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.