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February 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.    Wishing You All a Happy New Year.       February 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:January' 2018


Beyond Trump's wall

M. R. Dua

Donald J Trump Completing two years as US President on January 20 this year for Donald J Trump could have been an excellent occasion to celebrate, spread joy and hope for a better future for the American people before ending his four-year White House term on January 20, 2021.
But, ironically, Trump shut down the nine essential departments, forming roughly one-fourth of his government, causing acute hardship and disappointments among millions of supporters, including pensioners; hapless small wage earners; denying pay-cheque to over 800,000 federal employees; holding grant of marriage licence; and creating prodigious inconveniences to innumerable foreigners who had emergent business/diplomatic dealings with these departments, now shut for the longest period ever.

The move to close the Trump administration that occurred on December 22 last because the opposition Democratic Party declined to support the President’s 2016 presidential poll promise to build a $-5.6 billion nearly 900-mile-long wall on the southwestern US border with Mexico to stop the continual flow of allegedly illegal migration of Mexicans to the Unites States. The wall’s estimated cost, $ 2.5 billion, has over the period escalated to nearly $5.6 billion.
President Trump is adamant that unless the Senate Democrats, who command majority in the House of Representatives, support the President to fulfil his poll promise of building the wall, federal funding to these nine shut departments will not receive presidential assent. The Democratic Party’s new House leader

Nancy Pelosi has categorically declined to building the border wall, describing it as ‘’immoral’’. This has reportedly led to the President’s candid and firm assertion: “I remain ready and willing to work with Democrats to pass a bill that secures our borders ... and keeps America safe (from illegal Mexican immigrants to the US). Let us get it done.” As the initial grant to build the wall sanctioned lapsed, a new bill had to be passed by Congress (the US parliament) for this wall.

The impasse has continued since December 22 and the Trump government’s nine crucial departments have remained closed ever since. In fact, President Trump has now threatened that the partial shutdown could continue for months or even years, adding that he had the "power to declare emergency to build the wall without Congress’ consent", and has threatened to use the power, but has refrained from doing that. The government has stayed shuttered, and the impasse continues.

But the Republican lawmakers and the Trump supporters decry and charge that the Democratic Party opponents are "sacrificing border security for a partisan advantage in 2020 elections". The Americans sit with their fingers crossed, the world watching amusingly and amazingly, and strategic departments' workers stay on duty, payless.

Meanwhile, there are said to be many a gladdening tiding for the Indian H-1B visa holders working in the United States. Though there are said to be nearly 300,000 Indians in the US waiting ‘green card’--- that enables them to stay in America permanently --- hundreds of more keep anxiously queuing up before their turn comes. It’s indeed hard to legally obtain a green card: the process is complicated, excruciating.

Above all, the applicants’ queues continue growing by the day; only 9,800 get these cards annually.
In such a situation, the Trump administration’s recent announcement that H-1B visa holders “can rest assured that changes are soon coming which will bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship. We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the US,’’ was heart-warming indeed. An estimate puts the current total number of Indian H-1B visa holders in the US at 3,10,000, next only to the Chinese.

It’s remarkable that the majority of Indian H-1B visa holders are highly qualified engineers, doctors and scientists, who contribute substantially to the US economic, technological and scientific growth. In fact, they’re branded as the ‘unmatched source of strength and vitality’ for American economy. However, ironically, they face the stiffest Trumpian bridle, and the presidential ‘executive orders’ in hiring: ‘‘Buy America, Hire American’’. Of late, Trump had to confront stringent criticism from workers’ associations for his own contradicting statements on immigration policies.

It may be recalled that during the November 2018 mid-term elections to the House of Representatives, four, all Democratic Party members, Indian- American incumbents won their second consecutive two-year term in the 116th Congress. They were Ami Bera and Ro Khanna from the state of California, 54- year-old Chennai-born Ms. Pramila Jayapal from Washington and Raja Krishnamoorthi from llinois state.

They were sworn in on January 3. Incidentally, Dalip Singh Saund from Jalandhar, Punjab, was the first Sikh and the first Indian-American twice elected from California to the US Congress in 1958. The first Hindu woman elected in 2018 to Congress is Hawaii-resident Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, 37. Ms. Gabbard is said to be aspiring to contest the 2020 US presidential poll along with another India-origin House of Representatives member Kamala Harris from California.

It’s been estimated that over 10 lakh seats across the country in some 180 institutes, universities and colleges will have to bear an excessively heavy burden and may have to create new infrastructure to fulfil the sanctioned quotas for the newly eligible candidates.

Meanwhile, as India prepares to hold its general election in April-May next for constituting the 17th Lok Sabha, not only the national parties, but even small regional political parties are girding up their loins.
The 2019 poll battle is bound to be fiercely multidimensional, is certain to attract global attention.

Interestingly, this time Bollywood industry’s noted film directors and eminent stars have also got involved in intensifying the battle. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the first cut and broke the ice -- two days in December and again last month, by meeting and bearhugging those stars who’re currently shining the brightest on the silver screen. Among them: Ranveer Singh, Akshay Kumar, Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Bhumi Pednekar, Rajkumar Rao, Siddarth Roy Kapur, Rohit Shetty and many others. While they reportedly reviewed cinema’s professional areas and problems, serious issues of wider concern such as cinema and ‘nation-building’, ‘fuelling positive change’ in society, ‘promoting cultural and geographical heritage of our country,’ how the expanding entertainment industry could ‘change mindsets, initiate social change and increase harmony in society.’

The recent and forthcoming Bollywood productions, having political dimensions and vast electoral implications that have surfaced, may cast and architect tremendous polling impact. For instance, the currentlyrunning biopic in theatres on former prime minister Manmohan Singh, The Accidental Prime Minister, may not have had much influence, but other biopics being shot could be instrumental in swaying the electorate affecting the battle of the ballot. Some of those personality-based movies reportedly under production include PM Narendra Modi casting actor Vivek Oberoi as Modi; Thackeray the main face of film star Nawazuddin Siddiqui (was scheduled for release on January 23, Balasaheb’s birthday); and Yatra, with actor Mammooty in main role, will release in February. Others on the horizon are Telangana Chief Minister KCR; his main rival Nara Chandrababu Naidu, and the late Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa.

While filmmakers don’t openly mention these leaders’ biopics’ power to swell the vote-kitty, their cashspelling mascot can’t be ignored. They talk only of these personalities’ service to the people and their national and regional leadership import. Jayalalithaa, for example.
Finally, the 10-11 January parliamentary approval to the 124th constitutional amendments may cast a hugely paralytic impact on higher educational institutions’ intakes.

It’s been estimated that over 10 lakh seats across the country in some 180 institutes, universities and colleges will have to bear an excessively heavy burden and may have to create new infrastructure to fulfil the sanctioned quotas for the newly eligible candidates. These institutions include 180 IITs, IIMs, 41 Central universities, 39,050 colleges, 10,011 stand-alone institutions, and 931 universities, both state and private, will have to stretch their capacities in classrooms, laboratories, libraries and hostel accommodation. A Himalayan task indeed! Will the new Union government that takes office in May 2019 be able to measure up to accomplish this grandiloquent agenda?
Only time will tell. Meanwhile, let’s sit with our fingers crossed.