President & Group Managing Director: Dr.Shelly Ahmed | Editor in Chief & CEO: M H Ahssan
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Mizoram. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Mizoram. Sort by date Show all posts

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Wrongful Act: Mizoram Chief Minister Allots The Road Contracts To His Brother's Firm Instead Of Bidding!

By Mukesh Thapa in Aizwal
The so-called corruption free government under the guidance of NaMo, the small states are making corruption-hit states with a utterly wrongful acts. As an example the Mizoram state which is the gem of all small states making headlines in corruption by it's own chief minister. INNLIVE investigates the multi-fold contract scam.

The profits of infrastructure firm Sunshine Overseas rose from Rs 8.5 lakhs to Rs 96 lakhs in the three-year period during which the younger brother of Congress Chief Minister of Mizoram state Lal Thanhawla had a stake in it.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Insight: Mizoram State Is The Neglected Child Of India

By Kajol Singh | Aizwal

ELECTION UPDATE: Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla wins Serchhip seat. He is also leading from Hrangturzo seat. Thanhawla secured 5719 votes while his closest competitor C Lalramzauva of the Mizoram National Front secured 4985 votes. The main poll battle is between the ruling Congress and opposition coalition Mizoram Democratic Alliance, comprising the Mizo National Front, Mizoram People's Conference and Maraland Democratic Front, all regional parties.

A state with one of the highest participation in the democratic process of the country, Mizoram has often had to bear the brunt of country's apathetic negligence. The remote northeastern state registered a phenomenal voter turnout of 81 percent. The residents of the state are considered as one of the most upbeat participants in the Indian democracy.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Indian Politics - 'From Insurgency To Electoral Democracy'

By M H Ahssan | INN Live

EDITORIAL ANALYSIS  Accommodative politics, combined with political incentives, helped pave the way for the Mizo National Front to turn into a mainstream political party.

If grievance ever had legitimate reason to be translated into political rebellion, it was in Mizoram. The Mizo National Front (MNF) was an insurgent group that emerged from the Mizo National Famine Front in 1959 — a formation protesting the widespread famine caused by a regular failure of the bamboo crop due to mautam, and the failure of the Indian state to send adequate relief.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Focus: 'Mizoram Tiger Reserve' Sensitive To Camera Traps

For a primer on the complexities of wildlife conservation in India's North East, head to Dampa Tiger Reserve.

Along the length of Mizoram’s border with Bangladesh lies the Dampa tiger reserve, sprawled across 1,000 sq km. This tropical forest stretching over hills and valleys has few – if any – tigers and leopards. But there are large numbers of smaller mammals – martens, civets, clouded leopards, binturungs, golden cats, marbled cats, leopard cats, and vulnerable species like the Malayan Sun bear.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Can Mizoram's Campaigning Be Replicated Elsewhere?

By Vishant Shah / Aizawl

The fervour of two events driving the country crazy — Sachin Tendulkar’s swansong Tests and the upcoming assembly elections — is missing almost entirely in Mizoram. 
    
Being in a football-crazy state, it is understandable that most television sets are tuned in to mundane Hindi soaps, films dubbed in the local language and western music videos even as the Maestro turns out at Kolkata’s Eden Garden. But the absence of any din related to polls — barely a fortnight away, is conspicuous, more so for a state that recorded an impressive 82% voter turnout in 2008. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Famished Franchise

What is a vote to a starving man? What does the world’s largest election mean to the world’s largest group of forsaken people? HNN finds out.

A VOTE IS often a product of mixed motives — the result of generations of unshakeable loyalty, or the last-minute epiphany of a frustrated finger hovering over multiple EVM buttons. A vote sometimes rewards jobs provided, children schooled, identities recognised. Other times, it punishes pleas unheard, bulbs unlit, bruised faiths. It is a bargaining chip that negotiates a better life for you.

But what if you were forgotten? Even in the shower of attention that elections bring, what if the convoy drove past your village for the nth time? What is a vote to you, if for the third time, a child in your family was dying of hunger, and you had no hospital to take her to, and no earnings to buy her food with? From places that governments have long ignored come shocking stories of the complete failure of government and unbelievable deprivation. Not a morsel to eat, not a drop safe to drink. What does the world’s biggest election mean to the largest group of forsaken people in that country? What is a vote to a starving man?

It takes a stinging swarm of mosquitoes to wake little Maya from her tired sleep. Immediately, she bursts into tears. She thrashes her bony legs; her ribs visible under her skin. There are angry rashes and bleeding sores all over her body. Exhausted from crying, Maya’s eyes shut again. The wailing is now soundless, the tears flow quietly.

Maya looks about one year old, but is actually three. “She doesn’t seem to grow,” says Rasali, her mother. “She hasn’t been able to walk or crawl and most of the time, just lies in an unconscious sleep.” Maya has Grade-4 malnutrition, the severest degree, which means that she has only a few months left to live. She is from Nichikhori village in Madhya Pradesh’s Sheopur district, where locals recognise villages not by name, but by the number of children that have starved to death there in the past few months. Nichikhori is known by the number 6. Not one of the children here who stare at us shyly from behind walls and trees looks well, let alone well-fed. Without exception, they are underweight and have distended abdomens, reed-thin limbs, bulging eyes. Almost all have had a sibling starve to death.

Every four minutes, a child is born dead in Madhya Pradesh. Of those that survive, over 14 per cent die before they turn six. In the seven months from July 2008 to January 2009, 676 children died here of malnourishment. That’s three a day. Empty kitchens, leafless trees and ration shops that are as barren as the landscape are visible proof that there is precious little to eat in northern MP. A chronic, pervasive hunger that lay hidden till a few years ago now screams for attention in newspaper headlines. It is not surprising that, in December 2008, the BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chauhan became Chief Minister against a poll promise of subsidised rice. With no actual food to be had, the mere hope of food is what people subsist on. Lok Sabha aspirants have realised that here, the promise of food security is a profitable one to make and a convenient one to break.

RN Rawat, a Congress MLA from Shivpuri is contesting the Morena Lok Sabha seat, with “eradicating starvation deaths” as his primary agenda. When asked why he did not raise the issue in the years he was an MLA, Rawat says, “I may be raising this just before elections, but someone has to do it sometime.” The MP administration denied reports of malnutrition until 2007, when a wave of hungerrelated deaths brought criticism from across the world. Today, Central and state governments recognise the problem, but underplay its scale. Nutrition and Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs) were started to treat malnourished children in remote villages, but they admit only severely malnourished children, who are already too sick to respond to treatment. The other hungry children are left to the Centre’s anganwadis, which are supposed to provide a daily meal to children under six. In Shivpuri district, however, women say these meals come only once a week.

“Why do these people depend on the government for everything?” asks Ganesh Singh, the BJP parliamentarian from Satna, who is contesting the seat again this year. “The government helps those who help themselves,” he declares.

In Singh’s constituency, long years of drought have forced many families to mortgage their land to moneylenders for food. Non-agricultural jobs are scarce and pay poorly. Entire villages bear insurmountable debts but still have no food. It is at this point that people look to the government. And when even children die of starvation, it is usually a sign of the most abysmal hunger.

Hari Singh, a labourer in Sheopur, lost his one-year-old son three weeks ago. “Sonu was always very weak,” says Singh. “When he was just over 14 months, he suddenly got boils all over his body and his skin started peeling. He became sookha (dry). He couldn’t even digest breast milk and then got diarrhoea. Towards the end, a rotting smell came from his body. That’s when I knew it was over.” The experience left Hari blaming himself. But what it reveals is an absolute breakdown of government welfare schemes.

IF THERE is food from anywhere, the child is sure to be fed. Universally, parents feed their child first,” says Sachin Jain, a member of the Right to Food campaign in Madhya Pradesh. “If children are starving, it means the entire community is on the brink.”

Starvation deaths are often downplayed by governments as transient aberrations, ones that might merit a cure but never prevention; aberrations that can be dealt with after they occur. The Mizoram government, for instance, has camouflaged chronic hunger among its other anti-famine measures. The state witnesses a unique phenomenon called mautam, literally, ‘bamboo death’. Every 48 years, a particular species of tropical bamboo flowers. A temporary surfeit of rich bamboo seeds leads to an explosion in the population of rats, which soon overrun paddy fields, causing a famine. The last famine was in 1959, and it took on political colour as it became the genesis for the militant Mizoram National Famine Front.

Since late 2004, Mizoram has been going through another devastating famine. There are clear manifestations of the onset of famine in eight districts. It seems bizarre that an entire people live perennially on the verge of starvation, but mautam remains a non-issue this election. CL Ruala, the Congress candidate says that the famine does not feature in the party manifesto because its repercussions are limited. C Rokhuma, founder of the Anti-Famine Campaign Organization, believes that Mizoram is a victim of politicised and badly tackled hunger. “The 2007 mautam was manipulated by politicians,” he says. “They let people starve and then brought rice for them from outside, so as to be seen as solving their problem.”

The snag in approaching hunger as a famine-like phenomenon is that the solution is often short-sighted. The Central government accumulates an emergency stock of food grains by buying directly from farmers, a cache meant for famine relief. It has been hoarding this for so long that it now has four times the required stock. As development economist Jean Dréze puts it, if these sacks of grain were lined up in a row, that array of futile, wasted food would stretch for more than a million kilometres, to the moon and back. Grotesquely, though India has the largest unused stocks of food in the world, it also has more people suffering from hunger than any other country.

ALOOK AT the states that have lost the most people to starvation — Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Mizoram and Orissa — reveals a more silent and misunderstood killer: chronic hunger, the kind that is caused by an utter disability to buy any food. With no land to grow food on and no earnings to buy even subsidised food, families grow hungrier by the generation.

Kalahandi in Orissa has become an icon of Indian poverty. Visited repeatedly by Congress bigwigs and development journalists, the district still remains an unfortunate, living stereotype. A ricesurplus district, yet a district with one of the highest mortality rates (140 per thousand) in the country. The poorest state, yet one voting for 27 crorepati candidates, seven of them from the hungriest Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput region.

When the residents of Pengdusi village in Kalahandi are asked what they do for a living, one man bursts out laughing, “We’re boatmakers, fishermen or farmers. At least until we become patients.” In September 2007, 16 people died of diarrhoea here in just 15 days, most of them adults. No one was taken to the hospital because it is 45km away, and there was no bus, no ambulance, and no road. “If you fell sick in this village, you died,” says 30-year-old Madan Nayak, who lost his wife and, one day later, his one-month-old daughter. Diarrhoea is the most common symptom of hunger death — a body’s final rejection of any food or water, an inability to digest anything because of being unfed for too long. Even today, the Primary Health sub-Centre set up 5km from the village following media and NGO pressure, lies locked, with no doctor or health worker appointed. Two years after people died of neglect, no lessons have been learnt.

Yet, instead of despondence, there is still talk of political change. “We all campaigned for Pushpendra Singh of the BJD in the 2004 assembly elections, because we thought he would help us get our BPL cards,” says Haladar Majhi, “But after he won, when we went to remind him of his promise, he asked us who we were.” This year, the popular parliamentary candidate seems to be the Congress’ Bhakta Charan Das, the first politician to visit the village at its worst time in 2007. “He came on a motorcycle, with a doctor riding pillion,” says Haladar, “He ensured that the road is paved. He responds to us, at least for now.”

NEARBY, PREDOMINANTLY tribal Kashipur has been facing the wrath of failed crops. Everyone seems to be at work in lush paddy fields for most of the day, but in their homes, there is commonly just half a pot of dilute rice gruel for a family of five for three days. It is a simple difference between the haves and the have nots. In the last 50 years in Orissa, big farmers have been buying fertile land and cheap labour for throwaway prices. Adivasis work for foodgrains on lands they once owned. When there is no harvest in the rainy season between May and October, they find themselves jobless and too poor to buy even the Rs 2 rice from ration shops. Those with a few acres of land manage for a month or two before hunger strikes them too. Everyone seems to have an NREGA card, but instead of a guaranteed 100 days a year, people in Kashipur get an average of 20 days’ work. Most of that is unpaid.

The staple diet is mango kernels, which lie drying in front of every house. They will be ground and eaten, even though it was these very poisonous fungus- ridden kernels that caused rampant diarrhoea a year ago. “We know this isn’t very good for us,” admits Kaluna, who now raises four children belonging to her sister who died of starvation last year in Kashipur. “But there’s not enough farm produce,” she says. “We need something to quieten the growling stomach.”

The still-robust will to vote among the most neglected is striking. “In the absence of food, land, work, and good health, my vote is the only privilege I have left,” says the 67-year-old Dhiru Kaka, who lost his son, daughter-in-law and wife to starvation last year in Kashipur, Orissa. Playing with his voter ID card is his 2-year-old grandson, the only family he has left. When Dhiru Kaka made the trip to the polling booth on April 16, it was to cast his vote for the 17th time. “At least for a few months after the election, the winning politician will bring us food,” he says, hugging his grandson. “That is the best we can ever expect.”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What Wins Elections?

By M H Ahssan

Clearly, good governance -- or the ability of a political party to "connect" with the electorate's hopes, needs and desires -- can be an electoral winner. Politics of terror, on the other hand, may not resonate with the voters...

In Delhi, development may have meant the vision of a modern megalopolis, in Chattisgarh, the populist promise of rice at Rs 1 a kg, and in Madhya Pradesh, better roads. But it worked for the incumbent chief ministers of these three states -- the Congress’s Sheila Dikshit, and the BJP’s Raman Singh and Shivraj Singh Chauhan -- who have all emerged as convincing victors. On the other hand, the BJP’s Vasundhara Raje failed to deliver in Rajasthan, as did the Mizo National Front in Mizoram: in these two states, corruption and the inability to deliver ensured defeat for the sitting chief ministers.

Clearly, the principal message that has emerged from this round of assembly elections is that good governance -- or the ability of a political party to "connect" with the electorate’s hopes, needs and desires -- can be an electoral winner. But equally, it needs to be underscored that the BJP’s attempt to use the terror card -- especially the recent terrorist violence in Mumbai -- especially in Delhi , did not resonate with the voters. And this despite the wall-to-wall coverage of the tragic events in the media, with the Congress facing the brunt of the criticism.

All this, however, cannot obscure one fact -- that the Bahujan Samaj Party is slowly but surely growing outside Uttar Pradesh, having made its presence felt in all but one -- Mizoram -- of the states that went to the polls. In Delhi , for instance, its poll percentage share has risen from 5.8 to 12.2 per cent. As one has seen in U.P., this is the way the BSP grows, incrementally, till it reaches a critical mass which can actually then begin to deliver seats.

So what do these elections mean for the two principal parties, the Congress and the BJP, given that the general elections are just five months away in April-May 2009? For the Congress, reeling under the impact of a global economic meltdown and a series of terror attacks around the country culminating in 26/11, winning three states out of five should come as a big shot in the arm. Not because it presages victory in 2009, but because it should help galvanise the despondent workers of a party facing a serious crisis of confidence, while conveying to its electoral allies outside these states -- whether the RJD and LJP in Bihar , the NCP in Maharashtra or the DMK in Tamil Nadu -- that it is still in the game.

At the level of individual results, the most remarkable result is clearly the one in Delhi , where Sheila Dikshit has delivered the state for a record third time. Dikshit was careful not to take the credit when asked about her success, but the fact is she defied not just the pollsters and the opposition, but her many critics within the party to do the impossible: she led the Congress to a clear win and as the results came in it became clear that but for the BSP, it would have been a landslide victory. In the Congress, the emergence of leaders outside the Gandhi clan is always a cause for concern for the crabs in the party: indeed, Dikshit appeared only too aware of how double edged her victory could be as she parried questions on whether she saw herself as a possible future Prime Minister.

Ashok Gehlot, another Congress leader who is seldom in the limelight, led the party to victory in Rajasthan in a quiet campaign against the flamboyant Vasundhara Raje, whose face beamed down from hoardings across the state. The question now is: will the Congress give the credit to Gehlot, someone who is grudgingly acknowledged not just as a good organizer but who set very high standards of good governance as chief minister between 1998 and 2003? The Congress’s third victory comes in Mizoram where it will return to power after two terms of MNF rule.

If the results have been unexpectedly good for the Congress -- given the party’s low expectations -- they have been disappointing for the BJP, even though it has seen the birth of two low-key leaders, Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Raman Singh, who retained MP and Chaittisgarh for the party. Chauhan, on his part, has finally emerged from the shadow of Babulal Gaur and Uma Bharati -- once his mentor -- and come into his own. Approachable and modest, the fact that he crisscrossed the state has earned him the epithet of "panv panv bhai". If his message of development helped him retain MP, he was helped in equal measure by the in-fighting in the Congress. If the BJP stood rock solid behind Chauhan, the Congress seemed to have more leaders than followers -- there were central ministers Kamal Nath and Jyotioraditya Scindia, party general secretary Digvijay Singh, state chief Suresh Pachauri and Arjun Singh’s son, Ajay Singh -- all working at cross purposes.

Chattisgarh’s is an equally interesting story. Here Raman Singh’s quiet style and promise of cheap rice, which earned him the sobriquet of Chawal Wale Baba, appears to have helped him retain the state for the BJP. But the real story could well lie in the Naxal-affected Bastar region. Here, the BJP did remarkably well by fielding several Salwa Judum leaders -- so is this a victory for the Salwa Judum? Apparently not, as the Congress Legislature Party leader Mahendra Karma -- and the face of the Salwa Judum -- has lost his seat, Dantewada. Reports coming in suggest that the low polling here ensured that only those backing the state sponsored Salwa Judum came out to vote -- and as the Congress’s face in the state, Ajit Jogi, was opposed to the Salwa Judum, the benefit went to the BJP.

Now that this round of elections is over, what do they hold out for the general elections? For the Congress, which is likely to introspect as much on its victories as losses (so stunned is it by its success!), the challenge will be to take some of the lessons of this round forward -- the need for unity in its ranks and to delegate work to its more capable leaders. For the BJP, which was hoping to make internal security -- or terror, if you like -- one of its key campaign planks in 2009, it will need some time to give the issue a fresh spin.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Assembly Elections - Time to Retrospect

By M H Ahssan & Kajol Singh

Although the outcome of the Assembly polls is being described as a 3-2 victory for the Congress, it is actually a two-all draw since Mizoram’s results do not have much influence on national politics. Even then, the Congress can be said to have its nose ahead since the BJP’s earlier string of victories seems to have come to an end.

After its successes in Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Karnataka, the BJP had seemingly convinced itself that it had acquired an unstoppable momentum on the road to Delhi. But, now it is bound to have a rethink, for the tide appears to have turned, even if partially. However, that is not the only reason for the sadness that was noticeable in its New Delhi office on Monday evening. What may have concerned the BJP more is the belief that it may have lost its terror card, which apparently gave it a permanent edge over the Congress.

By accusing the latter of being soft on terror in order to preserve its minority vote bank, the BJP evidently thought that it had an irrefutable argument to influence the voters. But what has proved this assessment wrong is the Delhi election results because the elections took place the day after the horrendous terrorist attack on Mumbai. Yet, the ease with which the Congress swept the polls showed that the tragedy had virtually no impact on the electorate. Even the Congress seemed to have been taken aback by this response, for it had believed that terrorism, coupled with inflation, would spell disaster for it.

If the voters thought otherwise, it was apparently because they looked upon these as passing phases with no long-term effect. Not only would prices come down, as they have already started to do, but the very insanity of the jihadis would lead them to their doom. They were also probably not too pleased by the BJP’s propensity to make political capital out of such tragedies.

The BJP is apparently worried that such an interpretation of its motives will not leave any cards in its hands for the next big test the general election.

The other indication from the voters relates to their interest in development. The reason why Sheila Dikshit, Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Raman Singh won in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh is that their almost exclusive focus was on the bijli-sadak-pani factor. If politicians get this message, it will mark an end of divisive politics.

Results of five states that went to election over the past few weeks have surprised many observers. Congress has won Delhi and Mizoram decisively and inching towards the half-way mark in Rajasthan. BJP on the other hand has managed to retain Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Delhi
Bucking anti-incumbency factor in Indian elections once is quite an achievement and doing it twice is extraodinary. Sheila Dixit has been able to do just that. Her opponent, Vijay Malhotra, currently a BJP MP from South Delhi parliamentary seat was not able to enthuse the base or adapt to the changing demographics in Delhi. Delhi that went to polls just three days after Mumbai attacks seemed to suggest that even in assembly elections local factors play a bigger role. It also seemed to rebut BJP’s allegation that Congress is soft on terrorism.

Rajasthan
After the Meena Gujjar agitation earlier this year, it was very difficult for Vasundhara Raje to dig herself out of the hole and win the elections. Her performance, though credible will leave BJP with a big headache where it has to defend 21 out of 25 Lok Sabha seats in the upcoming general elections. Ashok Gehlot, has led his party to victory again and he will be able to cobble up a coalition with independents to form a government.

Madhya Pradesh
The central Indian state has had three chief ministers in five years. It was Uma Bharati who won a decisive victory against the Congress in 2003 but resigned from the post due to her role in the Hubli-Idgah controversy. Her place was taken by Babulal Gaur who was then replaced by a much younger Shivraj Chauhan. It is to his credit that he had been able to win the state again despite Uma Bharati contesting elections as a separate entity and a much powerful Bahujan Samaj Party.

Chhattisgarh
Raman Singh has managed to win a narrow victory in a very close fight in this small state. Ajit Jogi, who was caught on tape after last assembly elections bargaining with opposition MLAs, led the challenge this time too and lost.

Mizoram
The tiny northeastern state brought Congress back to power after 10 years with the ruling Mizo National Front losing by a big margin. BJP hardly has any presence in the state.

Some quick thoughts on the results:
Good governance matters. It might not matter every time but it still pays to perform and then go asking for votes.
Terrorism is a national issue and these assembly elections might not exactly be a referendum on policy positions of either Congress of BJP.
Caste politics still pays in India but it might not be a winning proposition anymore. It increasingly is providing little dividends at high risk.
The results are like a hung parliament. Everyone can claim victory.
Mayawati can be the next Prime Minister of India. I can’t believe I just wrote it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

GUEST COLUMN: Manipur And Its Demand For Internal Autonomy

By Rangja Samerkez (Guest Writer)

Reviewing the fraught political situation in Manipur with the diverging demands for autonomy, which revived after apparent progress and near closure of the talks with the Nagas, this article assesses those demands and traces their origins. Arguing that the government has now an opportunity to force a compromise solution on all parties, it calls for a proactive role of the government to bring about lasting peace in the region.

Recent days have seen much commentary on the festering turmoil in Manipur where different ethnic groups are making competing autonomy demands. These demands were always there, but they were given a fresh lease of life by the ongoing Indo-Naga political talks. The Indo-Naga talks are actually more about Manipur than about Nagaland, as the issues discussed impinge directly on Manipur and its territorial integrity. The proverbial sword of Damocles hangs over Manipur’s head. These talks have meandered for the last 15 years, still with no solution in sight. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Voters Defy Predictions

By M H Ahssan

The Congress party’s surprisingly good showing in India's state assembly elections has not only given the party a boost ahead of general elections next spring, but also provides useful pointers for political parties charting their strategies for the upcoming showdown. Voters have sent out a clear signal that they are not impressed by parties hoping to derive the maximum political mileage from terrorist attacks.

The Congress, which heads the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, went into the assembly elections on the back foot, having to defend its rather poor performance in tackling terrorism and controlling fuel and commodity prices. However, it was able to hold on to Delhi for the third time in a row, wrest control of Rajasthan in northwestern India from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and come to power with an impressive two-thirds majority in the northeastern state of Mizoram, after a decade in the political wilderness there.

The BJP retained control over Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in central India, while the results for the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir, which has completed four rounds of voting and has another three to go, will be known at the end of December. No date has been set for the national polls, but they must be held by May, when the current government’s term expires.

The assembly elections are important for several reasons. They have been described as the "semi-final" ahead of the general elections, and the results will help parties determine their electoral platforms for the big vote.

Congress' results are a reversal of its electoral fortunes in recent years. Since it came to power in May 2004, Congress has lost 16 out of 25 assembly elections. It has not won a single large state since 2005; and the few victories it has managed were in small states such as Goa and Puducherry.

That jinx has now been broken, and what seemed like a terminal slide for the Congress has been arrested. The victories in the polls will give it much needed confidence ahead of the general elections. And allies that might have been thinking of abandoning it ahead of the national vote for its poor electoral performance could now decide to stick with the party.

More importantly, the election results show the BJP’s harping on about the terror issue and its cynical exploitation of public alarm over the November 26 terrorist attacks in Mumbai did not work.

Of the states which went to the polls recently, only Chhattisgarh had finished voting before the attacks on Mumbai. Madhya Pradesh voted on November 27 and Delhi two days later. Polling in Mizoram and Rajasthan was held on December 2 and 4, respectively.

India has been hit by a nationwide wave of terrorist attacks in recent months, and the BJP has often accused the government of being "soft on terrorism". This campaign turned shriller following the Mumbai attacks, after which the BJP issued a blood-red, front-page advertisement in the Hindustan Times, an English daily with a very large readership, ahead of the Delhi polls reading: "Brutal Terror Strikes at Will. Weak Government Unwilling and Incapable. Fight Terror. Vote BJP." It also put up hoardings in cities and sent out text messages to hundreds of thousands of voters, blaming the Congress for the attacks.

At a time when public anger with the government’s repeated failure to protect ordinary civilians from terrorism has assumed serious proportions, it was widely believed that the terrorist attacks, especially the ones in Mumbai, would favor the BJP. Analysts predicted and politicians felt voters would succumb to the BJP's fear-mongering.

Both Delhi and Rajasthani have suffered brutal terrorist attacks, and although they have a sizeable population sympathetic to the BJP’s Hindutva (Hindu supremacist) ideology, the BJP’s tough talk on terrorism did not pay off electorally. Its divisive campaign, while likely to have struck a chord in many, did not get it the number of votes it needed to win Delhi.

The BJP is not the first party to have used terrorist attacks and the fear they generate to win elections. In 1984, when prime minister Indira Gandhi was gunned down by Sikh terrorists, the Congress launched a virulent election campaign that portrayed Sikhs in general as terrorists. Advertisements and hoardings spoke of the threat they posed to national security. “Your neighbor could be a terrorist," said advertisements, which had pictures of turbaned Sikhs. The campaign worked. The Congress won with a landslide majority.

More recently, the Republicans and US President George W Bush played on American fears of terrorist attacks in the 2004 presidential election. That campaign worked too and Bush was elected for a second term.

But the Indian voters, often dismissed as illiterate and ill-informed, did not allow the BJP’s campaign to determine their electoral choices.The election result indicates that voters are unwilling to pin the blame for India’s vulnerability to terrorism on one party alone and that they are uneasy with politicizing terrorism.

The issue of credible governance was more important for voters. In Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi voters returned incumbent governments to power, the BJP in the first two, where welfare programs for farmers and women played a role in keeping voters on its side, and the Congress in Delhi. In Rajasthan and Mizoram, voters endorsed the opposition Congress over incumbents.

What are the lessons that parties can draw from the polls? For the BJP, the election results should serve as a reminder that its divisive politics will not work. As for the Congress, there is a danger that it could draw the wrong lessons from the verdict and go back to its lethargic approach to tacking terrorism. But it needs to see the writing on the wall. Voters are not unconcerned about terrorism, but they also expect good governance, which includes responding adequately to development issues as well as internal security needs.

The semi-final contest is effectively a draw between India's two main parties, the Congress and the BJP, with voters putting both parties on notice. The party that draws the right lessons from the "semi-final" will hold the advantage going into the general election.

However, both parties will have to tread cautiously in drawing lessons from the assembly elections, as the factors influencing them in general elections are quite different, as previous elections have indicated. The assembly elections provide pointers that politicians and analysts will pounce on to make grand predictions for the general election, but past elections show the need for caution. Six months is a long time in politics and the mood of voters can change dramatically.

India is too large a country and too complex a democracy for politicians and analysts to make easy predictions. What the election underscores yet again is that both would do well to approach the Indian voter with more humility.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Average Deposit In Accounts Under 'Jan Dhan Yojana' Scheme Doubled In 21 Months

By NEWS KING | INNLIVE

The number of accounts opened under the Prime Minister's financial inclusion programme quadrupled between September 2014 and May 2016.

The average deposit per account under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana – a financial inclusion programme launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in August 2014 – increased 118%, from Rs 795 in September 2014 to Rs 1,735 in May 2016, according to IndiaSpend's analysis of government data.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Will This Election See Higher Turnout After 'Poll Tamasha'?

By M H Ahssan | INNLIVE

ANALYSIS While an increased turnout in Assembly elections is not an indicator of the same in Lok Sabha elections, aggressive campaigning points toward a higher turnout in this poll.

If the pattern of turnout in the Assembly elections held over the last couple of years are of any indication, the turnout in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections should significantly increase. Almost all the Assembly elections held in different States between 2012-13 witnessed a higher turnout compared to those held in previous years. 

Thursday, December 05, 2013

BJP Win In Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh; AAP Sweep Delhi, 30,000 Crore ‘Satta’ On 2013 Elections

By Sunaina Shah | INN Live

Exit polls have given BJP a big reason to smile after the assembly elections 2013 in five states. According to the exit polls, the BJP will sweep in the four of the five states—Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi—Congress may retain power in Mizoram.

Congress is projected to lose Delhi and Rajasthan while the BJP will continue to rule Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

In Rajasthan, with the halfway mark for the state assembly at 100 to form the government, the average of various exit polls show the BJP winning 138 seats and the Congress just 44. Some, however, show the BJP tally stopping at 110.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Exit Polls: Will BJP Outshine Congress In All Five States?

By M H Ahssan | INN Live

In the popular political narratives right now, the assembly elections in the five states is being perceived as a warm-up match for the Lok Sabha Election 2014. In fact, the biggest parties in the ring have made it abundantly clear in their campaign pitches that their fortunes in these five states have the potential to seal their fate in the general elections next year. 

Accordingly, the poll promotions in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Delhi saw a strong thrust not on micro issues specific to each state, but larger national issues.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Exclusive: 'Rotten Politics' of India

By M H Ahssan

Nearly Every State Has Religious Leaders Telling Their Flock Which Way To Vote

The church and state have assiduously been kept apart in India, but a similar firewall between religion and politics has been repeatedly breached to the point where using the religion card is now accepted as part of the desi system of vote garnering.

Gurus, mahants and maulvis existed around the periphery of power structures during the Nehru era. But the growth of Congress’s perceived minorityism under Indira Gandhi, when the term ‘vote-block’ (read Muslim votes) first gained currency, probably triggered the mushrooming of similar mechanisms across religious platforms.

Hindu religious organisations got a fillip with the dilution of the Supreme Court’s secular judgement in 1985 on Shah Bano when Parliament — under a brute Congress majority — overturned the SC verdict by passing the Muslim Women’s Bill that made it legally tenable for Muslim men to skip paying alimony to their divorced wives.

Today, whether it’s Gujarat with its dominant Hindu sects, or Punjab, home to hundreds of ‘Deras’ of localised gurus, or UP with its mahants and madrassas, or even Jharkhand, Orissa and Northeast with their Christian evangelists, nearly every state in the country has religious organisations and sects exhorting their flock to go out and vote. At times, they tell them who to vote for and, at others, make the choice implicit.

In Kerala, the Muslim League, which is a critical ally of the Congress-led LDF, has at its helm Syed Mohammedali Shihab Thangal, a spiritual leader with a following of his own. ‘Thangal’ is an honorific title that traces its lineage to the Prophet no less. Kerala Muslims flock to his meetings.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, with Uttar Pradesh seeing a spurt in madrassas which has taken Muslims away from modern education towards fundamentalism, Hindu ‘sansthan’ and ‘dharma raksha manch’ sprouted. Gorakhpur, which has Azamgarh in its neighbourhood, became a militant Hindu hub. The mahants and acharyas led by Yogi Adityanath, who calls for strident Hindutva, regularly clash with Muslim activists who they accuse of being ISI agents and worse. In 2005, riots broke out in Mau between supporters of Yogi and SP’s Mukhtar Ansari. But Hindu sects at times cut both ways: Just before the 2002 assembly elections in Gujarat in the aftermath of the riots, a high priest from Puri, Swami Adhoksjanand, camped with Congress’s CM candidate Shankersinh Vaghela and ran a surrogate anti-Narendra Modi campaign by telling religious gatherings to defeat the forces of Hindutva.

Mufti Shabbir Alam of Ahmedabad’s Jama Masjid issued a fatwa on the day of the Assembly elections in 2002, urging Muslims to come out and vote. Congress leaders believe the fatwa helped BJP because Hindu organisations decided to counter it. Mufti’s subsequent denials about never having issued the fatwa were of no use. In Punjab, the Dera followers, who number more than a crore, are an important consideration for non-Akali politicians. In the last assembly election, the Dera Sacha Sauda of Gurmeet Singh Ram Raheem, who faces multiple criminal charges (trumped up by Akalis, according to his followers), helped Congress get 25 out of 65 seats in Malwa, a traditional Akali stronghold.

In Jharkhand, Orissa and Northeast, Christian missions play a significant role in mobilising voters. But while in Mizoram the Christian missions involve the people in the democratic process — former CEC J M Lyngdoh once described Mizoram as a model state for elections — the ones in Jharkhand are known to harbour political preferences towards which they egg their supporters on. Christian missions in Orissa are unlikely to remain impervious to taking a pro-Congress and anti-BJP/BJD stand.

In Goa, Joaquim Loiola, secretary to Archbishop, said, ‘‘The Archbishop will be signing and publicising the message of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India on the elections.’’ While it’s unlikely to be a direct endorsement of any political party, the circular will tell its flock ‘‘how to vote’’. Though it’s anybody’s guess which way the religious heads will ask their flocks to vote.

Even the Reds seek blessings in Kerala
Given Kerala’s large minority votebank, both the Church and Muslim leaders have traditionally exerted considerable influence on the state’s politics, so much so that atheist Communists and ‘secular’ Congress leading the two coalitions have courted them with abandon.

Apart from Kerala Muslim League’s spiritual leader Syed Mohammedali Shihab Thangal, another Muslim leader who has carved out space for himself is the general secretary of Sunni Jum Iyyathul Ulema, Kanthapuram A P Aboobacker Musliyar. He attracts the state’s Sunni Muslims in droves.

The influence of the Church on Kerala’s politics is no less significant. Although fewer in number than the Muslims, the Church has the advantage of its followers spread evenly and backed by numerous institutions. The influential Catholic Church makes no secret of its political stakes. ‘‘We have discussed our position for Kerala and will soon declare it,’’ says Stephen Aalathara of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council. Asked what would be the moving factor, Aalathara said, ‘‘There are a lot of problems we face from the Communist government especially in the social and educational sectors.’’

‘‘The Church has always been an invisible factor in determining candidates in at least seven LS seats in Central Kerala,’’ says C P John, a veteran political commentator.

In UP, parties petition mahants and maulvis
For two years now, the army of mahants and dharmacharyas in Ayodhya has stood silent. Last fortnight things changed when the mighty mahant of Hanuman Garhi, Gyan Das, launched the ‘dharma raksha manch’ for Hindu re-awakening. Around the same time, former CM Mulayam Singh Yadav met the 102-year-old rector of Deoband’s Darulul Uoom seeking to explain his party’s cosying up to Kalyan Singh, who was at UP’s helm when Babri Masjid was razed.

Polls have galvanised the akharas and madrassas as much as political parties. The bigshot maulvis and mahants will be petitioned, and they will then condescend to ‘bless’ this party and that candidate.

Das made headlines in 2003 when he went door-to-door to ensure participation of Ayodhya’s Muslims. Mahant Aditya Nath accused him of polluting the mandir and demanded his ouster.

The matter was settled after Faizabad civil court stayed all such future events. Meanwhile, Maulana Amir Rashdi Madni, who founded the Ulema Council, is in politics after the arrest of his son, Talha Amir.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Fair edge: Women voters outnumber men in 6 states

By Kajol Singh

More Women Show Up At Booths But Remain Under-Represented In Parliament

Political parties may be chary of agreeing on 33% reservation for women and they might still be under-represented in Parliament, but they form an influential votebank that netas can ill afford to ignore as there now are about 33 crore registered women voters, only marginally less than 36 crore male voters.

According to the 2009 electoral rolls, women voters are in a majority in six states — Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Puducherry. While Andhra has 2.86 crore women voters as opposed to 2.80 crore men, in Kerala the ratio is 1.11 crore women to 1.03 crore men and Manipur has 8.97 lakh women compared to 8.29 lakh men.

While Meghalaya has 6.48 lakh registered female voters and 6.28 lakh men, Mizoram accounts for 3.17 lakh women in comparison to 3.08 lakh men. The state of Puducherry boasts of 3.91 lakh women to 3.63 lakh men on its voters’ list.

It is no surprise that even in states where women do not outnumber men as voters, governments have made it a point to announce women-oriented schemes, with Madhya Pradesh being a good example. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has announced several schemes for women and girl children. Even the Delhi government has a ‘ladli’ scheme and the poll manifestoes of parties are bound to devote more than a few paragraphs to this important constituency.

According to records, while the total number of registered female voters has increased from 32.19 crore in 2004 to 33.75 crore in 2009, the number of women-majority states has come down from seven to six.

There is a slight departure from the 2004 poll data where Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Daman and Diu had more registered women voters than men. But in the 2009 rolls, the number of registered male voters has overtaken women in both TN and Daman and Diu. However, Meghalaya made an entry as a state with a higher women voter registration. This is unlikely to stop the ruling DMK from announcing schemes like free stoves and gas connections.

Incidentally, turnout of women has been around 60% in the last two general elections (1999 and 2004) with Lakshadweep recording the largest number of women voters.

Participation of female voters has been traditionally 10% lower compared to male voters.

There has been an upward trend in participation of female voters. In 1962 elections, only 46.6% female voters made their way to the booths which increased to 57.86% in 1998.

The highest poll turnout was in 1984 during which 59.2% women cast their votes.

This has, however, not reflected in the representation of women in Parliament which is about 8%. In over 50 years of Independence, the percentage of women in the Lok Sabha has increased from 4.4 to 9.02%, a figure that continues to be lower than the 15% average for countries with elected legislatures.

Neighbouring countries have already implemented a quota for women — such as Nepal with 33%, Pakistan with 22%. Even Bangladesh has a 14% quota.

Encouragingly, during the last four elections, large but relatively backward states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan elected a higher number of women MPs compared to more developed and urbanised states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Women MPs from these states accounted for more than 40% of the total number of female representatives in the three successive Lok Sabhas since 1991.

On the contrary, the four relatively developed states accounted for only around 30% of the total women MPs in 1991 elections and less than 20% in 1996 and 1998 and about 25% in the 1999 elections.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The World's 'Spiciest & Strong Chilli' Grows In India!

By Hemanshu Rai in Imphal
One of the many things that puzzle people about those from the Northeast is their obsession for bhut jalokia. A fiery chilli that makes them teary eyed. It's so hot that some even cry! But these are only tears of joy. To stop the tears, they quickly take a mouthful of raw sugar! All is well again and they continue eating.

A meal in some parts of the region is hardly complete unless it is laced with hot and sizzling bhut jalokia. The scary-sounding name "bhut jalokia" is a vermilion-coloured chilli pepper which is famed as the world's hottest chilli. In 2007, it was certified by the Guinness World Records as the 'hottest chilli pepper in the world'. In fact, in 2010 the Indian military decided to use this chilli in hand grenades for crowd control.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why Myanmar Refugees Are Struggling For Survival, And Why ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ Meant Only For Political Stunt?

By Kajol Singh in Delhi
People have had to flee their home countries for any amount of reasons, from state-sponsored violence, ethnic clashes, to wars, natural disasters and devastating economic conditions. Strong laws are required to address the movement, settlement and safety of such large displaced populations. 

In 1951, the Refugee Convention was introduced to define refugees, their rights, and states’ legal obligations to them. In 1967, it was amended by the Protocol on the Status of Refugees. There are 19 states which are signatories to this Convention, and India is not one of them.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Focus: Crisis For India's Orphans As Adoption Is Being Abandoned By Parents And Neglected By Government

Abandoned by their parents and now neglected by governments — there is no end to the suffering of over 50,000 orphans in India. 

The adoption rate within the country as well as those by foreign nationals in India has gone down by nearly 50 per cent in the last five years. 

What adds to the grim situation is the disparity between South Indian states and the rest of the country in terms of adoption of children. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Exclusive: Bizarre UPA-Era Figures Revealed 70% Of Delhi Used For Organic Farming In 2012 And Records Can't Explain Where 100 Crore Subsidies Gone?

Believe it or not, almost 70 per cent of the national Capital was used for organic farming in 2011-2012, according to National Project on Organic Farming (NPOF), which comes under the Ministry of Agriculture. 

While the total geographical area of Delhi is 1.48 lakh hectares, NPOF data shows 100238.74 hectares (almost twice the size of Mumbai) was used for organic farming during that period. 

What smacks of data fudging and a gigantic scam took place between 2009 and 2012 when the Sheila Dikshit government was in power in Delhi and the Congress-led UPA ruled at the Centre.