Monday, November 30, 2015

Inorganic growth isn't working

The BJP's massive defeat in the Bihar Assembly elections, where the Prime Minister invested a shocking amount of time and political capital, calls for a major re-look at the top-heavy electoral machine that Amit Shah has converted the BJP into, in complete contrast to the Vajpayee days when the BJP was essentially a coalition of RSS-allied leaders from states who enjoyed very strong power in their state but were not really national leaders - until Narendra Modi made history in 2014.

Modi-Shah seem to be more impatient though, wanting to force through a Rajya Sabha majority to break the last shackle that the BJP government faces in the legislative domain. There is nothing wrong with this: any party seeks political power, it is by the very nature of democracy. Neither is there anything wrong with an inorganic growth strategy, wherein the PM is the key man even at the state level, even as the actual local party is in a poor shape. It worked in Jharkhand and Haryana, and even in Jammu. But it clearly met its limits in Bihar.

For now, Amit Shah will have to look for good old organic growth, investing time in local leadership, even if one of them might one day grow to challenge Modi himself. The worst thing that the BJP can do to itself right now is to become like Indira Gandhi's Congress, for that would be a disservice to all those who voted for it and believe in it. The road to a full Rajya Sabha majority will be hard and long, and it won't be a blitzkrieg like the Lok Sabha, but it can be done, and must be done, for the future of the nation is at stake.  

What's with Tipu Jayanti?

Karnataka CM Siddharamaiah, one of the worst CMs in the history of the state, has recently set off a storm by 'celebrating' Tipu Jayanti in honor of the late Islamist tyrant who murdered and converted millions of people in the Mysore region until he was stopped by the British (who later took up his work for him). The inspiration for this celebration of a medieval jihadist is not clear, and even the usual accusations of minority appeasement seem hard to digest. The answer, perhaps, lies in the Idea of India syndrome that the CM clearly has.

It is strange that leftists such as Girish Karnad seem to find an unusual pleasure in celebrating such mass murderers, in the process whitewashing their sins and rewriting history, but would prefer to totally ignore national icons who have truly contributed to the nation. When this strange syndrome mixes with religion, it becomes even stranger, for it seems only Islamic tyrants who ravaged the local Hindu populations are ever celebrated, with more moderate saints, philosophers and even scientists discarded as pseudo-Muslims!

It is in this context that Tipu Jayanti seems to have been 'celebrated'. This is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it enrages the Hindu population to see a genocidal bigot receiving taxpayer-sponsored paeans, and on the other it paints the entire Muslim population as being of the same ilk. In effect, it is the worst kind of discrimination possible, all to please just a handful of politically-powerful mullahs. What a shame! 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Coming Soon: Indian of the Year 2015

2015 thus far has been a mixed year for India: from major political reversals for the dominant BJP to some extremely forgettable movies, from the historic achievement of 100% toilets being installed in all schools to Virat Kohli's coming of age - much has happened in a very eventful year. Opinions 24x7 will once again commemorate the year gone by in the IOTY15 series in the first quarter of next year. As with the previous years, we will be looking at shrinking the number of awards and consolidating them into bigger ones. Do watch our for more.

Opinions 24x7 Presents
Indian of the Year 2015
Coming in March 2016

Sunday, November 8, 2015

What 2016 holds

2014 was the year of Narendra Modi and the BJP, winning the Lok Sabha election with a thumping majority and further extending that to win Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and the crown jewel, Kashmir. 2015 was exactly the opposite: the BJP faced humiliating defeats in Delhi and Bihar, both at the hands of foes that it had decimated in 2014. What will 2016 be like?

There are three assembly elections next year. Assam looks the strongest bet for the BJP to return after a 15 year stint in the Opposition, and this time without the AGP (although they would want to get then on board too). Recent defections in the Assam Congress and a strong anti-incumbency have weakened Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, and his position is extremely difficult.

West Bengal, soon after May 2014, seemed to be the next fort for the BJP to invade. However, somewhere in between, it fizzled out, presumably as a concession to Mamata Banerjee in exchange for cooperation in the Rajya Sabha. The CPIM has no standing in the state anymore, having lost their goons and muscle power to the TMC. WB will certainly be the most violent election in recent times, perhaps only equaled by the 2017 UP elections, but the outcome is well-known as of now. Mamata Banerjee will win a second term with ease, perhaps even expanding her majority. Unless the BJP can somehow throw a spanner into the works, which seems highly unlikely right now.

Finally, Kerala, literally the last major bastion of the Congress. The local body elections last week showed the tide shifting in favor of the LDF, particularly since it decided to bring back former CM VS Achuthanandan. The usual logic would imply that the UDF loses and the LDF wins, for that's how it works in Kerala, just like Rajasthan and Punjab (although the last election there broke that trend, having returning a SAD-BJP government). In the last state elections, the UDF won, but only by a very slender majority, which was also an aberration, since it's usually winner takes all. And then, the BJP's surprisingly strong show, having emerged out of Kasargode, winning a municipality and coming in second after the LDF in Trivandrum, puts another aberration into the mix. Kerala elections are usually very boring and predictable, bu 2016 may hold some surprises.

Noticed something? In two out of three elections, the main opposition is actually the BJP, and the Congress seems set to lose all three elections. Just goes to show how the BJP under Modi has replaced the Congress as the country's main party, though certainly not with the hegemony that Nehru and Indira enjoyed. 

Lalu's Grand Comeback

The bitter elections for the Bihar Vidhan Sabha ended yesterday with the so-called Grand Alliance of the JDU, the RJD and the Congress (all former opponents of each other) romping home with a 2/3 majority and leaving their challengers, the National Democratic Alliance of the BJP, the LJP, the RLSP and the HAM(S), to bite the dust. With this, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is ready to return to power for a third consecutive term, albeit with a very different coalition from his previous term.

But Nitish is not the real story. Lalu Yadav's RJD won an astonishing 80 seats of the 100 it had contested, emerging as the single-largest party in the Assembly and with the second largest vote share (the BJP still had the largest). This marks a full circle for Lalu, whose career seemed finished after his party was reduced to nearly nothing by the BJP-JDU combine in 2010, and when he was found guilty of the fodder scam and debarred from contesting elections. By getting so many of his children elected, he has ensured that he will live another day, even if Nitish Kumar is the nominal head of the government (for now). For the Congress, it marks the first time since the 2013 election season that it found itself on the winning side in a major election, and it actually did much better than expected. While still a minor force, this has certainly thrown some rope to Rahul Gandhi.

In looking at the NDA's performance, it is clear that the allies punched way above their weight. The BJP's core vote from the 2014 Lok Sabha election remained largely intact, but the allies were roundly defeated. Former CM Manjhi, who nursed ambitions to return to power, managed to win only one of his two constituencies, and all his other candidates were defeated. The highly casteist LJP and RLSP also won just two seats each, belittling their claims that, had they been given more seats to contest, they could've won them. In fact, by the looks of things, the BJP would've done better on its own! Manjhi is clearly finished for now, and the LJP has no bargaining power left in the Narendra Modi cabinet.

And speaking of Narendra Modi, 2015 marked a complete reversal from 2014, losing both the elections spectacularly. If Delhi was a blip, Bihar clearly marks a trend: the BJP has no answer to a united opposition. While it is able to keep its core voters intact, it is unable to get any more. Which is strange, given that Modi was supposed to have enlarged the core voters of the party. While Amit Shah's reputation as a master strategist, architect of the BJP's historic tally of 73 in UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, is going south, the amount of energy that the PM himself put into this election means that it was a referendum on his government. And therein hangs a different tale. 

Thank You, Anupam Kher

Actor Anupam Kher today let the #MarchForIndia march to Rashtrapati Bhawan today, accompanied by many well-known artists and professionals as well as many other citizens. Parallel marches were also reported in other cities. The march met the President and the Prime Minister to oppose the politically-motivated Award Wapsi campaign and state that they in no way feel stifled or victimized by any intolerance. This must be one of the first movements in recent times that has chosen to oppose the left-liberal narrative of the country, what they dub the 'Idea of India,' was challenged by the people of the country, and the Congress' party's agenda opposed by right-thinking citizens.

Mr. Kher has been sticking his neck out recently in the media, more than most others, to point out the hypocrisy of the campaign as well as its clear political undertones. This can be quite hazardous, because the liberal-left brooks no dissent, and crushes those who speak out against them. Sadly, Narendra Modi has been averse to cultivating a space for the right-wing intelligentsia (a rare breed after decades of persecution), so little has changed, except that the right-wing has gotten more space through social media, where it dominates.

A silly event during #MarchForIndia was an NDTV journalist claiming that the crowd heckled her and called her a 'prostitute.' Firstly, it is not wrong to heckle someone - it is an established procedure of debate. As long as it is done with decency, and definitely without threat of physical harm, it is fine, although obviously actual debate would be better. But heckling is by no means indecent, if done properly. Secondly, I doubt there were calling her a 'prostitute': in all likelihood it was #Presstitute, a nickname that a majority of mainstream journalists have earned through their blatantly partisan and even untruthful 'reporting,' if you can even call it that. While it is not the choicest of insults, it is certainly quite appropriate. Instead of blaming the gathering, it would help if the journalist would introspect as to whether she is really reporting news or just her opinions masquerading as news.

In another day and age, where the government and its allied media controlled the narrative, such a march would've been either impossible or largely ignored. It is testament to the unleashing of individual free spirit by former PM PVN Rao from the shackles of the Nehruvian state that the false narrative of the extremely powerful left-liberal establishment can be countered. And yet, there is still so much more to be done beyond countering, with the ultimate aim being to build a counter-narrative in entirety. That is still a long way to go.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Call for Tolerance

'Intolerance' has become the buzzword of this Bihar election. This week, Sonia Gandhi led her band of courtiers to Rashtrapati Bhavan, essentially asking for the President to dismiss the democratically elected government of Narendra Modi to please the elite of Lutyen's Delhi who are itching to manufacture a riot in the country and reclaim their throne. But then, none of this should come as a surprise: the Congress is the fountainhead of intolerance in India, it has become so addicted to power that it is prepared o destroy the country for it.

The question is: what can be done? How do we reclaim this as a country for all, and not a country of majorities and minorities, of Yadavs and Kurmis, of reserved and general, and of every other division that the Congress has created? The root of the problem is in the Constitution itself, which has been amended over and over, over a hundred times, to fit the illiberal machinations of the Congress party. The root of all intolerance in India is the idea that the state can be intolerant on behalf of the people - that the state can control the economy, education, sexual orientation, marriage, divorce, worship, food,... you name it, and its control by the state is constitutionally allowed, with highly subjective riders that any creative lawyer can overcome.

The first step to creating a more tolerant society then, is to make it clear that intolerance does not have legal sanction, not even by the government. First and foremost, the first amendment must be repealed and freedom of speech restored. The first amendment is the instrument through which the state can ban books and movies, it is the reason the censor board can exist. It must go. But freedom of speech is only one aspect. The most important instrument of freedom and tolerance is a free economy. The state must leave business, and it must do so in more meaningful ways than selling its stake to LIC. The state must not create corporations. Next, social freedom. Illiberal parts of the constitution such as calling for a control on cow slaughter, or laws such as a good chunk of the Victorian IPC, or the unending dole called reservations, must be repealed. And finally, legal equality. Special privileges for minorities must go, and a uniform civil code will have to be enforced. The country needs an actual justice system, and not the sham system we have now that takes decades to come to any decision, and where the biggest litigant is the state itself.

But I need not have wasted so many words. This whole thing can be summarized in one sentence: creating a tolerant society requires dismantling the Nehruvian state, for it is that very ideology and system that has turned us into an intolerant society. To see the downward slope that India has been traveling, one need only follow the history of the Constitution, from its origins through its amendments. An entire civilization was cut up into pieces and an attempt was made to impose a foreign, alien view on it. That is the root of all intolerance in the country, and destroying it will be only the first step in a long journey towards reclaiming our civilization.

And the Congress is the last agent to do that. 

How wrong we were

On May 16, 2014, to quote one article, 'the British finally left India'. With the BJP under Narendra Modi winning its first Parliamentary majority, free from all so-called coalition compulsions that saw Manmohan Singh lead the most corrupt government in history, we thought that finally, we could leave the Nehruvian state behind. We were absolutely mistaken. As the expected series of riots failed to materialize, Leftists and Congress lackeys started manufacturing their own, assisted by a pliant media, to look for every little incident, every little word, and blow it up out of proportion. Oh no, the British never left. They are here, they are alive and they are kicking.

But then, the very idea that Modi had vanquished them was silly, even too hopeful. And why not? After 60 years of persecution at the hands of Leftists, the right wing had finally emerged victorious in such a spectacular fashion, and they lost sight of the fact that the enemy was wounded and down, but not nearly out. They regrouped and tasted blood in Delhi, and now their sights are on the elections in Bihar. Hoping to ride a Lalu Yadav wave, with Nitish as merely a mask, these forces seek to undo everything that May 16, 2014 stood for: a return to fanning minority communalism for votes, a return to making caste the central template of governance, and a return to economic backwardness that has held India.

The Bihar elections and the entire gamut of shenanigans that have taken place in it should serve as a warning to the right wing: having tasted victory, we must not become complacent. The enemy is regrouped and in search of new allies, training and waiting for the day to strike. If we are not ready then, we will be subject to a fate much worse than what was seen hitherto. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Return of the Intellectuals

A few dozen Hispanic 'intellectuals' released an open letter calling for Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump to drop out of the race, hurling a series of accusations against him, everything from being racist to sexist. It was bound to happen as Trump's popularity soared and the usual method of politics seem to bounce off him - indeed, he made such slander from politicians his strength to show how hated he was within the DC establishment. So now it's time for Plan B - the intellectuals.

In the Leftist world, the intellectual is a funny creature. Technically, they should not exist, because they don't really contribute to the world in material terms. But in order to make lesser mortals of the utopian equal society understand their role in the great machine of the state, you need some people to generate the propaganda. Obfuscation and lies are not for the weak-minded: it takes a great gift to make so much slander up. And indeed, these intellectuals are no doubt gifted - they are professors, researchers, and administrators, and should be listened to in their respective fields.

The problem is when they try to project their expertise to areas where they are not experts. This is in effect a leverage: they are trying to use the respect from one field to make up for the lack of respect in another; immigration, in this case. For, if they really looked at what Trump was saying, it would be clear that he agrees with them on the role of Mexicans - but he wants them to come in legally. As recently as the CNBC GOP debate, Trump has gone to great lengths to explain that he would be happy to welcome in the workers that the American economy required - but legally. The millions he would throw out, or would like to in any case, could come back, but legally. In effect, Trump wants to fix the immigration problem without creating new ones - which is far more than can be said for the Democrats or even some Republicans.

And while Trump does appear to be sexist, it is not entirely wrong for him to claim that there is no point being politically correct. In any case, the President of the US is not supposed to be a conscience keeper (otherwise how was Andrew Jackson ever elected?), but a leader who can take tough, even unpopular, decisions. The President is also human and will come with their defects, and it is up to Congress and the American people to stop him if he errs (or she, if that's the case). This an election to elect a leader, and not a saint.

Although, leadership is where Trump probably lacks the most. Which is why this whole episode is way off the point. But why let facts come in the way of some good old outrage?