Thursday, January 25, 2018

Republic Day Musings: Face to Face with Modi bashing

The periodical columns in newspapers are often categorised as personal journalism. Blogs are more personal, more of a mood piece - where the personality of the writer could be a key element. 

On this backdrop, let me discuss about a fresh blog as part of my offerings as the Republic Day musings. This is the third in the series since 2016 as I try to share very personal views about contemporary setting in and around the country and its socio-political context on a day of such national importance. Last few weeks and months had revolved Narendra Modi, Gujarat polls, soft-Hindutva polity of Rahul Gandhi and a rather unwanted controversy involving highest court of the land.    So let's take a few of these - step by step. In my previous blog I have dealt with judicial crisis and hence the focus would be on other issues. With regard secularism and soft-Hindutva politics, Indian polity has undergone multi-fold changes in terms of content and also the resultant. The term ‘secularism’ has been probably first used in Europe toward the middle of the 19th century wherein an underline theme was given that public institutions should not be religious. That is they should be ‘secular’. In simpler sense – church and state apparatus ought to be different. Well, this could be a Christian sense – but it travelled into Indian politics laying emphasis that one person’s religious practice or identity had nothing to do with his her public standing vis-a-vis government apparatus. A man could be irreligious also – if Marxists intellectualism is to be understood. But in course of time – it was used to ‘garner’ minorities – and especially Muslim votes. Without going into details on which leader or which party is to be blamed; it ought to be understood in a very simple sense that soon politicians pushed languages like Urdu even in states like Kerala and West Bengal – where locals hardly spoke or understood it and it was presumed that this can appease Muslims. This was in later years – dubbed by the likes of L K Advani, a chief architect of Hindutva-politics, as ‘appeasement politics’. 

By 2014 – after Congress strength in Lok Sabha was reduced to all time low, an internal panel of Congress party headed by versatile A K Antony ‘rightly’ diagnosed that the Congress party was also being described as ‘anti-Hindu’. In a country where nearly 80 per cent are Hindus – the Congress was really pushed into the second fiddle. ‘Sickularism’ was a tag given to the Congress and thus some corrective and drastic steps were necessary.

The Gujarat elections in 2017 provided an ample opportunity and the corrective step in purely political sense made lot of sense. Being ‘secular’ and someone believing in pluralism did not mean one ought to turn anti-Hindu! Rahul Gandhi precisely did that in the run up to the elections in Gujarat. This adds a new feather in his cap. May be !

But what is more important to debate is WHY the real ‘secular polity’ – as ideally desired – has not succeeded in India so far? The general approach of administrations – irrespective of party affiliations and states – towards the problem of communal tension and disturbances - has been like ‘fire brigade’.  After the riots, police would appear on the scene and once the riots have been doused – they would return to the barracks and as if would wait for the next conflict to emerge. In between – the political class would do their business and garner votes ! 

To discuss these, we ought to examine two different questions as well. What has ‘secularism’ done to Indians? Or – What has Indians done to the secularism?
To answer these questions – we need to understand the significance of pro-Hindutva and hard or soft Hindutva politics. Some have tried to answer these questions by laying the blame on specific doctrines! True, it is always easier to blame others. Who did this to us? – is therefore a common human response. But 'soul searching' is vital and perhaps the compulsion of vote-game has started drawing the likes of Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee to play so called 'soft-Hindutva'. In both the instances, these are crucial as anti-Modi brigade have started realising that you cannot ignore Hindus for long and rule over Indians. For that matter in Tripura, even the Marxists - the original copy right holders of 'Muslim appeasement' have been talking about Ramayana, Pandavas and so on.
This is one principal impact of the Moditva phenomenon -- and hence the die hard Modi-detractors are looking for new avenues every day to slam him. 
Was judicial crisis part of that endeavour, one cannot answer this question either way. The anti-Modi brigade has not given up their agenda and they will not. But each time they try to build up a mountain out of a mole hill, things go the other way. Actually, Prime Minister Modi is found to be a smart operator and often a gamechanger for a game - where he is the referee and also the ultimate winner.

In political sense, Rahul Gandhi has led his party to corrective path when he shed the shyness of being associated with temple. There is nothing to be apologetic about Hindu identity. The Congress party – for all practical reasons – need not be shy about doing politics with 80 per cent Indians. The ‘inclusive’ politics cannot actually be crafted keeping the majority community away from it. The misadventure of terminologies like ‘saffron terror’ should be forgotten as bad dreams. 

The party has paid heavy price for using words like ‘Osamaji’ for a dreaded terrorist.  It has also gained nothing by stating that country’s the ‘minorities’ have the first right to national resources. It is not that such politics were not tried in 2002 or in subsequent polls in Gujarat. But such efforts then did not yield results. However, the elections of Gujarat 2017 paid in dividends and it clearly suggested that Congress should stick to the new roadmap.  

In 2014 and some state elections after that, Congress lost the support of ‘moderate Hindus’ and - post Gujarat - it is presumed that this section can be won over.  

However, the real diagnosis is not yet happening about the malady. Since mid December when Rahul Gandhi took over as Congress chief, everyone seems to be waiting in the wings eager to know the real Team Rahul. The delay is no longer a puzzle, it leads to frustration.

Meanwhile, the BJP's onward march continues notwithstanding Gujarat.

The Campaign Star

The coming elections in three north eastern states would many things clear. But as far as the Republic Day of 2018 remains, Modi remains ahead --- the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit was a totally a new and uncharted roadmap tread by him. How much it would bring in dividends remains to be seen though. 

The Padma Shri Award for individuals from each ASEAN member nation will find him new fan following -- another factor that could lead to stomach pain to his detractors.

The Governance is not about 'glory' of ruler, Pranab Mukherjee had propunded in his last address on the eve of Republic Day on January 25, 2017. But what's the power -politics all about - if there is no glorification of the man - who has that 'power'. 


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

What ails Indian judiciary?

“The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere”.

- Extracts from Pt Nehru’s radio broadcast after assassination of Mahatma Gandhi

Statesmanship should easily come to the judges, but not the rebellion. The
unprecedented thing happened on Jan 12, 2018. Four wise men of country’s
top court decided to take a plunge into the whirlpool of media and addressed a
press conference to take on the Chief Justice of India. 

Did we all see it coming?  

Is our judiciary – a saving grace among all institutions in world’s
largest democracy getting into murkier affairs? What’s the truth?
Well, in an intellectual hypothesis – we may say mere Sincerity is no measure
for Truth. In a little perplexed sense, no matter how sincere you are, one may be
still wrong. In the latest episode of judges’ row – who have been wrong, the
four ‘rebel’ judges or the Supreme Court Chief Justice Dipak Misra himself? Or
both sides?

Was it a good issue to come out in the media? 

Is it true some senior journalists and a prominent lawyer actually anchored the entire media extravaganza? If so
why? And if yes, what difference does it make to the actual merit of the case?
The government – put on the back foot and displaying yet another major
‘intelligence failure’ – to borrow an oft-repeated phrase - took a cautious line
and counselled that the problem of judiciary should be handled and resolved by
the highest court of the land and other wings of judiciary itself. But the damage
was done.
Was it a responsible response from the government? The Congress President
Rahul Gandhi rightly described the episode as important and serious and said
the matter ought to be looked into.
Yashwant Sinha, now a permanent trouble maker in the BJP fold, defied his
party line and implied the issues raised by four judges were important and
should not be brushed aside.


As a preliminary to any discussion on the ailments of the Indian judiciary, I
conceive it as a medium for dispensation of justice without any prejudice, slant
and unfairness. As an ardent admirer of parliamentary system of democracy – as
we have also grown with it and nurtured it in last 70 years – I presume a healthy
democratic set up and an independent judiciary also imply that there is also no
clash and more importantly no interference into the affairs of one wing from
the other. 

In other words, the executive – that is the government, the ministers
and the administration – should stay away from independent functioning of
Parliament or state legislature and the judiciary. And vice versa.
That way, when it comes to court hearing, justice must be delivered wherein
there is no bias or otherwise. This spirit remains underlined, importantly, at all
levels of courts – lower courts, High Courts and finally the Supreme Court.
Having said so, one must confess there are bound to be ‘differences’ at times
between different pillars and also sometimes within the respective pillars as
well – since democracy involves reconciliation of conflicting interests through
discussion and debate.

To analyse these issues in respect of January 12 developments also means we
need to examine on what really led to the unprecedented media outburst.
Thankfully, once the issue flared up – at subsequent stage – it did not get
murkier further as all and sundry seem to work to maintain calm.

To start with the role of Bar Council of India and Supreme Court Bar
Association ought to be appreciated as the regulatory bodies for lawyers
unanimously decided to form a delegation to meet the Judges and help mediate
a solution. The underlining theme was that such matters should not be made public as Judiciary is an important pillar of the Constitution and the people of India have unflinching faith in the judicial system.

There is also thus a need to examine why we have overdose of politics into
everything. Why even the developments in a court room – based on legal
procedures and laws – quite often get linked to politics? Incidentally and
perhaps unfortunately, in India, life revolves around politics and politicians.

Reflecting about media coverage, one has a legitimate right to point out that in
many other countries, distinguished scientists, economists and industrialists,
industry houses and sports-stars get greater media coverage. So much things
have cheapened in terms of what makes ‘news’ for media – that science
journalism is a vanishing art today in world’s largest democracy.

Well, the nation gets the kind of leadership it deserves. Stream cannot be
different from the source. This logic applies to media and other pillars as well. I
have hardly implied that everything is wrong in Indian judiciary or in Indian
politics today. But it is high time, we ask, what ails Indian judiciary?

True, yet again, there has been intent, cold and undeclared war between
judiciary and politicians in several countries. So if today – the judges’ row as
one sees from outside is actually linked to conflict between a political class and
a section of judiciary, things should not baffle us.In earlier times, they say, both Indian politics and the legal fraternity attracted
the best in India. In the process, they were mutually complementary. But now
there is a keen competition of different sort. At least for politics – one has often
heard – when you cannot do anything in any other field, you become a

This leads me to a possible answer to a question – what ails Indian judiciary.
Mainly there is a perennial obsession about politics and the power politics. This
indirectly links to the government of the day – at different levels. Thus both the
governments – in the states and in the centre and the ministers become principal
players indirectly -- - influencing developments related to judiciary. In other
words, Prime Minister in office or incumbent Chief Ministers become crucial in
more ways than one. Actually, nothing is more dangerous to a democracy.
Moving further, I have been reflecting on the recent debate in Lok Sabha on
judges’ salary bill. Many good orators among lawmakers irrespective of party
affiliations have suggested for judicial reforms. It is high time, the country
works on those lines.

During the debate, many members spoke on who is ‘supreme’ – the Supreme
Court or Parliament. Some insisted as members of Parliament they were
‘supreme’ as they were elected by the people. One member even suggested, “no
one in the country is more supreme than the people”.

The idea being even parliament has the right to prevail upon the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. I do not subscribe to this view, however.

But there are issues which MPs rightly suggested and these ought to be looked
into. The powers under ‘contempt’ of court law are in public debate now. In the
words of one sitting MP, “contempt of court is the biggest sword hanging on the
head of the executive”. And he said so in Lok Sabha. In terms of enhancing
transparency of court proceedings, the suggestion of live telecast of important
cases in court proceedings should be taken up with priority.
In conclusion, I would like to sum up by making a reference to historical
instances wherein countries like Spain and Portugal stopped moving ahead from
the 16 th century. When the mind ceases to thrust outward, it marks the beginning of contraction. 

Spain and Portugal were powerful civilisations in the 15 th century. But at subsequent stage, they allowed other nations to take up the vast goals and develop new ideas. These two countries have not yet recovered from that decline. In terms of good and bad too this happens.

Friday, January 12, 2018

State polls 2018 – Litmus test to 2019 battle royal for PM Modi

“The myth about Modi’s invincibility has been broken in Gujarat," said R. Lyngdoh, leader of the opposition Congress party in the Christian-dominated Meghalaya state, where elections are due in February.

A series of provincial elections due this year in India, including some in Christian strongholds, are expected to set the ball rolling for next year’s general election that will decide the fate of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his pro-Hindu party. These days every political move in the nation raises the same basic question in the media: Could Modi, known for theatrically blending economic development with his zealot Hindu nationalism, win another term in 2019? 

Most surveys have found Modi to be the most popular politician in the world’s most populous democracy of 1.2 billion people, 30 percent of them illiterate. But that cannot ensure him of another term in power.
Modi's invincibility in Question

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) narrowly managed to win just 99 seats to retain power in the 182-member Gujarat house. In fact, it lost 16 sitting seats while Congress gained 16 seats from the last election to improve its number to 77.
“It showed the fault lines in BJP’s election strategy, however good they may be. And they can be humbled,” Lyngdoh said.
The Gujarat polls have changed impressions and given renewed impetus to Congress, which could be reflected in the provincial elections this year, according to political observer G V Anshuman Rao of GV Sudhakar Rao Foundation.
The Gujarat election “actually gives an impression that Congress under its new president Rahul Gandhi is showing purpose in its actions and could challenge Modi. Rahul’s arrival also means that the 2019 battle will not be one-sided,” he said.
The issues that put Modi and BJP on the defensive in Gujarat are also “relevant for all the states” that go to the polls this year, said K. T. Chuba, Congress leader in Nagaland state. The Christian-majority states of Nagaland and Meghalaya along with Tripura must get a new government by March. While Karnataka is to elect a government in May, elections must be conducted by the end of this year in four other states — Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
Gujarat elections showed that “people are angry” with the BJP and Modi because of issues like “farmers’ distress, unemployment, a sloppy tax system and ill-advised economic decisions,” said Chuba. “The same yardstick and issues will apply to the elections in other states,” particularly in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where the BJP has been winning elections since 2003, he said.
But the BJP has a better chance in the Christian-majority states of Nagaland and Meghalaya.

J. A. Lyngdoh, a BJP leader in Catholic-majority Meghalaya, said the BJP’s only promise is to provide a corruption-free government focused on people’s socioeconomic development in the state. The hilly state state’s 2.9 million people, of whom 75 percent are Christians, will accept the BJP to end the 15-year rule of Congress, Lyngdoh said.
In Baptist-majority Nagaland, the BJP already shares power in a coalition led by the state-based Nagaland People’s Front.
Christians, who make up 90 percent of Nagaland’s 1.9 million people, cannot be bothered with the pro-Hindu nationalism of the BJP, said a Christian leader who asked not to be named.
Ethnic Naga people, who form the majority in the state, look toward supporting a federal government that will support their regional government to help accelerate their development, the Christian leader said.
In Nagaland, a good number of Nagas – who are mostly Baptist Christians – are still largely with Modi – politically. In fact, Nagaland People’s Front (a state based party) is an ally of BJP and has the potential to bounce back to power yet again along with BJP. In Meghalaya, certain social complicity offers opportunities to the BJP. The poll managers in the saffron party are interacting aggressively with ‘non-Christian local tribal groups’ and try to draw political mileage of the extreme swings between modernity and antiquity.  BJP leader J A Lyngdoh says only agenda of BJP is development and a ‘corruption-free government’ in Meghalaya. 
This issue is making serious impact even in communist rule Tripura, another northeastern state where polls are due in February-March. On a trip to Tripura, BJP chief Amit Shah told party rallies that several communist leaders – known for their alleged corruption – may be put behind bars once BJP captures power in the state. CPI-Marxists are in power in Tripura since 1995 and there are numerous instances where ‘power and absolute powers’ have spoiled the comrades! 
Recently, a court order indicted the Marxist regime for faulty appointment of as many as 10,023 primary school teachers – seen as a test case of nepotism and favouritism under the communists. This is why a huge number of youths are coming out of parties like Congress and decided to join BJP in Tripura.
Corruption-free administration attracts ordinary voters, said political observer Anshuman Rao.
However, he had a warning for Congress well-wishers. “In electoral politics, the last-minute delivery — booth management — is important. It means there is no replacement for good organisation. This is lacking in Congress.”

Elsewhere too, Modi is trying to deliver on corruption front and a former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, a bitter Modi critic, has been jailed for fodder scam in 1990s. Delivering on corruption front and picking up issues like Triple Talaq of Muslim women to ban the practice seek to address the core BJP voters.

However, in Meghalaya in particular say local Christian leaders the controversy pertaining to beef ban is harming BJP. Local BJP leaders privately admit that beef ban remains a matter of concern even as in last two months over a dozen Congress legislators and former ministers have joined BJP.

The ‘desertion’ in Congress party is actually an indication that the electoral mood is in favour of ‘change’ both in Meghalaya and Tripura. In both the states – BJP seems to be in striking distance to power – either alone or in alliance with smaller regional parties like National People’s Party – which was once founded by a prominent Christian leader Late P A Sangma.

Thus, many analysts wonder perhaps with a better ‘organisational strength’ Congress could have actually come to power in Gujarat.  Among the lapses, a former police officer in Gujarat – who is against BJP – says, at one stage, Congress poll managers gave up the micro planning. They never understood the importance of vote-cutter parties and Independents. When the result came, Independents could eventually polled 4.5 percent of the anti-BJP vote. This made difference in several seats. In some constituencies again, BSP candidates and especially Muslims also eat into vote share of the Congress candidates. Who will then bell the cat?


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Sheikh Mujib Memorial - An edifice of Bangabandhu's political vision, legacy

A sense of chill runs through the spine as one encounters the 'bullet marks' at House No. 10 in Dhanmondi locality of Bangladesh capital. This is the place where Sheikh Mujibar Rahman, Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, and his 18 family members including three sons and a young grandson were assassinated in a ruthless exercise by 'right-wing' military officers -- of course in cold blood. 

"This house has been a witness to the history of the making of Bangladesh, its struggle, language movement....It was the witness to hours of deliberations among Mujib's close associates. Today, sadly though - this house has become an enduring symbol of love and admiration people feel for Bangabandhu (Mujib)," says one of the staffs at the Museum. Today, this is a place where hundreds of Bangladeshis - young and old - feel they can renew their commitment to the nation building, he says.

The military dictator Major General Ziaur Rahman had then assumed power after the 1975 massacre. Bloodstains on the walls and on the peeling green plaster brings to fore the story of one of the most horrific killings of political stars and the family members in the sub-continent.
Among those killed were Mujib himself, his wife Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib, their three sons Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and minor Sheikh Russel; the newly married brides of Kamal and Jamal - Sulatana and Rosy and Bangabandhu's brother Sheikh Abu Naser.

So much was the 'hatred' and influence of diabolic motivation, that a number of Mujib's household staff and personal aides were also gunned down. The massacre had taken place in the early hours of August 15, 1975, when a group of Bangladesh Army personnel went to 
his residence and carried out their mission - resulting in a military coup. As one tried to interact briefly with a set of young visitors at the museum, most could not conceal their 
emotion and struggled hard to hold their tears. But the moist eyes would tell what has been going on in their hearts. 
"The master bedroom forces any visitor to halt for a while in homage to the Bangabandhu," says Abdul Habib, a civil engineering student staring above at the ceiling as if he is lost.

Mujib admirers: Waiting their turn

The bloodstains and bullet marks on the walls, stairs and floor are easily distinguishable as these have been carefully 'preserved' under glass panels. 

One can see the three vintage model telephone sets, outfits of Mujib and his family members preserved. 

On the table lies a book, playing guitar, with a gaping bullet hole through the middle and in the family dining-room - a bottle of Coke, two jars of pickle, and a Raleigh cycle that belonged to Mujib's youngest son, Russel -- lying as it was. 

In 1981 - the house was formally handed over to Sheikh Hasina - who  not without good reason is rightfully called 'Daughter of Democracy'. 

The house is now maintained as a museum by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum, a trust headed by Hasina herself.  About 70 staffers including tourist guides, maintenance staff and others work here. Some of them often Prime Minister Hasina
herself clears the names of those who would work or get associated with the living memory of her family.

"Our courageous Prime Minister often breaks down after coming here. Hasina often cries as she looks on portraits of Mujib sahab feeding pigeons or the family belongings, her mother dress.....we have seen," says one female worker.
Insiders say overall plan of the museum involved stage by stage development. There is also an annexed building - an upcoming six-storied structure housing a library and a museum office. 
The third or the entry floor focuses on Bangabandhu's life and political career, the brave revolt against injustice and of course the turbulent events during the Pakistani rule.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Minorities continue to reel under love-hate relationship with Modi regime

Religious minorities in India - especially Muslims and Christians - continue to reel under love-hate relationship with the BJP-led Narendra Modi government even as the bygone year 2017 was marred by heated debate on issues like Triple Talaq, Love Jihad and conversion row.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Sunday, December 24, urged the Central government to withhold and withdraw its Bill to outlaw instant Triple Talaq, stating that it was against the principles of Shariah and an interference in Muslim personal law.

On December 15, the Union Cabinet approved the much talked about Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 that seeks to provide punishment for instant Triple Talaq and gives victims the right to seek maintenance from their former spouses. The Supreme Court in  a 3:2 judgement in August had banned Triple Talaq, saying it violated the fundamental rights  of Muslim women.

  'Triple Talaq' is oral divorce given in one go, a practice which has been much in public debate for quite sometime. The draft law is understood to have provided punishment including jail term for violators. The proposed law would be applicable only in case on instant triple talaq or 'talaq-e-biddat. While in many quarters, the anxiety of the religious minorities saw increase because of alleged "lack of confidence" in the administration in BJP-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, in some Christian-dominated northeastern states - BJP sprang surprise by making deeper penetration electorally during the calendar year 2017.

In northeastern state of Manipur, the Naga Christians voted overwhelmingly in assembly elections early this year and BJP nominees could register victories in typical constituencies with sizeable Christians like Thanlon, Henglep and Churachandpur. BJP's ally Nagaland People's Front could also win important seats in constituencies with considerable Christians.  

On one hand, while such electoral victories have encouraged BJP to make determined efforts to wrest power in another Christian-stronghold Meghalaya in next year's polls, the overall impression of Christians against BJP in rest of India were lost in controversies during the year.
Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, told journalists on December 20 in Delhi that Hindu activists lately attacked two Catholic priests and 30 seminarians in Madhya Pradesh accusing them of attempting religious conversion.

The Christians were allegedly attacked when they were singing Christmas carols. Instead of acting against the perpetrators of crime, it has been alleged that police in Madhya Pradesh only acted under pressure from Hindu groups. 
Issues of conversion row and attacks on Christians during the year came from Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh as well. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP or BJP-led NDA at present  run government(s) in 19 of 29 Indian states, including Madhya Pradesh, where Christian leaders say their trust in administration or the rule of law has become "shaky" in the wake of increased attacks.

However, there are other versions too. A newly inducted Christian Union Minister K J Alphons recently blamed media for often highlighting some of the events in wrong light. Because of the "breaking news" culture of television channels, he said, "We live in post-truth". "After being in power for three-and-half years (for BJP), tell me whether a stone has been thrown at a church? Has a Christian been attacked anywhere?" he asked at a television programme.

It is also notable that former bureaucrat K J Alphons (64) is a Syro-Malabar Catholic from Kerala, where Christians play an important role in electoral politics as they form about 20 per cent of the state's 33 million population.
There have been also issues related to beef eating and in states like Kerala and Meghalaya, the saffron party seemed to be on back foot with BJP leaders often clarifying that the government has no intent to influence or regulate people's choice of eating.

The 'Love Jihad' and the virulent beef campaign also continue to polarise electoral politics in many places. In June this year towards the end of Ramadan, two young Muslim brothers on a visit to Delhi to buy new clothes for Eid were attacked in a train while returning home. They were allegedly taunted for being "beef eaters" and 15-year-old Junaid Khan was thrown out of the carriage and was declared dead. 

The episode certainly left immense political fallout. Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge led the opposition charge in Lok Sabha during a debate saying that incidents of cow-related lynching were on constant rise. "Don't make Lynchistan out of Hindustan," Mr Kharge said.

However, as the year progressed politics with regard Muslims also saw a twist.  On December 6, the 25th anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition, Opposition parties including Congress and even Muslims apparently decided to apply restrains in connection with any protest meetings or so. 

Every year, opposition parties and Muslim groups in various parts of the country observe protest meetings. However, in the run up to the Gujarat elections this year - the Congress and even Muslim groups and residents in Ahmedabad sought to downplay the episode.
This year's Gujarat elections also saw Congress chief Rahul Gandhi hopping from temple to temple -- which was seen as a major departure and strategic change in Congress politics.

On December 6, one local Imam at Ahmedabad's Juhapura- which was affected by the riots during 2002 anti-Muslim mayhem,
has said that the "restrains" were deliberate as people did not want to play into the hands of "communal forces".


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Despite 'wake up' call in Gujarat, 'Moditva magic' works for BJP

The 'Moditva' as a brand must have survived in the year 2017 for the BJP but the outcome of just concluded Gujarat elections that saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi make blistering campaigns left a few crucial political lessons for Modi-Amit Shah duo.It is probably for the first time in last three and half years since BJP came to power in 2014, it has to reconcile to the fact that the 2019 parliamentary elections will not be a cakewalk as was perhaps presumed earlier.
The agrarian distress and winning support base in rural India remains BJP's formidable challenges.
Modi's pioneering 'slogan' in Ahmedabad

But Mr Modi's mass appeal seemed to make all the difference in electoral politics. While he saved BJP's prestige in Gujarat - making use of a seaplane flight on the ultimate day of campaign, in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere the success of the pro-Hindu party rested safely on the shoulders of its leader and Mr Modi as he packaged and presented his winning image of a Hindu leader who struggles hard for India’s development.
The BJP as a ruling dispensation and Narendra Modi's government had come under severe criticism for the GST and its demonetization move in 2016 and a reduced number of seats in Modi-Shah's home state were like spoilsport for the party which otherwise had enough reasons to ring out the circa 2017 on a celebratory note.
Experts interpreted verdict in his native state - a formerly Hindutva laboratory and a hub of 'Gujarat model' of development - as a "wake up" call. Sadly, for Mr Modi - his style of campaigning - often vitriolic especially against his predecessor Manmohan Singh was also seen as unbecoming of a Prime Minister.

But in the ultimate for the party, Mr Modi remains its star face and it was purely his 'mass appeal' that saw BJP successfully brave 22-year-old incumbency in Gujarat -- even as the number of seats declined by 16 from whatwas in 2012.

Speaking politically, BJP consolidated its hold across the country gaining power for itself and its allies across 19 states - a record by itself. Previous best haul of Congress party was 18 during the hey days of Indira Gandhi. The saffron party - often underestimated and slammed for its pro-Hindutva politics, wrested power in another northeastern state of Manipur. 
In 2016 it had stormed to power in Assam.
As the stage is set to usher in a new year, the BJP and its chief vote-catcher Mr Modi has set the stage for their first face-to-face battle in the February-March 2018 assembly polls in Congress-ruled Meghalaya and Marxists-ruled Tripura.

In terms of political consolidation, BJP wrested power in the year in country's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh - besides Goa and Uttarakhand while the power slipped out of Akali Dal-BJP combine in Punjab. The pivotal Uttar Pradesh state elections show a swing to Hindu nationalism - a fact demonstrated by emergence of Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister and also at a later state Congress chief Rahul Gandhi forced to undertake temple hopping and play up 'soft Hindutva' in Gujarat polls.

In terms of political strategy, BJP played a mixed-policy with Muslims. In Uttar Pradesh, it did not field Muslim candidates and the number of Muslim legislators in the newly-elected House has dropped down to 25, an all-time low.
But the Triple Talaq Bill piloted by it in Parliament would be seen in times to come as one of the best known political googly of our time.
On December 28 as the Lok Sabha gave its nod to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 bringing the practice of Triple Talaq within the ambit of criminal offence, BJP lawmaker Meenakshi Lekhi said, 
"When they have a brother like Narendra Modi, they do not need to be afraid of anyone".

Among other electoral battles, the BJP stormed back to power in Himachal Pradesh. In northeastern state
of Tripura, the saffron party officially entered the Tripura assembly after the Speaker on December 8 recognised
six former Trinamool Congress legislators who had defected to the party as BJP members.
"The isolation of Congress has brought the BJP to the centre stage of national politics. The sheer opportunism displayed by regional parties like Trinamool Congress in dealing with the CPI(M) has weakened Mamata Banerjee's party in Tripura. All these are helping BJP cause," said Gautam Biswas, a former Trinamool leader in Tripura. 

It is not only states like Tripura, which is otherwise fund-staved and is vulnerable to political manipulation, even in Tamil Nadu, the BJP is serious about making its bid.
Post-Jayalalitha, eyeing the political vacuum, the BJP has tried to gain ground but the bypoll election at RK Nagar showed that things are still far off.

Now the BJP has set its eyes in Congress-ruled Karnataka that will see elections in May and also in Meghalaya - wherein it has decided to go soft on the beef ban row where Christian votes will be key to winning seats.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Modi’s unstoppable march challenged ?? Or its all hype?

No one doubted victory of the BJP and Narendra Modi in Gujarat. But this time it is no cakewalk ! 

When the first phase of elections ended in the western state on December 9, predicting the final outcome became fraught. A second stage in the election is set for December 14, with the victors and the vanquished to be announced four days later. Lalit Thummar, president of the Amreli Diamond Merchants' Association, said this time it is no cakewalk for the BJP.”

His association represents enterprises that process and export most of India’s diamonds, which constitute a significant part of all international trade in the precious stones. Thummar believes that two key decisions of the government led by Modi undermined prosperity in the state. The first was a decision to withdraw high-value banknotes from circulation in November 2016, purportedly to fight black market operations. And he cited as second major factor the goods and services Tax (GST) introduced in July this year. The middle class, mid-level entrepreneurs, traders and small business people who were Modi supporters had been most adversely affected, Thummar explained. Observers say the result of the Gujarat election could affect the stability of the national Modi government, not least through exacerbating ongoing leadership struggles within the BJP. 

This, in turn, threatened to impact on general elections scheduled for 2019.Social analyst Parthbhai Bhatt noted that the BJP, sensing trouble, had announced a relaxation of the tax regime. But it remained unclear as to how far that would mitigate against self-inflicted political damage already done.

Bhatt noted that the Prime Minister took the state electoral battle seriously as a defeat, or even a poor performance, could erode his support base across the nation.BJP poll strategists are promoting the message that economic growth and greater social justice have been achieved at a state level along with the tackling of corruption.
The BJP’s rival opposition Congress Party, which has been out of power in Gujarat for 22 years, sees an opportunity to revive its electoral fortunes nationally by exploiting anti-incumbency feeling within the state.Nationally, Congress suffered a shocking defeat to the BJP in 2014. Congress was reduced to 44 seats in the 543 seats national parliament. This was despite having run the government in New Delhi for most of the period since independence in 1947.

Congress winning the Gujarat election, or bettering its current position of 60 seats, would provide an impetus for the party and its new leader, Rahul Gandhi, to become a serious contender for power nationally in 2019, Bhatt said. And a victory in Gujarat would be made sweeter for Congress by the fact that the state is considered a stronghold of the BJP and Modi, who was its Chief Minister from 2001 to 2014. 

Sensing an opportunity, the Congress Party has struck at BJP weak points such as the new tax policy.Congress leader, Randeep Singh Surjewala, told that the BJP had made the tax system complex and difficult to implement.Modi has thrown himself into the thick of campaigning, addressing a series of rallies ahead of the second phase of voting on December 14.Some pre-poll surveys indicated that there would be a close fight.
One survey predicted that the BJP would gain 91-99 seats in the 182-member house and the Congress Party 78-86.

The BJP is faced with a tight contest partly because Hindu political unity has frayed. And some leaders of Dalit groups, formerly known as untouchables, have disassociated themselves from the BJP.Hindu vigilante groups formed to protect cows, an animal they revere, have attacked Dalit people in recent years for transporting cattle or dealing in their hides.

And two groups of the Patel Hindu caste that make up the Patidar community have complained that the government has ignored their demand for more seats to be reserved for them. Agitation on the issue took a violent turn and some Patel youths were killed. A number of their leaders were jailed.

Rameshbhai Valia, a Gujarat bank employee, said after two decades of BJP rule it could be time for a change.