Monday, November 30, 2015

Khawalailung village: A Mizo ‘role model’ of Peace and Development

Good Samaritan initiatives from the governments especially in the context of North East India are often not publicized well in the national media. Generally, the debate ends up either about violence in the north east or about certain ‘Developmental and Peace’ initiatives undertaken by the government departments and official agencies from time to time. But many good things keep happening. Mizoram has left behind the troubled days of insurgency in 1986. Mizos are known for their hard working qualities and pragmatism in undertaking developmental works and education. 
In fact, it would not be erroneous to say that to the natives of Mizoram, ‘development and peace’ are not mere philosophical or ideological concepts. These are no mere wishful thinking too. Leaving bad old days of insurgency behind, the Mizos believe these two traits suit their society and are key stepping stones to a good life.
In Mizoram, even a few years back, the “pro-Hindu” BJP, as was understood in Christian-dominated Mizoram,  had few takers. The political class generally believed that the BJP's symbol, the lotus, certainly could not bloom amid hard rock. They could still be right. Notwithstanding the fact that the saffron party has captured power in New Delhi, Mizoram, from voters’ perspective,  could be still indifferent to a set-up wedded to Hindutva ideologies. In fact, not many would admire Prime Minister’s party.
On 25th October 2015 ‘Mann-ki-Baat’ radio programme through All India Radio, when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the name of the hitherto little known Mizoram’s Khawalailung village from the remote Champai district, most Mizos were impressed. Almost the entire state echoed in one tone ‘kalaw mein’ (Thank You in Mizo language) to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his radio talk.

An Aizawl-based academician put it well when he said,  “For socio-political and also historical reasons, in Mizoram the words Hindutva and BJP almost had negative overtones, while the Congress played up the righteousness card in the state. But PM's reference to the village of Khawlailung, which has been adopted as a model (Adarsh) hamlet, might cause the sitting Congress MP, CL Ruala, to perhaps change things. 
Like most North-eastern tribal and ethnic groups, Mizos are very proud of their distinct identity. So is their affinity to Christianity, and thus anything seen as ‘Hindu’ imposition was not only taken with negativity, it also looked irrational.”
Even incumbent Congress chief minister Lal Thanhawla's attending a Durga puja celebration in Kolkata a few years back had made an election issue. But it goes without saying that the reference to Khawalailung village and its sugarcane festival in Prime Minister’s hyped monthly radio broadcast programme has evoked some positive elements towards his government.
Scenic Aizawl
The regional Mizo National Front leaders, however, insist Mizos are not that anti-BJP as is made out to be because in the past the regional outfit had cooperated with the Atal Behari Vajpayee government. In fact, then chief minister Zoramthanga had offered to negotiate with the Naga rebels in 1999. Coming to Khawalailung village, it makes this blogger proud of the fact this hamlet of 520 households reflect in more ways than one the conditions in other Mizo villages.
I spent three years (1979-81) in remote Lunglei township bordering Bangladesh during my school days (thanks to my father's posting to the 18th Assam Rifles).  The Prime Minister has his reasons to laud the efforts of Congress lawmaker CL Ruala. “He deserves all appreciation for his efforts in making Khawalailung village self-reliant,” Modi said, referring to the MP’s efforts.

Some of the exemplary works being done in the little known village include setting up a machine for juicing surgarcane for 22 households engaged in the manufacture of molasses/raw sugar (gur) at a highly subsidised rate.
Blogger in North East
Besides, there were other works, like providing identified families with one piglet, community sensitisation on new textbooks organised for parents, Rs 2.5 lakh distributed to each of three schools for construction of toilets and distribution of fish seeds to 80 families.
Most Mizo villages are community maintained, disciplined and clean. Visitors are often stunned to witness the kind of self-governing mechanism, even symbolism and perfectionist methods are maintained on the movement of dogs, cattle and chickens in these villages. Community and voluntary works are held to clean the village frequently, butchering of animals and selling meat on roadsides are banned and animals are slaughtered only in an appointed slaughter house and meat -staple food of locals are sold only in a designated meat market. There are also segregated areas for selling fish.
Cleanliness of villages across Mizoram, across northeastern India and the rest of India is also part of an ambitious national programme being undertaken under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. It’s a national campaign launched by the Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014. 
Now the village Khawalailung will be perhaps in a position to be showcased as a model village under both National Clean Mission and also Sansad Adarsh Gram Yozana. The village was adopted by Mizoram’s only Lok Sabha member C L Ruala under Adarsh Gram Yojana. The new Adarsh Gram Yojana is a Rural Development programme, broadly focusing upon the development in the villages which includes social development, cultural development and spread motivation among the people on social mobilization of the village community. 

This programme was also launched by the on the birth anniversary of Jayaprakash Narayan on 11 October, 2014. To start with, one vital statistics about the village Khawlailung is that the hamlet has higher literacy rate compared to the state’s (Mizoram) own records. In 2011, literacy rate of Khawlailung village was 95.05 per cent compared to 91.33 per cent of Mizoram. In Khawlailung Male literacy stood at 97.01 per cent while female literacy rate was 93.10 per cent.
But to me, some of the virtues, as claimed about Khawlailung, are akin to remote Lushai villages like Shetlon and Lunglan (around Lunglei town) that I was witness to in 1980-81.
Believe it or not, even those days, as youngsters we were stunned to see the Shetlon and Lunglan villages, where  “strict control’' was maintained to ward off dogs, cattle and chickens. Community and voluntary work used to be done to clean the villages frequently, butchering of animals and selling meat on roadsides was banned and there was an appointed slaughterhouse and meat — the staple food of natives — was sold only in a designated market. There were also segregated areas for selling fish.

Thus, when the Prime Minister mentioned a Mizoram village and lauded the activities going on there, more than being surprised I felt happy.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Post Bihar: Modi’s outreach, ‘Idea of India’ and Selfie-Journalism

 Indian Media is hardly a good learner. Narendra Modi on the contrary is a fast learner. Politicians often have to.
What about ‘sickular India’? The answer is simple - They continue to hate Modi !

The word MYTH has always acquired a different dimension when it comes to Narendra Modi. To a self-proclaimed ‘Modi admirer’ like me; it is one of the lovely ironies of new generation politico-journalism that the news persons can wax lyrical lines on Modi’s Hitlerism – “intolerant” – and at the same time slavishly pose for selfies with him. Some years back one would have compared this neo-standard of journalism with the ‘whispering death’ of the one-time noble profession vis-à-vis Michael Holding’s bowling. But today it is efficiency.
The smiles were infectious. It included Whose-who of evening prime time TV (who said it’s not idiot box even run by part-time idiots?). What was everyone up to?
Why such a huge turnout of those who hate Narendra Modi? Those who take pride in telling the country – pretensions understood – that booting out Modi would be their life long missions? Who were these crowd – who would swear by the ‘integrity’ of a cop whom Supreme Court does not believe? Who are they – who hailed return of Yadav-raj (prelude to papa-son jungle raj) as victory of Indian pluralism? Was it pure journalism? 

Just as the big hangama came to near end, a senior journalist quipped, “this perhaps shows there was no Tolerance debate…and as if nothing happened in Bihar”. Yes. Repeating last year’s shameful gestures – journos and celebrities among them showed that they refuse to take any corrective step when it comes to an iota of chance of getting closer to anyone powerful! Who would like to miss the next trip in PM’s special aircraft?
Curiously, shining in the reflected glory also were a few ministers – some of them forming Modi’s Team A – like the pack led by Arun Jaitley. The moment he arrived, the media houses editors and owners gheraoed Jaitley complimenting him for ‘out-reach attempts’ made towards the Congress! As a man with lot of legal knowledge and Delhi’s durbar-style political experience gave his intellectual inputs  - some editors, chief editors and owners grinned. The message was here with little knowledge of economy, here is country’s best known Finance Minister. So what if he is in the ‘Intolerant Modi cabinet’ !!
Photo credit: The Telegraph

Last few days, more important thing happening is Prime Minister’s attempts to reach out to Congress party for their support for the GST. Team Modi seemed to have realized it pretty late just as Dr Manmohan Singh had ‘coalition compulsion’, the Modi regime (despite the intellectual support of Arun Jaitleys and Ajit Dovals) has the compulsion of numbers in Rajya Sabha. Of course, Jaitley has stated in the past that the very relevance of Rajya Sabha could be debated?

For his part, Modi would do it well to realize that people of India still have a leaning towards him. A section of Ahmedabad crowd and tourists would not like it though. Modi has to realize simply that he has to deliver. Just as Amitabh Bacchan had got a message about 30 years back that – we adore you – but we hate Congress party; Modi has to understand that notwithstanding the attempts made by Khan bros of filmi duniya, he is India’s one of the favourite Prime Ministers.

Bihar is a nasty game he has lost. But he should take it in his strides like all good sportspersons or warriors and prepare for the next round. Perhaps more than Bihar, bigger stakes are there in West Bengal, Assam and Kerala. He must seize the opportunity. He must focus on governance.

Modi has made some good beginning. In Parliament, he made a classic speech on the Constitution of India and mooted great deal of debate on the 'Idea of India'.  
Blogger and Karma-wheel

"मैं आज दोबारा कहना चाहता हूं कि सरकार का एक ही धर्म होता है। India First. सरकार का एक ही धर्मग्रंथ होता है। भारत का संविधान। देश संविधान से ही चलेगा। संविधान से ही चलना चाहिए और संविधान के ताकत से ही देश को ताकत मिल सकती है। उसमें कोई भी प्रकार की दुविधा, आशंका का कोई कारण नहीं है।" - Modi had said.

Then he shared his visions about 'Idea of India'. These included the broad themes of : world is a family, he is a Vaishnav who feels the pain of others, and Let noble thoughts come to us from all directions.

This was a vintage Narendra Modi – where probably for a rare occasion he has played a typical mix of P V Narasimha Rao and Atal Behari Vajpayee. He seemed to have impressed his admirers and conquered his enemies - in the same breadth - without finding fault with others.  
Unlike a general impression being created about Modi and his government that they are trying to take all credit for good things in the country, Modi told Lok Sabha on November 27, 2015 – “…this country has marched ahead with the good works of all governments”. 

मुझे याद नहीं है। कहा हो तो मैं उसको नमन करूंगा। लेकिन मैंने ये कहा था कि इस देश में जितनी सरकारें बनी है, सब सरकारों में जितने भी प्रधानमंत्री बने हैं, सभी प्रधानमंत्रियों के योगदान से ये देश आगे बढ़ा है। ये मैंने लालकिले पर से कहा था। मैंने सदन में भी इस बात को कहा था और मैं दोबारा कहता हूं। यह देश कइ लोगों की तपस्या से आगे बढ़ा है। सब सरकारों के योगदान से आगे बढ़ा है। हां, शिकायत ये होती है कि अपेक्षा से कहीं कम हुआ, तो शिकायत होती है। और लोकतंत्र में शिकायत का हक सबका होता है। 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Paris Attack : Russia and the Changing World Dynamics

The ‘Paris Attack’ has come at a very interesting time. Some of the international games are changing as the world’s strategic atmosphere seems to be in a flux. There is open talk about the ‘great American failure’ in the decade long war against the terror menace while a neo-assertive Russian President Putin seems to be the new flavor of the season.
Russia has experienced a drastic loss of soft power in recent years but everyone still seems to believe Moscow more than Washington when it comes to fighting terrorism. 

The debate is – how serious is the threat of terrorism – especially unleashed by the Islamic forces – and whether the threat is compelling enough to inspire a global response.

Russian military crew with SU-34 jet fighter
In five or 10 years’ time you would be certainly reading another blog piece or even a book – from experts – much like this one but written in a more lucid manner. The only difference will be that hundreds if not thousands more would die by then.

Thus November 2015 after bravado again similar to 2001, the Americans have developed some kind of cold feet about the neo-global war on terrorism. It remains to be examined very closely now whether the US dilemma is only guided by its realization that the global jihad is driven by a vicious, fascist ideology that can cause terrible suffering or that they do not want Putin to steal the credit.

Post 9/11 it was trendy to speak about Islamo-fascism. Then it was moved to Global War on terrorism and subsequently re-branded as Great War for Democracy. But none could miss the point that those shifts were favourable to the United States. The monopoly on intellectual rights was exploited to the hilt. Thus while 9/11 called for Globar War and bombing of Afghanistan, after 26/11 in Mumbai, the Indian government was advised to apply restraints. 
Real Shake-Hands Time
Double standards is a small word.

The American experts are again throwing up statistics to camouflage the world war against terror saying hardly 7 per cent of violent deaths globally are a result of acts of terrorism. 

Compared to the 32,727 terrorist fatalities, there have been about 377,000 casualties collectively, in interpersonal violence, gang violence, or economically motivated crimes – but not terrorism as the world understands, says the US. 

But Russia under Putin wants to act against terror. In fact, it is believed Putin has multiple goals as he wants to capture the world relevance for his country as was the legacy of cold war days. 
From an Indian point of view, Russia is an important global partner. The Russian relations with India have always been and will be one of the most important foreign policy priorities probably for both the countries. The rapport established between Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been good. This sums up the importance attached by Moscow towards New Delhi over the years --- both during the erstwhile Soviet Union days and later since the split – and also the importance attached by India towards Russia. But having said that the entire ‘global war’ against terrorism – now namely Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – is must, it is also crucial to examine Russia’s real intent of the future.  

It ought to be remembered that despite befriending India and despite its commitment to fight terror, Russia has lately sought friendship or rather military partnership with Pakistan too.
On November 19, 2015 days after Paris Attack, both Pakistan and Russia sprang a minor surprise when they inched closer. To start with, Nawaz Sharif happily called that both Russia and Pakistan were entering into "a new phase of strong relationship" by working out landmark defence agreement. 
It will commence on the sale of attack helicopters. The two countries shared a thorny relationship during the cold war and had only worsened with Soviet Union's entry in Afghanistan in 1980s. 

An enthusiastic Nawaz Sharif has tried to go all gaga about his friendship with Russian leadership and asserted that his country has taken a firm stance on terrorism and extremism to ensure a peaceful, stable and investor friendly environment and terrorists' hideouts and infrastructure has been dismantled. 

New game changers?
India may not be convinced. Even the US has spoken about 'snakes' in the backyards of Pakistan. 
All these need not be very important.

Importantly however, Moscow seems to buy that line as Russian delegation led by Victor P Ivanov, Co-Chairman of the Russian-Pakistani Intergovernmental Commission on Economic, Trade and Scientific Cooperation, has said that there exists a huge potential for ‘mutual’ trade between Russia and Pakistan.

Not long ago, Russia had assured India that it would not do any military cooperation with Pakistan. But why these changes? What do these actually imply?

In the past, Russia had ignored Pakistan, albeit deliberately, for decades in its arms sales because of Islamabad’s clear tilt towards the US. Moscow also realized that the terrorism menace spreading from tacit support from Pakistan and open revolt in Afghanistan could possibly create future tensions in Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and rest of Central Asia.
So where do we come? Is Russia like the US in the past too embarking on a journey for a war against terrorism/Jihad based on a false prospectus?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government needs to study this in details. Not long ago even western powers believed, the Russian intervention in Syria would be a geo-strategic disaster for the United States.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why BJP faced Brahmin, Bhumihar backlash in Bihar?

If the tally in the ultimate for Bihar polls looked so gloomy for the four NDA constituents including BJP and allies like LJP of Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan, HAM of Mahadalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi and Upendra Kushwaha-led RLSP, they had to blame themselves. But the shocking part of the entire game was the clear displeasure of BJP's traditional support base Bhumihars and Brahmins. 

The BJP chief Amit Shah had claimed that he had the most detailed 'micro-analysis' up to the booth level, but this was a faulty claim. The NDA ally LJP fielded a candidate Geeta Pandey from one of the constituencies in the Arrah Lok Sabha seat. The choice showed that Amit Shah's claim of micro-analysis was bogus as "She is wife of jailed Narendra Pandey alias Sunil Pandey, who is accused in the murder of Brahmeshwar Mukhiya, an iconic figure for Bhumihars".

The sitting BJP MP R K Singh, former Home Secretary, opposed this because even hailing from the elite IAS cadre, Singh comes from the land where Brahmeswar Mukhiya is venerated. "But the BJP leadership lacked all understanding to allow free hand to Ram Vilas Paswan," a party leader said.
Was this combination better?

Post the debacle, while the likes of L K Advani and forgotten characters Arun Shourie sought headlines, on the ground BJP and RSS district level workers point out at other lacunae in campaign strategy and ticket distribution. 

Former Bihar Minister and respected Kailashpati Mishra, a founding father of Bihar Jan Sangh and BJP, was born in Buxar, into a Bhumihar family. The saffron party has been generally sympathetic to anti-Naxal militia Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Mukhiya, also a Bhumihar chieftain.Thus, BJP traditionally has been also the first choice of the Bhumihars. But this time, it fielded 18 Bhumihars as against over 30 Rajputs, who had always stayed away from Bhumihars and BJP.

As it is from 2014 itself, Bhumihars were unhappy over BJP's alliance with pro-Dalit LJP. In the past too Rajputs as a caste flocked to the RJD chief Lalu Prasad after Congress lost sheen so much so that the RJD in 2009 had four Lok Sabha MPs - three were Rajputs besides Lalu himself.

While senior leader CP Thakur, a Bhumihar, spoke for his group, there was none to champion the cause of Brahmins. Rajputs also have vocal leaders in union ministers Radhamohan Singh and Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
The Brahmins caste felt neglected by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “there is no Brahmin minister” in the Modi cabinet from Bihar. “The Brahmins were taken for granted,” said a party MP.
Brahmins thus got back at the BJP with vengeance and so the party lost seats where Brahmins influenced the outcome. Buxar, which has always been seen a Brahmin seat, was lost. 
Radhamohan Singh: A non-performer?

The BJP lost 7 seats in Brahmin strongholds Bhagalpur region and it was also decimated in Banka. RJD also uprooted BJP from Mithilanchal region, where Brahmins are in large numbers. Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD also swept through Rajput dominated areas of Arrah, Chapra and Champaran.

The verdict ultimately showed that the BJP and Modi's poll managers were disconnected with the reality of Bihar.

In contrast to BJP's traditional ‘Baniya-Brahmin’ image, this time party strategists led by, now embattled, Amit Shah sought to prop up other castes including traditional Brahmin rivals including Rajputs and Bhumihars. Like in UP, Brahmins in Bihar are reckoned as opinion makers and their anguish thus swung voters of other castes too as Brahmins in villages still offer persuasive arguments in tea stalls to work places including to women.

"Brahmins were annoyed for more reasons than one. Our traditional support base was disturbed that on the eve of elections forgetting committed workers for last two decades, BJP indulged in a blatant caste politics and appeasement of backward castes," a source said adding a group of upper caste Bihar leaders at the district levels now propose to take up with the central leadership on how things were mishandled.

Namo in search of "corrective steps"?

“The BJP has humiliated Brahmins and likes of Ashwani Chaubey stood happy in Bhagalpur after party gave ticket to his son Arijit Shaswat. Brahmins were never ignored by the BJP earlier,” retorted an angry Bihar-based leader. Moreover, sources said, attempts to woo Rajputs and Bhumihars were "partly misguided misadventure and partly wrongly handled".
 In the meantime, even as media and analysts throw up reasons those led to the rout for BJP in Bihar, party's own scrutiny of poll performance shows the strategists had simply gone haywire in overestimating the strength of its regional allies especially the Maha Dalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi.
"It was a poor political combination against a superb caste formula worked out by our rivals. Things went against NDA so much against us that the Maha Dalit card the BJP had depended upon simply failed," a Bihar BJP leader said. 
True, at the end of the day as results came what amazed everyone is that the NOTA vote share was bigger than HAM party led by Jitan Ram Manjhi, - left to himself was also a potential Chief Minister !
"We will not describe Bihar polls simply to victory of the casteist passion whipped
by RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. It was also failure of our caste equations," BJP source said. 

BJP has reasons to form such views as Manjhi himself lost sitting Makhdumpur reserved seat while his son Santosh Kumar Suman was humbled at Kutumba in Aurangabad.

In the elections while NOTA vote share stood at 9,47,185 votes making it 2.5 per cent of votes polled, Manjhi's party - ironically which even spoke of making their leader the Chief Minister - could poll only 2.3 per cent and thus 8,46,856 votes.

Even RLSP led by Upendra Kushwaha, another caste leader, polled a modest 2.6 per cent votes for the 23 seats they contested.
After hard bargaining Hindustan Awami Morcha (HAM) contested 20 seats while
BJP was also forced to give additional seats from its quota to accommodate HAM candidates. BJP and RSS second rung leaders who campaigned in Bihar later said in many assembly segments, genuine party workers were displeased at the manner seats went to allies.

"They were all Narendra Modi fan and keen to vote and work for Lotus symbol, but once they were told about other symbols, things simply went unheard," a party leader explains.
The BJP reading is also clear that Bihar's Yadav castes -- sidelined politically for last 10 years since 2005 - voted with vengeance.
"But Ram Vilas Paswan-led LJP's failure surprised us. While Manjhi's party won only one seat, LJP could pick up only 2 seats. This shows LJP benefited during Lok Sabha polls owing to the Modi wave, their votes did not get transferred," an insider said.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bihar flavour in ‘Assam tea’ ! A Game-Changer

BJP's vote share crossed 36 per cent in 2014 Lok Sabha polls while Congress suffered a 10 per cent decline coming down to 29.9. These had generated hopes in the saffron party to make a bid for power in Assam. But the Bihar results will possibly make things easier for Congress provided it can join hands with other anti-BJP forces.

The Bihar results are a sound message on how elections should not be fought. To lose an election is certainly a no big deal. Politicians have the right to be defeated — this was how the legendary Chandrashekhar had reacted when the VP Singh-Devi Lal machinations humbled him in the internal politics of the then Janata Dal. 

But the manner in which the Bihar polls were mishandled by the BJP and a convincing victory was handed over to rivals from a near winning position is akin to the Indian cricket team’s performance, especially in the  1990s. 
But this defeat has changed the game now in Assam altogether.

Faceless voters: Gamechangers
The political landscape of the BJP in Assam till the other day had suggested that the seat of Dispur was within its reach. 

Even Congress supporters were reconciling to the fact that come April-May 2016, Tarun Gogoi would face his Waterloo.

But once the results from Bihar poured in, notwithstanding the bravado from Assam BJP chief Sidhartha Bhattacharjee, everyone within the saffron outfit and outside felt the fallout could be visible in next spring’s Assam polls.

In fact, no sooner did the Bihar results herald a Black Sunday (8 November) — ironically on the eve of Diwali — for the BJP; its principal rivals,  the pro-minority All India United Democratic Front and the Congress, wasted no time in claiming that the pro-Hindutva party’s journey would be halted.
Terming the success of the JD(U)-RJD-Congress grand alliance as a victory for  “secularism”, All India United Democratic Front chief Badruddin Ajmal claimed the Bihar poll results would have a national impact and the BJP would suffer defeat in Assam. As expected, embattled chief minister Tarun Gogoi was the happiest person when he said, “We are not talking about a mahajot (grand alliance). We are talking of ‘maha-understanding’ among forces fighting the BJP” — thereby making a clarion call to  all non-BJP parties like the Congress, AIUDF, Asom  Gana Parishad, Bodoland People’s Front and Gana Mukti Sangram to come together.

But here lies the big catch. In the words of Gogoi itself is hidden the bitter ground reality of Assam that can, in fact, save the day for  the BJP. The saffron party, which picked up seven of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam in 2014, never had to face a united opposition in the past. Or in a precise political sense – “anti-BJPism” has never been a cause for unity with rest of the political forces in the state.
Instead, it has been one of the key partners of the AGP, once known for its regional muscular polity, and reportedly a few individual BJP leaders have done “unofficial” business even with the AIUDF for specific seats like in communally vulnerable Silchar.

Moreover, unlike Bihar where Amit Shah’s brand of politics did not cut any ice with voters, in Assam the saffron party has a much cooler and level-headed Ram Madhav as the general secretary in charge. Having handled a tough election in Muslim-stronghold Jammu and Kashmir, Madhav, though an RSS favourite, has been undertaking his responsibilities in Assam in a very sober and matured manner.
The complacency the  BJP showed in Bihar could be corrected by then in Assam and in contrast a taste of victory for the Congress — 27 seats in Bihar — could bring back the good old arrogance demon in Congress workers. In such a scenario with about five months to go for the spring, the battle in Assam now also looks wide open.

Despite advantages, the Congress has the good old face of Tarun Gogoi, three-time chief minister. He now harbours ambitions of putting forward his member of Parliament son Gaurav Gogoi’s case. This will certainly not go down well with both voters and Congress workers. The desertion of Himanta Biswa Sarma, one-time trusted Gogoi lieutenant, is essentially attributed to the “Junior Gogoi factor” than Sarma’s trust on the “vibrant leadership” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as they put it.
 Interestingly, Sarma’s willingness to join the BJP came within some  weeks of the saffron party calling him a key suspect in the Louis Berger scam. Only God and Amit Shah can now confirm what has been promised to Sarma. But that has not dampened the former state minister’s enthusiasm. He also already roped in nine sitting Congress legislators to the BJP. 

On the face of it, this also could appear a case of India Shining when the BJP faced defeat in the 2004 parliamentary polls. But in reality many dedicated BJP workers are not happy as these former Congressmen could bargain for tickets.

It goes without saying that the internal sabotage is still being attributed as one of the major reasons for the BJP’s defeat both in 2004 and, more recently, in Bihar. Among the existing BJP leaders, Sarbanand Sonowal is a prominent face but he, too, is a former AGP man. Moreover, Prodyut Bora has already walked out of the BJP while loyalists of Union minister Sonowal are at cross purposes with new BJP state unit chief Siddhartha Bhattacharya.
Will BJP's gamble with Himanta work?

The saffron party has, moreover, already faced criticism – and in the coming days this can only intensify — as the BJP has made a certain U turn on tricky issues like big dams, land boundary pacts with Bangladesh and deportation of illegal Bangladeshi nationals.

The BJP may also have tie-ups with tribal organisations like the Bodoland People’s Front but the party’s past experiences in pre-poll alliances in the state has been bitter. This offers a tremendous advantage to Tarun Gogoi. The Congress high command still backs him but he needs to win over parties like the  AGP and the AIDUF to counter the BJP.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris Attack: Lesson in India and Pakistan

Only on November 9, 2015, hours after India’s Bihar state enjoyed the victory of so called SICKULARISM – supposedly a blatant anti “Hindutva brand” of politics – Foreign Policy (magazine and website/run from west) sparked off a debate, “does violent extremism stem from Islam’s sacred texts?

The Paris attack came on November 14. 
Have I already communalized the debate?

In Indian sub-continent context, may be, I have. India is a ‘tolerant’ country and Narendra Modi is making it “intolerant” – so believes Sonia Gandhi to Indian president Pranab Mukherjee, also a former dedicated Congressman.
So believe writers and fraudsters, bear with my language. There was no award-return protests when Osama bin Laden was hailed as a “perfect Muslim”. 

So much was the camouflage over minority-appeasing SECULARISM – or SICKULARISM – that Pranabda’s compatriot in Congress Digvijaya Singh called him ‘Osama ji’. 
Sand work: Sudarshan Pattnaik

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Lesson from Bihar mandate: Voters - even if wrong - are always right

People of Bihar represent a dichotomy.

They wanted to reward a person - Nitish Kumar - who got rid of the ‘jungle raj’ in 2005 and typically declined to trust the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, who was promising them, a ‘better Bihar’ and a cushion against second installment of jungle raj of Lalu Prasad.
That’s precisely the Bihar elections for you. I have not answered the priceless question I posed with my previous blog on Bihar – “who will have the last laugh?”

Today that answer has little meaning. Let us examine what went wrong for Narendra Modi, himself a good reader of people’s pulse, and his trusted poll manager Amit Shah. BJP’s negativism guided by ‘excessive obsession’ with Nitish Kumar from the beginning of electioneering when the Chief Minister was not quite yet on the radars for contest enlarged Nitish Kumar’s profile to such levels that he along with Lalu Prasad’s solid support base of Yadavs – who perhaps voted with vengeance - literally eclipsed the saffron party. 

Now, what went right for Nitish Kumar?

The success of Nitish Kumar-Lalu Prasad combine was a huge political lesson that a good face and a good caste combination can make a formidable force to unleash nightmare on most potent rivals. Nitish Kumar made this year’s election a referendum on him and used his sober but personal magnetism. A few Biharis can actually deny that that life had gotten better under Nitish Kumar’s tutelage.
They wanted to reward a person who got rid of ‘jungle raj’ in 2005.

In the process, the jungle raj allegation against Lalu Prasad too did not stick and Modi’s master ability in understanding of crowd psychology to advantage too did not yield results.
“The voters wanted Nitish Kumar’s continuation and many were fed up with Prime Minister Modi’s rhetoric and zero performance of the centre in last 18 months,” rightly said JD(U) leader K C Tyagi later
These put the BJP on the back foot and at later stage when PM Modi charged Nitish Kumar about ‘DNA’ – the local Bihari voters decided to back their “own man” – Nitish. Moreover, the BJP’s ticket distribution and allocation of seats to three allies HAM, LJP and RLSP displeased party’s foot soldiers. 

NOTA vote share stood at 9,47,185 votes making it 2.5 per cent of votes polled and Manjhi's party - ironically which even spoke of making their leader the Chief Minister - could poll only 2.3 per cent and thus 8,46,856 votes. Most of these NOTA votes were BJP cadres’ votes in protest against the manner Amit Shah handled the elections.
The RJD-JD(U)-Congress combine actually also benefited from a different kind of backlash – the anguish of upper castes especially Brahmins as they felt “betrayed” after BJP gave away seats to allies of backward class and Dalits and tickets chiefly to Rajputs. 
Thus even renowned Brahmin strongholds have been breached. Election results in Bihar therefore for Narendra Modi and BJP are crystal clear message of how elections actually should not be fought. 
In terms of fallout, post Bihar-debacle for NDA, the media focus is rightly on the crisis in BJP, especially after four elderly BJP leaders directed their tirade against Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo. "To say that everyone is responsible for the defeat in Bihar is to ensure that no one is held responsible," the statement from 4 veterans L K Advani, M M Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar said. This was to contest BJP's highest policy making body Parliament Board's stand that sheer arithmetic led to the crushing defeat and that the defeat must be accepted collectively. 

Paswans failed Amit Shah

The crushing defeat for BJP has sparked off a debate among the political circle whether RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had deliberately scored that 'self-goal' for BJP by his comments against quota only to corner the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's team.
Is Modi's loss a RSS gain? 

The RSS and BJP watchers know it pretty well that Mohan Bhagwat is not a politically naive person. 
"Bhagwat is one of the most political RSS chiefs in recent past. This statement was not made in a closed door meeting. It was given as an interview and no one is convinced that Bhagwatji did not know, he has handed offer a favourite fodder to Lalu Prasad," remarked a senior BJP leader.
 In fact, no sooner RSS interview to Sangh fountainhead's own organisers went viral in media, Lalu Prasad had quickly latched on to the statement and dared PM Modi to abolish reservation.
BJP poll strategists admitted even after first two phases of polls -- wherein many seats with Dalit and OBC people went to the elections, the writing was clear that things had gone out of hands. “We know, no magic could help BJP recover that lost ground,” said senior leader C P Thakur, whose son too lost the polls. 
Cow: Negative Impact

Since coming to power in the May 2014 general elections, Prime Minister Modi tried to make himself a ‘new Indira Gandhi’ – a phrase borrowed from the BJP dissident camp. "The principal reason for the latest defeat is the way party has been emasculated in the last one year," the statement from four veterans said.

For his part, Narendra Modi assumed the 2014 mandate was for him akin to 1984 mandate to Rajiv Gandhi. While Rajiv benefited by sympathy wave as his mother was mercilessly killed by assassins, for Modi the 2014 mandate came as people were fed up with a non-functional MMS regime - of the Congress ruled UPA. Thus they put in lot of expectations in the basket of Modi Sarkar.
Prime Minister cannot blame people of Bihar for their anguish against him as both the BJP and Modi himself had campaigned tirelessly for 'achhey din'. 

After Arvind Kejriwal's Broom Revolution in Delhi, the caste idioms and absence of anti-incumbency against two-time Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the ultimate proved nemesis for Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo. The fallout could be huge politically. Amit Shah's exit as BJP president looks imminent. And the Prime Minister Modi needs to take the poll outcome of a governance-starved state as ‘alarm bell'. 
A fast learner he showed the right vibes when he gave a push to the economic reforms. 
Half Glass Full or Half Glass Air

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Fun, Food, St Anthonian Gang: Hijack by ‘Naga hospitality’

While concluding a previous blog on September 25, 2015, I promised to write another on our St Anthony’s Shillong gang get together. Here it’s.

Nov 8, 2015 Meet
These writings are difficult more from an individual perspective. Struggling to key in first initial words, one had to fight back the tears – certainly the tears of joy. But the incorrigible ‘tears’ do blur our visions nevertheless. If all these years – we had parted ways around 1984-85 – I was wondering what’s happiness all about, by August-September in 2015 when our group was born on ‘whatsapp’ tool; I realized it’s all about FRIENDSHIP. The feeling that you have friends and you too are a ‘friend’ of some individuals – highly successful ones in life an career – gives one some POWER.

This POWER HEIGHTENS one’s happiness!

We had another meet on November 8, 2015 – as Mumbai-based Samik Bhattacharya – he calls himself Sam B’charya and Shillong-based Congress neta Sanjay Das landed here in Lutyen’s city. Sam is truly a ‘be chara’ (please spare political element in you – Lalu Prasad here) – as Sam is only ‘bachelor’ in our group till now ! Moved in bag and baggage, we have promised on Delhi variety of ‘hospitality’, but this globe trotter says he has learnt all tricks of ‘hospitality’ in Africa ! Sanjay Das laughed little with gusto – cheerfully.
Sanjay, like most Congress netas, had a blast that day as Narendra Modi was humbled in Bihar and his party had something to cheer about after months!

So, perhaps Sanjay's laughter had a vengeance as he was ‘teasing’ this Modi bhakt – your’s blogger! Was the former cricketer in our school team still playing gentleman's game?  

Ainul Haq Mazumdar , our admin/moderator in Whatsapp group, played a 'cool customer' and kept things “safe” as he did not have wife’s permission to drink on a day – Modi was knocked off in Bihar!! But the cool customer kept his smile all along and kept encouraging most of us to press refresh memories about our good old days in Shillong! A good moderator is like a shepherd keeping the flock together.

Surajit Bhattacharya played his usual mischief. He wore his old-heart on his sleeves throughout. But like all dutiful husbands, the fellow got unmindful - scared - at times as his in-laws had visited his house and he was with us in 'very important business conference'.
But classic was Gautam – the UN official – throwing the usual googly, “today all you have is only beer”. Everybody kept a momentary silence – mourning the absence of hard booze.
Snaps were posted on whatsapp already and ‘jealous’ guys outside Delhi were already worried, whether Hangover is over ! There was no lion in the room.
Christopher, Odisha-based cop, landed in Delhi but missed the fun as his job ensured he should not move out of the Delhi airport. Poor fellow!
Good jobs often deny you good times.
No time to talk: Business First

But Life is like that. Mere fun and friendship would not make your life the way you want to shape it.

Rightly goes the Jagjit Singh number, Apni Marzi se kahan apni safar ke hum hain
Rukh hawaaon ka jidhar ka hai udhar ke hum hain

(This journey is not of our making,
We go in whichever direction the wind blows.)
Gang with Naga neta Thomas Ngullie

The song stands true not only for cops, it’s for everyone. 

Another thing in life is uncertain is who will host party for whom. Our ‘mutual party’ in terms of footing the bill turned topsy turvy as a former Nagaland minister Thomas Ngullie walked in. He too shared the ‘secret’ that he is Anthonian (by college) ! 
He had a cup of ‘fika cha (black tea)’ as we savoured popular Naga dishes and as he walked out, he said, “enjoy Naga food guys, its all on me”. 

Do you still doubt the ‘power’ of God’s will? Do you still doubt the traditional Indian theory – tolerant India or ‘intolerant’ India – that every corn is named after you or someone? Is there still any question about 'Naga hospitality'? Do you still doubt that Nagas have big hearts ?

Thank you Anthonians ! Thank you Thomas Ngullie. Happy Diwali.