Skip to main content

RG is indeed discovering new territories. But there is a long way to go in channelizing the discontent... and building bridges

By Anand K. Sahay*
Rahul Gandhi, derided as soft in the head by a committed but unprincipled social media army (directed by an invisible hand), with sniper support from regulars, stunned detractors when he made quite a decent speech at Berkeley recently.
He answered probing questions from the university audience with candour, unlike the devious politicians who are deemed serious and capable because they offer opaque answers with double meanings that send out self-congratulatory messages to followers and mean threats to opponents. Throughout, the Congress leader displayed a lack of rancour, a touch of wit, and due regard for decorum.
This was enough to set the cat among the pigeons. Heavy artillery was deployed to dismantle Mr. Gandhi, although the Congressman is routinely lampooned as inadequate and inept by BJP-RSS. BJP chief Amit Shah made a quick jab below the belt. A cabinet minister aimed poison darts. Smriti Irani, a regime favourite, used her cabinet position to hog television time as she shot missiles dripping venom at the Congress leader.
This comes naturally to Ms. Irani, who made bold to assert that while some people had to work hard to reach where they’d got, the dynast had got everything on a platter. Naturally, people are curious to know in what positions this minister has toiled to bag plum cabinet posts after losing her Parliament election.
It is clear to everyone- even Mr. Modi’s cabinet colleagues- that the PM couldn’t have pulled off the trick that RG did. He is short on intellectual fibre. He is good at something else though, else he wouldn’t have been able to cash in on people’s urge for a “strong leadership”.
He brags without inhibition (Lord Krishna would have disapproved), he calls himself “Son of India”, he says those who preceded him were “against progress”, and he has worn a coat in public that cost lakhs of rupees (betraying a deep-seated sense of anxiety behind the bold facade). These unusual attributes in the top leader were lapped up by the masses. They thought they had found their man. He seemed to attack the elites. They were certain he would look after their interests.
But that time is past. Mr. Modi looks defeated when he takes the stage these days. He proffers jaded propaganda- eg, farmers’ incomes will double in five years; this at a time when more farmers are committing suicide every day across India than ever before. Also, employment is rapidly shrinking
No wonder Mr. Modi doesn’t answer any questions, leave alone searching ones. He has no time for journalists, even less for his own MPs and ministers, who bow and scrape before him as before a sultan of yore, worried that they might be ejected from the gravy train otherwise.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj offered a typical example recently. At the UN General Assembly, she covered the routine on Pakistan being the home of terrorism, and then launched into the PM’s fulsome praise for programmes such as Stand Up India and what have you, as she might at an election rally. “Good Luck India! Good Bye India!” One can almost hear that coming. Modi’s India looks badly faded. It is divided and despairing.
In the three years Mr Modi has been around, he has used the state apparatus to intimidate opponents. In his name, thugs have let loose repression on Muslims, the dalit community (although the PM courts Ambedkar flagrantly, hoping to win dalit votes), poor tribal people, holders of contrary opinion, and intellectuals.
The return of state awards by prestigious writers, thinkers, artists and the hit-style murders of rationalists and dissenting journalists inspired nationwide protests, but the bhakts or regime supporters are unfazed. Erdogan’s Turkey has despatched opponents to jail. We are not there yet. But the age of fear is upon us, and the age of attacks on the nation’s poorest. This takes us beyond authoritarianism- to a place from which quasi-fascism does not look so far.
State’s hungry beasts have been let loose on a particular television station, which in recent times has attempted to do straightforward, old-fashioned, journalism instead of keeling over like the rest and becoming a servitor of the regime. The CBI is now a monster unchained. A former IAS officer and now a well known activist for communal harmony, currently touring the country with young people to spread the message of societal peace, is being threatened by the tax brutes.
As for the PM’s ability to guide the country with sophistication and intellect (a requirement in a complex society like India), it will suffice to explore the contents of his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme. There is no need to dissect crucial issues such as demonetisation, GST, ‘surgical strike’, Swachch Bharat, Stand Up India, etcetera.
No wonder, every economic metric points to a tired, shrinking economy with little hope of recovery in the foreseeable future. People are seething with discontent. The farmers are in revolt. RSS’ student front, the ABVP, has lost university students’ election across India, although the important tests lie in UP and Bihar. When the PM was in his constituency Varanasi last week, a thousand BHU women students protested life under the regime, including pointing to sexual violence, but Mr. Modi had no time for them. They were lathi-charged. The friendly media looked the other way.
The PM and his cohorts give the call to protect India’s honour and self-respect through militarism. Their way is to pay overt obeisance to the armed forces. The establishment speaks of placing tanks at university campuses to inculcate a healthy dose of patriotism among young people. Any day, one expects ministers to arrive at cabinet meetings wearing jackboots and epaulettes. But can you honour the soldier when you dishonour the farmer? Isn’t the jawan the “kisan in uniform”?
Small wonder the world is eager to hear Mr. Gandhi’s message. People are paying attention partly because he put it across with remarkable ease- and pointed to truths that people already knew. After Berkeley, he highlighted the rising unemployment and falling growth rates at Princeton, besides being substantive on India, China and the world.
RG is indeed discovering new territories. But there is a long way to go in channelizing the discontent and building bridges with the non-BJP parties, besides fixing his own badly suffering Congress.

Comments

TRENDING

Tracing roots of Hindutva Zionism: cannon fodder for 'warped' nationalist pretensions

By Shamsul Islam*  Those who believe in a world free of hegemonic ethno-nationalism, racism, religious bigotry and hatred have rightly taken note of Zionism and its ally Christian Zionism, major perpetrators of ethnic cleansing of ‘Others’. However, the civilized world with its core belief in multi-culturalism and peaceful co-existence is oblivious to a no less dangerous threat to the present human civilization: the Hindutva Zionism. As the term reads it is part of the Hindutva world-view which stands for an exclusive Hindu India minus Muslims and Christians. The other religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism will have no independent status but treated as part of Hinduism. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; National Volunteer Organization) is the most prominent flag-bearer of the Hindutva politics whose cadres presently rule India, the largest democracy in the world. RSS was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1889-1940) in 1925 who was disillusioned with the Indian freedom st

'Blatant violation' of law by Central government in making NREGA payments

By Our Representative  In September third week, NREGA workers across the country were mobilised for two day so raise their issues and submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister. Organised the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM), a collective of groups that work with NREGA labourers across the country, workers from 13 states -- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal -- carried out Kaam Do Abhiyaan, staging demonstrations and rallies against what they called blatant violation of law by the Central government in making NREGA payments. While NREGA has had very positive impacts, it has lately become fruitless, exploiting labour, even though workers who have put in honest hard work have to wait for their wages endlessly, it was suggested.  In such a situation, there is a need to firm up NREGA implementation and end systematic corruption to ensure that workers get their basic NREGA entit

Shocking? No Covid vaccine trials conducted on pregnant, lactating women: RTI reply

By Rosamma Thomas*  A Right to Information applicant who sought details of safety trials conducted in India on pregnant and lactating women for three Covid vaccines in use in India – Covishield, Covaxin and ZyCov-D -- was shocked to learn from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) that Serum Institute, manufacturer of Covishield, and Cadila Healthcare, manufacturer of the ZyCov-D vaccine, had not sought permission for such trials.  Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, had sought permission for trial on pregnant women and later withdrawn its application. This response , provided after the applicant was initially unsatisfied with the response and went in appeal, is from the joint drugs controller, CDSCO. It was dated September 13, 2022. One researcher closely following the vaccine rollout, however, is of the opinion that the lack of a trial on pregnant and lactating women is a blessing; potential trial participants and their unborn babies thus escaped harm. Aruna Ro

Fascism on prowl? Religious meet 'deeply pained' at silence of Church, bishops, priests

Counterview Desk  The ‘Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace’which held its 17th National Convention at the Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad, Telangana from 22 to 24 September 2022 on the theme “Deepening our Identity as Religious: Responding to the Signs of the Times”, has expressed concern “at the deteriorating situation of our nation on every front”, especially stating, “Fascism seems to have come to stay” in India. At the same time, the convention, which took place with the participation of 60 persons from 16 states representing 20 religious congregations, in its unanimously-adopted statement added, “We have reached abysmal depths on every parameter: be it social, economic and political”, underlining, “The poor in India become poorer every day; the rich and powerful continue to profiteer at their expense and amass scandalous amounts of wealth.” Text: We, members (63 women and men Religious, from 16 states representing 20 Congregations) of the Forum of Religious for Justice

Rajasthan cops 'halt' Gujarat Dalit women's rally: homage to untouchability victim boy

By Our Representative  In a surprise move, the Rajasthan police stopped a Dalit women's rally from Gujarat on the borders after it crossed Gujarat alleging that it would "disturb peace" in village Surana, Jalore district, where the gruesome incident of death of a Dalit boy took place on August 13 after he was brutally beaten up by his teacher on touching the drinking water pot. Sources said, while the Gujarat government had "no objection" in allowing the rally, which originated from the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), an empowerment-cut-technical institute for teens founded by human rights leader Martin Macwan, on September 24 morning, the Rajasthan police stopped it for two and a half hours before allowing it to proceed to Surana. The decision to take out a women's rally was taken at a DSK meeting on September 5 following a condolence meeting of the NGO Navsarjan Trust, also founded by Macwan, activists committed to work against caste-based discrimination, orga

Introducing non-native cheetahs is 'not equivalent' to restoring pride in the nation

By Bappaditya Mukhopadhyay*  The Cheetahs from the African continent has finally been introduced to India by the Indian Prime Minister on his 72nd birthday. The process had started with the previous Government in 2009. However, the Supreme Court clearance was pending owing to the objection by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) plea to reintroduce cheetahs. Finally the clearance was obtained in January 2020 and thereafter Kuno National Park (KNP) was chosen for the reintroduction of first set of Southeast African Cheetahs. In the near future, depending upon the success story of the current reintroduction, more cheetahs from South Africa may also be introduced. This exercise has generated a lot of interest among various stakeholders with opinions on both sides galore. It is important to pose some questions that surround the whole exercise. Let us evaluate some of these arguments. The first set of arguments are quite detached from the issues of conservation as they most

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'Military diplomacy': US praises Bangladesh Army for leadership role in UN operations

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder* As the Indo-Pacific region represents the world’s economic and strategic center of gravity, the Indian Ocean today is becoming the centerpiece of all geo-strategic play. Cooperation in the region is crucial to implementing the international community’s global agenda, including achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Major powers like the US have enhanced and deepened their strategic engagement and leadership roles with countries in the region. The Indo-Pacific Army Management Seminar, or IPAMS, is a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) initiated conference that is aimed at facilitating and enhancing interactions among the armies of the Indo-Pacific region. This year's 46th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS)-2022, co-hosted by the Bangladesh Army and US Army Pacific (USARPAC), concluded in Dhaka. The objective of IPAMS is to promote peace and stability in the region through mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship. It is the largest confer

Grave error? Scholar blames ex-Gujarat babu for anti-Christian riots 'citing fake report'

By Rajiv Shah  A few days back, I received a message from one of the finest former Gujarat government bureaucrats, PG Ramrakhiani, a 1964 batch IAS official, who retired in November 2000. I would often interact with him in 1997-99, even later, after I was sent to Gandhinagar as a Times of India man to cover Sachivalaya. Those were turbulent times. Shankarsinh Vaghela was the Gujarat chief minister, under attack from two sides – from the BJP, which he had left to form a separate breakaway party, Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), one one hand, and the Congress, which was supporting him from outside, on the other. Ramrakhiani, in his message, referred to the book authored by Ghanshyam Shah and Jan Breman, both top-notch scholars who have known Gujarat in and out. Called “Gujarat, Cradle and Harbinger of Identity Politics: India’s Injurious Frame of Communalism”, I reviewed the book in January 2022.  It claims that Muslims in Gujarat have been turned into “new untouchables”, thanks to the Hin

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.