Absolutely Karnatakered

Last week’s State elections are a litmus paper to the controversies and voting patterns of the upcoming GE

When PM Modi was here in London last month it looked to me that he was implicitly enacting the opening scenes of his general election campaign.

Nothing but portents of doom had been emerging in the Indian media – both from its gleeful opponents and mournful supporters – about the BJP’s prospects in 2019. What I saw as very many promising datapoints, not least the ground-level successes of most of Modi’s policies, were largely ignored or traduced by the Indian MSM. The unprecedented dominance of the BJP in the far north-east of the country passed uncommented on.

OK, I thought, Modi hasn’t begun to campaign yet. Wait until he does and we’ll begin to get a clearer picture through this gloomy miasma. We’ll see if the opinions and analyses of the secretly-delighted naysayers have any substance to them.

As Minhaz Merchant tweeted: “The Ayatollahs of (fake) secularism are back & everyone seems to be ganging up against Modi: the Church, Muslims, Dalits, activists, NGOs, the opposition, culture vultures, foreign media. Everyone except … voters.”

We have just had the Karnataka state election, and during the fortnight prior to voting, Modi did indeed go on a campaigning storm through the area, which must be seen as at least a rehearsal for his manner of presentation in next year’s big contest.

Now, the BJP is not traditionally big in the south

It has Andra Pradesh, but Karnataka, Telangana, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry are all foreign to BJP dominance. The BJP is the party of the north, west and the Gangetic plain. Its founders were merchants exiled from Pakistan after partition, who had first formed the long-lamented Swatantra party (the nearest thing to classical Liberalism India ever had).

Its heartlands are Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madya Pradesh. But the BJP is now dominant – ruling alone or in coalition – also in the North and generally across India, except for the south and the Communist-Maoist strongholds in the east.

Congress clings on in a few places, including Punjab, where it is rewarded for its friendliness with fundamentalist Islamics.

According to the media prognoses, with as usual the honourable exception of India’s finest psephologist, the BJP was about to get knackered in Karnataka.

What actually happened turned everything around – even as it appears that Congress will manage to wrest the Chief Ministership by making a shaky alliance.

Some numbers: In 2013 the BJP was indeed hammered. Out of 224 seats Congress won 121, comfortably more than 50% of the vote. The Janata Dal (Secular) – an anti-Congress option – gained 40 seats, exactly the same number as the BJP. A few other parties shared the crumbs.

Last week Congress won 78, 43 fewer seats, while the BJP increased its total to 104, up by 64, or if you prefer, more than a 150% increase in vote. Thus we observe how Modi is truly hated in areas where the BJP previously did little business!

The JD(S) lost a couple of seats and slipped to 38.

The Aam Aadmi Party (Congress B-team) didn’t win a single seat.

Although the BJP didn’t achieve an overall majority of 112– short by eight seats – they were by far the largest party, and the Supreme court declared in support of his assertion on that basis that BS Yeddyurappa, the BJP candidate for Chief Minister, should form the new administration.

The only other party that could ally with Congress to oust the BJP would be the JD(S). That would not be received well by Janata Dal supporters because they had just voted against the ruling Congress Party, not the locally out-of-power BJP, but would end up with a Congress majority administration (even with HD Kumaraswamy as chief minister) just the same, courtesy of their treacherous JD(S) pols.

And yet, dear reader, it looks as if that’s just what is going to happen. Delicious – and I’ll tell you why.

What happened was that Congress petitioned the Supreme Court, which had given Yeddyurappa two weeks to form a majority coalition and establish a BJP-led administration. Congress petitioned the Supreme Court and somehow got the period reduced to only two days, which was an impossibly short time to cement any alliances.

Congress also basically kidnapped the new JD(S) MPs and is even now keeping them in purdah in hotel rooms while a deal with the Congress Party is stitched up. They don’t want any new MLAs taking fright and fleeing across the street to the BJP – a realistic fear.

Also, there is the matter of personal safety: on no account are the JD(S) MPs to venture onto public streets, to be possibly lynched by their angry voters! “You should also ask Rahul Gandhi why he has kept MLAs in hotels. They are still there,” joked BJP President Amit Shah.

Shah called the Congress manoeuvres a “betrayal” of the people’s mandate and questioned whether it would last. A fair point: Congress and the JD(S) have spectacularly fallen out before, and the Janata vote in Karnataka was clearly against Rahul Gandhi’s family party.

The question is what this might mean for the general election. The BJP almost always triumphs nowadays when there is a three-cornered fight, because the opposition will split, dividing the vote, almost always guaranteeing an NDA (National Democratic Alliance) victory.

Where opposition parties unite in a UPA (United Progressive Alliance) block, the BJP is vulnerable.

A senior BJP politician I talked to agreed in principal, but made the point that Modi and the BJP are both far more popular after four years in power and having achieved so much – which the voters approve and reward even if the media and the establishment refuses to acknowledge them.

He added that the popularity of Modi across India, even in the far north-east, and among minorities, is due to concrete progress and the withering of Congress propaganda in disinfecting sunlight.

Up from 40 seats to 104 in Karnataka is testament to this, especially in a traditionally non-BJP-voting southern state – but one in which Modi had indeed spent that whirlwind two weeks electioneering prior to the vote.

If the BJP vote improves on average by just one-third as well as it did in Karnataka – up by half on 2013, say – then it will not matter how united the UPA parties are: Modi will simply bulldoze them.

And another thing …

From India to Canada, the USA, China and back to India again …

Ha ha ha, what a dink … see below

This post is likely to be a little discursive: the snow has gone, the days are stretching longer and spring is on the way, so I’m feeling a little looser.

Do bear with me.

First of all, after addressing in my previous post all the doom and gloom (not mine) surrounding Modi’s and the BJP’s prospects in the upcoming 2019 general election, it is amusing to have to report on the the state election in Meghalaya last week (27 Feb) which led to the crushing of the Congress party and the installation of an NDA government—led by 40-year-old Conrad Sangma, chief of the National People’s Party (NPP)—in which the BJP has just two seats but effective strategic control.

The plain fact is that in mountainous and jungly northeast India, where the party of the plains is traditionally weak, the BJP is now the biggest player, even if that’s as part of local coalitions. The major takeaway is that Megalhaya is yet another state to have been snatched from Congress in a part of the nation that it always assumed was its to command. The frustration for Congress is that this was despite winning the most seats of any single party (21)—but that’s democracy, folks!

Continue reading “And another thing …”

An election cometh!

The election’s not due for over a year yet, but it’s best to get your despair in early

It’s always been my contention that Modi became prime minister despite the BJP rather than because of it. His appeal as a singular personality lay in the combination of his auspicious achievements in Gujarat as chief minister and his position as a social and political outsider. Remember the dynamics of charisma: you win charisma by gaining successes; you don’t gain success by having charisma. Modi was elected on his record.

It helped that Modi was a great orator and had fresh ideas and was a moderniser and was the very first social media genius among politicians—Donald Trump was the second Twitter leader, Modi was the first.

Continue reading “An election cometh!”

Modi more popular than ever

What on earth can be going on?

Modi’s been “doing a Trump”.

After winning the state election in Gujarat a fortnight ago—and after a simultaneous victory in the formerly solid-Congress territory of Himachel Pradesh (As BJP wins Gujarat, Himachal, it is Modi vs Modi in 2019”), there can be only one interpretation: Modi and the BJP are doomed.

It is hilarious. These unceasing BJP victories mean the Indian mainstream media is forced to interpret damning defeats for the Congress Party as “a great opportunity” for the boy Rahul. And this despite the latest figures  that demonstrate Modi’s governance is heartily approved of by the Indian population—which must therefore increasingly be seen as “a bunch of deplorables” by the sophisticates in Delhi to keep their hallucination intact.

Continue reading “Modi more popular than ever”

The news is in: Pakistan has just been taken over

China’s strategy of economic colonisation of its regional neighbours has just been laid bare

Gwadar Port in Balochistan … in southern Pakistan, rather

… A restaurant owner is visited by representatives of a certain organisation that wishes to invest in his business. This is an offer he cannot refuse. Soon the “investors” are there every day, walking out sides of meat and crates of wine and liquor through the back door while the owner frets and worries about his vanishing profits. Eventually, when there is nothing left to take, the investors burn down the premises for the insurance money. Hence the old joke: “Sorry to hear about the fire, Lenny.” “Shh! Tomorrow.”

Well, it appears a “restaurant” that we might call “The Taste of Lahore”, or something similar, perhaps “The Karachi Grill” or “Memories of Rawalpindi”, has just been invested in by a certain powerful organisation. Let’s see whether anything is being walked out the back door, and whether there are any suspicious jerry cans of gasoline stacked in the alley out back.

Continue reading “The news is in: Pakistan has just been taken over”

Western “liberals” still not getting Modi’s demonetization move.

If you didn’t laugh at their cognitive dissonance … you’d laugh anyway

Cognitive dissonance is the gap between reality and what you would prefer reality to be. That gap gets filled with error and blindness when you can’t face up to what’s actually happening in the world. It’s thinking wishfully, with an edge of psychotic unreason. The Trump hysteria among Clinton Democrats and others in the USA (what Scott Adams calls “Trump Derangement Syndrome”) derives from an unwillingness to accept that their candidate was poisonously unpopular, lost the election, and that this is really for real.

The Leftish Naked Capitalism website, usually excellent on many matters, has been simply appalling in its coverage of India under Modi, and this I also put down to cognitive dissonance. It uncritically prints articles by notorious Congress Party frontmen inaccurate in details and wholly ideological in content.

Continue reading “Western “liberals” still not getting Modi’s demonetization move.”

China’s new $100 billion metropolis: Is Forest City a Field of Dreams?

In Johor Bahru did Kublai Khan/A stately pleasure dome decree …

China’s getting good at building islands. So far their method of dredging up sand for gun-platform berms in the South China Sea has been for strategic and military purposes, in other words to claim more territory. Recently, though, a massive real estate project has dwarfed all previous efforts by the Middle Kingdom to impose its presence on Nature.

Before I begin to describe what’s going on just off the south coast of Malaysia, let me say why I am interested in the subject.

Continue reading “China’s new $100 billion metropolis: Is Forest City a Field of Dreams?”

China: and another thing …

Beijing’s One Belt One Road initiative is anything but innocent, and China tried it already – 2000 years ago.

Apologies for my absence: vacations and other writing assignments are to blame; but the lousy weather has returned and it’s back to the routine as autumn approaches. I meant to write something about the Modi cabinet reshuffle that took place last week, but I found I was thinking about China and feeling a bit browned off about it. Don’t misunderstand me: I love the Chinese people and Chinese culture and all that, but I think I hate crony communism even more than I hate crony capitalism. And dopey authoritarians, too. Hate them here, hate them there.

As usual, Minhaz Merchant says the important stuff about the Modi reshuffle best, so if you want to know, go here.

Anyway, China:

  1. Kim Jong Who?

I’m heartily sick of reading acres of useless journalism about North Korea and what the USA might or might not do about the nuclear threat. It’s very simple, as Steve Bannon told David P Goldman a few weeks ago: the USA cannot realistically do anything about North Korea. Were they to try, half of South Korea would be vapourised and clouds of fallout would be floating everywhere to nobody’s benefit. China could deal with North Korea any time it likes, but it is just tapping the USA along because North Korea is its creature and everything North Korea does suits China very well, strategically speaking. Were this not so it would not happen. North Korea keeps the USA occupied, for example, while China gets on with all the things it wants to do relatively unobserved – at least in the media.

I’m sick of journalists writing that, ooh, 90% of North Korea’s trade is with China: if only Beijing would impose sanctions, Kim would cave in, and so forth. What nonsense. Why would China do that and hurt its own economy when North Korea is already doing everything commanded or condoned by China? Look: that pudgy little demon Kim Jong Un is the only one in the room who thinks he is in charge. As for those generals always standing around him with the shit-eating grins and stupid hats? That’s Beijing. If the Chinese had had enough of Kim then five minutes later his bullet-riddled corpse would be lying on the floor. The shit-eating grins would still be standing there, but holding smoking Makarovs (that’s not a cigarette, by the way). While we are on the subject, read Peter Zeihan’s funny and cruel take down of North Korea here.

  1. About that Silk Road plan …

I love this. It turns out that the whole bait-and-switch One Belt One Road scheme –or the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) as we are now supposed to call it – has been …. tried by China before! 2000 years ago! In fact it might not be going too far to say that certain Chinese high-ups came across the original scheme, dusted it off and decided to duplicate it.

I learned about this via Raoul McLaughlin, who is a fabulously good scholar, digging away at uncovering all the history of ancient trade and commerce – a much-underdeveloped area of research that I predict will soon be very visible and popular because of all the useful things it can tell us regarding our situation today. Anyway, I came across this in his book, Rome And The Distant East: Trade Routes To The Ancient Lands Of Arabia, India And China, and it explains how and why China’s OBOR scheme has been put in place, and what Beijing secretly aims to achieve by it (my italics):

In the ancient world, the struggle for supremacy was not always decided by invasion and war. In lands remote from Rome, imperial agents were using economic strategies to bring foreign peoples into positions of subservience. In the Far East, the Han set in motion subtle long-term schemes to undermine their foreign enemies and damage any ability to resist, or make war, on China. The Han encouraged a market for Chinese foodstuffs and fashions amongst foreign peoples including the Xiongnu hordes of the Mongolian Steppe. The eventual aim was to make these populations dependent on Chinese foods and manufactured goods so that these items could be withheld, or offered in diminished amounts, to inflict economic damage on these foreign communities. A Han official outlined how this strategy should be implemented, advising, ‘Every large border market we establish must be fitted with shops … and all shops must be large enough to serve between one to two hundred people … The Xiongnu will then develop a craving for our products and this will be their fatal weakness’. The Xiongnu were beguiled through thousands of trade exchanges that collectively reduced their resources and weakened their economic independence. As another Han official reported, ‘A piece of plain Chinese silk can be exchanged with the Xiongnu nomads for articles worth several pieces of gold. By these means we can reduce the resources of our enemy’. With calculated foresight the Han slowly, but surely, gained an economic stranglehold over their most dangerous opponents.

As I wrote in my earlier piece, OBOR: China’s bait-and-switch debt trap strategy, what China is doing is lending its neighbours the development funds to build infrastructre that China will end up owning and using to push Chinese products and interests into other countries, rendering them vassals in the process. In a generalised way China has been doing this across the world, and America’s uneasiness about how many dollars have been ending up in China due to the importation of its cheap goods, indebting the economy and destroying American jobs, surely contributed to the election victory of Donald Trump.

Today it’s cheap rebar and flat-screen TVs; in ancient times the Romans agonised over the high levels of luxury imports from China in the form of expensive silks that Roman women especially doted on (‘Our wealth is transported to alien and hostile countries because of the promiscuous dress worn by men and women – especially women,’ opined Emperor Tiberius.)

The writer Seneca worried about the political intent of these distant foreign merchants he suspected were looting the Roman empire and weakening it. Pliny the Elder wrote in his Natural History of how the ‘Silk People’ (the Chinese) were effectively pillaging Roman bullion on purpose for nefarious strategic ends. He wrote that they ‘take 100 million sesterces from our empire every year – so much do our luxuries and our women cost us.’ That was probably an eighth of Roman annual expenditure.

Note well the two primary reasons cited by the ancient Chinese planners for their OBOR scheme back then:

  1. Foreign nations ‘will then develop a craving for our products and this will be their fatal weakness.’
  2. ‘By these means we can reduce the resources of our enemy.’

With this track record in mind, I submit that it is far-sighted by Modi to have India resist the commercial blandishments emanating from Beijing towards the countries of the region (and to those even as far away as Europe).

China has just backed down from the confrontation over Doklam and the Siliguri Corridor – and they did back down because the road-building equipment has been withdrawn. Standing up to China over their ultimately damaging and aggressive ‘trade’ plans may likewise produce positive results.


Indian futures part 2: the luxury strategy

How can India counter the industrial giant on its doorstep?

In the previous post I briefly looked ahead to the relationship between India and the UK over the next few decades: it is only going to become deeper and more intertwined to the mutual benefit of both countries.

But India is also in the position now of crafting its own future as a “new” country, as Modi leads it away from retardation after the Congress corruption of the last seven decades. What sort of culture and economy will India follow as part of its growing identity and prosperity? I suggest it will be determined partly by the political realities surrounding India and partly by the artisanal DNA that India possesses and must now cultivate anew and capitalise on.

Continue reading “Indian futures part 2: the luxury strategy”

Indian futures part 1: Britain and India

It could be the start of a beautiful friendship …

A few days ago, despite the best efforts of the London Underground system, I had a very interesting meeting with one of the most successful British-Indian businessmen of our time, whose identity I shall withhold. He arrived in the UK several decades ago without any capital, and indeed without even much of the English language. He has succeeded in becoming one of the country’s foremost entrepreneurs, with a personal worth in the hundreds of millions of pounds – although he wears it lightly and is open and friendly in person, without any airs or grandiosity. It’s a fact that he is legendary in his sector for being a considerate and kindly employer, and his staff turnover rate is legendarily low. He told me he loves the UK because it’s a place where anybody can come and have a go at making themselves a success, knowing the odds are not stacked against them if they work hard enough.

Continue reading “Indian futures part 1: Britain and India”