ABVP

Decoding Hyderabad polls: And the meaning it carries for Indian politics

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Hyderabad and its municipal elections would carry a deeper political meaning in days to come.

All this while we wondered why BJP was investing so much of its political campaign on a piddly elections. After the results are out, and BJP has been spectacular, we must read its meaning.

One of course is that Asaduddin Owaisi must watch his back. It’s no good saying that we didn’t contest all seats. But BJP won even in your backyard. It limits your options.

One, any party which aligns with you would think twice. It would be seen as pandering to the Islamist theme which in today’s terms is seen as secessionist, jihadis and standing on an anti-Hindu platform. Call it polarization if you must but that’s the ground reality. You might think you are speaking for minority Muslims but majority feel you are masking Rohingyas, trouble-makers everywhere.

Two, the likes of Mamata Banerjee, Pinaryi Vijayan etc would be back in the drawing room if they are fancying a tie-up with AIMIM post assembly elections. They would be loathe to declare Owaisi as their partner before the elections and BJP would keep pressing its thumb on that sore wound: That its rivals are hand in gloves with Islamist forces and must come clean.

Third, it doesn’t bode good for KCR at all. He faces a double whammy. One of course is that in order to control the 150-seat civic body, he would have to align with Owaisi. There is no other option. Congress with two seats is wretched and BJP is out of bounds. It compromises him ahead of the 2023 assembly elections.

Fourth, the days of dynasty politics are over in India. KC Rao was blatant in promoting his son and daughter. The nation is no longer interested in surnames, your kitchen dwellers. There was a reason how BJP cashed in on the frustration of youth—the very force which had led to creation of Telangana in the first place.

Fifth, spare us this concocted myth that BJP is nothing but a two-man show. The first man to show up in Hyderabad was Tejasvi Surya, still in his 20s; and the man in charge on ground was Bandi Sanjay Kumar, BJP state unit head, not yet 50.

It would interest readers to know that Modi had been calling up Bandi Sanjay Kumar to know which way the wind was blowing. Kumar wasn’t being treated as dirt like Congress does to its long-standing pillars, Khushboo for instance. And Kumar doesn’t carry any political heritage. Son of ordinary parents, he went through the grind of RSS, ABVP, BJP Youth Morcha etc. He twice had tickets for assembly elections and he lost on both occasions. But he wasn’t dumped. He returned with win in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. That’s how talent is spotted and invested in in the BJP.

Further, Bandi Sanjay Kumar isn’t just Telangana BJP head. He was in-charge of the BJP in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, both of which go under assembly elections in next few months. He has been kept in eye since 1996 when LK Advani, during his 35-day Suraj Rath Yatra, relied on then 19-year-old Kumar for the seamless movement of his vehicle. After a quarter of a century, he is ready.

The critics could cry themselves hoarse. They could term it brute majority, polarization, poll-machine etc but the fact is BJP is unstoppable. People are convinced of their sincerity and integrity and the benefits they could spot in their changed lives.

You want to believe you own propaganda, please go ahead. But the voters know better.

 

Indian Express drops the ball again on JNU

(This piece can also be read in NewsBred)

Indian Express of February 25, 2016 is a collector’s item. It’s imaginative, creative and like all such things it takes great liberty in dispensing with facts.

It’s imaginative for it gives a screaming full-page bottom-spread headline: “Quoting wisdom from 40 BC, misquoting Kashmiri poet (see the image),” even though there was no misquote from the person in question, Mr Venkaiah Naidu, Union Urban Development Minister. (More on it later).

It’s creative for it picks an exhortation for nationalism from ex-serviceman into a misleading headline: “Latest Wisdom: Bring a tank on JNU campus to instil nationalism in students.” (More on it later).

It’s factually wrong for it it splashes a three-decker headline: “Prof. shares piece on Khalid, ABVP burns effigy, blocks class” even as there is no mention in the report how ABVP “blocked” any student or students from attending one or any class (More on it later).

There is also the lead headline: “Smriti shines the light of treason” which could make a professor of English opt for a new paper roll in his toilet. But when agenda is an issue, language is a minor indiscretion.

All these are front-page headlines. None of them is in single column. Indeed, if there is any story other than concerning JNU row on front page, it’s a single column four paragraphs on forthcoming budget. The newspaper didn’t have space for rail budget due next day; the water crisis which has left the Capital parched or even the jat agitation where casualty is 28 by now.

What chance then there is for you to read about the unfortunate plane crash in Nepal which killed all 23 passengers aboard? The newspaper in its wisdom apparently believes that a “babu” unable to sleep at night because of worrying “mahaul”: (“Minister watching, Minority panel official says: Can’t sleep at night, mahaul -climate- worrying”) is worthy of a four-column display. Or that a retired octogenarian Supreme Court judge’s opinion on “sedition” is worth a second lead story.

All this concerned the Page One or Front Page. Let’s now move on to other pages:

Page 2:  All stories barring two again concern the issues surrounding the JNU affair.

Page 3: Just one neutral story manages to find space on again a JNU-dominated page.

Page 4:  By far the most neutral page in that just about half the page is on JNU affair.  Things possibly are looking up.

Page 5:  Darkness again. The entire page is devoted to JNU

Page 6: Not a single JNU story. Possibly the agenda is exhausted after all.

Page 7: Not a chance. The Jat agitation is blamed on—you guessed it right—JNU. This story takes up more than half the page.

Page 8: Again a page where you find JNU, along with Rohith’s death, filling up all corners.

Page 9: It’s again JNU and students all over.

Page 10: The entire page is advertisements and it apparently has broken the spell.

You can’t be serious that there is no JNU representation in the hollowed edit-oped spread (Page 14-15).

In case, by now, you are wondering whether I am mistaking any JNU Express newspaper with our “Journalism of Courage,” I can only disappoint you.  It is indeed your revered newspaper. I can assure you though that you would only find business, arts and sports in their designated pages. There is no Mahesh Bhatt vowing the make his next movie on JNU affair or Indian cricket refusing to play for they are upset with JNU affair. (Oh my god, I might just have given them an idea!).

There is a saying: If your head is in the sand, your butt is in the air.

But let’s return to the unfinished “more-on-it-later” theme which I have mentioned at the start of the column.

Quoting wisdom from 40 BC, misquoting Kashmiri poet: The story begin with scarcely concealed contempt for Smriti Irani for having invoked a quote from 40 BC (they call it BCE now, you silly, unless you feel all your readers are Christians) to justify something in 2016.

(Ms Irani: you said you didn’t want to quote any Hindu sage lest be mistaken for a communal leaning. But quote you might anyone, you would still be up for ridicule).

But our real thrust is “Misquoting Kashmiri poet.” For the life of me, I couldn’t see how Naidu has misquoted this poet. The news item itself says that Naidu mistook it for a criticism of Modi government.

So the newspaper doesn’t see any difference between “misquote” and “mistook.” Quote comes with quotation marks. Mistook is a matter of interpretation. To replace one with another is mischievous.

Ironically, the newspaper itself misquotes on just the story above this one.  It quotes a disgruntled minority commission additional secretary for saying “situation in the country is not allowing him to sleep peacefully,” even though newspaper admits that the official “reportedly” said it. The reporter’s source must be more than impeccable for a description from a third party he has deemed fit to put in quotes.

Latest wisdom:  Bring a tank on JNU campus to instill nationalism in students:  The story says a delegation of ex-servicemen met the JNU vice-chancellor and suggested ways to have a memorial on martyred soldiers inside the campus. Among the ways to make it happen, “the university is considering a wall of fame, showcasing a military tank or artillery…”

The import of this statement is laudatory. Still the newspaper’s headline makes it sound as if live tanks would roll down inside the JNU campus (a la Tiananmen Square in China in 1989).

The newspaper also buries in the end a reaction to US envoy Richard Verma’s comment on the “freedom of speech”.  “(We) Challenge Verma to allow celebration of Osama (bin Laden) in any university in the US,,.”

Prof shares piece on Khalid, ABVP burns effigy, blocks class:  The piece begins with the sentence that ABVP disrupted classes at the Lucknow University.

The story doesn’t have any mention of which classes were disrupted. It just mentions that students protested outside the sociology department. So, how and which class was “blocked ?”

It’s such an in-your-face Indian Express edition that the readers must brace themselves for more of it in days, months and years to come. (God helps the rail budge tomorrow). If it is not Dadri killing or “intolerance debate” or Aamir Khan’s concern or JNU, it would be something else it would pick up to raise the hackles on communalism and intolerance under the Modi government.

We would be watching. We would urge the newspaper to be its own conscience and live up to its reputation of “journalism of courage.”