The Statesman – CAA, NRC, and Jamia-JNU violence will be major factor in assembly polls: Kapil Sibal

Congress had won just eight seats in 2013 and drawn a blank in the 2015 Delhi Assembly polls.

New Delhi – India, 19 January 2020. In the upcoming Delhi Assembly polls, the uproar over the amended citizenship law and the Jamia-JNU violence will be a major factor, said senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Sunday adding that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s “subdued” response to the issues “smacks of opportunism”.

He said the Congress will play a “significant” role in the polls and exuded confidence that the party could get enough seats to emerge as the “determining factor” in government formation.

“He (Kejriwal) did not show up in Jamia (Millia Islamia), he did not show up in JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University). His statements were not frequent enough, strong enough and open enough,” Sibal told news agency PTI.

The Rajya Sabha MP, who is a member of the Congress election and campaign committees for the Delhi polls asked “What has Kejriwal done? Kejriwal has not even visited the campuses, not even visited JNU, because this is politics.”

Sibal also alleged that the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was not talking much about CAA, NPR and NRC for the fear of losing a section of a vote bank that it “desperately needs”.

He asserted that Kejriwal has to answer to the people for his response to CAA, NPR and NRC. Asked if the Congress can form the government on its own, Sibal said, “I don’t think that we should be making such tall claims, but at the same time I think we will be a significant factor in this election, maybe giving us enough seats to be the determining factor in the formation of the government.”

On whether the Congress can join hands with the AAP if it turns out to be the “determining factor”, he said: “Let us first get the results out in the open. What our strategy is will be known to everybody at that point in time.”

Sibal also dismissed suggestions that the Congress’ chances in the polls may be hampered by the absence of a popular and credible face, saying the credibility of a face has no relationship to the party’s credibility in terms of its functioning on the ground.

“In 2014, we had a credible face in (Narendra) Modi, that is what the people of India thought, see what has happened since then. So let us not talk about the faces. The face of the common man is far more important than the face of the chief minister,” he said.

It is only the Congress party that has always looked at the face of the common man or woman and worked towards his or her concerns, said Sibal, who has been elected to the Lok Sabha twice in the past from Delhi’s Chandni Chowk constituency.

Responding to a question about Congress mounting a formidable challenge to the AAP, Sibal said his party does not have any seats in the Delhi Assembly, so the ruling party certainly has an advantage.

“I think they (AAP) claim more than what they have done on the ground. They have a fabulous media campaign. This is somewhat like our prime minister’s media campaign which sort of tries to claim much more than what the reality is.

I think people know the reality. So let’s see what happens,” he said. The Congress leader claimed that the BJP is on a sticky wicket in the polls as it has “lost credibility” and people are very unhappy with it.

He cited the examples of Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections, in which the poll pundits were proved wrong, to stress that a surprise could be in the offing in Delhi and his party could deliver a strong performance in the polls.

“I think the people of Delhi, as a member Parliament and (someone) who has fought elections in Delhi I can say, have realised that it is the Congress party that has delivered in Delhi.

There is no other party that has delivered in Delhi. As far as AAP is concerned, it has been in constant conflict with the Centre,” Sibal said.

“I remember the days when Sheila (Dikshit) was the chief minister and (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee was the prime minister. Even though we were different political parties with different ideologies, the administration worked together,” he said.

This talks well of Atal Vajpayee’s administration and Sheila Dikshit’s quality to embrace everyone and get the work of the people of Delhi going, he said, adding that, Arvind Kejriwal doesn’t have that art.

“In a constant state of conflict, I don’t think you can achieve much. I want to know how many great bridges have been built, how many underpasses have been built (under the AAP government). There is no infrastructure development at all,” Sibal alleged.

All the schemes that have been taken forward in Delhi have been the brainchild of the Congress, he said. Polling will be held on February 8 for the 70-member Delhi Assembly and the results will be declared on February 11. Congress is seeking to revive its fortunes in the national capital this time. It had won just eight seats in 2013 and drawn a blank in the 2015 Delhi Assembly polls.

CAA,NRC, and Jamia-JNU violence will be major factor in assembly polls: Kapil Sibal

Den Haag (NL) – Holland Spoor / Amsterdam – Oostzanerwerf

Den Haag NL
NS Station Holland Spoor
27 December 2019

Holland Spoor train shed

I am not sure whether this is a Benelux train to Brussel
or an express train to Breda, Noord Brabant

Holland Spoor train shed

Amsterdam Oostzanerwerf
27 December 2019

My friend Marieke

In her retreat in the  backgarden

View from the backgarden

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Associated Press of Pakistan – Pakistani, Kashmiri, Sikh diaspora to hold a massive protest outside Indian High Commission on 26 January 2019

London – UK, 18 January 2020. Pakistani, Kashmiri, Sikh diaspora have announced to jointly organize a massive protest outside Indian High Commission London on 26 January 2020, and mark republic day of India as a “Black day”.

Announcement to this effect was made in Birmingham (UK) at a joint Press conference on Friday convened by Raja Fahim Kayani President Tehreek-E-Kashmir and leaders of the World Sikh Parliament.

The event was attended among others by Ranjit Singh Srai, World Sikh Parliament, Joga Singh, Babbar Akali Organisation, Amrik Singh Sahota, Council of Khalistan, Raja Javed Iqbal, Farooq Azam Tehreek e Kashmir UK and others.

The participants said that India was violating and stealing the independence and basic human rights of Kashmiris, Sikhs and other minorities in the country.

They strongly condemned BJP Government’s new discriminatory citizen Bill of CAA, NRC and NRP.

They also said it was crucial that “we expose the real face of so called Indian democracy in front of the International Community and must participate in the upcoming protest to be held in front of the Indian High Commission, London on 26 January 2020.

They on the occasion urged the Pakistani, Kashmiri and Sikh community to come together and show their support for the Kashmir cause, Khalistan and humanity itself.

Pakistani, Kashmiri, Sikh diaspora to hold a massive protest outside Indian High Commission on Jan 26

The Print – Under Modi-Shah, BJP is back to being the Bharatiya ‘Baniya’ Party

BJP under Modi-Shah is returning to its protectionist, anti-MNC, technophobic old notions, underlining that strong governments can also be more risk-averse.

Shekhar Gupta

Op/Ed, 18 January 2020. Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has been quick to clarify his remark on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos not doing India a favour by investing here. He now says all investment is welcome, as long as it complies with India’s regulations. You can’t argue with that.

Although, if read with the fact that monopoly watchdog Competition Commission of India had hauled up Amazon earlier this week for “unfair” trade practices, a move hailed breathlessly by the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and trader/retailer associations, you wouldn’t make such a benign interpretation.

It won’t be some diabolical conspiracy either. It’s only pure politics. It will underline the BJP’s inevitable return to its basic instinct: Mercantilism.

This needs explanation. For decades, until the Congress-Left, post-Rajiv Gandhi, began describing the BJP as a Hindu party, Indira Gandhi had avoided doing precisely that.

In an earlier National Interest, I had quoted from a conversation with Seshadri Chari, former editor of RSS mouthpiece Organiser, that she only described the BJP as a baniya (trader caste) party. The BJP has shown signs lately of proving Indira Gandhi right and returning to its trader mindset.

This is where the philosophical impulse of swadeshi also comes from. If someone has to profit from trade and entrepreneurship, it better be one of our own. And even if we let an outsider come and do so, he better be grateful to us rather than the other way around. Several strong emotions get meshed in this:

Nationalism, protectionism, mercantilism, and arrogance. Who the hell are you to walk all over my market, out-compete my native businessmen and then expect me to say thank-you?

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) had first started becoming fashionable in 1990-91, just as the Cold War ended. It was also a time when a deep economic crisis was building up in India.

Madhu Dandavate was the finance minister in V P Singh’s cabinet. Addressing one of those industry chamber gatherings, he famously, or infamously, said, something like, “I am not against FDI. But I won’t go looking for it”.

Since he was a dyed-in-the-red old socialist, even this reluctant acceptance of FDI was seen as something to celebrate. But no foreign investor was impressed.

The reform of 1991 changed things. But attitudes deep down didn’t. India had already had four decades of socialist, protectionist, swadeshi, import-substitution, ‘exports are good/imports bad’ toxification across the political spectrum. The only force of the economic Right, the once-powerful Swatantra Party, had been destroyed and entombed under Indira Gandhi’s populism.

Even the Jana Sangh by this time was singing the same socialist song, only fortified by its own economic nationalism. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the only truly reformist BJP leader in a modern free-market sense, ran with the baton of reform. He had too little time.

Old ideologies, and we say this in a purely non-partisan sense (as in Left or Right, Congress or BJP), are extremely obstinate. Like the proverbial dog’s tail, you can’t straighten or bend these even in a dozen years. Some individual leaders can make a difference: P V Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh for the Congress, Vajpayee for the BJP. Under others, the ‘tail’ goes back to the way it always was.

Over the past five-and-a-half-years, we have seen the protectionist, anti-MNC, technophobic old notions return with a vengeance. This government now gives a 20 per cent advantage to capital goods made in India over imports, signalling a return to the old regime.

All it meant was that now a foreign company could ship its kits to India and assemble, for example, metro coaches in ‘joint venture’ with an Indian minority partner or even directly, and sell the same coach at a price much higher than an import.

In budget after budget, we’ve seen tariffs go up, sectoral protections extended, steel is only the most visible example, and all kinds of government agencies, from regulators to quasi-policing organisations, go after foreign investors, especially in retail. After the last budget and the BJP discourse around it, that happily forgotten old, Indira-esque expression ‘import substitution’ staged a comeback.

That is the reason global business has seen its romance with Modi’s India fade. No one would say so in public, especially those that already have investments in India, or employees and other interests. Who wants ‘panga’ with a strong government?

Even the mighty Vodafone CEO has to retreat after saying in agony that he will have to leave India, although he still might do that, after writing off a couple of tens of billions because of regulatory and taxation shocks and unpredictability.

Want more evidence? See how Jeff Bezos’ previous visit to India went in 2014, when he was feted by Modi and others, and his peremptory dismissal now. The explanation also sounds like Dandavate of 1990: I am not against FDI, but…

You still want to know where this sentiment or push comes from? Play back the part of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s Dussehra speech last year where he lays out his economic doctrine.

We can describe it in one word out of these: Protectionist, xenophobic, swadeshi. Or, it could also be stated as, ‘We are not against FDI, but only in sectors where we need it, as long as it doesn’t hurt Indian business, and control remains with Indians’.

The most fascinating aspect of Modi in his sixth year with a big majority is how compliant his government has been to Nagpur. It has delivered on all of its big concerns: Cow, Article 370, CAA, triple talaq, anti-Pakistanism, and so on. Yet, it has reversed two decades of reform on trade, FDI in retail, and technology to harmonise itself with the RSS, not defy it like Vajpayee did.

In 2014, and again in 2019, India elected a “strong” government and prime minister because it was fed up of a “weak” one for a decade under Manmohan Singh. It has been stronger and more decisive in many areas, from retaliation for terror attacks to Article 370 to anti-corruption activism.

But not on the economy. Besides GST, however flawed, and the IBC, it is difficult to find one big, bold reform, although I recently listed 10 bits of good news even in gloomy times for the economy.

Think about it. A government as weak as Manmohan Singh’s had the courage to deliver the India-USA nuclear deal, thereby fundamentally shifting India’s geostrategic posture. Modi’s strong government, meanwhile, is struggling to seal a tiny, partial trade deal with the US, even as it celebrates this ‘strategic partnership’ co-founded by Singh and Bush/Obama.

Vajpayee’s weak government ushered in the cotton revolution by permitting genetically modified seeds. Modi’s strong government is pussyfooting on agricultural biotechnology, more respectful of Swadeshi Luddites than a Vajpayee would bother to be.

Which takes us to our old argument: Are strong, full majority governments necessarily good, or do they have a problem? More to lose, no excuses to put off ideological demands and compulsions, and a constant need to save face?

Are weak governments actually more decisive and less risk-averse because they have greater flexibility and humility? It is a particularly contrarian and provocative point. Which, indeed, is what it was intended to be.

Under Modi-Shah, BJP is back to being the Bharatiya ‘Baniya’ Party