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For god’s sake, stop this my Twinkle and your Asifa nonsense

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Some crimes shake the conscience of the nation: Like the one of Twinkle in Aligarh. Or Asifa in Kathua, Jammu.

Millions of Indians mourn such tragedies. But those vocal, be it on print, web or TV, view it from religious prisms:  The divide is between Muslims-unsafe vs. Hindus- wronged. Politicians and media profit, not the nation.

The question today is: Can India afford to be divided along the communal lines? If it comes to pass, who should be held responsible? Could India as a nation then survive?

We have a prototype answer to all these questions. India was divided along the communal lines in 1947; Those who created divisions, in this case British, were responsible;  India lost its’ eastern and western limbs in its quest for survival.

Do we want a repeat of it in the near future?  If not, how this slide need be stopped? Should another round of Partition, at the cost of millions killed, raped and displaced, must happen again?

It all begins from those who set the narrative. British did it in decades leading to the independence: Assembly elections were held along the communal lines: Muslim candidate for Muslim constituency. Then began the chorus: what would happen to minority Muslims once we leave the Indian shores.  Muslim League and Mohammad Ali Jinnah were thus armed to severe India of its limbs. The resultant tragedy of Partition has few parallels in human history.

India has survived another Partition thus far. But the same narrative is reappearing:  Muslims are insecure; their culture, language and religion is in danger; majority Hindus would be the oppressors.

If it were the British who fed this narrative in pre-independence era, its media and break-India forces which is fanning the fire in our times. As oppressor Hindus was the theme before the Partition, so is the theme in our times.

Occasionally, the likes of Sadhvi Pragya and Giriraj Singh play into the hands of such forces. At times, “saffron terror” is cooked up like it nearly did in the tragic 26/11 in Mumbai. Lynchings become part of leitmotif to stoke fears of oppressive Hindu majority.

Celebrities and cinestars jump in to serve their eternal desire of being in news.  Writers and scientists sign petitions in orchestrated campaigns. Data, like Lokniti-CSDN, survey how many Muslims and Christians have voted for BJP;  Castes are divided into sub-castes and further sub-castes as Mayawatis, Akhilesh Yadavs and Lallu Prasads feed themselves fat on its harvests. Important magnets, like Western media and prized economists, all are part of the ecosystem which want India to go up in flames.

Hindus and Muslims do have different language and culture. But both are Indians. And a majority do see themselves as Indians. The minority are Asaduddin Owaisi who incites with the call of Karbala or Niranjan Jyoti who divides with “ramzada” vs “haramzada” quip. Hang them out to dry. As you do with the despicable dozen English journalists and at least two English national dailies who are at the beck and call of divisive forces (read casteist, Left and dynastic parties); and foreign-funded NGOs

Let this be a checklist for Muslims:

  • We have always been made to feel insecure even as more people greet us on Eid than those who abuse us; (b) That there is no word as “minority” in Indian constitution, all are Indians; (c) That if “secularism” means denying a Muslim destitute woman (Shah Bano) her rights and reversing the judgment of Supreme Court, then such secularism must be exposed; (d) That if Hindu consolidation has happened around emotive Ram Temple issue, it was stoked by Congress and not BJP/RSS; (e) That for every Akhlaq, Pehlu and Junaid, there are tens and dozens of Hindu victims at the hands of Muslims which go unreported; (f) That if BJP doesn’t opt for a Muslim candidate, it doesn’t matter as long as the elected representative is fair to everyone in his constituency:  be it roads, electricity, toilets, gas, health, education, all is available to Muslims as it is to Hindus; (g) That if Muslims are economically backward, it’s not because of Hindus but perhaps the reason lies in lack of scientific temper in Madarsa education; and less than fair freedom to women.

Let this be a checklist for Hindus:

  • Indian constitution doesn’t favour Muslims; it allows them to run their institutions THEMSELVES not by the government; (b) If Muslims are subsidized for Haj, so are Hindu pilgrims provided for in magical Kumbh melas; (c) True, Indian history is distorted and neither Congress nor Left intellectuals have been fair to Hindus but it’s no excuse to substitute that anger against a common Muslim; (d) True, a dozen English journalists and at least two English national dailies only report crimes against Muslims, often hoax, but they have been left thoroughly exposed in the last five years; their credibility in tatters thanks to a vigorous social media;  (e) Congress and Left, two parties who stoked fears in Muslims and Dalits, are today the outcasts of Indian political system; (f) That Hindu consolidation must not happen at the cost of Muslim alienation: that we don’t want new nations in Bengal or Kerala or Tamil Nadu and its’ attendant costs; (g) That for every Zakir Naik and Burhan Wani, there is also a Muslim boatman who gives up his life but saves tourists from drowning in Jhelum in Srinagar.

We have a choice to make if want to be Hindus or Muslims or Indians. We ought to ask ourselves if we don’t mind another Partition and its horrific cost. We ought to boycott a Naseeruddin Shah or a Kamal Haasan; A Javed Akhtar or a Shabana Azmi; A Swara Bhaskar or a Prakash Raj who are selective in their outrage. The same ought to happen to a Niranjan Jyoti or Asaduddin Owaisi.  We ought to outcast a Shekhar Gupta or a Rajdeep Sardesai; a Sagarika Ghose or a Barkha Dutt if the only crime they see is against Muslims; We need to stop an Indian Express or The Hindu from entering into our drawing rooms if all they can see is crime against a Dalit or a Muslim.

These are small forces. Pygmies in front of a nation of 1.30 billion. Should these handful be allowed to decide if we stay together or apart? Would you blame them if tens and thousands of us are butchered and raped in Partition 2.0?

Muslims need be confident this is their India too. Before you blame others, you must ask if your education and matter of equality to women etc need a relook.  As Maulana Azad once addressed them:  You can’t be drowned and defeated by anyone else but yourself.  Don’t hide behind the cloak of “minority” and “secularism”.  Don’t seek privileges; you are no different than any other Indian. Rely on self. Those who speak for your safety and stoke your fears, couldn’t care less for you.

 

 

How has Sadhvi Pragya replied to letter served on her?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

This was Friday. Hostages, a web-series thriller on Hotstar, is disrupting my home. I keep running to the door whenever the bell is pressed because my wife is glued to the screen, watching one after another of the eight-episode series of five hours. “What if in the end you are told it was only a dream of the protagonist and nothing of the sort happened. What if she wakes up in a sweat and says, sorry guys and gals, it was just a dream,” I blurted to my wife at the end of my patience.

“What if” in entertainment is the password for $100 million business. A viewer is hooked: “What if” the villain succeeds; “What if” the girl chooses her boyfriend over her husband; “What if” the panchayat forces the girl to marry her rapist; “What If” our hero is unable to save his family as tsunami hits his town.

Rarely are we disappointed with outcome. The end never betrays our expectations: Girl does remain with her husband; the villain never succeeds, rapist meets justice and our hero miraculously survives tsunami with his family. Even though movies are predictable, we spend money and hours and watch it again and again.

Politics in a way is also entertainment. More so in the Season of Polls. Politicians and Media are like its’ producers and script-writers. Events are created, star-cast assembled, emotions are heightened and the suckers again are the consumers—in this case readers and TV watchers.

Star-cast choose themselves on their own.  With Rafale issue on the edge, and The Hindu turbo-charged by god knows who, country was on the edge. Heroes are villains and villains are heroes.  Those for Modi know he is clean. Those not for Modi know he is corrupt.  How the end would play out in Supreme Court?  On its judgment—“What if”– rests the fate of 2019 General Elections.

Rafale, The Hindu, Supreme Court,

Then comes the sexual assault charge against the Chief Justice of India.  Again hero is villain and villain is hero.  Those for Gogoi, know it’s fabricated. Those against Gogoi, know he is framed.  The country is hooked: “What if” the CJI’s office is deactivated? Won’t it affect Rafale?

For years, the matter of Rahul Gandhi’s citizenship issue is in public domain. “What if” he indeed was a British citizen?  The matter acquired political tones when Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) sought an official explanation from the Gandhi scion.  He was given a fortnight to reply—months have passed on since then.  The nation again had its heroes and villains: but it was a joke.

Or Sadhvi Pragya. She utters words in praise for Nathuram Godse. The secular forces give a lesson in ferocity to Islamic State (IS):  To hell with her. Bury her. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visibly hurt on national television. “I would never be able to forgive her,” says the anguished Prime Minister. The party seeks an explanation from the firebrand leader.  Heroes and villains play out again.

Nathuram Godse, Islamic State, Mediation,  Ayodhya, Ram Mandir, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Balakot,

I am sure you haven’t forgotten the “mediation” team on Ayodhya. Would this team be able to succeed or thwart the attempt on Ram Mandir? Media and secular forces see one of the mediators, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar , as potentially dangerous.  Those in favour of Ram Mandir see hope in him. Again, cardboards of heroes and villains are cut.

Think about 100s of scientists and cinestars coming out in support of one or other political ideology; the debate on whether 300 terrorists were killed in Balakot or not; whether Supreme Court would favourably rule on the re-petition on Sabrimala – all had the nation divided in its heroes and villains. Pure entertainment, wasnt it.

Now the elections are over. Why bother if Rafale was corruption or not; if Rahul Gandhi has replied on his British citizenship issue or not;  if Sadhvi Pragya has explained satisfactorily to the letter served on her. Ayodhya can wait till 2024. Sabrimala? On the backburner till 2024.

I tell this all to emphasize what the sucker they make us out to be. All this looks so stage-managed. Outrage. Anger. Despair. Democracy in danger. The secular fabric of India torn to shreds. Elections over, everything over.  Wait till the next elections. Again, the recorded events are played out.

So relax. Make friends and not enemies for that’s exactly what politicians and media want us to be: at each other’s throat. Have a laugh on the concocted issues. They mean nothing to them so why lose your sleep? Wait till the bugle of Delhi assembly elections start blowing in February next year.  A few seasonal new issues would emerge and fade with the same monotony. Democracy you said?  I call it entertainment. Okay, black entertainment.

 

Arvind Kejriwal and the political philosophy behind his lies

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Politicians and criminals have one thing in common: Both believe they would never be caught.

We now know Arvind Kejriwal announced free ride for women in metro and bus even before he had made proposal either to his cabinet or to Centre or to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). We also know it wouldn’t have any sobering effect on the man. I mean somebody who has made a roaring career out of lies, why fix something which ain’t broken.

Kejriwal and his dozens of lies are known.  And boy, did they work.  Delhi saw him as a crusader against corruption. He said he had evidence of corruption against Sheila Dikshit, Nitin Gadkari and Arun Jaitley.  That he would never be seen in the same frame with the corrupt political classes of the country. That as income-tax commissioner, he was straight as an arrow. That he was against VIP culture of big bungalows and security cover.  That he would never take support from the Congress. And once elected, he would have hundreds of schools and buses; free water and electricity etc.  The muffler-man, who coughed between his sentences, was the pin-up politician not just on auto-rickshaws.

We later learnt that he was never an income-tax commissioner.  That a five-room bungalow and Z security cover were his first candies. Corruption? Well he apologized to Sheila and Dikshit and Arun Jaitley and everyone else in the town. The guy who helped Robert Vadra in his alleged land deals found his way in the AAP land acquisition committee.  Another with a 300-crore scam on farmers’ money became a member of the AAP agriculture reform committee and got a Lok Sabha ticket;  the activist who stood by the Muslim juvenile brutal rapist who inserted and took the intestines of Nirbhaya out became his party AAP’s face for Bengaluru Lok Sabha seat;  from Mamata to Sonia to Lalu Yadav to Chandrababu Naidu, he never missed any photo-op and stood shoulder to shoulder on the podium of the corrupt.

So what do you make of a man who vowed never to seek Congress’ support and then begged for it in 2019 General Polls. Who would swear by the safety of women but would neither utilize the quota of 11,000 buses nor install CCTVs in it; who sheds copious tears on the poor and the vulnerable but won’t utilize Centre’s fund for Ayushman Bharat and Swachh India campaigns;  who wouldn’t  regularize colonies, provide free water and electricity and move on to his next set of lies.

This is the man who once called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “coward and a psychopath.” Who is accused of choosing between Hindu and Muslim crimes.  Who blames Centre for all his failures including the Jan Lokpal bill which in reality is pending with his own AAP government;  who used Anna Hazare and his crusade against corruption and dumped him at the first opportunity; all those who stood by him—Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Shazia Ilmi, Kumar Vishwas, Kapil Mishra and Alka Lamba—were cast aside either by design or conduct.

All politicians lie. But all lies are not equal. The difference in Kejriwal and others is that he uses them as  his political philosophy. He replaces actual facts with alternate facts to manipulate the emotions and feelings of the masses.  This is what we call Post-Truth: Oxford English dictionary defines it as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. “ In short, make-belief prevails over reality.

Most call Arvind Kejriwal an anarchist. I call him a fascist. As philosopher Jason Stanley says: “The key thing is that fascist politics is about identifying enemies, appealing to the in-group and smashing truth and replacing it with power.”

When a politician is caught in his lies, he pays for it either with apology or punishment or both.  There is both shame and consequences involved. In Arvind Kejriwal’s case, it’s neither.  Hopefully, the cost of it would be known in Delhi elections in six months’ time.

 

In Australia’s crackdown, a warning to Indian media

Politicians and criminals have one thing in common: Both believe they would never be caught.

We now know Arvind Kejriwal announced free ride for women in metro and bus even before he had made proposal either to his cabinet or to Centre or to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). We also know it wouldn’t have any sobering effect on the man. I mean somebody who has made a roaring career out of lies, why fix something which ain’t broken.

Kejriwal and his dozens of lies are known.  And boy, did they work.  Delhi saw him as a crusader against corruption. He said he had evidence of corruption against Sheila Dikshit, Nitin Gadkari and Arun Jaitley.  That he would never be seen in the same frame with the corrupt political classes of the country. That as income-tax commissioner, he was straight as an arrow. That he was against VIP culture of big bungalows and security cover.  That he would never take support from the Congress. And once elected, he would have hundreds of schools and buses; free water and electricity etc.  The muffler-man, who coughed between his sentences, was the pin-up politician not just on auto-rickshaws.

We later learnt that he was never an income-tax commissioner.  That a five-room bungalow and Z security cover were his first candies. Corruption? Well he apologized to Sheila and Dikshit and Arun Jaitley and everyone else in the town. The guy who helped Robert Vadra in his alleged land deals found his way in the AAP land acquisition committee.  Another with a 300-crore scam on farmers’ money became a member of the AAP agriculture reform committee and got a Lok Sabha ticket;  the activist who stood by the Muslim juvenile brutal rapist who inserted and took the intestines of Nirbhaya out became his party AAP’s face for Bengaluru Lok Sabha seat;  from Mamata to Sonia to Lalu Yadav to Chandrababu Naidu, he never missed any photo-op and stood shoulder to shoulder on the podium of the corrupt.

So what do you make of a man who vowed never to seek Congress’ support and then begged for it in 2019 General Polls. Who would swear by the safety of women but would neither utilize the quota of 11,000 buses nor install CCTVs in it; who sheds copious tears on the poor and the vulnerable but won’t utilize Centre’s fund for Ayushman Bharat and Swachh India campaigns;  who wouldn’t  regularize colonies, provide free water and electricity and move on to his next set of lies.

This is the man who once called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “coward and a psychopath.” Who is accused of choosing between Hindu and Muslim crimes.  Who blames Centre for all his failures including the Jan Lokpal bill which in reality is pending with his own AAP government;  who used Anna Hazare and his crusade against corruption and dumped him at the first opportunity; all those who stood by him—Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Shazia Ilmi, Kumar Vishwas, Kapil Mishra and Alka Lamba—were cast aside either by design or conduct.

All politicians lie. But all lies are not equal. The difference in Kejriwal and others is that he uses them as  his political philosophy. He replaces actual facts with alternate facts to manipulate the emotions and feelings of the masses.  This is what we call Post-Truth: Oxford English dictionary defines it as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. “ In short, make-belief prevails over reality.

Most call Arvind Kejriwal an anarchist. I call him a fascist. As philosopher Jason Stanley says: “The key thing is that fascist politics is about identifying enemies, appealing to the in-group and smashing truth and replacing it with power.”

When a politician is caught in his lies, he pays for it either with apology or punishment or both.  There is both shame and consequences involved. In Arvind Kejriwal’s case, it’s neither.  Hopefully, the cost of it would be known in Delhi elections in six months’ time.

Delimitation: Amit Shah set to make early moves in Kashmir Valley

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Delhi has little control in Kashmir Valley. Out of 87 seats in assembly, 46 are reserved for Kashmir region and 37 for Jammu (Ladakh has the other four seats). No wonder Abdullahs and Muftis, due to their clout in the Valley, control the levers of power in the troublesome state of Jammu & Kashmir.

This of course is historical injustice. Dogras (Jammu) have dominated the region historically. Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh amassed a state bigger than left behind by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a Sikh ruler in the 19th century. Till 1941, Hindus in Jammu numbered more than Muslims in Kashmir Valley.

However, Kashmir changed forever once Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah rose to power simultaneously in Delhi and Srinagar. Nehru afforded Abdullah a free run. Abdullah arbitrarily allocated 75 assembly seats in the 1951 state assembly between Kashmir Valley (43), Jammu (30) and Ladakh (2). There was no population data but just his whim to guide Abdullah.

Jammu and Kashmir had changed forever.

Abdullah’s son, Farooq, made it worse. His father had constituted the Delimitation Commission which had further increased Kashmir’s representation to 46 seats, as against 37 to Jammu. Farooq amended the Section 47 of the Jammu & Kashmir constitution in 2002 under which no addition or alteration of constituencies could take place up to 2026.

Game, set and match over.

Fast forward to present times. Modi 2.0 is in place. His party BJP rose to power, among others, on the promise of abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in its manifesto. Nationalism and his tough stance on separatist forces in Jammu & Kashmir, and their masters in Pakistan, reflected in Balakot surgical strike, helped him win the 2019 mandate with a staggering majority.

In people’s mind, Modi’s success or failure in his second tenure would be judged by what he does with Kashmir. The appointment of hard-nosed Amit Shah as home minister is an early signal. If Kashmir is settled, Modi would’ve earned the nation’s gratitude for centuries to come. He would be the favourite child of India’s history.

Modi has made his first move within hours into his second term. Amit Shah is positioned as home minister. Shah too has lost little time: He already has held a detailed closed-door discussion with Satya Pal Malik, governor of Jammu and Kashmir. The state is presently in its second year under the President’s rule. (Legally, President’s rule is tenable for three years at the most).

The rumour is abuzz that delimitation in Jammu & Kashmir could happen soon. Petitions are being written to the President of India. Now that the power of J & K assembly is vested with the President, it’s within his powers to order such a move. A Delimitation Commission could be set up which could redraw the constituencies—and take away the stranglehold which Kashmir Valley has enjoyed over the rest of the state. The freeze till 2026 would go in a jiffy.

This has the separatist forces in the Valley in a flutter. Everyday, Omar Abdullah (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti (PDP) are warning of the consequences if this comes to a pass. Once the freeze is lifted, the ascendency of Jammu is inevitable. It already has more area than Kashmir Valley. It has more people in some constituencies than Valley has in two. (For instance, two constituencies in Srinagar City has nearly 50,000 less electorates than in single constituency of Gandhi Nagar in Jammu region. Same would be the case with Jammu City East seat).

Once this happens, everything would flow from the ballot and not from the bullet. Just imagine the scenarios below:

  • A state under its political control could make BJP do wonders in not just protecting the integrity of the state but also of its soldiers who have died in tens of thousands over the last few decades;
  • Lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits, driven out of Valley by militants, could regain their paradise lost;
  • Lakhs of Gujjars, Bakerwals, Gaddies–around 11 per cent of the state’s population—don’t have any reserve seat in the Valley even though they were given Scheduled Tribe (ST) status way back in 1991. The seven reserved seats for ST—Chamb, Domana, Ranbir Singh Pura, Samba, Hiranagar, Chenani and Ramban in Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur district–are all in Jammu region and have stayed stationery since 1996, never ever rotated to Kashmir Valley).
  • Legislative control in the J & K assembly would make the abrogation of 370 and 35A a child’s play;
  • A secure Kashmir would be such a powerful bulwark against Pakistan and its’ ISI, not to say a leverage which would come handy against China;
  • If terrorists are throttled, Jihadi organizations such as Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda, not to say Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed—and its leaders such as Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar—would be neutralized.
  • Safer borders means lesser martyred soldiers. A buoyant and not a demoralized force. It would also free up India’s security apparatus. Men and money both could be saved.

Modi has the mandate. Shah is in the hot chair of home minister. Millions of Indians are looking for askance: Settle Kashmir once for all. This dispensation has a historic opportunity to undo the damage of appeasement to the Valley which India has practised since the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to the Union of India in 1947.

Smriti Irani in McDonald: We’re loving it

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Smriti Irani is a formidable opponent. You don’t need Rahul Gandhi to tell you. Anybody who has engaged her in the Parliament, TV debates or open public forum would swear in the name of Allah. Barkha Dutt won’t deny it nor would Rahul Kanwal. You could also ask Rashid Alvi (who? Well Congress). Or a collective opposition who were not safe even in their trenches as she rumbled in Parliament a few seasons ago.

In the above instances, Ms. Irani was dealing with hardened ideologues and masters of deception. Politicians who cook facts quicker than maggi noodles. Journalists, those cloak-and-dagger assassins, without a trace of blood on their pen. Yet they froze like rats do when bathed in car flashlights. You don’t test the depth of a river with both feet, do you.

This is a woman who is just not a prima donna in front of cameras. Away from limelight, she walked hundreds of miles in countless visits to uproot the Prophet of Amethi. Door to door, ear to ear, shoulder to shoulder, in grime and dust, scorching sun or raining heavens, lending ears and shoulders in equal measure or corner of her saree to sponge the tears of wailing widows.

When Ms. Irani speaks, it’s difficult to say if her Hindi is better than her English. When words in chaste Urdu are effortlessly slipped in. There is a flow and rhythm, snarl and contempt all constructing a perfect mosaic. You are confronted with a holistic picture, its’ edges secured in the frame of clinching facts. When she performs, it’s often better than her words. It makes material difference to the recipients; and not just aesthetics to its listeners.

We have no evidence where Ms. Irani cut her teeth in the unforgiving world of public gaze. To an unknown, a TV actress would be a guess too wide off the mark.  It’s like somebody telling you he outran an audi. That she was an Alice looking for her Wonderland in a Miss India contest once. That she also once donned checked blue shirt and trousers with apron to greet us in a McDonald cap in Bandra, Mumbai.

Yes, she worked in McDonald once. Clearing tables and sweeping floors. All for a princely Rs 1,800 a month. We wouldn’t have known it but for a textile council securing her Provident Fund employee certificate from McDonald and toying with the idea if its’ auction could come to the aid of a group of women artisans. McDonald was a refuge when she was still nursing her rejection for an air hostess job. She was told she “lacked a good personality.”

This is a woman who has made her own destiny. She prised open the door of TV soap operas and her main lead in “Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi”(Because a mother-in-law was also a daughter-in-law once) is a TV legend like few have been. Apparently her talent was no less than her looks for she was deemed best actress for five straight years. She was a female superstar, if ever there was one, of the small screen.

Maybe stardom helped Ms. Irani in political arena. Maybe not for she was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in her childhood itself even though she joined BJP formally in 2003 only. Her grandfather, a member of the RSS, must have been an early influence. As would have been her mother, Shibani Bagchi (a Bengali) who was a Jana Sangh member. Her father, Ajay Kumar Malhotra, hasn’t anything political known about him. Thus there are no rough edges here: She is an ideologically rounded person. She is married and has three kids and pictures of a happy family are aplenty.

Leaping through the ranks, Ms. Irani became national secretary of BJP in 2010. The same year she was heading her party’s women’s wing: BJP Mahila Morcha. Next year, she entered Rajya Sabha as a parliamentarian from Gujarat. Early in her career, she took on Kapil Sibal of Congress in the 2004 General Elections from Chandni Chowk constituency in the Capital.

In Narendra Modi’s two cabinets, Ms. Irani has held various portfolios. An educated guess is that she has moved between portfolios, particularly in the case of Information and Broadcasting Ministry, because of her combative working style. She is eminently capable of ruffling a few feathers. We all know Narendra Modi would rather have his team concentrate on developmental work than lock horns in public with dimwits. She has relatively quiet and non-controversial ministries of Women and Child Development and Textiles in her latest brief. But all of us know, Ms. Irani would dominate the coming decades of Indian politics. In defeating Rahul Gandhi, she probably has caused the biggest upset not just of 2019 Polls but in an entire generation. Just 43, here is a woman who is a role model for not just millions in her gender but many more in rather ruthless, largely men’s arena called politics.

No Hindi-must in New Education Policy: But try telling it to DMK

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Nobody is imposing Hindi anywhere. Two Union Ministers, both of Tamil origin—Nirmala Sitharaman and Subrhmanyam Jaishankar—have clarified so in their mother tongue. No less than Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, the force behind the draft of the New Education Policy (NEP), has rubbished such an interpretation. It’s time all the political parties in Tamil Nadu, and in Bengal,  let go on the hysteria. The Hindu and Indian Express too can stop rolling in the filth.

All hell broke loose when reports came in last week that the NEP has proposed making Hindi mandatory along with English and the regional language of choice in schools across India. All parties in Tamil Nadu, including DMK, the Congress, the Left, Kamal Hasaan’s Makkal Needhi Malyyam, MDMK and AIADMK, bristled with aggression and promised to hit the streets. In Kolkata, they actually did with the Bangla Pokkho civil society group shouting slogans against the “unfair imposition of Hindi” skipping over potholes on terrible city roads. For good effect, they also burnt the pages of the NEP draft policy.

The Centre has been swift in clarifying on its no-imposition-of-Hindi stand.  As NEP committee chairperson Kasturirangan—literally the horse’s mouth—says, “the policy envisages that every stage learns one language from another state.” In other words, you could be in Tamil Nadu and learn Tamil, English and any other regional language of your choice.

The reasons for a new NEP policy are sound. The last one occurred a quarter of a century ago. Much has changed in between. The social, political, economic, cultural reality is different from those times. Migration within India has increased manifold in millions. Language cannot be allowed to remain moribund. For a person living south in Chennai and seeking employment in Mumbai and Delhi, a basic understanding of Marathi or Hindi could only help.  Say, he is seeking a job in advertising or film industry in Mumbai. Won’t Marathi or Hindi be a bigger help to him? Won’t it help him in his social and economic mobility? And vice-versa?

The bigger paybacks are no less important. Language is communication and understanding only betters if two people could do it without resorting to Google translate. A communicating India is a growing India. Many classics and literary forces, as good as any produced in human history, have a limited bandwidth because one language, only a few kilometers apart from another, is Greek to its listeners. To understand the breadth of this logic remember that India has 780 languages. No less than 22 languages are listed in the eighth schedule of the Constitution.

But raising the spectre of a powerful Centre imposing Hindi suits regional chauvinists and their vote-banks. DMK in Tamil Nadu, and its allies, reaped a rich harvest on this seed in the 2019 General Elections. As many as 37 out of 38 seats went to this grouping.  It’s the separate “Dravidian” identity from the “Aryans” of North which launched dozens of careers in down South; overflowing their coffers and unleashing unbridled reservations in the Southern states. In Tamil Nadu, for instance, the reservation is up to a whopping 69% in favour of backward communities. The fiat runs across all spheres be it jobs or medical studies.

Hindi must not be imposed on rest of India and it won’t be. Howsoever the case in its favour remain strong: Almost 52 crore or 44 per cent of India speaks Hindi; nearly 62 crore speakers worldwide which makes it third most spoken language behind the Mandarin and English.  India is a land of hundreds of languages, customs and cultures and it is the diversity which makes it unique. A universal umbrella would be a great assault on the federal character of its republic.

So the anxiety in Tamil Nadu or in Bengal is nothing but rumour-mongering with Lutyens Media being a willing accomplice.  How come no other state or its politicians have a problem with the draft of NEP? Why hide the fact that it’s just a draft and the New Education Policy would solely be guided by the feedback it gets from the rest of the country? Why speak the language of anarchy when the intent is one of unity?

(P.S: Studies though say that Tamilians who can speak Hindi are 50 per cent up in 10 years across Tamil Nadu. The current preference for CBSE, ICSE schools has led to students preferring Hindi as optional language even in Tamil Nadu. The popularity of Bollywood movies could be another reason).

Importance of being Jaishankar: Only behind Modi-Shah duo

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Not Rajnath Singh. No Nitin Gadkari. India’s third most powerful minister in the present dispensation—besides the obvious duo of Modi-Shah—is Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, a career-diplomat turned foreign minister.

When the troublesome duo of China-Pakistan are breathing down India’s neck on its two flanks and Donald Trump is baring his fangs in United States, India is hot under its collar and Jaishankar has been put on the burning deck.

On the face of it, everything looks cool: India has had a serious of significant ticks in international arena, be it tacit approval on its Balakot strike or getting the world behind to outlaw dreaded terrorist Masood Azhar. Significant alliances have emerged in the Muslim world even as Israel is now a very strategic critical ally. Respect for Modi could only grow now that he has been re-elected with a stunning majority in 2019 General Elections.

But trouble is at the door with Donald Trump’s United States determined to punish India over its buying of S400 missiles defence system from Russia. Already, India has lost the tariff benefits which US accords to less-developed countries under the Generalised  System of Preferences (GSP). The Trump administration had held off only because the 2019 General Polls were on in India. But now that it’s over, the $5.6 billion export that India enjoyed against the United States in 2017, would no longer be possible.

Trump is equally determined against India’s buying of S400 missile-defence system from Russia and a spokesman for the US administration has made no bones about it. India was warned on Friday that if it bought $5 billion worth of S400 missiles from Russia, it would have serious repercussions in terms of defence deals with United States.

United States has a policy for the world where countries, howsoever friendly, would be slapped with sanctions if they fostered ties with their adversaries, in this case Russia. The policy is called Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

Iran is another prickly issue. Trump had given a waiver to India from November to May to buy crude oil from Iran despite the sanctions it has in place against the orthodox Shia nation. But any further extension is completely ruled out.

As reports emerged that India was looking at ways to beat around the sanctions and continue its oil imports from Iran, US has made its position clear: “There will be no more oil waivers granted.” This would push up India’s oil import bills as  Iran used to supply 10 per cent of India’s needs. If US withdraws from Afghanistan, Pakistan would acquire further muscle in its intervention in Kashmir.

India’s troubled borders on its east and west make both China and Pakistan as perpetual adversary and frictions are never far off.

Modi didn’t invite Pakistan in his oath ceremony this week and the latter responded by firing a nuclear-capable Chinese-designed intermediate-range ballistic missile to serve a warning. India too flexed its muscle when just before the 2019 polls, it launched a missile to “destruct” one of its own satellites, becoming only the fourth power after United States, Russia and China to shoot down an object in space.

It’s clear that Jaishankar would’ve his hands full but if there is one person more competent with a better track record than the former foreign secretary, he or she is yet to be seen in India’s diplomatic circles. Over his long tenure, and significant stints in Russia, United States and China, among others, he has acquired a formidable network, his phonebook being the envy of most diplomats.

He was India’s foreign secretary till the last year and his understanding of India’s personnel or policy is unlikely to catch him unawares. He knows the system pretty well.

Jaishankar has worked around different governments but it’s under Modi that his stock has risen up. As India’s envoy to China, he first impressed the present Prime Minister when the latter was visiting China as Gujarat chief minister in 2011. He was there when Modi made his first “rockstar” visit to United States on his election to PM’s office in 2014. Modi promoted him as foreign secretary in 2015. His framework on foreign policy greatly helped his successor Vijay Gokhale as Doklam and Balakot occurred.

Jaishankar is known to be a very hard negotiator. Together with Modi and Amit Shah, he can cut through the government flab. The near future is tough for India but the nation can’t have better men than Modi-Shah-Jaishankar to steer its course. In Hindu pantheon of Gods the trinity of Brahma (creator), Vishnu (preserver) and Mahesh (destroyer) reign supreme. In Modi, Jaishankar and Amit Shah these are today’s political equivalent.

Opposition that Naidu wanted to lead is now for Jagan Reddy

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Forgive me Chandrababu Naidu. The supremo of Telugu Desam Party. I am laughing. I mean the Modi-Opposition which you cultivated with such photo-ops in Lutyens Media is toying with the idea of inviting your sworn enemy YSR Jaganmohan Reddy in the “opposition conclave” on Friday.

The hobnobbing of Opposition is aimed at how to maximize the combined strength of 121 MPs from the 2019 polls and create roadblocks for Modi in the parliament. There is DMK of course, and TMC of Mamata’s backyard, and Congress with its grand tally of 52 MPs.  Naidu too has been invited along with his three MPs.  But so shredded is his reputation that hissing is on for Jagan Reddy even if Naidu is “uncomfortable” in sharing the space with his arch rival.

Jagan Reddy, like his father, is a nightmare for Naidu. Reddy wasn’t even born when Naidu was dabbling in politics. First his father,  Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy decimated Naidu in 2004 and 2009 General Elections, winning 29 and 33 seats out of 42 in undivided Andhra Pradesh, leaving only the crumbs of five and six seats for the TDP. Reddy Sr. died in a helicopter accident and his removal did help Naidu. But not for long. In the 2019 General Elections, Reddy Jr. drove TDP into ground by winning 22 out of 25 seats. The simultaneous Assembly elections were no better and Reddy’s party, YSRCP, were equally merciless. It bagged 151 seats in the 175-member house. TDP took the leftover of 23 seats. No wonder, Naidu couldn’t bring himself to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Jagan Reddy this afternoon.

But Naidu has nobody but himself to blame. He allied himself with Congress which is seen in Andhra Pradesh as the party that broke up their state into two parts, Telangana being the other. Naidu didn’t learn from the lessons of Telangana Assembly elections last year where he butted in, in alliance with Congress when the need was to recover the lost ground in his home state. The results were a nightmare for him and his party: K. Chandrashekhar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) bagged 88 out of 119 seats in the assembly. TDP’s tally? Just two.

But Naidu was unrepentant. He went ahead for a national alliance with Congress though for the state polls, he fought on his own. The results have been similarly disastrous. The personal setback was best manifested in the defeat of Nara Lokesh, his son, from the Mangalagiri assembly constituency.

In the national consciousness, Chandrababu Naidu was seen as a tech-savy leader who gave Andhra Pradesh a global image in the Silicon Valley he helped create in Hyderabad; never mind the local whisper of him being most corrupt and arrogant.

Then he began hogging space on front pages of national English mainstream media in the run-up to 2019 Elections. One day he was in Delhi visiting Kejriwal at the latter’s residence; other day he was in Kolkata in successfully persuading Mamata Banerjee to break her sham fast. There were rallies in Vizag with the two leaders. One day Naidu was offering help on Fani cyclone to Naveen Patnaik in Odisha; other day he was in UP, paying courtesy visits to Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati. Those numerous trips to Rashtrapati Bhavan with his petitions. Catching up with Rahul Gandhi all too often.

PR machinery was in full swing. Naidu, Naidu everywhere. His trademark safari suit, the wiry frame of an Abraham Lincoln, trimmed salt and pepper beard, no wonder Naidu saw a Moses in himself who would have the entire opposition wading into a sea behind him. He would lead India into a vision of his own, Modi would be driven out in the Bay of Bengal, history would remember him as a saviour.

Unfortunately, all of it was a bluff. We knew it from the day he threw a tantrum against BJP/NDA for not giving Andhra Pradesh the “special status.” The welfare of his state was never on his mind: after all BJP was giving the state much more than AP would’ve got with the “special status.” But Naidu was a clever fox, wasn’t he. He wanted to take the steam out of Jagan Reddy’s campaign for “special status.” Hijack his rival’s agenda. Turn his medicine into a poison. Ready to rule Andhra, and the country, till the sun sets on him.

There is little that differentiates delusion from senility. Cultivating an image is one thing, but believing in it is tragic. (yes, yes, yes, I also have Navjot Singh Sidhu in mind as I write this). Naidu’s ego must have been fed by the opponents around him. Wasn’t 2014 too recent when he won 117 seats in the assembly; there were as many as 17 members of his party in the Parliament.  He saw himself as a kingmaker. One who could make Narendra Modi dance to his tune.

We all know how the cookie crumbled. Modi didn’t fall for Naidu’s blackmail. No concession on “special status.” You want to leave NDA, please go ahead. Naidu was caught in his own trap. Ominously Amit Shah declared two months before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls: Naidu would be a fool if he believed he would be welcomed back in the fold.

Now Naidu has been hung out to dry. He is about to turn 70. Life and energy are in its final phase. Humiliations are piling in. It looks a sorry end for him; like he inflicted on his father-in-law NT Rama Rao who had trusted him with his daughter and the reins of his party. (In his last interview, NT Rama Rao compared himself to Mughal emperor Shah Jahan who had been imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb, in this case Chandrababu Naidu).

History often has a tragic way of repeating itself.

 

Oath-ceremony: It seems Modi’s NARA has fallen on deaf ears

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It’s very disturbing that a number of chief ministers are skipping the oath-taking ceremony of Narendra Modi’s second tenure at Rashtrapati Bhavan this evening (May 30, 2019).

Out of 29 states in the Indian Union, the chief ministers of West Bengal, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Odisha have decided to skip the events. That’s combined representatives of 32 crores in India’s total population of 1.3 billion people, or quarter of Indian citizens.

Some have cited prior engagements (Kamal Nath, Bhupesh Baghel), some have forwarded no reason (Ashok Gehlot, Capt. Amrinder Singh) while one, Mamata Banerjee, typically is her churlish self. (Pinaryi Vijayan of Kerala is no longer CM of Kerala but he too is abstaining).

Mamata first agreed and then declined at the last minute to be in the ceremony in protest to the invitations being sent to kin of 54 murdered BJP workers in her state. That’s how her reasoning went in a tweet:

“I am seeing media reports that BJP are claiming 54 people have been murdered in political violence in Bengal. This is completely untrue…an opportunity (for BJP) to settle political scores. Please excuse me.”

Let’s first get this out of the way before we ponder the larger issue involved in opposition leaders boycotting the oath ceremony. Short that her memory is, Mamata Banerjee doesn’t remember May 20, 2011 when she first took the oath as chief minister of Bengal with the families of Nandigram and Singur victims in tow in Kolkata. She had then accused the outgoing Left Front of letting loose a reign of terror. It’s also worth reminding her—all liars deserve be shown the mirror—that outgoing chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who she had accused of ordering the killings, attended Banerjee’s oath-taking ceremony along with Left Front’s chairman, Biman Bose.

Now to the larger issue. We all remember how Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed the Central Hall of Parliament after his stunning sweep in the 17th Lok Sabha last week. He had spoken about NARA (National Ambition Regional Aspirations). It was a commitment to nurture regional aspirations. It was a commitment to India’s Constitution.

India’s Constitution has laid out a federal structure for the Indian government. It’s a “Union of States.” Part XI of the Indian Constitution defines the distribution of legislative, administrative and executive powers between the Union/Federal/Central governments and the states of India. The legislative powers come under a Union List, a State List and a Concurrent list.

Scan the list of powers distributed between the Union an States and you would’ve an idea of the powers—and responsibility–that Constitution bestows on Indian states. From law and order, police force, healthcare, land policy, electricity, transport, village administration etc, the States are powerful to the extent that they could be only over-ruled by two-third majority vote in Rajya Sabha. But for issues of national importance, of the integrity and unity of India—defence, foreign affairs, railways and communication etc—states are almost autonomous.

There is no prize for second-guessing why the reigning/outgoing chief ministers are boycotting the oath-taking ceremony.  Mamata is wobbling (23 in 42 Bengal);  Kamal Nath (1  in 29 in Madhya Pradesh), Ashok Gehlot (0 in 25 of Rajasthan), Baghel (3 in 11 in Chattisgarh) lay mangled as is Pinaryi Vijayan of CPIM (1 out of 19 in Kerala). Capt. Amrinder Singh couldn’t have fallen out of his party Congress’ line. Naveen Patnaik (BJD) in Odisha has just reaped the rewards of staying aloof and becoming the chief minister for the fifth time.

While Modi could rise about the ephemeral matter of electoral politics and give a call for national unity, where different states of different caste and colour; majority and minority; rub shoulders together and look at the larger goal of India’s growth, the actions of recalcitrant opposition speaks of the personal nature of their politics, self-serving where their state and the nation is never a priority.  This after the country has moved in the new direction of Goods and Services Tax (GST).

The fractious nature of India’s opposition isn’t good for its people. We all know how schemes such as Swachh Bharat, Ayushman Bharat, Ujjwala Yojana, Awas Yojana etc were impeded by these state satraps. It didn’t help the last man in the queue of poor. The masses, in turn, exacted their revenge in the 2019 General Elections. But then these anti-people chief ministers clearly are beyond repairs. It’s not good for the people, state or the nation.

(P.S: We are glad that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are attending the oath-ceremony. So is Arvind Kejriwal. I am curious on the likes of Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, Asaduddin Owaisi or Chandrababu Naidu. Have then been invited? Perhaps no for they don’t have the locus standi to appear in the august gathering).