Thursday, October 1, 2009

WELCOME TO MY BLOG Elections in Maharashtra

Welcome to my Blog


Yesterday after noon , Aditya P. Anand , from New Zealand , where my colleague from Bucharest days, his father Bal Anand was last posted as High Commissioner , spent two and half hours and created a blog for my articles .


My lasting image of Aditya is of January , 1985 when I had gone back to Bucharest from Delhi for a few days .It was Nicolai Ceaucescu's worst era and we had lunch in Bal Anand's freezing flat ( -10 deg Cent in day time) with overcoats and fur caps on, sipping Palinka brandy ,as the dictator had cut off gas to pay off Western debts. ( Few have escaped US controlled  IMF's machinations) The family was forced to make do in one room warmed by electric heaters and Adiyta was telling his younger brother to quickly close the door so that the heat did not escape .He has since grown into a strapping young man of 35 and an IT expert .


A Romanian friend Sorin had designed a website Tarafits ,com for me but I could never master the art of posting my new articles to the website , I am ashamed to say, in spite of an electrical engineering degree from Banaras in 1958. Sorin used to post my articles until he went away to Ireland .Then for sometime another Romanian Clodel posted my articles , but then this fizzled out .


This blog is very simple to operate , just like sending an email .So I shall post regularly my musings and writings . I would also put all my old pieces numbering over 250 in the easily accessible Archives blog .
This is my first piece on the blog.
In TARAFITS , Tara stands for my grand daughter who now lives in Brussels with my daughter and family .FITS is short for Foundation for Turkic Studies , which I had registered as a Trust in 1999.


Wishing you all a warm welcome Gajendra ,


1 October, 2009 .A-44 IFS Apartments, Mayur Vihar Ph-I ,Delhi-91.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Elections in Maharashtra

Elections in Maharashtra

In India , politics has become the first refuge of all scoundrels.

With its diversity spreading around India ie, in 1960s how many in North knew about Pongal or Uttappam , there are always festivals to celebrate .In these days of pervasive political corruption which like cancer has entered the very entrails of body politic , it helps aam aadmi ( common man) to forget the daily misery he undergoes . For the corrupt and criminalized ruling political class which has turned the bureaucracy into its own image , frequently held elections provide another opportunity to collect funds , buy or bargain for nomination for parties official candidature , which is sure way to riches and enjoyment soon and aggrandizement in general .

If political work and responsibilities were so arduous as many in this class proclaim , then why such hordes of ticket seekers in front of party offices , specially that of the ruling parties in centre or in states . The election system is so skewed that even popular and sincere civil servants and activists find the system barred for entry .With political dynasties fattening themselves by public misuse of power the system has reached its nadir in venality .With easy entry of retired cricketers and fading film actors , politics in India has morphed into a Nautanki . After Kaliyug, as all knowing Pandits tell us we were in , verily Nautankiyug has begun.

With village yokels and uneducated urban rabble rousers calling the shots on the basis of caste, religion and region ,merit has disappeared in India .Intellectual class has been decimated .Twenty five years ago Haryana politician late Ch .Hardwari Lal told me that a BABT lady was twice rejected for the post of a teacher .Then a kinsman became a minister and she was made member of the State recruiting commission , which had rejected her for the job ,

At the 2003 January meet of NRI in India Lord Bhikhu Parekh , Prof at London School of Economics said ;

" Pause and ask yourself, how is it that no fundamental research of any consequence takes place in India these days? That no invention of any note comes out of India? " 

From John Galbraith's quip in 1960s that India was a functioning anarchy , we have become a corrupt dysfunctional anarchy .Sardar Boota Singh, chief of Dalit Commission ,who reportedly played a key role in a case involving his son taking a bribe of a crore ( 10 million)  of rupees and Razi , a governor with his office embroiled in corruption say they will not resign .Boota Singh even says that a Tamil Nadu Dalit Judge of high Court , cleared for elevation to the Supreme Court , and accused of buying enormous amount of land , is being targeted because he is a Dalit aka Dalits can indulge in corruption .Politicians , when challenged , lecture like thieves to policemen .And they are getting away with it .And there is little sign of things ever being corrected .

Till a few decades after independence , the British imposed rule of law , was somehow enforced as many of the law makers were lawyers trained in British jurisprudence .But the process of peaceful massive social engineering through competitive party politics and reservations in favour of the disadvantaged and backwards unleased social , political, and economic  forces hitherto unseen in history to rearrange the Indian polity and the shifting of elite groups , shattering the village  autonomy based on  rigid hierarchy of priests, landowners, traders, artisans and untouchables which had survived the Muslim and  the British rule.


Former bus conductors, petty smugglers,  village pehelwans, progeny of peons could  rise to the highest level as Chief Ministers , Central Cabinet Ministers as shown by the Lals of Haryana , Yadavs of Uttar Pradesh(UP), and others  elsewhere. Imagine the creative and other energies released into the system with the profession of politics providing an ambitious and determined person, but poor, uneducated, socially and economically disadvantaged ,an opportunity to work  his way up the system.


Unfortunately in this free for all, many criminal elements , after first helping the politicians in vote "gathering and controlling" ,like the Arab's camel have moved into the tent (of power). And the system's inbuilt resilience for corrective action has vanished. After  watching the slide into dishonesty, chicanery and total disregard for all civic norms , first the Election Commissioner and then the  Supreme Court  tried to strengthen these independent institutions, beginning the cleansing process, starting with the electoral process itself and some curbs on blatant corruption but with little success. The judiciary has been contaminated as even the Supreme Courts Judges have lamented as a result of politicians and even judges misdeeds . Indian polity has now reverted back to end Mogul era , which was frozen when the British consolidated its power .Its unfreezing has been catastrophic for peoples rights and welfare .

In a Brahmanical order based on caste and varna system , there is little comprehension of rule of law .Equality before law and the concept of nationhood is a European and Western construct arrived at after many centuries of  bloody war fare and struggle between divine Kings and the Church , Barons and by the people at large .Only after bloody revolutions in which Kings , Czars and Sultans were beheaded ,killed or exiled as in France , Russia, Turkey ,China, Iran , rule of law was been established .India has not had such a revolution and is unlikely to have one .So the concept of equality before law is mouthed but is almost non existent except in statutes and in theory .In any case in Hinduism there is no concept of absolute morality on which the Western legal system is based .

Poet AK Ramanujam said that Indians don't seem to have a sense of absolute .They place everything in some context or another. And, depending on the context, what the rest of the world would regard as being wrong in absolute sense, becomes quite all right in India. Thus we have no sense of rule of law. Show me the man and I will show you the law is the practice.

All this is based on our epics , Ramayana and Mahabharata .God Ramchandra , an epitome of righteousness and bravery  killed Bali from behind a tree afraid to face him in open .The apostle of truth Yudhister said Aswaththma is dead when he was not .

The village yokels , urban rabble rousers and riffraff who monopolise political power have embraced these exceptions as the rule . After misgoverning Bihar for ten years , Lalu Yadav as Minister of Railways , fooled the parliament and the people by declaring false profits and facts in Rail budgets. He is a perfect example of a village 'dhoort' canny villager , who can hoodwink the literate . Can he be tried .Have a heart .The politicians are all the same .After being found with crores of ill gotten money , Sukh Ram is free and still an active political player in Himachal Pradesh .Many others who have been convicted are unlikely to serve out terms in prison ,After years of trial , when some one is convicted the High Courts usually set aside the judgment on technical grounds or grant bail and the ruffians are back in business .

Addressing a seminar last year on 'Responsibility of Judicial System Towards the Society', organised by the Intellectual Associations, Chandigarh, Supreme Court Justice G S Singhvi said the judicial system had become a business in the eyes of the people .Justice Sanghvi added that due to the harassment suffered by the common man in his struggle for justice, 95 per cent of the people do not go to courts at all, suffering silently. "Those 5 per cent who do go, wait in queue for many years, empty their pockets to hire a lawyer. It's a nightmare for the common man to travel to a higher court," he said, adding that this was the reason people had started taking law in their hands.

What difference will it make whether dynasties of Hooda or Chautala in Haryana or Karunanidhi or Jaylalita in Tamil Nadu or Mulayam or Mayawati are elected and rule. They have been accused by opponents of gross corruption but nothing happens and is unlikely to.

Is Maoist violence the only response .It is no solution !

So we will witness the Nautanki being played in Maharashtra , Haryana and elsewhere .Will it make any difference . None.

I had written a piece for Asia Times after the 2004 elections in Maharashtra , which is given at the end as background for the forthcoming elections .I had also done a piece after India's  2004 general elections , in which the electorate brought down the 'Shining India; beneficiaries ,  prior to the Maharastrha elections ;

In India, weapons of mass rejection  18 May , 2004

By K Gajendra Singh


One evening in the Jordanian capital of Amman, while discussing democracy over hands of bridge, a former prime minister quoted an Arab president as saying: "Of course we are all democrats and we love democracy, but the problem is the elections." Many rulers around the world have found solutions to this "problem" of pesky voters not doing as they should, by rigging polls, intimidation, getting themselves elected for life, or even resorting to legal shenanigans.

India, while many attributes of the government of the people, by the people and for the people have been distorted, undermined or even eliminated by a generally corrupt ruling political elite, the neglected and impoverished Indian still has a vote. However faulty the pluralistic choice on offer, the elected representatives , especially those who become distant rulers, must come to their subjects for legitimacy.

On the forthcoming Maharashtra elections P. Sainath says

Maharashtra polls: all fronts and no back    Hindu 3099


Will the Congress-NCP gain from a multiplicity of fronts which could dissipate the anti-Congress vote? Or will the Shiv Sena-BJP benefit from the Third Front's cutting into the Congress-NCP vote

Whatever the failings of Maharashtra's political class, and these are many, a lack of optimism is not among them. Even after the last date for the withdrawal of nominations to the Assembly elections, there are more fronts, real and imagined, alive and still in the making. More candidates, lots more spending. And a rebel-to-candidate ratio that can only be described as entertaining. The chaos and confusion are bewildering. A senior Shiv Sena figure, discarded by his party, contests the election as a Congress candidate. His nephew leaves the Sena to join the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena of Raj Thackeray. And that's one of the easier moves to follow.

The MNS did not win a single Lok Sabha seat and led in very few segments, but the lakhs of votes it gathered in those was enough to hand the Congress-NCP victory in a State where they had assiduously pursued defeat. To this day, in the present round, the Congress strategy is mostly based on one assumption. That the MNS will fare even better in a State-level election where regional issues dominate. In short, a Congress-NCP win is predicated on how well the MNS does.

There is not much else the Congress-NCP can count on. Massive job losses, a crippling price rise and abysmal governance are not the best platform to reach out to the voters on. The cheery confidence of the Congress, though, springs from the May Lok Sabha polls. In those, it lost four per cent in vote share compared to 2004 but gained four seats thanks to the MNS sinking the Sena. The Congress-NCP government's record is easily among the worst in the country. It's hard to find a single poll promise it actually fulfilled. Popular perception doesn't worry the parties much, though. In the Congress view, the math should do the trick this time, too. More so when the Opposition has failed to exploit major issues and discontent to put the ruling combine on the mat.

India's electoral law based on UK's two party system was inherently unsuitable ( so much for India's wise men ? who put it in place in 1950s) but has been persisted with .With a caste like Jat in Haryana  or Yadavas with Muslims in Bihar making up and getting 30/35 % votes cast gain power .The system that does not throw up winners with majority of the votes cast is undemocratic and unrepresentative .Even the British , now with a third party are planning a change the electoral law. Why can we not have two rounds of polling as is done in most countries , with the top two going for the second round to obtain 50% plus one vote to win .Or have first and 2nd preference votes  and then add up the score ,and who so ever gets over 50% wins the seat .This will somehwt erode the strangle hold of single caste based pattern of voting as a candidate wanting a win must seek votes of over 50% electorate and after victory distribute loaves offices for over 50%, to be re-elected again.

But in India we quote Vedas for everything and will continue to persist with a system which gives power to those elected by minority votes cast.

K.Gajendra Singh 1 October , 2009 .Mayur Vihar , Delhi-91


                                                   FOUNDATION FOR INDO-TURKIC STUDIES                         

Tel/Fax ; 0040216374602                                                         Amb (Rtd) K Gajendra Singh                                                      

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Web site.                                                                                          Bucharest (Romania ).                                                                           18 October, 2004 


South Asia

Curing what ails India's Hindu hardliners    19 October, 2004
By K Gajendra Singh

In India's first electoral battle since general elections took place last April /May, the ruling Congress party-led Democratic Front further rolled back Hindutva forces in Maharashtra, the second-largest state in western India, with a population of 100 million. Along with the National Congress Party (NCP), the Democratic Front won 140 out of 288 seats in the state legislature, while the Hindu nationalist combine of the Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena won 119 seats (from 128 in 1999). The NCP, which did better this time than in 1999, won 71 seats compared with the 69 won by the Congress. The Congress and allies won 40% of the overall vote, compared with 32% for the BJP and allies.


The results reaffirm the revival of the Congress under Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of assassinated prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, son of former premier Indira Gandhi. Manmohan Singh was given the prime-ministerial post when Sonia Gandhi, "listening to her inner voice", renounced the top job in May, but she continues to lead the Congress party.

Sonia Gandhi had campaigned vigorously in
Maharashtra before the elections. Now that Congress has emerged on top, there will likely be more stability in New Delhi
and the Congress can pursue its own policies. Its allies - especially the communists - who support the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance from the outside have been a source of frequent hurdles for the government. The Congress should also find a "less strident and more responsible" BJP on the opposition benches in parliament, and will now be able to make hard decisions, a luxury previously not afforded to the coalition government.

Maharashtra, the BJP and the parochial Shiv Sena enjoy strong support in the state capital Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay
. But the incumbent government was widely criticized for poor governance and corruption, including a fake-stamp scam valued at hundreds of millions of dollars allegedly involving many senior leaders. Generally, governments lose elections in part because anti-incumbency feelings run high at the time of election, and this was the case in May.

This sudden loss of power five months ago came as a difficult shock for the ruling coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the BJP. The NDA was sure it would win on the basis of its "India Shining" campaign, but the electorate instead gave the Congress 146 seats (compared with 112 in 1999), a total of 217 seats with its allies, in the 543-member lower house of parliament. An overconfident BJP came out of the elections with 138 seats (compared with 182 seats in 1999), a total of 189 with its allies. The Congress, with outside support from the left, easily formed the new government. A confident and somewhat arrogant NDA had gone to the polls out of touch with the country's grassroots problems, such as poverty, as the government's economic successes benefited only the rich and middle classes.

Apart from enormously strengthening Sonia Gandhi, the
Maharashtra election results bring the NDA's five-year rule in Delhi to an end. Gandhi has delivered a state that has not voted back any ruling government for the past 10 years. Her stature as the unquestioned leader of the party has gone up. In spite of increasing consumerism, India
is a poor country where politicians are seen as rapacious rulers. With traditional regard for austerity and renunciation, Gandhi's decision to decline the top job in May made a deep impression on voters.The electorate, both at the national and the state levels, has also rejected the opposition's obsession with Gandhi's Italian origins, as she has learned Hindi and was taught how to be a traditional Indian daughter-in-law. According to Indian tradition, once a bride is accepted, she becomes a part of the family.

It seems that the lesson of voter rejection is finally seeping through. Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, one of the front runners to succeed the aging leadership, while accepting the results, said, "The game is over for us." She also clarified that Hindutva and Veer Savarkar, the first exponent of Hindutva philosophy, were not electoral issues for the BJP campaign. These movements advocate Hindu nationalism.

The issue instead was development. "The campaign was, if you want development, vote for a government headed by the same party at the center. This has clicked." Swaraj also grudgingly admitted that credit should go to Sonia Gandhi, as she is the president of the Congress party and it is winning. After the defeat in May, which stunned the BJP leadership, Swaraj was among the most vociferous voices against foreign-born Gandhi becoming the prime minister, and in that eventuality she had vowed to shave her head (as widows do in

Mumbai is the country's financial and film capital and accounts for 12% of country's gross domestic product, and pays two-thirds of
's corporate taxes and more than one-third of its personal income taxes. The anti-incumbency factor was eroded in the recent state elections, as people in Mumbai are still haunted by memories of the five-year "misrule" of the BJP-Sena, with its policy of petty corruption and extortion by local Shiv Sena workers. Shiv Sena also lambastes non-Maharashtrians in Mumbai , who form 20% of the electorate. Its founding leader, Bal Thackeray, is now ailing and has lost his roar and shine. His parochial agenda no longer gels in Mumbai. And last, the Thackeray family feud between his son and nephew concerning their political legacy has made things even worse.

The time for aging Vajpayee and Lal Kishen Advani, former home minister and BJP No 2, has passed, as the latter even indicated in a recent British Broadcasting Corp interview. Neither he nor Vajpayee would probably head any future BJP government at the center. They are, even by Indian standards, too old and too tired. The younger leaders, such as party president M Venkaiah Naidu, Pramod Mahajan, Arun Jaitly, Rajnath Singh, Uma Bharti and Sushma Swaraj, after the defeat in
, are now embroiled in a power struggle for succession to the first-rung leadership.

In resolving the BJP's internal power rivalries, Vajpayee seems to have lost the acumen, political prestige and even the physical energy to carry the party forward. Advani, who had dreamed of stepping up to the throne, took time to internalize the election defeat, which left him in a state of disbelief and denial. The reversion to the policies of Rashtriya Sevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad, the BJP's ideological and sister organizations, on the theory that the April/May electoral rout was caused by the party's deviation from Hindutva, ie Hindu fundamentalism, shows how out of touch the BJP leadership was. But many leaders repeated it like a mantra for salvation. Advani and Vajpayee also placed little constraint on the churlish behavior of the younger party leadership and their increasing recourse to abusive and low-level discourse, which only alienated the electorate further.

In going back to its Hindutva roots, the BJP has contracted into a parochial, special-interest party, or a pressure group, ie traders, middlemen and refugees from
Pakistan with a chip on their shoulders against minorities, especially Muslims. This tendency, if not checked, will badly affect the BJP in the upcoming assembly elections in Bihar, Jahrkhand and Haryana. The BJP has already lost much of its ground support in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and has suffered from a massive electoral erosion in 25 of India
's 28 states.

Most Hindus are generally secular and tolerant in their political outlook. It may be recalled that in 1993, elections were held in four states where BJP governments were dismissed, including Uttar Pradesh, where the Ayodhya Mosque was demolished, leading to serious communal riots in which Muslims suffered the most. With the exception of Rajasthan, where the Congress allotted too many seats on the basis of nepotism, the BJP was defeated in three other states. Most Hindus feel that a place of worship should not be demolished to build another. In
, Muslims have shown their electoral muscle by voting for anyone who can beat the BJP. The cosmetic TV photo ops of some disgruntled and tired Muslim leaders joining the BJP just before the April/ May elections did not fool the Muslim masses.

However, even the Congress has been forced to use its soft Hindutva card to retain Hindu voters, who form more than 80% of the population. Both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi pandered to religious sentiment. It was during Rajiv Gandhi's time that the gates of the Babri Mosque were opened and the Silyanas (foundation stone) was laid for the Ayodhya Hindu temple in place of the mosque. It was under a Congress prime minister, P V Narsingh Rao, that the mosque was allowed to be demolished. The sophistry of the BJP's commitment not to let the mosque be harmed in Uttar Pradesh, where it was in power, did not wash. It permanently alienated the Muslim voter from the Congress, leading to its steep decline and the rise of the BJP and regional secular parties, with Muslims going over to the latter.

A page out of
Turkey's book

Many young BJP leaders are well educated and intelligent. However, they could stand to learn from
Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which emerged out of the ashes of several banned Islamic parties.

Now is not the time to begin shaving heads in protest or count the medicinal and religious efficacy of cow urine. The topic of building the temple at Ayodhya has long been milked for votes, which has only divided the nation and pitted Muslims squarely against the BJP. A similar situation took place in
Turkey, where the AKP leadership in its earlier incarnations demanded that St Sophia Church in Istanbul be converted back into a mosque. It had been converted into a mosque when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, but Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic and first president, turned it into a museum. Turkey
's Islamic leadership soft-pedaled the issue in 1996-97 and now doesn't speak about it.

Turkey's AKP, which has Islamic roots, stunned everyone by getting two-thirds of the seats in parliament and 35% of the votes cast in November 2002 elections. Parties must cross a 10% threshold to enter parliament.

In the secular
republic of Turkey
established by Ataturk in 1923, political parties based on religion are banned. So to attract religious and conservative voters, Islamic parties instead resort to religious symbolism and choose names with nuanced meanings. Even the secular parties do so. The first Islamic party established in 1969 by Najamettin Erbakan was called the National Order Party, which hints at Islamic order. When it was closed in 1971 after a military intervention, Erbakan named the next party the National Salvation Party (remember the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria, which, if it were allowed to contest the second round of voting, would have won a thumping majority in Algeria. It had proclaimed that it would do away with elections and usher in Sharia law - the code of law based on the Koran).

When the National Salvation Party was banned after the 1980 military takeover, Erbakan named his next attempt the Welfare Party. It received nearly 21% of the votes and won the largest number of deputies in the 1995 elections. When the shotgun coalition government of two right-of-center secular parties collapsed within three months, in June 1996, prime minister Erbakan joined up with Tansu Ciller's secular Right Path Party (DYP), the first-ever Islamist-led government in the republic's history. But the Pashas (armed forces) made Erbakan resign the next year, accusing him of promoting Islam. When the Welfare Party closed, Erbakan established the Virtue Party. It was also closed and Erbakan was debarred from politics in 2001.

Then, younger and more moderate leaders such as Recep Tayyep Erdogan, now prime minister, and Abdullah Gul, foreign minister, seeing the futility of establishing religion-based parties, broke away from Erbakan and established the AKP. They repeatedly proclaimed that it was not a religious but a conservative party. They said they did not even meet with Erbakan. In 1995, Erdogan was elected mayor of
on the Welfare Party ticket and Gul became minister of state in charge of foreign affairs in the Erbakan-led government. The AKP's victory was helped by religiously educated cadre in the bureaucracy, planted during the 1970s, when Erbakan was deputy premier twice and premier during 1996-97. The AKP's efforts to place their men in key places has met with resistance from the secular establishment. Their attempts to lift the ban on veils in public places have also failed.

In 1994, when Gul was spokesman for foreign affairs for the Welfare Party, he said, "
Turkey should not join the European Union, we have said this from the beginning. Look at a European city, and then look at Istanbul. It's not a Christian city." A few years ago, Erdogan recited a poem that included the verses, "Minarets are our bayonets, domes are our helmets, mosques are our barracks, and believers are our soldiers." For this he was jailed and subsequently debarred from contesting the November elections. But Gul and Erdogan have jettisoned the aggressive Islamic baggage and have come a long way since then. The European Union might demur at the entry of Turkey
, with its 99% Muslim population, but it has accepted the AKP as a moderate, conservative and constructive political party.

Most political parties treat municipalities as milch cows and milk them shamelessly. The AKP, though, has built on Erdogan's excellent track record as mayor of
Istanbul and of others elsewhere, apart from Erbakan's clean government in 1996-97. Most of the recent governments in Turkey, mostly coalitions, were riddled with corruption. In India, the BJP was honest while running municipalities, but during its six year tenure in Delhi
, was involved in many scams. Its earlier reputation stands tarnished.

Unlike the general impression of Islamic parties, the AKP leadership and ministers are highly educated, many with a background in economics and management. Its backers are of the upwardly mobile conservative trading and industrial classes from central Anatolian towns such as
Kayseri, Konya and beyond, who want their slice of the economic pie. The AKP also has the backing of the poorer sections of Istanbul, Ankara and other big cities. Erdogan in Istanbul and Welfare mayors in Ankara
and elsewhere provided cheap bread and medical facilities to poor areas. These people had earlier been looked after by communist and leftist parties and have now come over to the AKP. After coming into power, by transparency in governance and caring for the poorer people, the AKP has been be able to consolidate its vote. It did very well in June municipal elections and recent polls suggest that it might get 50% of the vote in coming elections.

India, checks on rabid fundamentalism are exercised by the judiciary, the media and the electorate, who do not approve of blatantly religious parties, except in Gujarat. The heads of the Supreme Court of India have tried to set right the abominable record of the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat. Most unfortunately, even the state judiciary joined hands with the ruling BJP and the establishment in acquitting Hindus accused of carrying out the pogrom against Muslims after the burning of 50 Hindus in a railway compartment in Godhra in 2002. The Supreme Court has called for a review of all cases and transferred major cases for retrial to next door Maharashtra. But the darkness prevails in Gujarat
, where the BJP under Modi has done well in recent by-elections, thus hindering attempts by his detractors in the party to remove him from the post of chief minister.

When the BJP suffered its "shock" defeat in May, the mourning was short-lived. When Vajpayee suggested that Modi's post-Godhra "excesses" were responsible for the rout, there were protests. First the RSS and then party president M Venkaiah Naidu and others silenced such views for moderation. They did not want to alienate the Hindutva vote bank in
. Yet the Maharashtrains have rejected them.

It is unfortunate that democracy in
has been largely reduced to the holding of elections by the ruling political elite across the board, who have introduced many distortions into Indian politics. While in many areas the government's progress and growth are remarkable, there are still many reasons for deep anxiety. M N Venkatachaliah, one of the greatest judges ever to head its Supreme Court and also former head of the National Human Rights Commission, recently wrote that the "the experience of 50 years has shown that great social and economic changes can be negotiated through the institutions of liberal democracy", but there are many disturbing problems that tend to obliterate all the gains.

"These are the pervasive criminalization of politics, politicization of criminals, the deep distortion of the electoral process and pervasive bureaucratic corruption and inefficiency beyond all acceptable limits. Equally disturbing is the slower pace of social economic change.
ranks 123 on the Human Development Index. At the core lies the pervasive political and electoral corruption which is corroding the values of liberal democracy. Unfortunately, initiative for reform rests in the hands of just those who are the best beneficiaries of the conditions that badly need reform. The deep divisions in the social structure help the clever politician to set one group against another and confound the real issue. If electoral processes are not reformed the future of the country is surely doomed."

K Gajendra Singh served as Indian ambassador to
Turkey and Azerbaijan from 1992-96. Prior to that, he served as ambassador to Jordan (during the 1990-91 Gulf War), Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies and editorial adviser of global geopolitics website Eurasia Research Center, USA. E-mail

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Amb. (Retd.) K. Gajendra Singh