1. They were nowhere in the struggle: The Modi Govt’s Attempt to Appropriate Icons
There were many strands in the Indian freedom struggle but the RSS was not one of them, argues political scientist Zoya Hasan. The last two years have seen a shift in the BJP/RSS focus on history from ancient and medieval Indian to modern history. The attempt is to change the historical narrative, taking figures like Ambedkar out of the context of their struggles.
It is noteworthy that the right wing has zeroed in on certain individual leaders as though the movement and struggles that they led and organised did not matter. In consequence, the focus is on individual leaders and their heroism rather than the ideas and ideology they fought for. This is not surprising as conservative forces, and the present regime in particular, have a zealous faith in the cult of the individual. Such a framework is marked by an abandonment of historicism and its substitution with individuals. Owing to an inflated assessment of the role of iconic individuals, leaders replace the freedom movement and the people who were active participants in this movement.Zoya Hasan in The Hindu
2. The Alcoholic Mammaries of the Welfare State
Economist Swaminathan Aiyar is in great form in his article on the “freebies” given out in Tamil Nadu. One of the main reasons successive governments have been able to afford such policies is the huge revenues the government earns from alcohol sales.
All liquor shops are run by TASMAC, a government monopoly, to maximize revenue. TASMAC makes additional money by leasing space to private bars within liquor shops. Liquor revenue has risen from Rs 2,800 crore in 2002-03 to Rs 30,000 crore today. To finance an ever-growing list of freebies, the state government has aggressively expanded the number of liquor shops, making access easy. These now open early in the morning, leading to stories of drunkenness before noon.Swaminathan Aiyar in The Times of India
While alcohol sales have filled the state’s coffers, it has also created resentment among women voters. The DMK has blamed Jayalalithaa for encouraging alcoholism, but how the state will continue to pay for its welfare schemes without the revenue remains a mystery. The conundrum is not limited to Tamil Nadu. Bihar too has banned liquor and West Bengal is contemplating a ban.
3. Wanted: A Bharatanatyam Dancer, Please
Dr. Arvind Panagariya has given former Finance Minister P Chidambaram ammunition against the current government and cause to praise the years of UPA rule. Using statements made by the head of the Niti Ayog in a recent article and other statistics he has marshalled, Chidambaram argues that India’s growth story is going through a rather long interval under the Modi government.
In a caustic comment on an economist, Dr Jagdish Bhagwati once said, “if he is an economist, I’m a Bharatanatyam dancer!”. Dr Arvind Panagariya is an honourable man. He has a job to do, but has a useless tool — the NITI Aayog — in his hands. The NITI Aayog is neither an all-powerful arbiter of policy differences and fund allocation, nor is it a fountainhead of new ideas and systemic changes. The NITI Aayog is in no man’s land and is all but forgotten.P Chidambaram in the Indian Express
4. Remembering Giani Zail Singh in the Week of His 100th Birth Anniversary
Senior lawyer Fali S Nariman recalls anecdotes, both personal and political, about Giani Zail Singh in The Indian Express. Nariman recalls the former Home Minister and President as a decent, witty, open person.
Once he summoned then-editor of The Indian Express Arun Shourie, who had written an article criticising Singh’s actions as president. But when Shourie arrived at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, to his surprise, Gianiji bared his pearly white teeth, hugged him and began exchanging pleasantries. When Gianiji’s secretary whispered to him that he was supposed to chide Shourie and get angry with him, Gianiji loudly responded “unko likhane deo, parhta kaun hai?”Fali S Nariman, in The Indian Express
5. Leading up May Bring out the Leader in Rahul
There are reports that political strategist Prashant Kishor wants Rahul Gandhi to be his party’s CM candidate for the 2017 UP polls. Sagarika Ghose, for one, feels it’s an excellent idea. While Congressmen and family loyalists may fume at the “demotion”, Rahul still hasn’t done enough to prove himself on the national stage.
Family-worshipping Congressmen may fulminate that the heir apparent is being downsized, but Rahul Gandhi’s claim to be a national leader remains iffy. In Parliament, he still hasn’t really displayed any outstanding passion. Instead he seems to have one foot out of the door and there’s a lack of any visible persistence for a cause. Not even the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, he seems to be still flirting with politics, flitting between issues, from farmer suicides to JNU to net neutrality. His interventions don’t provide a policy-oriented governance agenda. Instead they evoke youthful NGO-activist-type idealism.Sagarika Ghose in the Times of India
In fact, Rahul may find his feet in UP in a way that Delhi hasn’t allowed him to.
In Delhi, Rahul may well be overwhelmed by the old order, by leaders who still instinctively turn to his mother. UPA allies like Sharad Pawar and even party heavyweights like P Chidambaram or A K Antony still regard him as the perpetual junior. But in Lucknow, Rahul could well be his own boss, not having to look constantly over his shoulders to see if mama and her gang of oldies are watching. Chief ministers don’t have the luxury to be constantly carping NGOs. They have to work with bureaucrats to solve daily challenges. A chance to do real work (if he wins) and show the stamina to build from the ground could earn Rahul more spurs than he ever could in Delhi.Sagarika Ghose in the Times of India
6. Agusta Scam: There’s No Good Translation of Italian Court’s Judgement
Did the top leaders of the Congress party and the UPA government really take bribes in the Agusta-Westland chopper deal, or is it media hype and political maneuvering? Karan Thapar, while trying to answer the question, doesn’t really answer it at all. Logically, someone at the top had to be involved, but nothing in the Italian court’s judgement actually indicts senior Congress leaders.
Ravi Shankar Prasad has told The Indian Express (29/4) that when the CBI registered a preliminary enquiry on February 12, 2013, Christian Michel was in India but, literally, 24 hours later left the country. As Mr Prasad concluded: “This is not a coincidence.” I presume he’s alleging that someone in the UPA government tipped off Michel. However, beyond this the references to Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, Ahmad Patel and Oscar Fernandes don’t amount to very much. They are either innocuous and innocent or can be easily explained. They don’t suggest any form of criminality.Karan Thapar in Hindustan Times
7. Fifth Column: Tinkering and Tokenism?
A self-confessed ardent admirer of PM Modi, Tavleen Singh uses her column in the Indian Express to express her disappointment at the PM this week. While he has been good at foreign policy, feels Singh, there hasn’t been any real change where it mattered most.
As a humble hack and not an economist, I can only report what I hear when I put my ear to the ground, and what I hear are rumblings of disappointment. Modi’s most ardent supporters in 2014 admit today that they fear that he is taking the same road that Congress governments have always taken. He no longer talks about making India prosperous, they say sadly, he talks only about the poor and poverty. India’s poverty is sickening and shameful. But it continues to be glorified by socialist political parties perhaps because their solutions have failed.Tavleen Singh in the Indian Express
Singh even attacks the PM’s pet project with surprising venom.
Personally I was delighted when the Prime Minister used his first address from the Red Fort to talk about sanitation and ‘Swachh Bharat’, but what has followed is mostly tokenism. Instead of a campaign to teach rural Indians about the diseases caused by open defecation, we have had a nationwide campaign to build toilets. Most do not work and most do not get cleaned… Getting celebrities to wander about with brooms held delicately in their manicured hands is a nice photo opportunity but that is all it is.Tavleen Singh in the Indian Express
8. Out of My Mind: Old and New Terrorism
Till not so long ago, Terrorism referred to a form of political action but not necessarily an almost universal moral condemnation. The British called Bhagat Singh a terrorist and Gandhi agreed, refusing to intercede on his behalf with the Viceroy Lord Irwin, according to Meghanad Desai.
But while violent action was not approved of by the Congress, terrorism did not have the negative connotation for everyone. The British had experienced terrorism from the Irish freedom fighters — Sinn Féin and the IRA. Very often the financial support for the groups came from Irish Americans who loathed Britain and supported the violent struggle.Meghanad Desai in the Indian Express
Post 9/11 though, the world has changed. Contemporary terrorism is not as morally ambiguous as its predecessors.
Modern terrorism, especially of the jihadist variety, is directed against civilian targets where, by causing collateral damage, a notice is sent to the powers that be that there is an ideological and political war on. The jihadist struggle has no territorial limits and it has no final goal except the conversion of everyone to the Wahabi version of Islam. It is directed at Muslim nations as well as everyone else. It does not wish to negotiate and has no interim goals. The progress in the technology of violence allows the terrorist as an urban guerrilla to kill many people in one attempt. Bhagat Singh’s revolutionary terrorism belongs to a different world.Meghanad Desai in the Indian Express
9. Tagore Was Every Inch a Liberal and Suited to Our Times
On his 155th birth anniversary, Uddalok Bhattacharya pays a tribute to Rabindranath Tagore, pointing out how valid his religiosity, humanism and liberalism is even today.
Behind his tremendous appreciation of Russia’s socialist experiment lay the dark side of India — its poverty, disease, homelessness… When Swami Shraddhananda was killed by a Muslim fanatic, Tagore saw it as an outcome of the enormous gap that separated the Muslims from the Hindus and for this, he said, the Hindus were largely to blame. Along with Gandhi, he, too, believed this gap had to be closed if India was to evolve into a nation. And who could have performed this terror act, he asked. Only a person who can be unmoved by the cries of a mother or a widow. Is this thinking not as valid today as it was in 1927, when the piece was written? His appreciation of Russia did not make Tagore a communist. It was just the thought that a system gave equal opportunities to all was what had enthralled him.Uddalok Bhattacharya in the Hindustan Times