Category Archives: Politics

Will the monk sell-off his saffron Ferrari to pursue peace?

Yogi Aadityanath, the priest-turned-politician, who has emerged as the BJP’s surprise choice for the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, has taken the oath of office. Nobody expected his name cropping up for the post. People were under the impression that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which to a great extent discarded Hindutva hardline politics and embraced developmental plank, will never make such a decision. Something unexpected, however, happened and the Yogi has become the 32nd CM of the most populous state in the country.

Unlike ‘the monk who sold his Ferrari’ in pursuit of peace, this yogi, if we go by his past record, did not seem to be interested in pursuing peace and has a propensity to stoke controversies. In fact he acquired notoriety for being a loud-mouthed hardliner and even considered as part of BJP’s lunatic fringe. Many political analysts wondered how the saffron clad hardliner, who was considered to be a fringe element, went mainstream.

The BJP, which started its political journey as an advocate of overt Hindutva, slowly toned down its communal rhetoric and started pursuing a kind of covert Hindutva. It slowly but surely excluded minorities from its political fold by not deploying even a single Muslim candidate in the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, which drew flack from all the progressive forces in the country. Now it even went to the extent of making a hardliner as the Chief Minister.

Putting him in CM’s chair is perhaps the boldest political statement BJP has made in recent times. With Yogi’s appointment as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, which has been under suspended animation for quite some time, may get a new lease of life. If that happens, the communal conundrum, which to a great extent has subsided, will be reignited. The minority politics played by the so-called secular parties is also responsible for the present state of affairs.  They, through their appeasement politics, tried to grab Muslim votes en masse. This vote bank politics made Hindus rally behind BJP, completing the vicious circle of religious polarization in the state.

BJP’s strategy appears to be combining developmental politics with soft Hindutva to gain a mass appeal, and occupy the position of being the natural party of government. This strategy, to some extent, is tolerable but the trouble starts when it wades into the waters of hard-line Hindutva to whip up communal frenzy with an eye on reaping electoral dividends. The pursuit of hard line Hindutva will definitely create problems not only for BJP but even for the entire nation. So the monk has to sell off his Saffron Ferrari, a seemingly spiritual ‘material’, and transform himself into a true Yogi in order to make himself acceptable to all sections of society.

Meanwhile the opposition parties are very critical of BJP’s decision to put the Yogi at the helm of affairs and accused it of gearing themselves up for implementing majoritarian ‘Shamshaan’ politics. They, however, should not be unmindful of the fact that through their actions they are also equally guilty of promoting communalism through their minority appeasement politics.

Uttar Pradesh, which has a population equivalent to that of Brazil, is currently facing a myriad of problems including high maternal mortality rates, poor educational standards, high level of unemployment and the resultant migration to other states, and slow agricultural and industrial growth rates. These are all the livelihood issues which deserve high priority. The state, by dint of its sheer magnitude and demographic diversity, is considered to be the crucial state from the perspective of electoral politics.  If the Yogi meditates upon only the development, avoiding all the communal distractions, he will be giving a big impetus to Modi’s efforts to win a second term. Though he made the right noises by reiterating Prime Minister Modi’s clarion call ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas’ and asking his folks not to make any controversial remarks, his actions and words, no doubt,  will be closely monitored by his political rivals and the media. It remains to be seen to what extent the Yogi and his ministerial colleagues will exercise restraint from making divisive comments and pay attention to governance.  Let us all hope that the priest-turned politician will follow his ‘Raj Dharma’ and endear himself to all to put one of the BIMARU states on the growth path.

This article was published in the popular citizen journalism website Meri News.

Is the far-right Modi transforming himself into a comrade?

The man, Narendra Modi, as portrayed by his detractors, is the most polarizing figure in Indian politics. Believe it or not, Indians at this juncture could be classified as Modi admirers and Modi detractors. Modi admirers, popularly known as ‘Bhakts’, who stay hyperactive in the cyberspace, idolize him and are obsessed with him. They can’t tolerate any criticism directed against Modi and attack those who criticize their idol just like how a pack of wolves attack their pray. Modi’s detractors, on the other hand, blame their bête noire for each and every unfortunate incident and hold him squarely responsible for all the maladies that afflict our society.

One of the most common criticisms against Modi is he being an ultra-Hindu nationalist. His association with the RSS, the Hindu nationalist organization, which promotes competitive communalism among Hindus as a bulwark against the expansionist Abrahamic faiths, is well known. His RSS background, coupled with 2002 Gujarat mayhem, gives his detractors an opportunity to compare him to Hitler, a fascist who carried out the holocaust and even caused the World War II, though the comparison is far-fetched and ridiculous.

Interestingly, post-demonetization, his detractors changed their tune and started comparing him to Mao, one of the fatherly figures of Communism, who caused immense suffering in the process of establishing his hegemony in China. This comparison, just like the first one, appears to be far from the truth. It is difficult to comprehend how a man who is branded as a far-right leader, transformed himself into a left-winger. What makes this comparison justifiable?

The likely reason could be Modi’s new found love for the poor and the downtrodden. He, while he was at the helm of affairs in Gujarat, was considered to be the most business friendly Chief Minister. He succeeded in wooing corporates from all across the world in a big way and is also considered to be close to many corporate bigwigs. Even his party, the BJP, is considered to be a party of the rich and the middle class Hindus, to whom many of its electoral successes are attributed. However, in many states the secular parties are able to upset the BJP’s apple cart by cleverly playing caste and minority cards. It appears that Modi is devising a plan to appeal to a wider section of the electorate to combat the secular parties and other regional formations in the forthcoming general elections.

Modi’s efforts to curb black money and to promote a cashless society caused a lot of pain to the rich. Poor, though were subjected to the equal amount of suffering, appear to have stood solidly behind him in the expectation that the measure would ultimately benefit them. Some of the statements he made soon after the demonetization announcement triggered a speculation that he slowly started ditching his rich and middle-class electorate and started embracing the poor and the downtrodden.

The moot point is, will Modi, in his effort to retain power in 2019 general elections, trigger a kind of class war between the haves and the have-nots to project himself pro-poor? His speeches certainly have some revolutionary undertones. However, only time will tell whether he will go to the extent of triggering a class war to transform himself into a messiah of the poor.

How to whether the toxic storm cooked up by Pakistan in Kashmir?

Kashmir has once again started burning. The unceasing unrest in one of the most beautiful places in the world has resulted in a deterioration of the already strained relations between the two Asian neighbors, namely, India and Pakistan. Considering the adverse impact the tensions may have on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, China may also get dragged into the conflict making it into a trilateral one.

Pakistan, along with Saudi Arabia, is at the vanguard of executing the Wahhabi Islam’s cherished project to take the entire humanity back to Stone Age. It has consciously and carefully nurtured radical Islam, which mushroomed into innumerable terror organizations. It appears that Islamist terror is a large scale and the only industry that is thriving in Pakistan. Almost all the countries are very well aware of the fact that Pakistan is a state sponsor of terrorism though many of them hesitate to accept it publicly for strategic reasons.

What we are actually finding in Kashmir is a spillover of the radical Wahhabi Islam that has been flourishing all over the world, especially in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Long ago Kashmir had a noble way of life called ‘Kashmiriyat’ which bonded together different religions, cultures and ethnicities. Slowly that cultural identity, which preserved harmony among people for centuries, had degenerated into religious nationalism triggering unrest and suspicion among the people. With the advent of the ultra-conservative Wahhabism the situation worsened and all the Kashmiri Pundit families, who were an inalienable part of ‘Kashmiriyat’ were driven away brutally from their homeland. The current unrest in Kashmir has nothing to do with ‘Kashmiriyat’ nor it has anything to do with the so-called Kashmiri nationalism. It has everything to do with the radical Islam, which is spreading its tentacles all over the world. It is largely aided and abetted by Pakistan. The pernicious role played by the Saudi oil money is perceptible in the form of Wahhabi mosques and madrassas, where the indoctrination of the young is happening continuously. The toxic storm that is gathering strength in Kashmir poses a grave threat not only to India but to the entire world.

Many people equate the stone pelting mobs with freedom fighters. But the moot question is, they are struggling for freedom from what? Freedom from democracy, secularism, and liberalism? After acquiring freedom from India what will they do? Will they embrace the Wahhabi school of thought which is determined to push the entire humanity into a sea of chaos? After India acquired independence from British rule some Muslim leaders demanded a separate nation for Muslims and secured one. Today what is the position of that Muslim nation? It got disintegrated into two nations and it has also transformed itself into an epicenter of terror with unceasing violence snuffing out innocent lives on almost daily basis. Therefore, it is the responsibility of not only India but also the world community to prevent Kashmir from following the footsteps of Pakistan.

Now, what are the options that are available for India to combat Pakistan? A war is certainly not an option. Because, India, a country of more than one billion people, have a lot at stake. We have a flourishing economy and we all look forward to a prosperous future for our children. And we do not want to offer the precious lives of our soldiers to the resultant holocaust. On the other hand, Pakistan, which is a state sponsor of terrorism and has scant regard for human lives, does not have anything to lose. Moreover, Pakistan, whose economy is in shambles, is not in a position to afford a conventional war. When pushed to a wall it may resort to using nuclear weapons, which may cause collateral damage to Indian lives and property. One more reason which makes India hesitate to go for a war against the rogue nation is, it has proved time and again that it is a democracy only for namesake and the so-called elected government is only subservient to the interests of its rogue army, which stays busy with its terror project. The situation could be compared to a conflict situation between a civilized man and a street ruffian. The street ruffian, who has nothing at stake, is always in an advantageous position and has everything to gain from the potential conflict. Therefore, the hotheads in India, who use belligerent language and indulge in saber-rattling, should tone down their rhetoric and think coolly.

The best way to tackle the menace of Pakistan is to make it bleed from inside. Pakistan, though formed as an Islamic theocracy, utterly failed to keep itself united on the basis of Islam. It lost Bangladesh and it is finding it difficult to deal with the freedom movement in Baluchistan. It promoted the ethnic cleansing of all its minorities, including Hindus and Sikhs. The entire world, except China and the OIC countries, are feeling fed up with Pakistan’s actions. This is the right time for India to step up its propaganda offensive against Pakistan and isolate it in the international arena. It can also seriously explore the option of extending political and material support to the dissenters in Pakistan to force it to come to terms. India, as the first step towards that direction, could explore the option of granting asylum to Baloch leader, Brahamdagh Bugti.

Last but not least Indian society should also be mindful of some influential elements in the political and media circles inside India, which, from time to time, come up with pro-Pak activities and rhetoric. Their statements and activities will only strengthen Pakistan’s hands and will also have a profound demoralizing impact on our soldiers, who are protecting the borders in the most hostile and precarious conditions. The activities of these people are also an insult to the souls of our brave soldiers who martyred while performing their duties. These elements are very dangerous and when questioned they take refuge in their democratic right to dissent and freedom of speech. The irony is most of these people are left-leaning and the entire world knows about the kind of democracy, and the right to dissent that are practiced in the communist countries like China and North Korea.

To conclude, India should tread cautiously and judiciously to safeguard its people’s lives and its economic and geopolitical interests. This is not the time to compare ourselves with Pakistan, which is rushing with its belligerent and provocative actions and also issuing nuclear threats. As the saying goes, fools rush in where angels fear to tread. And we should not rush in such haste lest we repent later.

An enlightening panel discussion at Hyderabad Lit Fest.

The Hyderabad Literary Festival (HLF), which was held at Hyderabad Public School (HPS) in Begumpet for three days, concluded on 10th January 2016. I visited the venue and witnessed some of the sessions on the concluding day of the festival. I found two sessions to my liking – one, a panel discussion on ‘Indian Prime Ministers’ and the other, was an interaction with writer Hindol Sen Gupta, who authored the book ‘Being Hindu-Old Faith, New World and You’.


The panel discussion on the topic ‘Indian Prime Ministers’ was conducted in the pre-lunch session and I found it particularly interesting. The participants were Sanjaya Baru, the media advisor to the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Kingshuk Nag, the resident editor of the Hyderabad edition of the Times of India. Both are eminent journalists and successful authors. Sanjaya Baru’s book ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ caused a lot of controversies but also became a runaway success. They are not only enormously experienced but also possess some insider knowledge about the functioning of the various governments. The session was moderated by Mr. Ajay Gandhi, the founder trustee of Manthan Foundation.

Both the panelists agreed on the success of the incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy. They stated that Modi’s foreign visits have so far been productive, improving our relations with many countries especially Russia, Japan and the US. His leadership gave a new impetus to the conclusion of some landmark deals with some vital countries. In fact, Baru has praised Modi’s attempt to make peace with Pakistan and contended that Pathankot attack happened because his Lahore visit was a success. So in stark contrast with what we read and hear in the social media and even in the Main Stream Media that Modi is spending more time on foreign soil with hardly any achievements to his credit, the two luminaries were in sync with each other in stating that Modi’s foreign policy, so far, has succeeded in bringing about perceptible improvement in the foreign relations.

Sanjaya Baru said that the electorate of India is not really unforgiving of corrupt politicians. He quoted the example of Tamil Nadu, where people invariably elect corrupt leaders. Then he turned his attention to the innumerable scandals that took place during the UPA regime. He said Congress could not manage the situation as it took a defensive posture and was too apologetic about the scams. He criticized the strategy adopted by the Congress party and observed that “You don’t fight against your adversary on his terms. You fight on your terms. They should have managed to turn the attention away from the corruption scandals and should have been able to control the narrative. Instead, they turned too defensive and apologetic, and gave an opportunity for the opposition to exploit the situation”. Indeed, an interesting insight given Sanjaya Baru, the former media advisor to Prime Minister, on how politicians deal with the situation when they are inundated with corruption allegations.

Kingshuk Nag sounded very interesting and did not mince his words while making some critical observations. When Sanjaya Baru praised Nehru as the greatest Prime Minister India ever had, Nag dissented from him and stated that Nehru, though had a golden opportunity to bring about many changes in the then newly independent India, he did not do anything in that direction. He opined that Nehru hardly brought about any administrative reforms and continued the British legacy and even went to the extent of terming him as the last viceroy of British India. He further stated that Nehru grossly mismanaged the foreign policy and opined that Kashmir problem and the problem of Tibet are the legacies left by Nehru which have become the millstones around the neck of India. On another instance, Nag called Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister to the empress Sonia, which triggered peals of laughter from the audience. He even referred to Nehru’s affair with Edwina Mountbatten, which in his opinion, influenced the shape of the Independent India, triggering another bout of laughter.

Baru was of the opinion that Manmohan Singh, after he got a second term, felt that it was his victory and he could operate more freely. However, congress made a constant and continuous effort to bring Rahul Gandhi. Had the Congress fared well in 2012 UP assembly elections, the congress people would have made Rahul the Prime Minister of India.

Baru and Nag agreed on the contention that Modi’s chances of success will depend on how well he controls Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and keeps the extreme elements at bay. India, being a pluralistic society, can’t afford to have a government which takes extreme positions. So Modi will achieve success as long as he follows a middle path. Nag observed that A. B. Vajpayee was successful till 2002 Gujarat riots, and after the riots took place his position started becoming weaker. However, both the authors agreed that Modi, being a Gujarati and a practical man, will definitely make further changes to his style of functioning. Nag seemed to be particularly impressed with Modi’s abilities to learn things very quickly. He cited the example of how Modi, who was a poor communicator in English, quickly managed to improve his English skills. Baru was of the opinion that Modi, with his effective foreign policy, managed to position himself as one of the most prominent third world leaders.

So all in all, I derived the satisfaction of witnessing an enlightening session which gave some insights into the functioning of various Prime Ministers, who for one or the other reason achieved fame.