Read The Hindu Notes of 18th December 2018 for UPSC Civil Service Examination, State Civil Service Examination and other competitive Examination

The Hindu Notes for 18th December 2018
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    The Hindu Notes of 18th December 2018

  • Centrism holds in India

    The Congress succeeded by offering itself as the default alternative for farmers and the youth, not by soft Hindutva

  • Centrism, as an essential characteristic of Indian politics, signifies the institutional incentive that political parties have to adopt a set of policies aimed at harmonising societal and cultural contradictions rather than accentuating them. Some of its essential elements are: centrality of an accommodative approach, appeal to minorities, welfarism and a broader space for dissent from the Left and the Right. No wonder, given the richness of Indian society and its multiple fault lines, centrism has been the hegemonic framework ensuring electoral success since Independence. Barring a few exceptions, this also accounts for the relative marginalisation of a leftward and rightward agenda in India until 2014. Can the setbacks to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Hindi heartland States of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh be seen in this context?
  • Centrism’s rightward shift

  • The spectacular success of the BJP in the 2014 general election marked a rightward shift wherein Narendra Modi, a fulcrum of “subaltern agency”, developmental aspiration and fierce Hindutva, claimed to speak for 125 crore Indians. He privileged the developmental aspirations of the electorate in his speeches, thereby arguing that ‘politics of development’ is ‘politics of inclusion’, wherein everyone, including the minorities by implication, has a rightful place.
  • The whopping success of the Modi-led BJP in abstract terms signified the ability of right-wing frames to contain all the constitutive elements of centrism and thereby make a persuasive claim of not being exclusive of any section of Indian society. It appeared that in the era of developmental aspiration, the Right had emerged as a better claimant to carry forward the mantle of centrism than the centrist parties.
  • The idea of ‘India First’ and ‘Achhe Din’ implied the heralding of welfare-laden Indian citizenry across the board, claiming their rightful place in the comity of nations. The votaries of the economic right affirmed and celebrated the easy fit between centrism and the Right under Mr. Modi. Rural India shared the enthusiasm.
  • However, the political trajectory of the BJP since 2014 has two big takeaways. The promised material plurality never came and the unsaid cultural singularity emanating from the Hindutva discourse acquired prominence. The former is visible in the initiation of a series of welfare policies, especially for poorer sections, like cheap housing (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana), toilets for all, disbursal of LPG cylinders (Ujjwala Yojana), the health insurance scheme (Ayushman Bharat), besides schemes such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana, Atal Pension Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, and Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana.
  • The ground narratives reveal that none of these welfare schemes has been successful in capturing the imagination of the people, amid general price rise and joblessness. Moreover, the debilitating impact of demonetisation on pre-existing rural distress and agrarian crisis is getting strong credence with a corresponding resonance among rural voters. It seems the government’s material policies/schemes resemble a scenario of people being served with starters upon starters without a main course.
  • Simultaneously, parallel to the material plurality, India has witnessed the emergence of a series of cultural policies/issues focussed around the themes of cow, Mandir, changing names of places and questions of citizenship, all emanating from Hindutva’s framework of cultural singularity.
  • This attempt to not only infuse the cultural singularity of Hindutva with material plurality of welfare schemes but also see the former superseding the latter problematises the claim that centrism could have an easy fit with a rightward polity. Centrism, by definition, desires a parity between the material and the cultural in their pluralities. As a corollary, a singularity in any realm is the antithesis of centrism. Thus, the emerging crisis of the material realm and attempts to overshadow it with cultural politics reveal that while the Right could negotiate with the framework of centrism in a material realm by speaking for all, in the cultural realm it remains diametrically opposed to this pitch, excluding the minorities in subtle ways. Hence, the argument that both the centre and centrism witnessed a rightward shift seems shaky.
  • A look at the elections

  • To contextualise the interplay of ‘cultural singularity and material plurality’ in the electoral verdicts in the just-concluded Assembly elections, especially in three Hindi-speaking States where the BJP and the Congress were pitted directly against each other, one needs to go back a bit back and take the Uttar Pradesh election as the starting point where Mr. Modi used the binary of ‘kabristan-shamshan’ and ‘Diwali-Ramzan’ while exhorting voters to choose the BJP to end the “exile of development” in the State.
  • Not to be left behind, both Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav competed to emerge as champions of ‘Muslim interests’ and, by extension, of secularism. Ms. Mayawati claimed in almost all her rallies that she gave 100 seats to Muslims — a rhetoric the BJP exploited to the hilt. Demonetisation and people’s suffering — the material issues — took a back seat in political calculations. The unprecedented victory of the BJP and the selection of firebrand Hindutva leader Yogi Adityanath as U.P. Chief Minister signified the ascendency of cultural singularity being a condition to developmental politics.
  • The glimmers of this were visible in the Gujarat election though the equations had changed by then. The BJP suffered serious setbacks in rural seats. The historic win in Tripura gave the BJP the mistaken confidence about the invincibility of cultural issues qualifying the material promises. It rejected the subsequent setbacks in by-elections as aberrations until it suffered defeat in the recent Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections in varying degrees.
  • The factors that revived the Congress from dormancy were the material crisis after demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax. The combination of rural distress, joblessness and rural inflation are the issues that significantly account for the BJP’s electoral loss. There is no reason to believe that these issues will not be relevant in 2019, as is argued in the oft-repeated electoral cliché that the dynamics for the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections are qualitatively different. Also, it would be wrong to read too much in the Congress’s recent flirtation with soft Hindutva. The Congress did not get votes due to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s temple visits. The cultural posturing of the Congress was just a symbolic labelling beneath which lay its position of being a default alternative and spelling promise for farmers and the youth.
  • All attempts to whip up issues of a Ram temple and name-changing did not prevent the BJP from losing a substantial portion of votes to the Congress. The success of cultural politics presupposes the delivery of a basic minimum denominator of material interest. The BSP, too, did not resonate with Dalit voters in the three States despite controversy and anger around the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, as the party did not have any material narrative. Similarly, Muslims voted more enthusiastically for the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in Telangana rather than the Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen on account of the TRS’s populist welfare policies.
  • Road to 2019

  • This marked material crisis informing the Indian polity indicates the shrinking space of cultural politics. Hence, the road to 2019 lies in the framework of centrism that guarantees electoral success in resurrecting material politics without any polarising attempt to privilege the cultural singularity of Hindutva or its rhetorical counterpart from the Left’s attempt to forge a Dalit-Muslim alliance.
  • Sajjan Kumar is a political analyst associated with Peoples Pulse, a research organisation specialising in fieldwork based political research
  • Not a decisive factor

    It is misleading to say that NOTA determined the Assembly election results

  • Ever since voters have been provided the ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option if they do not want to vote for any of the candidates in the fray, political parties now cite many voters having chosen NOTA as a reason for losing an election. This may be true in very close contest, when voters are in small numbers and the margin of victory and defeat is rather small. But overall, there has hardly been any election in India where NOTA has been instrumental in altering an electoral verdict.
  • What the data show

  • In the recent round of elections to five State Assemblies (Telangana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Chhattisgarh), where the margin of votes between the main contenders, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was narrow —for example only 0.1% in Madhya Pradesh and about 0.5% in Rajasthan — the BJP cited NOTA voting as among the main reason for its defeat. However, had the Congress been in the BJP’s position, it too would have blamed NOTA. Thus NOTA is a convenient political scapegoat. Even voters have started to believe that NOTA has become a very important factor in Indian elections.
  • In the recent State Assembly elections, the results indicate a decline in NOTA votes in four States, Telangana being the only exception. The decline was from 1.9% to 1.4% in Madhya Pradesh; 1.9% to 1.3% in Rajasthan; 3.0% to 1.9% in Chhattisgarh; and 0.6% to 0.4% in Mizoram. In Telangana, there was a marginal increase from 0.7% to 1.0%. The data show no bigger attraction for NOTA in these five States in the last five years. It is the same in States other than these five which have gone to the polls in recent years.
  • In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, only 1.08% voters opted for NOTA nationally. There was hardly any significant NOTA vote except in Puducherry where 3% voters opted for it and 2.8% in Meghalaya. In a number of States, the NOTA votes were in the range of 1-1.5% of the total votes polled. When the average size of a Lok Sabha constituency is about 27 lakh voters, it is difficult to imagine that a small percentage of votes could alter electoral outcomes in a large number of constituencies.
  • It is widely believed, and true to some extent, that NOTA could be a useful tool (such as in a local body election) if constituencies are smaller in size, with fewer voters. But this is still not seen as a viable option among voters even in a State Assembly election. The preference for NOTA in Assembly constituencies reflects the trend of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. An average Assembly constituency in a State in the Hindi heartland has about 4-5 lakh voters; a small number of voters opting for NOTA will hardly affect the overall electoral outcome. There may be instances of a significant number of constituencies where NOTA votes may be higher than the margin of victory, but, normally, such seats are also divided between various political parties in proportion to their share of victories.
  • There was such a situation in these Assembly elections. In Madhya Pradesh, there were at least 23 Assembly constituencies where NOTA votes were more than the margin of victory. Of these, 10 were won by the BJP while 12 went to the Congress. The Burhanpur Assembly seat was won by an independent. In Rajasthan, in the close contest between the Congress and the BJP in 16 Assembly seats, NOTA votes were higher than the victory margin, but these seats were evenly distributed between both parties. Of these 16 Assembly seats, eight went to the BJP and seven to the Congress. An independent candidate won the Marwar Junction seat by 251 votes. In Chhattisgarh, there were eight such Assembly seats, with three going to the BJP, two to the Congress and three to the Janta Congress Chhattisgarh.
  • Previous election

  • In the 2013 Assembly elections in Rajasthan, even when the BJP led the Congress by 12% votes there were 11 Assembly seats where NOTA votes were more than the victory margin (six went to the BJP, three to the Congress and two by National People’s Party). It was not different in Madhya Pradesh in the same year when the BJP led the Congress by 8% votes . Of the 26 Assembly seats where NOTA votes were higher than the victory margin, 14 went to the BJP, 10 to the Congress, one to the Bahujan Samaj Party while the Sehore seat was won by an independent. Even in Chhattisgarh, that year, of the 15 Assembly seats where NOTA votes were more than the victory margin, eight went to the BJP and seven to the Congress. So can we say that NOTA is more important in these elections compared to the past?
  • Sanjay Kumar, a Professor, is the Director of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). The views expressed are personal
  • Right prescription

    The Delhi High Court restores the retail sale and private manufacture of a life-saving drug

  • In a crucial development that exposes the flaws in health policy-making in the country, the Delhi High Court quashed a government ban on the retail sale and private manufacture of oxytocin. Notified by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in April, the ban referred to a 2016 Himachal Pradesh High Court judgment, which discussed oxytocin’s misuse in dairy cattle, fruits and vegetables. However, soon after the order was issued, health experts pointed to the absurdity of it. Oxytocin is a life-saving drug used to stem post-partum bleeding among new mothers. Because of this it had been listed by both the World Health Organization and the Health Ministry as an essential medicine. Around 45,000 women die from post-partum complications in India each year, and in 38% of the cases the reason is haemorrhaging. Without the easy availability of inexpensive oxytocin, efforts to stem the maternal mortality epidemic could have suffered a costly setback. These worries led to the All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN), a patient-rights group, to challenge the order in the Delhi High Court.
  • In its judgment on December 14, in response to AIDAN’s and drug manufacturers’ petitions, the court struck down the ban, calling it “unreasonable and arbitrary”. The court found that the government had failed to weigh the danger the ban posed to thousands of young mothers. What is more, it had failed to show that the drug was widely misused for veterinary purposes, the purported reason behind the order. Several bits of evidence cited in the judgment support this analysis. Even though the Centre claims to have made 25 illegal drug seizures across India in a three-year period, 12 of them didn’t actually find oxytocin. Among those that did, none involved licensed drugmakers. Karnataka Antibiotics & Pharmaceuticals Limited, the only authorised oxytocin producer after the ban, did not have the capability to manufacture it until mid-2017. It is mystifying why the Centre clamped down on licensed manufacturers with a proven track record, while roping in a state firm with no real experience. The most damning observation in the judgment is that the Centre focussed on the health of milch animals, without considering the well-being of women. This was despite the fact that all statutory bodies, including the Drugs Technical Advisory Board, had advised against a ban. This episode ought to compel policy-makers to reflect on the process that led to the ill-conceived order. Several questions must be answered. On what basis did the Centre overrule the advice of multiple statutory bodies? What led to its acceptance of sporadic reports of the drug’s misuse, without clinching proof? It is time for a post-mortem of how health policy is made, because that is the only way to safeguard the right to health of Indian citizens.
  • The shadow of 1984

    Sajjan Kumar’s conviction reignites hope of substantial justice for riot victims

  • Five years ago, there wasn’t even a sliver of hope that any influential Congress leader would be brought to justice for the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984. A trial court had acquitted former MP Sajjan Kumar, rejecting the testimony of witnesses who said he was seen instigating riots in the Raj Nagar area of Delhi Cantonment on November 1, 1984, in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. In reversing the acquittal and sentencing Kumar to imprisonment for the remainder of his life, the Delhi High Court has reignited hope for substantial justice. The 207-page judgment by a Division Bench, comprising Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice Vinod Goel, is proof, if any were needed, that the Delhi Police and its Riot Cell had failed to carry out a genuine investigation. From the deliberate failure to record any untoward incident in the station’s daily register to avoiding the examination of key witnesses, there is a long trail of evidence that points a damning finger at the police and the state machinery. This case is an example not only of the slowness of judicial processes but also of derailed investigations. It was only after the Central Bureau of Investigation entered the scene and revived this particular case related to the murder of five members of a Sikh family in 2005 — based on a recommendation by the Nanavati Commission — that the investigation made meaningful progress.
  • The entire CBI case turned on the testimony of Jagdish Kaur, who is described by the High Court as a “fearless and truthful witness”, and its corroboration by two others. Her deposition was sought to be impeached on the ground that she had not named Sajjan Kumar before the Ranganath Misra Commission. As it turned out, she may actually have done so, in Punjabi; the English version of her statement did not have it. In addition, the court found that Kumar had been named in nearly a dozen affidavits in 1985 itself, but none had been investigated. In one case, a prepared charge sheet had not been filed in court. Such was his influence that in 1990 when the CBI went to arrest him, the officers were held hostage until an anticipatory bail order was obtained, even as their vehicles were burnt by his supporters outside his house. The 73-year-old former strongman may now pin his hopes on an appeal to the Supreme Court, but there is little doubt that judicial decisions such as this reinforce the hope that political patronage, administrative complicity and plain muscle power cannot prevail over the truth all the time. The court has also flagged the need for a separate law for punishment for crimes against humanity and genocide, both seen so far as part of international law but rarely invoked in domestic crimes. Given the major communal flashpoints in recent history that have been cited by the court, the issue is worth positive consideration.
  • Hot air at Katowice

    Key issues of concern for the poorest and developing nations were diluted or postponed

  • “Until you start focussing on what needs to be done, rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope,” said Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old activist from Sweden who shook the United Nations gathering at Katowice, Poland, with her plain speaking. But what she said should not happen is exactly what happened at the recently concluded 24th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. While there was some progress on the process by which the Paris Agreement of 2015 would be implemented, key issues of concern for the poorest and developing nations were diluted or postponed.
  • The 1.5 Degree Report, which was produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October 2018, showed that the earth is close to a climate catastrophe. This report was not suitably acknowledged as an evidence-based cause for alarm by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Russia, however. These countries wanted the report “noted” but not “welcomed”. Arguments on word choices stalled the meeting at various stages, especially with the U.S. present with its large team of lawyers. While the U.S. is getting out of the Paris Agreement, formally by late 2020, it still took part in deciding (or rewriting) the rules for many agreed items of the Paris Agreement.
  • The summit aimed to establish guidelines for implementing and reporting on the Paris Agreement. Countries were looking to establish an enhanced transparency framework to monitor, verify and report actions taken in a systematic, standardised manner. As reported in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), all countries would carry out mitigation. But adaptation is a significant portion of many developing countries’ plans. Transparency — what would be done to reduce emissions, how countries would measure and report progress, and how much support industrialised countries would provide — was an important aspect of the discussions. This will inform stocktaking of progress on the Paris Agreement and how much more is needed to cut emissions and raise ambition.
  • Funds were also required from rich countries for the losses and damages borne by poor nations. While this meeting was not about loss and damage per se, this item will take greater precedence as warming effects intensify. Technology transfer and capacity building support are also issues of importance to vulnerable countries and poor, developing countries that need help to transition from high to low carbon economies.
  • Hot air at Katowice

    Disregard of equity

  • There is little to no finance available for poor and developing nations. The details on funding and building capacity have been postponed. References to “equity” in the draft rule book were erased by the U.S. delegation, leaving one Indian negotiator to remark that they would have to go back to the original language of the Convention if differentiation between the developed and industrialised countries is purged from the text. Article 9 (the provision of financial support to developing countries from industrialised nations) was ignored; instead, there was an emphasis on carbon markets and insurance mechanisms. Finance was not even considered until the Africa Group of Nations forced open the issue by boycotting the discussions. Still, with name-calling from Switzerland and backtracking from the U.S., there was a lot of tension at the negotiations.
  • In spite of these problems, a single rulebook for all countries has been produced and will serve as a foundation for more detailed rules and structures. Many international civil society groups expressed utter dismay over the disregard of equity. Poor and developing countries whose greenhouse gas emissions have been low or negligible will bear the brunt of warming effects. Whether or not funds will be replenished even for the implementation of the current NDCs is unclear. Funds for finance, better terms for new technologies to be transferred to developing and vulnerable countries, and economic and non-economic support for loss and damage and their equitable moorings in the text have been eliminated, minimised or footnoted. Yet, the need for ‘ambition’ was loudly proclaimed by many actors. How can there be ambition without support?
  • Sowing confusion

  • One should remember that the European Union, Australia, Switzerland and Japan did not disagree with the U.S. when “equity” was wiped from the text; in fact, they consented. So, simply pointing to the U.S. as the ogre would be incorrect. And corporations have had a significant role to play in the drafting of the text in climate agreements. A Shell Corporation executive boasted recently about the role that the company had played in writing parts of the text of the Paris Agreement, especially Article 6, which is about market mechanisms and carbon credit. Text from the company’s straw proposal is part of the Agreement, according to The Intercept. American historian of science Naomi Oreskes and others have shown the methods by which those with vested interests have funded scientists and politicians to challenge climate change, thereby sowing confusion.
  • Local and state-level action that keeps climate change at the centre and fully incorporated into “good development” is the most critical policy perspective nations can adopt. As long as people and governments treat climate and environment as marginal to development, and well-being as marginal to GDP growth, climate change impacts will strain and tear every weak stitch of the world’s economic and development fabric.
  • There is hope in youth action in various parts of the globe, from Europe to Australia to the U.S. The farmers’ protests in India are but a symptom of a development-as-usual crucible gone wrong. Ms. Thunberg is not alone, and perhaps our strongest prospect is to get behind this future generation. As she said: “If solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself.”
  • Sujatha Byravan is a scientist who studies science, technology and development policy
  • Making every citizen an auditor

    Various steps need to be taken to strengthen social audits

  • “A good auditor is a good listener” said President Ram Nath Kovind during his recent speech at the 29th Accountants General Conference. “You will not only see the accounts in their books, but also listen to their accounts,” he said. It is only when this conception is accepted that audits will return to their democratic roots, and social audits in India will get the space and attention they deserve in becoming an integral and robust part of the formal audit process.
  • Social audits show how people’s participation in the planning, execution and monitoring of public programmes leads to better outcomes. They have strengthened the role of the gram sabha. Social audits were first mandated by law in 2005 under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). Subsequently, Parliament, the Supreme Court and many Central ministries mandated them in other areas as well. As efforts are being made to extend social audits to new areas, it is important to look at how well they are actually implemented based on parameters specified in the auditing standards jointly pioneered by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Ministry of Rural Development. The National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj recently conducted a study comparing ground realities with the specified standards, and identified key issues that need to be addressed.
  • Many shortcomings

  • There can be no effective audits if the auditing agency is not independent. Following a sustained push from the Rural Development Ministry, the CAG and civil society organisations, social audit units (SAUs) have been established in 26 States (Rajasthan, Haryana and Goa are yet to establish them). More than 5,000 full-time staff have been appointed. A 30-day rigorous training programme has been designed, and more than 4,200 people have been trained. However, the study identified certain shortcomings. The governing bodies of most SAUs are not independent. Some SAUs have to obtain sanction from the implementation agency before spending funds. More than half the States have not followed the open process specified in the standards for the appointment of the SAU’s director. Some States have conducted very few audits and a few have not conducted any. Several do not have adequate staff to cover all the panchayats even once a year.
  • For the period 2016-17 and 2017-18 (till November), only 13 SAUs registered grievances and/or detected irregularities. These have identified a significant misappropriation amount of ₹281 crore. However, the action taken by the State governments in response to the social audit findings has been extremely poor: only 7% of the money has been recovered and only 14% of the grievances have been redressed. Adequate disciplinary action against people responsible for the irregularities has also not been taken.
  • The way forward

  • In 2017, the Supreme Court mandated social audits under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to be conducted using the machinery that facilitates the social audits of MGNREGA. Social audits of the NFSA have failed to take off due to lack of funds. Like the Rural Development Ministry, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution should give funds to the SAUs and ask them to facilitate the social audits of the NFSA.
  • Social audit units should have an independent governing body and adequate staff. Rules must be framed so that implementation agencies are mandated to play a supportive role in the social audit process and take prompt action on the findings. Also, a real time management information system should track the calendar, the social audit findings and the action taken, and reports on these should be made publicly available.
  • Social audit processes need mentoring and support as they expand into newer programmes. As the President said in his speech: “The social audit to account whether the money was spent properly, and made the intended difference, is mostly conducted by the scheme beneficiaries. Here the CAG as an institution could partner with local citizens and state audit societies to train them, build capacities and issue advisories on framing of guidelines, developing criteria, methodology and reporting for audit.”
  • The brilliance Down Under

    Watching and reporting on cricket in Australia is a different game altogether

  • Memories of tracking cricket in the Australian summer inevitably have the alarm clock’s shrill ring during nippy December dawns. It was an annual ritual: wake up groggy, gulp your morning brew and catch live action beamed in from Channel Nine.
  • The telecast quality was top-drawer; the commentary was a mix of baritone, gravelly voice, insights and excitement, think Bill Lawry, Richie Benaud, Ian Chappell and Tony Greig; the sea gulls were swell and when a big shot was struck, they rose in chaos and then flew away in symmetry. There was wicked humour too: a batsman departing on zero had a sad duck accompanying him on our television screens.
  • To partially borrow T.S. Eliot’s turn of phrase, nostalgia mixes memory with desire. The reality was a beguiling blend when this writer touched down at Adelaide a fortnight ago. The welcome chorus across immigration counters, the corner store and in cabs, was: “Here for the cricket? Good on you mate!”
  • And then the knife was twisted into their own team: “Australia, no good, especially after what they did in South Africa. No Steve Smith, no David Warner.” The words were uttered with a sigh, the undertone was simmering anger.
  • Ever since Cameron Bancroft used a sandpaper to scuff the ball in the Cape Town Test this March, which led to the instant ban on the opener and primary instigators, Smith and Warner, Australia is holding a mirror to itself and the reflection isn’t good. This is a country that plays its sport competitively hard. Once, when Kapil Dev’s shot killed a bird, the distraught Indian captain requested some water but his counterpart, Allan Border, refused permission. But now, the overwhelming feeling is that the line of acceptable behaviour has been irreparably breached by Bancroft and company.
  • The Australian media has been caustic and a recent article had these words: “Ball-tampering villain Bancroft.” The loathing that is directed towards the home squad has forced Cricket Australia to telecast saccharine videos featuring the national team and tagged with the catchline: “It’s your game.” Asked about his objectives, Australian captain Tim Paine lucidly said: “Winning matches and importantly, winning back the trust of our fans.”
  • And in a strange inversion of team loyalties, the Aussies are in thrall to Virat Kohli. Barring one booing session at the Adelaide Oval during the first Test which India won, the visiting captain has been treated like royalty. His arrival at the crease lends an extra timbre to the announcer’s voice and old-timers with considerable air-miles across Australia chasing cricket mention that the warm reception that Kohli gets is akin to what was reserved for Sachin Tendulkar in the old days.
  • When Kohli scored his sixth hundred in Australia (he has seven overall against the mighty team), during the second Test at Perth’s Optus Stadium, there was a standing ovation liberally infused with respect and awe.
  • The cricket surely is intense, more slow-burn than disco lights but that’s how it is played in Australia. And does it match the action seen on television years ago? Absolutely.
  • Questionable decisions

    The Congress’s choice of Chief Ministers in Rajasthan and M.P. shows that it is a party of the past

  • Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s decision to appoint Kamal Nath as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and Ashok Gehlot as Chief Minister of Rajasthan sends the signal that the Congress is a party of the past, not of the future. He had a great opportunity to demonstrate that under his leadership the Congress could be a forward-looking party capable of responding to the aspirations of the youth, who form the bulk of the Indian population. More than 65% of India’s population is below the age of 35. It is this cohort that will determine election outcomes in the future.
  • Unfortunately, Mr. Gandhi squandered this opportunity. His refusal to nominate Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot, both in their forties, as Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, respectively, has demonstrated that he is a prisoner of the worst aspects of Congress culture. Although both worked hard to rejuvenate the Congress in their States, they were overlooked for leadership positions because of their age and lack of seniority.
  • It is even more galling that Mr. Nath and Mr. Gehlot carry some negative baggage. Mr. Nath was implicated in the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984 following Indira Gandhi’s assassination. He was let off for lack of enough evidence. Sajjan Kumar’s conviction could lead to the reopening of the case against him as well. Mr. Gehlot carries with him the stigma of being a two-time loser in State elections, in 2003 and 2013.
  • In contrast, Mr. Scindia and Mr. Pilot have the charisma and ability to mobilise support for their party, especially among the youth. This is particularly true of Mr. Pilot, who worked assiduously for over four years as president of the State Congress to rebuild the party in Rajasthan after it had been almost wiped out in 2013. The Congress owes its victory in Rajasthan in large measure to Mr. Pilot’s efforts.
  • Mr. Gandhi has conveyed a disheartening message to party cadres and supporters by ignoring Mr. Pilot’s claim. He has clearly signalled that hard work and dedication do not count for much when confronted by seniority and caste calculations. It is especially surprising that the Congress president, who belongs to the same generation as Mr. Pilot and Mr. Scindia, was appointed to head the party and is projected as its prime ministerial candidate despite his youth, should give short shrift to the two young leaders’ legitimate claims. He should have realised that if the same logic of youth and lack of experience had been applied in his case he would never have made it to the top of the party.
  • The appointment of “have beens” to the top positions in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in disregard of more deserving youthful candidates does not augur well for the Congress as the country heads towards the national elections.