GST

Modi is India’s greatest prime minister by a distance—here’s why

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The very headline demands a comparison. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had his own view of India, not the one he shared with his mentor Mahatma Gandhi. Views on science was one thing, Hindus were another. Gandhi’s India was more than just Hindus, often at its cost. Nehru’s India could do without Hindus. For their own reasons, almost a century they shared between them (1869-1964), never made Hindus a political question.  Hindus, “the bloodiest story in human history” as historian Will Durant put it, remained unattended.

Indira Gandhi didn’t burden herself with the weight of ideology. Power was all that mattered. Two notables which she is credited with, probably owed little to her. The liberation of Bangladesh was an Indian army’s gift. Indeed, New Delhi held back the permission to storm Dhaka well beyond the expiry date. The storming of Golden Temple, and clearing of Sant Jarnail Bhindranwale and his proverbial 40 henchmen, was the outcome of her own experiment which went horribly wrong. Between the imposition of the Emergency and her butchering of Constitution–“secular” and all–it’s difficult to say which was worse.

Rajiv Gandhi, the reluctant politician, was terrible on Sri Lanka’s Tamil issue. He paid with his life in the end. He also apparently had a blood-streak in him which his velvety profile hid well. Ask the survivors of 1984 Sikh Progrom, it’s justice in perpetual limbo.  He also carried on the tradition of Muslim appeasement which under Mahatma Gandhi had cost India  its western and eastern arms.  He upturned the Supreme Court verdict on Shah Bano which had granted the divorced woman the right to alimony. Sharia Law had trumped democracy. India was rightly perceived to be a soft state by fundamentalists.  It gave wind to separatists in Kashmir.

Thereafter, terrorism became the headlines. Hindus were shown the chimera of independence as lakhs of them were driven out of Kashmir Valley. Atal Behari Vajpayee favoured peace with Pakistan and got Kargil in return. Vajpayee was no ordinary leader though. He made India nuclear. It was a game changer in India’s security doctrine. Vajpayee also did bold reforms in education and infrastructure.

Manmohan Singh was an economist at the service of politicians. He was a dummy prime minister, an accidental one, who turned a blind eye to scams dancing -under his chair. Pamphleteers give him credit for opening up the Indian economy. In essence, he only carried out the dictates of his prime minister Narasimha Rao who didn’t belong to Nehru-Gandhi clan. His has been a pursuit of power, of communal bias— “Muslims have the first right on India’s resources” – and between visits to hospitals, he is presently panting for a Rajya Sabha seat.

In all these pre-Modi years, India wrestled with hunger, wars and terrorism as its three key moments. In the 60s, India was without food. Wars bloodied its earth virtually every decade. Terrorism brought death to cities after 1990. Mumbai’s 26/11 was as big a psychological scar to India as battles of Panipat from Babur to Ahmed Shah Abdali. Rich made the best of licence raj; poor couldn’t even enter a park. Police and bank accounts were out of bounds. Subsidies were for the middlemen. Entrepreneurship a sin and a road to suicide. Mandal Commission–oh we forgot VP Singh–created regional satraps in Mayawati and Yadavs on the plank of Dalit politics.

Modi now has completed six years in office. His both terms secured with a resounding vote from 1.35 billion Indians. He chose demonetization against black money and Indians became friends with the digital world, an offshoot nobody had foreseen. India took halting steps towards one-tax regime in Goods and Services Tax (GST). India’s unseen people today have electricity, cylinders, health coupons, bank accounts, direct subsidies, Mudra loans and gifts of sanitation etc. These benefits don’t choose Hindus over Muslims.

Yet, this is not what makes Modi India’s greatest prime minister ever. It’s about vision–which is not ideology–where he seems to be up against the world. He dreams of a safe, prosperous and united India but not at the cost of Hindus. It upsets a hell of a lot of people.

Let’s begin with Kashmir. He has restructured the former state which was manipulated by Nehru-Gandhi clan to ensure Kashmir Valley always wins. In due course, it became a personal fiefdom of Abdullahs and Muftis. Now the assembly seats, whenever elections are held, would see a balance in proportion to size and population. There is not an ounce of evidence to suggest it is against Kashmiri Muslims. But there is plenty to suggest it would hurt the entrenched regional dynasties who had turned a blind eye, if not aided and abetted, the terrorism from across the border. Muslims in Kashmir Valley were in pits in all these years. They could only look up.

An impartial history would judge Modi as an Indian who saved India’s borders which Prithvirajs, Gandhis and Nehrus couldn’t do in a thousand years. Kashmir was a lost case. In 2047, it would’ve been hundred years to that thorn. It was not a matter of if, but only of when, India would become the rest of Kashmir.  In the age of Islamic State (IS) and its known cahoots in India this was given. My children, and their children, and their children, have been blessed with that one ring of security which is Modi’s offering at Mother India’s feet.

Then, we have Ram Janmabhoomi. This was hanging fire much beyond our independent years. Nothing had been in doubt: That the Babri Masjid had been built over a temple; that it was a mosque in disuse; and that mosques are routinely removed in Saudi Arabia. Yet, Hindus were denied a home for their supreme deity in their own land. Modi has managed it without resorting to unconstitutional norms.

One half of India’s 200 Muslims, their womenfolk, had a constitutional disadvantage due to a practice which isn’t objected to by Sharia Law even though the Holy Book probably doesn’t sanction it. A husband could take away his wife’s investment of her life and career in him by simply pronouncing triple talaq. This was slavery within homes. It hurt Muslim women, their kids, the family, the society and the nation. The Triple Talaq Act 2019, which had been approved by Supreme Court but stuck in Parliament on numbers, was finally enacted within days Modi assumed his second term. This was the first definite step towards Uniform Civil Code (UCC) which is desired by the Constitution.

It’s said Muslims are unsafe in Modi’s India. Lynchings are cited as proof. I remember so clearly the early days of Modi’s first term when this word was repeated ad nauseam. A few scribes and newspapers worked in lockstep on this agenda. You couldn’t pick up a newspaper where “lynching”, real or fake, wasn’t mentioned. Lynchings have always happened in rural India where cows are wealth and people would give life to protect them. It’s no different to how anti-CAA and now migrants have been picked for propaganda though they couldn’t care less for Muslims or poor.

This anti-India lobby of journalists, politicians and their foreign handlers see an existential threat in Modi. He is a Hindu in thought and action but they would rather portray him as anti-Muslim. It’s easy to sway millions of Muslims for most are uneducated and poor; and have a latent fear of Hindu’s rise. This frenzy would again be on us once Corona Virus recedes in the background.

Modi’s position is secure in history. His real test would be coming four years. Anti-India lobby, which includes Jihadis, Communists and imperialist forces, won’t give him a moment’s respite on Muslims. Modi is a nationalist and nationalists are always a threat to these global forces.  I predict an anarchy on streets where police would be immobilized. Any action they take would have screaming headlines and images in next day’s daily. It in turn would bring pressure groups such as the United Nations, European Parliament, George Soros etc. into play. Police would freeze; the anarchy would bring in violent mobs in a bid to overthrow him. This is a script I am reading it out to you in advance. How Modi responds, we would see.

We haven’t touched how painstakingly Modi has invested his time and energy to be a world leader of considerable respect. Or how, if we beat Corona, he would invite books of gratitude. He doesn’t part with national coffers easily which is a leeway we must grant to a Gujarati. But the sum is always greater than the parts and it’s the whole which makes Modi the greatest ever.

 

Why Indian Express defines “gutter journalism” of our times

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Let me say this at the outset that the headline of this piece doesn’t quite convey the disgust I feel for the kind of journalism Indian Express indulges in with a straight face and yet call itself a “journalism of courage.”

This “journalism of courage” publishes family interviews of terrorists (like they have of Shakir Bashir of Pulwama attack today) but would never have time for tears of near and dear ones of a  Ankit Sharma or Kamlesh Tewari.

In other stories on front page today, it has one on how Indonesia has called in Indian envoy on CAA as a headline.  But Express won’t headline the fact that Jakarta has expressed “complete confidence in Indian government.”

It has one headline on front page which says “10 stabbed in Shillong, toll 2 in anti-CAA unrest in state.”  The very first line in the text says the “violence believed to be related to Citizenship Act..” So the readers must treat it as a CAA-related violence even as the text only “believes” it to be so.

These examples I have quoted are of just one day, today. All on front page. Indian Express does it everyday. So bad is their track record that once I had offered Rs 50,000 in 2016 to anyone who could show me a favourable story on Hindus on their front pages. Needless to say, the offer remains unclaimed to this day.

This toxic newspaper does more or less the same thing every day: Twisting headlines, hiding texts which don’t suit their agenda, any positive story or comment by a BJP leader is inevitably deflated with the help of bytes of a Anand Sharma or Sitaram Yechury; Ghulam Nabi Azad or D. Raja; Shashi Tharoor or Mallikarajun Khadge, the usual rent-a-byte suspects. It’s editorial pages “breed” academicians and experts who peddle the Left-Liberal narrative, twisting history;  Human Rights activists who can’t see Hindus being butchered, say, in Bengal and Kerala;  former judges, election commissioners, police chiefs who were beholden to the toxic Congress rule in this country.

I would still have given Indian Express the benefit of doubt if once in a while they tried to present the other side of the narrative. How come farmers’ plight under the BJP regime is sung from the rooftop but the Madhya Pradesh government, which hasn’t honoured the farmers’ waiver promise of its manifesto, isn’t pulled up? They would use microscopic lens to highlight “lynching” of a particular community while the one of the other community is altogether ignored. How come a Congress government in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan doesn’t have one single story come out in its criticism. Are the readers being told that Arvind Kejriwal hasn’t done a single thing worthy of criticism in his three terms as chief minister of Delhi? A GST is criticized even though it came about with the consensus of all states and stakeholders.

To me eyes, Indian Express is bereft of any credibility today. It’s allowed to go scot-free because the inner mechanism which upholds truth and integrity of Indian media, the Press Council of India and Editors’ Guild, are so hopelessly out of shape. Dead men walking. Information and Broadcasting Ministry is wary of belling the cat for fear of its own kind.  The judiciary is all sanguine for fixing the “hate-speech” makers and “sedition” cases. But it won’t take a call on media which polarizes the communities with fake news.

As for readers, they remind me of a famous saying: “A crook appeals to the straight; guilty to the innocent.”

So readers be vigilant. Watchful. Know your responsibility. If nothing then to see where your buying rupee is going. All responsible mechanisms in this country have given such newspapers a free run. They are looking the other way. You alone can bell the cat. If your newspaper doesn’t mend, stop buying those rags.  

 

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.

 

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).

 

 

Now that Hindu-Dalit divide is closing, a few are having loose motions

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

We are at a seminal moment in India’s history. The divide between Hindus and Dalits is closing. Once Muslims also join the flank, the pincer attack of Break-India forces would finally meet its wall.

These forces face existential danger.  Hence, their attacks have grown sharper. I would place two articles in the Indian Express and The Hindu for readers’ attention. One is from the known-baiters Christophe Jaffrelot and Gilles Verniers. The other is a survey by The Hindu. Both articles work on the caste equations, fudging data to show only if Dalits had closed the ranks, BJP would’ve met its fate in 2019 General Elections.  In essence, it’s a roadmap how to polarize Indian society in preparation for 2024 elections and beyond. Both articles have taken refuge under the umbrella of scientific surveys and peddled their agenda.

Jaffrelot-Verniers combine in Indian Express fire from the shoulders of SPINNER (Social Profile of the Indian National and Provincial Election Representatives) Project, undertaken by Trivedi Center for Political Data- Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI). It concentrates on the “cow belt” or Hindi-belt which makes up nearly half of the MPs in our Parliament.

Jaffrelot and Verniers bemoan the erosion of Other Backward Classes (OBC) and consolidation of “suvaran” (Upper) caste. That the religious mobilization (read Hindus) has swamped OBC (read Dalits). The thrust of the article is:  BJP and its upper caste are weighing down heavily and that Dalits are being divided into “jaatis (sub-castes).”  The message: Dalits, watch out or you would be swallowed by Upper Castes. The agenda is the twain – Upper castes and Dalits—should never meet. INDIA MUST SINK.

The two sides are described thus: Upper caste (Brahmins, Rajputs) vs lower castes (Yadavs, Kurmis, Koeris, Jatavs).  BJP has upper caste in its fold. Jatavs are with Mayawati and Yadavs with Akhilesh-Tejaswi fold in UP-Bihar.  BJP has prevailed because it has worked on the layers of “jaatis” among the BSP-SP-RJD votebanks.

So BJP divided the Jatavs by working on the non-jatavs. It countered Yadavs by giving seats to “other OBCs”—non-Yadavs, non-Kurmis, non-Koeris, non-Lodhis, non-Gujjars–and still smaller OBC jaatis.  I mean is it some kind of video game?

Let me explain the absurdity of Jaffrelot-Verniers agenda. I mean all politicial parties, including Left, have upper caste leaders. Haven’t they heard of Namboodripad and Jyoti Basu? Don’t they know that Narendra Modi himself is OBC? That Mamata Banerjee casts herself as a “Bengali-brahmin”? That Rahul Gandhi is a “Shiv-bhakt” what if he ran away to Wayanad in Kerala and sought a sanctuary among Muslim votes? Is BJP more communal than SP, BSP, RJD etc who harvest on the communal and casteist fields, hopefully no longer fertile? That Modi has been overwhelmingly voted for by Scheduled Castes (SC)  and Scheduled Tribes (ST) -46 out of 84 SC seats; 31 out of 47 ST seats.

Not a word on Modi’s connect with the masses, cutting across caste and communal lines (why, even Muslims voted in larger number for BJP than in 2014). Not a word if GST, Demonetization, jobs and agrarian distress could have been drummed up issues. Not a word that Ujjawala, Ayushman, toilets, houses, loans, Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) etc might have been massive factors. So much so that no less than 91 per cent of Jat votes went to BJP and not to Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), for instance.  But Jaffrelot-Verniers must stick to the agenda of looking at things from the Upper Caste vs Dalits prism.

The Hindu piece is termed as CSDS-Lok Niti-Post Poll Survey. It repeats more or less the same agenda. Their initial survey had highlighted the dissatisfaction with the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh. That people are unhappy with its MPs and MLAs, that the stray-cattle issue is epidemic. Now the upper caste-“jaati” social engineering has worked for the BJP. Easy isn’t it.

The fact is these forces wouldn’t like the country to go back to pro-Mandal days or pre-1990s era. Mandal Commission brought job reservations into vogue in 1990. It shifted the power equations, a new crop of backward class netas—Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Kanshi Ram etc—spawned all over the Hindi belt. Hindu-Dalit rift was put on steroids, Bhimrao Ambedkar was dusted off the shelf, and these leaders and parties held the country on ransom.

Now Modi Magic is threatening to bridge the divide. A young and “New India”—most of them in their 20s—couldn’t care less on caste and communal lines. The mandate is as big as Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru’s (364 out of 489 seats) in the first General Elections in 1952! It should tell us all about the enormity and possibility of 2019 results.  Modi himself has given a new definition of caste identity: “There are only two castes: One of the poor and the other of those who want to alleviate poverty.”

That’s why it’s an existential crisis to a few. The Hindu gives its game away when it states in the last sentence: “The two parties (BSP-SP) need to rework their understanding of caste equations.” Shame that they are putting castes above the country.

(Post script: In the same edition, in its’ editorial page, The Hindu has a piece which berates Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad for concentrating on Yadav-centric politics which allowed lesser OBCs to fall in BJP’s lap. I mean these guys are something).