Daily Current Affairs 30.12.2022 (Remote EVM ready to help migrants vote outside States: EC, Study shows T.N. is worst performing in RTI responsiveness, Current account deficit widens in Q2 to 9-year high of 4.4% on trade gap, The Karnataka-Maharashtra border row, Friendly neighbours)

Daily Current Affairs 30.12.2022 (Remote EVM ready to help migrants vote outside States: EC, Study shows T.N. is worst performing in RTI responsiveness, Current account deficit widens in Q2 to 9-year high of 4.4% on trade gap, The Karnataka-Maharashtra border row, Friendly neighbours)


1. Remote EVM ready to help migrants vote outside States: EC

The machines can handle multiple constituencies from a single remote polling booth; panel to demonstrate prototype’s functioning on Jan. 16

The Election Commission (EC) on Thursday announced the development of a prototype of a multi-constituency remote electronic voting machine (RVM) to enable remote voting by migrant voters.

The machines can handle multiple constituencies from one remote booth.

The EC invited all recognised political parties — eight national and 57 State parties — to a demonstration of the prototype on January 16. The panel has already shared a concept note with them on the legal, operational, administrative and technological challenges. The commission urged the parties to submit their views by January 31.

Opposing the proposal, the Congress said the move could seriously “undermine trust in the electoral system”.

“The voter turnout in General Elections of 2019 was 67.4% and the Election Commission is concerned about the issue of over 30 crore electors not exercising their franchise and also differential voter turnout in various States/Union Territories,” the commission added in the statement.

The EC noted there were multifarious reasons for a voter not opting to register in a new place of residence, thus missing out on exercising the right to vote. The inability to vote due to internal migration is one of the prominent reasons to be addressed to improve voter turnout and ensure participative elections. Out-migration due to the need to work, marriage, and education is predominant among the rural population in overall domestic migration. Approximately 85% of the internal migration is within the States.

It is expecting comments on changes required in legislation, administrative procedures and voting method. Sources in the commission told The Hindu that the idea was to implement voter portability as a pilot project in the Assembly elections in nine States in 2023. If the pilot is successful, then voter portability can be fully implemented in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

Concept note

The EC said it had circulated among the political parties a concept note highlighting the challenges of defining domestic migrants, implementation of the Model Code of Conduct, ensuring secrecy of voting, facility of polling agents for identification of voters, process and method of remote voting and counting of votes and other issues.

Among the laws and rules that would need amendment to implement remote voting are the Representation of the Peoples Act of 1950 and 1951, the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 and the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960.

Migrant voters

The definition of migrant voter will also need to be reworked with respect to retaining registration at the original place in the context of the legal construct of “ordinary residence” and “temporary absence”. Also, the territorial constituency concept of remote voting and defining remoteness itself, that is an outside constituency, outside district or outside State will need to be dealt with.

The administrative challenges include enumerating remote voters’ self-declaration, ensuring secrecy of voting at remote locations, provision of polling agents at remote voting booths, and ensuring identification of voters to avoid impersonation. Other areas to work on would include the appointment of polling personnel for remote polling stations and supervision thereof, the number of polling booths to be set up and their locations, and implementation of the Model Code of Conduct in remote locations. Some of the technological challenges will be the method of remote voting, the familiarity of the voters with the multi-constituency RVM and counting of votes.

The EC said it was now ready to pilot an RVM with a public sector undertaking. This modified form of EVM can handle up to 72 multiple constituencies from a single remote polling booth. “The initiative, if implemented, can lead to a social transformation for the migrants and connect with their roots as many times they are reluctant to get themselves enrolled at their place of work for various reasons such as frequently changing residences, not enough social and emotional connect with the issues of an area of migration, and unwillingness to get their name deleted in the electoral roll of their home/native constituencies as they have permanent residence/property,” the EC said.

2. Study shows T.N. is worst performing in RTI responsiveness

While the Tamil Nadu Information Commission furnished only 14% of the details sought, Maharashtra was second worst, sharing 23% of data

The State Information Commission of Tamil Nadu has been the worst performing in responsiveness under the Right to Information Act, furnishing only 14% of the information sought.

Maharashtra was the second worst, sharing 23% of the information asked for, according to a report card on the performance of Information Commissions (ICs) in India for 2021-22 by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan.

Only 10 ICs provided full information in response to the RTI applications filed as part of this assessment. These included Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Jharkhand and the northeastern States of Sikkim, Nagaland and Tripura.

The organisation said that as part of the assessment, in order to access information about the functioning of ICs, it filed RTI applications with the 28 State Information Commissions (SICs) and the Central Information Commission (CIC).

“A total of 145 RTI applications were filed seeking identical information from all the 29 ICs. The RTI applications were tracked to assess how each IC performed as a public authority, in terms of maintaining and disclosing information,” it said.

“The SIC of Tamil Nadu was the worst performing as it denied most of the information sought, including regarding the number of appeals and complaints dealt with by the IC, details of penalty imposed and compensation awarded stating that the information could be provided only ‘after getting the approval of State Legislative Assembly’,” though no such provision exists in the RTI Act.

No orders passed

The SIC of Chhattisgarh denied information on several points stating that under the prevailing State rules, in one application, information on only one topic could be sought, while the SIC of Bihar, which failed to provide any information under the RTI Act for the assessments published in 2020 and 2021, significantly improved its performance and furnished 67% of the information that was sought.

The report card further said that a large number of ICs across the country were returning cases without passing orders. Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh returned around 40% of the appeals or complaints received by them.

Of the 18 Information Commissioners who provided relevant information, the assessment found that 11 returned appeals or complaints without passing any orders.

It also found that several ICs have an extremely low rate of disposal per commissioner. Of all the 29 ICs, only the CIC has adopted a norm on the number of appeals or complaints to be disposed of by each commissioner in one year.

The Right to Information Act of 2005

The act is one of the most important acts which empowers ordinary citizens to question the government and its working. This has been widely used by citizens and media to uncover corruption, progress in government work, expenses related information, etc.

All constitutional authorities, agencies, owned and controlled, also those organisations which are substantially financed by the government comes under the purview of the act. The act also mandates public authorities of union government or state government, to provide timely response to the citizens’ request for information.

The act also imposes penalties if the authorities delay in responding to the citizen in the stipulated time.

What type of information can be requested through RTI?

The citizens can seek any information from the government authorities that the government can disclose to the parliament.

Some information that can affect the sovereignty and the integrity of India is exempted from the purview of RTI.

Information relating to internal security, relations with foreign countries, intellectual property rights (IPR), cabinet discussions are exempted from RTI.

Objectives of the RTI Act

  1. Empower citizens to question the government.
  2. The act promotes transparency and accountability in the working of the government.
  3. The act also helps in containing corruption in the government and work for the people in a better way.
  4. The act envisages building better-informed citizens who would keep necessary vigil about the functioning of the government machinery.

Important provisions under the Right to Information Act, 2005

  • Section 2(h): Public authorities mean all authorities and bodies under the union government, state government or local bodies. The civil societies that are substantially funded, directly or indirectly, by the public funds also fall within the ambit of RTI.
  • Section 4 1(b): Government has to maintain and proactively disclose information.
  • Section 6: Prescribes a simple procedure for securing information.
  • Section 7: Prescribes a time frame for providing information(s) by PIOs.
  • Section 8: Only minimum information exempted from disclosure.
  • Section 8 (1) mentions exemptions against furnishing information under the RTI Act.
  • Section 8 (2) provides for disclosure of information exempted under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 if the larger public interest is served.
  • Section 19: Two-tier mechanism for appeal.
  • Section 20: Provides penalties in case of failure to provide information on time, incorrect, incomplete or misleading or distorted information.
  • Section 23: Lower courts are barred from entertaining suits or applications. However, the writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India and high courts under Articles 32 and 226 of the Constitution remains unaffected.

Significance of the RTI Act

  • The RTI Act, 2005 empowers the citizen to question the secrecy and abuse of power practised in governance.
  • It is through the information commissions at the central and state levels that access to such information is provided.
  • RTI information can be regarded as a public good, for it is relevant to the interests of citizens and is a crucial pillar for the functioning of a transparent and vibrant democracy.
  • The information obtained not only helps in making government accountable but also useful for other purposes which would serve the overall interests of the society.
  • Every year, around six million applications are filed under the RTI Act, making it the most extensively used sunshine legislation globally.
  • These applications seek information on a range of issues, from holding the government accountable for the delivery of basic rights and entitlements to questioning the highest offices of the country.
  • Using the RTI Act, people have sought information that governments would not like to reveal as it may expose corruption, human rights violations, and wrongdoings by the state.
  • The access to information about policies, decisions and actions of the government that affect the lives of citizens is an instrument to ensure accountability.
  • The Supreme Court has, in several judgments, held that the RTI is a fundamental right flowing from Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution, which guarantee to citizens the freedom of speech and expression and the right to life, respectively.

Recent Amendments

  • The RTI amendment Bill 2013 removes political parties from the ambit of the definition of public authorities and hence from the purview of the RTI Act.
  • The draft provision 2017 which provides for closure of case in case of death of applicant can lead to more attacks on the lives of whistleblowers.
  • The proposed RTI Amendment Act 2018 is aimed at giving the Centre the power to fix the tenures and salaries of state and central information commissioners, which are statutorily protected under the RTI Act. The move will dilute the autonomy and independence of CIC.
  • The Act proposes to replace the fixed 5-year tenure with as much prescribed by the government.

Criticism of RTI Act

  • One of the major set-back to the act is that poor record-keeping within the bureaucracy results in missing files.
  • There is a lack of staffing to run the information commissions.
  • The supplementary laws like the Whistle Blower’s Act are diluted, this reduces the effect of RTI law.
  • Since the government does not proactively publish information in the public domain as envisaged in the act and this leads to an increase in the number of RTI applications.
  • There have been reports of frivolous RTI applications and also the information obtained have been used to blackmail the government authorities.

RTI Act – Associated Challenges

  • Different types of information are sought which has no public interest and sometimes can be used to misuse the law and harass the public authorities. For example-
  • Asking for desperate and voluminous information.
  • To attain publicity by filing RTI
  • RTI filed as a vindictive tool to harass or pressurize the public authority
  • Because of illiteracy and unawareness among the majority of the population in the country, the RTI cannot be exercised.
  • Though RTI’s aim is not to create a grievance redressal mechanism, the notices from Information Commissions often spur the public authorities to redress grievances.

Difference between Right to Information and Right to Privacy

The right to privacy and the right to information are both essential human rights in modern society where technological information breach is very common.  These two rights complement each other in holding governments accountable to individuals in a majority of the cases.

Right to Information provides a fundamental right for any person to access information held by government bodies. At the same time, the right to privacy laws grants individuals a fundamental right to control the collection of, access to, and use of personal information about them that is held by governments and private bodies. 

Right To Information Act vs Legislations for Non Disclosure of Information

  • Some provisions of the Indian Evidence Act (Sections 123, 124, and 162) provide to hold the disclosure of documents.
  • Under these provisions, head of department may refuse to provide information on affairs of state and only swearing that it is a state secret will entitle not to disclose the information.
  • In a similar manner no public officer shall be compelled to disclose communications made to him in official confidence.
  • The Atomic Energy Act, 1912 provides that it shall be an offence to disclose information restricted by the Central Government.
  • The Central Civil Services Act provides a government servant not to communicate or part with any official documents except in accordance with a general or special order of government.
  • The Official Secrets Act, 1923 provides that any government official can mark a document as confidential so as to prevent its publication.

3. Current account deficit widens in Q2 to 9-year high of 4.4% on trade gap

Private transfer receipts, mainly representing remittances by Indians overseas, expand 29.7%; services exports grow 30%, spurred by rising software exports, business and travel services; for the six months to Sept., CAD came in at 3.3% of GDP

India’s current account balance recorded a deficit of $36.4 billion (or a nine-year high of 4.4% of GDP) in the quarter ended September, rising from $18.2 billion (2.2%) in the previous quarter. Deficit for the year-earlier period came in at $9.7 billion (1.3%), according to data released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Thursday.

Underlying the current account deficit (CAD) in Q2 was the widening of the merchandise trade deficit to $83.5 billion in Q2 from $63 billion in April-June and an increase in net outgo under investment income, the RBI said.

In the first six months to September, India recorded a CAD of 3.3% of GDP, again on the back of a sharp increase in goods trade deficit, compared with 0.2% a year earlier.

Net invisible receipts were higher in the first six months, year-on-year (y-o-y), due to higher net receipts of services and private transfers. Services exports in Q2 grew 30.2% y-o-y on rising software exports, business and travel services. Private transfer receipts, mainly representing remittances by Indians employed overseas, rose 29.7% to $27.4 billion.

Net foreign direct investment slid to $6.4 billion from $8.7 billion. Net foreign portfolio investment in Q2 saw higher inflows of $6.5 billion compared with $3.9 billion a year earlier.

‘Q1 CAD revised down’

Net external commercial borrowings clocked an outflow of $0.4 billion versus an inflow of $4.3 billion.

Non-resident deposits saw net inflow of $2.5 billion versus net outflow of $0.8 billion.

The CAD for the first quarter has been revised downwards from $23.9 billion (2.8% of GDP) due to downward adjustment in Customs data, the Reserve Bank said.

4. The Karnataka-Maharashtra border row

What is the dispute between the States of Karnataka and Maharashtra? What has been the politics around the border dispute? What is the Mahajan Commission? How does the dispute resonate in the cultural arena?

The border town of Belagavi has been a part of Karnataka since boundaries were demarcated along linguistic lines under theStatesReorganisationAct, 1956. But theinter-State border dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra erupts every now and then.The decades-old dispute flared up again in 2022when Karnataka Chief Minister BasavarajBommaisaid the Karnataka government was considering laying claim to Jath taluk in Maharashtra,evoking a strong response.The Karnataka Legislative Assembly, on December 22, unanimously passed a resolutionto protect its interests andcalled the dispute a “closed chapter”.On December 27, the Maharashtra government retaliated by passing aunanimous resolution in itsAssemblyto legally pursue the inclusion of 865 Marathi-speaking villages from Belagavi, Karwar,Nipani, Bidar,Bhalkiand others in Karnataka into the State.

What are the claims of the two States?

The raging boundary dispute between the two States dates back to thereorganisationof States along linguistic lines. In 1957, unhappy with the demarcation of boundaries, Maharashtra demanded realignment of its border with Karnataka. It invoked Section 21 (2)(b) of the Act, submitting a memorandum to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs stating its objection to Marathi-speaking areas being included in Karnataka. It filed a petition in the Supreme Court staking a claim over Belagavi.

Karnataka has argued that the inclusion of Belagavi as part of its territory is beyond dispute. It has cited the demarcation done on linguistic lines as per the Act and the 1967 Mahajan Commission Report to substantiate its position. Karnataka has argued for the inclusion of areas in Kolhapur, Sholapur andSanglidistricts (falling under Maharashtra) in its territory. From 2006, Karnataka started holding the winter session of the Legislature in Belagavi, buildingthemassiveSuvarna VidhanaSoudhain the district headquartersto reassert its claim.

What has been the politics around the dispute?

In the immediate decades of the formation of States, no national party was willing to take the risk and address the dispute, especially the Congress which has a social base in both States.This helped MaharashtraEkikaranaSamiti (MES) sustain its fight with a single agenda — Belagavi’s inclusion intoMaharashtra.

The MES-supported candidates, who have been winning one or more seats in the district since the 1957 Karnataka Assembly elections, were defeated in the 2018 Assembly elections. As another election draws close in 2023, the MES is keen to revive its political fortunes.

The dispute strongly resonates in the cultural arena too. For instance, two SahityaSammelanas— the 73rd AkhilBharatiyaMarathi Sahitya Sammelana (ABMSS) and the 70th AkilBharatiyaKannada Sahitya Sammelana — were held in Belagavi in 2000 and 2003, respectively. Both events prepared the ground for the re-opening of an otherwise muted issue.

What were the terms of the Mahajan Commission?

In 1966, at Maharashtra’s insistence, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi established a one-man commissionled by Mehr Chand Mahajan,whichrecommended that 264 villages be transferred to Maharashtra and that Belagavi (Belgaum) and 247 villages remain with Karnataka.

Maharashtra rejected the report, while Karnataka welcomed it. Karnataka argued that either the Mahajan Commission Report should be accepted fully, or the status quo maintained.

What is the recent controversy around Jath taluk?

A war of words broke out between BJP leaders in Karnataka and Maharashtra over the border row last month after CM BasavarajBommaisaid the BJP-led government was “seriously considering” laying a claim on Jath taluk and held meetings with senior advocates to resolve the boundary issue.

In 2021, all40 gram panchayats of the drought-proneJathtaluk passed a resolution to join Karnataka,stating that the Maharashtra government was unable to provide water toitspeople and they were being treated unfairly.

Thisfuelledtension between the two states, withMaharashtraDeputy CM Devendra Fadnavis saying they would not cede even an inch of land toKarnataka. Mr.Bommaithenupped the ante by stating that Solapur andAkkalkotought to be part of Karnataka as well.

In the same week, violence broke outatDhoundvillage in Maharashtra when some pro-Marathi activistsvandaliseda KSRTC bus. In retaliation, a fewpro-Kannadaactivists blackened the boards of an MSRTC busin Kalaburagi district.

5. Editorial-1: Changing features of Muslim representation in India

The meaning of representation in any representative-democracy is necessarily a contested concept; a productive force which shapes and reshapes the structure of political competition. Given our historical context, the representation of Muslims has become even more of a lightning rod for present-day political divides, especially since the ascendance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to the position of national dominance.

Much editorial ink has been spilled on the refusal of the BJP to provide even tokenistic political representation to the Muslim minority. But an interesting facet is the adaptation made by the non-BJP Opposition parties, over the last decade, on the political question of representation of Muslims. This adaptation was partly a response to the BJP-dominant system; but it was also a response to long-term structural changes in Indian politics.

To chart this evolution, we shall make use of three dimensions of political representation (descriptive representation, symbolic representation, and substantive representation), borrowing from Hanna F. Pitkin’s seminal treatise, The Concept of Representation (1967). At its basics, descriptive representation means the degree to which the representatives resemble the people they claim to represent, such as the social/cultural identity of the representatives. Symbolic representation denotes the ways by which the representative “stands for” the represented — through speech, actions and symbolic gestures. And, substantive representation means the ways in which the representative serves the interest of the represented, such as by advancing the political agenda or policy preferences of the represented.

The example of Uttar Pradesh

In Uttar Pradesh, for instance, the accommodation of the significant Muslim minority (nearly a fifth of the State) had been done by the previous Congress and Samajwadi Party (SP) regimes by providing them a mix of descriptive and symbolic representation. While the descriptive representation of Muslims (such as the proportion of Muslim MLAs and Ministers) in the Congress period of dominance often lagged behind its population share, the Congress also offered symbolic representation: “standing for” the protection of a package of ‘Muslim issues’. These ‘Muslim issues’ (mostly cultural issues such as Urdu, Uniform Civil Code (UCC), Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), and later Babri Masjid) symbolised a compact between the Congress elite and a politicised religious leadership, skilfully constructed as a “stand-in” for the entire community.

Later, the SP tweaked the terms of the bargain and became the favoured party of Muslim voters, although one hastens to add that the so-called ‘Muslim vote’ continued to be split three-ways (between the SP, the Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress), with a single party rarely cornering more than half of all Muslim votes. The SP strategy had three components. One, there was an increase in rhetorical emphasis given to the role of “protecting” the package of Muslim issues, driving a contrast with the Congress which was hemmed in by the breach of its upper-caste vote bank from an ascendant BJP. Two, the role of “protector of minorities” was intensely personalised into the benevolent-strongman image of the party leader, played by Mulayam Singh Yadav in U.P. and Lalu Prasad Yadav in neighbouring Bihar. And three, while the Muslim legislators were supposed to play only a rubber-stamp role, a State-wide Muslim party face was constructed to periodically give vent to ‘Muslim angst’ and reinforce the protector role of the party leader. This role was played by leaders such Azam Khan of the SP in U.P. and Mohammed Ashraf Fatmi of the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar.

But the big change brought on by the BJP dominant period is that the kind of “symbolic representation” practised by the SP and the RJD has now ceased to be part of a viable strategy of accommodating Muslims. The three aforementioned components of symbolic representation have been hollowed out in practice. One, the SP and the RJD have been studiedly silent in their rhetorical response to the BJP’s policies relating to cultural concerns of minorities (UCC, madrasas, AMU, Babri Masjid, etc). Two, Akhilesh Yadav and Tejaswi Yadav have self-consciously shirked away from the role of “protector” of minorities. And three, Akhilesh Yadav has adopted a markedly indifferent attitude towards the systematic destruction of the political career of Azam Khan by the ruling BJP, even as Tejaswi Yadav has pushed out Ashraf Fatmi from the RJD. The pitch that parties such as SP and RJD (as well as the Trinamool Congress) are now offering to Muslim voters is centred on a very narrow conception of security and a vague promise of “development for everyone”, crucially supplemented with the narrative that they are the only alternative to the BJP. It has worked so far. it has worked so far. All the three parties cornered upwards of three-quarters of the Muslim vote (an unprecedented figure), according to surveys, in their last Assembly elections, respectively. But the long-term viability of this strategy also remains uncertain.

In Tamil Nadu

In Tamil Nadu and Kerala, a shared element has been the centrality given to substantive representation in their (otherwise substantially different) pathways of Muslim accommodation. Even as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) allied with the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in an earlier period of expansion, outbidding the Congress in symbolic terms, they quickly expanded their own political constituency among Muslims and consequently marginalised the IUML. They did so by, partly, appealing to the shared Tamil heritage and the participation of Muslims in the Dravidian movement, and, partly, by accommodating Muslims in the backward paradigm. This involved an early inclusion of Dalit Muslims and Christians in the existing backward reservations, as well as the later extension of a separate reservation block towards Muslims. The poorer Muslims left out of the welfare net, particularly in southern Tamil Nadu, were taken up by the paternalistic pro-poor populism of the All India Anna Dravida Munetra Kazahgam (AIADMK). The incidence of poverty among Muslims in rural Tamil Nadu, reduced from 37% in 1993 to 1% in 2011 (Kalaiyarasan).

However, the resurgence of parties such as the IUML and Manithaneya Makkal Katchi in the DMK coalition provides another complicating subplot. In the last election, the DMK-Congress gave these (Muslim communitarian) parties five tickets, to some extent as symbolic point-scoring over the AIADMK, which was allied to the BJP. The DMK coalition did garner 69% of Muslim voters (compared to 24% for the AIADMK), a significant increase in the gap over previous elections. But this partial outsourcing of the task of mobilising Muslims — stemming to some extent from a long-standing under-representation of Muslims in party organisation — remains a risky political manoeuvre.

And Kerala

In Kerala, the Left parties made significant gains among Muslim voters (from 35% to 39% of Muslim votes) on the back of pro-poor welfare schemes. Left Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan makes direct populist appeals to all communities including Muslims (signalling such as personally taking over the Minority Welfare Department), even as his party attacks the Congress-IUML coalition for encouraging minority communalism. But the overarching feature of Kerala’s minority accommodation remains tethered to the theme of greater substantive representation.

It remains an open question whether the secular parties of North India can integrate the productive elements of the more robust southern model, promising “substantive representation” to Muslims while fending off the BJP’s ‘attacks’ of “minority appeasement”.

6. Editorial-2: Friendly neighbours

India must boost ties with Maldives without taking sides in its politics

The conviction of former Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen by a criminal court in the Maldives just a year ahead of general elections could affect his plans to lead the PPM-PNC opposition alliance. He faces 11 years in prison and a $5 million fine after being found guilty of corruption and money laundering links to a company he was accused of taking kickbacks from, during his tenure as President (2013-2018). The Maldives Constitution disqualifies any candidate convicted of criminal charges and sentenced to a term of more than a year unless they are later acquitted or a three-year period has elapsed since their release. In a sense, history has now come full circle for Mr. Yameen, as he had pursued cases against his predecessor Mohamed Nasheed and ensured that he would step down in favour of his party colleague Ibu Solih ahead of the last election. The conviction was his second in three cases. Mr. Yameen has had a rough relationship with India during his presidential term after he declared an emergency in the island state. As opposition leader he has spearheaded the “India Out” campaign, and has been unrepentant despite the latest verdict, trying to link his incarceration to pressure from India.

Given the inimical relationship, as well as Mr. Yameen’s past close links with China, there may be some relief in South Block over the possibility of Mr. Yameen’s disqualification. However, the Government needs to tread carefully when it comes to the domestic politics roiling its close maritime neighbour. India’s infrastructure aid, credit lines, loans and commissioning of various projects (Greater Male Connectivity Project, Hanimaadhoo airport, Hulhumale cricket stadium, Gulhifalhu port) have meant high visibility. In addition, close ties and high-level military exchanges since 2018 have raised speculation that India is eyeing a base. Even as the Solih government has been prompt in countering Mr. Yameen’s allegations, condemning the “India Out” campaign, and arresting a senior opposition leader for threatening violence against the Indian High Commission, the protests have gained some traction in parts of the country. While Mr. Yameen may not be allowed to run in the next election, this might make space for even more radical elements in the opposition combine. New Delhi must keep a close watch on other parts of Maldivian politics, including the rift between India’s closest friends there, President Solih and former President Nasheed, who is threatening to split the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party. Despite having obvious favourites in the polity, New Delhi must actively project the image of the friendly and helpful neighbour without explicitly seeking to sway next year’s election in any direction.

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