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

Jaitley, a Politician Like No Other

“Arun was the quintessential political professional who spoke with every side, every person seeking conversation,” writes Meghnad Desai, in his eloquent column for The Indian Express this Sunday, as he pens a thoughtful eulogy for the late Arun Jaitley.

He talks about how, over a career that spanned 44 years, Jaitley had been a confidant to many, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi perhaps having been his “longest political friend”. Jaitley had witnessed the rise and fall of many political parties, for instance, the Congress and the Jana Sangh (which later became the BJP), though not necessarily in that order.

“The last 20 years saw the full flowering of Arun’s talents. Leading his party in the Rajya Sabha both in the Opposition and in power, his face became more publicly seen. His extraordinarily deep knowledge of the Constitution, of the working of Parliament and his mastery over the conduct of business could be admired. But it was his role in the Modi-1 government which was the full revelation of his ability to provide the hard wiring for the vision of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’. The BJP had tried in its first term between 1999-2004 to demonstrate that it was a modern, technologically savvy party. But alas, the people of India voted them out.”
Meghnad Desai in The Indian Express

Fifth Column: Losing the Peace in Kashmir?

Tavleen Singh, in her Sunday column for The Indian Express, writes in fury about the recent tirades of Pakistan PM Imran Khan, whom she views as ‘frothing unnecessarily at the mouth’ over the Kashmir issue but without a solid standpoint.

She refers particularly to a speech the PM recently made where he’d called on US President Donald Trump to “mediate” on the matter, claiming that India had committed a “war crime”. According to Singh, this was in line with what Pakistan apparently teaches its children in schools – to view Kashmir as the “unfinished business of the Partition.”

“In this speech, the elected leader of the Islamic Republic gave us his historical analysis of the ideology of the RSS. With Allah invoked in every other breath, he declared that the RSS ideology was based on a hatred of Muslims and on the Nazi idea of racial superiority. He compared Narendra Modi to Hitler and although, good Muslim that he is, he did not mention the Holocaust, he said that Modi wanted to do in India what Hitler had done in Germany. He wanted to make India into a country in which Hindus were first-class citizens and Muslims and Christians second-class citizens.”
Tavleen Singh in The Indian Express

Inside Track: Amit Shah’s New Role

Summing up the political events of the week gone by, in her column for The Indian Express, Coomi Kapoor elaborates largely on Jaitley’s recent funeral. She refers to how VVIPs there had respectfully mingled with everyone, ignoring their political status – and how Nirmala Sitharaman and Smriti Irani had chosen to stand throughout the ceremony, refusing to take the seat they’d been offered. She spoke also of Amit Shah, who was there, and his new role – as in-charge of the police force in Jammu and Kashmir, something that has escaped attention.

“Apart from being home minister, he is also a member of all eight Cabinet committees. In addition, he spends around two-and-a-half hours a day handling party affairs. Although party working president JP Nadda is to eventually replace Shah, until now, Shah continues to call the shots. Recently, Shah has taken on yet another onerous duty, a fact which has escaped the attention of most. As home minister, he is now in-charge of the police force in Jammu and Kashmir. The state has been divided into two Union Territories and hence law and order comes under the purview of the Home Ministry in Delhi, as in the case of other UTs such as Delhi and Puducherry.”
Coomi Kapoor in The Indian Express

Bank Mergers and Minor Policy Changes Won’t Revive Economy

Swaminathan Aiyar, in his regular Sunday column ‘Swaminomics’ for The Times of India, enumerates everything that is wrong with the Indian economy right now – and the factors that led to it.

He harps on about India’s GDP growth slowing to 5 percent in April-June, the fall of exports and that of manufacturing growth. He also criticises the decisions taken by the government so far, claiming that just “freezing lending by the worst banks” would never be a long-term solution.

“They could have been closed. Or, the bulk of dud loans of the whole banking system could have been transferred to a separate ‘bad bank’, letting the system lend freely again. Instead, Finance Minister Sitharaman has merged the worst banks with the better-managed ones, hoping to improve management quality and risk-taking skills. Will this really end the culture of giving dubious loans because of political pressures and lack of lending skills? Sitharaman wants banks to be professionalised, hiring risk managers at high commercial wages from the private sector. Alas, many efforts at professionalising banks have failed because that is simply not compatible with the political and bureaucratic culture of the public sector.”
Swaminathan Aiyar in The Times of India

Warning: Reading can be Injurious to Your Freedom

Shobhaa De, in her column ‘Politically Incorrect’ in The Times of India, takes a dig at the recent hauling up of a collection of essays edited by Biswajit Roy in court, where a judge had called the book “evidence and labelled objectionable material”.

This, after it had been clearly reported that the “objectionable matter” was, in fact, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, something the miffed judge had quickly sought to correct – by naming yet another book as a potential troublemaker in Vernon Gonsalves’ bail plea hearing! De bemoans the ludicrousness of the matter and how books on all of our shelves will now become “incriminating evidence” judging by this case.

“Too many readers are suddenly hooked on to ‘War and Peace’ (Leo’s), after the mix-up in court. Now, they want to buy both the books to compare the narratives. Book sales have shot up dramatically and who knows – the ‘other’ lethal book with the same title may also start selling briskly! Then what? This is too much. We should ask for both versions of ‘War and Peace’ to be banned in India.”
Shobhaa De in The Times of India

Paagal, Mad, Basket Case... It’s Time to Mind It, Rajini Style

‘Mrs Funnybones’ aka Twinkle Khanna in her The Times of India column this Sunday, pens a rather sensitive essay on the thought of death – and of depression – and how it is essential to talk of both. She broaches the former by remembering her recent summer conversations with her own six-year-old, who had been obsessed with the fear of dying, often losing sleep and refusing to be pacified.

Khanna talks of how the worried mother in her had seen a counsellor who’d recommended honest conversation and how her child’s fear had ultimately dissipated. She encourages the same conversation around mental health – something Indians, she believes, are still squeamish about.

“There are more than five crore Indians suffering from depression and more than three crore with anxiety disorders, according to a 2015 World Health Organisation report. But there is so much stigma around mental health, that though we are happy to pay trainers to get us to do three sets of bicep curls, we will not seek out professionals to help us train our minds, despite having one of the highest suicide rates in the world.”
Twinkle Khanna in The Times of India

The Contours of the Next Political Battle

Chanakya, in his column for Hindustan Times, writes about how India, having recently recovered from the tumult and chaos that was the seven-phase general elections, will now focus on the assembly polls later this year – in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand.

Chanakya lists the reasons these polls will be important: to see whether the BJP, the incumbent in these states, could continue its power surge. To test the popularity of recent big moves, like Kashmir. To see if there’s an impact of a dip in economic indicators, et al.

“And finally, each state going to polls has its own importance in the larger scheme of India’s federal polity. As power has devolved to states, who runs the state government often matters more to citizens in that particular local geography than who runs the central government.”
Chanakya in Hindustan Times

Population Debate: Involve Men in Care and Planning

Lalita Panicker, in a Sunday column for Hindustan Times, broaches a very important topic to the Indian polity – that of population and population control. She claims that the way it has been discussed in the past few years or so has become “boring” since no real methods are actually applied. Panicker talks of how contraceptives to suit different people may be “discussed” but they are never “easily available”. So, what could work?

“Instead of fretting about population, we should address the major lacuna in the programme. One is the lack of involvement of men. They rarely feature in the planning process, either as recipients of reversible contraception or as health workers.The majority of health workers in the field of reproductive health are women. Why should this be so? When it comes to discussing contraception, it would be far better, especially in rural India, if there were more male workers to talk to men, in what is inherently a patriarchal set up. It would be desirable, but impractical, to expect women to engage men and discuss reversible contraception and spacing.”
Lalita Panicker in Hindustan Times

Kashmir and the Stories we are Telling

In his hauntingly poignant style, Sankarshan Thakur, in The Telegraph’s column this Sunday, sketches a word picture of Kashmir, pregnant with pauses and replete with horror, gore and sadness. He does this through the personification of “stories”, stories that “we are not telling”. Stories of the one who went out never to come back, of the one who yelled “Martyr!”, of the one who shouted, “Maar, aur maar!” Of the one who cried blood, and of the one who lay bleeding.

“We gathered for prayer, and we all began to cry. We had come for solace, and we knew at once we were all hapless. We are all Someone. We are all someone else. We are tangled. We are enmeshed. Toppled upon each other, unable to recognise ourselves, unable to discern our body parts from parts of other bodies, unable to recognise whose soul it is that is soughing here. But do we even have souls?”
Sankarshan Thakur in The Telegraph
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