Monday, December 29, 2014

Modi's Growing Clout - Signals India's arrival in comity of nations

                 THE YEAR 2014 - INDIAN FOREIGN POLICY

Narendra Modi could have been hyped as an economic moderniser or a catalyst of development; to his detractors in Indian politics he could be still a divisive figure; to the Hindutva hardliners, he could be a man not living up to their expectations; but Prime Minister Modi at the end of the year in the global scene has emerged with his clout.
Therefore, just as the year 2014 came close, one question among diplomats and for those involved in Foreign Policy handling, is: Has India arrived at the international stage? 

As the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who offered a very ‘different’ image of himself even a month before the landslide victory in the general elections in world’s largest democracy, took charge and subsequently interacted with global leaders; there was a strong feeling that an opportune use of the occasion would be made. His interactions with the US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and South African President Jacob Zuma, perhaps were example of Modi’s ability to punctuate the crucial tactical visions in Indian foreign policy.

Bowing to PM Modi’s maiden address to the UN General Assembly on Sept 27, 2014, the United Nations declared June 21 as the International Yoga Day

In the history of the UN it was highest number of co-sponsors ever for any resolution of this nature, External Affairs Sushma Swaraj referring to unprecedented 177 of the 193 members of UN co-sponsoring the resolution.
The America visit by PM Modi in September was definitely a high point in India’s diplomatic calendar of the year. This marked a forward looking venture from the gory past when the US had denied Visa to Modi for 2002 mayhem in Gujarat. Both the nations took onto the road of mutual win-win situation.

During his visit, Modi’s Madison Square speech was a run away success.
“Although Modi remains a divisive figure, the event at Madison Square Garden, is a sign of his appeal not just at home but also the growing clout of the 2.8 million Indian-Americans. It's one of the wealthiest diaspora communities in the US, and can help Mr Modi spur trade and foreign investment,” wrote journalist Jessica Winch.

In parleys with Obama, Modi worked out an agreement to accelerate the US’s shift to renewable fuels, steps that officials say will reduce carbon emissions while helping India’s new government extend electricity to all of its 1.2 billion citizens. The package, announced after talks between President Obama and Modi also contained a modest step toward reducing global emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, industrial chemicals that act as a powerful greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. India also formally agreed to engage in international discussions that the White House hopes will lead to a phaseout of the chemicals, known as HFCs.

The accord and the spirit of Obama-Modi parleys provided an important boost for U.S. relations with the Modi government. 

The External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, though often in media gaze stood overshadowed by the PMO and NSA Ajit Doval, traveled extensively in the region initiating number of friendly parleys.
Swaraj attended the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, ASEAN Regional Forum Meeting and East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting and took concrete bilateral steps. "Everybody was impressed by Modiji's vision. They feel that investment opportunities have increased in India," Sushma later said.

In Dhaka, describing illegal immigration from Bangladesh as a "sensitive issue", External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj underlined the need for consultations with all stakeholders to carefully handle the problem along India's nearly 4,000-km porous border with its eastern neighbour. 

She reiterated that the new Indian government wants to take Indo-Bangladesh relations to a new high. Prime Minister Modi during his election campaign had threatened to deport all "illegal migrants from Bangladesh", especially when he campaigned in West Bengal. 

PM Modi met Sheikh Hasina twice first in New York and then in Nepal and their meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and SAARC summit, Modi assured Hasina that the Land Boundary Agreement and the Teesta water sharing issues would soon be resolved.
Showing commitment to strengthening ties with Nepal, PM Modi handed over to Nepal Dhruv Mark 3 Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) which will be used for military operations. “This will add to Nepal’s shield of protection,” Modi said.

Even as the Modi government laid emphasis for peace and friendship initiatives in South Asia, the RSS this year advocated the cause of inclusion of eastern neighbour Myanmar into the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) family. "For India's regional interests to be safeguarded well, SAARC should become SAARC plus....inviting Myanmar also into it. It is just an observer now," tweeted RSS leader Ram Madhav, who later became BJP general secretary. The Myanmar initiatives could be also linked to Sangh Parivar and BJP's initiatives to establish greater presence of the saffron organisations in northeast India.
At the BRICS level, the Summit Modi attended in July or his one-on-one parleys with Putin, Obama or Chinese leadership, one single most achievement perhaps was that an attempt was being made by the ‘chief executive’ of world’s largest democracy to change a perception that India’s foreign policy is generally non-committal, passive and mostly guided by short term and emotive agendas.
These preludes Modi’s adventurous invite to all heads of nations of SAARC countries including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at his swearing in ceremony on May 26, 2014.
Now not without good reason that the rumour mongering about paradigm shift in India’s foreign policy is much vocal. Insiders in the Ministry of External Affairs under country’s first woman Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj might complain of the growing PMO interference, but it cannot say, we are not moving. Thus, there is already a suggestion that in a significant move the Modi government could alter India’s supporting vote for the Palestinian cause at the United Nations. “India might not vote against Palestine, but it might abstain,” a source said.
This could be a gamechanger as it would unleash enhanced defence and diplomatic ties with Israel

Though new to diplomatic protocols and gameballs, with robust Putin, Modi mirrored an image of a confident man. He seemed to have stuck a good personal rapport with leaders like the US President Barack Obama, who would also grace the 2015 Republic Day parade on January 26. With others his handshakes were ‘firm’ as if he had rehearsed the events pretty well and typical to his characteristic took note of minutest things like German Chancellor Merkel’s birthday and thus when he spoke to her over phone during a stopover at Berlin, he did extend the birthday greetings.
In simpler words, diplomats say, the aptitude to do proper homework about each leader and governments came in handy for Modi when the actually meetings took place. Thus, his carefully tailored oneliners with each leaders at every bilateral meetings went off well.
With China, he did not seem to be bogged down by any bitterness of the past. However, during his Japan visit, Modi walked an extra mile when without naming Beijing he made a veiled attack on ‘expansionist” designs of the 18thcentury. The reference to “encroachment” and “entry into the seas” were largely interpreted as a reference to China’s spats with Japan over the Senkaku Islands.
Modi apparently floored his foreign counterparts with his carefully tailored comments at every bilateral meeting. 

Things moved positively with Russia too and both Russian Deputy Chairman Dmitry Rogozin visited India on 18–19 June 2014 to reach out to the new government led by Narendra Modi, while Putin visited India in December.

Russian President Putin pledged to supply India with oil, weapons and nuclear power reactors, buttressing a long-time friendship with Asia’s third-biggest economy. As a visibly desperate looking Putin isolated from the west over Ukraine, looked for friends in the east, Narendra Modi assured Putin his government would oppose sanctions against Russia.
He also said Russia remains India’s most important defense partner while Putin offered help to make advanced helicopters. “The character of global politics and international relations is changing,” Modi told reporters in New Delhi signaling his ambitious pro-active mood in a joint briefing with Putin. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Humble Homage to Bharat Ratna Vajpayee

Isey mitane ki sazish karne walo se kahedo
Chingari ka khel kahatarnak hota hae ……..

(Vajpayee’s illustrious verse addressed to Pakistan)

In another piece, he penned: Kab tak Jammu ko Yun-hi
Jalne denge
Kab tak julfo ki madira Dhalne denge
Maa beheno ka apman sahenge kab tak
Bhole pandav chup chaap rahenge kab tak …..

-         (Bhole pandav (Innocent UN; world community)….

-         And see how things have turned out to be across the globe!!
March 1999, Bharat Ratna Vajpayee and some of us
Many years ago, Vajpayee also had penned a few lines giving an insight to his mind: 
"Chhalna bhare vishwa mein...kewal sapna hi sach hota hae....
Mein bhi rota Aas Paas Jab Koi nahi hota hae (In this deceptive world, only dreams are your own; I do shed tears at times when I am alone, in isolation)".

His detractors used to call him a 'mask' of the RSS and it's ironic that 
a few years back, he fell sick and has since then confined himself in isolation.

Born on the Christmas Day, 1924, at Gwalior to a school teacher Krishna Bihari Vajpayee, his baptism into politics had come as a student when he came in contact with the RSS founder Keshavrao Hedgewar and later became a RSS 'swayemsevak'.

First sworn in as Prime Minister on May 16, 1996, Vajpayee had to resign only after 13 days. But as promised by him in Lok Sabha on May 27, 1996 debate, Vajpayee returned to the coveted office on March 19, 1998 and continued there till May 2004 when incidentally, the country voted out his government in what was described by poll pundits as a most shocking election results.

Celebrated for his pan-India acceptability and a leader with an unblemished image, Atal Behari Vajpayee would be always credited with giving a moderate veneer to BJP's hardline pro-Hindutva image.
His acceptability across the political spectrum and among the minorities always came in good stead for the BJP, he had co-founded with L K Advani, whom critics and opponents often call 'communal and reactionary'.

The founding president of BJP, when it was launched in 1980 after split from the united Janata Party of Seventies, Vajpayee was a perfect foil to his longtime compatriot L K Advani. While Advani has been a forceful speaker with cold logic and argument, Vajpayee, a genius orator was a poetic and persuasive with his characteristic humourous style.
"One big difference between Vajpayee and me was his sense of humour. It always gave me complex....Unke samne mein ek rukha-sukha admi raha (Contrast to his humour, I was always dry)," BJP patriarch L K Advani told me only on December 16. 
Advani, Jaswant Singh, Atalji

But the soft style was never a weakness of Vajpayee  as more than once he spoke firmly and many a times also differed with Advani. His reported oneliner to Advani on 1992 Babri-Temple issue, "Advaniji yad rakhiye aap...Ayodhya ja rahen haen Lanka nahi (Advani please remember you are going to Ayodhya and not Lanka)" was as famous as his assertions in Lok Sabha in 1998 defending his government's decision to conduct nuclear tests. "Should we prepare our defence only when we are attacked....should we not become guarded and self-dependent on our defence capabilities," Vajpayee had said countering high-profile anti-nuke debates from master orators like Chandrashekhar, a former PM.

Jailed during 1942 Quit India Movement- though there have been charges that he had given witness against freedom fighters, Vajpayee, a post graduate in political science from Kanpur University, had started off as a journalist with RSS magazine, 'Rashtradharam'.

A headline hunter later, Vajpayee often used to say, "I cannot quit politics because nothing is more intoxicating in life than to see your name in morning newspapers".

A person with a graceful taste for things apolitical like poetry and cinema, Vajpayee would be also be remembered for his description of P V Narasimha Rao as a 'karma-yogi' in Parliament while taking a dig at Rao's now famous oneliner: "Not to take decision is also a decision".
Friends and Foes
But Rao enjoyed a personal rapport with Vajpayee and it was Rao who once deputed Vajpayee to lead Indian delegation to the UN Human Rights Conference when Pakistan had moved a motion on Kashmir.
A foreign policy expert, Vajpayee was PM Morarji Desai's External Affairs Minister in 1970s and had left a mark with his efforts to improve ties with Pakistan
Once lauded by Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, the poet-politician and also known as
bachelor boy of Indian politics, Vajpayee had proved right Nehru's prophecy about him making it to the nation's top executive post.

About his relationship with Nehru, Vajpayee told during a parliament debate once,  
"I had once called Nehru a mix of Churchill and Chamberlain ......Later when Nehru and I met, he said it was a good speech; these days such criticism would earn one enemies". 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Modi’s Congress Mukt Bharat is originally a ‘L K Advani vision’

Meeting with Advani and many tales to tell…..

In a Facebook posting after my meeting with L K Advani on December 16, 2014; I had posed a simple question whether the not so often said maxim, “the Success is the ultimate failure” would really apply to the BJP patriarch. 

This is neither the first time nor the last time these issues are being debated. But the former Deputy Prime Minister did made a big difference to Indian politics. My friend Manish Anand rightly said while complimenting me for the ‘exclusive meet’ that in retrospect when the history of Indian politics is written – the veteran Advani would always be remembered for bringing about major transitions.

Another senior journo and a longtime BJP watcher, Sri Krishna, who has seen Advani nurture BJP when it was 2 MPs party, puts it more succinctly:
 "What BJP is today is due to the immense organizational ability of Advani. It is rather unfortunate that he had virtually vanished from the main political arena". 
In June 2013 when in Goa conclave BJP made Narendra Modi the saffron party’s chairman of election committee – a prelude to BJP’s PM-candidate – I wrote in The Statesman, it was almost a “forced retirement” for the Lohpurush. 

In my book, ‘Ayodhya: Battle for Peace’ published 2011, I had a chapter ‘L K Advani: Politics of Rath Yatra’ dedicated to him. “It goes without saying that Ayodhya movement and L K Advani’s name would go synonymous with each other”. And in a way Advani, not the usual run-of-the-mill politician, had found his “political roots in Ayodhya’s Ram”. Well, that was 1990…but 23 years later by 2013 the story had changed. It turned more a melancholy.

As I was talking to him on quite a few issues which Advaniji did not want to be quoted, unknowingly I was getting lost into a thought on Guru Dutt’s life and films, especially the path-breaking ‘Kagaz Ke Phool’. In that film, life offers the protagonist nothing but failure and humiliation. Similarly in another Guru Dutt film, Pyasa, the hero is let down by the people who are closest to him.
Unfortunately, Advaniji has experienced the same when Man (Narendra Modi) virtually created and protected by him (post Godhra assault) has by 2013 “overshadowed” Advani in mass popularity.
Respected Advani, as I know him has been a film buff himself. During his days as Home Minister, I had traveled with him to Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. In the freewheeling interaction, he used to share about his liking for films. 
Thus on December 16 afternoon, as Advaniji came out of Lok Sabha and walked towards his room in Parliament House ..…far off secluded from political chamchas that often kept gheraoed him even till 2012… song that came haunting in my mind was : waqt ne kiya, kya haseen sitam (rendered much deeper meaning than its words by the powerful voice of Geeta Dutt).
Guru Dutt's Kaagaz Ke Phool: Conflict of Man and Success
But as we look back and about what we interacted; there’s not really much to share as many things were said in confidence. In journalism, we call it “off-the-record”. Of course, a simple breaking news he shared with me was when he said, “I will revive my blogs soon”.
Then of course, he spoke a bit on the Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha, a panel he is heading as the chairman. I had thought of an interview, that was flatly declined, but politely.
But before moving out of his room, I requested him for a selfie and he readily agreed, saying: “So everyone takes selfie…” – whatever that would mean!

I had enquired about his health and his wife, Madam Kamla. “She has improved now…of course she uses a wheelchair,” he said sounding emotive.

Half an hour later, I rushed to Parliament House canteen for lunch and as I was placing orders, I recalled our travel with Advani in 2000 to Sikkim.
At the Chief Minister’s residence in Gangtok when a large table was laid before us – with delicious veg and non-veg Momos being most attractive of all – minutes later, Advaniji had counseled us: “pet bharna (full stomach eating) is a misconcept….one should keep enough space for water and air”. We saw him picking up one roti and two spoons of dal – that was his dinner. 
Politically the same evening, I was again lost in a debate about Congress-mukt Bharat agenda of Advani’s onetime chela, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It’s really irony on what has come out today between the two. 

In 2002, it was Advani who had even chosen KPS Gill as Modi’s Security Advisor and undoubtedly the stint of the super-cop had a soothing impact in Gujarat after first three-four months of indiscriminate hate campaign and riots.

Back home, I was scanning few pages from the chapter on L K Advani in
my book Ayodhya: Battle for Peace’. One para in page 133 read: “In course of traveling with him in BSF aircraft to northeast, he had told us how the success of regional parties like TDP, AGP and various Lok Dal groups had encouraged him (Advaniji) to believe that there was a ‘big vacuum’ as people were looking for genuine alternative to the Congress”.

Now, that’s political vision for you! And his disciple Narendra Modi is only precisely harping on the same point in circa 2014. The lesson: a disciple only carries on the legacy of his Guru’s vision.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Man of the New Year 2015- Ajit Doval - Eyes and Ears of PM Modi

If 2014 belonged to Narendra Modi; the moot question is will 'super spy' Ajit Doval will emerge as the Man of the Year 2015?

One single big take away from the Mandate 2014 is at the end of the day, it is not only the story of a winner taking it all; but what counts most is the ‘mass appeal’ of a political stardom. That was Narendra Modi enigma.
But that was past. Six months since government formation; what is debated is who’s the ‘eyes and ears’ of supposed to be all powerful Prime Minister, Modi.
If recent trends are any indication and if the grapevine in the corridors of power is to be taken seriously, the National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval seems to walk away with the cake.

It’s not all guess or faking out in the power lobbies. The NSA Ajit Doval matters quite a lot in the ‘Modi Sarkar’.
“For Modi regime, the northeast insurgency issues including the complex Naga or ULFA peace talks and certain matters related to foreign policy framework have been passed onto the bureaucratic horizon. The Prime Minister Modi’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval is often calling the shots now,” says an insider.

In his wisdom, the Prime Minister decided to give Doval, a former Intelligence Bureau man, upper hand in foreign policy matters as also peace talks with insurgent groups in northeast India because the bill (read Doval) suits Modi “politically”. 

It is given to understand that in the process Modi has kept both Rajnath Singh (Home Minister) and Sushma Swaraj (External Affairs Minister) under check.
“That’s Modi’s style of functioning wherein he uses experts and technocrats to cut the political rivals into size. He did it in Gujarat and he is doing it now,” a BJP leader agrees rather acidly.

Many in bureaucratic circle are drawing parallelism between Doval and Atal Behari Vajpayee’s NSA, Brajesh Mishra. Others, however, say the comparison is not just fair as Mishra was a longtime friend of Vajpayee and was also Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. But in case of Doval, he just wears the ‘NSA’ hat and cannot be called a friend of Modi.
Rumour: Has Doval overshadowed Sushma as Foreign Minister
There are also murmuring in BJP that before 2009 general elections, there used to be close hobnobbing between Doval and the L K Advani camp.
But some BJP insiders say Doval has been advising Modi on a number of issues since last one year, that is from the time campaign for Lok Sabha elections started had picked up in 2013.
Doval-run Vivekananda International Foundation in Delhi also provided with certain inputs to then Gujarat chief minister when he spoke in various fora across the country.
It is also presumably believed that it was Doval first whom Modi discussed about inviting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the May 26 swearing in gala in Delhi.

Doval reportedly had told the then PM-designate, “why only Pakistan sir, why don’t you invite all SAARC nations”. Modi immediately latched on to the idea and followed it up with shooting the invite missives across South Asia even though the South Block mandarins in foreign ministry initially thought the time was too short to ensure such a mammoth gathering and do the necessary spade work.
May 27, 2014
Lately again the Prime Minister sprang a surprise and has invited the US President Barack Obama for 26 January, 2015 Republic Day parade.
Here too, sources say, MEA was hardly consulted and NSA’s opinion prevailed.

In last six months Prime Minister’s three major overseas sojourns – to the United States, Japan and Australia-Myanmar and Fiji were again largely seen as exclusive Narendra Modi show. 

Even as Modi stole headlines both home and abroad and dominated the TV time space with his unique mannerism and ‘rock star’ speeches; in fact, more than once the External Affairs Minister Sushma, onetime high-profile talented orator and PM-probable, was reduced to just “receiving PM” on arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.
 “We hardly know of instances wherein Prime Minister has consulted his Minister (Sushma) not to talk about the Ministry per se,” says a mandarin in the South Block.

 In North Block, that is the Home Ministry vis-à-vis northeast India too, the script is reportedly almost the same. Once Modi realized that like him even Rajnath Singh did not have much knowledge about the complexity of northeast insurgency, it was natural to turn focus towards Doval, a former IB official, who also played a role during the successful 1986 peace negotiations with late rebel leader Laldenga in Mizoram.  

Thus Doval was almost given free hand to chalk out his northeast strategy. Doval appointed another retired IPS official R N Ravi as the chief interlocutor for Naga talks – now in negotiations since 1997. 
In the melee of these developments as we talk of PM’s reliability on Doval with BJP and RSS offering very limited talent pool and expertise; another factor that comes in between is that how Modi-Doval equation has gone down to the Sanghparivar and especially its fountainhead, the much influential RSS.

By 2009 when BJP under the leadership of L K Advani suffered a humiliating defeat, Doval took a major initiative to turn then newly launched Vivekananda International Foundation as a key strategic think-tank in Delhi
The organization all throughout was known as a renowned anti-Manmohan Singh government lobby with strong ties to the RSS and also to the federal intelligence agencies.  

Now, a section of BJP leaders claim there are reasons to believe that Doval’s influence has increased manifold in last six months as he has been able to also play “a proper coordinator” between the Prime Minister (if not the government itself) and the RSS especially on foreign matters and South Asian paradigm.

The Sangh also seemed to have cultivated a ‘belated realization’ that northeast India and eastern neighbours like Myanmar should get their importance. 

Ram Madhav, a RSS appointee to the BJP, two months back demanded that Myanmar should be made invitee member to the SAARC parivar. Many see that such belated realization could be a game-changer in more ways than one. And Doval is important in these facets.
Doval and Foreign Secy Sujata Singh

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Waxing Eloquently Venkaiah takes on Sickular army on Conversion

Amid the raging debate over re-conversion of a group of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, the Modi government has strongly favoured bringing in legislation to ban all sorts of conversion. 

“Let there be anti-conversion laws in all the states. Let there be anti-conversion law at the Centre also,” the Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mr M Venkaiah Naidu said in Lok Sabha replying to a heated debate on the conversion and the re-conversion row.Here are some oneliners:

"This conversion or re-conversion is a very serious issue. It cannot be used for politics. There have been incidents in different parts of the country. The entire country has to introspect and find a solution". 

# "We respect the freedom of faith. It is enshrined in the constitution. But freedom of faith cannot become a sustained campaign for proselytisation for foreign funded people". 

# RSS is a great organisation in the country. RSS means ‘Ready for Selfless
Service’. That is RSS. I feel proud that I have the RSS background. It is because
of RSS background, discipline, character, calibre, capacity that I have come to this level.

 Let us all seriously work towards the progress. We  preserve our culture. You feel proud. If you feel proud that you want to be a
Hindu, no problem or a Muslim, no problem or a Christian, no problem. 

 Within six months of coming to power, you want to tear us, no, it is not
 acceptable. You want to use this forum of Parliament to defame my Government,  to defame my Prime Minister and you give slogans against my Prime Minister,  that is not acceptable.

# My point is very simple. Why do you insult others’  belief? As long as the belief not come in the way of public order, as long as the belief not come in the way of the progress of the country, you should allow that
 much freedom to the people. 

# "Bachpan mein hum log gramophone record suntey theyy...jab HMV record stuck hota hae toh usi jagah par ruk kar gana doha raha tha -- Oh Chanda mama, oh chanda mama...oh chanda mama...yeh kya tarika hae".

 Who are the people who are responsible for the partition of the
country? Whose Party is responsible for that?

# My friend from Hyderabad (Asauddin Owaisi) was giving me a lecture. What his brother has said, I cannot quote because he is a Member of the Legislative Assembly. What has he said about Hindu Gods? I do not want to repeat it because we should not use this forum to rouse passions outside and create tensions which are not there. What is required is not tension – what is required is attention towards the development. That is the agenda of this Government.

# We hoist National Flag on 15th August and 26th January and say, 'Jai Hind'...does it mean victory only to Hindus an not for others...The word Hindu was not given by Narendra Modi

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Special Flavour of the Sikkim Model

The old system of planning and sharing economic resources for the states is on way out. But the role of government apparatus would continue in future also. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government will do well to realize that the solution to various developmental issues in the country ought to be sought in the village itself and perhaps there are certain merits in the Sikkim Model.

At a time when ‘Good Governance’ is seemingly the trump card of the Modi regime, there is no denying the fact that the northeast of India including the state of Sikkim has had its experience of disparities and glaring inequalities.

This sensitive region inhabited mostly by non-Aryan groups without strong historical connections with the rest of the country cannot be linked up with the system if the system cannot offer a positive and better model.

There is thus a need of critical study of the colossal gap between supply steered policies of the central government and demands of the people in this region. But what about performance in implementing governmental policies and schemes?

 A performance evaluation conducted by the Ministry of Rural Development few years ago during the erstwhile UPA regime had ranked two northeastern states Tripura and Sikkim as toppers (in that order) for the implementation of MG-NREGA. 

The Mahatma Gandhi NREGA as we know promises 100 days of wage employment for the rural people.

There was an official recognition that MGNREGA has provided unprecedented funds to rural Sikkim and is unmatched in its scale and volume, bottom up planning and implementation and the state came out triumphant even in transparency standards. 

But over the last years, the state of Sikkim has not remained confined to achieving these desired results. The Chamling government in the state had sought to make MG-NREGA a “ladder of opportunity” to create pathways out of poverty by promoting sustainable livelihoods. 

For this to happen, the state government has envisaged strategies to make planning process under MG-NREGA strong enough. Subsequently working overtime, the Sikkim government under leadership of the chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling created a ‘G5P Approach’ to make the NREGA more result oriented. The G5P Approach essentially meant – Gram Panchayat Pro-poor Perspective Plan (G5P). 
Firstly, the new mechanism achieved better involvement of local poor as according to state government officials, under the old system of planning through Gram Sabhas; “voices of the poor households more often went unrecorded as poor people frequently could not attend the gram sabhas”.
Even at the central government level in the union Rural Development ministry there is general appreciation of the new G5P Approach of the Sikkim government.
“Yes, the new scheme of thing has worked well in Sikkim,” said a senior RD ministry official who made an official visit to the state to assess the impact of G5P Approach. “The plan drafted at the village level was thus prepared with a pro-poor mandate and there was also a five year perspective plan prepared for each Gram Panchayat. This is commendable,” the official told this blogger. 
In fact, at one point of time, a former Rural Development Minister in the erstwhile UPA government also recorded appreciation for Sikkim’s ‘springshed development (Dhara Vikas)’ works implemented under the MG-NREGA . The central officials too felt that the Dhara Vikas scheme as practiced by Sikkim was an example which all hill states could emulate.
The NREGA and Rural Development front is not an isolated case. Earlier this year, Sikkim’s much acclaimed organic mission was given a heightened appreciation by no less than the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Replying to the debate on President's address to the joint sitting of Parliament on June 11, 2014, Modi in fact in his first speech in Lok Sabha giving the example of Sikkim emerging as a big producer of organic food had wondered why the entire north-east cannot be made an organic hub to meet the emerging global demand for organic produce. Conceptualised by Sikkim Chief Minster Chamling, the State Organic Mission was launched on Aug 15, 2010. Today about 30,000 hectares of land area out of the total 58,128 hectare of available cultivable land has been certified as organic.
But nothing much has moved from the central government’s point of view over the years to emulate a state like Sikkim. Instead generally the armed-chair experts from the Planning Commission – both officials and otherwise patronized by the power that be – have often tried to force in a uniform pattern of developmental activities into northeastern states like Sikkim.

Now that the Prime Minister has set the ball rolling to recast the Planning Commission, one only hopes that these finer issues will be kept in mind even Team Modi really wants to make substantial impact in the planning process in the country, especially in these far-flung states.
Prime Minister Modi’s move to dismantle Planning Commission is also being seen as a decisive move to undo certain aspects of Nehruvian legacy.