lead BJP winning 303 seats. BJP became the first party in India, since 1971, to return with full majority.

Shah in the past had managed election campaigns of BJP since 1989. With his excellent election management expertise, he managed the election campaign of BJP stalwart Lal Krishna Advani’s election from Ahmedabad constituency in 1989.

Indeed, as the captain of the winning team, Shah deserves credit for turning the party into an election-winning machine. BJP won Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Assam, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and Arunachal Pradesh under his helm.

Under his leadership, BJP, earlier considered as North-India party, spread its footprints in north-eastern states, West Bengal, Odisha, and southern states.

Shah was born in Mumbai in 1964 and was brought up at his paternal village in Maansa, Gujarat till the age of 16.

Before joining BJP in 1984-58, Shah worked for Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of RSS for some time. There, Shah was noted for his organisational skills and was appointed the national treasurer of Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha and subsequently the state secretary and state vice-president of the party in Gujarat.

During these years, Shah came in contact with Narendra Modi-then a rising star in the BJP. He and Narendra Modi, who was then an organisational secretary of the party in Gujarat, helped BJP mobilise its workers, which bore fruitful results for the BJP in subsequent elections.

However, challenges grew for Shah in 2010 when he was jailed in Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case. Later, a special CBI court dismissed the case.

(ANI)

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New Foreign Minister Sworn In

Foreign Policy Challenges For New Govt

As the world faces US-China trade war and looks at a possible limited conflict between Washington and Tehran, Indian diplomacy will require to avoid the minefield

With a massive electoral mandate under his belt, and no strong opposition to thwart him, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to begin his next five-year term on a high.

However, the challenges ahead are daunting. Getting manufacturing up and creating jobs for millions of aspirants remain high on the agenda. Reforms are the other. Without the next generation economic reforms, India’s growth story will remain stunted. A robust economy which attracts foreign investors is a must for a nation’s global profile. For that, Modi and his team will have to take forward the reform agenda, clean up the banking system and the labour laws to attract more investments. Unless the economy gears up and India performs well, the country’s hopes of becoming a major player in the world stage will remain a pipe dream.

Foreign policy will require careful handling. Former foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar is the best man to lead the team at this critical juncture. He knows exactly what the challenges are, is completely in sync with both the Prime Minister and Ajit Doval, the National Security Advisor. He is familiar with US politics and was ambassador to China and knows the system well there. He is a Russian language speaker. Also served both in Japan and Singapore. What is more Jaishankar is also familiar with trade negotiations.

ALSO READ: BIMSTEC Invites: New Delhi’s Pragmatism

Neighbourhood First is a good policy which will be carried forward this time around. It is fine to have an alternative to SAARC with the BIMSTEC grouping. But Delhi should also give some thought to end its boycott. India cannot indefinitely stop SAARC summits. It is also time to accept that China will pour in funds into South Asia and not get into a panic about encirclement. Instead, Delhi needs to focus on forging closer political ties with its neighbours and build stakes across South Asia, so that leaders of smaller countries will think twice before upsetting the applecart. India should take a leaf out of its own experience in Afghanistan and try to win hearts and minds in the neighbourhood. Modi will be travelling to the Maldives later this month. The challenge is handling US, China and Iran at this critical juncture.

A trade war between the US and China is casting a long shadow over the world economy. Rising tensions between Iran and US, which may eventually lead to a military confrontation, will hit India hard. Oil prices are holding for now, but could rise steeply in case of even a limited war. With US sanctions on Iran now ironclad with no exceptions, Indian diplomacy will need to be extremely nimble to avoid the minefields.

ALSO READ: Modi 2.0 Must Tackle Real Issues

The big question in Modi’s second term would be whether India will move decisively to the US camp or remain engaged with all sides and work towards a bi polar world. Pressure is on not just from the US, but a large section of the Indian establishment, to get into the US sphere of influence. The pro-US lobby in India believe that being on the side of the only Super Power will open doors for India, including a permanent seat in an expanded UN Security Council. It is a win win situation for India as it also falls in line with India’s strategic interests to checkmate China’s rising political, economic and military might in Asia.

Delhi has to also deal with a troublesome Pakistan, and ensure the backing of major powers for its action against Islamabad if necessary. Luckily for India, Pakistan’s image as a backer of terror outfits is known to the world. All this falls into place if India aligns more deeply with the US, according to those who believe that Delhi must for its own strategic interests move closer to Washington.

These sections believe that Delhi lost out in the early days after independence by remaining aloof from the US. Nations like Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines zoomed ahead economically and were referred to as the Asian Tigers. Despite its relative decline, US remains and way ahead of other countries and will remain in the top slot. It is the world’s dominant economy, its cutting edge technology and its financial markets remain strong.

ALSO READ: Af Peace Talks – India Must Keep Its Food In Door

It is a win win situation for both countries as there is rare consensus between squabbling Republicans and Democrats that India and US need to forge closer ties to contain China’s ambitions to replace the US as the world’s only super power by 2050. A helping hand from America will help India become a global power much faster.

They point to how the US helped to ensure that China withdraw the technical hold on Masood Azhar being designated a global terrorist. America took much of the credit for turning China around on Azhar. But France and Britain also played a role. There are no free lunches and the US will extract a price for its help. The pressure is already on over Iran. Many believe that India cannot continuously walk the tightrope. It will have to make a choice, especially with a President like Donald Trump at the helm. The pro America lobby want say India cannot play both sides any longer. It needs to make a choice and become an almost but not quite a NATO partner.

Yet there are bilateral problems arising from Donald Trump’s America First policy, which see’s every concession given by the US in the past as a mistake. On Thursday, US announced that

India will lose access to preferential trade terms with the U.S. under the latter’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. This will pinch India, and the differences need to be ironed out. Despite these hiccups, which the US is having with most countries

Unfortunately for India, countries like Russia and Iran regarded as enemy nations by the US, are New Delhi’s friends and traditional allies. Indian and US interests do not match and India cannot afford to toe the US line when it goes against its strategic interests. Modi must continue to carefully balance ties with US with India’s core interests like relations with Russia and Iran. Just because Trump wants to bring Iran to its knees and push Tehran to rework the nuclear deal, India and other countries have to suffer.

Take India’s problems arising from Trump’s decision to slap sanctions on countries buying Iranian oil. India’s ties with Iran go beyond oil. It has always had civilisational links and worked together during the Taliban rule to prop up the Northern Alliance. The Chabahar port in Iran is of strategic importance to India as it opens a lifeline to both Afghanistan and Central Asian countries for Indian products. Delhi’s involvement in the Chabahar Port was to by-pass Pakistan as that country does not allow Indian goods to pass through its territory. Political relations with Iran will be affected if India stops importing oil from Iran because of US sanctions. India’s exports through Chabahar will naturally then take a hit. Trump had slapped sanctions on Iran last November but gave a six month waiver to eight countries, including India. That period has now ended.

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was in India bang in the middle of elections to discuss the sanctions with Sushma Swaraj. He was told that the new government would have to deal with it. Due to banking sanctions imposed by the US for doing business with Iran, India and Iran have been carrying out trade through a rupee account in UCO Bank which has limited exposure in the US. This was done earlier too when Iran was under sanctions. India deposits payments in rupees in Iran’s account for the oil purchased and that is then used to make payments to Indian exporters of goods to Iran. Modi needs to play ball with both Iran and US and come up a winner.

The advantage is that the US is as keen to woo India. Washington would be in a better position to balance out China in Asia with India on its side. India also has a huge market for American companies. In the last decade or so India and bought arms worth $15 billion from the US and more is on the cards. Washington would certainly not want India to join the loose alliance of China, Russia and Iran that is taking shape. So it is not as if India does not have leverage.

So far Narendra Modi has played his cards well. In his first term Narendra Modi was able to befriend the mercurial Donald Trump, sign two of the foundation pacts needed to put into force the India-US defence co-operation agreement, signed earlier during the Manmohan Singh regime and take forward the partnership with the US. Yet he went against the US in closing the purchase of five billion dollar S-400 Triumf surface to air missile defence system with Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite threat of sanctions.

The first delivery of the missile system is slated for 2020. Sanction will likely kick in then. In the meantime the US is hoping to get Delhi to opt for a US built missile shield. By all accounts Modi will continue to play ball with every important country and not lean over completely to America. The Prime Minister is aware of Russia’s crucial support for the Indian position in the past, when US backed Pakistan to the hilt. Last time when the two met at their annual summit in Delhi, Modi made it plain “India gives the highest priority to ties with Russia, in fact in a changing world, our ties have become more important.” The Prime Minister will be meeting. Russian President Vladimir Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Shanghai Co operation Organisation meeting in n Kyrgyztan’s capital Bishkek on June 13-14. Pakistan’s Imran Khan would also be attending.

India’s neighbours Pakistan and China will continue to occupy the government. The absence of Pakistan‘s Prime Minister Imran Khan for Modi’s inauguration is a stark reminder of the bad blood between the two nuclear armed neighbours. After Pulwama, the Balakot strike, Pakistan’s counter show of strength, and the high decibel rhetoric unleashed by Modi against Pakistan, a cooling off period is necessary. This does not however mean that Modi will not have another shot at peace making with Pakistan. Modi is likely to try again. Perhaps in Bishkek it will be only a handshake, but the PM who loves to be feted internationally, will make an attempt to go down in history as a peace maker.

Imran Khan has said earlier that Narendra Modi would be in a better position to make peace with Pakistan than the Congress. He is bang on. The BJP would take to the streets to oppose any deal made by the Congress with Pakistan. Remember the BJP opposition to the Indo-US civil nuclear deal signed by Manmohan Singh in 2006? Conventional wisdom is that only a hardline BJP government in India and a military dictatorship in Pakistan can strike a peace deal. Prime Minister Imran Khan is making the right noises. It is also known that he is backed by the military. In fact the army wanted Nawaz Sharif out and the PTI in. Army despite its public statements is not comfortable with peace moves. Much will depend on whether the financial action task force (FATF) which has placed Pakistan in the grey zone moves it to the black list. That would make it harder for international financial institutions to lend money to Pakistan and further damage its economy. If that happens the army will not stand in the way of talks with India.

Engaging Pakistan without a change of policy in Kashmir is unlikely to work. Mod must overhaul the current mindless Kashmir policy. But with Amit Shah as home minister, a strong arm policy in Kashmir is likely to continue.

Perhaps even more important than Pakistan will be Delhi’s ties with China. India and China are rivals in Asia and have a complex relationship. Modi obviously wants to continue mending fences with China. Reports of an informal Wuhan type summit between Modi and Xi, in Varanasi, is being talked of for later this year. Getting the equation right with China is pivotal. Chinese companies are already doing good business in India and will be looking for more as America dries up as a market. India can use Chinese expertise for its infrastructure and take a call on the Belt and Road Initiative and work together when it suits India’s interests. Political ties with China will also help in bargaining with the developed world at international forums. BRICS and RIS groupings are already in place. Delhi needs to make the best of these outfits to push India’s agenda on both development and terrorism. Keeping one toe firmly on the US camp helps to keep the Chinese unsettled. All this is easier said than done, but in a changing world India needs to keep a foothold on all camps and make sure its strategic interests are not compromised.

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BJP Leaders Vote Of Thanks

Modi 2.0 – Majoritarian Agenda Is In

Given majority in both Houses of Parliament, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s second term in office may see a renewed push in majoritarian agenda.

This must begin with an apology for failing to discern the Tsunami that has brought Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a landslide victory in India’s Elections 2019.

Churlish though it sounds, the fact is that none noticed it. A very toxic and polarizing campaign that raised the decibels of rival claims high even as it brought standards of discourse at their lowest-ever,  made it difficult.   

A 40-day polls process, when several institutions, including the Election Commission, came under the cloud, made that task near-impossible. 

Now that the world’s largest democratic exercise is over, this apology must be followed by a sincere acknowledgement of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s solo score. It can compare well with the one by Indira Gandhi in 1971 when she fought off a united non-Communist opposition’s “grand alliance”. One is not taking into account the popular sympathy vote caused by her assassination in 1984 giving the Congress the highest 400-plus.

Modi and his National Democratic Alliance (NDA) were criticized for winning the 2014 elections with the lowest-ever 31 percent vote-share. At 48 percent today, it can claim to be close to the 1984 score of 49.10 percent. The BJP got 7.7 percent then and only two members won. Tables are totally turned now with the Congress getting just 29 percent vote. Regional parties won 23 percent. Unable to align with some of them when and where needed, Congress, the country’s oldest party is an also-ran today.

ALSO READ: Modi Is Still India’s Best Hope

Percentages apart, perceptions matter. They were created by Modi’s oratory and deft media management. Indeed, Modi commands several ‘M’s —  media, money, muscle power in the form of cadres and government agencies that he let loose on critics and above all, brilliant marketing with his oratory, slogan-mongering and ample use of the “humble-me.” 

Dedicated effort has paid. After two consecutive defeats in 2004 and 2009, the BJP, helped by its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), battled its way on the back of an anti-graft movement. Back in power in 2014, it has built the world’s largest cadre-based political party that, under its chief Amit Shah, never stopped working for electoral gains. This victory belongs to those cadres.

By contrast, the Congress’ mass-based goodwill and support are ebbing. It is not ready for such a revamp. Rahul Gandhi has offered to resign. But the party will not accept it. He must slog on along with his housewife-sister Priyanka. The party is destined to remain trapped as a family concern. Psephologist-politician Yogendra Yadav has demanded that the Congress “must die,” but parties don’t. The BJP did not, and the Congress, too cannot. It has no choice but to persist.

ALSO READ: Six Things To Expect If Modi Returns As PM

The salt on the Congress’ wounds is Rahul’s defeat in Amethi, the family bastion. If nothing else, he could take lessons from the victor, Smriti Irani, who nursed Amethi despite defeat five years ago.

His love-and-hug ‘soft’ power was a novelty for a while, but its persistence failed against Modi’s hard-headed, even harsh, responses that included constantly attacking the Nehru-Gandhis.  Now that Modi has won and Rahul has lost, it is a moot point why Rahul calling the PM a ‘thief’ (chowkidar chor hai) failed.

Not just the Gandhis, the opposition’s family enterprises failed. The Gowdas of Karnataka, the Pawars of Maharashtra, the Yadavs of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, among many others, were bogged down by family rivalries. By contrast, the BJP took some hard-headed, even controversial decisions, to jettison its founding leaders L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.   

In the next few days if not weeks, some opposition-run state regimes may go. Hindutva hardliners – Giriraj Singh, Sakshi Maharaj, Anantkumar Hegde and others have all won.  On the victory ramp is Pragya Thakur, the terror under-trial out on bail whose nomination was endorsed by Modi who then, in an act of damage control criticized her praise for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh once predicted total British rule in India saying “sab lal ho jayega.” Today, would he have said: “sab kesri ho jayega?”

The road for the march of communism in Asia, it was said in the last century, would traverse from Moscow to Beijing to Kolkata and beyond. Those prospects have disappeared.  After three decades’ Left rule, West Bengal switched over to Mamata Banerjee and now, to the BJP. 

In ideological terms, the Before-Modi-After-Modi era has consolidated. The pluralist India of Nehru’s dreams and vision that the world has known and praised is passé. India joins the comity of nations led by tough-talking populist right-wing leaders like US President Donald Trump, Turkey’s Erdogen and Hungary Viktor Orban.  

Given majority in both Houses of Parliament, the majoritarian agenda can now be pushed. Also ripe for legislation could be Uniform Civil Code and repealing of Article 370 of the Constitution that removes the special status Jammu and Kashmir enjoys.

It would take a while to know how he Muslims have voted, but given the NDA’s two-thirds majority win it is obvious that this vote has not mattered. In such a situation, the community may reach some understanding on the vexed issue of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

There may well be some benefits on the economic front from Modi 2.0. Among them could be unshackling of ailing public sector units in favour of private enterprise. In telecom sector, BSNL is unwell and so is MTNL. In aviation, Air India might find buyer(s) if the government writes off some of the liabilities. Just-closed Jet Airways may also revive. Modi could use his Gulf goodwill to help out.

The India Inc. that has placed immense faith in Modi despite many disastrous moves because it sensed the TINA factor and did not want an unwieldy coalition government, can reap some benefits.        

Riding on conflict with Pakistan, Modi, like US President Donald Trump, focused on border to shape a vision of a muscular India. Nationalism was at the heart of the BJP campaign, and that included a citizenship census in the north-eastern state of Assam to raise the threat of Muslim “infiltrators” and show they are curbing the tide of undocumented immigrants at India’s borders.

Yet, Modi has a fan across the border in Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. He unusually — and controversially – showed open preference for Modi over anyone else to lead India. Old logic goes with it that the South Asian rivals can normalize relations only when a right-wing ‘nationalist’ Indian government (read non-Congress, since that party carries the baggage of the Partition and the Kashmir dispute) and an army-backed Pakistan government.

Khan should be happy to talk with a more agreeable Delhi under Modi. Both would be hiding their iron fists in velvet gloves. But circumstances favouring, they could solve some intractable issues. Why, solving even Kashmir is possible, to the glee of world powers that are tired of it. That would make them eligible for a joint Nobel.

The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com

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Lok Sabha 2019 Results

BJP Scripts History, Set For 2nd Term

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party appeared to be storming back to power with a comfortable majority on its own for the second consecutive time and is set to cross the 300-mark along with its allies in the Lok Sabha.

The BJP whose campaign was spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on muscular nationalism and a strident anti-Congress plank was leading in 292 seats, 20 seats more than the halfway mark of 272 in the 543-member Lok Sabha. Its allies Shiv Sena (20), JD-U (16) and Lok Janshakti Party (6) were also doing well in Maharashtra and Bihar.

On the other side, the main challenger Congress was way behind BJP leading in only 51 seats. Its ally DMK has put up a good show leading in 22 of the 30 seats in Tamil Nadu. The Congress was leading in eight of the nine seats it contested in the state. The party was also doing well in Kerala where it was leading in 15 out of total 20 parliamentary seats.

Prime Minister Modi was leading comfortably in Varanasi where he is seeking a second term while UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi led in Raebareli. Congress President Rahul Gandhi was trailing behind Union Minister Smriti Irani in Amethi while leading in his second seat in Wayanad in Kerala.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh was leading in Lucknow and BJP President Amit Shah led in Gandhinagar.

Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav was leading in Azamgarh while his father Mulayam Singh Yadav was leading in Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh. Senior SP leader Azam Khan was leading in Rampur.

Union Minister Maneka Gandhi was trailing in Sultanpur, whereas her son Varun Gandhi was leading from Pilibhit constituency in UP.

BJP’s ride back to power was also enabled by its spectacular show in West Bengal where it was leading in 15 of the 42 seats. The ruling Trinamool Congress has suffered a setback leading only in 25 seats. It has 34 seats in the outgoing Lok Sabha.

The BJP also was set to sweep in Bihar where the party and its ally JD(U) were ahead in 16 seats each and the other ally LJP was leading in six seats.

Karnataka also was going the BJP way where it was leading in 23 of the 28 seats, pushing the ruling Congress-JDS behind.

Apart from fresh gains, the BJP put up a sterling show in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh where it had lost the Assembly polls five months ago, bettered its showing in Maharashtra compared to 2014 and retaining its hold in states like Gujarat and Haryana.

In the battleground state of Uttar Pradesh, it appeared to have conceded some ground to the SP-BSP-RLD combine. Out of the 80 seats for which trends were available, the BJP was ahead in 58, the BSP 11, SP 8 and Congress, Apna Dal and Apna (S) were leading in one seat each. In the last elections, the BJP had won 71 seats and its ally Apna Dal 2.

In the national capital of Delhi, the BJP was ahead in all the seven seats which it had won in the last elections.

In the 2014 general elections, the BJP had won 282 seats, 10 more the halfway mark, on its own and crossed the 300-mark with its allies.

If the trends convert into seats, this would be the first time in more than 40 years in India, a party with a majority on its own will be coming back to power with a similar showing. (ANI)

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PM Mayawati: Unthinkable Is Possible

The BSP leader’s caste is her chief calling card as she has the advantage of tapping into the support of Dalits across the country

When the Bahujan Samaj Party drew a blank in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and was subsequently reduced to a mere 19 seats in the Uttar Pradesh assembly in the 2017 state polls, political observers and analysts were quick to declare that the party’s chief Mayawati had lost her touch and was on her way out.

But there has been a dramatic turnaround since then. As the ongoing Lok Sabha election enters the final phase, the same Mayawati, who was being written off as a political has-been, is being mentioned as a possible Prime Ministerial candidate provided the opposition parties notch up a respectable number of seats to form the next government.

Mayawati herself indicated recently that she has Prime Ministerial ambitions when she declared that she plans to contest the Lok Sabha election. She chose to stay away from the current general election but her decision sorely disappointed her Dalit support base which is pinning its hopes on “Behenji” occupying the country’s top post.

The BSP chief’s latest statement is essentially a message to her supporters that they should come out and vote in large numbers as she is very much in contention for the Prime Minister’s post. If the opposition is in a position to form the government later this month and she does emerge as its Prime Ministerial candidate, rules allow her six months to get elected to either house of Parliament.

Like West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati has the necessary credentials to lead the country. Not unlike Mamata Banerjee, the BSP chief carved out a place for herself in a caste-ridden and patriarchal society to emerge as the unquestioned leader of her party. Mayawati has been a four-time chief minister of the country’s most populous and politically-important state of Uttar Pradesh; has proved to be a strong and efficient administrator; ensured accountability from her officials; tamped down on atrocities against Dalits and seen to it that the law and order situation in the state was not allowed to get out of hand.

Also Read: Will Project Behenji As PM, Says Jogi

On the flip side, there have been serious corruption charges against her, which continue to haunt her even today. She has also been accused of squandering public funds on erecting statues of the BSP’s election symbol (elephant), of herself, her mentor Kanshi Ram and other scheduled caste leaders. But this has not dimmed her popularity among the Jatavs who are convinced that Mayawati is being hounded because she is a Dalit.

In fact, Mayawati’s caste is her chief calling card. And that’s where she scores over Mamata Banerjee. A woman and a Dalit to boot, the daughter of a post office employee was a school teacher before she ventured into the world of politics when she was adopted by Scheduled Caste politician Kanshi Ram as his protege, becoming a key member of the Bahujan Samaj Party founded by him. Since then, she has emerged as a leader in her own right, becoming an icon and inspiration for the large scheduled caste population who view her as a symbol of Dalit empowerment. When she overcame all social and economic hurdles and first took over as Uttar Pradesh chief minister in 1995, the appointment of the first Dalit woman to this post was hailed by late Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao as a “miracle of democracy.”

ALSO READ: BSP Remains A Force To Reckon With

Unlike Mamata Banerjee, whose presence is confined to West Bengal, Mayawati has the advantage of tapping into the support of Dalits across the country though Uttar Pradesh remains her party’s main base. If a second miracle was to catapult her to the Prime Minister’s post, it will mark a huge victory for the country’s Dalits who have been oppressed by the upper castes for centuries. It will go down in Indian history as the country’s “Barack Obama” moment, finally giving the scheduled castes a share in political power.

ALSO READ: Can Didi Rise Above Bengal Politics?

It is precisely for this reason that other opposition parties, including the Congress, will have no choice but to endorse Mayawati’s candidature if her name is proposed for the Prime Minister’s post. The country is ready for a Dalit Prime Minister. Mayawati’s elevation will come at a time when the country has been witnessing an increase in the incidence of violence against Scheduled Castes since the Modi government came to power in 2014. There is simmering anger among the Dalits which can be best assuaged if the BSP chief moves into Delhi’s South Block office of the Prime Minister.

Having proved her mettle as a chief minister, Mayawati should not find it difficult to adjust to her new role as the country’s premier. While she will be expected to bestow special favors on Dalits in terms of better funding for their education and improved job opportunities, Mayawati’s interests will be better served if she avoids playing the caste card in the appointment of her ministers and advisors. She will need all the expert advice because handling the country’s economy and foreign affairs is uncharted territory for her. A failure to do has the potential of inviting a backlash from the upper castes who will not be happy to see a Dalit woman occupying the country’s top post.

Though Mayawati, like Mamata Banerjee, is autocratic, mercurial and unpredictable, she also has a streak of pragmatism in her. For instance, the BSP chief did not hesitate to put aside her aversion to pre-poll alliances and entered into a partnership with the Samajwadi Party, her bitter political rival, once she realized that her party’s political survival was at stake after it was pushed to the margins by a rampaging Bharatiya Janata Party first in the last Lok Sabha election and then the 2017 assembly poll.  

Similarly, Mayawati resorted to deft “social engineering” in the run-up to the 2007 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh when she realized it would have to expand her support base as it would not be possible for her come to power with the sole support of Dalits. Mayawati then went on to do the impossible when she extended an olive branch to Brahmins, even though her party’s identity was based on destroying the Brahminical order. The BSP chief admitted Brahmins to the BSP ranks, fielded them in elections and promised them positions of power both in the party and the government. The strategy paid off as Mayawati went on to form the government in Uttar Pradesh then with a comfortable majority.

Despite Mayawati’s best efforts to be even-handed in her approach, it would be naïve to believe that her appointment to the country’s highest office will not be resented by the upper castes whose members have been wielding political power for decades. Don’t forget, Obama was succeeded by Donald Trump.

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