Akhilesh Yadav

Is Indian media hand in gloves with Arvind Kejriwal?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Since our newspapers don’t ask a few simple questions to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, could we the readers pose a few and then judge if the two could be acting in concert? Accomplices hidden in plain sight?

Indian Express is gushing today how effusive are 1000 pilgrims in praise of their CM for “sponsoring” a trip to Amritsar under the Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra Yojana (Chief Minister’s Pilgrimage Plan); the second one is planned for Delhi-Vaishno Devi-Jammu route on July 20-24. The massive lead story on “The City” page also has a three-column photo, bettered only by a four-column image in The Hindu. These newspapers of course haven’t written a single line in a fortnight on the silence of Kejriwal since a 100-year-old Durga Temple was vandalized in the very Capital which mandated for his party. Couldn’t they see this man is protecting Muslim votebank on one hand and pandering to Hindu votes with the other? Anyone communal please?

(See this classic image with the piece, courtesy The Hindu. Red carpet welcome at the railway platform, images of “Kejriwal” (mask) carrying elders like Shravan Kumar did to his parents in a basket on a pilgrimage).

In the wake of 2019 Lok Sabha disaster where AAP won only one seat, a panicky Kejriwal mooted free rides to Delhi women on metro and buses. Our newspapers, page after page, had full-page advertisements on one side and screaming reports and interviews on the other, lauding the move. The bubble was first pricked by Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs (Hardeep Puri) and then by everyone’s metro man (E. Sreedharan). Kejri had apparently announced the scheme even without submitting the proposal to its partner, the Union government!

Without as much as batting an eyelid, Kejriwal’s revised pitch restricted itself to free ride for women in only Delhi buses before it too was deflated: But sir, what’s to your promise of CCTVs in buses to help women’s security? This litany of lies were exposed by government ministers/officials but elicited not a single comment from our newspapers.

AAP is gung-ho about what it has done to improve schools and education in the Capital. No newspaper has questioned: But sir what’s happened to your election manifesto of hundreds of schools in the Capital? How many have been built?

Have the newspapers questioned: Kejri sir, it’s alright you were making new friends with Lallu Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu; Akhilesh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee to save “freedom” and “democracy” but what do we make out of your tattered credentials as a credible friend when Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav, Ashutosh, Ashish Khaitan, Shazia Ilmi, CD Gopinath, Kumar Vishwas, Medha Patkar etc parted ways? We are not even talking of Anna Hazare.

Are you the same Kejriwal who once dumped his government because the people didn’t want an association with Congress and, now, was seen begging for an alliance for the 2019 Polls? The same man whose crusade against the “corrupt” ended in apologies to Gadkaris and Jaitleys? The same man who didn’t want the perks of VVIPs and is now deep into it?

Have our newspapers questioned: When your friends are distrustful of you what makes you think the nation would trust you? Isn’t it evident in results of assembly elections in Punjab, Haryana, Goa where a majority of your candidates lost deposits? Shouldn’t you be sent to a desolate island for such wholesome betrayal of people who gave Delhi on a plate to your AAP within two years of its formation?

But no, our newspapers are gushing. Readers can’t see the “deep state” which nurtures both but the telltale evidence of Kejriwal’s “dole” to newspapers in the form of government advertisements—around Rs 1000 crores on publicity in five years—is in plain sight. It has fallen foul of CAG but our newspapers are deaf to the uproar.

AAP had taken hold of everyone’s imagination because it catered to primarily urban voters who were disenchanted with the chicanery of political parties. It was seen as creating a parallel political paradigm. Parallel democracy, if you may. We now know better that it was a ruse to fuel the personal ambition of one man. But read our newspapers and you would get no sniff of such betrayal of masses.

 

Rahul Gandhi, your resignation is fooling no one

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Rahul Gandhi is going nowhere. His resignation is an exercise in power without responsibility. True to his lineage, Mr Gandhi feels that he could fool all the people all the time.

His letter leaves no one in doubt that Rahul Gandhi has quit as president for good. It also leaves no one in doubt that like a loyal worker, he would continue to work for the Congress against BJP and RSS who are in conflict with his idea of India.

He may or may not be president till July 10 when the Congress Working Committee (CWC) is likely to be dissolved and a new one formed. An interim president, Sushil Kumar Shinde or Mallikarjun Kharge, both nearing 80, would be asked to usher in a new Congress. Nobody gets a penny for predicting that Sonia Gandhi and her kids, Rahul and Priyanka, would be a part of it. Nobody would receive a dime too for predicting that the likes of Anand Sharma and Ghulam Nabi Azad, would still be doing the errands for them.

For a month and half, since the 2019 results came in and a Congress-mukt bharat became a reality—they don’t have a single seat in 16 states—the resignation drama has been an attempt to trade ridicule with sympathy. To hide the stink of a rotting corpse, a whiff of nostalgia has been floated. The young prince charming, all of 49, a bachelor who forsake good things in life and fought for his idea of India. The one who took on the might of Modi, BJP and RSS; who fought even as one by one all institutions were taken over, who traded hate with his brand of love, was an individual against the entire system.

Sure, the drama is well orchestrated. Before you could blame him for his party’s defeat, for his own humiliation in Amethi, for believing anti-Modi tirade would make up for the deficit in vision, for refusing allies only because a few states fell in his lap before the 2019 polls, for courting Hindus and losing his Muslim votebank, Mr Gandhi took the sting out of the horde at his gate by showing he is disarmed. How could you now punish a man who has swung an axe on his own neck?

Make no mistake: Gandhis are only worried about themselves, not about Congress or India. It’s only a bail which is standing in between Gandhis and jail. Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra has the additional worry on her husband, Robert Vadra meeting the same fate. They are pariahs even to Mamata or Mayawati or Akhilesh Yadav. Muslims no longer trust them. Shunned by public, ostracized by politicians, they can only worry about their skin.

Gandhi’s letter would’ve been hilarious if it was not tragic. He claims every institution in the country—judiciary, press, election commission etc—has been taken over by the Modi government. That’s not music to the ears of judiciary who intervened at midnight to allow Congress the batons of Karnataka. Which suffered the indignity of impeachment. Mainstream press which never wrote a single word against Gandhi. Election Commission which was reluctant to allow repolling in West Bengal.

“It’s now clear that our once cherished institutional neutrality no longer exists in India,’ Really? Was judiciary or press neutral during the Emergency? Or the august office of president? Who overturned Supreme Court on Shah Bano case? Who had taken over India’s institutions in the past?

In many ways Rahul Gandhi is inconsequential. He is an individual busy saving his skin. The bigger question is who saves Congress? Who saves the Grand Old Party when its’ very saviours are busy digging up its grave.

 

 

 

One Nation, One Poll: Why Maya, Akhilesh or Owaisi dread it

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

If you were to ask the majority of this country if they want “One Nation, One Poll” the answer would be an overwhelming yes.

People might not have the figures–Rs 6,000 crores on exchequer alone in recent Lok Sabha Polls and many times more by parties and candidates; Or  the numbers on manpower—one assembly seat in Lucknow alone has over 300 polling booths and engages 2000 men on polling day; Or the imagination to guess how many lakhs of police, para-military forces, bureaucracy are pressed into service. Yet, they can sense a gap in their daily lives like a drawn tooth.

The erudites amongst us offer debating points we exhale in the musty air of a bar amidst gathered gentry. So Akhilesh Mishra tells us in Indian Express how it affects Rajya Sabha; how parties can make outlandish promises (Like Arvind Kejriwal on free Metro for women); how at least 15 state elections anyway fall more within a year either side of a Lok Sabha poll.

So what’s the problem?

The likes of Congress, TMC, BSP, SP, AAP, DMK, RJD, AIMIM etc sure have a problem for they stayed away from the all-party meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon on Wednesday. They saw it as an attack on the Constitution, the “federal” character of our set-up; and blurring the local and national issues which could affect a voter’s judgment.

All this is humbug. Indian voters know how to choose in a state or in a Lok Sabha elections. Constitution is for people of India and any measure which is good for them, must come into force. Such Constitutional changes could be made between ad breaks on television. IT TAKES NOTHING. As for the scaremongering on President’s Rule by stealth; what-if-government-in-Centre falls, these are easily fixable issues: E.g get the no-confidence-motion out of the way at the start of a new Parliament. And if I may ask how it has helped democracy when sworn enemies—Congress and JD (S)—joined hands only to usurp Karnataka last year?

The reason likes of BSP or SP, Congress or RJD, TMC or DMK or AIMIM don’t want “One Nation, One Poll” is caste and religion. With national issues delinked, the ones of dalits vs suvarans (upper caste); Muslims vs Hindus; Tamil or Bengali asmita easily gain currency. Narrow parochial issues keep these parties relevant. The faces of Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Asaduddin Owaisi remain in circulation. The nation loses its steam on the tracks of targeted growth.

Just recall the incidents or speeches which happen around state polls. In Delhi, it was fake attack on churches in 2015, Una incident in Gujarat, Bheema Koregaon in Maharashtra: All were intended to sharpen the caste and religious divide. “Ramzaade” vs “haraamzaade” speeches surface. Quota politics come into play. What room is there left to discuss developmental issues threadbare?

In a paper to Niti Aayog last year, Bibek Debroy and Kishore Desai offered an easy way out to the cacophony of whether state assemblies could be dramatically reduced or enlarged so as it coincides with the Lok Sabha polls. They pointed out that 15 state elections anyway fall in and around Lok Sabha dates.  The remaining states could be bunched together around the mid-way mark of a Lok Sabha term. So, one Lok Sabha elections and two for state assemblies in a span of five years, is the way forward.

It’s not to say the road ahead is easy. For, there is also this matter of panchayat elections and its 30 lakh representatives. The matter of getting all political parties aboard.

But then so was the issue with GST. It’s a reality now. There are examples galore around the world where simultaneous elections are held, including in US where a voter not only chooses his President but also 20 different representatives on a single ballot. Sweden has one election and so is the case with South Africa.

The fact is, in early years of Republic of India, elections were held simultaneously in 1951, 1957, 1962 and 1967. It fell into abeyance because assemblies began getting dissolved due to Centre’s interference. The dissolution of Lok Sabha in 1970 was the final nail which broke up the elections in India.

 

How Mamata is spared of allegations they level on Modi

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Millions of Indians today would term West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is arrogant. Or why she wouldn’t pick up the phone calls from Prime Minister Narendra Modi or returns call to state governor Keshari Nath Tripathi when crisis is as grave as Cyclone Fani or the state is sitting on a time-bomb on doctors’ agitation?

Tens and thousands of us would also call “Didi” a fascist. Or why she would jump out of her caravan and confront people who are merely chanting “Jai Shri Ram”, a matter of greeting among India’s masses?  Or why she would tell the agitating doctors to return to work within four hours or face the consequences?

Lakhs of Indians won’t deny either that she is communal in her approach, favouring Muslims and running down Hindus. Or why she would change “ramdhenu” with “rangdhenu” in textbooks? Pass the stricture that idol immersion in Durga Puja must be postponed on Muharram day?

An overwhelming numbers of us would also term Mamata Banerjee as an autocrat. Or why she would deny prominent opposition leaders, from Amit Shah to Yogi Adityanath, from landing on her turf for election rallies? Tear up the posters of BJP’s rallies? Pull up custom officials who have the temerity to stop her relatives at the airport?

A still bigger number of us would’ve no doubt that the only news emerging from West Bengal for so many days is violence.  Mamata Banerjee and her TMC must take the blame for violent politics. So rampant is the politics of blood that 34% of seats in Panchayat elections go uncontested. Or the lynchings which takes place regularly on Bengal’s streets.

None of us would also deny that Mamata Banerjee is undemocractic and unconstitutional. People (Priyanka Sharma) are jailed for posting memes on whatsapp; professors (Rakesh Sinha) is booked for inciting violence when all he has done is to visit a temple with his mother.

Millions would nod in affirmative that Mamata Banerjee resembles a dictator in Bengal. The bureaucracy is under her thumbs; police is an extension for her coercive politics and is shielded from investigations by Central agencies. She even resists interventions of Supreme Court.

Millions would’ve also heard about the ongoing Saradha, Narada and Rose Valley scams and the charges that Mamata Banerjee is corrupt. The corruption charges have engulfed her TMC party.

All too often we hear that terror network and jihadi forces are rampant in West Bengal. That terror-network Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen has taken roots in the state. The news that radicalization has taken place in madarsas in districts such as Bardhaman. That the dreaded Islamic State (IS) has named a new “emir” in West Bengal. How would Mamata Banerjee deny the allegation that she is a “secessionist” and one of India’s “tukde-tukde”gang?

Now please put all these adjectives together: arrogant, fascist, communal, autocrat, violent, undemocratic, unconstitutional, dictator, corrupt etc together. Name one person who has been called all this by India’s ecosystem in the last five years: Yes, you are right—Narendra Modi. And I challenge you to show one instance in our mainstream English media—Lutyens Media—who has ever accused Mamata Banerjee of such traits.

What is an ecosystem? Ecosystem isn’t the government in power. Ecoystem is a network of politicians, media, academicians, lawyers, bureaucrats, institutional heads, cultural czars etc who work in unison to push a particular agenda.

So think about the politicians (such as Rahul Gandhi, Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah, Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati etc), journalists (Shekhar Gupta, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt etc), laywers (Prashant Bhushan etc), academicians (Prof. Ram Chandra Guha, Faizan Mustafa, Rajmohan Gandhi etc) institutional heads (former Election Commissioners, Police Commissioners, Ex Chief Justices of India who occupy the edit pages), cultural czars (Javed Akhtar, Kamal Haasan etc) etc. Look at their twitter timelines to show me if they’ve ever accused Mamata Banerjee of being communal, autocrat, corrupt or instigating lynchings etc. How is that when rest of India has almost a similar opinion on Mamata Banerjee, these biggies who occupy our ears, eyes and minds have a completely different opinion?

It is easy for India’s ecosystem to do whataboutery. So when violence happens in Bengal, it’s both TMC and BJP who are guilty. If provocation happens, both TMC and BJP are at fault. If communal issues are flaring up, both TMC and BJP must take the blame.

But now the eco-system is in a bind. The doctors’ agitation can’t be blamed on BJP. It’s people who are rising up against Mamata Banerjee’s TMC in the state of Bengal. You can resort to propaganda against RSS and BJP, weave themes on lynchings and communalism but how do you face up to the wrath of millions. It’s the people of India who stood up to the ecosystem and showed it the mirror in the 2019 General Polls. It’s the people who are again exposing this network in rapidly deteriorating West Bengal.

As they say, you can fool some of the people all the time. But you can’t fool all the people all the time.

 

 

Biggest push for Muslims in independent India: Pay attention

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised “sabka vishwas(everyone’s trust)”in his oath ceremony. Within a fortnight his government has announced 5-crore scholarships—50% reserved for girl students—over the next five years. There are “bridge courses” for drop-outs. Madarsa teachers are to be imparted modern, scientific training.

It’s the most significant decision taken in favour of Muslims—who are main minority–in independent India.  Yet Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, Mamata Banerjee, Asaduddin Owaisi, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti—whose lifeline is Muslim votes—aren’t taking note. Our English mainstream media only took perfunctory note. The Hindu ignored the news completely.

The basic primary education of Muslims in India is distributed between madarsas, maktabs (religious schools of mosques) and Urdu-medium schools, the last one accounting for a whopping 50% of Muslim students. The drop-outs are alarming in higher education:  It’s ratio was only 4-5 per cent in 2017-2018, that too largely due to Muslim-dominated institutions such as Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).  There are only 4.9% teachers from the community in higher education.

When education doesn’t enter from the front door, jobs fly out of windows. Government jobs, public sector banks, public sector undertakings, corporate India all become out of bounds. Without jobs, living standards, health, control-on-population suffer. The downward spiral continues generation after generation.

What have the governments done to alleviate the educational malaise of Muslims in India? Under the Congress regime various exercises were taken:  Gopal Singh Minority Panel Report  (1983), National Sample Survey report, Programme of Action under the New Education Policy (1986), revised NEP (1992), Sachar Committee Report (2006) etc. But all these remained on files only: Nothing happened; the stock of Muslims remained in a free fall.

Congress isn’t alone. Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is no better. In his nearly five-years of term in Delhi, nothing has materially changed for Muslims. No growth in jobs in Delhi Metro, Delhi Police, fire department etc. All these parties do is to sell hope and fear to Muslims: a bait which nearly always worked.

Let’s look at Sachar Committee Report. In 2004 General Polls, Congress had 141 seats to BJP’s 138—an advantage of a mere three seats. The coalition politics seated Congress in the Centre.  An important input wasn’t lost on Congress:  Muslim voters had played a major role in its victory.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh didn’t mind making a shocking communal statement: Muslims have the first right on India’s resources. Sachar Committee was formed within months to pin down the reasons and draw a roadmap for socio-economic growth of Muslims. Again, all on paper with little intent.

These are the same forces who stoked Muslims’ fears on Modi’s arrival at the helm. Can’t you see there is no Muslim candidates in polls? Don’t you remember Gujarat riots? What about Babri Masjid? Why there are no Iftar parties thrown by BJP? Every stray lynching, every stray remark was woven into the narrative.

Against this optics, the substantive proof of work on the ground was ignored. One isn’t even talking the obvious of  gas, toilets, houses, health, loan benefits etc. Or the raised Haj subsidy. That hike in aids to educational institutions is meaty. Former Chancellor Zafar Sareshwala of Maulana Azad Urdu National University says that Modi government even released the withheld aid of UPA government with a substantial hike of its own. The ramped up budget of Minority Affairs ministry is eye-popping. That jobs for Muslims in Central government have doubled in last five years. No Hindu-Muslim riot has happened in Modi era. Why, even RSS is hosting Eid-Milan parties.

Triple Talaq Bill is a symbolic, if not a seminal measure in freeing one half of Muslims into shaping the growth of their family, society and nation. The corollary of lower population is an obvious benefit of an educated, empowered women force.  Modi government is seeking the three Es (Education, Employment, Empowerment) for millions of Muslims in India.

This is a good moment for Muslims in India to take stock of reality on ground: (a) There is no protest from so-called Hindutva hardliners on Modi government’s latest measure in favour of Muslims; (b) On the other hand, none of their so-called “saviours” have applauded this boon to their community.  A hard-look would show them who stand for Progress and who for Propaganda.

 

 

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).

 

 

Congress has made grave mistake in not showing Rahul Gandhi the door

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Congress has made a big mistake by trying to swim ashore for 2024 on the shoulders of Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi stays as Congress president when his party lost 170 out of 180 seats it was in a direct contest against the BJP in 2019 General Elections.

In the Hindi heartland where it has state governments, it bagged none in Rajasthan, one in Madhya Pradesh and two in Chattisgarh.

Flushed down the drain in 18 states.

A sorry two in Uttar Pradesh.

Most of its biggies—Jyotiraditya Scindia, Salman Khurshid, Shiela Dikshit, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Harish Rawat, Digvijay Singh, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Veerapan Moily, Mallikarjun Kharge—cast aside as garbage.

Even Gandhi himself locked out of doors of Amethi.

On Saturday, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) prostrated at the feet of Rahul Gandhi and vowed rather the dust gathers over them than Gandhi scion walk s out of the room. A.K. Antony didn’t “agree that it was a disastrous performance! P. Chidambaram became emotional that his Tamil Nadu  and South in general could feel betrayed; and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who history would remember less as an economist and more as a boot-licker (sorry I can’t find any other apt adjective), urged Gandhi not to make a hasty decision.

Today, you ask people of India, even those within the Congress fold, and 9 out of 10 would say Rahul Gandhi must go. We don’t even need to bother—the 2019 verdict says it. Only 54 lakh votes in Uttar Pradesh which Gandhis call their home, say it (damn, they couldn’t beat even Apna Dal). Allies like Jignesh Mewani and Chandrashekhar Azad and not Mamata, Akhilesh or Mayawati say it. But the CWC is the presiding deity. They alone can blow the conch. They alone distribute the prasada  (prayer-sweets).

Think about it. Why would Rahul Gandhi and all the President’s Men (read CWC) act as a coterie? I mean quite a few of them have been defence, finance or home ministers of this country. They know they are an object of derision in the country. Know that the party is on reed sticks in the high tide of times. Know that it’s on way to becoming irrelevant in Indian politics. Why then stick to the man who symbolizes everything which is bad for the Congress?

The answer is simple. Survival. Not of the Congress or the Country but self. Quite a few are on bail. Sons and son-in-laws are a call away from lockups. Together they could at least be heard. The Congress ecosystem would at least give them space in compromised Lutyens Media. Without Rahul or Priyanka or Sonia, who do you think would reserve front page for Anand Sharma or Ghulam Nabi Azad? How would P. Chidambaram have his column in Indian Express? Who would hear to their swagger on “saving democracy” or “freedom of speech”? Where would they find favourable judges or bureaucrats? Who would rustle up mombati-gangs or award-vapsi brigade?

Let’s look at the CWC composition. It has 25 members, three being Sonia, Priyanka and Rahul himself. Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Ambika Soni etc are hardly credible. You wouldn’t have heard of Avinash Pande or Dipak Babaria. Have you? Ok so what about Gaikhangam or Tamradhwaj Sahu? Congress could call it CWC, India views it as rubber-stamp.

The only people rejoicing in Rahul Gandhi staying put must be Lutyens Media. They need Gandhis for survival. Some of you would jump on the names of Shekhar Gupta or Sagarika Ghose; Rajdeep Sardesai or Barkha Dutt; Ravish Kumar or Vir Sanghvi etc. But singling them out is unfair. It’s the ecosystem, the filth which breeds fleas, pests and cockroaches.

That’s why I feel we would only get more of 2014-2019 in the next five years. A floating Rahul Gandhi is good for vermins and bugs. Be prepared to read the same muck in your newspapers. As long as you buy the newspaper which has Rahul Gandhi on its front page every day, this fraud would survive. When you call them out, Rahul Gandhi would lose his spell over his men. India can then attend to its business.

Think about it.

A fly on the wall of Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, “bua” and “babua”, haven’t found their voice since Exit Polls.  Mayawati hasn’t tweeted once; Akhilesh has tweeted only twice – that too no words only photo-ops with AAP and BSP leaders.

That’s unusual silence from two biggies of Uttar Pradesh.  I mean for nearly two decades, it was baton-passing between SP and BSP.  Voters elected one and ditched for the other every alternate elections. Both protected their vote-banks fiercely and it always paid dividends, what if it meant contrasting each other as black and white. Sworn enemies.

Then 2017 assembly elections happened. BJP wrested 325 seats. Both BSP and SP decimated; the latter despite holding on to coat-tails of Congress. A new arithmetic was needed. Survival was at stake. What if SP and BSP got together and Congress became cheerleaders? The experiment was pushed through a few bypolls. Gorakhpur, Kairana and Phulpur gave thumbs up. Eureka, the formula to halt BJP juggernaut had been found.

Much of the run-up to 2019 General Elections was SP-BSP projected as polestar to scattered universe of “Mahagathbandhan.” Mamata Banerjee, Chandrababu Naidu, Rahul Gandhi all were in picture but Mayawati-Akhilesh were seen as king-makers, the catalysts. UP gives 80 seats, it was the reason BJP came to power in 2014. If it goes so does Modi. The gang would be back in business.

It was a theory which couldn’t be disputed. Neither by the projection nor by the samples of Kairana, Phulpur etc. The data analyst put the committed voters of SP-BSP in a jar, gave it a good shake, and the numbers appeared twice as many to BJP. Game, set and match over.

This did put fear in the heart of BJP backers. The defeats in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan didn’t help. A storm was gathering.  Mayawati and Akhilesh were on Cloud Nine. Everyone else appeared so small. Who needs Congress? The Grand Old Party was willing for pre-poll and post-poll patch up. Wasn’t their desperation a sign that SP-BSP was the fastest gun in the town?

It’s not a postmortem. The results are yet to be out. But the silence in SP, BSP camps are deafening. Political parties don’t need to wait for results. They know the ground reality. They know the truth. SP, BSP know their game is up. The Grand-Idea was a stillborn child. Instead, anger is becoming manifest for close aides –et tu Brutus—are being held out to dry. When that happens, we know Caesar is gone.

If the corollary is right, it means Yadavs votes didn’t get transferred to Mayawati; nor the Dalits went to Akhilesh. Muslims, as per experts’ view, have also voted in a bigger number for BJP.  If that’s true, it’s a mirror to the future. If development can override caste-equations, SP and BSP have run out of fuel. Stranded on the highway, far from the decorated platforms and garlands in wait.

Mamata Banerjee perhaps would be subjected to a similar analysis. I have noted she has “Vidyasagar” photo on her twitter homepage. That issue was only trending for 12-16 hours. The moment Narendra Modi announced a bigger, costlier, better bust as a replacement, the matter lost its sting. Its’ now rotting what Mamata is adorning it as her necklace.

That’s why I say all the opposition—SP, BSP, Congress, TMC etc—are so out of touch with reality. So is Lutyens Media. Propaganda have won you elections in the past. Not any longer. Rafale, demonetization, jobs – nothing worked. Photo-ops are treadmill running, rooted to the spot. Get your hand dirty in the soil. Or be ready to be buried underneath it.

 

 

Arrest over photo-shopped image: A curse has befallen on Mamata’s Bengal

(It’s a reprint from NewsBred).

This is a poser for you, readers. Please tell us what’s common amongst Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu, Lalu Yadav, Rabri Devi, Tejaswi Yadav, Arvind Kejriwal, Ashutosh, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt, Shekhar Gupta, Naseeruddin Shah, Aamir Khan, Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Swara Bhaskar, Pritish Nandy, Vir Sanghvi, Karan Thapar, Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Raveesh Kumar, Rana Ayoob, Saba Naqvi, Ramachandra Guha, Harsh Mander, Apoorvanand, Faizan Mustafa, Siddharth Vardharajan, Sadanand Dhume, Christophe Jaffrelot etc. Stumped?

Ok, let me try to suggest a few alternatives to you: (a) They all are anti-Modi; (b) They all stand for “freedom of speech”; (c) They all are for democratic, secular values; (d) they all are against totalitarianism; (e) They all are for feminism and stand for equality and dignity of women; (f) for freedom of press; (g) they are all of the above.

One option which you all must have missed and I would name now is that they all are SILENT on arrest of BJP’s young leader Priyanka Sharma by the totalitarian government of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal. Like they were silent when CBI officers were held as hostages; police officers under probe being shielded; violence in elections; opposition candidates unable to file their nomination papers; TMC goons forcing voters favourably in polling booths; arrests on mere chants of “Jai Shri Ram”; scuttling of Ayushman Bharat only because it’s BJP’s scheme; Refusing to pick up Modi’s phone on Fani cyclone because she doesn’t consider PM a PM; refusing to let BJP land helicopters for scheduled rally; preferring Ramzan over Durga Puja; custom officials harassed only because they found 2kg gold in the bags of wife of Mamata’s nephew; number of alleged scams etc.

I cite these instances to show how fake are these forces and the ethical and moral cloak they use to hide their agenda. But at a more urgent level, this has probably encouraged Mamata Banerjee to go berserk. Look at the issue of Priyanka Sharma. She circulates a photo-shopped image of Mamata Banerjee, imposed over a latest picture of actress Priyanka Chopra. A complaint is filed and she is sent to 14-day judicial remedy. Mind you, Priyanka Sharma hasn’t created the image, only shared it. Yet amongst thousands of such shares, she alone has been made to bear the brunt of suppression. The clear corollary is that she is made to suffer because of her political affiliation which Mamata can’t stand.

Yet these forces are silent. Even as the hashtag #ISupportPriyankaSharma on twitter is building up a considerable steam. Twitteratis are so upset that they are changing profile picture with the one which has landed Priyanka Sharma in trouble. “Arrest me, if you must,” is an assertion by many twitter-users under the above hashtag. Yet none of these forces are taking note. A BJP worker is jailed for sharing photo yet it’s Modi who’s a “Hitler.”

Newspapers are wrongly defined as a bridge between people and the government. In Lutyens Media, people don’t matter. Or only a certain kind matter.  A Modi is hauled for uttering “Bhrashtachari No.1” while a Mamata Banerjee can get away literally with murder.  Remember, she recently said she would put pebbles in soil and present it as rasogoolas so it breaks Modi’s teeth? How did these forces react? Silence.

I remember an instance when RSS ideologue Prof. Rakesh Sinha had a non-bailable warrant issued against him by West Bengal police for posting a picture of his with his mother in Mahakal temple in Ujjain. The West Bengal police acted on the complaint of an individual who felt Sinha’s “provocative” picture spoilt the communal harmony in the state! An aghast Sinha didn’t know what hit him. “I haven’t even visited West Bengal in the last two years,” a baffled Prof. Sinha had said. Where was the outrage from these soldiers of “democracy”?

The sixth phase of 2019 General Elections would be over on Sunday. Election Commission, worried over history of violence in West Bengal during elections, spread the one in the state to all seven phases. Yet, even the cover of central armed forces haven’t been much of a help. In each of the six phases so far, violence has happened; cases of rigging have been reported. Yet the names mentioned above haven’t bat even an eyelid. Shekhar Gupta, head of Editors’ Guild, instead is drooling over Mamata “fighting fire with fire, venom with venom.” A Rajdeep Sardesai is gushing and asking Mamata Banerjee the secret of her energy. (Boost, of course, you terrible).

A real Mamata Banerjee is very different from the Mother Teresa-like sari she wears.  Her autobiography conveys the image of a woman who likes to play the victim card. She is deeply insecure about losing control. She is also extremely star-struck. Just look at the number of MPs, MLAs and ministers who are stars and starlets in West Bengal. A whole lot of them were recruited in 2014 General Elections. Many more have been made candidates for the 2019 General Polls. Why, she even got a few from across the border to do her bidding.

This piece is just not about naming game. The most troubling is the intimidation which any Indian citizen in any state could be subjected to by the longest arm of law in West Bengal. Judiciary hasn’t been much of a help. Nor the Centre who many believe should’ve imposed President’s Rule in West Bengal seasons ago. Even Islamic State declaring they have an emir in West Bengal hasn’t brought home the horrible truth that West Bengal could be a beehive of Islamic/Jihadists designs today.

West Bengal is slipping out of Union. All the ideals enshrined in our holy book, the Constitution, are being butchered today. The worry is, we are all being reduced to spectators. Some by design, some by helplessness. Time for a saviour. Maybe, May 23 could throw up light.

Amen.