March 20, 2016

Across the Aisle-Aadhaar Bill: Ends right, means wrong

History can be told through stories. So can politics. If you wish to explain the politics of India through a story, you need go no further than the story of Aadhaar. Aadhaar is a unique identification number that is intended to be given to all Indian residents. The idea is not novel or unprecedented. India was a latecomer to the […]
March 13, 2016

Across the aisle- Budget 2016-17: The fiscal math is puzzling

The Chief Economic Adviser should be glad that he lost the argument on fiscal deficit. It was a good argument to lose! I compliment the Finance Minister for achieving the fiscal deficit target of 3.9 per cent in the current year and fixing a target of 3.5 per cent for 2016-17. That one decision has lent a measure of credibility […]
March 6, 2016

Across the aisle- Dear farmers: Achhe din are coming

Farmers may rejoice. The government has finally acknowledged that farmers are part of India, that the farm sector faces acute distress, and that farmers need a helping hand. That is something which many commentators — especially Mr Ashok Gulati — have been saying for many months. Farmers had taken note of the BJP’s failure to keep its election promise of […]
March 1, 2016

Across the aisle: In good times and bad times, courage is the ally

We can debate endlessly whether these are good times or bad times. Last week, I had pointed out that the economy was facing headwinds. On February 26, the Economic Survey confirmed my apprehensions. This is what it said in the preface to Volume II Chapter 1: “Weak growth in advanced and emerging countries has taken its toll on India’s exports. […]
February 28, 2016

Across the Aisle: A wish list and some notes of caution

It is just as well that the last day of February will fall on a Monday when the budget will be presented. The commentators can pause, take several deep breaths today, and resume their breathless commentary when the dawn breaks tomorrow! The third budget of any government is a crucial milestone. If the economy is on a roll, it is […]
February 21, 2016

Across The Aisle: Maybe we are all anti-nationals

Bal Gangadhar Tilak declared “Swaraj is my birthright”. He was charged with sedition. He was an anti-national according to the rulers of the day. I have consistently pleaded for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. I hold the view that the Act allowed Army and police officers to act with impunity. In the eyes of the current […]
February 14, 2016

Across the aisle: Crouching tiger vs hidden dragon

How quickly an idea or a word or a phrase can spread across a country! In a matter of weeks, the phrase “net neutrality” went from a term used by a small group of tech industry insiders and academics to a phrase of common usage. The phrase means that the Internet will treat all content it carries equally, indifferent to […]
February 7, 2016

Across the aisle- MGNREGA: Making a meal of words

Parliament is the highest legislative body. The Prime Minister is the Chief Executive of the country. A statement made by the Prime Minister in Parliament must have a certain sanctity and solemnity. On February 27, 2015, while replying to the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address, Prime Minister Modi said: “Sometimes, we are told that we […]
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December 13, 2015

Across the Aisle: Sputter, stop. Then, suddenly, start

Pakistan is there. It is on India’s western border (and until 1971 was also on the eastern border). It cannot be wished away; nor can India pretend it will go away. On the very day the two countries became independent, they inherited a clutch of problems that was the inevitable result of Partition. I know of no example in history […]
December 6, 2015

Across the aisle: How to lose a friend and alienate people

How did the ‘high’ of India-Nepal relations collapse to a point when all observers are agreed that they seem to have reached the nadir?… The Congress and the Communist parties that have an international outlook have a special responsibility to initiate a debate on India-Nepal relations. A message must go that India is a good neighbour and a reliable friend […]
November 29, 2015

Across the Aisle: What is economic reform, what is not

Post-Bihar, there is talk of returning to the development agenda. I would be the happiest person if the energies of the Government and Parliament can be channelised into implementing a solid agenda of development. Development has many models. There is a capitalist view of the market economy that lays emphasis on growth, especially growth of GDP. Growth will indeed add to […]
November 22, 2015

Across the aisle: There is a mountain to climb

Parliament has been summoned to meet on November 26, 2015. The state of the economy requires more than a summons to the Members of Parliament. Contrary to what the Government’s ministers may say in public — and more in line with what some ministers, many officials and practically all businesspersons and bankers say in private — the economy is in poor […]
November 15, 2015

Across the aisle: The ethos of India wins the election

Every student of political science will try to make sense of the outcome of the election in Bihar. It is easy to make nonsense of the result, as the BJP’s Parliamentary Board did, blaming it on the “arithmetic”. What arithmetic? They added the vote shares of the JD(U), the RJD and the Congress in the Parliament election of 2014 — […]
November 8, 2015

Across the aisle: Win or lose, Mr Modi will be on test in Bihar polls

When you read this column on the morning of 8th November, the air will be thick with suspense. Who will win the elections in Bihar is the question uppermost on everyone’s mind. There are two principal formations: the NDA led by Mr Narendra Modi and the Grand Alliance led by Mr Nitish Kumar. I think one of the formations will […]
November 1, 2015

Across the aisle: The NJAC conundrum

Imagine that we are citizens of a nation that has just won independence and tasked to write a new Constitution. Imagine we are now drafting the chapter relating to the judiciary. The main questions that will arise are (1) How will we secure the independence of the judiciary? (2) Who would qualify to be judges? (3) How will the judges […]
October 25, 2015

Across the Aisle: Paradise lost, will it be regained?

There cannot be a better moment for our closest neighbour Sri Lanka where all the planets seem to be smiling in the right houses. Before 1947, the phrase “neighbouring country” stood for Sri Lanka and, some distance away, Burma. Pakistan and Bangladesh are latter-day neighbours. We had little contact with Bhutan until Jawaharlal Nehru made his famous visit riding on […]
October 18, 2015

Across the Aisle: A call to the collective conscience

After many years, ‘protest’ has found its voice and a new legitimacy. In the last two weeks, about 25 writers have returned their Sahitya Akademi awards and some have resigned from the Akademi. Most of these writers practise their craft in regional languages. They are quiet private citizens wrestling with the human condition using the written word. Protesting against the […]
October 11, 2015

Across the aisle: What’s at stake in Bihar polls

Novelty of elections is passé.  Elections will take place, the results will be announced, a party or an alliance will win, a government will be formed, and in a few days life will be back to the usual routine. However, I have the feeling that post-Bihar elections, life in Bihar — and India — will not be back to the […]