Why Kejriwal is a game changer?

My inbox is always full of chain mail exulting the great China success story. They come to me largely from young Indians who see in modern China a model of growth worth emulating. India ranks way down in the list of nations easy to do business in. (The World Bank ranks us at 134.) Not that China is much better. (It ranks 96.) But it certainly looks better placed than us for the future, and I think much of the admiration for Narendra Modi comes the fact that he is seen as a guy who can bring about a similar Indian miracle. At least Nomura thinks so. So do CLSA, UBS, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, HSBC. In short, pretty much the rest of the world.

Last week I received an article about how millions of American workers and thousands of small communities all over the US are already dominated by China who acquired a record number of businesses in the US last year, and looks all set to better that this year. Take Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer with facilities in 26 US states, employing 46,000 Americans with sales of $13 billion. It owns 460 farms, has contracts with another 2,100, Shuanghui, a Chinese company has bought it for $4.7 billion, to become one of the biggest employers in rural communities across America.

This is easy for China because of the US’ huge trade deficit. It leaves China with trillions of dollars to invest. As we all know, there’s little difference between the Chinese Government and the companies. Almost 50% of profits generated in China come from companies in which the State has controlling stake. (It used to be the same here till Manmohan Singh started his famous reforms and the public sector, already sick, went comatose.)

Last year China’s richest man spent $2.6 billion to buy AMC Entertainment, one of the biggest US theatre chains. Now Wanda is the world’s largest seller of movie tickets. Chinese companies are putting down roots in cities like Detroit and taking over traditional all-American businesses like making cars and auto parts. It’s impossible to say today how much of a GM car is American. But what makes Americans worry most is China’s acquisition of US energy resources. It mines vast quantities of coal in Tennessee. So much so that locals are now up in arms.

China is the world’s No 1 trading nation, if you add imports and exports. It has the highest foreign currency reserves. It has the biggest car market. It also produces twice the cars the US does, twice as much beer, thrice as much coal and 11 times as much steel. It’s the No 1 gold producer. It consumes more energy than the US. It’s the world’s largest manufacturer of goods. It consumes more cement than the rest of the world put together. It produces 90% of the global supply of rare earth elements. It’s the No 1 supplier of defence parts. And hey, it seems all set to take over more. So when we cosy up to the US, as we are doing today, we could well be cuddling China who is eyeing vast tracts of Indian territory in the North East.

No wonder, in such a complex world, where your friend could well be owned by your enemy, young Indians want a leader who can take India where China is today. They think Modi is that man. He has a track record of inspiring change. Unlike the Congress which has always enshrined the status quo. And young Indians believe, it’s the status quo that hurts India most.

But does it? Just shift focus a bit from economics to politics; you will be surprised. There’s no way Chinese politics could have ever thrown up the kind of results our Delhi elections did. The arrogant ruling Congress was booted out. The BJP won but barely. The unquestionable victor was a totally new party which had never fought an election, had no money, no muscle power. Its winning candidates are people no one has even heard of. Its hugely under-estimated leader, Arvind Kejriwal felled the two biggest giants with one tiny slingshot.

Could this have happened in China? Not by a long shot.




Dynasty in Democracy doesn’t make sense

Congress’s secular nationalist narrative has lost its vigour. Internal elections must be brought back even if they oust its first family.

However one wishes to cut the statistical cloth, the recent state elections have delivered a resounding defeat to the Congress party. Of course, there are other issues that have emerged, too: whether the Aam Aadmi Party has the potential to extend its reach beyond Delhi and the extraordinary implications that might have for the nation’s politics; how Narendra Modi’s charisma was unable to turn anti-incumbency into a BJP win in Delhi and why the margin of BJP victory was so narrow in Chhattisgarh; and, finally, why the BSP got nearly wiped out in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, in each of which it had established a promising foothold.

There are at least two large and noteworthy conclusions. First, India has yet again watched a remarkable festival of democracy. Turnouts rose, a new party emerged, the Maoists were unable to disrupt elections in Chhattisgarh, and no losing party questioned the integrity of the verdict, as was customary in India in the 1980s. For all its flaws, India’s democracy is by now deeply institutionalised. There are legitimate questions about how to improve the quality of Indian democracy, but there is no threat to the existence of democracy per se, a historically unique phenomenon at a low level of national income.



Accomodative politics in Mizoram

Despite many challenges, Mizoram has been almost a role model for democracy. We surely have many lessons to learn from them. If grievance ever had legitimate reason to be translated into political rebellion, it was in Mizoram. The Mizo National Front (MNF) was an insurgent group that emerged from the Mizo National Famine Front in 1959 — a formation protesting the widespread famine caused by a regular failure of the bamboo crop due to mautam, and the failure of the Indian state to send adequate relief. Read more at http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/from-insurgency-to-electoral-democracy/article5405661.ece

Regional elections, promises and what we must understand

Let us understand human nature and our nation, only then can we really understand elections and the process of democracy.

The penultimate week of regional elections, the theme has been what is wrong with the other, not what right is one group promising to the nation, or to the state they serve. Democracy, in its conceptual principles gives one the right to choose, but disturbingly from the lot that is already chosen. Can’t say that money, muscle and manipulation do not go in all that, and putting it bluntly, why should one who has all this not use it for his purpose? The answer is that he probably would, if he found someone more deserving. No harm at all in believing we all are immortals, because when the inevitable happened, no one came back to say, just to say that it was indeed not so.



Celebrate the festival of Democracy: Polling in MP and Mizoram on Nov 25

Dear fellow citizens,

In the second round of the current election season, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram will have polling on Nov 25, 2013.

While the campaign in MP has been attracting national attention, tiny Mizoram in the North  East hardly gets a mention. At Empowering India, we decided to focus on Mizoram this time.

Mizoram is unique in a sense that civil society organisations, the election commission and the political parties have come to an agreement on the campaign, in order to ensure free and fair election. Abhijit Deb explores this relationship further. Mr Deb has also  analysed the candidates and parties contesting in 2013. Mizoram is one state where female voters outnumber men, yet the number of women candidates fielded by the political parties have been very few. Nitu Maurya has compared some of the key aspects of the parties and their candidates in 2008 and 2013.

According to ECI initial estimates, Chattisgarh had an average voter turn out of 74.65%, in the two phases of polling, which is a record for the state. And despite the underlying threat of violence, the polling was largely peaceful, and citizens turned out in large number to cast their ballot. But officials could not get the residents of Kamreed in the Sarangarh constituency to vote. The villagers were upset with political parties for failing to create amenities in their villages. The other booth where no voter turned up was Bamnipalli, also in Sarangarh.

A brief analysis of the parties in Chattisgarh, in 2008 and 2013, is available here.

More information about each of the candidates available on http://www.EmpoweringIndia.org.

Select Vidhan Sabha -> and select the State, and then choose the constituency which is of

interest to you.

Using the Political Analysis tools, on the left hand column on http://www.EmpoweringIndia.org, one can undertake a wide variety of electoral and political analysis. We hope you will find these tools useful.

There are two more rounds of elections to held this season. In a democracy, this is when the citizens as voters have their say, and hold their political leaders accountable.

The election schedule is as follows.

– Chattisgarh phase 1: for 18 seats, polling on Nov. 11.

– Chhattisgarh phase 2: for 72 seats, polling on Nov. 19.

– Madhya Pradesh: for 230 seats, polling on Nov. 25.

Please do understand India better by logging  on to http://www.empoweringindia.org  before and after the elections.

Lessons in Democracy from a tea seller

Stories such as his that of Balram Bari have a lot to teach us.

He is a tea seller out to make a difference. The notebook and pen next to his saucepan are for writing down complaints of residents. He says he will take them up at the earliest opportunity.

Balram Bari is better known as ‘electionwala’, this 45-year-old is, in fact, in the electoral fight for the 15th time in a row and this year he will contest the assembly polls as an independent candidate from the high-profile Chandni Chowk constituency.



Power of Democracy

There have been many people who feel democracy in India may never work. However, it has worked and it is a completely functioning system. Yes. there have been challenges, but people have never given up.

Now, Despite Maoist threats, there were voters in Chattisgarh. This does indeed show the power of democracy. Read the following article at


Democracy and its benefits

Let us not always be pessimistic about the state of our nation. People are becoming more aware and clear about their rights. This is only of the clear steps of effective democracy in any nation.

Despite the current sense of policy paralysis, India is clearly changing. Increasing political competition has opened new opportunities for the voters not only to demand performance but drive the economic changes as their aspirations rise. This is forcing politicians to explore new ideas that might meet these demands.

Increasing political competition has opened new opportunities for the voters not only to demand performance but drive the economic changes as their aspirations rise. This is forcing politicians to explore new ideas that might meet these demands.

If economic competition was beneficial to the voter, then political competition is turning out to be even better. Six decades after Independence, perhaps the time has come to reap the economic dividend from a truly competitive political democracy.

See our earlier article on the same analysis  http://www.indefenceofliberty.org/story/4332/4473/Democratic-Dividend-Economic-benefit-from-political-competition

Markets and Democracy

With so much discussion on markets, it is necessary that we understand the relationship between democracy and markets.

Democracy and markets are analogous. Democracy empowers the citizens with choices in the political domain. While markets empowers the consumers with choice in the economic domain. Adam Smith had warned about the tendency of businessmen and traders, to collude, seek special protection and privileges from the state, at the cost of the consumers. And others have warned about the special protection and privileges that many politicians seek, in the name of the public, but actually endangering the political freedoms of the citizens. This is why economic competition and open market are critical in keeping businesses focussed on delivering better goods and services in order to win the customers. So too does political competition in a vibrant democracy, ensures that politicians offer a diverse range of political options to the citizens to choose from.