(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).
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).
Forgive me Chandrababu Naidu. The supremo of Telugu Desam Party. I am laughing. I mean the Modi-Opposition which you cultivated with such photo-ops in Lutyens Media is toying with the idea of inviting your sworn enemy YSR Jaganmohan Reddy in the “opposition conclave” on Friday.
The hobnobbing of Opposition is aimed at how to maximize the combined strength of 121 MPs from the 2019 polls and create roadblocks for Modi in the parliament. There is DMK of course, and TMC of Mamata’s backyard, and Congress with its grand tally of 52 MPs. Naidu too has been invited along with his three MPs. But so shredded is his reputation that hissing is on for Jagan Reddy even if Naidu is “uncomfortable” in sharing the space with his arch rival.
Jagan Reddy, like his father, is a nightmare for Naidu. Reddy wasn’t even born when Naidu was dabbling in politics. First his father, Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy decimated Naidu in 2004 and 2009 General Elections, winning 29 and 33 seats out of 42 in undivided Andhra Pradesh, leaving only the crumbs of five and six seats for the TDP. Reddy Sr. died in a helicopter accident and his removal did help Naidu. But not for long. In the 2019 General Elections, Reddy Jr. drove TDP into ground by winning 22 out of 25 seats. The simultaneous Assembly elections were no better and Reddy’s party, YSRCP, were equally merciless. It bagged 151 seats in the 175-member house. TDP took the leftover of 23 seats. No wonder, Naidu couldn’t bring himself to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Jagan Reddy this afternoon.
But Naidu has nobody but himself to blame. He allied himself with Congress which is seen in Andhra Pradesh as the party that broke up their state into two parts, Telangana being the other. Naidu didn’t learn from the lessons of Telangana Assembly elections last year where he butted in, in alliance with Congress when the need was to recover the lost ground in his home state. The results were a nightmare for him and his party: K. Chandrashekhar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) bagged 88 out of 119 seats in the assembly. TDP’s tally? Just two.
But Naidu was unrepentant. He went ahead for a national alliance with Congress though for the state polls, he fought on his own. The results have been similarly disastrous. The personal setback was best manifested in the defeat of Nara Lokesh, his son, from the Mangalagiri assembly constituency.
In the national consciousness, Chandrababu Naidu was seen as a tech-savy leader who gave Andhra Pradesh a global image in the Silicon Valley he helped create in Hyderabad; never mind the local whisper of him being most corrupt and arrogant.
Then he began hogging space on front pages of national English mainstream media in the run-up to 2019 Elections. One day he was in Delhi visiting Kejriwal at the latter’s residence; other day he was in Kolkata in successfully persuading Mamata Banerjee to break her sham fast. There were rallies in Vizag with the two leaders. One day Naidu was offering help on Fani cyclone to Naveen Patnaik in Odisha; other day he was in UP, paying courtesy visits to Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati. Those numerous trips to Rashtrapati Bhavan with his petitions. Catching up with Rahul Gandhi all too often.
PR machinery was in full swing. Naidu, Naidu everywhere. His trademark safari suit, the wiry frame of an Abraham Lincoln, trimmed salt and pepper beard, no wonder Naidu saw a Moses in himself who would have the entire opposition wading into a sea behind him. He would lead India into a vision of his own, Modi would be driven out in the Bay of Bengal, history would remember him as a saviour.
Unfortunately, all of it was a bluff. We knew it from the day he threw a tantrum against BJP/NDA for not giving Andhra Pradesh the “special status.” The welfare of his state was never on his mind: after all BJP was giving the state much more than AP would’ve got with the “special status.” But Naidu was a clever fox, wasn’t he. He wanted to take the steam out of Jagan Reddy’s campaign for “special status.” Hijack his rival’s agenda. Turn his medicine into a poison. Ready to rule Andhra, and the country, till the sun sets on him.
There is little that differentiates delusion from senility. Cultivating an image is one thing, but believing in it is tragic. (yes, yes, yes, I also have Navjot Singh Sidhu in mind as I write this). Naidu’s ego must have been fed by the opponents around him. Wasn’t 2014 too recent when he won 117 seats in the assembly; there were as many as 17 members of his party in the Parliament. He saw himself as a kingmaker. One who could make Narendra Modi dance to his tune.
We all know how the cookie crumbled. Modi didn’t fall for Naidu’s blackmail. No concession on “special status.” You want to leave NDA, please go ahead. Naidu was caught in his own trap. Ominously Amit Shah declared two months before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls: Naidu would be a fool if he believed he would be welcomed back in the fold.
Now Naidu has been hung out to dry. He is about to turn 70. Life and energy are in its final phase. Humiliations are piling in. It looks a sorry end for him; like he inflicted on his father-in-law NT Rama Rao who had trusted him with his daughter and the reins of his party. (In his last interview, NT Rama Rao compared himself to Mughal emperor Shah Jahan who had been imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb, in this case Chandrababu Naidu).
History often has a tragic way of repeating itself.