Tuesday, September 29, 2015

M J Akbar and Congress: Mesmerizing power of Words and False Comfort

Once M J Akbar, then a columnist, had alluded to a poetry and written that the poet does not make facile accusations against the Almighty; but he provides evidence. 
But for political sycophants, there remains something called mesmerizing power of false comfort. Evidence of reasoning does not matter. Congress is passing through this. The Congress leaders are therefore angry these days the moment Narendra Modi visits abroad and addresses desi crowd. Anand Sharma is leading the charge. 

Another sort of ‘family retainer’ is waiting in the wings! Jairam Ramesh! The architect of NGO-inspired 2013 Land Bill will come out with his intellectual press conference any day to claim something ‘original’ about some palaces. Nevertheless 10 Janpath remains sacred. Temples have to be sacred. For Jairam too, all temples need not be sacred, that’s another story. Diggy baba is bit busy these days --- !!!
A magician of words

In the meantime, the joke is about a new parody (song) in Congress headquarter: even “dedicated SICKULAR” JOURNALISTS ARE IN THAT CLUB: "MJ Akbar-ali jaan ki dushman hae hae"!!
These are in REACTIONS to MJ Akbar’s statement yesterday lampooning ‘pappu’ – the crown prince and for designating him the title "spoiled child of Indian politics".
Akbar as a journalist belongs to an old school where playing with words has been his favourite pastime and also mastery! During The Telegraph days, Akbar once gave a headline – reportedly – I was a mere student in Nagaland – “Panja burns Ganja”.

In later years, I was told again as The Asian Age Editor, he gave one of his best headlines – “Jinnah partitions BJP” – this was after L K Advani made the hara-kiri “Jinnah is secular” statement! These are milestones.
So my apprehension is, his description of Rahul Gandhi as a “spoiled child of Indian politics” will stick - at least till the time another 'baba' comes. Jairam Ramesh, and Mumbai’s Sanjay Jha (only a party like Congress can have brilliant spokesman like him) have a lot of hard work to do. Another intellectual, and self-styled ‘inheritor’ of Dr MMS’s legacy, P Chidambaram has to try something original to save his Sivaganga constituency. 
MJ Akbar in 1980s
when journalism was type writer.
Well, in nineties – he did a brilliant floor exercise by joining G K Moopanar’s Tamil Manila Congress. In 2004, he contested as a one-man regional party leader. Future, they say, is always pregnant with hopes.
Now coming back to M J Akbar; I am hardly a Birbal in his durbar; nor I liked his politics and political somersault. In 1989, Akbar had backed Bofors scam-hit Rajiv Gandhi. In 2014 he read political reality pretty well and joined BJP.
Akbar’s press conference on September 28, 2015 --- came as a rude shocker for Rajiv Gandhi’s party and worse for his widowed wife Sonia and illustrious son Rahul.
In his lucid and eloquent style, Akbar lashed out at the Congress and more at the 'family' for what he said trying to belittle Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the United States. “kucch toh sharam karo (you should feel little ashamed)," Akbar said almost tongue-in-cheek adding, "Congress has become a voice of untrue, malice and utter frustration".

He said Congress party is "trapped as a party of inept leadership and is unable to bear the sight of India's Prime Minister raising the prestige and the prosperity of the nation".
Akbar, now a Rajya Sabha MP for BJP from Jharkhand and who was also a Congress MP in 1989, said the Congress party's "frustration" is evident in the huge positive response the Prime Minister Modi has generated from the "giants of intellectuals and innovation and from the leaders of the future who can see another leader of the future in their midst".
He did not stop at that. And this is likely to hurt Congress most!
Describing Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi as "spoiled child of Indian politics", Akbar also sought to ridicule tweeter postings and snaps released by Congress leaders to authenticate that he (Rahul) attended a conference in the US.
"Instead of hiding underground somewhere in the US and posting highly nebulous (one of the alternative meaning is ill-defined) pictures of some alleged conference, it would have been a better idea if Rahul Gandhi come out and explain what he is doing unless of course he is enjoying an undeserved holidays".

Answering questions, journalist-turned-neta Akbar made his argument more emphatic: "even if Rahul Gandhi has gone for a conference, why there was so hush hush about his visit. If the conference was for one day, where he has been for last 14 days"? 

To be fair to Congressmen and women – including family retainers – they knew something “intellectually interesting” about crown prince’s US trip. So, one of them had said, “Rahulji is out for personal reason”. Now, judge the quick impact of loyalty-balm: a truly yours news agency flashed it out promptly. PM-in-waiting is often more important than PM-in-office. 

Reacting to Congress media briefing by Congress version of intelligent man, Anand Sharma, BJP spokesman MJ Akbar said, "Congress press conference shows an astonishing lack of grasp of foreign policy.....and this only shows how Congress made such a mess of foreign policy". Nehruvian legacy crumbles! For Congress, Akbar was also at his best with his one liners during the press conference on jibe at Modi and his mom relationship. "Politics is always about reactions and commentaries, but you don't drag a pious relation like mother-son bond into these,” Akbar said in chaste Hindi.
"Narendra Modi's mother still lives in a small hut...his mother does not stay in a palace of 20 large rooms. ....entire country saw...everyone saw when he broke down and his voice choked talking about his mother (Modi at facebook headquarter as Mark Zuckerbarg’s guest) and you are reacting to this...kucch toh sharam karo," he said.

Reacting to Congress criticism of the Prime Minister, Akbar had further said,
"On one hand, we have a Prime Minister, a person who is so affectionate of his mother....on the other hand, there is a mother whose blind love for son has already destroyed the party and the attempt is now even to finish the country" alluding to Sonia Gandhi's alleged pampering of Congress vice president.

Congress party could not have it worse/better from a former Congressman.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

India-Myanmar ties: Marching towards Greater Cooperation

The much awaited November 8, 2015 elections in Myanmar will mark a significant milestone in that country’s history. The polls will be important even from New Delhi’s point of view – both strategically and diplomatically - as an 'unstable' Myanmar is always a matter of concern vis-a-vis insurgency-hit northeastern states for India.

The government of India attaches great importance to its immediate eastern neighbor. The government under Prime Minister Narenra Modi has in recent months held enhanced interactions and successfully established better relations with that country aiming to seek strategic advantage in more ways than one.  There is certainly a growing thirst for change in that country and the poll results will spell out the tone for the future of democracy in Myanmar.

Blogger in Corridors of Parliament
Over the years, it goes without saying, the Chinese influence has increased in Myanmar. Thus India’s improved relationship in last one year or so with Myanmar is some kind of a milestone in itself.
Now importantly for New Delhi, the Indian government needs to be on guard about certain things.
Certain issues are very sensitive for Indian diplomatic establishment especially in the context of Prime Minister Modi’s keenness to resolve insurgency problems in the north east India and also have improved relations between Nagas in Nagaland and Manipur with the Nagas in Myanmar.
India shares a long land frontier with Myanmar that runs longer than 1600 km. A sizeable portion in western Myanmar is dominated by the ethnic Nagas, who share biological fraternity with the Nagas in India. 
Security experts therefore often say that the condition of Nagas in Myanmar can have some impact vis-à-vis the insurgency movement of the Nagas this side. India is already talking to insurgent groups while Myanmar authorities are working now for ceasefire with the armed groups active in their land.
Earlier in June this year there was some cooperation between Indian armed forces and Myanmar. More such cooperation will be solicited.
An enhanced dose of democracy in Myanmar and especially free hand to local aspirations of Myanmarese Nagas in western Myanmar will be interesting feature to look at. But the people of Myanmar and political establishment in that country have to also ironically grapple with certain realities.

Insurgency can be tackled with Myanmar
There is a system under which 25 per cent of the seats are reserved for the military in parliament. This gives the Myanmar military “veto rights” against any drastic constitutional change. 
As a matured neighbour, India needs to be vigil on these developments too.
On it part, repeatedly the Myanmar government has maintained that the country can play the role of a bridge between India and South-East Asia. This actually gives due recognition to India’s Look and Act East Policy pursued with much enthusiasm by the 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was assured during his June meetings that Myanmar will not allow its territory to be used by anti-India insurgent groups.
These words are certainly assuring and worth appreciation in diplomatic parlance.
Last elections were held in Myanmar in 2010 and subsequent to that only a measured democracy has been granted in that country. Now as the date for polling day approaches, the debates are on how and what to really expect from these polls.

Significantly enough 25 years ago in 1990 when the people of Myanmar had given a landslide victory to Aung San Suu Kyi's party National League For Democracy, contrary to the mandate, the military rulers had nullified the polls. Ms Suu Kyi was also banned from holding government office. But things have changed a lot in last two-and-half decades.
The military junta has shown flexibility and tilt towards appreciating the overwhelming sentiments of people’s demand for democracy. Importantly, the western world opinion on Myanmar has also undergone change.
Myanmar is no longer a pariah before the global community. ASEAN members are with it. Therefore, the coming elections in Myanmar will be vital in many ways.

Will Namo rewrite Nehru's foreign policy

Friday, September 25, 2015

St. Anthony Gang ! Laa Boh Leeaa!! Potentials of ‘School days friendship’

Initially it has been unbelievable. But once the Whatsapp magical influence worked and about 50 of us got connected to 1982 and for some even prior to that phase of our life – and that in circa 2015 - we all seemed to realize that technology is truly a useful tool. The first battle fought and won was with ‘Memories’ and about memories.
What’s friendship when your age was 12-13-14? Who does not feel proud of the stint?
Stut lee ..... it’s a slang.
Move over, real formative years....when we discussed 'sleep disorder'....which angle near St Mary's girls paradise suited whom...when life was La Boh lee.
But once memories are handled; comes in Emotion. Each victory over certain small memories added a new emotion! Some of us chatted with moist eyes! 
There have been certain tragedies in between - Narayan Rao, Dharmendu Chudhary have left for heavenly abode -- owing to road accidents. Roads are not only sign of progress, they are also killers!
Pls sympathise with helpless Bottle

In the bed rooms, ladies have started to complain. “So even my useless guy has a mistress?” – a few ladies imagined! “Bloody mad after Whatsapp” – every wife seemed to have cursed. No ‘husband’ could have done it because St Anthony’s High School, Shillong has been all ‘boys affairs’.
Thus, when five of us (the NCR-gang of Anthony’s) met, Palungthang Vaipei lamented, “omg, we should have had co-education in St Anthony’s”.
I endorsed him boldly while gentlemen like Ainul Haq Mazumdar thought that’s a border line thinking – “I would not trust my friends any longer”. And in the meantime, I screamed, “then Gautam could have been Gautami and everyone would have tried to sit next to her/him". Incidentally I was sitting next to him and guys, just at that point of time, Gautam stood up and gave me a tight hug. A tighter than the one my wife gave probably a decade back!
“Laa Boh Lee…” screamed Vivek Bali and Chilis restaurant in posh Ambience Mall, Gurgaon turned pin-drop silent. 
Manoj, Ratnadeep and others in Shillong meet

Potential of ‘half-pant-days’ friendship have to be fanta-bulous – fantastic punctuated with fabulous.
Ainul’s mobile beeped, we received a couple of snaps from Shillong where another ‘sub-gang-Sanjay Das, Ratnadeep, Manoj and – probably Pranab, Stanley, Tashi met and boozed. The list can be corrected always – just make use of comment box below….
So did Surya Kafley and Shamik Bhattacharya in Powai/Mumbai.
Affluence can never be a yardstick of the stuff we are passing through these days. In north Indian neighbourhood, Sanjay Sabherwal had summed it up well….”who bothers, what you are doing in life, who is successful and who is not….but we are pals of school level”.
Shamik had summed up the paradox perhaps even better: “in post liberalism India, everyone is a glorified clerk”. How many disagrees? I am not sure.
If the Americans had 9/11, we had our 9/25 and what an Eid for Ainul. When did he imagine such a lovely Eid?
Surya Kafley, Shamik in Powai conclave
He responded the Godly gratitude with taking two/three glasses of red wine. How could he say no? For rest of us – Palung (Commissioner Secretary in Manipur), a UN official Gautam and a self-styled entrepreneur-turned-consultant in ‘mint money operations’ (aviation to real estate) – Vivek and me – a Science drop out !! and a poor journo…accepted life and liquor with fatalistic resignation.

 At the end of the game, as we screamed out of the mall saying “Laa Boh….....we were proud of each other....proud of Fr Steven Mavely !! His team....even as Gautam did not forget the verbal thrashing...tension….for hiding magazines ! Mind you, Shillong has been always a ‘magazine city’. Rest of us recalled Kelvin cinema hall....that’s part of legacy in Police Bazar now. A few years back it was a semi-park, now I am told a Mall stands there. Vivek is right, Shillong will be like Yarrow Visited and Unvisited kind of experience! 
Toilet Selfies: Ladies need not suspect
On the early morning hours of 26th September, Herman Kharsati has taken a risk, hidden from his lady wife…probably again…Laa Boh lee….msged sexily: “Ratnadeep has become an owl…” and then he tried to put most of us back on track, “just to get a sense of direction after a heady night”. He fears whether we would ‘bunk’ class (shhh workplace) …..I am not sure…Palungthang had an early morning flight, who knows? I am not sure, how to end this blog. So let me sign off promising to write another one! Provided inputs flow in; like last night’s liquor. (ends) 

Post Script:

I wonder if I might be falling in friendship again/I wonder even if I knew before what FRIENDSHIP and LOVE associated with it before this Whatapp accident actually happened. Till the next piece, guys;….only regret being, “St Anthony’s was an all boys affair”.

What's Nature without St Mary's damsels

Thursday, September 24, 2015

FRIGHTENING --- Hindu population on decline in Sonar Bangla

“National integration is born in the hearts of the citizens. When it dies there, no army, no government, no constitution, can save it”. – Nani A Palkhivala

We ought to reflect sincerely on the immortal words of Palkhivala better known for his razor-sharp mind and candid observations. I have debated about Islamophobia in Assam – perhaps largely due to influx of Bangladeshi immigrants, earlier. The issue is turning serious there in Assam owing to ensuing assembly elections next year. But more vital, if not dangerous phenomenon, about Muslim-Hindu population is happening in next door state – West Bengal; where too elections are due in April-May 2016.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Homage to 1965 War Martyrs! India can still love neighbour Pakistan

Any army or group of patriot Indians cannot solve the riddle created by confused intellectuals or motivated foreign media.   

I have heard something about Chanakya niti(principles): “It’s folly to advise a foolish disciple…in such case even a scholar has to suffer the pain”. 
It was a sunny afternoon in Delhi’s heat. Even though May-June type merciless-mercury reading has dipped down in north India, mid-September is still not pleasant to be in the sun in Lutyen’s city. But I insisted that I will take my daughter – Tanvi Dev – to the “commemorative carnival” to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1965 India-Pakistan war – at Rajpath, near India Gate.
I was pleasantly surprised at the huge turnout. People of all age and religions – had thronged in. The enthusiasm shown by all and sundry to take selfies (an alleged only Narendra Modi variety of syndrome) and of course appreciate the 'sacrifices' of valiant soldiers left one touched. We Indians do love our country!
Tri-colour depicting capture of Barkee
Amid the hoopla of patriotism and appreciation of the leadership of then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, in the crowd there was whispering about One Rank One Pension controversy with refrain of 'jealous Indians' being: “ab toh fauz mein chandi hae (There are good times for the Indian military these days)”.
A few also whispered – little vocally – “Pakistan toh shayed afsos kar raha hoga (Pakistan must be regretting about this war)”.
As a dotting papa I tried to brief my daughter and occasionally her dominating mother about the 1965 war – how much little I knew and could remember off hand. But for reasons probably known to my ‘Narendra Modi-dedicated’ spirit -- I was repeatedly telling them: that the 1965 India’s victory in 1965 was hardly given its due place.

Tanvi quizzed, “why?” 
The Statesman reportage well depicted in Shauranjali Exhibition
I paused; and did not reply her in as much details. But within me, my guess always has been it has been Congress party’s and the dedication to first-family spirit that prevented India to celebrate 1965 valour. After all, no dynasty-man/woman or bahu was Prime Minister then. It was the leadership of Lal Bahadur Shastri and his slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ that had a magical spell over Indians.
Certainly, dynasty and even a large section of intellectuals – also lovingly calling themselves – seculars – did not quite approve of this. Imagine, the author of ‘suit-boot-ke-sarkar’ jibe had given a slogan to infuse confidence among peasants and soldiers!
Just a few days back, country’s self-styled champion of secularism (read RSS bashing), ‘Indian Express’ passed a verdict: “India has never celebrated any of its wars on such a grand scale, not even the 1971 war that ended in the surrender of 80,000 Pakistani troops”.
The suggestion was implicit, does Modi government have no other purpose?

Political players in Pakistan reacted to India’s plans over the exhibition and predictably so. “Muscular articulations such as these will do very little in the way of resuming dialogue, which the BJP leader has stated his government’s interest in,” Pakistan People’s Party vice-president Sherry Rehman said in a statement.

BBC as most of the time gave a cover up for its anti-India bias and ran a story with a questionable headline, “Are India's plans to celebrate 1965 war 'victory' in 'bad taste'? 
Graveyard of Paki tanks
I found their headline in ‘bad taste’!!
 Creditably, however, BBC tried to reach out to Pakistan officials for a reaction to Indian exhibition, but had none.
"It's 50 years since we won the war, if you won't celebrate it now then when will you do?" asked the defence ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar, according to the BBC story itself.
But the 1965 war had its merits along with demerits and thus a few lessons too. It had a few milestones and achievements and that probably changed the course of India’s defence history and preparedness to a large extent. “From the military point of view, the war helped repair the trust deficit with the civil political leadership,” wrote a senior colleague Surya Gangadharan for ‘The Parliamentarian’ magazine.
The reference was obviously to 1962 debacle under Pt Jawaharlal Nehru against China.
“Strange but true: The war India and China fought 53 years ago in the high Himalayas and which we lost, is known to the younger generation of Indians (courtesy the media). But a war that India fought with Pakistan 50 years ago remains largely forgotten,” wrote Gangadharan.
Witness to history: At Exhibition venue
There remains some ambiguity about the outcome of the 1965  war.
 American author Stanley Wolpert says: "The war ended in what appeared to be a draw when the embargo placed by Washington on US ammunition and replacements for both armies forced cessation of conflict before either side won a clear victory”.
American diplomat Dennis Kux wrote, “Delhi achieved its basic goal of thwarting Pakistan's attempt to seize Kashmir by force. Pakistan gained nothing from a conflict which it had instigated."
I told my daughter, still in Class IV, that she ought to know certain facets of country’s history and 1965 war is one of them. I told her about Param Vir Chakras as we clicked over 100 snaps at the exhibition. I also recalled in gratitude the valour of Havildar Abdul Hamid, who had destroyed five enemy Patton tanks. 

In some corners at the exhibition venue, we saw old couples. One senior gentleman from Rajasthan said, “I had lost friends and relatives in this war”. His eyes had turned up moist.
The country and the world have changed a lot since then. The old middle class values have been replaced - Lie, deception, corruption – everything is acceptable today, if it can fetch benefits and money. Role models keep changing.
How many times these days, we hear of Lal Bahadur Shastri, who was India’s Prime Minister only for 19 months (9 June 1964 to 11 January 1966)?
Huge crowd had gathered for the exhibition. Or was it a time pass? Was it for snaps on Facebook? Post 1991 India has virtually legitimized the greed and corruption. MBA degrees are like medals on the chests – Abdul Hamids died for.

Post Script

Two pointers: ## Indian military forces still suffer from lack of manpower and who did not know – our population keeps increasing.

n  An innocuous message, but important, it’s no jingoism --- let us pay homage to martyred soldiers of 1965 war. That however, does not mean, India cannot stay in peace with neighbour Pakistan.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Netaji Subhas Bose 'mystery' – Is the boot on the other feet now?

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose is in news. In fact, he is making headlines in a manner of working with a VENGEANCE towards the history writers and especially the establishment of Congress – which for long is smitten by the aura of  Jawaharlal Nehru-Indira Gandhi dynastic phenomenon. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sensed it pretty well. An expert is reading “people’s pulse”, at least he proved that more than once, Modi dedicated his 12th monthly radio broadcast programme Mann-ki-baat to Netaji Subhas Bose.
Admiring look in Hitler's eyes as he meets iconic Bose
"Over 50 members of Subhash babu's family, from various countries, will be coming...I am happy to welcome them" Modi said alluding to next month’s meeting at his official residence.
For records, Modi has skirted any direct reference to the demand of declassification of the secret files pertaining to Netaji Subhas Bose. But for her part, in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee has played her card well and almost displaying a master stroke released 64 files pertaining to the great leader of her state.

Patriotism in West Bengal has been in the air. I am not stating this as a Bengali. But history is witness to this claim. 

At the same time, Bengal has shown a peculiar tendency to treat its heroes as ‘sacred cows’. So to a Bengali, and here I am stating in full responsibility, three Bengalis cannot do any wrong. They are Subhas Bose, Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray.

Now let me not derail the topic of this blog, that is the illustrious Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his magical spell over countrymen. He was not only a Man with a Mission, according to many, “he was a Man of Destiny to India”. Thus, the alleged callousness or deliberate attempts to conceal the fact about the great freedom fighter is seen as an act of betrayal.
Samar Guha, who wrote ‘Netaji – Dead or Alive?’ in 1978, and had also contested strongly the reports of the Khosla Commission, called Subhas Bose an ‘epic hero’ and described the failure to solve the mystery of Bose’s death as a “sacred national duty which we lamently failed”.

In now popular book ‘India’s biggest Cover-up’, writer Anuj Dhar claims, “The Government of India has a proper approach towards storing, moving and destroying classified files…..With that being the true state of affairs, it can be easily inferred that the disappearance and destruction of Bose-related records could only be the result of a conspiracy hatched by those within the government”.
Bose and Jinnah
If this is so, and though opinions are divided, many believe the conspiracy angle. Therefore, the Congress is certainly under pressure.

And aftermath Mamata’s decision to declassify 64 of her quota of files, pressure is certainly on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP leadership.
Dhar’s book also has a time-bomb type oneliner that would add to the ‘pressure’ on Modi further. “A little bird told me that the most sensitive among the Indian records are those which are under the personal custody of the Prime Minister”.

However, as so called ‘pressure’ persists on the BJP central leadership, Congress has smartly demanded that all Netaji related files be released. It is trying to build up a case – that look we Congressmen and women and more so the power dynasty have nothing to fear about. We have nothing to hide.

But the refrain one gets from ground zero in West Bengal is different. The Congress foot soldiers are fearing the ‘punch’ and gradually there could be mass exodus of Congress workers either to Trinamool Congress or to even the BJP as “sticking to a party” seen as the one that plotted against Netaji and his family would be difficult. Thus the unofficial feedback is: Bengal could be another state – which would give Congress party a serious electoral debacle!
The extra interest shown by Sarmishta Mukherjee, Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter, to defend Congress party vis-à-vis its role on Netaji and his family on TV is only a weather indicator.
Netaji papers: Half Glass Full or Half Glass Empty
It goes without saying that in 2005 and later in 2006 when Justice Mukherjee Commission’s report on Netaji’s disappearance was submitted to the government, Pranab was accused of trying to scuttle the commission's inquiry and that probably led to his facing "mob fury in Kolkata" while his car was entering a hotel on June 18, 2006.
The Mukherjee Commission, appointed by Vajpayee government, had rejected the official view that Netaji had died in an air crash, suggesting that he flew towards the Soviet Russia as a part of escape plan. 
For their part, the Congress-led UPA regime later 'dutifully' rejected the Commission findings. There have been media reports that Justice Mukherjee was also ill-treated by the Congress-led regime and even by the then Home Minister Shivraj Patil, a hardcore dynasty-loyal man!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Interview with Swadeshi Jagran Manch leader Ashwani Mahajan

"Indian Communists hardly speak for small-scale industries".

Ashwani Mahajan, national co-convener of the Sangh Parivar’s Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), has a mild exterior but is surprisingly firm and assertive. The SJM is making news these days for more reasons than one. It had opposed the Land Ordinance of the Narendra Modi government and also made a presentation against it before the parliamentary panel looking into the land Bill. Its opposition to GM crops field trials seems to have worked with the BJP regimes in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Mahajan spoke to me on a variety of issues.

The Congress is taking all the credit for the Modi government’s U-turn on the land Bill. The Swadeshi Jagran Manch had also opposed it. Now that the government has allowed the Ordinance to lapse, what is your take?
It is for Congress to decide what credit they want or for the BJP to decide how to discredit Congress. We are not into politics. We are happy that the government has decided to allow the Ordinance to lapse. We had opposed the new land Ordinance brought by the Modi government on merit. Swadeshi Jagran Manch has been opposing the amendments to the land acquisition law of 2013 ever since the first ordinance was promulgated. The Ordinance diluted the provisions of mandatory consent of farmers, social impact assessment and food security. That has been our stand very clearly.

Now the government has introduced new clauses clubbing 13 Acts under which compensation could be given to farmers or land owners. Have you examined that?
Ashwani Mahajan

Certainly, we have looked into it. Look here, the government has been telling us from the beginning that for any land acquisition under the 13 Acts like National Highways, Coal mines and Railways Acts the benefits would be passed on to the farmers. These clauses were not present in the 2013 Law, so we welcome the new move as this guarantees farmers’ interest. Ultimately, we feel the farmers and the land owners will be benefited. 

But Congress has called the government’s new executive order illegal?
I do not think legally such a move can be challenged. The government feels the interests of families affected by land acquisition under the 13 Acts would be protected. So we should welcome it. Congress as an Opposition political party will have their reasons to oppose it. But we do not find it illegal. Moreover, we will not be fighting or opposing a government just for the sake of it. Political parties may do that. Fight is always against a system wherein agriculture is neglected and farmers suffer. We are consistent about it.

So, what else is happening in the Sangh Parivar on economic issues vis-à-vis the reform roadmap of the Modi government. Apparently the SJM and RSS are not happy with the stress on garnering FDI.
I have told you earlier too, the foreign direct investment (FDI) roadmap is not the panacea to all economic problems in a country like ours. At Swadeshi Jagran Manch we are consistent about our stand. The NDA government is taking up their economic agenda. It’s fine. But as a pressure group, we have told the government that crucial economic decisions require transparency. The government has to place its economic programmes vis-à-vis foreign investments on the table. Only then we can examine matters and form our opinion.

So, Swadeshi Jagran Manch could be a hurdle for the Modi regime’s attempted second generation economic reforms?
I never said we will be hurdles. It will be wrong to paint us as an anti-reforms body. Since 1991, we have seen there is a trend to push a specific agenda of the multinationals. Please examine things minutely at the global level also. Countries like Brazil have paid a price. The FDI methodology most often cripples some sectors. In India, the insurance sector, for instance, suffered. Opening FDI has resulted in sharp decline in claims and increase in forfeiture ratios because premiums are often higher. But it is not highlighted adequately even in the media.

It is reported that the late Chandra Shekhar once cautioned then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee that outfits like Swadeshi Jagran Manch are ‘desi and Hindu’ communists who, like the Marxists, will oppose anything and everything foreign?

(Laughs) I have a very high opinion of both Chandra Shekhar and Atal Behari Vajpayee. But there’s a big difference between Indian communists and Chinese communists. There are also differences between us in the SJM and the Left parties. Indian Communists will hardly speak for small-scale industries. Here is the difference I am talking about. We see small-scale industries as proletariat, communists do not agree.

You mean unlike the Communists in India, Swadeshi Jagran Manch is all for small-scale industries. So are you batting for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan of Make-in-India?
Yes, you can say so. But we want to a go a step beyond. More than Make in India, why not  have Make-by-Indians…what’s the use otherwise if global manufacturers set up manufacturing units in India. Therefore, we have always tried to uphold the interest of small-scale industries. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

'Upset' Paswan compelled to share Dalit space with Manjhi

Paswan with mentor VP Singh

Someone who shot into national limelight for rhetoric in favour of implementation of the controversial Mandal Commission report, from creating Guinness Book of World Records in 1989 for winning Hajipur seat with a margin of 470,000 votes and then losing out his pocket borough Hajipur seat in 2009, Ram Vilas Paswan has seen it all.
On Monday, September 14, 2015, when Amit Shah announced seat sharing deals for NDA allies for Bihar polls, sitting next to BJP chief, a visibly miffed Paswan knew he has been forced to bite the bullets.
The union Food Minister Paswan, who also holds the unique record of working under all Prime Ministers since H D Deve Gowda, also had to share dais with Hindustan Awami Morcha (HAM) leader Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Mahadalit leader.
Paswan is the only Indian politician who has the distinction of serving under every Prime Minister as their Ministerial colleague since 1996 – H D Deve Gowda, I K Gujral, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Dr Manmohan Singh and at present under Narendra Modi.

For records, Paswan knows the political reality of circa 2015 and is hence not complaining publicly. "This seat adjustments is not for any one or two parties.We in the LJP have always maintained that the seat adjustments should be seen in larger interest of NDA. My sole purpose in these elections is to ensure the defeat of JD(U)-RJD-Congress combine," Paswan told reporters minutes after the big announcement by BJP president.
However, Paswan-led LJP, which was given 40 out of 243 seats is now seeking a few more additional seats from the BJP kitty. 

Paswan and his son Chirag, the latter a self-confessed admirer of PM Narendra Modi, have practical problems at hands. The former state chief minister Manjhi, who has emerged as a prominent Mahadalit face in the caste-sensitive Bihar polls, today threatens to eat up the 'Dalit space' of Bihar politics - which for long at least in theory stood as a monopoly for Paswans.

Dalits constitute 15 per cent of Bihar's electorate and out of these 31 per cent comprising chiefly of Dalit sub-castes like Manjhi, Doms, Chamars, Ghasi and Rajwar, BJP sources said adding the Dalit-Maha Dalit factor is vital to defeat the RJD-JD(U)-Congress alliance.

While roping in Mahadalit leader Manjhi into the NDA has helped BJP's caste calculations, Paswan is upset at the kind of "importance" the saffron party gave to Manjhi, who is certainly "political lightweight" in the state.
The Mahadalit leader Manjhi was, however, wooed by RJD chief Lalu Prasad but he had made it clear he would not be part of any formation which includes his bete noire Nitish Kumar.

"We understand Paswan's position," a prominent leader from Bihar BJP said but added as a key alliance partner of NDA, Paswan appreciates the ground realities and political compulsions.
Thus, BJP sources say, "LJP understands politics very well and he cannot go against NDA or walk out of alliance at this juncture".
Paswans with Amit Shah
Even among a section of LJP, the reality has dawn as they know how once powerful Dalit leader Ms Mayawati-led BSP on the face of an aggressive 'pro-Modi and upper caste Hindu polarization' politics was reduced to mere zero in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in UP.
Moreover, closer look suggests the Maha-dalit card and Jitan Ram Manjhi as an ally suits BJP politically also. "Manjhi is not only political light weight; compared to Paswan, HAM leader Manjhi is "friendless" in the national polity while Chirag Paswan has uncles and even aunts practically in all political parties," BJP sources said.

A seasoned parliamentarian and someone who knows national politics too well, in 1996, Paswan had even led the ruling alliance in the Lok Sabha as both the Janata Dal Prime Ministers Deve Gowda and I K Gujral were members of the Rajya Sabha.

Born on July 5, 1946, Paswan was elected to the Bihar state assembly in 1969 as a member of the Samyukta Socialist Party and in 1974 as a follower of Jai Prakash Narayan became the general secretary of the Lok Dal. He was also personally close to the prominent leaders of anti-emergency period like Karpuri Thakur and Satyendra Narayan Sinha. In 1975, when emergency was clamped, Paswan was put behind bars for the entire period. After release, in 1977, he became a member of the newly created umbrella party Janata Party and won election to the Lok Sabha for the first time. He was re-elected to the 7th Lok Sabha in 1980. 
Lalu-Paswan relation has moved with political weather
Committed to work for Dalits, in 1983, Paswan floated the Dalit Sena, a non-political organization for emancipation and welfare of the Dalits and the underpriveleged. And since then he has undertaken several initiatives including international conferences of Dalits and Muslims in New York.

Paswan was re-elected to the 9th Lok Sabha in 1989 on Janata Dal ticket and was appointed Union Minister of Labour and Welfare in the Vishwanath Pratap Singh-led country’s first coalition National Front government. He has been a member of Lok Sabha since then till 2009 without break returning from Hajipur.

But in 2009 he lost the seat when Maha Dalit card was played against him.

Now in the run up to the Bihar polls, the union Minister and a known BJP face from Bihar, Giriraj Singh denies there's any problem in seat sharing either with Manjhi's party or with Paswans. "Who told you, we have a problem....we all are together and we will continue to be together," Singh said.
Traditionally BJP claims support base of about 18 per cent upper castes and around 6 per cent Baniyas (traders) and now the party strategists feel the presence of LJP of Paswan and Jitan Manjhi’s new party could be a big game-changer.
But BJP is also careful about Paswan's politics of Midas touch and reportedly PM Modi has deputed ministers like Giriraj Singh, Ananth Kumar and Ravi Shankan Prasad to placate him.