PAGES

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Formation of Telangana, Claims & Counterclaims

The principal bone of contention between the protagonists of the division of Andhra Pradesh and the votaries of a united state is unarguably Hyderabad. For the people of Seema-Andhra, Hyderabad city as it stands today is the fruit of the combined efforts of the people of all regions over a period of sixty years. They have therefore an emotional attachment to it and are quite appropriately chagrined when asked to give it all up and walk away. The protagonists of Telangana however argue that the city already had educational institutions, hospitals and infrastructure facilities for housing various administrative offices of the government even at the time of the formation of the state in 1956. By implication they wish to state that the role of the Seema-Andhra people in the development of the city, as claimed by them is a myth.

In the debate for and against bifurcation of the state, an argument put forth is about the
Courtesy Indicus Analytics
cultural discrimination of the people of the Telangana region allegedly at the hands of the Seema-Andhra People. The depiction of characters with a Telangana accent in Telugu movies is cited as an example of Seema-Andhra superciliousness, presumably because the Telugu film industry is largely owned by the Seema-Andhra people. Surprisingly members of the national media have swallowed this specious argument without verification.

Let us first examine the case of educational and research institutions and central Public Sector Undertakings in Hyderabad and the rest of Andhra Pradesh. Yes, Hyderabad is a four hundred year old city. Yes, it has plenty of land, monuments like the Char Minar and the Golconda Fort and some buildings for housing offices of the state administration, an example being the state Assembly building. What of the educational institutions which the protagonists claim pre-existed at the time of the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956. Here is a list of educational and research institutes with the dates of their establishment as far as they could be ascertained from an internet search. The lists may not be exhaustive. Corrections if any are welcome.

CENTRAL EDUCATIONAL / RESEARCH INSTITUTES – HYDERABAD

1.    Acharya N. G. Ranga Agricultural University (1964)
2.    Administrative Staff College of India (1956)
3.    Advanced Numerical Research and Analysis Group (1988)
4.    Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (1948)
5.    C-DAC Hyderabad (1988)
[Established in Pune.  Hyderabad Centre later established as an offshoot.]
6.    Central Food Technological Research Institute (1950)
7.    Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Hyderabad (1967)
9.    Central Power Research Institute (1978)
10. Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (1985)
12. Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (1990)
14. CR Rao Advanced Institute of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (2007)
15. Defence Electronics Research Laboratory (1961)
16. Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (1963)
17. Directorate of Rice Research (1965)
18. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Open University (1982)
19. DuPont Central Research (1957)
20. English and Foreign Languages University (1958)
21. Environmental Protection Training and Research Institute (1992)
22. Institute for Development & Research in Banking Technology IDRBT (1996)
23. Indian Geophysical Union (1964)
24. Indian Immunologicals Limited (1983)
26. Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (1998)
27. Institute of Public Enterprise (1964)
28. Indian Institute of Technology – IIT (2008)
29. International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (1972)
30. International Institute of Information Technology – IIIT (1998)
31. Moulana Azad National Urdu University (1998)
32. NALSAR University of Law (1998)
33. National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (1976)
34. National Animal Resource Facility for Biomedical Research (2008)
35. National Balloon Facility (1961)
36. National Geophysical Research Institute (1961)
37. National Institute of Fashion Technology (1986)
38. National Institute for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises -  - NIMSME (1960)
39. National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad NIN (1958)
40. National Institute of Rural Development  - NIRD (?)
41. National Institute for Pharmaceutical Education & Research NIPER (2007)
42. Nuclear Fuel Complex (1971)
43. Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (2004)
44. Potti Sriramulu Telugu Universtity (1985)
45. Small Industries Development Bank of India - SIDBI (1990)
46. South Central Railway HQ
47. Sir Ronald Ross Institute of Parasitology (1955)
48. National Small Industries Corporation (1955)
49. University of Hyderabad (1974)
50. Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (2010)

CENTRAL EDUCATIONAL / RESEARCH INSTITUTES – Outside HYDERABAD

51. National Institute of Technology NIT Warangal (1959)

CENTRAL EDUCATIONAL / RESEARCH INSTITUTES – Rest of AP

1.    Kendriya Samskrut Vidya Peeth – Tirupathi
2.    Sri Padmavathi Mahila Viswa Vidyalaya – Tirupathi

The list does not include universities like the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University which has campuses in all the three regions. As may be seen from the Hyderabad list only two of the fifty institutes predate 1956.

Here is a list of central Public Sector Undertakings. The lists may not be exhaustive. Corrections if any are welcome.

PUBLIC SECTOR UNDERTAKINGS – Hyderabad

1.    Andhra Bank Ltd.
2.    Bharat Dynamics Ltd. (1970)
3.    Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (1964)
4.    Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. (1967)
5.    HMT Bearings Ltd. (1981)
6.    Hindustan Fluorocarbons Ltd. (1983)
7.    Indian Drugs & Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (1961)
8.    Misra Dhatu Nigam Ltd.
9.    National Mineral Development Corporation Ltd.
10. Praga Tools Ltd.
11. Sponge Iron India Ltd.
12. State Bank of Hyderabad (1941)

PUBLIC SECTOR UNDERTAKINGS – Rest of AP

1.    Bharat Heavy Plates & Vessels (1966) – Visakhapatnam
2.    Dredging Corporation of India Ltd.
3.    Hindustan Shipyard Ltd. (1952) – Visakhapatnam
4.    Hindustan Zinc Ltd. – Visakhapatnam [Disinvested in 2002.]
5.    Visakhapatnam Steel Plant Ltd. (1973) – Visakhapatnam

The lists do not include regional offices of central institutes or public sector undertakings located in the state.

The educational institutes and public sector undertakings are located in Hyderabad primarily because it is the state capital and are expectated provide opportunities for people all across the state.

In the early 1980s the PSU, Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (IDPL) became sick. Some scientists who worked in IDPL joined hands with some entrepreneurs, and founded companies like Standard Organics Ltd. (which later became SOL Pharmaceuticals Ltd.) The success of SOLPL and its splinter DRL spawned the growth of the pharmaceutical industry in Hyderabad. Today there are more than 250 bulk drug units making Hyderabad the largest producer of bulk drugs in the country. Most of the Pharma entrepreneurs, as in the case of the Telugu film industry which shifted from Madras to Hyderabad in the seventies, are from the Seema-Andhra region. However an interesting feature of the two industries is that over 70% of the workforce is drawn from the Telangana region.

The misconception about the cultural discrimination in Telugu films will be dealt with in the concluding part of this article.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Telangana And Political Ploys

For nearly ten years Congress, the ruling party at the centre brushed aside demands for a separate Telangana state. This is the fourth time that the issue has become a national political issue since the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956. Political leaders and parties either raised the demand for a separate state or supported agitations purely based on electoral considerations. Marri Chenna Reddy’s somersaults on the issue are a case in point. In 1956 he was for a united Andhra Pradesh. He later changed his stance and became a votary of a separate Telangana state. In 1968 the AP High Court annulled his election to the state assembly and debarred him from contesting elections for six years. ‘Vandemataram’ Ramachandra Rao of the Arya Samaj (and later the BJP) challenged Chenna Reddy’s election on the grounds that he appealed to the religious sentiments of the Muslims. (See Election Law Reports Volume XXXVII p 269 - 349). The judgement was upheld by the Supreme Court. Forced out of electoral politics he floated the Telangana Praja Samithi (TPS) to remain relevant in politics. His TPS won 10 Lok Sabha seats in the 1971 general election. After his return to electoral politics and after being suitably rewarded by the Congress party he merged his TPS with the Congress.
In 2001 Chandra Babu Naidu walked into a trap cunningly laid by Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. CBN had a problem in that he had too many claimants from the Velama community and too few cabinet berths. But those were heady days for him. The blemish of back-stabbing his father-in-law was behind him and he returned to power for a second time in 1999, riding on the coat tails of Atal Behari Vajpayee. Confident he would be able to contain the fallout he relegated K. Chandrasekhara Rao to the post of Deputy Speaker.
With a deft Machiavellian stroke YSR inveigled KCR to come out of the TDP and form a new party. Thus was the TRS born. YSR aligned with the TRS just before the 2004 general election, with a promise to help the formation of the Telangana state, a promise which he had no intention of keeping. During his tenure (and life) he had repeatedly proved that the demand for Telangana did not enjoy popular support. The TRS’ tally in the state assembly and local bodies had continually declined.
In 2009 CBN wanted to do a YSR but he lacked the latter’s deft touch and perhaps his finesse. After tasting power and been in office for nine years Chandra Babu Naidu could not stomach the 2004 defeat. He should have taken it in his stride. A good leader does not sacrifice his core beliefs for temporary gains. But that was what CBN did. By 2009 CBN was ready to walk up a wall if it would make him 'CEO' again. Seeking to make substantial inroads into Telangana and probably misled by the overconfidence of his own regional leaders he blundered into an alliance with the TRS. However, during the closing phases of the election campaign KCR deserted CBN and walked into the NDA camp but that was a different matter. At this time, the TDP gave its consent for the formation of the Telangana state.
It was CBN’s somersault that breathed new life into the Telangana agitation, which was getting nowhere, and forced the Congress party’s hand. It also brought matters to a head from which there was no return. Therefore the people of Seema-Andhra will have to thank CBN for the bifurcation of the state. Till then, YSR’s view on the issue prevailed and the Congress was against the formation of the new state. It did not have to pronounce its stand, the excuse being the state’s principal opposition party was opposed to the formation of the Telangana state.
CBN’s consent for Telangana and YSR’s death in September 2009 changed the political dynamics and in a way foreclosed the issue. K. Rosaiah who succeeded YSR as the interim Chief Minister could not withstand the political turmoil caused by KCR’s fast unto death on the one hand and YSR’s son’s revolt within the party on the other. Based on his recommendation the centre was forced to concede the demand for the new state. The ‘victory’ made KCR a hero in Telangana. For the centre, there was no going back and it was only a matter of time before a decision had to be taken. 
The stand of the CPM on the Telangana issue was true to its character, Janus-faced. The party could always reconcile diametrically opposite views. While as a principle it opposed formation of new states, it would not oppose the formation of Telangana if the centre wished to do so.      
Just before the 2009 election, the wily YSR struck with another of his machinations. This time he contrived the formation of Chiranjivi’s PRP. Had he been alive the merger of the PRP with the Congress would have been sooner. But his calculation was right. The PRP splintered anti-Congress votes and Congress was returned to power.
When in alliance with the TDP, the BJP stoutly argued against the bifurcation of the state. After the TDP severed its ties with the BJP, ostensibly because it lacked secular credentials (which the TDP seems to have suddenly discovered!) the BJP reverted to its advocacy of smaller states. Both the parties now find themselves in a quandary in the Seema-Andhra region and do not know how to come out of it.
Why did the Congress party which has been dillydallying on Telangana for more than four decades suddenly awake to the need for decisive action? It doesn’t require great intelligence to find an answer. As many political analysts opined, it is based on electoral calculations for 2014. However it is the behavior of its Seema-Andhra leaders that is far from exemplary. They knew for quite some time that the decision to split the state was in the offing. Yet, lured by the crumbs of power thrown at them, they pretended that it was not happening and fooled their constituents. They have underestimated the emotional attachment their constituents have with Hyderabad (it is all about Hyderabad!). ‘You cannot fool all the people all the time’, might be a cliché but it is nevertheless true. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Congress, Dirty Minds and Hangdogs

As the story goes, an anatomy professor once asked his class to ‘name the part of the human anatomy that can expand to eight times its normal size’. A student in the first row blushed and protested at such a question being asked in a mixed class. The professor reprimanded the student for not properly studying anatomy lessons. He added that the student not only had a dirty mind but was going to be terribly disappointed in life. He explained, ‘the part of the human anatomy that expands to eight times its normal size’ was not what the student assumed but the eye ball. A parenthetical note: whether this is a true or an apocryphal anecdote, there is no insensitivity about asking such questions in medical schools as students of both sexes should familiarize themselves with all parts of human anatomy.

The reason for recounting the medical school anecdote is to put the brouhaha over Narendra Modi’s remark about a puppy run over by a car in its proper context. Asked in an interview with Reuters, how he felt about the tragic loss of human lives in the Gujarat 2002 riots, he replied that ‘if a puppy were to come under the wheels of his car, even if someone else was driving it, he would be pained’. This innocuous remark sent our commentariat into delirium. They analysed each word, comma and pause. They analysed his tone, pitch and inflexion. They did not stop there. They began looking for hidden meanings and concealed metaphors.

It is quite common for literary commentators to look for hidden meanings in the works they are panning and not uncommon for them to read their own meanings into a given context. As an example take a look at Shakespeare’s works and their criticism. All his plays and all his sonnets might be accommodated in one shelf but the criticism of his works fills a whole library.

The army of Congress spokespersons and their fellow travellers in the media wanted to find out if the ‘P’ word was an indirect reference to the ‘M’ word. Like literary critics they would find out if it did. Like literary critics they would read it into it even if it didn’t. Congress selects its spokespersons based on their ability to turn on verbal diarrhoea at will. An important, common trait both the Congress spokespersons and their fellow travellers in the media share is a visceral hatred for Narendra Modi.

One of those Congress spokespersons who is given to letting his tongue loose to the extent of indecency in television debates, has a dubious history. His family came to India as refugees at the time of India’s partition. As he had high political connections this side of the border too, he was able to go to premium schools in India and college in England. While being there, he did something odd. In 1962 when India was forced into a war with China, he organized a fund-collection not for India but for funding the Chinese onslaught. In a saying it is called biting the hand that feeds; in plain English it is called treason. After returning to India he applied for the civil services examination. There is usually a police check for recruitment into such services. His conduct in England would have disqualified him in any other democratic country. In his favourite China it would have earned him death penalty. However his high political connections came to his rescue, again. He rose to the highest levels in the service and after retirement joined the Congress party. His lifelong loyalty to the dynasty (despite pretensions to being an intellectual) earned him many coveted positions. He used to write a column in a (now defunct) magazine edited at one time by a chaprasi of Nira Radia. A literary critic panning his work would have summed it up as graffiti written in elegant prose! Now he writes for another magazine in which he panned Narendra Modi’s puppy remark. True to his ‘graffiti reputation’, the piece was titled ‘Shame Shame Puppy Shame’. The group of four words (it is not even a phrase) is not to be found in any English dictionary. It is not even found in what is pejoratively referred to as Indian English. It is a school-boy taunt of the pre-English-medium-school days. See to what level the national political debate is lowered!

Here is a real English saying that sums up the attributes, which a human being wishes to be known for: ‘a good man, kind to animals and respected by all’. If one were to objectively analyse Modi’s answer, one would have understood that he tried to convey the anguish that a man feels when human lives are lost.

Modi tried to put the secularism – pseudo-secularism debate in its proper context. It was ignored. It is the character of a political ambience that calls a riot in which 32% of the lives lost were of Hindus (254 Hindus as against 790 Muslims), ‘a pogrom’ and ‘a genocide’; while willfully ignoring the reduction of 400,000 Hindu Kashmiri Pandits to the status of refugees in their own country. 

Modi’s development agenda was scoffed at. But they latched on to his assertion that there is no contradiction between Hinduism and nationalism. A few years ago, a secular icon, Omar Abdullah said virtually the same thing: ‘I am a Muslim and I am an Indian. There is no contradiction between the two.’ We are a strange nation in which the constitutional amendment that inserted the word secularism in the pre-amble can’t even be applied to Omar Abdullah’s state. Yet anything Omar Abdullah says is unreservedly believed. Every word Narendra Modi utters is dissected.

It is the India versus Bharat debate!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

An Agenda For Cleansing Our Political System

Here is an e-mail I have received from Mr. K. Gopal, a former colleague. (To be frank, he did not claim authorship. He has probably received it in what the mainstream media pejoratively likes to call a 'chain-mail'.) I have tweeted the points mentioned in it twice, the whole message in the Twitlonger format a few days ago and as individual tweets yesterday. Mr. Rajendra Shukla, a friend on Twitter, suggested that it is worth sharing with all. I am therefore reproducing it here with slight editing.

Winds of Change.... 

If you agree with this please pass it on. If you are RIGHT don't GIVE Up... 

Please share it with a minimum of twenty people among your contacts and in turn request each of them to do likewise.

In three days, most people in India will have this message. 

This is one idea that really should be passed on.

REFORM ACT 2013

NO TENURE / NO PENSION Parliamentarians collect a salary while in office but should not receive any pay when they're out of office.

NO RETIREMENT PLAN Parliamentarians should purchase their own retirement plans, just as all Indians do.

NO RIGHT TO VOTE PAY RAISE Parliamentarians should no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Their pay should be linked to the CPI or 3%, whichever is lower.

NO SPECIAL HEALTHCARE Parliamentarians should lose their current health care system and participate in the same health care system as the Indian people.

NO LEGAL IMMUNITY Parliamentarians MUST also abide by all laws they impose on the Indian people.

ANNUL CONTRACTS All contracts with past and present Parliamentarians should be void effective 1/1/13. 

NO DYNASTIC / FAMILIAL SUCCESSION Total ban for five years of any family members of elected members of Parliament / Legislature becoming members of Parliament and state Legislature during and for 3 years after cessation of membership. Any violation will attract penalty of withdrawal of recognition of party / right to stand for election of the individuals!

The Indian people did not make this contract with them.  Parliamentarians made all these contracts for themselves. 

Serving in Parliament is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person who receives this message contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people in India to receive the message. Don't you think it's time?

If you agree with this, please pass it on. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What is Salman Khurshid Up To?

The aphorism ‘No nation has friends, only interests’ and its variations were attributed to the former French President, Charles de Gaulle and the English Statesman Lord Palmerston. Some believe it predates even these politicians. An article in Time Magazine (May 9, 1955) obliquely attributes it to the English Statesman. For now the authorship of the aphorism is not the issue but whether Indian politicians were / are wise enough to pursue the course defined by it. Surprisingly, India’s foreign policy from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru has functioned at complete variance from the wisdom the aphorism advocates. Another interesting feature is that although Indian Prime Ministers in general seem to have a penchant for the foreign ministry, probably because it helps them to frequently fly abroad and rub shoulders with other world leaders, Nehru never let go of the foreign affairs portfolio. He was his Foreign Minister throughout his tenure as Prime Minster from September 2 1946. He relinquished both the posts only when he died on May 27 1964. The following article was originally published in South Asian Idea (SAISA), the official website of the South Asian Institute of Strategic Affairs as, ‘What is Foreign Office Up To?

Does the Indian government have a strategy to counter the latest Chinese incursion deep into Indian territory on April 15? If it does, it is shrouded in mystery and obfuscation. The first reports indicated that the Chinese penetrated ten kilometres inside from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and pitched tents. The government finally admitted that they intruded nineteen kilometres. (Dr.!) Salman Khurshid, the dermatologist heading the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) described it as a spot of acne on the India-China relations! Such expressions appear colourful in sophomore essays or university debates. However Khurshid is neither a sophomore nor was he writing an essay for a college magazine.

The recent incursion is not the first (more than 200 Chinese incursions into Indian territory have been reported since 2008) but what made it disturbing was, this time around the Chinese did not indulge in a niggling in-and-out inroad but seemed to have come to stay put. Equally disturbing is the Indian response which seems to be following the disastrous course of the 1962 script.

One would like to forget what happened in 1962 but for the indelible scar that the humiliating defeat left on India’s collective psyche. There were varying versions of what went wrong. There was an extreme view projected by the then undivided Communist Party of India (CPI) which overtly functioned as the Chinese fifth column. The left wing Chinese sympathizers in the academia and their fellow travellers in the media did their bit to cloud the picture. Several generals of the defeated army added to the cacophony by offering self-serving apologias.

Then there are accounts of foreign journalists like Neville Maxwell (1970. India’s China War). An Australian national born in London and educated in Canada, Maxwell was The Times’ foreign correspondent in Washington for three years, before being posted to New Delhi as the paper’s South Asia correspondent. Though extensively researched, the book appears to have been written to absolve Britain of any responsibility for the mess it left behind. In an article he wrote for Rediff in 2002, Maxwell observed that ‘[t]hrough the early 1950’s Nehru’s covertly expansionist policy had been implemented by armed border police…’ (Rememberinga War).

Even his worst enemies would not have credited Nehru with an expansionist mindset. Quite the reverse; he was hugely enamoured of China and its culture and wanted its friendship not enmity. (The CIA documents mentioned below confirm this.) He meekly acquiesced when the Chinese usurped Tibet, although Sardar Patel warned him years earlier, about Chinese ambitions over it. Patel foresaw that the disappearance of a buffer state between India and China would only fuel the latter’s expansionist ambitions further. The Chinese proved Patel right. In 1956-57 they quietly built a road to Aksai Chin and occupied it. It was a monumental failure of the Indian intelligence but the Indian government came to know of it only in 1958 according to secret CIA documents declassified in 2007.

Isn’t 2013 a poignant parallel? With all the technology and spy satellites that are available to them, the Indian intelligence agencies (again) failed to notice the Chinese creeping in till they pitched their tents nineteen kilometres inside India. That is not all. There are ground reports that the Chinese have been nibbling at Indian territories for years and altering the contours of the borders. 

Nehru first denied the Chinese incursions into Indian territories (as Khurshid now seeks to minimize it) and when it was no longer tenable to do so informed parliament that the Indian army was asked to ‘throw the Chinese out’. The Chinese fifth column in the Indian polity latched on to that phrase and claimed that it hurt the Chinese pride and in a way triggered the war. After the war, the Indians were left with only shame, not pride! There is no dearth of Chinese sympathizers even today. Academics of the JNU variety argue in television debates that the incursions occur because of differing perceptions about the border. They never pause to ponder why, because of similar differing perceptions Indian troops do not wander into China? Isn’t it precisely because, it is not a settled and demarcated border it is called the ‘Line of Actual Control’ and not an international border?

Maxwell had access to the ‘Henderson Brookes-Bhagat Report’, an Operations Review of the debacle, commissioned by Gen. J. N. Chaudhuri, who became the army Chief after the war. The report is still classified and not available to the Indian public. Nehru revealed more about the Indian army’s capabilities to the Chinese Premier, Zhou Enlai (trained in military and intelligence matters) by taking him on a conducted tour of Indian ordnance factories than the Henderson Brookes-Bhagat report conceals from the Indian public.   

Maxwell and others opine that the Indian army was forced to take on a more superior army in terms of training and equipment. But the war was probably lost in the minds of the generals much before it was on the ground. There is the old saying that ‘The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton!’ (It may be an uncorroborated version but a veteran of the war whom this writer met in a train journey said that the Chinese were not as well equipped as it was made out to be. They carried one rifle for four to six soldiers.) The generals hoped till the end that Nehru would somehow find a diplomatic solution to the vexed border problem. He failed them and they failed him.

Haven’t the Americans met their Waterloo in Vietnam and the Russians in Afghanistan in spite of their vastly superior arms and equipment? Therefore the inferior quality of arms and equipment was not a valid argument for the defeat in 1962. Similarly, China’s numerical superiority of arms and equipment is not a valid argument for inaction in 2013. The rule is to be able to stare the enemy in the face. As an emerging economy and aspiring world power, China has as much at stake as India. 

There was a view that Nehru’s overweening ambition to win a Nobel peace prize was at the back many of his political decisions which resulted in disastrous consequences. One hopes the present leadership would not consider trading off national interests for some elusive personal monument for itself! The nation will not approve it. Therefore Salman Khurshid should keep the nation informed about his game plan for securing the safety and integrity of the nation. More importantly the nation would like to have an assurance from the Defence Minister that his armed forces are fully capable of securing the nation’s safety, security and integrity. 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Random Reflections On The Karnataka Election 2013

If one were to name a singular failure of the intelligentsia, the politicians, the sociologists and finally the sanctimonious, ‘know-all’ media that comprise the opinion-shaping organs of the world’s largest democracy, it is its failure to build a cohesive national spirit. For, sixty five years after becoming a democratic polity, we still vote as castes and communities; ethnic and religious groups.

Unlike the Americans, Brits, Chinese, French or Russians we do not think, act or behave as a nation, like Indians. We think as vokkaligas, and lingayats; forward castes and backward castes; Hindus and Muslims; Bengalese and Biharis; Kanndigas and Marathis but certainly not as Indians.

Compared to these considerations, probity in public life or its converse, corruption appears to be a non-issue in Indian elections. This was earlier observed in AP in 2009 when the then YSR government accused of corruption on a gigantic scale not only comfortably returned to power but contributed 33 MPs to his party to form a government at the centre.

The reason could probably be that corruption only affects the middle classes. The poor do not mind whether the government is corrupt or not as in any case their lot remains poor. If someone provides them their daily necessities and a few other freebies, that would be all they want. Throw the poor some crumbs. The late YSR understood this principle and deployed it with great success. His philosophy was ‘I and my cronies would loot the state and none can question me as long as the people vote me back to power.’ He warded off all accusations of corruption with the hide of a hippopotamus. If in the process the government bankrupts, so be it!

His bête noire CBN, left out of power for two terms learnt his predecessor’s lessons well! It is early days yet to predict if he would or could come back to power in 2014 but to service all the freebies he has been promising during his recent 3000-km padayatra the state budget may be woefully inadequate. The freebies he promised would consume the revenues of the entire nation. To be fair to CBN he did not face any corruption charges when in power.

For the rich it is a closed circuit. ‘I can, and pay for services; I recover my costs and some by swindling the public.’ They need corruption and it needs them. It is a self-reinforcing loop.

The BJP, which laid great store by probity in public life, floundered when its tallest leader in the state, B.S. Yeddyurappa blundered. In the 1990s, its leader L. K. Advani, an accused in the Jain Hawala case resigned his parliament membership and stayed out of public life till his name was cleared. Its Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee sacrificed his 13-day government in 1996, by losing a vote of confidence on the floor of the Lok Sabha by a solitary vote. If his floor managers did what the Manmohan Singh government did at the fag end of its first term in 2004, he would not have had to go to the people again. Atal Behari Vajpayee had sacked Buta Singh, a minister from a politically sensitive community when the Supreme Court indicted him in the JMM bribery case.

B.S. Yeddyurappa nullified about forty years’ of hard work and clean public life with greed for some small peanuts. When there was a demand for probing mining licences, in a fit of foolish or inverted bravado, he included his own tenure in the terms of reference he ordered. That was his undoing. He was one of the few Chief Ministers who had to resign on grounds of corruption and sent to jail based on a report filed by the state Lokayukta. The High Court later rubbished the report. For the record, the report of the former Karnataka Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde, also indicted two of Yeddyurappa’s predecessors, S. M. Krishna and Dharam Singh both of the CongressWhat was Yeddyurappa charged of in the Lokayukta report? He was charged of allocating a paltry 10 acres of land to his family members. He did it, as many of his predecessors did, under the Chief Minister’s discretionary quota. An indiscretion perhaps, for a leader of a ‘party with a difference’ but it can hardly be termed corruption. His son was accused of accepting a paltry Rs 10 Cr as a donation to a trust he was running as quid pro quo for getting him some mining leases.

The BJP did act by replacing Yeddyurappa as Chief Minister but by the time the damage was done. The anti-BJP media selectively went to town with Yeddyurappa’s alleged corruption and the stigma stuck. The reason for qualifying the media as anti-BJP is because it spared the two former Congress CMs indicted by the same Lokayukta report. The BJP could not effectively counter the campaign. Here is a lesson for the BJP to ruminate on its media management or look for a media organisation of its own. 

The lesson: don’t under-estimate the power of media. There is a corollary to the lesson: don’t over-estimate the power of the social media. The social media may be able to discipline the mainstream media to a certain extent but it can’t be a substitute for hard work on the ground. 

The manner of his exit rather than the exit per se must have angered Yeddyurappa. A faction within the party which wanted the party to brazen out corruption charges (as the Congress does often) raised false hopes in him. But a more martinet faction within the party wanted him out at least till his name was cleared by due legal processes. A miffed Yeddyurappa walked out of the party, formed his own outfit and proved to be the BJP’s nemesis at the hustings. His exit split the party’s votes and reduced its tally in the Vidhan Sabha to a third of its former strength. In the process, he rendered himself irrelevant in the political scheme of things in the state. He might yet learn his lesson and yearn for a homecoming as many others before him have done both in the BJP and its arch-rival, the Congress. For the nonce, he has had his revenge for a real or imaginary slight he suffered in the party.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Is 2002 a decoy for 1984?

How do you make a line smaller without touching it?’ is a question which kids use while playing games. It is a sort of a children’s equivalent of an IQ test. It would be more appropriate to rephrase it as ‘How do you make a line appear smaller without touching it?’ The answer would of course be ‘by drawing a larger line adjacent to it.’

Why would adults play a kids’ game? But they do. They do. Human rights activists do. Intellectuals do. Media analysts do. Politicians do. Social activists do. They do and have been doing it, in spite of the issue under discussion being, as macabre as the butchering of thousands of men, women and children in the national capital. They do although one unnatural death (death by wanton murder) is one too many.

The riots in Gujarat following the burning of a wagon-load of karsevaks in February 2002 could be discussed as a standalone riot. There is another strange aspect to it. It is as if India had no history before 1992 and no history after 2002. Therefore the demolition of the ‘Sri Rama Janma Bhumi – Babri Masjid’ in 1992 and the riots that followed the burning of a wagon-load of karsevaks in 2002 are discussed ad nauseum as standalone incidents as if they had no context. In the case of 2002, only the riots are discussed. The burning of a wagon-load of karsevaks that preceded them is airbrushed as if it never happened. If it was ever mentioned it was done so, as an after-thought. ‘Yes, it happened. Unfortunate.

When it comes to discussing the Sikh massacres of 1984 (an inconvenient issue that cannot always be avoided), the issue of 2002 had to be invariably invoked as if it was somehow it was the incident that triggered it. Stranger still, even in a discussion about the massacre of 1984, the riots of 2002 become the focal point and the massacre of 1984 an addendum. These are the ways of our secular polity and objective media!

This was the background for Vivek Kaul’s ‘1984 riots: The original ‘maut ka soudagars’ set tone for future’. The issue came back to limelight after the Delhi High Court ordered reopening the Jagdish Tytler case, which, CBI, India’s premier investigation agency sought to bury umpteen times in the last twenty-eight years. It was not due to its ineptitude that the premier investigation agency sought to bury the case but because the oft-quoted dictum ‘the law will take its course’ is applicable only to ordinary mortals but not to the high and mighty. There is a separate jurisprudence for them!

Kaul relies heavily on Ramachandra Guha's book (India After Gandhi –The History of World’s Largest Democracy) to put across his point of view. There are many inaccuracies - deliberate and mala fide - in both Kaul's and Guha's versions. Guha writes, “…The mobs were led by Hindus who lived in and around Delhi…” That the massacre had nothing to do with Hindus or Hinduism has been conveniently ignored. That it was the private revenge of the Congress party was intentionally ignored. That the Congress party’s most cynical, if not macabre game plan was to use the sad incident to derive political dividends by whipping up public hysteria was deliberately not highlighted.

Guha goes on to say, ‘…in Delhi alone more than a thousand Sikhs perished…’ A deliberate attempt, to use Nixon’s famous phrase, to economize with the truth! The fact was, in Delhi more than 3000 Sikhs were butchered and 5000-7000 more were killed in the other parts of the country.

It is at this point Kaul tries to draw his ‘Gujarat 2002 larger line’ to make ‘the 1984 Sikh massacre, the smaller line’. Kaul doubles the number of deaths in the Gujarat riots – off his own bat without any help from Guha! The number of Muslims killed in Gujarat in the 2002 riots was not 2000. It was 790, according to a reply given by a secular Congress Minister of State for Home (MoS, Home) in the Rajya Sabha. There is more to the inappropriate comparison. The 1984 anti-Sikh carnage was a totally one sided affair, truly a genocide, to use a word often inappropriately applied to the Gujarat 2002 riots. In the riots that followed the burning of a wagon-load of karsevaks, 254 Hindus were killed. The number of Hindus dead is a matter of no consequence for secular writers and hence no mention was ever made of them.

Guha’s specious argument about unnamed Karsevaks ‘getting into a fight with Muslim vendors at the Godhra railway station’ as a reason for burning down a whole compartment of Hindus, more than half of whom were women and children is another spin of sick secular minds. This mauling of facts often resorted to by the secular mob since 2002 is a deliberate insult to the common sense of – well, the common man. Do platform vendors routinely store hundreds of gallons of petrol anticipating altercations over a few rupees with their customers, and do they routinely burn customers to teach them a lesson?

While the central government in Delhi deliberately delayed the deployment of the army in 1984 till the blood-lust of the dynasty was satisfied, the army was called in Gujarat in 2002 within 48 hours. (There were no four days between February 27 and March 1 as some over-zealous, motivated commentators tried to make out!) While the accuracy of Rajiv Gandhi’s ‘the earth trembles when a big tree falls’ statement has been fairly well established, the Gujarat Chief Minister’s statement following the riots was deliberately distorted to paint him as a bloodthirsty tyrant.

Another detail which the article deliberately glosses over was that in the Delhi massacre, senior Congress leaders like H. K. L. Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler led the murderous mobs from the front. The fact that Congress workers were as much part of the Gujarat riots as members of the BJP is too inconvenient for the secular brigade to be bothered about.