Tag Archives: elections

Press Club of India Elections 2016 – Prescription for a better soup: The Dissenters

[As the Press Club of India, Delhi, goes for its election today, with two left panels on offer, here is a note from THE DISSENTERS. We publish this as we think it raises some very important issues of larger importance.]

How to vote amidst false claims from Left, Right and Others

Journalism means expressing dissent and speaking truth to power. Alas! The Press Club Of India has lost this very essence. In the lust for power, all ethics and morality, even professional wisdom is being negotiated with in the current elections for PCI, New Delhi.

The recent move by one brave journalist to dissociate himself from his panel at the last moment exposes grave corruption embedded in the the moral sphere of scribes who have formed convenient rainbow coalitions, convenienty called panels, to grab the small power centre that operates from 1, Raisina Road, New Delhi. This election however was a farce from the very beginning. Let us take some time to read this before we go to vote on October 1st, 2016.

The outgoing panel was supposed to go out of office after completion of its one-year term and remain as a caretaker till the current elections. This never happened. There are many arguments for and against this immoral act but what has conspired in the meantime needs to be recalled.

The defining moment for this panel, named Nadeem panel after PCI outgoing Secretary-General, came in the Ali Javed episode. Let’s not forget that Ali Javed only booked the PCI hall  in his capacity as a member where the Kashmir-centric program was held and allegedly “anti-national” slogans were raised. Despite, this management committee involved Delhi Police instead of initiating a preliminary internal inquiry. A complaint was lodged in the midnight by PCI against Javed and others that led to prolonged harassment of this senior member who teaches in DU and is himself the General Secretary of Progressive Writers Association, the oldest organisation of writers in this country associated with the Communist Party of India (CPI).

A signature campaign was initiated against PCI’s move the very next day in favour of Javed that immediately tested the waters. The “official” panel (Gautam-Vinay panel) supported by outgoing GS Nadeem Kazmi is backed by so-called CPI-CPM affiliated journalists. These scribes not only refused to sign the petition rather disapproved of running any such campaign because “right-wing will benefit” from it. Later Javed was reinstated but when he arrived one fine evening in the club, he was forced to leave and even abused as “Pakistani agent” by some management committee members as well as others.  Continue reading Press Club of India Elections 2016 – Prescription for a better soup: The Dissenters

Queer Eye for Narendra bhai – Affect, Memory, and Politics in Desperate Times: Pronoy Rai

This is a guest post by Pronoy Rai

There is something awfully nostalgic about May 16. The election results brought with them a sense of melancholy-laden déjà vu. For the queers and allies on the political Left, the sinking feeling that May 16 brought with it, was reminiscent of yet another day, December 11, 2013; the day the Indian Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Delhi High Court decriminalizing homosexuality in India. It was once again criminal to be gay in India; once again the legal State apparatus had rendered queer bodies vulnerable to violence, from the State and from the political Right. There was a sense of desperation and disheartening injustice; what avenues remained to be sought when the country’s highest courts had us disappointed?

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had vehemently welcomed the Supreme Court judgment then, but our incoming Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, remained silent. It was perhaps too trivial an issue for him to address; when were rights anyway a matter of importance for him? If the indigenous people and forest dwellers of Gujarat could make the Indian mass media listen to them, they would tell us the story of Gujarat’s abysmal performance in settling land claims and distributing title deeds. Rights, especially of the fragments, are a roadblock for the Modi-style Development machine.

Continue reading Queer Eye for Narendra bhai – Affect, Memory, and Politics in Desperate Times: Pronoy Rai

Muslims Will Consider Supporting AAP, if it Offers Concrete Programme for Them: Jamaat-e-Islami

An Interview with the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind Amir (National President) MAULANA JALALUDDIN OMARI conducted by MISHAB  IRIKKUR, MOHAMMAD RAGHIB and ABHAY KUMAR

Amid the talk of communal forces emerging stronger, India is going to polls. The fear of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is perhaps more felt by the Muslim minority than anyone else. The “secular” Congress—charged with corruption and misrule—does not seem much energetic and confident at this moment. At this crucial juncture what strategy should the largest religious minority community of the country adopt in the upcoming General and assembly elections? What are the options available for them? To learn about this and more, Mishab Irikkur, Mohammad Raghib and Abhay Kumar interacted with Maulana Jalaluddin Omari, the Amir (national president) of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) last week at its New Delhi headquarter. The seventy-nine year old Amir–who is an Islamic scholar and author of dozens of books–spoke on a host of issues such as elections, politics, the social and economic problems of Muslims, reservation, framing of innocent Muslim youth on terror charges etc. The JIH—which came into existence soon after the Jamaat-e-Islami had split into two separate organisations at Partition–is one of the most influential Islamic organizations among Muslims that mainly does “intellectual” work and carries out welfare activities as well. The excerpts are as follows.


What are the major concerns of Muslims ahead of the upcoming elections?

Omari: Our Constitution does not discriminate any citizen on the basis of caste, colour, religion, region, sex etc. It has also given minorities some special rights related to their personal laws and culture. Muslims, therefore, should vote to power those forces, which are committed to upholding democracy, secularism and the principles of Indian Constitution. At the same time we should defeat the parties which are opposed to diversity. The very language of cultural assimilation is a threat to the spirit of our Constitution and interests of people. Continue reading Muslims Will Consider Supporting AAP, if it Offers Concrete Programme for Them: Jamaat-e-Islami

Jamaate-E-Islami’s Tryst With Politics – Tilting at the Electoral Windmills: Fahad Hashmi

Guest Post by FAHAD HASHMI

‘It was all very well to say “Drink me”, but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. “No, I’ll look first,” she said, “and see whether it’s marked ‘poison’ or not”; for she had read several nice little stories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts, and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that, if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked “poison,” it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.’

(Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland)

Continue reading Jamaate-E-Islami’s Tryst With Politics – Tilting at the Electoral Windmills: Fahad Hashmi

Why Do ‘They’ Love Narendra Modi ?: Shankar Gopalakrishnan

Guest Post by Shankar Gopalakrishnan

On August 14th, Narendra Modi declared that his Independence Day speech would attract as much attention as that of the Prime Minister. He appears to have been right. The fact that this is hardly unexpected should not obscure the deeper puzzle that it hides. It is a rare occurrence for a state level leader to suddenly get so much prominence in the media, and that too for such a long period. Why, then, have powerful forces in our society – including most of the media – chosen to endorse Modi? Why the sudden promotion of this particular leader at this particular time? What is it that he and his regime are offering?

Continue reading Why Do ‘They’ Love Narendra Modi ?: Shankar Gopalakrishnan

A search that depressed me

[Thinking about recent political developments in Lanka, here is a recent poem by Mahendran Thiruvarangan, who lectures at the University of Jaffna — AK]

A search that depressed me

in those semi-arid paddy fields,
the cleavages of the silent hills, no longer luscious,
the dried up river,
the never-ending rows on the ballot sheet.

No sickles, no hammers, the sky blackened without stars,
green, blue, yellow, white, brown — all could paint our walls
with faces of new-born patriots and traitors,
the missing red,
gone with the wasted blood,
the Left,
left forever?

Bridges bombed and broken,
the tree long lost its roots,
the violent tsunamis,
patriotisms and nationalisms,
homelands and motherlands,
the ship is out of sight,
the crew all dead and missing,
sleeping in new camps,
with strange bedfellows who praise gods and demons.

The unhappy farmer of Tissamaharama,
the manacled Tamil prisoner from the thickets of the Wanni,
the withered tea-plucking woman in Talawakkele,
the homeless fisherman on the Eastern coast,
the evicted Jaffna Muslim,
the unspoken Malays, Burghers and Telugus,
throttling each other in battles misfought.

Cracks everywhere,
the wall crumbles.

Undermining Political Reconciliation with Post-Election Repression

The following are my prepared remarks at the Global South Asia conference at New York University on 13 February 2010.  My prepared remarks on the Sri Lanka panel in titled, ‘Return of the Displaced and Political Reconciliation’ are below.  The remarks in the Sri Lanka panel which I chaired were to complement the presentations by Sharika Thiranagama, New School for Social Research titled, ‘Houses of the Future: Return and Reconciliation amongst Northern Muslims and Tamils’ and V. V. (Sugi) Ganeshananthan, University of Michigan, Lanka Solidarity, journalist and author of Love Marriage titled, ‘Dialogue in the Diaspora’.  The February 2010 issue of Himal Southasian magazine is a special issue on Jaffna, Sri Lanka and has a number of articles that address the post-war moment. The Sri Lanka Democracy Forum (SLDF) statement on 18 January 2010 titled, ‘SLDF Calls for National Attention on Demilitarization and a Political Solution’ details many of these issues in depth.

I want to begin with the end of the war, which inevitably leads to a shift in politics.  Post-war politics can not be same as war politics.

During the last couple years of the war, President Rajapaksa put together a war coalition comprised of a broad spectrum, from Sinhala nationalists to sections of the Old Left.  Despite the end of the war, the President and his government attempted to keep the war mentality alive, as we have seen through the continued suffering of the displaced as they were herded into internment camps with no freedom of movement.  It was indeed a lost opportunity for political reconciliation. Continue reading Undermining Political Reconciliation with Post-Election Repression

Lakshman Seth and the Sheriff of Nandigram: Raghu Karnad


This is a guest post by RAGHU KARNAD

May 17, 2009
Beauty is all about the details, and these beautiful election results keep parading out sweet new details for our appreciation. What I’m currently delighted about is the voters of Tamluk in West Bengal dispatching their Communist MP, Lakshman Seth.

Seth has been in the Lok Sabha since 1998, stashin’ away the crores and adding fortifications to his eerie headquarters in Haldia. People say he did a good job of developing the Haldia port. Sure enough, if the business of America is business, then the industriousness of Lakshman Seth is directed purely towards industrialization. How come? Seth is also Chairman of the Haldia Development Authority. Because he allegedly gets a cut out of every industrial operation on his turf (what we dissertation-writers call ‘rent-seeking’). There’s a theory that this is why Nandigram was chosen as the site for the Salim plant, and why the resistance was so bitterly punished when the siege fell (but this is just very plausible hearsay).

Continue reading Lakshman Seth and the Sheriff of Nandigram: Raghu Karnad

Lalgarh, Media and the Maoists: Monobina Gupta


[As this report is filed, reports have come in that the CPI-M has finally managed to enter Lalgarh and hold its first public meeting since 2 November 2008, when the police first arrested seven young students from Lalgarh, sparking off a revolt. No machine guns were fired, no mines were blasted – even though we are supposed to believe that the area is a ‘liberated area’ of the Maoists. See our earlier report, written soon after the revolt began. Even as we post this, more reports – mostly from West Bengal government and police sources, are being suddenly being published of ‘unrest’ spreading to ‘more Maoist areas’, and an atmosphere is sought to be created for an eventual justification of government and party sponsored violence.]

Assembly in Lalgarh - Armed Maoists? Photo, courtesy sanhati.com
Assembly in Lalgarh – Armed Maoists? Photo: courtesy sanhati.com

For five months now Lalgarh has been practicing a unique form of democratic politics. To the ruling CPI-M in West Bengal and the big media however, it has been nothing but a Maoist-sponsored agitation with portents of Maoist style violence. Except Bengal media, national print and television, have by and large kept Lalgarh out of their ambit of coverage. If at all news has trickled in, it has come tagged with ‘Maoists’ and ‘violence’; as if tribals in this forgotten part of Medinipur, the past five months, have been stocking up arms and laying ambushes to wage a war against the state.

A front-page article in the Times of India (TOI) today (April 22, 2009) sticks to this format describing Lalgarh as “Nandigram II, a liberated zone” where an explosive situation is building up with elections scheduled for April 30 and the Pulishi Santrash Birodhi Janashadharaner Committee (People’s Committee against Police Atrocities) refusing to allow the police to enter Lalgarh. “The police can’t enter here. Nor are other government officials welcome. This has been the situation for the last six months.”

Continue reading Lalgarh, Media and the Maoists: Monobina Gupta

51% = legitimacy

With the elections around the corner, the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) election system used in India is being blamed for most of the ills in the Indian political system. This post is the outcome of some of the discussions and conversations that Barun Mitra of the Liberty Institute and I have been having regarding the FPTP system.

Briefly, the FPTP system is based on the principle of  “winner-takes-it-all” i.e., the candidate who gets majority of the votes is declared victorious. One of the most common criticisms made against the FPTP system is that candidates win by very narrow margins.  It has been suggested that candidates must get at least 51% of the votes in order for their victory to be deemed as legitimate. It is interesting to note that so far in the history of elections in India, not a single candidate has been dismantled or at least challenged on the grounds that s/he won by 20% of the votes in  the constituency. Therefore, is the criticism misplaced?

Both Barun and I want to suggest that narrow victory margins are in fact the strength of the Indian electoral system. This is because:

Typically, only 50% of the population in the constituency votes in any election. If the victorious candidate has won by 20% of the votes, he has actually received 40% of the votes (given that only 50% of the people are voting).

  1. The narrow victory margins keep the threshold of entry naturally low. This encourages aspirants to enter the electoral fray. If candidates won by 51% of the total votes, it would mean that political parties would have to field heavyweights and stalwarts and it would also discourage novices and independents from contesting the elections.
  2. The narrow victory margins intensifies political competition and keeps candidates and parties on their toes. New aspirants can cut into the vote bases of popular candidates and parties. Moreover, the narrow margins makes it imperative for candidates and parties to attract voters from various backgrounds and widen their appeal instead of confining themselves to gathering votes on the basis of identity and particularistic appeals.

“Gentle persuasion” in Kashmir

Some intelligence agencies have also warned of a low-poll percentage. But a senior police official said: “One cannot wait for the perfect situation in Kashmir.” According to him “gentle persuasion” in rural and border areas will help improve turnout. “After all, it is not a crime to ask people to vote. In several countries, voting is mandatory,” he argues. [George Joseph, Sakaal Times]

What an admission, what a giveaway! Indian democracy never went beyond Lakhanpur anyway. Nationalists and the weak hearted, please be ready to shut your eyes and ears for the next two months. The Indian state is planning to show its ugliest face in the Valley. Get ready, get ready.