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a) Unified field theory: on non-BJP alliance

A string of defeats is the common thread holding the Opposition parties together against the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Ideological divides have been papered over and tactics reworked in the quest to stop the BJP from getting a second consecutive term. The post-poll alliance stitched together by the Congress with the Janata Dal (Secular), which allowed for the swearing-in of JD(S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy as Chief Minister, provided the occasion for a show of hands in unity in Bengaluru. But more significant than winning over the JD(S) was the presence of Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati on the front stage. Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi, still the most respected leader in her party, seemed to share a special moment on the dais with Ms. Mayawati. Of course, the ground for the coming together of the Congress and the BSP was set much earlier, when the BSP announced support for the Samajwadi Party in the Lok Sabha by-elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur constituencies. If the success in the two by-elections presented a rational argument for a larger pre-poll alliance, the BSP’s loss in the Rajya Sabha election following the cross-voting engineered by the BJP gave an emotional edge to Ms. Mayawati’s determination to stop the BJP in the next election. An SP-BSP-Congress-RLD alliance will have the look of a mahajot in Uttar Pradesh and galvanise Opposition parties elsewhere to make the most of any anti-BJP sentiment. But the real test for a Congress-led Opposition is to generate an agreed policy programme that will have the support of all the disparate groups. Some of these parties share nothing more than an antipathy to the BJP, while others have allied with the BJP in the past. In many cases, electoral rivalry, and not ideological dissimilitude with the BJP, is the reason for fighting it. Crucially, parties such as the Trinamool Congress and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi are not yet ready to accept the leadership of the Congress in a broad coalition of anti-BJP parties. The TRS has the Congress as its main rival in Telangana, and the Trinamool could possibly be arrayed against an alliance of the Left and the Congress in the next general election. Even the newly formed alliance of the Congress and the JD(S) could run into difficulties on seat-sharing as the two parties are the principal rivals in the southern parts of Karnataka. And the Left will be fighting the Congress in Kerala even if it is amenable to seat adjustments with it in other States. Thus, building a viable alternative to the BJP is far more difficult than coming together for a swearing-in ceremony and raising hands in unison. The Congress will need to show leadership as also a willingness to step back and accommodate smaller, regional players in yoking together an alliance of this nature.

b) Missed opportunity: on cancellation of Trump-Kim summit

American President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to call off his planned June 12 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore has not only dashed hopes of a breakthrough but also heightened risks of a confrontation on the Korean peninsula. It brings a very unusual spell of diplomacy full circle. Unlike the standard practice of announcing landmark summits after working out an understanding on the agenda through quiet diplomacy, Mr. Trump accepted Mr. Kim’s invitation in March and let it be known to the public immediately. That was surprising given the acrimony in both Mr. Trump’s and Mr. Kim’s public utterances over the past year. Once Mr. Trump had cleared the summit proposal, North Korea also moved fast, making a series of gestures meant to smoothen the path for the meeting. In end-April, there was a summit between Mr. Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a border village in the demilitarised zone. The North pledged to halt nuclear and missile tests and released three Korean-Americans. And, hours before Mr. Trump cancelled the summit on Thursday, it dismantled its Punggye-ri nuclear test site — critics say it was already inoperable, but that was a symbolic gesture nonetheless. The United States should have taken into account these steps by the North rather than harp on the rhetoric. It could also have made some goodwill gestures to lighten the air, such as cancelling a joint military exercise with South Korea. But it went ahead with the military drill, with Pyongyang slamming both Washington and Seoul even as preparations for the summit were under way. Besides, Mr. Trump’s new National Security Adviser, John Bolton, angered the North Koreans by suggesting that Mr. Kim could follow the 2003 Libyan disarmament model. This was followed by Vice President Mike Pence’s threat that Mr. Kim could meet the same fate as Muammar Qadhafi — who was killed by rebels after a NATO-led invasion in 2011 — if he failed to reach a deal with the U.S. This triggered the unravelling of the summit, with the North once again warning the U.S. of a nuclear showdown. Despite the setback, hopes for an eventual one-to-one meeting still exist. In a letter to Mr. Kim, Mr. Trump said the North was welcome to return to talks if it changed its attitude towards the U.S. Pyongyang also issued a conciliatory response, saying that it hoped the U.S. President would reconsider his decision to “unilaterally” cancel the summit. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim should keep in mind the larger goal of de-escalation of tension, if not outright denuclearisation, on the peninsula and work to reschedule the summit. The only sound way to address the Korean nuclear crisis is diplomacy.


1) Papered over

Meaning: Gloss over, explain away, or patch up (differences, disparities, etc.) especially in order to maintain a semblance of unity or agreement.

2) Tactic

Meaning: An action or strategy carefully planned to achieve a specific end.

Example: “The minority attempted to control the Council by a delaying tactic”

Synonyms: Strategy, Scheme.

3) Quest

Meaning: A long or arduous search for something.

Example: “The quest for a reliable vaccine has intensified”

Synonyms: Search, Hunt.

4) Stitch

Meaning: Make, mend, or join (something) with stitches.

Example: “Stitch a plain seam with right sides together”

Synonyms: Sew, Baste.

5) Swear in

Meaning: When someone is sworn in, they make a formal promise to be honest or loyal, either in a law court or when starting a new official job.

Example: The next witness was sworn in.

6) Disparate

Meaning: Essentially different in kind; not able to be compared.

Example: “They inhabit disparate worlds of thought”

Synonyms: Contrasting, Different.

7) Antipathy

Meaning: A deep-seated feeling of aversion.

Example: “His fundamental antipathy to capitalism”

Synonyms: Hostility, Antagonism.

8) Allied

Meaning: Joined by or relating to members of an alliance.

Example: “Allied territories”

Synonyms: Federated, Confederated.

9) Rivalry

Meaning: Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.

Example: “There always has been intense rivalry between the clubs”

Synonyms: Competitiveness, Competition.

10) Dissimilitude

Meaning: Dissimilarity or diversity.

11) Coalition

Meaning: A temporary alliance for combined action, especially of political parties forming a government.

Example: “A coalition between Liberals and Conservatives”

Synonyms: Alliance, Union.

12) Array

Meaning: Display or arrange (things) in a particular way.

Example: “The manifesto immediately divided the forces arrayed against him”

Synonyms: Arrange, Assemble.

13) Amenable

Meaning: Open and responsive to suggestion; easily persuaded or controlled.

Example: “Parents who have amenable children”

Synonyms: Compliant, Acquiescent.

14) Viable

Meaning: Capable of working successfully; feasible.

Example: “The proposed investment was economically viable”

Synonyms: Workable, Feasible.

15) Unison

Meaning: Simultaneous performance or utterance of action or speech.

Example: “‘Yes, sir,’ said the girls in unison”

Synonyms: Simultaneously, At (one and) the same time.

16) Step back

Meaning: Mentally withdraw from a situation in order to consider it objectively.

Example: “I have had to step back and take an honest look at my way of working”

17) Yoke

Meaning: To combine or connect two things:

Example: All these different political elements have somehow been yoked together to form a new alliance.

18) Abrupt

Meaning: Sudden and unexpected.

Example: “I was surprised by the abrupt change of subject”

Synonyms: Sudden, Immediate.

19) Call off

Meaning: To cancel or abandon.

Example: The game was called off because of rain.

20) Dashed

Meaning: Used for emphasis.

Example: “It’s a dashed shame”

21) Breakthrough

Meaning: A sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development.

Example: “A major breakthrough in the fight against AIDS”

Synonyms: Advance, Development.

22) Heighten

Meaning: Make or become more intense.

Example: “The pleasure was heightened by the sense of guilt that accompanied it”

Synonyms: Intensify, Increase.

23) Confrontation

Meaning: A hostile or argumentative situation or meeting between opposing parties.

Example: “A confrontation with the legislature”

Synonyms: Conflict, Clash.

24) Acrimony

Meaning: Bitterness or ill feeling.

Example: “The AGM dissolved into acrimony”

Synonyms: Bitterness, Rancour.

25)  Utterance

Meaning: A spoken word, statement, or vocal sound.

Example: “He whispered, as if to lend his utterances an added confidentiality”

Synonyms: Remark, Comment.

26) Gesture

Meaning: Make a gesture.

Example: “She gestured meaningfully with the pistol”

27) Demilitarize

Meaning: Remove all military forces from (an area).

Example: “A demilitarized zone”

28) Pledge

Meaning: Commit (a person or organization) by a solemn promise.

Example: “The government pledged itself to deal with environmental problems”

29) Halt

Meaning: Bring or come to an abrupt stop.

Example: “There is growing pressure to halt the bloodshed”

Synonyms: Stop, Come to a halt.

30) Dismantle

Meaning: Take (a machine or structure) to pieces.

Example: “The engines were dismantled, and the bits piled into a heap”

Synonyms: Take apart, Take to pieces.

31) Inoperable

Meaning: Not able to be used.

Example: “The airfield was bombed and made inoperable”

Synonyms: Unusable, Out of action.

32) Harp

Meaning: Talk or write persistently and tediously on (a particular topic).

Example: “I don’t want to harp on about the past”

Synonyms: Keep on about, Go on about.

33) Rhetoric

Meaning: The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.

Example: “He is using a common figure of rhetoric, hyperbole”

Synonyms: Oratory, Eloquence.

34) Slamming

Meaning: The practice of switching a customer from one telephone service provider to another without the customer’s authorization.

35) Unravel

Meaning: Investigate and solve or explain (something complicated or puzzling).

Example: “They were attempting to unravel the cause of death”

Synonyms: Solve, Resolve.

36) Setback

Meaning: A reversal or check in progress.

Example: “A serious setback for the peace process”

Synonyms: Problem, Difficulty.

37) Conciliatory

Meaning: Intended or likely to placate or pacify.

Example: “A conciliatory approach”

Synonyms: Propitiatory, Placatory.

38) Deescalate

Meaning: To (cause to) become less dangerous or difficult.

Example: “The government has taken these measures in an attempt to de-escalate the conflict”

39) Outright

Meaning: Immediately or instantly.

Example: “The impact killed four horses outright”

Synonyms: Instantly, Instantaneously.

40) Crisis

Meaning: A time of intense difficulty or danger.

Example: “The current economic crisis”

Synonyms: Catastrophe, Calamity.

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