Bangladeshi view: A case of distorted democracy?

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by Ray, May 25, 2014.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    A case of distorted democracy?
    Peter Custers

    The outcome came as a shock for people who admire India's secular political traditions. On May 16, the results were announced for the elections to India's parliament, the Lok Sabha. Held in 9 rounds over a period of many weeks, India's national elections are described as the largest, most massive exercise in vote casting worldwide. Yet this year's outcome even at first sight is worrisome, to say the least.'

    Riding on a wave of aspirations of India's thriving urban middle classes, and lavishly supported by the corporate sector, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which champions a Hindu-nationalist agenda gained an absolute majority of parliamentary seats. More ominous still, the electoral coalition headed by the BJP, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), succeeded in bagging over three-fifth of all seats in the new Lok Sabha. On the other hand, the Congress Party which has been ruling India during the last two consecutive terms was virtually decimated. Its share of parliamentary seats has been reduced to roughly a fifth its former size, to just 44 seats today. What are the implications of this upheaval in Indian politics? Is India heading for long-term consolidation of extreme right-wing rule, as some observers fear? Or is the picture less bleak?

    First, there is little doubt that the outcome of India's recent elections reflects further communalisation of the country's politics. Whereas the minority of Muslims constitute some 17% of the country's total population, they are poorly represented in the new parliament, with only 20 in 543 seats. Being afraid in view of the BJP's past record of instigating Hindu-Muslim religious tensions, most Muslims refrained from giving their vote to the BJP or any of its allies. This is true in particular for Muslims in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), which holds 80 seats in the Lok Sabha. Here, the BJP's electoral strategy had banked on both communalism and caste politics. In the state's Northern region around Bahraich, for instance, the party sought to reach out to dalit (outcaste) and low-caste Hindus by reviving the memory of an 11th century Hindu king -- at the expense of the martyred Muslim saint whom the king had defeated in combat. This saint, Salar Masood, is venerated by Muslims and Hindus alike. Keeping in mind the gruesome communal riots that have rocked Muzaffarnagar in the western part of Uttar Pradesh in August/September of last year -- which had resulted in scores of deaths and in over 40 thousand people displaced -- the state's Muslims largely refused to vote for BJP or NDA candidates.

    Will the election outcome lead to a further deterioration in the interreligious atmosphere? How will it affect the Hindu-Muslim divide? It is middle class aspirations in favour of maximum growth and 'development' that have primarily driven these elections. Hence, the new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who gained notoriety for having failed to prevent and who abetted the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujrat, may well opt to spend his government's energies cautiously. And there are other factors that may put him on guard.
    For one, monopolisation of power is complicated by the fact that the BJP did not score well in (most) Southern states. In Tamil Nadu for instance, the Tamil regional party led by Jayalalitha, the AIADMK, won a landslide victory: it won 37 of this state's 39 seats, while the BJP gained just one. In Kerala and in the two states of bifurcated Andhra Pradesh, the party's show was relatively poor too. Karnataka is the one state in the South where the BJP has made significant inroads. Here the Hindutva party rose to prominence in the 1990s thanks partly to a nasty communal campaign aimed at undermining the syncretic, Hindu-Muslim worship around a famous shrine, i.e. the thousand year old cave-shrine of Sufi saint Dada Hayat. In Karnataka, the BJP managed to bag 17 of 28 seats.
    Another factor emerges when the number of BJP's seats (282 in 543 seats) is compared with the party's share of votes. India's electoral system is not based on proportional representation. Instead, candidates are elected on the basis of electoral districts. In consequence, there can arise a discrepancy between a party's results as measured by number of seats gained and the actual number of people who voted for its candidates. In India's latest Lok Sabha elections, this discrepancy is large. Thus, whereas the BJP gained a majority of seats, its voter share was a mere 31%, implying a discrepancy of more than 20 %! Figures for discrepancies in individual states are even more startling. Thus, according to Indian newspaper reports there are at least 6 states where the Hindutva party won a number of seats that in percentage terms was double or nearly double the vote share it obtained. In UP, the BJP's vote-share was 42.3%, whereas it got 71 in 80 seats. In Rajasthan, only 54.9% of voters chose the party, yet it could pocket all the state's seats. In New Delhi, its voter share was 46.4%; here again the party pocketed all seats. Similar discrepancies were registered for Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh.

    These data, however, do not just illustrate that India's formal electoral system -- like that of many Western states -- tends to offer distorted results. The comparison between data on voters' and seats' shares brings this out with indisputable clarity. Yet the lesson to be drawn on the Lok Sabha elections stretches well beyond this obvious point. Campaign funding by corporate capital towards India's latest national elections was overwhelmingly biased in favour of the BJP. This party alone could muster huge advertisements in the country's newspapers, could undertake prolonged advertising via internet/the social media, and in addition had a huge edge over all other parties, including the Congress, in terms of access to TV broadcasting stations. In spite of this, there was no groundswell of overwhelming popular sympathy for the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Modi, and a safe majority of voters and the electorate voted for parties opposed to the BJP's Hindutva politics.

    Clearly, these facts constitute a source of encouragement for Jayalalitha's AIADMK and other regional parties likely to form a joint opposition bloc in India's new parliament. Narendra Modi is likely to focus one-sidedly on infrastructural projects and investment oriented growth so as to ensure double-digit growth, as is desired by India's restless IT professionals and educated urban youngsters. He will probably ignore progressive demands for more egalitarianism, for protection of India's natural wealth and for planned disposal of waste. Yet in case his government overtly opts to exploit and enhance religious divisions, this is likely to arouse widespread indignation -- including by sections of the country's aspiring middle classes.

    The writer is International Correspondent of The Daily Star.

    India's election results | A case of distorted democracy?

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    This is an example of how third world countries view are 'manipulated' by foreign influences.

    An ideal example of fanning fears based on 'popular' conceptions honed by the foreign interests and their vassal effete elite following.
     
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  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Peter Custers holds an M.A. in international law from Leiden University, the Netherlands (1970). He subsequently followed a three-year course in international relations at the Johns Hopkins University, in Washington D.C.. He obtained his Ph.D. in sociology from the Catholic University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands (1995).

    In the first part of the 1970s, after Bangladesh gained its political independence, he gathered first-hand experience in grassroots’ peasant organizing, while stationed in Bangladesh as leading Dutch journalist, writing for both Dutch and international newspapers and magazines. During the 1980s, he actively participated in the Dutch peace movement against the threat of nuclear war.

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    A menu card for Modi
    Ashfaqur Rahman

    Dipu Moni, our previous foreign minister, was reportedly more bluster than substance. She was smart but did not understand that there were smarter people than her. She also did not do her homework well. If she had not hired expensive experts and legal minds then our award on the maritime delimitation with Myanmar would have come to naught. This was very evident when we pursued our interests with India. There she left it to the Indian ruling Congress party to be the final arbiter of matters in several respects. She did not, on behalf of our prime minister, make the necessary political calculations that would enable her to see whether the Indian Lok Sabha would allow the passing of bills that would possibly give Bangladesh what Congress had pledged.

    Congress was a coalition government and nothing would move if there was no unanimity in the House. A case in point was the passing of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA). It meant that India's international boundaries had to be changed. The opposition Bharitya Janata Party (BJP) was vehemently against this. In spite of all of Congress' pious wishes, Bangladesh was left high and dry on this issue. The other matter was the resolution of the sharing of the waters of the Teesta. Here the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held the advantage. Her Trinamool Congress was a coalition partner with the Congress government. But as Congress did not consult her properly she declined to participate in the process. Bangladesh was left in the lurch. Congress knew very well that without Mamata the central government would fall. Hence, she shied away. Bangladesh is yet to sign the Teesta water agreement.

    The parliamentary matrix has changed now in India after the Lok Sabha elections. The BJP has routed Congress and is now the single party with a majority in Parliament. So if BJP wishes it can go ahead with the signing of the LBA which has eluded the two countries from as far back as 1974. BJP knows it can earn all the kudos from the world if it signs the LBA. But it will depend on Modi to move in this matter. So is the case with Teesta. Modi needs to consult with Mamata regarding the possible sharing of its waters with Bangladesh, take the credit and move on. He will definitely appreciate the goodwill shown by Mamata and reciprocate this gesture in a different issue and time. Do not forget Mamata needs funds from Delhi to rebuild her state's infrastructure. The Congress had denied this to her. Modi can also invite the private sector from Gujrat, where he was a successful chief minister, to invest in West Bengal. On both counts Mamata could be amply rewarded.

    An important need of India is road transit to its Northeast, and to be able to use the Bangladeshi ports of Chittagong and Chalna. Shiekh Hasina can consider giving this to India now. But transit will be given to India at a price, and Modi knows it. It has to be negotiated. One of the other things we should request Modi to consider is greater and deeper market access of Bangladeshi products in India, and more duty free access and better access by road to Nepal through India. Modi also has to keep in mind that he should not at any time raise the bogey of the 'Bengali immigrant' in Assam from Bangladesh. We can accept that it was election rhetoric. But we must pin him down somewhere in writing so that this provocation is not used again. One of the things that disturbs good bilateral relations between two countries is when such 'non-issues' are flagged in order to provoke the other party.
    Bangladesh has clearly pledged not to allow any insurgents from India to operate from its territory. This has led to peace in Northeast Indian states. We should remain committed to this policy in the future. But Modi should note that too comes at a price. In return, Bangladesh must be able to closely cooperate economically with all the Northeastern states. We wish this to turn out into a win-win situation. Similarly, India's recent change of heart to upgrade the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) talks to the governmental level shows that it is keen to participate in and benefit from this process. With BIMSTEC process added on, both India and Bangladesh can work closely towards prosperity.

    Modi, when he cares to sit down with Bangladesh, will find a ready friend who is willing to hold his hand for mutual benefit. Can he say that for all his other neighbours? Certainly not in the case of Pakistan. We must therefore offer Modi a tempting menu card of bilateral goodies provided he comes with an open mind and clear conscience. In the past it was seen that major bilateral agreements could be concluded with BJP governments. It has always proved to be good to do business with. For one thing, we know what BJP's position on each issue is, and we can fix our negotiation positions accordingly. Though the negotiations will be tough the final outcome will be good. The Chittagong Hill Tracts issue is a case in point. The menu card that we will hold up to Modi must be doable and deliverable. The Congress was always a different animal. Always sweet in its disposition but hardly able to deliver.

    The writer is a former Ambassador and a commentator on current affairs.
    E-mail: [email protected]

    Sunday Pouch | A menu card for Modi
     
  5. praneet.bajpaie

    praneet.bajpaie Regular Member

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    @Ray, Sir, so the western view of this year's election is since the BJP and Modi was voted to power, we are a distorted, failed democracy.

    Can hardly blame them when Indians like Arundhati Roy, ANish Kapoor et al hold the same view.

    The government should come out of this Western embrace and go back to its roots (i.e., the earlier position of aligning with the likes of Russia, etc)

    Can anyone on this forum who reads Russian newspapers tell me whether Modi has been/is being vilified there like he is being in the western media?
     
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  6. jus

    jus Senior Member Senior Member

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    Summary
    Friends don't waste ur time
    BD's UMMAHA about Indian Muslims
    Rest is Gutter :rolleyes:
     
  7. Virendra

    Virendra Moderator Moderator

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    Russians are very apt and efficient players of geo-political dynamics. Putin has already given positive vibes about working closely with NaMo.
    It is well known that Russians don't get entangled into unchartered areas and neither they like such a thing happening to themselves.
    They are a lean, mean power who mind their business and will do anything to protect their interests.
    So quite obviously Russians will behave as anticipated, cozying up to the rising power in India; specially when its base is stronger than any other from the past 30 years.
    Russians would love to work with such a Government, actually anyone would. Russians mean business, if that comes from BJP led GoI, so be it.
    All that we need now is a coherent and consistent foreign policy, ending the timid, short sighted & reactive flip flops of UPA era.
    That alone would revitalize many dead organs of our International clout.

    1st - The recently concluded Vibrant Gujarat Summit witnessed participation by four Russian regions -- Moscow, St Petersburg, Astrakhan and Yaroslavl. In January 2013, the vice-governor of the Astrakhan Region, Konstantin Markelov, during his participation at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, wished Narendra Modi the best for “India’s general elections next year.”

    2nd - There was plenty of business curiosity and expectation from the regime change in India, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum meeting that concluded recently.

    3rd - Gujarat and Astrakhan signed a memorandum of understanding of co-operation in 2001. There have been regular delegation-level visits between the areas since then, with Modi visiting Astrakhan in 2006. The two provinces look to sign a MoU between Gazprom and Gujarat State Petroleum Corp.

    4th - Moscow-based software firm Spirit DSP, a voice and video over IP (VVoIP) engines provider, is entering the Indian market in partnership with Infotel Broadband Services, a Reliance Industries-owned company that will launch its fourth generation (4G) technology-based broadband services in Mumbai, Delhi and Jamnagar (in Gujarat).

    5th - Reliance Industries Ltd recently formally announced a $450-million joint venture with Russian petrochemical company Sibur, for setting up a one hundred thousand tonne butyl rubber plant at Reliance's Jamnagar refinery. The plant is expected to be commissioned by the second half of 2014 (calendar). The joint venture has been named as Reliance Sibur Elastomers Pvt Ltd.
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    That being said, I'm curious to see how the Bangladeshi state and media behave with this change in India.

    Regards,
    Virendra
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
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  8. praneet.bajpaie

    praneet.bajpaie Regular Member

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    The first article, though written in a Bangladeshi paper, was written by a Western Journo.
     
  9. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Not true. The roads in many WB towns have been re-made. There has also been a lot of investment in railway infrastructure. The money came from Delhi.
    Agree.
    Not going to work. This is an issue. BD needs to take back its citizens, 20 million of them. In return, we should give duty free access to BD goods, so that BD people can get jobs in BD, instead of migrating to India. We wish BD people prosperity, but they need to stay on their side of the fence.
    Very good. And India must reward BD for that.


    Murli Manohar Joshi given Russia's 'Order of Friendship' award


    Ural trucks made in India use engines (YAMZ 650) that come from Yaroslavl.
     
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