Uttar Pradesh

Farmers have already lost this game: The only option left is violence

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Farmers want trouble. They now even don’t want MSP or APMC.

Let’s say there are two sets of demands of farmers: One concerns MSP and APMC. The other is a host of other issues including electricity, matter-in-civil-courts-only, no-hard-penalty-on-stubble etc. If the government is making concessions on all these issues and still the farmers bring placards of “Yes’ or “No” to Vigyan Bhawan, what inference do you want to draw?

You think private players are the root of trouble? That they would hold “poor farmers” to ransom? But since when have wheat and paddy been produced in factories? And even if elephants do fly, how would it take away your MSP. Do you need be told that more paddy from Punjab was procured at MSP jthan at any time in India’s independent history? That the first record it broke was in 2017-18 with 176.61 lakh tonnes procured. That it has bettered this year with 202.77 lakh tonnes procured. How could private players deprive you?

Be that as it may, farmers are at Delhi’s gates. They have laid siege to the Capital. And they won’t go away in a hurry. The “poor farmers” have also brought in their women and children and elderly. In Delhi’s cold and with Covid-19 surging, they have both power and persuasion as their aces. Where do we go from here?

One, simply throw this notion out of the window that the next round on December 9 would see a breakthrough. There won’t be one, on Wednesday and in other rounds if they occur.

Farmers feel they have nothing to lose, at least for the next few weeks. For they have all the time in the world. If government blinks, the template of anarchy would succeed. If it doesn’t, agitating farmers hope it spins out of control.

You see, Punjab farmers are free because paddy season is over. It has been sowed, reaped and sold in Punjab. The next one of wheat has also been put into fields. Harvest is only due in April. Farmers have 8-12 weeks to dance on Centre’s head.

What options Centre have? Clearly, it doesn’t want to use force and it must not. It doesn’t want to lose the perception battle. It’s not a communal matter, it concerns the “annadatas” of the nation and before you know it, this entire farce would morph into something entirely different and all those infamous slogans of Modi-baiters—“Democracy in Danger”, “totalitarian India”, “Hindu extremists”—would fill the air. The prepaid media would be rubbing their hands in glee, and EU, UN and US Congress would be practicing in front of mirror which finger looks best on camera.

So farmers want to appear “peaceful and vulnerable.” Centre is “sympathetic and caring.” Both are engaged in perception battle. We know on whose side the propaganda is. Where does Modi go from here?

Let’s look at how the next few days could unfold. Centre: we are agreeing to all what you want. So why still have the agitation? If you want the three Farm Acts to be repealed, only the Parliament should take a call. After it, it was the Parliament which turned those Bills into Acts.

Farmers are unlikely to accede. For it could be back to square one. They would insist: Scrap the Acts. One, they have only a few weeks free. Thereafter, it’s wheat crop. Time is critical here.

Government could respond: Are you representing all farmers of India? Could we take a referendum please? Let India’s farmers take a call whether a simple majority want “Yes” or “No” on Farm Acts. Modi would obey it as “janadesh.”

What, you are still not ok with this? So let’s do one this thing: We know 40 farmers’ unions are leading this agitation. That’s why they have a seat in Vigyan Bhawan. You claim to be voice of India’s farmers. Could we see how many members you have on roll? You and I both would know if you are voice of India’s farmers.

This is a battle of attrition. An exercise in perception. Farmers are losing it from time to time—like calling for “Bharat Bandh”—and declaring “effigy burning” (did it really happen on Saturday?). It’s called “muscle flexing”; “baring teeth” to scare the opponent. They also want to project it’s not just Punjab but farmers of rest of India who are agitated. December 8 either way won’t offer a clue. Farmers of Western Uttar Pradesh, for example, won’t stay around for long. The sugarcane season would beckon and this agitation can wait.

So Modi won’t lift a baton. The only course open to him is the Art of Persuasion. If farmers still want to agitate, they would have to explain why now. Farmers can’t lose time. They can’t also be anything but peaceful. So stay put if you want. You might win the Battle of Propaganda. And lose the War on Reforms.

 

 

Farmers’ stir: Analysing the situation from two sides of the barricades; Who’s wrong?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Farmers on foot, tractors, trucks have marched from Punjab towards Haryana and Delhi. Along the way, they have faced barricades, police resistance which morphed into tear gas, water canons and arguably some baton wielding. It’s not a pretty picture and the typical hubris of Modi government is painted in our newspapers. The stand off has refused to die down two months after the three Farmers’ Acts were passed by the Parliament in September.

Emotions are running high. So I would cut out the flourish and engage the readers in the simplest of language possible.

So, let’s first work out what the farmers want and what the Centre is loathe to give it to them. The essence of these Farm Acts is that (a) it’s now One Nation, One Agriculture market; (b) that farmers could engage with private players; and (c) No need to hoard the grains.

ONE NATION ONE AGRICULTRE MARKET: It implies that a farmer could sell his produce anywhere in the country. So, if I am a Punjab farmer, and couldn’t look beyond the mandis of the state (read Agriculture Produce Market Committee—APMC) thus far, I could now scan the neighbouring states of Himachal, Haryana or Uttar Pradesh and get the best price on my produce;

FARMERS COULD ENGAGE WITH PRIVATE PLAYERS: Farmers in Punjab are hampered on water and technological issues. The water tables of the state are so depleted that there are “Cancer Villages in Punjab” due to all the chemicals and pesticides. The simplest example on technological issue is the stubble-burning which makes Delhi a gas chamber and which the farmers’ can’t attend to because of the cost involved. Now farmers could engage private players for redemption on these fronts, including seeds.

NO STOCKPILING: The Centre says we have enough food. Farmers’ don’t need to stockpile but for exceptional circumstances. The State government wants to have it say. It’s not a major point in the present confrontation.

xxx

Once these three Farm bills were moved, Shiromani Akali Dal walked out of the alliance with the BJP. The Punjab state government of Congress, led by Captain Amarinder Singh, moved a resolution which was passed by the state assembly to override these Farm Acts of the Centre. Yet, the agitation has refused to die down because the President of India hasn’t given his assent to the state assembly’s resolution.

The arguments from the other side, backed by the Punjab state government and passed by the assembly, are these:

(a)    The State government could notify the fee on any private or electronic transaction. So if you go to Punjab, as a private, player, the state government could actually levy tax on you (So whither Ease of Doing Business?)

(b)    Instead of a few hundred mandis, the whole Punjab state would thus become a mandi over which the writ of the state government would run large;

(c)     The Punjab state government says that the procurement of wheat and paddy should happen only on the Minimum Support Price (MSP). If it is bought for less, the state would have the right to punish the private player. The State say we are doing so to protect the future of farmers: What happens if the Centre changes its mind and does away the MSP for wheat and paddy?

It’s the MSP which is the stickiest of all points. The contention that private players in future could hold the farmers at their mercy is unfounded. As of last year, the total procurement by private players in the State was a mere 0.58 per cent. Further, under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, some 80 crores of the 150-crore population are being given free foodgrains. The Centre would always need to procure foodgrains. The incitement to farmers that their future would be held to ransom is fallacious.

Sure, the MSP is not just important for the farmers. It’s also important for the Punjab state government. It taxes farmers to the tune of 8.5 per cent. Last year, the Punjab state government made 3600 crore revenue out of this exercise. This money, they claim, they spend on the welfare of farmers which includes free electricity and free water.

Naturally, MSP suits both farmers and the Punjab state government. Farmers get free subsidies. The State government affords it through taxation, most of which comes from the revenue that the Centre gives by procuring the foodgrains.

The Centre is loathe to guarantee MSP. One, there is little logic as outlined since the government would always need foodgrains. Two, as said, private players are miniscule in this game. Besides, wheat and paddy are not the only produce from Punjab. There is a flourishing dairy industry too. All could benefit if the market is allowed to take its own course.

Arguing in favour of farmers for “free” subsidies is the same if I go to my bank tomorrow and say I can’t pay my loan back because it pinches my pocket. That’s no argument. You can’t run a nation on this premise. Further private players, as said, could provide solution to a lot of lingering farm issues in this country. If the threat of a punitive State action is around, nobody would come forward. The farm situation would only worsen. E-commerce players like Grofers and Big Basket, a win-win for all, would suffer.

Now look at it from another perspective. This issue seems only to concern Punjab. The farmers in the rest of the country have no issue with these three Farm Acts. Wheat and Paddy and that too of Punjab farmers isn’t the entire India and its produce. Could a state hold to ransom which is good for farmers and sectors all across?

Now let’s delve on the political aspect of it. Captain Amarinder Singh and Congress know that the election is only a year and a half away in 2022. This is the right time to make a capital investment. Shrimoni Akali Dal too want to recover its lost ground. It’s BJP, who would fight all 117 seats alone. Who stands to lose the most? One should give BJP credit for persisting in face of such adverse poll logic.

There is also this question of middlemen. It’s not an inconsiderable number in Punjab: At the last count it was 36,000. The Food Corporation of India (FCI) gave them Rs 1,600 crores at 2.5 percent commission last year. They stand to lose the most if the monopoly of mandis (APMC) is done with. They also flourish under the political patronage. Both won’t like the new measures to kick in.

 

Where does Modi go from this Bihar high? Is this bugle of triumph also one of warning?

(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.

 

 

 

Indians can’t desert Modi and leave him at the mercy of sharks

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

All of us would agree that public transport should’ve been allowed to let migrants reach home. Done and dusted in the first week of Lockdown 1.0 itself.  Free food and community centres are not homes.

Then came mischief. One fine day, we had thousands of migrants at a bus station in Delhi. Somebody had promised them transport home. This whisper also worked in Mumbai. Thousands poured into Bandra station. Somebody was trying to get them on streets. An educated guess is it was politics. As we would presently see, any political upheavals can’t be caused without people-on- streets.

It’s now Priyanka Gandhi on the move. Her bleeding heart has arranged a thousand buses for migrants for Uttar Pradesh. She has chosen buses over trains.  Never mind UP is successfully requisitioning tens of trains by the hour. Half of all Shramik Trains, 301 out of 642, have headed to Yogi’s state. She won’t tell, and our media won’t ask, if she has allergy to Indian Railways. She is surely not living up to her surname who once discovered India on trains and ended up as Mahatma.

So let’s agree on the basics: One, State made a mistake in denying migrants a window to escape. Two, somebody wants human misery on streets. This agenda was bound to soar on the headwind of people’s trauma. This was one reality which was wired to favour fiction.

We got to know of fictions on a regular basis though our media don’t give enough credit to its readers for intelligence. This usually happens when you are unchecked. NDTV was caught arranging migrants through a staged performance. They were shamed enough to delete the video but its men were soon up to another mischief. So, a report has Priyanka’s buses lined up, only the image actually is of Yogi’s buses for Kumbh Mela last year. One recalls a fake report in The Hindu of migrants being extra charged. Indian Express isn’t leaving a single migrant on a single highway who could add to its’ misery editions. India Today group meanwhile is selling migrants photos for thousands of bucks.

These are the kind of times when Western media wakes up to India. Washington Post has run dozens of photographs on Indian migrants; New York Times likewise; The Guardian wasn’t quite British in overplaying it as India’s greatest exodus since the Partition. Quite interestingly, the newspaper in a matter of 24 hours, was praising the United States and Australia for enforcing a complete lockdown on its people; no escaping the measure. It had drooled on UK lockdown as a “necessary hardship.’

All this doesn’t blind us to migrants’ nightmare. People have lost lives on roads, trucks and railway lines. Centre hadn’t seen it coming. Nobody had, truth to tell. Smiling idiots who pass off as experts were moving between one media house to another, predicting catastrophe for at least 40 million Indians. The end was near.

This is the thing about images. Young kids are psychologically scarred by Corona Virus. Possibly in lakhs. But they don’t make up images. Indifferent couples, in 24×7 proximity, hate each other more than ever. We possibly have lakhs of divorces sowed. Again, there are no images. Young entrepreneurs are ruined. Again, no images. Corona has been a pandemic which in real gritty world, outside our Netflixes and home-bakeries, has been nothing short of death to millions. Again, no images.

The political beasts know this truth from ages. In modern world, it’s the most important tool of imperialism. These days they don’t send out armies, well not everywhere. They strangulate you by propaganda. A government, howsoever loved, is pulled down through steps in these orders: (a) Bring people on streets; (b) Show police as murderers; (c ) police freezes; becomes spectators; (d ) anarchy on streets morphs into violent mobs; (e ) Pressure groups—UN, EU, Media, Human Rights Groups, NGOs—pounce on its prey. Its’ “sleeping cells” they have fattened all these years in the home country—opposition and corrupt media—are the proverbial fifth column. Judiciary succumbs. Before long, the popular leader is pulled down. Those who know the truth of Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Iraq, Libya and “Arab Springs” –and a pro-democracy fake in Hong Kong—would agree.

Narendra Modi is in this unfortunate situation. He is popular and nationalist – two traits which financial sharks don’t allow to exist. It hurts free trade and their agenda of endless profits. They hold the presidents and the prime ministers of the world by their little finger. Men like Modi, or Putin, Xi or Kim, who put nation first, are caricatured and shown as savages unworthy to be in office. First the world opinion is won over by propaganda. It paves their road for intervention in the name of “democracy” and “human rights.” The suffering nation would face financial sanctions; or worse military action.

This is Modi’s fate for next four years. People-on-streets is an agenda which has been set in motion. Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was the first roll of the dice. Migrants is another. They would keep recurring, in the guise of one or other, to bring anarchy on streets. Every day, every month, every year. This much I know for sure. What’s Modi’s response we would know. India can’t desert its man in this hour.

 

 

Gadkari has shown a mirror to We-the-Dodgers of traffic rules

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

A typical day when I hit roads in my car in the Capital. The roads themselves have three types of variations.

One is in the neighbourhood which teems with shops, cows, pedestrians, vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Here you could find our Virat Kohlis and Saina Nahiwals of future under the benign doting glances of their parents on the balcony.  Schools-buses come every afternoon in the weekdays; alien cars make a stop in front of floors which rent young lives that celebrate weekends with booze, music and dance.  Navigation requires yogic-contortions. Baring smiles on ladies who occupy a patch of lane for their daily round of gossip is a daily act. Here are no traffic lights.

Out of my sector are the big, bad roads. Traffic here is always slow, a bane of our municipal corporations who hadn’t accounted for a future of burgeoning cars, lakhs of flats and millions of residents. Now there is a scramble to collect the daily waste, roads dug to wire our homes with competing WiFis, multiple gaps in dividers for vehicles to switch over from left to right and vice-versa.  Not that it matters to we the citizens: We simply opt for wrong side of traffic flow, braving ugly glances, gesticulating hands and showers of curse. How does it matter when a second of time and an ounce of fuel has been successfully saved?

All this before you hit your first traffic lights of the day. They usually take offs half a week. You can’t blame them either: We the traffic are colour-blind to their signals. It’s indiscreet to press on accelerators when it’s Green; It’s too idealistic to stop on Reds unless and until shrivelled beggars and their acrobat sons and daughters fulfil your idea of charity; or desperate men with fake editions of Sidney Sheldon and Irving Stone in your face reflect your educated background.

The next hour is a tribute to your ever-growing vocabulary on abuses. English swear-words are too polite. They are no match to our Punjabi and Hindi lexicons. The worst ones are reserved for the two-wheelers who swarm around your vehicle; darting from left and write, brushing your bumpers, navigating a gap you thought didn’t exist between two cars. Invariably you are forced to move out of right-most lane where the slowest of vehicle is lording over the lane meant for the fastest. There are three-wheelers who couldn’t care less if their iron frames scratch your newly-painted car or goods carriers who move slower than a bicycle and make you swerve wildly to the hail of abuses in the background.

The irony is, all of these troubles could actually be your work to the others. You too jump traffic lights; you too speak on your mobile as you drive; you too drive against the traffic once in a while and it’s been ages since you submitted your car for a pollution check. You too subdue the traffic police with your rank and position if a folded 100-rupee note isn’t a good-enough grease to his palms.

So you too are part of the problem. Other traffic violators have turned you into one. Or it could be you who has turned others into traffic violators. Daily we hit the roads, daily we come back cursing the jungle that is out there on the roads. We are not wrong too when we curse the rogue mobike-rider who you nearly killed or one who ran a scratch across the length of your car. You also swear at the governance which leaves huge potholes and unmanned traffic lights out there. Submerged roads could test out the lungs of your car; or worse you could’ve an idea how a submarine floats under the water.

So, on the terrifying jungle out there which could maim or kill you and your dear ones, all the stakeholders- people, traffic planners and regulators—are guilty. Planners don’t have a vision for future; Enforcers are corrupt and we the people have turned monsters on the road. Like millions of gods we have on different aspects of our lives, we need to invent a traffic Ganesha too for our wellbeing.

Let’s now view the new whip which has angered most in this country. Most of us are either dipping deep into our pockets or crowding the Pollution Control centres on gas stations. We find the measures too draconian what if our registration, insurance and pollution papers are not in order. We aren’t counting the benefits which discipline would bring on our roads and provides umbrella against pelting hefty medical bills.

At the outset there is every reason to applaud the transport minister Nitin Gadkari. He has been vocal on the Motor Vehicles Amendment bill for more than two years. He spent months in consultations with the states before finalizing and winning the ascent from the Parliament. He has shown a bloody-mindedness ignoring populism and discomfiture within his own ranks.

Three states go for elections in next three months and are all headed by BJP—Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. But for Haryana, the other two aren’t willing to face people’s wrath. Gujarat has brought down the fines by almost 90 per cent; Karnataka and Uttarakhand would implement the Act but reduce the fines to just a slap on the wrist. Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Tripura haven’t even implemented it.

Non-BJP states have only poured scorn on the new Motor Vehicles Act. Congress, which runs Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Punjab have put the new Act on hold. Rajasthan would implement it but the fines would be reduced to a minimum.

There is no second-guessing the “non-BJP” states of West Bengal, Kerala and Odisha. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is vocal that she wouldn’t implement the Act and burden her people. Kerala initially implemented the bill but now has put it on hold. The Odisha government of Naveen Patnaik has announced a three-month moratorium on the new Act. Interestingly, the Delhi government of Arvind Kejriwal is all in support of the Act.

It’s clear populism and politics would finally prevail over prudence. Our dharnas, noise and cribs matter to politicians. Asking us to wear seat belts, ride with helmets, follow zebra-crossing is too much of an ask. As it is to the tilted-heads on mobikes, using shoulders to attend calls on their mobile-phones.

Is this the entire truth? Doesn’t a couple with two small children, an old mobike and a few thousand rupees for a salary have a compulsion of their own on roads? Don’t we have faulty traffic signals? Don’t poor people buy a spluttering vehicle for a pittance only because it’s without papers? Don’t we have bus-stops right after the traffic-lights? Does the new Act take into account the last man on the road?

Good governance is one thing; populism is another. One leaves us with standardized conduct out on the streets; the other leaves us with chaos and anarchy. Good governance is never a zero-sum game: A few would always suffer in a society of extreme disparity. We have always longed for a government which governs for the good of the people. Now that we have it, we should strengthen and not weaken it.

 

A fly on the wall of Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, “bua” and “babua”, haven’t found their voice since Exit Polls.  Mayawati hasn’t tweeted once; Akhilesh has tweeted only twice – that too no words only photo-ops with AAP and BSP leaders.

That’s unusual silence from two biggies of Uttar Pradesh.  I mean for nearly two decades, it was baton-passing between SP and BSP.  Voters elected one and ditched for the other every alternate elections. Both protected their vote-banks fiercely and it always paid dividends, what if it meant contrasting each other as black and white. Sworn enemies.

Then 2017 assembly elections happened. BJP wrested 325 seats. Both BSP and SP decimated; the latter despite holding on to coat-tails of Congress. A new arithmetic was needed. Survival was at stake. What if SP and BSP got together and Congress became cheerleaders? The experiment was pushed through a few bypolls. Gorakhpur, Kairana and Phulpur gave thumbs up. Eureka, the formula to halt BJP juggernaut had been found.

Much of the run-up to 2019 General Elections was SP-BSP projected as polestar to scattered universe of “Mahagathbandhan.” Mamata Banerjee, Chandrababu Naidu, Rahul Gandhi all were in picture but Mayawati-Akhilesh were seen as king-makers, the catalysts. UP gives 80 seats, it was the reason BJP came to power in 2014. If it goes so does Modi. The gang would be back in business.

It was a theory which couldn’t be disputed. Neither by the projection nor by the samples of Kairana, Phulpur etc. The data analyst put the committed voters of SP-BSP in a jar, gave it a good shake, and the numbers appeared twice as many to BJP. Game, set and match over.

This did put fear in the heart of BJP backers. The defeats in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan didn’t help. A storm was gathering.  Mayawati and Akhilesh were on Cloud Nine. Everyone else appeared so small. Who needs Congress? The Grand Old Party was willing for pre-poll and post-poll patch up. Wasn’t their desperation a sign that SP-BSP was the fastest gun in the town?

It’s not a postmortem. The results are yet to be out. But the silence in SP, BSP camps are deafening. Political parties don’t need to wait for results. They know the ground reality. They know the truth. SP, BSP know their game is up. The Grand-Idea was a stillborn child. Instead, anger is becoming manifest for close aides –et tu Brutus—are being held out to dry. When that happens, we know Caesar is gone.

If the corollary is right, it means Yadavs votes didn’t get transferred to Mayawati; nor the Dalits went to Akhilesh. Muslims, as per experts’ view, have also voted in a bigger number for BJP.  If that’s true, it’s a mirror to the future. If development can override caste-equations, SP and BSP have run out of fuel. Stranded on the highway, far from the decorated platforms and garlands in wait.

Mamata Banerjee perhaps would be subjected to a similar analysis. I have noted she has “Vidyasagar” photo on her twitter homepage. That issue was only trending for 12-16 hours. The moment Narendra Modi announced a bigger, costlier, better bust as a replacement, the matter lost its sting. Its’ now rotting what Mamata is adorning it as her necklace.

That’s why I say all the opposition—SP, BSP, Congress, TMC etc—are so out of touch with reality. So is Lutyens Media. Propaganda have won you elections in the past. Not any longer. Rafale, demonetization, jobs – nothing worked. Photo-ops are treadmill running, rooted to the spot. Get your hand dirty in the soil. Or be ready to be buried underneath it.

 

 

Pregnant women are not just Muslims

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of financial aid to pregnant women in his new year’s address has led to suggestions that Muslim women would benefit the most from this scheme as they produce more children than any other religious sect in India.

Muslims today comprise of 184 million people in India or around 14.5 percent of total population (compared to Hindus who have fallen below 80%) as of 2015.

A Pew Research Center report predicts that by 2050, India will overtake Indonesia to have the largest Muslim population in the world. The Muslims are expected to swell to 310 million, or almost 18% of the population while Hindus would hover around 77%. As of now, Indonesia has 209 million, followed by India (176 million) and Pakistan (167 million).

This has led to unseemly concern among Hindus that Muslims are in an overdrive to produce more children so as to skew the demographic profile of India. They put the arguments below in support of their theory:

  •  That Muslims in India are poorer and less educated which results in high growth rate;
  •  That Muslim women get married at an early age (16-20 years) which means higher fertility rate;
  •  That Muslims have younger children (0-6 years) population as compared to Hindus
  •  That Muslims in India are less interested in adopting family planning measures in India.

However facts and figures fly in different directions.

Muslims have witnessed a sharp fall in growth rate to 24.60 in the 2001-2011 decade compared to 29.52 growth of the previous decade (1991-2001). An average Muslim family is of lesser number (5.15) in 2011 than what it was a decade earlier (5.61). The average members of an Indian family is 4.45 persons. This points out upward mobility of Indian Muslims in terms of education and career growth.

Indeed, across all religious groups in India, there’s been a decline in population growth. Buddhists have shown the sharpest decline due to an ageing population.

As of now, Indian Muslims are in majority in two states: the Union Territory of Lakshadweep and Jammu and Kashmir.

Just three states—Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam comprise of almost 47 per cent of entire Muslim population in India. Rampur is the only district with a Muslim majority in Uttar Pradesh.  The Muslim population in West Bengal and Assam has been fuelled by refugees from neighbouring Bangladesh.

So folks, hold your horses. Don’t see the PM’s announcement as a sop to Muslims. It’s an inclusive scheme for all Indians. Welcome it instead of tearing it apart on religious lines.

(As an aside, Muslims are likely to equal Christians by 2050 (around 2.82 billion). Hindus would be around 1.38 billion. The world’s total population is set to rise to 9.3 billion by 2050, a rise of 35%).