The mystery of covid vaccines in India

Today I write after a month of extreme stress in my home country. We saw heart-rending pleas for oxygen, plasma, medicine, etc on social media. Our governments were caught napping and basking in false bravado. This one month has destroyed the image of an emerging superpower, which was carefully being nurtured by the current govt. But despite all the missteps, there has been one glaring policy that has been appalling. End of April the Modi Govt decided to decentralize the decision-making process for the covid fight. At the peak of the second wave, the states were suddenly left to fend for themselves with vaccine acquisition being a state responsibility. At the same time, the govt announced everybody would be eligible for vaccinations without taking into account the vaccine stocks available or the vaccine manufacturing capacity as no advance orders were placed.

First, I would talk about our homegrown vaccine, Covaxin. They used old and tried and tested methodology of using an attenuated strain of the infecting virus for designing a vaccine. On paper, it was one of the best approaches but the issue was a lack of data. Despite the robustness of the approach, hard data is required to trust the vaccine. Just for reference by January 2021, Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, and Moderna, all vaccines for covid19, released their phase 3 clinical trials data but it was only in March Covaxin published its phase 2 clinical trials data in a peer-reviewed journal while phase 3 data haven’t been released publicly but the company has claimed an 81% efficacy without any peer review.

Second, the approvals for the Pfizer vaccine were withheld because Pfizer wants protection from any claims arising due to the vaccine use while Moderna is yet to apply for certification in India. Why the govt. hasn’t been proactive in soliciting more vaccines including the single-shot Jannsen vaccine is a mystery. Other than that, one of the arguments I have heard is that none of the above-mentioned vaccines have been tested on Indians. Despite my limited knowledge of vaccines and clinical trials, I can just say that this is a pandemic and I am sure many people of Indian origin and Indians living abroad have been administered the vaccines without any major adverse events, and on top of that a vaccine which is safe for use in the majority of the western world wouldn’t essentially have severe side effects. Even an expedited process could have been designed for the Indian context given that Covaxin was approved for use in India despite having no efficacy data.

Third point is the definite opening up of vaccinations for all. The govt. could have managed the whole process better and on this, I can always sympathize with the govt. because given the scale of vaccinations there can be no foolproof manner to go about it. The only thing where the govt. slipped up was ordering enough vaccines. Last week of April announcement gave the state govt and the central govt one week to place all the orders and the vaccine companies to start manufacturing like a billion doses which in an ideal scenario would have taken a year or so. Vaccine manufacturing can’t simply be scaled up so fast.

This pandemic has exposed the lack of knowledge in our politicians and they are busy managing their image instead of solving problems. The Delhi CM, an engineer from one of the elite institutes of India decides to kick up an international diplomatic storm by classifying a Singapore variant of the virus which is the Indian variant in Singapore. Oops sorry, there are no Indian variants because that is insulting the country.

The dawn of a ‘NEW’ New Delhi

Recently the Government of India started work on the process of a 900 crore new Parliament building adjacent to the old Parliament which is almost a century old. On the flip side, it sounds like a very sound decision. An old building may not make sense to spend loads of money to future proof it. But the problem isn’t the new Parliament but wider redevelopment plans envisaged by the current ruling government of Shri Narendra Modi.

Why am I against the redevelopment, you may ask? I am against the redevelopment not due to my political leanings but rather more practical reasons. The first problem I have is the issue with congestion. The new plans envisage not only a new parliament but more buildings which will come up after demolishing some old buildings and destroying a significant green area. Amongst the new buildings, a new residence for the PM, and a huge office secretariat complex to unify all the ministries at the same place as planned. The reasoning behind the whole idea is that it will increase efficiency in the functioning of the ministries. But then comes my question, with the govt. Of India pushing for a ‘Digital India’, the physical proximity of offices sound like hyperbole. New Delhi, the central area despite being very well planned is still choc-a-bloc with traffic and centralizing all offices is going to make it only worse. If anything we have learned from the Covid pandemic is the ability to embrace remote working and it kinda worked despite our misgivings. Hence again I am not sold on the idea of centralizing the offices in a single place.

The second problem I have is with destroying the character of the area. The area is full of public spaces with loads of green cover. The govt. Plans to plant 10 times the trees which would be cut down albeit at a different location. Here we are talking about cutting down very old trees. I will just put in an image of the current vista(courtesy: Newslaundry).

Central Vista (Credits: World Monuments Fund)

Also with the new buildings coming up, p[ublic spaces would be severely curtailed. No on paper, we will have more(?) public space but whom are we kidding? With new offices would come security perimeters because it would be housing some of the most important Govt. officials at one location and in our country, security is more of a sign of status rather than a necessity (Half of our parliamentarians have criminal cases against them). I really don’t care about demolishing many of the ‘bhawans’ as they hardly add to the architecture and many of them are actually eyesores.

But again I believe that the government wants is to create a legacy. It is similar to what the medieval kings upon coming to power, build a new fort and city to celebrate and cement their legacy. So, despite despising the Mughal rulers of India, here we have the leaders of the ruling dispensation is busy emulating them. One of the lasting impacts of such projects is it creates employment. But in the midst of a pandemic, one would wonder that spending 20k odd crores on a vanity project when the healthcare system of the country has been found to be more than wanting makes any sense or not, I will let the readers make their own judgment calls.

The noise over the passing of three farm bills in India

Recently (as usual) there was some drama over the passing of three agriculture focussed bills. The bills were passed easily through the Lok Sabha but when it came to Rajya Sabha we were witness to some legendary scenes of members of the opposition throwing rule books at the deputy chairman of the house, MP’s being thrown out of the house using house marshals, etc. So what are the bills which led to the drama? Let us see.

Bill number one was The Farmers Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Bill 2020., bill number two: The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill 2020. And bill number 3: Essential Commodities(Amendment) Act 2020. So what do these bills are about? These bills seek to abolish the role of the state-run Agricultural Produce Market Committee(APMC), reducing the role of middle-men who would buy at low prices from the APMC run markets and enable direct entry of corporates to secure sales of crops. 

So prima-facie it sounds like a win-win for farmers but why are the farmers in Haryana and Punjab protesting so much? It has to do with the fact that Punjab and Haryana are the major farmers of Rice and wheat. While wheat is the staple of much of north India while the rice consumption historically has been lower. So if the sale is made in an open market, the big farmers of Punjab and Haryana growing paddy are worried that they might take huge losses due to lower demand. Other states are kind of supporting the bill as they feel corporate involvement will lead to better storage, fairer price discovery, and as a result, increased incomes for the farmers. The govt’s role would be only to regulate the market instead of directly involved in buying unsold inventory. And any which ways only 22 crops are listed by govt for Minimum Support Price(MSP) and on top of the list would be paddy and wheat. 

Frankly speaking, I have little knowledge when it comes to the farming sector in India but it does sound like a reform towards a system in Europe and the USA but the govt. Needs to have enough checks and balances to ensure that like in Europe and The USA there are huge farm subsidies by the govt. Due to a fall in farmer incomes. And this is where my objection to the bills come. The Govt. refused to have any sort of discussion on the bills in the Parliament. I would have personbally liked a debate in the parliament where we could have gleamed the actual objections, pitfalls of the bill vs the advantages of the reforms but alas this govt. chose to bulldoze its way through the p[arliament.

The curious case of Delhi Riots and the misuse of the Government machinery

So secondary charge sheets were filed in the Delhi riots case. And to people’s surprise that the Delhi Police is hell-bent on linking all anti-CAA protests to the communal riots that left North Delhi scarred. So many prominent anti-CAA protestors like Yogendra Yadav, Sitaram Yechury, Jayati Ghosh, Apoorvanand, and Umar Kahlid, and Umar Khalid has already been arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act(UAPA). The funny part is a few days back a doctor from UP Dr. Kafeel AHmed who was arrested under the same act was released upon orders by the Allahabad high court and the charges under the act set aside.

Why have the people mentioned above have been named? Well, they gave speeches that exhorted the protesters to go to ‘any extent possible’ to stand against the law. The police in their hamhanded manner forgot nowhere the speeches attributed to the accused mentioned violent protests. They evoked Mahatma Gandhi, his principles, and national integration repeatedly. It is not surprising that 2 of the names in the list are professors, so if the govt. Can target the intellectuals it can scare the others into meek submission. And this is not even to do with the fact that BJP is the only party doing this.

In Maharastra, the Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut has become suddenly the beacon of hope against nepotism and drug abuse prevalent in the industry. She said many things which make no sense but the ruling Shiv-Sena govt which is in alliance with Congress decided to respond first a minister abusing her and then the local municipal authorities moving onto her house to demolish ‘illegal’ constructions. Giving a 24-hour notice to a person and then initiating action against a person who has opposing views isn’t a sign of law enforcement but rather a dictatorship. This just goes onto show doesn’t matter who is in power, they love to use power to put down opposition. 

Back to the Delhi riots and there were many prominent personalities who have voiced concern against the CAA law passed in December but if those speeches imply that a stringent anti-terror law like UAPA can be used to harass law-abiding citizens then it would put serious doubt in minds of dissenters. Many of us don’t have a safety net so if we choose to dissent against the govt, let it be policy or law we have to be scared that we might be branded terrorists and our careers ruined forever by an endless cycle of courts and becoming untouchable in the job market. This sets a dangerous precedent and reminds us of the emergency imposed by Mrs. Indira Gandhi, then the PM of India who incidentally jailed many of the leaders from the current ruling party including the PM. Hence it is more perplexing that the same leaders who have already bore the brunt of Govt. power choose to follow a similar path to cling onto power.

The ‘act of god’ and the Indian economy

The ‘act of god’ and the Indian economy

India faced it’s first economic contraction ever in recorded history after independence. The Indian GDP fell by 23.4% in the April-June quarter. And guess what is the headlines in some of the widely watched Indian news channels: Who or what led Sushant Singh Rajput to commit suicide? To say the least it is bizarre. So in the next few paragraphs, I will explain why the heading and what a bioinformatician feels about the Indian economy.

Just a day before the Indian economic figures were announced, the Finance minister Shrimati Nirmala Sitharaman, an alumnus of the much-maligned Indian Jawahar Lal Nehru University declared that the contraction in the Indian economy is expected and the Govt. couldn’t do much given the current coronavirus pandemic and it is a ‘ACT OF GOD’. I found the statement amusing not because she was lying but it was an easy way of deflecting the responsibility from the ruling party. I am not much of an economist but the Indian economy was already in the doldrums as the growth had slowed down to around 4% in the previous quarter reflecting a wider malaise in the economy and the pandemic simply managed to make an already bad situation worse.

The response of the Indian govt has been very strange to the slowdown brought about by the pandemic. Worldwide the major economies even the Trump govt. Decided to put more money into the hands of citizens in the form of tax cuts and COVID-specific allowance along with tax cuts for corporates so that job loss is minimized along with trying to maintain the spending by the public. On the contrary the Indian govt. Decided to provide stimulus to corporate India in the form of tax breaks which will be incurred in the future so it hardly helped the companies with the cash situation while creating uncertainty over jobs being saved over time. Nobody knew what was exactly the govt stimulus except for the fact it touted some big numbers out of which hardly 10% was a real hard cash component and the rest was to be accrued over time. A confused policy left nobody any wiser and it led to the amazing numbers as we can see today.

Now I will talk about the supporters of the govt. Look at the image below which was shared widely over the social media and many of my ‘educated’ friends sent to me.

Looking at the image we would be like ‘ Wow, at least we are not the worst-performing economy’. But the image hides lots of things. First is that the USA is the hardest hit economy and the fall in GDP reflects that but again the figure for the USA has been annualized that is calculated as a prediction for the whole year based on the previous quarter which was actually around 10% when compared to the June-mar quarter. While the Indian GDP data was for the Apr-Jun quarter(2020-21) and was the fall based on the same quarter for the year 2019-20. So the comparison isn’t exactly apples with apples but gives a certain comparison. Only UK reflects the impact of coronavirus in an economy that had the highest deaths in the European Union and the uncertainty in the economy due to the looming BREXIT. So it is now clear that the Indian economy was the worst-performing amongst the 20 biggest economies of the world.

So what is the problem with the ruling NDA govt? The problem is that the govt. is not acknowledging the economic slowdown. Second is the govt is instead of reducing the tax burden on the citizens, the govt has been increasing taxes on Petrol and Diesel, the primary fuel of the economy despite historic lows in the global prices. And not only the BJP govt but also the non-BJP state governments. are also guilty of using taxes on fuels to mop up extra revenue due to shortfall in other areas of revenue collection. The supporters of the govt. are somehow ok with historical high fuel prices when the prices are the lowest in the global market which is surprising because once upon a time the same people were furious over the previous govt when they had tried to de-regulate fuel prices and make it based on global prices when the global prices were above 100$/barrel. The govt. Somehow doesn’t have its ears to the ground and joblessness and lack of new opportunities are building resentment in the large youth population of India. The only thing that is saving the ruling party in the elections is the lack of a credible face in the opposition ranks. The opposition needs a charismatic mass leader otherwise this govt. Will keep getting a free license to keep getting away with murder.

The next quarter will determine the real quantum of the economic slump in India. With the economy opening up and the surge of cases in COVID patients in India somehow I am a bit skeptical of the economic outlook. The govt. As usual, is managing the headlines in the major media outlets spectacularly. The only bit of positive news coming out of India right now is from the Indo-china border with the Indian armed forces flexing its muscles and thwarting the attempts by the Chinese PLA to alter the status quo at the disputed border. For a change, India has acted proactively after the setbacks in the past few months and it has taken the upper hand in the border skirmishes.

Anti/Pro CAA protests in Northeast Delhi

A sad day indeed when a Policeman Rattan Lal and 4 civilians died in the clashes between Anti-CAA protestors, Pro-CAA protestors, and the Delhi Police. I will write what I feel and might be tagged many of the names people nowadays call and even be told I am not taking a stand. I am taking a stand just not taking any side.

The anti-CAA protestors mobilized and set up a protest near the Jafrabad Metro station and blocked the road 66. While protesting is a genuine form of dissent but I wouldn’t support the inconveniencing of the general public for protests. Blocking a road is bad at best. If you have to set up an additional site of protests go and lay siege on the India gate or where the PM stays or the parliament. Inconveniencing the general public is the best way to lose support for a cause and the anti-CAA protestors have shown utter disregard for the rest of the Indian citizens.

The protests were going on with Police trying to move them. But then a BJP leader Kapil Mishra gives a fiery speech in presence of Policemen, saying that the protestors would be removed if the police fail to do its job. The leader wasn’t arrested but allowed to roam around despite inciting crowds. What happened after that was appalling, to say the least. Videos shot by people show a different kind of images. Like the Police pelting stones, and beating up already injured people and forcing them to sing the national anthem while kicking them and saying things like ‘deta hu tujhe aazadi’. The police were also seen to be helping the ‘protestors’ trying to remove the protestors and doing nothing when a group was clashing with the other.

Another shocking image from the protests was a gun-wielding man shooting some rounds towards the police and was part of anti-CAA protestors. The argument of self-defense doesn’t allow anybody to just wield a gun and shoot. The anti-CAA protestors have misunderstood the support for the cause as the people being tolerant towards supporting the blocking of roads etc. Just beacuse people have been understanding of the blockade at Shaheen Bagh doesn’t give the anti-CAA protestors to block other roads. At the same time, the conduct of Delhi Police was bad, to say the least, and the way they allowed the pr-CAA protestors to go on a rampage was abhorrent.

The question isn’t about who started the violence first. The problem is a public road was being blocked in the name of freedom of expression and protest while another group of pro-govt. goons were allowed to go on a rampage while the police watched. In the end, 5 Indians died and till now neither the gunman has been arrested nor the politician inciting violence has been arrested.

Chernobyl is Phenomenal is it Time for a series on the Bhopal Tragedy?

A few years before Chernobyl happened, a disaster of similar proportions unfolded in the sleepy capital of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal. In a pesticide manufacturing factory owned by the Union Carbide Corporation of the USA, on the night of 2nd December 1984, Methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas was accidentally leaked which resulted in immediate death of around 2500 people with another 8000 people dying within two weeks of the event and a further 8000 dying later due to after effects of the gas leak. More than half a million people were exposed to the gas and are still suffering from the aftereffects. Bhopal Gas tragedy is the worst industrial disaster of modern times. Just to put into perspective, the Chernobyl disaster affected around 200000 people.

So why do we never get to hear much in the popular media about the Bhopal Gas tragedy? Is it because the company behind the disaster was American. Why did the US govt. fail to extradite the people responsible for the disaster back to India for prosecution or failed to prosecute themselves. It is strange because in the US people file all kind of cases against leaders/govts. across the world and the federal US govt is more than happy to admit cases against the Iran govt. or the ex Libyan Dictator but not the management of a chemical company tells you a story of hidden agendas. The Indian govt. didn’t exactly cover itself in glory and let the perpetrators get away from India and helped in all ways to minimize the compensation to be paid by the company. Even the cleanup efforts have faltered and the groundwater is slowly being poisoned by the chemicals in the factory. The next few sections will focus on the tragedy itself and the apathy of successive Indian govts. and use of bribery as methods for companies to get away with crimes.
People woke up in the middle of a cold December night with burning eyes, coughing and a burning sensation in the throat. People woke up to gas seeping through the doors and ran out of their houses to see bodies of animals and people scattered on the streets with many others stumbling across already half blind by the gas fumes. The US chemical giant which was known as the Union Carbide which was later merged with Dow chemicals and now part of the US giant named DowDupont. The hospitals in the city were ill-equipped to handle so many people and they had no clue what they were up against.

Just a glimpse of the night is enough to send shivers down one’s spine. This wasn’t the first leak which happened in the chemical plant. There are at least 3 instances of chemical leakage happening being documented officially before the fateful night. I came across this archival report in The NewYork Times, and it beautifully lists out all the lapses on the part of the Union Carbide and how inept they were regarding safety. Going through the report would make you realize how safety standards were blatantly violated both by executives in the Indian plant and by visiting executives from abroad and in the headquarters. It is a story of malfunctioning machinery, inadequately trained staff, cost-cutting, and inadequate warnings even after the event had occurred all point to a murky picture.

The Congress govt. both at the Centre and the state was inefficient, to say the least. Also, the CEO of Union Carbide, Warren Anderson, who was arrested was allowed to go escape the country and the highest powers of the country including the PMO helping him flee. The govt response was non-existent for the first few hours of the Chief Minister of the state escaping to the outskirts of the city to escape the deadly fumes. Not much is known against the govt activity in the immediate aftermath of the event just tells us how bad the response to the deadly event was!

It’s been 35 years since the tragedy, the second and third generation survivors are fighting against an array of disabilities at a scale hardly ever seen anywhere. Incidences of congenital diseases have spiked making a whole generation disabled with many suffering from multiple disorders. Even after so many years, people are scarred by the incident and successive govts. have done nothing to alleviate the pain. The compensation paid by the company was around 480 million dollars. To put that into perspective the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico amounted to a 21 billion dollar fine for BP. That tells you the story of how lives are thought to be dispensable in a country like India and command no value while in the western world even harm to livelihoods carries far more value. I leave you with some excellent articles which showcase the human cost of the disaster and the ineptitude of successive govts. in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

The great Indian Dance of Democracy comes to an end.

So, as the trends are finalising, it is pretty clear that the BJP has managed to improve its 2014 tally and actually win more seats. This achievement is admirable more-so due to the fact that almost all the opposition parties came together, along with a significant chunk of the urban Indian middle class. But at the end it was all about a choice : the mildly successful Narendra Modi or rag-tag challengers including Mayawati, Rahul Gandhi etc. The PM aptly summed up the situation that everyday you will have a new PM. And we were reminded of the United Front days of the 90’s when we had 2 PM’s in about 2 years and 3 if you include Atal Behari Vajpayee’s 11 day govt.

The elections were close to call initially as I amongst many of my urban friends thought that BJP has reached the pinnacle and the only way they can now go is down. I went through the data of a few states and was checking the vote share. Uttaranchal, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh were the few states I checked amongst others like West Bengal, Kerala and Tamilnadu before the Election Commission site hung on me. The surprising part was the lowest vote share that BJP got was in UP which was 49.3% and rest of the states it was higher than 50%. In WB, Kerala and TN it where it had smaller or minimal presence it was different. But the real story is in the biggest states it had a vote share of 50% which was unprecedented.

Even the much vaunted candidate from Begusarai, Kanhaiya Kumar, the media Darling was a poor third when it came to fighting the BJP. In Bihar and Assam along with ots allies BJP had around 45% voteshare and in Odisha it still had 34%. In Gujarat and Maharasthra I am sure it would have got more than 40% given the amount of seats they have won or are leading in. This tells you that this election was less about voting for Modi but more of vote against the lack of opposition. The people aren’t blind and they noticed in the last 5 years the parliamnet hardly functioned, there were hardly any noticeable debates and the star PM candidate, Rahul Gandhi has a dismal parliamentary record.

The opposition failed to latch on idling economy, lack of new employment generation and farmer distress. Instead they focussed on matters like Rafale jets scam which to the majority of Indians didn’t mean much because that didn’t affect their lives and was rather important for national security. The reputations of the opposition leaders didn’t help. This election also led to the almost death of communism of India. Just think about it that in 2004 they had 54 seats and now they are down to 5 seats. The Aam Aadmi Party experiment is slowly dying and might not survive beyond the next Delhi assembly elections. The national alternative which AAP could provide and rise above the usual caste and religious based politics was lost to oppotunism.

And I heard numerous ground reports and realised that BJP won despite widespread discontent against the local MP’s and that was solely due to the tireless efforts of the PM and Amit Shah. This election also made a pitch for decoupling the position of PM to the MP’s and make it more presidential style so that the people can elect local MP’s they like instead of voting for the central candidate happens and the PM/president is elected based on his individual capabilities. All the best to next 5 years of BJP govt. and no matter who says wht, the democarcy won’t die so easily in India.

The election that will change India! Or is it just rhetoric?

I have been gone a bit too long. The Indian elections are at full swing and 4 phases are already over out of the marathon 7 phases. This is indeed an improvement from the 9 phases in 2019. Already there are reports of the electronic voting machines(EVM’s) malfunctioning. The Election Commission of India(ECI) has been pretty tardy when it comes to complaints about violation of the model code of conduct especially the PM himself. On others, they have taken some action but the major leaders have been left untouched. This election is unprecedented by the fact that the use of social media has taken gigantic proportions. The PM giving non-political interviews while the Congress president avoiding any kind off one-on-one interviews.

So if I am to believe the opposition this election is for the survival of democracy in the country. Their concerns aren’t unfounded. This has been the first time in my living memory I have read reports of CBI and ED raids on opposition leaders during the election campaign. Usually, the powers that be need permission from the ECI before conducting any raids. When the opposition complained, The ECI cracked the whip and the raids have almost stopped. Indeed that indicates that the Govt. of India was indeed trying to intimidate the opposition parties and that has led almost all the opposition parties to unite in a battle for survival. The GOI introduced the electoral bond system which has led to an increase in corporate donations in an anonymous fashion and the ruling party, the BJP has been cornered almost 90% of the donations. The BJP is garnering almost 85% of the funds raised by all political parties and spending them at an equally fast pace.

So come to the next question if all the corporate houses are keen on the return of the BJP is democracy in danger? Is this the last election India will ever see and we will have BJP rule in the foreseeable future? Here I beg to differ with many of my friends across the political spectrum. I will elucidate my points in the coming sections.

First, we have to look at the rise of BJP and what it means for the country in general. For almost the first five decades of our independence, we had only Congress-led govts. The opposition whenever formed the govt was more of a ragtag group of regional parties across the country. In 1998 for the first time, we had a stable non-Congress govt. But again the leaders who led the BJP govt. lacked the killer instinct where they didn’t put much emphasis on expanding across the country but rather focussed on stitching alliances. Then we had 10 years of Congress-led govt which led us to this phase of the rise of BJP, the national party. Under the Modi-Shah leadership, the BJP went on an overdrive to make BJP a truly national party. They poached leaders from across parties and the prime focus was east, north-east and the south of the country. The BJP was trying to shake off the tag of the north Indian party.

This steps by the BJP led to the current dilemma of the regional parties. They were being threatened by the BJP on their own turf. The BJP could strong-arm them since they had an absolute majority in the parliament and didn’t need anybody to survive. The masses who were already fed up with the Congress found a real alternative to vote for the central govt. They discovered that the regional parties led by the satraps were busy furthering their own interests rather than of the country as a whole. This led to all the regional parties trying to forge alliances because if they couldn’t survive this election it might actually lead to re-emergence of Congress and convert India to a bi-party system where the 2 major national parties vie to form the govt. The regional parties with literally no role in the center would slowly fade away.

This election will not lead to re-emergence of Congress party per se but will set it up for success in the next round of elections. The problem with the Congress is that they are smug in the knowledge that if any party has the reach and presence to challenge the BJP it is them. They have been tardy in stitching alliances with the regional satraps because it will reduce their already reduced national clout and will lead to a revival of all the regional parties who actually had their origins in anti-congress ideology. Even if the alliances did happen they were essentially ideologically incompatible because for Congress to revive they would need the regional parties to die as the BJP has made a solid base which they are holding on pretty comfortably.

Now comes the next question is this scenario good for the country? Yes in a way. The reason is that the rise of BJP across India has shown us one thing that the people of India are thinking beyond state identities and the Indian nationalism is peaking. The BJP is using that narrative to expand rapidly. So does that mean just because the BJP is using nationalism does it mirror the rise of fascism? Frankly, the answer is a resounding NO. The Indian public might be enamoured at present by the nationalist narrative and the religious narrative but if the benefits of economic growth don’t percolate down fast enough this govt will definitely get the boot. We always underestimate the power of the Indian public and forget despite the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975, who was at the peak of her powers and popularity the Indian public rose up in defiance leading to the annulment of the same.

So to end this post, I would say No, Indian democracy isn’t at risk right now. And that coming from an anti-Modi person is something. The problem with our opposition right now is they are campaigning that vote for just about anybody, even if the person is a criminal but don’t vote for the BJP. And here all the parties are missing a trick. If I have to be a bi-partisan campaigner I would rather campaign that ‘ Don’t vote for the party but vote for the candidate’. If we do succeed in getting that message across the electorate we will have a different ballgame altogether. When the Aam Aadmi Party came into the picture that was the hope but in the heat of Indian politics, they also became just another political party. They forgot that successful revolutions are never instantaneous and the win in the Delhi elections just made them forget that. They have been doing some good work but their political choices have left much to be desired. They genuinely had a chance of becoming a pan-India political party but they squandered all the goodwill. So this Elections is more about India turning into a bi or tri-party system with other parties being decimated completely.

The Great Indian Circus nee elections.

So, another year, another election. The world’s largest democracy is going to polls and me being an Indian voter is sitting outside the country participating in online arguments with friends and trolls alike. I am made to understand that these elections will be like no other. Doesn’t it sound like just another superhero movie tagline? One side we have the greatest PM ever in the Universe, Mr. Narendra Modi and squaring up against him is the challenger Mr. Rahul Gandhi who, well has nothing to boast of other than being scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty who is being assisted my multiple frenemies like the BSP, SP, TMC, Communists (Yes I know they are endangered the world over).

If I am to believe the current ruling party of India, The NDA govt. has been nothing short of being a success. They have overcome the severe mistakes which the previous Govts have made and managed to turn around the country and its economy. They have delivered what no other govt has been able to achieve like 100% electrification, improved highway infrastructure, increased access to public sanitation, higher GDP growth amongst others. One of the major changes in Indian foreign policy has been witnessed viz-a-viz Pakistan where the last few major terrorist activities have been met with a muscular response from India and with overwhelming International support.

If I am to believe the opposition this govt. has nothing but been a spectacular failure. Steps like demonetization, the GST (debatable), curbs on freedom of expression, militant nationalism, cow vigilantes, economic and unemployment data fudging, Corruption in defence deals amongst others. Apparently, the threat posed by the present combo of Amit Shah-Modi is so grave that all ofthe opposition has to unite to defeat the ‘fascist’ Govt. The opposition is literally on the mat due to the reduced political funding and increased use of govt agencies to pursue cases against the opposition leaders. The threat to their existence especially the smaller regional parties is immense because the BJP is trying to enter their turf which incidentally they got by the ceding of the space by the Congress.

The question is who is right: the Govt. or the opposition? The truth is the whole debate needs more nuance which is sadly missing from our political and media discourse. The media is divided between two distinct camps. The govt is in the habit of blaming the last 60 years for anything going wrong and claiming the credit for anything going right. The opposition led by Congress is in disarray simply because they are too varied to be one. Almost all the opposition parties were born out of hatred for the Congress and now all of a sudden they want the Congress to be their B team. The Congress is the only other party other than the BJP with a pan India presence is actually going slow on the alliances as they want to be relevant again in national politics which they can’t possibly achieve by ceding more space to the existing regional parties. So the conundrum for congress is whether to survive and become a challenger again or be part of a cog in the wider opposition wheel. The BJP, I will have to admit has increased its political footprint significantly by both organisational abilities and cashing in on disgruntled leaders from the Congress. Ofcourse not everything has been clean but then this is Indian politics and which we thought will change with the launch of Aam Aadmi Party which turned out to be well a disappointment but that is a different story for a different blogpost.

This is hopefully many of the blog posts I will be writing in the run up to the elections. I will try to be objective but I will bare my political positions here. I am pretty much in the anti-Modi camp but can’t bring myself to support the existing opposition so am more of a ‘NOTA’ guy. In the following weeks, I will try to pick one topic of interest and try to objectively research the same and tell you about the progress in the last 5 years and the time before that. Thanks for reading and keep sharing.