(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).
A case is filed on two deaths/suicides. The complaint is that the two deceased were driven to take the extreme step because some THREE didn’t pay up. After a while police gives up. Admits in court there is not enough evidence to incriminate the THREE. The case is closed.
A year later the case is reopened in May 2020 at state government’s behest. On November 4, 2020, that ONE is arrested. Manhandled and with policemen toting AK-47s in tow. A measure you and I would recommend for a dreaded terrorist.
But Arnab Goswami is no terrorist. He could be one in the TV news industry or for certain forces. He could have been an asset for the ruling dispensation in the Centre. You and I could be on one side or the other. But none of us would deny he is a media celebrity. Possibly the biggest name on our media firmament. It sends signals, right or wrong, across the country. It affects India’s millions and millions of citizens. If not now, then pretty soon.
I am for law to take its course. I am not here to argue Maharashtra government reopening the case. I am not too worried about Mumbai Police too. Arrests are made in India, there are courts who on the basis of evidence take a call. I am not worried too about missing Arnab Goswami in my evenings. I hardly watch him. But I have the option to go for remote. As everyone has. You want to watch him, watch him. You want to shut him out, do it.
I am not going hysterical on either of these two lines of arguments:
One says it’s a revenge for raking up Palghar, dogging the drugs-Bollywood connection, and pursuing the Sushant Singh Rajput case with relentless vigour. After months, Arnab didn’t let up on these themes. He also took Sonia’s original name with certain contempt which upset the Queen Dowager no end up. What more proof do we need against the fascist nature of present Maharashtra government when it beats up ex-soldiers, locks up ordinary citizens for social media posts and make a crane comfortable within the drawing room of a nationally acclaimed actress? And don’t we have multiple sting operations which reveal that “Arnab-would-have-no-option-but-to-commit-suicide”, such would be the ferocity from the state government? That you get Arnab and you take heat off Bollywood and Sushant Rajput?
The other side is driven to despair at Goswami not letting up on Palghar, Sushant Singh Rajput, Bollywood and Kangana Ranaut. They feel such attacks are motivated. That it’s Centre which is working overtime to sink the rather unholy alliance between Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress. They argue what’s so big about Arnab when journalists are being hauled up all around the country, including in a few BJP states.
You and I could differ. Hindus and Muslims could differ. Political parties could differ. Ideologies could differ. But there is something we must not differ. And that’s about the nature of our Republic. We won’t be a democracy if media is under a siege. There is no gain showing me International Press Index which shows India very poor in freedom of press. That India is turning fascist. If it was so, NDTV’s alleged financial scams would’ve been taken to logical conclusions. The Telegraph won’t be so openly abusive. If people were under fetters, there won’t be open threats to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, and more than just on their lives. Vilest language on social media goes unpunished.
A free media though doesn’t mean unfettered media. If Arnab is arrested or some journalist in Uttar Pradesh is, there are redressal mechanisms. One or the other would be shown up wrong. Law would take it’s call. But if you manhandle a media celebrity and bring in armed men toting Ak-47, this is more than justice pursued. This is criminal intimidation. The is State trying to send the message across: to media and to people. That even though we derive our power from you, our naked force is meant to terrify you. That if this could happen to arguably one of the 10 biggest names in the country, you could be the next.
There is no gainsaying that Mumbai Police has acted on its own accord. It’s answerable to State government who, by now, ought to have taken a public stand on the matter. I scanned the twitter-lines of Uddhav Thackeray (office), Sharad Pawar, Congress (Sonia Gandhi) and Rahul Gandhi. Blank. Shashi Tharoor? Blank. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra? Blank. Mamata, Pinarayi Vijayan, Ashok Gehlot? Blank. looked up for Shekhar Gupta and Rajdeep Sardesai. Bland. I could promise you they would be the next. And then you would go to town on the “fascism” of Modi government. And then you would be teased on your silence on Arnab Goswami. Be principled or drop the pretence.
In a jungle, might rules. Humanity was no better than jungle. But it was centuries ago. Since then, Magna Carta happened, Napoleon happened, Tocqueville happened, Voltaire happened. We all agreed to the way a society functioned. A cobbled-up state government today wants to tell us we were wrong. That a Genghis Khan or a Taimur still lives. No sir, they no longer do. Before long, your fate would be decided as its done every five years. You are too weak to fetter a billion voices. India would assert and show you your place.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Uddhav Thackeray has lost the plot badly. I mean Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar have nothing to lose—their fiefdom would survive only till they are alive. But Uddhav had many advantages which we could count as (a) Balasaheb who had nurtured a regional identity; (b) Hindu plank which is only now peaking and; (c) and BJP’s hand-holding which could have morphed their rogues into those adorable kids who knock our doors for social cause and not to knock us out (Ask Madan Sharma, if you must).
So, here we have a man who by his own admission left the groovy train of BJP because he wanted to be the chief minister. That was the first transgression against the mandate of his own people who had BJP as first choice. The second overstep was joining hands with those who were arch enemies of his own dad, his own legacy and not people’s preferred choices. Then Palghar, Sushant Singh Rajput, Kangana Ranaut, Madan Sharma (again) and Arnab Goswami reminded us of a cave man on street you ask you sister to keep eyes closed to lest he bumps in and asks for a fig leaf.
I mean who looks the other way when your khaki guys are boarding trains to nab a man in Hooghly only because someone has made a threatening call to your spokesperson who himself doesn’t suffer a flushed face in “haramkhor-ing” others? Who throws journalists in a cell only because they were loitering outside your gates? Who declares Mumbai out-of-bounds for a celebrated actress whose national recognition vis-à-vis acknowledgment in media is the biggest giveaway on caucus that manipulates the success and failure of our films? Who brings bulldozers into drawing rooms? (Well, okay office). Who allows broken bones for cartoons and still not called out for an Indian version of Charlie Hebdo? Who calls celebrated journalists into interrogation rooms only because he addressed the Dowager Queen by her original name? And you move Maharashtra assembly for a privilege motion against the man?
And this brings us to the latest saga of Thackeray’s Maharashtra which is akin to those Seasons of Netflix which abuse Hindu deities (in form of canines and monkeys) and ridicule its holy men (beef-eating Pujaris) in the name of artistic licence. So here we have a Police Commissioner holding a press conference which is an unveiled attack on a television phenomenon of our times with a script which a policeman even with Alzheimer could write as a second nature.
So, a complaint is made, a guy is caught, names are taken, arrests are made, complainants hail the model police and a noose is tossed on a raging bull of an anchor who is breaking all your China shops—from Palghar to Rajput to Bollywood to drug mafia to Hathras—only because there is so many cupboards and so many skeletons which it would be improper to leave unattended. It’s as kiddish and Kalidasa-like (before the latter learnt not to cut the very branch on which he was perched) that you wonder if Congress-NCP are doing a hit-job on Shiv Sena on behalf of BJP. It’s like those suicides which Jihadis do only because they read in a dusty old book that its surest way to be in Jannat and enjoy 72 virgins (Why the figure of 72? Well some other day).
How this all would end? In a whimper though it’s a silly to stick neck out against a subject whose self-destructive streak by now is legendary. I mean all they have done is to only empower Arnab Goswami. A Kangana Ranaut which was fading from memory; a Rajput which viewers were getting tired with; our Deepikas and Saras and Shraddhas had come and gone and why, even Rhea is out of cell. But now there is a new fire and Arnab would harness it to the hilt.
The dye is cast. Arnab is daring them to arrest him. He says if called for interrogation he would walk to the police station and walk back (at least two-hours of primetime TV on his network which would break records of Sholay). He is baiting them for the lolly which they could serve him on a plate. You put him behind bars and all the hell breaks loose. You let him go and those two owners arrested as a collateral damage would go for your throat. You make a sheepish retreat and all your macho posturing would conjure image of a damsel who had gotten into the bed with high hopes.
I mean who needs enemies when you yourself are doing the job so spectacularly?
(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).
Those looking to have new Arvind Kejriwals and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) replicated all across India are living in a fools’ world.
Delhi is unique in the sense that a ruling party doesn’t have to worry about law and order nor has a jurisdiction over its land as is the case elsewhere.
All it needs to do is look after infrastructure, health, schools, education etc and offer freebies without a thought in the world since its revenue is always in surplus compared to its expenses.
Figures show that Kerjiwal’s government has surplus money of over Rs 5000 crores. It’s education budget is 25 per cent of its revenue. The subsidizing of electricity has gone up by 6 per cent.
This enables Kejriwal to stuff Delhi’s mainstream corrupt media with advertisements worth tens of crores which in turn ensures that not a line in criticism appears in public domain.
Kejriwal also has the unique advantage of practically having an urban political party which can’t be compared with any other local, state or national party in India.
It’s no secret that Urban India gives the nation its growth and economy compared to rural folks but India’s cities don’t control its own revenue. All the money earned through local bodies in urban areas goes to state governments who divert it in the hands of farmers, poor etc in order to secure its vote-bank and remain in power.
Just look at ministerial portfolio distribution in the Shiv Sena-led government in Maharashtra: The urban ministry has been retained by Uddhav Thackeray and it gives him control on most of the revenue earned in Mumbai and elsewhere in the state.
As per data, 32 per cent of India is urban while the rest is rural and hence it makes sense to divert a significant portion of your revenue towards rural areas and reap the benefits in elections.
In contrast, a Delhi government retains control of its landscape and its revenue and doesn’t have to divert its money anywhere.
Sure there are other Union Territories (Delhi is neither UT nor state but has a special status and hence enjoys legislative assembly) but nobody has the scale and depth of Delhi. Just consider: Delhi National Capital region and Mumbai metropolitan region, alone between themselves account for 9% of India’s population.
So for other Kejriwal and AAPs to emerge, a hopeful must have the (a) size of Delhi; (b) No rural vote-bank obligation; (c) no law or land obligation; (d) no subservience to a state party. No other place than Delhi in India can claim to have this advantage.
On a larger note, it’s also a sign that sooner or later tens of urban political parties would emerge in India’s growing cities who would seek independence from the yoke of state governments.
At the moment, India’s Constitution doesn’t support such a division between power and responsibility between state and local levels but a change can’t be stopped in coming decades.
For one, India is increasingly growing urban. Surveys show that nearly 70 per cent of India would be urban by 2050. Already, from sky above, larger part of India appears to be towns, mini-cities or cities but the “definition” of “Urban” vis a vis “Rural” limits its numbers to 32 per cent only.
The definition of “urban” as per Indian laws is that the area must have its own municipality, cantonment and corporation board and must have a minimum population of 5,000.
Sooner than later, the state governments would have to cede control of their big cities in the hands of “mayors” since a great deal of rural India is moving towards cities in any case. This migration is unstoppable due to the lure and opportunities in big cities.
These mayors would be like Presidents of their cities, looking after its infrastructure, water, electricity, health, education etc and managing its own budget. Diversion of its funds would not be feasible for state governments as most of their vote-banks would’ve moved to the towns and cities anyway.
Besides, badly managed cities where health, water, electricity, policing is ignored could lead to large-scale riots which would burn up the remote controlling powers in its own flames.
Hence, there is one Arvind Kejriwal, one AAP and one Delhi. Hoping a duplication of this format elsewhere in India is plain day-dreaming.
And hence brace yourself for BJP don’t ceding control of India’s political landscape in 2024 and beyond.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Think of all the reasons you could in opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 and you would’ve all of your answers in these two pieces (here and here). If you still want to get your man, Amit Shah, then the latter’s words in the Rajya Sabha would make you seek penance for the sins of your mind.
After you’ve done the hard work to cleanse yourself of your prejudice, try to make sense why stations are being burnt in Bengal; why Islamist Jihadists have given a call to put flame to Kerala and why chief ministers of at least five states—Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Punjab and Bengal—are defiant. And then ask yourself what kind of “secularism” and “democracy” these rogues have in mind without adhering to judiciary, parliament and the Constitution?
Now if you still try to bog me down in justifying your “anti-Muslim” slant of the Citizenship Act, I would still nudge you to the above references unless you could convince me that the Sun doesn’t always rises in the East.
There’s another clarity you must’ve before we proceed any further. Is this a popular “revolt” against the Citizenship Act or a “whipped” one? Assam is now seeing reason after being misguided on fear on its language and culture but everything else is “drama” and a dangerous one at that. Goons who are burning up the railway stations in Bengal aren’t doing it to save India’s “democracy”.
Let’s look at the two opposing sides—those in the pitched battle for and against the Citizenship Act. The five Chief Ministers are hell-bent they would slam the door shut on the Act. This is all bluster. There is no way they could block this Citizenship Act in their domains. Judiciary could come down heavily on them; Centre could dismiss them for trying to unravel the unitary structure of the nation; and people could make sure their political careers—and that of their parties—is buried deep on the floor of the oceans.
Let’s look closely at the affiliation of these five Chief Ministers. Three of them are run or controlled by the Congress—Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. The two others—Kerala and Bengal—are accused of treating Hindus as lesser citizens of their states, as critics would point out with the instances on Durga Visarjan and Sabrimala. Maharashtra too might deny Citizenship Act as the strings of Uddhav Thackeray are pulled by Congress.
It is thus a “political”rage and not one for secularism and democracy. Congress is fighting for its survival and so are Mamata Banerjee (Bengal) and Pinaryi Vijayan (Kerala) as the 2019 elections have shown. All these forces have ceded the political ground on Hindus to the BJP. Their vote-bank of Muslims is all but lost: Triple Talaq, Ayodhya, Article 370 and Citizenship Act instantly come to mind. Shunned by Hindus and abandoned by Muslims, these forces are staring at political oblivion
So their best hope is anarchy. Judiciary exposes them at every given stage: Remember Rafale, Article 370 or Ayodhya as instances. People see them singing the same tune as arch enemies Pakistan. The ruling dispensation holds them up on corruption and convenient stands. The last throw of the dice appears to be their hope for agitations on streets, swelled by students of bastions of a select universities, and foreign intervention in the form of West and their stooge institutions, including the United Nations and a corrupt media. Lutyens Media in India is a drummer of such inimical forces against a strong India. Why, the overseas wing of Congress has already given a call to hold demonstrations outside embassies around the world, against the Citizenship Act.
The biggest fear of these forces is political oblivion in case Indian Muslims pull the plug on them. The Muslim vote-bank no longer sees Congress and similar forces as dependable. It could lead to fundamentalist forces within Indian Muslims to assume leadership and dump Congress and their likes for good. It would amount to their political annihilation.
The other side, favouring Citizenship Act, have logic and reason with them. It gives them an ironclad moral shield at least in the eyes of the majority in this country. In raising the charge of divisiveness, the Opposition is only strengthening BJP’s hands. It’s getting the majority in this country behind Modi and Shah and exposing themselves as inimical forces working against the interest of India. How would Hindus see a Shiv Sena or Sikhs would view Shiromani Akali Dal if the inclusion of their brothers and sisters from across the border is opposed by these parties?
“Abki baar, 400 paar” could after all come true in 2024 elections, given how a stupid Opposition is squandering the last penny of their political capital.
Post Script: I end the piece as I began it: By referring a piece to your attention. It would give you a bigger picture and firm up your spine in the defence of your country and its people.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
I share this with the readers of Indian Express and The Hindu to caution them about the highly biased coverage of these two newspapers who in popular perception are the front soldiers of Communist-Leftist ideology in this country.
In today’s editions of the two newspapers, there is little mention of “heated discussions” between Congress and Ajit Pawar which led the latter to storm out of the room and seek out BJP towards government formation in Maharashtra.
This was shared by Sharad Pawar in a television interview which has been widely reported in newspapers except in the above-two mentioned. The interview also has Sharad Pawar griping that while Shiv Sena got the chief minister’s chair, the Congress secured the Speaker for themselves. “What have we got?” Pawar has bristled in frustration.
Well, let’s try to fathom the reasons why Indian Express and The Hindu have chosen to bury the disclosures of NCP chief:
· One, it would show that Congress is perennial spoilsport, arrogant and have an ingrained sense of entitlement (even though they have the least number of seats out of the four major contestants in Maharashtra);
· Two, it would reveal that all is still not well within the fledgling alliance among the three opposites in Mahrashtra as Pawar has gone public in his displeasure with Congress;
· Three, it could actually mean an overture by Pawar towards the BJP in the still fluid political rapids of Maharashtra
I would now ask the readers of the two newspapers to refer the front page lead story of Indian Express on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, with the headline: “PM told me let us work together but I refused: Pawar on Nov 20 meet.” The sub-headline of the story is: “Offer to make Supriya Sule minister at Centre, joint govt in state: NCP chief.”
Clearly the impression a reader would have from this front-page lead is that the prime minister Narendra Modi was “cutting a deal” with Pawar towards BJP forming a government in Maharashtra. Modi, it implied, not only wanted the support of NCP but had also offered a ministerial berth to his daughter. But as you read on, the dissonance of the text with the headline becomes apparent.
In the text, Pawar is quoted for Modi having asked him to work together for the country as they share common vision on a multiple issues. So Modi made didn’t make an offer for Maharashtra. But the headline would make a non-attentive reader believe that Modi was trying to cut a deal with NCP towards power in Maharashtra. Secondly, while Pawar did say that a ministerial berth was offered to her daughter, he didn’t say that Modi had made this offer!
Thus, out and out, Indian Express was trying to show Modi in poor light on his November 20 meeting with Pawar ahead of the ugly drama in Maharashtra even though the facts were otherwise.
Now, Cut Two to today’s newspapers, 24 hours later. Sharad Pawar is quoted to having told the NDTV that no such direct offer—either to Pawar himself or his daughter Sule was made by Modi. This has been prominently reported in Times of India. But Indian Express and The Hindu haven’t reported this disclosure made on a national TV network—even though a day earlier it was quoting a regional TV channel to make their point on November 20 meeting! The most Indian Express has done is to quote Pawar that his nephew, Ajit Pawar, was unhappy over the pace of discussion with the Congress. No mention that Ajit Pawar had walked out of the meeting with Congress over “heated discussions.”
So readers, go on and keep reading The Indian Express and The Hindu if you share their bias against the BJP, and by extension, against the Hindutva point of view. But then be prepared to get doctored news as they have done in the present instance.
(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).
Former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda feels Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra would do better than Rahul Gandhi and that’s a serious indictment of Congress party chief who harbours the ambition of becoming Prime Minister after the 2019 General Elections.
“I think Priyanka Gandhi would do better than Rahul Gandhi,” said Gowda in an interview to The Hindu which almost implies that he views the scion of Gandhi dynasty as no challenge to BJP or Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Gowda was unable to conceal his disappointment at the Congress for failing to build on alliance with regional forces after all of them came on stage at the swearing in ceremony of his son H.D. Kumaraswamy as chief minister of Karnataka eight months ago.
“The Congress could’ve taken forward the unity of the Opposition by organizing rallies with regional parties…It’s been eight months since the national leaders congregated for a show of strength in Bengaluru,” said a dejected Gowda.
Since the heady, though unholy, mix of Congress-JD(S) in Karnataka eight months ago, all Congress has done is to annoy the heavyweight regional satraps of the country. Kumaraswamy threatens to quit every single day; Mayawati loses no opportunity to take a swipe at Rahul Gandhi; Akhilesh Yadav has gone ahead and hugged BSP ignoring Congress completely in the vital state of Uttar Pradesh; Mamata Banerjee is angry that Rahul Gandhi didn’t respond to her calls in Tripura elections; and Arvind Kejriwal wouldn’t have anything to do with Congress in Delhi or Punjab.
“Mayawati sought 10 seats in the recent polls to the Madhya Pradesh assembly. The Congress could’ve conceded the demand. But it didn’t,” said a visibly dejected Gowda.
Such is the hubris of Congress that they stayed aloof and watched Shiv Sena and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Ram Vilas Paswan walk over to the BJP corner papering over a potential split.
Surely Rahul Gandhi is aware that a poorer showing than 44 seats in 2014 elections could imply a political oblivion for him. Not only his party but he too faces an uncertain future. Why then is he not tightening his belt and attempting to be in the driver’s seat?
Surely arrogance rather than common sense is getting the better of Rahul Gandhi. These are not the times when regional chiefs would make a beeline to him. Remember, Mamata Banerjee didn’t invite Congress in her mahagathbandhan rally recently. A party fighting for its very survival can’t be so smug. Maybe the wins in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh have caused hubris. The irony is Congress party’s slogan in 2014 elections was: Main nahin, hum (It’s not about me but us).
Let’s not forget the insecurity too which kind of freezes Mr. Gandhi. He doesn’t seem to have done much for the next-generation leaders of Congress. When was the last you heard Sachin Pilot or Jyotiraditya Scindia make a statement on national issues? Mud-slinging on Modi with trumped up issues of Rafale etc has been both a waste of energy and time.
All this indicates that the door on Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister, in case the opposition is able to muster enough seats, is as good as shut. Congress would’ve to do remarkably better and command at least 100 seats in the 2019 elections for regional heavyweights to make space for it. Probably Rahul Gandhi is banking on a similar dream. Possibly his Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) bluster could yield gains though the bad accounting would show up. With shut eyes, you see, one could only go so far.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Times of India leases out its editorial pages to entities who would struggle to find a byline in a Bareilly school magazine. Shobha De, Twinkle Khanna, Aakaar Patel are pits which readily come to mind. Sagarika Ghose can’t write a line with integrity. Then there are those like Swaminathan S. Aiyar who are gripped with amnesia as they enter into their 80s. These fossils and left-overs do show the Old Lady of Boribunder of its age.
Aiyar in an edit piece today (December 23, 2018) makes an assertion that Vijay Rupani, the chief minister of Gujarat, wants new projects to hire at least 80 percent of their workers from within the state. This he mentions in an attempt to show CM Kamal Nath isn’t alone in gunning for UP and Bihar migrants in his state of Madhya Pradesh. The only trouble is: Rupani’s exact words in Vibrant Gujarat Summit last month read so: “We hope that the private sector provides 80 per cent of jobs to the locals.”
So, this is no government ordinance. No diktat. Only a nudge to private sector players. But Aiyar would make us believe that it’s a Gujarat government policy. It’s a deliberate mischief. Like the one he did on Sardar Patel as a flawed hero, not a unifier of India, in a piece last month. Ashok Malik, my former colleague in Times of India, and now a press secretary to the President of India, tweeted it to be the “most intellectually dishonest pieces I have read in a long time. “ You don’t have to read these pieces to know that he is Mani Shankar Aiyar’s elder brother enthralled with the Congress.
Aiyar then gets factual on the attacks on immigrants in Gujarat earlier this year after one of them is held accountable for a rape of a toddler. He won’t tell you though that it was a spontaneous outpouring of the masses and not the Gujarat government’s doing. Aiyar ends his piece with the words: “Today Gujarat is going the Shiv Sena way. This is just not immoral and unconstitutional. It may also be political suicide. UP and Bihar have 130 parliamentary seats against only 26 in Gujarat. The BJP’s new stance in Gujarat implicitly blesses the attacks on north Indian workers. That can lose Modi far more votes in UP and Bihar than it gains in Gujarat. That will be just deserts.”
Aiyar needs be told that Gujarat today has zero level of unrest and is considered an ideal state for immigrants. While employment exchange data shows 60 and 40 lakhs unemployed in West Bengal and Kerala, it’s only 5 lakhs in Gujarat.
This is not to discount the larger disquieting image of migrants issues in other states of the country. UP, which has or 25 per cent of it’s population of 20 crores living below the poverty line; and Bihar with nearly 44 per cent of it’s 11 crores below the sustainable level are subject to hostility when it’s people migrate to other states. Most of them are seasonal migrants, finding succour in diverse sectors such as construction, hotel, textile, manufacturing, transporation, services, domestic work etc.
The cities we live in are built—and sustained–on the hard labour of these migrant workers. But they never figure in the designs of architects. The political class discounts them for they don’t count as votes. Trade Unions don’t stand up for them. Urban planners have no space for them on their spreadsheets. Census data every 10 years go completely off-mark on their numbers. Low-paying, hazardous and informal jobs are their fate. Health services are non-existent for them.
The Indian Express of today has a story about an Odisha migrant worker who suffered an acid attack by his employer of a brick kiln in Vishakapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. The employer allegedly targeted migrant’s face and neck during an altercation over wages. Wages, physical abuse, deaths are real issues for these migrants. Most live on factory premises and thus subject to a 24-hour work roster. Legal disputes in unorganized sector are a hopeless cause.
The way out again is an example emanating out of Gujarat. Aajevika Bureau, through its Shramik Sahayata evam Sandharab Kendras (3 SKs), provides registration and photo IDs to migrants which is useful in emergencies and KYC at banks. Legal education, counseling and mediation is made readily available. On-the-Job training is provided for. It runs primary health clinics—Amrit—and crèches for migrant children.
India’s migration story is not big today—only 1.06 per cent of India’s population do inter-state migration. But greater prosperity will bring greater mobility in very near future. The 100 Smart Cities Mission launched in 2015 needs to address the issues of these poor and marginalized. Smart solutions are not smart if they don’t account for helpless, destitute migrants on our roads. And politicians? Please shut up.