Congress

Hold your horses, Kashmir still has unfinished business

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Kashmir was a game which the Centre played with political parties, Pakistan and the world. It was a bout without an end, round after round, with people never the coveted object.

Congress began it at India’s independence, decades passed, Nehru-Gandhis parleyed with Abdullahs and Muftis, pretty pictures all around, all like an exclusive club of democrats which kept people out of gate.

There were of course people within people, like Matryoshka dolls, some important some dispensable, like the Kashmiri Pandits, driven out of Valley without a story in our newspapers, without a word in our Parliament and state assemblies, worth not a glance by champions of “democracy” and “human rights.”

Such a set had dug their roots deep, seemingly controlling all levers of Indian state, a Pakistan and ISI away from Pakistan, often lauded by Hafiz Saeeds and Masood Azhars, ready to spill blood of tens of thousands of brave Indian soldiers, even as glasses were clinked in Pakistan embassy or global summits.

People in Kashmir were scared with the threat of the mainland; the one in mainland were made nervous by the implications of a nuclear war; newspapers, like the trumpet boys, blew “Aman ki Asha” score in the background; terror and goodwill two imposters who took turns on centrestage, every next appearance bigger and worse for the people on either side of the divide.

People in Kashmir Valley wallowed in squalor and dirt. There were no jobs to pick, only stones or AK-47; every round of bloodshed growing their hatred against the Indian army; every reality of no doctors, no dentist, no industry, no investment, no reservation, no provident fund, no private employer, no health, no power, no education, no sanitation was bludgeoned by the homilies of Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriat.  The only access to money came from bullets and bombs which were for free. Even throwing stones were worth two bucks of hundred rupees. The only language left was – you get us or we certainly would.

In two decades, by 2047, it would’ve been 100 years to the Kashmir problem. Imperial forces was too eager to fish in the troubled waters, brought its weight to bear on India’s West and East shoulders; all the while paralyzing us from taking any action.  They danced in symphony with India’s power-brokers who dressed up in different garbs of politicians and historians; media and academicians; think-tanks and activists. Self-promotion mattered; not people protection.

Kashmir won’t go out of headlines in a hurry. A few implications could only be guessed: Pakistan which has nurtured the terror monster for decades wouldn’t abandon it overnight. The state is run by its army which is the father of modern terrorism. It’s a bargaining chip they won’t surrender at a drop. If bombs can’t go off in the Valley, limbs could be strewn around in the rest of India. Our newspapers would work overtime to link every terrible incident with the fateful decision of August 5, 2019. (Don’t you know already with the lynching and Jai Shree Ram how narratives are spun).

You won’t read many positive stories on Kashmir.  Even as lives are bound to improve with the avowed promise of Amit Shah—“give us five years and see for yourself”—only blood and gore would accompany your morning tea with newspapers.  Kashmir would be made to appear a Palestine, East Timor or South Sudan. If anything, BJP would need a Kashmir wing in its information and broadcasting ministry to neutralize such bugs in the room.

It’s also not too early to say the duo of Modi-Shah would be most admired children of India’s political history.  As if Sardar Patel again took the human form in this duo to fulfill his unfinished work towards One India. Mahrana Pratap and Chattrapati Shivaji were valiant but these two are victorious. For all his virtues, Mahatma Gandhi ironically laid the basis of Partition with his morals which only served to appease. Pt Nehru’s spirit would also be at peace in grave now that it’s historical blunder is straightened out. It’s an India with eye on future and a baton in hand for inimical forces within and without.

 

 

 

Triple Talaq Bill: Are Indian Muslims now political orphans?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Indian Muslims, most of whom are political, have a difficult choice today.

They number most in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal and switch between SP and BSP; JD(U) and RJD; and CPI(M) and TMC. None of them stood by them on Triple Talaq Bill, not at least as a complete bloc.

They have been steadfast to Congress for all the independent years of India, ignoring few seats the party afforded to the community in Lok Sabha and promises which were never kept. This boat is close to capsizing now in the political churn whipped up by India’s dominant right-wing party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Worse, in five desertions in Rajya Sabha, its Gandhis and Vadras have betrayed their poor hold on the flock.

Your newspapers are unlikely to tell you that between 1952 and 1977, when Congress and Congress alone mattered, the Muslim representation was never more than seven per cent in the Lok Sabha.

Political parties, specific to Muslim identity, such as AIMIM, the Indian Union Muslim League and All-India United Democratic Front—in all there are seven Muslim parties– have looked to fish in the troubled waters. They have caught little except that Asaduddin Owaisi makes an appearance in your drawing rooms, finger-wagging and presenting his report card in newly explored regions of Maharashtra, UP and Bihar. Truth to tell, AIMIM is confined to Hyderabad alone though West Bengal has lately figured in Owaisi’s radar. Imams and Bukharis are good only for religious and moral discourse; as a political influencer, they stay in the basement.

Ironically, your Muslim and my Muslim could be two entirely different human beings.

The community is geographically dispersed across the country and is not a monolithic group. They have never voted with a singular national Muslim aspiration. Language, caste and social hierarchy fragment them; the supposed composite glass never existed. Shards on the floor are visible to even naked eyes.

India’s Liberal-Leftist media, Lutyens Media per se, have worked overtime in conjuring up Hinduphobia with an exaggerated focus on stray lynchings and the narrative of “saffron terror”in forced rendition of “Jai Shri Ram” etc but on ground, it has had had no traction whatsoever. In 80 of Lok Sabha’s 543 seats, Muslim number more than 20 per cent Yet, BJP won 58 of these 80 seats in 2019 Polls. One-fifth of UP is Muslim; yet BJP claimed 325 of 403 seats in 2017 assembly polls without fielding a single Muslim candidate!

The propagandists are elephants gone wild who are crushing the very narrative they are looking to fabricate. The signs of Muslim consolidation is nowhere but one of Hindus is visible everywhere. In constituencies where Muslims pack a punch, Hindus are coming as one in polling counters. BJP worked it out long before the first vote was cast in 2019 polls.

An average Indian Muslim today knows that beyond rhetoric, SP or BSP, JD(U) or RJD have no interest of their community at heart. Their agenda is to keep Indian Muslims poor, uneducated and thus malleable. It’s true of their last plank of hope too, i.e. Congress. They would do better to pay heed to the words of Arif Mohammad Khan who exhorts the community to uplift from within instead of blaming others for their mess. The community needs to trust India and its cultural heritage which is too big to be put on a leash even by a million Modis. It must stop looking for reservations or suffer from a persecution complex. It’s time to give up on false prophets. Educate and reform are two mantras it can’t do without.

 

History could remember Modi as one who freed up Indian Muslims

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

What do I tell which all of you already don’t know?

Maybe to my Muslim brethren who fault the Triple Talaq Bill—still not an Act till President Ram Nath Kovind puts his pen to paper– on its (a) criminal; (b) maintenance; (c) interference; and (d) whataboutery aspects that  (i) cruelty against wife is a criminal offence; (ii) maintenance provided for by erring husbands is statutory; (iii) interference citing Islam is neither borne out by Quran nor by practice since most Muslim states, including Pakistan, have outlawed it;  nor (iv)  Hindus or other minorities could escape punishment for cruelty against wife.

Maybe to those who are still smarting at the betrayal of Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), along with those avowed champions of “minorities” and “secular values” such as JD(U), TRS, RJD, TDP and NCP that when push came to shove, these parties didn’t want to be seen in the Muslim corner and stand against the overwhelming tide. Parties such as SP and BSP still have nightmares about BJP leading in 385 out of 403 assembly seats and why Muslims are no longer the vote-bank they espoused! Their personal brief honeymoon is over too.

Maybe to those who see Mehbooba Mufti as champion of Islam, a baffling fact that her two PDP members in the Rajya Sabha stayed away from the vote-count even as she kept scare-mongering that BJP was “entering into our (Muslim) homes” using the legislation. Her rival for favours in the Kashmir Valley, Omar Abdullah didn’t miss out in pointing out her double standards even as he himself kept his counsel to himself.

And then you have Arvind Kejriwal who bemoaned the loss of Muslim votes after the 2019 Polls but is now frozen to his spot on the matter of Triple Talaq Bill. This is the man who wants a survey done on government jobs to ascertain the percentage of Muslim employees and whether the low number is evidence of a deep-rooted prejudice by the system.

Maybe to those who know or don’t know the names of the Congressmen who absented themselves (namely, Vivek Tankha, Ranjib Biswal, Mukut Mithi, Pratap Bajwa and Sanjay Sinh), it may come as a surprise that they did so against the express whip of their party to be present in the Rajya Sabha proceedings. Sonia Gandhi and the two apples of her eye: Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra have cloaked themselves from the public scrutiny on Triple Talaq Bill and their writ probably doesn’t run large as it used to.

Today, the husband-wife duo of Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose; Shekhar Gupta and Barkha Dutt are like frogs in the well of silence. Gupta has donned the persona of a Sherlock Holmes as he delves into every grain of coffee that its founder, now unfortunately dead, VG Siddhartha ever managed for his enterprise, Café Coffee Day. Barkha Dutt has worked herself into a lather on the Unnao rape victim.  Sagarika Ghose is just a cryptic “I-don’t-support-Triple-Talaq” while her husband is just an anchor on the subject with no personal opinion. And you thought their calling was upholding “freedom” and “gender justice.”

All of them have been caught in a bind. You stand up for Triple Talaq Bill and you alienate the Muslim community which number over 9 crores. You rail against the Bill and earn the wrath of fair gender and not just of Muslim women.

It’s the larger picture which has left them shaken to the core. An empowered BJP would now find it easier to push for the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A.  The hoax of scare-mongering is exposed. BJP, in one stroke, has created millions of extra votes for itself. The Opposition has nothing better than a fig leaf to hide their shame. The injustice of Shah Bano has been righted after a generation’s gap.

Above all, empowering Muslim women could transform the community. It frees them up to express opinion and seek financial security, gain education and pass on the good word to their kids. It loosens the control of Mullahs and Owaisis who exert it through the boardroom of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) or the platforms of All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM).

As for Modi, history could judge him as the leader who took the first steps towards emancipation of a community which were led up the garden path by Nehru-Gandhis; Muftis and Abdullahs; Bukharis and Owaisis without deliverance.  This would be the irony of the sweetest kind.

 

Mehbooba warns India would burn; time to call her bluff

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Mehbooba Mufti is baying for blood. That is if contentious Article 35A is abrogated in Jammu & Kashmir. This is her preemptive warning to both the legislature (Parliament) and the judiciary (Supreme Court) which has a series of petitions due for a final call soon. Similar murderous intents are of Abdullahs (Farooq and Omar) which warm up the hearts of terrorists and ISI in Pakistan. The two could also count on the support of Congress who sowed the seeds of this tumor and have been steadfast in support over the last seven decades.

Mehbooba warns in a language not dissimilar to Hafiz Saeed (LeT) and Masood Azhar (JeM). She says if Article 370A is abrogated, the whole India would burn; a typical “tukde-tukde gang” delusion. This is not the first time either. She once tweeted that if Artcle 370 is scrapped, “Hindustan-waalon, tumhari-dastaan bhi na hogi dastaano mein” (O Indians, history wouldn’t even remember you once existed). Omar Abdullah has been similarly bellicose: “If Article 370 is scrapped, J & K won’t be a part of India.”

Such words dripping with violence and blood either bank on jihadis in the Valley, complicity from across the border or the identity of Islam which could work up the 200 million Muslims in other parts of the country. This is the language of the secessionists. And they could openly give a call to arms, defy the Indian state and still whistle a tune under the umbrella of Indian Constitution which has this anomaly of Article 370 and 35A.

Their latest is because the Indian state has deployed 10,000 extra forces in the Valley.  They view it as Indian state’s preparedness in the aftermath of impending scrapping of Article 35A. An overwhelming numbers in India wish if it was true. The telltale sign is that J & K is in its second year under President’s Rule which could only extend up to three years. Now or never is a logical premise.

In the name of protecting the “special and distinct culture” of J & K, Article 35A blocks refugees from West Pakistan from becoming citizens of the state; takes away the rights of a Kashmiri women once she marries anyone outside the state; and impedes other citizens of the country from setting permanently or buying property in J & K. Government jobs for them are out of bounds under J & K constitution.

The irony is if “special and distinct culture” is the basis, Article 370 and 35A must be scrapped without delay. Till 1941, Hindus in Jammu outnumbers Muslims in Kashmir Valley. Since Kashmiri Pandits were driven out, its’ this culture which is facing a historical genocide. No less than 532 out of 583 temples in the Valley have been vandalized; 52 have disappeared without a trace. Most Muslims in the Valley have ancestors who once were Hindus, incrementally converted since the rule of Sultan Sikandar Butshikan (Slayer of Idols) in the 14th century.

One of the dishes of Wazwan, a 36-course meal prepared for special occasions, is butt-haak, a spinach preparation, primarily contributed by Pandits. So has been Kahwa, a Kashmiri beverage, prepared by saffron and almond. Kashmiri dress, both of Hindus and Muslims, speak of a composite culture. Many a customs of Muslims in Valley had its origination in Kashmiri Pandits but is now under their exclusive ownership since the latter were driven out by violence.

It’s part of BJP’s manifesto to scrap Article 370 and 35A. Yet it’s also given that they won’t leapfrog the judiciary. Constitutional morality is the hallmark of Modi government. So far the court has deferred hearings at least six times since December 2018. The petitions haven’t been heard since Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi took office in October last year. Since 2014, the case has been heard over 20 times. A judgment has been delayed on various excuses such as pending talks by the interlocutor, panchayat or national elections and now the Amarnath Yatra.

But if push comes to shove, Modi government is within its Constitutional right to scrap Article 370 and 35A. It can bypass judiciary. It’s still easier now that J & K is under President’s Rule. A historic injustice is on the cusp of being corrected. Mehbooba and Omar are fire-emitting dragons who are conscious of the scimitar hanging over their nefarious designs. All you need is to call off the bluff of the bullies.

 

RTI Amendment Bill 2019 & the fake charade of Tharoor

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Andimuthu Raja of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) calls it “a dark day for democracy.” Shashi Tharoor of the Congress sees  it a bid to remove “the two greatest armours of institutional independence” and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, views it as an attack on “our democratic right to information.”

Serious isn’t it. Who doesn’t know Raja or Tharoor or Chowdhury.  I mean we all have heard of 2G licenses,  Sunanda Pushkar and “gandi naali (drainage)” slur. They are our much-in-news parliamentarians who today have hogged our newspapers for faking their concern on the amendments to the Right To Information (RTI) Act 2019.

On Monday, Lok Sabha trembled to their din on the amendment to the RTI Act, 2005. As per the amendment, the Information Commissioners (ICs) will have terms and salaries decided by the Centre, instead of being on par with those of Election Commissioners. Tharoor bristled with rage: “Are you bringing this amendment because an IC asked the PMO to reveal the PM’s educational details?” Chowdhary found it an attempt to “keep tab on the Commission and kill its freedom.” NK Premachandran of Revolutionary Socialist Party (never mind if you haven’t heard of him) is convinced the amendment is an attempt to benefit the Central government.

All this for defining the terms and salaries of Information Commissioners?

So, here are the facts. The RTI Amendment Bill 2019 in no way compromises the autonomy or independence of RTI Act 2005. The amendment leaves Section 12(4) of the Act, which ensures autonomy and independence of the Act, untouched.  The appointment of Information Commissioners (Section 12.3) is also not tampered with.

Now to the terms and salaries of Information Commissioners.  The present amendment bill seeks to amend section 27 of RTI Act 2005 which DOESN’T define the tenure and terms of conditions for the ICs in its present form!!! Does clearing “ambiguity” on RTI Act sound like a “dark day for Indian democracy” to you?

As per the RTI Act 2005, chief information commissioner is equal to Chief Election Commissioner and there by equal to a Supreme Court judge. Similarly, the state Chief Commissioner is equal to election commissioner and thereby equal to Supreme Court judge.

This itself is an anomaly, considering the fact that Election Commission is a statuary body while Supreme Court and Election Commission are constitutional bodies.

The other contradiction is that CIC and state information commissioners enjoy the status of Supreme Court judge but the verdict passed is liable to be challenged in the High Court.  The present bill seeks to correct this anomaly.  Besides this amendment hasn’t originated from the government alone but also held by several sections of society and judiciary.

For example, the Rajiv Garg vs UOI Supreme Court judgment of 2013 directed that decision be taken on uniformity of service condition of various tribunals. Similarly, the Second Reform Commission in its 13th report of April 2009 also recommended that there is need for greater uniformity in service conditions. The recent judgment of high court of Kerala states that the Chairman and member of the CAT do no occupy the exalted position of the judge of high court merely because they are given the same benefits.

The present amendment merely is enabling legislation which will authorize the government to frame the rules by amending Section 27 and to deliberate upon the tenures and terms of Central and State Information Commission through Section 13 and Section 16 of the RTI Act 2005. The amendment would further streamline and institutionalize the RTI Act and further facilitate its delivery.

BJP sources say that the commitment of Modi government to strengthen the RTI Act is manifest in the fact that it has introduced the 24-hour portal and a mobile App for convenience of filing RTI anytime, 24 hours, 365 days in a year.

The present government has also implemented Section 4 of RTI Act whereby suo motto (on its own) information is now available on all the government websites even without having to file an RTI to seek information.

The leader of the largest opposition party (read Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of Congress) is also a member of the selection committee when there is no recognized member of opposition in Lok Sabha.

And for all this good, Shashi Tharoor calls it a RTI Elimination Bill.

Said a BJP source: “Those who have vested interest in using RTI as a tool of blackmail are making motivated allegations against the RTI Amendment Bill 2019 which are totally unfounded and unsubstantiated.”

Oh is it? RTI as a tool of blackmail? So next time you read screaming headlines in the Indian Express or The Hindu or Times of India or Hindustan Times or any other Indian daily curse the mugger who might have gained behind this charade of “scrutiny” for public good.

Meanwhile, the RTI Amendment Bill was passed with 218 “yes” and 79 “no” in Lok Sabha on Monday.

 

 

India runs on Railways; So please be mindful Ms. Sonia Gandhi

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Railways was in news for different reasons last week. It wasn’t rail-budget (that the NDA government did away with in 2017 after 92 years); any train accident or cockroach in your dinner tray. It was because Sonia Gandhi, the matriarch of Congress, had opened her mouth and become a butt of joke.

Sonia makes few public speeches. But the other day, she spoke in Parliament and accused BJP of clandestinely “privatizing” Modern Coach Factory in Raebareli, Uttar Pradesh despite it producing coaches beyond its capacity. Her heart beat for thousands of employees who could be laid off. In perfect sync, All-India Railwaymen Federation (AIRF), with 1.4 million members, echoed Sonia’s fears.

Little had Sonia known of the muck it would invite on her own Congress party. Railway minister Piyush Goyal rose in reply and the skeletons of Congress regime began tumbling out. In 64 years, between 1950-2014, Congress had added only 13,000 odd tracks to its network; that Modern Coach Factory produced not a single coach since it was set in motion in 2007; and some unfinished projects in West Bengal date back from the 1970s. We would come to “privatization” bit in a while for a bigger Railways story awaits our attention.

India runs on Railways. Passenger services (11 million passengers per day) account for two-third of its operations; the remaining one-third is freight (6 lakh tonnes daily). In terms of revenue though the role reverses. Freight accounts for two-thirds of revenue. By 2050, India would account for 40 per cent of global Rail activity.

This is just a starter. India is poised to become world’s most populous nation by 2024.  Most of it would be young, needing goods and that too in double quick time. India would’ve 829 million Internet users by 2021. It’s a prospect which salivates E-commerce biggies. It also has the government drooling towards its 5 trillion-economy goal. Transportation infrastructure, along with energy, is the biggest economic growth driver for the country. A 7% or 8% growth is impossible without an efficient Railways.

The worry is most of India’s transportation business still runs on land. That’s because our railway tracks carry both passengers and freight. It slows up the goods movement to a crawl. It makes transporters wary; and the investors reluctant. They have good enough reasons too. The account book of Railways show that out of every rupee it earned, 93 paisa was spent just to keep it chugging and alive.

In comes Dedicated Freight Corridor. Demand for rail freight movement is infinite. It’s government’s priority too. Two corridors under construction are expected to be functional over the next two years. The Eastern and Western Corridor covers a total stretch of 3,360 kilometres. The Eastern Corridor stretches from Ludhiana (Punjab) to Dankunj (West Bengal) and the Western one lasts from Jawaharlal Nehru Port (Mumbai) to Dadri (Uttar Pradesh). Visit any of its sites and you would be stunned by the speed of operations in sorting out locomotive and wagon specifications, energy maximization, freight logistics, track safety, commercial and marketing plans and skill-enhancement centres etc.

Freight is a game India can’t lag behind. While inland waterways, coastal shipping, air and road transport are doing their bit, Railways has to be the prime mover to prepare India for its next decade. The matter is not just of economy, it’s of environment too. While jobs and revenue are paramount, the matter of environment is one of life and death.

Fortunately, Indian Railways has pulled up its stocks. Nearly 45 per cent of all our rail nework is electrified today and rest are running on diesel locomotive. No longer we are reliant on steam engines which are run on coal and its fossil fuel lay our environment waste. Most, if not all, of our superfast trains hav electric engines. More and more tracks are being electrified. Varanasi and Chittranjan manufacture all types of railways engines. Coach factories in Perambur, Kapurthala, Raebareli etc produce the compartments on which India runs.

And talk of passengers. Since 2000, the growth of passengers using Indian Railways has gone up by 200 per cent. It would only grow further. India needs more and more short-distance trains which are electric and power efficient. Superfast trains, lampooned by opposition, are critical too.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off India’s first semi high-speed train, Vande Bharat Express, earlier this year.  This plush 16-coach air-conditioned, self-propelled train doesn’t have a locomotive. It runs between Delhi and Varanasi with halts at Kanpur and Allahabad. The 780-km long journey is completed in eight hours and slices off three hours from it earlier duration. This is India’s fastest train to date. The looks and interiors of the train have the feel of a commercial airplane. Hold your breath, 130 similar semi high-speed trains are in the pipeline.

Sure, all this needs investment. Government is doing its bid to attract private players (General Electric is already there). Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is being sought. Public-Private Partnership is the need of the hour. Corporatization plan is mooted, like the one of Indian Railway Rolling Stock Company to hive off seven of its production units and associated workshops which Sonia Gandhi mischievously termed as “privatization.” Modernization drive has so far fetched Rs 1.21 lakh crore of investment. Indeed, the estimation is of $190 billion investment by 2050. High-speed trains could save India up to $64 billion on fuel expenses. The diesel cost presently is Rs 15000 crores per annum.

After an existence of 176 years, Indian Railways is getting the attention it deserves. No longer those railway budgets which were only meant to announce schemes and new routes and never saw the light.  It desperately needs investment and India is exploring all its avenues. To run it down as “privatization by stealth” is ethical debauchery.

 

Karnataka now, MP and Rajasthan tomorrow; Who saves Congress?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Critics are bemused; fans dismayed as Congress goes on a political ventilator. Vital organs (top leaders) and arteries (regional leaders) are giving up. Deep coma of a few decades, beckon. Can it survive?

When the patient is in ICU, it allows surgeons to do what is best. The trouble is these surgeons—Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra—can’t pick up the tools on the table.  All surgical tables have three types of instruments: (a) Cutting instruments like scissors, surgical blades, knives etc; (b) Grasping or holding instruments like forceps; and (c) Retractors, to hold the tissues and look at malaise which is beneath. Our surgeons, however, can’t feel a twitch in their frames.

One of the surgeons did make his move early. Rahul Gandhi resigned and resigned while an assortment of assistants wailed and vowed to prevail against his resolve. Priyanka Gandhi-Vandra was beholden to this virtuous man who was her brother. Mamma darling, meanwhile, pursed her lips and awaited for the inevitable offer to land on her shoulders which age and illness have slumped. What next?

Enter Congress Working Committee (CWC). This is the club of the comatose whose prime office-bearers are no other than our three surgeons. The rest are made up of walking corpses, ghosts too benign to affect a single voter and vultures who despite cleanest of clothes, trimmed beards and dyed pates, are only for interface with a servile media.

Thus our surgeons and this august club are interchangeable. The club would only do what the surgeons ask them to do. So this club could accept the resignations of Scindias and Deoras but would dither on Rahul Gandhi. It would never say no to flying resignations in the room from Telangana, Goa or Karnataka.  Maybe both the surgeons and the club should quit and replant a new setup.

Easier said than done. The precedent itself is sobering. It was once attempted in 1992, the first Congress’ organizational elections in two decades. Narasimha Rao emerged as the party president. A new CWC and All-India Congress Committee (AICC) were constituted in Tirupathi. New office-bearers and committees were constituted for two years. However, two years later in 1994, nobody quit. No fresh elections took place. The posts and its occupants were given an “indefinite extension.”

So fresh organizational elections within the Party would fool no-one. It might encourage factionalism and multiple splits to occur. Young Turks already have their hat in the ring and are smelling blood in the pool. Older ones—sample Ashok Gehlot who says Rajasthan wanted him as CM—are drawing whatever strength they could from the imbeciles like them. Nobody is losing sight that four assembly elections are slated within next few months.

Meanwhile there are practical issues too. In case both Rahul Gandhi and CWC go in a limbo, who strikes alliances and keeps regional dissidence in check? Kerala and Tamil Nadu might not be immediate issues; but what about 16 other states where they have been hammered like nails into the wall. Even the loyalists like Navjot Singh Sidhu are making public their resignations to the Congress president Rahul Gandhi: the same man who once promised to quit if Gandhi lost in Amethi.

The dark clouds of Karnataka are portending something far more sinister. This is model which would replicate itself in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan soon. MLAs would quit and the nebulous hold of the Party would be evident. The same routine of assembly Speaker holding firm, “sticking” to Constitutional values, Supreme Court nudging him to the inevitable collapse, would occur.

Another step and Congress is off the cliff. A few self-serving individuals have driven the Grand Old Party to its moment of truth. It’s a sitting duck to the winds of change. It lied on Rafale and economy and the poor didn’t buy their “Nyaya” lollipop. It ranted and railed against Narendra Modi and it didn’t work. It’s cry on “democracy”; “idea of India” and “secular values” only earned snides. That’s why the patient is left with its final few breaths. It could be born again but for that it has to die first. The point is who pulls the plug?

 

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.

 

Hindi, Hindu or Hinduism, Congress always fluffs its lines

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury looks funny in the video. I mean buttoned sleeves of a tightly-fitted white shirt with matching trousers tucked under a jeans belt near his navel, dyed remnants of what were once hair, he looks every inch a babu (clerk) we meet in dusty government offices. Very few prefer such an appearance at 63, certainly very few politicians. He could learn from the likes of Digvijay Singh, Abhishek Sanghvi, Kamal Nath or MJ Akbar who reserve their flamboyance within private walls.

But Chowdhury is no one’s Keshto Mukherjee, the drunk-comic in yesteryears’ Bollywood. He has been of invaluable use to Congress since 1991 when he cut his teeth in politics under Rajiv Gandhi’s regime. In just one generation of Gandhi dynasty, he has risen to be the leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha. There must be something about the man who could question “Why Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi are sitting in the parliament and are not behind jail” or abuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi and still earn no rebuke from his Congress high command. All within a few hours of being asked to be the leader of his party in the Lok Sabha.

Chowdhury is in the news for he has blamed his Hindi for the abuse hurled at Modi. So did Sam PitrodaMani Shankar Aiyer or for that matter Congress president Rahul Gandhi himself who kept fiddling with his mobile while President Ram Nath Kovind addressed the Parliament recently. Gandhi’s ingenuous darbari (courtier), Anand Sharma guessed Rahul baba was looking at the English translation of Kovind’s difficult Hindi words. So be it.

I now bring Shashi Tharoor into my theme which is different from offering my shoulder to a tearful man who has been overlooked as Congress leader in Lok Sabha. If I needed to lend a helping shoulder, I would’ve gone for Manish Tewari. Both Tharoor and Tewari must be sheepish around their 10-12 or whosoever is left among lackeys. But then when has talent been rewarded in Congress? They could’ve learnt from the fate of a Sachin Pilot or Jyotiraditya Scindia who are answering to old fogeys such as Ashok Gehlot or Kamal Nath with a straight face. The drubbings in Rajasthan and MP have mattered little; they are still in the groove.

I bring Shashi Tharoor on the matter of Hindi which happens to be the one issue holding this piece together. The man under a cloud on his wife’s death once confronted Sushma Swaraj in Parliament when Hindi was being pushed to be an official language in the United Nations. There are six official languages in UN—Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Hindi, despite being the fourth most spoken in the world, is ignored. Nations such as Fiji, Mauritius, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana who could support Hindi, are fighting shy of expenses involved (The procedure, translations of files, letters, drafts etc would cost a few hundred crores). Tharoor objected to Hindi being pushed as a national language in the UN when it’s only an official language in India. (Talk of tomfoolery!).

Tharoor would’ve none of it even as Swaraj pointed out at least two prime ministers, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi, for having addressed the UN in Hindi. That, when visiting dignitaries speak in their local language (other than English), Indian representatives too prefer speaking in Hindi. Tharoor was to argue: “Why should we put our future foreign ministers and Prime Ministers who may be from Tamil Nadu put in a (awkward) position?”

It’s only incidental that all the names who have had faux pas on Hindi are from Congress party. No, no, I am not trying to drive home the point that they have something against Hindi, Hindu and Hinduism. I am not a (Randeep) Soorjewala who would take a shot even if it is below the belt. Mine is a larger point: Why speak Hindi and later apologize if you are not good at it? Or even a Hindi translator around you would be a discredit to your “secular” pretensions?

The fact is you can’t avoid Hindi and hope to rule India. One/third of the country is Hindi-speaking. Over 45 crores in a population of 1.30 billion. Most Indians, even if they are from north east, south, east or west understand Hindi. Would the same be said about Tamil, what say Mr Tharoor?

So speaking Hindi is a compulsion for politicians, even the reluctant ones of Congress. It’s another matter they speak in haste and repent at leisure. Till they get better at Hindi, expect such gaffes and the entertainment that follows.

 

 

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.