Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What does the Karnataka Governor do ?

The Governor of Karnataka, Rameshwar Thakur, must be a most worried man. In this time and age, it is clearly understood that the Governor is the man of the Central Government, and hence in this case, the Governor would be seen to be acting in the best interest of the Congress. However, past judgments by the Supreme Court have severely bound the hands and feet of the Governor in terms of biased or arbitrary action. In fact, Karnataka is the home of the SC's Bommai Judgment where the Supreme Court started setting ground rules for what the Governor can do and cannot do in cases of political uncertainity. This was then followed by the judgment in the Bihar case that singed the Congress Government, cost them a pliant Governor and also earned them black marks from the President who was for the first time castigated by the Supreme Court for non-application of mind.
Till a couple of days back, the Congress seemed to be in a superior position, with Deve Gowda refusing to support the BJP. The Congress could then work on willing JD(S) members, and eventually get enough numbers to escape the anti-defection act. The wily farmer saw this coming, realized that he was standing on the edge of political insignificance, and quickly swallowed his pride and went back to the BJP. And now that the MLA's supporting the Congress's white hope have fled in the pursuit of power in the hands of the BJP, the Congress is left with little options.

Marked by a day of frenzied political activity, the BJP-JD(S) leaders fulfilled the formality of mustering 129 MLAs, more than the 113 required to form the government, and paraded the MLAs before governor Rameshwar Thakur for a head count on Monday.
The Congress, which triggered off the political activity in Karnataka on October 7 by submitting the letters of its MLAs seeking dissolution of the assembly, is awaiting word from the high command to act. Its strategy will be to foil BJP-JD(S) government from being formed. But whether this will be done before the government formation or if Yeddyurappa gets an opportunity to seek a vote of confidence on the floor of the House is to be seen.

One things is for sure, if the Governor does not accept the letters from the MLA's representing a current majority of the assembly, this battle will head for the Courts, and given current thinking, the Courts are likely to crack the whip hard. It's more likely that the Governor will give in and let the BJP form the Government.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 10:42 AM    

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Now the JD(S) wants to support the BJP in Karnataka

Just around 20 days after the BJP and the JD(S) parted ways in Karnataka, and that too after a bitter quarrel with Deve Gowda hurling all sorts of abuse against the BJP, and the BJP calling the entire JD(S) a party of back-stabbers and betrayers, it seems likely that these 2 parties will form an alliance as if nothing has happened, with the JD(S) letting the BJP have the Chief Ministership of the state.
This is a tremendous deal for the BJP, since they have never been close to power in any of the Southern States (in fact, they do not have much of an electoral base in Kerala and Tamil Nadu).And it is even more pronounced because the BJP has been in a sort of slow melt-down after it lost power nationally in 2004, and it was a massive blow to the party when it became clear that the JD(S) was not willing to transfer power to the BJP and would break the agreement.
Well, if things now go according to plan, and if the Governor is able to overcome the feelings of the Congress and bring back the assembly from the suspended state it is in currently, then the BJP will finally have its first Chief Minister from a southern state.

The BJP staked claim to form a Government in Karnataka after its former coalition partner JD-S did a somersault, pledging its support to the saffron party-led regime.
BJP sought revival of the state Assembly which has been kept under suspended animation following the collapse of the JD(S)-BJP coalition ministry headed by H D Kumaraswamy. The BJP had then withdrawn support after the JDS failed to honour the power sharing pact. Strengthening the BJP's claims for government formation, former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy submitted a letter to the Governor extending support to the saffron party.

And all of these machinations and dealings are all to do with party politics. When the time came for Kumaraswamy to give up power to the BJP, his father Deve Gowda was unwilling to give up power, and using an excuse of bad behavior by BJP ministers, the transfer never happened and the assembly was suspended. Part of the calculations would have to do with trying to woo the Congress to extend support. Such a move would have enabled the JD(S) to remain in power.
However, the Karnataka Congress believes that Deve Gowda is an unstable ally and forming a Government with him was not a very profitable opportunity; and soon the assembly was frozen. What the Deve Gowda and clan had not counted on was the second line of leaders and MLA's. Whether it be Kumaraswamy or the BJP's man B S Yediyurappa who was the Chief Minister, the MLA's would be able to make their living in the same way. So a state of suspended animation without a Government was no good. And so, with MLA's becoming restive, some of them approached the Congress.
This was scary to the JD(S) leadership since given enough incentive to the MLA's, if they split off, the JD(S) would be dramatically reduced as a force. And hence this sudden support to the BJP.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:15 PM    

Another case of a girl refusing marriage because of dowry

Why does dowry still exist ? There is an increasing trend towards demonizing dowry seekers in the media, in papers, and through demonstrations. One would have expected that by now, dowry seekers would have realized that demanding dowry is a double edged sword. No matter how attractive, handsome, rich, educated, high-earning your son is, if you push the bride's family beyond a certain point, there exists the possibility of the police and media getting called, and then you are really in deep trouble. Because of the deep prevalence of dowry in society, the laws against dowry are pretty harsh, with the intention of seeking to level the balance of power (and many would say, have given the girl's side much higher power through a slant in the law requiring the groom's side to prove their innocence).
And yet people don't learn. Here is an Indian family from the US that apparently demanded dowry, and when the bride's family refused, there was an altercation, leading to the arrest of the groom. Now, it is very much possible that the groom's side was being very demanding, and hence at some point, the police was called and once the magic words of dowry are uttered, things would spin out of control for the boy and his family. It is also possible that there was some misunderstanding, and based on that, dowry laws were invoked giving a major power point for the bride's family.

PATIALA: Taking a bold step, a doctor girl here on Friday refused to marry an NRI who was demanding dowry. Not only this, her family members and relatives taught them a lesson by handing them over to the police.
Gurbachan Singh (father of the bride) told TOI that last night they went to village Kaddon (groom's village), Doraha, with the request that they can't fulfil their demand overnight, but they refused to talk. "Later, we received a message saying that the marriage is still on. We were under an impression that they had given up the demand," he said. SP (city) Mandeep Singh Sidhu said a case has been registered against Gurpreet Singh, his father Bhajan Singh and mother Harjit Kaur under Dowry Act.

The true and complete facts of the case will come out after investigation, but it is very much possible that dowry demands were made. And when the girl is also well-qualified, the demand for dowry seems to almost like a slap in the face to the girl; no matter how good you are, we are the boy's side and you should pay for the privilege of getting such a good boy. It is time that such demands be dropped, and the menace of dowry begone. There, I made a statement like this, but does anyone believe that a social ill such as dowry will vanish anytime soon ?

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 2:04 AM    

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Poetess Madhumita case, former Minister Amarmani sentenced to life

Somehow, the polity in India has accepted two major concepts: If you are a politician (and especially a Minister), there is a minimal chance that you will be prosecuted for anything; secondly, that the threatening and taking of human life in the form of a homicide or murder is not all that big a deal. However, recently there has been a trend that both of these theories are getting challenged. For the second one, there are many cases where ordinary people have challenged the almost casual investigation into murder and forced the Government and police into doing major investigations (such as into the Jessica Lal case and the Priyadarshini Mattoo case). As regards powerful people, courts in recent times have not hesitated to move against politicians, many times forcing investigating agencies to do a better role (and even though we have had shameful cases such as the Congress Government ordering the CBI to so little that both Mayawati and Shibu Soren have got off); still there have been many cases of prosecutions such as the case of Shahabuddin, Anand Mohan, and a few others who have been prosecuted and sent to jail (and maybe scared the others facing court cases).
One case that has shocked Uttar Pradesh has been the case of the poetess Madhumita who was having an affair with the politician Amarmani, and Amarmani's wife Madhumani did not appreciate this affair, eventually leading to the brutal murder of Madhumita (and since she was pregnant, the murder of her unborn baby as well). The investigations went through highs and lows, but today the verdict is out, and should give more criminal politicians cause for thought.

Four years after poetess Madhumita Shukla was murdered, a special court here on Wednesday sentenced to life former UP minister Amarmani Tripathi, his wife Madhumani, cousin Rohit Chaturvedi besides contract killer Santosh Rai in the high-profile case.
The poetess was found murdered at her Lucknow flat on May 9, 2003. She was murdered at the behest of Madhumani, who was opposed to her affair with her husband.

Such judgments not only scare politicians that they can be prosecuted for their misdeeds, but also go a long way in reassuring people that the law is the same for the commoner and the high and mighty.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 11:09 AM    

Connaught Place shootout cops get life

We depend on policemen to act as law-enforcers in society. In addition, in most countries, citizens can depend on policemen to help them out when they land in some kind of trouble or need help. However, mention that to people in India, and a vast majority will laugh, cry, and look at you with amazement. And no wonder, when policemen behave like law makers on their own.
I remember when the case of the shootout in Connaught Place first burst in public view, there was immense shock that a police team could fire many tens of rounds (34) into a car in the middle of the city, and kill 2 innocent people. And what was the defense of the police party ? They had information that these people were indeed a dreaded gangster, and so that justified them using deadly force without being provoked. You know what would have happened if these people were indeed gangsters and not innocent people ? There would have been a lot of justification of the attack, and nary a word of caution.
And that is a problem with letting police get the authority to use deadly force with a valid justification. The checks and balances get blown away, and you see more of such actions happening. In addition, it fosters a feeling of being able to kill criminals as a solution (and something that has passed down to the normal public in terms of public lynchings being more common nowadays); and of course, if a criminal knows that he does not have much chance of surviving an encounter with police, he will be more inclined to take more desperate actions.
In this case, justice has been served (although it took 10 years for this case to get resolved), and the accused have been sentenced.

A Delhi court on Wednesday awarded life term to suspended ACP S S Rathi and nine other policemen, convicted for killing two innocent businessmen in a fake encounter at Connaught Place ten years ago. "I sentence them to life imprisonment," Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Kumar said, pronouncing the quantum of punishment to ten policemen including the then Assistant Commissioner of Police.
During the trial, the policemen had taken the plea that the businessmen were killed under "mistaken identity" of Yaseen, a dreaded Uttar Pradesh gangster and his associate. The court, even after allowing their plea, had found them guilty, saying "I am convinced with the prosecution argument that even if, instead of Goyal and Singh, the wanted criminal Yaseen would have been killed, the accused still be held guilty."

Seems a very valid argument. Essentially, even a criminal has rights, and the police force has no authority to take deadly action to try and kill a criminal, except in self-defense or when the criminal is trying to escape during an encounter.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:43 AM    

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

External impact of the nuclear deal getting cancelled

It's still too early to figure out what the full extent of the nuclear deal getting canceled is going to be, but the common consensus is that it is going to lead to a lowering of the country's credibility and status (although that would only be short term - the growth in the economy is still driving India's new found strength and attractiveness). So, while negotiating, the Indian side would have taken the position that such a deal does not need to be passed in Parliament, the Union Cabinet is empowered to approve such deals. In addition, the Indian Government had met with a number of other Governments that were on the Nuclear Suppliers Group (some of whom were Uranium exporters) in trying to work out potential contracts.
However, it was not just the Indian Government that went to bat for this deal. The Bush administration did a fair amount of pushing and using influence to move this deal forward, assisted by the Indian-American community that used its influence with Members of Congress (from both the Democratic and Republican side) and also pushed by many industries that would have benefited from such a opening up of the Indian civilian nuclear industry.
Another byproduct of the deal was the proposed relaxation of Uranium exporting conditions. Previously, India would not be able to get Uranium fuel from most of the major exporting nations because of the restrictions; under the new deal, the market had a much better chance of being open to India. Well, that does not seem likely now. Refer to this article:

With India virtually putting on hold its civilian nuclear deal with US, Australia has decided to review its plans to sell uranium to New Delhi.
Lowy Institute international security director Rory Medcalf said there was "no way" he could see Australia selling uranium to India "unless the US-India deal is finalised".

So, India is again going to be back on the restricted list for getting Uranium from outside, and with China in the race for buying a lot of the Uranium available for sale, India's nuclear program has to again depend on internal sources. Well, there's no getting away from the impact of moving away from the deal.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 2:22 AM    

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Congress turns turtle over nuclear deal

One can call it the success of coalition politics. After all, when you are running a coalition Government, then you have to listen to your partners and sometimes take decisions that appeal to them. The Congress used to be a proud party that at one time had more than 400 Members of Parliament, but now it survives at the mercy of a host of coalition partners and outside supporters. So, the Congress has had to cancel its decisions to sell off stake in companies such as Neyveli Lignites, and other companies due to the pressure from allies. It had to agree to subvert the political system when a friend of the holiest of the holies (Quattrochi) was in the line of fire, it had to agree to block the prosecution of Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mayawati (who declares massive assets of over Rs. 50 crores), it had to look the other way when the DMK Government refused to obey the Supreme Court, it had to bend the CBI so as to get Shibu Soren acquitted by the High Court, and so on.
But the nuclear deal must have been the biggest bending of the back that the Congress has ever done. Over a period of 2 years (and it must have been updating its allies on the progress), the Congress Government has been negotiating a deal with the United States that would remove a large number of the restrictions on nuclear dealings with India. Now, we all know that the Indian civilian nuclear program has done a great deal in the face of technology cut-off, but realistically the Indian energy generation from the nuclear area has been much slower than expected and has failed to meet its targets in the past (otherwise why would we be buying nuclear reactors from Russia). Our energy needs are such that we have to be this world in our policies, and no longer stand on the 'we can do everything' stand.
Like any deal, no party can ever come out of a deal like this with having got everything it wanted. One measure of how good a deal is about whether people are satisfied or dis-satisfied. A deal that fails to get the support of the Indian left and the nuclear-ayatollahs of the US State Department is intrinsically a good deal :-). On a serious note, there are a number of strategic experts who are happy with the deal, and my own take on the deal is that this is a good effort. In an ideal world, we should have exploded a device in the 1960's and got to be a member of the nuclear-capable club, but no use crying over spilt milk.
The bigger problem with the apparent Government and Congress capitulation to the Left over the nuclear deal is that the credibility of the Government is shot. If, when the deal was announced and the Left had laid down the line of 'over our dead body', and the Government had backed off at that point, it would still have been good. The deal was a complex deal, and there was little understanding of the deal. Instead, the Government spent so much time over explaining how the deal would be good, got the nuclear experts to vouch for the deal, got a lot of strategic security experts to favor the deal, and got the middle class involved in the deal with the talk of a closer understanding with the US and the promise of removal of many of the dual-use restrictions. It even got the allies to speak in the same way. And then the ultimate, with the 2 divinities, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi both daring the Left to withdraw support.
Maybe the expectation was that the left would back off this strong show of opposition, and maybe there was a wrong thought that this was play-acting by the Left so that their constituency was mollified. But from all the discussion, it would be clear that rather than the nuclear deal, it was the implied much closer relationship with the US that was abhorrent to the Left, and the feeling was so strong that they would be willing to let the Congress Government fall. In addition, the allies, having anticipated that the fall of the Government and the elections might impact them negatively, also pushed back. And so we had the extraordinary spectacle that the PM and the Party President in one day moved back and admitted that the deal was dead, and so was the credibility of Manmohan Singh.
This is also the death of Manmohan Singh the technocrat, the man with the non-politician touch. He laid his reputation on the line on this issue with personal comments, and having to step back must have hurt. One thing is for sure, the author of this piece will no longer treat Manmohan Singh as being different from the other politicians.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 8:41 AM    

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Man convicted of road rage and sentenced to 4 years

The level of anger in the general public seems to be growing. This is a trend that has been pointed out by studies and in many newspaper and magazine articles, with some of the ways that this is manifested is in terms of people being more ready to pick a fight, or unwilling to stand patiently in a queue when they are waiting for some service, or in terms of traffic. Traffic is one very clear area where the increased anger level is visible, with people unwilling to take jams patiently (manifested in people trying to take any route so as to avoid a jam), not following logic (a lot of jams in intersections happen when people want to be the first one through resulting in a gridlock, that when if they waited for even a minute to let other traffic pass through, jams would happen less), and displaying an incredible amount of anger very fast (there have been so many cases where people pick fights and actually cause physical harm to other people, where a single car in front of them that is being driven by a less experienced driver causes a lot of rage, and numerous other examples).
Well, in our society, we have to pay for our actions, and road rage is a very special example since we take actions when in road rage that we all will regret later. However, if the matter reaches a legal point, then the road rage is judged by the judicial system, and it can become very serious, just like this case where a person was sentenced to 4 years prison for an action committed when in the grip of road rage:

Four years after Balram Bansal drove his car into a marriage procession in a fit of rage, injuring four persons, a city court in a recent order sentenced him to a two-and-a-half-year rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine Rs 10,000 on him.
Additional sessions judge Narottam Kaushal in the order said: ‘‘I hold that the accused drove into a barat (marriage procession) deliberately with a view to teach the participants a lesson as he had encountered a traffic jam due to it. In a fit of rage, he had caused injuries to several people.’ ‘‘This is a case where the convict has exhibited extreme impatience. His conduct epitomises road rage,’’ the judge observed in the order.

This is an example of how not to lose your temper when in road rage. If you are getting delayed when driving or face some other action that causes road rage, think about the following:
1. A sudden surge in anger can cause things to happen that you might regret later
2. It just is not worth it, after all, the incident that causes road rage would be either a delay of a few minutes or some scratches on your car, but not worth the consequences
3. Count to 20 if you feel the anger coming on
4. Have a magazine or something in the car and concentrate on that if you have to wait
5. Think about a near and dear one if you feel the anger coming on and that should help cool you down
6. Have a list of things always ready that you can think about when you have some free time, like when you are delayed

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 11:02 AM