All posts by Aanand Kharde

A Modi-Fied India prepares for its 67th Independence Day

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares for his first speech from Delhi’s Red Fort on Independence Day, history is waiting to be rewritten. In fact Modi has been preparing for this moment for some time now.
If we roll the clock back a year from now, it was on August 14, 2013 when Modi had thrown down the gauntlet by challenging that his August 15 speech in Gujarat, as Chief Minister, would draw as much attention as that of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s from the Red Fort.
modi_speech_win_apHis speech last year on Independence Day had begun from a college in Bhuj and had started about half an hour after Manmohan Singh’s speech had finished. Modi had then torn into Dr. Singh’s speech branding it uninspiring and disappointing. The bigwigs at BJP had then proclaimed that Mr. Modi’s next Independence Day speech would be at Delhi’s Red Fort. In fact so fond a wish was it that in election-bound Chhattisgarh in September last year, the BJP erected a replica of the Red Fort as a stage for a Modi rally.
Here we are a year later, and the stage is set for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to deliver a speech which many expect would be inspiring and thought provoking in equal amounts.

As the D day draws closer, it is believed that the speech will highlight three major initiatives that are in the pipeline. The spotlight shall remain on big ticket reforms but the three initiatives-a clear plan for the Clean Ganga project, skill development for the nation’s youth, and real steps to ensure financial inclusion-will be the main ingredients of Modi’s first address to the nation.
In fact all three of these major initiatives have been the fulcrum of Modi’s campaign and have been the party’s manifesto in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections this year. In the pipeline are plans to create separate nodal offices for skill development and Clean Ganga project. While the skill development for youth is proposed to be handled by about 20 ministries, different programmes to clean Ganga shall fall under at least three ministries.
2013_3$img03_mar_2013_pti3_3_2013_000044b_505_030313062310True to Modi’s focus on skill development, the government has completely dedicated one of the six areas on the recently launched web portal MyGov to it. The purpose is to develop bold ideas, concrete policies, initiatives and interventions to help develop employable skills on a mass scale to meet the needs of the industry and help youth enter the job market.
So as the countdown begins for August 15, the nation shall wait with bated breath for Modi to unleash a speech which will be charismatic and impactful in equal amounts. After all, we already know he is a man of his words.

Vibrant Times Ahead!!

What then is common between former Indian Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh? They have all addressed joint sessions of the Congress. And that surely is monumental and an occasion to cherish. With the confirmation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, what one is looking forward to is simply an encore. Apart from his meeting with President Barrack Obama in the last week of September, this is the single most event which will give the relations between India and US a definite boost.
Now the relationship between Prime Minister Modi and US has seen its degree of friction and controversies over the years. The prime reason for the equation to go kaput was the visa issue. Mr Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat did not have the required permission to visit US for almost a decade. And the prime reason for this little known law to stop him from coming was only ever used against one politician in the world and that unfortunately was Narendra Modi.
But now that the relations have seen an upswing and as the Modi victory campaign promised ’Acche din aane wale hai’ , it’s time to understand how can this association be taken to levels which are fruitful to both the countries. US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) along with some other representatives of the Indian American community have come up with a unique proposal which suggests that the BJP-led Government should issue infrastructure bonds for the NRI community to tap the goodwill of the Indian diasporas.
narendra_modiThe announcement of the bond can be made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his visit to US. Sanjay Puri, Chairman, (USINPAC), said “USINPAC has had extensive discussions with top financial institutions in the US and members of the Indian diasporas in several countries on the market viability of the proposed bonds and have received an overwhelmingly positive response on the same. We have suggested that the infrastructure bonds can also be used to fund the ambitious Ganga conservation mission”.
The USINPAC on its part has suggested naming the bond `Vibrant India Bonds’ in order to leverage the brand awareness of `Vibrant India’. This goes in tandem with the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ campaign with Modi had launched as the Chief Minister of the State and a `Vibrant Gujarat Global Investment Summit’ that takes place every two years.
Coming back to the event of Modi addressing a joint session of Congress, USINPAC is working with members of US Congress to build momentum for an address by Modi. Over 40 Congressmen and 20 Senators have already informed the US Speaker of their wish to hear an address by him.
USINPAC is additionally working towards organizing a luncheon meeting with US Senators for Modi and a meeting with top US CEOs. As Sanjay Puri says’ “It is only through such meetings that the US approach to tricky issues such as IPR, visa for professionals and supply of natural gas to India can be changed”.
As a matter of fact, Vibrant India bonds can turn out to be the kind of idea for Modi’s visit, like the US-India nuclear deal was for former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. India’s financial requirement which stands at $ 1.5 trillion can get a really big boost in terms of infrastructural needs and it is this endeavor which should do the trick.
The wait then begins…



Taking Stock of the Modi Wave

The verdict is out. We have witnessed history being made. The citizens of India have given their mandate. It is after 30 years that a party has won the elections riding on the power of absolute majority. Clearly what no one had imagined, NaMo had foreseen. As the Congress nose dived to a crushing defeat, it was the turn of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) to smile their way to the bank.

The pundits had predicted a BJP win and all the experts had tipped Narendra Modi to become the next Prime Minister, but no one had imagined such a phenomenal margin of victory. Coalition governance which had become a norm for the last 2 odd decades was thrown out of the window as the voters took a dip in the NaMo wave and in turn ensured a phenomenal win for BJP.

Narendra ModiGiving its own twist to the election flavor was US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), which came up with the innovative idea of conducting a series of trailblazing election calls with a series of election experts to give the Indian Americans a slice of what it feels to be in the midst of a great spectacle. Week after week experts of the ilk of Kanwal Sibal, Yashwant Deshmukh, Shahid Siddiqui, Madhav Nalpat and Jagdeep Chhokar amongst many others discussed their views and ideas about the Indian Elections. The calls were a resounding success and gave the Indian Americans a ringside view of the Indian Elections.

Carrying that trend ahead, USINPAC has now introduced a series of calls which would further analyze the post election fever and connect you to experts who will not just tell you what really happened, but will also help decode the cabinet. The calls will focus on who will form a part of the new cabinet under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the different portfolios on offer and who are the most suitable candidates. The calls would also shed light on the impact of the elections and how Delhi would welcome a new government. USINPAC promises to bring you prominent leaders and a great panel of experts who will discuss in detail the road ahead.

With the first series of calls turning out to be such a raging success, the new series of calls are all set to witness an even better response. As Sanjay Puri, Chairman, USINPAC says, “After the BJP’s thumping victory, the policy makers, businessmen, and investors would keenly be observing the next course of action which Modi’s government takes. Like our last series of calls, through this initiative we aim to provide a better understanding of India to our U.S. members so that bilateral relations which are seeing a rocky present have a cooperative future.”

This week the expert will be Dr Sudhanshu Trivedi who is the National Spokesperson for BJP & the Political Advisor to BJP President Rajnath Singh  . To register for the call, click here.

The American equation with India’s next possible Prime Minister

As India’s national elections reach the finishing line, it is an opportune time to repair relations with the U.S. that were strained by the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York in December. But there’s a big catch: Washington’s uneasy relationship with the man expected to become India’s next prime minister. Should the BJP win, Narendra Modi, a once-highly polarizing figure, will certainly become Prime Minister of one of the world’s biggest economies.
pic-big-narendra-modiBut it is not the future, but Modi’s past that presents a challenge for the United States. Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi was denied a U.S. visa in 2005 for alleged complicity in religious riots in 2002 that killed more than 1,000 Muslims. Exit polls display Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies with an unbeatable lead over the ruling Congress party and its allies after voting ended Monday thus reducing the final results to a mere formality. Once Modi takes the oath, the visa issue will no longer exist and U.S. will have to welcome Modi with open arms as there is too much at stake when it comes to the relationship between the two countries and such trivial issues will have to be done away with for the greater good.
It was in the month of February, when, for the first time in Modi’s decade-long tenure as the Chief Minister of Gujarat that the U.S. ambassador visited him. U.S. since then has gone on record and has always said that whoever is elected India’s next leader would be welcome to the U.S., leaving little doubt that if Modi becomes Prime Minister, he could visit Washington whenever he wishes to.
On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated India on its national election and said the U.S. will work closely with India’s next government.”We look forward to working with the leaders chosen by the Indian people to advance this important partnership and to set an ambitious agenda,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
obama-bestThis very clearly means U.S. will accept whoever the citizens of India give their mandate to. But the U.S. will not be wrong if they think that Modi may hold a grudge against them for the visa denial, which may put a spanner when it comes to bilateral ties.
But Modi has always said that the BJP will look forward to further strengthen the partnership between India and the U.S. and build on the foundations laid by Atal Behari Vajpayee (Former India Prime Minister and BJP Leader) years back, although not much has been mentioned about it during his campaign. On the other hand, the successor to Powell, who is resigning, could play an important role in trying to build a strong bond with the new Prime Minister.
“Obama has yet to nominate a replacement, but India will look for someone close to the White House”, said Sanjay Puri, chairman of the U.S.-India Political Action Committee, which has helped organize trips by senior BJP officials to the U.S. He’s also urging an early White House invitation for the next Indian leader. “This relationship needs some love right now,” Puri said.

The Road to Effective Governance is still a Distant Dream!

The ones who framed India’s Constitution adopted the system of democracy, with a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” which they believed would ensure for them equality and safety. Elections form an integral part of a democracy and they have been held roughly every five years in the States and at the Center, and the Election Commission has more or less fulfilled its roles commendably.
Voting_PTISince the start of elections, our politicians have been signaling issues of caste, community, religion, language and region to get one up against their opponents. Fifty years ago, the seeds of divide first took shape when based on the language criteria Andhra Pradesh was formed by removing eight Telugu-speaking districts from the Madras Presidency. Subsequently, smaller states such as Uttarakhand and Jharkhand were formed, and as we all know Andhra is set to witness a further divide and Telangana is about to be formed. Persistent demands for the formation of Gorkhaland, Bodoland and Vidarbha have been going on for quite some time now. But the basic claim that small states can provide good governance is questionable.
Based on different parameters, whether it be educational, job and other entitlements have been granted to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe populations, OBCs and minorities. It would not be wrong to say they are a privileged lot. Muslims, who total about 170 million, are considered a minority and are eligible for concessions, which among others include a particular financial assistance to undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca. Christians receive pilgrimage assistance (in Tamil Nadu). Jains are the latest ones to join the minority list, and get OBC quota. Jats are given concessions by one State; several other communities are demanding similar status and concessions. Since the Constitution has declared all Indian citizens as equal, why cannot the eligibility criteria for financial assistance, reservation and so on be based on levels of poverty? The only exception if there has to be one perhaps should apply to the tribal community.
An Egyptian man shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote at a polling station in CairoAhead of the elections, certain groups are demanding humungous concessions and baffling favors based on caste, community and so on. That’s not all as some political parties seem to identify candidates for elections based on similar lines. Nobody asks: “Are we not Indians?” Born in one country, are we not Indians? Yes, but does the voter populations feel and act primarily as being ‘Indian First’, or do they act as members of a certain caste, religion, community or language? Before casting their vote, does he or she assess candidates with regard to integrity, social welfare consciousness, ability to express their views etc? There is scope to exercise this right, and the Election Commission has given the voter the option of NOTA, or ‘none of the above’.
In a general election, votes are divided among candidates in a certain ratio. In some situations, the gap between the top two is not very substantial. When compared to the total number of votes polled, the top-scorer barely scores 30 per cent and still manages to win. How can such a person claim to represent all voters? Hence the voter gets the Parliament and government he deserves. The performance of Parliament has steadily deteriorated over the years. Several of the elected members face criminal charges and many have a record of poor attendance in the house.
voting-india-e1396611364405We all know that no party will get a majority. Hence, to form a government, the BJP — if it wins more seats than the Congress — will have to get support from regional parties. If the BJP forms an alliance and is able to form a government, it cannot be free from pulls and pressures. Effective governance will remain a pipe dream then. Will not the nation suffer because of this?
For once taking into account the interest of the nation and the need for effective governance by a stable government, why can’t leaders of the two major national parties, the Congress and the BJP, forgo ego, end slogan-shouting, and at least try to come to an ethical understanding? A committee consisting of, say, three from each party can meet and discuss the issue. If the BJP gets the larger share of seats but not the majority, the committee can then decide that the BJP would form the Central government and the Congress would support it, subject to all major policies and matters requiring legislation should be discussed by the committee. If there is no agreement on this, then the subject should be placed before Parliament and debated. Only if the vote is in favor, the government should go ahead. The Congress can express its objections during voting, but it will continue to support the government come what may.
ad6cdccc-63b3-473f-813f-6efa804aecbe-620x372Such a system will help enable the Central government to implement measures which will improve security, the economic situation and so on, and will act as an eye-opener to all democratic countries. The credit for success will not be attributed to the BJP alone but also to the Congress. Both parties strongly believe in the welfare of the nation and therefore senior members of both parties can be expected to ensure that there is no rupture in their understanding or in the functioning of the government.
Such an arrangement should not be limited only to the government which is set to be formed after the 2014 elections. When the elections are held again after five years and if neither party gets a majority then it should be agreed upon that the Congress would form the government with the BJP supporting it and conducting itself as the Congress did for the last five years. Thus, this kind of understanding can be expected to strengthen the national parties based on ideology and provide all round security and welfare to the people.