Saturday, May 30, 2015

Page-3 to Crony Journalism - We are at a bad phase

Only way to enhance media's estimation in the eyes of the readers is by raising the quality of journalism. 
A quality journalism enhances media's influence. Enhanced investment ultimately can help promote quality journalism and work for stability in northeast. Without profit there will be no investment and without investment there can be no improvement.
Lately, we are also confronted with 'crony journalism'. This crony journalism need not be a cousin of 'crony capitalism' alone. 
The Journalism in the service of a particular ideology - Leftist and anti-Americanism, or anti-Congressim and anti-development or anti-military as often seen in northeastern India -- with malafide intention of a group of journos and media owners - is also crony journalism. It is equally dangerous. 

When the standard of journalism is raised, a newspaper or a TV channel becomes 'more attractive' to the readers, and therefore you attract more readers. Thus in the ultimate, this enhance the media's influencing power. This would also ensure attracting more advertisements and enhanced profit for the owners. But sadly over the last few decades what has happened with the mainstream national media and also in the region is something else. Either there has been sensationalism, a case of mountain out of mole hills, or they had promoted page-3 variety of journalism. 
Blogger during a media interaction

Axel Springer, the German journalist and newspaper magnate had succinctly said in 1970s, : 'A free society cannot exist without a Free Press'. Well, the point is well taken. But he had also acidly asked a question: "Is the (same) Free Society willing to pay the price of a Free Press?".

This question is not only relevant for overall Indian media scenario, it's all the more important for the northeast India.
But why single out media and the northeast alone? The source is the society and media is the stream; and as is the source thus shall be the stream.

In other words, expecting pristine glories and all virtues in the functioning of media that also in a violence-hit and ethnic tribals dominated region could be erroneous as the 'society' itself is not perfect.
But humankind has learnt to live with hopes amid the hurdles. Overall the governance in this country and more so in the north east India has been at a premium and the quality of political leaders and administrators found wanting. The police and other institutions also have mostly left people in a depressing stage. 
Photo credit from FB posting of Prabhudev Shastrimath
Amid this chaos, media in the region has lived through its shortcomings of which there are many. 
Now, like the fourth estate elsewhere, let us try to look at the factors those 'ail' the media in the north east. The symptoms of the disease are too stark. Thus what's required is remedial measures, one must say, to analyse objectively and rather effectively on how would the fourth pillar of democracy help the northeast region resolve its pending problems. 

To debate this, one must start with admission that the chief concern for the media in the region is to ensure the 'freedom' from external forces -- the government agencies, armed forces, political class and the insurgent groups.

This 'freedom' essentially would mean the liberty for the media to set their own agenda. 

Media must resist and challenge all external pressures - sometime oppressive ones - to control a newspaper's or a TV channel's editorial discretion. But having said these, one must also categorically emphasise that the media in the region like elsewhere should be expected to function as an industry. The market dynamics must be allowed to prevail both in terms of content and quality. But the media's role as a social institution - at the same time - must not be lost either due to commercial dictates or political inclinations (pressures) of the owners themselves.

On this backdrop perhaps it would not be wrong to speak a few words on what's expected of media as an off-shoot of an industry. In any industry there is and there must be a profit motive. This vital aspect in any business is unfortunately often not appreciated. Making 'profit' as such is no act of guilt. Newspaper owners should not be expected to run some charitable trust. This would be unfair and self-defeating in terms of improving the media per se. 

Why I say this, because: without profit there will be no investment and without investment there can be no improvement.

Striking that elementary 'balance' between commercial interests and social purposes thus would remain a challenge for the media in general. It's more so in the far-flung northeast region especially in an age of TRP-directed TV channel shows at the national or metro city level. This challenge becomes all the more significant in an era when the internet revolution has changed the manner human beings can think.
But now WHAT HAS INTERNET DONE? - Perhaps it has compelled people to realise the importance of spending someone else's money on someone else...and yet you garner profits and also happiness. 

The moot point I am trying to emphasise here is you cannot run away from the truth that good or bad changes that one plans to bring to the media cannot come without pumping in money or without taking help of technology and internet. 

The basic job of media is to inform people so that a public space is created for issues of 'importance' to be discussed for people's benefits. It is thus a power that arises from the social understanding (recognition) that all human beings have the right to 'know' (information about certain facts) and the freedom of expression. The latent emphasis on INDIVIDUAL RIGHT cannot be overlooked.

So, when we talk about these so called 'individual rights' -- it ought to be appreciated that a sound policy considers/shall evaluate long-term consequences of a policy (decisions) over all groups of people not just the short term effects of one group.
The usefulness of Internet is exemplified in understanding this vital fact that the new web technology has enhanced the 'power of the Net users'. So, media in the north east India need not shy away from 'informing' the readers and enhancing their 'knowledge bank'. 
This brings to the issue of greater investment referred above.

Call it an emphasis on the 'news Consumerism', but one is not hesitating about it. I  believe 'empowerment' of the news consumers through freedom to choose from all markets - economic, social, ethnic and political - can fetch in long term benefits. For long, this country as a whole and the northeast too have played 'protective' and 'entitlement' regimes. Information also has been blocked and more often distorted and viewed through prejudiced prism. Rationing of information is no body's case today.

But my take is: if democracy provided avenues to compete and making choice about 'politics' in the political market place, the freedom to provide choice vis-a-vis media can be beneficial similarly. 

Interestingly, the global market and technological forces are already driving the information movement. 
The web revolution already provides a reader in the interiors of Mizoram township Lunglei the freedom to surf what is
written about his state and his chief minister by a blogger in Delhi, Dhaka or in Denmark. 
Hence, a society that robs an individual of the benefits of his own efforts or attempts to limit the freedom of his mind or compels him to act against his own rationale judgement is hardly a society. It will be at best a 'mob' held together by some institutionalised 'gang-rule'.

We have also spoken about 'individual right'. But this individual right cannot be akin to animal instinct. In other words, we cannot presume that men or women can survive, as animals do, by acting on the range of immediate moment. 
We human beings have to chart out a roadmap, think of a goal and then achieve them through hard work and in a specified span of time. 

This brings us back to the point of keeping the readers informed. My take is, the better the mind will be, the greater will be man's (woman's) knowledge and longer the range of planning to excel. 

The media industry in the northeast must try to understand the importance of these. It must look ahead. That's why I say whenever a law is debated or a Bill is piloted we need to focus on the future and of course the present. But in most cases, the myopic visions compel politcal players, media and even intellectuals to look at the rearview mirror. 

The country and the northeast India is paranoid with the past.

Such a society can seldom visualise properly about the future. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Indian diplomacy: PM Modi’s distinct imprint

Operation 'Rahat' - the disaster management diplomacy - putting India’s back into global play and outreach in neighbourhood combined together will be principal hall mark of first year of Indian diplomacy under Narendra Modi. 

But has Modi has put his stamp on foreign policy faster and much stronger than his predecessors including Pt Jawaharlal Nehru?
'Not a Nehru Fan'

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Modi Sarkar: Have Christians turned 'neo-Muslims' ?

It is certainly trial by fire for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Perhaps a L K Advani would not have been judged and scrutinized the manner Modi is subjected to such threadbare scanner for his less than one-year stint in office as Prime Minister of a complex country like India with its multi-layered complex problems.
The examination (change the word to scrutiny if u favour) is so ruthless that the Congress leaders are getting away with their long 60-years rule or misrule.

No body is meanwhile talking about the performance of other Prime Ministers like H D Deve Gowda, who made guest appearance in the corridors of power in Delhi solely because there was a Marxist-inspired conspiracy against Atal Behari Vajpayee in 1996.
"Hum sarkar nahi bacha pa rahen haen kyon ki sabse zyada tang aap ne lagaya (It's your party's machinations that I am bowing out of office because of numbers)," Vajpayee had told CPI-M veteran Somnath Chatterjee in Lok Sabha during the now popular debate of 1996.

Coming back to Modi regime's one year, one has many yardsticks to analyse the same. One way is to look at what has happened to the Congress party in these 12 months. Rahul Gandhi's party has not only lost power in crucial states like Maharashtra and Haryana it is now 'Congress mukt' Delhi and also in Nagaland. In the north eastern state 8 Congress legislators have deserted the sinking ship and joined T R Zeliang ministry sharing power with a 'BJP Minister'. Congress remains zero strength in Sikkim also.
Next comes what has happened to the armed-chair Indian intelligentsia's pet issues like SECULARISM and the welfare of the MINORITIES. 

In the run up to the polls last year, Arun Jaitley, a key member of the Team Modi then and also now,  during the height of election campaign had said, "the efforts of opponents to create scare about Narendra Modi (among minorities especially
Muslims) are not working". 
BJP’s renowned Muslim face, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi also dismissed the ‘hate Modi’ phenomenon and had said. “People of India and that includes Muslims know it pretty well that a decade of sustained efforts by Congress through CBI, NGOs and disgruntled police officials like Sanjeev Bhatt could not link Modi to the riots of 2002".

But 2015 is different.
PM Modi bowed down before Indian Parliament

The campaign seemed to be working now and there's not only a fine combination of 'fear' and 'hatred' about Modi among the minorities, there is also a good amalgamation of Christians in the entire paradox if post-2002 phenomenon was all about Muslims. 

Thus, according to me, worst part is Christians have turned too 'fussy' about so called 'minority rights'. This is certainly different from mere 'rights'. and that's the dangerous element in it.

During last year, the fear card about Christians and re-conversion row has been played up with such a hyped media publicity that Christians have developed a 'weakness'. They are trying to be "neo-Muslims" -- feeling threatened and more 'isolated' than Muslims. This is not Christian temperament globally nor part of Indian history and the community.

I think Quota Raj or appeasement offered to Muslims over the years was a factor. And I think it was due to a motivated campaign by some quarters among Christians. Indian Christians have a strong history of being Indians first. No otherwise signal should go. Identifying themselves as a community who would vote for Sonia Gandhi 
at any cost irrespective of Congress performance was another mistake by a section of Christians at least in some states. 

An impression has gone from Christians, a corrupt and grossly inefficient 'Congress under Sonia or Rahul' is better than Narendra Modi. I have no answer whether Congress is 'better' in that form but overwhelming Christians have voted for the BJP in the past even in Christian-dominated states like Nagaland. The recent comment by a key member of judiciary on Good Friday is simply unwarranted. 
Posterity would judge that better.

But do Americans work on Sundays and Good Fridays? This mistake is akin to Mother Teresa once talking about reservation for Dalit Christians. But is not Christianity a classless society/religion? Some misguided utterances more from people held in high esteem harm.

But before one concludes, that a section of Hindutva hardliners is trying to derail Modi's development agenda is an issue. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh too has his argument when he says PM Modi himself is playing double games allowing hardliners to pursue polarisation agenda on one hand while he gives only a lip service that only religious book for his government is the Constitution of India.

Now, what about common Hindus perception about Christians and especially the missionaries?

Generally Hindus believe Christians have mixed charity and missionary works like health camps with conversion. Only a community based soul searching can answer these questions. This a grey area.
I suspect and I stand subject to correction, the common Christians have played into the hands of a section of their own community who made the most of anti-BJP rhetoric and RSS bashing. This was during Vajpayee tenure also. 
This is where I think Christians are going wrong. 

They have almost put themselves in bracket with another minority community, who has been historically over sensitive to their 'non Hindu origin'. On the other hand, even Catholic Christian institutes in the past, 1980s and 1990s, as I know from my St Anthony's days in Shillong and later in Nagaland, used to have cultural programmes like Bharatnatyam where Christian performers offered flowers to Goddess Saraswati. 

Christians in India have been integral part of Indian society. Saraswati was not Hindu Goddess but much respected Goddess of Learning. Is this changing today? 

BJP has alliance partners in Nagaland and since 1990s they have shared powers in Meghalaya and also Nagaland. In 2003 Nagaland assembly, BJP won 7 seats out of 60 while they lost power in Himachal. Christians voted for BJP even in Kerala because they feared Muslim hegemony and Love Jihad. 

Finally, am I anxious about India’s survival as a secular, democratic nation?

### No never. If India is to be a nation and remain a nation, it has to be secular and democratic nation. Country has come a long way ! If someone says Hindus are most tolerant community, my counter is simple: actually it is we Indians who are most tolerant. 
An American or even someone in Bangkok cannot understand the beauty of this multi-caste, multi-religion society. That's ‘democratic nirvana’! and I spoke from my heart.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Great Expectations and A Modi Bhakt’s grief?

Sundar thi mein woh pathik, meri sundarta nikhar gayi
jag mein sundarta bharkar meri sundarta bikhar gayi

(I too was beautiful oh stranger, my beauty also stunned one and all,
But as I spread my beauty all around, I am left a barren)

“We were wrong. We were wrong in supporting ….as the catalyst …not capable of it….had only the will for what now seems to be a passion for personal power….A little being of own power, a few slogans which might have been initiated by a genuine desire for reform and change….”

The detractors of  the Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be too glad to read these lines. Incidentally these lines are not mine and more interestingly, these lines are not about Narendra Modi. Now this is sheer coincident. History, truly, has a depressing habit of repeating itself especially in a democracy.
These lines were penned decades back by Raj Thapar, a close friend of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 18 August, 1974, in her diary. The exact reason for such a statement for Indira, by Raj Thapar who along with her husband Romesh Thapar formed an inner-intellectual coterie for the then Prime Minister for sometime is not known. But this marked the period when Indira Gandhi started losing friends.

To put things in right perspective, Raj Thapar’s diary noting read, “Having been trying to unravel the political illogic that seems to prevail……I have come to a sad, sad conclusion. We were wrong. We were wrong in supporting Mrs Gandhi as the catalyst – she was not capable of it. Mrs Gandhi only had the will for what now seems to be a passion for personal power….A little being of her own power, a few slogans which might have been initiated by a genuine desire for reform and change but were so parroty that they finally became mere vote gathering chants…”.

A look back at last 365 days and little more into the calendar of Indian polity, one can easily draw parallelism. Last one year of the Modi government saw many slogans – Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Swach Bharat, Achhey Din etc to name a few. The common perception about failure of the government to deliver ‘achhey din’ (Good Days) is palpable practically in every household and those patient Indians who still want to give ‘more delivery time to Modi Sarkar’ would be guided by political detractors of Modi and the English press and a few websites particularly to believe that rather the country has made a nosedive decline in every sphere of life.

Such a gory picture need not be true. But it’s also a fact there are areas where Modi government should have acted more decisively and with more concrete steps. Price rise and fuel price is one such area. So is the overall job scenario as things have hardly improved from what was last year around the same time even as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and his lieutenant Ravi Shankar Prasad (Telecom Minister) are dishing out statistics to defy this argument.
Sonrise: Indira with 'powerful' Sanjay
For instance, Jaitley said, the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in India grew by about 40 per cent year-on-year to Rs 1.76 lakh crore in 2014-15. In 2013-14, the country had attracted Rs 1.26 lakh crore FDI.
But creditably in some areas, PM Modi is acting decisively and with necessary determination. The pursuance of changes in the 2013 Land acquisition Act is one such instant even as the opposition parties are not leaving anything to chance to dub the Ordinance as “anti-farmers”.
Certainly, Modi is treading on a risky path as farming community are most vulnerable section of Indian voters --- the ‘bullock capitalists (or landlords)’ included - and who can be easily swayed into any side of the political divide.
Last one year, Modi has focused immensely on foreign policy and in some areas even his critics see merits in it. The Indian foreign policy is appearing more pro-active than it has been in last 40 years if not more.
But an ear-on-ground Neta, Modi knows about the importance of delivery. His instincts are still active as they have been during his long stint as Gujarat Chief Minister.
Again drawing a parallelism with Indira Gandhi, one can say, the country’s only woman Prime Minister had achieved the impossible when she could dismember Pakistan vis-à-vis independence of Bangladesh.

For his part, Indira’s father Jawaharlal Nehru had set up modern temples in the form of industries, encouraged large dams and provided jobs to educated. Modi has neither of these situations. Even the populism of nationalism of banks was achieved by Indira in 1971 and such steps do not evoke enthusiasm of the socialist era in the 21st century.

So PM Modi has to act and produce results in the overall improving of investment atmosphere. The series of foreign trips and interactions with CEOs in countries like Korea and China ought to be seen from that perspective.
But which were the areas Modi government’s role remain far from satisfactory?
One such area obviously is to keep the regime inclusive and he seems to be not doing enough to on this eradicate the perception that fundamentalism has been let loose in this country although the ‘sickular media and polity’ will never understand between genuine assertiveness of the majority community.
But, Modi chose to remain silent when the likes of Sakshi Maharaj and Yogi Adityanath only made unnecessary noise !
So people often whisper, Is the Modi government anti-minority? Are Christians and Muslims being persecuted?
Are Christians cherishing anti-BJP rhetoric?
I don’t agree the Modi government is anti-minority, yes they could be pro-majority for a change !

And in another blog I would like to answer these questions myself but if we cherish democracy, the public perception is important. Thus, the Prime Minister needs to convince and carry along his people. The onus is on him as expectations too are from him as the Mandate 2014 suggested.  The mandate had nothing or less to do with other BJP leaders or even the Hindutva agenda even as a large number of Sadhus were deployed during electioneering in 2014.
The pretext often taken about leaders that he or she is being out of touch from the ground reality does not apply to Modi and thus cannot be excuses for his failures. PM Modi should not turn out to be CM Jyoti Basu in West Bengal – whose initial years have seen a time of ‘great expectations’ but the end scandalously belied.     


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Lessons Congress, Rahul Gandhi continue to decline to learn

#May16,2014 --- Narendra Modi conquered India....some thought it was a 'black day'..... I unfriended one old friend on FB that very the remark showed disrespect to people's mandate !!

There are lessons for many political parties from the condition the country’s oldest party has found itself in. Anti-incumbency or aggressive Modi-fied campaigns were not the only factors for the decline. The decline of the Congress party has been seductively gradual. The foremost of all was the steadfast refusal to take corrective measures. The so called discipline, reduced to sycophancy,  that could have been one of the greatest strengths turned out to be a curse. The protectionism of the dynasty undermined talent and thus the likes of Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora and Sachin Pilot were never allowed to bask – the fear being - the young Turks could not be allowed to overshadow Rahul Gandhi.
However, by June 1, 2014, a fortnight since the verdict came, the Congress leaders in isolation and in separate pockets started making noises especially against Rahul Gandhi – in Kerala, Rajasthan and remote Mizoram. 
Rahul surrounded by 'dynastic sons' - Hooda, Scindia, Gogoi 
For Sonia, the worst and shocking news perhaps came from Mizoram when chief minister Lal Thanhawla, a Congressman of many years and a Christian himself took on the Congress. He had lambasted the party leadership of the manner it has been handling the defeat. His eloquent oneliners are more than the normal reactions from a disgruntled Congressman. Lal Thanhawla said the party “paid for its misdeeds” and it “does not know how to face defeat”. He added he has written to Sonia to refrain from blame-game in the party and rather introspect instead. “That way, the defeat we faced is good for us,” he said.
Two days later, another Congressman and senior parliamentarian Kishore Chandra Deo commented, “Indira Gandhi had once said, -only Congress can defeat Congress. That is exactly what happened”.
In an interview with Economic Times, Deo, who presided over Lok Sabha panel in 2008-09 on cash-for-vote scam, also analysed candidly that the feedback and surveys Rahul Gandhi was trying to get was hardly unbiased.
“He (Gandhi) was getting surveys through his people. A good effort again, but when his surveyors go to the PCCs, they send them to DCCs. The DCC chiefs were appointed by PCC chiefs, who in turn were appointed by AICC managers from Delhi. Ultimately his surveyors got feedback only from those who were part of the party establishment. So Rahul could never get unbiased feed-back. ……It is a vicious circle”.
Kishore Chandra Deo was also critical of the roles played by the likes of Jairam Ramesh, who headed a group of ministers in UPA that oversaw bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. “Some green-horns and imported leaders may have been patronised by some within the party and were taking crucial organisational, political and campaign decisions. Jairam is a Rajya Sabha member from AP. I don't know who sent him there for campaigning, or whether he went on his own".
Blogger in the corridors of Parliament

Now where does this lead to?

In my opinion, the Congress leaders’ and Congress supporters’ disgruntlement has been more against the Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi himself, whose ‘ability’ to deliver for the grand old party is now no longer a state secret.
An honest analysis of 2014 Mandate would make it amply clear that no single factor has contributed more to the downfall of Congress party in these elections than Rahul Gandhi and his flirting with failures.

As an ardent student of Indian elections, I find some similarity emerging between Rahul and his ‘illustrious’ uncle, the Late Sanjay Gandhi, though as personalities both are from diametrically different stocks.
So has Sonia Gandhi emulated her mother-in-law Indira in displaying her unquestionable love for a son, who is today seen as a political liability?
The hapless Kerala Congressman TH Mustafa’s unceremonious suspension is a case in point. His being a Muslim did not save the day!
Will photo opp. help?

The ignominious defeat of Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had other stories to tell. What does the mandate mean for Congress and the first political dynasty of the country?
Normally, any party which has been decimated at the scale of Congress would go ahead for upheaval. The clamour should have grown on what would happen to the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi. But in Congress, the moment the results started pouring in, a firewall was being created on how to protect the ‘family’.

On social networking site the joke that went out viral rapidly was: “Son Rahul please come back home, Mummy will not blame you for whatever that went on, we will blame uncle Manmohan”.

That’s precisely how people thought Congress is and exactly the manner Congress behaved after the results too. Refusing to learn lessons and perhaps more importantly shying away from responsibility, Rahul Gandhi pushed the party to name low-profile Mallikarjun Kharge as the Leader of the Congress group in Lok Sabha.

“This mandate is more against the dynasty than the Congress party. Not only the treacherous acts of the family were exposed in the form of corruption of Robert Vadra, Narendra Modi had given a specific call against Ma-Beta ke sarkar,” said BJP hardliner Balbir Punj. Expectedly the Congress leaders declined to buy the line.

Instead from Kamal Nath to Digvijay Singh to Jyotariditya Scinda to Abhishekmanu Singhvi everyone said that Sonia and Rahul need not resign and instead “use the opportunity” to revive the party. “The failure to communicate about the government’s good works was the chief factor,’ said senior leader Kamal Nath trying to blame Manmohan Singh regime for all the discomfort generated by the mandate 2014.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hon'ble Speakers and their share of controversies !

"Not only Sumitra Mahajan, even other Lok Sabha Speakers had share of controversies"

The Lok Sabha Speaker Ms Sumitra Mahajan has come under attack for her alleged biased towards the ruling side. More than one Lok Sabha member has till now spoken against her, some even within the House. On Rahul Gandhi's charge on the Food park in Amethi, Congress member Hooda questioned the Speaker’s decision to allow the intervention by the minister more than once. “How can a minister give a statement five times on the same issue. Why did you allow the minister to give the statement when she had already made interventions earlier on the same issue?” an agitated Hooda asked the Speaker. 

“You check the record first and then speak. Will you say sorry if the record turned out to be against your claims?” Ms Mahajan asked  Hooda. Earlier too, other members have spoken on similar veins and in veiled manner. Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge has been one of them. 

However, just at a time when the incumbent Lok Sabha Speaker Ms Sumitra Mahajan has come under attack for her alleged partisan stand vis-a-vis Narendra Modi government, a closer look suggests that the office of the Speaker in India has been subjected to criticism and controversies from time to time especially since the 1980s.

At the receiving end !!
In fact since the 8th Lok Sabha, the Speaker's role has been subjected to criticism one way or the other. Perhaps this 'controversy element' only increased many times once the coalition era set in and also coinciding with the emergence of a more vigilant media than what used to be in 1970s and before. A sitting lawmaker from Odisha cites the performance of Rabi Ray, the Speaker of the 9th Lok Sabha when V P Singh led the country's first coalition government with outside support from the Left parties and the BJP.  "Rabi Ray handled things in his matured and dignified manner than none could complain," he says. 

However, even Rabi Ray's stint was marred by a modest controversy when the Speaker declined to 
disqualify the then Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal under Chandrashekhar government when 
Devi Lal and few others were given "benefit of doubt" for defecting from V P Singh-led Janata Dal
to the Chandrashekhar group by Ray.

Blogger !

The present incumbent Sumitra Mahajan's predecessor Ms Meira Kumar's tenure was also 
marred by controversies like allowing Congress member Rahul Gandhi make a 'lenghty' zero hour speech on the Anna Hazare-led agitation on Lokpal in 2011. 

The then Leader of the Opposition, Sushma Swaraj took a potshot on the episode and tried to remind Rahul Gandhi and others in the House that, "zero hour mein aap rashtra ke naam sanesh nahi dete (that you don't make a national broadcast of your speech during zero hour). 

Under the Rule 377 of Lok Sabha, 'zero hour' allows members to raise matters of public importance and make a brief reference only.

Meira Kumar also came under criticism for "not accepting" the resignation of the then 12 Congress 
MPs from Andhra Pradesh (then Telengana region) as perhaps letting the MPs give up their membership could have reduced the Manmohan Singh ministry into a minority. 

The media criticism on such alleged conduct was also not taken lightly later. An editor of a popular daily was also dragged by the Lok Sabha's privilege committee on the charge of breach of privilege.

A senior Janata Dal member of parliament in Rajya Sabha also has memories of Balram Jakhar's stint during Rajiv Gandhi era when Congress numbers was over 400. "The stint of Balram Jakhar as Speaker was marked by a major controversy when he had allowed the 'death' of Devi Lal's
grand daughter-in-law (Supriya) to be discussed in the House. So much perturbed was the Tau that 
he vowed to contest elections against Jakhar in latter's bastion Sikar in Rajasthan and was also 
successful in defeating him".
Rabi Ray: He gave 'benefit of doubt' to Devi Lal on disqualification matter!!

A soft spoken Shivraj Patil though is credited for steering the parliamentary movement to establish Parliamentary Standing Committee system, in the 10th Lok Sabha he too faced strong protest both within the House and outside on the disqualification of some Janata Dal members for 'defecting'. In one case of the first split, when Ajit Singh and 20 others walked away from Janata Dal, he took 9 months to pronounce his judgement and in another case he took two years. The delay in both instances helped Rao government which subsequently allowed 
transformation of minority P V Narasimha Rao government into a majority.

The tenure of P A Sangma did not have much controversy as the northeastern MP used his 'gifted sense of humour and the sagacity' as Narasimha Rao had said once to conduct the proceedings in the 11th Lok Sabha where in there were two coalition governments headed by H D Deve Gowda and I K Gujral. 

"Sangmaji understood the people's sensitivity. He disallowed G G Swell raise the issue of beef eating in the 
House more than once," says a BJP MP.

However, he adds even Sangma had brushes with his share of controversy for having spoken about the need of a 'national government' in the midst of political instability as "this statement was interpreted in a section of media as reflection of Sangma's own ambition to head such a government".

For his part, the most 'newsy' episode of Speaker Balayogi was his ambiguous ruling when he said "it's up to the conscience" of Giridhar Gamang, who as Odisha Chief Minister, had come to vote against Atal Behari Vajpayee's government in 1999. The Vajpayee government fell by one vote during that historic trial of strength.
Sangma: Used his Humour to its best
The country's only communist Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee had his share too. Like Ms Mahajan and probably few others, Chatterjee, who never failed to take high moral ground, was also accused of being partisan. None other than the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had flayed

the veteran Marxist. BJP had boycotted monsoon session in 2006 and when Speaker wrote a letter to 
Vajpayee asking him to reconsider the decision, the former PM had 

retaliated by stressing upon the need for presiding officers to be seen to be fair. 

"Legislature proceedings can be smooth if the presiding officer is able to inspire confidence in the Opposition party as much as in the ruling party — confidence in one's fairness and objectivity has to be commanded, not demanded,'' Vajpayee wrote back.

Lok Sabha also witnessed acrimony between Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and the CPI-M members on July 22, 2008 trial of strength debate. A 'bitter exchange' took place when CPI-M's Mohammad Salim, the first Left representative to speak on the motion, was about to begin his speech. Amid uproar in the House, CPI-M's floor leader Basudeb Acharia made a plea to the Speaker to bring the House to order.
The remark angered the Speaker, who immediately shot back: "You tell me how to go about it. You can come and sit here and do it yourself."
Salim and others later also felt the Speaker was possibly wrong in allowing the 'voting' on the fateful day as hours before two BJP members displayed currency allegedly given to them by the government interlocutors.
At one point when CPI-M member Salim was 'gesturing' angrily, Speaker Chatterjee screamed, "Mr Salim can you tell me whose money it is....look he is gesturing".

When all attempts to make Chatterjee step down failed, Prakash Karat later expelled him for defying the party politburo.
Marxist Somnath as Speaker perhaps befriended MMS regime too well

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Indo-Bangladesh pact: Narendra Modi and Indira Gandhi

Incidentally, the Narendra Modi government's one year in office would be completed by next fortnight or so, on May 26 2015.
The Modi-led dispensation showing much eagerness to make a mark on diplomatic front did make a major break through as Parliament approved a historic legislation that will improve relations with the eastern neighbour Bangladesh.
Taking a huge diplomatic step for improving relations with Bangladesh, both the Houses of Parliament unanimously passed a historic Bill to operationalise the Land Boundary Agreement that provides for exchange of territories, help citizens in the enclaves and that will settle a 41-year-old issue between two countries. 

It's definitely a diplomatic feather in Prime Minister Modi's cap, who is otherwise facing criticism on domestic front and agrarian crisis.
These have been happening around for Narendra Modi,once dismissed and hounded for 2002 mayhem, despite the kudos he has got almost in every country he visited as Prime Minister.

It is also significant to note that in Lok Sabha as Modi's somehow not so trusted - at least perceived to be - External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj piloted the Land Boundary pact Bill, initially conceived in an Indira Gandhi-Mujibur Rahman pact of 1974, Mujib's freedom slogan and Bhupen Hazarika's friendship song resounded. 

The BJP, which had during its avatar as an opposition outfit since 2011 and 2013 had steadfastly opposed the LBA, played language diplomacy and fielded its Darjeeling MP, S S Ahluwalia, a Punjabi Sikh but a fluent orator in Bangla, to present party's view on the Bill. Making his speech in fluent Bangla, Ahluwalia recounted Assamese music maestro Bhupen Hazarika's popular number, 'Padma amar ma, Ganga amar ma..., a famous song on Indo-Bangla friendship.  

Another good orator Sugata Bose of Trinamool Congress did not lack behind. He brought alive the richness of few Bengali literature. Quoting Banga Bondhu Mujibur Rahman's famous slogan during his historic speech on the 7th of March 1971, Jadavpur MP Sugata Bose recalled the line, 
"rokto jokhon diyechhi, rokto aro debo" and offered to translate it for members, “Since we have given blood, we will give more of it, Inshallah, we will free the people of this land (the then East Pakistan).” 

Quoting galaxy of Bengali writers and the likes of Rabindranath tagore and Nazrul Islam, as he recited
some poems, other MPs demanded him to offer the translation.
TMC MP also quoted Tagore's illustrious number,  “Bangladesher hridoy hote kakhan aponi, tumi ki apurup rupe bahir hole ...". Sugata Bose again referred to poet Jibananda Das's famous line, "Banglar mukh ami dekhiachi, (We have seen Bengal's face)".
Indira Gandhi and Mujibur Rahman
Most often history becomes important mainly for the sake of its timing. History also offers room for comparison often between two non-conforming personalities.  
Perhaps that comparison is not out of touch from the reality between Modi and Indira Gandhi.

Notwithstanding Modi's focused approach to discredit Nehru legacy and its lapses especially, perhaps without his realizing PM Modi has walked into the path followed by Indira Gandhi decades back.

There will be little to dispute that Indira Gandhi's reign for 16 years marks a watershed in India's history. But the watershed was also on international front in spite of big time events like Emergency
in 1975.
For his part, Modi is ambitiously playing the 'international image building' card often to the cost of neglecting affairs in the country. 

"It's PMO all the way," remarked former career diplomat and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on the focus of Modi's governance. Such criticism do not add to the credit of a Prime Minister, who has promised to deliver on more mundane issues like price rise and jobs. But Tharoor has also been candid in highlighting Modi's personal ambitions - to leave a name for himself. 

A section of Indians are meanwhile getting restive and expectedly so. Others say Modi needs to come out of his decade-long 'Gujarat mindset' and start trusting his colleagues and they, as in the Congress, need not be couple of 'yes men' like compatriots Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley. 

However, Modi is perhaps aware of the words being spread about him and against him. One known Hindutva ideologue Arun Shourie, also an admirer of Modi, has already spoken against him. One sitting BJP MP, Bharat Singh (from Ballia in UP) has reportedly flayed him and his council of ministers and their style of functioning at no other forum than BJP parliamentary party meet where PM Modi was himself present.

All these could be linked to RSS's own unhappiness in the manner Modi is trying to control both the BJP and the government. 
The Sangh fountainhead's decision to depute an astute Ram Madhav as BJP general secretary has perhaps not helped much on this front as not many are yet willing to take on a powerful Prime Minister who gave BJP as many as 282 MPs in Lok Sabha.

Likes of Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh have been either silenced or tamed and there's no stopping of Team Modi and the select 'coterie' around him.

Modi and Nawaz Sharif on May 27, 2014

But in retrospect having moved a calculated gesture towards Bangladesh, Modi would now be interested to make forward movement with Pakistan. He knows if he can deliver even a 50 per cent of an 'ideal friendship' with the western neighbour, he would remain unconquerable for sometime.

A smart mover that he is, PM Modi is moving in the other direction also. The GST Bill will be another achievement when the uniform tax regime is rolled out. 
Within country, PM Modi and his 'chanakya' Ajit Doval are acting rather quickly on prospective peace adventures in Nagaland. Having sidelined a popular Neiphio Rio by a 'weak and lightweight' Chief Minister T R Zeliang is a step in that direction.

Like Indira Gandhi, in the ultimate analysis, PM Modi is also decisive and has the requisite nerve to take decision quickly.

Many say, the history of Indian sub-continent would have been different if Indira Gandhi had delayed the decision of recognising Bangladesh as an independent country. Prime Minister Modi has that rustic Gujarati-vania mindset even as that's not his caste. 

Despite the criticism that Modi is neglecting internal matters and also trying to bulldoze his decision on all ministries and ministerial colleagues, there's a deep appreciation that PM Modi is being decisive on key issues something Atal Behari Vajpayee would have hesitated.

Naga rebel leaders in Peace Talks
Ultimately, they say Modi's decisiveness has stuck even for the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh as he brushed aside the strong objections from Assam BJP unit.

It's a risky proposition on the eve of assembly elections in Assam next year as the LBA could be construed as an act of betrayal of Assam.

But Modi and Amit Shah made it clear that such dichotomy would not come in the way of the Prime Minister scoring a key diplomatic victory, at least for the time being.

There's another crucial similarity between Modi and Indira Gandhi. Both are known for their abhorrence of back-seat driving.

Indira Gandhi's support for V V Giri in the presidential election in 1969 on reflected Indira's commitment to run her own show by herself, so has been Narendra Modi's strategy so far.

Despite RSS pressure and brickbats from opposition, Modi stuck to his stand so far to retain Smriti Irani as his HRD Minister. He is also firm about the Land acquisition Ordinance and could go any further to push it. 
Pakistan's military dictator Yahya Khan committed a blunder when he could not imagine 'that woman' (Indira Gandhi as he contemptuously referred her) would risk a military response to the attack of Indian western airfields on December 3, 1971. 
None of Modi's detractors would know that a die-hard fan of populism and electoral politics could risk making voters of Assam 'unhappy'.

But, do you have it in you Mr Modi, would still be my all-time favourite question for the Prime Minister when it comes to taking on the elements like Sakshi Maharaj and Yogi Adityanath.