Grand Tamasha

State Elections, the U.S. Congress on Kashmir, and a Nobel Prize for India

Episode Summary

Milan, Tanvi, and Sadanand tackle the elections in Haryana and Maharashtra, U.S. congressional hearings on Kashmir, and the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Episode Notes

Milan sits down with podcast regulars Tanvi Madan (Brookings Institution) and Sadanand Dhume (American Enterprise Institute and the Wall Street Journal) to round up this month’s news. 

This month’s round up tackles three topics. Last week, voters elected new state governments in Haryana and Maharashtra in the first polls since May’s general election. Milan, Sadanand, and Tanvi discuss the results and their significance for Indian politics going forward. Second, the U.S. Congress recently held a hearing on the state of human rights in South Asia. This hearing saw a contentious debate break out about the state of play in Jammu and Kashmir. Our guests debate what this means for U.S.-India relations. And finally, three economists--Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer--were awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in economics. This particular Nobel has created a lot of buzz in India, not least because Banerjee is a native son of West Bengal and both he and Duflo have spent much of the careers working on issues of development and poverty in India. The trio discuss the Indian reaction to the prize announcement.

Episode Transcription

Intro:                            00:00                "Unabashed" "The most unpredictable" "becomes a headline." "The most volatile" "outrageous behavior." “Unsubstantiated narratives" "A battle of personalities."

Milan Vaishnav:            00:11                Welcome to Grand Tamasha. I'm your host Milan Vaishnav, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. It's that time of the month. Again, we are back with our usual news roundup regulars. Tanvi Madan from the Brookings institution joins me today from our studio in Washington D.C. And speaking to us from India is Sadanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute and the Wall Street Journal. Tanvi, Sadanand, happy belated Diwali.

Tanvi Madan:                00:32                Thanks, Milan, to you too. And it's good to be here. Albeit jet lagged as I am.

Sadanand Dhume:         00:36                Happy Diwali from Bangalore.

Milan Vaishnav:            00:38                We miss you in the studio, but what are you up to?

Sadanand Dhume:         00:41                Well, I am sitting in my mother's house in Bangalore dreading a combination of the firecrackers and my mother's Cocker Spaniel setting off very strange, you know, audio circumstances for this podcast.

Milan Vaishnav:            00:55                Okay, well we, we, as I said before, we're a dog friendly show, so any barking we will attribute to the dog and not to you. This week on the podcast, we're going to discuss three topics. Last week, voters elected new state governments in the states of Haryana and Maharashtra. And the first poll since May's general election. We're going to discuss the results and their significance for Indian politics going forward. Second, the U.S. Congress recently held a hearing on the state of human rights in South Asia. That hearing saw a contentious debate breakout about the state of play in Jammu and Kashmir. We'll talk about what that means for us India relations. And finally, three economists Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer were awarded this year's Nobel Prize in Economics. This particular Nobel has created quite a lot of buzz in India, not least because Banerjee is a native son of West Bengal.

Milan Vaishnav:            01:42                And both he and Duflo have spent much of their careers working on issues of development and poverty in India. So we'll discuss the Indian reaction to the prize announcement. But first things first. In the first set of state elections, since last May's general election, voters went to the polls in the states of Haryana and Maharashtra last week. The BJP was the incumbent in both of these states. The party was widely expected to come back to power. In Maharashtra for the BJP and its long time ally, "frienemy", I don't know what the term is. The Shiv Sena won a majority of seats, although their margin of victory was not as great as many had anticipated in the state of Haryana. We saw a very interesting result. The BJP failed to earn a majority on its own butlooks like it's set to form the government as part of a coalition with the Jannayak Janta Party, or JJP, which is a smaller regional party. Sadanand, and let me start from you first. The BJP looks like it's set to remain in power in both of these states. But would you characterize these results as a setback or a disappointment for the ruling party?

Sadanand Dhume:         02:41                I actually wouldn't call them a setback. I would call them a disappointment only to the extent that expectations were set sky high. If we'd been having this conversation say three years ago and you'd said that, well, you know, the BJP is, and the Shiv Sena are going to come back to power in Maharashtra with a comfortable, and there's the BJP will fall slightly short of reelection in Haryana I'd say that the BJP would've been, that would've been a pretty good outcome from their perspective. The reason people view this as a setback is that it, after the general election, earlier this year, expectations had been set, the expectations were sky high and a bunch of polls released ahead of the state elections, you know, were frankly, some of them were predicting preposterous things such as the BJP, which was only contesting a little bit more than half of the seats, that the BJP would somehow get its own majority and so on. So I think some of this sort of, you know, I think it's a setback in terms of how it's being portrayed by the media and the punditocracy, but that is only because the expectations are unrealistic.

Milan Vaishnav:            03:46                So Tanvi, many election analysts were kind of pretty surprised. I think it's safe to say at the opposition showing, you know, we saw sort of a lackluster campaign. There were a lot of internal factional feuds within the Congress Party. We didn't see a lot of the Congress Parties top leadership on the campaign trail. And yet the party seems to have beat expectations. Do you think these results give the Congress a new lease on life? Congress leader Salman Khurshid was quoted today as saying the decline of the Congress Party is definitively over.

Tanvi Madan:                04:15                I think it depends on what they do. Which has been kind of the, the question for the last kind of few years. What do you do with these kinds of wins that you've had? After all, they had these three state wins before the national elections earlier kind of this year. And so this question of what do they do with this new lease in life, if that, if we can characterize it that way? I think there's the other point that perhaps Haryana, for example, is much more like Punjab where they might not have been kind of national level leadership, but you do see state leadership and things like organization, funding, the availability of funds, but also some level of anti incumbency, which is going to be natural in, in kind of Indian politics. And so I think you do see, yes, it depends why there's a path out there and perhaps it's a lesson that where they do rule in states, it's one way for them to show that they can govern and perhaps separate themselves from the BJP. But I really think at the national level, it depends what they, how they move forward. Do they actually encourage kind of local leadership leadership other than the Gandhi family? So far, we have not seen that, but it'll be interesting to see if they're both going to look to new leadership or at least make way, space for some. And second, do they actually kind of come out and now make the economy the focus of their message to contrast themselves with the BJP?

Milan Vaishnav:            05:39                Sadanand, I want to ask you if you think we have enough evidence at this point now to sort of safely conclude that Indian voters can make and are making a sharp distinction between state and national elections and, and if that's the case, if they're making this distinction, could this spell trouble for the, BJP kind of in upcoming elections, especially as the economy sort of continues to hobble along?

Sadanand Dhume:         06:01                I think we've had that evidence for awhile and I think this, these, these two state elections, you know, are further evidence in Haryana, if I'm not mistaken, the BJP lost something like 20% of the vote share, something like 20% compared to the looks or by elections just a few months ago. I think it's very clear over there that the voters are saying that in a national election, they're voting for a prime minister in a state election. They want the state government to show them the goods. And it shouldn't surprise us. I mean after all, India has been doing this for about 70 years. So there's a lot of practice people have and people by now, you know, expect different things from state and national governments. In terms of what this means for the BJP going ahead, I would certainly say that, you know, if you, again, if you go back to something we discussed earlier, right, the state elections last year where the Congress had beaten the BJP in three states where once again it was very much about local issues and the state of the economy and so on.

Sadanand Dhume:         06:54                So the, so the opposition would see themselves as having a chance, but to reiterate something that Tanvi raised, a lot of this also has to do with viable state level leadership. If you look at where Congress has done well, for example, they won in Punjab, because Amarinder Singh was simply a taller leader than anyone the opposition had. And though they didn't win Haryana, they did fairly well. Better than expected. But again, it's because Hooda was seen as, you know, a local leader who had grassroots appeal. And so that speaks to something else happening in the states, which of course, you know, you've talked about Milan which is that state elections themselves are becoming more presidential. And so what Congress needs is not just an economic story but also some kind of local leadership that can deliver on the ground.

Tanvi Madan:                07:38                I think, one of the other things, I mean it reminded me this, these state elections of a statistic that, Milan, you had pointed out, which is that in the post poll surveys after the national election, this idea that I think it is one in three voters said that if Modi hadn't been at the head of the BJP, they would've voted for another party. And so this was seemed to me even though he campaigned obviously very extensively in these state elections, that there was, this was partly a reflection of that as well.

Milan Vaishnav:            08:04                Let's turn now a topic number two. Last week a U.S. House Committee held a hearing on the state of human rights in South Asia. I think it's fair to say that the hearing was pretty much dominated by skeptical democratic members of the panel peppering witnesses about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir are restrictions on individual freedoms, continuing curbs on information and the internet. Tanvi, as a historian I have to ask you, you know, help place this hearing and the broader context of U.S.-India relations. You know, a question that I've been getting a lot, I'm sure you have as well is, is this a sign that there are cracks that are starting to show in the bilateral partnership thanks to sort of the post Article 370 fallout?

Tanvi Madan:                08:43                Not as far as the administration is concerned, even though its made the Trump administration that is you know, even even though they've, they had expressed concerns about India's actions and I suspect they are concerned that it's created a bit of a distraction as well in the relationship. And I think you heard kind of the concern also how this is playing out on Capitol Hill where administrations have generally found a friendly constituency for India. Relationships are deepening the India partnership. And I think this I, this idea of kind of expressing concern while making sure that the partnership remained kind of something that was set up for deeper, I mean, more growth in the future. You saw this in Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Alice Wells in not just her initial statement, but also her, her comments during the hearing and her responses. Having said that, I will say that you have heard on Capitol Hill amongst members of Congress from both parties, not just the Democrats as some have portrayed but also from kind of analysts in the national security community as well as some people who see India as an economic partner.

Tanvi Madan:                09:51                And I see, I think where you're hearing these questions are on the values dimension, of course, that India has portrayals itself as a democracy and as sharing values with the U.S. And even though obviously the U.S. Has had some concerns on that - domestically, there've been concerns on that front - that is this the India that we thought we were partnering with, I think on the street from the folks who care about India from a strategic and economic point of view, their concern has been is is this really the priority that India should be focusing on rather than for example, growing the economy or working to balance China? And so, yeah, I think you have seen some questions on that regard. I would say one more word of kind of caution. That where, where India should not want to see cracks in the bipartisan nature of support in the relationship. And some kind of analysts from India have kind of made this a Democrats versus Republican kind of battle. The, the, the kind of reality is much more complex and India should be wary of kind of getting into a Bibi Netanyahu-type situation where even a stronger relationship that the U.S. Has with Israel has now become essentially in some quarters at least a partisan relationship.

Milan Vaishnav:            11:01                Tanvi, let me just follow up with you on that because yesterday there was breaking news that a group of European Union members of parliament are going to be given access to Jammu and Kashmir today in fact, are, I think they're already on the ground. And this is despite the fact that opposition lawmakers have been denied entry a U.S. Senator Chris van Hollins, that he was denied entry. The bulk of this group seem to be coming from a far right parties in France, Germany, Poland and other places. Is this a public relations mistake? Or do you think this is something that, you know, be, given the new cycle people are going to sort of forget about in the next, you know, 24 hours?

Tanvi Madan:                11:43                Chances are given given kind of a, the, the, just the pace of news these days, the latter, there's probably a lot of the latter that we, people will move on. Having said that, I think to me, the fact that it's not clear to any of us who actually put together this the kind of this, this, this delegations visit, the European Union said it wasn't them. The ministry of external affairs said it wasn't them. They, they've clarified it's on an official visitor and the officials in their individual capacity. That's right. The ministry of external affairs, not us, a ministry of home affairs sources from the MFA said, ah, it wasn't ask, ask the army. So this fact that we can't even tell who put this together suggests to me that either kind of this was put together on the political side. People have talked about an NGO. But it suggests to me that the government needs to perhaps look at strategic strategic communication strategy and give it another look and kind of try to see what actions might be counterproductive and what would actually be helpful in kind of at least putting the message that they'd like to see out there. Because I think there's some cross connections here in terms of India's broader objectives. Cause this will only reinforce some of the concerns that people have about kind of the situation in Kashmir.

Milan Vaishnav:            13:00                Sadanand, this is a good segue to turn to you because you recently wrote on Twitter that, you know, the problem in India insofar as 370 is concerned is not the identity or even the effectiveness of the messenger, but really the message itself. And as you know, there's been a lot of criticism about how India has managed the public diplomacy around Kashmir, but you seem to believe the problem extends much deeper. You know, if you had an audience with the Indian foreign minister, how would you explain what the problem is in your view?

Sadanand Dhume:         13:28                Well, I'll get to that, but first time we sort of talk about this, you know, this, this group of visiting European members of parliament and, and I think that is really sort of in some ways symptomatic of the problem, right? I mean, to me this is - I'm much more critical than Tanvi on this, I think it's foreign policy by WhatsApp. And Hey, we can get a bunch of European and MPs to Kashmir. Great. They haven't considered the fact that Kashmir is out of bounds to members of India's own parliament or has been, which is quite, which is, you know, which is quite shocking. And secondly that if you look at the composition of the delegation, I mean these are people from the AFD in Germany. These are people from Marine Le Pen's party in France. There are various dodgy Poles, you should read some of their biography.

Sadanand Dhume:         14:10                And you know, this is really, I mean, this isn't something that obviously has not been considered deeply. And the clarification that seems to be coming out now are simply laughable because if this was sort of, you know, so see if India wanted to distance themselves from this photo, why, how are these people being allowed into Kashmir when many people, including foreign journalists are not allowed inside? Chris van Holman wasn't allowed, but, but also the fact that they met with the prime minister, they met, they got a briefing from the national security advisor, they met with the foreign minister. I mean, who are we kidding? This visit has the fingerprints of the government all over it. And so I think sort of, you know, in hindsight the kind of sort of seem to be recognizing that they've only played this sort of played this game one step down, they haven't gamed it further and now when the bad press starts arriving, they want to distance themselves.

Sadanand Dhume:         15:02                I think that's part of the problem. Now, the larger question of strategic messaging, I mean I, I think that there's a certain constituency in India, certainly in the strategic community who seem to think that if only India could kind of cultivate the right people and make sure that you kind of have a, have dinner with the right columnist or bend the ear of some influential grantee in the foreign policy establishment, everything would be okay. And I think that this is sort of, you know, it's nonsensical. I mean, obviously strategic communication matters to all countries, but the problem really here is the policy. You can't put lipstick on a pig. And unfortunately what's happening over here and what seems to be happening is that there's this really large gap between how the government and the ruling party goes about its domestic messaging, which is what it's very good at and what it cares about a lot and its international messaging, which needs to be much more sophisticated but ends up being quite crude and also suffers from this fallacy that what you're selling doesn't matter. It's just a question of how you sell it.

Tanvi Madan:                16:09                I think there's also this kind of aspect of this where, you know, I've had some people, I've seen some people on Twitter say, you know, it's good that India kind of forms this or, or the BGP or the Indian government forms this kind of right wing coalition. As Sadanand points out, this is not just a right-wing coalition. This is, some of these members are kind of far right. Including some pretty antisemitic parties out there. How does that, for example, gel would kind of India support for Israel or that it says that it's not, it doesn't believe in this? Second, that it said you know, it's moving. Kashmir is not anti-Muslim. And yet these parties have been kind of you know, very openly anti-Muslim parties. And finally, it is somewhat ironic that these are the parties who given a choice would not want Indian immigrants in Europe as well and brown people as a whole.

Tanvi Madan:                17:03                And so, you know, it doesn't, this is where kind of I think coordinating and yes, obviously to have the imprimatur of the Indian government on it. But I think it's suggests perhaps it's not - that there needs to be kind of more coordinate, you know, kind of coordination in terms of what messages is it sending more broadly and not just on this specific issue but more broadly over time? And so this kind of idea that there's a right wing coalition or one with far right parties. This doesn't necessarily serve India's broader interests even though it might be seen as a, you know, helping in this particular one. And even that is debatable.

Milan Vaishnav:            17:36                Tanvi let me just ask you again to put your historian sort of hat on. Do hearings like this, and we're told that there's going to be more to come in the coming weeks and months, sort of have a material impact on India's behavior or are they basically for kind of, you know, domestic political consumption here in the United States?

Tanvi Madan:                17:53                I think to an extent it does have an impact but not beyond a point. And so you know, you've seen, I think this government in general has portrayed itself as, look, we don't care about a foreign kind of views. There are certain things India needs to do in its interests and we'll go ahead and do them and then deal with the repercussions later. This is not just this government. I mean it might be, they might have kind of got the new India, but this is actually something Indian governments have done in the past. The nuclear tests were a good example in 1998, but also further back and of India work you know, around kind of India's approach to the 1971 East Pakistan or Bangladesh crisis, which is when something is an Indian interest, even if there's going to be objections from abroad, India will go and do ahead and do certain things.

Tanvi Madan:                18:40                Having said that, this view that the Indian government does not care at all is also, I think I'm somewhat kind of you know, simplistic. After all, if they didn't care, you wouldn't see this effort at messaging not to mention visits abroad. Some of this is a reality, right, that you, you do have these international fora where you were, you know, you kind of have to make sure that the Indian government now has to spend a lot of political capital and time and energy to make sure that it is not condemned. And, and including in this hearing. And we, there are reports that the Indian external affairs minister will return to engage with members of Congress who were not in session when he came last a just a few weeks, couple of weeks ago that when he was in DC. I think the fact that you know, this is something that he feels the need to do, but also the prime minister feels the need to do is, shows that they do care to a certain extent.

Tanvi Madan:                19:37                I think one reason why they care is related to our earlier discussion on politics, which is that the prime minister in the last election, but I think in general, has said that one of his achievements is getting India respect on the world stage. And while they might argue that this is going to show India as a powerful country and shows that it's willing to use power, I think even they recognize that part of India is attraction, is it soft power aspects and kind of, it's, it's a nature of our democratic nature.

Sadanand Dhume:         20:07                I mean, I'd agree. And I just want to, you know, I just, yeah, I just want to emphasize that, you know, Nazis on houseboats doesn't really help in the, in these circumstances.

Milan Vaishnav:            20:15                Leave it to Sadanand to leave us with a devastating one liner 'Nazis on houseboats.' There is no natural segue here to our third topic. So I'm just gonna go right in. Let's talk about the Nobel prize awarded to a budget of Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer. The awardees are notable for several things. One is their relative youth. The second is they're pretty distinct intensity I think of policy engagement and of course for the centrality of India and the work in their work on experimental economics. Sadanand, and you had the chance to interview Banerjee for the wall street journal. You wrote a column about it that was that was very creatively titled "India needs both Harvard as well as hard work." Give us the context behind the headline and why you think Banerjee is an important figure to India.

Sadanand Dhume:         21:03                Well, all credit to the headline to my editors, as you know, columnists don't write their own headlines. But you know, the context is that about two years ago, a little bit more than two years ago when the prime minister was campaigning, in Uttar Pradesh for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. Actually two, two and a half years ago he had a bad time come under attack by Amartya Sen who the Indian Nobel Laureate who was of course one of his most persistent critics. And at that point, at an, at an election rally Modi had effectively had said that, you know, in India, India in India needs hard, hard work, not Harvard or that India will progress more with hard work than Harvard. Essentially arguing that, you know, these, these intellectuals in their ivory towers are unnecessary. We are people rooted to the soil and we're going to take the country forward with our with, with our ideas which are much more authentic and are what India needs. And I guess my, so the, so the headline was an argument really was part of my, my argument, which is that, you know, in fact it would be very foolish of India to turn it back on. It's a highly talented diaspora which includes several award winning the Nobel laureates and other highly rated economists. And this is not to say that you can't have policy disagreements with someone like Abhijit Banerjee. Of course you can. But there is an element of the larger Hindu nationalist project which is deeply suspicious of their learning. And that's the part that I wanted to sort of, that's what I wanted to talk about in that particular column.

Milan Vaishnav:            22:40                So, Sadanand, how does that jibe then with the other aspect of the Hindu nationalist project, which is to recognize and engage with the diaspora? I mean we just saw Howdy Modi, the 50,000 Indian Americans, I mean, is there a fundamental contradiction there? What do you think is driving that?

Sadanand Dhume:         22:57                Well, I think there's good diaspora and there's bad diaspora from their perspective. So good diaspora are people who have a, essentially maintained their culture and religion and show up at stadium to cheer for Modi and bad diaspora or Bengali intellectuals in Ivy League universities who go on sniping at the BJP.

Milan Vaishnav:            23:20                Tanvi, there was a lot of sniping in India around this award. This was immediately politicized and many of Abhijit Banerjee's personal comments on the state of the Indian economy were used either to lionize him depending on or defame him depending on where you sat. What does it say about public discourse in India today?

Tanvi Madan:                23:38                Well I think at its simplest form, it's a very polarized atmosphere and everything is seen through the prism of whether you are pro-Modi or anti-Modi, or pro-government, anti-government which has often translated as are you pro-national, anti-national. Having said that, I will say, and I, and I said this on Twitter, that some ways this followed kind of the natural cycle that we see in India. Whenever an Indian abroad or a person of Indian origin kind of wins an award and you, the first step is you see this excitement. What a great honor. The second step is going to soul searching. Why couldn't, why couldn't this person could have achieved this being in India? Then you see the kind of step three anger: which is why did this person leave and hasn't returned to kind of contribute to the nation? Then you get to the kind of Google search phase where suddenly people discover that all these people, these people have views that are kind of against their own and that leads to step five, which is labeling them mentally, not fully Indian. Leading then to Step six, which is saying awards don't matter at all till of course the next person wins an award and we get back to stage one and excitement.

Tanvi Madan:                24:50                I will say my favorite reaction is that of his mom who basically did the Indian mom thing. It is the mentally fully Indian mom thing of saying essentially what all the big fuss about? It's good you won the award, but kind of moving on.

Milan Vaishnav:            25:06                Right, right? Yeah, so get back to work. I want to end the show like we do every news Roundup by asking each of you to tell our listeners about one story coming out of India that they should be paying attention to but perhaps aren't. Tanvi, since you're here in the studio. Let me start with you. What's on your list?

Tanvi Madan:                25:21                So this is a little bit different for me in terms of, it's not quite a story coming out of India but coming out of the U.S. but affects India which was the passing away of Doctor Steven Philip Cohen, who I worked with at the Brookings Institution, but he had a long storied career in the U.S. in academia and policy and in think tanks. But also he essentially created and a number of people from around the world have said this, and in the U.S. from policy and academic spheres, he essentially helped create, if not actually created this field of South Asia studies. I'm not sure we'd all be, there'd be enough of us to do a broadcast like this think tanks if it wasn't for him. And so, you know, I think it's, it's worthwhile for people to go look at his legacy, read some of his many books on, on South Asia, and reflect on what he did for the community. But also kind of Steve Cohen as a person, I think we could all learn from him in terms of mentoring a younger people to get into the field remembering kind of to be generous to those around us. But also kind of remembering that we have to we have to think about engaging and not just within our certain spaces but moving outside and encouraging more people to engage with kind of India studies or South Asia security studies more broadly.

Milan Vaishnav:            26:43                Yeah, I have to say one of the great things to see in the past few days since the announcement of his passing has been the sort of outpouring of support of columns, of op-eds, of tweets, and Facebook posts that he managed to touch a lot of people during his, his lengthy career. Sadanand what's on your list?

Sadanand Dhume:         27:00                Oddly enough, it is also something from the U.S. that affects India, but it's some, it's the development of a new kind of apple. I don't know if you guys saw this fascinating story about the, this apple known as the Cosmic Crisp. It's an apple that's been developed in the U.S. And what's going to happen apparently from what I've been reading is that this is going, going to lead to more U.S. pressure to accept other kinds of apples that are slowly being phased out as imports. And there's also a sort of Kashmir angle because it turns out that Kashmir is, Kashmir accounts for about three quarters of all in all of India's apple production. And so there's kind of, there's fruit there's politics there's geopolitics, there's Article 370, all there in the apple story.

Milan Vaishnav:            27:48                We look forward to the Cosmic Crisp column in the Wall Street Journal, Sadanand. Tanvi, who in your mind had the best week in India?

Tanvi Madan:                27:59                I think going back to what we were talking about initially, domestic politics, it's non Congress opposition parties both Sharad Pawar's NCP had a really good showing. And of course here, this image of Sharad Pawar's standing there at his age in rain and kind of giving a speech to kind of rally the troops was quite an image to remind us that he's still out there and that you can actually get people ginned up to come and vote for kind of parties that are not the BJP or Congress as well as the JJP in Haryana that these kinds of non Congress opposition parties are alive and well and perhaps even out Congressing the Congress.

Milan Vaishnav:            28:39                What was interesting about Sharad Parwar, just as an aside, who of course is the leader of the Nationalist Congress Party, which has been a longtime ally of the Congress, is he is one of many who has come under the enforcement scanner for alleged misdeeds. And rather than kind of running away, he showed up at the enforcement director's office unannounced and said, so what are you going to charge me with? And they basically had to back down and say like, Oh, no, no, we don't have anything right now. You know. And so he was able to sort of take this sort of bit of coercive initiative and kind of turn it back on the administration's face. Sadanand, who do you think had the best week in India?

Sadanand Dhume:         29:18                I would say Uddhav Thackeray. Now before the, that's the BJP's partner in Maharashtra, the friend, the "frenemy" party, the frenemy part of the Shiv Sena. Now a week ago, people were basically talked about the Shiv Sena really having been cut to size having become a shadow of its former self. But they were talking about the rise of the BJP as the main pole in that state. Of course the Shiv Sena at one point in this Alliance, which goes back to the 1990s, the Shiv Sena used to be the senior partner with it turned into a much diminished junior partner. But now they're, there they are, they hold the keys to the formation of the next government. They are suddenly, they've suddenly become relevant again.

Milan Vaishnav:            29:59                Tanvi, what about you?

Tanvi Madan:                30:01                The worst week ever?

Milan Vaishnav:            30:01                Oh, sorry. Yeah. Worst week ever. Sorry. I usually end on a high note, but this time we've reversed it. Who had the worst week ever?

Tanvi Madan:                30:08                I'm tempted to say having just returned from Delhi, the residents of Delhi who had to kind of breathe pre and post Diwali smoke. But I will say Gopal Kanda this independent MP who is, or, or MLA who kind of got elected from Haryana who thought - he's kind of this unsavory character who allegedly has kind of a bunch of cases well has a bunch of cases against him, but allegedly engaged in some many kind of unsavory actions particularly with regard to women. - I think he thought that he had you know, he had arrived and because the BJP needed a certain number of MLAs to join them in government that he could write his, write his own kind of check and then cash it in. But the fact that the BJP then moved and worked with JJP has essentially made him irrelevant, at least for now

Milan Vaishnav:            31:03                And Sadanand, who do you think had the worst week?

Sadanand Dhume:         31:05                You know, I have a stock answer for this question at this point: Rahul Gandhi. And the reason for that is that, you know, if you look at Haryana again where Congress really outperformed - certainly beat expectations - the person behind that victory was Bhupinder Hooda, a very serious grassroots politician. But someone who had been sidelined by Rahul Gandhi and the fact that he was able to come back a certain self, and do so well - Many people argue that he would've done even better had he been given more time - just goes to show that the Congress is probably better when Rahul Gandhi is not campaigning and not involved.

Milan Vaishnav:            31:42                So I just want to add my own little voice here. For the worst week and I think it's the Indian economy. GDP projections continue to be slashed. Consumption even in the festive holiday season seems to be down. We've seen a lot of gloomy investment numbers. Mihir Sharma has a nice piece for Bloomberg and I just want to quote something he wrote because I think this is sort of the central puzzle that we're all kind of mulling over. I have a piece that I'm writing - hopefully be out in a few days and then we'll share. Mihir writes "For decades India had leaders with policies but not enough power. Now we have a leader with all the political clout one could want but not the policies the economy needs." Why we find ourselves in this situation I think will be the subject of a future podcast. But for now Tanvi, Sadanand, thanks for joining us and hope to see you soon.

Tanvi Madan:                32:29                See you, Milan.

Sadanand Dhume:         32:30                Look forward to being back.

Outro:                          32:34                The Grand Tamasha is a co-production of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Hindustan Times. You can find us on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Don't forget to rate and review. It helps others find the show more easily. For more information about the show and to find the writing we referenced on this week's episode, visit our website Production assistance comes from Megan Maxwell and Rachel Osnos. Tim Martin is our audio engineer and Lauren Dueck is our executive producer. Thanks for listening and see you next