New on my other blogs

Foreword to Media Tides on Kerala Coast
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen
Change of heart? Or stooping to conquer?
Some thoughts on the historic Battle of Colachel
Supreme Court accepts idea of nഹാൽ ew Mullaperiyar tunnel


20 September, 2016

Time to move from rhetoric to reality

BRP Bhaskar

The daring cross-border attack on the Indian brigade headquarters at Uri in Kashmir, which left 17 dead and about 30 injured, several of them seriously, poses a severe challenge to the Narendra Modi regime even as it copes with the situation created by more than two months of civil unrest in the valley.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who has emerged as the government’s chief spokesman on Kashmir-related issues, blamed the attack on the “terrorist state” of Pakistan. Modi, in a tweet, assured the nation that those who were behind the despicable attack would not go unpunished.

The social media and television channels were abuzz with the informed and the uninformed offering Modi advice on what punishment to give. Suggestions from former army officers and diplomats ranged from calls for surgical strikes to passionate pleas for well-thought-through responses.

Terror groups have targeted military establishments on more than 10 occasions since the eruption of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir in the early 1990s. In terms of casualties, the worst attack was the one staged by a gang of three at the Kaluchak cantonment in 2002 in which 31 persons were killed and 47 injured. Of the dead, three were army personnel, 18 were family members of army men and 10 were civilians.

The most audacious of all Kashmir-related terrorist actions was the 2001 attack on the Parliament House in New Delhi. Six police personnel, two Parliament security guards and a gardener were killed but no MP was even hurt. The government, headed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader AB Vajpayee, viewed the event as a proxy attack by Pakistan and drew up plans for a military response but did not go ahead with it.

The Uri attack was the second one this year. In January a group of terrorists had sneaked into the large air force base at Pathankot. The encounter that followed resulted in the death of six defence personnel. It was apparently a calculated attempt to derail the India-Pakistan peace process. Following the attack scheduled official level talks between India and Pakistan were cancelled.

Going by the government’s accounts, the terrorists directly involved in all these attacks were liquidated in the encounters that followed.

Since the Pathankot attack, with one thing leading to another, there has been continuous deterioration in India-Pakistan relations. In his Independence Day address on August 15, Modi, in a marked shift from the position taken by all previous governments, openly voiced support for rebels challenging the authority of Pakistan in Baluchistan.

The ground situation in Kashmir took a turn for the worse when protests erupted after security forces announced the killing of young Hizbul Mujahideen commander Buran Wani in July. Many parts of the valley have been under prolonged curfew, and at least 80 persons have been killed, more than 100 blinded and several thousand injured in firing of supposedly non-lethal pellets by central security personnel.

As Pakistan despatched a large number of special envoys to world capitals to mobilise opinion against human rights violations in Kashmir valley, India decided on a similar effort with the focus on Pakistani rights violations in Baluchistan and Kashmir areas under its control. The flip side of such tit-for-tat manoeuvres is that they put India and Pakistan politically on the same level.

Some observers see in Modi’s toughening stance the influence of National Security Adviser Ajit Doyal, who, since retirement from the police, has attracted a bunch of admirers by recounting his exploits as an intelligence officer and has openly advocated a hawkish line. But he is also believed to be the one who sold to Modi the idea of inviting all South Asian leaders to his swearing-in ceremony in 2014.

For Modi the time has come to move from rhetoric to reality. Recent events have revealed two grave weaknesses which India can ignore only at its peril.

One is the ease with which terrorists have been able to intrude into fortified military establishments. The Uri attack resulted in heavy casualties as it took place when one unit was taking over from another. If the attack was timed with prior knowledge of the changeover, it indicates the terror planners have good intelligence support. Clearly, strengthening of the security environment deserves a higher priority than reprisal.

The other is the alarming degree of alienation in the Kashmir valley. In the past civil unrest manifested itself mainly in the form of demonstrations in Srinagar streets. This time young stone-throwers were out in the streets in the countryside and police personnel abandoned many stations. Restoration of normalcy must come first. All else can wait.

The Centre must not forget the healthy atmosphere that prevailed in the valley during the three armed conflicts with Pakistan. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, September 20, 2016 

13 September, 2016

Housing sector paradox

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

India’s real estate sector is headed for a crash, the US way, a business journalist warned a few months ago. Crazy as it is, the real estate bubble is not going to burst any time soon, a market watcher countered. Real estate is overpriced and if the property market were to function as efficiently as the stock market, prices must crash, an experienced analyst opined. All three advanced seemingly convincing arguments in support of their conflicting viewpoints.

There has been no crash but there are signs of stagnation on the housing front which presents a paradox with widespread homelessness on one side and proliferation of unoccupied residential units on the other.

In the cities, where big real estate companies are engaged in feverish building activity to cater primarily to the upmarket, a large number of flats are lying unsold. According to a property research firm, in the Mumbai metropolitan region alone there were about 226,000 unsold apartments at the beginning of the year. This was 31 per cent more than a year ago.

In the real estate business, a fall in demand does not lead to a fall in prices because builders have the capacity to hold on until they get the desired prices. The conventional explanation for this is that the industry has access to black money. The government indulgently looks on at the flow of black money into construction as it brings hoarded wealth back into circulation.

Urban housing costs remain high as land is scarce and, therefore expensive. There is also mismatch in the market between supply and demand. The big builders are offering villas and luxury apartments costing upwards of Rs 10 million. Most buyers are looking for flats priced not more than Rs 5 million.

A recent official report estimates that the number of homeless persons is about 78 million. They need affordable housing. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set for the country the goal of “housing for all”. However, he has not formulated an action plan for the purpose. Instead, he is continuing with the decades-old scheme under which states take up housing projects for the poor with Central assistance. It cannot end homelessness in the foreseeable future.

Last November, in a bid to give a fillip to the industry, the government removed all restrictions on foreign direct investment in the real estate and construction sector except for a three-year lock-in period for select projects. An industry spokesman claimed the step would have a huge positive impact on the housing sector as a whole, especially the affordable housing segment. However, there is no indication so far that foreign investors are interested in that segment.

Chinese and Japanese developers have shown interest in industrial projects. A leading Chinese firm has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Haryana government to develop a new industrial city in that state at a cost of $10 billion over a period of 10 years. Japanese firms, which are ready to invest up to $2 billion in industrial projects in the next two or three years, are said to be seeking strategic partnerships with Indian builders.

Much of the recent urban construction activity has been carried out flouting regulations with the connivance of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, posing a grave threat to the environment. The floods that played havoc in the newly developed suburbs of Chennai city recently were the result of reckless construction blocking natural drainage. Governmental agencies were as much to blame as private operators.

The Judiciary is seized of many instances of construction in violation of regulations. Last April the Bombay High Court ordered demolition of a 31-storey apartment complex in the city which has become a national symbol of political corruption. An appeal against the judgement is pending before the Supreme Court.

Last week the Madras High Court directed the Tamil Nadu government not to register plots and buildings if there was violation of regulations. According to officials, the judgement may adversely affect those who bought plots in more than 300,000 housing colonies in the state. 

Both the judgements indicate a hardening in the stand of the courts. Earlier when faced with fait accompli, they were generally inclined to take a lenient view, considering the cost incurred and the hardship that would be caused to the buyers. It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will also take an equally tough position. --Gulf Today, September 13, 2016.

06 September, 2016

A worrisome job scenario

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

With the working population rising rapidly and job opportunities lagging behind, India, which has replaced China as the world’s fastest growing economy, is in the most challenging phase of its developmental effort.

According to the latest UN projections, India’s population will outstrip China’s by 2022, six years earlier than previously calculated. While China has to contend with an ageing population, India, theoretically, has an advantage over it by virtue of its larger working population. But to take advantage of the demographic situation, it has to improve its ability to create jobs.

Currently an estimated one million people enter the workforce each month. The rate of job creation, which has always been short of the requirement, is now declining. A recent official survey revealed that eight labour-intensive industries, including textiles, garments, BPO, metals and automobiles, created only 135,000 jobs last year. They had created 490,000 jobs the previous year.

A study of the performance of more than 1,000 companies by a private rating agency also showed that the job creation rate was falling. Together these companies created only 12,760 jobs last year as against 188,371 in the previous year. The manufacturing sector companies recorded a 5.2 per cent decline in job growth. In the previous year there was a 3.2 per cent growth.

Three industries account for the bulk of employment in the organised sector. They are manufacturing (40 per cent), banking (23 per cent) and information technology (18 per cent). Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious goal of creating 250 million jobs over a 10-year period cannot be reached unless they generate more jobs.

Some analysts have suggested that studies based on the performance of companies may not reflect the true position as industries are increasingly outsourcing certain types of jobs. But, according to the official survey, there was a decline in contractual jobs also last year.

The dismal situation revealed by the studies has prompted critics to taunt the Prime Minister with questions like “Where are the promised jobs, Mr. Modi?” The fact is that low job creation has been a feature of India’s economic development even before Modi’s time. Between 1991 and 2013, India recorded an average annual growth of 6.5 per cent but did not create enough jobs to attract even half of those entering the labour market.

Modi’s expectation that increased flow of foreign direct investment and his Make in India programme will boost job creation has not materialised. About 60 per cent of the FDI is in the form of private equity investment, which may fetch the investor a decent return but does not necessarily result in job creation. The Make in India programme requires skilled labour for manufacturing and high-end services. Skilled workers form only two per cent of India’s labour force.

Medium, small and micro enterprises are the backbone of the industrial sector. There are about 40 million such units and they employ about 100 million people, making them the largest provider of jobs. Falling exports and difficulties in obtaining timely credit hamper their ability to play a bigger role.

Official and unofficial studies limited to the organised sector do not give a full picture of the job situation. More than 90 per cent of the country’s working people are in the unorganised sector where wages are low and underemployment is widespread.

Although China has fallen behind India in the rate of growth of the economy, it is still ahead in job creation. According to Human Resources Minister Yin Weimin, China created more than 13 million new jobs for urban residents last year. However, the pace of job creation is slowing. The target for this year is only 10 million new urban jobs.

China’s major problem on the job front now is the rehabilitation of 1.8 million workers who are expected to be laid off by state-owned coal and steel plants as the economy switches from the investment-led model to one that relies on domestic consumption, services and innovation.

Interestingly, Arvind Panagariya, Vice-Chairman of the Niti Ayog, which has taken over the functions of the erstwhile Planning Commission, senses an opportunity for India in the Chinese downturn. He believes the high wage levels in that country will tempt manufacturers of certain items like textile and footwear to view India as an attractive alternative location.

Amartya Sen, the economist, has pointed out that India is trying to become a global economic power with an uneducated and unhealthy labour force, which has never been done before and never will be done in the future either. Clearly the government has to do more to realise its goal. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, September 6, 2016.

30 August, 2016

Kashmir’s shadow over SAARC

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

With India-Pakistan relations deteriorating in the wake of violence in Kashmir, now in its eighth week, the fate of the 19th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, scheduled for November 9 and 10, hangs in the balance.

SAARC, which comprises India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, together account for 21 per cent of the world’s population but only nine per cent of the global economy.

SAARC members differ vastly in size and economic strength. India with an estimated population of 1,330 million and gross domestic product of $2,073.5 billion is much larger than the other seven countries put together. Pakistan, the second largest country, has an estimated population of 194 million and GDP of $270.0 billion. The Maldives with only 371,000 people is at the bottom of the population table. Bhutan with a GDP of $2 billion has the smallest economy, but it attaches more importance to gross domestic happiness than to gross domestic product.

India-Pakistan differences have held SAARC back from time to time in some areas. A common market is one of SAARC’s objectives but Pakistani fear of Indian economic domination has stalled progress in that direction. In 1995, a ministerial meeting decided on the creation of a South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) as a first step towards the goal of a common market. It was only in 2006 that an agreement in this regard went into effect. A decade later, intra-SAARC trade is still only a little more than the region’s GDP.

A South Asian motor vehicles agreement was negotiated by SAARC officials ahead of the last summit at Kathmandu in 2014 but Pakistan was not ready to sign it. Believing that it backed out as it now attaches economic integration with China more importance than South Asian economic cooperation, India decided to go ahead without it.

The relations between the two countries took a dive early this month when Laskar-e-Taiba chief called for demonstrations when Rajnath Singh visited Islamabad for a meeting of SARC Home Ministers. Rajnath Singh was flown from the airport to the meeting venue in a helicopter and he flew back immediately after the meeting without joining a lunch from which, curiously, even the host, Pakistan’s Home Minister stayed away.

Arun Jaitley stayed away from the SAARC Finance Ministers’ meeting in Islamabad last week, depriving it of much of its importance. Nevertheless, SAARC Secretary General Arjum Bahadur Thapa of Nepal called upon the group to move from SAFTA to South Asian Economic Union.

With India and Pakistan at loggerheads, speculation is rife over whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the November summit. Reports in a section of the Pakistani media have indicated that he might stay away although so far no one of consequence in India has suggested such a step is contemplated.

Modi made a personal investment in improving relations with India’s immediate neighbours when he invited the leaders of SAARC countries to his swearing-in as Prime Minister in 2014 and all, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, promptly turned up. Several setbacks followed but he demonstrated his readiness to walk the talk with an unscheduled stop at Lahore on his way home from Afghanistan to greet Sharif on his birthday.

The current wave of unrest in Kashmir began when protests erupted over the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani by the security forces. At least 67 persons were killed, over 6,000 injured and more than 100 blinded by pellets as youths defied the curfew. Pakistan launched a campaign against the human rights violations and India responded by raising the issue of rights violations in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Baluchistan for the first time.

Even as Modi and Chief Minister Mehmooba Mufti, whose Bharatiya Janata Party and People’s Democratic Party which are partners of the coalition that rules the state, began efforts to restore peace in the troubled valley, Nawaz Sharif deputed 22 diplomats to internationalise the issue. Under the Shimla Pact signed after the 1971 war which resulted in Bangladesh’s formation, the two countries are committed to resolve issues, including Kashmir, bilaterally without outside intervention.

Some course correction may take place sooner or later since Sharif, as the host, and Modi, as the leader of the largest member country and one who began his prime ministerhip with a commitment to friendship in the neighbourhood, have much at stake in the success of the SAARC summit. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, August 30, 2016.

23 August, 2016

South Asia’s Olympic blues

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

As sportspersons from 206 countries put in their best and the medals table at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics started lengthening, three among the world’s most populous nations were experiencing a not-unusual drought.

By the eleventh day of the games, several hundred medals had been given away but India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which with populations currently estimated at 1,382 million, 193 million and 163 million rank second, sixth and eighth respectively in the global chart, did not figure in the medals table.

The closest they came to winning a medal was when Dipa Karmakar, the first Indian gymnast to enter the Olympics finals, finished fourth in the women’s vault event, missing the bronze by 0.15 points. It was the best Indian performance yet in gymnastics. Indians celebrated the event the way they had done when Milkha Singh missed the bronze narrowly in 400 metres at Rome in 1960 and PT Usha missed it even more narrowly in 400 metres hurdles at Los Angeles in 1984.

It was the time of the year when the Government of India announces awards for sports persons, and the awards committee recommended that Dipa be given the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the nation’s highest sporting honour.

On the 12th day, Sakshi Malik, another young woman, ended India’s medals drought by taking the bronze in the 58 kg category of women’s freestyle wrestling. It certainly was an occasion to celebrate as she is only the fourth Indian woman to climb the Olympics podium and the first to get a wrestling medal.

“Daughter of India made us proud,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted. Indians set the social networks ablaze. Haryana, Sakshi’s home state, offered her a job and a cash reward of Rs 25 million.

Mocking the celebration, Pakistani journalist Omar R Quraishi wrote: “Finally one of the 119 competitors that India sent to Rio has won a medal – a bronze – now see how they portray it as if they won 20 golds”.

As he wrote those lines, the seven Pakistani sportspersons in Rio were packing their bags to go home, having failed even to qualify to participate in the finals of their events. Pakistan’s best performance was by a woman shooter who finished 28th among 51 who participated in her event.

In its 69 years, Pakistan has won 10 medals – eight in field hockey and two in individual events. The last one was the hockey bronze of 1992.

Bangladesh, now in its 44th year, is the most populous country which has never won an Olympics medal.

British-ruled India, which included the present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh, began its association with modern Olympics at the second games held at Paris in 1900. The lone participant from the country that year was Norman Pritchard, son of a British couple, who competed in four athletic events and won silver medals in two of them. He later became a Hollywood actor under the name Norman Gordon.

There was no Indian participation in the next four games. Small teams sent to the 1920 and 1924 games returned empty-handed. The 21-member contingent which went to Antwerp in 1928 included a 14-member hockey team. It snatched the gold from Britain. Thereafter the hockey gold remained an Indian preserve until 1964 except for one occasion when Pakistan took it.

On Friday, PV Sindhu earned a silver in badminton and became the first Indian woman to win an individual silver. More celebrations and rewards followed.

It was the gritty performance of two young women that saved India from the ignominy of a total washout. With their medals, India was at the 67th place when the games ended.

Why does South Asia, home to about 1.74 billion, fare so poorly when tiny Cuba, with fewer than 12 million people, bagged seven medals, including two gold and two silver? The answer is that this dismal situation is the result of social conservatism, economic constraints and political mismanagement.

Sakshi Malik and Dipa karmakar had received little support from the government and sports organisations as they battled social taboos and took to the supposedly unfeminine sports of wrestling and gymnastics. Sakshi’s first coach, Ishwar Dahiya, recalls that villagers staged protests when he started training her 12 years ago.

In evaluating Olympics performance the size of the population is not quite relevant as sportspersons come from only a small section of South Asian societies. Many disciplines require intense training for long periods, which few can afford. Most sports bodies are controlled by politicians who know little about sports. --Gulf Today, Sharjah, August 23, 2016.

16 August, 2016

Free country, unfree people

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

As India stepped into the 70th year of Independence on Monday, large sections of the population whom the promised freedom has eluded so far served notice that they are not ready to wait any longer.

The Congress, an offshoot of the organisation which spearheaded the freedom movement and dominated the political scene for most of the post-Independence period, is now on the decline. So are other parties of pre-Independence vintage like the Communist Party of India and its offshoots.

Parties whose roots lie in movements which were not part of the freedom struggle now wield power at the Centre and in many states. Topping the list is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. It is now the largest political party.

Since Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled the national flag and spoke from the ramparts of Delhi’s Red Fort on August 15, 1947, the Prime Minister’s address to the nation from there has been the highlight of Independence Day celebrations. States hold similar events at their capitals.

This year the Centre drew up plans for the fortnight-long celebrations with the stated purpose of rekindling the spirit of patriotism. It sought to link the traditions of the independence movement with those of the army, which the nation inherited from the colonial power.

The celebrations began with events marking the 74th anniversary of the Quit India movement, the last major agitation of the freedom struggle which Gandhi had launched in 1942 with a call to “do or die”. Seventy-five ministers of the Modi government led the events at over 150 places across the country. It was a palpable attempt to appropriate the legacy of the freedom movement in which few Hindutva leaders had participated.

Speaking at a Quit India anniversary function, Modi broke his silence on the situation in Kashmir, many parts of which have been continuously under curfew following protests over the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani more than a month ago. Responding to the slogan of “Azaadi” (freedom), which resounds in the valley from time to time, he said people in Kashmir could feel the same azaadi as people in the rest of the country.

While Modi thus tacitly acknowledged that Kashmiri protesters do not have a sense of freedom, he did not go into the reasons behind it. Nor did he indicate how he proposed to create conditions in which they can feel a sense of freedom.

The presumption, implicit in the Prime Minister’s words, that outside Kashmir the people experience a sense of freedom is not entirely true.

As Modi walked up the steps at Red Fort to address the nation, several thousand Dalits converged in the small town of Una in his home state of Gujarat where on July 11 foot soldiers of Hindutva, posing as protectors of Cow the Mother, had stripped and flogged four members of the community engaged in their traditional occupation of skinning dead animals.

Worried that the Una attack and similar incidents reported from other places would harm its prospects in the forthcoming elections in the states, the BJP replaced Anandiben Patel whom Modi had installed as chief minister when he moved to Delhi.

Modi said most of the cow protectors were anti-socials. His remark angered a section of the Hindutva leadership but it did not impress the protesting Dalits. Jignesh Mevani, a Dalit activist, organised the march to Una from Ahmedabad, styled as “Azaadi kooch” (Towards Freedom).

In the troubled tribal region of Bastar in Madhya Pradesh, Soni Sori, an Adivasi activist who had suffered physical and sexual torture at the hands of the security forces, was leading a week-long march which began on August 9, the UN-designated International Day of the Indigenous People. She carried the national flag, ignoring warnings by Maoist insurgents who are active in the area.

Dalits and Adivasis together constitute one-fourth of India’s population of 1.2 billion. Outside these backward communities, too, there are large sections of marginalised people who are yet to reap the fruits of freedom. In fact, even among the rest of the population many remain unempowered. The only gift of freedom they enjoy is the right to vote in the elections.

That explains why the slogan “Azaadi” was raised by students of the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University early this year. The Hindutva establishment dubbed the students traitors. JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar explained that they wanted azaadi, not from India but in India. “We want freedom from hunger, freedom from poverty, freedom from the caste system, all of that,” he said.

A free country with unfree citizens is not entirely unusual. The lack of social mobility adds a new dimension to the problem in India.

On the completion of the framing of free India’s Constitution, its chief architect and Dalit icon BR Ambedkar had pointed out that it only granted political democracy. It should be backed by social democracy, which meant recognising liberty, equality and fraternity as principles of life, he said.  -- Gulf Today, August 16, 2016

09 August, 2016

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

Since the fledgling Aam Admi Party first came to power in the National Capital Territory of Delhi three years ago, its leader, Arvind Kejriwal, has been playing a high-stake game, leading to skirmishes.

In 2013, the AAP put an end to the Congress party’s 15-year-long rule in Delhi state and blocked its traditional rival, Bharatiya Janata Party, from returning to power. In the hung state assembly, it held 28 of the 70 seats, against the BJP’s 31 and the Congress party’s eight. To keep the BJP out of power, the Congress offered to back an AAP government, and Kejriwal became the chief minister.

A bureaucrat turned social activist, Kejriwal was part of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement. Breaking with Hazare who was opposed to entry into electoral politics, he formed the AAP and mobilised support for it across the country using social media.

Taking a leaf from the Hazare movement for a national anti-corruption machinery, to be known as Jan Lokpal, Kejriwal drew up a bill to set up a Jan Lokpal for Delhi. The BJP and the Congress joined hands and blocked its introduction in the state assembly. Kejriwal who had been in office for only 48 days resigned.

He called for fresh elections to the assembly along with the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The authorities did not concede the demand. In retrospect, he must be glad they rejected the demand.

Thanks to Narendra Modi’s vigorous, no-holds-barred campaign, the BJP made a clean sweep of Delhi’s seven Lok Sabha seats.

When fresh assembly elections were held in 2015, the Modi magic did not work. The AAP bagged 67 of the 70 seats, leaving just three for the BJP. The Congress was washed out.

Since then Kejriwal has been projecting himself as a potential challenger to Modi at the national level. On his part, Modi has not been able to forget the humiliation his party in the assembly elections. Delhi’s ambiguous constitutional status offers tremendous scope for both to act in furtherance of their personal and party interests.

Delhi, which served as the capital of many kingdoms, suffered a decline after the collapse of the Moghul regime. The British ruled the subcontinent initially from Calcutta (now Kolkata). They shifted the capital to Delhi in 1911. Twenty years later New Delhi, designed and constructed by British architect Edwin Lutyens, became the capital. 

In popular parlance, Delhi is a state, but under the Constitution it is one of seven Union Territories. Of the seven, two, Delhi and Puduchery, have elected assemblies with power to make laws applicable to their respective areas on certain subjects. With an area of 1,484 square kilometres and a population of about 25 million, Delhi is now India’s most populous city and the world’s second largest urban conglomeration.

Delhi’s unique status is based on the provisions of Articles 239AA and 239AB, which were introduced by the 69th Constitutional amendment, which was enacted in 1991, the National Capital Territory of Delhi Act of 1992 and the Transaction of Business of the Government of NCT of Delhi Rules of 1993.

Every country with a democratic system has found it necessary to devise methods to ensure that an elected body at a lower level is not able to create hurdles in the way of the federal authorities. The legislative measures of the 1990s were steps in that direction. Two factors have contributed to the present situation. One is that these are among the country’s worst drafted laws. The other is that both the BJP and the AAP are driven by political motives.

Kejriwal, who views Delhi as a springboard, is pursuing a two-fold strategy to build up a national image. He has taken some populist measures to endear himself to the people and initiated steps against some big business houses to project himself as a ruler who can act tough against the corporates. In the process, he has disregarded some of his constitutional limits.

Determined to foil Kejriwal’s plans, the Centre has used its legitimate overriding authority, exercisable through the state’s Lieutenant Governor, and sometimes even stepped beyond it. The Delhi high court recently quashed one of several cases registered by the police against AAP MLAs as the allegation was found to be false.

Kejriwal is mounting a big campaign to seize power in Punjab, where the Akali Dal-BJP government completes its term next year. The alliance and the Congress have been alternating in power in the state for decades. -- Gulf Today, August 9, 2016.