BY SUNIL DANG, Editor-in-Chief
India and the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are currently celebrating 25 years of their rapidly expanding partnership. Generally, China doesn’t frown down upon its neighboring countries engaging in bilateral talks. However, India is an exception to this general rule as China sees such engagements as a threat to its supremacy in the South China Sea and Asia. It was witnessed recently when India and Vietnam signed MoU for harnessing energy. Similarly, the dragon nation was found uncomfortable when Indian government showcased its willingness to revive Ganga-Mekong Project. So, while celebrating 25 years of Indo-ASEAN relations, we must deeply introspect, especially about role of China in South and South East Asia, else the whole celebration would be reduced to merely wine and dine diplomacy.
However, I am surprised by how the Indian media has not paid much attention to this diplomatic feat of Government of India. If 25 years of India-ASEAN relations failed to find space in Indian media, it was also surprising when our main stream media failed to report about ISRO’s 100thsatellite launch. As I had said earlier in one of my editorials, after Gujarat and Himachal assembly polls, the ruling party has shifted its focus from these two states to Karnataka, Meghalaya and Tripura and so has the India media. Hence, I won’t be surprised if we come across a plethora of news bombardment from the media about corruption, mal-administration, politicians turning to the rival camps after denial of ticket from their party etc.
In last few years, there has been some sync in between Indian mainstream media breaking news of various corrupt practices and state election cycle. So, we can expect government agencies like ED, Income Tax etc to switch their hawk eye to the above mentioned states going to polls and the media covering these probes closely.
After Rahul Gandhi took over the Congress Party President, it looks that three senior most Congressmen Pranab Mukherjee, Dr Manmohan Singh and Dr Karan Singh have become his mentors while Pranab Mukherjee is guiding Gandhi scion in economic condition and party positions, former PM Dr Manmohan Singh is helping new Congress President in striking a balance between the national economy and the political scenario and Dr Karan Singh has taken over as Rahul Gandhi’s spiritual leader who would be guiding both party and the party president in adapting to aggressive Hindutva card of the BJP. While the Gandhi scion is yet to announce his team, it is becoming visible that young faces like MilindDeora, RPN Singh, Jitin Prasad, KumariShelja etc. have already made into the Team Rahul and technocrat Sam Pitroda would don the role that Ram Madhav portrayed for Narendra Modi.
As Karnataka Assembly Polls are fast approaching, as expected, huge number of opinion polls and ground zero reports have emerged like mushrooms. Interestingly, and to my surprise, these reports are giving some chance to Siddharamaiah government. I have been maintaining that if any of the Congress state government has any chance to repeat and take on the Modi wave then its Siddharamaiah government of Karnataka because he has had full support of the Congress high command. Now, when the Sidharamaiah is facing his performance rating from the people of Karnataka, it would be interesting to see how the only Congress CM who was handpicked by Rahul Gandhi performs?
There have been loud cheers for liberalisation in foreign direct investment (FDI) norms by the government but the cheerleaders have perhaps failed to see that these changes are largely cosmetic and at best, enabling. Of course, any easing of FDI norms is welcome and it cannot be denied that under the Modi government, FDI inflows have jumped substantially. But, ease in FDI norms in single brand retail hasn’t gone down well with SMEs and MSMEs. They are of the opinion that 100 percent FDI in single brand retail and that too through automatic route where no permission of the government is required will open flood gate for MNCs to overpower Indian retail trade and that too at the cost of domestic trade.
For last few years, it has been found that Indian citizens have found agitation as a tool to blackmail the government. It was found in Jat agitation, then in various caste agitation demanding reservation and lynching of people who had different cultural legacy. Hence, at a time when we are going to celebrate 68th Republic Day, let’s take a vow that we won’t allow mobocracy to lynch our democracy.