Dadri and the Poison of Communalism by Aseem Prakash

In December 2002, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, while honoring outgoing Senator Strom Thurmond (who had turned 100 years old) made remarks that caused a political strom. Senator Lott noted that the United States would have been a better place if Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948 – this is when Thurmond ran on a segregationist platform. He said, “I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years either.”1

While Americans celebrate freedom of speech, they are less likely to tolerate racist speech from those in authority. Not surprisingly, Trent Lott’s remarks caused a firestorm. He profusely apologized on the television. However, America did not relent. Even President Bush condemned his remarks. Eventually, with no place to hide, he had to resign.

In this context, the remarks of both Mahesh Sharma and Lalu Yadav need to be condemned. Both are rabble rousers and have indulged in the worst kind of communal politics. I hoped to see Mahesh Sharma sacked from the cabinet. Similarly, I would like to see Congress and Nitish Kumar condemn Lalu’s remark on Hindus eating beef. Let us not forget that the rumor of greased cartridges sparked off the 1857 war of independence in Meerut which is about 64 kilometers from Dadri. Beef is an extremely sensitive issue and should be not be trifled with.

But the madness does not end there. CPM’s student wing SFI in organizing beef parties in Kerala.2 Would SFI dare organize pork parties?

Would Karunanidhi, who said that Ram is a figment of imagination, dare say this about other religions?3

Every civilized Indian should be shocked by the Dadri episode. It has always seemed to me that these sorts of episodes take place in intolerant countries such as Pakistan, where there are laws against blasphemy. Indeed, there have been several incidents of crowds lynching somebody accused of making a derogatory remark against the prophet. Or, in Bangladesh where Islamic militants are killing secular bloggers.

In this episode, only two individuals seemed to have shown maturity and sensitivity: Air Chief Arup Ruha and Corporal Mohamamd Sartaj. Raha promptly saw to it that the Sartaj’s family is moved to a safe place. Importantly, he did not hesitate to publicly condemn the barbaric incident.

I am impressed by Mohammad Sartaj, son of deceased Mohammad Ikhlaq. Sartaj is a corporal-rank technician in the IAF. He said: “Beef is not the real reason… This is big planning… My father taught me to respect elders. I would say ‘Ram Ram’, ‘namaste’ to all the elders in the village… We celebrated festivals together. Why would anyone want to attack our family? People are now afraid. I am afraid to return. There are about 25-30 Muslim families in the village, half of them have vacated their houses and left. Those who cannot afford to flee are staying there under fear.”4

Where is Modi in the picture? The secular left is quick to blame Modi for the Dadri incident. I am baffled: in a federal system, law and order is controlled by the state government. How can Modi be blamed for UP’s law and order issues? And if the Central government is to be blamed for what takes place in the states, then arguably Congress should be blamed for the Gujrat riot, because it was the party ruling the Center. The left-secular reaction is ill-informed, misguided, and eventually counter-productive.

My problem with Modi is on a different topic. I wanted to see the PM make a categorical statement condemning Dadri – did he not promise that he will be PM for all Indians, whether or not they voted for him? Why is he keeping quiet?

Whenever such heinous acts happen in the United States, the President is never shy about condemning them, although law and order is a state subject. Our PM is quite fond of the US — could he perhaps learn from this?

The PM is busy being a world leader. After the rock show in the US, he is now hosting Merkel and acting as if Dadri lynching never happened. I find this disturbing. I do not buy into the argument that the PM cannot comment on every incident. Dadri is not “any incident.” This is something very serious and must be addressed. Air Marshal Ruha and Corporal Sartaj have shown leadership and maturity to speak out – is it too much to expect that the PM will speak out as well?


2. college-becomes-social-media-debate-34924



Thus Spake Rahul Baba: You da “Feku” by Aseem Prakash

I have a confession to make. There are times when I want to laugh and cry at the same time. When Donald Trump opens his mouth, I confront these conflicting emotions. The same happens when Rahul baba speaks.

Yet, Rahul Baba has a valid point about the “feku” barb. During his recent visit to Bihar, he said, “A suit-boot barrister Mahatama Gandhi shed it for the sake of the poor, but Narendra Modi, who claims to be a tea-seller, went for Rs 15 lakh suit after becoming Prime Minister”… “Prime Minister Modi promised two lakh jobs, promised Rs 15 lakh to each account and to reduce high prices. Did it happen?” Rahul Gandhi asked. “Modi was and continues to be a ‘feku’.”

In any well-functioning democracy, the opposition must hold the ruling party accountable to its election promises. In the US, this often takes place via negative advertising. An excellent example is how the pledge not to raise taxes that President Bush (the father, not the son) made during his acceptance address at the Republican Party’s 1988 National Convention haunted him during the 1992 campaign. Because President Bush agreed to a tax increase during his Presidency, during the 1992 Presidential campaign, Bill Clinton skewered him on this subject. Here is the negative 30-second television ad that Clinton ran:

India needs hold its politicians accountable to their election promises as well. I am, therefore, glad that Rahul Gandhi is harping on this issue. The BJP and Modi repeatedly promised to bring black money back to India within 100 days of coming to power (and deposit 15 Lakh in every personal account). Now all sorts of excuses are being made as to why this is not possible. Amit Shah even had the cheek to say that “Modiji’s statement was an idiomatic expression (jumla) that was given during the Lok Sabha polls. Everybody knows that this black money doesn’t go to the accounts of people.”

The dishonesty does not end here. What about Netaji’s files? BJP made hangama about declassifying these files during the 2014 election. Now, excuses are being offered as to why this is not possible. Similarly, statehood for Delhi. The list goes on.

But the problem is more serious than not honoring election promises – which, in any case is endemic in Indian politics. It is the “soot-boot sarkar” mentality. Specifically, the narcissism that seems to drive the government’s domestic and international agenda. Apparently, when the TIME magazine carried a cover story on the PM, Why Modi Matters (May 7, 2015), and wanted to click his pictures, he spent disproportionate time in the photo session: “Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi rarely grants interviews as extensive as the two-hour exclusive TIME secured last week. For portrait photographer Peter Hapak, who shot the cover of this week’s magazine, getting a lengthy photo session is just as unusual.” “I had a very fortunate session with him,” Hapak tells TIME. “I had a full hour with him, which is very unusual because most of the time I only have 10 minutes for a portrait session.”

Two issues annoy me. First, it is the showbazi, including the tamasha in San Jose today with the PM trying to be a bollywood star in his appearance and body language. Will this solve India’s problems? Are companies so stupid to invest in India after a rock show? Companies will invest if India can cut its red tape, improve its infrastructure, and reduce corruption. The rock shows in San Jose or in New York do very little in this regard.

Second, the obsession with designer clothes. The Chinese President who was also visiting the US last week did not feel the need to wear designer clothes. Obama does not wear designer clothes, neither does David Cameroon. We have to get over “salla main to sahib ban gaya” mentality. I am not seeking the return of Manmohan Singh whose servility was embarrassing. Yes, India needs to project confidence. But it needs to be confidence backed by substance, not showbazi.

I thought that after the monogrammed suit episode Modi would become careful about his showbazi. But apparently not. Not surprisingly, politicians such as Rahul Gandhi, who seldom make thoughtful statements, are beginning to make sense

“Modiji Welcome” versus “Modi Go Away”: Split in US Academia by Aseem Prakash

PM Modi’s visit to the Silicon Valley has generated considerable excitement in the US academic community. Statements/declarations have been published both supporting and opposing this visit. I was curious to see who has signed these statements and might we discern some trends here.

Here are the sources of my information:
Against the visit:

Welcoming the visit:

While recognizing that these are not representative samples of US academia, I did a rough analysis. I have probably made errors in my quick coding. Nevertheless, some trends are quite evident:

Of the 135 professors who signed the petition opposing Modi’s visit, I counted:
– 116 from the Humanities,
– 18 from Social Sciences (including business schools),
– 1 from STEM sciences (including engineering), and
– none from the Medical Sciences.

In contrast, of the 150 academics who signed the petition welcoming Modi, I counted:
– 9 from Humanities,
– 28 from Social Sciences,
– 71 from STEM Sciences (including engineering), and
– 42 from the Medical Sciences.

Clearly, Humanities tend to dominate the anti-Modi group while the “technical” disciplines tend to support Modi.

What conclusions might one draw?

Why do the techie types love Modi but the Humanities types dislike (perhaps even hate) him? Does disciplinary training lead to this divergence? Or do scholars with specific ideological dispositions are attracted to humanities and technical disciplines respectively (selection problems)?

Is it that those favoring economic growth and technical initiatives favor Modi while those focused on religion and social issues oppose him?

One cannot argue that technical disciplines are apolitical — after all they took the trouble of circulating the petition welcoming Modi. There is more to this.

I think it is worth thinking about this disciplinary divide given the increased emphasis on STEM disciplines.

Foreign aid to domestic NGOs? by Dupuy, Ron and Prakash

This piece has just been published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review:

Here is the article:

Foreign Disentanglement

By Kendra Dupuy, James Ron, & Aseem Prakash

This past April, the Indian government suspended the operating license of Greenpeace-India and froze the group’s bank accounts. Citing “national interest” and “national security,” government officials alleged that Greenpeace was undermining India’s economy with its environmental campaigns. In the same month, the government placed the Ford Foundation on a security “watch list.” According to officials, the foundation was fomenting “communal disharmony” by funding Sabrang, a controversial Mumbai-based nongovernmental organization (NGO). These moves followed a government order (issued in October 2014) that instructed more than 10,000 India-based NGOs to report the amount, the source, and the use of each foreign contribution. By early this year, only 229 NGOs had filed the required reports, and the government responded to this lack of compliance by canceling the operating licenses of nearly 9,000 groups.

India’s crackdown on foreign funding to local NGOs is part of a broad trend. Consider Russia, where legislation passed in 2012 requires locally operating NGOs to register with a special government body before they can receive foreign aid. Although the legislation applies only to groups that engage in “political activities,” the Russian government defines that term so broadly that it encompasses virtually any effort aimed at influencing Russian state policies. NGOs that receive funding from non-Russian sources, moreover, must identify themselves as “foreign agents” in their communication material—a requirement that only heightens their sense of vulnerability. According to our research, dozens of governments worldwide have passed similar laws, and officials in many other countries are now considering measures of this kind.

In recent years, international donors have placed a great deal of hope in the NGO sector. They believe that NGOs—uncorrupted by the power of either the purse or the sword—are ideal vehicles for fostering development and promoting democracy. These warm feelings toward NGOs derive in part from the experience of advanced Western democracies. In countries such as the United States, nonprofit groups and social movement organizations have mobilized resources from local communities to confront important social, political, and economic problems. Crucially, people in those countries view such entities as belonging to “us” rather than “them.” Local fundraising helps make these groups accountable and provides them with political legitimacy.

Many NGOs in the developing world, however, can’t operate effectively without the financial support of foreign entities, and such funding typically flows through digital services that governments can easily monitor. That model involves built-in legitimacy problems: No community, after all, wants to be subject to the influence of wealthy external actors. Reliance on foreign money also allows governments to exercise significant leverage over NGOs. If the activities of an NGO bring it into conflict with its national government, officials can swiftly neutralize the group by blocking the international wire transfers that fund it. What’s more, governments are emboldened to crack down on outside funding of NGOs because doing so seldom generates domestic outrage.

Local NGOs’ dependence on foreign funding, while providing vital resources, renders them vulnerable to governmental pressure and social stigma. If NGOs want to preserve their independence, we believe, then they must learn to raise funds from people in the country that they serve. Along with helping to insulate them from legal threats, local fundraising efforts will boost their legitimacy among local populations.


To understand how and why laws that restrict foreign aid to NGOs spread, we systematically combed through legal records and NGO reports to tally the governments that passed such laws between 1993 and 2012. In our research, we focused on low- and middle-income countries. Of the 153 countries that fall into that category, 39 adopted restrictive legislation during that 20-year period. That figure represents a significant increase: Before 1993, only 6 countries had restricted foreign funding to local NGOs.

These restricting governments exist in all parts of the globe, but the majority of them are in countries that the World Bank labels as “low-income.” Not surprisingly, many of these governments receive substantial overseas aid. For the 39 countries that restrict aid, the median annual assistance package comes to $750 million—which is nearly double the median amount of annual aid that all countries in our sample receive. Indeed, international aid accounted for 7.5 percent of the gross domestic product of the median restricting country. In their political structure, most restricting countries are semi-authoritarian: On a widely used scale that ranges from minus-10 (for full autocracies) to plus-10 (for full democracies), they have an average rank of 5.

Significantly, most of these countries had also experienced meaningful political contestation before they adopted measures to restrict NGO activity. In fact, 62 percent of them had held a competitive national legislative or executive election during the four years that preceded adoption of such measures. Many restricting countries, therefore, are what political scientists call “competitive authoritarians.” In such states, incumbents maintain power with the help of formal democratic institutions, but they skew election results by manipulating media coverage, campaign funding, and electoral procedures.

To identify crackdown triggers, we ran statistical models that correlate the onset of restrictions on NGO foreign aid with various risk factors—national income, regime type, international political alliances, and so on. We discovered that inflows of foreign aid were an important risk factor: The more aid that a country received from abroad, the more likely that country’s government was to crack down on such aid. This pattern was especially notable, we found, after a nationally competitive election. The interaction of domestic political uncertainty with large flows of international aid makes incumbents extremely nervous.

The mechanism that drives this result, we believe, is political fear. Increasingly, foreign donors are bypassing national governments and sending aid to local NGOs in the hope these groups will use the money more effectively—and more transparently—than government agencies would use it. Rulers fear this flow of money to NGOs in part because the latter groups have real or perceived ties to political challengers. In many cases, NGOs also have mobilization networks and provide alternative sources of information, and challengers can use those assets in times of national debate and electoral contestation. The more foreign aid that comes into a country, the more fearful incumbents become—and the more inclined they are to crack down on NGOs that receive such aid. The NGOs, meanwhile, are highly vulnerable to these assaults.

Take the example of Ethiopia. In 2010, the Ethiopian government passed the Charities and Societies Proclamation Act, which prohibits politically active NGOs from raising more than 10 percent of their budget from foreign sources. In particular, the law targets groups that work on issues related to human rights, democracy, gender, religion, the rights of children and the disabled, conflict resolution and reconciliation, law enforcement and criminal justice, and elections and democratization.

The new law—as we note in a study published in 2014—caused most human rights organizations in Ethiopia to close down entirely. In some instances, organizations that engage in a wide variety of activities were able to survive by discontinuing the human rights component of their work, or by relabeling such work. But by drastically reducing local NGOs’ access to foreign aid, the government ended an array of human rights efforts in one fell swoop. The Ethiopian public, for its part, was unable or unwilling to make up for the loss of funding. Nor did it protest the regulatory crackdown in a robust way.


Foreign funding often has this contradictory effect. In the short term, it fosters the creation of highly professional, advocacy-oriented NGOs that are able to achieve real momentum in the development of civil society. Over time, however, aid from abroad erodes the need for local financial and political support, even as it poses an increasing political threat to anxious, semi-authoritarian rulers. In the wake of nationally competitive elections, this combination often becomes toxic: Governments restrict the flow of outside aid, and local NGOs can’t mobilize the domestic support that they need to survive. In these instances, the provision of international aid to local NGOs becomes a classic example of good intentions gone awry.

In the 1982 movie Gandhi, the eponymous leader of the Indian independence movement receives a visit in prison from an English friend of his. When the friend asks Gandhi how he can help the movement, Gandhi responds: “I think, Charlie, that you can help us most by taking that assignment you’ve been offered in Fiji. … I have to be sure … that what we do can be done by Indians alone.” Even in the direst of circumstances, Gandhi followed a strategy that focused on self-reliance.

For many NGOs that operate in low-income countries, a decision to raise much of their funding from in-country sources will pose a serious challenge. Yet estimates by the Gallup polling firm show that even in poor countries, people do give money to charitable causes. Today, more often than not, that money goes to traditional charitable organizations—to religious bodies, schools, hospitals, and the like. (Such institutions are vitally important, but they rarely pursue the kind of public advocacy that can yield changes in law and policy.) To tap into domestic sources of funding, Western-supported NGOs will need to adjust their messaging, their operating style, and their hiring practices. International donors can provide incentives, as well as material support, for NGOs to begin that adjustment process.

Government crackdowns on NGO activity are a consequence of incumbent political insecurity, coupled with the fact that NGOs have no local base of financial or political support. To fight back, NGOs must redouble their efforts to cultivate resources within their own country. Doing so will not only weaken the hold that governments have over them but also make them more accountable and more attentive to local needs. International donors, for their part, must recognize that they cannot simply purchase civil society engagement or economic development. This isn’t to say that international support doesn’t matter; often it does matter. More often than not, however, it matters only when domestic institutions are strong in their own right. If people in developing and formerly Communist countries want to have a vibrant NGO sector, they must learn to pay for it.


Kendra Dupuy is a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Washington and a researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institute, an international development research organization based in Bergen, Norway.

James Ron holds the Harold E. Stassen Chair of International Affairs at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and in the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota.

Aseem Prakash is Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Walker Family Professor for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is also director of the Center for Environmental Politics at that university.

Rethinking Affirmative Action by Anil K. Gupta

The crisis in Gujarat due to call for reservation for Patels, otherwise a very prosperous and helpful community is essentially an issue of lack of seats in MBBS. The solution is not to get OBC quota so that few jobs if any are also shared by this community. There are not many government jobs any way.

The real issue, it seems is the comparative difference in the cut off marks in merit list for admission ot MBBS course. In engineering there are enough seats available, so tensions may be lesser. how to address this perceived injustice by one of the most prosperous, entrepreneurial and collaborative community?

A few possible suggestions:

a). Create a special quote for economically disadvantaged communities, regardless of caste with in the existing quote or by expanding it

b). Expand seats for medical education without in any way compromising with quality

c). Remove all quotas in which students with lower cut off get admission due to donation whether from Indian or foreign, i.e. NRI sources ( after all that is also reservation for rich)

d). Restrict the benefit of reservation to non creamy layer only for one generation once till class 1, class 2, class 3 jobs but in class 4, this reservation may not apply.

e). Eventually, we should advise all those who have benefited from reservation to contribute to a national NIDHI, a fund for helping the poor OBCs students come up in their life; even others should be encouraged to make 100 per cent tax deductible contribution.

If there are any other constructive ideas, please share. We do not want creative and constructive energy of our youth to be lost in violence or denial of social justice benefits to the less privileged.

I have tried to be as fair as possible and hope that spirit of cooperation, mutual respect and
understanding will be displayed while commenting on these ideas.

Mr @NarayanMurthy complains too much!!! by Anil K. Gupta

Making money is good. Making a lot of money is even better. But while doing so, if one does not invent, develop new heuristics of compassion, collaboration, creativity and connectivity then it is perhaps not so good. I will pass the issue of how many earth shattering ideas came out from his company or how much investment did he make in creative and innovative ideas of students or scientists? That is a relevant argument but I will ignore it fur present. I accept that while his brother-in-law makes a big contribution to MIT which Mr Murthy admires so much but he has no obligation to invest in futuristic research at IITs and IIMs. Granted. To say india did not produce any idea worth its name is to pass a stricture against all those who valiantly developed technology at CFTRI CSIR to make powder out of buffalo milk without which white revolution would not have been possible. We would not have saved more milk in flush season to supply in scarcity season.

But let us talk about non-monetary processes of institution building for creating or reinforcing a creative, innovative ecosystem in the country. When was created, idea was that no student should do what others have already done. There should be a premium on originality and innovation. A connection should be made between the problems of informal sector, msme/ small entrepreneurs and even public systems and the final year project of the students. Mr Murthy has given jobs to thousands of young engineers of our country often for doing highly repetitive tasks. After all, That lifted the lives of these employees and their families up and brought prosperity to the country. So what if there is not a single product or service that I and you use in every day life which did not get prioritised in the process. I will ignore that. But what about the project ideas those students had done in their final year before joining the Infosys. Is he saying that not one of them had the talent and potential worth investing in as intra-preneur? Let him spend some idea browsing through the database of 180,000 technology projects pursued by over 500k students from all over the country. Could he not find one idea which he could have mentored and nurtured?

Let him see a project by a student from IISc which was recognised by Dr R A Mashelkar with Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Award last year. This student realised that when a ray of light passes through cancerous cell, which have mores sodium ions than potassium, it refracts more and less of it goes through. Same ray whiles passing through a normal cell having more potassium ions than sodium, passes through more and refracts less. Using this simple but profound heuristic, he developed a technique for non invasive detection of cancer at an early stage for which not many methods exist in the world. Now this student will be easily hired by an international Lab, this work done in india will be supported there and we will give credit to those institutions for having made a breakthrough.

Who is responsible for such neglect of highly valuable ideas? Of course government, experts, academics and every body under the sun except corporate leaders who invest practically nothing in the brilliant ideas of youth.

How long can this blame game go on? UNICEF invites a walker with adjustable legs conceived by Shalini, class 8 th girl and fabricated and designed by NIF team with the help of local experts for an international conference on assistive technologies in Denmark because even in USA such a walker dies not exist. The company which is commercialising it has given few lakh rupees as licensing fee to this create student. She gets royalty on each piece sold on the market. It will make life of many elderly and physically challenged people easier. Santokh Singh and Khushwant Rai Converted a Dot matrix printer into a Braille printer. School students are proud that their idea was also showcased at the launch of global innovation centre at New York. Which high net-worth individual has invested in these ideas in the last twenty five years of honey bee network, exceptions apart? BIRAC -a company set up by Department of Biotechnology has come forward to invest 15 lakh each on 15 innovative ideas of tech youth and one lakh each in hundred other ideas through a partnership with Sristi. I hope private sector will follow suit instead of only complaining about what india does not do right.

I agree that Mr murthy has no responsibility for Indian failure to produce any breakthrough ideas ( which is not completely true) in the last sixty years. I also agree that his company has also no responsibility to spot, sustain and spawn talent even in the field of ICT and computer sciences, forget other areas of social and humanitarian concerns. We want less government but would not share the burden of empathetic governance. Thanks, Mr Murthy, for telling us how nations are built. During next visit to MIT, pl find out how much investment it gets from industry for doing whet it does so well. Indian tragedy is the habit of blaming every body else about what is wrong with us but not to do anything or enough ourselves to remedy the situation. Mr Murthy may complain too much, no? But he is a honourable man and has generated so many jobs.

Thullas, Pandus and Delhi Police by Aseem Prakash

Kejriwal has little commitment to good governance. He is a permanent agitator. His outburst against Delhi police and name calling was shameful. Yet, on the issue of Delhi government exercising control over Delhi Police, he is right.

The core function of any government is to provide security; one does not have to read Hobbes’ Leviathan or Mancur Olson’s Dictatorship, Democracy, and Development to recognize this accepted fact. Governments that cannot provide security to individuals and their properties are classified as “failed” states. The critical obligation of the state to provide security holds at the national level as well as at the state level (recall, Lalu Yadav was taken to task for jungle raj in Bihar). It also holds at the city level — Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s claim to fame was that his administration improved law and order in New York. Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago suffered huge political ignominy when “his” police could not control the violent protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

If the state is expected to provide security, then it must exercise control over the instruments or agencies that provide this service. This is where the police come in.

Kejriwal, no matter how obnoxious, is the legitimately elected Chief Minister of Delhi. Like other CMs, his performance is evaluated by Delhi citizens on the subject of law and order. If the citizens feel unsafe, they will blame the CM — I doubt they understand the institutional intricacies of Delhi government. Should then Delhi government not exercise control over Delhi Police? Isn’t this what the BJP has been demanding for the last 20 years – “full statehood” for Delhi? And it is important to bear in mind that we are talking about law and order set up in a megapolis with a population in the range of 18-20 million.

What are the objections? The first pertains to the issue of VIP security and security for diplomats. This should be a non-issue. In most developed countries, local authorities in the capital city exercise administrative control over the local police and their VIPs and diplomats are quite safe. In some cases, the local and federal police have joint jurisdiction over certain areas, for example, Washington, DC. In contrast, New York has a huge presence of diplomats who are kept safe by the NYPD. If we think that Delhi Police reporting to Delhi Government will not be able to provide security to Indian VIPs and foreign diplomats then perhaps India should create a special federal police (or designate say CISF for this task) and give it joint jurisdiction with Delhi Police in specific areas (e.g., NDMC areas).

There is a second objective which is more complicated. If my logic holds, Mumbai Police should then report to the Mayor of Mumbai and not to Maharashtra government. Same with most major cities in other states. This is valid concern and needs to be debated.

Complicating the issue is the institutional nightmare of Delhi governance. In addition to the state government, Delhi also has three municipal corporations (North MCD, South MCD, and East MCD) along with the NDMC and the Cantonment Board. The previous Congress government, of course, added to the institutional mess when they broke up the MCD into three MCDs. So, one might argue that if the idea is to decentralize, then why not break up Delhi police and have different components report to different MCDs? What is the optimal level of decentralization? Should different public services by provided by governance units at different scales as Nobel Laureate Ostrom’s model of polycentric governance suggests, or should one centralize the provision of public services in one body?

I think these are valid issues to be debated but they should not prevent us from dismantling the current dysfunctional and irrational model with the Central Government which is not accountable to Delhi’s citizens exercising control over Delhi Police.

Politicians have incentives to hold on to levers of power. Delhi police is an instrument for exercising control and distributing patronage. The BJP did not create this institutional dysfunctionality. The previous Congress government had precisely the same problem. And I suspect, if the AAP were to ever rule at the Center (god forbid), they will have suffer from the same pathology (one might argue that they are already suffering from it).

This is why one must have faith in institutions, not individuals, and must rationally design institutions. Modi should get this. He was elected on a good governance platform. He should not allow this irrational set up to continue. So much of energy and time is wasted on the stupid squabbles between the LG and the CM in the face of mounting problems that citizens of Delhi face. This is inexcusable.

Kejriwal is not the issue here; he is just a distraction. There is a wonderful political opportunity for Modi to show leadership and commitment to good and rational governance. He has shown the will to rationalize governance — think of the GST bill. Will he show political imagination on this subject as well?

The Scream of Silence by Aseem Prakash

Manmohan Singh was criticized for keeping mum while his ministers plundered the country. His apologists argued that this was the price he had to pay to keep the UPA coalition together, especially the DMK. In some other cases, he had to keep 10 Janpath or their alleged favorites, in good humor. Bottom line: Manmohan Singh was an honest man who had to survive in a dishonest system.

A less charitable explanation is that he loved being the Prime Minister and was prepared to look the other way to keep his kursi. After all Bhishma Pitamah kept quiet and Dhritarashtra did not protest when Draupadi was disrobed in the court of Hastinapur. So, what’s the big deal if a spineless politician who has never won a popular election decided to “see no corruption, hear no corruption, and speak no corruption.”

What excuse does Narendra Modi have? His silence is significant given the digital PM’s proclivities to tweet about a range of issues. And what about his assertion during the election campaign: “Na khaunga, na khane dunga.” Does he not realize that he is losing credibility, fast?

Modi can be decisive. He is a grassroots leader, not the spineless Manmohan. He took on Vaghela, Keshubahi, Togadia, Advani, CBI and prevailed. So, what’s the deal now?

The BJP has an absolutely majority in the Lok Shaba; one cannot therefore blame Modi’s silence on coalition politics. In any case, the ministers and CMs involved in the alleged scandals are from the BJP.

Is there a pressure from Nagpur to retain these folks; the Vyapam case in particular might bring considerable grief to important RSS functionaries. Because Nagpur is the new 10 Janpath, the CM of MP has to be protected. This is plausible. Of course, Raje gets a free ride; if the RSS decides that Chouhan has to be protected, then she will be protected as well. If she is allowed to go, there is a strong possibility of a domino effect in the neighboring state.

There is another dimension to this strange silence. Perhaps the PM lives in a political cocoon. He is very busy being a world leader, wearing designer clothes, and launching new initiatives such as Skill India or International Yoga Day or Swach Bharat Abhiyan. He has outsourced political inconveniences such as Lalit Modi and Vyapam to Amit Shah, the grand victor of UP in the Lok Sabha elections. His “Shah moh” makes him blind to the fact Shah as the BJP president is punching much above his weight (figuratively speaking). PM might also believe that these scandals have a short shelf life. People will soon forget and move on to the next scandal (remember the famous dialogs of Richard Gere in Chicago). He is quite wrong.

Of course, one might argue that politicians should not be tried by the media. But UPA politicians were tried by the media and BJP took full advantage of it. Moreover, the issues at stake are serious. In the US, it is inconceivable that any minster abetting a fugitive would survive in office (it is actually a federal crime to render any kind of assistance to a fugitive). It is also inconceivable that a large number of witnesses in a major enquiry begin to die in mysterious circumstances and the Justice Department is unable to act on it.

The PM cannot effectively run the country by tweeting, announcing cutely worded initiatives, or undertaking overseas trips to enhance his image as global leader. These scandals are above Amit Shah’s pay grade. The time to take action and show commitment to good governance is now. Will he act?

Yoga Politics by Aseem Prakash

Twitter exchanges over the International Yoga Day seem to confirm my view that this medium brings out the worst in politicians. There is race to be the first to say something cute and dramatic. Sometimes this cuteness backfires. The twitter disease afflicts all political parties: Ram Madhav, Lalu Yadav, Sitaram Yechury, and so on. Of course, politicians can follow the Manohar Parrikar model of making bewildering statements through the traditional media channels. But twitter is better: it allows them to air their stupidity instantly.

Given the twitter mess, I have a constructive suggestion to offer. As a follow up to the International Yoga Day, the Prime Minister NaMo should organize the International Maun Vrat Day. Everybody will need to keep quiet — no talking, no twittering, or any other form of communication — for full 24 hours. Imagine the energy that will be saved by this endeavor. Perhaps, there should be a public display of Maun Vrat in Wardha and the late Vinoba Bhave can be portrayed as the global Maun Vrat brand ambassador. Former PM Manmohan Singh is another possibility for this august position. This will be a great follow up to the Yoga Day because it is inspired by Indian traditions and tells the world that Indians know how to shut up ( This will put India in the global leadership position: fostering world dialogue through Maun Vrat.

But moving beyond the exciting possibility of organizing the International Maun Vrat day, how might one interpret the International Yoga day. Is this a new fad of Prime Minister NaMo? After cleaning up India through the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, is he seeking to improve our physical and spiritual health? Will he be naming celebrities as Brand Ambassadors for this event? If so, might we expect Bollywood celebrities and cricket celebrities queuing up for this important task? This will add glamour to “dog’s body movement” as Sitaram Yechury has so astutely noted (perhaps, you will now appreciate why the CPM is in such a mess).

The Government of India website on the Yoga Day is not particularly informative: . The Wikipedia site on this subject notes (

“June 21, was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 2014. Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice or discipline that originated in India. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his UN Address suggested the date to be June 21 as the International Day of Yoga as it is the longest day of the year (Summer Solstice) … Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his address to UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014 stated: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. This tradition is 5000 years old. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.””

Here are my takeaways. First, India wants to save the world. Second, India can draw on its tradition to save the world. Third, Yoga can help us address climate change and therefore save the world.

Quite amazing, to think of it. We are barely able to save ourselves; and we are hoping to save the world. It is the Nehru disease all over again.

Since I study environmental policy, I found the claim about climate change to be interesting. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has suggested Yoga as a way to deal with climate change. Pope Francis has jumped into the climate debate but he has stayed away from prescribing Yoga (if you do not believe me, see for yourself:

I wonder how Yoga might help us in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Will it help us to make a transition from a fossil fuel-based to a solar-based economy? Will it enable us to protect our forests and still clock 8% economic growth? If so, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should take a serious look at these yogic ideas (perhaps without Rajendra Pachauri at the helm). Al Gore might also be persuaded to make a documentary entitled “The Convenient Truth: Yoga and Climate Change.” The downside is that Gore being Gore, he might claim that he invented Yoga, the way he claimed to have invented the Internet. Perhaps, inviting Gore to this project is not a good idea if India seeks global leadership via Yoga.

Politics is a demanding business. One needs to be physically and mentally tough. I applaud politicians who can demonstrate their physical fitness. Lalu Yadav tells us that Nehruji was a yogi. Putin is an avid sportman. Angela Merkel likes to ski. In US politics, politicians are expected to show off their fitness; after all, America is a very physical country. Jimmy Carter was famous for his jogging, Ronald Reagan for chopping wood on his ranch, George Bush for mountain biking, Bill Clinton … I’m sure he did his share of physical exercise. Even Dick Cheney sought to show his physical fitness by shooting innocent birds (sometimes his friends as well, by mistake, of course)

Arguably, Indian politicians across the spectrum are vicariously fit because they control physically demanding sports such as cricket via the BCCI and the IPL (and other sports bodies). This is a comforting thought; our country is run by a Yogi with ample help from the sporty types.

So, why am I complaining? I object when politicians employ state machinery to publicize their personal fads. Yes, Namo is not the first to use state machinery to popularize Yoga. Remember Dhirendra Brahmachari, the “flying swami” who had an asharam near Gol Market and an arms factory in Katra, Jammu. He received substantial state patronage to popularize Yoga during Indira Gandhi’s regime. Baba Ramdev, to his credit, popularized Yoga without state patronage – though he does the share the taste of traveling in private jets with Dhirendra Brahmchari.

But Namo should do better. He has good ideas. For example, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a fantastic initiative that can make a real difference in the quality of lives of millions of Indians. Same with the Ganga Action plan. Perhaps, the government should focus on a few projects and and see them through completion. There is no need to float a new fad every couple of months. Getting the UN declare June 21 as the International Yoga Day does very little for India or for the world. It distracts attention from the pressing problems of the day.

Arvind Kejriwal ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai? by Aseem Prakash

How might explain the charade being enacted in Delhi? I can identify three plausible explanations. Here they are.

1. Kejriwal: The logic of permanent agitation

Kejriwal’s core competency is to agitate. In doing so, he seeks to play the role of the underdog who is taking on powerful interests. He is the angry (young?) man of Indian politics. Kejriwal is not interested in governance. To be fair to him, he knows his limitations in this regard. He is realistic; does what he knows best.

The episode over appointing the Acting Chief Secretary provided him with the opportunity to launch another agitation. He now has the attention of the media. He has moved the discussion from Bhushan-Yadav rebellion to injustice being meted out by the LG to the elected government of Delhi. Bureaucrats are not his constituency; he is merely using them as his punching bag.

2. BJP: The logic of taking panga and watching the fun

I wonder if the BJP has recovered from its rout in Delhi elections. Bedi is out but it is not clear who has replaced her as the leader. Delhi politics seems like a waste of time for the BJP — until next Lok Sahba elections, of course.

Further, there are other important issues on the agenda. The Prime Minister is inflicted with the Nehru-disease and has become a world leader. When he visits India, he is absorbed in tweeting, selfies, man-ki-baat, and coining yet another slogan.

But the BJP has been vocal on the issue of statehood of Delhi for the last 25 years. They have opposed meddling by governors in state administration (e.g. the spat between Governor Kamla Beniwal and CM Narendra Modi over the appointment of Lokayukta in Gujrat). Isn’t this a great opportunity for the BJP to walk the walk? Shucks, no! As Orwell noted in 1984, “Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” Selective amnesia is necessary for political survival.

What then explains the BJP’s approach to these events? The issue is not Delhi; it is the AAP. The BJP cannot allow the AAP to consolidate itself in Delhi. So, needle them. Exploit the fact that Kejriwal has a temper – provoke him and watch the fun. The game-plan is working well. Kejriwal is over-reacting – his treatment of Delhi bureaucrats reminds me of the stories I have heard of Bihar under Lalu, and UP under BSP and SP. Further, in the war is between the LG and Kejriwal; the BJP is not directly implicated. Smart strategy!

3. Najeeb Jung: The logic of permanent interests, not permanent friends

The LG of Delhi is a very coveted post, I mean really coveted. Lots of lobbying. Only the most loyal get appointed. This Najeeb Jung is a Congress appointee and yet he has not been sacked or transferred by the BJP. Well, he has now become a BJP man. This works well for both. BJP can duck the accusation of communalism and he can continue as the LG.

If Jung plays along with the BJP, he might be allowed complete his full term. Plus, when his term ends in 2018, the Modi government would still be in power. There are lots of plum appointments to be secured – Ambassadorship to a nice country, another governorship, endless possibilities. The LG has a long shadow of the future; he is a role model in the rational actor framework. The beauty of this strategy is that Jung has a legitimate rationale for his actions – as per the Constitution, he is the one who appoints Delhi bureaucrats, and not the CM.

Which of the theory(s) is (are) true? My sense is that all are true. All actors in this charade are acting rationally. Individual rationality is leading to collective irrationality, especially for the citizens of Delhi.

I wonder if Delhi is fast becoming a “failed state.”