Its not Meat, it’s Modi — Stupid!

Frankly speaking the war over the ban on meat in Maharashtra is not just a matter of palate or choice, but is a political war with currents that run much deeper. In fact, the meatban3The controversy over the meat ban in Maharashtra, has less to do with Meat more to do with Modi. outrage against the ban has more to do with Narendra Modi as the PM, than the availability of chicken-koliwada on the streets of Mumbai.
Ever since, Modi has ascended to the top seat in Delhi, there has been much discomfort in Maharashtra, as to how to really deal with him. You see, for a very long time Chief Minister Modi of Gujarat was a big time rival of Maharashtra, and he made no bones of it. On a typical day, he would wean away the corporates with his Vibrant this and that, tom-tom ‘the 24 hours’ of power availability in state (as against load shedding in Maharashtra), or talk about how farmers are thriving in Gujarat (while committing suicide in Maharashtra). Since, there was a Congress Government all the while Modi ruled in neighbourly Gujarat, he invariably always attacked Maharashtra, to showcase how well Gujarat was doing. He was like the schoolboy who spoke most and shone brightest, while the rest sulked, especially Maharashtrians.
meatban5Historically too, Maharashtra and Gujarat were rivals for a long time (even though they did not really exist back then). There is an economic history behind it. The Britishers first established their ‘factory’ in Surat, which essentially was a trading place for Indian goods to be exchanged with those of the British. This made Gujarat (especially Surat) the financial hub. So much so, that when Shivaji was running short of money, he ransacked the city (then under Mughal domination) and made off with much booty. That was essentially the first clash, but it send the agenda for subsequent interactions. When Bombay came into being as a trading post, it were the Parsees from Gujarat that took the lead. When the state of Maharashtra was being created from Bombay Presidency, the Gujjus, especially Morarji Desai opposed it. He had even advocated creating Bombay as a union territory. The rivalry, so, is not really a new one.

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The rise of Arvind Kejriwal and the revenge of the Fourth Estate

If you have been following the news from Delhi (and am sure that if you are an Indian or in India, you can’t miss it), one thing is seemingly unmistakable; Modi Magic is waning. The electoral projections have been pretty dour; AAP might just have crossed the laxman-rekha, and might form the government soon. The opinion polls till now had always projected Arvind Kejriwal as the most popular man for the CM’s post, but AAP was never even close to forming the government. BJP was going to win the election, even though rise of aap 1Kejriwal was the most popular. But over the past month or so, the gap has eroded, and now if the latest figures by ABP NEWS-Nielsen and ET-TNS polls predict a landslide victory for AAP. There is apparent defeat that is being foisted on BJP, even before a single vote is polled. The atmosphere is so electric that for the first time ever, the chief of a political party (Amit Shah) openly blamed a network channel (Aajtak) for conniving with AAP, to help it win the elections.

So, what has actually gone wrong for the BJP, has it snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, much like the Indian cricket team?

Honestly, if one were to do a serious analysis of the way BJP has gone, there isn’t anything tragically/tactically wrong about all the things they did. Let’s look at what are the reasons that are being presented for BJP’s loss and possible reasoning:

1) Bringing in Kiran Bedi: Almost all channels are unanimous in their assessment that Kiran Bedi was a wrong move for BJP. But considering the choices they had, bringing in Harshavardhan or any other would not have helped either. In comparison, Kiran Bedi has a more ‘mass appeal’ than rest, and her past performance would have much helped her case. Possibly, the timing was an issue, as Bedi has very little time to get in the groove, not much else.

2) Waning appeal of BJP: There is also this talk of how BJP’s appeal is waning, especially so in light of the lackadaisical performance of the Modi government. Yet, the fact remains that in the recent elections held in Haryana and Maharashtra, the party did exceedingly well. There is no governance deficit, and PM Modi is still known to be a popular and strong leader. Relatively speaking, BJP has only reduced much less than their opponents, so this is certainly not the case.

3) Its about team play: Considering how AAP’s biggest detractors are former AAP members, the fact remains that the AAP is certainly not a Barjatya family, so as to say. Right from Shazia Ilmi to Vinodkumar Binny, AAP has been beset with many more desertions in comparison to BJP or even Congress. In fact, even one of the founders of the party was seen thumping support for Bedi, endorsing her credentials over Kejriwal.

4) The dying Hand factor: The only positive thing in AAP’s favour is the complete decimation of Congress. With the latest Jayanti Bomb, the little credibility that remained has now been lost. With Congress not even in the contest, voters are now forced to choose between BJP & AAP.

Yet the fact remains that BJP is losing this elections big time, irrespective of whatever they do. Already the party has deployed its biggest contingent of leaders, Modi is speaking at rise of aap 3rallies, they are cornering AAP on various points, yet the battle of perceptions seemed to be lost, and now the battle of ballot remains.

The loss of Delhi can indeed a big setback for Modi-Shah duo, who risked quite a lot by unilaterally foisting Kiran Bedi on top of everyone. A loss here, could mean a loss of face for sure for duo from Gujarat. So, why are they losing the elections? Or could it be, that, they are being made to look like they are losing by the media, quite like Shah alleged? And in case it is so, why would Media do so?

To analyse that, we would have to make a short trip down the past. Right from the onset of his political career, starting as a Chief Minister, Narendra Modi has had a tenuous relationship with the fourth estate. Post Gujarat riots, the relations were ambivalent at best, with Modi being portrayed as a monstrous villain. And the hatred was pretty mutual. After a few early failed attempts made by Modi to co-opt the mediawallahs, he retreated to his fortress and closed the gates.

Come 2014, and as Modi rose, he apparently softened his stance, gave a few interviews and made a few laughs. Yet the undercurrents of acrimony were still there. Except for a few journos like Rajat Sharma, who made the right bets, the rest were much flustered by the way Modi came to power, riding the wave of euphoria. While, the journalists were now compelled to cover the PM Modi, the fact remained that they still did not like the man that was. And Modi was in no mood to help them do it either.

But while, Modi was a bit accommodating while running for the PM’s post, he turned into a stone wall, once he became the PM. In fact, ever since PM Modi has parked himself at 7 RCR, he has been running the government quite like he did when he lived at Swarnim Sankul in Gandhinagar. The government is mute, the ministers are gagged. There is nothing that moves without Modi’s permission. The government now communicates with the rise of aap 5audience through social media, trying to effectively by pass media all together. Modi is also using radio to reach the masses, every month he takes out time for the Mann Ki Baat address, but press meets, are still a rarity. He will not even take mediawallahs along with him in the plane on foreign trips, which almost all the predecessors did. The angst that media hold against Modi runs pretty deep and they were just looking for an opportunity to get even, Kejriwal in a manner of speaking is their payback.

Unlike other elections like J&K and Maharashtra, or even Haryana, Delhi is a very different ballgame. It is a largely urbanised centre, much susceptible to popular opinions. There is a huge-chunk of undecided voters, who might just go with the party that is most likely to win, so that their votes aren’t wasted. And then comes the minority votes that often does strategic voting — namely transferring the bulk of votes en masse to any opponent who is most likely to checkmate BJP. Hence, all the positive noise, and projections is actually helping AAP formulate the victory many days before actual polling date. Thus, even though there are quite a few issues that could potentially harm AAP, right from the number of charge-sheeted candidates, to how rich they are, or even the funding issue, a lot many channels are actually playing soft with Kejriwal and the party. And they have even thrown the caution to the winds, I mean, for channels that have often got the projections wrong when Modi is in the electoral fray, yet the numbers are anything but fantastic, like one projection was that AAP will get 50 seats. The idea is simple, hurt Modi (and Shah) the place where it hurts the most, a loss in the elections.

rise of aap 6By the way media isn’t alone in desiring Modi’s defeat. The over-arching Sangh is not pleased with the way Modi-Shah are running the show. The earlier campaign (the Ramzaade one) was completely vetoed by Modi-Shah, as they brought in Bedi into the fold causing heart-burn in the Sanghi setup. So far, the Sangh has played a significant factor in crafting Modi’s victories. This time, they have taken a hands-off approach. Even as the size of Kejriwal is growing, Sangh has retreated into the Jhandewala fortress. People there, also wish for a loss in Delhi elections, so the presumptuous duo are thought a fitting lesson.

Thus, the battle of Kurukshetra (or rather Delhi) is a much complex one. There are many factors at work here, many futures at stake. The fact is, in case the Modi-Shah duo emerge victorious, than the ambivalence between the media and them is only going to increase. In case of a loss to AAP, Modi-Shah will have to make concessions to the Sangh, and resolve to play by the rules, especially for the big elections of Bihar and Bengal. The repercussions of a victory and defeat in Delhi would be much widely felt, and only one set would be laughing at the end of the day.

— (Disclaimer: All the images used in the story have been randomly downloaded from the Net. In case of copyright issues, please do let me know, and I will remove them)

How BJP won (from) the Presidential Elections!

Till about a fortnight back, BJP as a party was in complete disarray. Beset by bickering and squabbles involving almost all its leaders, from Joshi to Modi to Gadkari to Advani, the party seemed like a Titanic destined to sink in the choppy 2014 waters. With so much politics in-house, BJP was all on a course to lose whatever little moral high-ground that it had come to occupy in the past 8-odd years of UPA rule. The prognosis was dour; namely, the lotus was wilting, and wilting much fast.

But just about when the whole of nation was getting sick and tired of the Joshi posters and the Modi jibes; something much bigger happened that took the whole focus away. Quite like Lord Krishna who supplied unending yards of chiffon sari to save Draupadi’s honour, destiny intervened for BJP with the announcement of the Presidential Elections. To be fair, a president in India is merely a titular head, and barring a few exceptions most individuals have been p

eople without a head (so as to say). Essentially, a president’s job in our socialist-secular-democratic-republic is to serenade on the Rajpath surrounded by a bevy of brawny surd bodyguards dressed in red and riding horses on the 26th of Jan, and secondly live in a very ostentatious palace and play host to foreign dignitaries. In fact, a year or so back, there was a contest that had been announced for the ‘world’s best job’, namely, that of a caretaker of a scenic coral island. Somehow, I think, being president of India is somewhat similar to that, an eternal holiday for 5 years, except that you have to sign a few bills forwarded by the cabinet now and then.

Coming back to the current presidential frenzy. Right from the start, the presidential race was set to be much exciting from the word go. Thanks to her numerous foreign jaunts and her lack-lustre performance otherwise, Pratibha Patil had ensured that she and her brood would be vacating the palace on Raisina Hills, with no even an atom of a chance of re-election. This time round, UPA, led by Congress also did not have all the numbers to enforce its choice and were largely dependent on like-minded (rhymes with money-minded) parties to help them build a consensus. On the other hand, while UPA was weak, NDA led by BJP was even weaker when it came to its votive power, and had little or no choice but to merely nod in agreement, under the sham of consensus.

There was little doubt that much like last time, Congress would yet again be able to install its man at Rastrapati Bhavan, who will oversee the important 2014 elections. Basically, it was Sonia Gandhi’s game to lose. And much surprisingly she did! Continue reading

A :( yet :) Communalist

Communalists like me in India are a wee bit dazed at the moment by the way the election results have unfolded in India. While, victory by NDA (led by a communal BJP) seemed improbable; the contrary (victory of UPA) did not seem a possibility either. To that end, I had stuck out my neck last time (http://shashwatdc.com/2009/04/who-will-be-the-18th-pm/) and declared that Congress will lose the hustings and so will BJP, and we will be see the emergence of a prime minister from one of the numerous fronts. May 16th proved me, and so many more like me, to be wrong and I stand corrected now. I had completely underestimated the intelligence of Indian voters (though I still quite doubt its existence) and had gone ahead and predicted the future as perceived from my rather urbanised mind. I had forgotten that India lives in the villages, thus the issues that were relevant to me were not the same with that of say a Shankar in Azamgarh. 

To be honest, I have never really been able to fathom as to what makes the Indian masses tick; is it a mere battle of survival, so that anyone who gives them the maximum freebie wins or is it caste/religious identity? Considering the way Indians politicians pander and beguile the populace year after year, it is hard to expect them to be sane and rational. Either my fellow countrymen, that number well over a billion, are very intelligent can segregate the wheat from the chaff or are complete idiots who can be easily taken for a ride by wily politicos. Looking at the results of the 15th Lok Sabha elections from this prism, I am a bit more inclined towards believing that Indian voters are more sensible than they are thought to be. And, before all the Congressi start jumping with ‘we told you so’. Let me clarify my statement.

The reason why I detest Congress more from an ideological point-of-view than from a logical one. For me the Gandhi-worship is akin to the dynastical worship of the past; recall how the zamindar babu’s son would be another zamindar himself, similarly, a Gandhi scion has no need to prove himself before being vaulted into the stratosphere of Indian politics. All that is required is a mere name that can be earned by birth or by marriage. This herd mentality, rather common trait among Indians who have been accustomed to be ruled for ages, pisses me no end. And that is the primary reason why I want the callous Gandhi party to be decimated. Continue reading

Who will be the 18th PM?

Look at any newspaper, magazine, news channel, online media, just about anything, the hot discussion or rather the only discussion that is taking place these days is as to what will happen to the 15th Loksabha, who will win, who will lose and who will stay put. The best brains of this nation are trying to come out with the answers, right from the grey-haired political analysts to the scores of psephologists who have made a well paid business out of predictions.

And yet, as in the past, all these opinion polls and surveys fail to reveal the story, election after election. The reason is simple, the inherent bias. All Indians are political, whether they agree or not. Hence, when they are asked to make the choices they do so based on their desires and hopes (which by the way are shaped by their biases). It is very hard for any analyst, reporter, or even a psephologist to get rid of that bias. And yet, they pretend valiantly to do so. Thus, before every election there are these predictions that are built upwards and then fall flat like a house of cards.

Being a political Indian myself, I strongly feel the urge to add to the cacophony of these predictions. I think can foretell the future based on my ‘gut feel’ and am quite sure how things will turn out. And since, I am aware of my limitations (rather my communal bias), I feel the best thing to do will be to find a few more political Indians like me who feel strongly on the issue and have biases that are not quite like mine. So, while I am tainted in the communal colour of Saffron, I have asked my friend or rather comrade Abhijit Deb who is dipped in Red to make his predictions, and finally to balance the 2nd and the 3rd front, we have a supporter of the Gandhian family Akhilesh Shukla pitching in for Congress I.

Among us, we are making predictions on how things will turn out in the days to come. And all this at a fraction of the cost of all those psephologists and analysts, just a couple of ‘cutting chai’. At the end of the political tamasha, we very much intend to return to this post, and am sure one of us would be grinning to himself patting his own back, while the rest will be terming this to be a rather childish and immature exercise or just that Indian politics is beyond the range of any rational analysis based prediction, it is game of tart, for the tart-headed.

So, mere pyaare desh vasiyon. Here are the 3 scenarios from three biased journalists, please take them with a pinch of salt and a tequila too (if you can afford one, that is). Here it goes:

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Online Netajis……

Political parties of all hues and contours are jumping on to the online bandwagon in pursuit of the Indian voter. Will they succeed or not is the big question on everyone’s mind. Here is a primer.

“Power comes from the barrel of a gun,” is what Chinese dictator Mao Tse Tung had proclaimed many decades back. The Chinese revolution in the 1950s, became the sort of template for almost all the revolutionaries across the globe, be it Fidel Castro in Cuba to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, from Saparmurat Niyazov in Turkmenistan to Prachanda in Nepal. Despotic governments propped up by Kalashnikovs popped up across different continents and regions. Apparently, gun and government complimented each other beatifically.

Then in 2009, to be precise, another revolution took shape, a black man with mixed heritage ascended the most powerful position in the world by being elected as President of the United States beating all the odds. A year earlier, no one would have given Barrack Obama even a sniffing chance of winning the election but that is what he did in a manner that took most of the world by surprise. His strategy was similar to the ones used by all the dictators (a promise of change that roused the populace) except for one crucial difference: instead of gun, Obama relied on copper wire. His message of change was not spread by gunshots but by telephone and cable lines across the 50 states of the US.

Medium became almost as powerful as the message itself. By winning over the White House, black Obama engendered a new template for all the politicians (usually the democratic ones) to follow, namely the use of Internet and Telephony to spread the message.

Come May 2009, this Obama template will be put to its most rigorous test in the largest democratic election of the world: when the 15th Lok Sabha elections take place. With over 8,00,000 polling stations and nearly 700 million people eligible to cast their votes the battle royale for the PM’s seat has begun for the various political parties.

The coming of Cyber Politics

Since, this election promises to be a closely fought one, no party is leaving any stone unturned in its pursuit of the voter, with much attention and time being given to the first-time voters and the tech-savvy middle class. Impressed by the way Obama spread the message of change, political parties are using every means at their disposal to spread their word, be it television, print or hoardings. From roadside walls plastered with posters to fancy adverts on television. The battle for the ballot has now spilled on to the cyberspace, with each party looking at making gains by hosting websites, blogs, or sending emails.

It is not as if that political parties have suddenly discovered the Internet as a medium, both the Congress and the BJP have had online presence for a long time. For instance, years back Congress Leader Jagdish Tytler had launched an online forum while for BJP it was their tech savvy leader Pramod Mahajan. In fact, BJP had launched its own website and formed an IT cell way back in 1997. The rest, like the Communist Party of India (CPI), Telugu Desam party, Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and the rest, all have a web presence.

Nonetheless, the parties are now moving to the next stage, from static website to interactive Internet strategies. Again, the Obama template comes into play. According to reports, the biggest game changer for Obama was his community building exercise, which included an impressive 13 million e-mail addresses and some 2 million friends on his social networking site. Not surprisingly, parties are trying to emulate the same in India by actively using technology to reach out to the electorate.

The Saffron winner Continue reading