a) A massive victory: On Left Alliance landslide in Nepal

Given Nepal’s mix of the first-past-the-post system and proportional representation, the final picture of its new Parliament may take some time to be clear. But it is already evident that the Left Alliance is on course to win more than 70% of the 165 parliamentary seats being decided by the FPTP system. In the 110 seats allocated based on proportional representation, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) is leading, with its ally, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Centre), not far behind. This is a decisive victory for the Left Alliance, the first such win for the leftists since Nepal turned democratic in 1990. The UML had also emerged as the single largest party in the local elections held earlier this year; with the Maoists joining them in the run-up to the parliamentary polls, the resulting alliance has proved to be ideologically coherent. The UML expanded its support base beyond the hill-towns and the Terai into the far-west and the upper-hills, while the Maoists, who had floundered in elections since the formation of the Constituent Assembly in 2008, got second place and staved off decline. For the Nepali Congress, the third-place finish is a severe blow, limiting it to its weakest parliamentary presence. Others in the “democratic alliance” led by the NC, the plains-based Madhesi parties and the former royalist parties that tried using the Hindu card, have also received a setback. It is quite clear that the Left Alliance’s win draws from a yearning for a stable and lasting government after years of political instability. This is reflected in the fact that 13 leaders have held the post of Prime Minister since 1990. The Left Alliance has been seen as a natural coming together of like-minded forces which had both given up on radicalism and were willing to work within the parliamentary system. With such a big mandate, it is incumbent upon the alliance to finally focus on governance. Such transformative moments have been visible in the past too — during the initial sitting of the Constituent Assembly almost a decade ago when nearly the entire polity voted for Nepal to become a republic, or when the peace process between the Nepali state and the Maoists was completed, or after the earthquake in 2015 when political parties decided to quickly narrow down their differences on the Constitution in order to work together. But they all lapsed into more political wrangling. The Left Alliance now has both the opportunity and the strength to deliver on governance and development. As for the NC, the grand old party of Nepal has much to introspect on. It was blindsided by the formation of the Left Alliance and its own ragtag alliance was found to be wanting. It will now have to step up to play its role in opposition.

b) A working class act in America

The upcoming elections for the Governor of Alabama are being closely watched because it is a test of President Donald Trump too. Some argue that it is his unconditional support of the controversial Roy Moore that has actually filled, if not billowed, Republican sails. After all, current surveys conclude that Mr. Trump still has the faithful solidly by him. Almost 62% of them believe he has done nothing wrong since his election. All things considered, this is not that much worse than the 66% rating Mr. Barack Obama’s supporters had given him earlier.

Trump’s appeal

Regardless of what most journalists may say of him, Mr. Trump’s appeal is not in imminent danger. In fact, it tends to flourish under fire. According to Reuters, when Donald Trump Jr. was accused of asking for Russian support, the President’s popularity in swing states, like Ohio, actually got stronger. Mr. Trump won in 30 states with a clear majority, but as Gary Abernathy reported in The Washington Post, in most of these places not a single newspaper supported him. No wonder, people in the U.S. are still puzzling over Mr. Trump’s victory. Some say it’s a fluke, others put their finger on gender bias, finally, there are those who believe that a freshly minted nationalism explains it all. But all of them, invariably, shut out the tremendous impact workers and their unions have had on this presidential election. It is another matter what Mr. Trump might do during his term for the rich, but a large part of his campaign pitch was directed straight at the blue-collar class. It needed that little bit to tip the scales in traditional unions-soaked Democratic states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and that is what happened. Enough workers deserted Hillary Clinton, ignored the call of unions, and voted Trump.

Why were workers upset?

Appearances can be deceptive for Mr. Trump’s campaign was not all bluster and boast. In fact, he may have well used his head and carefully held a match to pent up past grievances among workers. These were waiting to explode for over 20 years and Mr. Trump blew the lid off, to perfection, with his incendiary attacks on Mexico and immigrants. That he pulled this off so remarkably is because the current working class resentment began in 1993 when Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (or, NAFTA) Implementation Act into law. This was a monumental show of bipartisanship, yet NAFTA was causing anger to many. As it allowed a freer movement of capital, and sometimes labour, between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, organised workers, then and now, opposed it. They feared job cuts would take place and that industries would move out — both happened. When Mr. Obama became President, expectations were kindled, especially among Black unionists (who are in a majority), that some changes would happen on the NAFTA front, but nothing did. Indeed, animus against NAFTA was so intense that many workers denied Oreo cookies to their children because the company had moved to Mexico. Yet, big unions formally hung on to the Democratic Party even as it dithered over NAFTA. This is where Mr. Trump made all the difference. He broke rank and opposed NAFTA like no other leader, Republican or Democrat, before him. What also helped Mr. Trump look the authentic underdog champ was Ms Clinton’s iffy reputation in this department. She was not just vague on NAFTA but also seemed like damaged goods to many because of her long, uncomplaining stint on Wal-Mart’s Board. Unfortunately for her, this was at a time when that enterprise was being accused, right or wrong, of unethical practices. Black Americans did not warm up to Ms Clinton either. Black icon, Louis Farrakhan, clearly voiced his unhappiness with her, and he was not alone. To complicate matters for Democrats, its solid ally, the working class unions, were losing members fast, from 21% in 1981 to a mere 11% in 2015. In fact, the number falls to a low 4% if we just take those who are below 25 years old. But Mr. Trump did not start this fire. Unions were emptying out long before he began his campaign to be President. For example, between 2003-2008, in the automobile sector alone, once known for its powerful organised working class, as many as 1,71,066 jobs were lost and union membership dropped by 1,38,653. New industries, such as construction, did not help either. Even here union membership fell from 86% in the 1940s to 13% today. Consequently, unions were left with hardly any heft. In 1937 they had organised 4,740 strikes, but in 2014, they managed to pull off just 11. Fifty years ago as many as 28% of voters were from union households, but today less than 13% are. This left the large majority of them to vote as they wished. The legal obligation to belong to an union has also now been lifted. Workers might have felt compelled to back Democrats in the past because the alternative did not exist. The Republicans, if anything, were even worse for they supported NAFTA with a straighter face and a wider grin. Now, at long last, comes Mr. Trump, freely accusing NAFTA, and years of stamped down sullenness suddenly broke free.

Downturn of unions

The best decades for unions were in the 1930s and 1940s. Most memorable of all was the 1936 General Motors strike in Flint in which spies, blacklegs, guns and clubs were in full display. Over a dozen lives were lost, but the union eventually got what it wanted. The workers in the assembly line and shop floor won a 5% wage hike and the right to talk to each other at lunch. The subsequent downturn of unions not only hobbled the Democrats, but robbed workers of a listening post and a wailing wall as well. This is because unions also contributed to family welfare and counsel. Even children of unionised workers were better educated than the rest. In addition, as the famous Black scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois, noted, autoworkers’ unions helped tremendously in harmonising race relations, particularly in the 1940s. This trend became stronger with the merger of the two largest unions in 1955. Yet, over the decades, unions kept losing out, primarily because of the advance of disaggregated service industries and the closing down, or migration, of large scale manufacture, such as of automobile production. Nor should we overlook the fact that, with time, fewer workers are needed to produce more. Far back as 1930, workers made about 10 cars in a year, but today it is in the range of 17-20, indicating a rise in skilled labour which may have hurt membership in organisations such as UAW. According to Marquita Walker of Purdue University, a large number of those who were retrenched in the financial crisis of 2007-08 stayed unemployed, or underemployed. When NAFTA piled on to all of this, it gave the Democrats a hill too high to climb. As a result, Ms Clinton lost in traditional union stronghold states such as Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and it is this slide that finally brought about her downfall. Mr. Trump’s victory was not a fluke, or a crazy outcome of unpredictable events, or pure jingoism. Fortune reports that non-college graduates, who dominate the working class, continue to support Mr. Trump even today. Workers clearly saw in Mr. Trump somebody who can lead, and not just tweet, from the front.


1) Decisive

Meaning: Having or showing the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively.

Example: “she had an image of being tough and decisive”

Synonyms: Resolute, Determined

Antonyms: Indecisive

2) Coherent

Meaning: (of an argument, theory, or policy) logical and consistent.

Example: “they failed to develop a coherent economic strategy”

Synonyms: Logical, Reasonable

Antonyms: Incoherent, Muddled

3) Floundered

Meaning: Struggle mentally; show or feel great confusion.

Example: “she floundered, not knowing quite what to say”

Synonyms: Struggle, Thrash

4) Staved off

Meaning: To stop something bad from happening, or to keep an unwanted situation or person away, usually temporarily.

Example: We were hoping to stave off these difficult decisions until September.

Synonyms: Stop, Protect

5) Radicalism

Meaning: The beliefs or actions of people who advocate thorough or complete political or social reform.

Example: “his natural rebelliousness found an outlet in political radicalism”

6) Incumbent

Meaning: Necessary for (someone) as a duty or responsibility.

Example: “the government realized that it was incumbent on them to act”

Synonyms: Binding, Obligatory

Antonyms: Optional

7) Wrangling

Meaning: Have a long, complicated dispute or argument.

Example: “the bureaucrats continue wrangling over the fine print”

Synonyms: Argue, Squabble

Antonyms: Agree

8) Introspect

Meaning: Examine one’s own thoughts or feelings.

Example: “what they don’t do is introspect much about the reasons for their plight”

Synonyms: Examine

9) Ragtag

Meaning: A disreputable or disorganized group of people.

Example: “the ragtag had been organized into some kind of marching order”

10) Billowed

Meaning: (of fabric) fill with air and swell outwards; (of smoke, cloud, or steam) move or flow outward with an undulating motion.

Example: “her dress billowed out around her”

Synonyms: Pour, Flow

11) Flourish

Meaning: Develop rapidly and successfully.

Example: “the organization has continued to flourish”

Synonyms: Prosper, Bloom

Antonyms: Decline, Moribund

12) Fluke

Meaning: An unlikely chance occurrence, especially a surprising piece of luck.

Example: “their victory was a bit of a fluke”

Synonyms: Chance, Break

13) Tremendous

Meaning: Very great in amount, scale, or intensity.

Example: “Penny put in a tremendous amount of time”

Synonyms: Huge, Enormous

Antonyms: Tiny, Small

14) Deserted

Meaning: (of people) leave (a place), causing it to appear empty.

Example: “the tourists have deserted the beaches”

Synonyms: Empty, Uninhabited

Antonyms: Crowded, Populous

15) Deceptive

Meaning: Giving an appearance or impression different from the true one; misleading.

Example: “he put the question with deceptive casualness”

Synonyms: Misleading, Delusive

Antonyms: Honest

16) Bluster

Meaning: Talk in a loud, aggressive, or indignant way with little effect.

Example: “you threaten and bluster, but won’t carry it through”

Synonyms: Rant, Swagger

17) Boast

Meaning: Talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities.

Example: “she boasted about her many conquests”

Synonyms: Brag, Gloat

Antonyms: Deprecate, Belittle

18) Pent up

Meaning: Closely confined or held back.

Example: “a surge of pent-up water”

Synonyms: Repressed, Restrained

19) Blew the lid off

Meaning: To make public something that people did not know before.

Example: The New York Times blew the lid off the story.

20) Incendiary

Meaning: Tending to stir up conflict.

Example: “incendiary rhetoric”

Synonyms: Inflammatory, Provocative

Antonyms: Conciliatory

21) Resentment

Meaning: Bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.

Example: “his resentment at being demoted”

Synonyms: Bitterness, Indignation

Antonyms: Contentment, Happiness

22) Kindled

Meaning: (of an emotion) be aroused.

Example: “she hesitated, suspicion kindling within her”

Synonyms: Awaken, Waken

23) Animus

Meaning: Hostility or ill feeling.

Example: “the author’s animus towards her”

Synonyms: Unhappy, Feeling

24) Dithered

Meaning: Be indecisive.

Example: “I can’t bear people who dither”

Synonyms: Hesitate, Falter

25) Underdog

Meaning: A competitor thought to have little chance of winning a fight or contest.

Example: “we go into this game as the underdogs”

Synonyms: Victim, Prey

26) Champ

Meaning: A champion.

Example: “he showed the style that was to turn him into a world champ”

27) Reputation

Meaning: A widespread belief that someone or something has a particular characteristic.

Example: “his knowledge of his subject earned him a reputation as an expert”

Synonyms: Character, Repute

28) Vague

Meaning: Of uncertain, indefinite, or unclear character or meaning.

Example: “many patients suffer vague symptoms”

Synonyms: Indistinct, Indefinite

Antonyms: Clear, Precise

29) Warm up

Meaning: If an event warms up, it starts to become more interesting, enjoyable, or exciting.

Example: The party was only just starting to warm up as I left.

30) Heft

Meaning: Lift or carry (something heavy).

Example: “he lifted crates and hefted boxes”

Synonyms: Raise, Heave

31) Obligation

Meaning: A debt of gratitude for a service or favour.

Example: “she didn’t want to be under an obligation to him”

Synonyms: Contract, Agreement

32) Stamped

Meaning: Reveal or mark out as having a particular quality or ability.

Example: “his style stamps him as a player to watch”

Synonyms: Identify, Distinguish

33) Sullenness

Meaning: Angry and unwilling to smile or be pleasant to people

Example: His daughters stared back at him with an expression of sullen resentment.

Synonyms: Estranged, Abrasive

Antonyms: Unfriendly

34) Hobbled

Meaning: Walk in an awkward way, typically because of pain from an injury.

Example: “he was hobbling around on crutches”

Synonyms: Shuffle, Shamble

Antonyms: Stride

35) Wailing

Meaning: To make a long, high cry, usually because of pain or sadness.

Example: The women gathered around the coffin and began to wail, as was the custom in the region.

Synonyms: Howl, Scream

36) Harmonising

Meaning: Produce a pleasing visual combination.

Example: “steeply pitched roofs which harmonize with the form of the main roof”

Synonyms: Coordinate, Match

Antonyms: Clash

37) Disaggregated

Meaning: Separate (something) into its component parts.

Example: “a method for disaggregating cells”

38) Retrenched

Meaning: Reduce (something) in extent or quantity.

Example: “right-wing parties which seek to retrench the welfare state”

Synonyms: Reduce, Lessen

39) Stronghold

Meaning: A place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack.

Example: “their mountain strongholds fell to enemy attack”

Synonyms: Fortress, Castle

40) Jingoism

Meaning: Extreme patriotism, especially in the form of aggressive or warlike foreign policy.

Example: “the popular jingoism that swept the lower–middle classes”

Synonyms: Chauvinism, Isolationism

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