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

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

Updated
India
6 min read
How about some nice hot coffee and thought provoking reading?
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Confronting Reality

Writing in the context of the farmers’ protests, Tavleen Singh says that for the first time in seven years the image of Narendra Modi being the most powerful Prime Minister of India has changed. In her column for The Indian Express, she says the PM looks weak as he seems to not know what to do.

Unfortunately for Modi his conciliatory gestures have come too late. It is no longer just about the farm laws, it is about other things. For a start there is the arrogance with which they were brought. In the words of one of the protesting farmers, “You tell us that these will be beneficial for us but why are you trying to give us benefits that we do not want?” So many farmers said this or something similar that famous TV anchors who usually exhibit their loyalty to the government in every show, began to tell BJP spokesmen that instead of trying to convince them of the benefits of these laws they should convince the protesting farmers.  

A Political Vacuum

On the other hand, Asim Ali believes the farmers’ protests are not potent enough to pose a fundamental threat to the popularity of this government. In his piece in The Telegraph, he analyses how there isn’t any evidence to suggest that these protests have the potential to shake up popular support, but at the same time they do encourage people to romanticize the idea of an alternative India.

However, much like we saw with the protests against CAA-NRC last winter, such protests can spark a certain romantic imagination of an alternative idea of India bubbling up from below. A giddy expectation that the masses will lead us to the promised land; a distilled political vision emanating from the enchanting confection of songs, slogans and placards. But a political vision only comes from a political leadership. Without leadership, the immense energy generated by civil society-led protests would, sooner or later, dissipate into the footnotes of history. To make history, you need a leadership expounding a vision and an organization to carry it through. In other words, you need a political movement.  

Santa May Not Have Gifts for BJP in 2021

Analysing the BJP’s electoral performance, SA Aiyer in his column for The Times of India predicts that 2021 will be a tough year for the political party.

The biggest battle will be in West Bengal, where the BJP will lose despite high hopes after a great Lok Sabha performance in 2019. Along with its local ally, the AIADMK, the BJP will be thrashed in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. It will also, as usual, be drubbed in Kerala. Only in Assam are its re-election prospects good. The footprint of the BJP over Indian states has been shrinking since 2018. This was partially reversed by post-election toppling of governments in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. Those short-term gains will provide cold comfort if it loses all 2021 state elections or wins only in Assam.

2021 Will Keep up BJP’s Powerful Momentum, as the Opposition Looks Quite Rudderless

In his column for The Times of India, Rahul Verma analyses BJP’s looming presence, the weakened national opposition and civil society protests in 2021 and beyond.

West Bengal assembly elections hold the key as it will set the tone for the 2024 campaign. If ground reports are to be believed, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is on the defensive.  The BJP is banking on Prime Minister Modi’s popularity, charges of corruption against TMC cadres, and Hindu consolidation. The momentum indicates that West Bengal is now for the BJP to lose, but underestimating Trinamool’s strength and Mamata’s spirit before April 2021 would be the BJP’s ‘historic blunder’.  

Work, Wealth and Welfare

In his year-end column on The Indian Express, P Chidambaram says he wants to reflect on the lesson that a nation suffers when there is a decline in work, wealth and welfare. He says that all three suffered in 2020, impacting the welfare of people beyond tangible goods and services.

A combination of unemployment and slow (or negative) growth will impact welfare. My concern is not economic welfare alone. Food, healthcare and social security are indeed important, but welfare goes beyond material and tangible goods and services. Ask yourself some questions: Do people think they are a free people? Do they have a heightened sense of fear? Are people afraid that presumably independent agencies like the CBI, ED, Income Tax Department, NCB and NIA will hound and persecute them? Are people confident that the courts of law are accessible and will render swift justice? Can two young people be friends, go out together, fall in love and marry? Can one, according to her choice, eat, wear clothes, speak, write and associate with other people?

Seeing India, Pak History Through the Lens of Caste

In his column for The Indian Express, Faisal Devji writes about how caste is seen as a problem subject in India and not as an analytical category to observe history. From Jinnah to Gandhi, he explores the role of caste during the Independence movement.

Whatever its accuracy, Ambedkar’s history repudiated the dualistic narrative of Hindu-Muslim conflict by including caste within it. Ambedkar claimed that by launching the movement for Pakistan, the Muslim League abandoned its history of alliances between caste and religious minorities. It came instead to an agreement with the Congress as one high-caste party with another to divide the spoils of Independence.

Parliament Should Sit More Often

Karan Thapar in his column for Hindustan Times makes the case for how with necessary caution, both houses of parliament could have functioned. Thapar believes that it is inconsistent and illogical that on one hand politicians participate in elections ‘without any fear of contagion’, while on the other hand they felt the need to scrap the winter session of the parliament.

More important, politicians and their parties recently participated in assembly, municipal and by-elections without any fear of contagion. They did so vigorously. Even crowded markets during the festive season did not produce a spike. So how can the government scrap an entire session of Parliament on the grounds the virus could threaten legislators and parliamentary staff? This is not just inconsistent, it’s illogical.

Urban Renewal

In his column for The Telegraph, Farhad Manjoo writes about how the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged urban economies for good. While the author points out how the virus has altered the way we went about life, he also believes the virus ‘presents an opportunity to remake urban life for the better, particularly by addressing its inequities’.

Already, the pandemic has prompted cities around the world to embrace once radical-seeming ideas. In car-free streets and permanent alfresco dining, a picture of a more livable city is emerging. But we can do a lot more than pedestrianize roads. In 2021 and beyond, we should make rebuilding our urban landscape a top priority.  

Whatever Gets You Through the Day

Speaking about what is drawing people to watch content online, Leher Kala says we have to find our own methods of salvation to guard against reality. In her column for The Indian Express, by talking about the recently made ‘Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Housewives,’ Kala is making the point that escaping to another world is alright.

World over, people are gravitating to entertainment that takes them away from the agony of uncertainty. Streaming platforms have noted a spike in interest in comedy shows and reruns of old hits. It’s not difficult to gauge why. They’re predictable and have happy endings. Socially isolated, we’re craving time with friends — perhaps familiar TV faces stand in as proxies. One of the great criticisms aimed at genres like science fiction and reality TV like The Fabulous Lives… is that they are “escapist” in nature. There is pressure to adhere to an (unspoken) intellectual standard that folks on Twitter care about because the notion prevails that the impulse to escape is a terrible character flaw. In truth, what could be more natural? 2020 was not the year to revisit Schindler’s List but to do whatever gets you through the day.
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