/Tag: democracy

When JRD Tata Called For a Strong Opposition


Hindustan Times

On 15th May 1961, the politician C. Rajagopalachari wrote to the industrialist J. R. D. Tata, asking him to support the newly formed Swatantra Party. A patriot of impeccable pedigree, ‘Rajaji’ had started Swatantra to provide effective opposition to the ruling Congress party, which he saw as insensitive to economic and political realities, and dominated by [...]

By |2017-11-10T17:25:08+00:00September 25th, 2017|Categories: History, Politics and Current Affairs|Tags: , , , , |

Five Lessons For Indian Democrats


Hindustan Times

Late last year, I wrote in these columns that we were in danger of becoming an ‘elections-only democracy’. Once a party or coalition wins an Assembly or General Election, it considers itself immune from criticism for the next five years. The other instruments of democratic accountability: legislative debate, judicial oversight, a free press (and free speech [...]

The Press In India: Somewhere Between Free and Unfree


In the first half of 1988, I was doing research in Uttarakhand, when news came of the murder of a brave young journalist from the region. His name was Umesh Dobhal, and he had published a series of articles exposing the link between the liqour mafia, the police and excise departments, and local politicians. He was [...]

An Opposition to Despair Of


The Telegraph

I spent the last week of July in New Delhi, my first extended trip to that city since the General Elections of 2014. It was a year and two months since the Modi Government had come to power, and signs of disenchantment had set in. Scholars, executives, restaurant waiters, and security personnel all made sarcastic remarks [...]

Seven Threats To Freedom Of Expression


The Telegraph

India, I have long maintained, is a fifty-fifty democracy. In some respects—such as free and fair elections, free movement of people—we are as democratic as any other country in the world. In other respects we lag noticeably behind. One such area is the freedom of expression. The first threat to freedom of expression is the retention [...]

How Congress Lost the Diaspora


Hindustan Times

In April this year I was in Houston, which has a large Indian community. I had dinner with a group of NRIs, and we spoke about the 16th General Elections. I was told a hundred college students and professionals from Houston had gone to India to campaign. How many for the Bharatiya Janata Party, I asked. [...]

By |2014-11-06T20:56:30+00:00September 28th, 2014|Categories: Politics and Current Affairs|Tags: , , |

Politicians and Pluralism


The Telegraph

Indian pluralism was always hard won. The riots during Partition produced an enormous sense of insecurity among India’s minorities. Mahatma Gandhi’s death, by creating a sense of shock and outrage, allowed Jawaharlal Nehru’s Government to isolate extremist Hindus, and bring the mainstream towards a more moderate, inclusive, plural sense of what it meant to be Indian. [...]

By |2013-09-20T09:41:15+00:00September 7th, 2013|Categories: History, Politics and Current Affairs|Tags: , , |

The Poison of Partisanship


The Telegraph

Earlier this year, I was discussing partisanship in Indian politics with a friend from Bangalore temporarily based in Boston. In no other democracy, I suggested, did the two major parties use such vile language about one another. When the Government of India chose to allow foreign direct investment in the retail sector, the Chief Minister of [...]

By |2013-07-08T12:37:35+00:00June 29th, 2013|Categories: Politics and Current Affairs|Tags: , , |

The Continuing Tragedy of the Adivasis


The Hindu

In the summer of 2006, I had a long conversation with Mahendra Karma, the Chhattisgarh Congress leader who was killed in a terror attack by the Naxalites last week. I was not alone—with me were five other members of a citizens’ group studying the tragic fallout of the civil war in the state’s Dantewada district. This [...]

By |2013-06-17T22:45:32+00:00May 27th, 2013|Categories: Politics and Current Affairs|Tags: , , , , |

The Man Who Would Rule India


The Hindu

A journalist who recently interviewed Narendra Modi reported their conversation as follows: ‘Gujarat, he told me, merely has a seafront. It has no raw materials—no iron ore for steel, no coal for power and no diamond mines. Yet it has made huge strides in these fields. Imagine, he added, if we had the natural resources of [...]