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

We sifted through the papers and found the best opinion reads, so you wouldn't have to.

Updated
India
7 min read
The best opinion pieces from across newspapers this Sunday, curated just for you.   
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When a Government Shows Signs Of Paranoia, It Has Dangerous Consequences

There's a new word in the lexicon of dissent-stereotyping: it's "andolanjeevi". In this week's column for The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh examines this trend of branding dissent and how it's been going on for a long time, revealing the paranoia of the present dispensation.

"A recent poll in India Today says that the Prime Minister is as popular as he has ever been and would win a full majority for his party if an election was held. Most people polled said they were perfectly happy with the way in which he has handled the pandemic and the economy. He faces no threat from the Opposition, either in Parliament or in the streets, and the media is more docile than ever with our most powerful TV channels and Hindi newspapers openly on his side. What is he afraid of?"
Tavleen Singh in The Indian Express

The Quintessential Andolanjeevi

In his piece for The Indian Express, Congress leader P Chidambaram, writes about the most well-known, if not the first-of-their-kind, andolanjeevi in India - Mahatma Gandhi and others like him who've shaped the history of our times.

"The quintessential andolanjeevi in the first half of the 20th century was, without question, Mahatma Gandhi. He instinctively picked the right causes — indigo cultivation and salt tax. He was a wordsmith and invested words with powerful messages — satyagraha and Quit India. He believed in the power of symbols — a fistful of salt and khadi (hand-spun and hand-woven) clothing. He forged new weapons in the struggle for Independence — indefinite fasting and Dandi Yatra. He used soft power — bhajans and prayer meetings. A lot of thought must have gone into crafting and leading the struggle for Independence. He was the original andolanjeevi; we are proud to call him the Father of the Nation."
P Chidambaram in The Indian Express

Narendra Modi’s New Political Narrative

What do Prime Minister Modi's three speeches in the Parliament last week say about his and the government's new political narrative? Chanakya analyses in their piece for The Hindustan Times.

"There is no doubt that PM Modi is an effective communicator — not just in mass meetings and election rallies, but in the House too, which requires a more calibrated approach and a mix of asserting one’s position, engaging with the Opposition in a more conversational tone, and lacing one’s speech with wit and one-liners. Given his natural oratory skills, the PM should speak in Parliament more often, for it will provide the nation a sense of his line of thinking, rationale for controversial policies, and encourage more reasoned deliberation. The key was not the manner in which he articulated his points, but the content of his speeches. A new political narrative is taking shape — which may well last till the 2024 elections — and this revolves around three pillars."
Chanakya in The Hindustan Times

How Hamid Ansari Views India today

There are two kinds of people in the world - the ones who rejoice at a TV anchor's heckling of a former Muslim Vice President, or those who'll read this review of Hamid Ansari's new book by journalist Karan Thapar, in his weekly column for The Hindustan Times. You make your pick.

"In a country where politicians rarely write memoirs — either to recall the details of their life or comment on the politics they were a part of — an autobiography by a recent vice-president (V-P) is a very welcome development. However, what makes Hamid Ansari’s book truly special is the candour and, at times, outspokenness with which he has written of the prevailing state of affairs. He was V-P for the first three years of the present prime minister’s tenure, and it’s only three more since his term ended. Consequently, his book is not just relevant but also topical. Additionally, By Many A Happy Accident touches on many troubling aspects of Narendra Modi’s India that others have been reluctant to write about. So it’s unlikely to be universally applauded."
Karan Thapar in The Hindustan Times

India Isn’t China, So Don’t Copy Its Industrial Policy

How prudent is it for India to be following the same economic path as China in terms of policy? Not very prudent, says Swaminathan Aiyar, in his column for The Times Of India.

"The government hopes to create global manufacturing hubs in the 13 sectors, attracting multinationals and major Indian companies. This approach of “picking winners” worked in some miracle economies in Asia, notably China. However, India is not China. Economic liberalisation after 1991 steadily cut import duties and other controls. This eventually created an export boom in the 2000s. But world exports stagnated after 2013 and so did India’s. Many countries sought solace in free trade areas (FTAs). So did India. But India’s exports to FTA partners stagnated whereas imports from them boomed. One reason was the routing of Chinese goods, legally or otherwise, through FTA partners. Disillusioned with that approach, the government has opted for industrial policy."
Swaminathan Aiyar in The Times Of India

Inside track: Car Seva vs Nature

In this week's column for The Indian Express, Coomi Kapoor tells us why Sunder Nursery may soon cease to retain its idyllic "Lazy Sunday" Instagram aesthetic. That apart, there's also gossip on the qualifications of those involved in this year's Budget, the Maharashtra government's reaction to Lata Mangeshkar and Sachin Tendulkar's tweets, Modi's tears for Azad and Goa's insider vs outsider debate.

"Prime Minister Modi once observed that “hard work is more powerful than Harvard’’, in response to Harvard professor Amartya Sen’s rubbishing the government’s demonetisation drive. Still, three of those involved in this year’s Budget preparations have impressive educational qualifications. Chief Economic Advisor Krishnamurthy Subramanian has a Phd in economics from Chicago University, with Raghuram Rajan as his doctorate supervisor. Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey has a Phd from Minnesota University and Expenditure Secretary T V Somanathan, a Phd in economics from Calcutta University. But, Secretary, Economic Affairs, Tarun Bajaj who has no Phd perhaps had the most say in drawing up the Budget. His qualification: he has worked for five years in the PMO and shaped Modi’s vision for Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign. The assurance with which Bajaj responded to questions during Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s post-Budget press conference indicated that he enjoys the PM’s confidence."
Coomi Kapoor in The Indian Express

Can I Tell You a Joke?

Let's just say you'll either find G Sampath's column for The Hindu funny or maybe, you just can't take a joke.

"All of you must have heard of Munawar Faruqui. He is India’s World No. 1 stand-up comedian. They say his jokes are so powerful they can offend sentiments and destroy the nation even before he tells them. I don’t agree though. I think it’s just propaganda. The reality is that, in the last six years, it has become almost impossible for the average citizen to crack a joke. It’s as if India has embraced the policy of One Nation, One Joker."
G Sampath in The Hindu

Culture Needs More Government Support

For a country (and a government) obsessed with "culture", how much are we as a country actually spending on our Culture Ministry? Read this fascinating article by Padmapriya Janakiraman and Maansi Verma in The Hindustan Times that spells out why culture doesn't just need to be exalted but also sustained.

"Culture occupies prime space in our political imagination and enriches our daily lives in myriad ways. But how much of this sentiment has got translated into government support for culture? The budget offers a window into State priorities. Allocations for the ministry of culture (MoC) announced in this year stand at ₹2,688 crore, ₹461 crore less than last year. This 15% reduction comes on top of a 30% mid-year downward revision of the culture budget for last year due to the lockdown. This apathy towards culture, reflected in low levels of public spending, is not surprising. Over the years, regardless of the ruling dispensation, the will to support the sector has been declining. Actual expenditure by MoC, as a percentage of GDP, has reduced from a mere 0.017% in 2010-11 to 0.012% in 2019-20. This alarming trend was flagged by the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Culture in 2020, when it noted that with inflation factored in, there is nil growth in allocations made to MoC in the last five years."
Padmapriya Janakiraman and Maansi Verma in The Hindustan Times

Let’s Change V-Day To Kama Day To Remind Us That Desire Isn’t Alien To Our Culture

Speaking of culture, this Valentine's Day, channel your culture by observing 'Kama Day' as suggested by Gurcharan Das in The Times Of India, and not Matri-Pitri Diwas, as suggested by some sections of the right-wing.

Happy Valentine's Day! And if you're single, happy Sunday!

"The purpose in changing its name in India is not to set the cat among the pigeons; nor is it to Hinduise the good St Valentine. It is to give content to a festival that has no content — to open young Indian minds to a treasure of charming, romantic mythology of the love god, Kama, while reassuring the Hindutva mind that romance is as Indian as the Ganga. Since kama, ‘desire’, is the source of creation, of procreation, and of all action, our ancients elevated it to a goal of life, a purushartha. In the Rig Veda, kama creates the cosmos from the first seed of desire in the mind of the One. It is the source of the life instinct and the sexual drive. Hence, our poets honoured kama in love poetry, especially in the classical Gupta Age, culminating in the Kamasutra, an erotic text of manners, not a sex manual as wrongly believed but a charming, surprisingly modern guide to the art of living."
Gurcharan Das in The Times Of India

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