Right to Information
Kudankulam Nuke Project lacks transparency while NPCIL thwarts CIC decision

Despite orders from the CIC for making safety analysis, site evaluation and environmental impact assessment reports of the controversial Kudunkulam Nuclear Plant Project public, Nuclear Power Corp is refusing to do so. A story of an RTI applicant’s fight for transparency

The recent inspection conducted by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) clearing the commissioning of the first unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant after which the government attempted to begin operations, led to protests by people. This time one person was killed in police firing.

A petition has now been filed in the Supreme Court against the green signal given to the plant to begin operation without ensuring the 17 crucial safety measures recommended by the Centre’s task force, being put in order.

It is also the lack of transparency and refusal by the government to share vital information in public interest of this nearly Rs4,000-crore Kudankulam Nuclear Plant in Trivunelveli district of Tamilnadu that has perhaps precipitated the crisis since early 2011.

In the last week of August 2012, a plea has been filed in the Delhi High Court by SP Udayakumar, leader of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PANE) against the Department Of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) for refusing to divulge details under the Right To Information Act (RTI) despite the Central Information Commissioner ordering the PIO to make the information, public. CIC Shailesh Gandhi had ordered NPCIL to provide the required information by 25th May, but the latter did not provide it. Therefore, he has sought legal intervention.


SP Udaykumar, an academician-turned-activist who is spearheading the Kudankulam protests, had invoked the Right to Information Act demanding copies of Safety Analysis Report for Reactor I & II; Site Evaluation Report for Reactor I & II; and; Environment Impact Assessment report for Reactor I & II from the DAE and NPCIL.


The Public Information Officer (PIO) of NPCIL provided the 339-page Environment Impact Assessment Report on a demand draft of Rs678 (charges of Rs2 per page of the RTI Act). The PIO, however, denied information on the Safety Analysis Report and the Site Evaluation Study Report stating they were not public documents and contained design details that are proprietary in nature. Therefore, he argued, the information was exempt under Sections 8(1)(a) and (d) of the RTI Act.


Mr Udaykumar filed a first appeal with the First Appellate Authority (FAA) on grounds of incomplete information furnished by the PIO. However, the FAA upheld the PIO’s decision stating that the Safety Analysis Report and the Site Evaluation Study Report were ‘classified’ documents. The applicant then filed a second appeal with the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi.


Representing Mr Udaykumar, RTI activist and scholar, Venkatesh Nayak was present for the hearing in the CIC office on 23 April 2012. S K Srivastava, PIO and deputy chief engineer (projects) appeared via video conference from Mumbai.


The Commission asked the PIO for specific reasons why Safety Analysis Report and Site Evaluation Report of both reactors of the Kudunkulam Nuclear Reactor Plant were not being provided to the RTI applicant. As per the CIC order, “The PIO argued that the reports were classified information and the concerned public authority had not taken a decision to release it into the public domain. He submitted that the reports were protected from disclosure under Sections 8(1)(a) and (d) of the RTI Act.”


CIC Shailesh Gandhi ‘repeatedly’ asked the PIO the specific reasons for claiming the said exemptions. The PIO replied that as per Section 8 (1)(a), “the security, strategic and scientific interests of the State would be affected on disclosure of the information.” However, he did not give any explanations as to how the security, strategic and scientific interests of the State would be affected on disclosure of the said reports.


Regarding Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act, the PIO claimed that the reports comprised commercial confidence. However, he did not explain how disclosure of the said reports could be considered “commercial confidence” and how it could harm the competitive position of a third party.


Mr Gandhi observed that the PIO’s denial of information holds no water because “as per Section 19(5) of the RTI Act, in any appeal proceedings, the onus to prove that a denial of request was justified shall be on the PIO who denied the request.”


Mr Gandhi thus stated in his order, that, “it is legally well-established that information under the RTI Act can be denied only on the basis of Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act. The fact that a record has been termed as ‘classified’ or that it shall be disclosed subject only to an executive decision to that effect—have not been stipulated as exemptions under the RTI Act. Therefore, the PIO cannot use such grounds for denying the information sought under the RTI Act; denial of information shall be on the basis of Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act only.”


Venkatesh Nayak on his part argued that, “the exemptions under Sections 8(1)(a) and (d) of the RTI Act were not applicable to the present matter.” He said that a larger public interest would certainly be served on disclosure of the reports. He brought to the notice of the CIC, the agreement between India and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which lays down the safety and maintenance standards for nuclear activities.  He also submitted that reports of the same nature were classified as public documents in countries such as USA, UK and Canada in order to ensure public debate. For proof, he gave written submissions along with a CD detailing his arguments.


Why revealing this information does not relate to national security matters

Venkatesh Nayak referred to the Vienna Convention on Nuclear Safety, 1994 (Convention), to which India is a signatory. On basis of Mr Nayak’s argument, the CIC made the following observations:


“Article 5 of the Convention requires India to submit for review a report on the measures it has taken to implement each of its obligations under the Convention including evaluation of safeguards and safety standards in place for nuclear power plants... The appellant has cited the report of 2010 for India and referred to certain parts therein. It has been submitted that the report is required to be made in accordance with each Article listed in the Convention. Reporting in relation to Article 17—which refers to ‘Siting’ makes it clear that site evaluation does not relate to national security matters under Section 8(1)(a) or anything protected under Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act. It purely relates to geography, environment, meteorology, geology, etc. These are all connected with the environment directly and inextricably and have a huge bearing on public health and safety…”


“The Kudankulam Reactors I & II are included in the list of nuclear power facilities and installations annexed to the agreement for application of the safeguards prescribed by IAEA.


“IAEA has, in its Safety Standards Series, issued a set of standards to be adhered to while undertaking a site evaluation for nuclear installations. Factors relevant in determining the suitability of a site for a nuclear installation are—effects of external events occurring in the site, characteristics of the site and its environment that could influence the transfer to persons and the environment of radioactive material that has been released, and population density and distribution that may affect the possibility of implementing emergency measures.


“IAEA has issued standards for the safety of nuclear power plants vis-à-vis design, operation and mitigating circumstances that could jeopardize safety. It prescribes safety assessment which is carried out in order to identify the potential hazards that may arise from the operation of the plant. IAEA standards also address events that are unlikely to occur, such as severe accidents and external natural factors, that may lead to major radioactive releases and for which it may be appropriate and practicable to provide preventive and mitigatory measures in the design.


“The Kudankulam -Reactors I & II are included in the list of nuclear power facilities and installations annexed to the agreement for application of the safeguards prescribed by IAEA. IAEA has, in its Safety Standards Series, issued a set of standards to be adhered to while undertaking a site evaluation for nuclear installations. Factors relevant in determining the suitability of a site for a nuclear installation are—effects of external events occurring in the site, characteristics of the site and its environment that could influence the transfer to persons and the environment of radioactive material that has been released, and population density and distribution that may affect the possibility of implementing emergency measures.”


Shailesh Gandhi’s order:

“The RTI Act recognises the above mandate and in Section 4 contains a statutory direction to all public authorities ‘to provide as much information suo moto to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information’. More specifically, Section 4(1)(c) of the RTI Act mandates that all public authorities shall ‘publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public’. It follows from the above that citizens have a right to know about the Safety Analysis Report and the Site Evaluation Study Report report, which has been prepared with public money.


“The appellant has mentioned that in USA, UK and Canada, safety evaluation reports are uploaded on the government websites for citizens to access. Where worldwide, site evaluation and safety analysis reports of nuclear power plants and installations are being put in public domain to elicit public views, India can have no reason to treat its citizens differently. International best practices have been geared towards disclosure of information that has a bearing on public safety, health and the environment, and India must strive to follow the same. The disclosure of the reports would provide a comprehensive perspective to the citizens about holistic understanding of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant Project including environment, health and safety concerns.


“The preceding arguments lead to the conclusion that all Safety Analysis Reports and Site Evaluation Reports and Environmental Impact Assessment reports prepared by the Department before setting up nuclear plants  must be displayed suo moto as per the mandate of Section 4 (1)(c ) & (d) read with 4(2). If parts of such report are exempt as per the RTI Act, this should be stated and the exempt parts could be severed, after providing the reasons for such severance. Such a practice would be in accordance with the provisions of Section 4 of the RTI Act and would result in greater trust in the government and its actions.


“The PIO is directed to provide an attested photocopy of the Safety Analysis Report and Site Evaluation Report after severing any proprietary details of designs provided by the suppliers to the appellant before 25 May 2012. Further, the PIO will also ensure that the complete Safety Analysis Report and Site Evaluation Report and the Environmental Impact report are placed on website before 30 May 2012.


“The Commission directs that the Nuclear Power Corporation Of India shall publish all Safety Analysis Reports and Site Evaluation Reports and Environmental Impact Assessment reports prepared by the Department before setting up nuclear plants within 30 days of receiving them, unless it feels that any part of such report is exempt under the provisions of Section 8(1) or 9 of the RTI Act. If it concludes that any part is exempt, the reasons for claiming exemptions should be recorded and the report displayed on the website within 45 days of receipt, after severing the parts claimed to be exempt. There should be a declaration on the website about the parts that have been severed, and the reasons for claiming exemptions as per the provisions of the RTI Act.”


New Housing Bill in Maharashtra: How builders gain and customers lose

Everything you wanted to know about how the Maharashtra housing bill jeopardizes the interests of real estate buyers while protecting builders and developers. Advocate Mohana Nair analyses every word and clause for you

Despite requests from several activists and non-governmental organisations, like Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) and Moneylife Foundation for returning the new housing Bill for reconsideration, the state government is most likely to proceed with the Maharashtra Housing (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2012. Activists have been pointing out that the new Bill would take away rights and benefits that are available to buyers and housing societies under the Maharashtra Ownership Flats (Regulation of Promotion of Construction, Sale, Management and Transfer) Act, 1963 (MOFA). 
The Bill has been passed by both Houses of the Legislature of Maharashtra on 17th July and we are informed that the Governor has given oral assent to the Bill.  On receiving the requisite approvals, it will come into effect on a date appointed by the Government of Maharashtra by Notification in the Official Gazette. On the appointed day, the MOFA shall stand repealed though it will not affect anything done under MOFA or any right, obligation acquired or incurred under MOFA, prior to repeal.
Various new provisions and clauses have been introduced in the Bill, which did not find a place in MOFA.  At the same time, several lacunae in MOFA have not been addressed at all, as most of the MOFA Clauses are retained in the same form.
The major changes wrought by the Bill are…
(i) The introduction of the  Concepts of “Layout” and “Township”  where  “Layout” is development of more than one building in the form of a Complex or development of land admeasuring  1,000 sq. meters  or more and “Township” is development of more than one Layout and where land being developed is 40 hectares or more.  This is to take care of large projects which are presently being undertaken by the builders all over Mumbai and other towns in Maharashtra.
(ii) Setting up of a Housing Regulatory Authority and Housing Appellate Tribunal 
(iii) Diluting the punishment to be awarded to Promoters who have committed breach of the provisions of the Bill, by deleting all provisions of MOFA which provided for imprisonment of Promoters for failing to comply with their duties.
The preamble to the Bill states that MOFA did not have an effective implementing arm as the flat purchasers could only approach the consumer forum or civil courts. It is for this reason that the Housing Regulatory Authority and Housing Appellate Tribunal are being established under the Bill.  This is one aspect of the Bill on which both Promoters and flat purchasers agree namely that the setting up of these bodies would only delay matters by introducing more layers of litigation and increase corruption.  
The preamble further provides that the Bill has been drafted to ensure full disclosure by Promoters and to ensure compliance of agreed terms and conditions and to usher in transparency and discipline in the transaction of flats and to check abuses and malpractices.  At the same time, the penalties provided for non-compliance of provisions of the Bill have been made less stringent by removing provisions for imprisonment and of being disqualified for 5 years, as originally existed under MOFA.
The Bill has conferred powers on the Promoter which did not exist earlier.  For e.g. under Clause 11(5), which is similar to Clause 12A of MOFA the Promoter shall not except with just and  sufficient notice, cut off, withhold or curtail the essential services such as  water supply, electricity, light in passages and staircases, lifts and sanitary services to flat purchasers or unit holders. Clause 11(5)(iii)  however  has been added which provides that if the allottee or flat or unit purchaser fails to pay the outgoings to the Promoter for a period of more than 3 months, then the Promoter may after giving notice of not less than 7 days, cut off, withhold or in any manner curtail or reduce any essential supply or services enjoyed by such allottee or flat or unit purchaser.  At the same time, all sub-clauses which existed in MOFA which provided for punishment of a person who  wrongly cuts off or withholds essential services have been deleted.
Similarly, in Clause 14(1) which is similar to Clause 7(1) of MOFA,   a Proviso has been added which permits alteration or addition to the building being constructed if required by any government authorities or due to change in law (which would mean increase in FSI) or which are disclosed in the agreement, without previous consent of any or all persons who have agreed to take flats in such building.
Clause 14(2) is a new Clause which does not find a place in MOFA, which relates to a Lay-out rather than a single building. Clauses 14(2)(b) and 14(2)(c) are specially important as they   permit the Promoter to amend the plans of the lay-out including recreation  ground, park, garden and playground disclosed along with the building plans, from time to time, in accordance with the Development Control Regulations including for the utilization  of the full development potential available, from time to time.   These clauses also permit the Promoter to make further construction of a new building in the lay-out at any time after obtaining approval of the local authority provided that the Promoter shall not reduce inter alia the aggregate area of recreation ground, garden and playground in the approved lay-out without the previous consent of all persons who have agreed to take flats in the lay-out, except that such alteration or amendment is required by the authorities or due to change in applicable laws. It  would therefore appear that in case of  change in applicable laws (which would include change in FSI), the Promoter will be entitled to amend, modify or vary the lay-out plans and construct new buildings in the lay-out and thereby even reduce the open areas promised, without previous consent of persons who have agreed to purchase flats.
Clause 18(1) is similar to Clause 10(1) of MOFA. Clause 10(1) of MOFA required the Promoter to form a co-operative society as soon as a minimum number of persons required forming a society or company had taken flats. (The Co-operative Societies Act provides that a Society can be formed with 10 members, which by a Circular has increased the minimum number of members required to submit a proposal for registration to 60% of flat purchasers i.e. when the Promoter has sold 60 % of flats).  However, the said Clause has been modified to permit the Promoter to take steps for formation of a co-operative society or other corporate body within four months from the date on which the occupation certificate in respect of such building is issued or, minimum 60 % of the flat purchasers in such building have taken possession or the Promoter has received full consideration and other amounts for the same, whichever is earlier.  The period within which the body is to be formed has thus been extended to benefit the Promoter and is now connected to occupation of the building and payment of consideration to Promoter rather than to date on which flats are sold.
Clause 18(2) and (3) are new Clauses which do not find a place in MOFA.  Clause 18(2) is especially important as it relates to formation of co-operative society or company or any other legal entity of persons taking flats in a lay-out consisting of more than one building or wings and  provides that the Promoter shall form a separate and independent co-operative society or company or other legal entity in respect of each of the buildings or wings and once again provides that the Promoter may do so within four months from the date on which the occupation certificate in respect of such building or wing is issued or minimum sixty per cent of the total flat purchasers in such building or wing have taken possession or the Promoter has received full consideration and other amounts for the same, whichever is earlier. Clause 18(3) provides that the Promoter shall thereafter form and register an Apex Body or Federation consisting of all such entities in the lay-out, within such period as may be prescribed.  At present, no period has been prescribed for formation of such Apex Body or Federation..
Clauses 19(2)  provides that  conveyance of title from the Promoter to the Society till such time as the entire development of the lay-out is completed, shall be only in respect of the structures of the buildings in which a minimum number of sixty per cent of total flats are sold along with FSI consumed in such building.  The conveyance shall be further subject to the right to use, in common, the internal access roads and recreation areas developed or to be developed in the lay-out and with the right to use of the open spaces allocated to such building or buildings in terms of the agreement for sale executed by the Promoter with each flat purchaser.  The Proviso to this Clause 19(2) is specially important since it gives a go-by to anything contained in the  Bill or in any agreement or in any judgment, decree or order of any court or in any other law for the time being in force (which would by implication include even the Transfer of the Property Act) and  confers right in the Promoter to develop and continue to develop the remaining lay-out plan and to construct any additional structures thereon by consuming the balance FSI and balance TDR relating to the said lay-out plan as well as any future increase in FSI or TDR rights due to change in the law or the policies of the Government or local authority. It further provides that even if the FSI of the plot in a lay-out is increased due to change in law or policies of the Government or local authorities subsequent to any conveyance of any one or more structures in the lay-out to flat purchasers, this increase in FSI which is proportionate to the FSI utilized or consumed by the conveyed structure or structures to total FSI of the lay-out, shall belong to the flat purchasers of the conveyed structure or structures and it shall not be necessary for the Promoter to obtain any consent or permission from such flat purchasers for the purpose of utilizing the balance FSI or TDR rights. It is thus clear from the two Provisos to Clause 19(2) that conveyance of structures in a lay-out can be done in a phased manner and so long as conveyance of even a single structure remains in the lay-out, the Promoter will continue to have a share in the balance or increased FSI or TDR relating to such portion of the lay-out which has not been conveyed to the flat purchasers.
Clause 19(3) provides that where the title of the Promoter to be conveyed is in respect of the entire undivided land underneath all such buildings in a lay-out, and if no period for executing such conveyance is agreed upon, then such conveyance shall be executed by the Promoter in favour of the Apex Body or Federation within such time as may be prescribed after formation of the Apex Body or Federation.  Once again such time has not been prescribed as yet. 
Clause 19(7) provides that upon execution of the conveyance, the Society or the Body in whose favour such conveyance has been executed shall be entitled to the FSI or TDR rights relating to the building which has been conveyed as well as its proportionate share in increase in FSI.   This appears to be against law as it exists today.  as FSI is a right attached to land and not to the building.  Another  position contrary to law as it exists presently is sought to be introduced in these Clauses viz that though conveyance to the Society has been made of only the building and FSI consumed by that building and no interest in land has been created and in fact the land has been conveyed to the Apex Body, in the case of reconstruction  or redevelopment  the Society will be entitled to reconstruct/redevelop on the portion of land allocated to it under the agreement for sale between Promoter and flat purchasers in that building.  So also, Clause 19(8) provides that if there is any increase in FSI or TDR or any benefits available on a Layout plan due to changes in Government policies after the conveyance of the land under the Layout to the Apex Body or Federation, then such increased FSI or TDR shall be divided among the respective legal entities in proportion to the TDR or FSI used for the purpose of construction of the buildings managed by them.
Clause 49 which relates to penalty for non-compliance by the Promoter of the provisions of the Bill are similar to Clause 13 of the MOFA. However, the penalties provided in Clause 49 are only  fines and the provision of imprisonment has been deleted altogether.  The fines on the other hand have been increased considerably. Further penalty provided in Section 13(2)(for criminal breach of trust),  13(4), 13(5) and 13(6) (further punishment on being convicted), 13A (power of magistrate to pass sentence) and 14 (offences of companies) have been dropped completely as the same relate to punishment for criminal offences of the Promoter. The Builder Lobby claims that the increase in quantity of fees having been increased would affect them badly but makes no comment on the deterrent provision of imprisonment and of being disqualified for 5 years having been removed.
To sum up:
(i) It is thus evident that the Bill has in the guise of protecting flat purchasers, in fact given wide powers to the Promoter and permitted him to retain rights in FSI and TDR even after conveyance is effected of one or more buildings in a lay-out, till the entire property is conveyed to the Apex Body.
(ii) The Bill has also given the right to the Promoters to cut off or curtail use of essential services if the flat owners fail to pay dues for the same.
(iii) The time for formation of a Society as a legal entity has been extended under the Bill from what was provided in the Co-operative Societies Act.  Further since the Rules have not been framed, the time prescribed for formation of Apex Body/Federation as well as for Conveyance has not been prescribed at present. 
(iv) Further, by making it mandatory for a Promoter to form a separate Society for each building/wing in a lay-out, and for conveyance of such building to the concerned Society, the flat purchasers may be protected against Promoters who try to delay formation of Society and conveyance till development of entire Layout is completed. However at the same time,  the  right to decide whether one single society should be formed or multiple societies, has been taken away from the flat purchasers who are ultimately the persons who need to manage the Society/ies and who would be affected by the constitution of the Societies.
(v) The provision regarding formation of separate Societies for each building in a Layout and separate conveyances to each of them also indirectly benefits the Promoter as he can delay the conveyance of the entire plot till the Apex Body is formed and in the meantime continue to be entitled to the FSI/TDR for the same. The Promoter has also been given powers to build further structures in the Layout and even alter the open spaces or other recreational amenities or reduce them, without permission of the flat purchasers if there is a change in law, which presumably would include increase in FSI.
(vi) The provision for conveyance  (which includes sale, lease, etc.) of the building  alone without the land beneath, would also enable the Promoters to lease the same to the individual societies rather than outright sale under which normally conveyance of building is done along with land on which it stands.  This is already seen in the stand taken by several Promoters of large Layouts) even before the Bill has become law). Who have been insisting on separate Societies being formed for each building/wing and of leasing the building alone to each Society, on the ground that the land cannot be sub-divided.  At the same time, they insist that the Apex Body is being formed only for administration and no title will vest in such Body, thus enabling the Promoters to retain the title to the land along with all resultant benefits that go with the land.
(vii) The penalties on the Promoter failing to comply with the provisions of the Bill have been made less stringent as all provisions of imprisonment and disbarring have been removed. The increase in the amount of penalty is not a sufficient deterrent where the Promoters are dealing with development of large lay-outs which are worth hundreds of crores of rupees.
(viii) Artificial powers of right in future FSI in favour of a Society which does not have title in the land  and right to reconstruct/redevelop on a land which does not belong to it, have been introduced which are alien to the law as it presently exists.
(ix) By introduction of Housing Regulatory Authority and Housing Appellate Tribunal, it is not clear whether the process of regulation of the housing sector will be improved or it will only delay the entire process by introducing more layers of decision and Appeal. 
(Mohana Nair is an Advocate in Bombay High Court. She also serves as advisor to several corporate, banks and financial institutions)



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4 years ago

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Koduri Srihari Rao

5 years ago

In India, all our politicians are basically business men. Earlier they played with Liquor policies, now they are playing with housing policies. Already it is very tough to get a proper response from the builders for any of our grievances. Now they don't bother about the buyers. This is how, India is shining, India is growing, Mera Bharat Mahan.


5 years ago

Doubtless there is a massive vested interest of Maharashtra's politicians in the new housing bill about to be enacted. Just look at the blinding speed with which the bill has been passed without so much as a whimper by even the opposition parties, which again points towards a failing democracy where both government and opposition politicians enact laws for their mutual benefit. The ultimate beneficiaries will be politicians with the builders getting their share of the spoils. Therefore the title of this analysis should really be 'How politicians gain and the people who have elected them to office will lose'. Unfortunately for the aam janata ignorance is bliss. Why there is no popular opposition - I think it really is time for an uprising - against the blatant disregard by politicians of the common good of the electorate at large baffles me endlessly. It's actually we, the people of this country, who are to blame. We just don't seem to want to defend our general well being any longer. We seem to be perfectly willing to be ruthlessly trampled upon time and again by the very people who we elect to safeguard our well being. Gone are the days when popular uprisings brought governments swiftly to their knees and forced them to execute an even quicker volte face time and again on questionable policies they tried to ram past what they thought was a cerebrally dead electorate. Remember VP Singh and Mandal commission?
Clearly the new housing law greatly and devastatingly affects anyone who has or wants to have an already almost unattainable roof over his head. Should you, Mr Common Man, not do anything and just wait and whither away while the fat cat politicians suck out every precious paisa you have to their burgeoning Swiss accounts? Or would you like to still wait till they have sucked out your very soul. Indeed the soul of this country!
Rise and resist these blood thirsty mongrels!

US presidential polls: The Democrats push back

The Democrats convention seems to have given them a bump up in the polls and for the first time in four months they beat the Republicans in fund raising. At present they seem ahead but just by a nose. They now must build on the momentum

A week after the Republicans convened in Tampa, Florida to anoint Mitt Romney as the Republican challenger in the presidential race, the Democrats had their convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. North Carolina is a reliably Republican state through President Barrack Obama captured it in the last election by 14,000 votes and the Democrats clearly have their eyes set on it in this election, though they were trailing in the polls till the convention began.

As soon as the convention got under the way the advantages of going second were clearly evident. The Democratic performance could be now benchmarked against the Republican performance and the Democrats who had heard the case made against them by the Republicans could answer back, if need be point by point. That role was taken up by former President Bill Clinton, who on the second day of the convention, gave a master class by demolishing Paul Ryan’s speech point by point and urging Democrats and Americans at large to stay the course and keep the faith with President Obama. This was particularly ironic because four years ago President Obama had defeated Hillary Clinton to take the Democratic nomination.
But President Obama in a shrewd political move had co-opted Hillary Clinton in his presidency and made her the secretary of state a role which she carried off with aplomb. He had also mended his fences with the former president who now returned the favour. It was said that President Clinton had one eye on a run for the Presidency in 2016 by Hillary Clinton.

The highlight of the first day was the speech of Michelle Obama who gave a testimonial to the President. Beautifully attired, she started by recalling the days when they had begun dating, stating that Barrack Obama would take her out in a car where she could see the road on which they were driving and said as to how the President had not changed in the last four years despite his being in the White House. Her speech was a testimonial to Barrack Obama being a regular guy miles away from Mitt Romney. She remembered as to how every day the president had dinner with her and the girls at six-thirty in the evening. Her speech was a little different from Ann Romney’s speech, whose role had been to introduce her husband Mitt Romney to the public at large as a husband. Much more is known about Barrack Obama but a wife’s testimonial can never really hurt and it was particularly crucial in the year when the Democrats are heavily relying on the women vote to see them through.

President Clinton had been scheduled to speak as the last speaker on the second day, a role generally given to the keynote speaker, and as President Clinton gave his master class on recent American politics, it was clearly evident that this was a move that paid off spectacularly. The former president said that President Obama had inherited a mess from President George Bush and had a clean-up job on hand of mammoth proportions which was not yet complete. He urged the Americans to stick with President Obama for four more years. He then attacked the stonewalling of the Republicans in the congress and described as to how the Republicans had blocked several of the President’s initiatives in congress.
Then he crucially spoke of his days as president and as to how he had converted a deficit into a surplus, which is the last surplus that Americans have seen. He said there was only one word to describe it and that was MATHAMATICS—implying that the Republican proposals did not add up. If I remember correctly he said the word three times and then he turned his attention to healthcare and said as to how to how it was important to Americans.

Then he did the ultimate demolition job. He took apart Paul Ryan’s plan brick by brick and said memorably that Paul Ryan has plenty of brass to attack President Obama for taking $760 billion off the medicare budget and put it in Obama care when his plan exactly did the same thing. This is an election which is now going to boil down to trust because the narratives on the two sides are so different that the American people will have to take that final leap as to who they are going to vote for based on trust and I believe Bill Clinton did a lot in drawing the Americans towards the Democrats. He spoke to each and every American as if he was speaking to him or her personally and explained the nuts and bolts of policy. As the Americans love to say he levelled with them. But that is why he is the Great Bubba, the larger than life former president and at 66 has lost none of his charisma.

President Obama spoke on the last day. He had done something crucial before he came on to the podium. The words God and Jerusalem which had vanished from the Democratic manifesto were back and that was at the president’s insistence. The president spoke as smoothly and eloquently as he generally does. He said that Americans had a choice; they had clearly two paths before them. One was his path the other was Mitt Romney’s path which would take them back to the failed policies of the Bush years.

He talked about the middle-class and how the Republicans’ tax policies would increase the burden on the middle-class and favour the rich. He talked about things getting better over the next few years. He said that the Republicans would co-operate more. He said that the hard work had been done and better times lay ahead. He spoke of global warming and how green jobs had been created and what he would do for global warming. He told him about what he would do within the next four years.

The Democrats convention seems to have given them a bump up in the polls and for the first time in four months they beat the Republicans in fund raising. At present they seem ahead but just by a nose. They now must build on the momentum.

(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier's College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master's in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)


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