Gandhis

Indian Express is specious on “Gupkar Gang” and Kargil analogy. Here’s why!

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Indian Express is being specious in showing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as double-tongued in calling its rivals as “Gupkar Gang” and yet being ally with National Conference (NC) in Kargil, Ladakh.

There is an editorial too in the newspaper in delicious English which to writers is orgasmic. Let’s first get a few basics out of the way in case you are joining this match in slog overs.

Jammu and Kashmir ceased being a state on August 5, 2019. Regional satraps, Abdullahs (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti (PDP) went into house arrest. All are released now. All want the erstwhile special status for Jammu and Kashmir, now a Union Territory, restored. Farooq Abdullah is publicly asking China–the gravest threat as an entity—if it could help.

Meanwhile, the Centre pushed the political process in motion through elections. It began small, at the district level. The one of LAHDC (Leh)—Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council—was held last month. BJP secured a majority. The one in LAHDC (Kargil) is some three years away. In the present Kargil body, elected in 2018, National Conference heads an alliance of 26 elected members. Three of them are from the BJP.

Now the District Development Council (DDC) elections in the other Union Territory, Jammu and Kashmir, are due from November 28 in eight phases. All the regional satraps of the region have joined hands. They did so under the Gupkar Declaration which was an understanding amongst them to restore the special status of J and K. But afraid of missing the bus, they have buried their differences and to hell with J and K’s autonomy. They can’t let DDC elections go. Congress is a part of it, the alliance—People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) having fielded three Congress candidates in the list for first three phases so far.

That has led to Union home minister Amit Shah calling them a “Gupkar Gang.” And that it’s anti-national. And that Congress must specify if they stand with the forces who want Article 370 and Article 35A restored. And now this alliance is blowing back the hot air through the nozzles of tweets and co-opted media such as Indian Express.

So first spot the difference papered over by Indian Express. One, NC and BJP were never in pre-poll alliance in Kargil like Gupkar-Congress is in Jammu and Kashmir. Two, Kargil is not wanting the restoration of Article 370 and 35A as is being done in Jammu and Kashmir. Three, NC in Jammu and Kashmir is as different from one in Kargil as chalk is from cheese. As an analogy refer to Punjab: Captain Amarinder Singh is a Congress chief minister but practically independent. If it wasn’t so the Gandhis wouldn’t have left Navjot Singh Sidhu at his tail.

But Kargil is still in a lower pecking order of Indian Express. The newspaper’s lead today is that Centre is afraid and has practically put the Alliance’s candidate under house arrest. How would they campaign? Meanwhile, the newspaper alleges that the representatives of BJP and its allies are roaming free with a police escort in tow. These are serious charges and one would wait a few hours before I could share its nuances with you.

On a broader point though BJP can’t be afraid. Even if they lose DDC elections, it won’t change things on the ground. It would only cost them talking shop. Article 370 and 35A would remain a thing of the past. And Gupkaris, please stop doing this charade of special status for your beloved J and K. You are now queuing up to join the new J and K. Admit that the sham of “J and K of past” is just a façade to reclaim your dynasty. Arguably to hand it over to Pakistan–and Chin–by default. Your hapless citizens, all this while, have only been a tool to yield dividends.

All it would do is to afford Abudllahs and Mehbooa a toehold over the ground slipping under their feet. They would have a semblance of power and it would help keep sheep under the flock, whatever is left. It would keep them in the news. In editorials of the likes of Indian Express. But they have been marginalized. Glory is a thing of the past. Its shadow—like of Roshni land scam—is lengthening.

If anything, Farooq Abdullah should be grateful he hasn’t been brought under a sedition charge for openly calling for China when India has an existential issue with the giant neighbour. India is bleeding men and money. You can’t have someone open the front doors and usher the enemy in.

 

Where does Modi go from this Bihar high? Is this bugle of triumph also one of warning?

(It’s a reprint from NewsBred).

There is a reason for prime minister Narendra Modi to have an extra cup of tea which he loves so much in the morning. There are breakthroughs in Telangana and Manipur; a reaffirmation in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh; and Madhya Pradesh sealed for years to come. And then there is Bihar.

And he could afford to smell roses too in his garden now that the foul air of Covid-19, migrants trek, China-at-gate, economic tsunami, engineered anti-CAA etc harnessed by the devil siblings of Opposition and prepaid media has blown back on their faces. Even Hathras didn’t work.

This morning though the tea won’t be the same for regional satraps of Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Tamil Nadu who have an assembly election to defend in next few months. A couple of them are allies who suspect they would be soon out of breath in keeping pace with such a driven partner. They don’t have to speak to Uddhav Thackeray or Nitish Kumar. They know it in heart.

It brings us to two existential questions in India’s political landscape: Are BJP and allies actually enemies sleeping in the same bed?

The basic premise of this puzzle of course is whether the two need each other. BJP didn’t concede to Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and I am sure there must be second thoughts within if it was judicious. Hindu vote is divided in any case, if not stupid. Why fragment it further? It has allowed the Pawars and Gandhis a stroll in the power corridors. Shiromani Akal Dal (SAD) was better to be without since it was cohabiting with farmer mafia while BJP is committed to rid India of weeds on the ground.

Politics is vision. But it’s also about staying in the present. BJP need to be both pragmatic and principled with allies. Only a fool can’t see that the Rest are coming together en masse: It doesn’t matter if they were enemies (BSP-SP; NCP-Congress, JD (S)-Congress, PDP-NC) only till recently. They are sinking and would hold on to any straw. They would get wiser—if not by 2017 UP then surely by 2020 Bihar–that caste piper isn’t quite belting out the chartbusters. They would band aid the pockmarks of corruption. They would woo the masses which so far were not even worthy of their contempt. They would rely less on media and friends-in-courtrooms now that it no longer is cutting the ice.

They of course are on the pitch of anarchy for some time. To their minds, they have already dispensed with umpires, third umpires and DRS etc. It has helped them in paralyzing the Centre, bound as it is by its Constitutional vows. What voters can’t deliver, villains might.

All those who stand with you, matter

It ought to be BJP’s goal to be in power, state after state. It can’t do without allies. It would have to allay their reasonable fears. Like it can’t afford to let go both Chirag Paswan and Nitish Kumar in Bihar. BJP might have a vision for India and its friends might suffer from cataract but then who said it’s an ideal world. You need every that voice, every that whiff, every that ray which could brighten your cause. Most have baser instincts, shallow interests, malleable emotions. But even those who just stand with you, matter.

So instead of a mere blinkered vision, BJP needs to look around and greet those who could say hello in return. It must account for inadequacies of others. It’s too straight-jacket and regimented with its friends. It can’t be that BJP is afraid of criticisms. If it was so, Yogi Adityanath wouldn’t have become CM of Uttar Pradesh; Article 370 would still have been a thorn, CAA-NRC would have gone into files by now. But BJP only harps on development. It doesn’t on discourse. They need to cultivate allies; they need to empower voices rooting for them to do good to Mother India.

It’s a seminal moment in India’s history. In millenniums. BJP can’t let it go only because its rulebook is cast in stone. It has to take every single voice along. And it has to stamp the hood of serpent into ground. It would be a Prithviraj Chauhan if it lets go the moment against Muhammad Ghori.  It would be a mistake to think that chorus is not contributing to the melody. Keep them in the background but keep them on the dais. Rise to their defence even if it’s unsavoury to your style. Men like Arnab Goswami, for instance, need you now. Niceties could wait.

So take your time as you finish your tea, Mr Modi. But open your gates a little wider, your drawing room a little more spacious, and summon extra chairs in the garden. There are more hues in the painting than just winning elections on the plank of bettering masses. There are independent voices, perhaps too stray and too disparate to matter to you or BJP. But they are helping the wider discourse. It would matter to you and India in longer run. Embrace them as you go forward.

 

 

 

Manmohan Singh and the winter of public life

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The winter of public life is setting upon Dr. Manmohan Singh.  By all accounts, it is doing no good to his feeble frame. Or self-esteem, never mind it wasn’t on rack under the canopy of the Gandhis in the first place.

The 87-year-old former Prime Minister, twice over, is battling on many fronts and it isn’t just the aftereffects of multiple cardiac bypass surgeries he has had to endure on self. He seems to have been let down by his own women and men, or mother-son duo if you may, though the news doing public rounds is his anger the ruling dispensation of BJP at the Centre.

The latest bit is Dr. Singh’s refusal to accept the trimmed numbers of his personal staff to five—two each personal assistants and peons and one lower-division clerk—against the 14 he perceives is his right. Dr. Singh has been pretty dogged in pursuing the matter and given the number of letters he has shot across to PMO, one could only say that his one lower-division clerk is worth every single penny.

It’s a cry in wilderness for nothing. A man who was used to 500 persons crowding PMO for a decade, is now left with just five. It’s a cut as drastic as the surgical strike he did on state-command economy in the 90s. The setback is as much functional as psychological. You need translators and stenographers; Photostat operators and dispatch riders, drivers, carpenters and even cook!  There are weekly offs, one or two on leave due to marriage in neighbourhood, and who pays for overtime in case the assistant is asked to stay back for second shift?

There are bound to be letters and invitations to a man who once presided over the destiny of 1.30 billion people, even if by remote.  Phones must be ringing incessantly. Door bells being pressed all so often. A posse of doctors and nurses pacing up and down the hall. Rent-a-quote journalists from The Indian Express and The Hindu spread on the couches of the living room. It’s a fair bit of nuisance.

A prime minister leaving his office is still worth the rank of a cabinet minister, says the rulebook. But it’s only for five years after he demits his office. It’s Modi’s second term now. Privileges aren’t for life, you see.

Can’t Dr Singh engage his own staff? But then he is no longer a Prime Minister drawing a salary of Rs 1.6 lakhs. He is no longer a Member of Parliament from Rajya Sabha too which is worth a lakh of rupees every month. (How he must be cursing the mother-son duo of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi who moved heavens to get an Ahmed Patel elected to Rajya Sabha but didn’t twitch an eyebrow in dumping Dr. Singh’s candidature).

Don’t you believe that only because he presided over a scam-ridden UPA regime, Dr. Singh is cash rich. For many a years, he drove Maruti 800. If Khushwant Singh’s book, “Absolute Khuswant” isn’t as fake as his Sikh history, and he wasn’t under the influence of wine or women or both, Dr. Singh once borrowed Rs 2 lakhs from him to fight the 1991 Lok Sabha elections. Dr. Singh’s progenies are academicians like him. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are saving for the rainy days. Besides, what could you expect from a man who publicly tore your policy papers in front of whirring cameras? Or a Congress who saw him fit for no role during the 2019 General Elections even though the party was fighting for its’ life?

Modi doesn’t look a man who would junk the rulebook. On his person too, Modi has a cash of only Rs 38,750 even though the fixed deposit is Rs 1.27 crores (as per the details in his 2019 Poll affidavit).  How could the present PM help an ex-PM? Could Dr. Singh appeal to former vice-president Hamid Ansari and his Muslim brethren given how charitable he was in declaring Muslims to have the first right on India’s resources? Could Capt. Amrinder Singh listen to the wails of a fellow Sikh  and override his seething anger against the High Command who have unleashed a barking Navjot Singh Sidhu on his coattails?

Dr Singh has practically come to an end to his public life. Neither his own men and women want him, nor does the ruling dispensation have any affinity for him. Public base for Dr. Singh in any case was flimsy.  He flourished on the benign grants of Congress’ aristocracy. The plank has now been pulled from under his feet. And he doesn’t even have a straw to clutch on to. But then when Lutyens Delhi has been kind to even its own deities?

 

Lutyens Media are now at Kumaraswamy’s throat

Coincidences do happen. Both Times of India and Hindustan Times took the editorial route to chide HD Kumaraswamy on Tuesday. Next day, an Indian Express edit scolded the Karnataka chief minister. All three hags from the Lutyens’ Media were fuming.  All three were lecturing HDK to understand the “reality” of coalition. To understand that as a senior party, Congress has a right to be a bull in the china shop.  All coincidences, isn’t it.

Hindustan Times felt it’s nothing but drama from Kumaraswamy. Strange, for Arvind Kejriwal has been doing his “drama” for four years and yet escaped HT’s attention. The newspaper cited roads, power supply, garbage as issues dogging Bangalore. All these happen at a grander scale in Delhi. Right under its nose. But the stench never reaches the nostrils of these pen-pushers. Meanwhile, Congress has all its support: “It’s natural it (Congress) wishes itself to be taken into account before a major decision.” Wah, when it’s matter of allies of BJP, it’s the latter which is being “autocratic” and riding roughshod over its juniors. But in the matter of Congress, it’s juniors who must hide their tails between the legs. Pathetic, I say.

Times of India, says almost the same thing, the same day, the same lead on its edit page. Only coincidences, I understand. It wants Kumaraswamy “must accept this reality and soldier on” for in a situation of collapse, the “prime beneficiary would be BJP.” It warns HDK that his public lament would “not be music to voters.” Bravo.

And that must not happen, isn’t it. BJP must not benefit. Innocent, gullible voting cattles must not see this wrong connection which has made a mockery of democracy. Kumaraswamy has been given the chief minister’s chair and he must act like Manmohan Singh (yes, that’s the exact advice Times of India gives to HDK!). Sealed lips, zero conscience.

Indian Express wants Kumaraswamy to understand “asserting his control over the coalition would be difficult.” The “journalism of courage” doesn’t explain how the Chief Minister could run when the dogs are tugging at his dhoti. Or, without his allies behind him, how he could push through legislation in the state assembly.  It also gives HDK a lecture in statecraft: “people hate tears.” Ask Pushpa (yes, it draws analogy from movie Amar Prem-that’s the  seriousness it accords to the matter).

The newspaper terms it “idle tears” for if Kumaraswamy is serious he must give way to a colleague of his to run the government. I wish Indian Express had the courage to offer the same advice to Congress. Likes Gandhis, JD(S) is also all about Gowdas. They are dynasts no less. Would Rahul Gandhi step aside only because Congress is in a coma?

None of these three newspapers steel their spine and address a simple logic: If Kumaraswamy is distraught, if he is crying in public, could it be because Congress MLAs have made his life hell in Bangalore. And if it’s so why Congress is not reining them in? Is it because Congress simply can’t for the MLAs would then run under the BJP’s banyan tree? Why blame one opportunist when the other has turned it into an art form in last 70 years?

But then Congress is a different matter. It’s a holy cow with hind legs of a horse which can kick you in your teeth. The milky diet that you are fed on would be withdrawn. Hello Lutyens Media, why do the sham of being worried about democracy and a billion-plus people of this country? Why not concede you are lackeys and little else?