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2014: The Year BJP Became a National Party And The Gandhi Empire Crumbled

A Watershed

Yesterday, on 16th May, I became aware that I was witnessing history unfolding before my eyes. Over time, people will realize the importance of this day even more than in the heated moment of today as this revolutionary result gets silhouetted against an entire skyline of similar election verdicts. The story is more remarkable than mere statistics.

Statistically, this is the first time that a single party has won a majority in Parliament in 30 years. It is the first time that the erstwhile single largest party has been reduced to double digits.

Hindu Party to National party

The BJP has been known as  one of two prominent national parties for some time but its detractors and opponents always smirked at the ‘national’. Though it raised national issues,the ideological baggage of ‘Hindutva’ and the fact that this was the only major difference the common voter saw in this ‘party with a difference’ ensured it was mainly a party with support base and cadre belonging to the Hindi heartland. Its domain was the north and the west of the country with an almost total reliance on alliance partners for any seats elsewhere. This automatically meant it could only come to power only with the aid of other parties and thus made it a weaker power. It was heavily reliant on only a few traditionally strong states on its quest for power. The Congress, on the other hand, due to its legacy had a national appeal and so, always polled at least a minimum number of votes everywhere.

How, incredibly this has changed in this election! For the first time, it has won seats and polled votes everywhere in the country. From 18.8% to 31% it has made a massive jump. It has polled respectable votes in almost every Indian state including the South, North-east, East, far north on its own.  From Andaman & Nicobar to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh to Jammu and Kashmir to Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in the South, the BJP has conquered new lands. For example, it won no seats in Kerala or Meghalaya or Manipur but had significant voteshares in these places.  (You can find details on the Election Commission’s website http://eciresults.nic.in/ It is surprisingly fast and informative ). This has historically never been the case.  Modi-wave or not, there has been an anti-Congress wave and undoubtedly this is testimony to the fact that the BJP has built up a cadre base in places where it did not exist earlier. Modi’s brilliant exposure of Gujarat’s development over the past decade has paid off and made him a development friendly figure whom people could identify their aspirations with.

I do wish though that Modi had talked more about sadbhavana regarding minorities in this election campaign. This has undermined the moral strength of his victor.

The End of The Gandhi Empire

I believe that if a history textbook were written 200 years later, the period from 1947 onwards would be treated as the Gandhi era(like the Gupta era or the Mughal era), a period when the country was ruled almost uninterruptedly by a single family with only sporadic challenges to its throne. Almost every university, welfare scheme, road, development project has the family name stamped across it. That imperial rule only now is truly threatened. Congress faces the threat of of major attrition to other political formations. Rahul Gandhi faces the risk of being treated by history similarly as the later Mauryas or the later Mughals, successors to the throne whom squandered their natural inheritance to the throne because they were lesser men than their ancestors.

An emphatic comeback by him is only possible through good performance in Congress ruled states like good performance in BJP ruled states helped the BJP romp home. The Congress’ traditional votebank that deserted it this time will come back to it only if something changes in the Congress. Otherwise, even if the the BJP government does terribly, they will still not gain from anti-incumbency. To use a military analogy from the First World war, the trench lines have been broken permanently.

Retreat into Annihilation

By reducing the Congress to 44 seats, less than a half century, BJP may think that it has decimated it. However, just like the BJP has taken so many years to gain support in new areas, the Congress will also take time to totally cede control of areas lost. The battle may be won by the enemy retreating but instead of celebrating, if the victorious army can pursue the retreating columns, it can turn a retreat into a rout and truly obliterate the enemy. The BJP has such an opportunity now. It has been voted into power by a populace truly believing in it. Not all the people who voted for Modi (the swing voters) really know what Modi is for, they only believe that he is better than the UPA government and concentrates on development.  They voted for him because he was better than a vacuum. Taking a leaf out of the textbooks of their incumbent governments in M.P, Gujarat and Chhatisgarh, the BJP has to ensure that the people vote for it as first choice next time because they like them and not because they dislike someone else. They will also,very importantly, need to win the faith of the Muslims and other minorities. That is still the only blip in their status as a national party but it is a major blip.

Narendra Modi has an enviable opportunity to deliver on his promises without the typical compromises and arm-twisting that happens in coalition politics. This also means that he has a tall order in front of him. He will have no excuse whatsoever for poor performance.

Challenges to This Beacon of Hope

The entire country is not like Gujarat which would always do reasonably well irrespective of government because of the irrepressible business acumen of the Gujarati. The country needs decisions to be taken fast, policies to be enacted faster, and implementation move from paper to the ground. It needs to increase efficiency and plug loopholes in the system. The utter collapse of manufacturing, power, mining, infrastructure, realty, engineering, capital goods by this disaster of a UPA government led to a systematic destruction of the capital markets, something which we have still not fully recovered for even on the bourses notwithstanding the sharp but narrow index rallies in recent times. (I shall write more about that in another piece. ) The country has to once again become an investment destination.

Perhaps an apt picture of the current state of destruction of the economy

I truly believe that India will do better in the coming decade because there could be nothing worse that the Congress rule of the past 5 years. It is an unprecedented nadir perpetrated by rulers who have shamelessly  stripped the country to its bones in its plunder. It is time to clothe the skeleton with flesh once again.

 Disclaimer: I do not blindly follow any political party

This Mutant Virus

Evil smile

Evil smile

Assumes myriad forms
Is everywhere around us
In manner both brazen and clandestine
Deadly is this mutant virus

Permeates the national ethos
Erodes the fabric of trust
Spreads its kind deep and wide
Uncanny is this mutant virus

Black is its colour
It paints a dark picture of lust
Leaves a dark trail easy to follow
Laughs at the honest, this mutant virus

Destroys the value of money
Cripples systems without fuss
Cripples but does not kill
It needs a body to live in: this mutant virus

Raises public angst
Whose blood feeds this cuss
Makes them feel angry but helpless
Not much loved is this mutant virus

A two-faced public
They are the fastest to clamber onto its bus
Only crying when unable to do so
Feeds on public hypocrisy: this mutant virus

Finds enough followers thanks to the profit motive
Infects not the body but the mind first
Removing the virus is not easy
“Cleanse the mind first”: mocks this mutant virus

It is right though
And the coup de grâce it delivers thus
“Immoral, destructive but highly profitable
I’m just the villain’s sidekick”, smiles this mutant virus

Penned down on 21st September 2011

Revisiting the Nuclear Deal

It has been three years from the time when the nuclear deal was making headlines every day. A deal important enough to destabilize a government and lead to unprecedented diplomatic activity is now dead as a topic. This is only natural but remember that the deal had permanent repercussions and quite a few of the fallouts could be newsworthy in the future, energy security for instance. It is true that every now and then a pale ghost of the era does manage its entry such as the recent clearance by Australia to supply nuclear fuel to India.

The need and the projections

As of November 2011, India had an installed power capacity of 185GW. However as 35% of the power generated is lost, actual power delivered is much lesser, around 110GW. The peak demand for electricity is expected to grow to 298GW by 2021-22 according to the 17th electric power survey of India report. This calls for a trebling of power capacity in around ten years. At present nuclear power meets 3% of India’s power needs with around 3.7GW capacity. NPCIL has called for a target of getting 60GW of nuclear power online by 2032. There has also been a revision of the earlier target of 20GW by 2020. Now NPCIL projects 22GW nuclear power by 2015. In fact Atomic Energy Commission has speculated on figures as large as 600-700GW by 2050 providing half of all electricity. First of all, I am amazed that these guys have the ability to project 40-50 years in the future. No doubt there are some Nostradamuses in the AEC. They are also intelligent enough to give enough time to the government to think of a few gigawatt excuses when these targets, inevitably, will not be delivered. However, even in the best case scenario, nuclear power would still be a small percentage of India’s energy pool in the next ten years.

 A shortage of fuel?

Our reactors have sharply decreased their capacity utilization over the past few years due to fuel constraints. This solution to this problem was one of the hallmarks of the deal.
Total uranium usage in 2006 was 478 tons. India’s domestic uranium reserves at around 80000-112000 tons could last us for several decades. I am not even talking about our vast thorium deposits athtw e are yet to utilize. Yet we have fuel constraints: why? I quote from Ashley J Tellis’ book ‘Atoms for War? U.S.-Indian Civilian Nuclear Cooperation and India’s Nuclear Arsenal’,  ”The present insufficiency of uranium fuel arises not so much from a lack of natural uranium reserves as it does from bottlenecks in mining and milling capacity.”

If breeder technology is used and it shall be used at some stage, perhaps very soon, spent fuel could be reprocessed for plutonium increasing the longevity of our reserves still further.Unfortunately no one has thought of the ramifications of depending on power derived completely from foreign sources. A sanction could cripple us anytime.  This is the same story as coal. We do not mine our own reserves but prefer to buy at high rates from abroad.

The nuclear deal aimed at giving us access to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in terms of fuel and technology.  This objective has been realized partially with cooperation from quite a few countries(France, South Korea, Australia, Namibia, Kazakhstan etc.) So should Dr. Manmohan pat himself on the back?

 Too little Too Late

 He can but only a light pat. The odds are that nuclear power is hardly going to make a dent in India’s power requirements in the near future. The predictions of the distant future are so fantastic that they remind one of the more optimistic stories of HG Wells (I was also reminded of stock market analysts who predicted FY12 1350EPS, keep it up boys!). The government organizations are revising their targets steeply upwards as if it is going to create actual capacity. Their predictions and targets differ by tens of GW. Government estimates are usually hopelessly overoptimistic (remember the budget expectation of 9%FY12 growth?) it is likely that the 2015 or 2020 targets will actually be achieved several years later. Even going by their aggressive targets, nuclear power is not going to solve India’s energy problem; it is much more prudent to worry about our coal supply situation.

 A Grudging Acceptance

The US has clearly not cooperated to the extent expected. Ever since Bush left, they have begun dragging their feet on various issues. The primary deal has a clause that calls off the deal as soon as India performs a nuclear test, they have imposed CTBT on us from the back door. These guys are smart; once they can make India significantly dependent on nuclear fuel they know that India would be willing to do anything to prevent a disruption of supplies.It does not matter that the cancelling of the 123 agreement will not, prima facie, lead to cancellation of supply from other countries; US pressure will automatically ensure that. Further, restrictions and ‘safeguards’ on our nuclear facilities will remain in place permanently, deal or no deal.

Russia has always cooperated with India on nuclear power and irrespective of the deal we would have had cooperation from Russia. What would not have been possible without the deal was acceptance by the NSG of India’s status as a nuclear power.

This argument is weak and not just because of the NSG nations could not have permanently ignored the great loss of potential revenue because of their blacklisting of India. It is weak because even the hypocrites of the NSG would have been able to see that India could not be bracketed with North Korea, Iran and Pakistan. The US and Russia have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the earth many times over and have all sorts of weapon systems to deploy these weapons virtually anywhere. China has been responsible for the proliferation of nuclear weapons to Pakistan and North Korea. The other nuclear power states, if not anything else, have conducted scores of nuclear tests. Yet these countries always assume the upper hand and have us groveling at their feet whenever the word ‘nuclear’ is mentioned. Our behaviour is like that of the dark complexioned girls in the ‘Fair and Lovely’ ads. We feel permanently inferior have to be somehow endorsed by the fair.

Policy based on farsightedness?

There can be another stream of though here though. India could be smart enough to try to exploit the uranium reserves of other nations as its own are finite. Expecting such far sightedness from Delhi may be asking for too much but you never know. As it is, this is a positive from the deal.  In several decades, we should be able to get the necessary approvals and fulfill the procedures necessary to exploit our own reserves. Till then, let us drink our Indian cocktail of imported coal, crude and uranium. Long live our trade deficit. Hic!

P.S: There is no denying that our nuclear power sector will benefit from the deal in the long run. It is probable that India could not have been able to negotiate a better deal. It is just that the deal was shown so much as an achievement that I thought a little perspective is required. I could not take all that nonsense about ‘India being a nuclear pariah’ any longer.

References

Atoms for War? By Ashley J Tellis, 2006  http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/atomsforwarfinal4.pdf

http://www.indexmundi.com/g/g.aspx?c=in&v=81

Wikipedia.org

http://www.indianuclearenergy.net/

http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf53.html