Howdy Modi and Why They Hate the NRIs

There was a time when crossing the seas was forbidden in India for the fear of the mlechhas who if mingled with, could disturb the purity of character of the sanctimonious Indian. Out of this fear, many never dared to go to the foreign lands but the traders had to travel to do their trade, so, they would come back and undergo some sort of atonement. However, the worrywarts of the community would still continue to enforce the prohibition and condemnation. As decades and centuries went by, these stopped mattering to people, or at least to most of the people. Most, because, it seems the regressive trend has made a grand come back.

 

After the NRIs put up a commendable show with ‘Howdy Modi’ at Houston, a set of descendants of mlechha-haters has surfaced on social media to profane at these NRIs who according to them are enjoying all the perks that a developed country offers and yet want Modi to continue at the helm in India. This according to them, is a bad thing. Since, these NRIs have already left the country, they can no longer have any views about India. The US immigration department, it seems, has kept brain scanners at the airports that scan and delete any opinion on India from the NRI’s brain on arrival.

 

Let’s understand this with an example confined within the boundaries of our country. If an NRI cannot have an opinion on India or a stake in Indian story, why should a Kashmiri studying in JNU or a Bengali settled in Bangalore have any opinion on Kashmir or Bengal respectively? In fact, when all the hotshots of Indian media can spend weeks of prime-time discussing US politics and their favorite Satan Trump, why should the austerity of self-censorship be forced only on the NRIs? Or perhaps NRIs are not the problem. It is not the NRIs who generate the hate.

 

Just a few monsoons ago, Kangana Ranaut was the Iron Lady of Indian feminism, hailed and cheered from all corners of self-declared woke media. Then, she made a mistake and professed her liking for Mr. Modi. This was a gobar-on-the-face moment (gobar is cow-dung) for many people who were looking for a new member for the Modi-Haters group on whatsapp.  This was not the only time they had gobar on their face. Ranvir Shorey was a greater disappointment. Considering his filmography of off-beat and critic friendly cinema, he was to receive a wild-card entry to the group. Alas, he too spoiled his chances by backing Mr. Modi and was castigated by leading lights of the group on Twitter. The trend became predictable at one point after people like Kabir Bedi, Shekhar Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Vikram Sampath, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Maurice Obstfeld voiced their confidence in Mr. Modi and were hounded by the touchy people who deactivate their social media accounts for a day and skip their leg day every time Modi gets an award outside the country.

 

Your enemy’s friend is your enemy. Your enemy’s nobody is also your enemy. The hate originates, primarily for Mr. Modi and after travelling a distance of about 14000 kilometers now, seems to have reached Houston. This anger is mostly for the NRIs in the US and not the other countries like Saudi or the UAE. A reason could be that one of the admins of Modi-Haters group was beaten fair and square in a full house wrestling bout by the NRIs at the Madison Square Garden in 2014. However, I wouldn’t count on that as the primary reason. The NRIs in the US are somehow amazingly tantalizing at displaying their affection for Mr. Modi and with their money and political muscle, they manage to organize these colossal shows that give Mr. Modi global platforms to laugh at people who effected his US-Visa denials while he was the Gujarat Chief Minister.

 

It is not only Modi who is hated with such gusto. His supporters are told to drink Gau-Mutra (Cow Urine) and eat Gobar (Cow Dung) by almost all of these self-appointed custodians of India’s secularism. You are told to not talk to Modi supporters, not have Modi-supporting friends, not marry a Modi supporter, and push the Modi-supporting old woman crossing the street under the bus. For this set of people, either you shouldn’t have a political opinion so that they have a shot at washing your brain and injecting hatred for Mr. Modi or if you have one, it must conform to theirs. If it is neither of the two, then either you would be requested to drink cow-piss or in case you happen to speak English, you would be shouted down at literature festivals. No matter how many trees you have planted in your lifetime or how many people you have helped with your abilities, if you like Modi, you become Public Enemy No. 1. Unfortunately for Modi-Hate hags, the Houston event was not a literature festival. It was a display of the growing power of India in global decision making. At such events, only a leader who is democratically elected and has the backing of a majority of his countrymen can make a mark. It is a far cry from a literature festival of the self-proclaimed intellectuals who lecture on moral standards during the day and entertain with their drunken fights during the night. There are so many individuals in our country today who have Modi-Hate as their only claim to fame.

 

I was on an author’s panel once. One of the panelists had published his first novel and even though the book was grammatically holding fine, he struggled while speaking in English. That notwithstanding, he went on about his book at length. This was not received very well by a lady poet sitting beside me who continued to smirk at his struggles with grammar and accent. Once the event was over, she ran up to me to share her opinions about this author and all she had were words of insult and condescension for this writer. Of course, I was expected to join her in her circus of snobbery. To her disappointment, I had only respect for this guy who could complete a book in spite of his limitations with the language. Of course, in an instant, I became an NRI-mlechha to her. If only I had conjoined my sur (tune) with hers, I could have been part of some non-native-speakers-haters group. When you find out that the person next to you is not thinking like you do, hate begins to unfold. When you find out that a majority is not thinking like you do, you start turning into a fanatic.

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Why Kejriwal Wants a Free Ride to the CM Office?

A lot of how our life shapes up depends on how we are born. One of the more defining birth factors for quality of our future life is the financial health of the parents. There are more factors of course but I have picked finance and put it aside to start with because it is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult to get rid of. To the financial mess, add a mix of caste and gender, and things become a lot more complicated. I do not mention the hierarchy of caste or gender here because we are living in an age where any permutation and combination of this set has its own disadvantages. A poor and discriminated-caste born individual has to tide over his social suffering in addition to the wealth crisis. A meritorious upper caste but poor individual has no advantage over the reserved category candidate (financial status notwithstanding) who is inferior to him in intelligence and effort. Add gender here and we get into a whirlpool of problems.

 

Now take out all other factors and see the female case exclusively, women face discrimination for being born a woman in many social spaces. Now, here lies their problem. While you can still outgrow your caste or migrate to a more egalitarian society, you cannot get away from your gender. As gender is a biological truth, the discrimination takes a more hideous turn and can affect a woman of upper caste as severely as it can affect someone from the lower caste. From the first challenge of not getting sacrificed for a male child and ‘getting a safe birth’ to do everything that comes a tad easier for men, in our present society, women have to battle hundred things to earn a livelihood and lead an independent life. This becomes even more challenging if she is born to poor or discriminated-caste parents. Some do not try, some try but fail, some do not want to try, and then some try and succeed. During this struggle, these women ask many difficult questions to the society. They make themselves aware of their rights and then demand that their rights be protected.

The answers are more difficult than they seem to be at first sight. Therefore, our leaders promise many CCTVs to see the problem more clearly. Then, they realize that the metro fare hike has hit women the worst.  They throw a free bus and metro ride pass at them – “please take this free bus pass, you are safer now in Delhi buses. I am hereby buying your vote!”

Arvind Kejriwal is not the problem. He is just another politician who has mastered the art of milking the rotten ecosystem of bribing the electorate before every election. If our politicians had the integrity of thought, there would have been more and better buses on roads, panic buttons and GPS tracking on all buses. There would be more street lighting and better last mile connectivity for commuters, male or female. There could have been free public transport systems for all Indians without burdening the exchequer. Mr. Arvind Kejriwal likes to tell his voters to take the money other parties offer them and still vote for the broom, his party’s election symbol. Times can change quickly. Sadly, he is the one offering that money now. The voters will keep it, just the way he prefers. It remains to be seen whom they vote for next year. A party’s rhetorics and manifesto for the upcoming elections can easily posit themselves as the report card of its manifesto from the previous elections. A dropped promise means that the promise couldn’t be delivered as the Government was busy begging alliances and fighting other elections in the country.  A promise added with freebies means that the promise fetched votes last time around but couldn’t be implemented because they were never supposed to be implemented but have the potential to work again if made with some free gifts.  A promise finding a place again without any progress or addition means that the party is waiting for a majority in the Rajya Sabha.

 

The 2015 manifesto of AAP speaks about CCTVs in all buses. Delhi is going to vote again in 2020. AAP has promised to install CCTVs again. Of course, just CCTVs will not be safe enough for the AAP to secure their seats this time. They need some free passes to ride their luck in 2020.

What to Expect from Namo2.0?

Elections are over. The new government is set to arrive. As the Congress party keeps itself frozen on the cusp of change from where it can choose to advance into an acceptance of the changed realities to progress or just fall back into the pit of regression, the postmortem of election results will perhaps be an unending process. While the media and political pundits can spend all their time and efforts in this operation, the Government cannot afford to venture there. After the 2014 victory, the Prime Minister had shared his vision of ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’; the 2019 victory should be a reason for renewed focus on deliverance of this aspirational vision. Keeping this in mind, I have a list of preliminary expectations from my government of 2019. This is not exhaustive and I might add to it as we move ahead in the year.

 

A separate budget for the agriculture sector

This can help in better allocation of resources for the necessary reforms in agriculture and help improve the implementation of government projects. Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 58 per cent of India’s population. Gross Value Added by agriculture, forestry and fishing is estimated at INR 18.53 trillion (US$ 271.00 billion) in FY18. Considering that and the kind of loan waivers each party has to announce every election season, the demand for a separate budget holds ground.

 

Reward good citizens

Rewarding good citizens can encourage a change in how citizens contribute to nation building. Citizens, who segregate waste, pay their loans in time, do not use plastic, follow traffic rules should get incentives with better interest rates on loans, better benefits on retirement, subsidized payments on insurance schemes etc. This can bring about a big shift in how we engage the electorate post the election season.

 

Invest in government schools and higher education institutions

A major failure of independent India has been its unwillingness and inability to bring up the standard of education in government schools. It is time that these schools accept the competition from their private counterparts and deliver the best in class education to their students. This competition will also substantially bring down the cost of quality education for Indian students. The monopoly of private players on cost of education will break.

 

Invest in government hospitals

Most of the patients wanting admission in a hospital of AIIMS have to wait for a good number of months, in some cases, a year to get their turn. Not having any way, patients take to private hospitals and clinics. In additional to the disease itself, the high costs break the patients and their families, both financially and psychologically. The government needs to invest big in structural reforms for its hospitals. Once again, the government must accept the challenge posed by the private counterparts. If that is not possible, a public-private partnership should be explored.

 

Establish better centers of education and healthcare in industrial belts and other neglected areas

While such areas earn huge revenues for the country, the state of most of these places remains miserable when it comes to education and healthcare. The industrial belts of India need their favor returned so that while citizens brave the not-so-comfortable lives, they can at least avail better healthcare services and send their kids to schools that are on par with any school from the urban centers of the country. All aspirants should have access to a benchmarked quality of education.

 

Encourage cancer research in the country through better facilities, improved funding, and enactment of research friendly laws

While celebrities and politicians can afford to skip levels and travel to other countries for their treatment, the common mass of the country has to make do with whatever is available in our country. While we have some good centers for cancer in the country, the waiting queues at such centers paint a gloomy picture of our patient to doctor ratio. Official data only corroborates this picture. By 2014, we had only about 1000 trained oncologists in the country and the ratio of oncologist to patient stood at 1:2000. This ratio in US is 1:100. Modi 2.0 should understand what creates this stark and disappointing difference and work towards better cancer research and training in our country. (Source)

 

Curb corruption in government institutions

Why should a Member of Parliament get priority over a common citizen for admission to the AIIMS? Why should the street hawkers must pay daily hafta to the Police to keep running their business? Why must the village mukhiya be paid INR 500 for the LPG cylinder which is coming free of cost from the government? There are a lot of low hanging fruits to pluck when it comes to corruption in government institutions. My government must be up to the task without losing any time.

 

Judicial reforms to deliver justice, in time

Indian courts have about three crore cases pending between them. Case AST/1/1800 of the Calcutta High Court was filed in the year 1800. The last hearing date was 20 November 2018. Appointment of Judges, insufficient number of courts, archaic laws are the areas I would like my government to look into.

 

Resettle Kashmiri Hindus in Kashmir valley

The ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus carried out in the valley remains a blot on the democratic ethos of independent India. The government must carry out this task with the seriousness it deserves.

 

Societal harmony as pet project

No blame games here. The law must take its own course but I believe that much like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, societal harmony should become a pet project of our Prime Minister. He should avail all the platforms available to drive the message of unity, harmony, and peace throughout the country. It may not deter the criminals as such but might just prevent the conversion of an otherwise reasonable individual into a hate machine.

Oral Democracy: Deliberation in Indian Villages

The timing of this book launch & panel discussion could not have been better. While the people of our country don’t even need a cue to begin a political discussion, imagine the situation when it is right in the middle of the most awaited elections. Vijayendra Rao’s sneak peek into the rural socio-political setting to us urbanites was nothing less than an eye opener and if I might point out also lead to some amount of shame.

His research and study only validate how literacy, education and belonging to a more “privileged” section of the society have no role in ensuring higher participation and engagement in one’s civic and political life. Vijayendra through his book discussion attempts to build a case to portray the strength, awareness and willpower, the people in villages bring to collectively solve a given problem. He dramatically read out the many conversations verbatim from various meetings presided by the Gram Sabha of various parts of South India ranging from Bidar to Dharmapuri and Kasargod.

It was fascinating to understand how the effects of colonisation, state policy, local political influences and linguistics contributed to unique functioning and characterisation of the gram sabhas of different states. For example he spoke about how Kerala grama sabhas have a bureaucratic approach where they plan things to the T, while sabhas of Karnataka and Tamil nadu are lot more dynamic and often chaotic but still end up redressing issues and finding solutions. Nevertheless, what Rao truly wants to bring out through his book is how decentralising administrative capabilities  will only help in furthering the interests of the country’s majority and contrary to popular belief how democratic ethos is strongly pursued and passed on as an oral tradition even amidst the least literate of our society.

This definitely poses a question to us city dwellers who have so much more infrastructure at our disposal but what are we doing? Krishna Byre Gowda – Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Law & Parliamentary Affairs in Karnataka, highlighted the losing relevance of the panchayat and gram sabhas and the overall shift in focus from the Gandhian philosophy of decentralisation of political administration. He believes this model needs to be replicated in the urban circles as well and poses a question to citizens, municipalities and the amount of interest urban folks are taking in these matters.

The disparity in voter turnout itself can be considered as a superficial indicator to understand the engagement level of rural and urban Indians when it comes to civic participation. The very fact that the 74th Amendment mandates ward committee meetings to be conducted in a more regular and timely fashion in Bangalore is an indication that state policy intervention can help support and give voice to citizens and hopefully improve participation with a quid pro quo arrangement where citizens and state can hold each other accountable.

 

Image Courtesy – bangaloreinternationalcentre

Spoilers for Karnataka: Indignity War

Why is it that after every dreamy manifesto every five years from all parties in any electoral contest, nothing changes for our country? Why is it that many people I have interviewed in Karnataka don’t really care who gets to sit on the throne after the elections? Why is it that the pre-poll promises are never taken seriously in our country? Will Karnataka become a better state if the BJP comes to power? Will it worsen if the Congress gets the power back? What can Mr. Yeddyurappa do this time after getting elected that he couldn’t do in his previous term? What can Mr. Siddaramaiah do in the next five years that he couldn’t do in his current term? What are they going to change? Like many others, my answer is – nothing, because we are trapped in the time loop, not very different from the one created with the Eye of Agamotto by Dr. Strange. Only that, this time, the eye is blinded and in place of Dormammu, we sit there, too bored to look into the details of a disaster fomenting before us. Or maybe not, maybe all this is for some greater good. Hold on, before you pelt generalisation stones at me, I have a few things of my own to throw.

Are you a pornography consumer? Would you like to watch porn videos in the Karnataka assembly? That’s not an entirely unrealistic fantasy to live by. BJP provides tickets to live such fantasies, thanks to their Achhe Din promise. Laxman Savdi and CC Patil were the two MLAs caught watching porn in the Karnataka assembly in 2012. Guess what, they are here to be reelected. BJP has given tickets to Savdi from Athani and to Patil from Nargund.

The situation is brighter than you would guess. BJP has fielded 83 candidates with criminal charges, Congress has fielded 59, and JD(S), touted as the kingmaker has 41 candidates with criminal charges. When all the criminals get concentrated inside the assembly, we can obviously hope for less crime and more peace in other parts of the state. In all, out of 2560 candidates analysed by The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 391 have criminal cases against them. 25 of them have Attempt to Murder cases against them and 23 have cases related to crimes against women in their names. 4 of the candidates have Murder cases against them at present. In case you are interested in knowing the names of these candidates who are going to keep us safe, hide here – adrindia.org

Congress coming back to power will also mean the continuation of the good present days wherein voters would be allowed to set the state on fire for their rights on issues like Kaveri water sharing etc.

In other good news, Dr. G Parameshwara of the Congress gets his ticket from Koratagere. This is perhaps his reward for speaking truth to power after the Bengaluru Mass Molestation Case – “such things happen”. He is going to obliterate all the western influence on us or at least half of it once he gets all the Infinity Stones from his chosen constituency and will call it mercy. Why would the mining barons be left behind? Reddy brothers are coming to a constituency near you very soon, of course, as Yeddyurappa says, “Winning each seat is important.”

Also, try hiding your excitement at this – Siddaramaiah is the same MLA who got DIG D. Roopa transferred overnight after she tabled her report on the VIP treatment for Shashikala inside the Parappana Agrahara Central Prison, Bengaluru. For his proactive step, Siddaramaiah gets tickets from 2 constituencies – Badami and Chamundeshwari. He gets an additional reward for his superhuman efforts to clean the Bellandur lake, a ticket for his son Yathindra too from Varuna.

Manifestoes are out! Parties are enunciating their glorious vision for the state. Thanos has used the Time Stone to take Mr. Modi and Mr. Amit Shah back to 2014, so they are doing a rally on every-feet-road of Bengaluru. Mr. Rahul Gandhi has taken help from Thanos to find out that one situation where he gets to be the Prime Minister out of 14 million outcomes and hence, is going temple-hopping with his face turned towards 10 Janpath saying, “there was no other way, Mom

There are more rumours out there. Please your ears and eyes by clicking on the links mentioned below –

Is there reason in Indian politics?

Amidst the general perception that there is no space for reason in modern politics and the idea that populism trumps reason and philosophy almost every time, Professor Narendar Pani along with Prof. Anshuman Behera decided to explore the subject and address this question. In the process, they put together a set of writings by India’s major political thinkers, trying to find a pattern that emerges out and understand the journey of philosophy and reason in Indian politics. This led to the publishing of Reasoning Indian Politics: Philosopher Politicians to Politicians Seeking Philosophy. Prof Pani was at Bangalore International Centre recently where he discussed his thoughts and conclusions in front of a packed auditorium. Deliberating with him on the topic “Is there Reason In Indian Politics?”, were Prof. Shiv Visvanathan of the Jindal Global University, Prof. Surinder Jodhka from JNU, and Prof. Rajeev Gowda, Member of Parliament.

 

Prof. Narendar Pani started the evening with the distinction that the philosopher John Rawls makes between the Plato’s idea of politics where you work out a complete and full-fledged theory or idea of politics and then you take it into the reality and try and implement it there. Then he argued that the other way of looking at this kind of thinking in politics was to see the patterns that emerge out of such politics and then see how they actually turn out in terms of a particular set of philosophy. Hind Swaraj (Mahatma Gandhi) and Wheel of History (Lohia) were clearly worked out theories before being brought into the realm of politics. Gandhi, Lohia, and others were also the agents of their own philosophy, they developed their own philosophy and then tried to take them into the realms of politics themselves.”

 

Prof. Pani lamented that this process has changed after independence. “We have ended up functioning primarily with the day to day politics of competitive democracy which turns out to be an entirely different pattern. It’s not an easy pattern to understand. Politics has become a purely competitive world. The ideas of today are hidden and closely guarded secrets but over time if we observe closely, we find a certain pattern. We have to understand how logic functions in Indian politics. There is a difference in the idea of logic between India and the west, or more correctly between the local Indian thinkers and the modern logic. The modern logic keeps psychology out of it. The focus is entirely on abstract systems or roots of logic and tends to keep all subjective judgement out of it. Indian logic on the other hand always refused to make a distinction between logic and psychology. It always believed that the logic a person makes has a certain psychological element within it. This is something that we see reflected in its politics. We have the ideological politics which tries to define what they are doing in terms of specific objective laws. Not only Marxism but the initial right wing Hindutva propagated by Savarkar was also very clear in defining objectivism. The logical structure separated from psychology and subjectivity tended to dominate the ideological theories. At the same time, those who were more willing to recognise Indian logic and function with it, notably Gandhi, believed that such a distinction was false. According to him there is an element of subjectivity in whichever theory we choose. Hence, instead of rejection of subjectivity, he believed in improvement of subjectivity. His view was that you have a set of beliefs which are relevant for a particular situation and then you convince others of the same.” Gandhi developed the idea of symbols like salt to convince people about ideas which were not connected together.

After the Quit India Movement of 1942, when Nehru took charge from Gandhi, Indian politics saw a major shift in its philosophy. Dr. Pani argued that on one hand for Gandhi, the philosophy of thinking was an essential part of democratic politics. “He had to take it to the people, get the people to go through it, and then come up with the politics. Nehru, on the other hand reflected a contempt for the people. He believed that these philosophies, if taken to people will only confuse them. He kept the abstract logic for policy making and the psychological logic for his electoral campaigns. He institutionalised it by making the Planning Commission report only to him and over time this separation has been further institutionalised.” Dr. Pani termed the Anti-defection law brought by Rajiv Gandhi as the most institutionalising step in this aspect.

 

“This complete separation of the logic of policy from the logic of politics led to a certain division in the polity which led to the emergence of ideological parties of the right and the left. On the other hand you had mainstream political parties which raised issues which were symbolic, which appealed to people with different psychological preferences. Over time, the ideological parties began to see the importance of symbols which reached its peak with the Babri Masjid agitation. These symbols and the roles that they play are something that have been used repeatedly. It comes from the thinking that all I have to do is identify a group of supporters that I want and then convince them that they are victims of something else and keep a symbol around which they are victims. This started with “Garibi Hatao” which was a fairly real issue. But you ended up taking away privy purses and nobody monitored where that money went. Similarly, you have the regional parties which came after language and separate flags agitations. Then you have the Hindutva. Now this politics of psychology comes up against a sense of law which still follows an abstract logic, an objective system. But over time as the objective system gets difficult to implement, politicians see an opportunity there as well  where you function without knowing how far this can go or function in a way where you lose credibility. Then you have a system where criminals can stand for parliament but equally false cases can be put against innocent people to stop them from standing for parliament. So, you end up then with a much wider set of issues, without a clear system of logic that people can realise. Focus is then on identifying the messiah. Then you move from one messiah to another and when that logic completely breaks down, you try to make up with volume, as we see on television sets these days.”

 

Prof. Pani ended his introduction of the subject matter and took his seat on the panel, a prolonged applause appreciated him. People were still trying to unravel the package delivered to them in the preceding 20 minutes or so when Prof Shiv Visvanathan began to speak.

Bangalore-International-Centre

Prof. Visvanathan was eloquent, delightful, and lucid. Critiquing the book, he said that this book meets two types of people, a theorist and a story-teller. Amid mild laughter, he continued that when you pick the book and read it, there is a very subversive kind of humour. “The humour is in the choice of articles”. Prof. Visvanathan continues, “In fact there are three Narendar Panis (in this book) and they play themselves brilliantly in the reading of the book. He begins as a Marxist who abandons his Marxism or at least fragments it. He moves from Marxism to a Gandhian ethical position, and thirdly he wonders if there are pluralistic possibilities of political theory? Continuing in his energetic, high-octane voice Prof. Visvanathan laid bare his quarrel with the book, albeit sportingly. He disagreed with the standard political theory approach that the national movement was about political ideologies. According to him our national movement was amongst the most playful national movements in history.

 

“Where else do you see such an availability of eccentricity? Every eccentric Englishman/woman I can think of, was a part of the national movement, our nationalism was plural. The greatest debates did not take place in politics. They took place in the archives of Science and Technology. Indian nationalism produced the greatest political critique of Science and Technology ever. We never look at these archives and this creates the second problem. By looking only at straight political theory, you miss storytelling. To me the great Indian novel comes from the bureaucratic commission reports, the Industrial commission reports, the works in the Emergency. They are great acts of storytelling which are also great acts of ethnography and theorising.”

 

He also pointed out the use of texts in the book. Continuing his performance, captivating the audience, making them question everything they knew at the same time, he said, “I wish there was greater work on the Emergency. One of the great acts of theorising was the Shah Commission Report. It theorised about violence and it theorised brilliantly about the feat of how reason in politics becomes a havoc. Because what you are looking at is a technocratic reason of Jagmohan and gang which was subservient to the political arbitrariness of Sanjay Gandhi. What happens when reason is tied to arbitrariness?” Extolling U.R. Ananthamurthy’s Bharathipura as the best critique of Socialism, he added further, “Literature becomes a critique of reason. So, language should be taken more interestingly… reason without being expressed in a certain kind of language is no longer rational.”  He let the audience off with a probing question, ”Where does philosophy rescue politics? Because we are operating with 19th century concepts; nation state, boundaries, scientific idea of positivism. And in a deep and fundamental way, this is a fundamental attempt to rescue political science from being an old fashioned 19th century game.”

 

Professor Surinder Jodhka was the next to speak. He advocated a ground up way of looking at the question of reason in Indian politics. “I think if you look at the empirical evidences, you have reasons not to be so depressed about India and her future.” He spoke about his experiences of working in the north-western parts of India namely Punjab, Haryana, Delhi etc. and Bihar over the past three decades. “If one were to look at the rural landscape, much work has been done around the issues of caste over the last many years. If you look at the local level political process, it has completely transformed, where you can have a Mayawati or a Lalu Yadav become the chief minister of a state.” In the villages, he argued, “on one hand you have clear decline of the rural patriarch, at the regional level on the other hand caste and politics dynamics has been very interestingly played out. At the national level, things are far more complicated, more fluid. National level politics need conceptualisation and thinking about how democratisation process has transformed the national level politics. But at the local level and regional level, the kind of people who came into politics has changed significantly, a change for good I believe.”

 

Prof. Jodhka also addressed the issue of democracy and identities. “Although most of us dislike the word identity in itself but on the ground, many kinds of identities have emerged and these identities aren’t simply sectarian identities. Most identity politics trying to mobilise themselves around a notion of collective identity have almost always articulated the language of citizenship, not just the language of numbers. They want space in this nation state which has been historically very exclusionary.” Talking about the book, he said that it compelled him to think very differently. After reading this book, he learnt much more than he would have, from reading other texts that he normally reads on caste, economy, and politics. Seconding Prof. Visvanathan, he critiqued that the book still operated under the framework of mythological nationalism as if India as an entity could be India on its own. That possibility, Prof. Jodhka believes, no longer exists. India’s politics is now shaped by various factors which include not only the diaspora but also other kinds mediation of what are coming from all around the globe.

 

Prof. Rajeev Gowda started off with a potent statement that we live in a non-ideological era. Where Prof. Pani laid out the political philosophies of Lohia and Gandhi in the pre-independence era, Prof. Gowda decided to delve into the philosophy behind the major movements of the 80s and 90s. “If we look back into the last two – three decades and see what kinds of ideological frameworks have been animating the Indian political landscape, we find that there actually have been many major schisms, divides, and challenges through the way we constructed ourselves as a nation. And the ones that come straight to minds are 1989 onward and 1992, the Mandal and Masjid related challenges to the settled order. There was tremendous reasoning behind each of these movements.”

 

Prof. Gowda also talked about the challenges he faces as the head of the research department of the Congress. “One of the agenda is to articulate a narrative which can capture the imagination of all the people.” This they evidently did in 2004 by turning the ‘India Shining Campaign’ of the BJP on its head, by questioning the inclusiveness of the NDA governance. He also recognised the process of liberalisation in 1991 as something which was not premeditated but something which needed to be done at that time. Addressing the friction between a global liberalised economy and the Gandhian idea of economy, he said, “taking the Gandhi’s talisman as a philosophical construct, the congress when came back to power in 2004, found the philosophy of governance by turning to the activist community, creating the National Advisory Council, and coming up with rights based legislation.” He also stressed on the decentralisation of Panchayati Raj achieved by our Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It was a tough task, he explained, because it meant challenging the existing power equation in the villages. It let people make decisions about their lives by themselves. It broke established patterns and challenged accepted practices.

 

Addressing the elephant in the room, Prof. Gowda talked about the spiralling cost of politics. “Part of reality of the politics apart from who participates and who votes is that who contributes. Resources are needed. We are in denial of the cost of democracy. We need to have full time politicians, political parties, elections, campaigns; and all these things don’t come for free. We have never accepted this particular challenge because philosophically we need politics to be a level playing field. We have let politics be taken over by people who have tremendous amount of money.” The solution according to the Member of Parliament is the crowd funding of elections at least to a level where all the participants have a fair chance in this competition. Prof. Gowda ended his absorbing talk by underlining the importance of  “narrative that connects the politicians and political parties to the people and that’s where reasoning and philosophy are central to a party’s manifesto, vision, rhetoric, or articulation which may seem mundane and devoid of reason but is actually focused on trying to connect with people in their hearts and their minds.”

The evening ended with the panel taking feedback and questions from the audience. This panel was educative, reaffirming, and positive which are in short supply these days. The audience walked away with a sense of a Monday evening well spent.

 

About the Author : Ambikesh Kumar Jha is a social writer and a sailor, presently ashore.

Falling of Lenin in Khmelnytskyi park

The Eccentric Tripartite for BJP’s Congress Mukt Bharat

After a staggering 25 years, Left Front was booted out of office in Tripura, paving the way for BJP which won 35 seats in a house of 60. It marked an increase in the vote share of the right-wing party from a mere 1.5 percent to 43 percent which came as a deadly setback for the incumbent CPI(M) which has now been reduced to just one state in the entire Indian Union i.e. Kerala.

This also reiterates the fact that BJP is now in power, independently or in alliance, in 20 out of 29 Indian states. The win in Tripura is a landmark victory especially because the BJP came out winners against their arch-rivals, the CPI(M). The people of India have now deliberately and progressively alienated the Left from the political discourse of India and the Right has been filling the vacuum, the so called centre being a hapless, clueless and docile spectator.

From Tripura (Photo : Reuters)
From Tripura (Photo : Reuters)

However, what should have been a cause for positive reinforcement and celebrations in the BJP has turned out to be the harbinger of mayhem, disruption, and anarchy. A day after the ground-breaking win in Tripura, alleged workers of the saffron party instead of celebrating their win with integrity, composure and the proverbial laddoos, chose vandalism instead and demolished the statue of Lenin, considered to be the fore-father of Communists world over. This mala fide activity, no doubt gave rise to much mayhem among the left front and was akin to rubbing salt on a freshly inflicted wound. Naturally, ‘Liberals’ from all sections berated this act of utter shamelessness and indiscipline from a party which has always taken pride in being called ‘disciplined and cadre-based’. The right presented the initiative to the left on a platter and the left did not disappoint. A statue of Dr. Ambedkar vandalized by unknown miscreants in U.P. a couple of days ago was immediately saffronized. People from the cabal immediately set out to find a pattern and in a large country like India finding selective patterns has never been a tough task. All was going well, the narrative was firmly with the left when some imbecile left novices in Jadavpur University decided to dismember a statue of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookherjee. Although I don’t believe in bans but whoever gave them that idea should definitely be banned from politics.

All these disruptive and unsettling developments were slowly coming to the end of the very short attention span of Indian public when they were given a fresh lease of life by BJP’s Mr. H. Raja. He wrote on his Facebook page:
“Who is Lenin? What is the connection between him (Lenin) and India? What connection between communism and India? Lenin’s statue was broken down in Tripura. Today it is Lenin’s statue in Tripura and tomorrow it will be the statue of caste fanatic EV Ramasamy.”

For the uninitiated, the “caste fanatic EV Ramasamy” that he talks about is none other than Periyar and before one terms Mr. Raja as another fringe element in BJP, let it be known that he is one of the national secretaries of BJP. What is interesting though is the alacrity with which PM Narendra Modi and Party Chief Amit Shah have denounced the statement and the vandalism. They seem to know the reverence with which Periyar is seen in Tamil Nadu, and although the BJP’s neo-nationalism is in stark contrast with the regional nationalism of Periyar, they have no qualms in bargaining that for a better outreach in the region.

The 21st century has been BJPs century so far. From Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Mr. Narendra Modi, the hierarchy of BJP has truly aged and evolved. Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah have forged a formidable partnership to the chagrin of the opposition. Their combination has worked wonders for the saffron outfit pan India. However, there are pockets of opposition still left especially in the southern states, where an eccentric alliance is being touted. This peculiar tripartite consists of communists, ambedkarites and periyarites who have historically disagreed vehemently with each other on matters of ideology. But as they say, politics makes strange bedfellows. Having come to touching distance of Modi’s dream of “Congress-Mukt Bharat”, it can therefore be argued that the main challenge that lies ahead for him is this tripartite. And the irresponsible statements and actions of his peripheral leaders is only making this amalgamation a lot easier than envisaged.

About the Author : Ambikesh Kumar Jha is a social writer and a sailor, presently ashore.

Modi’s Pakoda Politics for 2019 and Chidambaram’s Joblessness

“Mitron, humne pakode khaane chaie ki nahi khane chaie?”
“Modi! Modi!”

“Mitron, pakodon ke saath chai peeni chaie ki nahi peeni chahie?”
“Har Har Modi! Ghar Ghar Modi!”

“Mitron, wo chai mmain aapko pilaauunga kyunki mmujhe chai pilaane ka experience hai! Platform pe chai bechne ka dard kya hota hai, ye mmujhe maloom hai!”

 

Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi in one of his recent interviews asked if a pakoda-seller earning 200 rupees a day could be considered unemployed. Mr. P. Chidambaram who held the finance ministry in the UPA rule has suggested that by Mr. Modi’s logic, beggars should also be considered employed. The twitter town is abuzz with exchanges between sides.

Mr. Modi on his part is frying his pakodas like he always does – well in advance. Like for everything else he does, he also becomes the first Indian Prime Minister to bring pakoda-sellers into the national discourse. However, one may ask, why pakodas singularly? There are other things sold by the street-side entrepreneurs, say, pav-bhaji, vada-pav, 99 types of dosas, etc. Shiv Sena has already laid its claim on vada-pav politics by offering free vada-pavs to Shobha De earlier. Let’s leave pav-bhaji for Uddhav’s cousin in the name of Marathi-Asmita. Dosas would have obviously offended the Dravidian parties for it would have meant Gujarati appropriation. Modi had already used up the khakhra card by waiving off the GST before Gujarat elections. Here, I summon the spirit of Shekhar Gupta of the Walk the Talk, The Print, the NDTV, and the Lutyen’s Dhaba to answer this. Pakodas are eaten across the country in varying forms and with different names. The country is 80% Hindus, so naturally, most of the pakodas prepared are consumed by the Hindus of this country. Mr. Modi being the Hindutva icon that he is, used the case of pakodas to polarise the electorate and gain Hindu votes in 2019 elections. 

 

To be honest, this is the closest thing to confession that voters of this country can get from both the leading parties. Confession 1 – the present Government is selling pakodas in the name of job creation. Confession 2 – the opposition sits unemployed in the sixth row waiting for pakodas. The stage for 2019 elections is set. After spilling chai all over the kurtas and suits of the opposition leaders in 2014, Mr. Modi is all set to play with some pakode ka tel in 2019. P. Chidambaram is making things difficult for Rahul Gandhi by protesting against pakodas. At a time when Rahul Gandhi is looking to increase his pakoda tally from 44 to 545, P. Chidambaram should just fall in line and start begging for more pakodas right away. He will at least have a job that way. All the watering attempts at pakodas are going to cost the Congress party a lot of oil in face with no pakoda in hands.

 

 

Image Source – Karnataka for Employment (KFE)

Rahul Gandhi and the Politics of Defeat

Almost every time Rahul Gandhi starts campaigning before the elections, he seems to be aspiring for a loss. His speeches sound like appealing for a thumping defeat. Every time I hear him appeal for votes, his sentences get autocorrected in my head to sound something like this – “Hamein vote na dekar bhaari maton se haraayen!” (By not voting for us, inflict a massive defeat on us). After all, when you get rewarded after every loss, why would you want to win?

Thanks to our enslaved mindset, there was a time when ‘Gandhi’ fetched votes. That is no longer the case with the majority of the country. On the contrary, in our time, Gandhi ensures failure. The love affair between the Nehru-Gandhi family and the Congress party could be defended till Rajiv Gandhi on the basis of our love for nepotism. This love for dynasties and surnames converted into votes for the party and though the culture could be termed as immoral and undemocratic, they had a reason to stick with Gandhi. Although in a feebler tone, even for Sonia Gandhi, such an orchestra of populism could be explained. Today, I doubt if there is a sane mind on the planet to explain the current love story between the Congress party and Mr. Rahul Gandhi.

Dynasties taking control of a political party in India that should otherwise be a democratic entity with equal opportunity for everyone, is a matter that should shame our nation whose constitution wishes to provide equal opportunity and equal right to every citizen. Rahul Gandhi’s control over the congress party defies all logic. He hasn’t been able to win elections, he is popular only as a meme subject, he doesn’t exude confidence in public, and he doesn’t have a plan for the country or himself. What makes congress stick to him then? Dynasty politics is a phenomenon that banks upon the popularity of the existing/deceased member and family’s name to fetch votes for the new entrant. It is perhaps impossible to understand how the party and the soon to be anointed don’t see that the family’s name has lived its shelf life. I might be wrong and Rahul may manage a turnaround for the party after becoming the President but that won’t be necessarily a good thing for the country. The child of undeserved favoritism cannot promise equality or equity to the nation.

It is important to understand the position Rahul Gandhi is going to assume. It is the same position that has been in the past occupied by Dadabhai Naoroji, SN Banerjee, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Madan Mohan Malviya, Annie Besant, Lala Lajpat Rai, Sarojini Naidu, Mahatma Gandhi, and Subhas Chandra Bose. A leader of the stature of Subhas Chandra Bose had to fight an election against Gandhi-backed Pattabhi Sitaramayya to become the President of this party. Today, a group of sycophants have almost managed to unanimously elect Rahul Gandhi as the President. It is a tragic scene that the party which accuses Mr. Modi of running a dictatorship has not one contender for the position of the President opposite Rahul Gandhi. Sonia Gandhi is passing the mantle of autocracy to her son. One of the two major national parties of a country that claims to be the world’s largest democracy is either one of the longest running dictatorship empire of the world or a group of sycophants who clearly do not possess any spine and serve the Gandhis to insure the political future of their own dynasties.

Politics of dynasties has been a long-living tradition in India, Congress of the present has mastered the politics of inheriting and procreating incompetence and failure.

Crime Vs. Politics

अपराध बनाम राजनीति।

अपराध क्या है? राजनीति क्या है? क्या दोनों एक दूसरे के पर्याय हैं, या फिर पूरक हैं? अपराध के बिना राजनीति के क्या मायने हैं और राजनीति की अनुपस्थिति में अपराध के क्या मायने हैं? इन बातों पर सोच रहा हूँ। सुबह का समय है। बेंगलूर का मौसम अभी बेतुका सा है। वो जो बच्चा होता है घर में, जिसे किसी ने बताया नहीं कि मेहमान के आने पर क्या करना होता है, मौसम का हाल अभी कुछ वैसा ही है। बारिश हो रही है और नहीं भी। हैइसेंबर्ग साहब को यह मौसम ज़रूर भाता।

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The Secular Facade of Indian Politics

An India Today article quotes from the autobiography of Kuldip Nayar Beyond the lines: An autobiography (Source). Kuldip Nayar writes, “It was Sanjay Gandhi, known for his extra-constitutional methods, who suggested that some ‘Sant’ should be put up to challenge the Akali government. Both Sanjay and Zail Singh, particularly the latter, knew how the former Punjab chief minister Pratap Singh Kairon had fought the Akalis. He had built up Sant Fateh Singh against Master Tara Singh, the Akali leader, who had become a hard nut to crack. Zail Singh and Darbara Singh, who was a Congress Working Committee member and later became chief minister, selected two persons for Sanjay’s evaluation.

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A Random Seminal Treatise on Headache

Headache is perhaps the most dangerous weapon of nature against man. No matter how many nuclear weapons you have made, you still have a headache saving them from hackers. No matter how much wealth you have made selling beer in Aidin, you still have a headache of running around in a court of London. In a way, it is a great leveller. It’s almost like nature knew that she would be screwed up by us human, so she put one of her own in our head – an ache.

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