OPINION

Monthly Archives: JANUARY 2019


MAHAGATHBANDAN KI BAAT
It’s less about arithmetic, more about chemistry among leaders
27.01.19 - VIPIN PUBBY
It’s less about arithmetic, more about chemistry among leaders



WITH THE EXPECTED announcement of general elections in a couple of months all the political parties, as well as the government, have now got into election mode. The big question is whether the NDA Government would stage a comeback or whether a group of non-BJP parties trying to form a mahagathbandhan would come to power.

The recent massive rally organised by West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerji in Kolkata sounded the bugle for the mahagatbandhan with 23 political parties, including several regional parties, putting up a show of strength. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior BJP leaders reacted by saying that there were at least eight leaders at the rally who were aspirants for the post of prime minister and claimed that the alliance is unlikely to take off.

While the BJP leaders may be dismissive of the attempts of these political parties to join hands, it is a fact that the way these parties are targeting mainly prime minister Modi, they may be committing the same folly as Modi did by earlier calling for a Congress-mukt Bharat.
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The main thrust of the BJP campaign during and after the 2014 general elections was to wipe out the Congress and it did succeed to a large extent but that very slogan appears to be proving counter productive as the government has little to show as its achievements. 
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The BJP scored one victory after another during the last few years and succeeded in dethroning Congress in almost all states where the party was in power. However, as recent election results show, the party is on a come back trail and the dream of congress-mukt Bharat has come to haunt the BJP. The main thrust of the BJP campaign during and after the 2014 general elections was to wipe out the Congress and it did succeed to a large extent but that very slogan appears to be proving counter productive as the government has little to show as its achievements. 

There is no doubt that there has been a decline in the popularity of the Modi Government, and there are indications of anti incumbency factor, but one can’t just dismiss its prospects in the coming general elections. The members of mahagatbandhan would be committing a big blunder if they think they can benefit only by targeting Modi by calling for a Modi-mukt Bharat.

What they need to do is come out with a minimum common programme listing steps they would take if a non-BJP Government comes to power. An aspiring country and its youth, who now far outnumber middle aged and elderly population, would like to know what the coming government plans to do for generating employment or encouraging industry or strengthening farm economy. 
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Much more than arithmetic and physics, it is the chemistry and understanding among the leaders and alliances that would decide the country’s political fate in the immediate future. 
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Just making promises would also not be accepted by the people. They would like a time-bound credible road map for the country. They would need to be convinced that the opposition leaders are not coming together only to remove Modi or with the sole objective to gain power, but to take the country on to the path of progress.

Also it would not be easy for the mahagatbandhan to tackle internal contradictions besides political ambitions among leaders. For instance it would be difficult for Mamata Banerji’s Trinamool to have an alliance with the Left Parties which are its main rivals in West Bengal.

Similarly Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have already formed an alliance in Uttar Pradesh which excludes Congress. The Congress has announced that it would contest all parliament seats in Uttar Pradesh thereby ensuring a three-cornered contest in the country’s largest state which contributes 80 Members of Parliament. Also the Aam Aadmi Party has decided to go it alone in Delhi and Punjab and has refused any tie up with the Congress.
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Dynastic politics is no longer an issue and ironical if coming from the types of Harsimrat Kaur Badal. 
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While it is true that we have a parliamentary form of government and not presidential form as in the United States of America but we are increasingly tilting towards presidential system as far as elections are concerned. That is why the BJP is harping on Modi versus Rahul Gandhi contest as it knows that one-on-one the Congress president is still no match to the experienced  and vocal Modi.

The entry of Rahul’s sister Priyanka is expected to provide a boost for the members of Congress. Most of those who are cynical about Rahul’s capability, would rather prefer Priyanka but whether it would make a major difference in the elections is the million dollar question. Dynastic politics is no longer an issue and ironical if coming from the types of Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

Voters do speculate about the possible prime minister even though the parties may take the stand that under the parliamentary system the elected representatives are supposed to elect their leader. In a way it is right since the ensuing elections are unlikely to give a clear cut verdict in favour of any particular party and the bargaining power of alliance partners, in both the cases, is expected to decide on the next prime minister.

Therefore the mahagatbandhan shall have to do much more than think that the elections are a game of arithmetic or that the BSP-SP would together poll more votes than the BJP going by the past statistics. Much more than arithmetic and physics, it is the chemistry and understanding among the leaders and alliances that would decide the country’s political fate in the immediate future.
 

 

 

(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.)


 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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Three Women of 1984  

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SIKHS & FEMINISTS – We hailed Harjit Sajjan; they didn’t hail Gina Haspel

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THE FINAL HONESTY CERTIFICATE: ISSUED BY THE TRIBUNE

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_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT

 





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High public offices and provision of cooling off period for post retirement jobs
20.01.19 - VIPIN PUBBY
High public offices and provision of cooling off period for post retirement jobs



THE CONTROVERSY regarding the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation A K Verma had an unexpected fallout in the resignation of Justice A K Sikri from a post-retirement job. The judge, who is due for retirement in March, has maintained the highest standards of morality by declining the offer to uphold the principle that Justice should not only be done but also seen to be done.

While no one had any doubt over the high integrity of Justice Sikri (in pic), the entire episode has focused attention on the question on post retirement jobs for people in high and independent public offices. It has revived the demand that there should be a mandatory provision of cooling off period, or a ban on appointment by government, for at least two years after the retirement.

Justice Sikri, to be fair to him, came into the focus of the controversy quite unfairly. He was offered a part time post as member of London-based Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal (CSAT) in December last year. That too after the approval of the then Chief Justice of India. The post did not entail full time stay in the Tribunal’s headquarters in London but provided for arbitrations from time to time. It was no means a lucrative post or a post with which the government of India could have benefited in any way.
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The controversy has revived the demand that there should be a mandatory provision of cooling off period, or a ban on appointment by government, for at least two years after the retirement.
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It is also a fact that there was no indication of Justice Sikri getting involved in the CBI director’s case which came up after a subsequent judgment of the Supreme Court. He was incidentally nominated as the representative of the Chief Justice to the panel because he was the senior most judge after him. 

The decision of the panel, which also included the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, to remove CBI Director Alok Verma, had led the opposition to criticise the decision. It was then that a news report came out which pointed out to the fact that Justice Sikri had been nominated by the government for a commonwealth post. The report did not directly allege any relation between offer to Justice Sikri and his decision to side with the prime minister’s stand, but the insinuation was clear that Justice Sikri had taken the stand in return of the ‘favour’ granted by the government. It was unfair to link the two. Although the reporter said it was just to bring the facts of the case, the motive of writing the story was obvious.

Justice Sikri had little choice but to resign as his accepting the post had come under a controversy.

The larger question that has arisen is whether all senior posts must have a mandatory clause that the officers would not accept any public or private office for at least two years post retirement. All these posts already provide for handsome pensions and other benefits. Such lack of opportunities or possibilities would keep them away from attempting to please the government of the day in order to gain a post retirement post.

There is also a view that the ban would deprive use of talent at an age when the person concerned is in good mental and physical health and is capable of benefiting the society. The retirement age in most jobs in the country is much lesser than the provisions in several other countries. In the United States of America, for instance, judges are permitted and encouraged to be on the bench till they think they can serve. Many other western countries leave it to the judgment of the person concerned to continue to work till he or she is mentally and physically sound.
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There is also a view that the ban would deprive use of talent at an age when the person concerned is in good mental and physical health and is capable of benefiting the society.
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It may be difficult to do so in India which had a large population of unemployed but it is time to increase the retirement age in some of the high skilled jobs.

However the decisions to offer posts to selective persons need to be curbed. Possibly a way out could be to set up an independent committee of eminent persons with a reputation of high integrity to discus and decide on selective appointments. Such a committee should be above the influence of the government of the day. A mechanism could be put in place for the constitution of the committee without any kind of political pressure from the government. It would not be an easy task but it appears to be the only way to ensure making use of skills and keeping the government at a distance from taking such decisions.
 

 

 

(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.)


 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:
 

Three Women of 1984  

FROM 1984 TO BARGARI - Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?   

REVISITING 1984 – RIOT AROUND A POLE     

1984 ANTI SIKH VIOLENCE – 34 YEARS OF KADDU FARMING     

WINDS OF CHANGE — What should be Amarinder Singh’s gameplan?      

KARTARPUR SAHIB: A CLARION CALL FOR PEACE IN AN AGE OF CYNICISM

DISSECTING POLITICS OF SELECTIVE SILENCE

CONGRESS IN SGPC - Tript Rajinder Bajwa marks 60 years of this Congress dream

THE ADHAR CARD-YUKT JASOOS - THE FOUR MUSKETEERS OF IB

Amarinder Singh, the coup in the CBI & the ED case: Headline is missing, so please read it between the lines

COP Vs. COP IN PUNJAB: Saiyan Bhaye Kotwal Ab Dar Kahe Ka

SURGICAL STRIKE DAY & WE THE PEOPLE The story of the gate is not the story of the house

Akali Dal's attempt to brand Navjot Sidhu as anti-national & ISI agent is ridiculous

UNHOLY HASTE To save the faith

Hua Panthik-Panthik Punjab - How do we reclaim real politics?

The Yuba City Attack on Manjit Singh GK & General Sambit Patra

Pakistan, Navjot Sidhu & the hug: Amarinder Singh 2018 is opposing Amarinder Singh 2004

Amarinder, Badals, AAP — Every party in Punjab is now an Akali Dal

Paragraphs that went missing from PM’s Red Fort speech could have pre-empted Opposition attack

Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

Mr SY Quraishi, can you please help to save this pet dog locked inside this sealed building?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

Punjab is Silent as India Wakes Up to Talk of Refugees

AAP-CONG ALLIANCE: ARREY BHAI, YEH KYA LIKH DALA?

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS PLANNING HONEYMOON? 

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DEATH EMBRACING LOGIC: Drugs in Punjab

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THE KASHMIR GOVERNOR, THE TRIBUNE TRUST & ETHICS - How Journalism Fails Readers?

"Congress Sikhan Di Dushman Jamaat Hai?” —Akalis need to dump broken record, shift gears

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

SARKAR IN MANALI: From Shahkot to Mohali Court, Sara Alam Bigrra Jaye

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

SIKHS & FEMINISTS – We hailed Harjit Sajjan; they didn’t hail Gina Haspel

AFTER BEING RAPED, I WAS WOUNDED; MY HONOUR WAS NOT

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WE MISSED A REVOLUTION, BUT CAN IT STILL BE A GAME CHANGER?

A POLITICIAN SPEAKS – YOU SHOULD HEAR

ENCOUNTER, JULOOS & SELFIES

SOWING ANGER - NO QUICK FIX - Democracy is an Empty Ritual in Punjab

OUT-OF-BOX SOLUTION TO STOP FARMERS' SUICIDES

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

'THORRI BAHUTI EHNA NU SHARAM AUNI CHAHEEDI HAI'

ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON SUICIDE-HIT BATS FOR AARHTIYAS

RANGROOT OFFERS A PEEK INTO PUNJAB'S TRAGEDY

WHAT MAKE NEWS IN INDIA, AND WHAT DOES NOT?

HITLER, MODI & GANDHI: ON THE SAME PAGE?

PUNJAB IS STILL VERY FAR FROM INDIA

APOLOGY – AKALIS BIG LOSER, CONG TOO 

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

SUPER EFFICIENCY ONBOARD CM’S CHOPPER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties: The Coordinated Silence of Amarinder Singh & Badals

PM MODI VINDICATES PUNJAB TODAY REPORTAGE

NEW DELHI V/S OTTAWA — WILL QUEBEC DEFEAT INDIA?        

A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA - Trudeau came to Punjab, pushed Amarinder closer to BJP, then called him a liar

JASPAL ATWAL CONTROVERSY: Mr. Ujjal, will you throw some light on this too?   

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE

J&K – RAM MADHAV LEAVES SPACE FOR MEHBOOBA’S POLITICS

SHEKHAR GUPTA'S HALF-BAKED TRUTHS 

OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES - Karze Ne Layee Ikk Hor Kisan Di Jaan...

PNB Scam: Who is Nirav Choksi and what he is doing In the name of God?

Congress upset due to Priyanka’s cleavage on calendar 

RENUKA'S LAUGHTER: Thank you for your guffaws. We needed this non-violent weapon.

MR CLEAN to PAKKE DHEETH: How Punjab’s Congress hurt Brand Rahul Gandhi? 

MANJIT SINGH CALCUTTA– THE DISSENTER

PUNJAB FARMERS AND IPL CRICKETERS - Finally, they can stand like equals

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION. My teacher is not alive, but you please call it off!

SUKHBIR IS RIGHT – On 97th anniversary  Panth Khatre Vich Hai. Where does this threat come from?

THE FINAL HONESTY CERTIFICATE: ISSUED BY THE TRIBUNE

NO TIME TO READ THIS STORY? – That’s OK - Please do not feel guilty 

BAD, BAD WOMAN! – Punjab’s top playwright slams woman complainant against Langah

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL – On Amod Kanth’s badge of shame

RELAX! ALL 30 WERE DERA PREMIS – Panchkula says something stinking about its conscience

PUNJAB: AN IDEA IN SEARCH OF WORDS: Punjab, more than a poster boy of progress or a renegade from modernity

_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT

 





[home] 1-4 of 4


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KARTARPUR CORRIDOR
Two Punjabs, India-Pakistan Trade and the China Factor
11.01.19 - TRIDIVESH SINGH MAINI
Two Punjabs, India-Pakistan Trade and the China Factor



After the foundation stone ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor on November 28, 2018, India and Pakistan were engaged in a war of words. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said a day after the ceremony that Prime Minister Imran Khan had thrown a "googly” as a result of which India — which so far had refused to engage with Pakistan — had to send two central ministers to attend the ceremony.

India Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj criticised Qureshi’s googly statement, arguing that this reflected Pakistan’s insensitivity towards the Sikh community. Khan did some damage control, saying that the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor was not a "googly,” but in fact a genuine overture: "The [ground-breaking] ceremony [of Kartarpur] was a peace initiative. It was a sincere effort. So was the invitation extended to the Indian ministers. It was not a googly for sure.”
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While there is no doubt that certain sections of the Pakistani security establishment have been fishing in troubled waters, to dub the Kartarpur Corridor as an ISI conspiracy is rather simplistic.
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Swaraj also turned town Pakistan’s invitation to attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit to be held in Islamabad (the dates of the Summit have not been finalized as yet).

Khan, in an interview with the Washington Post, dubbed the Kartarpur Corridor as an important confidence building measure between both countries. He also stated that he hoped to resume dialogue with India once the elections of 2019 were over.

Apart from some intemperate remarks on both sides, Indian media channels had been a bit skewed in their coverage, looking at the corridor merely from the security perspective. Many channels had dubbed Pakistan’s decision to go ahead with the corridor as an attempt of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to revive militancy in the state of Punjab. Some Indian politicians, including the Chief Minister of Punjab (India), Captain Amarinder Singh, too echoed these views.
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The Kartarpur Corridor would not just provide opportunity to Sikh pilgrims to pay obeisance at one of their holiest shrines, but could also give a fillip to economic linkages between both Punjabs.
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While there is no doubt that certain sections of the Pakistani security establishment have been fishing in troubled waters, to dub the Kartarpur Corridor as an ISI conspiracy is rather simplistic. This argument overlooks the sentiments not just of Sikhs, but other Punjabis who are in favor of closer links between both Punjabs. Religious tourism would also benefit the Pakistan economy immensely, and the service sector of the Punjab province would benefit enormously. Khan during his speech at the ceremony had outlined his vision for developing the Kartarpur city to give a fillip to religious tourism.

The Kartarpur Corridor would not just provide opportunity to Sikh pilgrims to pay obeisance at one of their holiest shrines, but could also give a fillip to economic linkages between both Punjabs. The demand for reducing restrictions through the Wagah-Attari land crossing — the only trade route — as well as opening more trade routes, was gaining ground with a number of business lobbies demanding the same.

India-Pakistan ties are full of uncertainty, and with skepticism in certain quarters, it remains to be seen as to how this religious corridor pans out. What is interesting however is international reactions to the corridor.

The US welcomed the initiative, saying that it had always pitched for greater people-to-people contact, and that this was a step in the right direction. The US Defense Secretary also stated that Pakistan should respond to overtures of India. The Trump Administration had been tough on Pakistan, but from time to time it had pitched for greater engagement between both countries, although New Delhi had not taken very kindly to this suggestion.

If Beijing wants closer economic cooperation with India, New Delhi should pressurize China to prevail upon Islamabad to liberalize trade with India and provide India with land transit access to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

China also supported the initiative. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated: "We are glad to see very good interactions between Pakistan and India.”

In recent months, there had been some important developments in India-China ties, especially in the context of Afghanistan. One of the important decisions taken during the course of the Wuhan Summit was that India and China would work together in Afghanistan. The Pakistan Army put forward its apprehensions, as a result of which cooperation so far between Beijing and India remained limited. India and China did however conduct a joint program for Afghan diplomats.
 
Significantly, on a number of occasions, China was also pitching for Indian participation in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, which would require the easing out of trade restrictions. The Chinese Ambassador to India, during his visit to Amritsar in 2015, had suggested that the CPEC project could be extended to the Indian side of the border (Attari). Beijing realized that India was unlikely to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in general and the CPEC project in particular, due to India’s tense relationship with Pakistan and the fact that the CPEC passed through disputed territory (Gilgit-Baltistan). Post Wuhan Summit, China categorically stated that it would not force India to join the BRI. In the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit held at Qingdao in June 2018, India was the only country not to endorse the BRI. However, a number of Indian analysts argued that joining the CPEC might be a pragmatic and feasible option in the long run which would benefit India economically.
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The two Punjabs have a role not just in rekindling people-to-people linkages, but also economic ties between India and Pakistan, and ultimately could even lead to "trilateral cooperation.”
----------
The Chinese Ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui, visited the Wagah-Attari border days after the election of Khan and argued for more harmonious ties between India and Pakistan. In June 2018, while addressing a seminar in New Delhi, the Chinese Ambassador spoke about the possibility of an India-Pakistan-China trilateral.

Interestingly, Imran Khan on repeated occasions had also spoken about closer trade relations between Pakistan and India. On the occasion of the foundation ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor, Khan stated that India and Pakistan should seek to strengthen economic ties. If Pakistan provides "most favored nation” (MFN) status to India, and provides land access to Afghanistan and Central Asia, not only will this be a big boost for the bilateral relationship, but it could also lead to robust trilateral linkages. Former Indian PM Dr Manmohan Singh had repeatedly spoken about the possibility of breakfast at Lahore, lunch at Amritsar, and dinner at Kabul.

New Delhi itself needs to adopt a more pragmatic approach towards Pakistan and should not be closed to more robust economic linkages. If Beijing wants closer economic cooperation with India, New Delhi should pressurize China to prevail upon Islamabad to liberalize trade with India and provide India with land transit access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Both India and China are seeking to promote closer people-to-people linkages. During the Wuhan Summit, an India-China High Level Mechanism on Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges was set up. Hence there is no reason why they should not seek to re-imagine their trade relations in the context of South Asia.
 
The two Punjabs have a role not just in rekindling people-to-people linkages, but also economic ties between India and Pakistan, and ultimately could even lead to "trilateral cooperation.” Beijing’s reaction to the Kartarpur Corridor needs to be viewed in that context. Beijing, New Delhi, and Islamabad will of course need to think out of the box.
 
Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi-based policy analyst associated with The Jindal School of International Affairs, Sonipat. This article was originally published in IPP Review.
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

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POLITICAL LESSONS FOR 2019 FROM 2018
The ground is shifting from hope to cynicism
02.01.19 - Shankkar Aiyar
The ground is shifting from hope to cynicism



IN ONE OF his most profound reflections, Albert Einstein observed, "Time is an illusion”. And politics is probably the most eloquent and live installation of the distilled insight. It is, after all, what lies between what was and what will be. Those who do not learn to leverage what is tend to be left lamenting about what was and struggle to confront what will be.

It is barely nine months since the BJP declared, rather re-declared its invincibility from Dwarka to Dimapur after winning in Tripura. In March 2018, the political map of India was awash with saffron flags. Prakash Javadekar coined "from 5 to 21 states”, a line to articulate the march of the juggernaut to power in states accounting for 70 per cent of the population. The Congress, sans a stance or subscription, was stranded in a shrinking bubble. Post the historic victory in Tripura, BJP President Amit Shah quipped, "Left is not right”, and asserted, "we will win in Karnataka”.
-----------
The causes of the defeat of December 2018 were visible in the victory of December 2017 in Gujarat, where the apparition of doom made a brief appearance in the last days of the polls.
-----------
In politics, nothing happens by accident. Even though electoral outcomes frequently seem accidental, political destinies are inexorably the consequence of neglected causes. A week, it is said, is a long time in politics. Two months after Tripura, the BJP juggernaut stalled in Bengaluru. 

The intense battle was not about ideology or ideas but give-aways. Notwithstanding a parade of sops—including loan waivers, pilgrimage subsidies, zero to one per cent loans, grants, gold, free phones—it was the futures and options player, JD(S), which wrested power in the state. The party which came third won the trophy. Failure in Karnataka made it imperative for the BJP to retain power in the Hindi hinterland. That was not to be. The debacle in the three states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh altered the political hues and the colours on the political map of India. 

The causes of the defeat of December 2018 were visible in the victory of December 2017 in Gujarat, where the apparition of doom made a brief appearance in the last days of the polls. What was the Gujarat mandate telling India? Rural Gujarat illustrated that the farmer wanted to be heard, the distress in the deteriorating viability of agriculture to be addressed. The small and medium entrepreneur in small-town Gujarat was speaking for businessmen everywhere expressing the hit from the twin shocks of demonetisation and the badly designed GST—worsened by poor access to credit. The youth who rallied with the three musketeers of the Gujarat polls defined unmet expectations of jobs.

Hubris in contemporary usage denotes overweening presumption, inexplicable optimism and arrogant confidence. Its etymology is rooted in Greek language. Hybris, the early avatar of hubris, characterised intentional use of deeds and words to humiliate or degrade. Aristotle is said to have observed, "Hubris consists in doing and saying things that cause shame to the victim… simply for the pleasure of it.” The point is less about reality and more about the growing perception of arrogance within and outside. 

The question is as much about words as it is about deeds. The issues flagged in Gujarat and later in Karnataka were not unknown. The solutions were discussed as were the problems. The ideas for redressal are mentioned in the budgets, in the reports of ministries, in the drafts authored at the behest of the PMO by Niti Aayog. To the voter at large the indolent system seemed to be simultaneously staring at problems and solutions. 

Yes, the solutions may have been in the domain of state governments, but the Central ministers could not persuade their colleagues in 20-odd states where the BJP was in power—these include the draft for a labour code, the draft for a leasing land law, the draft for contract farming, the need for establishing PPP for skills training, the need to decentralise clearances to enable investment and job creation. 
-----------
In politics, data recitation is not enough. It is the experiential narrative which drives affiliation. 
-----------
The BJP has struggled to find champions to shepherd change—the success stories of Jan Dhan, Ujjwala or Saubhagya have been commanded by executive action from the prime minister’s office. The gap between intent and execution can only be explained by ministerial incapacity to confront systemic sloth.

In 2014, the BJP won over 171 million votes and the Congress around 107 million. The historic mandate was fuelled by haplessness, frustration with the Congress-led UPA. The middle had shifted to the right persuaded by promise, pursuing expectations of solution-oriented politics. The ground, it would appear from the details of the electoral verdicts, is shifting from hope to cynicism.

The fog of winter, it would seem, has set on popular perception. The accepted wisdom of March, "there is no stopping the BJP in 2019”, has morphed into the quintessential doubt. That question, ‘Can the BJP make it in 2019?’, represents ominous portents. The callisthenics of Baba Ramdev and the reflective ruminations of Nitin Gadkari have introduced fuzzy logic into the discourse.

The hope of getting the sarkar out of business, the expectation that agriculture will get a new deal, the idea of development through team India, the anticipation of much-needed administrative reforms and the promise of 100 smart cities await deliverance. In politics, data recitation is not enough. It is the experiential narrative which drives affiliation. 
 
This Column was First Published in The New Indian Express in Sunday December 30 2018. 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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PUNJAB IS STILL VERY FAR FROM INDIA

APOLOGY – AKALIS BIG LOSER, CONG TOO 

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_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT




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