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'State of Mind' by Kumar Ketkar

What is the future of Congress?

Kumar Ketkar

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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.

'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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'State of Mind' by Kumar Ketkar

4 Years of Modi Government

Kumar Ketkar

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In the famous James Bond film, “Die Another Day”, the title, like his most films, does not bear any thematic connection. However, the title and the extravagant plot does resemble something with the Narendra Modi regime of four years. There is a diamond baron, for instance, who is planning all he can to mislead Bond and sabotage his mission. The mission that Bond has in the film is to investigate the link between a North Korean terrorist and the Diamond thug.

Though there is presumably no link between Narendra Modi and Nirav Modi, for mystery writers, the diamond merchant’s scam and Nirav’s escapades, as well as actual escape from the country, is enough material to generate suspense in a story.

But Indian mystery novelists are either too lazy or completely indifferent to the games politicians and such robber barons play. If the writers were creative enough, there was enough material in the Justice Loya’s mysterious death.

Raj Thackeray has publicly called the death as a murder. But Raj Thackeray is a cartoonist, not a novelist. If one follows the sensational disclosures by the investigative journalist, Niranjan Takle, particularly in his reports in Caravan magazine, one feels like asking Sherlock Holmes to come and conduct the investigation! But neither our media, nor fiction writers nor the Bollywood showed any interest in the Loya mystery.

Be that as it may. The Loya story, as well as the total acquittal and release of Maya Kodnani, Pradnya Singh Thakur and Colonel Purohit, are perfect metaphors for the Modi Regime of four years. The regime came with the promise of rapid development. But what we saw in the last four years was the rise of crony robber-baron-capitalism, the mafia-style operations and politics of lies, damn lies and statistics.

Everything from the GDP figures to GST collections, from the FDI to RTI, there is chaos everywhere. There are constant efforts to manipulate figures and facts, twist data and camouflage the disturbing reality. It is almost 20 months, but we still do not know how many notes of ₹500 and ₹1000 came back to the Reserve Bank of India. And this despite the propaganda that India has become totally digital. If indeed it was true, we would have known the total amount as well as the notes that came back,

The demonetisation caused a huge subterranean havoc, the small traders were wiped out, the skilled and semi-skilled workers lost their jobs, with no hopes of them coming back. Lives of hundreds and thousands of people were disrupted. The NRIs who had old notes, and their old parents, who could not exchange notes in the stipulated time frame lost all that money. The agents who could take old notes and exchange them with new ones flourished as the exchange rate for ₹1000 to ₹700.

Neither black money came back, nor generation of black stopped. Modi had said, the terrorism and extremist violence would stop because they would not be able to get old hard currency as that was reduced to rubbish. Both these issues he addressed on November 8, 2016.

Then within a week, he changed the goalpost. He started saying that the main intention was to create “Digital India”. It is interesting to note that all the credit card companies hugely welcomed the demonetisation. In India too the self-styled highly educated and well-off middle classes, particularly in the IT industry, thought that making India digital was a revolutionary idea. (Nor remembering nor realising that the idea was mooted by Rajiv Gandhi in 1985 when the RSS and the BJP ridiculed him). But Rajiv did not do any theatrics of Digital India.

When Modi realised that not even 20 percent of the people have or will own a credit card, he promoted BHIM card, which hardly ever took off the ground. Modi then tried to induce people by announcing special concession and discount schemes for card users. That too did not work.

Then he brought in hardcore and hypocritical politics. He began to say that Congress is opposing the digitalisation because they have tons of black cash. The BJP is a clean party (party with a difference) and within a few years, the country will no not only be “Congress-mukt” but also “bhrashtachar mukt”. So the real aim of the demonetisation was to eradicate corruption.

But later it turned out that the demonetisation was not really a surprise or secret. It was known to a select BJP leaders who converted their notes before and in turn collected huge cash for the coming election in Uttar Pradesh and other states. So the BJP was obscenely cash-rich while the other parties were starved of funds. Then the cat came out of the moneybag!

The whole financial anarchy was created for acquiring tons of cash before the poll. The effect was seen in Uttar Pradesh.
Then he began the campaign for “One Nation, One Tax”! The GST, Goods and Services Tax, disrupted trade in the name of abolishing. Demonetisation followed by the GST sent panic waves across trade and commerce. From vegetable vendors to small-medium industry and the tribe of venture capitalists, everybody began to eulogise Modi.

Interestingly as a CM of Gujarat, he had issued a warning to his and other parties too, saying that he will never deploy GST even if the whole nation goes ahead with it. Anything that the UPA opposed, Modi instantly campaigned against it. Modi not only delayed the GST, he created utter pandemonium in the assembly over this issue.

In the final analysis, what has Modi achieved for the country, for the people and for the world? He has betrayed the non-Alignment Movement, by dissociating with the glorious anti-imperialist, anti-colonial aspects of the world politics that Pandit Nehru visualised. Indira Gandhi took the NAM to new heights, by bringing in the Movement more than 150 countries. India mattered in the world, not only Indira. Now India will have no natural friends in Asia. So instead of achieving anything on the foreign policy front, Modi has made India vulnerable and irrelevant. This is particularly glaring as he visits China and Russia and Europe for so-called “informal summits”.

Donald Trump too is announcing and then cancelling various assignments. Modi’s efforts are also in trying to remain at the top of the world, without mission, vision or global human passion. His so-called foreign policy is nothing more than globetrotting without any plan except international photo-ops to impress the gullible Indian middle class back home.

The four years are not just wasted, Modi has taken India backwards a few decades. The world had changed radically after the Second World War and again after the Cold War. In 1945, the Nazi menace was defeated and in 1991, the Soviet Union was disintegrated. The world vision that Nehru gave in the fifties provided hope to the people. Indira Gandhi took the Nehruvian mission to the new confidence, in the lines of Martin Luther King Jr—“We Shall Overcome”!

The four years under Narendra Modi have taken India back in civilisational terms, by a few decades. It will require great effort and will to bring back India to the present,  to march into future.

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