Developments in Russia and Ukraine
Even as the war rages on, Russia’s Putin is consistently suffering a series of parallel setbacks. In economic terms, Putin’s calculations clearly backfired. A warmer winter in Europe did not create the kind of energy crisis that Putin was anticipating. In addition, the decision of the G7 countries to impose a price cap ($60 per barrel) on Russian oil has compounded Russia’s already festering economic woes. As a result of this price cap implementation, the price for the Urals crude blend has slipped below the price cap to between $50 and $55 per barrel. Countries buying Russia oil are now in a position to demand even steeper discounts, and while Putin has threatened to take action against the price cap, he has yet to formulate any coherent course of action.
Alternative economic proposals generated by Russia have further fallen flat. The “gas union” proposed by Putin between Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in order to explore alternate gas routes has been outrightly rejected by the latter two countries. So has the “gas hub” proposed to be built by Russia in Turkey. Realizing Putin’s weakness, most countries that Putin is in touch with are demanding their pound of flesh. In the Caucasus, Azerbaijan continues to assert itself against Armenia in Karabakh, disregarding Russia’s feeble mediation completely. Most recently, Azerbaijan and Turkey conducted joint military exercises close to the Iranian border. The Turkish presence was a warning to Iran to cease confronting Azeris and also a direct challenge to Russia’s waning authority in the South Caucasus.
In terms of war, the winter has been harsh. Ukraine is giving back more than it receives, dealing heavy blows to Russian positions. Ukrainian strikes on two Russian air bases deep within Russian territory in the early part of December 2022 could not evoke much retaliation from Russia except strikes against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. And even these strikes have proven costly for Russia. Data shows that Russia’s heavy shelling of Ukrainian civilian infrastructure has led to a growing shortage of artillery and Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) shells. As a result, the total cost of reproducing the entire range of munitions used during the active hostilities in Ukraine this year would exceed $92.74 billion – much more than annual Russian defence spending.
The Russia side is engaging in a war of attrition in which it itself is emerging as a loser. For, every Russian strike is reinforcing West’s resolve to further arm Ukraine. Indeed, Europe is now more united than ever before on the issue of dealing with Russia – this is mainly due to clear Russian weakness.
One key change in the course of the war has been that the West is no longer attempting to discourage Ukraine in attacking targets deep within Russia. In addition, the West is set to provide Ukraine with critical high-precision long-range weapon systems – such as the MQ-1C Grey Eagle drone, Storm Shadow cruise missile or TRLG-230 Multiple Launch Rocket System, to be supplied, respectively, by the US, the United Kingdom and Turkey – which is already drastically changing the course of the war.
This happens even as newly mobilized Russian forces are suffering badly in frozen trenches with deplorable supplies. Furthermore, Russia’s weapons supply is also at a low. The shortage of Russia tanks lost in enormous numbers in the past 10 months of fighting leaves the demoralized Russian army only capable of holding its defensive lines.
As a result of these failures, its reliance on an international pariah like Iran – which has been transferring drones to Russia and is even helping manufacture them within Russia – has only increased. In return, Russia has apparently provided Iran with stolen weapons from the West as well as cash. Thus, Iran will be able to study these weapons and learn how to make them through reverse-engineering the delivered systems.
Russia’s increasing association with Iran, mounting war losses, internal sabotage incidents (with at least 72 incidents of attacks on Russia’s military facilities by anti-Putin protestors throughout 2022) and waning influence in Caucasus and Central Asia does not bode well for Putin. Already discussions are going on about de-militarizing post-Putin Russia. The key changes in the war also give a glimpse of hope that the war may either end sooner with Ukrainian victory than anticipated, or, may continue to the peril and entire destruction of Russia.
India-China Border Confrontation
Face-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers occurred in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh on December 9th, 2022. According to official account, minor injuries were sustained by around 20 Indian and a much higher number of Chinese soldiers. Both sides fought with bare hands, sticks and clubs, and disengaged immediately after the brief confrontation. A commander-level meeting was immediately held to defuse tensions. Both sides played down the confrontation saying that the perception of Line of Actual Control (LAC) in this sector is rather vague, and both parties have been patrolling up to their perceived claim lines for many years.
This is another significant confrontation to have occurred after the 2020 Galwan clash and just two months after Xi’s renewal of term in China’s 20th Party Congress. A new border law implemented by China, which empowers China’s personnel to take action against intruders, coming into force this year, may have also played a role in the clash.
Elections in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi Municipal Corporation
Three sets of election results were an eye-opener for the ruling party – the Delhi MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) elections and the state assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Out of these three, the BJP retained Gujarat, but lost Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.
Delhi MCD Elections:
The significance of the MCD elections lay in the fact that both the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which is the ruling party in Delhi, and the BJP which had controlled the MCD for 15 years, engaged in a high decibel and energetic election campaign to score victory. The control of MCD in a Union Territory like Delhi is important from the point of view of funds control as well as local level governance. If the ruling party at the state/UT-level and in the Municipal Corporation is the same, challenges become much less.
Over the last year, both AAP and BJP have engaged in a constant tussle over the control of Delhi. In this election, it was widely expected that AAP’s growing support base among the Delhi populace and the 15 years of anti-incumbency against the BJP will give 200+ seats to AAP. The results, however, were more damping.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)
Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP)
The seat share was out of 250 seats in 2022 and 270 seats in 2017, due to the delimitation exercise conducted prior to the 2022 elections.
The results indicate that:
First, AAP performed much below expectations. It may have improved its performance vastly relative to 2017, but its hopes of getting 200+ seats were dashed. Moreover, its vote-share has fallen from 53% in 2020 assembly elections to 42% in the 2022 MCD polls.
Second, BJP performed much better than what was widely anticipated, despite 15 years of anti-incumbency. It actually increased its vote-share by 3 percentage points relative to 2017 and its performance was almost at par with its 2020 assembly elections vote-share (at around 40%).
Third, BJP’s loss can also be attributed to the low voter turnout in the present polls. This low voter turnout was from South Delhi and other rich constituencies which are usually BJP voters. On the other hand, AAP’s voter base belonging to poor sections of the city and in areas around East Delhi turned up in large numbers.
|Hindu upper caste||7||49||34||10|
Source: Lokniti-CSDS post poll survey
Fourth, voting patterns further indicate that the Hindu vote-bank was deeply polarized between AAP and BJP, with upper castes preferring BJP and OBCs and Dalits being evenly polarized between the two parties (with more tilt towards AAP). On the other hand, the Muslims voted for AAP. Even Congress’s only voting base left is the Muslim community.
Gujarat Assembly Election:
Assembly elections in Gujarat brought a landslide victory for the BJP. The result was not only along expected lines that the BJP would win, but was unexpected in the sense that the scale of the victory was unprecedented. Despite being embroiled in pre-election controversies such as collapse of Morbi bridge and AAP’s controversial and heavy election campaign, the BJP managed to thwart all these factors and even the anti-incumbency of last few decades to clinch a historic victory.
The Congress lost heavily in the state, while the AAP managed to open its account with 5 seats and a nearly 13% vote-share.
|Seats won (2022)||Change from 2017||Vote (%) (2022)||Change from 2017|
Source: Lokniti-CSDS post poll survey
The results indicate that Congress was the major loser, with a major share of its votes going to AAP and a minor share to the BJP.
|Congress + NCP (vote %)||BJP (vote %)||AAP (vote %)|
|Upper caste||25 (-11)||62 (+6)||12 (+12)|
|Patidar||18 (-17)||64 (+3)||15 (+15)|
|Kshatriya (OBC)||23 (-22)||46 (+1)||4 (+4)|
|Koli||24 (-7)||59 (+7)||16 (+16)|
|Other OBCs||24 (-17)||58 (+5)||11 (+11)|
|Dalits||32 (-21)||44 (+5)||17 (+17)|
|Adivasis||24 (-20)||53 (+8)||21 (+21)|
|Muslims||64 (-1)||14 (-13)||12 (+12)|
|Others||24 (-21)||63 (+13)||6 (+6)|
Source: Lokniti-CSDS post poll survey
It is clear that BJP has increased its vote-share among all communities, except the Muslims, while Congress has lost votes among all groups, with AAP cornering substantial votes of the Congress.
The BJP not only benefitted due to the Hindu unity in Gujarat, but also due to the stellar performance of its welfare schemes, such as provision of free food grains, healthcare, housing, cash transfers, energy etc., which ended up benefitting a majority of households.
Himachal Pradesh Election:
In Himachal Pradesh, the BJP lost to the Congress, due to a wide spectrum of reasons, with no major issue prevailing over the others. Thus BJP’s loss was a combination of anti-incumbency and local factors.
|Seat share (2022)||Seat share (2017)||Vote share % (2022)||Vote share % (2017)|
There were many factors which impacted the Congress victory in Himachal Pradesh.
First, caste and community factors played an important role in BJP’s loss. Unlike in Gujarat, BJP was unsuccessful in forging a Hindu coalition.
Source: Lokniti-CSDS post poll survey.
It is clear that while Rajputs and Brahmins voted for the BJP, Dalits, OBCs and Adivasis broadly preferred the Congress.
Another reason for the loss of the BJP was the prevalence of local economic issues, apathy of local population towards welfare schemes and preference to candidate over the party in various constituencies. Furthermore, issues such as the Old Pension Scheme had an impact on inducing the salaried government officials to vote for Congress.
Parliament Session of Winter 2022
In the winter session of 2022, the Parliament passed key bills over 13 sittings. 7 Bills were passed by Lok Sabha and 9 Bills were passed by Rajya Sabha, with the total number of Bills passed by both Houses of Parliament during the Session being 9. The following are the key seven bills passed by the Parliament, excluding two Appropriation Bills.
|The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2022||It seeks to increase the species protected under the law, and implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.|
|The Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022||It seeks to (a) mandate use of non-fossil sources, including Green Hydrogen, Green Ammonia, Biomass and Ethanol for energy and feedstock; (b) establish Carbon Markets; (c) bring large residential buildings within the fold of Energy Conservation regime; (d) enhance the scope of Energy Conservation Building Code; (e) amend penalty provisions; (f) increase members in the Governing Council of Bureau of Energy Efficiency; (g) empower the State Electricity Regulatory Commissions to make regulations for smooth discharge of its functions.|
|The New Delhi Arbitration Centre (Amendment) Bill, 2022||It proposes to change the name of the Centre from New Delhi International Arbitration Centre to India International Arbitration Centre so that a unique identity of the institute of national importance as conferred on it by law is evident and reflects its true objective.|
|The Constitution (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) Order (Second Amendment) Bill, 2022||It seeks to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 and the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) (Uttar Pradesh) Order, 1967 to exclude Gond community as a Scheduled Caste in four districts of Uttar Pradesh: (i) Chandauli, (ii) Kushinagar, (iii) Sant Kabir Nagar, and (iv) Bhadohi and recognise them as a Scheduled Tribe in these four districts.|
|The Maritime Anti-Piracy Bill, 2022||It proposes to make special provisions for repression of piracy on high seas and to provide for punishment for the offence of piracy and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.|
|The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Second Amendment) Bill, 2022||It seeks to further amend the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 to modify the list of Scheduled Tribes in the State of Tamil Nadu to include the Narikoravan and Kurivikkaran communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes in Tamil Nadu.|
|The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2022||It seeks to further amend the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 to modify the list of Scheduled Tribes in relation to the State of Karnataka to include Betta-Kuruba as a synonym for the Kadu Kuruba community in the list of Scheduled Tribes in Karnataka.|
Source: Press Information Bureau.