India Insight

Will Mayawati’s Brahmin card work this time?

Much has been written about Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati’s inventive politics that saw her forging an unlikely alliance between Dalits and Brahmins — from the two ends of the Hindu caste spectrum — to win an election in Uttar Pradesh in 2007.

She did this with a promise to widen the appeal of her party beyond her traditional Dalit voters and bring Brahmins and other upper castes into her programme of all-round development.

As proof, she gave tickets to scores of Brahmins in 2007 and appointed a Brahmin (Satish Misra) as her chief adviser and strategist.

The move paid rich dividends, securing an absolute majority for her party in a state that last saw single-party rule almost two decades ago.

It also bolstered the chances of her party in the general election. She began being spoken of as a potential prime minister.

Stars add glamour to Trinamool’s campaign in Bengal

The controversial seizure of land for industry by the ruling communists in West Bengal may be the biggest chink in their armour for the 2009 polls.

But the opposition Trinamool Congress is not leaving anything to chance in this general election — it’s also taking help from the stars.

Enter Tapas Paul. The archetypal Bengali film hero in the closing decades of the 20th century is already a lawmaker in the state assembly.

Sonia keeps Indira legacy alive in election

With her greying hair, elegant cotton sarees and accented Hindi, Sonia Gandhi resembles her mother-in-law, former prime minister Indira Gandhi, somewhat.

It is a resemblance that Sonia uses to her advantage on the campaign trail ahead of the election, frequently referring to the contributions and sacrifices made by the Nehru-Gandhi family, particularly Indira and husband Rajiv, who were both assassinated.

Sonia, dragged into politics after a stunning defeat for the Congress party in 1998, is clearly the party’s star campaigner, speaking at three or four rallies everyday, criss-crossing the country in a chopper which holds as much fascination for people in rural India as a glimpse of the nation’s “bahu” or daughter-in-law, as Sonia is called.

Holbrooke, an unseasonal visitor?

Richard Holbrooke, the special U.S envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, is visiting India for a second time in seven weeks. But what has surprised many is the timing of the trip, coming as it does at a time when India is preparing for a general election and most government business is virtually on hold.Though India is not part of Holbrooke’s remit, New Delhi’s engagement is imperative for any effort to stabilise the so-called Af-Pak region.But that hardly explains the visit now, considering that he could expect to do little business with a “lame duck government” in New Delhi.So why is he coming now?Many Indian analysts believe that keeping India and Kashmir out of Holbrooke’s brief was a way of Washington massaging New Delhi’s ego.In reality, though, they say India is very much part of Holbrooke’s mandate because Pakistan wants a solution to disputed Kashmir as an element of any regional peace efforts — a demand Washington can hardly ignore if it expects Pakistan’s cooperation.An Indian analyst here says Holbrooke is using the interregnum to show his turf includes India.So if it is impossible to disentangle Kashmir from any effort to win Pakistani cooperation to stabilise Afghanistan, where does that leave India-U.S relations?

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