a) The next President

Presidential contests in India are usually tame and predictable, and 2017 does not promise to be any different. To date, the election of V.V. Giri over Neelam Sanjiva Reddy in 1969 remains the only notable exception to the long list of humdrum presidential elections: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi called for a “conscience vote” just before the election, and a sizeable number of Congress parliamentarians and legislators voted against the “official” candidate, Reddy, in favour of Giri. Before and after that, however, the favourites have carried the day, with opposition-sponsored candidates putting up no more than a symbolic fight to prove no more than a political point. At present, the numbers are stacked against the opposition for the July 17 election. The Bharatiya Janata Party, with its regular allies and new-found friends, should be able to see any non-controversial candidate through. Parties such as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which do not see the BJP as a political threat, have indicated their readiness to back a BJP-sponsored candidate. The Biju Janata Dal too might not be opposed to taking such a course, although the BJP has emerged as its main rival in Odisha. Unless the ruling party scares away all its supporting parties by projecting a polarising candidate, the opposition cannot expect to put up anything but a token fight. Much might revolve around the BJP’s choice of candidate. There have been instances when allies have switched sides to vote for or against a particular candidate. Regional considerations have weighed with some parties, as in 2007 when the Shiv Sena voted for Pratibha Patil against Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the candidate fielded by its ally, the BJP. The Sena and the Akalis are not entirely happy with the BJP, but they would need a strong reason to break ranks. That can come either in the form of an unacceptable BJP candidate or a really appealing opposition candidate. Ideally, the Congress would like to wait for the BJP to announce its candidate before revealing its own. But the process of reaching out to other parties outside its core alliance has already begun. The Congress can count on, besides current allies such as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Janata Dal (United), the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Samajwadi Party, the Left parties and the Trinamool Congress. But just as in the case of the BJP, an alliance can be built or broken on the basis of the Congress’s choice of candidate. The party might have in mind some eminent people not directly involved in politics in order to appeal to a broader political spectrum. What is certain is that there will be no consensus candidate. For the BJP to not get its person of choice through as the next President, 2017 will have to throw up an unexpected twist or a complete surprise.

b) Terror in Tehran

Wednesday’s attacks in Tehran targeted the two most significant symbols of the 1979 Revolution the Parliament and the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. The terrorists clearly wanted to send a message to the Iranian state, and they retained the element of surprise. Though it is involved in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Iran has so far largely remained insulated from the regional crises. The attack, the first major terror incident in Iran in many years, suggests that even the formidable security cover put in place by the elite Revolutionary Guards can be breached by terrorists. The IS immediately claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 12 people. For the IS, Iran is the main adversary in West Asia, for both ideological and strategic reasons. The IS has thrived on anti-Shia sectarianism and persistently attacked Shia Muslims, mainly in Iraq and Syria. For it, Iran is the embodiment of Shia power in the region. Further, Iran is directly involved in the anti-IS fight — in Iraq, Iran-trained Shia militia groups are in the forefront of the battle for Mosul which has almost liberated the second largest city from the IS; and in Syria, Iran is propping up the regime of Bashar al-Assad which the IS wants to overthrow. But the attacks and the Iranian reaction must also be seen in the context of heightened Saudi Arabia-Iran rivalry. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards has said in a statement that Saudi Arabia and the U.S. are involved in the attack. This is a serious allegation to make, and risks escalating tensions between Riyadh and Tehran. The attack is yet another reminder that no country in West Asia is free from the threat posed by terrorists, and that the region has a collective responsibility to fight them. Unfortunately, what is happening is just the opposite. There is a coordinated attempt under way in West Asia, led by Saudi Arabia, to isolate Iran. Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, had said last month that Riyadh would take the battle into Iran. This anti-Iran approach was endorsed by U.S. President Donald Trump during his visit to Riyadh in late May. The Trump administration has repeatedly called Iran a state sponsor of terrorism, and has openly aligned itself with the Saudis against Iran. Such increasingly hostile rhetoric that is perceived to be playing on a Sunni-Shia face-o is an opportunity for terrorists to exploit. And the Tehran bombing suggests they are at it. Unless such crises are handled with extreme caution, they could ignite regional tensions on sectarian lines. The last thing West Asia needs today is a Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia should stand down from this mutual hostility and join hands in the cause of regional security if they are serious about the public claims they make.


1) Tame

Meaning: (especially of animals) not wild or dangerous, either naturally or because of training or long involvement with humans.

Example: After a few months’ contact the monkeys become very tame.

Synonyms: Gentle, Harmless

Antonyms: Harsh, Rough

2) Humdrum

Meaning: Having no excitement, interest, or new and different events.

Example: Most of the work is fairly humdrum.

Synonyms: Dreary, Monotonous

Antonyms: Bright, Interesting

3) Rival

Meaning: A person, group, etc. competing with others for the same thing or in the same area.

Example: He beat his closest/nearest rival by 20 marks.

Synonyms: Battling, Combating

Antonyms: Assisting, Supporting

4) Polarize

Meaning: To cause something, especially something that contains different people or opinions, to divide into two completely opposing groups.

Example: The debate is becoming polarized and there seems to be no middle ground.

Synonyms: Separate, Demarcate

Antonyms: Combine, Merge

5) Revealing

Meaning: Showing something that was not previously known or seen.

Example: A joke can be very revealing about/of what someone’s really thinking.

Synonyms: Acknowledge, Report

Antonyms: Conceal, Deny

6) Alliance

Meaning: An agreement to work with someone else to try to achieve the same thing.

Example: Some of us feel that the union is in alliance with management against us.

Synonyms: Accord, Affinity

Antonyms: Antagonism, Detachment

7) Consensus

Meaning: A generally accepted opinion or decision among a group of people.

Example: The general consensus in the office is that he can’t do his job.

Synonyms: Accord, Harmony

Antonyms: Denial, Disagreement

8) Formidable

Meaning: Causing you to have fear or respect for something or someone because that thing or person is large, powerful, or difficult.

Example: In Tyson he had come up against a formidable opponent.

Synonyms: Daunting, Dreadful

Antonyms: Trivial, Feeble

9) Breached

Meaning: An act of breaking a law, promise, agreement, or relationship.

Example: They felt that our discussions with other companies constituted a breach of/in our agreement.

Synonyms: Violet, Disobey

Antonyms: Regard, Agree

10) Thrived

Meaning: To grow, develop, or be successful.

Example: His business thrived in the years before the war.

Synonyms: Flourish, Shine

Antonyms: Decrease, Halt

11) Propping

Meaning: To support something physically, often by leaning it against something else or putting something under it.

Example: She was sitting at the desk with her chin propped on her hands.

Synonyms: Brace, Bolster

Antonyms: Refuse, Reject

12) Endorsed

Meaning: To make a public statement of your approval or support for something or someone.

Example: The Council is expected to endorse the committee’s recommendations.

Synonyms: Approved, Ratified

Antonyms: Disapproved, Discouraged

13) Rhetoric

Meaning: Speech or writing intended to be effective and influence people.

Example: I was swayed by her rhetoric into donating all my savings to the charity.

Synonyms: Oratory, Fustian

Antonyms: Quiet, Conciseness

14) Exploit

Meaning: To use something in a way that helps you.

Example: We need to make sure that we exploit our resources as fully as possible.

Synonyms: Adventure, Deed

Antonyms: Inaction, Failure

15) Ignite

Meaning: To cause a dangerous, excited, or angry situation to begin.

Example: The proposed restrictions have ignited a storm of protest.

Synonyms: Burn, Inflame

Antonyms: Cool, Extinguish