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Debraj Bhattacharya
Friday , April 04, 2014

Why voters are not as powerful as they are made out to be


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Every time there is an election in India, especially a Parliamentary election, we see certain myths about the voter in India being propagated. Indian and foreign media harp on the fact that in the elections, every voter has one vote and therefore the rich and poor are equally powerful to decide who will rule the country. Celebrities come out and say that all of us should go and vote and take part in the selection of the leaders of the country. Voting is the pious responsibility of the Indian citizen and the fact that every time an election takes place large number of poor people goes out to vote shows how important voting is for the poor Indians and how this reflects the triumph of democracy. There are of course a few isolated acts of violence here and there and a few criminals do....


Friday , February 07, 2014

Seven Rules of Populist Politics


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You want to enter politics and transform your country? You want to be a popular politician? You want to be seen on television every evening? Here are seven golden rules that you need to follow in order to achieve success. 1. Create an easy to understand villain Remember that politicians you are competing with are not just your "opposition." That is too tame a word. They must be converted into a "villain", the archetypical "bad guy". Whether it is a comic book version of Ramayana or a popular film like Sholay what makes a narrative a hit is the villain. In populist politics too, the villain is very important. If you cannot show before your prospective voters a villain who is responsible for all the bad things happening to them, all their misery and their poverty, then you do not stand a chance in populist politics. However....


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Significance of the Polio Success


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We love our stars. Whether it is Cinema, Cricket, Politics or Development we like to see stars on our television screen. As soon as a movement makes news the media starts focusing on certain individuals - whether it is the Narmada Bachao Andolan or the Anti-corruption movement we instantly see certain stars emerging as the focus of media attention. The audience, the people of India, believes that certain super heroes will come and transform the country. Somebody will bring "good governance" if elected as PM, somebody will rid the society of corruption, somebody will do this, somebody will do that, and we shall all worship them for their great heroic achievements. In the land of Ramayana and Mahabharata we are forever looking for our Rama or Arjuna to fight against evil and take the country forward. This is where the significance of the success of India in eradicating polio....


Saturday , December 28, 2013

An Open Letter to Shri Arvind Kejriwal, Hon'ble Chief Minister


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An Open Letter to Shri Arvind Kejriwal, Hon'ble Chief Minister, New Delhi Dear Sir, As a humble "aam" blogger let me congratulate you on your remarkable success in the New Delhi Assembly Election of 2013. You have already made history by transforming a civil society movement into a successfully political party, a feat unmatched in recent history of India. I am writing to you to draw your attention to a correspondence I had with AAP on October 10 via e-mail on the plight of migrant workers. The mail from my side and the reply is copied below. New Delhi has a huge migrant population from different parts of the country. In India nearly 30% of the population consists of migrants. Yet there is no policy on the migrant population. India is becoming more and more urbanised and people from rural India are more and more leaving for....


Monday , December 16, 2013

LGBT agitation and its paradoxes


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First thing first - Article 377 should be amended/repealed to ensure that the LGBT community does not feel "criminalised". However in my view we need to think carefully why the Supreme Court gave this particular judgment. There are two sides to the massive outpouring of anger and vitriol as soon as the judgment of the Supreme Court by one of its most reputed and senior Judges came out. The first is a happy one - it showed that the LGBT community is not alone and there is a massive amount of support among heterosexual community as well. Famous people from around India, including several Bollywood celebrities, expressed their support for the LGBT community and denounced the judgment. There is another aspect of the reaction which has however frightened me. Justice Singhvi, in an interview to a TV channel said in a polite and dignified manner - "please read my....


Tuesday , December 03, 2013

New Delhi Election: Where is the left?


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New Delhi is going to the polls on December 4. I am writing this essay on November 30. The essay may or may not appear before the results are announced. But it does not matter. I am not trying to write about who is going to win the election, who will win how many seats, vote share etc. There are far more competent people to do that. Whatever may be the results, I will be extremely surprised if the left parties manage to win a single seat. The matter is not even discussed in the election related TV shows or in the various opinion polls. The left clearly does not exist in electoral terms in Delhi. But why? There is a paradox which deserves careful analysis. New Delhi is in a way the ideal breeding ground for leftist politics. Here is a city where the inequality between the classes....


Friday , October 25, 2013

Arunachal Pradesh: Urban migration and rural development


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It is by now a reality in India that there is a steady stream of people moving out from rural areas to cities in search of livelihood. It is also well-known that remittance from such migrants to families back home forms an important part of the rural household economy. We usually tend to understand the impact of rural-urban migration in terms of individual remittances to the family back home. However recently I encountered a case where there was a community led initiative for the collective well-being of a remote rural area which was made possible as result of the effort of a section of the community migrating to the city. This opens up a new area for understanding the impact of rural-urban migration on rural development. Recently I had an opportunity to visit Arunachal Pradesh with a colleague of mine. Our task was to document the work of two....


Monday , September 30, 2013

Is Kerala losing form like Sachin Tendulkar?


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It is well-known that Kerala is India's Sachin Tendulkar when comes to progress in Human Development. Over the last two decades it has made giant strides in human development and decentralized planning, which has been lauded both nationally as well as internationally. The latest Human Development Report published by the Planning Commission in 2011 ranks Kerala as the first in this regard among all Indian states (Government of India: 2011). I have visited Kerala on several occasions in the last decade and have seen many of its outstanding achievements - the Panchayats, the health system, the schools, the lush green countryside and the beautiful backwaters which are an international tourist destination. The achievements of this small coastal state with high density of population are indeed inspiring. In 2007 I visited the Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) to learn about Kerala's achievements in local governance. One faculty member, whose....


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Media and rape sensationalism


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On the morning of 10 September 2013 I saw a wonderful piece of news on the net - the four accused in the rape case of a young girl in Delhi ("Nirbhaya") has been found guilty by the Indian judiciary. This is certainly a victory for the people who fought for justice. This is also a victory for the media in India who played an important role in highlighting the issue and continuously supporting the brave young men and women who took to the streets. By the time evening came however I was struck by two disturbing news reports about a study on rape in Asia. The news reports that I saw came out in prestigious media brands - BBC and The Hindu. The BBC headline read - Almost quarter of men 'admit to rape in parts of Asia'. The Hindu news headline....


Thursday , August 22, 2013

End of Left Era in West Bengal Panchayats, but what next?


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The war, camouflaged in liberal terms as an "election", is over and it is clear who has won it. The 2013 Panchayat Election in West Bengal has continued the trend that was set by the 2008 Panchayat election leading to the defeat of the Left Front in the Assembly Election of 2011. The Left Front era of Panchayati Raj in West Bengal which started with the election in 1978 has clearly now come to an end and even if the electoral fortunes of the Left Front is revived in the coming years, it is unlikely to reach the kind of hegemonic position that the Left enjoyed between 1978 and 2011. First, let me briefly point out the statistical highlights of the 2013 election. Table 1 summarises the party-wise results of the 2013 election.


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More about Debraj Bhattacharya

Debraj Bhattacharya is an alumnus of Presidency College, Calcutta, and currently is with Institute of Social Sciences, a civil society organisation, where he researches on contemporary development issues. He has earlier edited a book of essays, "Of Matters Modern: The Experience of Modernity in Colonial and Post-Colonial South Asia" (2008) and has written several reports on rural development issues of India. He also writes in more popular vein in newspapers in English and Bengali.

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