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EDITORIALS

Before and after
When wishes may not mean power
T
HE political churning that is expected after the Lok Sabha results on May 16 saw its first indications in the much-publicised rally held by the National Democratic Alliance in Ludhiana on Sunday.

The Kerala imbroglio
CPM action against CM could boomerang
I
T is unfortunate that Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan’s job is on the line, ostensibly for taking a stand against alleged corruption by his party colleague and state CPM boss Pinarayi Vijayan.

Back from the brink
Corporate Inc escapes with bruises
N
OW that most Indian companies have announced their results for the March quarter, the picture that emerges is not as bleak as had been widely feared.



EARLIER STORIES

Plunder of Aravali
May 11, 2009
Caught in the crossfire
May 10, 2009
A shocking give and take
May 9, 2009
Obama to Zardari
May 8, 2009
Wanted: Partners
May 7, 2009
Get back black money
May 6, 2009
Crisis in Nepal
May 5, 2009
On a fast track
May 4, 2009
Intellectual and society
May 3, 2009
Low voter turnout in Mumbai
May 2, 2009


ARTICLE

Inflation a problem
Economic prospects are gloomy
by Jayshree Sengupta
I
T is indeed baffling to understand the Indian economy. Recently the IMF has predicted that India will grow only at 4.5 per cent while the Reserve Bank of India’s prediction is 6 per cent GDP growth. Obviously, there is confusion because a slower growth rate would mean a slower revival of the economy and more problems for the unemployed.

MIDDLE

After the elections, please!
by Jaswant Hans
Q
UITE recently in my not- so-calculated curt wish to be collaborative towards a common possible objective, or for a parallel analysis of the situation, when I talked to lot of my friends, the stock reply was, “after the elections please.” It was somewhat like a student’s response, “after the exams please.”

OPED

India Votes
Women missing from agenda
They continue to be victims of neglect
by Vijay Sanghvi
W
OMEN in Bangladesh, particularly from villages, revere Dr. M Yunus not because he changed the dynamics of their economics through his successful concept of the Gramin Bank but more due to the change he brought about in the dynamics of their everyday life by providing the concept of mobile toilets for use by rural women.

Which Mrs Zuma will be the first lady?
by By Karin Brulliard
T
HOUGH South Africa’s recent general election featured all the mud-slinging of a fierce battle, it was long expected to result in the victory of ruling party leader Jacob Zuma, who was inaugurated as president on Saturday. The real mystery — one that has intrigued South Africans for months — is which of Zuma’s wives will be the nation’s new first lady.

Delhi Durbar
Supreme Court’s retiring judge sets a record
Justice Arijit Pasayat, who retired as a Supreme Court judge on May 10, delivered a record number of 29 judgments on his last working day on May 8. Sitting alongside Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam, he went on signing verdict after verdict as the Court Master kept saying item 1A for judgment, item 1B for judgment…till 1Z for judgment.





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Before and after
When wishes may not mean power

THE political churning that is expected after the Lok Sabha results on May 16 saw its first indications in the much-publicised rally held by the National Democratic Alliance in Ludhiana on Sunday. The presence of Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief Chandrashekhar Rao on the NDA platform after he campaigned as a votary of the Third Front in Andhra may have raised Leftist eyebrows but this is only the first of many surprises that might unfold in the next few days. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s decision to swim or sink with the NDA was also significant considering the overtures that Congress and the Left have been making towards him and his own earlier categorical assertion that he would not share a platform with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, which he chose to forget at Ludhiana.

It would, however, be unwise for the NDA to gloat over the limited gains it showcased at Ludhiana. There are many stalwarts who are sitting on the sidelines and whose post-poll alignments could make the vital difference between victory and defeat. Be it Ms J. Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu or Mr Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra or Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav and Ms Mayawati in UP or even Mr Sharad Pawar in Maharashtra, there is no knowing which way they would ultimately go when the results throw up a hung Lok Sabha and the jockeying for power intensifies. The current tilt towards one or other grouping of each of these political heavyweights is no guarantee that they would remain with that grouping. In the climate of uncertainty that prevails, many of them nurture prime ministerial ambition and it would be interesting to see how they play their cards after the results are out.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indeed was not off the mark when he told a media conference in Ludhiana on Monday that the Third Front has collapsed even before it could take off. Evidently, he was referring to the exit of the TRS to join the NDA. His observation that those who were angry with the Congress would be won over is an expression of faith that some allies of the Congress like the RJD, the LJP and the Left Front would be back in support of the UPA. This, however, would depend on which party or grouping emerges on top in the numbers game and how many seats each party will win. Post-poll politics will ultimately be decided by a not-so-simple game called permutations and combinations.

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The Kerala imbroglio
CPM action against CM could boomerang

IT is unfortunate that Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan’s job is on the line, ostensibly for taking a stand against alleged corruption by his party colleague and state CPM boss Pinarayi Vijayan. Mr Achuthanandan, who has had a running battle with Mr Vijayan on various issues is facing the state unit’s wrath for not having endorsed the party decision that the CBI be denied permission to prosecute Mr Vijayan who as Power Minister in 1997 was involved in the grant of contract to a Canadian company, SNC-Lavalin, to renovate three hydro-power stations. By seeking to block prosecution, the CPM has fuelled the feeling that it has something to hide. If Mr Vijayan was indeed on strong ground there should have been no need to prevent the law from taking its course. It is indeed difficult to believe that the corruption case against Mr Vijayan is wholly motivated by politics as the CPM state politburo is claiming in its defence.

While it is a fact that Mr Achuthanandan and Mr Vijayan have had a strained relationship for long so much so that the party suspended both of them at one stage in 2007 on grounds of indiscipline, it goes in the former’s favour that he has spearheaded many campaigns on behalf of people. As Leader of the Opposition in the previous term of the assembly, he had associated himself with fighting for the tribal right to land in the Wayanad hills, spearheaded the campaign against converting agricultural land into housing plots, fought against atrocities on women and opposed the transfer of land for setting up techno-parks and fantasy parks. Mr Vijayan’s forte has been his ability to cultivate his party bigwigs and cadres.

Clearly, by acting against Mr Achuthanandan, the CPM leadership would not ingratiate itself to the people who will look upon him as a martyr to the cause of fighting corruption. Already, the Kerala unit of the party is in a mess and is predicted to concede considerable ground to the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections. Central party boss Prakash Karat will have to contend with these facts in whatever decision he may take on the issue.

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Back from the brink
Corporate Inc escapes with bruises

NOW that most Indian companies have announced their results for the March quarter, the picture that emerges is not as bleak as had been widely feared. Of course, these cannot be compared with last year’s March quarter when the going was good and corporate India was on a high, riding the 9 per cent growth wave. The latest earnings are definitely an improvement over last December’s dismal performance. This has led analysts to conclude that an economic turnaround has begun. Official data and surveys by associations of firms and foreign institutional investors also point to the emergence of an economic uptrend.

The journey from gloom to bloom is not confined to India or China, but is spread over Asia, Europe and the US. It has been a painful one, no doubt, with so many people losing homes and jobs. However, it must go to the credit of leaders of various developed and developing countries that they sunk their differences and faced the challenge together under the umbrella of G20, decided on stimulus packages to boost their economies and managed to avert a 1930s-like situation. The collective measures have started showing results and the present recession may not be as deep as was feared earlier. Stock markets usually react faster than others to a changing economic situation and this is what has happened in the past 10 weeks in India and abroad.

However, it may not be prudent to read too much into the signs of recovery. One should wait to see how sustainable the turnaround is. The pickup in India is still confined to infrastructure and related sectors like cement and metals. Banks have not only stayed intact, some like the SBI and the Bank of Baroda have recorded a good jump in earnings. Also contributing to the country’s economic resilience is the unflagging demand from rural India, which has got a push from the UPA’s social sector initiatives, which hopefully will be followed up by the new government of whatever the dispensation.

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Thought for the Day

Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend.

— John Singer Sargent

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Corrections and clarifications

  • The front page headline on the polling (May 8) spoke of 5 killed in violence in West Bengal. The correct figure is 4.
  • On the same day, the notation below the poll percentage graphic should read ‘constituencies which have ceased to exist after delimitation’.
  • In several election related reports on the same day (64 pc vote in Haryana on page 1 and women voters lead the way in Patiala on Page 4) the word ‘caste’ has been wrongly used for ‘cast’.
  • The headline related to the Supreme Court hearing on Amarinder Singh’s expulsion (Page 2, May 7) should read ‘ Assembly should justify expulsion’.
  • In the late city edition (Page 3, May 8) the report related to JD(U) president Sharad Yadav , it has been written that money is ‘stacked’ in Swiss banks. It should have been ‘stashed’.
  • The headline of the report related to the Prem Bhatia Memorial Lecture (Page 2, May 10) should read ‘clenched fist’.

Despite our earnest endeavour to keep The Tribune error-free, some errors do creep in at times. We are always eager to correct them.

We request our readers to write or e-mail to us whenever they find any error. We will carry corrections and clarifications, wherever necessary, every Tuesday & Friday.

Readers in such cases can write to Mr Uttam Sengupta, Associate Editor, The Tribune, Chandigarh, with the word “Corrections” on the envelope. His e-mail ID is uttamsengupta@tribunemail.com.

H.K. Dua
Editor-in-Chief

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Inflation a problem
Economic prospects are gloomy
by Jayshree Sengupta

IT is indeed baffling to understand the Indian economy. Recently the IMF has predicted that India will grow only at 4.5 per cent while the Reserve Bank of India’s prediction is 6 per cent GDP growth. Obviously, there is confusion because a slower growth rate would mean a slower revival of the economy and more problems for the unemployed. All economic indicators point to the continuation of a slowdown but the mood is somewhat upbeat among official circles which keep insisting on a high rate of growth of about 7 per cent in the next one year, and the Prime Minister himself has said that the country will be on its way to recovery soon.

There are certain facts that are almost always forgotten. Indian growth rate started to decline even before the global meltdown. There was a decline in private sector investment and a fall in export growth even since 2005-06, much before the global crisis hit our shores. The reason for the fall in export growth was the hardening of the rupee and private investment faltered because of high interest rates. This means that whatever was happening to the Indian economy has only been accentuated and exacerbated by the global financial crisis. In many ways India’s exposure to toxic assets of the West has been rather slim but the two ways in which the crisis has hit India are through slow export growth and lower foreign investment inflows.

The hit on the export industries has been felt by not only big exporters but also small manufacturers and traders. There have been many suicides in the diamond cutting industry, and the textile and handloom industries have been badly affected. Handicraft exports have crashed by 48 per cent. Industries catering to domestic demand are somehow doing better and there has been a rise in the demand for cars for example though Matruti has posted a sharp fall in profits recently. Some important inputs like steel and cement have become cheaper, leading to a revival in construction to an extent. But recent corporate results show that we are not out of the woods.

Meanwhile, so much money has been pumped into the economy and the repo rates have been cut several times-including recently by 25 basis points, and the cash reserve ratio has also been slashed to release more liquidity in the system (estimated at Rs 3,88,045 crore) but somehow credit has not been expanding. Loan growth of banks has been flat. Average credit growth seems to have picked up slightly recently, but in general, there has been a sharp slowdown in retail lending and there has been a lower offtake of corporate loans.

What are people (with their pay commission awards, tax cuts, election expenditure) and banks doing with the extra money that seems to be floating in the system? It could create a huge liquidity overhang and it could lead to inflation once again. Inflation has indeed come down and is now at the near zero level, but ask any housewife about food prices and she’ll tell you that all prices are higher than a year ago and are going up further. What is happening is that people are forced to cope with higher household expenditure and there is a threat of job loss and general insecurity in business prospects also. Anytime, people feel, they could be laid off or go out of business. So, they are keeping their money in banks and banks are making huge profits. HDFC’s profits have shot up by 34 per cent in the last quarter.

When uncertainty is playing havoc on consumption expenditure and people are not even buying gold --- a commodity to which Indians are so very addicted and attached to --- there is problem in demand. Look at all the markets and the shopping malls, there is evidence of holding back by consumers.

Business confidence is at a very low level also which means profit expectations are not very bright. There was a dip in the total number of deals, both cross-border and domestic transactions entered into by Indian corporate houses. When business confidence plummets, there is postponement of private investment further.

Another interesting point is the reluctance of banks to cut interest rates and hence borrowing has not increased as was supposed to. Credit expansion would have helped industries to recover through fresh investment and innovations. But this has not taken place. If lending rates do indeed come down to a single-digit level, as many are hoping, there might be some change. Lending rates for house purchases, however, should not be too low otherwise there will be a bubble similar to the one that started the sub-prime crisis in the US.

The government has pledged to expand expenditure on almost all fronts through the three stimulus packages. But where is the money going to come from? Already, the tax collection prospects are not very bright as company results show a decline in profits. Monetising the huge budget deficit would mean printing notes which will further add to inflationary pressure.

Quite obviously, job creation is going to be the most important item in the future. But first manufacturing growth has to pick up because there has been a sharp slide in industrial and manufacturing growth in the last few months. The prospects don’t seem very bright. And exports too are not going to pick up very soon because of the serious problems in US, the EU and Japan. Only when their recession is tapering off, they would place more export orders and this will take time. The IT industry and the service sector could keep up the momentum of growth but these cannot grow independently of the western markets which are turning more and more protectionist-the recent H1 B visa curb for example. Agricultural growth is not likely to pick up very soon to 4 to 5 per cent, as there are severe infrastructural and credit bottlenecks. It cannot be expected to drive GDP growth at a faster rate either.

Foreign investment flows might pick up as people realise that India and China are still somewhat better sheltered from the global crisis. A revival of the stock market will bring back confidence of foreign institutional investors. But there will be tough competition in attracting FIIs among the emerging economies. How much India Inc would be able to attract will depend on many factors among which the most important one is the stability of the next government and its policies.

Thus, I think the IMF forecast, though it is on the grim side, may turn out to be a realistic one unless there is some other form of stimulus that miraculously pushes up GDP growth. Moody’s forecast is at 5 per cent and in the last quarter of the last fiscal year, India’s GDP growth was 5.3 per cent. If growth does not pick up, the huge liquidity overhang could trigger inflation. Low growth and high inflation (stagflation) could be an option ahead in the next one year.

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After the elections, please!
by Jaswant Hans

QUITE recently in my not- so-calculated curt wish to be collaborative towards a common possible objective, or for a parallel analysis of the situation, when I talked to lot of my friends, the stock reply was, “after the elections please.” It was somewhat like a student’s response, “after the exams please.”

When I dipped deeply into these two situations I could find a lot of difference in intent, direction and the scope about them. While the second was about concentration self control, and curiosity to excel the first expression was hinged purely on indecision, prevarication and speculation. In other words they were waiting for the events. It was exactly contrasted to former’s plan to shape events and take charge of its future. While the student count seems to be few, the time wasted by millions of Indians and their watchers seems to be huge. If I can’t do anything about this great human waste, I can at least record it for the benefit of the posterity in their pursuit for prosperity.

To be honest, now a days I don’t delve much about democracy elections and its results. The amount of money being spent on every party candidate throws the election law into undemocratic territory. Political dispensation after the elections is by and large autocratic, especially in the states. I always get to my work, irrespective of what politically happens around me, that in academic sense is purely a labour of love which I enjoy. But queer it may sound to many, it is also one strand of strength that provides me confidence to cope with or capitalise on whatever happens as a consequence of such things, including the election.

It is not that election will be over and one could plan, discuss and meet accordingly. Give at least one more week for the formation of ministry. Give one month more to get them organised for their goals, good or bad. You have already lost at least one month before the elections in uncertainty out of a wavering attitude. Add some time for another unpredictable event before you could begin to work out your slot in the new scenario. Roughly all this goes into three months of inactive thinking and half-hearted work. You are a loser.

I would advise you to cut down this waste from three months only to two days. You might devote a day for the worst possible man that might be in power after the election and reflect on its impact on the broad national and international canvas and your possible reactive instinctual response to that. Another day you might devote to your best man to be catapulted into power and then think how you would be linking your future to him. I assure you whatever the outcome of the election your life is not going to change much in the heavy personalising of the Indian politics that has been reduced only to power politics.

But in between the two reflections you have saved nearly 88 days to spare that you can single-mindedly devote to your work and work out your strength from that work to meet the inevitable challenges that emerge with change. Shortcuts to that work either through social climbing or meaninglessly waiting or political crafting will not work towards your strategic decisions, rather it would eat into what was excellent in you to do and delve.

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India Votes
Women missing from agenda
They continue to be victims of neglect
by Vijay Sanghvi

WOMEN in Bangladesh, particularly from villages, revere Dr. M Yunus not because he changed the dynamics of their economics through his successful concept of the Gramin Bank but more due to the change he brought about in the dynamics of their everyday life by providing the concept of mobile toilets for use by rural women.

As he admitted, he is hugely embarrassed when women fall at his feet in reverence for releasing them from a sense of shame. There were no public facilities available in villages that women could use during the day time. The mobile toilet brought them the relief that they had never even imagined.

In India even after 60 years of Independence, women in villages have to use open spaces. Women living in slums of cities have no alternative but soil the spaces near their huts. There was no provision for public toilets in their localities.

India has not provided toilets to village women but a controversy has been raging for the past two decades on providing reserved seats for women in Parliament and state legislatures. This was a basic human need but no one in the Planning Commission or in political parties has attended to the need of emancipation of women from the life of shame if they have to walk to the fields during the day time.

Every main and regional party has held promises in its manifesto before the Lok Sabha polls for women but not of providing the basic health needs, including hygiene facilities. There is also a promise to endorse the enactment that would reserve 30 per cent seats for women but no promise of toilets for them in villages and in slum areas.

Surprisingly, Piloo Mody was the first to draw attention to the problem. He even persuaded Choudhary Charan Singh in 1974 after Mody merged his Swatantra Party with the Lok Dal to promise the village women toilet facilities on a priority basis.

Intellectuals had laughed at his promise without having a look around cities to locate even a single public amenity for women. Be it the Connaught Place in Delhi or the Backbay Reclamation region in Mumbai or even at railway stations no separate toilets were provided for women. They had no escape but to use toilets of stationary trains that arrived or were waiting for departure, leaving a long trail of stink all over the stations.

No special drives were initiated to ensure a greater enrolment of girls to primary and secondary education and prevent their huge dropout after the primary schools as poor families did not want their girls educated. That neglect left women of poor families behind.

Till the election to the 13th Lok Sabha, no party mentioned these problems in its manifesto as women were out of reckoning even when women from the middle class had begun storming many male domains and providing keen contest to their male counterparts. Education had enabled them to realise their strength and competence in male bastions.

Even they could not bring about changes that would treat them as equal and valid parents. Mother’s name was not acceptable on forms for passports, driving licences, ration cards, admissions to schools and in most legal documents. Everywhere insistence was on father’s name. In other words she was not accepted and legalised as a valid parent even though she was the only person to know who the father of her child was.

Only in 2007 the Delhi government accepted the demand for mother’s name on driving licence applications. The Supreme Court had to give a verdict to force schools to accept mother’s name as a valid parent if the child so insisted. The plight of single unwedded mothers’ was tragic.

Women preferred docile roles in public, especially in rural areas. They formed the outer ring in election meetings and rarely responded even to good points made by a speaker. However, their temperament began to change and by the 1980 election, they had begun to occupy the centre of an audience, pushing men to the back.

Often they heckled the leader when they disagreed with what he or she had to say. Yashwant Sinha, a BJP leader, had terrifying experiences in three consecutive elections when hostile women accosted him with questions at the end of his election meetings in village after village. He noticed the change, but others did not.

So they were slow in diverting their attention to problems of rural women in their political agenda and held out very little promise for them. Only in 1972 they were given the first concession when the concept of equality in pay for women and men was introduced in the minimum wages enactment.

In the eighties social organisations had to engage in hard battles to enable women to open bank accounts in their names without their men being able to touch it.

Ela Bhatt, a former member of the Rajya Sabha can recount thousands of ways in which women were given unjust treatment in various fields of life. And she can do so from her personal experience during her social work spanning over three decades. The successful experiments of Mahila Banks in Gujarat saw many instances of injustice to women.

But political leaders were still slow to bring about a change in their mindset and provide a due and just place to women. Even their promise of providing 30 per cent seats to women in legislatures could not be implemented on the plea that there was no consensus.

What prevented parties from increasing the number of women candidates in their lists? They expressed the fear that women would not be able to contest against male candidates of other parties so they did not increase their numbers.

If men of other parties were to defeat women of their party merely because they were women, male candidates of their own party would also defeat women candidates of other parties. So the impact would be neutralised and would not affect the final tally in any way.

Women have proved beyond doubt their competence and ability in various fields like business, finance, medicine, administration, armed forces and law enforcement agencies in the last three decades. But women in politics have got swayed by the lure of seats by pleasure and at the mercy of male counterparts as the promise of reservations denotes.

Their fight for equality would be more meaningful if they concentrate on their acceptance as equal and obtain an independent identity for women not on the basis of their gender but as human beings. Things can change when she gets her place in the political agenda of all parties. It is, however, missing in this election.

Elections are not merely a game of winning seats. It is also an occasion to make a statement of ideological and political commitment that a party or individual cherishes. It calls for courage to express its commitment even if it did not win a seat because that ideological commitment would convince the electorate that it was true to its commitment even at the cost of a seat.

Sadly, political parties are more in the game of winning seats than adhering to their declared intentions. Their commitments become subordinate to their desire for power by winning more seats. So women have to take a back seat in their game. They cannot find their place even on agenda of intentions, leave aside the agenda of action.

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Which Mrs Zuma will be the first lady?
by By Karin Brulliard

THOUGH South Africa’s recent general election featured all the mud-slinging of a fierce battle, it was long expected to result in the victory of ruling party leader Jacob Zuma, who was inaugurated as president on Saturday. The real mystery — one that has intrigued South Africans for months — is which of Zuma’s wives will be the nation’s new first lady.

Zuma, a 67-year-old Zulu traditionalist, has become South Africa’s first polygamist president. Confronted with the first lady question, spokesmen for his party, the African National Congress, have typically declined to respond or noted that the constitution does not touch the issue, thus allowing Zuma to choose or alternate. The party, in fact, long stayed mum on just how many wives and children Zuma has, figures that even his biographer could not nail down.

New clues emerged last week, however. At the bottom of an ANC statement that extolled Zuma’s liberation movement credentials and ballroom dancing skills, the party casually noted that he is a father of 19 and a husband to three: Khumalo, Ntuli and Mabhija.

But speculation remains rife about what the Times newspaper called the “protocol nightmare” of whether the state will be obligated to cover medical care, jet transportation and security for the entire Zuma brood. And South Africans are still in the dark about who will be Zuma’s date to galas and have dibs on the spousal office in the east wing of the president’s hilltop residence in Pretoria, the administrative capital.

“As a family they are supportive of each other,” said Lindiwe Zulu, an ANC spokeswoman, noting that one of Zuma’s daughters has often accompanied him to official events. “That family has got their own unique way of dealing with those issues. If they didn’t, I’m sure we would have heard about it by now.”

While providing fodder for headlines and comics, fascination with Zuma’s polygamy is rooted in deeper dilemmas in democratic South Africa, whose ultra-progressive, Western-influenced constitution enshrines gender rights but also protects tribal traditions that were suppressed by the white apartheid government. Among them is the mostly rural practice of polygamy, which was legalised in 1998, though only for men belonging to tribes in which it is custom.

“South Africa is a very modern, secular country with a great constitution, but it’s also an African country. To some extent, Jacob Zuma sort of brings it full circle,” said Penelope Andrews, a law professor at Valparaiso University in Indiana who has written widely on polygamy in South Africa, her native country. “And a lot of people are obviously fine with it.”

But not everyone. As elections approached, the leader of the African Christian Democratic Party attacked polygamy as “abuse of women.” In an open letter to Zuma in the Mail & Guardian newspaper Friday, gender rights activist Colleen Lowe Morna wrote of his wives: “I doubt you would countenance any one of them having several husbands.” One recent opinion poll found that 74 per cent of respondents opposed polygamy.

But that survey was conducted in urban areas, and Zuma’s backers say that is part of the problem. Critics, they maintain, are elites whose opinions are out of touch with many of their compatriots, particularly those who live in rural areas like the one where Zuma, who grew up herding cows, keeps a homestead. The ANC swept the elections with just under 66 per cent of the vote, a resounding victory attributed in large part to Zuma’s appeal.

“Jacob Zuma’s pride in his culture is what has played such a large part in his hyper-popularity in this country,” one reader wrote in a letter to the Star on Friday, saying Zuma was a victim of “pandering to overseas European values.”

Zuma draws vigorous support from the ANC Women’s League, which approves of polygamy as long as wives enter into it willingly and the husband takes good care of all spouses and children, Zulu said. Though Zulu said she “may not agree with it,” she said she is certain the Zuma marriages meet those standards.

“There are plenty of politicians who have mistresses and children who they hide so as to pretend they’re monogamous,” Zuma once told a television interviewer. “I prefer to be open. I love my wives, and I’m proud of my children.”

By most counts, Zuma has been married five times. One marriage, to Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, ended in divorce in 1998. Another wife, Kate Mantsho Zuma, committed suicide in 2000.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Delhi Durbar
Supreme Court’s retiring judge sets a record

Justice Arijit Pasayat, who retired as a Supreme Court judge on May 10, delivered a record number of 29 judgments on his last working day on May 8.

Sitting alongside Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam, he went on signing verdict after verdict as the Court Master kept saying item 1A for judgment, item 1B for judgment…till 1Z for judgment.

One would have thought that it was over after 1Z, but it was not to be. The Court Master continued: “Item 1AA for judgment” and, mercifully, it all ended with “item 1CC for judgment.”

Among the judgments was the one on campus ragging. The judge is reported to have set a record for the number of verdicts handed out if you were to take tenure-long achievements of the apex court judges. And if you thought he is headed for a well-deserved post-retirement life, you are wrong. He is in the running for heading the Competition Commission.

Patient hearing

A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court gave a patient hearing for about 150 minutes on May 5 to petitioners from BOSS School of Music, Mumbai. The petitioners had sought the closure of the Mumbai High Court till judicial reforms were in place.

Three of the petitioners are also facing contempt for throwing a footwear at another apex court Bench. Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium was furious and pleaded for the dismissal of the petition by the women, three of them in the 20s.

But the Bench, headed by Justice Altamas Kabir, was patience-personified. In fact, Justice Kabir asked the women security personnel to keep away from the petitioners who argued their case themselves. Their grievance was that the HC had ordered probe after probe into their school’s functioning despite the fact that every inquiry report had given it a clean chit.

Further, the investigations were conducted on an unscientific charge that the school was practising black magic and witchcraft, they contended. The Bench not only heard them out, sitting beyond the normal working hours, but also agreed to their plea for advancing the pronouncement on admissibility, from August to July.

Rise of Sheila Dikshit

Amid hectic election activity, no one seems to have noticed the meteoric rise of Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit in the Congress power circle. A rank outsider, Sheila was despised by her opponents in the Delhi party unit till recently.

There was a time when it was said she was not even getting audience at 10, Janpath. But all that is an old story now. Since returning to power for the third consecutive term in Delhi, there has been no stopping Sheila Dikshit.

Her opponents within the party, Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler, have been put out of action, thanks to the shoe-flinging incident. Then by giving the party ticket to Sajjan’s little-known brother, Krishan Kumar, she has almost ensured that once Krishan loses, the brothers would never be able to challenge her.

More importantly, she has the eyes and ears of Yuvraj Rahul Gandhi, even though party chief Sonia does not seem to trust her.

Contributed by R Sedhuraman and Faraz Ahmad

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