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'State of Mind' by Kumar Ketkar

Who could replace Modi in 2019?

Kumar Ketkar



The names have begun flying in the media and in the eternal gossip and rumour circuits of New Delhi. The hypothesis being Narendra Modi will not make it. If he manages majority or re-manoeuvres the NDA, then, of course, he would be the PM again. But more and more pundits have begun to say that there is huge discontent in the BJP and resistance to him from the RSS. If the BJP gets less than 200 seats, then Modi’s future as PM will be in jeopardy.

I don’t like the expression, “dark horse” because it sounds demeaning and even racist.  But to use that conventional terminology, there indeed are several “ dark horses” who are being brought into drawing room discussions. Everybody agrees only on one point. And that is: no Party will get its own simple or even thin majority.The coalition then would be inevitable, either led by the BJP or some Opposition Party. So it could be another NDA or yet another UPA or Third Front and well, perhaps even the Federal Front! There are some self-proclaimed PM candidates, and some quietly working on the possible election outcome. One such permanent “Future PM” is Sharad Pawar. But he is a straight-faced poker player. He will neither reveal sentiment nor strategy!

The other (dark horses) in the race are Sam Pitroda and Ram Madhav. And also Rajnath Singh and Mamata Banerjee. While Prakash Karat lobby in the CPM describes Mamata as “fascist”, the Congress thinks the real “fascist” force in India is led by Narendra Modi. The Mamata backers argue that she would “punish” the “Modi-Shah gang” if the BJP loses power. The Congress, given its moderate nature, would never take such hard line!

A section in the CPM believes that the RSS is a fascist organisation, but BJP is only communal! However, conflicts in the CPM were sorted out by their politbureau, by some semantic skulduggery. At one point, Nitish Kumar had emerged as a front-runner in the race for PM. But it appears, he committed political “Harakiri” by suddenly changing loyalties and joining the NDA. Now again he is trying to distance himself from the “communal” BJP! Then there are some creative political crystal ball gazers who would not rule out even Pranab Mukherjee!

Ram Madhav could be the candidate of the RSS and Sam Pitroda of Rahul Gandhi. A famous Hindi TV anchor in fact recommended Sam Pitroda ’s name. Pranab Mukherjee’s name could come as a compromise of the Opposition parties when they fail to arrive at a consensus. After all, most parties had supported him as a President.

All this speculation is of course completely wild kite flying and image building by ambitious politicians. But then who would have thought that the offer would go to Jyoti Basu in 1996 and his party would refuse him the “NOC” to take charge as PM and take the plunge. Basu himself described later that refusal as the “Himalayan Blunder” of the Party. There was also some lobbying to rope in VP Singh as Prime Minister again. But he categorically refused. Nobody ever thought then that eventually, Deve Gowda would become the PM followed by Inder Kumar Gujral. Similarly, the name of Dr Manmohan Singh was also a startling surprise in 2004.

Such questions were never raised in the fifties and even in the sixties. There were no speculations and no “dark horses” in the race! As long as Pandit Nehru was alive, it was considered natural that he would be the PM after general elections—in 1952, 1957 and 1962. The question did get posed in 1967, but not too seriously.

That was (1967) the first election after Panditji’s death. There was an interregnum of about 20 months during which Lal Bahadur Shastri was the Prime Minister. He had to face war with Pakistan in 1965, which ended in a kind of stalemate, though India could retain its image and pride. But Shastri’s death in Tashkent (former the Soviet Union) forced an internal election in the Congress party.

The Old Guard chose Indira Gandhi but another section of the party thought Morarji Desai would be a better choice. Desai was a well known Right Winger and also stubborn orthodox Gandhian in personal lifestyle. But the Old Guard (which came to be known as Syndicate), thought Indira could be manipulated to take the country Rightwards. It was clear that though they swore by the name and legacy of Nehru, they wanted a break from his political philosophy. To them, Indira was a “dumb doll”.

Moreover, they also calculated that to win general elections in 1967, daughter of Nehru would provide a perfect foil. Though the party had lost  Pandit Nehru, the towering leader, there was no Opposition worth the name to challenge the Congress. The Jan Sangh, a political party floated in 1950, by the RSS was slowly spreading its tentacles it never thought that it had potential to come to power on its own. Congress was like a colossus.

The parties that were getting popular appeal were the Communist Party and the upfront Right Wing outfit known as Swatantra Party. The Communist Party had come to power in Kerala in 1957. (that was the first ever democratic victory of the communists in the world). There were socialists, mainly breakaway factions of the Congress but they were in the political wilderness, constantly splitting and repositioning.

It was Ram Manohar Lohia, the socialist ideologue and a maverick politician who first conceived the idea of “Congress-Mukt” India. But for that idea of “anti-Congressism” fifty years ago, there would not have been the BJP or Narendra Modi today. Lohia forged the non-Congress alliances in 1967, to challenge the Congress led by Indira Gandhi. She returned to power, though with a small majority in Lok Sabha. In as many as eight states the Congress lost power giving hope to the Opposition.

No political pundit or even the party ever thought then that the Congress would be dethroned at the centre. The Grand Old Party was just too deeply entrenched in Politics and in the minds of the people. The question as to who would be a Prime Minister never really arose. The split in the party in 1969 raised the hopes and ambitions of the Opposition parties. But Indira Gandhi’s single-handed landslide victory in 1971 (the famous “Garibi Hatao” election) reinvigorated the Party and her leadership. But after the Emergency, Indian politics changed at the core.

It is from 1977 that the general elections acquired the “suspense dimension” and the question of who would be Prime Minister began to be discussed in the media. Actually, even the Janata Party could not agree on any name for quite a few days despite its historic victory. They differed with each other intensely on the names of Morarji Desai and Jag Jiva Ram and Charan Singh. Madhu Dandavate’s name also floated for some time.

In 2014, Narendra Modi’s name could not have been challenged. He as well as the party, the media and the pundits had all seen the aggressive campaign, the super confidence, his way of humiliating Party colleagues, eliminating all competition. From Day One, he gave the impression, and it was believed by the corporates as well as the middle classes that he is invincible. He used to say, loud and clear, that he would be the Prime Minister for 10 or even 15 years. The Congress would cease to exist! His dream was to make India “Congress-Mukt” forever. His weapon was massive hate campaign, mainly through social media. That proved to be successful for First three years. Modi-led BJP captured as many as 19 states!  But then the tide began to turn.

In the last four years, his confidence has waned. His policies have failed. His dramatic and dubious decisions like demonetisation have boomeranged. His policies of “friendly neighbourhood” have fallen wayside. Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka do not even respect him or India. Neither terrorism has been brought under control, nor Pakistan has been tamed. His Kashmir policy has further alienated the people of Kashmir. His “blow hot, blow cold” relationship with Pakistan and China has exposed the thoughtless and visionless foreign policy. He has failed to get black money and miserably lost the war against corruption. The money that he and Amit Shah deploy in every election is a visible evidence of the power of black wealth they have generated for their party.

And that is why there is speculation as to who would be the Prime Minister of India in 2019. But he would not go away from the national stage without some huge drama, even violent and vicious. He could still dare some mind-boggling, even disastrous economic announcements to impress upon the gullible voters and the frenzied middle class. This middle class was his strongest vote bank, but now it is imploding. It is that impending implosion which has made his, and India’s future uncertain. Hence the suspense: Who Would Be The Next Prime Minister?

'State of Mind' by Kumar Ketkar

Is Hindu Rashtra turning into a reality?

Kumar Ketkar




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



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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'State of Mind' by Kumar Ketkar

What is the future of Congress?

Kumar Ketkar



What will happen in the 2019 elections? Will the Kashmir gambit help Modi to polarise the national mood again? What is the future for Congress? Indeed is there any future for Congress? Will Modi be Prime Minister again? If he doesn’t, who will? And what will Modi do if does not become PM? Will he be the BJP leader in opposition? He is a fighter, but fighter does not mean winner? When such questions arise, many a politicians and even media turn to astrologers!
Astrologers are not different. They are just like our political parties. Or Pollsters. Or Political pontiffs in TV debates. They never arrive at a consensus. And yet they have some transient credibility. Even respectability. Most parties and most leaders have their trusted astrologers, who advice them on everything—from when to file nomination to when to take an oath. And of course election victories, even margins.

Actually, the stars and the planets in the sky move in a very perfect tandem. Their movements are mathematically predictable and their stellar positions defined according to the laws of astrophysics. There is no disagreement about this among scientists, even if they have strong differences on the theories of Big Bang and Steady State and multiverses and string theory.

Astrology is supposed to be basing its observations, assessments and predictions on astronomy. Ideally, therefore, there should be consensus, if not agreement on their predictions. In fact, the leading lights of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the RSS believe in the “science” of astrology. The HRD ministers of the BJP have often argued and even implemented in some universities, the elaborate courses on astrology. It is part of restoring the ancient wisdom to make India Great Again, they argue.  Donald Trump copied the slogan from them.

Indeed, even the date and time of Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Resham Baug and meeting with Mohan Bhagwat was decided by the “official” Astrologer in Nagpur. However, there was a difference of opinion between the horoscope readers at the PMO and at the HQ at Nagpur. That is why it seems neither Narendra Modi nor Amit Shah made any comment on the supposedly historic meeting of the former President with the current Supremo of the Sangh.

Did the power-duo also suspect that the Nagpur summit was an effort to work out an alternative plan for 2019, in case Modi fails to get the majority for the BJP? There were also reports that some corporate invisible hand was behind the summit. Even the corporates have their recognised astrologers! The Indian TV anchors and talking heads also thought that Bhagwat-Mukherjee summit in Nagpur was more historic than Trump-Kim summit in Singapore!

At least some embedded TV channels thought so! They praised Pranabda’s sagacity and Bhagwat’s flexibility. But even they could not interpret the silence of the Prime Minister and Party President, who have been through the khaki drill in Nagpur. Modi went for the Yoga-gymnastics instead! In any case, Modi and Shah’s physique is so gym-fit that they don’t need to do any lathi drill in Shakhas.!

Be that as it may. The question that is posed at the beginning of this piece is why astrologers do not agree on predictions, though all astronomers agree on the cosmic star position. Some of them have added even Pluto and Neptune in their horoscopes configuration. But none have been able to penetrate the Black Hole of Indian politics.

There are astrologers who are predicting, quite confidently that Narendra Modi will NOT be Prime Minister next year. Some say that the BJP under him cannot win even 200 seats. Some say he can’t cross 150. But then there are others, who say, complimenting Amit Shah that Modi will be PM, and with stunning 350 seats for the BJP. Others feel that the BJP will win just around 225, but that is enough for Modi to become PM as he will manage the NDA which will get over 300 seats.

Which is more scientific? Astrology or psephology? The CSDS-Lokniti and some independent pollsters have begun extensive surveys. Will the Index of Opposition Unity be in favour of the Non-BJP parties? The eminent commentators like Raghav Behl and Swaminathan Aiyar are warning Modi of the impending defeat.

Suddenly, Rahul seems to have redeemed himself. But the question that is dogging the pundits is: will the growing discontent against Modi regime be translated in the Electronic Voting Machines? Are the EVMs reliable or just whipping toys of the defeated and frustrated opposition? Has Congress acquired credibility even if the BJP is beginning to lose? Will the opposition unity last even next six months?

Almost all political observers, however, agree that Narendra Modi must be having something up his sleeve to lure the electorate. Most of them feel and fear that he will just do anything, dramatic or even catastrophic, in the final hour to sway the voters. They all agree that he will not just go away, defeated, and have an easy transfer of power.

However, if the BJP emerges single largest party, with about 180 seats (The Vajpayee threshold!), will it change the guard? And choose Nitin Gadkari or Rajnath Singh or someone close to the RSS? Or will Modi stop anyone else from the BJP emerging as his successor? Many in his party, from Arun Shourie to Shatrughan Sinha say that Modi is so egotist, narcissist and dictatorial that he will not let anybody to take charge from the party.

Nobody has any idea as to what alternative plans  Modi, Shah or Ajit Doval have for 2019. The campaign teams, the trolling armies, the foot soldiers and booth managers of the party and the RSS have all begun their war preparations. Notwithstanding the fact that there are fissures in the Sanghparivar. Not all in the Saffron camp are comfortable with Modi becoming PM again. Many analysts say that it is the ruling party that often defeats itself.

Indira Gandhi lost, along with Sanjay Gandhi in 1977, with the Congress getting just over 150 seats, down from over 350 seats in 1971. That defeat was primarily because of the discontent within the Party. But that discontent was concentrated only in the North. In all the southern states, Indira Gandhi had swept the poll. So the anti-Emergency vote was only in the Hindi belt.

But the transfer of power to Janata Party was rather smooth, without rancour and reservation. So it was from the Janata Party to Indira Gandhi again in 1980. In fact, that history is being quoted, fearing it will be repeated. The opposition unity will collapse even if they defeat the BJP and Modi, and that will bring back Modi with vengeance!

But Modi is not Indira Gandhi, though it is fashionable these days to compare their style and substance. The polarisation that Modi has brought about has subtle but sinister Hindu-Muslim dimension. Though Modi has still a strong vote base in the urban middle class, he has hardly any admirers or supporters in the artists, writers, intellectuals, scientists and such communities. The whipped up media and social media support to Modi could delude even the PMO and his campaign handlers.

One thing is sure. The parameters of electoral prediction for 2019 are beyond the pale of astrologers, psephologists and pundits. The spectre of uncertainty and catastrophic possibility has begun to haunt and the nation waits with bated breath.

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