Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You
Here is a compilation of the best opinion pieces across newspapers.
Out of My Mind: Govt’s Dozen Own Goals on Kashmir
Ninety days have passed since the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir but there is still no normalcy and the government’s plan has not been delivered by the lower rungs, writes Meghnad Desai in The Indian Express. Due to the lack of foresight, this move by the government has harmed India’s reputation internationally, and an urgent policy intervention is needed.
Here’s an excerpt:
Modi and Shah had cut the Gordian knot. The de facto situation of J&K not being truly autonomous was now legally secured. As used to happen in the past, mobile telephones were shut down, public meetings banned, curfews imposed. Now, however, we were promised that these bans would not last. The promise was that business of the government would improve and healthy and prosperous Kashmiris would be empowered. New governments would be established. This was however not a priority. The eyes of the government were firmly fixed on Pakistan and the United Nations. The avoidance of any official censure by the UN Security Council was adroitly managed by the government.
The Congress Must Bid Farewell to the Gandhis
Mark Tully believes the Congress needs to bid farewell to the Gandhis and reconstitute itself as a federal party that includes new, strong and self-reliant leaders. In a column for the Hindustan Times, he writes that the improved performance of Congress in Haryana and Maharashtra doesn’t mean that they are back on their feet.
The party needs to guarantee autonomy to strong independent regional party leaders and urged them to merge with the Congress, he writes:
In the general election, the BJP did make inroads in the East, but in all the states from Bengal down to Tamil Nadu, strong independent regional party leaders still won the largest number of seats. If they were to be guaranteed autonomy in a federal party, some of those leaders might be willing to merge with the Congress. After all, Mamata Banerjee was a a Congresswoman and Jaganmohan Reddy’s father was a highly successful Congress chief minister. Merging would give the regional leaders the advantage of the Congress brand which, as we have seen, does still have value throughout India.
More Than a Little Saffron Sheen Is Lost
Post election results in Maharashtra and Haryana, one can’t deny that the BJP - NDA party has lost a lot of sheen, writes Pushpesh Pant in The New Indian Express. Meanwhile, it would be premature for the Opposition to gloat over resurgence of the Congress in Haryana. Rahul Gandhi’s invisibility in these states relieved the candidates and party workers from the crippling deadweight of dynasty. Congress workers need to get over the servile mentality and pose as a strong opposition to the BJP for a healthy democracy.
Here’s an excerpt:
Those who talk—and rightly—of arrogance and overconfidence of BJP, should spare a thought for the insufferable sense of entitlement that the scions of Nehru-Gandhi clan continue to exude. It’s time the political discourse moved away from threats from Pakistan and our capability to cope with them, to economy and good governance. Inclusive growth can’t be sustained without social justice and communal harmony. Aggressive posturing can only aggravate divisive disputes. Democracy needs a strong opposition. It’s for those who oppose the BJP-NDA to find their feet.
Corporates, Celebs Must Walk the Eco Talk
Anand Neelakantan points at the hypocrisy of celebrities who are proud owners of smoke-spewing SUVs and private jets but have been urging the poor and the middle class to stop bursting crackers once in a year so that the environment can be saved. He writes in The New Indian Express about how India is far from doing anything to get rid of the dubious distinction of having the world’s most polluted cities.
It is time celebrities, industries and multi-national companies walk the talk. Here’s an excerpt:
We rarely hear such collective shaming when crackers are burst during IPL matches, celebrity weddings or New Year parties in the five-star hotels. It seems corporate India wants the middle class and the poor to spend the little excess money they get during Diwali, not on crackers and fireworks but shopping. Please note that there are no multinationals or giant corporate houses selling fireworks in India. Mostly, it is either made in small-town India by rural entrepreneurs or imported from China by small-scale traders. Had any of the biggies of Corporate India been in the firecracker business, we might have heard a different tone to this shrill music.
How the Government Internationalised Kashmir
Ramachandra Guha writes in the Hindustan Times that the irony is that the visit by EU parliamentarians to Kashmir, while the country’s own leaders have been barred entry, has internationalised Kashmir such that even an ‘obscure politician’ feels emboldened to offer himself as a mediator. Here’s an excerpt:
I suppose the trip’s organisers must have hoped that it would help soften India’s image abroad. After the barrage of hostile criticism in the western press of our government’s repressive policies in Kashmir, after hearings in the US Congress on our government’s dismal human rights record, perhaps — at last — there would be some Westerners who would say sweet things about our government. The organisers may have hoped that the fact that a majority of the MEPs belonged to far-right parties, characterised by extreme Islamophobia, would make them sympathetic to the ruling regime’s Hindutva belief system, and hence, give them a free pass on Kashmir. Instead, what has happened is that the red-carpet treatment they received has given these fringe politicians from Europe an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
What Sets BJP Apart Is Its Endorsement of Exclusion
One can’t deny how BJP loves a spectacle and this springs from the need to compensate for an ideological emptiness at the heart of its projects, writes Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph. Whether it is Modi not being the business-friendly reformer everyone expected him to be or the BJP’s subordination and marginalization of Muslims, the party has championed in exclusiveness. Here’s an excerpt:
Consider the three most consequential projects of the NDA about to come to fruition: the imminent ruling of the Supreme Court on the Babri Masjid dispute; the bid to make the National Register of Citizens a pan-Indian institution and the government’s bid to reintroduce and pass the citizenship (amendment) bill. From the government’s point of view, all three initiatives show Muslims their place and Hindus their pre-eminence. Should the Supreme Court rule to award the site of the razed mosque to the Hindu parties to the dispute, the BJP and its affiliates will claim that the institutions of the republic had shown proper deference to Hindu feeling.
Gandhi Is an Even More Prized Asset Than Patel for the BJP
BJP needs Mahatma Gandhi, a universally respected icon of inclusiveness, but what the leader truly is, has everything to do with the perceptions of those who love or hate the myth into which he has been transformed, writes Sunanda K Datta Roy. In a column in The Telegraph, he writes how Gandhi is being used as a propaganda tool to cover up human rights abuses by the Modi government; the party is engaging in an effort to erect Gandhi statues globally to create an image of India as an anti-imperialist state.
Here’s an excerpt:
The Indian Society of Manchester dissociates Gandhi from “the political agendas on Kashmir” and “the actions of the current government in power”. Whether New Delhi accepts that dissociation is another matter. Gandhi is an even more prized asset than Vallabhbhai Patel in creating a past the Bharatiya Janata Party never had and shaping a future in which it looms large. It’s a question of one-upmanship and showmanship by those who are undeterred by the lone and level sands that stretch far away in Shelley’s Ozymandias.
Fifth Column: Losing the Kashmir Narrative
Every time a story about torture and repression in Kashmir appears in an international publication, the Indian government dismisses it as prejudice and Pakistani propaganda. But when are we going to explain our side of the story and take over the narrative from Pakistan? That’s the question columnist Tavleen Singh has asked in her latest piece for The Indian Express. India, as a victim of jihadist terrorism, cannot afford to have an Islamic caliphate take birth within Kashmir, she writes.
Here’s an excerpt:
What is even more worrying is that instead of a responsible, mature effort to counter Pakistan’s false narrative on Kashmir, what we have seen from the Modi government is a childish kind of triumphalism. Where is the need to make the abrogation of Article 370 an issue of ‘national honour’? Where is the need for senior ministers in Modi’s cabinet to keep boasting about his “56-inch chest”? They do him no good when they talk like this because now that Jammu & Kashmir have come under direct rule from Delhi, every time there is a new act of jihadist violence, it will be blamed on Modi personally.
India Needs Taxes High Enough for Revenue Growth, Low Enough for Investments
Elaborating the good and bad of abolishing the dividend distribution tax (DDT), S A Aiyar writes in The Times of India about how India needs tax rates high enough to yield revenue for infrastructure and poverty alleviation but should also be low enough to accelerate investment. Taxes on corporations, individuals, dividends and capital gains should be at par with Asian competitors so that rich Indians do not leave the country and the country’s GDP gets a boost.
Here’s an excerpt:
If tax rates fall to zero, so will revenue. Modest tax changes are not irrelevant, and will have some short-run impact on revenue, but much less than expected. Next, consider longer term effects. Higher tax rates may induce rich Indians to emigrate: over 7,000 millionaires exited recently. Lower tax rates may induce higher investment, including that from foreigners. This can accelerate GDP (and tax revenue) in the medium term.In 1991, when economic liberalisation began, corporate tax was 58%. Today it is 25%. Has the halving of the tax rate halved tax receipts too? Not at all. Corporate tax receipts rose from slightly over 1% of GDP in 1991 to 3.5% in 2019-20. The ratio for income tax also rose, not quite as fast. Lower rates yielded more revenue by inducing more investment and faster growth.
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