November 2013
The Third Front: Why Skeptics and Proponents are Both Wrong

As opinion polls predict fluctuating fortunes for the two major national parties, the BJP and the Congress, in the 2014 polls, Tridivesh Singh Maini,

From insurgency to electoral democracy

Accommodative politics, combined with political incentives, helped pave the way for the Mizo National Front to turn into a mainstream political party.

Rediscoursing Rape: Tarun Tejpal’s ‘Drunken Banter’ Defence

Sexual crimes committed by men tend to be explained away as ‘mistakes’ in India. This defence infantilises the actions of an adult perpetrator after a

Telangana - Dealing with the Costs of Division: A Dialogue Towards Reconciliation

On September 21st, 2013, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy organised a consultation in Hyderabad, "Dealing with the Costs of Divisi

The Hindu Business Line: Political parties divided over ban on opinion polls

If the BJP and the DMDK are all for opinion polls, the Congress is against the practice, which it feels could prejudice the election outcome. The two Left parties — the CPI and the CPI(M) — and the DMK, are all right with opinion polls as long as there are certain restrictions. Instead of espousing a blanket ban, these parties want transparency, a set of guidelines and procedures for conducting such polls. A discussion on, “Do opinion polls inform or mislead voters?”, organised by The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, saw Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) presidium chairman Panruti S. Ramachandran saying the essence of democracy was to enable a voter to make an informed choice. Source : The Hindu Business Line, CHENNAI, November 22, 2013 Read More... Published in other Media: The Hindu, CHENNAI, November 22, 2013

The Hindu: Debate on opinion polls spotlights level-playing field for parties

Instead of confining the consultation on banning opinion polls to just political parties, the Election Commission should have invited all stakeholders of the election process in the country, Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam presidium chairman Panruti S. Ramachandran said on Friday. Participating in a discussion on ‘Do opinion polls inform or mislead voters,’ organised by The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, he said that under the Constitution, the Election Commission had to ensure free and fair elections, and it could do so only by providing every party with a level playing field. Mr. Ramachandran was answering a question whether the EC could come to a conclusion on opinion polls based on the views of political parties alone. Source : The Hindu, CHENNAI, November 22, 2013 Read More...

Event report: Do Opinion Polls Inform or Mislead Voters? (includes video)

The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy organised on November 22, a public discussion, "Do Opinion Polls Inform or Mislead Voters?"

The Politics of Exoneration

The Congress and the BJP’s battle about the other’s pogrommatic behaviour is a macro manifestation of a general psychology where violence is not uniqu

States need reasonable role in Indian foreign policy plans

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has opted out of a leadership summit later this week in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. The Indian PM sent a letter of regret to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, explaining the reasons for his inability to attend. Few expected that Singh would take the extreme step of giving the meet a miss, since this would harm India's bilateral ties with Sri Lanka. A few days ago, India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had recommended that the PM should attend the summit, but also visit the Tamil-dominated town of Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka to send the unequivocal message that India is concerned about the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Pressure from politicians in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, with its ethnic ties to Sri Lanka's Tamil population, played a critical role in determining the final decision. As well as local parties, some Congress Party leaders from Tamil Nadu, including Finance Minister P Chidambaram, reportedly urged the PM to boycott the summit. Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, who will now be leading the Indian delegation to the meeting, has now acknowledged that domestic politics influenced the decision after at first denying such claims. Yet it is abundantly clear that with an eye on impending general elections, the Congress Party decided to play it safe. In an era of coalition politics, New Delhi cannot afford to ignore the perspective of states, especially those with strong parliamentary representation, in foreign policy. Two clear examples are Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. As well as this latest incident, the regional parties of Tamil Nadu compelled India to vote against Sri Lanka at the UN in 2012 and 2013. Meanwhile, West Bengali politicians managed to block the Teesta River water-sharing agreement that was to be signed with Bangladesh in 2011. New Delhi and state governments need to find a mechanism whereby they both resolve differences on foreign policy issues. Many argue that the states have usurped functions that should be part of the central government, and that India's ties with other countries have been harmed to accommodate partisan regional interests. Both the center and the states can be blamed for not suggesting any feasible mechanism to resolve differences in the foreign policy. While the center blames states for going against the national interest, state governments accuse New Delhi of keeping them out of the loop. Excuses are often made stating that granting greater authority to states in foreign policy will go against the constitution. There are a number of steps which can be taken within the ambit of the law. The MEA and state governments should have regular consultations on foreign policy issues. Such a mechanism is vital for India, since unlike in Switzerland and Germany, also federal states, there are no constitutional mechanisms where the states are consulted on foreign policy issues. Second, the central government should reduce the red tape around of trade and commerce. This needs to be done specifically with respect to India's regional neighborhood. Rather than the central government being involved in the nitty-gritty of business, it is time that the MEA empowered its branch secretariats, which could possibly reduce the burden on the ministry and also give a push to trade and commerce. The Chinese method of outsourcing economic diplomacy to certain provinces has proved to be extremely effective. Finally, state governments need to be constructive stakeholders, rather than politicizing issues. They need to come up with feasible recommendations that the center can consider. Coalition governments are here to stay, and economic ties between India's states and the outside world are likely to grow. In this context, it is absolutely vital to ensure a meaningful and sustained way for New Delhi and the states to jointly tackle foreign policy issues. This article was originally published in Global Times , and is accessible here .