Among several books on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies and politics, a heavy-duty volume is due for release soon. Titled Modi Shaping a Global Order in Flux, the volume of 23 essays has articles by IDSA (Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses) head Sujan Chinoy, JNU China scholar Srikanth Kondapalli, Harsh Pant and Chirayu Thakkar of ORF (Observer Research Foundation), former Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon, EAC-PM Chairman Bibek Debroy, author Amish Tripathi, economist Surjit Bhalla, Nasscom president Debjani Ghosh, G20 sherpa Amitabh Kant and IDSA scholars Uttam Sinha and Ruchita Beri among others. The volume studies India’s engagement with the Indo-Pacific, the challenge of China’s power games, the post-Taliban scenario in South Asia, the rise of India’s soft power and its evolving policies with Russia and the Gulf, besides other issues like the country’s economic prospects. A compact reader with good value, the book was launched by BJP President JP Nadda this week. The notable authors and a foreword by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar make the volume a must-read for its crisp analysis of current events and Modi’s role in steering India through uncertain times. Edited by BJP foreign cell chief Vijay Chauthaiwale (who also contributes), Chinoy and Sinha, the book can be seen as a sound and credible analysis of the Modi government’s policies.
Two Steps Back In Ladakh
The demand for the application of the Sixth Schedule in Ladakh has taken observers by surprise. The issue of the schedule, intended to protect tribal customs and interests, and restrict the activities of outsiders, has arisen not long after the region was declared a Union territory, signalling a separation from Jammu and Kashmir in keeping with a long-pending demand from residents. A concern that the hill council in Ladakh has lost its relevance under the lieutenant governor seems to be a factor fuelling the fresh demand. But there might be a little more to it. Some of Ladakh’s older politicians who were also part of the Ladakh Buddhist Association in its initial years are feeling somewhat left out of the new scheme of things. In fact, they are so used to making demands that they find the current situation quite alien and have been quick to reprise the issue of ‘identity’ under the Sixth Schedule demand. For its part, the Centre needs to quickly assure public opinion in the Union territory that residents will not be swamped by outsiders and the region’s unique geography and demographics will be protected. However, as more reasoned commentators point out, placing Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule will be a retrograde step at a time when political and economic integration with the mainland is opening new avenues for the youth.
NITI Aayog’s New Face
The appointment of seasoned bureaucrat BVR Subrahmanyam as CEO of NITI Aayog means that his angst about being appointed to head the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) has resonated with the political bosses. BVR made no secret of his unhappiness with the assignment. But the quick change at NITI Aayog, from where Parameswaran Iyer has been moved out to the World Bank as executive director also indicates that Iyer, who gained attention as head of the Swachh Bharat Mission, just could not find his feet at the think-tank. It is expected that Subrahmanyam who, like previous CEO Amitabh Kant, has the ability to work in a mission mode and deliver results, will be able to steer NITI Aayog more efficiently.
Opposition’s Fight Within
Talk of opposition unity after the Bharat Jodo Yatra seems to be petering out. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s observation that Congress should engage itself in efforts to deny BJP a majority hasn’t drawn much of a response. Kumar’s comments came after a meeting with Congress leader Salman Khurshid who, meanwhile, answered media questions in opaque parables. Khurshid offered comparisons with lovers attracted to each other but considering their options before sealing the pact. The frivolousness of the metaphors apart, the former Union minister is hardly a convincing political emissary given that Congress counts for little in Bihar, being dependent on JD(U) and RJD for winning a possible couple of Lok Sabha seats. Congress meanwhile has taken potshots at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, alleging that she is working to “help” BJP—a reference to TMC entering the fray in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya. TMC is seen to be ‘dividing’ the non-BJP vote though serious doubts exist about the viability of the Congress-Left experiment in Tripura. The last time such a dalliance was attempted in West Bengal was in 2021 when both parties drew a blank with their sectarian ally the Indian Secular Front winning one seat.
Who Gets the Shakhas?
With the dispute over which of the two Shiv Sena factions is the legitimate one settled for now—the Election Commission (EC) has awarded the Eknath Shinde faction the party name and symbol—the two are now at loggerheads to get control of the vast network of shakhas or party offices through which the original party built its influence. But there is a catch. Unlike the offices allotted to the original party at the state legislature and municipal bodies now likely to go to the Shinde camp, getting control over the shakhas will be another matter. Most of them are ‘owned’ by local leaders, shakha pramukhs, and a number of trusts. One such trust is the Shivai Seva Trust, headed by Subhash Desi, a member of the Uddhav Thackeray camp which owns the party’s headquarters, Sena Bhavan, at Dadar and a number of other shakhas. After the EC verdict, Shinde claimed he would not seek control of Sena Bhavan, an indication perhaps that he is not looking for a showdown over a tricky matter. But otherwise, the fight to control shakhas is intensifying. Just after the EC verdict, a fight over a shakhas in Ratnagiri’s Dapoli tehsil broke out. It is currently with the Thackeray-faction but the control of shakhas will likely be decided by whom local leaders choose to ally with.
PM’s Sixth Sense
In a speech at BJP headquarters after the party’s big victory in the Gujarat election, Prime Minister Modi had said that contrary to the success in silencing critics who have questioned BJP’s politics and policies, attacks on the government will be renewed with fresh vehemence. One reason for the observation could be the General Election next year that’s not too far off. The other is likely to be the deepening sense of disenfranchisement among BJP’s ideological opponents who seek to question the party’s electoral success as a ‘democratic autocracy’ amid the poor electoral performance of parties they support. The Adani episode, the BBC’s controversial documentary, and the public utterances of self-styled activist George Soros are not seen as random events by party leaders. They point to a political plan to hurt India’s economy and image at a time when international multilateral organisations have noted the country’s buoyant growth prospects. Party insiders note that Modi presciently anticipated the determined and resourceful nature of the party’s opponents who, as they said, seek to regain ground lost at the hustings by backing campaigns and engaging in litigation.