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

We sifted through the papers to find the best opinion reads, so you won't have to.

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India’s Economic Future at Stake As Nation Votes

In his column for Deccan Chronicle, political risk analyst Indranil Banerjie points out that in this year's Lok Sabha elections, which began on 19 April, it is Narendra Modi government’s economic performance that will be "put to test."

"While economists have and will continue to debate the finer points about the economic changes of the past ten years, it is the electorate that will have the ultimate say on whether the changes have been positive and whether they presage better or worse times ahead. It is voter perceptions that will ultimately decide the matter."
Indranil Banerjie, for Deccan Chronicle

Banerjie argues that all that the Modi government has achieved over the past 10 years, including great strides in infrastructural development, might be "eclipsed by the distressingly high levels of inequality in consumption, child malnutrition, rural distress, low levels of women’s participation in the labour force and related issues." He states that the Modi government has not really undertaken "bold structural reforms necessary to change the economic fundamentals".

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BJP Very Unlikely To Amend Constitution

In his 'Swaminomics' column in The Times of India, Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar argues that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is highly unlikely to change the Constitution in order to abandon secularism if it wins a massive Lok Sabha victory.

"It already has what many call a de facto Hindu state,  while formally sticking to secularism. Why abandon a formula that has succeeded in practical politics and is an internationally workable fudge?" he writes.

"However, the fact is that India probably has the most-amended Constitution in the world, with 106 amendments in 76 years. Nothing is commoner than amending the Constitution — Congress and BJP have done it on average more than once a year."
Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, for The Times of India

He argues since the BJP has not amended its own party constitution to disavow secularism and create a Hindu state, it will not necessarily amend the Indian Constitution. "BJP manifesto promises more of the same strategies that have served the party so well. That includes fudge on secularism," he states.

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For Congress, Minimum Is Maximum Now

In his column for The New Indian Express, senior journalist Prabhu Chawla highlights the Congress' shrinking footprint and its wider implications.

"For the first time, the Congress is fielding less than 330 candidates for the Lok Sabha. Has the party conceded its inability to win a majority on its own in this election?"
Prabhu Chawla, for the New Indian Express

Prabhu argues that the Grand Old Party's new strategy of naming candidates in "easy, politically correct tranches" stems from the fact that the party has gotten the message clear that it is no longer a pan-India player.

Analysing the reasons behind the Congress' diminished status, he writes that the party has "been corrupted by dynasty, defeats, defections and denial. The consequence is a talent famine, and organisational paralysis and ideological infirmity."

Taking a dig at the Grand Old Party, he states that it (the Congress) "waxes pompously about saving democracy" but its pathetic performance has instead done just the opposite: weakened democracy.

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Why We Must See Red

In this piece for The New Indian Express, former bureaucrat and author Geetha Ravichandran draws our attention to the problematic issue of the existence of deep-rooted prejudice in our country against dark skin. This she writes has given rise to a "flourishing and exploitative cosmetic industry."

"From infamous chemical bleaches and fairness creams to the glutathione promise, there is an endeavour to sell an illusory standard of beauty as being light-skinned. I am struck by the irony that the cosmetic industry is making its profits by changing dark to light when it’s skin, and white to black when it’s hair. It thrives on people unhappy with their appearance. "
Geetha Ravichandran, for The New Indian Express

She then goes on to elaborate on how the history of colourism in India is often linked to caste. "There is a theory that the light-skinned Aryan invaders subjugated the dark-skinned indigenous population and introduced the Varna or caste system based on colour, " she writes.

She argues that it is necessary to "educate children at homes and schools against colourism, bullying and body shaming."

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Change Beyond Elections

In her column for The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh highlights how ever since Narendra Modi came to power, there has been a rapid decolonisation as a result of which the "old, colonised ruling class has been swept away." 

Singh goes on to write about how Narendra Modi has been at the center of this political change sweeping the country.

"Then along came Narendra Modi and the earth shifted beneath our feet. He may not have been personally responsible for everything that changed but he was a vital part of the political change that happened, and this somehow became an essential element of the bigger changes that were happening. "
Tavleen Singh, for The Indian Express

Singh argues that what has really helped the 'autocratic' and 'dictatorial' Modi garner votes, especially in rural areas, is the 'small changes' that people have witnessed as a result of him coming to power.

"...They believe that these changes have happened because of Modi. These are not remarkable changes. They are simple things like roads, drinking water, electricity, and Internet services but because they were not there before, they seem remarkable, " she writes.

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Cult worship and consequences

In his column for The Indian Express, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram argues about how the BJP is no longer a political party but is rather the name of a cult.

He writes that with the release of the saffron party's Modi Ki Gurantee (the BJP's manifesto) last week, "cult worship has been entrenched as the ‘core’ principle of the erstwhile political party."

"Modi Ki Guarantee packs a lot of firepower of the wrong kind. At the forefront are Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and One Nation One Election (ONOE). Both, or at least one, will require major constitutional amendments; but the BJP leadership seems to be undeterred.
P Chidambaram, for The Indian Express

He argues that the saffron party is determined to press ahead with UCC and ONOE because after the construction of the Temple at Ayodhya, the BJP is in search of issues that have the "potential to satisfy the majoritarian aspirations of the Hindi-speaking, conservative, tradition-bound, caste-conscious and hierarchical Hindu community in the states of Northern India. These states are the source of the political support that the RSS and BJP have gained in the last 30 years. UCC and ONOE are strategies to consolidate that political base."

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An ecological soul

In his column for The Telegraph, former Governor of West Bengal Gopalkrishna Gandhi highlights how climate activist Sonam Wangchuk's recently-concluded 21-day fast has been about more than demanding just statehood for Ladakh.

"Wangchuk has become an indistinguishable part of Ladakh’s geophysical heartbeat, " he writes.

"His (Wangchuk's) protests go beyond saying yes or no to this or that project. They are about what Ladakh’s soil, its rocks, its people need and desire, what their hopes and anxieties are about. They are about consultation. We may invoke concepts like federalism, democracy, consensus. And we would be right in doing so. But life is about the sense of touch, about tactility. Does Ladakh need a giant of a tunnel (Zojila, 14-25 km), a national highway (Kargil-Zanskar, 230 km)? Will the Himalaya there bear the disemboweling that this will involve?"
Gopalkrishna Gandhi for The Telegraph

Gandhi writes that while it is hard to say that statehood will necessarily mean Ladakhis will have a greater say over their destinies, it will at least give "questioning a chance, interrogation a platform".

He argues that there is no denying that Sonam Wangchuk "has shown a great mailed fist, a human and very Ladakhi fist, to what may be called the assumptions and presumptions of progress."

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Apathetic Voters

In her column for The Indian Express, Coomi Kapoor writes that the BJP, which is fighting to win a third consecutive general election, is battling both anti-incumbency and voter apathy.

Kapoor argues that the saffron party is relying on the Modi factor and Opposition goof-ups to ensure that it emerges victorious this time around as well.

The BJP’s weakest links in the north are Bihar and Maharashtra. While the BJP itself may perform as expected, its allies could let it down. In Bihar, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) has been allotted 16 seats, but its prospects appear bleak since its caste-based vote base is shrinking with Nitish’s declining stature. Most JD(U) candidates are elderly sitting MPs affected by anti-incumbency and BJP workers are reluctant to campaign for them.
Coomi Kapoor, for The Indian Express

Kapoor writes that in Maharashtra as well, the saffron party is likely to do better than its allies, Shinde’s Sena and Ajit Pawar’s NCP.

There is unease in Maharashtra at the BJP’s efforts to gobble up regional parties, she adds.

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Learning from China to save India's edge in ITeS

In their column in Hindustan Times, Janmejaya Sinha and Rajiv Gupta write that the Information Technology enabled Services (ITeS) industry, which is likely to take a hit from generative AI, thereby potentially threatening long-term trend is geopolitics and how India must be hence be prepared.

The potentially more threatening, long-term trend for the ITeS industry is geopolitics, they argue.

"What lessons must India learn and what actions should it take? India’s economic rise given its size does not offer any room for complacency. India must anticipate the challenges its rise may create. "
Janmejaya Sinha and Rajiv Gupta, for Hindustan Times.

Sinha and Gupta write that among other things India must build on its "current geopolitical advantage and retain its strategic autonomy to pursue its interests while ensuring strong relations with the US to prevent any potential US backlash, reassure western companies of the integrity of its data standards and the ability to find legal recourse with speed in case of conflict".

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