Sunday, July 30, 2017

A New Narrative set by the Congress can still save India

निंदक नियरे राखिए, ऑंगन कुटी छवाय।

बिन पानी, साबुन बिना, निर्मल करे सुभाय।।

- कबीरदास

The commentators and influencers in this country have started writing the epitaph of the Congress party. They have all the right to believe so because since past three years or so, the electoral fortunes of the party have seriously dithered, after the miserable defeat of 2014. Their intense speculation about the future of the Grand Old Party is something which passionate flag bearers like me cannot discount, but are profoundly anguished with. The Liberals are angry at us. But we need to convert that anger into love. I am a Congressman and will remain a Congress party admirer even if I am the last man standing, although I shall do everything within my means to prevent that ‘last man’ scenario.

I know I may be painting a negative picture and some of you who will read you will definitely mock my assessment. Some of you will also question my locus-standi for writing this- since I am also part of that very system, albeit a very small part in which the Congress system works, I am responsible too. And Yes I am.  But, considering that I am an eternal optimist, I shall always say, that even though the initial comment of this writing will force you to doubt my assessment, I shall always yearn that such an eventuality shall never come.

Congress will remain strong and Congress will overcome its present problems. We shall again redeem India and will not let it slip to the darkness. Our ideals and ideology is rock solid and our commitment for Secularism is unflinching. Compassion, brotherhood, love and respect are the pillars which install the foundation of our basis.

A lot is being written and a lot is being said. Yes, there are a lot of inherent flaws with which our inner party system works, but there are innumerable positives also.

The honeymoon period of the Modi Government saw the Congress party believing that since it is the largest and natural political force of governance and the BJP lacks the ability to solidly govern and administer, it will never be able to live up to the expectations of people. This has actually led to its complacency and turning it into a reactive force. “Jab yeh galitiya karenge, abhi nahi toh 5-10 saal baad humara waqt aayega” (When they will make mistakes, not today, but eventually after 5-10 years we will be back in power) was the drawing room chatter of every Congressmen.

Then came a period, where the superficial layers which gloss the BJP’s incompetence began to peel off.  Failures, after failures with time- But at the most the Congress acted as a reactionary force, failing to capitalize the blunders of the ruling dispensation. The single biggest mistake which critics and admirers alike will admit that the Congress party in the UPA era failed to build its cadre, especially in states, where it was weak. An opposition needs a robust and a committed worker. The Congress is a mass based party and not a cadre based one, yet it has certain unique organizational strengths, which it could have tapped into. Its frontals are more or less defunct and at the most have become extremely sycophantic in nature- with almost no vision or plan of action.

Three years now into the dark ages of the Modi Government, where the BJP is using every trick in the political book to expand its hungry fangs to annihilate India, the Congress is making last ditch attempts to somehow foster an opposition unity, without much success. The Nitish Kumar fiasco may have its opportunistic and political strokes, and broad ones indeed, yet the Congress has to somehow take its share of blame too. I know, I will again be accused of crossing the Lakshman Rekha (Red Line) while I try to objectively put forth this assessment, but acceptance of failures, is the first stepping stone to success.

I have been hinting and posting on Social Media, since long, that the Congress needs a positive agenda. A solid, implementable narrative and a new vision to take along those committed liberal voters who still believe in those ideals on which the edifice our Constitution was laid. Time and again, I have come to this conclusion that only a positive narrative can resurrect the Congress.

For starters, we should look at our own 2014 Manifesto. This 45 page document should be our Magna Carta to attack and question the BJP. It will give us more credibility because we shall not be merely criticizing the policies, but also put forth a positive policy solution. “Had the Congress been in power, there were the 5 steps it would have taken to solve agrarian distress”. “These are the steps that the Congress party would have taken to create more jobs”.

It is not that the Congress party is not taking steps to revamp its organizational structure. Election process will complete this year and a new team is slowly and steadily been set up. New General Secretary in-charges for states are being appointed. The Communications department of the party is seeing new faces and a newer strategy for the same is in place now. Research and Social Media wings have also been refurbished and are working with new vigour. Yes, we lack in Media Management, and that needs to be proactively dealt with.  A large section of media has become the mouthpiece for the BJP, and the Congress needs to find an alternate for the same. There are several deficiencies too, which are well known. These need to be resolved.

The voter connect is only possible when you gather small constituencies of groups together and target your liberal supporters. Laziness, complacency and arrogance should be done away with. A strong ideological resolve is needed so as solidify your support base. We all know what ails the Congress party, we also have some solutions.

No political party that has a closed system and secretive in nature can function in a vibrant democracy. We have to open the doors for the converted and to the swing ones.

The Congress should aim for opposition unity, but that does not mean that it can tie up with any political party which is ideologically not at the same page as the Congress. We have seen that in West Bengal and in Uttar Pradesh. Let us not repeat that. The Congress should try and build consensus, but if that is not possible, just leave these regional parties to fend for themselves. We should stop pandering to them. Let us built our own identity, we were successful because we had one. We should not leave it. Opposition unity is good for short term goals, but in the long term, we should strive for our own National space. In states, where we are dependent on regional satraps, we have only declined. Even if we win one seat, it should be on our own.

If we do not implement a positive agenda and restructure ourselves, then even our forefathers, who so painstakingly built this country, will not forgive us for sending India to the dark ages.

All the views expressed in the article by the author are strictly personal.

Monday, July 3, 2017

How the BJP is blundering on India’s 'China Policy'

Five decades ago, on October 7, 1966, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had openly asserted at the press conference on October 7, 1966 that India was committed to protect Bhutan from China. Today, a serious situation is developing at Doklam (also called Donglang), which is part of Bhutan, but is also claimed by China. It is located at a tri-junction of India, Tibet and Bhutan and is close to the 14000 feet high Nathu La pass, through which China has blocked this year's Kailash Mansoravar Yatra, which was much hyped by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi as ‘his government’s gift of a second route for millions of Shiva Bhakts.

A very delicate and extremely serious situation is developing at the Chinese boundary adjoining Sikkim. A month long standoff between the Indian Army and the Chinese Army has taken place- this is the longest standoff between India and China in last 55 years (since 1962) According to media reports, China has destroyed 2 bunkers of the Indian Army at Doklam plateau. There are two key Chinese objectives in initiating the Doklam standoff. First, it seems to be testing India’s resolve to stand by its long cherished friend Bhutan and secondly, China is fostering an aggressive attitude towards the delicate and strategic ‘Chicken Neck’ which connects the rest of India to the northeast.

Since the day, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi swung in a “Jhoola” and relished “Dhokla” in Ahmadabad, Gujarat with his Chinese counterpart, China has time and again proceeded to break the land boundary agreement which the then Congress-UPA Government had entered into in 2005 and later signed by both the heads of the state in 2013.

1)    Line of Actual Control in the India-China border areas, signed in April 2005 and
2)    Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, signed in October 2013,

Also, India has underlined that the two Governments had in 2012 reached agreement that the tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalized in consultation with the concerned countries. Any attempt, therefore, to unilaterally determine tri-junction points is in violation of this understanding.
We must not forget the fact that Chinese incursions have continuously increased under the BJP Government.

1.    In the past 45 days, 120 Chinese Incursions have taken place, while 240 such incursions have taken place till this month in 2017.

2.    The much hyped second route of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra via Nathu La stopped suddenly by China has dealt a severe blow to India’s diplomatic image. Despite the Chinese Army destroying the facilities built for the Indian pilgrims, the BJP Government did not pay any heed to the miseries of the pilgrims, till they started posting videos and pictures of the Chinese Army’s destroying them. The stoic silence and inaction by the BJP Government is for all of us to see.

3.    On June 4, 2017: Two Chinese Army choppers violated the Indian airspace, by hovering over Chamoli district. On previous occasions, Chinese helicopters had entered 4.5 kilometres into Indian territory, an area that China claims as its own in Barahoti ,Uttarakhand

4.    Border disputes with China have again reached center stage with repeated breaches and incursions by the Chinese forces along the international border; However, in March , this year - the MoS  Defence in a written reply to the Parliament says that there were “No Chinese Incursions, Only Transgressions

5.    Earlier Home Minister, Rajnath Singh has said, that “Chinese Intrusion are only Perception”

There have been multiple occasions where this BJP Government has failed to secure India’s National Interests, viz-a-viz China:

1.    China vetoes declaration of Masood Azhar as an ‘international terrorist’ under Pakistan’s pressure

2.    China blocks India’s membership of ‘Nuclear Suppliers Group’ asking for parity with rogue Pakistan.

3.    China opposes India’s membership of UN Security Council.

4.    On Dec 19, 2016; Russia extended support to China-Pak Economic Corridor & expressed intent to connect it with Eurasian Economic Union.

5.   China – Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) worth $54 billion built through PoK/Balochistan connecting Gwadar Port in Arabian Sea to China with base for Chinese submarines- Does it not compromise India’s Sovereign right over POK & affect our strategic interests?

6.    China renames six places in Arunachal Pradesh on its official map.

7.    Nepal accusing the Government of India of interference in its domestic matters.

8.    Sri Lankan Government refusing to sign the comprehensive Economic partnership agreement (CEPA) with India. China-sponsored infrastructure developments in neighboring Sri Lanka offer an instructive lesson. Numerous infrastructure projects, negotiated in secret by the former Sri Lankan government of Mahinda Rajapaksa, saddled the Sri Lankan treasury with debts to China estimated at some $8 billion. Sri Lanka cannot repay what it owes, so it has negotiated a debt-for-equity swap of the Hambantota Port project.

9.    India is feeling increasingly isolated on its stand with respect to the grandiose One Belt, One Road (OBOR) imitative by China, which hosted Russian President, Vladimir Putin as its chief guest. The general perception amongst experts is that India could have been a part of the initial meetings and then shown its strident opposition to China and Pakistan constructing road through Gilgit-Baltistan- an integral part of India.

China has exponentially expanded strategic, economic & defense partnerships with Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. This maximalist position of China to encircle India and cramp its strategic space has been highlighted time and again by strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney.

It is pertinent to note that, during PM Modi’s recent visit to the United States, he did not raise any issue which affected India-China relations. Be it China stalling India’s entry into the NSG or China blocking Masood Azhar’s name to be declared as a ‘global terrorist. 

The UPA- Congress Govt approved the raising of ‘Mountain Strike Corps’ along the China border with 90,274 additional soldiers at a cost of Rs 64,678 Crore . After the  BJP came to power, it has put this project into deep freezer. This Mountain Strike Corps could have been useful in today's standoff, but the BJP has lost this opportunity.

This is what happens when you appoint either a ‘Reluctant’ Defence Minister or a ‘Part Time’ Defence Minister