October 31, 2013

Is Third Front a Myth or Reality ? Nov 1 -15, 2013, JUST IN PRINT

As per the enigmatic leader Naveen Pattnaik , CM , Odisha is very uncomfortable with Modi as a prime ministerial candidate . In a earlier interview , he categorically stated that his party is equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress.The third front will be a healthy alternative in Indian politics. It is early days and I do not want to speculate,” he said .

Modi’s growing clout in the BJP might just do what many political efforts over the years have not. Resurrect a Third Front. Can there be a change in the 15 Lok Sabha itself through a re-alignment of political forces? The numbers don't suggest that: the UPA currently has 267 MPs supporting it from inside, and another 48 from outside, totalling 315. The 48 MPs include the Samajwadi Party's 22 MPs, the Bahujan Samaj Party's 21 MPs and the one member Sikkim Democratic Front. The SP, though victorious in U.P. and currently on a strong wicket, is not going to back a BJP-led government, as it would damage its credentials with the Muslims who have brought it to power. The NDA currently has 149 MPs, and even if all the unattached parties (minus the Left parties, which would never back the BJP) were to back it, it would add up to just 203, 69 short of the halfway mark, 272.
Meanwhile, the SP's Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav emphasised that while he welcomed a debate on the possibility of a non-Congress, non-BJP third front, he did not anticipate the possibility of one. Instead, he stressed: “My priority is to set U.P. on the road to prosperity.”

As for the Biju Janata Dal, whose leader and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, has, of late, tried to unite non-Congress Chief Ministers on federal issues, its leader B. Mahtab said that the party was keen to form a “federal front” of like-minded parties.
“We are not for a Third Front or Fourth Front. We are for a federal front,” he said, adding that “a federal front recognises the view of every State and State leadership. Any party which supports the federal character of the country will be part of the front.”
But BJD sources said that while the party would like to assert the rights of the States, it knew that no coalition government at the Centre would be possible for the foreseeable future without either the Congress or BJP in it.

Many have different views. When asked to Sitaram Yechury CPI (M) that there is a periodic talk of third front, but Advaniji recently said that no government can be formed without BJP or Congress. He categorically stated that a third front for name’s sake is not good.

Repeated failures to resurrect the defunct Third Front have made leaders of these parties cautious. Instead they say they are getting together to fight communalism. The protagonists of the Third Front were together when the United Front ruled India for almost two years between 1996 and 1998. They are hoping that India elects a hung parliament next year, following which they would have a chance to get together and form the next government with outside support of the Congress party.
While the Left Front sustained the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in its first tenure before withdrawing support due to differences over Indo-US civil nuclear deal, the Samajwadi Party has been sustaining the UPA-II with its outside support after it was reduced to the minority earlier this year after Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam pulled out of UPA.

They are confident that the Congress party would extend support to their effort to form the next government to keep the rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) out of power.
They are in touch with the three regional parties of Andhra Pradesh and are convinced that some constituents of the UPA may also join hands with them in case a hung parliament is elected, to ensure they are able to form a non-Congress non-BJP government in the country.

Is a Non-BJP, Non-Congress government actually possible?  It sounds more like an impractical thing. If we see, the current Loksabha seats or even somewhat predict for the next general election, it is impossible to have a third front government- without Congress or BJP. For this to work out there will have to be a drastic decline in the number of seats, which seems a very, very unlikely possibility.

This is what L.K. Advani said in his very controversial statement which did a lot of run around in the media for many days. According to him ( in his words) , “My own view is: (i) the shape which national polity has acquired in the past two-and-a-half decades makes it practically impossible for any government to be formed in New Delhi which does not have the support either of the Congress or of the BJP.  A Third Front Government, therefore, can be ruled out; (ii) A non-Congress, non-BJP Prime Minister heading a government supported by one of these two principal parties is however feasible. This has happened in the past also. But, as the Prime Ministership of Chaudhury Charan Singh, Chandra Shekharji, Deve Gowdaji and Inder Kumarji Gujral (all supported by Congress), as also of Vishwanath Pratap Singhji (supported by BJP), have shown, such governments have never lasted long.”

So, as Mr. Advani, pointed out foremost, that a government cannot be formed, under any circumstances, without the support of either Congress or BJP. So, that situation is out of the question. However, he does say in his second point that, a Minority Party Leader, someone like Mulayam Singh or any other Third Front Leader, may get benefitted from a minority government supported by either Congress or BJP.

Even, if we examine carefully, the actions of Mulayam Singh, It won’t be a top race for him. First of all, the supporters he relies on are themselves having a very tough time. And, have almost lost credibility.  The only chance that Mulayam Singh could go to top is by the support of Congress. But the question arises, why would Congress do that?
So, as pointed already above, the dream of Third Front Government is in reality, not possible as Math won’t work out, in favor of Mulayam Singh Yadav or any Third Front Government (Congress and BJP together hold 320 seats in Loksabha, to have such a fall is rather an unlikely circumstance)

Also, if we talk about Mulayam Singh Yadav specifically, he has been the center of many controversies already, his soar relations with Mayavati are no new news Thus, losing the support of a major party. Also, the assumption that Congress might actually make Mulayak Singh Yadav Prime Minister is rather a false one.
The most unpredictable factor could most likely be the emergence of a third front comprising of political parties that are unwilling to become a part of the two major coalitions, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Considering the possibilities of them merging together, the first major obstacle is that of rival parties coming together for this common cause. For example, the leftist parties of West Bengal and the opposing Trinamool Congress uniting seems nigh impossible. Similarly, as does the coming together of the Samajwadi party and their fierce rivals, the Bahujan SP of Uttar Pradesh. This is because these parties have always contested fiercely against each other, in both state and central elections and are party to completely different ideologies.This is where the biggest problem of the formation of this front lies.

The fact that there are so many differences between these parties, means that they are being speculated over as members of this elusive alliance. This is also a huge disadvantage owing to the fact that they are initially not as powerful in numbers and hold, relative to the two major coalitions, thus these differences will weaken the fragile possibility. Another obstacle with the parties is that some of them exhibit a cat on the wall with the tendency of swinging in favour of either of the two big coalitions, depending on the time and the situation. Therefore there is no doubt that the UPA and the NDA will try and make use of this demonstration to each of their advantages as much as possible.

There is no denying the fact that some of the possible constituent parties of this possible front boast of names that have been synonymous with the development in their respective states, such as Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Orissa of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar of the Janata Dal United (JDU). Both these individuals’ development models in their respective states have been lauded and have triggered good levels of development. There is also a growing section of the public in India who are not convinced by either the UPA or the NDA and, provided a third front comes into existence, would not mind giving them a chance. This is fairly clear from an opinion poll conducted in July 2013 by Times Now-CVoter which projects a third front gaining 129 seats and other parties (sometimes referred to as a Fourth Front) gaining 122 seats.

This being said, if the third front manages to materialise sans the issues, there is little or no chance of them forming a government on their own. This is a paradoxical situation because they will have to ally with the other coalitions which was what were initially against. However, all is not lost for the elusive third Front, yet. If they are able to earn a fair number of seats, they may be able to dictate terms of the possible alliance and may even succeed to govern the nation.
With less than a year to go before the elections, it is crucial that these parties collectively decide immediately whether or not this third front should emerge.

If we look at the history, there are two instances when India had a non-BJP and non-Congress government. The first one was in 1989 and the second one in 1996. On both occasions, they failed to give stability to the nation and collapsed due to conflict among themselves. An important architect of both these governments was late Harkishan Singh Surjeet who played the role of a consensus builder. The possibility of creation of a third front cannot be completely ruled out. But even if it is formed, there are more reasons that the third front would not be able to run a government than there are for it making one.

To start with, when you have so many parties, consensus building becomes the most difficult task. There would be conflicting ideologies, difference in working style and personality conflicts. Besides, if a third front is formed, it will have at least half a dozen leaders aspiring for the prime ministerial berth. Parties with regional outlooks would not be able to govern and upkeep the diverse Indian population. The foreign relations and the economic growth would be worst hit as all potential members of the so-called third front have conflicting views in these two domains.

As of now, having a third front government is actually more a myth than reality. India’s polity has taken such a shape that having a government without the support of Congress, BJP and BSP is impossible. For now, we could only hope  that in some era, we may see a government without having Congress or BJP support in it.
Given the pros and cons, it is in the best interest of the people of India, the Indian democracy and the economy that the idea of third front never becomes a reality. For the time being let it be a distant dream.


October 17, 2013

Disaster Phailin , Just In Print , October 16-31-2013

On October 4, the Japan Meteorological Agency began monitoring a tropical depression that developed in the Gulf of Thailand, about 400 km (250 mi) west of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Over the next couple of days the system moved westward within an area of low to moderate vertical wind shear. As it passed over the Malay Peninsula, it moved out of the Western Pacific Basin on October 6. The system subsequently emerged into the Andaman Sea during the next day, before the India Meteorological Department (IMD) started to monitor the system as Depression BOB 04 early on October 8. During that day the system moved towards the west-northwest into an environment for further development. The IMD reported that the system had become a deep depression early on October 9 as it intensified and consolidated further. The United States Joint Typhoon Warning Center subsequently initiated advisories on the depression and designated itas Tropical Cyclone 02B, before the system slightly weakened, as it passed near to Mayabunder in the Andaman Islands and moved into the Bay of Bengal.After moving into the Bay of Bengal, the system quickly reorganized as it moved along the southern edge of a subtropical ridge of high pressure. The IMD reported that the system had intensified into a cyclonic storm and named it Phailin.

After it was named, Phailin rapidly intensified further, and became equivalent to a category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS) early on October 10, after bands of atmospheric convection had wrapped into the systems low level circulation center and formed an eye feature. Later that day the IMD reported that the system had become a very severe cyclonic storm, before the JTWC reported that Phailin had become equivalent to a category 4 hurricane on the SSHWS, after it had rapidly intensified throughout that day. Early the next day the system underwent an eyewall replacement cycle and formed a new eyewall which subsequently consolidated.After the new eyewall had consolidated the system slightly intensified further with the JTWC reporting that the system had reached its peak intensity, with 1-minute sustained windspeeds of 260 km/h (160 mph) which made it equivalent to a category 5 hurricane on the SSHWS. Early on October 12, the system started to weaken with the Phailins eye starting to rapidly deteriorated as the system moved towards the Indian coast.The system subsequently made landfall later that day near Gopalpur in the Indian state of Odisha, at around 2130 IST (1600 UTC) as a very severe cyclonic storm.

A gigantic cyclone, one of the strongest ever to hit the Bay of Bengal, pounded India's eastern cost with heavy winds and rain Saturday, as nearly a million people fled the region.

More than 18 hours after the storm — the strongest to hit India in more than a decade — made landfall in eastern Orissa state, officials said they knew of only nine fatalities, most of them people killed by falling branches or collapsing buildings in the rains ahead of the cyclone.

The final death toll will almost certainly climb, and parts of the cyclone-battered coast remain isolated by downed communication links and blocked roads.
Hundreds of trees were uprooted before the eye of the storm even made landfall early evening local time and flights, trains and shipping operations were canceled and power shut down in six districts in the coastal area.

The India Meteorological Department said the cyclone made landfall near Gopalpur, India, with sustained winds of 124 mph — equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane.
Cyclone Phailin caused one of the largest evacuation operations in Indian history, with 870,000 people moved to higher ground in the coastal state of Orissa.
Electricity had been cut off in the entire state of Odisha as a precaution, said Indian navy retired commodore A.K Patnaik, in Bhubaneshwar, who was reached by phone before he shut it down to conserve power.

Satellite images showed the cyclone filling nearly the entire Bay of Bengal, an area larger than France that has seen the majority of the world's worst recorded storms, including a 1999 cyclone that killed 10,000.
"If it's not a record, it's really, really close," University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy told the Associated Press. "You really don't get storms stronger than this anywhere in the world ever."
The storm slowed significantly overnight, with some areas reporting little more than breezy drizzles by midday Sunday, but meteorologists said parts of the region would face heavy rains and winds for the next 24 hours.
"Its intensity is still strong, but after crossing the coast it has weakened considerably," Sharat Sahu, a top official with the Indian Meteorological Dept. in Orissa, told reporters.

To compare it to killer U.S. storms, McNoldy said Phailin is nearly the size of Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,200 people in 2005 and caused devastating flooding in New Orleans, but also has the wind power of 1992's Hurricane Andrew, which packed 165 mph winds at landfall in Miami.

"The storm has the potential to cause huge damage," L.S. Rathore, director-general of the Indian Meteorlogical Department told reporters.
In Behrampur, about 7 miles inland from where the eye of the cyclone struck, there were reports of only three deaths early Sunday morning.
"We have stopped all cargo operations," Paradip Port Trust Chairman Sudhanshu Shekhara Mishra told the Press Trust of India, a local news agency. "We have set up control rooms and are ready with a contingency plan. We have cleared all vessels. People have been evacuated from low-lying areas."
The state has created 800 shelters as government workers and volunteers put together food packages for relief camps.

"I don't want people to panic," said Naveen Patnaik, chief minister of Odisha told PTI, calling for everyone to do their part in helping relief operations.
Still, some didn't want to leave their mud-and-thatch homes, particularly vulnerable to the storm.

More than 100,000 people from the low-lying areas of neighboring Andhra Pradesh state had been evacuated. The sea has already pushed inland as much as 130 feet in parts of that state, officials said.

Some locals were at a loss.

The cyclone was one of three major storms over Asia on Sunday. The smaller Typhoon Nari was approaching Vietnam and Typhoon Wipha loomed over the Pacific.
At least 873,000 people in Odisha and adjacent Andhra Pradesh spent the night in shelters, some of which had been built after a 1999 storm killed 10,000 in the same area. Others sought safety in schools or temples, in an exercise disaster management officials called one of India's largest evacuations. Now people are going back to their homes. Where their homes have been devastated, they will continue to stay in relief camps.
Cyclone Phailin was expected to dissipate within 36 hours, losing momentum as it headed inland after making landfall on Saturday from the Bay of Bengal, bringing winds of more than 200 kph (125 mph) to rip up homes and tear down trees.

Further northeast, port officials said they feared a Panama-registered cargo ship, the MV Bingo, carrying 8,000 tonnes of iron ore with a crew of 17 Chinese and an Indonesian, had sunk on Saturday as the storm churned across the Bay of Bengal.
Winds slowed to 90 kph (56 mph) early on Sunday and rain eased. But large swathes of Odisha, including its capital, Bhubaneswar, were without electricity for a second day after the storm tore down power cables. Officials said it was too early to assess damage accurately.

Soldiers and rescue workers in helicopters, boats and trucks fanned out across the two states, but officials sounded confident that a major disaster had been avoided.
Under the influence of the cyclone, several parts of Odisha like Paradip will witness heavy rainfall for next 24 hours. The Met department has also predicted heavy rainfall in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, and Sikkim in the next 48 hours. It has also issued a flood warning for Bihar. 

Ganjam district in south Odisha is believed to have been the worst-hit due to the cyclone, with extensive damage to crops and some buildings, government sources have said. Coastal areas in northern Andhra Pradesh however managed to escape the fury of Phailin.

The cyclone has destroyed railway signals and high-tension electricity wires and uprooted tracks and railway platforms at various stations, bringing rail services in the region to a halt. "More than 100 trains have been cancelled in Bhadrak, Puri and Palasa sections while at least 25 other trains have been diverted," East Coast Railway spokesperson Anil Saxena said today. The airport in capital Bhubaneswar was also closed  and 10 flights were cancelled.

Siddhartha Shankar Mishra,