US report does not explicitly predict Rahul-Modi contest

US report does not explicitly predict Rahul-Modi contest

Dr. K. Alan Kronstadt, a South Asian affairs specialist and coordinator of the report of the Congressional Research Service (CRS), an independent research arm of the US Congress, said the report is a "scholarly compendium of information from various sources that does not in any way reflect the judgment of the US Congress or government of any kind".

Brief and separate references made to Gandhi and Modi in the CRS's 98-page report titled "India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics, and U.S. Relations" have been used by sections of the Indian media to suggest as if some elements of the US official establishment expect the 2014 elections in the country to be a direct battle between the two politicians.

"Nowhere in the report is there contention, speculation or projection that the 2014 parliamentary election will be between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi," Kronstadt told IANS. 

He said he has been doing reports on India and Pakistan for nine years and has often seen the media in the two countries "disingenuously" take out a line or two and make it seem as if it is a major focus.  Kronstadt pointed out that Gandhi and Modi have been mentioned in two different places and in two different contexts, contrary to the impression they have been clubbed together as some of the Indian media reports create.

The reference to Modi's prime ministerial prospects on page 41 says, "At present, the BJP president is Nitin Gadkari, a former Maharashtran official known for his avid support of privatization. Although still in some disorder in 2011, there are signs that the BJP has made changes necessary to be a formidable challenger in scheduled 2014 polls. These include a more effective branding of the party as one focused on development and good governance rather than emotive, Hindutva-related issues, and Gadkari's success at quelling intra-party dissidence and, by some accounts, showing superior strategizing and organizing skills as compared to his predecessors.

"Yet among the party's likely candidates for the prime ministership in future elections is Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has overseen impressive development successes in his state, but who is also dogged by controversy over his alleged complicity in lethal anti-Muslim rioting there in 2002 (Modi has in the past been denied a U.S. visa under an American law barring entry for foreign government officials found to be complicit in severe violations of religious freedom)."

The reference to Rahul Gandhi comes on page 46 where the report says, "The 2009 polls may have represented a coming out party of sorts for the younger Gandhi, who many expect to be put forward as Congress's prime ministerial candidate in scheduled 2014 elections. Yet this heir-apparent remains dogged by questions about his abilities to lead the party, given a mixed record as an election strategist, uneasy style in public appearances, and reputation for gaffes."

Most of what Dr. Kronstadt and his co-authors say in terms of comments of political nature is drawn from various sources, a lot of which are media stories. What the report does is distil varied amounts of information down to a perspective which US Congress members and other government agency personnel interested in the subject can easily wrap their minds around.

As a rule CRS reports are meant for consumption by US lawmakers and Congressional committees but they do occasionally get into the public domain because of analysts and think tanks. This particular report has been turned by Modi's supporters into a victory lap of sorts without paying attention to the real nature of its content. Even the praise of Modi's shepherding of Gujarat's economy is not necessarily the authors' professional endorsement nor is it the view of any US government agency but merely a reflection what the authors have gathered from many different sources.

"Perhaps India's best example of effective governance and impressive development is found in Gujarat (pop. 60 million), where controversial Chief Minister Narendra Modi has streamlined economic  processes, removing red tape and curtailing corruption in ways that have made the state a key driver of national economic growth. Seeking to overcome the taint of his alleged complicity in deadly 2002 anti-Muslim riots, Modi has overseen heavy investment in modern roads and power infrastructure, and annual growth of more than 11% in recent years. The state has attracted major international investors such as General Motors and Mitsubishi and, with only 5% of the country's population, Gujarat now accounts for more than one-fifth of India's exports," the report says even as it clearly implies that the inference is drawn from a news story headlined "A Glimpse at India, Minus the Red Tape" in the Wall Street Journal of Jan 14, 2011.

The report examines India from many different regional and US-India vantage points. "With the lifting of Cold War geopolitical constraints and the near-simultaneous opening of India's economy in early 1990s, the world's largest democracy has emerged as an increasingly important player on the global stage. India dominates the geography of the now strategically vital South Asia region, and its vibrant economy, pluralist society, cultural influence, and growing military power have made the country a key focus of U.S. foreign policy attention in the 21st century", is how it begins.

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