Monday, September 3, 2018

Tyranny and Treachery

BJP Government has miserably failed on each account and the Indian electorate is feeling the punch now.

Disclaimer: This essay may look like a myriad mix of issues put together to make a larger point. Yes it is, because if we look through the dirty dingy kaleidoscope of Modi Govt’s failures; where each failure reflects on the other ; we come across the real tyranny and treachery of the Modi regime. 

We are seeing at multiple issues boxed into one fascist regime- A regime where a fringe party has become mainstream but has not shed its core divisive emotive agendas.

At the cost of being long, this essay reflects that deep-seated treachery which every Indian is feeling at the hands of Narendra Modi and sometimes is unable to articulate.

A deep sense of betrayal has engulfed the people of India. A million mutinies are taking place in the hearts and minds of the people. Everyday a new socio-political issue bothers them and for a moment and enrages a feeling of utter disappointment. That is the moment of truth. Some try to brush that aside by imagining the alternative, which they feel would be inferior. Some try to find silver linings of religion in the dark clouds of despair and want to cling to that line to justify their choice. Some have just learnt to take all this in stride and have given up altogether. Some have manifested their mutinies by active political and societal participation and have borne the brunt of the backlash from the state. Some have just remained silent for the quinquennial ritual of democracy to arrive and shall only react through the ballot to reply in kind to the tyranny of the present dispensation. Yes, we all are feeling a churning within; but we all are guided by our very own paths to reciprocate to this deep sense of betrayal which the Narendra Modi Government has forced India to.

The world’s largest democracy’s present fascist regime is jailing people in public life on concocted charges of building an ‘anti-fascist front’ and justifying it by linking a Dalit-Maratha self-engineered tension to a Naxal plot. On top of it, it uses the perceived excesses of the previous regime as a convenient alibi to justify its sins. Fighting Naxalism is not a sin. But targeting individuals in the name of fighting Naxalism is a sin. Naxalism is the biggest internal security threat which India is facing since the last couple of decades. It is a roadblock to development in one third of our districts. It can be prevented by various methods. Force is only one of them. Engagement is always a better option. Inducements and leverages are a third. Development and confidence building is the best option. Sometimes all of them have to work together in tandem to wipe it out. Congress has done it in the past in many states- Andhra Pradesh & Maharashtra. Also, No other party has borne the brunt of Naxalism, as does the Congress. Its entire Chhattisgarh top brass was wiped out few years ago.  If you a have political will and support of the locals, you can wipe it off. Targeting NGO’s, activists, writers et al, only reveals a mindset of a fascist impotent regime that lacks the statecraft, the democratic principles and the roadmap to tackle this serious and sensitive issue.

Moreover, Dalits and Marathas have been peacefully living together in Maharashtra since ages and Dalits have been observing the Bhima Koregaon anniversary peacefully since decades. The cheapest form of appeasement politics laced with religious fundamentalism has been employed by the BJP to ‘divide and conquer’ these castes in Maharashtra. They are employing the same tactic in Haryana (Jats vs Non-Jats) and Uttar Pradesh (Brahmins vs Rajputs).

Emotive issues are the flavour of the political climate in India. In faraway Assam, an exercise which was supposed to accomplish a solemn accord- ‘Assam Accord’ was surreptitiously used by the BJP for ulterior political motives. Thanks to the people of Assam, the state by itself did not slip into communal chaos, even as the BJP used its full media might in Delhi to whip up passions. What was supposed to be a Citizen vs Illegal migrant issue was turned into a Hindu vs Muslim issue and was used by the ruling Govt to target the minorities of Assam. It is an undeniable fact that even though Assam there are fissures between Assamese people and Bengali (or Hindi) speaking people, those tensions have been limited to a language/cultural issues. People of Assam did not have a Hindu-Muslim issue, to put it bluntly. But exploiting societal fissures to win votes lies at the core of BJP’s ideology.

So, BJP- the double headed snake was precisely vying for that blood. ‘Double headed’ because contrary to the tall claims of BJP President maliciously pinning the blame on the Congress for ‘encouraging the stay of illegal Bangladeshis’ (sic); Facts show that between 2005 to 2013, Congress-UPA deported 49 times more illegal Bangladeshis to Bangladesh, than Modi Govt. For the record, Congress-UPA deported 88,792 illegal Bangladeshi migrants, while Modi Govt (till 2017) deported only 1822 of them. Moreover, Indian citizenship, according to India’s Constitution is provided by the ‘birth’ and not merely by ‘ancestral lineage’ as is being espoused by the BJP- so the question of having an NRC to weed out Indian citizens by birth with foreign lineage, across the country does not arise. Execution of NRC was shoddy and the blame for its mal-implementation lies squarely with the BJP.

Talking about nonperformance, two large of constituencies of the Indian electorate are particularly displeased and distressed by the present regime – Youth and Farmers. Lofty promises of creating 2 Cr jobs every year made by Narendra Modi has yielded no results. In the age of the millennials, the PM is telling us we don’t have data to measure how many jobs India created. It is not as if that the data was not collected in the previous regimes. Labour Bureau Survey is the most authentic government data on jobs. But Modi Govt. has failed to release the same for Oct-Dec 2017. Modi’s tall jargon and unscientific methods to somehow count and claim the number of jobs infact act a rubbing salts on the wounds of an already disappointed youth. EPFO, MUDRA loans and even anecdotal evidence is being sighted by the BJP to fool the people of India.

EPFO data cannot be a measure of job creation because according to statutory requirements, when an organization has 20 or more employees it comes under EPFO’s ambit. So, if a firm has 19 employees and it adds one more to its payroll, then all 20 will have to be registered under EPFO. This gives a false picture that 20 jobs were created instead of just one. As explained by many economists – one MUDRA loan cannot be counted as one Job, because the average size of MUDRA loans disbursed just Rs 47,268. In this paltry amount, no sustainable job can be created. Not even a proper Pakora stall or a Paan shop can be opened in this amount of money!

Millennials are also being continuously monitored by this regime. The Orwellian maxim of ‘Big Brother is Watching You’ is ubiquitously on display under this government. In the garb of AADHAAR leakages, ‘Social Media Communication Hub’ and accessing sensitive data through NaMo App- the Modi Govt is truly working like the ‘Ministry of Truth’ that violates and curbs our Right to Privacy. Additionally, youth are being told ‘what to wear’, what to eat’, what to watch’ and ‘what to do’. Banning of Art and Censorship has reached monstrous proportions. Couple all this with numerous agitations and conspiratorial campus unrest that have taken place in virtually every University of India, has further vitiated the space for dissent and has led to suppression and oppression of India’s youth. ‘Beti Bachao’ has only been relegated to sloganeering and advertisements. Only 5 paisa is being spend on a girl child- Yes- That is the budget of Modi Govt, this year, on ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’. We have seen how many horrific and gruesome incidents have taken place in home shelters in BJP ruled states and how BJP men were involved in Naliya, Kathua and Unnao.

Farmers are definitely very angry. They were promised ‘Cost +50%’ as MSP. They are still being promised smooth supply chain from ‘beej’ to ‘bazaar’- But nothing has been delivered to them. On top of that, for the first time in history, Agriculture is being taxed through the GST. Modi Govt attempted to disguise the MSP announcement of 4th July, 2018 as an ‘Electoral Lollipop’ for credit seeking and duping the farmers. But that also was too little too late. For example- MSP of Paddy according to Cost +50% should be Rs 2340 per quintal, but Modi Govt has only provided Rs 1750 per quintal i.e Rs 590 per quintal less than Modi Govt's promise. Similarly, the MSP of Jowar according to Cost +50% should be Rs 3275 per quintal, but Modi Govt has only provided Rs 2430 per quintal i.e Rs 845 per quintal less than Modi Govt's promise and the MSP of Moong according to Cost +50% should be Rs 9241 per quintal, but Modi Govt has only provided Rs 6975 per quintal i.e Rs 2266 per quintal less than Modi Govt's promise.

The biggest disservice that the BJP could have done to this country is to completely decimate its economic foundations. There is no exaggeration in this assertion. The foundations of India’s economy were embedded in its thousands of small and medium businesses and the unorganized sector. Both received a severe blow because of the mindless decision of Demonetisation. No matter how many idiotic reasons the Modi Govt presents and no matter how many goalposts it change- fact is that Demonetisation virtually demolished the structures of a thriving economy and couldn’t achieve any of its stated purposes. Even this freshly propped goalpost of increasing the tax base is a white lie. There are two important facts that cut through this fog.  First, the direct taxes grew by 151% over UPA I tenure and by 68% during UPA II tenure, but have only grown by 43% so far during the Modi Government's tenure. Second, had the BJP matched the UPA II growth rates in direct tax collections for last four years, direct tax collection would have crossed more than 10.5 lakh crore. But they failed at it miserably and still take pride in achieving net collection of around 9.5 lakh crore. All the other goalposts to enact Demonetisation have been successfully demolished in the past.

A flawed implementation of the GST, unending midnight knocking at the doors of small-medium businesses which is called ‘Tax Terrorism’ in economic parlance further assaulted the economy. Bank Loot Scams have become a norm and NPA’s are soaring by the day. The escape of Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Jatin Mehta and many others could not have happened without the active connivance of the Modi Government. Banking sector is in peril and people have lost faith in Banks. Investment is low and exports are plunging. Rupee is trading at its historic worse and Modi Govt has earned 11 Lakh Cr in taxes in the past four years alone due to central taxes on Petrol and Diesel. There is no respite from Price Rise and Current Account Deficit is rising. Forget 100 SMART Cities, no tangible investment in infrastructure is taking place and Stalled Projects are rising by the month. This is how the BJP is banishing our economy.

Economy might be dead. But emotive issues are left. That is the opium for BJP’s survival. If those people who look at the previously stated ‘silver lining’ of ‘religion’ in this dark cloud- open their eyes and minds. India would be a better place in 2019.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Emergency: India has moved on, but the BJP is stuck with it.

Lengthy Disclaimer: The purpose of this piece is not to either justify the Emergency or to defend it. The purpose is not to attack its ‘purpose’.  The purpose is placing the facts leading to the Emergency in the right context. The purpose is to tell the young students of Indian politics that we have to see the background in which such a measure was taken. Certain events in history have wide ranging repercussions, but as time goes, we also need to move on instead of earning cheap political brownie points which the BJP-RSS are indulging into.

I do not want any acknowledgement for this piece, even from my Liberal friends, because I know nobody, including me can justify the excesses of the Emergency. I only attempt to bring in some unread facts in public domain. For this, I have taken the liberty to refer many books on the same topic written by people who were actually in the midst of it. All the views expressed by me here are my personal views and does not reflect the views of any political organization.

Fourty-three long years shall complete, since the declaration of Emergency in India. For those like me who are born in the late 80’s- Emergency had very little importance because we were born, after the death of India’s greatest Prime Minister (in my opinion, everyone is entitled to theirs) was assassinated. Being a student of Indian politics, I often have had debates (both online and offline) on the Emergency. Majority of the arguments against it, either come from the people who have a diametrically opposite ideology and political philosophy than mine, the rest come from people who have not dug deeper into the reasons of imposition of Emergency and are only indoctrinated by superficial trappings. Infact many of my Congress contemporaries too; are more often than not uncomfortable in delving or discussing about Emergency.

We are in 2018 now. But every year, the BJP devoid of any core developmental issues tries to reignite a malicious politically driven propaganda by panning Emergency and raking up a discourse, in which it gets significant support from the most liberal section of the media as well. I would not blame the media- because they were one of the casualties of the Emergency.

Yes, for the Congress party too- Excesses of Emergency were definitely a chapter for which it has publically apologized and which it does not want to touch at all. When provoked, every June; by the BJP – the Congress has little to offer except its reiteration that it had already apologized and that Indira Gandhi herself had accepted that it was a mistake, following it up by calling General Elections in 1977, where she faced the wrath of the electorate. They also remind the narrative creators that- Indira Gandhi later came back with a thumping majority, after the Janata party- Janasangh Government collapsed under its own contradictions and people again reposed faith in Indira Gandhi.

There are a lot of deeper factors and some immediate factors which led Indira Gandhi Government to take such a drastic step. Before coming to that, let me also make it clear that Invocation of Emergency is a Constitutional provision which is explicitly covered in Article 352 of the Indian Constitution. So, one may have their reasons to oppose the Emergency and its excesses- but it has Constitution validity.

So how the Emergency did came about? There are layers and layers of factors.

I.                 Disobedience of law in India has always been given a political colour, and rightly so. Since the Independence was won by Gandhian means of Non-cooperation, Civil Disobedience and Satyagraha. And we can still see hues and shades of it all across India even now. Dissent in a Democracy is one of the most powerful tools to keep it intact. But various organizations have time and again taken the law in their own hand to serve their narrow vested interests and disobeyed and disregarded the state, thereby trampling upon its powers and enfeebling it.  Before 1947, the protagonists of the National Movement were fighting a Foreign Power. Weakening the state by unlawful means was at the core of their struggle; this was perfectly legitimate because a foreign power is ruling you for 200 years. But post-Independence, these tactics of blackmailing the state by hartals, strikes and even armed rebellion was still regarded as perfectly legitimate, particularly by those who want to usurp power through unconstitutional means. The opposition in the 70’s was determined to usurp power and when it tasted its first success in dislodging a Constitutionally elected Government in Gujarat- they had smelt blood and were hell-bent to replicate that modus operandi throughout the country. Economic distress and Inflation of the people, ravaged by successive wars also played a significant amount of part, as also some big mistakes by the Congress party in the state that further precipitated the situation.

II.             In 1972 India faced an extreme drought. In Gujarat, the situation became worse, followed by a poor kharif crop, thereby resulting in sharp increase in prices of the staple wheat, jowar, bajra and essential commodities. Sensing an opportunity for political gains by exploiting genuine hardship, opposition parties particularly the Congress (o) and Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), CPI(M), SP  cynically organized ‘Nav Nirman Samiti’ of students. In December 1973, students of L D College of Engineering in Ahmedabad went on a strike to protest against a hike in school fees and mess charges.  A month later, students of Gujarat University erupted in protest, demanding the dismissal of the state Government. How can student organizations demand dismissal of an elected state Government having a majority of 140 out of 168, is beyond imagination! They cannot do it without political patronage.

As the disturbances continued unabated, the Government led by Chimanbhai Patel (who had corruption charges against him too) resigned and President’s rule was imposed on 9 February 1974, but Assembly was not dissolved.

Now Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) got into the picture, by visiting Ahmedabad two days after the imposition of President’s rule. He complimented the students and actively encouraged them to continue the stir, leading to atleast 95 deaths in the coming days and 933 innocent people getting injured, besides loss of public property. The motive was to create anarchy and disturb the wheels of law by taking law into their own hands. Opposition parties were determined to get the house dissolved, especially because they were miserably thrashed in the state elections in UP and Odisha in February. They needed to retrieve lost ground in Gujarat, where they felt their electoral chances were better.

Later, Morarji Desai undertook an indefinite fast, starting from 11 March, thereby forcing the Centre to dissolve the Assembly on March 15.

III.         With the success of the ‘Nav Nirman Movement’, the opposition had tasted blood. It became a symbol for similar agitations across India in several states. Nobody shed a tear for the demise of rule of law and the ‘murder of democracy’ by usurping power through unconstitutional means. And JP was particularly enthused by these happenings. Never a realist, always a believer in grand gestures of life, ‘the underground revolutionary’, JP gave a call of ‘Sampurna Kranti’ in Bihar.

Such a call by any other leader would have easily been dismissed in the Indian political realm. But since JP had this moral, almost Gandhian aura of not accepting Pandit Nehru’s offer for a Cabinet post, after Independence, his call for ‘Total Revolution’ provided a degree of moral credibility resulting in coming together of ideologically opposite political entities like the Left, Right and the Socialists because they found this quick method to usurp power, through this short cut, a much better one. Using extra-Constitutional advocacy, they sought to replicate ‘Nav Nirman Movement’ though- student bodies, Sangharsh Samitis of Dalits and Adivasis and particularly the labour unions.

IV.         In Bihar, when the elected Government almost acceded to the students’ demands, the opposition still pressed for newer demands and dissolution of Assembly. Well sequenced calls of bandhs were organized unleashing widespread violence and disruption. Notwithstanding the violence associated with the bandh, JP gave a call for a gherao of the Assembly and residence of MLA’s, leading himself a procession to the secretariat. But Government did not relent. JP called a conference of opposition parties and by December, Jantata Sarkars and Janata Adalats in villages as organs of parallel governance.

In fact, On 26 January 1975, rival Republic Day celebrations were held at different places in Bihar. Would any democratically elected Government allow that, is a question which can be left open to the ‘Constitutionalists’ who oppose the basic principle of Emergency!

Inaugurating an all –India youth conference at Allahabad in June 1974, he said ‘though he himself would not take part in any armed rebellion, he would not restrain revolutionaries from to the gun’ (Times of India | 22 June, 1974). He also said, ‘he had never taken up arms against the state, nor did he want violence, but if the people wanted it from him, he would do that at an appropriate time’ (UNI report | 31 August 1974) It is apparent that, JP had very little faith in gradual reforms which were taking place under the Indira Gandhi Government. We can infer that policies like Green Revolution which made India self-sufficient in food grains, or the Nationalization of Banks- which increased India’s Saving Rate from 12% (1969) to 20% of the GDP (1980) did not cut much ice with the opposition whose one point agenda was ‘Indira Hatao’!

The PMO made attempts to form a consensus with JP. But JP did not respond, nor did he spell out any concrete manner how he would battle against rising prices or eliminate corruption. He took no note of Government’s package which later brought down inflation.

V.             Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was an accomplished Parliamentarian, wrote in a paper which he read at the Bharatiya Jana Sangh’s Conference in Hyderabad in September 1974. –
“The established leadership has been using Parliamentary method only as a cover for protecting their evil designs. (sic). The response cannot be confined to the Parliamentary level. … This was has to be fought in the streets… and in all sensitive power centres of the establishment’

Thus the opposition was fighting the battle to attain power only on ‘rhetoric’ and slogans like ‘communitarian society’ and ‘party less democracy’ with no vision or alternative policy roadmap for the future.

VI.         Another event which defined the precipitation of Emergency was the Railway Strikes of 1973-74. Apart from the All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) affiliated to the Socialist Party and the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) dominated by the Congress- around 200 big/small separate unions of different categories of railway personnel had cropped up through the efforts of CPI, CPM and the Jan Sangh. The competition of influence was intense. The Government in one such strike surrendered to All India Loco Running Association in August 1973, which gave an impetus to fresh demands from Sangh-Left backed Unions as they tasted their first success.

Peter Alvares, the moderate leader of the AIRF was replaced by George Fernandes in 1973. Before taking over the leadership, George Fernandes (India’s future Defence Minister) declared openly that ‘he could organize a strike that would bring down the Indira Gandhi Government at any time by paralyzing railway transport to a dead stop’.

In a speech meant to mobilize railway men for strike he said

“Realize the strength which you possess. Seven days strike of the Indian Railways- every thermal station of the country would close down. A ten day strike of the Indian Railways- every steel mill in India would close down and the industries of the country would come to a halt for the next 12 months. If once the steel mill furnace is switched off- it takes nine months to refire. A fifteen day strike in Indian Railways- the country would starve” (The Hindu | 30 March 1974)

The opposition’s main aim was to wreck the economy and paralyse the administration. This is why they pitched their demands so high and displayed little interest in negotiation of their demands.

It was clear to the Government that the strike was politically motivated and was planned to paralyze the country. With its back to the wall, the Government had to defend the state and assert its right to govern. Indira Gandhi’s Government came down heavily on the protesters. Thousands of employees were arrested and their families were driven out of their quarters.

VII.     There were other important factors for the proclamation of the Emergency. There were some external factors too. The US showered praise on JP and his role in fighting the Indira Gandhi Government in 1974. The Nixon administration wanted to punish her defiance to the US in 1971 and for conducting India’s first Nuclear Test later. The hectic activity of Peter Burleigh, a US consular officer who was constantly in touch with the agitators was proof of the meddling of foreign powers. Intelligence reports of how Nixon’s administration wanted to overthrow Bangabandhu Mujib’s Government in Bangladesh added to more suspicion.

In an interview with journalist Jonathan Dimbleby in 1978, when Gandhi was asked the precise nature of the danger to Indian security that drove her to declare a state of emergency, she promptly replied, “it was obvious, isn’t it? The whole subcontinent had been destabilized.”

VIII.  The disqualification of Indira Gandhi in the Rae Bareli election through the High Court Judgement of June 12, 1975 came as last straw and precipitated the Emergency. On June 24, the Supreme Court put a conditional stay on the High Court order: Gandhi could attend Parliament, but would not be allowed to vote unless the court pronounced on her appeal.

IX.       The opposition wasted no time in mounting a full-fledged campaign against Indira Gandhi Government. They planned demonstrations outside PM’s residence, gherao of industrialists and businessmen supporting the Prime Minister, gate meetings outside mills, lunch-hour meetings of Central Government employees etc.

Jan Morcha- a motley group of 10 parties, with Morarjee Desai as Chairman was formed. In a rally in Ramlila Grounds, he asked the army, the police and the Government servants not to obey orders and challenged the Government to try him of treason. He even said encouraged the military to plan a coup and gherao the PM’s residence.

X.             A day after the Supreme Court judgment, an ordinance was drafted declaring a state of internal emergency and the President signed on it immediately. In her letter to the President requesting the declaration of Emergency, Gandhi wrote, “Information has reached us that indicate imminent danger to the security of India.”

Early next morning, Indira Gandhi announced the declaration of National Emergency.

It is no secret that they were fears of a military coup to overturn a democratically elected Government in India had forced the PM to take this extreme step which, technically was Constitutionally valid.

It is no secret that the opposition called upon the military, police and government employees to flout “illegal” orders. They urged students to walk out of classes, taxpayers to refuse to pay taxes and factory workers to strike. They also advocated that the Information Minister should be barricaded for allowing All-India Radio to “lie” for the Prime Minister.

There are many excesses during the Emergency which nobody is condoning. Some were real, some were highly exaggerated. Similar conditions or even worse conditions were created during the Morarjee Desai Government too. But then it did not have a legal, Constitutional and Parliamentary sanction of the Emergency.  

Coming back to 2018,  Forty-three long years have passed since Emergency was declared. UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi in an interview already said that her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi had regretted it. Congress party has apologized for it, time and again.

But we do not know, why the BJP, is hell bent to invoke it every year. Is it because the present Modi Government has nothing to show?

India has moved on, but the BJP is stuck with the Emergency.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Hands that work together- A narrative for the Opposition Coalition

Next summers, India will see a New Government at the Centre. It will either chose a monolithic single party Government and reelect an idea that destroys its civilizational values and Constitution or it will elect a motley group of regional parties led by a National party with conflicting ideologies and aspirations that may not be able to provide a masochisticauthoritarian and theocratic leadership but will definitely provide a way out of the conundrum that India is being pushed into. It is a difficult choice for the voter.

The first time voter which is mesmerized and easily won over by the use of ‘soft power’, aggressive propaganda, emotive ideas and tall promises hasn’t really witnessed  past coalition Governments in India, and will have an inherent tendency to go for a ‘Single Party rule’. On the other hand, mature voters who understand what ‘Freedom’ in its true sense means for a country like India may opt for the ‘coalition’.

Personally, I am all for a strong single National party leadership at the Centre, but in the present circumstances, that option is closed for liberals like me because, I do not want my country to disintegrate through bigotry, hatred and narrow mindedness. A lesser known fact that we tend to forget is that coalition Governments have delivered in the past. We tend to forget that the coalition Government under Dr Manmohan Singh lifted 14 crore people out of poverty and provided the best growth rate ever possible in modern India. We also tend to forget that, it was a minority Government of P V Narasimha Rao that banished the past practices of ‘License Raj’ and undertook the biggest economic reforms that India witnessed in the past century. Yes, some coalition Governments have failed too, but those were the 70’s.

Those political commentators who create this false equivalence between Indira Gandhi and present day Narendra Modi are living in a fool’s paradise. The Indira Gandhi Government was 11 years old, when due to a variety of socio-political movements the most flawed coalition of India – Janata Party led by Morarji Desai was installed and it crumbled with its own contradictions. On the contrary, Narendra Modi is only a 4 year Prime Minister. His series of self-goals like Demonetisation and Flawed GST, along with widespread mal-governance, cronyism, covered with a sugary outer shell of thousands of crores of propaganda cannot be compared to sound economic and historic measures of Indira Gandhi like the Nationalization of Banks, Ending Privy Purses or the 1971 War.

The object of this piece was not to make any comparisons between the two, but this has to be strongly underlined and stated. They are simply incomparable.

During the Plenary Session of the Indian National Congress, its political resolution mentions a very important dimension that might change the face of Indian politics in 2019.

“Congress will adopt a pragmatic approach for co-operation with all like-minded Parties and evolve a common workable program to defeat the BJP-RSS in the 2019 elections”

The Karnataka elections happened just after the Congress’ 84th Plenary Session. And the Congress did show a great ‘pragmatic approach’ and immense flexibility to work with ‘like-minded’ JD(S).

The recent bye-poll results are a copy book illustration of the ‘pragmatic approach’ adopted by the Congress party under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi. Wherever the Congress needed to step back and provide a larger role to the regional ‘like-minded’ parties- it conveniently did. Wherever the Congress thought, it should pitch in- it surely did! Politics is all about pragmatism and no better than the Congress party knows this.

In the same Plenary Session, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, elaborated about the relationship between the People of India and the Congress party. He said-
“India expects much more from the Congress because it holds us, the Congress party on higher standard than any other organisation…”

Yes, the Congress party is extremely mindful of the fact that people of India will not let our Constitution be sacrificed at the mercy of the RSS-BJP. If the Congress does not use each and every tool left to its disposal to save the ideas, ideals and institutions that our forefathers so painstakingly built and nurtured, it will be failing in its Constitutional duty. Congress will fail the people of India, if it does not give an equal fight to the divisive forces of RSS-BJP. It will fail India, if it does not bring in the ‘like -minded’ regional parties on board to ensure that the coalition provides maximum damage to the theocracy of the BJP. It will fail if it does not provide an alternative agenda of Governance and Development which is Liberal, Progressive and Inclusive. It will fail if lets India plunge into the darkness of economic mismanagement. It will fail India if it does not protect its Farmers from distress, its Weaker Sections from persecution and it’s Working Class from exploitation.

Kairana can be a template- but it is mainly an electoral template. Panning Narendra Modi cannot be idea. Congress cannot be accused of “Modi Vs All” and ‘Anti-Modi- plank’ alone cannot be an idea that should attract the voters. There has to be a positive idea.

Congress is the only force which can also provide an ideological template- A definitive narrative.

Flashback 2004: The UPA and the Left Parties had a ‘Common Minimum Programme’ which was almost entirely implemented from 2004-09. Congress needs to provide a common ideological template to this coalition. The coalition should have something to ‘propagate’. Leaders don’t win elections—the battle of ideas is what matters

So what are the broad ideas which the coalition can find a common ground on and built its campaign around?

Let me attempt some broad ones-

1.  Preserving social harmony and fighting fundamentalism of all hues and shades

2.  Economic growth - creating jobs- realistic, doable, workable ideas for job creation.

3.  Implementation of the Swaminathan Committee for Farmers in letter and in spirit so that they get their fare prices and farm distress is alleviated.

4.  Education and Healthcare policy reforms- it’s a fairly non-controversial, non-debatable subject and can easily be implemented. The BJP in the past 4 years, has failed our Education system.

5.  Women Empowerment- political, economic, social & legal. Tangible solutions to enhance gender equality.

6.  Protecting Institutions

7.  Providing space to regional aspirations within the Indian Union. More say of states in economic policy making.

8.   Judicial Reforms – reducing the pendency of the cases.

9.  Welfare of the Weaker Sections- SC, ST, OBC and Minorities

o  Relaunching the Sub Plans that the BJP abolished.
o  Strengthening the SC-SC Act
o  Enhancing scholarships and welfare measures.

10.  Fast tracking Modernisation of Our Defence Forces- the BJP has totally neglected our External and Internal Security.

11. Transparency- RTI to be strengthened, Lokpal, Whistleblowers Bill.

12. Protecting Our Environment. Saving our rivers, coastal areas, wildlife, air and forests.

These are the 12 suggestive broad ideas that should be the Magna Carta of the coalition. There can be several more additions, but this can be a start. These are all non-controversial ideas and there cannot be any point of contention amongst the regional parties on these 12 ideas.

Now it is the Congress and the coalition to decide.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

How BJP is ensuring that India’s Democracy becomes more Superficial

India’s politics has truly changed under Narendra Modi’s BJP. The deepening roots of Democracy are being uprooted and are being smeared with a pesticide of superficiality.

As the dust settles on the Karnataka Elections and the dramatic turns of events thereafter, I wondered ‘What is it in the BJP’s narrative, which makes them win?  The Congress party might have clinched the Karnataka cliffhanger, but there are deeper questions which need to be answered. Since, I am student of Communication; the ‘Narrative’ part of it made me introspect. ‘Messaging’- is the key and how has the BJP been able to convince people through it?

The answer lies in a short personal story.

I may not come from a political family or lineage, but whenever we had any dining table conversations on current affairs and politics, my elders always made a point that never believe anything unless you apply your own mind, especially when you have certain doubts about it. Like all educated middle class homes, we were also taught to question and debate.

At our joint family bungalow in Kanpur, near the driveway, my great grandfather had built a temple with small marble idols; six of them- A Shivalinga in black stone, placed in a square-shaped recessed space, which could facilitate the ‘Jal Abhishek’ on Lord Shiva; whose drain internally reached to a ‘Kele Ka Ped’ (Banana Tree); Marble idols of – Lord Ganesha, Goddess Parvati, Lord Kartikeya, Lord Hanuman & Nandi.

Nobody can forget that day of 21st September, 1995, when the stone idols of Lord Ganesha started ‘drinking’ milk out of the spoon. 23 years ago, I was in Class fourth, coming back from school, I still remember it very clearly, I saw a long queue at our driveway; of people coming from outside with milk packets and glasses to offer milk to the idols in our temple and I could not believe my eyes. Lord Ganesha was sipping in the milk, I was told.

Since childhood, my grandmother inculcated this habit in us to take care of the idols, I used to clean up the temple, remove the dried flowers and leaves, daily wash it, ‘make them wear their clothes’ and even lay the idols to rest by placing a small blanket on them, in winters. I used to love it this daily ritual. Also, I developed a special bond with the Bhagwan. Praying to the God and carrying out the rituals were not binding on me and nobody ever forced to do it. Also, I made it a point to celebrate all festivals of all religions- Be it decorating the Christmas tree and having a joint family fete with games and goodies to celebrating Eid with delicacies gifted by our neighbours- Khan Sa’ab’s family; or be it national occasions such as Gandhi Jayanti or even paying tribute to Munshi Prem Chand on his Birth Anniversary. Believe it or not, I made it a point to celebrate everything.

Coming back to ‘Ganesha idol drinking milk- mass hysteria’, on that very same day, I saw on news, scientists attributing this phenomenon to capillary action and presenting detail theories of how this happened. I was satisfied by the explanation and many years later, I found out that this predominantly urban hysteria was created by the RSS. It was their first successful attempt on mass rumuor mongering.

The present day socio-political landscape of India is now much more advanced than this lone experiment. The mediums have changed, but the modus operandi remains the same. A ‘Whats App University’ has successfully (sic) been created, photoshop images, using social media, concocted videos, fake news, using even mass media to plant wrong stories- everything trick is being used.

Thousands of factories of lies are being now opened daily to spread rumuors and advance the RSS-BJP agenda. The success of the ‘Ganesha drinking milk’  experiment have made them to scale up their agenda, a zillion more times, using sophisticated means and technology to spread lies. However, one common thread still forms the basis of this propaganda machinery- Emotive Issues.

Each and every propaganda has to be ‘Emotion driven- Nationalistic emotion, Religious Emotion, Political Emotion, Societal Emotion….’ It has to touch one simple emotive chord and your message is through. It does not matter, how non-scientific, irrational, superficial, bigoted, communal, false, fake, denigrated or divisive your ‘emotional theme’ is. It has to just bring out a ‘Call for action’ in favour of the BJP-RSS. That is it! 

Narendra Modi’s politics is precisely based on this- Emotive issues. Issues that the BJP espouses do not have any deeper effect tangible effect in our lives, but our highly emotive in nature and are completely superficial and shallow in nature. 

Sample some of these gems (sic), only used in Karnataka are:-

§   “Congress politicians (Rahul Gandhi) should learn patriotism through the Mudhol dog (hounds) of Karnataka”;

§   “Jawaharlal Nehru and V K Krishna Menon mistreated General Thimayya, after the 1948 war with Pakistan”;

§  “ Congress party insulted Field Marshal Cariappa”;

§  “When Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Batukeshwar Dutt, Veer Savarkar, greats like them were jailed fighting for the country's independence, did any Congress leader go to meet them?”

§  Referring to a popular vector graphic made by a young artist from Kerala, PM Modi said “The Congress’ ecosystem doesn’t even tolerate the magnificent art of Karan Acharya whose Hanuman captured the imagination of the entire country. Unable to digest its success, the Congress tried miring it in a controversy. There is no iota of democracy in the minds of Congress members";

§  “For 15 minutes, without taking a paper in your hand, can you please talk about the achievements of your government in Karnataka. You can speak in any language as you please- English, Hindi or your Mother tongue (Italian)"

All these are full of vitriol, no real substance and are plain distortion of history. But Modi’s admirers’ love it. Many political commentators shower praises on Modi and call these as ‘intimidating’, ‘high voltage’, ‘passionate’ and what not. But the simple fact remains that Narendra Modi’s ‘messaging’ is purely based on the RSS brand of rumour mongering and spreading lies- camouflaged in an ‘emotive theme’.

BJP has made India’s political discourse utterly shallow and superbly superficial. If we carefully check the number of debates that happen on our television channels, most happen on emotive issues – Hindu-Muslim, India-Pakistan, Caste division, Communal Conundrums and so on. A deliberate design to feed India’s young minds into such superficial trappings is being fostered by the RSS-BJP.

Since attention spans are less, knowledge is trigger driven, books are becoming increasingly redundant and there is no sense of history left- this phenomenon is now at its peak. ‘Headlines Management’ is the key and ‘Spins’ attributed to ‘Sources’ fill up the news-cycle! Who cares about issues of women safety, when you have ‘Triple Talaq Bill’ as the greatest BJP achievement to showcase? *

No wonder, in a letter dated 7th December, 1947- India’s First Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru wrote this about the RSS to his Chief Ministers:-

“Some provincial governments have taken against periodicals for promoting hatred between communities.  Probably the newspapers of the R.S.S. are more to blame in this matter than any other newspapers or periodicals outside Pakistan.  It is amazing how they carry on this communal propaganda in its extremist form”

“I have some knowledge of the way the Nazi Movement developed in Germany.  It attracted by its superficial trappings and strict discipline considerable number of lower middle class young men and women who are normally not too intelligent and for whom life appeared to offer little to attract them.  And so they drifted towards the Nazi party because its policy and programme, such as they were, were simple, negative and did not require an active effort of the mind.  The Nazi party brought Germany to ruin and I have little doubt that if these tendencies are allowed to spread and increase in India, they would do enormous injury to India.  No doubt India would survive.  But she would be grievously wounded and would take a long time to recover.”

Unfortunately, Pandit Nehru’s prophecy about ‘Superficial Trappings’ is soon coming true in BJP ruled India!

*Aside: Do you know that No BJP Government has ever brought a single reformative bill when it comes to Women Safety or Rights, ever? All Women Reforms Laws in this country are brought by the Congress! But no one cares about that!