Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You

Read The Quint’s compilation of the weekend’s best op-eds, curated across newspapers, just for you.

7 min read
Nothing like your morning cuppa and a newspaper on a Sunday. 

Inside Track: Art of Recovery?

Coomi Kapoor in her column for the Indian Express, sets you off with a comprehensive round-up of the week’s activities. She wonders at the BJP’s ‘Gen Next’ crop of leaders: leaders who had been in prominence at the time of JP movement or the Emergency. These leaders are in their mid or late 60s now, and would not be standing for the elections, such as Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. She reflects also on Priyanka Gandhi’s spontaneity as contrasted with her brother’s lack of relatability when it comes to “issues of the common people”, and draws an amusing picture of how Kirti Azad, former BJP member (now Congress) is attempting to change Lalu Prasad Yadav’s mind in letting Azad contest from Darbhanga.

“Azad presumed that he would be contesting from the family seat Darbhanga, but discovered to his shock that Congress ally Lalu Prasad was insistent that the constituency go to the RJD. Azad has made some 10 trips to meet the jailed Lalu, but has had no success in making him change his mind. The former cricketer is unwilling to stand from any other parliamentary seat in Bihar.”

Across the Aisle: Mr Modi’s Balakot Dream

P Chidambaram hits hard and fast in his unapologetic Sunday column for The Indian Express, where he enumerates the various questions he has for the Narendra Modi government, positioning them as questions to the citizens of India. He wonders if they are confident that their conversations or messages would not be snooped upon by government? Are they sure that they wouldn’t be lynched or stripped or beaten up because of their caste or religion? And as women, are they unafraid of being harassed or molested?

“3. Do you think that a large number of jobs were actually created in the last five years? If you are a parent, are you confident that your son/daughter will soon find a job? (According to the CMIE, 312 lakh persons were actively seeking jobs at the end of February 2019.) 4. If you are a farmer, do you think your lot has improved in the last five years? Has your income increased? Are you happy to be a farmer and will you encourage your son/daughter to be a farmer? 5. Do you think demonetisation was a good idea? Do you think you benefited from demonetisation? Do you think the economy of the country benefited from demonetisation?” 

Out of My Mind: The Meltdown in Britain

“It is quite possible that within a fortnight, the UK could crash out of the EU without a deal.” Meghnad Desai is right in this portentous piece of finality, in that this could become a UK reality. The UK House of Commons has, for a second time, rejected PM Theresa May’s deal. In his column for The Indian Express, Desai wonders unflatteringly how a “mature democracy” had gotten into such a “disaster with open eyes”?

“The shortest answer is the Tyranny of History. The present crisis can be blamed on a number of old hangovers. First is the loss of the Empire, which happened in the 50 years between 1947 and 1997. The UK joined the EEC (now the EU) in a post-imperial decline phase. But it was also proud that it had rescued Europe from Hitler. It could never feel equal to the rest. It never felt at home within Europe if it could not be top dog. So it remained semi-detached, not joining the free borders (Schengen) agreement or the Euro and complained about its budgetary contribution.”

Give Women More Tickets, They Will Win

Lalita Panicker, in her column for The Hindustan Times, laments at the fact that despite all the tall talk, come elections, enough hasn’t been done to ensure representation of women by political parties. She points at the two sticks of carrots that have, at least, been dangled by two more valiant parties on this count: the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha which has apportioned 33% reservation for women in the upcoming LS elections, and the Trinamool in Bengal that has given an impressive 40% seats to women. Panicker rues,

“This is because they are most often considered as not winnable candidates even though there are no studies to support the theory that men are more likely to win than women. For all the anti-dynasty talk, most politicians will fall back on a woman relative in the absence of a viable male one. So we have dynasties headed by Sharad Pawar, that of the late Pramod Mahajan, the Gandhis, the Badals, UP’s Yadavs, the late Karunanidhi and so on, all of which have women in the political fray.”

In #Hashtag Election, Citizens are Becoming Mere Pawns

Shobhaa De, in her column ‘Politically Incorrect’ for The Times of India, claims that the “political party that successfully woos this demographic on various social media platforms will walk away with the biggest slice of the cake”. By “this demographic”, she means our “alarmingly young electorate”, where half our population is under the age of 25. These voters, she believes, are part of the hashtag demographic, which automatically leaves out a large chunk of the population who aren’t aware of what’s trending and what’s not on social media.

“By far the most disturbing aspect of the hardsell  is the manner in which Kargil, Pulwama and Balakot are being drawn into the debate to score political points, point fingers, accuse, defend and disown. So many theories are being floated that the average voter, sickened by the blatant mindgames, is turning away in disgust. To think any political party would shamelessly trade in such tragedies is an insult to not just our soldiers but humanity itself.”

If It’s Okay to Call a Terrorist Hafiz or Maulana, What’s Wrong With Ji, Bhaktji?

Aakar Patel calls it like he sees it. In his column for The Times of India, ‘Aakarvani’, he lambasts a whole crop of Indian news anchors for the vitriol they spewed at Rahul Gandhi in recent times for using the honorific ‘ji’ when referring to Masood Azhar, even as they continue to use names like Hafiz Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar. Patel points out that, if we were strict about semantics, anchors would know that Saeed’s real name is Muhammad Saeed, and that by calling him ‘Hafiz’, we are “using an honorific that acknowledges his piety (Hafiz means protector). Similarly, anchors “who refer to the head of the Jaish-e-Muhammad as ‘Maulana’ Masood Azhar are in fact saying — “our master Masood Azhar”.

“For them to attack Rahul Gandhi for using ‘ji’ — the Congress prince used this while referring to Azhar in case you were away from India and missed the news — is strange when they appear to be illiterate on a subject they feel strongly about. This is not just about semantics: on the subcontinent these things have real meaning. When we say Swami Agnivesh or Sri Sri Ravi Shankar or Yogi Adityanath, we acknowledge and recognise their elevated status and accord them respect (I say ‘we’ but I am excluding myself here). When the media says Hafiz Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar they are doing exactly the same thing.”

Another Rs 2,000 Per Farmer Won’t Swing the Election

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, in his Sunday column ‘Swaminomics’ for The Times of India, states flatly that freebies don’t win an election, despite all the brouhaha over even recent ones. Aiyar is referring to the pre-election PM-Kisan scheme, which started with the budget that included a payment of Rs 6,000 per family for farm-owners of up to two hectares. Another instalment of Rs 2,000 is proposed to be paid in April, which will come under the next financial year. The Congress has been raging about this violating the Model Code of Conduct, but Aiyar claims it is “much ado about very little”.

“History suggests you cannot buy an election with freebies. If that was so, every incumbent government would announce a huge pre-election bonanza, and get re-elected repeatedly. In fact 75% of incumbent governments are voted out (save in exceptional times) despite pre-election freebies.Before the 2009 election, the ruling Congress offered a farm loan waiver and an expanded NREGA for rural employment. The party was re-elected, and attributed this to the loan waiver and NREGA.”

Pak Needs to Act Now, Smash Own Terror Net

Manish Tewari, in his column for The Asian Age on Sunday, argues that while this time around, Pakistan may have escaped the “embarrassment of Masood Azhar being labelled a global terrorist because of Chinese benevolence”, still it must reflect on why its nationals and organisations based in the country are hauled up consistently before UN committees to be exposed as global terrorists.

“If Pakistan is really serious about peace in the region as Prime Minister Imran Khan would want the world to believe, the answer to that does not lie in talks either with India or Afghanistan, the two neighbours who have been at the receiving end of the depredations and machinations of its portentous deep state but rather with reforming itself. For its own sake, Pakistan requires to dismantle the terror infrastructure that it has spawned; it needs to reclaim the ungoverned spaces in its territory, demilitarise its society and finally understand that the Kraits it has so assiduously nurtured have harmed Pakistan more than its neighbours.”

A World of Learning: the Journey of Padmanabh Jaini

Ramachandra Guha, in The Telegraph, writes glowingly about “one of the two or three living scholars” he most “admires”: Padmanabh Jain, a man he first met while teaching abroad at the University of California in Berkeley. In the light of Jain recently publishing his memoirs, Guha recalls how he met “the great authority on Buddhism and Jainism”, a man who was “gentle and understated”, and who has now published his autobiograohy.

“Indeed, in his background and style of scholarship, Jaini was exceptional even in his own generation. Consider, for example, the careers of his great contemporaries in the American academy, Amartya Sen and Jagdish Bhagwati. Both grew up in affluent, well-connected homes, and with easy access to the language of status and power, English.... Both were mentored by famous international scholars; whereas Jaini was taught by men from the mofussil who, while both learned and devoted to their students, were not even well known within India.I write this not to disparage Sen and Bhagwati, whose intellectual achievements are colossal, but merely to highlight how very special Padmanabh Jaini’s life has been. He is a remarkable man, and a remarkable scholar. I hope his memoirs are widely read.” 
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