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'State of Mind' by Kumar Ketkar

Has Nirav marred Modi’s name?

Kumar Ketkar

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The tide against the so-called omnipotent Modi government seems to be decisively turning. The Nirav Modi affair could be the last straw (rather last diamond) on the proverbial back of the NDA. Not only the last name of the scamster is Modi, but both the namesakes seem to know each other so well that even in the exotic Davos, they could embrace each other and appeared in a common photograph.

But that the tide is turning is also evident from the fact that the admiring (and sycophantic) columnists have begun to express doubts about Modi becoming Prime Minister again in 2019. Chetan Bhagat went to the extent of advising Rahul Gandhi and his handlers as to how and what he should do to come to power. True, he put in a caveat saying that Modi is still invincible! Then there is the famous corporate intellectual Gur Charan Das, who is worried that the issues like beef and strident anti-Muslim campaigns could undermine the good and great work of the Modi government. Though he cited a few achievements (though questionable and dubious), he was afraid that the voters are turning away from the communal and intolerant BJP led by the Hindutva gangs of the RSS.

Even the renowned and redoubtable Swapan Dasgupta who was hugely forgiving to Modi, for his sins of omission and commission, wrote a column expressing serious doubt about a victory in 2019. Lord Meghnad Desai, once a comrade in his youth and later a liberal (and now neo-liberal) columnist expressed disappointment and added that the people are getting disillusioned. He has been a strong advocate of Modi so far. The famous, self-declared right-wing columnist Tavleen Singh is writing almost every week that Modi is not carrying out economic reforms and allowing the “fringe” fanatics to usurp the political agenda of the BJP.

Swaminathan S Ankakeswar Aiyar, known for his fierce individualism and support for genuine right wing (even neo-liberal) policies, and a strong critic of the Congress policies (particularly of Pandit Nehru and Indira Gandhi), has now launched a blistering attack on Modi’s protectionist policies that resemble Nehru’s (obstructive and regressive) socialist approach. Aiyar too had hoped and thought that Modi is a reformer! There were fence sitters and anti-Congress commentators, who thought and wished Modi to make India corruption-free and Congress-Mukt! But when they saw the BJP on a recruitment mission of those very congress leaders whose corruption record was well known, even they started logging out!

For almost three years these and others, not only “Bhakts” but other naive well-wishers of Narendra Modi were sure that Modi will be Prime Minister till 2029, winning both, 2019 and 2024 Loksabha elections. Congress era was over, Nehru-Gandhi dynasty is heading for oblivion and new (Hindu!) India has begun to emerge which soon will become superpower was their belief. Their conviction was that Modi will surpass all icons like Nehru, even Mahatma Gandhi. That is why they did not find anything odd when they saw Narendra Modi on “Charakha” weaving yarn, in the same place as Gandhiji on portraits and calendars.

They vehemently and even viciously attacked and regularly trolled those who disagreed with them were on March to erase not only last 70 years’ history but even the freedom movement itself because it was led by Gandhiji and Nehru. They are trying to replace Nehru with Deen Dayal Upadhyay. They want to replace Gandhiji after “winning” 2019 election. Till then the Mahatma is supposed to be the brand ambassador for the “Swachhata Abhiyan”! Once the Gandhi-Nehru hurdle is out, the space will then be open for Hedgewars and Golwalkars. Then not only Ram Mandir at Ayodhya will be built, there will also be “Nathuram Mandirs” across the country to honour Nathuram Godse for the great work done of killing the Mahatma.

The changes in the Constituion, to remove terms like secularism and socialism, and replacing them with Hindu Rashtra will have to wait till the victories of 2019 or perhaps 2024. Earlier both Modi and his Sancho Panza, Amit Shah, were so confident of 2019 that they were projecting 350 to 400 seats in Loksabha. Even a large number of opposition leaders began to say that in 2019, Modi victory is assured. Modi wants to cross the highest Congress figure of Nehru, Indira, and Rajiv.

The so-called success of demonetisation and a landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh assembly election, their confidence level reached cloud 9. The clouds began to dissipate during the Gujarat campaign. Most BJP leaders began to say that Gujarat results were a stunning setback. The BJP which wanted and hoped to win 151 Sears in Gujarat could not even compete century as they ended up at 99. That was just seven seats more than simple majority.

That shocked the so-called “unconquerable” Amit Shah. He was similarly humiliated when Ahmad Patel won Rajya Sabha seat. In fact, Ahmad Patel had thrown a gauntlet at Amit Shah and challenged him for assembly election. Shah, in his own delusion of his massive election campaign, had ignored the warning. It is said that whosoever the campaign volunteers were, they were told that Modi’s charisma and Shah’s war machine will move heavens but will win Gujarat with 150 plus seats.

But as they saw Rahul Gandhi’s campaign succeeding, they began to develop cold feet and the results shattered them. Now they have begun to fear reverses in Rajasthan (where the BJP lost all by polls), Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh where elections are scheduled at the year-end. Before that there is Karnataka. Apprehending that the BJP cannot get its majority in Karnataka, Shah has struck a deal with Deve Gowda and his son, Kumaraswamy. According to the MoU between them, Kumaraswamy will be made chief minister in the Karnataka ministry which the BJP will join, even if they have more seats.

The level of desperation is written large on the faces of the Sanghparivar. They will lose at least 100 seats to bring their tally from 282 to 182 in the Loksabha. In that scenario, who will be the Prime Minister? The names of Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj are tossed around, but there are also contenders emerging like Nitish Kumar or Chandra Babu with the BJP support. Sharad Pawar will be an eternal candidate for the top job,

The point is that the stage is getting set for the most dramatic (perhaps violent) developments in 2019, which no one can predict. Suddenly the tide has turned and the Modi-Shah duo has begun to realise that they too are political mortals like the rest.

'State of Mind' by Kumar Ketkar

Leaders may perish but not their legacy

Kumar Ketkar

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deaths

In college, in our logic class, the simple syllogism used to be taught to prove the validity of deduction as a method for arriving at “truth”. The most popular syllogism worldwide was: “All men are mortal, Socrates is a man and therefore Socrates is mortal.” I did not understand why mortality of poor Socrates was invoked to show that the “a priori” statement can be taken to its “logical consequence” and proved right.

In the last three weeks, that syllogism came to haunt me. Suddenly death was becoming a “normal” news. If indeed it was necessary to remind us that we are all mortal, that reminder was served with unusual frequency. For most politicians, who live life and play power games as if they are immortal, the warning of mortality came in such rapid succession, that they were rattled to the core.

Kalaignar Karunanidhi’s death was followed by Atal Behari Vajpayee, both in their mid-nineties. So it was considered “natural” to die. Also both were ill and in hospital for long. But not so the vibrant Gurudas Kamat who was just 63. As if to keep the continuity of series of death, the wonderful human being Ajit Wadekar passed away at 77. He was not a politician, but he kept mortality “alive” in the media. Then came the sad news of energetic Kuldip Nayyar. He too was in the mid-nineties.

These and some other, not so famous, but important persons in their own right too left this world. The politicians and the celebrities, know in their hearts that they are all mortal. But such quick reminders of the inevitable gave rise to private, hush-hush conversation of who are in the queue now.

Often, such deaths are seen by other seniors in the Party as opportunities for changing the line, strategy or alliances. Many in the same party look forward for a better position in the Party. Those who keep nursing private jealousies and envies in fact are even cynically happy at such deaths. Those in other parties also have a vested interest in such mortalities.

We have seen very recently how after Jayalalitha’s death, the AIADMK went for a free fall. A few years earlier, we saw how NTR’s death led to turmoil in the Telugu Desam. Or we are witnessing how after YSR’s accidental death the whole Congress in Andhra Pradesh disintegrated. Over forty years ago the Janata Party had fallen apart even before Jaiprakash Narain passed away.

Of course, Vajpayee’s passing away is the unlikely to change the equations in the party. Narendra Modi had effected the changes, much before Atalji took last breath. So he and Amit Shah are not particularly bothered about who else is in the departure lounge of life.

It would be unethical to list the names. But all of us know who they are. Some of them are on life support system, some in coma and some others apparently healthy but in the twilight zone.

They played their innings, practiced skulduggery, betrayed or backstabbed, made headlines in the media, were controversial, achieved grand success, won awards but often thought that they would continue to be in limelight, even would remain young and charming. They do not realise that the Socratic syllogism will hit them too.

The scientific research on ageing and man’s eternal desire to conquer death have made most even common people to feel that they can beat the nature. The number of cases pending in the courts, often change the the course of the conflict by sudden deaths.

In case of industrialists, deaths can crash the markets, split families and companies they Inherit. We know how one leading celebrity family in industry went through huge and vicious corporate fight between the two brothers. Frequently the internecine or fratricidal war within continues till the company and family is destroyed. This happens very routinely. But in some cases, the death in the family closes the chapter for ever.

Despite these issues existential realities, the societies mourn deaths, political parties pay rich tributes to the departed soul and some enthusiastic supporters start planning monuments. Poor statues stand somewhere in utter loneliness, till a next generation or further. Next one comes and slowly starts wondering who the character was and what he or she did for whom!!

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'State of Mind' by Kumar Ketkar

Is Hindu Rashtra turning into a reality?

Kumar Ketkar

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Hindu

The iconic Red Fort in Delhi is still “Red Fort”! Maybe if Narendra Modi is back as Prime Minister next year, he would want it to be known as “Saffron Fort”. The city of Allahabad is renamed as Prayag, the railway station Mugalsarai as Deen Dayal Upadhyaya junction. Aurangzeb Road as APJ Kalam Marg. Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road station as Prabhadevi.

There is also a proposal to rename Taj Mahal as Tejo Mahal! Recently the Supreme Court admonished the Modi government for neglecting the magnificent monument of Taj Mahal and letting it get ruined by lack of maintenance and pollutants. The Court said, “if you don’t want to preserve it, demolish it, but don’t neglect it”. After all, some fringe Hindutva fanatics had said soon after the destruction of the Babri Masjid that there was no reason for the Muslim architecture to be there in Hindu India.

So when Narendra Modi addresses the nation for the last time of his “first term” in office as Prime Minister from the ramparts of the Red Fort, he could very well signal the New India that he envisages. He need not plan Hindu Rashtra, de jure, when he has already achieved it de facto. There is no necessity to change the constitution. Within the current framework, the RSS can bring about the Hindu Nation.

Ban on beef, even non-vegetarian food, in many parts; the tendentious debate on triple Talaq and polygamy, the introduction of National Registration of Citizenship, branding all “unwanted” Muslims as illegal Bangladeshis and campaign for throwing them out, with violence if necessary, sustained and inhuman demand to let Rohingyas die or disappear from our nationalist soil, removing all chapters in history books relating to Mughal period, rewriting history of Tipu Sultan by calling him a vicious villain, undermining, even erasing the glorious era of emperor Akbar—are all reflections that the Hindu Rashtra has arrived, without changing even an alphabet of constitution.

You can pay tributes to Mahatma Gandhi, even as you eulogise Nathuram Godse, you can destroy the Gandhi Samadhi, even as you create “Nathuram Mandir”, you can isolate inconvenient constitutional provisions while proclaiming from housetops that Modi regards Constitution as true Indian religion, you can celebrate Dr Ambedkar even as you quietly undermine his legacy.

Then why will the Red Fort remain Red and not become Saffron? It too is the architectural grandeur of the Muslim rule. No less but Aurangzeb himself issued his diktats from there. Now the Hindu emperor named Narendra Modi issues ordinances from there. (And indeed, Narendra means the Emperor on Throne). Why don’t we change the calendar too? Why should we follow the Christian calendar and celebrate January 1 as the first day if the New Year? Already there is a demand that we should introduce the Hindu calendar. We will have Modiwahan Shak from 2019!

Narendra Modi had promised “New India” and he has brought it in his very first term. In his second term, with 350+ seats, he says, India will replace China and even America as the global superpower!

For being a superpower, you don’t depend on French Rafale planes, F-16 US planes, Russian Kalashnikovs, Israeli intelligence-gathering equipment. You don’t have to plead and beg for membership in the Nuclear Supply Group or for entry in the Security Council, support for South China Sea diplomacy or for Doklam military management.

You can’t be a superpower when your 35 per cent of people live in abject poverty, when two-thirds of India is on rural economy and when your science and technology research is pathetic. You can’t be a superpower when almost all your neighbours taunt you, insult you or do not care for yours.

Even Nepal, with a population of just three crore people can challenge India. Sri Lanka with two crore people can politically confront India. Pakistan has about 19 crore people. Our one state of Uttar Pradesh is demographically larger than the whole of Pakistan (including Sindh, Punjab, Baluchistan and frontier region) and yet the aspiring superpower India is obsessed with Pakistan’s military and political challenge.

The so-called rate of growth of the economy, even if you ignore simulated statistics, does not attract Foreign Direct Investment. The planners are constantly worried about the flight of Foreign International Investors. The rupee is falling incessantly vis-a-vis dollar and it could go to even 80 one 90 rupees a dollar. Modi had said that when he comes to power, the dollar-rupee rate will be ₹40 a dollar.

You can’t be a superpower with thousands of your farmers committing suicide. You can’t claim even to aspire for that status with the army of the unemployed expanding at two crores an everyday year. You can’t be a superpower with your education and health expenditure is at the lowest, even lower than during the UPA.

And yet a vast mass of the educated middle class in India is not only enamoured of Narendra Modi, they think he is the Messiah. With such mediocrity in the “intelligentsia”, India cannot be a superpower.

What India can surely achieve is changing of names of the airports, railway stations, erect statues, run down or destroy institutions built over 70 years. So what if Red Fort becomes Saffron Fort?

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'State of Mind' by Kumar Ketkar

State of Mind by Kumar Ketkar: Propaganda Vs. Policies

Kumar Ketkar

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The advances in science and technology in the last three decades, and particularly in the last decade, have been able to predict, more or less accurately, the coming storms, twisters, cyclones and hurricanes. The governments and civic authorities often take either preventive measures or prepare themselves with their disaster management plans.

But so far, there has been no scientific effort to predict the social or political anarchy, coups or catastrophes. Intelligence agencies, with their expertise in destabilisation games and regime change strategies, often keep a detailed account of minor and major upheavals in societies and political systems. Sometimes they succeed in their skulduggery and disruptive games. Sometimes they even create anarchy so as to play their vicious games in that confusing atmosphere.

I would not venture to suggest that the rising crescendo of anarchy in India is a part of such a conspiracy hatched within and outside the country or the inevitable consequence of the centrifugal forces operation in the country. But I must warn in this column that we must tighten our belts as the country is heading into extreme turbulence and perhaps dangerous convulsions.

The coming anarchy is at once political, social, cultural and economic. How much damage it will cause, how much disruption it would lead to and is there a way to contain it, is difficult to say. One can predict atmospheric cyclones but not stop them from coming. It is perhaps going to be a worse situation in the socio-political anarchy.

The main reason is the rapid institutional decline and destruction of their ethos and legacy. Propaganda has replaced policies, media management has taken over actual governance, slogans have no substance except loud rhetoric. All this is not without direction. The direction is ominous.

The frenzied attacks on not only Pandit Nehru and the legacy of the Gandhi family but also on great and magnificent institutions that were built over the years have begun “Dismantling Modern India” itself. The consequences of this pervert and even violent politics could be extremely dangerous. The slogan “Congress-Mukt” Bharat is a camouflage for undermining and destroying the ethos as well as values inculcated by the Freedom Movement itself.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had always suffered from a complex that they were not part of the freedom struggle and had indeed compromised with the British Rule. So they have neither respect nor even concern with the history of the independence struggle. That is why their destructive attitude towards all institutions which carry Pandit Nehru stamp or Indira Gandhi imprint.

Therefore everything from Planning Commission to Nehru Memorial Trust, from Jawaharlal Nehru University to Non-Alignment Movement, from the secular values to liberal and free media, from an integration of progressive Indian culture to regressive traditions of so-called ancient glory.  From scientific temper to utterly primitive faiths. Much that was achieved over a hundred years has come under vicious attack from this government. It is almost as if the anarchy is pre-ordained.

They want India actually to be “Mukt” from all the progressive civilisational past from 1857, history of which is replete with Hindu-Muslim unity, and want India converted into Hindu Rashtra. They do not realise that, this could lead to a disintegration of our society, if not the country itself. We have a neighbour who tried to carve out a nation based on religion and that led to that country’s partition.

The religion could not and can never create a modern nation. By making Mahatma Gandhi, a brand ambassador for the so-called Swachh Bharat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brought him to the level of the Bollywood stars. He may pretend that he is implementing Gandhiji’s vision, but in reality, he is insulting his ideas of human vision, which was beyond national boundaries.

From Khan Abdul Gafar Khan, more known more as Frontier Gandhi to Nelson Mandela to Martin Luther King were the flag bearers of Gandhiji’s philosophy. Now the government is pretending to celebrate Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary on a grand scale.

All through the years since setting up of the RSS, they have hated Gandhiji, his values, his politics, just as they hated even Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. There is ample evidence of their hatred towards Gandhiji and Dr Ambedkar, in their writings and publications. But suddenly they have found glory in Dr Ambedkar. This kind of hypocrisy is the hallmark of the RSS and its Pradhansevak-pracharak.

If indeed the Prime Minister was sincere about “Swachh Bharat”, he would have paid attention to those “disposable people” who, the “safai Kamgars” who enter into the drainage, gutters, clear filth, horrendous garbage and try to keep our cities clean. They are the worst paid, hugely neglected, utterly insulted and humiliated and work on outsourced contracts, where the contractors earn grand profits and exploit this class, the lowest of the lowest class of people in the Hindu caste hierarchy based on the Manu Smriti.

These safai Kamgars are hundreds of thousands all over the country and suffer worse discrimination, almost like apartheid. These workers have appealed to state and central governments and even judiciary, but have not been given justice, even minimum ages, forget dignity.

Not a day passes, without advertising onslaught of Swatch Bharat on all media. The budget and the money spent on this advertising could have easily upgraded these workers’ lives. There is no money for them, not even social attention. The urban rich and even the middle class has criminally neglected these workers, often even blamed them for filth in the cities. If the Prime Minister and his party or his alma mater the RSS, were serious about “ Sabka-Saath-Sabka- Vikas”, they would have paid top priority attention to these workers.

We are living in truly Orwellian era, where lies are truths, violence is peace, illusions are reality, speeches are dialogues and demagogues are ideologues, fake surgical strikes are glorious wars, fall of rupee is a reflection of a healthy economy, rising prices are achche din and hugging and embracing world’s heads of states is creative foreign policy!

I had met a foreigner who was touring Gujarat. He was enamoured by the propaganda of the so-called Gujarat Model and was disappointed. He said he was looking for an Eye and Ear specialist. I told him there is no such category as Eye and Ear specialist doctor. There is Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor, not Eye and Ear. I asked why. He said he has a problem, he cannot see, what he hears about the Gujarat Model!

How long will people live in this deceptive and even vicious make believe? But when they will wake up from this hallucination, India will have been deeply damaged. The struggle to restore values of the freedom movement, the greatness of the Mahatma and restoration of Nehruvian worldview and scientific temper must begin now. If we fail, we will fail India.

 

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