The aftermath of floods in Kerala has been as tumultuous as the floods itself

The devastating floods in Kerala has shaken and stirred the country in an unprecedented manner. Nature’s fury, tragic scenes, political wrangling, communal rhetoric, diverse India uniting and a dash of comedy have ensued in the past fortnight. It all started when the Home Minister of India made a quick visit to Kerala and announced a immediate relief fund of Rs. 100 crores. Problem was, Kerala Govt. had asked for more than Rs. 1000 crores. Then the PM wanted to do an aerial survey and assessment of the affected areas with his team. Problem was, thousands of people were stranded in the floods in inaccessible areas where only helicopters could reach them. For rescue, military personnel deployed were only in hundreds. All state TV channels were impressively covering flood affected areas to the best they could. Politicians and government officials in the name of aerial survey were using helicopters that could have been used to rescue people. Moreover their aerial survey was inhibiting the rescue operations. They should have simply stayed at home and watched TV.

Then the Central govt. announced a flood relief package of Rs. 600 crores. The simmering social media erupted. A Govt. that has thousands of crores to give as loans to other countries and for building statues did not have enough money for saving it’s own people’s lives. The reasons were quite evident. The communally harmonious society of Kerala has never allowed BJP to plant it’s roots in the land even though RSS has been actively trying to find some ground. The frequent clashes between RSS and Communist cadres is the clear testimony of that. RSS has even gone to the extent of eliminating it’s own people for defaming the Communists as has been found out from police investigations in some of the cases. The Left parties won the last assembly elections and are in governance of the state now. Moreover Keralites have unanimously rejected any ban on eating beef. The Central govt. has been at loggerheads with the state govt and the Kerala society as a whole which got clearly reflected in the callous approach of the Central govt. towards the time of crisis.

What the Central govt. needs to understand is that Kerala is a part of India and is one of the highest payer of central taxes and excise duties to the Central govt. Kerala govt. had only asked for the support and assistance it is entitled to get. As per 2015-16 estimates, Kerala has 2.7% of India’s population and contribute 4.4% of its GDP. For every ₹1 Kerala pays to the centre, they get only 25 paisa back. And Kerala gets only 3.25% of its GSDP from centre. Every Malayali who stays in Kerala pay ₹12572 per year to centre in different form of taxes (2015-16 data). Rejecting the requests of Kerala govt. and offering measly sums as relief packages is clearly a violation of the federal structure of governance of the country.

Meanwhile a comical episode started off on the side when the ruler of UAE met a prominent Indian businessman and apparently told him that he would be willing to give a relief package of 100 million USD to the Kerala govt which was in turn conveyed to the Kerala CM. Then the ruler of UAE tweeted a statement of support and solidarity towards the people of Kerala which was responded by the PM with a tweet of gratitude. The next thing everyone got to know is that the Central govt. had rejected the offer of help from UAE citing an incident from the past when the erstwhile UPA govt had refused to take help from foreign countries. The ruler of UAE in turn stated that he never made any explicit offer of help. All of this made me wonder why people in important places are tweeting and talking about providing assistance for such a huge calamity on social media when they should be working towards getting help to the affected people. So essentially the Central govt. neither showed willingness to do enough for flood relief nor allowed governments from other countries to help which got totally exposed with this incident.

The communal elements across the country did not sit idle either. RSS was trying to spread it’s own organizational propaganda in the name of helping flood victims. Posts and comments started pouring in on social media about why the people of Kerala should suffer because Keralites still continue to eat beef and the women of Kerala are trying to desecrate the sanctity of Sabarimala by trying to get equal rights to enter the temple. Arnab Goswami has even gone on record to call the people of Kerala as shameless ones. All of these are stark reminders that we have only found freedom from foreign rule and we are a long way away from cleansing our society of the many evils and darkness that has taken control over our minds and thoughts.

In the meantime, the govt. of Kerala got pulled into a couple of raging debates. One was about the handling of excess dam water and the opening of dams which ensued in large scale flooding. OPIndia, an online news platform has falsely interpreted a NASA weather report and claimed that the timing of the opening of the dams resulted in the floods across Kerala (http://www.opindia.com/2018/08/nasa-confirms-delayed-opening-of-dams-coupled-with-rains-led-to-kerala-floods/). NASA’s report (https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2018/nasa-captures-monsoon-rains-bringing-flooding-to-india/) only mentions that above average rainfall caused floods in certain parts of India. Nowhere does it link floods with the management of the dams. Commonsense says same amount of water would have flowed out regardless of when the dam was opened. Only difference would have been in the amount of pressure of the released water. In normal case, rainwater swells rivers which ultimately flows out into the sea. In this case, excess rainwater swelled up river banks and water flowed into human settlements where it got stuck causing floods. Excessive rainfall, human encroachment of land, poor maintenance of drainage systems can all be blamed, but questioning the timing of opening of dams is blatant blaming and false propaganda against the Kerala govt. The Minister of Fisheries of Kerala has stated in an interview on a state TV channel that people had claimed land from the rivers for their constructions and farming and the rivers simply took back those lands which was the best way to explain what had happened. Flooding in human settlements should not be blamed on any governments in particular. The civil administration (municipalities, corporations) should be taken to task for illegal constructions, unplanned expansion of towns and cities and poor maintenance of infrastructure.

The second one was about a 2011 environmental report which stated that large scale sand mining and deforestation is damaging the environment and destabilizing the natural ecosystem of the Western Ghats. This is not for any one govt to take blame. When there is no control over population growth and we venture out into destroying nature for our needs, nature will take it’s own course of corrective actions to stabilize itself. Destruction of nature has been happening across all the states. Nature conservation and environmental protection is a national level problem which the Central govt. and all state govts should come together and discuss upon. Maybe it is time we took a leaf out of China’s development model. Every year a certain amount of forest land is acquired for development activities and at the same time a certain amount of unused or waste land is marked for conversion back into forest area.

In between such a massive tragedy and all the ensuing chaos and mud slinging three factors have stood as silver linings and shining beacons. The first one is the communal harmony of the Kerala society which has only grown stronger in the face of the calamity. In the aftermath of the floods, pictures have emerged of Muslims cleaning a temple compound, something unimaginable in most places in India. Second is the absolutely massive level of support and solidarity Kerala has received from all over India. Support in the form of relief funds and materials have flowed to Kerala right from Jammu and Kashmir. Just the ideal reminder that we may be divided by many reasons but it takes just one reason to unite our minds and thoughts.

The third one is the best of it all. The fishermen of Kerala swooped into the flood waters to save lives as if they were from another world. None of the military might of the world can match their skills in water. They ride the huge waves and choppy waters of the seas in their boats and ships like normal people walk in the park. They moved in silently into the flood waters, saved thousands of lives and went back expecting nothing in return and earning the highest respect from all quarters. When high seas ravage their dwellings and they have to rebuild their lives year after year the rest of the state lives in complete ignorance about it. It is high time the state govt. starts working towards the betterment of the fishermen community.

I am not sure if we have seen the last of the controversies yet. Someone has tweeted questioning the possibility of using the gold stored in the vaults of the Padmanabhaswami temple in Thiruvananthapuram. I am waiting to see if this is going to stir the hornet’s nest. The problem with using the gold is, if we knew why so much gold was accumulated and stored we would also know when to use it.

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I am a Hindu and this is why I don’t need to patronize the Hindutva Agenda

I was born into a Hindu family with a Brahminical lineage on my father’s side till 3 generations back. My great grandfather married a Nair lady and since Kerala is a matriarchal society, the following generations did not inherit the Brahmin roots. My father and mother were born and brought up in Kolkata and Mumbai respectively and even though they eventually settled in Kerala, I was brought up in a completely cosmopolitan household. Caste based discussions used to happen rarely but there were no religion based ones. We do lament the fact that being upper caste Hindus do not accord us any governmental privileges like the lower caste people. I studied with kids from all walks of life from school to college and religion and caste based discussions never came up.

Being a Hindu never mattered till the Ram Janmabhoomi (Lord Ram’s birth place) issue flared up. I was in my teens at that time and didn’t understand much about all the fuss. Bricks and funds were being collected from every house to be taken to Ayodhya to build the temple. What people didn’t know at that time was, it was a political game kick started by Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress party to woo Hindu votes which would end up in the demolition of the Babri Masjid, provide BJP the political platform to become a national party and plunge the country into the perpetual darkness of communalism. The Hindutva card has been used time and again by the BJP to call for the conversion of India into a Hindu Rashtra (Country).

Now, according to the dictionary,

Hindutva is an ideology seeking to establish the hegemony of Hindus and the Hindu way of life.

According to Wikipedia

Hindutva (“Hinduness”), a term popularised by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in 1923, is the predominant form of Hindu nationalism in India.

Savarkar’s Hindu nationalism included in its fold the followers of all Indian religions including Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, but excluded the followers of “foreign religions” such  as Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.

When leaders are not sensible and do not have enough knowledge and commonsense to take balanced decisions, the repercussions can ripple through the society for decades and generations. Islam and Christianity are the biggest practiced religions in India after Hinduism and both of them are indeed “foreign religions” but who are the followers in India of both religions? Every Christian and Muslim in India has Hindu lineage. Both these religions came to Kerala first and were accepted into the society wholeheartedly. The first Christians in India were Brahmin families who converted to Christianity. Savarkar and his band of nationalists clearly didn’t know India’s history nor did they have the measure of how diverse and accommodating Indian society and mindset is. People from all major countries have aspired to travel to India, have come and done their bit be it with trade or ruling large parts of the country. Indian society has undergone unprecedented cultural exchanges with all these countries and in spite of going through monumental changes, Hindu culture has remained untouched and has actually thrived. The enormity of being part of the most diverse land in the world is yet to hit in the face of every Indian.

The proponents of Hindutva should first understand that Hinduism is and has never been a religion. In the pantheon of Indian deities there are Gods who represent all natural forces such as rain, wind, etc. The earliest humans used to worship nature as part of their lives and Hinduism has it’s roots right in the dawn of modern humanity. Now this is where it gets interesting. Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism all have their roots in Hinduism. Christianity and Islam have their roots in Judaism. What does this imply? New religions sprouted out as improvements to the older ones. All religious texts mention about an entity who is going to arrive and liberate humanity from the clutches of darkness and sins. For Hindus it is Kalki, the 10th avatar of Vishnu, for Christians it is the return of Jesus Christ. Logic says only one entity is coming. If every religion is saying the same thing, it has to be based on some fact. From the moment the entity arrives, will any of these religions have any significance? Every human being is supposedly going to be evaluated and rewarded/ punished based on his/her karma. If belonging to any religion is going to be immaterial then, what relevance do religions have now? Every religion may be meant to guide humanity as communities to the time of arrival of that entity which is why newer religions have improved rules for societal life.

Now what is the proof that Ayodhya in UP is the birth place of Lord Ram? Ayodhya has been described as the biggest city on Earth in Ramayana but absolutely no evidence of such a city has been excavated yet. There are many places called London and Delhi in the world so just because there is a place called Ayodhya does not mean that is the birthplace of Lord Ram. Facts and fiction about places and incidents merge and become inseparable with time. Let me propose a theory for consideration. Both Ramayana and Mahabharata speak about weapons of mass destruction that were deployed in wars and annihilated thousands and even millions of soldiers. Scientific expeditions to Mars have concluded that the planet was just like ours in the distant past and two massive nuclear wars seem to have destroyed the planet’s surface and it’s atmosphere making it the red planet it is today. What if the incidents mentioned in Ramayana and Mahabharata happened on Mars and the stories managed to reach somehow to Earth?

To understand the concept of Hindutva, we need to look at who needs Hindu nationalism. If we go by the Hindu caste system, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas were the warrior and business clans respectively who were busy with their respective occupations and had little to moderate time for religious affairs. Sudras, the menial class did not even have the right to pray to God. People of all these 3 castes have successfully integrated into the modern society. Its the Brahminical class that has been steadily losing their relevance in society just like the might of the Church has waned off in many western countries. The proponents of Hindutva all belong to the Brahminical class which is again a minority group within Brahmins itself. I am bemused by their multi-fanged agenda about treating cows as our Mother. Cow is mother everywhere except in Goa and North East states and cow is mother for everyone except the Hindus who own the largest exporters of beef in the country. This is why Kerala society has chosen it’s culture of eating beef over the Hindutva diktat.

I would like to know how many of the self professed agents of Hinduism are actually aware that idol worship as a practice started only at the beginning of Kali Yuga and Kali Yuga started after the demise of Lord Krishna as per Hindu texts. Only one God has been mentioned as being worshipped in ancient times, even by Lord Rama and Lord Krishna. The perpetual and omnipresent Lord Shiva and I am quite sure most of these Hindutva preachers may not be knowing why. Destroying and subsequently paving the way for new creation is the most important and most intense activity which requires using the entire energy of the Universe with utmost focus and without any remorse, empathy and compassion. Temples are meant to be places of rejuvenation of our chakras and the energy flow in our body rather than the residence of Gods. So what relevance does building the Ram temple have for people who are being choked with inflation, lack of employment and education and struggling to make their ends meet? Only political. That’s why it flares up during elections and whimpers to its demise afterwards.

None of the above are indicators that I am an atheist or anti-Hindu. So much has been written in ancient Indian texts that it is impossible to assume everything as fantasy stories. We are just not technologically advanced to interpret them correctly. I am proud of my Hindu lineage but not arrogant to desire for a Hindu land. For thousands of years through the invasion of India by foreign kings and countries and their subsequent rule, Hindus haven’t felt threatened about losing their identity. There is no such danger now and there will never be.

India’s journey from 2014 to 2019 and beyond

The general elections in India are a year away but preparations and build up towards it has already started. The recent state elections in Karnataka was dubbed as it’s precursor or the ‘final before the final’. The situation is identical to how it works in the corporate sector. In a Business to Business (B2B) relationship, one party will usually be the client and the other it’s vendor or service provider. If such a contract is created for say 3 years, the vendor will not wait till the end of 3 years before trying to extend the contract. By the half way mark the vendor will start preparations and by the end of the 2nd year, they will initiate discussions with the client. They have a single critical objective which is to ensure that the client does not start evaluating other vendors. If the client starts evaluating other vendors, it means the client is not satisfied with the current vendor and the most likely outcome will be the contract not getting renewed and going out into the market. This is all about perceptions and the vendor needs to ensure that the perception the client has about them is favorable to them. The game of politics is also about perceptions especially in India since politics in India is governed by religious, caste and community based vote banks.

The tone of 2019 elections was set during the elections of 2014 itself. The 2014 elections were dominated by two factors, the scams that happened and were subsequently unearthed during the 10 year rule of the UPA government and the rise of Modi and his Gujarat model of development. The UPA government’s tenure was plagued by the financial meltdown of 2008 and it’s after effects. Indian economy did not experience the full blown effects of the situation like most countries did but overall growth of the economy became grinding slow. The GDP tanked, inflation and unemployment flared up and when the scams came out in public view, discontent against the government soared to an all time high. BJP did not have a prime ministerial candidate until about 2012 and was a headless party. Modi’s team took advantage of both these situations and used the Gujarat development model as the premise to project Modi as a national leader which worked remarkably well.

But as the trail towards the elections heated up, I realized that what was being projected about Modi and Gujarat weren’t hunky dory after all. From my neighbours who had moved to Gujarat, I learned that except some cities like Ahmedabad, nothing much had changed. Ravish Kumar of NDTV ran extensive coverage of some of the major cities and villages of Gujarat where there were no signs of any development. Most importantly, the perception that Modi becoming the PM will make all the problems go away and bring the economy back on the path of growth did not sit well with me because this was explained away by his Gujarat development model and was not quantified enough by facts and figures. This, especially after the country’s economy and stock market were getting affected even by variations in the valuation of the US government bonds. Modi’s much vaunted plan to bring back the flushed out black money also sounded hollow after Arvind Kejriwal, in a televised interview mentioned that the more urgent need was to first stop the flow of black money before chasing the money already funneled out of the country.

To summarize, the Modi chant never rose high enough to become a wave. The country’s GDP no longer seems to reflect the ground level economic conditions. A country’s GDP and inflation are related in 5 ways as per Investopedia (https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/112814/why-does-inflation-increase-gdp-growth.asp) and none of these conditions match India’s present situation. When crude oil prices were falling globally, India’s fuel prices were still going up and inflation along with it. Yet the GDP was being shown as growing which makes no sense at all. GDP growth can trigger inflation but inflation can never affect GDP positively. Also GDP and unemployment cannot rise together. Two major initiatives of the government, demonetization and GST have failed completely in their stated objective to curb the black money menace. Money laundering and loan defaulting by big time corporate players like Vijay Mallya which started during the UPA rule continued unabated during the last 4 years as well. All banks are struggling to cope up with increasing NPAs. Possession and auction notices of houses and properties along with the auction notices of pawned gold throng the daily national and local newspapers which tells the sordid story of how common man is suffering from lack of employment and earnings. To add to the woes, farmers across the country are taking their lives. But the rich have been getting richer despite all of this. In the last 4 years, India has been successfully added to the list of countries where 99% of the wealth is under the control of 1% of the world’s population.

The deeper impact of what transpired in 2014 is only becoming apparent now. BJP did not seek the support of other political parties to fight the 2014 elections. Instead, they chose to go on their own with Modi as their face effectively making him a single point of success or failure. Given the circumstances under which the elections of 2014 were conducted, I am inclined to assume that the INC did not want to win the election because they were helpless to stop the downward slide of the economy and they did not want to continue taking the blame for the economic conditions. I had realized in 2014 that if Modi wins and fails in the next 5 years, it will unite the opposition and it will become a battle between Modi and the rest of India. The country has seen the fiasco that unraveled in Karnataka after the state elections last month. INC and JD(S) which had fought the elections against each other joined hands to form the government and then started bickering over allotment of portfolios. So if the condition arises that so many regional and national parties unite to form the government in 2019, bickering among them over portfolios would rise to preposterous levels.

For political parties in India, elections have always been more about seizing control over power and money and less about governance. In the supposedly fastest growing economy in the world, election manifestos are still filled with empty promises to provide clean drinking water, electricity and education. How can a country’s economy grow when a large part of it’s population still does not have access to clean drinking water, electricity and education? These are the fundamental rights of every citizen of the country and it is the primary responsibility of the government to ensure that people have access to their basic rights irrespective of which political party is in control of the government. People should not vote over promises to provide them their basic rights. Arvind Kejriwal and his government claiming success in transforming the lives of the people of Delhi with cheaper electricity, access to water and improving the education and healthcare sector actually reflects poorly on the country in the world arena because in spite of Delhi being the seat of the country’s government, the sordid and miserable condition of it’s population for such a long time is getting exposed.

What will happen in 2019 elections and it’s aftermath already seems like a nightmare to me. Modi and BJP seemed to have assumed in 2014 that governing his home state for 12 years was enough credentials to govern the world’s most diverse country. Their spectacular rise and fall in the last 4 years have proved that they do not have the firepower to govern the country. The alternative is a united opposition with possibly the INC at it’s helm, united only with the intent to grab power. When it comes to Arvind Kejriwal and his party, all other parties unite against them because they seem terrified of his people oriented governance agenda. So they will keep him bottled up in Delhi itself. 5 more years of uncertainty seems to be definitely in the offing.

Elections – The Great Circus of Democracy

A sudden silence engulfs the country at the peak of campaigning during every election, be it in the states or at the national level. The silence is almost choking for about 2 weeks or so. Unpredictable price rise, a characteristic of inflation which has become part of the daily life of every Indian comes to a standstill. People are not used to such peace and tranquility in their regular daily lives. It is a sigh of relief to see the prices of fuel and commodities soar again the next day after the elections. This is how the political, civil and business establishments in India are mocking the very essence of democracy. But this is just scratching the surface, one of the many effects people are experiencing of being subjugated to the establishment.

Here is the interesting fact about elections in India. None of the candidates political parties put up as people’s representatives during elections have any experience in social service activities to show. Indian society has been conveniently segregated into vote banks based on the lines of religion and caste and people vote based these grounds. Political leaders rise through the ranks of their parties on the basis of their influence among people based on religion and caste. The agenda of political parties during election campaigns is not to talk to the people about economic development and social issues. Opposition parties use these as their weapons to attack the incumbent party during election campaigns and then the mud slinging ensues. For every political party, there are 3 category of voters: the loyal voters, the fence sitters and the non voters. The non voters will never vote for the party unless something dramatic happens which induces a mass migration. This is like converting the bad cholesterol to good cholesterol. The loyal voters will always vote for the party no matter what happens. It is the fence sitters who are really targeted during election campaigns. This is where the Cambridge Analytica saga unfolded. Data collection and targeted election campaigning through social and other media are done to woo the fence sitters. In India, fence sitters are either coerced and threatened to vote or their votes are bought in return for money and alcohol or gifts. All of these are nothing considering what happens in the aftermath of elections.

Consider the latest round of state election that just got concluded in Karnataka. It was a 3 way battle between BJP, the party that has the control of the central government, Indian National Congress (INC) the party that was in power in the state for the last 5 years and the JD(S). The total number of contested seats was 224 and the magic number to get for the absolute majority to form the government was 112. No party got a clear majority as was expected in most of the exit polls. BJP got 104 seats, INC 78, JD(S) 37 and 3 went to independent candidates or smaller parties. Now here is where the madness begins. If we go by the absolute majority process no party can form the government. Ideally, the state governor has to call for another election. But the election process is a massive strain on the civil administration with a huge investment of time and money into election campaigns. Because of this reason, the governor has invited the BJP, the party with the largest mandate or vote share to prove their ability to form the government in the next 6 days.

How can BJP accomplish this? These 3 parties have fought tooth and nail against each other in the election because of their ideological differences and even the 3 candidates who won as independents or from smaller parties have ideological differences with all the other parties. As is the case in all elections, the 3 would eventually join the party that ultimately forms the government. Supposing BJP is able to convince the 3 to join their party, they are still 5 numbers short. 5 winners from either the INC or the JD(S) have to jump ship and join the BJP. This is a usual occurence in the Indian political scenario where the party which is trying to form the government woos independents and/or members from other parties with the reward of money or cabinet berths. The name of this game is horse trading. But what has heated up the situation is, the INC is ready to support the JD(S) to form the government. The irony here is, INC and JD(S) candidates were pitted against each other and had fought tooth and nail with accusations against one another during the election campaigns. More irony is in the fact that the INC has won far more number of seats than the JD(S) but the INC, knowing that they have been voted out of power they have chosen wisely to not try to take center stage.

Now let’s consider the case of voter X who is a fence sitter. He is disillusioned with the governance of both the INC in the state and the BJP at the center and has voted for candidate A belonging to the JD(S) in his constituency who went on to win the election. Under the present circumstances, one of the below 2 could possibly happen.

1) BJP woos A to jump ship and goes on to form the government
2) JD(S) forges the alliance with the INC and forms the government

So voter X who voted against both the BJP and INC is going to be ultimately governed by either of these parties, directly or indirectly. When it comes to getting into the seat of governance and grabbing the power that comes with it, political ideologies and differences fade away. The simple question here is, in such an environment where every situation could be manipulated, why are the people being made to vote and then made to look like dumb fools? There is an answer to this as well. The candidates carry their vote banks along with them when they jump ship. Candidates have to convince only their loyal voters and even with the votes of the loyal voters elections could be conducted. So the establishment will run safe and smooth nevertheless. The situation in Karnataka may look complicated and crazy but this is how the establishment is built and has been working all along. The US is dominated by bi-party politics and India is also swaying to a similar situation where either the BJP or the INC will always hold the reins of power. Is this how democracy is meant to be? I am not able to understand any of this which is why I am never able to convince myself to exercise my right to vote because I do not see myself anywhere in the process after I vote.

A shameful murder and disgraceful soul shaming

India is aghast and agitated over the cold blooded murder of noted journalist Gauri Lankesh. I am coming across many theories being put forward as the motives for her murder. That she was staunchly allied towards the left and was extremely critical of right wing ideologies. That she was also in the process of hunting down the nefarious activities of some business houses and was planning to bring their veiled secrets to light. Looks like she was fighting battles on many fronts simultaneously.

It does not seem like she was killed for political vendetta. Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were incarcerated as political prisoners when they could have been easily bumped off. Reasons for assassinations run much deeper. When a friend and ex-colleague informed me a few months back that he had got in touch with some people in Bangalore who were working to start a union for IT employees in the state and the state IT minister was actively taking interest in resolving issues of employees who were being fired by IT companies, I immediately grew apprehensive. How was it that no IT union was formed for so many years? How did IT companies manage to come under the Shop and Establishments act under which they could hire and fire people at their will? These IT companies must definitely be funding political parties especially during elections so I told my friend not to have any expectations from the IT minister. He eventually washed his hands off claiming there were only performance based layoffs and he had no control over it. He cannot be blamed though. He is just a pawn in a system that is designed to work in specific ways for specific purposes and entities. Politicians are just the front men who clear all the hurdles for the corporate to set up and expand their business interests. Political equations change and politicians come and go so there are no long term interests in any particular politician big enough to order a hit on noted and well known people, that too a senior journalist on their behalf.

Corporate gets into elimination mode only when there is an imminent threat to their existence and sustenance. Gauri must have got her hands on to something extremely sensitive and damaging and if she did, she may have been warned enough to let it go and stay low. A case in point here is Arvind Kejriwal. He had made quite a few sensational revelations about businessmen in the past but never backed them up with enough proof. Now he has gone on silent mode and is working wholeheartedly on developing and improving Delhi. I do not know if commonsense prevailed on him and he decided to focus on governance or he was warned off to not pursue his expose agenda.

Left leaning ideologies seem to have their roots in their comrades attaining martyrdom to strengthen and further their cause. There is a movie (Red Wine) in my native language (Malayalam) about a social worker who works for the betterment of tribal people and is warned off from interfering in a business proposal to build a resort on forest land which he brushes off with disdain. The business tycoon is shown telling his people that the social worker belongs to the firebrand category of leftist leaders who can never be swayed from his chosen path, even with the threat of death. The only way to move forward is by eliminating him. Looks like Gauri belonged to the same firebrand category and because of her left leaning tendency she was probably never afraid of death as she knew she would be honored and remembered as a martyr by the people and the journalist community. Maybe she should have chosen a wiser path of discretion and bided for the right time, but none of us including her supporters and detractors have lived her life to judge her and make comments. She knew what she was doing, what she was up against and what could possibly come her way. I wish all of us could become a bit more sensitive and would not resort to stooping low and shaming someone even after her death. Those who are claiming to be the protectors of Indian culture are not doing themselves any good or to the country by abusing her unabashedly.

In her death, she has once again proved that there are no weapons more powerful and scary than the pen and an iron will. Amen to her soul.

The rise and rise of Arvind Kejriwal

He was derided, ridiculed, dared, taunted, written off and threatened on his life. Remarkably, he has shrugged it all off like dust from his attire and has risen, like the Phoenix from the obscurity of it’s own ashes. Today, Arvind Kejriwal stands taller than most of the political figures the country has seen, but he is showing the commonsense to attribute the credit of his elevation to the people who have voted for him. The shadow of being a populist leader, of someone rallying people around him may never leave him, but ironically, it is this shadow that has captured the imagination of people and catapulted him to unprecendented glory.

The last one year has been a roller coaster ride for him. From riding an unexpected crest of success to hitting the bottom of a trough and rising stunningly to the peak again, he has seen and done it all. He has stretched the patience and imagination of even his staunchest supporters, but his middle class upbringing and family values, his untarnished character and his one-among-the-common-man image made sure that some people still showed patience in him, embraced him when he went back to them and accepted his mistakes and understood that he has the integrity to work for them.

The role of the opposition parties, especially the BJP has been immense in his elevation. From calling him a Pakistani agent to a naxalite who should live in forest and that too coming from the Prime Minister of the country, they mounted a no-holds barred barrage of abuse and venomous spite at him. But gone was that impatient man who wanted to run matters at his own pace. When dared to enter politics to clean the system, he had jumped in with all his zeal. The experiences of dealing with the highly treacherous political system and a few tough blows seem to have made him wiser and mellowed him down. He decided to take all the jabs, punches and kicks that were raining on him and little did BJP realize that by swaying away without responding, he was creating the impression of a harassed and anguished common man which stuck a vital chord with the masses. Trying to vilify him further with fake claim of money laundering in the name of election funds and his timely response to it with definite proof only seems to have endeared him even more to the people.

The tsunami of Arvind’s victory has left a trail of wreckage in it’s way. There are no heads to roll, the only ones responsible for this debacle are Modi and Amit Shah, no matter how hard the BJP tries to deflect the blame from them. Implicitly, Arvind’s rise poses serious problems for traditional political parties that have thrived on divisive caste and community based vote bank politics. People who believe Arvind is boxed in Delhi are completely misreading the situation. If he starts fulfilling his poll promises and I am sure he will, not just the people of Delhi, but people all over India will start seeing him as the messiah of the common man and approach him for his support in the fight for their rights. This is enough for AAP seedlings to sprout in different states. This poses a very real threat to all parties leading to the next Lok Sabha elections in 4 years. In a way, he has shown Modi the way ahead. By going time and again to the people, he has proved that in a democracy, true power is in the hands of the people and the people can make or break a political life in a single day. People want to know their leader well, they want to touch him and know him just like a common man. Unlike Modi who keeps a safe distance away from people, even in his own state, Arvind wades into crowd, even at the risk of threat to his life. He says the shadow of his death is always with him and the people are his best protectors. I am sure this is a very vital and poignant reason why people accept him so easily.

What I like about Arvind now is, he has started enjoying his stint in politics. He loves being called the mufflerman, a word coined by the BJP to poke fun at him but has since become his trademark symbol, he laughs a lot more, appears relaxed in tough interviews and has even appeared in a spoof video which makes fun of him. A man who can laugh at himself becomes a juggernaut that cannot be stopped and which today’s election results will amply support. What has drawn me to him completely is his ultimate objective in politics. He is looking forward to the day when all of his efforts will result in political and governmental reforms to such an extent that it will make AAP irrelevant. I fell head over heels with that perception. He wishes to live and die like an ordinary man. This shows how grounded the man is and after all the trials and tribulations of close to 70 years, looks like a simple, common man and his rag tag army of educated people is the ideal choice to lead the most diverse country in the world.

Pompous rise of the saffron brigade and the quiet rise of their alternative

This blog has been waiting in the wings for a while now. The democratic machinery of India has been busy at work, churning out a new government. I was just waiting to see the outcome of the elections. That BJP, the main opposition party would assume power was a foregone conclusion, especially after the business class invested so monstrously in their election campaign. After the 10 year rule of the Congress party when the country was hit by more scams than natural disasters and the vacuum of a strong leader left behind by the legacy of a sordid Prime Minister who was an intellectual without the wiles and guiles of a politician, there was a massive wave of anti incumbency and the need for change to revive a flagging economy. What doesn’t bode well for the people of the country is that they have simply voted for what is available as the alternative option. BJP and their supporters have been falsely equating the wave of anti incumbency with the presumed wave for their leader. That the Modi wave was a very well strategised and well orchestrated creation of BJP and execution of the media is a trick that most people, including people in the rural areas missed completely. The Gujarat model of development which Modi used as his trump card had it’s effects mainly on those states that are far less developed than Gujarat and are in really shabby state, but the irony is, those are the very states that send the maximum number of candidates into power every time. This was the key behind BJP’s resounding win. When a party is not voted to power, it means they do not have the confidence of the people and the time in opposition is meant to understand the needs of the people better, work for them, oppose the wrong doings of the government, inform the people and win their confidence. This is how the mandate of democracy is supposed to work. In the last 10 tainted years when rampant scams were unfolding, BJP, as the principal opposition party stayed silent and did nothing. When media unearthed the scams and skeletons started tumbling out, BJP created some noise in the Parliament but they did not do what they were supposed to do, go to the people. When an anti corruption movement swept the land, they kept silent and sided with the government against the movement, thereby exposing that their hands are equally tainted in the mire of corruption. When the country was looking for a strong leader and direction, Modi was completely silent and kept his distance. Then as election approached, he suddenly became the saviour of the country. People missed the facts that the charisma of Modi was just a creation of the media and that a party that cannot provide good opposition should not be trusted to give good governance. But the fact is, some party had to be voted to power and without an alternative, people voted resoundingly for BJP, that’s all. This election has been the most watched and the most intensely debated one in the country, primarily because of one party that has changed the way politics and politicians are perceived in India. Born out of the cauldron of anti corruption movement and forced to enter the mired political system to cleanse it, AAP has been the thorn in the sides of both the Congress party and BJP. After a stunning show in Delhi state elections where they narrowly missed getting the majority, they fell for the ploy of taking outside support of the Congress party and was discredited by BJP for taking the support of the corrupt Congress party. When they broke free, they were discredited for not performing when they had the chance. The strategy worked beautifully. Undeterred by the mistakes in their baby steps of politics, they decided to become a national party and fielded more candidates than any other party in the elctions. What is amazing is, without a party cadre, organization structure and funds they fielded more than 400 candidates without any taint on them which is unheard of in the world. This was a trial run for them, to see if they can garner the support of people across the country and get the people to come together for the causes they are fighting for. They have been successful beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations. As the country celebrates a new government, the fact remains that Modi has inherited a shambolic economy and even though he promises to flip the downward slide, there are many hurdles in the government and bureaucratic machinery that Modi may not be able to change. What is hurting India the most is the lack of flow of investments from abroad and from within the country. This is where AAP scores with their stand against corruption. The main reasons why the country lags in investments are corruption and bureaucratic red tapes. Eradicating these evils will automatically kick start the flow of investments, create job opportunities and ease inflation. This is the simple economics people have failed to understand. Modi, being a strong capitalist will never take a stand against corruption. By winning so comprehensively and by decimating all other parties, BJP has done AAP a huge favour. BJP has made themselves the single point of failure and if they fail to deliver on their pompous claims of creating a shining India, there is only one option left for people to go to, AAP. They are yet to realize that every mouth in the country talks about AAP, either in admiration or in contempt. The reason is, the whole country has sky high expectations of them and some people have hope while others haven’t been patient with them yet. It would bode well for BJP to start delivering on their poll promises or risk losing their credibility forever.

Why India needs to look beyond her current political system

This is the year of general elections in India. It is the biggest electoral process in a democratic country and the largest democratic country in terms of population will be casting their votes and choosing their representatives. Every five years, the world stops to watch this amazing spectacle. But the reality on the ground is far from being spectacular. India is plagued by vote bank politics because of which votes are fractured based on religion, caste, community, urban and rural divides. People are baited to vote for candidates by luring with money, alcohol and other “gifts” or are bullied into voting. Before that, people are paid money and then herded like cattle into vehicles and transported to election rallies to hear the leaders speak. This election has taken on new dimensions and is generating incredible interest and heated debates among people because of several reasons. An analysis of the major political parties will show why.

Congress, the ruling party for the past ten years has been in steady decline partly because of the turmoil in the world markets. But their bane has been corruption. The first five years of their government was considered to be good which is why they were voted back into power. But those five years were littered with scams in several industrial sectors which emerged out of the shadows during their second term of government. It is still a mystery why Congress needs to be under the umbrella of the “Gandhi” tag to stay relevant. They have strong and well educated political leaders in their ranks, but their party leadership under Sonia and Rahul Gandhi is weak and has lost touch with the ground reality of the country. Rahul, who is leading the party into the elections is inexperienced, has been disinterested in assuming leadership of the party, shows no inclination to speak on national issues and is showing complete immaturity when handling situations and when speaking to people.

BJP, the principal opposition party in India for the past ten years has largely been in political hibernation. They seems to have forgotten the rule of thumb of democracy. When a party is not elected to power, it means they had their shortcomings in understanding the needs of the people and the country and by sitting in the opposition, they have been given a chance to learn and prepare themselves for the next elections. When all the scams were going on, they chose to be silent partners with the Congress and only made noises inside the Parliament. They forgot that they were also responsible for going to the people and spreading awareness of the government’s misdeeds. A year from the elections, they suddenly found themselves faceless because of serious infighting among their own leader. So, one fine day, they decided to project Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat as their leader. Then, funded by the business class who has plenty of their own interests in Modi coming to power, the BJP launched a massive media campaign to falsely project Modi as the messiah of development in Gujarat into the psyche of common people. Modi, a largely uneducated man, rose from the lower strata of society by working his way up through the ranks of the party and with the help of a Godfather turned foe. He wears designer clothes when addressing people below poverty line in large rallies and travels by helicopters provided to him by the business class which clearly shows his proximity to them. He maintains an army of people, to provide governance in Gujarat and even to write his speeches. Never comfortable talking to people other than addressing them in rallies, he avoids interviews with the media like a curse and has never shown his leadership qualities and inclination in standing up for national issues.

AAP, the new kid on the block born out of democratic turbulence. When scams and corruption reached their peak, a respected social activist by the name of Anna Hazare kicked off a mass civil movement by going on hunger strike to protest against the decay of the country. The educated urban community started pitching into the movement and from that cauldron rose a leader called Arvind Kejriwal. Not only did any political leaders including Rahul Gandhi and Modi show any inclination in taking a stand against corruption, they joined the chorus of the political system in ridiculing and deriding Kejriwal and taunted him to enter the political world and prove his worth. Thus was born AAP, a party made by the people for the people. Starting with a stunning debut in Delhi state elections after which they were coerced into forming an unholy coalition with the Congress, they were forced to quit after Congress joined hands with BJP in thwarting them from implementing key proposals in their election manifesto.

The political system has been fooling the common people of the country for the past 67 years. Nothing really changed after India’s independence, the country moved from colonial rule to the rule of the indigenous political class. The people are still treated as slaves. The only time people have power in their hands is when they vote and after that, for the next five years, they are largely left to fend for themselves. These political leaders, who are supposed to represent the people, rise up through the ranks of the political parties, not with the credibility of working for the people and the country. Every election manifesto of parties highlight growth, development and good governance. These are the basic reasons why we elect our representatives by exercising our votes. No parties are able to even fulfill their manifestos and they have nothing more to offer. Neither the political parties nor the people know what true democracy is.

Congress party has lost it’s face before the country and do not even have the credentials to stand in the elections. The Modi propaganda team has created the so called Modi wave and people across the country have been made to believe in it. Smaller regional parties and politicians tainted with corruption and crime are making a beeline to join BJP in the hope of gaining power. AAP, the only party that has pledged clean politics is plagued by people joining with an eye on contesting elections and it is becoming a bane for Kejriwal and his men to manage the burgeoning party. In his crusade against corruption, he seems to have missed the point that the political class will never allow him to have a level playing field. He will be ultimately pushed into playing vote bank politics after all. That is why the business class is in silence when he accuses them in public for being in connivance with the political class and creating large scale corruption. AAP is yet to formulate it’s views on many of the key issues of the country. Their only agenda till now has been tackling corruption, which I believe is right to a large extent because corruption has almost stalled growth in the country. But they have to do a lot more to be a national party with very less time, under the enormous weight of expectations and a burgeoning population which is increasingly getting disgruntled with them by surpisingly showing no patience towards them while they chose to stay mum through the tainted ten previous years.

The country needs strong leadership and someone educated, intelligent and wise of the world at the helm. The current vote bank politics, which has become an epidemic, must be eradicated. Election manifestos should cater to only four classes of people, the farming class, the business class, the working class and the class of people below poverty line. Development projects targetting these four classes will automatically result in the development of the nation. All government projects are now initiated only with the objective of reaching into the coffers of taxpayer’s money and there is no intent to do good for the country. A simple financial analysis will show how feasible any of those projects are provided true numbers are available but government numbers and calculations will largely be manipulated. This system has to be purged. The country desperately needs innovative strategies to get out of the hole it is presently in and none of the parties or their leaders seem to be capable enough to do that. Even though Modi is touted to assume power, his task of repairing the country is momentous which he doesn’t look to be capable of and he does not have a magic wand to wave off all the country’s woes. The way up looks to be slow, long and excruciating. This is why the country has to look beyond the short term and the existing political system for a better future.

The burning Indian political cauldron

My dad can’t stop gushing these days that politics in India has suddenly become interesting. He has good reasons for it too. What has been traditionally a two party battle with smaller parties eating the fringes of the vote pie has suddenly turned topsy turvy. One man, along with his band of a few good people have taken up the challenge to blow the wind of change across the land. What was branded as a motley crew is rapidly turning into millions and arrogance among the political class disintegrating into disbelief.

India, in all her glorious diversity, was a land ruled in parts by many and divided over every possible petty issues. In a way, colonial rule made us understand the importance of central governance and that was how we were able to form a central government after independence. It is fascinating to see how the pattern of freedom struggles in different countries from colonial rule looks so strikingly similar. People join hands in their blinded devotion for independence from foreign rule, but amazingly, it changes nothing about their mindset and the differences they have among themselves. Freedom fighters they were all, martyrs for the cause but ignorant about discussion, negotiation and governance. From this melee was born our own indigenous political class, to whom was passed on the baton of power and who have successfully maintained the legacy of colonial rule and added diabolically innovative dimensions to it.

These political leaders wanted and allowed the nation to be divided, so they could get their hands on power without stomping on each other’s foot. When children in schools are taught about this glorious freedom struggle and are told to idolize it’s leaders, they grow up without knowing that it was these same leaders who kept the country’s armed forces from procuring arms for the fear of military coup and it was the same leaders who tickled a neighbouring country into invading the land and then sent the unarmed forces to be butchered. More indignity was to follow, right from the time of independence when people were divided on the basis of their caste with the intention of polarizing vote bank and culminating in government declaring emergency to assume unlimited powers to stave off opposition to good governance and oppress it’s own people.

Opening up Indian markets to the world drove the final nail in the coffin. Corruption, that was in vogue became rampant as businesses started flourishing and money started flowing. New dimensions were added to polarising people, such as upper class, middle class and below poverty line. Corruption bred on the great Indian money rush, a diabolically sinister version of the great gold rush. In the unholy marriage, bureaucrats play the central role and politicians sign away documents favoring businesses and go home to keep staring at their burgeoning international bank accounts.

In these times of darkness and void, when people were forced upon the indignity of choosing between the less of the corrupt to represent them in government and then helplessly watch as their lives were slowly taken apart, a few people, people who paid their taxes and silently lived out suppressed lives stood up against the decayed system. They were outraged, humiliated and when none of it worked were challenged to enter politics and then practise what they preach. The political class made just one cardinal mistake. They challenged the free thinking, educated and enlightened people, catapulting the nation into a free wheeling battle of wits between the political class and the common man.

The supposed next generation leader of the grand old party of Indian politics accepts responsibility for the latest poll debacle, admits that much has to be learnt from the common man’s party and finds himself relegated to the political sidelines. The main opposition party, who were secretly in cahoots with the people in power and was on the cusp of a resounding election win on the anti incumbancy of people finds itself challenged by the same bunch of people who had requested for their help for better governance in the country. Their projected leader, a strong candidate not withstanding, albeit weakened by power hungry people in his own party has been handed a double edged sword. If he is wise enough, he would know by now that if his eulogized enigma doesn’t take his party to power, he will be banished to perpetual political oblivion by his own people.

Amidst all of this clamour, one man, an educated unassuming common man who stood up to the challenge when he was thrown the gauntlet to get dirty to clean dirt is rapidly becoming the beacon of hope of a nation desperate for change. He was derided by the political parties for the promises he made to people, but when he became the chief minister of the capital state and started putting his promises to action, political parties still keep deriding him and questioning his credentials while shamelessly trying to ape his ways of governance. It will not matter to him if he ultimately finds himself as the leader of the country or other parties finally adopt the ways of good governance and makes him and his party irrelevant. The objective will always be the greater good of the country and the people. World, behold as the greatest democracy prepares to extricate itself from the mire of the past and transcend into a new beginning.