Showing posts with label indian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label indian. Show all posts

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Priyanka Gandhi's "ideological war"

The campaigns for the ongoing elections have since become too shrill, acrimonious and bitter for ordinary citizens to stomach. Allegations, insinuations, innuendoes, et al, have been flying thick and fast between the two major contending political parties, the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In the process, a war has broken out among the members of the “first family” of the Congress. Priyanka Vadra, the daughter of Sonia Gandhi, the first lady of the Congress, happened to say, seemingly quite needlessly, that her cousin, Varun Gandhi son of her uncle Sanjay Gandhi, had gone “astray” and “betrayed the family”, presumably because of opting to be in the BJP, the party which is fighting the Congress led by her mother. Varun did not reciprocate the ‘compliment’ but said that the decency displayed in not doing so should not be taken as his “weakness”. This led to a further spirited attack by Priyanka. She said it was an “ideological war” and not “a family tea party” and, presumably, attempted to convey that such an attack was par for the course.

Although Priyanka did not elaborate what she meant by “ideological war”, one presumes, the term used embeds the age old semantic difference between the two political parties on what are generally reckoned as “secularism” and “communalism”. Come elections and these two words get bandied around by all and sundry; those aligning with Congress calling themselves “secular” and condemning the BJP and its supporters as “communal”. One has been hearing these two words with such frequency that it is now sickening to hear them knowing, as one does, that neither the Congress is truly secular nor the BJP wholly communal. The Congress now goes on to claim that it alone can protect the unity of the country because of its “secular” credentials whereas the BJP practices divisive policies on the basis of religion. Thus the claim is while communal BJP divides people, the secular Congress acts as a unifying force.

Before examining the claims of the Congress it would, perhaps, be worthwhile to see what exactly is meant by “secularism”. Secularism as it is understood in the West generally means separation of government institutions and officials from religious institutions and religious functionaries. The state is thus neutral in matters that are religious, leaving people to their own geniuses to decide for themselves in matters relating to their faith. Again, secularism entails public activities and decisions have to remain uninfluenced by religious beliefs and practices.

 The situation in India, however, is quite different from Western “secularism”. While India has no state religion its constitution requires equal treatment of all religions and religious groups. In so far as laws are concerned, though the Constitution required it under the Directive Principles of State Policy, the State has so far been unable to formulate and prescribe a “Uniform Civil Code” applicable to all citizens regardless of their religious beliefs or faith. Personal Laws, therefore, take precedence when in conflict with the laws enacted by the Parliament or state legislatures. Hence, while all religious groups like Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, etc. are governed by inherited or enacted civil and criminal laws, only Muslims are governed by Sharia-based Muslim Personal Law. 

Thus, despite being in conflict with the laws in existence to the contrary, the State recognises child-marriages, polygamy, extra-judicial divorces and unequal laws of inheritance among Muslims. To that extent the Indian State is not secular though declared a “Secular Republic” by an amendment of the Constitution in 1976 as it discriminates in the vital matter of applicability of laws to the Muslim community as against all others. The Constitution was largely framed by Congressmen and the Congress, therefore, cannot really claim to be the repository of all secular virtues.

This is further corroborated by several subsequent political developments. Since the very first General Elections the Congress looked at the Muslim community as a “vote bank”, a term that later got wide currency. Many political analysts have gone to the extent of even suggesting that the Congress did not want transfer of population at the time of the Partition as it knew it could use the remaining Muslim population as a secure source of support. That may or may not be true but whenever a Congress government was cornered by Muslims and their clergy it succumbed to their pressures. Shah Bano’s case, among many others, is an example where the government of Rajiv Gandhi, Priyanka’s father, enacted a law to nullify a reasonable Apex Court verdict only to deny alimony to a divorced Muslim wife of 44 years under the Muslim Personal Law. In plain language, it was the State that intervened to allow continuance of discriminatory practices against Muslim women.

Almost at every election the Congressmen went out to woo the Muslims. It would approach the Muslim Clergy, especially Shahi Imam of Delhi Jama Masjid who would issue his fiat to all Muslims to vote for it. Not long ago the Congress-led UPA government had mooted a proposal to carve out a Muslim quota of 5% from 27% reservations applicable to Other Backward Castes. It also attempted a census of Muslims in the defence forces. During the current election campaign Sonia Gandhi went to a mosque to talk to Muslim voters without ever trying to do likewise with the voters of other communities. Quite apparently, the secular claim of the Congress is a big fraud on the people. One wonders how Priyanka missed it, seemingly, more intelligent than her brother as she appears to be.

The Congress alleges BJP of “Communalism”, one of the definitions of which is strong allegiance to one’s ethnic group rather than to society. If one looks at BJP it would seem to snugly fit the definition. It, without being hypocritical, wears its affiliation with Hindu religion on its sleeves. Deviating from the definition, it, however, claims that it owes allegiance to the entire Indian society. Its current main protagonist, Narendra Modi, while asserting that he observes Hindu religion and its traditions, has affirmed his respect for all other religions and their traditions. He also declared recently that he would not be asking for votes on the basis of religion. His assertions would seem to be true as during his 12-year rule in Gujarat not a single communal riot between Hindus and Muslims has taken place.

 Harping on 2002 Gujarat riots, the Congress has used several vicious epithets for him – from “merchant of death” to “killer with blood-soaked hands”, “liar” and so on. In fact, while Modi has been cleared of all charges by the Apex Court-appointed investigators for the 2002 riots, the Congress’s memory lapses in respect of yesteryears when under its long rule in Gujarat Hindu-Muslim riots took place almost every other year. Curiously, its blinkered vision does not allow it to see the Godhra massacre of Hindus which precipitated the 2002 riots. It also does not acknowledge its failure to control the 1984 Sikh killings in Delhi.

Understandably, in electoral fights accusations and counter-accusations are common. But, regardless of what Priyanka and her Congress Party say, voters need to know that none of those in the fray is either really “secular” or entirely “communal”. The voters have to choose only those who are capable of delivering a better life to them.

Photo from the Internet

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Indian Elections: Modi gains from Ayer's faux pas

By being undiplomatic in his language in a talk he delivered at a recent All India Congress Committee session Mani Shankar Ayer, a Cambridge graduate, a former career diplomat and a Tamil Brahmin to boot brought chai (tea) back into politics. Ayer promised to the gathering that the BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi would never become prime minister of the country in the 21st Century. And, he went on to add, “But if he wants to distribute tea here, we will find a place for him."

The reference was to Modi’s background. A family of modest means belonging to Other Backward Castes (OBC), his father used to run an ordinary tea stall and Modi in his childhood used to carry tea in a kettle to the Vadnagar Railway Station in Gujarat to serve it to passengers as the trains steamed in. This was mocking the socio-
Chai pe charcha
economic background of an opposition candidate at its worst. Ours is a civilised country and none ordinarily would mock the lowly origin of a candidate. But Mani Shankar Ayer is different. Born with a silver spoon, having had the best of education in India and abroad and having worked as a diplomat even in most dangerous of places like Pakistan he had no qualms about making such an undiplomatic, insensitive, arrogant,  scornful and contemptuous statement. No wonder, he was roundly criticised by all right-thinking people and even the Congress Party distanced itself from the statement. The Congress Vice President, the Gandhi scion, even expressed unhappiness about it at a public meeting.

Ayer’s stupid jibe at Modi boomeranged with an uncanny force and the Congress was put on the back foot. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was quick to make use of the deprecatory comment and capitalise on it and derived miles of advantage from it. Hundreds of Modi or “NaMo” (short for Narendra Modi) Tea Stalls came up in the country with photographs of Modi on their signboards. People
flocked to these tea stalls as much for showing support for him as for fun. In the rural towns and settlements these became centres of attraction and people would visit them for taking a hot cup of sugary overly boiled tea and indulge in some spicy political gossip. Not only indicative of the extent of support for the Party and for Modi, these stalls became an embarrassment for the ruling Party and its aspirants who were in the electoral fray.

This was not all. BJP organised what came to be known as “chai pe charcha” (discussions over tea) at many tea stalls and ordinary, no-frills restaurants. The idea rapidly caught on and “chai pe charcha” spread virtually all over the country. Even Modi participated in these discussions. One such “charcha” was held in Rajasthan that had 67 locations in the state connected with video links for question-and-answer session - a kind of teleconferencing. It became a perfect vehicle for public-connect for the BJP, striking the right chord with the people. Modi appeared on giant screens fitted in
several tea stalls and was connected live with the people and entered into public discourses with them expanding his views on several vital issues, such as empowerment of women. In an event organised in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, relayed live at around 1000 tea stalls Modi appeared on huge screens with a cup of tea in hand answering questions and expatiating on accountability in governance. These events got favourable responses from the press in the country as well as abroad. The Washington Post and the New York Times covered them and the French press made an unkind cut on Ayer by saying that in today’s world arrogance born out of lineage is a distinct disadvantage. Not to be left behind, the media houses too sent their news anchors to restaurants to discuss and ascertain the views of young voters on the main contenders.

While Ayer, with his expression of disdain for Modi, handed on a platter to the latter a vehicle for electoral propaganda, he, perhaps, unwittingly brought “tea” back into reckoning in politics. Tea has for long been associated with politics and to trace that one has to
Artists impression of tea caes being dumped into the sea
travel more than a couple of centuries back in time. Resistance against Britain’s power to tax colonies in America as evidenced by the Tea Act of 1773 gave birth to the Boston Tea Party, inducing a
wave of resistance throughout the colonies against tax imposed on tea by the British Parliament. The Act also had its origin in Parliament’s effort to rescue the financially weakened East India Company, a victim of smuggling into America of cheaper Dutch tea, so as to continue benefiting from the company’s valuable position in India.

The hard-line taken by the British Government against the protesters known as Colonists, also called Whigs and sometimes Sons of Liberty, to emphasise the authority of the Mother Government to impose taxes on people in the colonies despite being unrepresented in the British Parliament gave rise to the movement for rejecting the tea that used to be imported from England. In May 1773 the Colonists, disguised as American Mohawk Indians, entered the ship berthed at Boston ferrying tea from India via
Add caption
Britain and dumped the entire consignment into the sea. It signified culmination of resistance against the Tea Act in the entire British America. The stiff resistance against Britain’s rigid and uncompromising attitude bore the seeds of the American Revolution and eventually became the precursor of the American War of Independence.

Much later, in our own times, as late as 2009, once again we heard of The Tea Party protests. The iconic events of 1773 have been used on several occasions to describe anti-tax movements as “Tea Party” movements. But the Tea Party protests of the last decade were ones that were mostly of fiscally conservative and socio-political nature that engulfed the United States. The protests were against several federal laws that were perceived to have sought to enlarge the sphere of influence of the Federal Government. These were coordinated throughout the nation with a libertarian philosophy against what the members of the Tea Party believed to be attempts of President Obama to create a “Big Government” that they thought would tread on people’s liberty. Some of them even later went so far as to call him a “Lefty”. The Tea Party came to wield such power that it had an official nominee of the Republican Party defeated in the 2010 Congressional elections for he was not enough of a libertarian.

There has also been unlikely fallout of Ayer’s off-hand and arrogant dig at Modi. Looking at the reaction and the support Modi received other candidates from the same caste-group or deprived sections shed their diffidence and broadcast their humble origins. Thus “Paanwalas” and “Chawlwallas” came out in the open seeking voters’ support, a phenomenon (though not quite a schism yet) that was unfortunately born out of Ayer’s derisive remark.

Photos: From the Internet

Friday, August 30, 2013

Netas in our netaland

“I spoke to Mulayam-ji at 10.30 PM. Then I spoke to CM (chief minister) Akhilesh Yadav. And at 11.11 PM the Collector received the SDM’s suspension order – within 41 minutes the order came. This is the strength of democracy” thundered Narendra Bhati, a Samajwadi Party member, in a rally he organised at Gautam Budh Nagar in NOIDA  in the state of Uttar Pradesh on July 28, 2013.

Narendra Bhati is also a Member of the UP Legislative Assembly and an aspiring parliamentarian. He was bragging about the way he got the Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of New Okhla Industrial Development Area (NOIDA), Durga Sakti Nagpal a young Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, placed under suspension for allegedly having a wall demolished of a mosque coming up on a government plot of land in a village in her jurisdiction. Mercifully, he claimed that his actions symbolised triumph, presumably over the uppity IAS bureaucracy, of democracy, not his own. What he did not mention, however, was that he had enormous controlling interests in the allegedly illegal sand mining in rivers of the district which she (the SDM) cracked down upon incurring his wrath and that of his cohorts in the sand-mining mafia.

The story is indicative of two facts one of which is the way the young, honest and idealistic officers working with missionary zeal for the nation’s wellbeing in accordance with law are broken in to fall in line with the “system” so that the crooked political class could ride them on their back. All their angularities and idealisms are blunted and, finding themselves insecure, most become part of the “system”. The “system”, corrupt and anti-people, is designed and put in place by unscrupulous netas (leaders) like Bhati and bureaucrats who happened to have succumbed to their pressures forgetting about all their ideals or whatever they had joined the government with. Numerous instances have been reported of bureaucrats giving up their initial fervour under the threat of frequent capricious and penal transfers, suspensions or even more severe actions against them for not toeing the line of netas. Choosing softer options they act as handmaidens of self-serving netas and assist them in their nefarious activities.   

The second fact that emerges in high relief is the way crooked politicians operate for personal gain and gains for their cronies interfering with unbiased administration, playing around with innocent bureaucrats’ careers. Over the years the netas have emerged ever stronger so much so that they can twist and bend the laws and established procedures to their personal advantage. Threats and intimidation are often taken recourse to against bureaucratic objections to get their way that is mostly irregular or even illegal. In government establishments in India nothing moves without their approval, more so in the states and their acts are mostly oriented to milking the system. Even netas outside the governing machinery have acquired a say in regard to practically every aspect of administration effectively neutralising the bureaucratic process and the Rule of Law.  

They have become so power-obsessed that they do not want any check on them and their unethical and irregular activities. The Lokpal (Ombudsman) bill is a glaring example; they have stalled it for around forty five years – an enactment that would have objectively looked into their shenanigans. Even the independence of the Central Bureau of Investigation has been a bone of contention as the government of the day would not want to let go of its control over it as it is often let loose on people considered inconvenient. Besides, it is used to settle scores with its opponents and, in the current coalition era, to keep a sword hanging over corrupt netas whose support is vital for sustenance of a precariously perched government. Anna Hazare’s movement in 2011 movement was all about this vital agency but he was fobbed off by parliamentarians with a clever subterfuge. Now even the Apex Court is attempting to free it from government control. Quite obviously, in the event of it being unchained, numerous politicians – big and petty – and many legislators in the states and at the Centre would go where they legally belong – behind the bars, criminals as they all are.

No wonder, members of parliament across the entire political spectrum, who generally keep snapping at each other, have exhibited rare unity in agreeing to enact a law that negates the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the iniquitous provision in the Representation of People’s Act that protects a convicted member from disqualification on ground of pendency of appeal. The ruling alliance headed by the Congress is very clearly out to prevent criminals from going to jail! It is such a pity that the party that spearheaded the Freedom Struggle epitomising observance of strict morality in politics has come to plumb such depths of un-ethicality and pursue politics devoid of any values.

Again, MPs displayed the same rare unity in asking the government to amend the Right to Information Act to keep political parties out of its purview. The Central Information Commissioner (CIC) had brought six major political parties under the Act being recipients of government largesse. It hit them where it hurts most as most of them have shady dealings and none has ever declared the sources of their funds. Besides, they also harbour criminals on the basis of their utility in fund-raising and winnability.  As the CIC decision shattered their opacity bringing all their fishy activities in public domain all of them were up in arms against him.  
The netas always gang up whenever their interests are at stake. The former Lok Sabha speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, had been pleading for constitution of an independent body to determine the pay and allowances of the legislators. Stonewalling the reasonable suggestion they made extravagant demands for their pay-hike. Eventually, in 2010 they voted hefty hikes in their pay, allowances and perquisites so much so that the government now is estimated to be spending Rs. 61 crore (6 billion) per annum on each MP. No wonder, more than half of the MPs and many legislators in the states are crorepaties (multimillionaires). And, yet apart from their high salaries, earnings from personal businesses and yields from illegal and corrupt activities, they have no shame in partaking food and beverages from the Parliament canteen at heavily subsidised and ridiculously low rates.

In view of their despicable conduct politicians have come to be viewed with contempt and as proverbial “scoundrels”. Most of them are corrupt to the core and not only crooked, they are also criminals having criminal charges filed against them or have even been convicted. They effectively interfere in the process of balanced administration and have successfully subverted the Rule of Law. Their main occupation seems to be to exploit the system, expropriate undue perks and privileges, plunder the state’s resources, make illegal money any which way using their status to enrich themselves and buy votes in order to return to power again and again. Their immorality has prevented economic progress of the country and in many ways it has percolated down to the society at large bringing down the once-shining image of the country. It is mainly because of their corrupt ways that the country figures near the bottom in the international corruption index.

Democracy, ironically, has been largely vitiated by the very people who are supposed to work it. Unfortunately, the country seemingly has slipped unwittingly into a highly iniquitous and corrupt oligarchy of the political class which has appropriated power, privileges and riches at the expense of the state to the exclusion of all others, destroying everything their predecessors, the nation builders, stood for. Their overwhelming presence doesn’t seem to allow alleviation from the current predicament of the country in the near future.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Indians' lust for gold dents the economy

I found it rather odd that the Indian Finance Minister had to be beseeching people of the country not to buy gold. He has requested everyone not to buy gold for at least one year in view of the mounting current account deficits. Rising demand for the precious metal, he said, is met increasingly by imports which push up the trade deficit, impacting on balance of payments. The consequential mounting current account deficit is causing scarcity of dollars weakening the rupee. Lately the rupee has lost heavily against the dollar and is now pegged around 60 to 61 to a dollar. 

Reportedly around 95% of the requirement of gold is imported. In the month of May this year alone 162 tonnes of gold was reported to have been imported. Gold is only next to crude oil for the import of which billions of dollars are expended annually. With the economic slowdown in Europe and elsewhere our exports are slack, unable to match the outgo of dollars for imports. Dollars have thus become scarce, seriously affecting the value of our own currency. If this situation persists prices of all consumables are likely to rise, adding to the prevailing high rate of inflation. Apart from a few millions sinking into poverty a fear has been expressed that we may face a 1991–like situation when we had to mortgage away our gold. Perhaps, the appeal of the Finance Minister has to be viewed in this context.

But one must point out that making an appeal is not really enough. Our people are largely cynical and indifferent to all that happens around them. It wouldn’t be too much to say that they are basically self-centred in most respects, more so in respect of securing their lives and those of their dependents against emergencies. Renunciation cannot be expected from them in this respect, particularly when they see politicians and their relatives filling their own coffers by corrupt means regardless of the country’s difficult economic situation.

Gold has traditionally been considered an ideal form of security against financial emergencies. The stock market see-saws frequently causing enormous losses to investors, investing in real estate is full of risks and hassles and returns on deposits   Investment in gold, however, is not only risk-free but also hassle-free. It can be bought right off the bazaar. Middle and upper classes, therefore, load their daughters with gold while marrying them off. The demand for gold for this purpose is born out of age-old tradition and has, of late, been effectively stoked by the daily TV soaps where women of the house are shown all the time loaded with gold ornaments from head to foot.
don’t beat the prevailing inflation rate.

Even the corrupt involved in cases of astronomical sums of money find gold convenient for salting away their ill-gotten pickings. Whenever law enforcement authorities have chosen to raid the corrupt – their incidence are few and far between than what it should have been –they have come across tonnes of gold in the shape of bricks and ornaments. For the corrupt gold is easier to exchange for goods and services as also amenable to easy concealment. Very few have been daring enough to flaunt their ill-gotten gold in the shape of furniture, cutlery, golden coronets for their deity and so on like the one-time mining magnates Reddy brothers of the “Republic of Bellary” who are currently cooling their heels in a Hyderabad prison.

Gold, therefore, is something which is precious and continues to be chased by the rich or poor and by the corrupt. Its demand is highly unlikely to wane at any time soon unless restrictions are placed directly or indirectly for its acquisition. The government had recently tried to curb its demand by increasing the import tax on it from 4 to 6%. In the context of the escalating unsustainability of the current account deficit it was a
feeble attempt. If the import of oil and gold are the villains it is the latter that needs to be up against the axe. Oil imports cannot be curbed for reasons that are too obvious. It is gold the import of which can be restricted, if not by a ban, at least by hiking the import tax which, the experts say, should be raised to at least 20% to make it effective. Its price may go through the roof, giving the smugglers a field day. If criminality gets promoted, so be it. At least the economy would be saved. Smuggling, however, is something that the government can always clamp down upon with stricter vigilance.

The Finance Minister recently opined that there was no need to panic over the falling Rupee. He may not feel panicky and, ostrich-like, also claim that the economy is stronger than what it was this time last year. Regardless of what he says, a weak rupee adversely affects people in myriad ways, most important of which is the rise in prices, especially of fuel. The oil marketing companies recently raised the price of petrol by as much as Rs. 2 and hikes in prices of diesel and LPG may not be far away. When that happens, it will have a proverbial cascading effect on most commodities. Besides, in a globalised economy the cost of everything that has an import-content will go up. Already the manufacturers of consumer goods and electronics have threatened to pass on the excess costs of imports to consumers. The ministers and other politicians need hardly panic over the price rise as most of them are billionaires and have adequate cushioning to tide over such minor contingencies; it is the people at the lower economic strata making an honest living will face the music.
To meet the mounting trade deficit the government, apart from curbing gold demand, would also need to look out for opportunities for increasing exports not only by diversifying the product range but also by exploring possibilities of markets in countries that are not traditional importers of Indian products. Our export earnings need to match the mounting costs of imports or else we are likely to become an economic basket case.
Vigour has to be brought back into slipping manufacturing and infrastructure spruced up. Action is, reportedly, now being initiated to “unlock” investments in projects amounting to a mindboggling 7 lakh crore (seven hundred thousand billion). Some of them are World Bank funded and others relate to infrastructure that have been languishing for want of clearances at the central and state levels. The PM directed their fast-tracking and ordered constitution of a monitoring group within the Cabinet Secretariat to keep a keen tab on them.

To me as a layman, it appears to be a little shameful for the government to decide now at such a late stage to start monitoring progress of approved projects when things seemingly have come to a crunch. This should have been happening all along. I recall, while visiting Malaysia under the Advanced Professional Programme on Public Administration conducted by the Indian Institute of Public Administration in 1981, our group was told by a representative of Malaysian Government that all projects of more than 100,000 dollars (the then Malaysian currency unit) were being monitored by the Prime Minister. Why have we been so sluggish in doing what other countries richer than ours have been doing for decades?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Vote against Sri Lanka - India's muddled diplomacy

News came in the other day that the already agitating students of Chennai are going to launch protest rallies when the internationally popular Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty-20 cricket matches take place at the city’s hallowed Chepauk ground. They have also decided to pressurise the Hyderabad Sunrisers, a participating IPL team owned by Kalanidhi Maran, brother of Dayanidhi Maran who represented Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a Tamil party, in the Union Government, to sack Kumar Sangakkara, a Sri Lankan cricketer.

Protest rallies are a democratic right but the demand for sacking a player of a team on whom its franchisee has spent a fortune is surely encroachment on the rights of others. DMK sympathisers of Sri Lankan Tamil’s cause have been encouraged by the BCCI’s (Board of Control for Cricket in India) prompt acceptance of the request of J Jayalalitha, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, sent to Prime Minister to direct the authorities concerned not to play Sri Lankan players in IPL matches in Chennai as she could not assure them their security. 

The virtual ban on Sri Lankan players was a curious decision. It is the duty of the state government to provide security to everyone including foreigners. It does not have powers to prohibit their entry or, for that matter, exit unless so advised by the Centre. Constitutionally such a decision has to be that of the Centre. Besides, the illegal ‘ban’ puts quite a few franchisees of IPL to disadvantage eliminating from Chennai matches some key Sri Lankan players. Sangakkara himself is a key player, the captain to boot of Hyderabad Sunrisers and the team will have to keep him out at Chennai. Likewise, there are other Sri Lankans who have been bought by various teams at great cost but will have to cool their heels away from Chennai.

One presumes that the BCCI was advised by the Centre to do the needful. The simplest solution, however, would have been to take the IPL matches away from Chennai. This would have been to the satisfaction of the Tamil Nadu government as also the franchisees concerned. And, it would not have been the first time for the IPL management to have done so. Due to inability of the government of India to provide adequate security on account of the general elections in 2009 the entire tournament was shifted to South Africa. That was an international shift at a short notice; here it would have meant shifting of only the Chennai matches elsewhere in India.

The competitive politics in Tamil Nadu have already caused enormous embarrassment to India. Under DMK’s threat of desertion from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) ruling at the Centre, the government voted in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) against Sri Lanka souring up relations with its small neighbour with whom it has had centuries-old ethnic, cultural, political and sporting relationships. Perhaps, the DMK would have parted ways with the UPA anyway, waiting as it seemed for a suitable opportunity. It found this issue handy and it withdrew from the coalition even before the voting in the UNHRC took place. The Indian diplomats were, however, directed to vote in a manner, as senior journalist Swapan Das Gupta said, “to impress upon the DMK and the global Tamil diaspora that India's sympathies lay (strangely) with those who have been trying unceasingly to secure the partition of Sri Lanka... making India a laughing stock in the region.

The UPA thus sacrificed national interests for observing coalition dharma, although the partner for whom the sacrifice was made had already deserted it. It had earlier sacrificed its acknowledged precept of probity and integrity in the government for the same reason just for maintaining itself in power. At that time also members of the same political outfit were in the reckoning.
There was, however, no respite for the UPA; its pummelling continued, this time by the counterpart of the DMK, the Anna DMK, a splinter of the former, which is currently ruling Tamil Nadu. Its chief minister upped the ante and demanded that India should boycott Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet to be held later this year at Colombo. And, politicians being what they are, members of every party joined the chorus in passing of a unanimous resolution in the state assembly wanting India to stop treating Sri Lanka as a friendly nation, to slap sanctions on it demanding a referendum for Tamil Eelam. Thankfully, the government, weak though it is, did not bend and rejected the demands out of hand.
Cho Ramaswamy, a well-known thinker, journalist and editor of Tamil weekly Tughlak feels that Tamil politicians are using Sri Lankan Tamils for their own political gains. According to him, the Tamil question was never an electoral issue in Tamil Nadu. Cho says that even the Sri Lankan Tamils have not made any big noise about declaring President Rajapaksa a war criminal and they never used the word genocide which DMK wanted India to have incorporated in the UNHRC resolution. According to Cho, it is some marginal Tamil parties in the state that have been hammering away at the Sri Lankan Tamil issue. Presuming that their thunder was being stolen away, the two major parties got into the act. Finding a weak Centre, these two parties led by arch political rivals started raising their bids to strengthen their respective support bases.

In a gratuitous article the other day in a prominent newspaper Hardeep Puri, former Permanent India Representative at the UN, justified the recent Indian action at the UNHRC. While doing so he seemed to have been oblivious of India’s unbecoming role in fostering terrorism in Sri Lanka that eventually led to tragic fallout over the country. No wonder, it drew a prompt riposte from Sri Lanka – recalling India’s ill-advised manoeuvres in regard to the recalcitrant Tamil Tigers fighting for what they called Tamil Eelam (Tamil Independence).

The diplomatic muddle at the UNHRC meet impaired the country’s relations with a traditional neighbour that has been ethnically and culturally close to it for ages. The Indian vote against Sri Lanka that was justified by Puri was decided upon without any diplomatic initiatives determined, as it was, by regional political pressures. If internal political compulsions become determinants for the conduct of the country’s foreign relations, why then have a full-fledged highly qualified diplomatic corps?

This is, however, not the first, nor perhaps the last, instance of states influencing the Centre in conduct of foreign relations, especially with neighbours. Foreign relations are a central subject and the states, barring consultative or advisory, generally have had no role to play. What one witnessed in respect of signing of Teesta Waters Treaty with Bangladesh and now in regard to the Sri Lankan Tamil question are extraordinary instances of intransigence of states to the detriment of the Union.

One wonders whether the Indian federalism was being taken advantage of. But, then India has had a federal structure from the inception of the republic and the Centre hardly ever faced, i.e. until the UPA came to power, such a situation where it had to tailor and remodel its foreign policy to suit the extravagant demands born out of exigencies of populism of the politicians of a state. One can think of only two reasons. The first is that the government at the centre is dependent for survival on its powerful regional allies, howsoever unreasonable and demanding they are, and would not let slip power from its hands whatever might be at stake, including adverse national repercussions. Secondly, politics in the country has turned so coarse that the prestige and image of the nation mean nothing to the self-serving politicians, whether at the Centre or in the states.

With the failure so far of the Centre in asserting its powers and authority what comes across is an image of the tail wagging the dog and, curiously, the dog merrily wags.