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a) Karnataka Assembly elections: Third-place winner?

A three-way contest without a dominant campaign issue in a politically fragmented State was always going to be too close to call. As the last vote is counted in Karnataka, all the three major parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress, and the Janata Dal (Secular), believe they have a right to stake claim to form the government. The Congress clearly lost the election, but the BJP could not win it. The JD(S) retained its core support base and finished a respectable third. In such a situation, the contest continues beyond the announcement of the results. Quickly realising it had lost the mandate, the Congress wasted no time in reaching out to the JD(S) with a promise to back its leader H.D. Kumaraswamy for the chief ministership. In contrast, the BJP was slowed down by its own ambition. As the early trends showed it ahead in a majority of the seats, the BJP made no overtures to the JD(S) and sat quietly in the hope of finishing with an absolute majority. What the BJP did to the Congress in Manipur, Goa, and Meghalaya, the Congress is attempting to do to the BJP in Karnataka: steal the election from right under its nose. For the JD(S), the Congress offer is too good to be turned down. With a battle-bruised Congress ready to go to any extent to keep the BJP out of power, the JD(S) did not even have to bargain hard to stake claim for the chief ministership. The BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, B.S. Yeddyurappa, might complain that the Congress is subverting the people’s mandate, but the fact is that no party has a mandate in a hung Assembly. Actually, the Congress polled the single largest percentage of the votes (38), ahead of the BJP (36.2), improving on its 2013 share of 36.59%. But the BJP had a better vote-share to seats conversion, sweeping coastal Karnataka and Bombay-Karnataka, and finishing behind the JD(S) and the Congress in many constituencies in southern Karnataka. The three-way contest helped the BJP make the most of its Lingayat vote-base, as the controversy over the status of a religion for the Lingayat sect did not loosen the party’s hold in northern and central Karnataka. With the JD(S) emerging as a contender in the Assembly election, both the national parties slipped in terms of vote-share from what they polled in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Only convention and common sense dictate the actions of the Governor in a situation where no one party has a majority. Ordinarily, who gets the first shot at forming the government should not matter if neither group engages in engineering defections: the issue is best settled on the floor of the House in a confidence vote. But that is a big ‘if’. Karnataka can do without the spectacle of horse-trading, and much will depend on how Governor Vajubhai Vala handles the situation.

b) Cauvery water issue: At last, a scheme

Now that the Karnataka election is over, the Centre has finally mustered the courage to submit a draft scheme in the Supreme Court to implement the final decision on apportioning the Cauvery waters among the riparian States. The draft, which gives no name for the authority it proposes to create to monitor implementation of the Cauvery Tribunal’s final award, as modified by the Supreme Court, has been largely drawn from the Tribunal’s directions. It will be a two-tier structure, with an apex body charged with the power to ensure compliance with the final award, and a regulation committee that will monitor the field situation and water flow. The powers and functions of the authority are fairly comprehensive. Its powers would extend to apportionment, regulation and control of Cauvery waters, supervision of operations of reservoirs and regulation of water releases. The draft makes the authority’s decisions final and binding. However, there is an ambiguous clause: if the authority finds that any one of the States is not cooperative, it can seek the Centre’s help, and the Centre’s decision will be final and binding. This can be seen either as an enabling clause to resolve the situation when there is a stand-off, or as one that gives scope to the Centre to intervene on behalf of one State. To allay apprehensions of the Centre acting in a partisan manner, it would be better if it is not given the final say but mandated to help in the implementation of the Tribunal’s award at all times.

There are a few differences between the Cauvery Management Board envisaged by the Tribunal and the authority proposed in the scheme. The Tribunal favoured the chairperson being an irrigation engineer with not less than 20 years of experience in water resources management, whereas the scheme says the chairperson could be a senior and eminent engineer with wide experience in water resources management or an officer in the rank of Secretary or Additional Secretary to the Union government. Similarly, the representatives from the four States would be administrators rather than engineers as proposed by the Tribunal. It is possible that Karnataka and Tamil Nadu may have differing views on the nature and powers of the authority, as well as its name and composition. But it is vital that all States accept the mechanism, and that the authority itself have adequate autonomy. The Cauvery dispute has dragged on for several decades, and it would be unfortunate if the implementation of a final decision arrived at through rigorous adjudication is not monitored by an independent authority. All States should agree to the broad contours of this scheme and comply with the authority’s decisions. The most welcome feature of such a mechanism is that an issue concerning the livelihood of thousands of farmers will be taken out of the political domain and entrusted to experts.


1) Fragment

Meaning: Break or cause to break into fragments.

Example: “Lough Erne fragmented into a series of lakes”

Synonyms: Break up, Break.

2) Too close to call

Meaning: Resulting in too narrow a margin to make a decision.

Example: “That ball didn’t miss by much, but it was too close to call”

3) Stake claim

Meaning: Indicate something as one’s own.

Example: “She staked out a claim for herself in the insurance business”

4) Retain

Meaning: Continue to have (something); keep possession of.

Example: “Labour retained the seat”

Synonyms: Keep, Keep possession of.

5) Mandate

Meaning: The authority to carry out a policy, regarded as given by the electorate to a party or candidate that wins an election.

Example: “He called an election to seek a mandate for his policies”

Synonyms: Authority, Approval.

6) Overture

Meaning: An introduction to something more substantial.

Example: “The talks were no more than an overture to a long debate”

Synonyms: Preliminary, Prelude.

7) Under its nose

Meaning: Directly in front of someone.

Example: “He thrust the paper under the Inspector’s nose”

8) Turn down

Meaning: To refuse an offer or request.

Example: He offered her a trip to Australia, but she turned it/him down.

9) Bargain

Meaning: Negotiate the terms and conditions of a transaction.

Example: “He bargained with the local council to rent the stadium”

Synonyms: Haggle, Barter.

10) Subvert

Meaning: Undermine the power and authority of (an established system or institution).

Example: “An attempt to subvert democratic government”

Synonyms: Destabilize, Unsettle.

11) Hung

Meaning: (Of an elected body) having no political party with an overall majority.

Example: “A hung parliament”

12) Sweeping

Meaning: Extending or performed in a long, continuous curve.

Example: “Sweeping, desolate moorlands”

Synonyms: Broad, Extensive.

13) Contender

Meaning: A person or group competing with others to achieve something.

Example: “A presidential contender”

14) Convention

Meaning: A way in which something is usually done.

Example: “To attract the best patrons the movie houses had to ape the conventions and the standards of theatres”

15) Dictate

Meaning: State or order authoritatively.

Example: “The tsar’s attempts to dictate policy”

16) Defection

Meaning: The desertion of one’s country or cause in favour of an opposing one.

Example: “His defection from the Labour Party”

Synonyms: Desertion, Absconding.

17) Spectacle

Meaning: An event or scene regarded in terms of its visual impact.

Example: “The spectacle of a city’s mass grief”

Synonyms: Sight, Vision.

18) Muster

Meaning: Assemble (troops), especially for inspection or in preparation for battle.

Example: “17,000 men had been mustered on Haldon Hill”

Synonyms: Assemble, Bring together.

19) Apportion

Meaning: Divide up and share out.

Example: “Voting power will be apportioned according to contribution”

Synonyms: Share out, Divide out.

20) Riparian

Meaning: Relating to or situated on the banks of a river.

Example: “All the riparian states must sign an agreement”

21) Compliance

Meaning: The action or fact of complying with a wish or command.

Example: “The ways in which the state maintains order and compliance”

22) Ambiguous

Meaning: Open to more than one interpretation; not having one obvious meaning.

Example: “Ambiguous phrases”

23) Seek

Meaning: Attempt to find (something).

Example: “They came here to seek shelter from biting winter winds”

Synonyms: Search for, Try to find.

24) Resolve

Meaning: Settle or find a solution to (a problem or contentious matter).

Example: “The firm aims to resolve problems within 30 days”

Synonyms: Settle, Sort out.

25) Standoff

Meaning: Move or keep away.

Example: “The women stood off at a slight distance”

26) Intervene

Meaning: Take part in something so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events.

Example: “He acted outside his authority when he intervened in the dispute”

Synonyms: Intercede, Involve oneself.

27) Allay

Meaning: Diminish or put at rest (fear, suspicion, or worry).

Example: “The report attempted to educate the public and allay fears”

Synonyms: Reduce, Diminish.

28) Apprehension

Meaning: Anxiety or fear that something bad or unpleasant will happen.

Example: “He felt sick with apprehension”

Synonyms: Anxiety, Angst.

29) Partisan

Meaning: Prejudiced in favour of a particular cause.

Example: “Newspapers have become increasingly partisan”

Synonyms: Biased, Prejudiced.

30) Envisage

Meaning: Contemplate or conceive of as a possibility or a desirable future event.

Example: “The Rome Treaty envisaged free movement across frontiers”

Synonyms: Foresee, Predict.

31) Favoured

Meaning: Preferred or recommended.

Example: “She was his favoured candidate”

32) Eminent

Meaning: (Of a person) famous and respected within a particular sphere.

Example: “One of the world’s most eminent statisticians”

Synonyms: Illustrious, Distinguished.

33) Vital

Meaning: Absolutely necessary; essential.

Example: “Secrecy is of vital importance”

Synonyms: Essential, Indispensable.

34) Autonomy

Meaning: The right or condition of self-government.

Example: “Between the First and Second World Wars, Canada gained greater autonomy from Britain”

35) Drag

Meaning: (Of time) pass slowly and tediously.

Example: “The day dragged—eventually it was time for bed”

Synonyms: Become tedious, Appear to pass slowly.

36) Adjudication

Meaning: A formal judgement on a disputed matter.

Example: “An adjudication had found a degree of unwarranted infringement of privacy”

37) Contour

Meaning: An outline representing or bounding the shape or form of something.

Example: “She traced the contours of his face with her finger”

Synonyms: Outline, Shape.

38) Comply

Meaning: Act in accordance with a wish or command.

Example: “We are unable to comply with your request”

Synonyms: Abide by, Act in accordance with.

39) Livelihood

Meaning: A means of securing the necessities of life.

Example: “People whose livelihoods depend on the rainforest”

Synonyms: Income, Source of income.

40) Entrusted

Meaning: Put (something) into someone’s care or protection.

Example: “You persuade people to entrust their savings to you”

Synonyms: Hand over, Give custody of.

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