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SLAPPed by Jay Shah, why not “The Wire” is letting the event play itself out in the court?  

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(Pic Courtesy ajantanews.com)

Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion. By analogy, caesar’s son must as well be above suspicion and so should be Jay Shah, the son of Amit Shah, who is now the chief of the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party.

The 100-Cr criminal defamation suit filed by Jay Amit Shah against “The Wire” and its correspondent is a move to rise above that suspicion.

The recent controversy around the business activities of Jay Shah and the alleged “golden touch” that he brought to his business since 2014 when his father became the BJP chief, comes as a real shot in the arm of a huge lobby consisting of players, long baying for the blood of Narendra Modi. The lobby sniffing madly for anything incriminating against the Modi camp, suddenly got a luscious trail of wrongdoings dished on a platter when the online news portal, “The Wire” published a report titled, “The golden touch of Jay Amit Shah”.

The report, apparently done with serious research and data-mining, concluded to impute that Jay Shah, son of Amit Shah, manipulated his circumstances to acquire unexplained wealth since elevation of his father as president of the BJP in 2014. The opening lines of the article conveyed its bottomline:

“The turnover of a company owned by Jay Amitbhai Shah, son of Bharatiya Janata Party leader Amit Shah, increased 16,000 times over in the year following the election of Narendra Modi as prime minister and the elevation of his father to the post of party president”. The intention to implicate Amit Shah, whose rise coincided with the rise of his son’s fortunes and to ensnare even Modi in the mess was the real slant that raised the heckles of the Modi camp.

To impute the complicity of Modi in the scandal was the real take-away of the opening lines and the imputation found instant takers on both sides of the fence. The “Twimmandos” (a portmanteau of Twitter Commandos) took to their twitter guns to fire instant salvoes on the swelling Huns on the other side.

However, the real bemusing sight was to find Piyush Goyal, the Railway Minister in Modi’s cabinet, holding a press conference to defend a private individual, Jay Shah. Maybe, the Government was aware that the real targets were Amit Shah and Modi and sooner the lie is debunked the better it’s for Gujrat elections, where the Shah-Modi magic would wane should the image of the duo stands blemished. Thus, the Additional Solicitor General was given a hasty permission to defend Jay Shah in the courts. Both these decisions were compared with the reaction of Congress ministers’ during the Vadra land deal expose. The similarity was chilling. Was the Modi government cutting off its nose to spite the face? Even Arnab struggled to elicit an answer from Piyush Goyal.

Despite, similarity in reactions between the two governments, the difference between the Vadra case and the Jay Shah case can’t be overlooked. While the transactions and dealings involving Robert Vadra and DLF was a hush hush affair with scant facts available in the public domain, the Jay Shah case, by its own admission of “The Wire” and reiterated by the BJP brass, all records are in the public domain with details appearing in the filings with the Registrar of the Companies (ROC). It’s all a matter of interpretation and analysis that is the bone of contention between Shah and The Wire. 

The Congress Party, which was long ambling in the wilderness of irrelevance, suddenly got an unexpected opening to tear into Modi. Kapil Sibal rose from his hibernation to address the media and jumped down to the Modi’s throat – “He (the Prime Minister) spoke against crony capitalism. But we know he will remain silent now because the case involves Amit Shah’s son. We also know who the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate will investigate and not investigate.” Sibal has still not got over the bitterness of humiliation that he’d to suffer following his “Zero Loss” doctrine and now he found a chance to return some of it to its biggest benefactors, the BJP and Modi.

The fires were being returned with equal potency as the Modi camp dug in the past of some prominent Wire players.

However, “The Wire” which has a reputation to twist its stories to give a negative slant to everything around Narendra Modi and his government, wasn’t taken kindly by many. It was subjected to a cruel reality check.

What was missing in the din was a merit-based discussion on the facts and analysis presented by “The Wire” and to fill in the role, an article came in “Opindia.com”, an online newsportal which claims to “curate contents from various sources” and points out factual errors and analysis in various journalistic works.

The Opindia article shredded Rohini Singh’s “golden touch” argument into pieces and exposed many loopholes in the report written by her. Picking facts from the same source (return filed with the Registrar of Companies), the Opindia article suggested that “The Wire” picked certain facts suitable to its story while left many other important ones with the motive to give her story a sensational slant so that her damnation that Shah, Jr. had made a windfall gain of 16000 times, may appear credible. The Opindia revealed:

“One of the crux of the (Wire’s) article is that the turnover jumped 16000 times, hence Mr Jay Amit Shah has the “golden touch”. But would a man with the “golden touch” incur a loss of Rs 1,48,00,551 (Rs 1.48 crores)? Yes, as per the same Registrar of Companies (RoC) filings, which Singh quoted so much, this company with Rs 80.50 cr revenues, had Rs 81.99 cr as expenses, and incurred a loss of Rs 1.48 crores as soon as Modi came into power. Of course, revealing such information would puncture the entire narrative that Jay Amit Shah’s business was successful just as Modi came into power. Hence, this small piece was hidden by (Rohini) Singh (sic).”

What initially appeared as a work of serious research was instantly reduced to a piece of malafide story done by cherry picking of facts to suit to a particular narrative. Rajdeep Sardesai, in one of the best balancing act of his journalistic acrobatics, took to twitter to graciously share this article from Opindia.

Now that Jay Shah has filed a Rs. 100 crore defamatory suit over, what it claims to be a “false, derogatory and defamatory imputation”, there is a furor over the move with many putting it in the category of Strategic Lawsuit Against Public participation (SLAPP), where high net worth individuals with deep pockets file defamation suits claiming huge amount of money as damage with the intension to drag the defendant in long litigations and to discourage them or others from pursuing the matter. “The Wire” and many others claim it’s a clear case of SLAPP suit. Well, as happened in the cases of ‘Rajasthan Patrika’ and the news portal ‘Moneylife’ (of Sucheta Dalal), the courts also look into the merit of the allegation whether a lawsuit falls in the category of SLAPP and if yes, it may dismiss the same.

However, the reaction of the mainstream media to The Wire’s report was measured with many choosing to tread the path with caution. Rana Ayyub writing in the Huffingtonpost lamented, “There was an eerie silence on news channels, some focused on karva chauth, others on Muslim appeasement, the rest on pressing issues such as the Hrithik Roshan-Kangana Ranaut spat.” Taking the lawsuit as an intimidation, she was fulminating – “In an ideal world this intimidation should have led to an outrage in the media. Silence by intimidation being the last on the charter of a journalistic organization.” 

Newslaundary, too, lamented that most media houses remained confined to covering Piyush Goyal’s press conference and that’s all. 

The reason was simple. The issue in question is a highly complex legal matter where the writer had cobbled together a conclusion, joining tricky dots and alluding innuendoes that bordered upon a libellous imputation. The rest of them were wiser. They didn’t want to get caught in the act of barking up the wrong tree.

In a matter of legal complications, pick your way wisely or else you may end up being a party. Hence, no one was willing to become a party to a suit, which may drag on for years draining the defendants financially and emotionally without solutions. More so when the counsel of Jay Shah had unequivocally issued a caveat, even before publication of The Wire’s report, to Rohini Singh or to any other media organization, to not broadcast any potentially defamatory comments about his client.

Still, The Wire chose to stick to its guns and published the report. So, one is led to believe it must have solid evidences to back its claim. So, The Wire shouldn’t make a hue and cry over the 100-Cr defamation suit.

After the report was published, the caveat became even wider – “If anyone else republishes/re-broadcasts the imputations made in the said article, whether directly or indirectly, such person or entity will also be guilty of the very same criminal and/or civil liability.”

There’s a report that NDTV too had published a similar story on its site suggesting some 4000% increase in loan advances to Jay Shah, though the same was pulled in a haste, obviously because of the legal complexities surrounding such insinuations, especially when you lack crucial evidences.

Many in the media tried to take the caveat as an open threat.

However, those who take it as a threat show a complete lack of legal literacy about the Indian jurisprudence surrounding the concept of defamation, which is more popular in west than in India.

The option of defamation is available to all individuals whose reputation, in their opinion, has been violated by certain other individuals, organizations or publications. Higher the reputation, bigger the need to be exonerated. If there is a likelihood of defamation, the individual, through his counsel, reserves the right to warn any one to desist from the perceived act of transgressing his reputation. Such caveats are normal. However, a section of media, took it as a threat.

In India, Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 says that defamation can happen “by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, to make or publish any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation, of such person”.

Defamation suit can be filed under either criminal or civil law. Jay Shah, in this case has filed a criminal defamation against the writer and publishers of “The Wire”, meaning they’re confident of proving the ‘actual malice’ that will ensure criminal punishment under the law. A civil suit doesn’t provide for punishment; it simply asks the defendant to pay the plaintiff the claimed money should the latter wins the suit.

After the defamation suit, The Wire and its supporters are looking rattled.

It tried hard to enlarge the ambit of Jay Shah’s defamation suit by giving it a broader perspective through the suggestion that it’s a general onslaught on media’s freedom and on it’s ability to express itself in a free and unbridled manner.

The Wire made a passionate appeal to broaden the implication of the defamation filed against it by quoting the Sullivan case (New York Times Co. Vs Sullivan, 1960), where the New York Times won a case of defamation in Supreme Court filed by L.B. Sullivan, the Montgomery public safety commissioner, who had claimed that a report published by the newspaper tarnished the image of police department by publishing incorrect and erroneous facts of atrocities during the Civil Rights Movement in the Southern US. The jury had unanimously ruled in favour of the NYT, saying that media must be vested with sufficient freedom and liberty in the matter of reporting the conducts of public officials and minor errors in reporting events shouldn’t come in the way of conveying the larger message of truth. The judgment has become the bedrock of media freedom in many parts of the world.

As per my opinion, the Sullivan case, widely quoted in Indian jurisprudence also, is, however, not relevant in the Jay Shah defamation case, as the said judgment was made in connection with reporting the conducts of public officials and hence the same journalistic liberty and freedom is not available in the matter of reporting issues against private individuals, like Jay Shah. Secondly, the Sullivan case had set a ‘malice standard’, in which the plaintiff was burdened with the responsibility to prove that a media report carries ample malice with definite intention to tarnish his or her image. As Jay shah has filed a criminal defamation, he’ll have to prove that malice standard in order to win the suit.

M.K. Venu, one of the founding editors of The Wire, in an internal video interview with Arfa Khanum Sherwani released by the “The Wire” in episode 4 of “Hum bhi Bharat”, was frothing at the mouth at the criminal defamation suit, saying he’s no money but has a battery of lawyers to fight the case. So, what’s the problem, Mr Venu? Let the law take its course.

Well, in the same way as a publishing house carries the right to publish an investigative story, the persons affected by such a story carry the right to challenge it under the law of the land. Then, why to fulminate at the constitutional right of an individual? Rather, “The Wire” Should be happy that it got an opportunity on platter to nail the presumed lie of Jay Shah, by bringing all the facts, circumstances and documents available with it before the court in support of its report. It has got golden time to connect the missing dots and to complete the jigsaw of conspiracy for all to see. 

Let “The Wire” debunk the claim of Jay Shah or his attorneys using its battery of lawyers, including crusaders like Prashant Bhushan, who has already lapped up the matter with gusto. Why “The Wire” is jittery? Does it feel it needed more materials to build a sustainable case? Maybe, yes.

Let the matter play itself out in the court.

KrishnaKumar@ThoughtPourri 2017

 

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Guys and gals! Pack up those Armani and business suits for the yellow dhotis, now it’s your time to do ‘Chhath puja’

Donald Rumsfeld, The then US defense secretary had famously said in 2002: “There are known knowns – things we know we know; there are known unknowns – things we know we don’t know; and finally, there are unknown unknowns – things we don’t know we don’t know”. The Chhath Puja is one such ‘unknown unknowns’ many of us in our modern generations don’t know what we don’t know about it. However, what we need to know now is that the festival is something we must start observing if we didn’t do it till now – forget all boundaries of ethnicity, region, caste, creed, sect and faith, because it’s a festival for the essence and existence of your own life. Hence, pick your pen and tick the check box of Chhath among all the must-do things in your life.

 

There is something unknown about Chhath that connects each of its devotees to it in a mysterious way; maybe its in the flickering lights of diyas lining the dusky riverside, or in the morning dews caressing your souls while you walk down the sacred ghats, or in the stillness of the chilly morning that calm your senses with its compelling sacredness, or in the rainbow of colours that brightens the landscape through a holy mix of the humans with nature, or maybe in the mystical melodies of Sharda Sinha, whose songs, over the years, have become synonymous with the holy occasion, a sort of its mellifluous alter ego.

 

Whatever may connect the devotees with the event, the fact is that Chhath is not only the most environment-friendly festival of India but is also the most scientific one. The scientific dimensions of this festivals are not properly studied and explored, though enough materials are available that throw light on the festival’s mysticism and help to de-mystify its rigorous rituals.

 

I went through the major festivals of India, whether it is Holi, Diwali, Eid, Bakrid, Christmas, Nauroz or Baishakhi and came round to the conclusion that though all these festivals are organized around the concept of devotion, purity and rituals meant for peace and inner joy through community celebrations, none of them contain methods for a natural healing process of the body, mind and the soul in the way Chhath does. That’s what makes Chhath not only a different festival but a must-do thing for everyone.

 

Apparently what emerges just as a worship of the Sun god and his wife Usha, who is the leitmotif in chhath songs, the reality is that Chhath is traditionally organized around a scientific mechanism focusing on complete rejuvenation of the body, mind and soul through its meticulously planned rituals and processes. It not only activates the hidden energies of the mind and the body but also helps in detoxifying our existence by breaking the toxins accumulated in bodies over years of our chaotic living.

 

Sun is the source of all energies on the earth. Even the food that we eat, as a primary source of our energy, is also produced by the energy of the sun. Sunray is also considered to have natural healing properties that not only provides vital nutrients for life but also heals many diseases. Thus, the festival, which is regarded as worship for the health, prosperity and all-round wellness, is basically organized around the ideas of going back to the nature for drawing the original energy that sustains all forms of life and for rejuvenating the self. Once the self is rejuvenated through detoxification of the body and the mind, then wealth, happiness prosperity and well-beings follow in immeasurable bounties.

 

Among one of our various fallacies, is the belief that scientific facts are only those facts that fall in the realm of the known knowledge. As suggested above, there are many ‘unknown unknowns’, which might still fall within the ambit of the scientific rules. Chath is one such ‘unknowns’ which, though mystic to us, had been fully understood by the wise men of our ancient society and they devised the rituals blending the pranic and yogic philosophies accordingly.

 

The yogic philosophy believes that the human body is a very sophisticated energy conducting channel that receives electric energies of specific wave-lengths from the sun and radiates this ‘bio-electricity’ down the body to energies few specific energy centres, called ‘chakras’ which energizes the body-mind complex. This process is described by experts as ‘Conscious Photoenergization Process’, which is nothing but a conscious cosmic solar energy inhalation technique. Hence, Chhath can be understood as a set of algorithms for a conscious cosmic solar energy inhalation technique, which can be further enhanced under specific circumstances. The rituals of Chhath is nothing else but preparing oneself to those specific circumstance.

 

Observing Chath, which elaborates a sequence of flow of bio-electricity to turn our bodies into powerhouses of energies, can be understood through the following scientific processes:

  1. Cleanliness: It creates the right surroundings for a spiritual experience of the mind that sets the mood for the process of photoenerziation.

  1. Fasting: It leads to purification of thoughts by eliminating the toxicity born of food, leading to enhanced concentration in the vratis for the process (Remember the old injunction, “Ahaar shuddhau, satt shuddhi…” purity of food purifies existence)

  1. Use of environmental-friendly materials for Puja: It again purifies the ambience by eliminating the chances of physical toxicity born as a result of use of non-biodegradable materials.

  1. Carrying the Puja materials to Ghats by self: It’s a process of self-mortification through which the vratis develop humility and self-effacement by completely surrendering one’s egos and pride for the devotion. It helps the vratis in directing their physical powers to the cause.

  1. Water-immersion: Immersing and standing in the navel-deep water prevents the leak of energy and helps the pranic (psychic) energy move upwards the sushumna, the central nadi (psychic channel) of the living bodies.

  1. Retinal action: Retina is a subtle photoelectric material that is known to emit energy when subjected to lights. By looking at the setting and the rising sun of certain wavelengths while standing in the water, the vratis’s retina emits subtle energies that flow through the nerves attached to the brain and these bundles of photo-bio-electricity activate the pineal glands attached to the brain which is situated in close proximity of two other glands – pituitary and hypothalamus – which together forms the Triveni of glands. This flow of photo energy among the Triveni glands stabilizes and ensures uniform distribution of the pranic energy, giving the vratis a sense of peace and stability, leading to accumulation of high creative energy in them.

  1. Cosmic powerhouse: This flow of energy along the Triveni glands and its further radiation down the line polarizes the spine of the vratis whose body transform into a cosmic powerhouse of energy. It purifies and rejuvenates the gross (i.e. the 5 physical elements of earth, fire, water, air and sky) and the subtle (i.e. intelligence, mind and false-ego) energies that transforms the vrati’s body and mind into a powerhouse of vigour, immunity and mental strength.

The above photoenergization process, through the conscious inhalation of cosmic energy, had been mastered by our ancient sages who practiced this process in deep jungles and mountains, creating and storing huge bundles of energy that helped them survive in the wilderness without food. After all, what we require for survival is energy, not food, which is a source of toxicity in the body.

 

The Imperial Medical College, London had declared in 1922 that solar energy is the ideal food for the mankind. But, the technique of its intake was not elaborated. Even Maharshi Yoganada in his book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ mentioned several yogis who survived many days without food and through interviews came to know that the secret behind was the solar energies whose intake they had mastered through undisclosed techniques. Chhath is one such technique.

 

Therefore, Chhath is nothing but a process of conscious cosmic energy inhalation technique under specific circumstances (rituals) that helps in achieving the goal of rejuvenation and detoxification of body and mind in a quick and better manner. Since, performed twice a year, this is advisable even for those who practice constant yoga and pranayams techniques. Chhath will enhance the benefits many times.

 

The bottomline is, go for your work-outs and sweat it out but you wouldn’t get the benefits as you’d, if you perform the Chhath puja. So, folks! Pack up your Armani and Oxfords, and you cool ladies! Slip your business suits in the cupboards for few days and put on the yellow dhotis for a 36-hour rejuvenation plan that would detoxify you body and mind like anything. All you need is a bit of grit and determination. Do it and you’ll feel good. Karke dekho, achha lagta hai. Don’t think it’s for those Biharis or the Poorvanchalis. It’s for YOU.

Do you have what it takes to be a vrati?

 

 (some of the facts have been sourced from wikipedia and weallnepali.com  Pictures have been used from different sources)                                                      

                                                          KrishnaKumar@ThoughtPourri, 2016

Bihar verdict: Ten Important Messages to learn

The Bihar verdict that came on 8th November, 2015 is not only strong, clear and stunning but is also full of messages. Among the various aspects of this verdict and its various analysis, it’s important to reflect upon few messages which are loud in meanings:

1. The first and foremost message from the Bihar verdict is the same one that of late we’ve been getting now from the electorates nationwide – decisive mandate. It appears that the people are no longer in doubt. Now, they’re clear in their minds and giving the best possible mandate to politicians in successive elections. This verdict giving close to three-fourth majority to the JD(U)-RJD-Congress Mahagathbandhan is just the one in a long series of decisive mandates coming since a decade now.The Bihar assembly elections of 2005 and 2010, UP assembly elections of 2007 and 2012, successive Gujarat assembly elections since 2002 to 2012, the Orissa assembly elections under BJD, the general election of 2014, the assembly elections of Delhi – all of these have handed down clear and decisive mandates. Except with the exception of Maharashtra & J&K, the people have been picking up one party/alliance or other and showering it with decisive votes with clear message to govern.

2. The second clear message is that people are willing to return a performer to power. If a political party performs and delivers on promises, people are happy to return it in power. Despite all political controversies around Modi vs Nitish, the people of Bihar never forgot the excellent governance record of Nitish Kumar and reposed full confidence in his ability to turn things around in Bihar. Thus, they rewarded Nitish – who is, though, now leading a weird Mahagathbandhan – with a resounding hatrick. Hence, the message – perform or perish – is now unambiguously reinforced. If you fail to perform the masses would beat you hollow to a mummy, as happened with congress successively in recent elections.

3. The third and very powerful message is that caste is still the dominant force in the political discourse of Bihar as is Muslim Vote bank. Untill the battle was confined between Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi, the narrative was largely veering around development and growth. But, the moment Lalu Yadav entered the fray holding the hand of Nitish Kumar, he reset the political narrative of Bihar with strong caste overtones and became successful in keeping the whole political discourse hooked to ‘agda vs. pichhada’ (backward vs forward). In the state, dominated by the backwards and dalits, the strategy paid back and helped Lalu script one of the most successful political comebacks in recent Indian politics. The consolidation of the backward votes in favour of the Mahagathbandhan and the absence of consolidation of ECB/Mahadalit votes in BJP’s favour has lot to do with the changed narratives scripted consciously by Lalu.

A small corollary to the above is the consolidation, once again of Muslim votes, against the BJP. The BJP, which had of late been successful in breaking the ground and making a considerable inroads into the Muslim votebank riding on its promises of development and governance, now seems to have lost that goodwill among the community. The inherent fear of the community from BJP and its hate towards Modi seem to be back, thanks to the intolorence movement unleashed timely by the Leftist intellectuals creating an air of fear and apprehensions in the minds of the community and concurrent emergence of Mahagathbandhan which played on this fear to its full advantage – and thus, became successful in projecting itself as the old alternative worth relying. Thus, the message is that the Muslims, who had once deserted the camp of Lalu and congress, would continue to vote them en bloc even if the Mahagathbandhan fails to deliver for them. An aura of security is more important to the community than good roads and jobs.

4. The fourth message is that the Mahagathbandhan would try to experiment with a new era of alliance partnership where the major parties would complement to each other, not compete with each other. The marriage of convenience for strange bedfellows in Nitish and Lalu, would now come to be seen as a natural event waiting to happen. Here, Nitish Kumar is put forth as the face of development and governance while Lalu Yadav as the face of social justice within the alliance. Both will stick to their own agenda and complement each other to take the governance forward. Hence, the alliance would be projected as an architecturally brilliant entity, though many analysts think the other way.

5. The fifth message is that Narendra Modi is going to face a real political challenge in days to emerge from here. The repercussion of this Bihar verdict will be long-term. Till now all these ‘intolerant-to-Modi’ movements were suffering of a leadership vacuum. Now these intolerant intellectuals would find a political leader in Nitish Kumar to rally around and with Lalu by his side spitting venom and raising decibels in his characteristic tomfoolery, the anti-Modi movement, so far ideological, is now likely to have a strong political base. Soon, Nitish will be projected as alternative to Modi on national level and this movement will culminate into substitute-Modi-with-Nitish clamour.

The leftist intellectuals have tasted blood and their intolerance movement, which so far had remained a fight to retain their existence in the fast shrinking ideological space for the Left, will now grow into a battle for regaining their original dominance in India, riding on the brawny shoulders of Nitish-Lalu. Now, for Modi, who had got a free run so far, a real opposition has emerged to filibuster his political efforts in 2019. Good for democracy, maybe.

6. The sixth message is that Lalu’s political ambitions are once again on the rise. It opens lots of questions. After the victory, where Nitish looked much modest in his address to the media, Lalu looked effusive in his flamboyance and made no bones about his national ambitions. Nitish Kumar very well understands that this mandate is for governance and hence he’s to prove himself on these counts first in Bihar. But, Lalu shares no such modest views. Now with the state government under his belt, he would embark upon a national mission to expand his experiment. Though, Nitish Kumar would more likely be the preferred choice of the anti-Modi fighters because of many factors, Lalu would also strive to gain the same political space within the nation and in all likelihood, would try to appropriate this leadership role for himself. Hence, this may become a cause a conflict between the two in days to come.

However, much of it will depend on How the Mahagathbandhan government performs and fares on the parameters of development. With Lalu breathing down his neck, will Nitish get a free hand in implementing his agenda of good governance is something very interesting to see. Will the Yadavas, Lalu’s support base, would discipline themselves and not unleash the goondaraj they once unleashed in the hinterlands under the patronage of Lalu? They must be scenting power, too. Will the dominant Kurmis, the support base of Nitish Kumar, accept the resurgence of Yadavas they once detested? Further, will Nitish Kumar be comfortable with the parivarvad of Lalu and be able to contain the political ambitions of his two sons, whom Lalu would certainly like to groom for larger roles? With highest number of seats in the Patna assembly, it will be foolish to expect that Lalu would play second fiddle to Nitish for long. Hence, how to contain the Machiavellian Lalu would be the real challenge for Nitish in the days to come.

7. The seventh message is that political defeats are good for governments in democracy. A defeat for BJP is good for it so long it is willing to learn the lessons and commits not to repeat the mistakes. Unhindered victories in democracy may turn the political leadership dictator. Hence, intermittent defeats are necessary. Such defeats gives time to introspect and go for much-needed course correction. Black money promises, economic reforms, price rise, strong rules in government offices to the extent of annoying employees and harsher retirement policies are certain areas which need serious reviews. If the central government succeeds in such course corrections, it will strengthen it further and will make it fight it its opponents with better strategies. Hence, before the inherent contradictions in Lalu-Nitish coalition play themselves out and create opportunities in the state, the BJP must set its house in order. That way, it might be better placed for Bihar 2020.

8. The eighth message is that people are impatient. They want results – immediate, certain and visible. Lofty sloganeering and hollow promises are no longer sufficient to keep a party’s vote bank intact. The BJP promised plenty of good things for the common man but the latter finds nothing coming his way. It refuses to buy the argument that one year is too little a time for such changes to arrive. common man has grown smarter. He has become opportunist. Today‘s common man is no one’s eternal enemy, no one’s perpetual friend; only its interests are eternal. Hence, it has no allegiance. The people of Bihar, who had given 30+ seats to the BJP in the parliamentary elections just last year, changed allegiance and handed down the BJP its worst electoral defeat in Bihar in a decade. Hence, deliver what you promise and deliver it fast. Today’s 4G generation fumes at slow networks, slow smartphones, slow internets and slow delivery of pizzas; how can it wait on slow delivery of promises? Hence, the electorate of Bihar beat the BJP with its own stick of ‘achhe din’.

9. The ninth message is that no one is a spent force in Indian politics. The only thing that matters is the capacity to hang on and to keep slogging one’s way through all adversities. Just a year back, Lalu Yadav – thrown on his back after successive electoral defeats and after his conviction in fodder scam case – was being written off from Bihar politics and analysts were writing unceremonious epitaphs for him. But just within a year, he rose from his ashes to strike an alliance with Nitish Kumar in order to engineer the worst political coup on BJP’s chances in Bihar and thus, he registered an emphatic and incredible comeback for himself. Hence, when defeated in politics, just hang on in the middle and leverage on your chances judiciously; one day you’ll become a winner again. Mind, just as Lalu, no one is out of the race – neither the Congress or Rahul or even not the Communists.

10. The tenth message is that the common man is now the king. The common man – long cheated, mistreated, overlooked and underestimated – is now the new king of electoral politics. He has learned to assert his voice through voting and has discovered the benefits of it. He’s no longer the disenchanted citizens of the past who stayed away from electoral processes with the conviction that nothing changes with elections and voting. Now, people are convinced that things would change. If it doesn’t happen from above, the people have learnt to force it from the below. The common man has learnt the art of playing the role he’s supposed to play in the game of democracy – the role of a master.

Hence, it is important for the politicians to understand the psyche of a common man. This common man is now no one’s man. He will turn whichever way he finds his interests being served. Yesterday, the same common man found the BJP to be promising and he’d fallen for it. But, seeing the promises not being kept, he gave it a huge drubbing. This is smart politics. Such opportunism by people is good for democracy. Now, the politicians will think twice before promising moon. And, if they do, they’ll sign advance contracts for a sincere moon mission. Now, no one loves anyone for the sake of it. If you deliver you’ll be loved; if not, you’ll be kicked hard in the teeth.

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri, 2015

Nobel Peace Prize 2014: A Pleasant Fragrance of Peace Amidst the Grim Smell of Gunpowder!

While it’s a season of fire across the border between India and Pakistan, the Norwegian Nobel Committee comes up with its own idea of snuffing out the belligerence of the blow-hot-blow-cold neighbors by conferring the Nobel Peace Prize jointly on its two precious individuals – Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi from India. The choice looks ironic, wry and paradoxical because of the incongruity of the time in which it happens – two individuals get Nobel Peace Prize at a time when their countries are at daggers drawn in a fit of tactical frenzy! However, it’s bemusing. This is a brilliant coincidence, a divine decree that carries the potential of changing the narrative – among the intellectuals, media and civil societies across the border – from war to peace, from belligerence to harmony and from irrationality to logic. Maybe, it might create a climate where India celebrates Diwali with firecrackers and cherry bombs instead of raining bullets and mortars across the borders in retaliation of the misadventures of a moonstruck neighbor.

Malala Yousafzai is a child of destiny whose deeds and feats are nothing less than a fairy tale story in this 21st century world. Her story begins as the story of just another child in an orthodox Islamist world leading her eventless life in the by-lanes of a forlorn town of Mingora in Swat Valley till the BBC newshounds parachute into this Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa highlands looking for a teenager who could blog her experiences as a girl child suffering under the evil rule of Taliban, who had just occupied the valley. By divine circumstances, she fitted the bill and soon this “Gulmakai”, through her Urdu blogs on BBC, turned into a window for the outside world to look into the excesses of the Talibani regime especially those imposed on young girl students forbidding them from continuing school studies.

Her rise to fame came with a huge price as she found bullets pumped into her heads from close quarters. However, destiny had reserved a glorious story for her as she survived and told her brilliant story to the world. Soon, she became the global ambassador for the educational rights of a girl-child all across the world and the social and traditional media powered her to 13th position in Forbes’ list of 100 powerful persons of the world. At 17, she’s probably the biggest teen idol of the world and her ‘wow’ factor today makes even Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus run for cover. So, the Nobel Peace Prize was just waiting to happen. It’s a well-deserved honour, Malala.

So is it with Mr. Kailash Satyarthi whose rise to fame is not centered round a freakish incident happening one day that changes everything around him rather it’s a story of grit, determination, positivity and hope that was building up slowly and patiently over time. The story began with pushing around the rules of society to provide one of the biggest assets of the nation – the children – their due place in society. He worked relentlessly against child labour and his ‘Bachpan Bachao Aandolan’ was nothing less than a personal crusade that matched all the conviction and determination of a Knight Templar fighting for his Holy Land. He has been a silent man sans glamour and razzmatazz who pursued his mission with utmost zealousness over decades that saw thousands of children getting freed from unscrupulous employers through actions like sudden raids. Heading many such organizations and serving on the boards of dozens of national and international bodies, including UNO, he had become a legend in his circle of people.  Apart from his galvanizing works on the ground, he’ll also be remembered as a social science theorist who successfully theorized the principal that child labour perpetuates poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and many other social ills hence it must be eradicated. In the world struggling through misery, rapacity and greed, such men and women make society civilized, humanized and safe for us and for the generations yet to be born. Today, it’s time for an indebted world to return the favour. So, again it’s well-deserved Nobel, Kailash!

Bravo to the two legends!

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2014

Why Narendra Modi would ever remain a hated figure in Indian Politics?

Never in the history of India after independence, there has ever been a man so polarizing in his political appeal as Narendra Modi is. You’ll hate him or love him – you simply can’t ignore him; you can’t walk in the middle or sit on the fence unless you’re a morbid believer in the gospel that politics is the last refuge of a scoundrel. For this man in Indian politics, the zone of neutrality that lies between the two opinions has thinned out. His very name evokes passion – passion of all colours – adoration, eulogies, veneration, idolization, abhorrence, anathema and malevolence. He’s a name whose mere reference makes adrenaline gushing, fists clenching and jaws hardening – with boundless admiration and with fathomless hatred –depending on which side of the rope you’ve grounded yourself.

Modi’s admirers find a dozen reasons to root for him: They find him strong, decisive, articulate, meticulous and spot-on who is a no-nonsensical performer, a tough taskmaster and an inveterate crusader to his cherished causes. His assailants find twice the bigger reasons to lacerate him.

Though, the ferocious Modi wave blowing across the tropical Indian subcontinent appears to be an undeniable fact, an equally undeniable fact is that of an anti-Modi current – blowing on subterranean level, sustaining itself throughout the past decade and expressing itself through the various ideological positioning. The ultimate aim of this cryptic current is one – to nail the hot man of Indian politics on the cross of secularism and to darken his aura with the soot and dust of communal riots. In the nutshell, this subtle current wants to turn the man an eternal hate-figure of Indian politics and to sustain this image till he fades out of relevance.

The question arises why few prominent members of Indian intelligentsia hate Narendra Modi to the hilt? What makes them vilify the man? Of course, these people are not as naive as not to understand the intricacies of the judicial process or are as incredulous as to express their complete lack of faith in Indian justice delivery system. How the members of this intelligentsia, who have been witness to dozens of grievous communal riots happening during their life time that ended in deplorable and preventable loss of life and property and that smacked of governments’ indifference or, at times, complicity, lose its patience with a man, who is under constant gaze of judicial system? Maybe he’s probably the only man in the history of post-independence communal riots, who has been subjected to such a constant, undeterred and focused scrutiny of judiciary and media. Still, why they’re not ready to put up with a man who has worked his way up on the sheer strength of Indian democracy, which vows to empowers even the last man of society sitting on the lowest rungs of social hierarchy?

Modi is the real son of democracy and his rise personifies the strength of our political system. Coming from an extreme humble background and rising through the ranks, he’s achieved a fairytale success which is nothing short of a miracle; this miracle could happen on the sheer strength of our democratic values that provide opportunities even to the person from the lowest strata of society to rise to the highest level in political hierarchy. Maybe, Modi is only the second person in the history of post-independence India after Lal Bahadur Shastri, to have risen from the ranks of extreme humbleness to the highest level in political leadership. He’s a true democrat; all through his way, he got people’s mandate and won resounding victories in successive elections. Thus, undeniably he’s the son of a true democratic tradition. He’s not a dictator, nor a swindler of power; then why a section of the Indian intelligentsia, civil society and media abhor him?

The answer lies in this very power of democracy. The answer lies in the challenge that a section of the intelligentsia faces through the rise and ascendance of a common man in the system. If democracy empowers someone, it cuts privileges of many others – if it adorns some with crown, it cuts many others to size. Exactly this seems to be happening with the ascendance of Narendra Modi to central corridors of power. As he comes within a touching distance of the PMO in the South Block, many feel threatened; they see in it the defeat of an idea – the idea of elitism.

In the upper echelons of society there exists a close-knit group of few powerful individuals who dominate different sub-systems of the society – the politics, the media, the civil society and the cultural institutions; this happens to be a zealously guarded group whose membership is defined by its own subculture and new recruitment to this group is restricted by its own prissy values. This group may be called ‘elite’. In an ideal condition, positions in different sub-systems of society are filled up from this pool of elites that constitutes the upper stratum of society. However, at times, some individual from outside this circle of elites come to challenge the domination of this privileged group of people. This leads to conflict. In those times of crisis, the members of the elite group unite against such individual and use all the firepower in their arsenal to finish the challenger once for all. The members of this elite in politics, media, civil society and cultural institutions declare a war against the person in their own way and use their respective powers to hound him out. They use all their might to make the attack multi-pronged and decisive under the garb of some catchy ideologies like communalism. This is just what has happened by arrival of Narendra Modi on national political arena.

Modi, by throwing a huge challenge to the throne of New Delhi, has disturbed this group of elites, who feel threatened and, at the same time, belittled by his persona. The elite class, which takes pride in its Oxford-Harvard credentials, rich genealogy and impeccable mannerism, is disturbed by a lower class usurper of power whose only credit to success is his hard work and merit. The members of elite hate him because he doesn’t look suave like them, doesn’t talk in English like them or doesn’t behave immaculately like them. Thus, they believe he’s a swindler and use polemics as a weapon to smash him down. The political elite calls him dictator, the elistist media paints him communal, the civil society dubs him intolerant and the cultural institutions brand him fascist. Thus, all of them have opened wars from their respective fronts to debilitate the man beyond redemption. They’re using polemics as strategy and hate as a tactics. They believe in the power of lie and falsities and use it as a massive tool to fight their unconventional war. It’s a boxing with gloves off – a little hit below the belt would do the trick. Afterall, this is a battle of survival; this is a battle against the challenge of a modest man to the might of the elitist class – the values of the latter is at stake.

Thus, no surprises, the elites of India would keep hating him deeper and harder keeping the bogey of communalism and intolerance alive.

Rahul’s Interview by Arnab: A Missed Opportunity

 Cartoon: Courtesy Sudhir Tailang

Rahul Gandhi, the vice president of the Congress and the face of the Party in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, came forward to sit in front of a camera for a long interview with the angry-young man of the Indian media, Arnab Goswami, the editor-in-chief of the Times Now. The interview, the first in last ten years of UPA, was a sublime opportunity to the heir-apparent of the Congress to change the tone and tenor of our current socio-political discourse but, sadly, the man failed to rise to the occasion. Once again, he proved he was the biggest disappointment of our era. He has neither decibels nor substance; he’s just a dud.

The Congress is leaving no stone unturned to project the man as a youth icon and is spending fortune on his image make-over overtures. But, in absence of a political vision and a solid idea in him to take the nation to the next level of systemic and institutional changes, such overtures will hardly make an impact. As a leader, Rahul Gandhi is supposed to talk of change. He’s supposed to come up with few path-breaking ideas that could alter the political environment of the nation; he’s supposed to put forth few radical concepts that could revolutionize the way our institutions operate. But, he failed to rise to the occasion and to turn himself into a leader India wants him to be. Instead, he chose to remain stuck up into the same muddy ground his party has chosen for itself over the years. Today’s India wants to swim to the new waterfronts of opportunities but Rahul chose to slosh around the cesspool of dying ideas. In fact, he’s ended up being a morbid prisoner of his party’s legacy of stale ideas.

In the interview he chose to put all the blames of our current socio-political entanglements on the system. But, the point is who is responsible for degeneration in the system? Who has brought it to such a level of misery that it brings abhorrence and apathy in the consciousness of a common man? It’s your party Rahul, that is presiding over the system since last ten years and that has ruled the nation for close to 5 decades. If there is corruption, there is misgovernance, there is inefficiency or there is misuse of power then you’re responsible. If the system has become dysfunctional it’s you to blame. You must stand up and take the blame. But, you chose to remain silent on those scams and turned a mute spectator during the brazen loot of natural resources and of national wealth. Even in the interview, you failed to owe the blame. It was a golden opportunity Rahul to owe the responsibility and, like a mature leader, to talk on solutions. But, you let the interview pass by.

It was not the right occasion to point finger at the system rather it was the occasion to come up with solutions. You’ve identified the source of reigning ills but now you must display the vision and the guts to take on those ills. History tells us that all changes have come from few determined individuals who have carried a vision and have had steel fitted in their spines to implement those visions. A leader must carry conviction in his heart and clarity in his mind to transform the nation and society. Rahul Gandhi, unfortunately, has failed so far to display that clarity, conviction and spine. The interview gave him the golden opportunity to bandy about such ideas; but he showed, to our consternation, that he had none. He talked of empowerment all through the interview and cherished to make it a tool of socio-economic changes for the underprivileged and the women. But, where is the determination, Rahul? With the kind of position you’re in, the kind of goodwill under your belt and the kind of resources at your command, you’d have brought in an unimaginable revolution. But, in absence of a commitment to these causes displayable through actions on the ground, such utterances get reduced to nothing more than tutored homilies.

The 80-minute interview, as anticipated, was destined to get overshadowed by Arnab’s carefully designed questions on Narendra Modi that were few but disproportionate in connotation sure enough to draw the nation’s attention. Here, Rahul evoked the horrors of the Gujrat riots and tried to score a good few brownie points by pinning the blame on Modi. But, Rahul didn’t realize that he was hitting a self-goal in so much as any accusation made by his party at Modi on Gujrat riots brings the spotlight back to the anti-Sikkh riots of 1984 where the congress party has many skeletons to hide in its cupboard. The congress is accused of a pogrom of the same nature and the same administrative passiveness in dealing with it. Thus, by evoking the horrors of 2002 riots Rahul has created a mess for itself where the congress is being subjected to a renewed scrutiny on its actions during the riots. This was certainly not Rahul would have meant it to be in the election year.

The interview had given him an opportunity to rise up to the occasion and turn into a statesman of our era by putting forth a pragmatic view on Modi and 2002 riots. He had this opportunity to come forward and to say that the riot, whether 2002 or 1984, was definitely an unfortunate event but since the judicial process is on we should respect the same and should try to move on to focus on some more constructive issues of our time. He could have stolen the heart of the nation by refusing to get embroiled in the hackneyed and much despicable debate of riots. This way he would have largely been successful in changing the political discourse of our time and would have been credited with bringing about the politics of development back into focus. It would have been a tectonic shift in our era of politics and would have brought a bout of fresh air in the electoral arena of 2014. Of course, the Congress has many important things to pick from its 10 yrs of rule and to brandish the same before the nation. But, Rahul Gandhi failed to talk on the highs of his own governance; he failed to emphasize the achievements of his own government by being overshadowed by the discourses of riots. Thus, he failed in bring forth the tectonic shift.

The interview had brought him an immense opportunity to go for his desired image make-over. But, Rahul squandered this historic opportunity to turn himself into an adorable statesman from the imminent loser of his time.

A missed opportunity, of course.

KrishnaKumar@ThoughtPourri, 2014

THOSE WHO LIVE BY THE MEDIA DIE BY THE MEDIA

There is an old biblical dictum that says those who live by the sword die by the sword. This dictum finds its resonance in the Aam Aadami Party’s political journey so far which has been, to a large extent, created and nourished by the puissant media power. The media has created, sustained and heightened the euphoria over the curious phenomenon of AAP, which has managed to acquire an envious place of dominance in Indian democracy. But, this act of media need not be taken for granted.

Media makes heroes and creates haloes around them. In doing so media goes over the top; it blows each positive trait of the person out of proportion and cries up each single fact about them worth a mention. The 24×7 odes of praise combined with the visual availability of the man across the whole gamut of electronic and print media gives celebrity status to the person and thus the contours of a hero emerges. Both the media and its new-found celebrity enjoy the situation for some time before the media gets bored. As long there is novelty around the person and his ideas, media remains interested in him but the moment the novelty wears off the media gets restless. Now it requires some new heroes who could inject some cool air of freshness in the situation. Thus, media ditches its hero and cries him down. It no longer finds him saleable.

Maybe, the media-born celebrity in Arvind Kejriwal, too, realizes this situation well and hence, he is trying hard to inject some freshness in the affairs of his Aam Aadmi Party to keep the interest of media alive in him. This goes to explain the rhetoric and the theatrics that the party has of late taken recourse to which was well visible in its 2-day’s dharna at the Rail Bhawan in New Delhi. However, such theatrics are not going to yield favourable results for the AAP and the causes it espouses. Rather, it is sure to erode the confidence of a sizable number of the middle class voters, a majority of who had voted for the party in the Delhi elections. The middle class got appalled to hear his defiant chants of ‘anarchism’ and felt alienated at his actions which bordered upon lawlessness. This surely isn’t going to cut ice with a majority of his progressive voters, who put premium on means in equal proportions to the goals they cherish; a majority of them felt that that the goal of this dharna might be noble and sacred but the methods employed by the AAP leaders failed to find resonance with their world-view.

Similarly, the actions of the Delhi’s Law Minister, Mr. Somnath Bharti, leaves much to be desired. His high-drama mob-raids on unsuspecting foreign nationals and his mouthful of expletives against his seasoned political opponents are in poor taste which is sure to horrify the electorate. The AAP has got many lessons to learn in it. The party has come to power riding the wave of anger of the common man against the system. Now, its cadres feel empowered. The same cadre that once felt disillusioned with the system now feels emboldened to take on the system through its own methods. The party cadres are impatient with the system and hence not willing to let the system act in legally established ways; rather they feel the urge to set things right in their own whimsical ways. Thus, they are willing to raid the premises of vulnerable individuals riding on the zeal of their brute mob power. The party may score brownie points with segments of lower disillusioned masses of the state but at the same time runs the risk of turning its cadres into the likes of those fascist ‘black shirts’ or the ‘storm troops’ of Nazi Germany. Such mobocracy must stop. This is a dangerous temptation against which the party think tanks need to work overtime to guard its cadres.

The whole affair of Somnath Bharti is a blot on AAP’s escutcheon; the sooner the man is removed from the position the better for Arvind Kejriwal and his party. The minister has been indicted by the court on the charges of tampering with evidences but Mr. Kejriwal is standing rock-solid behind him cocking a snook at the court’s findings, which the latter finds wrong. Now, he’s sitting in judgment. This way, isn’t Kejriwal closing ranks with politicians of other political parties like the Congress or the BJP, who give similar pleas while refusing to remove their ministers accused of similar malpractices or indictments by the courts? So, where is the difference, Mr. Kejriwal? You refused to accept the pleas of pending enquiries in case of congress or BJP ministers but you’re running extra miles to protect your own minister stuck-up in similar circumstance. How can there be different yardsticks for similar situations?

People have lots of hopes and expectations pinned to the great experiment of the Aam Aadmi Party. The great Indian middle class has many cherished goals like good job, good espouse, good cars, good education for children, good house and good quality life. To this kitty of celebrated goals, it has further added the goal of having good governance and a corruption-free political order, by putting strong stakes in the AAP experiment. After having jumped the bandwagon of the AAP, some of those middle class electorates are feeling disillusioned. Hence, it is high time now that Kejriwal should speak by his actions. He needs to get into the teeth of governance and perform to give back some of those skies that he’s promised to the electorates of Delhi.

Governance is not all beer and skittles – it’s a difficult job, much more than the job of an activist. Hence, Mr. Kejriwwal, you need to get into the shoes of a Chief Minister now and act out of there. Well, take all those perks and privileges that your position offers; the middle class and those underdogs of your constituency won’t mind. But, get into action; get into governance and give your damnedest. The restless masses want performance. So long you deliver on those promises they give a damn about other things like your perks. Hence, no rhetorics, no theatrics – just deliver. Stop playing to the galleries to please those who don’t matter. Forget those hawks of media. They will sing praise in countertenors and sopranos once you deliver on those promises. Else, the media would maul you; it’s extra zealous in denouncing its jettisoned heroes and in debunking the aura around them.

Therefore, Mr. Kejriwal – don’t run the risk of dying by the media.

Krishna Kumar @ Thought Pourri 2014

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