Politics in India—Not Business as Usual


View from the US.

Worsening matters, the media has struggled to play an impartial role in the face of religious polarization. India ranked 138th of 200 countries in the annual World Press Freedom Index 2018 rankings. A sting operation against large media houses by a small media group, Cobrapost, exposed some potentially alarming findings in its latest release on May 26th. Code-named “Operation 136” (so-named after India’s rank in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index), the sting operation appeared to show that the business operations of several of the country’s largest media houses were ready to accept funding for advertising religion-based political ideologies of groups. In some cases, these media houses seemed even open to influencing their reporters into incorporating such polarization into editorial content. Needless to say, both activities, if proven true, run afoul of Indian law.

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Rafiq Dossani — RAND

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India’s Opposition Heads for the Hills


As the opposition gets weaker and weaker what does it entail for the Indian democracy?

But, if Indian history serves as any guide, this concentration of power in the hands of a single party also has a downside. During the heyday of the Congress Party in the 1970s under the leadership of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, national politics devolved into an orgy of political excess and institutional decay. The Congress Party, fabled for its pan-Indian appeal, developed an autocratic culture made famous by the sycophantic quip, “India is Indira. And Indira is India.” The remaking of the party in Indira’s mold ultimately damaged it, too, but it also proved disastrous for governance. The BJP, which has rapidly centralized authority under Modi and party president Amit Shah, would do well to heed the lessons of the past.

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Milan Vaishnav — Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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Modi’s actions fail to live up to his words

Modi meets Jinping

A critical piece on Indian PM Modi from The Japan Times.

Modi borrowed the language on Nov. 8 to order a “surgical strike” on black money, removing from legal tender the two highest denomination 500- and 1,000-rupee notes that accounted for 86 percent of India’s currency stock. Demonetization showed Modi confuses impetuous and headstrong for bold and decisive leadership.

In summary, it caused considerable damage and disruption to the economy and adversely impacted the material conditions and rights of the people, without discernible success in meeting the declared goals. However, although dubious as an economic decision, it paid off as a political gamble, proving Modi is a party politician, not a national leader. Modi has been determined to consolidate, expand and centralize state power more than unleash the creative business potential of the Indian innovator, entrepreneur and trader.

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Ramesh Thakur — The Japan Times

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Authoritarian Democracy: A Playbook


Authoritarian or a bold leader? The question is up for debate. Today’s needull raises some interesting dissenting views. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them but the needull does provoke some thoughts.

One way to anticipate what Trump’s no-holds-barred style may bring to the United States is to look abroad. A number of constitutional democracies from Turkey to the Philippines have recently turned towards leaders with a taste for authoritarianism. In fact, perhaps the clearest parallels of the types of tactics Trump might use come from the world’s largest democracy, India, where in the face of violence in Muslim-dominated Kashmir and sharp criticism of his government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently imposed something akin to Emergency rule in the country without ever actually declaring an Emergency.

Taken together, the set of strategies used by leaders abroad like Modi in India, Erdoğan in Turkey, or Duterte in the Philippines constitute a type of authoritarian playbook. Worryingly, Trump has already threatened to use many of these tactics. What makes these strategies so insidious is that they are generally not unconstitutional or illegal. Instead, these tactics rely on the large amounts of discretion modern constitutions give to the executive. This discretion is frequently restricted not by laws, but by a set of norms and traditions about what constitutes acceptable executive action. If a leader is willing to undercut these norms, they can effectively shrink the space of dissent. Even though these actions may do immense damage to the social fabric of democracy, since they are legal, there is little courts can do to oppose them.

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Nick Robinson — Dissent

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