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Archive for the tag “Narendra Modi”

An open rejoinder to Barkha Dutt to her open letter to the Prime Minister Modi.

 

Dear Ms Barkha Dutt,

I’m writing rejoinder to your letter to the PM Modi because like so many of my fellow citizens, to quote you, I’m both angry and anguished, and also because I know that the PM Modi hardly joins issues with anyone but the common citizens of India. Ah, now don’t scowl in the pretension that the common citizens of India have no voice or opinion; they do have both, and better than even the media people, which is evident in the success of our democracy over the decades. The richness and tonality of these voices and opinions have added muscle, strength and vibrance to our democracy.

Let’s begin with two things: First, none of the missives from the likes of yours can be ignored; it gives the people a kind of scale to fathom the low to which you can sink in your professional dishonesty. Second, it’s good that you’re well aware of what you are; you needn’t harp on about your special identities – “Presstitute”, “sickular” etc which you’ve acquired so diligently by your splendid idiocies. We all know about them and, post-Nira Radia event, would better like to supplement them with some even more juicier ones. So, good that you prefer to move around in your true skin; it’s a real fun to deal with a wolf in wolf’s clothing.

Gujarat, the leitmotif of your barbs against the BJP in general and Modi in particular, was sure to figure in this missive, but, unwarranted, it came at the very outset. It was Gujarat, definitely, that defined your ideological self in the world of Indian media and ensured you a hallowed position in the much cultivated and glorified left-wing space in the emerging world of 24×7 TV journalism. But again, that was the first brush of the people of India with something, what your friend, competitor and senior, Rajdeep Sardesai coined later, “the Supari Journalism” – sort of a contract to finish somebody off through crossing all lines of ethics in media and journalism. Okay, good. That’s entirely your pleasure and prerogative. But, this really stupefies to find somebody resorting to what may be called “Spin Journalism” where facts are slanted and presented in such a way as to give a positive spin on someone’s reputation, no matter whether the person is a Maoist or a secessionist or a terrorist. It’s atrocious, preposterous and criminal. It’s nothing but a delinquent act, as iniquitous and shady as anything else can get. It’s a crooked effort to propagandize black into white, or worse, to induce people into believing that black is beautiful, in situations where in reality it is not.

The ‘Spin Journalism’ has some pre-requisites – quintessentially in binaries – the first and foremost being that you must have wily intentions, yet have lofty principles to cloak them; you must have ability to say nasty things, yet have immense argumentative skills to make them sound genial; you must have the insolence of a traitor in your words; yet have the confidence of a patriot in your arguments; you may have patronization from enemies, yet you may walk with the confidence of a patriot – that makes a Spin Journalist. And that, Ms Barkha Dutt, defines who you are. The things you say – veneered in principles, civility and idealism – may not essentially come from your heart, but from the minds of a Maoist, a secessionist or a traitor to which you, through your uncanny erudition, spin into palatable ideologies. The voice of your inner-self, now it appears, is the voice of the dangerous elements who seem to be nothing but your extended self. You call it ideological posturing, you call it intellectual scrutiny, you call it anti-establishmentarianism, you call it left-wing activism; call it whatever, though in reality, it’s nothing but helping those who carry nefarious intentions against the idea of India. Such support, coming from a decorated journalist like you, is a huge tower of strength to those anti-national forces. No, I’m not saying you’re one of the anti-nationals; I’m saying you breed them.

Such critical reductionism is necessary to reach at the core of the existence of humbugs like you so that the gullible ones, running into millions, may unseat you from the exalted throne they’ve seated you in.

Taking the idea of your binary existence forward, I find that your vainglorious romanticism, bragged annoyingly, around the defence forces of the nation is nothing but a camouflage to conceal your unholy intentions. Each time you need to speak something on behalf of those anti-national voices, you plan a border excursions to army zones and, wandering among them, gather enough brawny points to offset any potential challenge to your patriotism as you speak for them. Dear Ms Dutt, believe me you’ll be doing more favours to the army and the defence forces by refuging to hold a brief for the anti-national and secessionist forces than by reporting on them from their mountainous trenches. They would certainly welcome a person not creating and sustaining enemies within while they’re battling against them at the frontiers. Madam, I wouldn’t be surprised if during your next jaunt to the rugged war zones you find a less welcome, if not hostile, men in uniform. Disciplined, as they always are, they may not give you jeers and catcalls, but certainly you’ll not miss those angry stares and threads of reds in their eyes.

Hence, your maudlin patriotism, as you proudly condescend, stands in weak defence to your contrasting designs. Yes ma’am, to counter you, it’s entirely possible to deeply respect the military and to be an ethical thug betraying the nation.

Let’s come to JNU. Now, after this reductionist analysis of the person you’re, it’s not surprising to find you deeply anguished over “multiple manipulations”, “doctored videos” and “police excesses” in JNU campus. Let’s talk straight. First, the police action wasn’t in “excess”, rather it was necessary and minimum. The police needed to raid the campus; it wasn’t a pickpocketing incident or a gambling match at Sabarmati dhaba that needed to be settled by the in-house mechanism. It was an act that smacked of anti-nationalism and secessionism, something that carries wider ramifications for this nation battling the menace of terrorism since long. Second, whether the video was doctored or not, a Barkha Dutt is no one to pre-judge that. There are agencies, with proper procedure and professional accomplishment, to do the job. Let, there be a thorough analysis; let the law take its own course. Till the time, the police remand is necessary. The law-enforcing agencies, despite strong circumstantial evidences and despite grave ramifications of the incident, have no right to anticipate an act of anti-national criminality, but the honourable Barkha Dutt has the right to anticipate their innocence, and hence the right to cry foul. Preposterous, again.

No nation, howsomuch banana texture it may have, can afford to turn it’s eyes away from potential anti-national activities. If it does, it does it on its own peril. Moreover, today’s India isn’t a banana republic. It can’t and shouldn’t take a chance. Third, there wasn’t “manipulations” in government’s action. The accused students needed to be investigated. Rather, the likes of Ms Dutt made all sorts of manipulations to stop that from happening. The students haven’t been thrown to the wolves; rather, they’ve been subjected to the law of the land. Your appeal to the PM to drop the charges against Kanhaiya Kumar, concede the “mistakes” and “apologize” presumably to the sections of the people you represent, is as much mischievous and stunning as it is laughable. Mr. Prime Minister, I know you aren’t going to do any of it.

Ms Barkha Dutt, India is a nation that rightfully takes pride in the vibrance and strength of its constitutional institutions; judiciary being one of them – the most shining, perhaps; it takes harshest of positions when it comes to defend the fundamental rights of individuals from the excesses of the state. But, you seem to have lost faith in the efficacy of the judicial system of India, madam. If not, why this clamour to release the accused even without a formal investigation? ‘Insaniyat’, you say. But, you can’t afford to apply the principle of ‘insaniyat’ to a University that is becoming a breeding ground for proud secessionists. Is this the kind of non-conformism or youthful rebellion that you find natural among the youth and wish to concede? Enough has happened in the past. But, the nation hasn’t selected this government to prolong the past. I sound jingoist? You got me wrong. I’m a nationalist.

Yes, what’s wrong is wrong. The mob justice, led by the lawyers brigade is a deplorable act and the government certainly is to take the blame for it. It has got enough flak for that and it needs to pull its socks up to deal with circumstances like them with better responsibility and accountability in the future. Mr. prime Minister, hope you’re listening and like Ms Smriti Irani, take all supplications coming your way very seriously. The government needn’t give an opportunity to Ms Barkha Dutt to add two wrongs to make a right, anymore.

I don’t wish to bring any quotes here to bolster what freedom of expression, nationalism or sedition means, yet since you’ve quoted Gurudev Ravindranath, I’d also like to wind this up by dropping one of his small quotes:

“facts are many but the truth is one.”

Let that truth come out through the route it really should – the courts of India. It should come neither through the government’s press briefings nor through the wisdom of Barkha Dutt. Let the truth come out. Even if the accused are declared innocent in the ensuing trial, the government need not be worried. It must feel content, like many among the citizens, that it acted upon a potentially damaging information. And, it acted fast. All secessionism must be nipped in the bud.

Dear Barkha Dutt; let me tell you here that I’ve ever admired you as a compere and would like to quote one particular live show where I was present in the audience – your interview of Oprah Winfrey at the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2012; your introduction of Oprah to the audience was a fabulous poetry of eloquence, diction and oratory that was nothing but a knock-out speech. In the audience, I saw, everyone was mesmerised, and no less was Ophra herself, who at the end of the introduction asked you where was the teleprompter. Everyone clapped in awe, I, the loudest. But, today I believe you’ve belied many of us; you’ve belied a hope.

Protecting the nation is a shared responsibility. It can’t only be left to the government. The media, the academia, the civil society and the intellectuals – all need to play a role in it. However, many among these four seem to have taken a shared responsibility to destroy the nation, instead. You appear to be one among them, Ms Dutt. If yes, we’re pitted on the opposite sides and are ready to fight it out. Put your gloves on.

And, I appeal to my armymen not to join the battle here. You keep guarding the frontiers. We’ll take care of all the enemies within.

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2016

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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

Yes, We Are: The Subtle Aggression Of Overseas Indians Finds Expression With Modi

The date changes, the venue changes, the face changes but the scene remains the same – this time, with the visit of Indian PM Narendra Modi in Australia, it was time for the Indian-Australians living in Down Under to be Modi-fied.  The TV cameras, unmounted from the Madison Square Garden, New York had been shipped by Indian media houses to Sydney, ten thousand miles away, where they were repositioned at different venues to pan across a different continent but the men behind them knew that the people facing them were hardly going to be any different. Soon the cameras were in action shooting the same zeal, fervor and frenzy among the Indians that was visible in New York during the visit of Narendra Modi in America. The lingering chant of ‘Modi-Modi’ plays as a ubiquitous background score whichever part of the globe Modi visits now a days.

To borrow from the Song of Australia, they say:

 “There is a land where, floating free,

From mountain-top to girdling sea,

A proud flag waves exultingly”

The proud flag, however, that floated free in Australia in past few days, as visible on our TV screen, was not the defaced blue ensign of Australia but our own desi ‘tiranga’ that waved exultingly all around the places Modi visited. People boisterously waved these flags while celebrating the metamorphosis of a grassroot karyakarta of BJP  into a jet-set political rockstar performing at the grandest of global stages. ‘Australia – the idle fancy of a dream’ was metamorphosed into a desi territory.

The visit of Narendra Modi to any foreign country is turned into festivals for the Indians living there. People prepare for the act for days – they organize grand welcome receptions for the PM, plan holidays, come out in traditional dresses, choreograph dance-song sequences and try to showcase their love for India in the best of traditions. The sight of Indians draping themselves in tricolours and bursting into “mere desh ki dharti sona ugale ugale heere moti” each time the camera approached them in cities of USA or Australia, was truly bemusing. All fault-lines along the lines of region, religion, language or culture that refuses to die in India, stood evaporated during such occasions and all Indians came out united in the spirit of oneness. Their common sentiments for their motherland happened to be the one emotive bond that erased all their tangible differences and made them stand shoulder to shoulder in celebrations of their identity as one Indian.

It is interesting to analyze why these successful overseas Indians throng to Narendra Modi in a way they’ve never done during visits of other Indian leaders ever before. Is it his popularity or his charisma or a belief in his ability as a leader or simply his street-smart demagogy that connects instantly with made-in-Harvard professionals and made-in-Hissar bumpkins alike? Has it got something to do with his wonderful abilities to connect not only as a sly conversationalist but also as a suave social media user? Yes, definitely all of these have their share in pushing up his popularity but the crazy crowd with maddening screams of ‘Modi Modi’ tells something even more.

Actually, much more than Mr. Modi’s personal abilities, this phenomenon can be explained in the urge of the immigrated Indians to assert their own identity in overseas societies. The Indians are regarded to be successful, competent, hard-working and affluent people that have established themselves as responsible, peace-loving communities in foreign societies. But, because of an incompetent political leadership at home, India was unable to carve out a dominant role for itself in international affairs. The numerically growing overseas community wanted a strong resurgent India that could be seen with respect and awe in global community. The Americans citizens are respected and held in awe the world over because of the political might of the United States.

It was a widely held belief among Indians that India has got what it takes to become a global superpower but is held back because of a lackluster, pusillanimous political leadership. Now, with the arrival of Narendra Modi, supported by a ruthless majority in parliament, the global community sat up to take note of this man’s words and deeds with dead seriousness. With growing clout of Modi, the clout of India grew stronger filling the hearts of overseas Indians with pride and optimism. Arranging a train from Melbourne to Sydney and naming it Modi Express was a symbolic expression of a subtle aggression that Indian community was champing at the bit to display since the days of racial attacks on Indians in Australia. It is worth recalling that Melbourne, the city with highest concentration of Indian students’ population, was the biggest centre of attacks on Indians. Now, a resurgent India under the puissant leadership of Modi, has given them the opportunity to celebrate their dormant aggression that intends to assert their existence in an indifferent society. That society will no longer remain indifferent; now it has been nudged into believing that Indians are a formidable community powered by the growing global political strength of their country in the comity of nations.

So, the next time when the Australians sing their national anthem, saying

“For those who’ve come across the seas

We’ve boundless plains to share;

With courage let us all combine

To Advance Australia Fair…”

the Indians will say, hey Australia, we’ve arrived…we’re there.

Yes, We Are.

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2014

Is cleanliness an upper class notion and filthiness an inalienable companion of ‘half-human’ poors?

Children play at a slum in Allahabad, India, Oct. 3, 2011. 

As Narendra Modi sets off his ambitious Clean India mission aimed at cleaning India completely by October 2019, the nation embarks upon one of its most radical nation-wide campaign after independence. It’s a social, economic, cultural and ethical campaign all rolled into one that’s aimed at taking the new-age India to the realm of a modern living. The campaign is aimed primarily at improving our sense of community living and at instilling the ethos of cleanliness and sanitation in our collective conscience. Maybe for the first time ever, a government sponsored mass campaign has been conceived and initiated in India that aims at jacking up our civic sense and making it a part of our cultural existence.

Symbolism is a great means of communicating ideas and Modi used this tool very effectively to galvanize people into action. He walked the talk by taking up the broom and directed his strong contingent of central government employees to do so. He roped in schools and other institutions as well and soon the nation was witness to a mass cleanliness drive happening all across that became the focus of attention for the whole gamut of national and international media. However, was there a sincerity of purpose in the act or was the whole exercise just a hollow tokenism that has come to be associated with all the government initiatives of this nature? With the level of commitment and determination that Modi displayed one can only hope that the exercise doesn’t end up being a nine day’s wonder and that it translates into changes on ground. With a formidable 30-lakh strong manpower in shape of government officials at his disposal and with a massive 2-lakh crore budget at his command, he’s got all the men and all the resources to execute his herculean mission.

Symbolism works well with a credulous population and Modi is using it to perfection through the dead-metaphor of a broom. His broom-wielding act and image will go a long way in shaping the imagination of the young-generation, still in schools, whose impressionable minds may take the mission cleanliness to greater dimensions in days to come. With elements of progressivism intertwined in the mission, even the cussed urban middle class would find the cleanliness appeal difficult to ignore, if sustained tenaciously for long, and would certainly hit it off with the mission soon. In urban areas where people have a certain level of education and development, this campaign would kick off well. But, will Modi’s efforts pay with the poor and deprived population who are the major sufferer of filthiness and squalor? Will his sensitization drive find favour with the poverty-stricken sea of humanity in rural and urban slums?

Cleanliness is a socio-cultural phenomenon; it is embedded in the life situations people inherit and live. The rich and upper class have their life situations themed around the essence of neatness and cleanliness where beauty, tidiness and aesthetics govern their world view; it is reflected in the ideas, institutions and physical structures created by the rich for their individual and social needs. Opulence, luxury and elegance can’t exist without cleanliness and sanitation. Thus, the utilities created for the rich and upper class are swanky, elegant, neat and hygienic – their houses are grand, their neighborhoods are shiny, their clubs are classy and their airports are swanky. Cleanliness and tidiness gets permeated into their ethics, value-systems and behavior patterns. They get used to it. As a result, the rich follow the rules of cleanliness and sanitation and demand its enforcement. Thus, cleanliness comes natural to the upper class and becomes their way of life. It’s a bourgeois necessity.

On the other hand, the poor inherit and live deplorable life situations where nothing matters more than plain survival. The eternal struggle for existence that they live through, shapes their world view and they remain fixated with the questions of their basic needs – food, clothing and humble shelter over their mean existence. They’ve no capacity or willingness to think beyond on questions that bothers the wider civilization – cleanliness and sanitization. The dirt, filth and squalor around them is something they get accustomed to live with – they don’t find it shocking; they don’t think it distasteful. All they need is their hunger pacified, their children clothed and their families sheltered. They feel blessed if they’re able to put up a shanty no matter whether it’s besides the city drains, they feel beatific if they’re able to sleep beneath a cover no matter if it’s next to the heap of municipal filth, they feel indebted if they’ve a place to defecate no matter whether it’s in the open. Filthiness and dirtiness have permeated into their consciousness and have become a part of their lives. Their children inherit this consciousness and live around merrily with their wretched existence.

Poverty robs all senses and sensibilities from humanity – it kills their sense of beauty, snuffs out feelings of shame, destroys self respect and saps out confidence; it tears down most of the humanness from the humanity and leaves at its place a pared down human-being toughing it out on crude animal instincts. A great many of Indian population is such ‘half-human’. Can such a half-human being care for a call to keep his surroundings in rural and urban abode clean? The proposition looks as far-fetched as is the possibility of catching a whale from the fishing rod.

In the given situation it’s obvious that cleanliness and sanitation is more a value-system which comes with the culture of growth and development. A poor man can’t be expected to imbibe the values of cleanliness unless he is given better opportunities in life. Cleanliness and sanitation goes hand-in-hand with the culture of prosperity. The sensitization drive must be accompanied with increased and sustained efforts towards providing better education, employment and opportunities for growth in each individual’s life.

Both the upper class and the poor have their sense of cleanliness guided by their life situations. Hence, the bottom-line is that ‘Mission Clean India’ needs to be taken up in an holistic manner; a segmented approach to deal with the issue of cleanliness and sanitation wouldn’t yield desired results.

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2014

http://krishnakumar.co

‘Modi…Modi…Modi’ : Decoding the psychology beneath the universal chant

PM Narendra Modi addressing the Indian-American community at the Madison Square Garden

‘Modi…Modi…Modi’…

As the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, donning a saffron jacket over a full-sleeved peach Kurta and chudidaar pyjama, enters the Madison Square Garden stadium to address the Indian-American community, the palms of the 20,000-strong audience rose to hem their respective mouths that screamed a maddening chant – ‘Modi…Modi…Modi’ – a chant which has now become constant, endemic and universal. It’s a chant that has transcended the boundaries of castes, language, religions, sex and cultures within India and has now travelled overseas to cast spell on the minds of the powerful Indian Diaspora spread all across the globe. People are passionate in chanting the name and fanatic in defending its appeal.

It’s important to understand what makes Modi so special among his followers; why a man in his mid-60’s is considered the ideal among a population that is predominantly young; what makes people, who are traditionally mad for cricket and Bollywood stars, getting swooned for him. The answer lies in the intricacies of the time.

Today, India is an emerging superpower. It’s the biggest democracy, one of the largest economies, one of the biggest military powers, one of the few privileged nuclear-haves and a powerful conqueror of the outer space in the world. It’s the second largest market of the world in terms of demand and constitutes probably the best pool of human resource globally. It’s a global IT powerhouse and a world leader in software technology. The Indian Diaspora spread across the nook and corner of the planet has proved its capacities and the voices of overseas Indian communities have emerged as important voices within their respective countries and societies. Today, India has come up as the global favorite for trade and investment and no country in the world, howsoever mighty and resourceful it may be, can afford to overlook India.

Yet, India wasn’t a pretty picture because the nation as a political community presented a somber countenance. The nation yearned for a strong leadership. The political leadership, over the years was a dud and was short on the X-factor; it lacked initiatives and looked disconnected with time. The leadership was unimaginative, uninspiring and thoroughly disappointing. A good many Indians felt distraught, disgusted and disillusioned with the political process and looked away from it. People wanted a strong man in the helm of affair; the young India wanted a leader who could be youthful, assertive and decisive; the well-off citizens of the nation wanted a leader who could protect their wealth, the middle class wanted freedom from corruption, the youth wanted jobs and the poors and destitute in villages wanted creation of more opportunities to improve their life situations. But, the leadership looked lost and clueless.

A great number of Indians in India and beyond its boundaries had long back started to deconstruct the essentials of a true leader for the emerging nation and on the basis of this deconstruction, had constructed the image of an ‘ideal’ leader capable of providing leadership to the emerging power called India. Since long, they were looking for a person that could be cast into this image but there was none. Now, with the gradual emergence of Narendra Modi on national scene, the long quest of Indians, desperate for their ‘constructed’ notion of a leader, seemed to be over. Narendra Modi truly came out as the man of the moment and in him the restless Indians found the contours of a great leader India was poised to witness after a pretty long time. No wonder the desperate India cried out ‘Modi, Modi’ and soon it became a razing chant. The chant, renting the air in each part of the diverse nation he visited, symbolized the hope, confidence and optimism of a billion plus population around him.

Modi successfully cultivated his image as a strong leader. He used his resources well and marketed himself with immaculate precision. He built up his persona and over the years it grew well enough to fit in the mould of the leadership ‘construct’ that this impatient nation had so passionately created. He parachuted into this mould and customized himself as per its dimension. He sounded strong, bold and confident. He connected not only with the urban affluent society or with the job-seekers of small towns or with the salaried middle class and with the destitute villagers but also with the religious inner core of a deeply-religious society and talked unashamedly of the religion of majority – something which is considered next to blasphemy in a country fed on the constant doses of Nehruvian construct of secularism. He came up as an unashamed Hindu apologist yet beautifully camouflaged his religious appeal behind his leitmotif of development. Thus, the pied piper of Gujarat had captured the imagination of a billion-plus population. His machineries worked upon his successfully crafted image of a saviour and the masses fell for him.

Thus, the chant of ‘Modi…Modi…Modi’ is the cheerful rant and optimist roar of a zealous population long disillusioned with an inactive, non-performing political leadership and hence the cry will keep resonating the airs over the Indian sub-continent and elsewhere so long the dream merchant carries the potentials to deliver on his promises.

Krishnakumar@ThoughtPourri 2014

http://krishnakumar.co

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 Gandhi raises communal bogey in attempt to hit the BJP where it hurts most

Rahul GandhiAfter days of vacillating on it, Rahul Gandhi raises the communal bogey. In a public meeting at Churu, Rajasthan, Rahul came hard on BJP and in a head-on collision course it blamed BJP for inciting communal riots in the country which, he said, ultimately leads to terrorism. Thus, by putting the blame for communal riots and terrorism squarely on the main opposition party in the nation, he has tried to play the communal card with rich political dividend in sight.

To paint the BJP in communal colours has been the long-standing strategy of the congress party and it has worked many times in the past. But, Rahul Gandhi, in the run up to the 2014 elections, had been desisting from invoking it so far. Maybe because he understood that by talking of development and issues related to poor and youth he will be able to pull his party through in the coming elections. But, with pre-poll surveys across the spectrum repeatedly projecting the party to get the drubbing in the 2014 elections, desperation has started getting the better of him. Therefore, under the grip of panic, he chose to play the trump card of communalism hoping to polarize the nation along communal fault lines and sweep the windfall of minority votes.

But, the strategy is perilous – it carries the risk of communalizing the political discourse of our times. As it goes to ruffle the feathers of the BJP, the latter would certainly have a bone to pick with the Congress on this sensitive accusation. Though, the BJP of course is a party which has blotted its copybook by the demolition of the disputed Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and by many other actions that casts it in communal mould, it certainly would like to question the credentials of the congress in the communal-secular debate.

So far the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee, Narendra Modi treaded a cautious path by skirting the issue of communalism and he talked about positive issues like strengthening the bureaucratic-administrative functioning to lead development, economic growth and changes; he talked of creating structures for sustaining equitable growth that promised the fruit of development to the urban and rural societies alike. He talked about the issues of the middle class and the youth and tried to reach out to the Minorities promising them development and growth which had eluded them so far. He took the issues of corruption, nepotism and crony capitalism that has bled India in the past decades and promised a clean and efficient administration on the lines of his home state Gujarat where he’s been ruling since 2001. It connected him instantly with the middle class, the youth, the poors and to some extent, even with minorities. He talked tough and assured that he meant business.

The resurgent, restless India lauded him and the crowds cheered him with frenzied applause wherever he went. Over the time, his personality took the status of cult among his followers. This gave sleepless nights to Congress strategists who have always sought upmanship in the personality-centric politics of India.

In this tug of war, Rahul Gandhi found his grip slipping and this made him desperate. He has overexploited his welfare-oriented policies like Food Security Bill and MANREGA but finds the prospects of these policies returning votes very dismal. He knows he has nothing to talk on the development plank as each policy of his government is blotted by a scarier scam. Thus, the congress think-tank went overdrive to cut the BJP to size by playing the communal card. By slinging the mud of communalism on BJP they hope some of it would stick with them. Thus, they have chosen to strike the BJP where it hurts most.

But, by playing the communal card Rahul Gandhi runs the risk of exposing his own party’s records to closer scrutiny. The congress has many questions to answer on the front of secularism. One would be tempted to ask about Congress party’s support to organizations like Muslim League, Jamaat-e-Islami and SIMI and about its track records in various communal riots like that of Bhagalpur, anti-sikh riots of 1984 and the recent Assam riots. One would like to highlight the communal agenda of the party by upturning the SC judgement on Shah Bano in 1987, by standing behind the terrorist encounter of Batla House, by its plan to give the Muslims reservations in government jobs, by its recent administrative instructions to state governments to not arrest the members of minority community in matters of terrorist investigations and by its proposed legislations like the Communal violence bill where it shamelessly attempts to put criminality on the majority community in a riot situation and subjecting the members of the majority community to harsher criminal procedures for the same crime. The history of the Congress party in the post-independence India is a chronology of facts how the party has fomented, nourished and sustained communalism by exploiting the communal fault-line to its own political advantages. Rahul Gandhi would find himself on a sticky wicket if he is invited to talk on communalism in India and the role of political parties in it. Maybe, partially because of his banal oratorical skills, he would never be ready for such a public trial. Thus, he sees virtue in making ambushes from the sidelines.

Thus, short of ideas on development and change and with an aim to deflect attention from issues of corruption, price rise, unemployment and misgovernance, Rahul Gandhi pushes communal agenda to the fore. But, in the process, the positive discourse of the 2014 elections runs the risk of being hijacked by the chancy talks of hate.

Will the BJP Dump Narendra Modi after the Elections Lead to a Hung Parliament?

Narendra Modi

The latest round of Times Now – C voters pre-election survey for the 2014 Loksabha polls comes up with a widely-perceived conclusion that no pre-poll formation is going to have a majority in the parliament.

This survey brings forth three main conclusions: First, the ruling UPA alliance doesn’t have the ghost of a chance to come back to power in 2014; second, the main opposition NDA led by the BJP has made significant gains following declaration of Narendra Modi as the alliance’s Prime Ministerial nominee but there is no wave in his favour yet; third, the remaining other parties who are projected to share 240 seats among them are going to be the key players in forming the next government.

Out of the three broad conclusions, we’ll focus on the one concerning with the NDA. The latest survey that puts NDA’s figure to 186 has projected the BJP getting 162 seats in the pan-India tally. This is a significant rise over the past few months since the time Narendra Modi has been anointed to lead the NDA should it came to power. The projections show that the NDA shall fall well short of the half way mark. That’s true in the present context but we’ve to respect the dimension of time; the elections are still 6 months away which is a long period in politics.

Reputation has its own dynamics that builds up its own momentum in politics hence an astute politician vies for reputation that earns him goodwill and vote. Over the years Narendra Modi has earned the reputation of being a formidable leader who is blessed with tremendous political and administrative acumen and his fame is gathering greater momentum with each passing day. After winning three assembly elections hands down in Gujrat, Narendra Modi was seen geared up for larger role at national level. Hence, it didn’t surprise anyone when Modi, in teeth of all opposition, was chosen to lead the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

After months of churning, the central leadership of BJP understood it well that he was the only leader who carried pan-India Appeal and who could brighten the prospects of BJP in the hustings. He’s seen as a man whose appeal cuts across the boundaries of caste, class and regions and is venerated as someone who is strong, decisive and focused at his assignment. The young India adores him and the restless Indian masses, battered by corruption, inflation and misgovernance look up to him for panacea. The crowds throng in his meetings and people hang on his lips when he counts the sins of the government. As the burly demagogue rises to lash out at the misdeeds of the government the craving masses roar with approval and every time he cuts his stingy one-liners the crowd goes berserk. He’s the adorned deity in the art of oratory and his critics term him a rabble-rouser. But, he knows the art and science of connecting to the masses; he feels their pulse and speaks their language and thus he makes the maudlin masses of India fall for him. That’s why even his worst critics admit that he is the best bet for the BJP in the coming elections.

It’s being bandied about in some quarters that after the elections if NDA emerges the single largest formation looking short of a majority, the BJP would drop Narendra Modi in favour of a less controversial candidate who could be more acceptable to its potential allies so that NDA government could be formed. Well, apparently, it may look a workable solution should the NDA hoped to come to the powers. But, nothing can be more misleading and farther from truth than a hypothesis like this. It’s a calculated ploy by the Modi detractors and a malicious attempt to confound the voters of the BJP.

Why the NDA can’t drop Narendra Modi for the sake of forming a government is simple – this election, either from the side of UPA or NDA, is going to be a personality based election in which the personality and the aura of the person leading his alliance would be the determining factor. People would vote the BJP formation because of the sheer persona of Modi. After all, after suffering a decade of malgovernance and incompetence people are looking for a strong leader who could be bold, decisive and efficient. Narendra Modi is looked up as a leader who is believed to possess all these attributes and much more. His voters take him to be a wizard who has many cards up his sleeves to take on the myriads of the problems that plague India. That’s why NDA can’t replace Modi even if it wished to do so.

Secondly, it will be the greatest betrayal of the popular mandate and any government formed so would be illegal and ethically non-sustainable. The votaries of NDA who cast their vote for the alliance for the sake of Modi would stand cheated and would never forgive the arrangement.

Thirdly, even if such a government is formed it will live under the constant shadow of Narendra Modi. The government would be judged from the yardsticks of Modi’s functionality and its failures would become more glaring and apparent. It will become akin to raising Modi’s stature even higher among the masses.

Thus dropping Modi would be nothing lesser than a political hara-kiri for the BJP which will suffer a deficit of credibility for years to come. That’s why the BJP would never afford to drop Narendra Modi irrespective of how tempting the supposition might look from the vantage point of realpolitik.

Last but not the least, if Narendra Modi is able to pull off a sort of coup by plundering 200-something seats for the NDA, he’ll become taller than the tallest leader in the BJP and in the scenario no central leader will have the guts to ruffle his feathers by hinting the idea of a change of leadership.

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2013

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