January 25, 2010



The biggest spectacle of the year 2009 was, beyond any doubt, the elections to the 15th Lok Sabha. The world's largest democracy elected its representatives to the Lower House of the Parliament between 16th April, 2009 and 13th May, 2009 with the aid of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for the second time in a row. In spite of terror threats and calls for electoral boycott by the Maoists in many places, the Indian voters defied all odds and came out in large numbers to participate in an election which has been seen by many analyst as the fairest national elections to be held in the birthplace of democracy.

The trio of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and youth icon Rahul Gandhi led the Indian National Congress and its allies to a remarkable electoral victory. With this victory, Manmohan Singh, who in 2004 became India's first Sikh Prime Minister also became the the first PM after Pandit Nehru to be re-elected for a consecutive term after completing a full 5 year term in office. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREG), the loan waiver to farmers coupled by the Mr. Clean image of Singh and the goodwill of Sonia meant that the Congress crossed the 200 mark on its own and the UPA fell just short of the half way mark.

Rahul Gandhi led the revival of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh where the party managed to win as many as 21 parliamentary seats and finished second in a four way electoral battle. The impressive figures of the Congress in UP dished all dreams of BSP supremo Mayawati to become the first Dalit PM of India. The Congress wave swept the key state of Andhra Pradesh in both, the state and the national elections. Charismatic CM Y S Rajashekar Reddy led the party to a comfortable majority in the Vidhan Soudha as he routed the TDP-TRS alliance and saw off the threat posed by Chiranjeevi's PRP. In fact, the party won 33 out of the 42 seats to the Lok Sabha from the state. The INC whitewashed the opposition in Delhi and Uttarakhand and won all but one seat in Haryana. Other states where the party outperformed all expectations included Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Punjab.

Not only the Congress but even its allies in the UPA had a lot to cheer for in these polls. Mamata Bannerjee achieved the impossible as she finally managed to breach the Left bastion of West Bengal. Didi won 19 seats and emerged as the second largest party in the ruling coalition. Also, beating all odds, the DMK got 18 seats in Tamil Nadu as Jayalalitha's AIADMK mustered just 9 seats in spite of its claims to carve a separate nation for Sri Lankan Tamils. However Sharad Pawar, who was seen as a potential Prime Ministerial candidate prior to the polls will be certainly disappointed as the NCP could send only 9 MPs to the Parliament.

The BJP's electoral slogan of 'Kushal Neta, Nirnayak Sarkar' found no takers as the party was reduced to a paltry 116 seats at the national level. The struggle for power within the party and lack of proper political organization before the elections meant that Lal Krishna Advani's last shot for the top spot ended in failure. Also the move to project Narendra Modi as the next PM candidate and calling Singh as a weak PM backfired for the party. However the real villain for the party was the Gandhi within their own ranks. Varun Gandhi's infamous communal speech at Pilibhit won him his constituency but ended up consolidating the Muslim vote in UP in the favour of the Congress. Although the BJP did well in Karnataka, Jharkhand, Bihar, Chattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh, its performance in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Assam was much below expectations. Besides, the party ended up in the fourth spot in the key state of Uttar Pradesh.

The only NDA leader who did well in the 2009 election was Nitish Kumar, the CM of Bihar. He managed to wipe off all opposition in the state and led the NDA to victory in 32 constituencies out of the total 40. BJP's oldest ally, the Shiv Sena managed to muster only 11 seats as its ideology was completely hijacked by Raj Thackeray's MNS. In fact Raj came back to haunt the BJP-SS combine and split the Marathi votes, thereby helping the Congress-NCP coalition to take Maharashtra for the third time in a row.

The biggest losers of these elections were the Left Parties. With their impregnable forts of Kerala and West Bengal being stormed, the Red brigade could only get 24 seats in these elections, a slump of 25 from the 59 seats they won the last time. Ironically for them, the move to withdraw support to the previous UPA government had clearly boomeranged on them. While the performance of other constituents of the Third Front like the BSP, TDP and AIADMK was pretty much average, the star among the Third Front leaders was Naveen Patnaik. The Orissa CM who dumped the NDA over the Left managed to win as many as 14 seats on his own and also came into power with a spectacular two-thirds majority in the state assembly.

The Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Lok Janshakti Party failed to reach sharing agreements with the Congress and decided to form a new front, hoping to be kingmakers after the election. Despite announcing support for the UPA, they only won 27 seats with SP winning only 20 odd seats, RJD reduced to only 4 and LJP failing to open its account.

On 22nd May, 2009, Manmohan Singh was sworn in as the Prime Minister at the Ashoka Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan with the support of 322 members. As per convention, on 18th May, he had already submitted his resignation as the Prime Minister to President Pratibha Patil with a recommendation to dissolve the Council of Ministers. Former Finance Minister, P C Chidambaram was made the Home Minister whereas former Home Minister, Pranab Da was given the charge of the Finance Ministry. The former CM of Karnataka, S M Krishna was sworn in as the MEA , Veerappa Moily was given the charge of Law Ministry and Defense went to A K Anthony. Long time Congress loyalists, Anand Sharma (Commerce and Industry), Kapil Sibal (HRD), Murli Deora (Petroleum), Kamal Nath (Road) and Ghulam Nabi Azad (Power) were also accommodated in the cabinet. Among the allies, Mamata got the coveted Railway Ministry, Sharad Pawar retained the Agriculture Ministry and the DMK is represented by Azaghiri, A. Raja and Dayanidhi Maran among others.

The re-election of the UPA government to a second term is a clear indication of the fact that the Indian voter has matured over the years, in the sense that incumbency is no longer a big election issue if the people with power can deliver the goods. The results of the 15th Lok Sabha have re-affirmed the fact that while Hindutva and minority appeasement continue to be used by political parties as electoral issues, the core issue still remains - Development or as it is more commonly referred to in Indian politics as 'Roti, Kapda aur Makan'.


The BJP decided to confront the Manmohan Singh government on the issues of Governance, Development and Security as a part of its strategy to come back into power after five years of warming the Opposition benches. The electoral campaign of the saffron outfit projected its Prime Ministerial candidate, L K Advani as a strong leader who would make India safer if elected to power and condemned Singh as 'The Weakest Prime Minister in Indian History'.

The BJP's campaign faced its biggest pre-election controversy when the EC directed the District Magistrate of Pilibhit to lodge a criminal case against the BJP's candidate Varun Gandhi for his inflammatory speech against Muslims made on March 7, 2009. Varun pleaded not guilty and claimed that the voice in the tapes were not his. After reviewing the incident, the EC found Gandhi guilty of violating the model code of conduct by creating feeling of enmity and hatred between different communities and issued a recommendation the BJP to drop him from their list of candidates. However, the saffron outfit came out in support of Varun. Meanwhile the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh slapped the National Security Act (NSA) against the young leader and put him behind bars. Later the Supreme Court asked the UP government to revoke the Act.

Although Varun's outburst won him his constituency, it ended up polarizing the Muslim vote in favour of the Congress. The Congress won 200 odd seats in the elections with an amazing 21 seats coming from Uttar Pradesh. Also the party's move to counter the Rahul Gandhi factor by portraying Gujarat CM Narendra Modi as the next PM candidate was widely rejected by the electorate around the country. The BJP's tally of 116 seats in the Lower House presented a very sorry picture. Almost immediately, the non-RSS leaders of the party like Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh and Arun Shourie called on the then president Rajnath Singh, a RSS favorite, to take moral responsibility for the electoral diaster and resign from his post.

The Chintan Baitak session of the BJP held in Shimla to asses the party’s debacle in the general elections and to strengthen its organization in the wake of the forthcoming state elections started off with a bang as senior party leader and former cabinet minister Jaswant Singh was expelled from the party. The decision came in the wake of the views expressed by Singh in his new book Jinnah : India, Independence and Partition in which he has lauded Mohammed Ali Jinnah and has blamed Nehru and Sardar Patel for India’s partition. 

Also, Rajnath Singh insisted on former Rajasthan CM Vasundararaje Scindia and the then CM of Uttarakhand, B C Khanduri to take responsibility for the party's rout in their respective states while he continued to remain in the office. Although, Khanduri agreed to the decision after some flip flops, Scindia refused to budge even as party veteran Advani was called in to mediate an amicable solution. Among Raje's demands include making her a general secretary at the national level and having an election to appoint the next Leader of Opposition in the Rajasthan Assembly, which by default, will be a Raje loyalist owing to the clout that the former royal holds in Rajsthan unit of the BJP.

Then, to make matters worse, the Liberhan Commission, the longest running inquiry by the Indian government submitted its report on the Demolition of the disputed site of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya after 48 extensions and 17 long years of running, to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In November 2009, a day after a newspaper published the allegedly leaked contents of the report, the report was tabled in the Indian parliament by the Home Minister Chidambaram. Kalyan Singh, who was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh during the mosque’s demolition, has come in for harsh criticism in the report. He is accused of posting bureaucrats and police officers who would stay silent during the mosque’s demolition in Ayodhya. Indicting the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, the one-man commission said in its report: "Kalyan Singh's government was the essential component needed by the Sangh Parivar for its purposes. Kalyan Singh lived up to the expectations of the Parivar". Uma Bharti, Govindacharya and Shanker Singh Vaghela, all of whom were members of the BJP then, are held primarily responsible for the destruction of the mosque and the report says that they could have prevented the assault. Senior BJP leaders Atal Behari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi are called 'pseudo-moderates'. The report holds them intellectually and ideologically responsible for the mosque’s destruction.

Like the National elections, the party's performance in the state elections was also far from satisfactory. The party won only 2 assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh, both coming from the Telangana region. In spite of accusing the Congress led governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra of being soft on terror, the BJP-SS alliance could not prevent the Cong-NCP alliance from winning a straight third term owing to the split in the Sena's traditional Marathi votes in the favour of the Raj Thackeray led MNS. The party finished fourth in the fight for power in Haryana as it won an insignificant 4 seats. When Orissa CM, Navin Patnaik broke way from the NDA many inside the party felt that he would require the help of the BJP to retain his seat as the CM of the state. However, in a triangular contest held in Orissa, Navin shocked everyone as he led the BJD-NCP-Left alliance to a two-thirds majority.

In December the saffron party came together to formally elect a new president in a bid to revive the party's fortune. In a move that clearly emphasized the sway that RSS holds in the BJP, its chief Mohan Bhagwat declared that the next president would be 'someone not from Delhi', a clear indication that he didn't want Advani aides like Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu and Anant Kumar to hold the top job. Later, the BJP's Maharashtra chief, Nitin Gadkari succeeded Rajnath Singh as the President. Also, an era in Indian politics came to an end as Lal Krishna Advani stepped down as the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the vacated post went to close aide Sushma Swaraj.

The new president has a herculean task at his hand. The BJP has to clearly shun its pro Hindutva ideology and project itself as an inclusive party that stands for the development of all sections. Besides keeping the various warring factions at bay, he will have to develop a significant support base for the party amongst the youth. Also focus needs to be given to strengthen the part in the BIMARU states, especially UP where the party's fortunes have declined over the years.


Although Prime Minister Manmohan Singh managed to lead the UPA into a second consecutive term, the principal opposition groups, namely the NDA and the Left Front managed to corner his government over the issue of soaring prices. A delayed monsoon added fuel to the fire as prices of essential commodities skyrocketed. Gradually the prices of daily products like sugar, vegetables and pulses reached an all time high level. The government tried to control the escalating prices by cracking down on hoarders and subsidizing essential products for the poor. Probably what did more damage to the government were the remarks expressed by many of Union ministers who claimed that the factors that led to price rise were beyond the control of the Centre. This clearly showed the inability and in many ways the lack of determination on the part of the government to get this situation under its control. The food price inflation in India soared to decade's highest level of 19.95 per cent in the first week of December.
While the poor were struggling to make their ends meet, the rich were feeling the heat of the Global meltdown. In 2009, the US economy was in recession, the biggest since the ‘Great Depression’ of 1929, and its tremors were also felt across the world markets, both big and small. The Indian outsourcing industry, which at then employed over 2 million people and is the principal driving force behind urbanization in India, was dealt a severe blow. Cutbacks, fewer benefits and job losses became the order of the day as even eminent companies struggled to remain afloat.

The Depression has, in many ways separated the extraordinary from the mediocre. As the world emerged from the clout of the recession, the manner in which the economies of the Asia-Pacific region avoided recession was appreciated all over the world. In fact, India recorded a 7.9 per cent rise in the GDP, thereby meeting market expectations and the stock market responded positively.


The year 2009 witnessed the outlawed Maoist take on an more aggressive approach towards the Indian Government. The Taliban style execution of Francis Induwar, Special Branch Inspector on 30th September was one of the innumerable acts of violence committed by them in the bygone year. The Naxals had earlier said that they would free Induwar if the government released Kobad Ghandy, Chattradhar Mahato, and Chandra Bhushan Yadav, three key Maoist leaders captured by security agencies from different parts of the country. Days after the government rejected this proposed swap, the Inspector's body was found on the Ranchi-Jamshedpur Highway. His head had been severed from his body. Near the Inspector's body, a note by the Naxals, attributing his death to 'police repression'. Among Induwar's colleagues, there's mourning mixed with anger. "We are ready to do our duty, but we need protection. In this atmosphere, how can we carry on working?" asked Ramsarekh Singh, Head, Jharkhand Police Association.

Naxalites struck across Jharkhand and Bihar a day before the states went to polls in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections. On 22nd April, the Naxals seized the Gomo-Mogulsarai BDM train near Hehegarha railway station at about 7:30 am and released it at 11:39 hours without harming any of the passengers. The train, with nine coaches, was packed to capacity with about 700 passengers on board and people even standing on the foot boards of the coaches," Railway PRO in Dhanbad, Amerendra Das said. As a move to secure the release of their leader Chattradhar Mahato, the People's Committee on Police Atrocities (PCPA) held hostage the Delhi bound, Bhubaneshwer Rajdhani Express in Midnapore, West Bengal on 27th October, 2009. Mahato who had been spearheading the agitation against alleged police atrocities, was nabbed from the Pirka region, near Lalgarh village. Although the train was later released, the manner in which the Naxals committed this offense brought to light the fact that Red Terror had become India's topmost internal security concern.

In an earlier development, the police and security forces in Lalgarh, Paschim Medinipur, West Bengal organized an anti-naxal operation to restore law and order in the area and flush out the Maoists, whom the government accused of inciting the tribals. The area of operation covered 18 police stations in the three Maoist affected districts of Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia. After some initial resistance from the Maoist side, the security forces were able to free the region from the rebels, atleast for the time being. Although the abortive bid to net elusive Maoist leader Kishenji in Lalgarh did not bear fruits, a senior police officer said several important materials were later seized and the operation was not a total failure.

As of 2009, Naxalites are active across approximately 220 districts in several states of India accounting for about 40 percent of India's geographical area. They are especially concentrated in an area known as the 'Red corridor', where they control 92,000 square kilometers. According to India's intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), 20,000 armed cadre Naxalites were operating apart from 50,000 regular cadres working in their various mass organizations and millions of sympathizers, and their growing influence prompted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare them as the most serious internal threat to India's national security. The Naxalites are opposed by virtually all mainstream Indian political groups. In February 2009, Central government announced its plans for simultaneous, co-ordinated counter-operations in all Left-wing extremism-hit states like Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal, to plug all possible escape routes of Naxalites. As a result, there have been fewer casualties than in previous years, and the Naxalites have not been able to expand their influence. 


Early October, 2009 saw the heavy floods inundate states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh after days of torrential rains. Atleast 269 people lost their lives in floods that are said to be the most devastrating in the last century, in these parts of the country. Over 13 lakh people were affected in five districts of Andhra Pradesh alone following unprecedented floods in Krishna river basin. The floods isolated 350 villages, leaving millions homeless. Entire Kurnool city was surrounded by 10 feet water for nearly 3 days.

In Karnataka damage to crops and property is estimated to be in the region of Rs 10,000 crore. For the first time in 60 years that the perennially drought-prone districts of north Karnataka saw such flood fury. The worst affected by the downpour and floods were parts of Bijapur, Gulbarga and Raichur districts in Northern parts of the state through which flow the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra along with their tributaries.

Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh governments started rescue and relief work on war footing with the help of the defence forces. The tales of people displaced by the massive flooding are heart-rending."Our entire village is under water. Even our relatives and friends have the same problem. We have no clue what to do," said one. 


Soon after the outbreak of H1N1 virus in the United States and Mexico in March, the Government of India started screening people coming from the affected countries at airports for swine flu symptoms. The first case of the flu in India was found on the Hyderabad airport on 13th May, when a man traveling from US to India was found H1N1 positive. Subsequently, more confirmed cases were reported and as the rate of transmission of the flu increased in the beginning of August, with the first death due to swine flu in India in Pune, panic began to spread.

The only known drug to work against H1N1 (Tamiflu) was not sold in general medical stores, to prevent the virus from developing antibiotic resistance due to excessive use. The government feared that people would pop in pills for no reason, thereby making the virus resistant to its only known cure. The problem facing the state machinery was the fact that flu infected cases were coming from across the country. The first casualty was a 14-year-old girl, Riya Sheikh. The deaTh toll soon rose and on January 1, 2010 the Indian government reported there had been 967 deaths from swine flu in the country with Pune recording as many as 124 deaths and Bangalore coming in 2nd with 74 cases.

Generic version of Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) will now be available in Indian market, several months after the first swine flu attack. Natco Pharma and Strides Arcolabs have launched their generic version of Oseltamivir, Natflu and Starflu. These drugs will be available to the customers directly under prescription.


The state of Andhra Pradesh continued to be in the limelight all through the year 2009. In the state elections, then CM Y S Rajashekar Reddy led the Congress to a much deserved victory over the grand TDP-TRS alliance and Cheranjeevi's Praja Rajam Party. However, the Congress satrap couldn't live long to enjoy his hard earned victory as he met a tragic end in a helicopter crash in the Nallamala ranges. While the state had not yet recovered from the shocking demise of one of the brightest stars on the Indian political horizon, torrential floods inundated many parts along the River Krishna causing immense damage to life and property.

Ahead of the 2009 General Elections in India all the major parties in Andhra Pradesh supported the formation of Telangana but it soon faded into background owing to the various tragedies that hit the state. Then in December 2009, TRS president, K C Rao started a fast-unto-death demanding that the Congress party introduce a Telangana bill in the Parliament. Student organizations, mostly from the Osmania University, employee unions and various organizations joined the movement. Scores of people commited suicide in support of Telangana state. Student organizations planned a massive rally at state legislature on December10, Government warned that the rally does not have permission and deployed police troops though out Telangana. The decline of KCR's health contributed to a sense of urgency for the central government to take a decision on the issue of Telangana statehood.

On December 9, 2009, 11:30 PM, Mr. P C Chidambaram, Union Minister of Home Affairs announced that Indian government had started the process of forming a separate Telangana state and that a resolution would be introduced in Andhra Pradesh assembly for this soon. KCR ending his 11 day fast said from his hospital bed that this a true victory of the people of Telangana. The Central government asked Andhra Pradesh state government to pass of a resolution in this regard in the legislative assembly.

Telangana celebrated the central government decision while non-Telangana regions of Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions protested. Parties like the TDP and PRP soon backtracked from their pro-Telangan stance blaming the Congress of not taking them into confidence before the Home Minister's statement. Several members of Andhra Pradesh's legislature submitted resignations to protest the creation of the new state. As of 16 December, at least 147 legislators, including Praja Rajyam Founder Chiranjeevi and many Members of Parliament had resigned in protest of the Government's decision to carve out a new state of Telangana. 22 Ministers form the State Cabinet also submitted their resignation. To counter this 90 odd MLAs from the Telangan region, cutting across all party lines resigned as a pressure tactic.

At the heart of the Telangana agitation is the possesion of the city of Hyderabad. Geographically speaking, India's sixth largest city lies in the Telangana region of present day Andhra Pradesh. However many people from Rayalseema and coastal Andhra who have commercial interests in the IT city are opposing the formation of the new state as it would mean parting ways with the city of the Nizam. Also unlike Chandigarh, Hyderabad is located deep within the proposed Telangana and so the idea of a joint capital is out of the scene. On the contrary the pro-Telangana organizaions have taken a no-compromise attitude over the question of Hyderabad.

The formation of the new state, if and when, is the perfect scenario for India to reterospect on the policy of states based on linguistic terms. Ironically, the state of Andhra Pradesh was the first state to be formed on linguistic lines after a fast-unto-death by Potti Sri Ramaloo. The demand for a separate Telangana is based primarily on the neglect that it has suffered under successive state governments. While coastal Andhra and Rayalseema have become prosperous, the people of Telangana have for long complained about the step motherly treatment metted out to them. On the other hand, smaller states do not necessarily mean development. While states like Goa, Himachal and Uttarakhand are fast maching on the path towards progress, other newly carved states like Jharkhand and Chattisgarh have been engulfed by corruption and Maoist menace.

Also the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh will open a Pandora's box. Taking a cue from protestors in Hyderabad, the GNLF renewed their call for a separate state for the Gurkhas in Northern Bengal. Several trains were blocked in Nagpur to force the authorities to approve the formation of Vidarbha from Maharashtra. Also the UP CM Mayawati wrote to New Delhi asking the PM to split her state into three smaller states - Harit Pradesh, Purvanchal and Bundelkhand. 


On 10th Oct, 2009, former Jharkhand CM Madhu Koda was charged with laundering money worth over Rs. 4000 crores. In nationwide raids by the Enforcement Directorate, assets allegedly worth Rs. 4000 crore - almost a fifth of the annual budget of the state he once ruled - were unearthed. Among others, these assets were reported to include hotels and three companies in Mumbai, property in Kolkata, a hotel in Thailand, and a coal mine in Liberia. Koda, who earlier said that he was a 'poor tribal', has total assets worth over Rs 98 lakh, as per his disclosure with the Election Commission. However investigations showed that his assets include bank deposits, bonds, shares, other savings, two cars, jewellery and land. This alleged scam is said to be the second-largest scam uncovered in India. Minister of State for Home Ajay Maken said that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) may be asked to probe this scam, in addition to Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Income Tax Department. In the probes, it was found that Maoists received a 30% share of the 'Koda plunder'.

Koda's life reads like a rags-to-riches tale from Bollywood. His father forced him to give up college because there wasn't enough money and ordered the 'young Madhu to find a job to fend for the family'. A disillusioned Koda, who wanted to join the army , became a labourer instead in an iron mine at Gua. He lugged lumps of iron ore for a promised sum of Rs. 20.50 per day. Koda harboured memories of corruption and exploitation at the mines. "They would get our thumb impressions against payments of Rs.20.50 and would pay us Rs.16. It left an impression on me," he had told the media.

The counting for the Jharkhand Assembly polls were held on 23rd December 2009. Shibhu Soren's JMM emerged as the single largest party in the state that threw up a hung assembly. The Congress won 14 seats while its ally, Babulal Marandi's Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) added another 11. The NDA could get only 20 seats, a significant decline in its standings as compared to the last assembly. Ironically, the BJP in a bid to prevent the UPA from coming into power in yet another state, supported the same Shibhu Soren whom it once had labelled as 'tainted' when he was in the UPA. On 30th December, 2009 Soren was sworn in as the CM of Jharkahand for the third time. He took oath along with BJP and All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) presidents Raghubar Das and Sudesh Mahto.

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( This is the first part of a three part article on the significant events of 2009 )