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

Here is a compilation of the best opinion pieces across newspapers. 

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

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Across the Aisle: Why 13 Economists Will Be Unhappy

How far did the maiden Budget of Nirmala Sitharaman advance the goal set by the Economic Survey?, asks P Chidambaram in his column in The Indian Express. When economists were rooting for radical reforms, the government has chosen to do incremental reforms, he points out. He lists out a few challenges that concern the economy and how the Budget has failed to address most of them.

X Stressed Sectors (Agriculture, Power, Banking): The Budget speech contains no measure to relieve the stress in the agriculture sector. On power, it simply reiterates the current scheme, UDAY, aimed at financial and operational turnaround of distribution companies. It adds ‘retirement of old and inefficient plants’ and ‘addressing low utilisation of gas plant capacity due to paucity of natural gas’. On banking, it promises to provide Rs 70,000 crore for recapitalisation of public sector banks (that is totally insufficient) and ‘one-time six months’ partial credit guarantee’ to banks to purchase pooled assets of financially sound NBFCs (that completely misses the point about insufficient liquidity).

Did Jawaharlal Nehru Mishandle Kashmir?

Karan Thapar attempts to answer Amit Shah’s question of ‘Did Nehru mishandle Kashmir or is he being unfairly blamed?’ in his column in Hindustan Times. He reasons why Nehru called for a ceasefire in 1948, why he referred the Kashmir issue to the UN, why he made Kashmir’s accession conditional upon a plebiscite and if his judgment was clouded by his personal attachment to Kashmir.

Mridula Mukherjee, a former director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, says if India hadn’t gone to the UN, there was every likelihood Pakistan would have. Nehru needed to pre-empt that to ensure our case was heard as “victims” and not as alleged “aggressors”. Also, in the late 1940s, referring Kashmir to the UN was viewed as a high-minded and noble gesture. It was before the Cold War started and, therefore, impossible to perceive India would get bogged down in divisive politics.

Fifth Column: A Reality Check for Rahul

It was the impression created by the media that fooled Rahul Gandhi and his campaign managers, writes Tavleen Singh in The Indian Express. She debunks Rahul Gandhi’s claims that Modi and RSS ‘captured’ our institutions completely that left every other party fight a tougher, unfair contest. But the truth of the 2019 election campaign is that the Congress president ran a lousy campaign and behaved like an entitled prince trying to oust a usurper.

As a member of the media, let me begin by admitting that most of us got the election wrong because we hoped Modi would lose. Those of my comrades who bothered to travel into the wilds of rural India came back absolutely certain that Modi would lose at least 50 seats in the northern states. I believed the same until the results came. Only then did it occur to me that I interviewed around 150 people in different states and less than 20 said they would not be voting for Modi. It was the impression created by the media that fooled Rahul Gandhi and his campaign managers. When they began projecting him as prime minister, voters on the fence saw that the choice was between him and Modi and fell off the fence onto Modi’s side of it.

One Nation, Zero Election

Taking a dig at the way democracy has been working in our country, G Sampath proposes that we adopt a ‘One Nation, Zero Election’ over a ‘One Nation, One Election’ policy. He writes in The Hindu about how the country’s economic rationality demands that we cut down on our monumental use of resources and ‘One Nation, Too Many Elections’ isn’t really helping to elect a fair government at any level. He insists his idea makes perfect sense because, how can you fight a meaningful contest with no Opposition.

Just imagine how many more statues we can build from the money saved by holding simultaneous elections? According to an estimate by the Naughty Aiyaiyog, if we completely synchronise ALL elections in the country so that they are held just once in five years along with the Lok Sabha polls, the savings generated will be enough to replace every single Gandhi statue in India with a Godse statue AND put₹15 lakh in the Paithiyam wallet of every Indian. But for this we need to synchronise not just Assembly and Lok Sabha elections but also all the Lions Club elections, Rotary Club elections, RWA elections, students’ union elections and class monitor elections of every section of every class of every school in India.

The Crisis in India’s Regional Parties

Is there a new normal emerging, where the era of regional parties being the swing force at the Centre is ending?, asks Chanakya in a column in Hindustan Times. 1989 Indian politics saw a decisive shift when the era of Congress hegemony ended, and was replaced by a constellation of regional parties. However, BJP’s landslide victory in 2014 and 2019 has overturned this thesis. In order to continue to exist and flourish, the regional parties need to improve their governance record, strike a balance between their regional outlook and the larger picture at the centre and widen their social alliances instead of relying on old arithmetic.

To be sure, there are vibrant regional formations. Be it the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the DMK-AIADMK, or the YSR Congress Party, or even BJD or Trinamool, these forces are either in power or dominant forces in their states. Even in the north, older caste-based parties will not suddenly disappear. They will remain influential and strong electoral contenders. This is in no way an obituary of the regional parties.

Out of My Mind: Let Modi Help Opposition Oppose

The issue with Congress party and almost all regional parties which form the Opposition is dynasty politics, which has actually weakened them, writes Meghnad Desai in a column in The Indian Express. A well-functioning democracy needs an effective Opposition. It could begin with amendment of the Representation of the People Act and introduction of a one-hour slot for Prime Minister’s Questions in the Lok Sabha.

Mamata Banerjee has her nephew as successor. So has Mayawati selected a nephew. So we can abandon any hope of revival in the Trinamool Congress and BSP. The two Yadav parties, the SP and RJD, are stuck because the son has done worse than the father and the grandsons are not old enough. Chandrababu Naidu was the son-in-law of NTR. He has failed but found no one to pass on his political assets to. Y S R Jagan Mohan Reddy and Stalin have saved their family heirlooms, but for how long? None of these people became a leader by winning an inner party election. Democracy is for the plebs. The netas do not believe in it for themselves. Hence, the Opposition will remain small and divided.

Why We Should Applaud Malaika and Arjun

Pooja Bedi gives a piece of her mind to all those Indians who believe it is their birthright to interfere in other people’s affairs. In a column in The Times of India, she applauds Malaika and Arjun who are giving courage to others to simply follow their hearts, amidst all the ‘What will society say?’

Whenever couples have had the “audacity” to create a path of their own be it living-in together, inter-caste, inter- racial, inter-religious, same sex liaisons, or for simply choosing their own life partner over being subjected to an arranged marriage, it’s been met with family drama, social ostracization, outrage and even honour killings. What is it about individuals going against the norm that makes other people so angry, afraid, mean and insensitive?? Is it because they are resentful of the fact that they had to tow the line and hence feel they compromised their own lives? An outburst of “How dare others have the courage or ability to embrace life and love, and all the joy that comes with it”? Is it about being disempowered because they feel they have the right to “control” others?

Insiders and Outsiders in India's Northeast

Ramachandra Guha picks out a few snippets about the beautiful capital Shillong from Insider Outsider: Belonging and Unbelonging in North-East India, edited by Preeti Gill and Samrat Choudhary. He writes in The Telegraph, that the region is threatened by much else besides the NRC and the citizenship amendment bill. The ruthless extraction of the region’s natural resources is leaving a trail of dispossession and devastation, violence and forcible eviction has become a part of people’s lives and urbanisation has changed the internal dynamics of several tribal societies.

When Verrier Elwin moved to Shillong from Central India in the 1950s, he found it enchanting; its pine forests and bracing climate reminded him of the Alps. “I wish we had always lived here,” he wrote to his mother in England, “the air is delicious, like Swiss air, and it will probably add ten years to my life.” The weather remains the same as in Elwin’s time; otherwise, Shillong has changed beyond recognition. It has become larger, uglier and more disputatious, with deep and pervasive fault lines between so-called insiders and so-called outsiders.

2 Women Show Us the Power of Personal Choice

Shobhaa De applauds Zaira Wasim and Nusrat Jahan for demonstrating the power of personal choice. In a column in The Times of India, she writes how ridiculous it is for people to call Zaira’s case ‘too Muslim,’ thus accusing her of parading her religion; even insisting she was under duress to quit showbiz. As for Nusrat, who is called ‘not being Muslim enough,’ she is after all following her heart, staying a Muslim and boldly flouting convention and flaunting her marital status.

As a society, we find it very hard to understand choices that do not conform to conventional thinking. In Zaira’s case, a silly feminist argument was introduced into the narrative (“How could a woman walk out of a career?”). Choice is the ultimate feminist proof of owning one’s identity. A woman who actively chooses to turn her back on a profession that no longer appeals to her is exercising just such a right over herself. It is disappointing to read and hear views of intelligent and informed people, who jumped on Zaira’s back for letting the side down. Would any of them continue in a line of work that makes them unhappy?

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Topics:  Narendra Modi   Rahul Gandhi   Budget 

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