(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
India is worried on count of Maharashtra. The Western state appears to be losing the battle against Corona Virus. There are three matters which suggest we haven’t seen the worst yet.
One is a measure by the Mumbai Police. While imposing Section 144 till June 8, it prohibits any attempt on social media to incite mistrust against the government officials. It’s a loosely worded order which empowers the state machinery to take punitive measure on what it doesn’t like and considers as creating “mistrust” in public against it. It’s censorship otherly-worded.
Second is Rahul Gandhi going public in distancing himself from the Maharashtra government of which his party Congress is a part. In a video message, Gandhi said his party doesn’t have a say in key matters in running of the state.
Third is an Indian Express report which claims that there is “resentment in the cabinet” over Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s reliance on the bureaucracy who virtually are running the state’s Corona strategy and are “keeping ministers in the dark.”
Further, the Indian Express claims that the three partners in coalition—NCP, Congress, Shiv Sena—differ over lockdown. While Thackeray prefers an extension of lockdown, Pawar (NCP) “is keen on granting some relaxations.”
In plain terms, Corona is like a mad dog on the leash which is taking its master, the Maharashtra government, all over the place. There is no firm hand to keep the canine on its trajectory. The Maha Aghadi (The Great Development Front) is a grumpy house where a key partner has distanced itself, the cabinet is sore over the bureaucracy and there is bickering on the lockdown strategy.
A few side issues haven’t won Maharashtra government many friends. The harassment of media personality Arnab Goswami is viewed prejudiced. The Palghar Lynchings of Sadhus is hanging fire. Then we had a few barons in the Yes Bank scandal, sought by state agencies, moving without intervention in their caravans amidst the lockdown. We now have reports where Shiv Sainiks (Shiv Sena cadre) have vandalized shops of individuals who allegedly didn’t have complimentary words for Thackeray. A FIR against the owners, two individuals, has added insult to injury.
Predictably, BJP has mounted pressure. The Railways minister Piyush Goyal has run hourly tweets on how Maharashtra government is doing nothing to avail Shramik Trains for stranded migrants. Now there are reports that a few BJP functionaries have met the governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari raising speculation over the President’s Rule. Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, on his part, has stated that they don’t need to win over any sitting MLAs as “they (Maha Aghadi) would collapse under its own weight.”
Meanwhile Loksatta, a Marathi news outlet, ran a twitter poll on whether the state should have President’s Rule. Within five hours, the voters leaned in favour of dissolution of assembly. Though the regional newspaper promptly dropped the poll, the twitteratis went to town on the mood of the people in Maharashtra.
Politics and power is small price compared to the catastrophe which is unfolding in the state. Cynics would say that it perhaps is the reason why Corona is spiralling out of control. So far up to 40 per cent of India’s numbers and deaths to the pandemic are accounted by the state of Maharashtra. The prized city of Mumbai has been gripped by the curse. The commercial capital of the country is bleeding and no end is in sight. It’s not good for state, definitely not for India. Besides, there is this question: How long could you keep the people locked out. How long would they watch the rest of india limp back to life while they are sealed between their four walls?
The alliance of convenience in Maharashtra must show itself as an alliance of saviours. Or give way to those who could get the job done.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
The first of 36 Rafale jets of the first batch was acquired on Tuesday. It was a seminal day, not just because India acquired a massive defence shield but also since it coincided with Vijaydashmi or Dusshera, the day which Indians have celebrated as the win of Good over Evil for centuries now.
Somehow, matters which warm the hearts of millions of Indians causes heart-burn amongst a few who are well-identified now. “The Hindu” mocked the celebrations with “Wait-Its-Due-Only-Next-Year” front page headline; the (Rajdeep) Sardesais and Ghoses (Sagarika) and Dutts (Barkha) were silent as if in a funeral and so were the Gandhis: Priyanka is showing off her Hindi skills on twitter and Rahul Gandhi, well, he is heard less these days than even his brother-in-law. Yet, one of Congress’ leaders, Sandeep Dikshit, couldn’t hold back and reflected the grumpiness of this brigade: “Why link the acquisition (Rafale) in a religious context,” he contended.
Dikshit was upset that defence minister Rajnath Singh had done a “shastra puja” of Rafale which involved putting lemons in front of its wheels, placing a coconut on its nose and drawing an “Om” on its side cheek. In Dikshit’s book, it was a religious assertion, an assertion of Hindutva, and a “secular” state indulging in communalism. (Err, Mr Dikshit, your thoughts on the then prime minister Manmohan Singh, choosing the day of Sonia Gandhi’s birthday–December 9, 2006—to declare that Muslims have the first right on the resources of the country. Was it secular?).
Understandably, it found echo amongst the young and impressionable. So here it is, an attempt for rationale to prevail over outbursts:
“Shastra Puja” is a routine marker with our armed forces on new inductions of weaponry. It happened when MiGs, Jaguars, Tejas, practically every new addition, was made to the Indian Air Force. Every ship which slides off keels is always launched with coconut-breaking ceremony. Even the Supreme Court has said that “Shastra Puja” doesn’t impinge on secularism.
The induction of Rafale happened on the 87th anniversary of Indian Air Force. “Vijaydashmi” might’ve been coincidental and not necessarily the reason for choice of date.
It’s a flawed approach to view “shastra puja” as an assertion of Hindu identity. As it would be to view the reading of “kalma”as Islamic when Tejas was inducted on July 2, 2016. When soldiers are greeted with garlands and tilak on return to their villages, is it communal? Besides, placing of lemons in front of tyres, applying “Om” on its steering and breaking a coconut in front of the vehicle are common actions millions of us do before a newly bought vehicle reaches home.
But trust our spoilsports to keep taking the matter to absurd lengths. A twitterati argued thus: “But buying a car and doing all this is personal. Whereas in Rafale was an act by the ruling government. Don’t they know that India is secular and state and religion must not cross each other’s path?”
First thing first. India wasn’t a secular state to begin with. This happened when our Constitution was arbitrarily changed by a chaffed Indira Gandhi during the Emergency without the consent of the lawmakers of the Parliament. There are various articles in the Constitution—like freedom of propagation of own faith for monotheist religions like Islam and Christianity—which can’t be termed secular.
Now, if the Indian state indeed is “secular”why does it interfere and control Hindu temples? As writer and scientist Anand Ranganathan points out : Governments of five southern states control 90,700 temples; TN Temple Trusts own 478,000 acres of land. Tamil Nadu state government alone controls 36,425 mutts: It gives them billions of rupees. By a rough estimate, the total revenue earned from temples by state government till now would be somewhere between Rs 10-15 lakh crores.
Is this secularism? That Tamil Nadu government has a temple in its logo is secular? If you want religion should be out of bounds for the State then the State should also keep out of religion.
Famous Indologist David Frawley has posted a YouTube video where the “war-cry” of various battalions are mentioned. For Gorkha Rifles it’s “Jai Maa Kaali.” Rajput Regiment exhort with “Bol Bajrangbali ki Jai”; Rajputana Rifles with “Raja Ram Chandra Ki Jai.” For Dogra regiment, the full-throated call of “Jwala Mata Ki Jai” is the motivator; Jammu & Kashmir infantry enjoin with “Durga Mata Ki Jai.” So it is with Naga regiment (Jai Durga Naga); Bihar regiment (Jai Bajrang bali) and Kumaon regiment (Kalika Mata Ki Jai). Yet these traditions would be communal in the eyes of pseudo-seculars.
On a different note, the in-your-face “Shastra Puja” hasn’t gone unnoticed to the discerners. A confident Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is no longer embarrassed in asserting the cultural identity of the nation. And to hell with those who portray it as tyranny of the majority, communal Hindutva and minority-in-crisis narrative.
(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.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Should we start with the message or the messenger?
Let’s begin with the messenger first. I bet none of you know who are 49 signatories who have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on minority lynchings. It’s not in your newspapers nor in established magazines such as Outlook and India Today.
Just a coincidence? Or a plot?
I somehow dug up the list of 49 eminent personalities. Over 40 are from the state of West Bengal, including Aparna Sen and Goutam Ghose who have been questioned by CBI on Ponzi schemes. The rest, such as Shobha Mudgal, Ramachandra Guha, Adoori Gopalakrishnan, Anurag Kashyap and Mani Ratnam are known Leftists. Madam Mamata Banerjee has come out in support of this letter though your newspaper wouldn’t have mentioned it. Telegraph India? The known Leftist rag from Kolkata? Oh, you must look for its Epaper today. Or curl up your lips by looking at this image of their front page below.
I am not “rubbishing” the messenger to “kill” the message. Human lives are above ideology. Blood has no religion. Not for these worthies though. They could only see Muslim blood. Or they would have followed Anand Ranganathan or Swati Goel Sharma and known of hundreds of cases against Hindus and Dalits; or educated themselves on the pieces from OpIndia which lists 50 hate-crimes by Muslims in recent times; and a dozen “incidents” against Muslims which turned out to be fake.
Yet, they are quoting factcheker.in as their source when the website is epitome of lies, mischief and propaganda. They have a problem with the word “urban naxals” (made famous by Vivek Ranjan Aghinotri) who they view as “dissenter” but the nation as “subversive” and a threat to India’s sovereignty. They view “Jai Shri Ram” as a “war cry” but Islamic terrorists blowing themselves up with “Allah O Akbar” on the lips is our sheer imagination.
Yet, these worthies deserve our time. Just to exhibit how the “Deep State” works. Let me list 10 questions which must prod the conscience of neutral Indian citizens:
- Why we don’t have the list of 49 in public domain?
- Why the headlines have tried to give it a Pan-Indian intellectual “uprising” hiding its essentially Bengali flavour?
- Why this discourse omits crimes against the Hindus?
- Why known Hindu intellectuals—Rajiv Malhotra, Subhash Kak, David Frawley, Dr Koenrad Elst, Francois Gautier–are never invited in Express Adda or TV debates?
- Could you remember anyone of them reacting to vandalizing of Durga Maa Temple in the heart of Capital recently?
- Why politicians such as Arvind Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury, Mamata Banerjee or Yadavs are never outraged at the crimes against the Hindus
- Are NGOs a part of this nexus? At 31 lakhs, the NGOs in our counry are double the number of schools; 250 times the number of government hospitals. We have one NGO for 400 people as against one policeman for 709 persons.
- Where were these intellectuals, newspapers and politicians and NGOs when crimes against Muslims and Dalits were far worse in UPA’s 10 years than it has been in Modi’s five-plus?
- And if these intellectuals, newspapers, politicians and NGOs are working in complete sync, ensuring what we read and what we don’t; what stops us from terming them as a “Deep State” within India?
- And if this “Deep State” exists, it just can’t be ideology. (More so when Left is as good as politically over in India). Who does this “Deep State” belong to? CIA? Saudi money? Commie funds? Or all of them put together? Or deep pockets of imperialism masquerading as Liberal Order?
The dangers are obvious. As the divide between Hindus and Muslims grow deeper; the spin-off could begin with lives lost or India divided, 1947 revisited. With people at war, India would get terminally weak. Those plotting it would be happy beyond words. Those who want Hinduism crushed would be over the moon.
Hindus of course can’t match them in propaganda. They are deep-rooted: The “Deep State: have their artistes, intellectuals, historians and media planted everywhere around us. They have a ready audience at home and abroad. The narrative would stay with them in foreseeable future. This has been a project of decades. The monster can’t be slayed overnight.
Sure it needs response. An organized response. Democracy is one tool which has rolled these worthies into the ground. But we are putting too many eggs in one basket. Democracy can be subverted (Why do you think they cry so much on EVMs?). We have also seen how technological giants, such as Google, Twitter, Amazon etc promote such Break-India forces. Our culture is still a binding force but when “Jai Shri Ram” is turned into an abuse, it’s only a matter of time before it implodes. India is young and they are easily brain-washed (All those with teenagers at home would identify with this issue).
Frankly, Hindus need a George Soros to combat these forces. Those who don’t know him, should do it now. He fronts Liberal Order; Hindus need one of their own. It’s unlikely BJP or RSS would be of much help in terms of funds or a commitment for decades. But Hindus would be increasingly under siege and only an organized structure, and not stray organic counter-voices, could set them free.
(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).
On a day when every mainstream national daily has lauded the message of “peace and brotherhood” in the Shoba Yatra at Hauz Qazi to douse communal animosity, Indian Express has chosen to flare it up.
Times of India clapped the “peaceful procession”; Hindustan Times extolled Muslims in reinstalling temple idols and even The Hindu put “communal harmony on show” in its headline. But you read Indian Express and it seems they were at a different event than the one being covered.
Beginning with its headline – “On day 3 BJP MPs visit, VHP leader says: Can turn Hauz Qazi, Ballimaran into Ayodhya” – to its content, Indian Express has insinuated “saffron terror” in the form of massive Hindu turnout and speeches by a couple of insignificant entities. Still undone, they inserted a completely unrelated mention with these words: “The issue also figured on the latest cover of the RSS mouthpiece Organiser, with the headline #Temple Vandalism Perils of Minoritarianism.”
Every reader who has read Indian Express today (July 10, 2019) would carry the impression of Saffron intimidation. A reader would fear impending communal riots in an area where Hindus and Muslims have lived cheek-by-jowl for generations. A reader would interpret the presence of 3 BJP MPs as a tacit acquiescence by the party leadership.
And what could be the consequences? Hindus and Muslims gulping this poison within them, and not just in Hauz Qazi. A temple vandalized here; a mosque desecrated there, riots erupting; lives lost, police and security overcome by mobs, government in limbo and the unrest in India bringing in sharks from Western shores at the smell of blood in the pool.
Is this what Indian Express wants? Don’t they know that its 10 days to the horrible event and Hindus haven’t even picked up a stone? Aren’t they mindful that sensible Muslims of Hauz Qazi are coming out in droves to ensure no communal rupture erupts in the vicinity? Can’t they lend an ear to the temple priest who says “Today’s event (Shobha Yatra) was organized to stand up against such people (who desecrate a religious place.) We want to cohabit with all other communities.”
To be sure, newspapers seek different angle to make themselves distinct. Someone might choose to highlight Rahul Gandhi and his biggest win in 2019 polls from Wayanad, Kerala while others might find his ousting from family bastion Amethi, UP bigger news. Someone might droll over BJP’s remarkable Lok Sabha show in Karnataka; others might dwell on how Tamil Nadu and Kerala have shut the door on them in South.
But today’s Indian Express is not an interpretation. It’s insinuation. An insinuation, which could trigger something far more sinister. Which could affect our generation, our next generation, the unity of this country, the future of India. Another Partition; another horror; another vivisection.
This issue of vandalized temple is high on the mind of millions of Indians. What next? How would it play out? Am I in a safe neighbourhood? What do I do about my daughter who returns from college to our deserted lane late in the evening? Or my son who is back only when the dusk falls on the fields in Moradabad?
Those who want an “akhand bharat” (United India) want Hindus and Muslims to live in peace and amity. Those who want a “dismembered India” want Hindus and Muslims to tear themselves apart. Today, I see Indian Express standing with the latter. It would be difficult for them to convince me that their report wasn’t projecting the fear of fundamentalist Hindus—when the rest of mainstream media has lauded the restraint of Hindus.
Am I overreacting to a “small incident” in a “small lane” at the backdrop of a “minor incident”? Didn’t World War I begin only because a prince (Archduke Franz Ferdinand) was assassinated on the streets of Sarajevo; that a stray protest in Tunisia could herald “Arab Spring”; that Soviet Union would come apart only because Ronald Reagan, a continent apart, had made arms race too prohibitive; that a “Euromaidan movement” could bring down a Ukrainian government; that American revolution could begin because the elites had refused to pay taxes?
Its time Indian Express opens itself to scrutiny. The governments and the press bodies would have their own reasons to shrink from hauling them up. But they owe an answer to Indians and their country. Come out and debate this issue with me in an open forum. When the country’s future depends on Hindu-Muslim relations, Indian Express can’t seek warmth in the glow of, god forbid, torched homes and burning pyres.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has put Prashant Kishor on her burning deck. Everyone connected with the Trinamool Congress (TMC)—EVERYONE—would listen to the master poll strategist behind closed doors of Kolkata’s Nazrul Mancha auditorium on Thursday.
Just imagine: “Didi”, that giant slayer of Left in Bengal, would be all ears to a man who has lived fewer years than she has spent in politics. Not just she but all her generals—young or old, fair or dark, rural or urban—would look to know about their own Bengal from a man who wouldn’t move in Kolkata without a GPS. None of them is mindful that he, being a member of JD(U), is part of NDA-2 and thus from the enemy’s ranks. Who said politicians are cynical?
Mamata, like all of us, is beholden to Kishor’s track record. He drew Narendra Modi’s 2014 poll strategy and within six months had helped Nitish Kumar beat back the new Prime Minister from the gates of Bihar. He turned around Congress’ fortunes in Punjab as he has now done with YS Jaganmohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, taking care of upstarts (Arvind Kejriwal) and seasoned (Chandrababu Naidu) as hounds do, completely impartial to their prey. There of course is Congress and Shame of UP in 2017 but this can wait.
We are all beholden to this spectacle where politicians, with all their hubris and enmity, treachery and ruthlessness, sit on stools like lions do to the crack of this ringmaster’s whip, tail between their legs. This ringmaster had never walked into a (political) circus before, was pathetic as a student, a poor reader of books, a self-confessed black sheep of the family, never stuck to a job yet now has these political animals on a leash.
And he does it on his own terms. He would only deal with the bosses—not even Amit Shah—and everyone must submit to his charter, no questions asked. He is least enamoured of any politician and could walk out of a room without as much as even a goodbye. He calls out his own party head Nitish Kumar for not seeking a fresh mandate after dumping Lallu Yadav. He helped Capt Amrinder Singh only because he didn’t like Arvind Kejriwal mocking him in press. He would help Uddhav Thackeray and his Shiv Sena only if he is assured the security of migrant north Indians in the state of Maharashtra. He once didn’t answer the calls of DMK as he didn’t of political parties in Kerala.
It would surprise many to know that Prashant Kishor is almost disdainful of our governing class which includes both politicians and bureaucrats. It interests him little that he is snapped with high and mighty; that he is entrusted with hundreds of crores to put his plan in motion; that unlimited power could be his mistress.
What then drives this man?
We would have to go back to 2011 when a paper of his on malnutrition caught the eye of Modi’s government in Gujarat. He was invited to visit the state and correct his impression. One day, he contributed to a speech of Modi; another day he drew a sense of a data and soon he was drawn into the inner circle. 2014 polls beckoned, he drew up a charter, and if you have heard of “Chai pe Charcha,” credit our man for it.
He left Modi because he wanted his dream of CAG (Citizens for Accountable Governance) to happen overnight. This CAG has now metamorphosed into I-PAC (Indian Political Action Committee). It’s this I-PAC which is key to understanding our man.
Prashant Kishor is troubled by the fact that only 7-odd per cent in India’s parliament are below 40. Almost 70 per cent of this small percentage belongs to political dynasties. This leaves only 2-3 per cent of bold and beautiful to chart their own cut. He is upset that a health secretary, previously in transport and due to be a telecom secretary tomorrow, could decide on technical matters and overrule professionals who have spent a lifetime in mastering the issue. He credits five biggest reforms of independent India– food (M.S.Swaminathan), milk (Verghese Kurien), telecom (Sam Pitroda), space (Vikram Sarabhai) and atomic energy (APJ Abdul Kalam)—to the men who were not part of governance or bureaucracy.
I-PAC is one that dream where Prashant Kishor wants to draw tens of thousands of India’s young and competent , train them to take over panchayats, parishads, mahapalikas of the country, practically draw a parallel political ecosystem and transform India. It made him impatient with Modi; it makes him dismissive of coterie—“Can’t be mindful of what the ecosystem thinks about me”—and it made him reject Rahul Gandhi post-2017 UP debacle.
The UP debacle still singes Kishor. He had drawn up a 14-point charter for Congress but only two were implemented—Sonia Gandhi launching the campaign from Varanasi; and Rahul Gandhi’s yatra from Deoria to Delhi on farmers’ loan-waiver issue. “I have no option but to accept the blame since I didn’t quit on not being followed,” remembered Kishor in an interview. He feels let down when politicians use his charter but don’t implement them when in power.
There are all telltale signs that Kishor wouldn’t do politicians’ bidding any longer. He would remain with JD (U) because he wants Bihar to be a top state on all indicators of progress. Personally, Nitish Kumar has afforded him the freedom to nurture his I-PAC and make Bihar his political laboratory. So what accounts for his present engagement with Mamata Banerjee?
In all likelihood, Kishor might have been “loaned” by Nitish Kumar so as to send a not-so-veiled a message to Modi on denial of ministerial berths in the Union Cabinet. If Kishor could stop BJP’s juggernaut, it could lead to new alignments in Indian politics. It might allow Nitish Kumar to project himself as an alternative to Modi in 2024 polls.
In the last month or so, West Bengal has thrown up two rising political stars. New MP Nusrat Jahan, with her oath in the Parliament and participation in Jagannath rathyatra, has caught the eye even of Hindus. Then there is rabid Mahua Moitra who is lip-syncing Mamata Banerjee and appealing to Muslim and “pseudo-sickulars” of the country. Both, without doubt, are acting on Prashant Kishor’s script.
How BJP would love to eavesdrop on the closed-door auditorium on Thursday.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Rahul Gandhi is going nowhere. His resignation is an exercise in power without responsibility. True to his lineage, Mr Gandhi feels that he could fool all the people all the time.
His letter leaves no one in doubt that Rahul Gandhi has quit as president for good. It also leaves no one in doubt that like a loyal worker, he would continue to work for the Congress against BJP and RSS who are in conflict with his idea of India.
He may or may not be president till July 10 when the Congress Working Committee (CWC) is likely to be dissolved and a new one formed. An interim president, Sushil Kumar Shinde or Mallikarjun Kharge, both nearing 80, would be asked to usher in a new Congress. Nobody gets a penny for predicting that Sonia Gandhi and her kids, Rahul and Priyanka, would be a part of it. Nobody would receive a dime too for predicting that the likes of Anand Sharma and Ghulam Nabi Azad, would still be doing the errands for them.
For a month and half, since the 2019 results came in and a Congress-mukt bharat became a reality—they don’t have a single seat in 16 states—the resignation drama has been an attempt to trade ridicule with sympathy. To hide the stink of a rotting corpse, a whiff of nostalgia has been floated. The young prince charming, all of 49, a bachelor who forsake good things in life and fought for his idea of India. The one who took on the might of Modi, BJP and RSS; who fought even as one by one all institutions were taken over, who traded hate with his brand of love, was an individual against the entire system.
Sure, the drama is well orchestrated. Before you could blame him for his party’s defeat, for his own humiliation in Amethi, for believing anti-Modi tirade would make up for the deficit in vision, for refusing allies only because a few states fell in his lap before the 2019 polls, for courting Hindus and losing his Muslim votebank, Mr Gandhi took the sting out of the horde at his gate by showing he is disarmed. How could you now punish a man who has swung an axe on his own neck?
Make no mistake: Gandhis are only worried about themselves, not about Congress or India. It’s only a bail which is standing in between Gandhis and jail. Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra has the additional worry on her husband, Robert Vadra meeting the same fate. They are pariahs even to Mamata or Mayawati or Akhilesh Yadav. Muslims no longer trust them. Shunned by public, ostracized by politicians, they can only worry about their skin.
Gandhi’s letter would’ve been hilarious if it was not tragic. He claims every institution in the country—judiciary, press, election commission etc—has been taken over by the Modi government. That’s not music to the ears of judiciary who intervened at midnight to allow Congress the batons of Karnataka. Which suffered the indignity of impeachment. Mainstream press which never wrote a single word against Gandhi. Election Commission which was reluctant to allow repolling in West Bengal.
“It’s now clear that our once cherished institutional neutrality no longer exists in India,’ Really? Was judiciary or press neutral during the Emergency? Or the august office of president? Who overturned Supreme Court on Shah Bano case? Who had taken over India’s institutions in the past?
In many ways Rahul Gandhi is inconsequential. He is an individual busy saving his skin. The bigger question is who saves Congress? Who saves the Grand Old Party when its’ very saviours are busy digging up its grave.
(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?
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Every anniversary of Emergency in India (June 25, 1975) and worn-out clichés on muzzling media, despotic Indira, state repression and the complicity of judiciary begin to do rounds. Now a senior journalist Arun Anand has done a piece in Indian Express edits which deserves everyone’s attention.
Two takeaways from Anand’s piece would bring a silent chuckle on the faces of millions who are relentlessly resisting and overthrowing the Tukde-Tukde gang inch-by-inch in the last half-a-dozen years. Those on the other side of the divide, the Congress-Left-Sickular “ecosystem”, would surely be squirming in discomfort.
Anand quotes from an article, “The Empress Reigns Supreme”, published in August 1976 in The Guardian: “…Pro-CPI (Communist Party of India) journals in India are being given some latitude by the censors because the party is in favour of even stronger measures to suppress the non-communist opposition.” Communist leader Sitaram Yechury, a savvy Twitterati who short of blaming BJP for everything but cataract in his eye, surely deserves a forward of this piece. A reaction from him though is a long shot.
The same article goes on to state that the Indira government was pressurizing King Birendra of Nepal to hand over some of the RSS members who were running the underground movement against the Emergency from Nepal. The article, quoting a source, said: “…Kathmandu will never hand over to the Indian government members of the RSS, banned by the Gandhi regime shortly after the promulgation of Emergency.” So please be easy on Rahul Gandhi, the RSSphobia is in his genes.
The article has some interesting anecdotes on the fate of foreign journalists present in India when the Emergency was declared. Anand informs us that the correspondent from The Washington Post was expelled from India within four days of the draconian imposition. The correspondents from The Times (London), Daily Telegraph, Newsweek and Far Eastern Economic Review didn’t budge and hence had to leave the Indian shores. They fell foul of the “Press Censorship Guidelines” issued by Information & Broadcasting ministry, headed by Vidya Charan Shukla. The BBC had to shut its office in 1975. Accreditations of many foreign journalists were cancelled. One, KR Sundar Rajan, was even detained under the draconian Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA).
Christopher Sweeney, a correspondent for The Guardian and The Economist, gave an account of his ordeal thus:
“…I came under obvious suspicion within days of my arrival in the country…after arranging meetings by telephone, odd characters would turn up to observe who I was seeing each morning, others would be waiting in red sarees in the entrance of the Delphi hotel. People I spoke to openly would be later stopped and questioned. At least twice my hotel room was broken into and searched…
“When I complained of the continued harassment by the Government agents and asked Mr Haksar (A.N.D Haskar was the chief government spokesperson) to explain why it had been necessary to organize breakings to my hotel rooms, he replied that unless I left the country as soon as possible, there ‘would be a further prospect of physical inconvenience’.”
Don’t you now sympathize with Lutyens Media who dug themselves deep under the soil to avoid the searchlight of The Emergency? I mean poor guys what could they have done but wag their tails? Don’t you have decency to shame them now, 40-odd years hence, for the sins of their predecessors? Isn’t there a mountain of material to shame them on their own sins?
Anand is matter-of-fact on the Emergency but unwittingly he has held forth a mirror, be it on Congress, Left or Indian media—the order of the “ecosystem” is more or less same to our day. The only difference is unlike today, the foreign press of those days was singing paeans in praise of RSS.
Sample a piece titled “Yes, there is n underground” published in The Economist:
“The shock troops of the (underground) movement largely come from Jana Sangh and its ideological affiliate, the RSS, which claim a combined membership of 10 million (of whom 80,000 including 6,000 full-time party workers are in prison).”
So, the Communists supported the Emergency and RSS resisted it tooth and nail. Delicious, isn’t it.