Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Judicial Reforms: Is NJAC the answer?

The discussion on judicial reforms is live all seasons and in all democratic countries. This discussion has taken prime time TV in India recently after the Supreme Court shot down the newly enacted law by the Indian Parliament, the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC). The NJAC law sought to amend the provision dealing with appointment of judges in the Constitution of the Indian Republic. The existing selection committee is called, collegium of judges, which is a five member committee of judges. The collegium system was criticized as inefficient and lacking transparency. Some even went to the extent of calling it a corrupt system. The NJAC provides for appointment of the judges to the Supreme Court and the High Court will be done by a six member body headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI). The other five members will include the Law Minister, two senior judges of the Supreme court and two eminent personalities. The two eminent personalities will be selected by a collegium of the CJI, the Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha or the leader of the single-largest opposition party in the Lower House. The NJAC law was unanimously passed by the Parliament, which means, a rare meeting of the mind of politicians of all parties. The politicians claim that the new law is transparent and enables participation of public in the selection process through the elected Government and through the eminent persons. The Supreme Court felt it as interference by the executive in its current exclusive independence to select brother/sister judges and termed the law as unconstitutional. The executive termed the Court ruling as tyranny of unelected.

Let us examine how the NJAC will improve the judicial system from a common man's point of view. We can do this only through understanding the ailment of the Indian judicial system. Is the problem within the Indian judicial system completely emanating from inefficient selection procedure? Is it because of the quality and impartiality of the judges? Or, is it all these and something else? I would say it is all these and more of the something else. The way the NJAC is sought to be constituted, it will bring some element of transparency into the selection process. The NJAC,at the minimum, ensures that differences within the selectors will be leaked to the media because of the involvement of politicians with competing agendas and to some extent the allegiance of the so called eminent person and their political ideologies. To cite an example, something similar could happen when the palm oil tainted bureaucrat was chosen to head the CVC by the UPA Government. There is a chance that the alleged bartering within closed doors by the collegium will get reduced. The NJAC is,therefore, not addressing the core ailment of the judicial system.

The core ailment of Indian judicial system is delayed justice. Delayed Justice perpetuated by the Bench and the Bar, aided and abetted by the executive and politicians. My argument is that the Bench and the Bar should bear most of the blame. In my teens and early twenties, I lived in the proximity of Allahabad High Court. During this period, I got an opportunity to work with a couple of leading Advocates and assisted them in preparing cases. In this process, I met and interacted with a number of litigants and heard horrible stories of lawyers exploiting their clients. A number of these litigants used to be villagers having lost their case in the lower and district courts. The lawyers in the High Court maintain a network with lawyers in the lower Courts and received clients through referrals. The High Court lawyers will have the same arrangement in the Supreme Court. Some lawyers even engaged Dalals(agents), whose job is to fish for potential clients in the Railway Stations and Bus Terminals. I heard stories of plaintiffs who were actually intending to go to some other lawyer but was duped by these Dalals to go with a lawyer of their recommendation.

There were several horror stories of litigants about how lawyers extracted money out of them. One evening when I reached the Lawyer's office, I saw two elderly people sitting outside the lawyer's office. I think they were brothers.  They appeared to be in their late sixties, tired and exhausted. With the initial pleasantries in my broken Hindi, I enquired about their case. They were farmers from western UP, near Meerut, lost their case on farm dispute to their Uncle. Western UP farmers were relatively rich because of their land holding. I was shocked to learn that their case is pending for over fourteen years. They lost seventy five percent of their undisputed land paying the lawyers thus far and were deeply in debt. Their only hope was a favorable decision in the dispute under appeal from the High Court. They were in town for a potential hearing, probably the twentieth time. Every time they come, the case is not listed because the opposing party is either not present or an adjournment was sought. The poor guy spent all the money in his travel and fees to his lawyer. When his lawyer arrived in his office, the farmer pleaded for getting the case adjudicated quicker. The farmer said, I quote "Malik Barbad ho Gaya, aap homey Bachayiye,  aapka fees Bharney ko ketch nahin bacha" translation, "I have become bankrupt fighting this case, please save me Lord, I am left with nothing, not even to pay your fees".The farmer was virtually weeping. The lawyer was without emotion. He asked the farmer, "how much land he holds now?"The farmer replied in some bigha (a measurement of land in UP), I don't recollect how much. The lawyer's suggestion was to transfer the remaining land in his name. I still remember the farmer crying and saying "Bachey Bhooka Marjayenge, humarey ooper raham keejiyey" translation, my children will starve, have mercy on me.

There was no move from the lawyer to help the farmer. It was and I believe it is a big nexus between the Bench and Bar in delaying the case for a silly reason. The entire court establishment should share the blame for the collapse of the judicial system in India. When Narendra Modi was campaigning for the Parliamentary elections, he appeared concerned about the delayed justice. The nation was hopeful that the Parliament will come up with a legislation that will address the delay in the delivery of justice and a time bound adjudication of cases. On the contrary, the government appears to be content with a say in the appointment of judges via the NJAC.  NJAC may address only five percent of the problem. The remaining ninety five percent is the delayed delivery of Justice. The only way to correct this menace perpetuated by greedy lawyers is to bring up a legislation that guarantees the following:

(1) A time bound adjudication of cases.  It is not hard to fix the maximum time a particular category of case should take from the day of filing the case.
(2) Listing the case for hearing should be automated and dates for next hearing should be scheduled based on first come first serve basis. The nexus between the lawyers and the court registrar's office should be put to an end.
(3) Put a cap in the amount of fees that all lawyers together can charge for a case. This should not exceed a certain percentage of the value claimed as damages.

Therefore, the common man's concern is not how judges are appointed but what the judges are doing and how efficiently are they adjudicating cases. The common man seeks speedy justice. Government can bring in a legislation ensuring time bound disposal of cases, cap in lawyer fees and make the Courts answerable for delayed Justice. If these things start happening, a significant amount of Court cases will get disposed off quickly. This will be the biggest gift to the nation by the Prime Minister in his first tenure.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Runoff elections - Are Political Parties forcing avoidable Taxpayer Dollar Spending?

The campaigning is in full swing for the voting on June 20th to the runoff elections from Georgia to US Congress 6th district. Unlike in earlier elections, one can see number of volunteers, mostly young boys and girls, knocking your Door and seeking vote and support for their party and candidate. Door to Door Campaign is being adopted by both parties even though it was originally started by Jon Ossoff, the Democrat candidate. In addition to the volunteers visiting your home, you get phone calls every now and then, every alternate day if I am not exaggerating. As I write this, I just received a call from the Ossoff campaign. These calls come from live men and women from the campaigns. This is a change from the earlier Robocall or one or two conference call in the past elections. Different interest groups are organizing town hall type meetings with pre-screened questions. Participants in the town hall meetings are not allowed to ask direct questions to the candidate because the organizers fear that opponents may be sending proxies to ask uncomfortable questions. Tons of paper is used for printing these campaign materials, I may have received at least 15 to 20 from the same candidate. If you are part of the “green campaign”, one will lament the number of trees that may have become pulp to print these materials. As the election day approaches, TV ads with negative campaigns have also increased. In nutshell, millions of dollars are spent in this special election by the candidates running the campaign and by the government in running the elections.

A close examination of the policy postures of the candidates, anti-abortion, anti-immigrants and anti-Iran Nuclear deal, protection of speech for Churches and Balanced Budget Amendment are the decisive stand highlighted by the Republican Candidate, Karen Handle. The Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, on the other hand promises to support the continuance of Obamacare, Planned Parenthood and Abortion rights. While the Republican campaign accuses Jon Ossoff as an outsider to the 6th district, inexperienced and a pawn in the hand of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat Campaign charges Karen Handle with Corruption in her earlier public positions held by her.

All the above are good stuff and standard political rhetoric heard in every election. In every Country, politicians repeatedly promise to work for the same set of issues election after election.  In America, the Republicans pet issues are Defense Funding, Tax Cuts, Second Amendment, Balanced Budget and illegal immigrants and has been in their agenda ever since I started taking interest in Politics. Social Security revamp used to be another item which is now replaced by repeal and replace of Obamacare which they were trying ever since Obamacare was passed. Democrats on the other hand recycle issues like Abortion Rights, Minimum wages, Gun Control and Climate Change. There are two new items added since 9/11 which are Terrorism & National Security. Education and Infrastructure has started finding place in the agenda of both parties with appropriate color in recent years. Terms of the Government ends, party in power changes and a new leader/representative gets elected but the issues remain unresolved. This cycle makes it easy for the candidates in the next election because there is no need to reinvent a new issue, the list is already long. Some older voters get disenchanted and intermittently stay away on election day, some keep voting as a sacred duty. New voters reading the list of promises first time are enticed and enthusiastic about the newly acquired power to choose their government. The political process goes on. Voters keep experimenting their luck by re-electing or replacing the party in power in the hope that some good things will happen. And it does for some and others continues to be simple voters and remains satisfied that they are part of the system choosing their rulers for the next term. Once elected the elected representatives forgets most of the promises, remains indecisive and makes everything possible to create logjam so that nothing gets resolved. Gun violence continues, drug trafficking increases, your local TV news is full of news about murder and crime every day, more young people are filling the jail, more people are unemployed, the gap between rich and poor widens, the national infrastructure continues to be dilapidated, budget deficit and per capital national debt increases and your representatives spends day and night, resolves nothing but legislate bad and unimplementable laws or Government shutdowns. Legislations passed by the House is modified by Senate, again modified by House and then again by Senate and the game of passing the bucks goes on. Our Legislators and Senators meet too often but seldom reaches on any agreement on what is good for the Country and the People. It is politics for then every day.

With all the shortcomings in the political system, democratic process continues to be the available best option for public participation in Government. Therefore, voting in every election is important. It is the most important right and duty as a citizen. Express your opinion through the ballot. Your one vote may make some positive change in choosing the best alternative legislator who could do something positive for our future generation one day.

Now let us come to the runoff election in the 6th district and list out some key considerations when you press the button on the voting machine on election day. These are:

  1. Why is the runoff election happening and which party forced the runoff election on us?
  2. Was the runoff election forced on the voters due to the inability of a political party to narrow down a winnable candidate in the first phase?
  3. Was it possible to avoid the runoff election and save millions of tax payer dollars in election expenses spent by your government for conducting the runoff elections and the millions of dollars the two campaigns are spending? Could these funds be used for building roads, bridges or schools?
  4. Will the unity of the party to defeat the opponent in the runoff is going to unite and bring team work after the elections are over? Remember that the runoff election was not forced by a third political party or independent candidates but inability of one party to agree on a common candidate from its ranks.
  5.  Is it not necessary for those who held positions in government to highlight their achievements during their tenure instead of running negative advertisements?
  6. Is inexperience but youthfulness a better qualification for a candidate to represent you in US Congress as opposed to experience, alleged corruptions and perceived non-delivery?

Our informed decision on 20th will determine who will represent us and whether the candidate and the political party is wisely spending our tax dollars.  Our vote should not only elect our legislator but also send a strong message that insensitivity towards the citizens will not be taken lightly nor rewarded.  

Vote and voice your opinion. Good Luck!

About the Author: The author is a keen political observer and closely follows US and Indian Politics. More Blogs at, Twitter: mohanMNair 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Demonetization and OCI My Experience

Demonetization and OCI My Experience

This may be a stale story for many as the “Note Bandhi” is now seven months old and most of you may have read several blogs and news items regarding it by now. However, I thought of writing my personal experience how your genuine wealth became “Kagaz-ka-Tukada” in the words of the RBI Officer and lack of clarity on what should people do with that “Kagaz-ka-Tukada”. This is my personal story and I would like to share it with the readers of my blogs and my social media friends.

I am one of the staunch supporters of Prime Minister Modi long before he was declared the Prime Ministerial candidate. I continue to support his vision and the policy directions. I also supported his demonetization decision which is commonly known as “Note Bandhi” in India. I responded to several blogs, tweets, face book posts and continues to do so. I had two situations to experience the effect of “Note Bandhi”, one on January 25th dealing with Sate Bank of India and another on February 2nd, dealing with the Reserve Bank of India. The experience with State Bank was more personal and the one with Reserve Bank is common to all Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) or Person of India Origin (PIO) (by whatever phrase your association with India is known). I will explain both the situations in the following paragraphs in more details.

OCI and NoteBandhi: I arrived in India on 24th January, 2017, first time after the “Note Bandhi”. Since cash being the main medium of spending in India, one had to carry bundles of rupees during the stay in India. At the end of every India trip, some rupees within the legal limits of carrying foreign currency will be left with you and the same is retained even when after you exit India. This cash comes handy on your next trip to pay for the immediate needs such as to pay for the taxi from the Airport to Home and miscellaneous expenses until you get a chance to go to your Bank and draw money from your NRI account. Most people who make frequent trips to India practice this retention of left over cash. We too had some which was within the limit of the Re.25,000/- allowed to carry abroad. Most of the notes were either Re. 500 or Re. 1000 in old currency. The RBI (Reserve Bank of India) announced that those holding old currency and are abroad on and after the demonetization on 8th November, can deposit the old currency in select RBI branches until June 30, 2017. Many in the Diaspora wrote detailed blogs on this policy but failed to read the fine prints of the announcement.

After a 45 Minutes wait in the queue (a queue of just one person in front of us with 3 custom officers handling the currency exchange certification in Kochi Airport), the customs officer in Kochi Airport examined the Indian currency with us and issued the prescribed certificate to be presented to the RBI for exchanging it with New Currency. Neither while standing in the queue nor while issuing the certificate, did the learned Customs of Officers of Government of India tell me that this rule is not applicable to OCI holders. They did examine our passport, OCI Card and whatever travel documents we had. I am not sure the Customs Officers were ignorant of their own rules or negligent as I was in reading the notification.

Armed with the Certificate issued by the Customs Officer at the Kochi Airport, I took a flight to New Delhi from Kochi and reached RBI Office in New Delhi on 2nd February 2017. Contrary to my expectation of a short line as the Note Exchange was only for people who were abroad when the demonetization notification was issued, I saw thousands of people lined up to exchange the old currency with new ones. My wife and my friends who accompanied me occupied a spot at the tail end of the queue. I walked towards the RBI gate to have a feel of how long this could take for us to get our old currency exchanged on that day with that many people in the queue. Reaching at the gate, I found a few people arguing with the Security Guards. There were no Officers at the gate to respond to the queries of the people in the queue. I watched the situation for a while and googled the phone number of RBI. I was routed to Ms. Saroj Kalia, General Manager (Currency). I explained the purpose of my call to Ms. Saroj and apprised her of the situation outside the gate. The decent lady in Ms. Saroj transferred my call to One Mr. Rana, who is the officer-in-charge of currency exchange. I explained to Mr. Rana my purpose of the call. Mr. Rana told me that all that we read from various websites and social media are incorrect and the old currency exchange relaxation until June 2017 is applicable to only for those holding Indian Passport who were abroad since November 8th 2016 and returning to India for the first time. Mr. Rana further said that the notice is pasted outside the RBI gate which I can read for myself. Several people were crowded in front of the place where the notice was pasted. After significant effort, I positioned myself to read the notification and learnt that OCIs are not NRIs (which I should have known anyway) and the rule to exchange the old notes with new ones is not applicable to me and fellow Overseas Citizens of India (OCI).

Rule is rule and I take pride in abiding by the rule. Educated well enough with the information pasted at the RBI wall and realizing the 22K rupees loss (I spent for myself and my wife to travel to Delhi by Air) in addition to the customs cleared old notes, I attempted to call Mr. Rana again to ask him what should I do with the Old currency notes. Since Mr. Rana did not pick up the phone, I thought he is busy and called the GM (Currency) again. The GM(Currency) gave the line again to Mr. Rana. I asked Mr. Rana that now that I know that I can’t exchange the old currency under the prevailing rule, what should I do with the old currency. Mr. Rana bluntly told me that what I hold is not currency but “Kagaz-ka-Tukada” and I should wait for further notification from the Government on what to do with the old currency. I asked Mr. Rana that since he handles the issue, will he be reporting our concerns to the Finance Ministry to which Mr. Rana said, he only get directions from the Finance Ministry and informing the FM of the issues faced by the public is not part of his role. I pleaded with Mr. Rana to at least send some officers outside and announce what he said to me, so that the thousands like me who are not technically NRIs need not stand in line for hours to learn what I learnt from him. I am glad they did come outside and announced to the public and I could see several people branching out of the queue surprised and disappointed how their money which was legally obtained exchanging foreign currency at some point became “Kagaz-ka-Tukada”. Some OCIs were still standing in line when I left hoping against hope that their old notes will somehow get exchanged. They may have also met with disappointment when they reached the counter of RBI. I followed up with RBI, called Mr. Rana on 5th May, 2017 seeking a direction on what to do with the old currency and the certificate issued by the customs Officer as I have not come across with any new notification from the Finance Ministry. RBI still hasn’t clarified what should I and people like me should do with it except Mr. Rana repeating that what I hold is “Kagaz-ka-Tukada”.  Never in the past I felt that “I am a complete alien in India” until this incident. This is one of the several examples that all the pronouncements by PM Modi to the diaspora are not trickled down to the policy makers and bureaucracy or are not following up with policy directions.

Currency Withdrawal Limit and my predicament: Unlike previous visits to India, this time I had a special purpose, the wedding of my daughter. The marriage was on 29th January, 2017. As usual, I visited the state Bank of India Branch in my home village where I maintain my NRE account.  My brother who accompanied me forewarned that there could be a lot of people in the queue. When I entered the bank branch, there were approximately 60 to 70 people thronged in front of the bank counters. Spoiled by the bank facilities and customer service that we enjoy in the US, one could be easily disturbed with that sight. Soon I figured that there are several queues, and the lengthy one is for cash withdrawal. One would wish if the Bank could minimum offer a seat to the waiting customers. Probably the term “Customer is God” is not applicable in “Gods own Country”. In the past, usually, I walk into the Manager’s office and do all my banking items and along with the Bank Manager help me get the cash that I need. This time there were no familiar faces as all the staff in the Branch appeared new. The Branch Manager’s office was empty, so I walked to the Service Manager to enquire about a KYC formality. The service Manager recognized me when referred to the email correspondences that we had previously. I gave the KYC proof which the Service Manage examined and asked me to come back when the Branch Manager would be back. The Branch Manager had gone to get cash which I think is brought every day from the main branch in another city.  My wife had some locker related work which she did with the help of the Service Manager. We left the bank to return after 3 hours to withdraw the cash. This time the Branch Manager was available. We knew that the withdrawal limit is Re. 24,000/- per week and my wife stood in line with the check. We could not use our ATM card as it wasn’t working, possibly due to non-usage. I went into the office of the Branch Manager. There were two people sitting and a few standing in his office. The Branch Manager was multitasking with all of them plus answering the staff. The Service Manager introduced me to the Bank Manager and I was offered a seat. I was a little hesitant to occupy the seat as several customers standing came earlier than me. The Branch Manager asked again to be seated and I happily did and thanked for the gesture. I then introduced the need for additional cash for my daughter’s wedding the following Sunday. The Branch Manager mentioned, that I can only withdraw Re.24,000/- in a week from my account. This is the relaxed ceiling after the Re. 4000/- for a longtime post demonetization. I referred the much-publicized relaxation of drawing up to 3.5 Lakhs for wedding purposes. The Branch Manager mentioned that such a relaxation does not exist. Even if it existed, is not wise to go that route to get that relaxation as the documentation required for it is cumbersome and unlikely to be sanctioned prior to the wedding date which was 29th January. I enquired whether my wife can draw money from the account as she is a joint account holder with me to which we were told that the limit of Re. 24,000/- per week in cash is per account and not per account holder. By this time, I got the full view of the gap between the policy statements and the implementation reality on the ground. I would however, give my full mark to the Bank Manager and the Bank Staff for their patience and perseverance. One must admit and admire that the Bank Staff have been doing their best with all the odds and constraints. Learning that I can’t get more cash and with just Re.24,000/- in hand, my effort was to save as much in cash for the wedding. I hoped, at least some expenses could be met by check or Credit Card.  I requested the Taxi driver who picked us up from the Airport to accept check or to wait for a week to get more cash otherwise the cash in hand for my daughter’s weeding would have been just Re. 19,200/-. The taxi driver preferred the wait instead of other modes of payment. I braved to get the wedding going with Just Re.24,000/- with me. My sisters and brothers came forward and together collected another Re.50,000/-. There were hardly any takers of check or credit card. Since my daughter already decided that the wedding will be a simple ceremony, the need for money, cash or otherwise was minimum. She did not buy Gold or any other luxuries. If she did, with lakhs white remittance money of US dollars sitting in my account, I would have been a beggar for cash for an important life event like the wedding of my daughter. I am proud of my daughter for the simplicity she practiced in her life including in her own wedding.

In the end, I appeal to the RBI to give proper direction on what to do with the old notes. I am okay to keep the old notes and the customs issued certificate as a souvenir if there are no legal complications in doing so.

About the Author: The author is a keen political observer and closely follows US and Indian Politics. More Blogs at, Twitter: mohanMNair 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Anavandi Trip

I am Writing this enroute to Kochi International Airport. I and my wife are heading to Delhi to meet our old friends. This time we chose to ride the Kerala Government owned Anavandi bus service to the Airport. The Airport is two plus hours ride away from my hometown Pattambi. The bus originates from Perinthalmanna, anther town about 40 Kilometers north of  Pattambi. The pick up at Pattambi was at 5:20AM, so we left home around 4:50AM. Amma (my mother) woke up and prepared black coffee for us. Amma is 87 years old. She maintains her belief that it is inauspicious to leave the home empty stomach , no matter what the time of the day it is. We enjoyed the coffee and after seeking her blessings left the home. 

My home is in Kodumunda under the hills, surrounded by paddy fields , plantations and two temples atop the hills scenic, serene and picturesque which is 6 kilometers west of Pattambi. The commute to Pattambi is 10 minutes under normal traffic but we were cautioned about the railroad crossing and the possible delay. My younger brother dropped us at the bus stop in Pattambi. The bus arrived on time which was a bit of surprise to me as I still carry my 22 year old experience of KSRTC.  It was stated to be a luxury bus with place to keep your luggage etc. but it turned out to be just a low floor air conditioned bus. There was some space on the floor where you can keep your luggage. The luggage space was occupied by the passengers boarded from earlier stops. I moved those luggages and created space for my suite cases. The boarding process was completed after the routine  check by the lady conductor. Our seats were occupied by some unreserved passengers. The conductor instructed them to vacate and we got settled in our reserved seats. During the whole boarding process, the conductor did not welcome the passengers nor smiled. After all, the driver and conductor are Government employees and the SOP does not require them to greet the passengers or smile. After all why should they, all these greetings and smiles etc. are western culture. They are doing their duty in itself is a big obligation.

The bus ride was smooth and on time. Thought of catching up with my lost sleep but could not. The bus was brightly lit with no provisions for dimming. Switching off, the conductor said, is unlawful because there are women copassengers.

With the plan to sleep gutted, I started writing and suddenly my attention caught on Saleem , the passenger in the seat in front of my seat . Saleem is a young man of his late thirties. His face was gloomy and looked tired. I broke the ice and asked about his home and family. Saleem is returning to UAE where he works. His wife, two small kids and his mother lives in Kerala, the neighboring village of mine. Saleem said, he was on a short visit to see his family here in His village. Saleem is in Gulf countries earning and supporting his family back home. He visits his family once every year. Said that he cannot continue in Gulf longer leaving the family behind. Saleem wants to come back once his house under construction is completed. He said the face of children when he was leaving after the vacation tells him enough is enough the life separated from home and family. 

Kerala is full of Saleems. My younger brother did the same for 18 years and my nephew is wearing the same boot. Employment situation here compels young boys and girls to migrate to other parts of India and Gulf countries. People vote for politicians in the hope to see developments and employment opportunities and are disappointed. Parliamentarians and legislators are not shy of washing away entire house sessions. New elections, new promises and new government will come and go but the system will compel more and more Saleems to leave their newly wed spouse, elderly mother and younger children behind in search of livelihood.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

American Presidential Election 2016 and the Voters Dilemma

The Presidential primaries and the conventions are over. Unlike in the past, this year two major political parties, especially the Republican Party failed to present a clear choice. The nominees of both parties do not have the leadership that the country is looking for at this critical juncture. The voters are left in a dilemma and compelled to choose between the best out of the worst. Let us analyze some of their distinct personalities, why Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton are the worst Presidential nominees, American voters were presented with in the recent past.

Donald Trump: The Republican Party voters were presented with 17 Presidential hopefuls. The voters choose Donald Trump rejecting the other 16 seasoned professional politicians. Donald Trump secured this victory despite a series of effort by the party establishment to block him. Trump did not offer a manifesto except picking up some sensitive topic like religion based ban on immigration and the often repeated illegal immigrant issue.  Trump did not have a solid economic agenda and a credible foreign policy. His speeches weren't polished, nor were close to diplomatic norms. Trump kept on making crude statements. Trump was ridiculed by the neighboring countries, the national & international press, political pundits all over the world and some of the stalwarts within his own party establishment. Trump continued his rhetoric unmindful of all the ridicule and scoff. Trump gave enough postures which made good caricature of him. The press and TV had a good harvest of titillating news material every day.

The Republican Party did all in its power to block Trump from becoming the nominee of the party. The party engaged the media, fielded a host of seniors, leaders of faith and others to dissuade the voters from choosing Trump. The GOP establishment worried about the candidature of Donald Trump. The party could not make out what Donald Trump stands for. The party could not make out whether Donald Trump is conservative, liberal, both or nothing. If at all Trump stands for something, the party did not know whether his position on those issues will be stable at least until the election in November.

The voters knew that Trump can't deliver what he is promising, be it the ban on religion based immigration, deportation of illegal immigrants or building the replica of Berlin type wall on the border with Mexico. Despite all these, the primary voters continued to rally behind Donald Trump and placed him the front runner of the Republican Party presidential hopeful.  The voters credited him for speaking without political correctness. Donald Trump finally secured the Republican nomination against all the odds.

The GOP worry was genuine and continues to be so. It is the worry of all ordinary Americans. Americans do not see Donald Trump as a credible and reliable person to be entrusted with the World’s most powerful political position, the Presidency of the United States of America. Some even suspect Trump’s understanding of the American Constitution and his ability to make the right decisions when confronted with critical national and international issues.

The Republican Party, however, failed to introspect why and how the party brought itself into this pathetic situation. The party failed to own the responsibility for the situation, instead continued to offer choices which the people already had, but rejected. The party failed to accept that the voters did not vote for Donald Trump for his manifesto or political agenda. The voters did not vote Donald Trump for his personality or leadership style. The voters did not vote Trump for his record as a successful business man. The voters did not vote Trump for his national security stand. The voters did not vote Trump for his family values. The voters did not vote Trump for any conservative values. On the other hand, the voters preferred Donald Trump over the rest of the 16 Republican hopeful as Trump was the only person in that lot who was not a practicing professional politician, the lot they think betrayed their trust over the years.

Why do the people choose someone who has no record of Public Service, never been part of the administration, never served in the military nor was a law maker? The answer is simple. The American people are fed up with the politicking and logjam in Washington. The American people are frustrated with the partisan politics in the Congress and between the Congress and the White House.  The American people are fed up with the repeated threat of Government shutdown every now and then. The American people are fed up with the Gun violence targeting innocent school children and law abiding ordinary citizens and the Congress and President doing nothing to stop it. The American people are fed up with the increasing divide on race and religion and the crimes associated with it. The American people are fed up with young boys and girls crowd prisons when they should be in schools. The American people are fed up with the excesses by law enforcing agencies and the retaliation thereof. The American people are fed up wasting its tax-payer money fighting insensible wars abroad, destruction of humanity and then spending their money for the reconstruction of the devastation caused by the war in which they see no improvement to their life. The American people are not willing to accept that America follow the world, instead want it to lead from the front. The American middle class is concerned about the lowering wages. The American people therefore are frustrated, if not hate, with professional politicians. The voter sees all politicians insensitive, unmindful and incapable of addressing their concerns and live up to their hope and aspirations. The voters see the politicians as a bunch of self-serving individuals, no matter which party they belong to. 

Hilary Clinton: Hilary Clinton comes with her own baggage. The Democratic Party voters had already rejected Hillary’s ideas in 2008. In 2008, Hillary's ideas were considered second to that of Obama. The party choose Obama over Hillary in 2008 because Obama had a much more progressive agenda and enthused a large number of young and independent voters. Hillary Clinton continues to stand for the same what she stood for in 2008 and offers the same ideas. This means two things for the voters:

1.    The Democratic Party has nothing better or new to offer than the second choice which they had eight years ago.
2.    Obama failed to deliver what he promised and Democratic party did not choose the right candidate in 2008.

It will be suicidal for the Democratic Party to accept either position. Instead, the party is painstakingly explaining that Hillary will be a continuation of Obama’s eight years in power. The voters are aware that both the above are true. Neither Obama delivered what he promised nor the Democratic party has anything new to offer. Hillary’s refurbished image is not able to enthuse the voters. This was clearly evident from the support that her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders was receiving. Hillary is unlikely to draw large number independent and young voters towards her despite the effort by Bernie Sanders to project a united Democratic Party. Moreover, it is a conversation in every American household that Hillary is very low on trust factor, which was one of the major reason she was rejected in 2008 by the people. On top of all this, the e-mail controversy and the Clinton foundation is definitely going to be used against her by the Republicans. People do feel that the verdict on this would have been different if it was not the Clintons.

With all the negatives, there are two major items helping Hillary Clinton:

1.    The History that she may make by being the first Women President
2.    The extreme unpredictability of her opponent Donald Trump

Let us examine each of these one-by-one and see whether it will make any positive impact in the American People’s life:

Women President: Hillary Clinton is not one of the most respected women among American Women. A significant section of American women, especially the conservative women, considers Hillary as an opportunist, a power hungry, self-serving politician. Hillary, they think can compromise on any values when she finds it disadvantageous for her personal agenda. With all this, Hillary may get a few additional women votes more because some voters may not want to lose an opportunity for a Women President, which America was waiting for long. The voters like creating history. America made history in 2008 by electing a black President. But will creating history alone enough for a country as important as America in the world. The question also remains, did it the History created in 2008 anyway change the life of ordinary Americans? Similarly, will a Women President make any significant changes in the life of Women? There is no record of a Women President or Prime Minister improved the conditions of Women in the countries where women had the opportunity to lead for decades, India, Sri Lanka, Great Britain to name a few. But it is definitely an emotional issue with some Women and will work in Hillary’s favor.

Donald Trump the opponent: The significant item favoring Hillary as of today is her opponent. Trump is doing more damage to himself than to his opponent and indirectly benefitting Hillary Clinton. The GOP is further aiding in this mess by working against their own chosen Presidential Candidate.

When comes to the Interest of America, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are far below the stature of the American President that the people of USA would like to see in their leader. The Democratic camp is euphoric on the recent surge in poll numbers. These poll numbers suspicious and appears to be tactically driven by vested interests to be able to bargain with Trump and bring him to sing the conventional tune of the party line. Trump on the other hand knows very well that the moment he starts speaking the party line, his core support base will erode further. Trump is therefore trying his level best to be the original himself, speaking the voice of the sections who have been betrayed by professional politicians over the years and the one speaking without political correctness. After all, why should Donald Trump change his style? To benefit those party politicians who worked closed doors to deny him the nomination? His trusted advisers must be telling him that he should not change and stay the real Donald Trump. The establishment Republicans ultimately will have no option but to come in line with Donald Trump and support him. The alternative of supporting or voting for Hillary will be suicidal for the Republicans as this may even lead to a loss of majority in House and Senate at the same time. Many republicans seeking reelection is fearing that the continued standoff between the party and the top ticket (Presidential Nominee), will be counterproductive. Republicans therefore has no option but support Donald Trump at the end. This realization is likely to close the gap in polls between Trump and Hillary over the months to come.

So the common question everyone ask is whether Donald Trump is the answer. Will Trump be different from the professional self-serving politicians? The voters are still unclear of that answer. What the voters know and decided is that they want to punish the professional politicians for the years of breach of trust. A vote in the primary therefore was a punitive vote, neither in favor of Trump nor a vote for change. The voters clearly know that Trump is incapable of leading the change they want. Trump is strengthening the voters point of view with all his ill-advised choices and sound bites. Trumps family members are further providing fodder to that belief by their over enthusiastic interference. The entire convention was a family drama with no policy statement nor any statesman like speech. The subsequent Trump events also added fuel to the fire. Though, a large number of people will still vote for Donald Trump, a good number of them are still evaluating the risk of a Trump Presidency.  It appears to be advantage Hillary Clinton at this time. The dilemma of the voter continues at the moment. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Second term for Modi

UPA II win was completely because of the BJP overstatement of the "weak PM" reference to Dr Manmohan Singh. The more than required repetition of this phrase by LKA forced Sonia Gandhi to openly endorse Dr. Manmohan Singh's continuance as PM if UPA wins. This scuttled Sonia's strategy to insert RG post election.  Had LKA focussed on the misgovernance of UPA and achievements of NDA rather than the weakness of Dr Manmohan Singh, the results would have been in BJPs favor. Whatever said and done Dr. Manmohan Singh's image of an honest and well read individual still resonated with some voters. The other factor went against LKA was his own manipulative politics within BJP when Atalji was in power. LKAs shift from a hardcore Sang Parivar flag bearer to a Secular image through his comment on Jinnah also demotivated the grassroot workers.

Modi's task in 2019 will be tougher than 2014. If in 2014, Modi had the baggage of 2002 and a lack of national experience, 2019 will be completely on his promised delivery of 60 years worth development in 60 months. I was talking to a friend recently returned from a vacation to India. Though there is talk about so many things, things haven't started touching the ordinary people's life. Corruption at local level is still the same,  price of essential commodities is a matter of concern. Employment generation to the youth is still to be happening. The Go Slow approach on black money and action against corrupt politicians and officials of previous regime is being seen as a suspect of Modi Governments intentions in these areas. Legislation on black money and benami laws are significantly diluted with too many exemptions. On top of this, the survival instinct will unite the opposition parties. The only way Modi can win 2019 is going rural and substantially increasing the BJP vote share. Ignore the netas, get close to the people, touch the ordinary people's life then people will remember in the polling booth

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Cooking Sambaar


Set1 Daal
Set2 - white melon (Kumbalangha), pumpkin (Mathangha), Green Beans, carrot, Green Plantain with skin (Nendhrkaya), Green chilli. Drumstick(Murinjhakaya - optional).
Set3 - Tomato
Set4 - Okra (Vendaka), Onion (Savala).
Spices1 - Red Chillies (Chuvanna mulaku), Corriander seeds (Malli), Fenugreek (Uluva), 
Spices2 - Asafoetida cake  (Kayam).
Others1 - Coconut flakes
Others2 -Turmeric Powder (Manjal podi), Salt.
Others3 - Tamrind juice

Preparation - 
Take a pan and fry spices2 until it becomes crispy. Add spices1 and roast it until golden brown. Grind spices1 and spices2 in a mixer to a fine paste.

Take Others1 and roast golden brown. Grind in a mixer and keep separate.

Cook Set1 ingredient to medium level. The water and daal should stay separate, should not become a paste. Cut Set2 ingredients in even sized pieces and add to the half cooked Set1. Add Others2.  Cook but ensure the vegetable pieces do not become a paste. 

In a pan, add a little of your favorite cooking oil and saute the set4 ingredients. Add Set3 and Set4 to the cooked set 1 and Set2 and continue to cook. When all the above are well coked, add Others3 and allow to boil well.

Add Spices1 and Spices2 paste and allow to boil again. Then add Others1 and allow foam to generate, do not boil.

Fry mustard seeds, curry leaves and red Chillies in one spoon oil and garnish. Your Sambaar is ready to serve with Idly, Dosa, Vada or boiled rice.