Category Archives: Politics

India should have a consistent procedure for constitutional posts

SasikalaThe way V. K. Sasikala is about to become the next CM of Tamil Nadu despite the fact that the state already has a CM, is quite alarming. I’m not saying whether she will be good or bad for Tamil Nadu, all I’m saying is, her sudden elevation to the post of CM in one of the major states of India shows that you don’t have to follow a political procedure in order to become CM. All you need is political influence. All you need is the political power that you wield. Any post is open to you. This is quite dangerous.

Initially this modus operandi began with the Congress, with Indira Gandhi becoming the PM after Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi becoming the PM after Indira Gandhi. Since technically Sonia Gandhi couldn’t become the PM the mantle would have been thrust upon Rahul or Priyanka had they not been kids. Even when she couldn’t become the PM, Sonia Gandhi ran the country through a puppet PM, and it was perfectly normal for everybody. Our intellectuals and liberals had no problem with a backdoor power center. No mainstream journalist ever asked why she was running the country via the NAC?

Tragically, our media is all riled up with existential questions only when it concerns the BJP – and mind you, I’m not writing this because politically I support the BJP – otherwise, they just become reporting agents. They are “being dispassionately objective” personified.
Sasikala is elected as a legislature party leader by MLAs and lo and behold! She is all set to become the CM. No journalist worth his or her salt has asked how is it even possible in a democracy? What has been her political experience? Why is she becoming the CM just because she is politically influential?

I’m not saying if this should happen or not. What I’m disturbed about is that no TV news channel is asking what the heck is happening? They’re simply reporting it as if it concerns nobody. Let it be the BJP, and suddenly, we would have had a constitutional crisis of global consequences.

Even Rajiv Gandhi became the PM like that. Before Indira Gandhi’s assassination, he was a nobody in terms of politics. Then suddenly, since nobody outside of the Nehru Gandhi family can be portrayed as the biggest leader, he was suddenly catapulted by a tragic vicissitude and political opportunism.

Look at Narendra Modi on the other hand. For every position he has had to fight a tooth and nail battle. During 2014 he made a world record by holding 1800 big and small rallies in the run up to the general elections. Even before that he had been Gujarat’s CM for 15 years. Before that he had worked for the BJP and the RSS for many years just like any other volunteer.

Whatever you say about the BJP, at a larger level, there is no family feudalism. Before Modi’s ascent there were many big leaders in the party including Advani, Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. Still, due to sheer hard work and political acumen he was able to become the PM, and, the inner dynamics of the party allowed him to leave everybody behind. Can this happen in other parties? I don’t think so.

But this is not about the BJP. What I am talking about is, like American elections, there should be a standard procedure for people to be able to occupy constitutional positions. Unless they follow that procedure, they should not be able to hold constitutional positions. This may cause disparities, given India’s unequal society, but keeping this in mind, some measures must be taken so that individuals don’t just popup from somewhere and become CMs and PMs.

Image source

What is this so-called “idea of India”?

What is your idea of India? The author of this article has an idea of India as, if you take it as face value, a pluralistic society where everybody gets his or her rights and a fair share of opportunities. I use “face value” because sometimes people don’t actually mean what they are saying. You get the idea from this blog post that has been written in response to the above article.

The problem with India is, conceptually the ideas floated by those who gained power immediately after the British left, are pretty good. A secular, pluralistic society where there is no one single dominant religion and everybody gets to live in harmony and peace. The problem was in implementation and exploitation.

Ideal conditions need to exist for certain concepts. That’s why, in economics and other subjects, sometimes definitions include “keeping other factors constant”. Let those constants change, the definition begins to dismantle.

The same goes with the idea of secularism and pluralism. From the beginning, for the convenience sake, let me use a clichéd expression, “founding fathers”, thought that the dominant religion in India – Hinduism – may end up subjugating every other religion even to the extent of dividing the country further. In some cases the evidence had already begun to manifest. But these evidences are open to perception. Some say that it was nationalism, and some say it is fundamentalism. I need to read history – unbiased history – in order to have a clear picture.

This tendency to create a secular and pluralistic country triggered a new phase of divisive and communal politics. Minorities were constantly kept in the loop of suspicion and fear. The religious and political leaders among minority communities exploited this, and also, even political leaders outside of these communities started sowing seeds of communal hatred in the name of providing protection and keeping the “counter”-communal forces away.

The same template was used to divide even the majority among different castes and sub-castes. Not only this, a great divide between the North and the South was created by an effort to impose Hindi upon South Indian communities. In no way these exercises were carried out to create communal and regional harmony. These exercises were carried out to keep the big country perpetually simmering with discontent, disharmony and insecurity.

It was like, they first consolidated different kingdoms and riyasats under the aegis of a big, single nation, and then they divided its different parts and communities for exploitation and political power.

A big part of this conspiracy is keeping the minorities, especially the Muslim community, under a perpetual state of insecurity. This conspiracy is carried out at 3 fronts: political, religious and intellectual.

The 1st link in the top paragraph is the example of the intellectual conspiracy that has been going on for the past 5-6 decades. Muslims are targeted, Muslims don’t get enough opportunities, Muslims are legally persecuted, Muslims are discriminated against, Hindus never get punished for killing Muslims, etc.

I’m not saying that we live in a just society. Most of our problems originate from the fact that our justice system is all screwed up. Just a couple of days ago there was a judge in the news for killing his wife for not giving birth to a boy. Every school kid these days knows that father’s chromosomes are responsible for the girl child, and not mother’s. The culprits of the Bhanwari Devi case in Rajasthan were acquitted by the judge because he believed if you meddle with the affairs of the upper castes they are bound to react. Such are the judges we have. So you can very well understand the quality of our justice system.

But it is screwed up for everybody, not just for Muslims. So if you say a Muslim is discriminated against, with an effort, I can show you 20 Hindus who were discriminated against. The discrimination is all pervasive, it’s just that in the case of Muslims, because it suits particular political interests, it is blown out of proportion. This is certainly not my idea of India. Journalists like Shoma Chaudhary certainly don’t belong to my idea of India, because people like her don’t fight for justice, they simply pedal communal paranoia and phobias and act as an instrument in the hands of politicians who want to keep the country divided perpetually.

My idea of India is certainly pluralistic, and secular, of course. But it is for everybody. There is no majority and there is no minority. There is justice for everybody. Even if there is no justice, people don’t fight for Muslims and Christians and Hindus. People fight for Indians. So if a Muslim is discriminated against by a Hindu, instead of saying that it is a religious problem, I make it into a criminal problem. In my idea of India, human rights are not just for terrorists and extremists, they are also for their victims. For me, it will be like, one Indian is discriminated against by another. And the person who is discriminating must be punished not because he or she is discriminating against a Muslim, but a fellow Indian. This, is my idea of India.

In my India, these outdated ideas of Muslims versus Hindus don’t exist.

Social media in India and its political impact

Here is a nice list of essays, articles and other interesting thoughts on social media and its impact on political upheavals and outcomes.

Many commenters and mainstream media journalists often condescendingly quip, “Elections are not won on social media, they are won on the streets.”

I totally agree. Social media is definitely not for short-term political gains. Right now it is too disorganized to manage concerted political campaigns. But it is definitely a medium that people can use to disseminate disparate information, and it is already being done. This is the sort of purpose right now social media solves in India. For instance, if there is a piece of misinformation being spread by vested interests, it can be immediately countered by social media.

Take for instance the controversy involving narendramodiplans.com. Someone created this spoof website that was basically a pirated version of a similar website created to lampoon Mitt Romney who contested presidential elections against Barack Obama. There was nothing wrong until the person who had hosted the website started crying that he was being harassed by Modi supporters and hence he had to take down the website. First the link was promoted by Twitter celebrities such as Shashi Tharoor:

And then suddenly the news came that the website had to be taken down due to the harassment meted out to the owner, or the webmaster, or whoever he or she was.

Go through this Storify compilation titled “Unfolding the conspiracy [narendramodiplans.com]” about how within a few hours the Tweeple were able to find that the entire affair was hatched up Congress supporters – a motley mix of journalists, politicians and its political trolls on Twitter.

Now, initially, even a person like me, who is a supporter of the BJP and Modi, was slightly pissed off the way the site had to be taken down but then eventually I discovered that the story of harassment was concocted just to show what sort of goons Modi supporters are.

To that extent social media is useful. It is also definitely useful for scoring brownie points.

But does it change political opinion? Can it affect election results? As far as in India, there is no concrete data that can prove that interactions on Facebook and Twitter can impact election results too. Yes, the opinion on the Internet, especially on the social media websites, is heavily tilted towards the BJP in general (mostly because they are heavily anti-Congress like myself) and Modi in particular (because people are desperately looking for a decisive leader who doesn’t bullshit), but how much this tilt percolates at the ground level it is hard to tell. Primarily there are 3 reasons:

  1. The penetration of the Internet and of social media is not as dense and deep as it is in many other countries despite mobile phones and computers
  2. It is mostly in English that interactions happen on social media websites and the vote bank that actually makes an impact isn’t very well-versed with the language
  3. In the country where people vote for parties based on who can give them more bottles of liquor, blankets, free meals and color TVs, (for that matter even naked girl dance parties) they’re not going to vote based on ideology and opinion

The 3rd point is perhaps the undoing of India. No matter how much people try and succeed on social media, unless people on the ground level seek political change that can actually change the destiny of the country, nothing concrete is going to happen.

I will give you a small example. My permanent address belongs to Sarita Vihar and compared to many parts of New Delhi, in terms of education and money, it’s a pretty well-off locality. But immediately after 16 December when the entire capital was simmering with anger and there was a huge anti-Congress wave all over the city, a Congress candidate won in the municipal elections for this constituency. We were shocked, really. So if this is the condition in a constituency that has educated and the so-called aware people, what can you say about towns and localities where people are less educated and more prone to voting for immediate gains?

So how should social media be used? It can be used as an underpinning for a massive information dissemination campaign. Instead of trying to change political opinions (most of these opinions are any way motivated and hence, cannot be changed) social media should be used to raise awareness and to coordinate political activities. One can get lots of timely information from social media and then use that information to spread awareness in towns and villages, among people actually walking and working on the roads.

Equating the BJP with the Congress – a deeper psychological conspiracy

There is this very sinister pattern in the media – print, electronic as well as social – of constantly equating the BJP with the Congress and broadcasting a message such as there is no big difference between both the parties and hence it doesn’t matter whether you vote for the Congress or for the BJP. The moment you point something horrendous about the Congress, there comes a message immediately, “Oh, what to do, all the parties, including the BJP, are the same.”

A big bullshit.

If they are the same, there is no difference between the acid thrown on your face to disfigure you, and the aerated drink given to you to quench your thirst.

I have purposely used aerated drink rather than mineral water. You see, I’m not a blind follower of the BJP. It has its bagful of follies — it has corrupt ministers, it has communal forces in its fold and it has all sorts of shady politicians going under its aegis? But if it is a pool of such maleficent individuals, the Congress is an ancient ocean brimming with such miasma.

The Congress has ruled the hapless country for more than 50 years. For how long has the BJP ruled? Hardly 5-10 years. Although much fault lies with the BJP itself, for a party that has fought against all odds, it has been a good showing so far, especially depending on a deeply divided vote bank.

Ever since the independence the entire infrastructure of the country has been mobilized to portray the ruling Congress as the protector of all communities and the best socialist and secular option for the country. Our history has been subverted and twisted. Our traditions have been maligned and we have been reduced to a whining, apologetic mass of people. Nobody gives a damn how it’s misguided socialist policies, high tolerance for all encompassing corruption and political putrefaction have wrecked havoc with the entire country.

The Congress is like a pest who keeps its host alive in order to survive. It keeps the machinery of the country going sufficiently so that the country doesn’t implode, but also doesn’t progress beyond a particular point, because if the country progresses, it means more people will get aware and get more breathing space to questioning why the fuck the country is among the most backward regions of the world even after so many years?

The parties like the BJP, on the other hand have become the perpetual pariahs. They are the “divisive” forces. They are other communal forces that need to be kept away at all costs. The moment you say something in support of the BJP, there you are, a right winger, a fascist, and Islamophobe. The Congress uses the BJP as a bogeyman to keep the minorities, especially the Muslims, constantly in a state of insecurity and fear. And this problem isn’t just contained within India.

Even in foreign publications, it is very hard to come across the mention of the BJP without the tag of “Hindu Right Wing”, “Extreme Right Wing”, etc. You will never see Modi’s name without a reference without the 2002 Gujarat riots. On the other hand, do you ever see Rajiv Gandhi in conjunction with the 1984 Sikh genocide or the Bofors case unless they are specifically writing on those events? Do you ever see India Gandhi with reference to the emergency she imposed on the country and the large-scale political corruption she wrought? Do you ever come across 100s of Hindu Muslim riots being attributed to the Congress party that actually happened under the party’s rule? Recently the state of Assam had a very bad spate of ethnic violence; how much international press coverage did it get, and even if it got some coverage, how many put the onus of the violence on the ruling Congress party? Zilch.

The same goes for electronic media in India. The BJP is everybody’s punching bag. “True” journalism raises its ugly head only when some BJP representative is being questioned. The English new standards try to act a bit “refined” and “civilized”, but the Hindi new channels don’t even pretend, their newsreaders, reporters and anchors talk about the BJP the way vamps talk about each other in the saas-bahu soap operas. Bring into the picture some Congress spokesperson or representative, you immediately begin to hear, “You are absolutely right,”, and, “You have made a very valid point,”, and such. Every sort of civility is reserved for the Congress representatives, no matter how shity records they have. Let the Congress raise as much muck as it wants to, but as soon as the BJP reacts or reciprocates, it is trying to politicize something. It’s like get slapped and don’t even flinch because if you flinch, your misbehaving or being indecent.

The Congress has infiltrated the institutions. It has bought the intelligentsia and it runs the news media houses like its own whore houses.

Fine, there are cases of corruption in the BJP, but in most of the cases, the ministers are punished. In fact that is when the BJP’s corruption comes into limelight – somebody being sacked, somebody being arrested (BJP MPs and MLAs even in Gujarat are arrested), somebody being hounded by the CBI and so on. But in the case of Congress, somebody’s always being protected and that’s why they are in news, if ever they are.

So there is no comparison between the BJP and the Congress and whatever parallel lines people try to draw, they are simply trying to obfuscate the big chunk of people sitting at the fences; people who aren’t sure whether they should support the BJP or the Congress. To those people, I always advise, read as much as you can.

I don’t think the BJP is going to win

Although I support the BJP, personally, I don’t think it is going to win or make a big difference in the country’s polity. It is just my personal view, and I may be, I hope so, wrong in my assessment. The thing is, except for Modi no BJP politician has the body language of a person vying for victory. They all look depressed and they all seem to have given up. It is quite apparent from the way they are managing their affairs. Heck, they haven’t been able to take down the government even after countless scams whereas in the past, even a single scam could force the PM of the country to resign along with the entire cabinet. This is the most scathing indictment.

The so-called “secular” parties screw them. The media constantly screws them. All they do is either ignore or whimper, or act clueless. There is no aggression. There is no vision. There is no attitude. There is no political will and there is no social conscience. They are following the same old beaten path that has taken them nowhere. To the horror of its supporters, sometimes it appears like a smaller tributary of the gigantic river of corruption and diabolical immorality, Congress, sans its power, cunning and money.

Another problem is with the people of the country. There is no desire to change. Over the centuries, our spirit has been killed. It has been systematically extirpated to such an extent that even losing seems to be winning. We live in the disguised form of each-for-himself and that is why highly communal and casteist parties keep on coming to power with the main strings in the hands of the Congress. We have never stood up as a country unless we are at war or during some stupid cricket world cup.

Intellectual and social slavery has penetrated deep inside our psychological DNA and that is why we seek an extension of the imperial rule in the form of the Congress. Agreed, whenever a political entity other than the Congress has come to power at the center, it has imploded due to infighting but the people of the country haven’t given much chance to alternatives. Whereas they have given the Congress more than 50 years, to the alternative they are not even ready to give 10 years in a row. Within five years, or even less than that, they start saying, “let’s bring the Congress back, at least they resemble the goras.”