Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why Kanshi Ram's death is important for BJP

Why Kanshi Ram's death is important for BJP?

BJP leader demands CBI enquiry into Kanshi Ram's death

Kanshi Ram, the founder of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had died in 2006 after ailing for more than two years and finally perishing due to a heart stroke. Mayawati was Kanshi Ram's understudy, and had offered her everything to him in his journey to create a party for Dalits. In the later years Mayawati's clout had increased and when Kanshi Ram was ailing, Mayawati was accused by Kanshi Ram's family that she tightly controlled who can meet him. Now BJP wants a CBI enquiry to look into Kanshi Ram's death.

With the Samajwadi Party imploding due to civil war within the first family, there is not much hope for that party in the 2017 UP assembly polls. So now BJP wants to believe that its principal opponent is the Mayawati led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Dalit's are generally consolidated under the BSP. During the 2014 UP elections, a part of the Dalit community and other castes had deserted Mayawati. However, with the lynching of Dalits in Gujarat and other parts of the country over cow vigilantism, the dalits have again moved towards BSP. With roughly 24% of the UP voters comprising of castes which are categorised as Dalits, it can give the BSP a major tailwind.

So BJP wants to derail this and since there is no other issue, it has fallen back to a 10 year old death of the BSP's founder, Kanshi Ram. BJP wants to test the impact of this accusation, so K. P. Maurya, BJP's UP State President has said that Kanshi Ram's family wants the issue to be investigated. If this issue gains traction, then other BJP leaders, namely Amit Shah and PM Narendra Modi will raise it.

If the Kanshi Ram card is played well, then there can be some doubts raised about the role of Mayawati in Kanshi Ram's death and some dalit's may not vote for BSP. However, the cow vigilantism causing untold agony on dalits' is a much more recent issue and dalits will not back BJP. Instead, there is likely hood of the dalits moving on to Congress which will upset the calculations of BJP.

It will be very important how the next steps of Congress plays out in UP. If Priyanka Gandhi indeed campaigns in a major manner and holds continuous roadshows/street side meetings/rallys in many constituencies, then it will help congress a lot. The messaging that Rahul Gandhi achieved in UP during his Kisan Yatra will be reinforced by Priyanka Gandhi's Yatra and people will genuinely start believing that Congress is now a force in UP. In that situation, the dalits can definitely start moving to Congress.

The fact that Congress is collecting Kisan Mang Patras, which is a form to collect the loan status of farmers and the farming community also has dalits as well as upper castes, it will become easier for dalit's to move into Congress in the hope of getting their farm loans waived.

Nevertheless, there will be many claims and counter claims between BJP and BSP on the Kanshi Ram issue and Mayawati will try her best to keep her flock together. The coming weeks and months will tell us who wins this strategic and tactical battles.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Reasons for Volteface over Surgical Strike

Reasons for Volteface over Surgical Strike 

Rahul Gandhi in one of his speeches in UP unequivocally praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that the "surgical strike" is the first good think that the PM has done in the last two years. It was surprising praise, because that sound bite can be used by BJP against congress. Other political parties were guarded in their praise as they either congratulated the army or the Government. 

So what was the rationale behind directly praising Modi? Some feel that Rahul Gandhi acted like a statesman and praised where praise is due. There was another view, that Rahul Gandhi acted like an immature politician by directly praising the PM. 

However, on 6th October in the concluding rally of his Kisan Yatra, he came out hammer and tongs against Modi and accused him of playing politics over our soldiers sacrifices. He said Modi is doing "Khoon ka Dalali" by exploiting the death of soldiers, who have died fighting for the country in the border, to get credit for himself. He said "the soldiers who spilled their blood for the country and carried out surgical strikes, you are hiding behind them and trying to cash in on their blood. They have done their work, now you do yours. Help the farmers, give the army a hike in the seventh pay commission; it is your responsibility and that is what you have been elected for". These were pretty strong words and expectedly the all the BJP leaders and its allies as well as most of the sympathetic media jumped in to bash Rahul Gandhi, accusing him to be doubting the army. 

Modi has used far stronger words. Nevertheless, one thing that becomes apparent from this episode is that Rahul Gandhi is not briefed by the Old generation Congress leaders who were ministers in the UPA Government. After Rahul Gandhi praised Modi for the Surgical Strikes, it was P. Chidambaram, former Home Minister in UPA Government who said that there have been surgical strikes in the past but the Government never took credit for it. Chidambaram directly told this to a TV Channel. Later the Congress party came out with the dates of atleast four such incidents in the recent past. 

Rahul Gandhi could have avoided praising Modi, if Chidambaram and other Ministers in the UPA cabinet would have advised him. Rahul not being a part of the Manmohan Singh Government has resulted in this lack of information. It is well known that many of these old guard are against him. During the 2014 Lok Sabha, many of these old guard didn't contest elections. Chidambaram declined to contest but pushed and got his son Karthi to get the ticket in his place. Ofcourse he lost the election. 

Similarly many around the country didn't contest and allowed Rahul Gandhi to take the sole burden of fighting the Modi wave and lose "spectacularly". They have felt that it would be enough to bury him with this defeat. Some of them are said to be resisting Rahul Gandhi's elevation to the role of President of the Congress party in the place of Sonia Gandhi. The younger generation like Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia etc were junior ministers in the UPA cabinet and may not have been privy to these information. 

It is to be seen how Rahul Gandhi handles such non-cooperation by the Congress old guard and whether it results in similar spectacular stumbles. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

UP Elections: Rahul's Kisan Yatra Resonates

UP Elections & Rahul's Yatra

Election for UP legislative assembly is sometime in early 2017. However, the first move has been made by the Congress.

Rahul Gandhi, the VP of Congress Party took out a high profile 26 day long rally across 146 constituencies of UP. The Congress party which had a dismal run in the 2014 Parliamentary elections, and which has been reduced to only 28 MLAs in UP assembly is betting big on UP elections to turnaround its fortunes.

It has hired Prasanth Kishore, who was the brain behind the Chai pe Charcha and other campaigns for Modi's 2014 victory as well as Bihar Election victory for the Nitish Kumar led JD(U)-RJD-Congress. Congress apart from the win in Bihar as a part of the Nitish Kumar led alliance doesn't have much to show. It has also lost the Assam elections. The thinking is that if Congress continues to do bad in UP, then any revival of Congress won't be possible.

Congress has signed the agreement with Prasanth Kishore's organisation for both Punjab and UP elections. Whereas, Congress is in a strong position in Punjab, UP is where the problem lies.

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are the only two MPs of Congress from UP. There are no Congress leaders with mass base in UP. In this backdrop, the 26 day long Rahul's UP roadshow is somewhat unthinkable. And more importantly, doing such a long duration roadshow with more than six months before the elections can easily be forgotten. So what is the plan of Congress?

Prasanth Kishore seems to have correctly identified the problem. Congress has been out of power in UP for the last 27 years. SP, BSP and BJP have had power in UP, either alone or in various combinations. Congress has been an also ran party in UP, which is India's biggest state.

It takes time to convince people. So Prasanth Kishore first did a big rally of Rahul Gandhi in Lucknow. He forced local Congress leaders to book the biggest ground and tasked each one of them to mobilse supporters and fill it. That success led to people believing that they can do it. Then he held a roadshow with Sonia Gandhi in Varanashi. Psychologically Varanashi being the constituency of Narendra Modi, a lot of Congress leaders were not comfortable. Nevertheless, that became a success and led to people believing that there is support for Congress.

After that Rahul Gandhi's roadshow termed as "Kisan Yatra" covering 48 districts, 146 constituencies, 3438 kms starting from Deoria to Delhi was started. It was completed in Delhi yesterday ie on 6th October.

Even before Prasanth Kishore tying up with Congress, Rahul Gandhi had succeeded in pushing the Modi Government with his successive and well timed jibes of "Suit-boot ki sarkar" and terming the Govt. as anti-farmer. This had led to the Government dropping the Ordinance on land acquisition. Prasanth Kishore has successfully taken that theme and branded this roadshow as Kisan Yatra. This is to appeal to all the farming community.

This is a good move because, at the moment the allegiance of the UP electorate is fragmented along caste and religious lines. Whereas, the Samajwadi Party (SP) attracts the Muslims and the Yadavs, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) attracts the backward classes. The forward classes as well as other had voted en-masse for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections due to the unprecedented hype created by Modi to bring development.

Stressing that the development plank of the BJP is only for a few industrialists and the farmers are increasingly marginalised and committing suicide, the Congress wants to cut across various casts and bring the farming community to Congress.

Also, Congress has been attacked as only pandering to the interests of minorities. So the suggestion by Prasanth Kishore to have a brahmin face as the Chief Ministerial candidate of UP was a master stroke. So now Sheila Dixit, three time Chief-Minister of Delhi, is the Chief Ministerial candidate of Congress. And informally it has been told to everybody that out of the 400+ seats of UP, close to 25% ie. 100 seats will be given to Brahmins.

The Brahmins with about 9% population can cause a major swing towards Congress. Muslims are known to vote strategically in many places. Once they know that Brahmin vote is for Congress, then they too will vote for Congress. This will ensure a winning combination. Ofcourse, we know that not everybody will vote en-masse. Nevertheless, it is a good theory and is plausible.

Even before the announcement of Sheila Dixit as the Chief Ministerial candidate, the names of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi were floated. It was well known that Rahul Gandhi being in the centre will not be the Chief Minister and also Priyanka Gandhi will not jump in officially. So it was basically to create lot of hype and discussion. At a time when Congress was not in news, this led to several days of discussions in various channels and important column space in newspapers. Clearly this shows that Prasanth Kishore is a guy who thinks strategically and knows how to create events out of thin air to get people excited.

The success of Rahul Gandhi's Kisan Yatra can be gauged from the fact that the ruling Samajwadi Party created some roadblocks by not allowing roadshows in certain places. Clearly, the other parties despite continuing to trash Rahul Gandhi, have taken notice.

It is said that Prasanth Kishore's team on behalf of Congress has collected Kisan Mang Patra's which contain details of agricultural loans of farmers from UP. This would come in handy not only as a political tool to press for their case, but also help in data analytics and in targeting future messages to these people.

It would be interesting to see the next moves of Congress and Prasanth Kishore to understand how they want to take the UP visit forward. Clearly, we see an approach which is often used in USA politics and had not been used before in India. There will be several efforts from other parties to change the narrative by staging events, else Rahul Gandhi's congress will run away with the credits. So interesting times indeed for people who are interested in politics and to see how one can position and reposition a brand. Watch this space. There is more to come....

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Surgical Srikes: Another take

Surgical Srikes: Another take

With the DGMO press conference announcing Indian soldiers to have crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and inflicted large casualties on militants preparing for infiltrating to India, all hell have broken loose.

It has been proclaimed as the ruling party's answer to Pakistan and even the Modi Government's 56 inch chest bravado. In many circles it has been said that for the this has happened for the first.

Unfortunately, the situation is such that everybody in India has to agree and praise the Government of its "guts" and "attacking" Pakistan. Else, one will be immediately branded as anti-national.

It has been said that Indian soldiers have crossed the LoC and moved upto 500meters and in some cases upto 2 kilometers and attacked the terrorists and successfully come back.

After the initial brouhaha about these "surgical strikes", voices have been raised about the authenticity or the extent of these operations and have asked for the video proofs, which the army is supposed to have documented during the surgical strikes. No one would have demanded for publishing the videos, if it would not have been announced that there are video recordings of the operation. By the way, no name has been given to this operation. All operations ie significant actions have a code name.

Military observers will vouch that these kinds of actions have happened in the past. Earlier it used to be frequent. However, after the setting up of barbed wire fences and more patrolling, these situations have reduced. In one earlier instance, Pakistan troops had entered India and cut off the head of one soldier. So our troops are boiling and are capable of cross-border incursion and striking down targets if and when they are given orders.

India has field guns, like the Bofors, which can fire and strike some 28kms into the enemy territory with precision. These field guns were not used. Our soldiers have shoulder fired missile launchers which can strike down enemy posts across the border. Snipers can even take down militants some 7kms away. These snipers check the wind velocity, terrain and fire accurately from a distance of 7kms and instantly neutralise the target.

Recently, the former home mininster Mr. Chidambaram said that in January 2013, Indian soldiers had crossed the LoC and carried out operations. This was done without fanfare as the army chooses not to publicise such events. The then ruling party, the congress led UPA Government didn't choose to announce it. Now the BJP-led NDA has made it a policy and is reaping the political benefits.

The Indian army is normally not partisan and doesn't favour any political party. However, if the Government of the day orders to disclose any information, then it has to.

It appears that some activity has taken place. Pakistan has announced that 2 of their soldiers have died in some local firing. We are not sure of the exact nature of the action unless the Government chooses to disclose. If the hype is more and substance is less, then we will obviously not see the videos.

In the absence of any photo or videos released by the Government, there are lot of fake photos circulated by interested parties. One of the photos shows some militants lying near a broken building. However, this photo was lifted from internet. Interestingly that photo was of militants killed by Pakistan army in 2012 after they massacred school children.

In this intensive propaganda war, truth becomes diffused and difficult to detect. So people either keep quiet or believe whatever they want to believe. This is not the last of such incidents. Many more of such incidents are likely to happen.

It is said that with the BJP on the back foot in the UP elections, they are going to create more such situations in early 2017 to influence the UP electorate.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Rosberg wins RussianGP from Pole

Rosberg wins RussianGP from Pole

Nico Rosberg of Mercedes led from the Pole to win the Russian GP 2016 as his main competitors were battling troubles.

Rosberg’s team-mate and luckless Lewis Hamilton drove a great race from the 10th position and challenged him for a race win. Hamilton had reduced the gap to Rosberg to 7.5 seconds by the 36th lap but then the water pressure in his car started falling. So he somehow nursed his car back to the finish line and he would be happy to salvage 2nd place in this race. Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari finished in third place.

Lewis Hamilton later said that he was absolutely in no doubt that victory was within his grasp till the water pressure problem derailed him from his quest. He said “I had the pace but I had a problem with the engine again, so I had to back off”. However he also praised the team for the effort they put in solving the problem after qualifying. "Firstly I'd like to thank the guys who flew over from the factory last night, and my mechanics who worked from 2am to get my car ready, because without them I wouldn't even have got to this point. It happened, I just had to try and nurse it home and I'm grateful I finished. We just need to do a better job. It seems to be my side of the garage having a hard time, but I have absolutely every confidence and faith in them”.

Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari was hit by Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull and had to retire from the race. Given his teammate Kimi scoring a podium finish Vettel would be ruing his luck.

Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa of Williams scored 4th and 5th positions. This ensures that Williams is poised for a strong finish in the Constructors championship.

Fernando Alonso of McLaren made a superb start and scored his first points of the season when he finished in 6th position. However, he was down by a lap. Kevin Magnussen who was the reserve driver for McLaren last year and was unceremoniously released by them is driving for Renault this year and scored his first points this year as he finished in 7th position.

Romain Grosjean of Haas, the team that has made its debut this year in F1, scored 4 points as he finished in 8th position. This is the third time in four races that he has scored points for Haas. Sergio Perez of Force India was 9th and scored 2 points. Jenson Button of McLaren scored the last available point by finishing in 10th position.

Nico Rosberg leads the 2016 championship with 100 points. He is followed by the defending World Champion Lewis Hamilton at 57 points. Rosberg has now seven race wins in a row and is tied with Michael Schumacher. In the Championship race, Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari is third with 36 points and his teammate Sebastian Vettel is fourth with 33 points.

There are 17 more races to go and we expect a spirited fightback by Lewis Hamilton. May the better driver win.

#RussianGP 2016 Results

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Rosberg scores RussianGP Pole as Hamilton Suffers

Rosberg scores Russian Pole as Hamilton suffers

Nico Rosberg easily raced to the pole in the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi as luckless Lewis Hamilton couldn’t race in Q3 due to power unit problem.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished second and 0.706s slower than Rosberg. However, he has changed a gear box unit and it means 5 slot penalty. So Sebastian Vettel drops down to 7th.

Valtteri Bottas of Williams came third. Now he will be promoted to 2nd in the starting line up for tomorrow’s race.

Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari finished in fourth and now will start in third place. Along side Kimi Raikkonen will be his former teammate Felipe Massa of Williams.

Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull and Sergio Perez of Force India will start in 5th and 6th places respectively.

Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull, the local lad and favourite of the Russians will start in 8th place after Sebastian Vettel.

Max Verstappen will start in 9th. Lewis Hamilton had qualified for Q3 based on his Q2 timings but couldn’t race in Q3. So he finished 10th. We will wait to see if he drops down further in the starting grid due to any changes to his power unit. In the last race in China, Lewis started from the pit stop and finished in 7th position. However, he was hit by one of the cars. He would be hoping that he doesn’t get involved in any accident which further mars his race.

Hamilton said it is the “same failure as I had last race. I went back out in Q2 at the end to get a better lap and lost the same power as I lost in China. Nothing I can do”.

Lewis Hamilton is 39 points behind Nico Rosberg. So today's car problems adds to his challenges and his hopes of winning this years title may be vanishing.

#RussianGP Qualifying 2016

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Rosberg scores third win on the trot

Chinese Nightmare ends with 7th place for Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton had a nightmarish Chinese Grand Prix 2016. First he had a gearbox change and 5 place penalty added to his qualifying position. Then he had an ERS failure during qualifying and had to start at 22nd position. Though he drove through the field, Felipe Nasr of Sauber hit him and due to the heavy damage he had to be content with the 7 th place finish. Hamilton needed a humongous 5 pitstops to complete his race.

Rosberg continued his winning streak by adding the third race in this years calendar to his kitty. His job was made easier when Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari hit his teammate Kimi Raikkonen. Vettel came second with a massive 37 seconds behind Rosberg. Daniil Kvyat of Redbull scored a podium finish. He was followed by his teammate Daniel Ricciardo in 4th. Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari was 5th.

Felipe Massa of Williams was 6th and finished 3 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.

The Toro Rosso duo of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz finished in 8th and 9th positions. The final points paying position was taken by Valtteri Bottas of Williams.

After scoring points in the first two races, the Haas team didn't score a single point in this race. Esteban Gutierrez finished in 14th and Romain Grosjean on 19th position for the Haas team.

The defending champion Lewis Hamilton is now on the backfoot. His teammate Nico Rosberg has won all the three races this season and has 75 points. Hamilton now has 39 points due to two second place positions and the 7th place in China. Daniel Ricciardo is on 36 points and is followed by Sebastian Vettel in 33 and Kimi Raikkonen in 28. These initial points are pretty valuable and it will now put Hamilton under severe pressure to up his game.