(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.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
The news from Bengaluru is disturbing. A facebook post on the Prophet Muhammad enraged a mob of Muslims; they went on a rampage; hundreds of vehicles were burnt; dozens of policemen injured; houses put to torch; people killed. Alongside are stories of how Muslims formed a human chain to protect a Hindu temple from being vandalized; how a Muslim father named his son as “Krishna” as he was born on Krishna Janmashtami.
Bear with me for a couple of minutes as I build the background for you to connect the dots. In the hope that you would become a careful consumer of news and not one who just swallows any vomit by our newspapers.
I not only consume but also create news so know where my objectivity ends and bias begins. It’s true for most. We won’t disagree too that Muslims by and large don’t favour BJP. Or that your Sikh cousins—intermarriages are common, my mom was a Sikhni—would greet you on Holi and Deepawali but try telling them that Sikhs have emerged from the Hindus. Or that Sikhs are required to this day to register their marriage as Hindus.
I also notice a practice which if you are not careful enough would pass you by. Whenever Muslims as a religious minority do something which alarms the nation, by causing riots, killing civilians or soldiers, stories would start doing rounds in newspapers about how a few Muslims are reaching out to Hindus and shielding them from arsonists, how a few Muslims are upholding the ganga-jamuni tehzeeb, how a few were exemplary citizens before the state turned them into monsters.
Barkha Dutt made sure that the nation never forgets Burhan Wani was the son of a school teacher even if he happened to be the poster boy of Hizbul Mujahideen; that another top Hizbul commander Riaz Naikoo was a math teacher; and so on and so on. Who would forget the Indian Express headline: “And they hanged Yakub Memon”? It’s a classic news report which should be a matter of eternal shame for the newspaper. Please read it.
If somebody was reading the story today, he wouldn’t have a clue what Memon did for which he was hanged. There is no mention at all of why the State deemed Memon to have done a crime grave enough to be hanged. NO MENTION AT ALL. All you have is a poignant report of a man preparing for his final moment; fresh white kurta pyjama, letters exchanged in English with his family etc. Oh, I must tell you Memon had been found guilty in 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts which had left 257 killed.
Why do you think this happens? Why the innocent killing of civilians, threat to national security, incalculable damage to assets fades into the background and the image of an innocent, lovable kid in the neighbourhood, one whose only affair was with books and academics, is kept in your face? Why no sooner Pulwama happens, which leaves 46 of our soldiers martyred, you find stories in our newspapers that Kashmiri students all over the country are being beaten in hostels, in streets, and that they are fleeing and railways stations are filling up? Why a sympathetic narrative is spun alongside a grave crime?
On matters of Kashmir Valley or Punjab insurgency, it’s simply to cast in stone the image of a carefree youngster who was alienated enough by the Indian state to turn into a terrorist. Remember, movie “Maachis”? The chief protagonist only loafs around with his friends when police frames them and puts them on the run, seeking revenge against the system.
Now let’s return to today. Let’s look closely at the Muslim man who has named his “Krishna” on Janmashtami. Aziz Khan belongs to Indore in Madhya Pradesh. India Abroad News Service (IANS) informs us that “the doctor Praveen Jadia asked for the baby’s name to be filled in for the form. I immediately named our boy as Krishna, as the day was Janmashtami.
“Although the doctors and other family members objected to it, but I told them that a father has the right to give any name to his child.”
The IANS further adds: Khan’s mother Yaniki had suggested another name “Kafir” but Aziz did not change it.
What say folks. Teary-eyed. Angry at right-wingers poking fingers at innocent, harried Indian muslims? The violence still on in Bengaluru already faded in your memory? The anger you felt at Muslims taking their reverence to their Prophet to murderous levels already diluted?
So let me disappoint you readers. This story is a dozen years old. This happened in 2008. Why this story is doing rounds now after 12 years? it’s commendable but what relevance it has to the present situation which would only polarize society, feed the islamist elements and is bad for all of us? Try googling this story and you would see every newspaper, magazine, website swooning over the exemplary Muslim.
That’s why I say folks connect dots. When your respected Tauji forwards a WhatsApp image moved by his proclivity for Narendra Modi or his undying faith in the Gandhi clan, THINK. When your aunt in Pondicherry has just forwarded a map which shows Chinese incursion in the Galwan Valley, PAUSE. I guess now there are more economists in our homes than we had ever suspected. Or the very next day, these economists are ready with their nuanced view on India’s latest defence purchase. If you, reader, are an evolved consumer of news, it would foil their sinister designs. India only breaks up when its citizens don’t connect what they consume as news.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
A typical day when I hit roads in my car in the Capital. The roads themselves have three types of variations.
One is in the neighbourhood which teems with shops, cows, pedestrians, vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Here you could find our Virat Kohlis and Saina Nahiwals of future under the benign doting glances of their parents on the balcony. Schools-buses come every afternoon in the weekdays; alien cars make a stop in front of floors which rent young lives that celebrate weekends with booze, music and dance. Navigation requires yogic-contortions. Baring smiles on ladies who occupy a patch of lane for their daily round of gossip is a daily act. Here are no traffic lights.
Out of my sector are the big, bad roads. Traffic here is always slow, a bane of our municipal corporations who hadn’t accounted for a future of burgeoning cars, lakhs of flats and millions of residents. Now there is a scramble to collect the daily waste, roads dug to wire our homes with competing WiFis, multiple gaps in dividers for vehicles to switch over from left to right and vice-versa. Not that it matters to we the citizens: We simply opt for wrong side of traffic flow, braving ugly glances, gesticulating hands and showers of curse. How does it matter when a second of time and an ounce of fuel has been successfully saved?
All this before you hit your first traffic lights of the day. They usually take offs half a week. You can’t blame them either: We the traffic are colour-blind to their signals. It’s indiscreet to press on accelerators when it’s Green; It’s too idealistic to stop on Reds unless and until shrivelled beggars and their acrobat sons and daughters fulfil your idea of charity; or desperate men with fake editions of Sidney Sheldon and Irving Stone in your face reflect your educated background.
The next hour is a tribute to your ever-growing vocabulary on abuses. English swear-words are too polite. They are no match to our Punjabi and Hindi lexicons. The worst ones are reserved for the two-wheelers who swarm around your vehicle; darting from left and write, brushing your bumpers, navigating a gap you thought didn’t exist between two cars. Invariably you are forced to move out of right-most lane where the slowest of vehicle is lording over the lane meant for the fastest. There are three-wheelers who couldn’t care less if their iron frames scratch your newly-painted car or goods carriers who move slower than a bicycle and make you swerve wildly to the hail of abuses in the background.
The irony is, all of these troubles could actually be your work to the others. You too jump traffic lights; you too speak on your mobile as you drive; you too drive against the traffic once in a while and it’s been ages since you submitted your car for a pollution check. You too subdue the traffic police with your rank and position if a folded 100-rupee note isn’t a good-enough grease to his palms.
So you too are part of the problem. Other traffic violators have turned you into one. Or it could be you who has turned others into traffic violators. Daily we hit the roads, daily we come back cursing the jungle that is out there on the roads. We are not wrong too when we curse the rogue mobike-rider who you nearly killed or one who ran a scratch across the length of your car. You also swear at the governance which leaves huge potholes and unmanned traffic lights out there. Submerged roads could test out the lungs of your car; or worse you could’ve an idea how a submarine floats under the water.
So, on the terrifying jungle out there which could maim or kill you and your dear ones, all the stakeholders- people, traffic planners and regulators—are guilty. Planners don’t have a vision for future; Enforcers are corrupt and we the people have turned monsters on the road. Like millions of gods we have on different aspects of our lives, we need to invent a traffic Ganesha too for our wellbeing.
Let’s now view the new whip which has angered most in this country. Most of us are either dipping deep into our pockets or crowding the Pollution Control centres on gas stations. We find the measures too draconian what if our registration, insurance and pollution papers are not in order. We aren’t counting the benefits which discipline would bring on our roads and provides umbrella against pelting hefty medical bills.
At the outset there is every reason to applaud the transport minister Nitin Gadkari. He has been vocal on the Motor Vehicles Amendment bill for more than two years. He spent months in consultations with the states before finalizing and winning the ascent from the Parliament. He has shown a bloody-mindedness ignoring populism and discomfiture within his own ranks.
Three states go for elections in next three months and are all headed by BJP—Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. But for Haryana, the other two aren’t willing to face people’s wrath. Gujarat has brought down the fines by almost 90 per cent; Karnataka and Uttarakhand would implement the Act but reduce the fines to just a slap on the wrist. Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Tripura haven’t even implemented it.
Non-BJP states have only poured scorn on the new Motor Vehicles Act. Congress, which runs Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Punjab have put the new Act on hold. Rajasthan would implement it but the fines would be reduced to a minimum.
There is no second-guessing the “non-BJP” states of West Bengal, Kerala and Odisha. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is vocal that she wouldn’t implement the Act and burden her people. Kerala initially implemented the bill but now has put it on hold. The Odisha government of Naveen Patnaik has announced a three-month moratorium on the new Act. Interestingly, the Delhi government of Arvind Kejriwal is all in support of the Act.
It’s clear populism and politics would finally prevail over prudence. Our dharnas, noise and cribs matter to politicians. Asking us to wear seat belts, ride with helmets, follow zebra-crossing is too much of an ask. As it is to the tilted-heads on mobikes, using shoulders to attend calls on their mobile-phones.
Is this the entire truth? Doesn’t a couple with two small children, an old mobike and a few thousand rupees for a salary have a compulsion of their own on roads? Don’t we have faulty traffic signals? Don’t poor people buy a spluttering vehicle for a pittance only because it’s without papers? Don’t we have bus-stops right after the traffic-lights? Does the new Act take into account the last man on the road?
Good governance is one thing; populism is another. One leaves us with standardized conduct out on the streets; the other leaves us with chaos and anarchy. Good governance is never a zero-sum game: A few would always suffer in a society of extreme disparity. We have always longed for a government which governs for the good of the people. Now that we have it, we should strengthen and not weaken it.
(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?
(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.