Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Friday, 26 July 2019
HALF of the population of the United States detests President Trump while almost the same number adores him. The 45th President of the US is unusually honest for a politician, making no secret of his views, no matter how unpleasant these may be to more than a few. During the 2016 campaign, he repeatedly said that he liked people who had little or no education, as such people would be inclined to vote for him rather than for his opponent. Indeed, the more educated the person, the less likely he is likely to be a supporter of Donald J Trump. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton termed supporters of Trump as “Deplorables”. Her irrepressible opponent seized on the term and began to call himself and his supporters as “deplorables”, revving up their common hatred of Hillary Clinton. For more than six months, the Clinton campaign had silently but energetically sought to boost Trump against his Republican Party opponents, in the belief that he was the easiest Republican nominee to defeat in the polls.
To the dismay of the Clinton machine, Trump turned out to be a formidable opponent, landing several punches to everyone that he received, and connecting with the imagination of tens of millions of voters. Hillary Clinton made the mistake of underestimating Trump, and as several of those who have done business with him in the past can testify, this is a bad mistake. It was not only his father Fred’s wealth but an innate shrewdness and bulldog determination that earned Donald J Trump his 4-year stay in the White House, and which may assure him another four years, if the US economy continues to do better than expected, and the Democratic Party (still influenced if no longer dominated by the Clinton machine) chooses a cautious and “safe” candidate such as Joe Biden over a Bernie Sanders or an Elizabeth Warren. While he was at his peak during the 2015 struggle for securing the Democratic Party nomination for the presidential contest, during this round, Senator Bernie Sanders seems to have lost some of his appeal, possibly because of the manner in which he joined Barrack Obama in behaving like a cheerleader for the Clintons during much of 2016.
The way in which Bernie Sanders raised the white flag of surrender to Hillary Clinton even after he was cheated of the nomination by a series of dirty tricks by the Clinton-controlled Democratic Party machine, his supporters got dismayed and began to believe that much of his aggression was in words rather than in action. Sanders thought that his forgiving stance would ensure that the “lesser evil” (Hillary Clinton) prevailed over the “greater evil” (Donald Trump). Instead, by strengthening the impression that the Democratic Party was in the pocket of the Clinton machine, Sanders paved the way for Trump to win.
Rather than lead the 2020 field as a candidate of his qualities ought to have, Sanders is behind Joe Biden, the candidate of the Clinton machine, in the opinion polls, and is only a bit ahead of Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose record in fighting the Billionaire Club is as impressive as that of Sanders himself. Another impressive Democratic Party candidate independent of the Billionaire Club is Senator Kamala Harris, who needs to race ahead of the rest of the field during the coming two months if she is to emerge as the presidential or (more likely) the vice-presidential candidate for her party in the 2020 polls. Donald Trump, of course, is a billionaire himself, who makes no secret of his view that billionaires make the best Presidents and Cabinet members, a stance that seems to have resonated with tens of millions of underprivileged voters with European ethnicity who seem to admire billionaires and revel in their being the rulers, despite this small club of hyper-rich individuals ensuring government policies which benefit them at the expense of the rest of the population.
Trump is loyal to the Billionaires Club, which is why he has become a megaphone for the message the latter seek to blare out to the people of the US. This is that the problems being faced by tens of millions of US citizens have been caused not by the predatory greed of the hyper-rich, but by the waves of impoverished Mexicans and other Central Americans trying to enter the US without a visa. Most are family units, often with very young children. What they seek is a job that would enable them to send money to those back home who are destitute. However, the Billionaires Club is relentlessly using the media to portray such intending migrants as a bagful of criminals whose primary purpose is loot, murder and rapine. The hundred million or so US citizens who believe such a nonsensical claim thereby get separated from the fact that toxic policies put in place by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush, policies that were only tinkered with and not discarded by Barrack Obama, are what is responsible for the stagnation in incomes of the middle classes and continuing poverty on a scale that is impossible to conceal.
In the capital of the US, pavements of filling up with desperate individuals holding up plastic cups for passers-by to fling a few coins in. More and more of such unfortunates are of European rather than African ethnicity, hence the utility to the Billionaires Club of having a US President who manages to direct public anger at economic woes away from the Billionaire Club to hundreds of thousands of destitute migrants from south of the US, with a few even coming from North Africa and South Asia. President Trump has diverted public anger away from folks like him, the hyper-rich, which is why the Republican National Committee is getting so much more in donations than the Democratic National Committee. Judging by the confusion over policy and personalities in the Democratic Party, the odds are rising that Trump will secure a second term on November 8, 2020. Should that occur, and should Trump continue with Clinton-Bush policies that give a disproportionate quantum of advantage to the Billionaire Club, his second term is likely to be a stormy one, not so much in the US Congress but on the streets.
The substantive divide within the US is not between “white” and “black” or “coloured” US citizens but between the hyper-rich and the next. Despite efforts by the Billionaires Club to ensure that public fury remains diverted from them to the human tragedy at the southern border of the US, a time of reckoning in the shape of an administration that does not just talk about the poor (as Obama did) but which actually does something for the poor (as Franklin D Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson did) will dawn, if not in 2020, then latest by 2024.
Thursday, 18 July 2019
FORMER Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is known in India as the “accidental” Prime Minister. His former Information Advisor, Sanjaya Baru, has written a very readable book called the “Accidental Prime Minister”, which was later made into a Bollywood movie. Baru wanted his boss to take advantage of the immense powers of the Prime Ministership and ensure that it was Manmohan Singh and not Sonia Gandhi who steered the ship of State. However, there was nothing even remotely “accidental” in the decision of Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi to select Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister, given that her taking over the job would have given the BJP a juicy target to derive political mileage from. Atal Behari Vajpayee as Prime Minister believed that as long as a Catholic of European descent led the principal opposition party, the BJP was safe. Genial to friends and unforgiving to enemies, Vajpayee went out of his way to ensure that Sonia Gandhi was protected from the darts thrown in her direction, many from within his own party.
Those who maintained good relations with Sonia Gandhi within the BJP, such as the always charming Arun Jaitley, were promoted while critics such as Govindacharya were marginalized within the BJP. The most persistent critic of Sonia Gandhi, former Harvard professor Subramanian Swamy, was kept out of the BJP by Vajpayee, joining the party only after Narendra Modi emerged as the prime ministerial candidate of the country’s biggest party. However, Vajpayee’s calculations went wrong when his government lost its mandate to a coalition led by Sonia Gandhi in 2004. The defeat came as a surprise to Vajpayee and to his ministers, who did not even remove the computers they had been using while in ministerial office before handing over charge to the nominees of the Congress Party and its allies. Certainly the computers would have yielded a treasure trove of information about the Vajpayee ministry. In contrast, after the Congress Party lost the 2014 parliamentary polls to a supercharged BJP led by Narendra Modi, they were given ten days to “clean up” and to make decisions to the last day in power that would benefit them.
The BJP won the election on May 16 and waited until May 26 before swearing in Narendra Modi in the presence of SAARC leaders, including then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan. Up to now, Prime Minister Modi has shown great forbearance where his predecessors are concerned, giving a clean chit to former PM Manmohan Singh (who held charge of the Coal Ministry when several criminal transactions took place that were later punished by the courts. The incoming government took the view that the Prime Minister’s Office under Manmohan Singh was blameless despite several dubious decisions having been cleared during that period. It needs to be said the Manmohan Singh is known to be personally honest, but regarded as having turned a blind eye to wrongdoing sanctioned by Congress Party leaders. The Modi government could have taken the view that Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister was culpable for wrong decisions taken, even though he personally did not derive any pecuniary benefit from such actions.
However, he was excused. In fact, no Minister in the Manmohan Singh government has been sent to jail under Narendra Modi, who has allowed anti-corruption agencies to take their own time investigating some of the many corruption charges that the BJP had levelled against the Manmohan Ministry during the latter’s decade in office. In fact, as Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh had sent one of his own Cabinet Ministers to prison and was about to send another when he was defeated in 2004. After the new government took office, the jailed minister was released from prison and the minister who was about to enter the portals of prison was given a reprieve from such a fate. Although a former minister, P Chidambaram, is being investigated by the anti-corruption agencies on multiple charges of wrongdoing, he has been granted bail more than two dozen times by the courts, who seem unconvinced by the Government of India’s case against him.President Trump too has shown mercy towards his rival in the 2016 presidential contest, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Rejecting the advice of several of his supporters, Trump refused to launch prosecution against Hillary Clinton, not even investigating the funding of the Clinton Foundation or retrieving through data systems the several thousand emails that the former Secretary of State deleted before they could be accessed by investigative agencies. Interestingly, Hillary Clinton has repaid this act of grace of President Trump by unleashing her many supporters on the 45th President of the US. A campaign that can only be described as frenzied erupted in the US the day that the new Head of State vetoed suggestions that the Clintons be formally investigated. That campaign has continued without pause since Trump was sworn in on January 20, 2016 and this is despite the inability of a clearly biased Special Counsel (Robert Mueller) to dig up anything that could criminally compromise Donald J Trump, who seems only to have been further energized by the unprecedented attacks on him.
In a desperate effort to further persecute (if not successful in legally prosecuting) President Trump, a motion has been moved in the House of Representatives to impeach the President. This is unlikely to be adopted, as the majority of even Democratic Party members in the House of Representatives understand that such a process would make Trump even more a hero to nearly half the voters of his country. President Trump is deliberately and conscientiously pursuing a line of action designed to attract his base even as it angers those who would anyway never vote for him. Given the confusion within the Democratic Party, only a war with Iran could derail Trump, and the New York billionaire understands this well.
However, those in the Administration who want war – such as National Security Advisor John Bolton – are ensuring that partners of the US adopt lines of action that are designed to provoke Iran into a reaction that could lead to war. An example was the UK seizing an Iranian oil tanker, an act of folly that would never have taken place had Prime Minister Teresa May not been so completely distracted by her impending exit from office. The war of 1914-1919 began as a consequence of mistakes and accidents. Hopefully, the world will avoid a repeat of the conditions which created such a conflagration. US voters like tough talk but recoil from body bags, something that Trump understands perfectly. Hopefully therefore, the standoff between Washington and Teheran will cool rather than overheat during coming weeks. Such a damping down of tensions would assist President Trump to win a second term in 2020.
Sunday, 14 July 2019
Sunday, 7 July 2019
By M D Nalapat
Pandering to those who misused the name of religion for divisive purposes led to India’s partition. That warning from history ought to be heeded by Congress leaders.
Saturday, 6 July 2019
By M D Nalapat
Those looking towards a financial market in India that rewards not insider traders and ‘fixers’ but the retail investor are hopeful that justice will be done during Modi 2.0.
Saturday, 29 June 2019
By M D Nalapat
If the U.S.-India relationship is to move into high orbit, there will be need for India to begin a process of replacement of Russian weapons platforms with U.S. alternatives, now accessible to India where they were out of bounds in the past.
By M D Nalapat
Bernie Sanders-Kamala Harris ticket would energise the Democratic Party base.
Friday, 28 June 2019
From the first time he met him in 1973 to the last interview that he did of Sri P V Narasimha Rao in 2004, Prof. M D Nalapat shares his experience of this quiet achiever. Here is the article by Prof. Nalapat on Narasimha Rao's final humiliation
Wednesday, 26 June 2019
This year's G20 summit will be held in Osaka, Japan this week. Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the event. All eyes are on his meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump. The expected meeting is seen as key in restarting talks over China-U.S. trade disputes.
Monday, 24 June 2019
By M D Nalapat
The so-called Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was unused for prayer by the Shia community for decades. When it was destroyed in 1992 by an out-of-control assembly of activists, an international uproar ensued. Media in the US and Europe had almost entirely greeted with silence the forcible reduction of the Hindu minority in Pakistan from 38 per cent to less than 1 per cent since 1947, or the killings on an industrial scale of Hindus in Bangladesh (not usually by Bengalis but by settlers from other parts who in the Bangladesh freedom struggle remained loyal to the Pakistan army that was killing the Bengali segment of the local population by then) since 1951. They were in full cry after the collapse of the Babri Masjid, despite the fact that not a single member of the minority community lost his or her life during that incident. Especially in the 1990s, both BBC and CNN competed with each other to label those as ‘freedom fighters’ who had just months ago committed genocide against the Pandit in Kashmir valley. What such media were championing was the freedom of extremist elements to kill innocent and peaceful people of another faith.
Saturday, 22 June 2019
By M D Nalapat
In the case of US, India needs to be forthcoming on security matters, while being tough on commercial issues. In the case of China, India needs to be firm on matters concerning security, while ensuring leeway in purely commercial fields.
The clay mountains of Shaanxi province are a universe away from New Delhi, where US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is visiting, 25-27 June. The Global War on Terror (GWOT) is expected to figure high on Pompeo’s agenda in a context where there is disappointment in Washington about India not matching its tough words on terror with action on the ground in most theatres where terror groups that are clones of ISIS are active. Apart from not signing BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) as yet, India is still considering the purchase of S-400 systems from Russia, a purchase that would doom future hi-tech cooperation between the US and India in the joint development of weapons platforms. Such US-India cooperation is especially welcome in the context of the fullscope manner in which China is developing Pakistan as a manufacturing hub for military aircraft, missiles and nuclear technology, while still blocking India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. For this to happen, the S-400 bullet needs to be bitten and fast by India. After that, field cooperation could begin in Afghanistan and other theatres where terror groups are active. A robust security relationship with the US will assist in recruiting the Pentagon, the CIA and the State Department as allies against the US Trade Representative and the US Department of Commerce, both of whom wear outsize blinkers as they seek to implement measures that would destroy much of the small retail trade in India to the benefit of US tech giants. The USTR seems to feel little compunction in pressing for concessions on pharma and health pricing that would benefit a handful of US and European billionaires at the cost of tens of thousands of lives in India’s zone of poverty. In the case of the US, collaboration on matters of defence and security is desirable, while conceding to US demands on commercial matters is not. In the case of China, the situation is different. However, the fact that India will be the first country that President Xi Jinping visits after the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China is significant. Those close to him say that Xi, who enjoys a good rapport with Narendra Modi, is seeking a return to the early 1950s period of a close rapport between China and India. Of course, during that period, it was India that gave almost all the concessions. This time around, as much the bigger power, it is China’s turn to be generous to a country that can emerge as its biggest market in Eurasia in the years ahead. The importance that China under Xi is giving to Modi can be gauged from the fact that the traditional heart of China, Xian, has been visited by such notables as Presidents Bush and Obama, yet the only pictures on the City Wall are those of Xi and Modi. In Wuhan as well, the Lake Guest House has pictures of the Prime Minister all over the surroundings and inside the Guest House.
Chinese authorities will be watching closely the signals emanating from Delhi on the Pompeo visit. They are now certain that the Trump administration is determined to roll back Chinese influence through downsizing economic growth. In such a context, the Indian market is a tempting prize. However, for the potential for India-China economic and commercial relations to be fully realised, Beijing will need to give more attention towards India’s core concerns than has been the case thus far.