Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You

The Quint’s compilation of the best op-eds for your Sunday reading. Sit back with a cup of chai and enjoy. 

Across the Aisle: The People Have Voted; Now, We Hope

Striking a rather sombre note for his column in The Indian Express this morning, P Chidambaram discusses the repercussions of the state elections 2017. He begins by tracking the victories in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, claiming that the phenomena has proved that Narendra Modi is the most “dominant political leader in the country today”. Dwelling briefly on Punjab, Manipur and Goa, he focuses his attention solely on the BJP’s strategy. Chidambaram goes on to elucidate that the BJP had hit a home run by trying out its scheme of ‘Hinduising’ the castes and setting them apart from the non-Hindu sections of people (which in UP mean the Muslim community).

“Uttar Pradesh has a population as large as Brazil’s. The size of the Muslim population in UP is larger than the population of many overwhelmingly Islamic countries. Yet, the BJP claimed that it could not find a single eligible person among Muslims that it could field as a candidate in any of the 403 seats! The message was clear: Muslims will not vote for us or support us, so we are not required to field Muslims or support Muslims. The message was not so much directed toward the Muslims as it was to the castes that were to be brought under the project of ‘Hinduisation’.”

Read more here.

Out of My Mind: A New Idea of India

Meghnad Desai in his column for The Indian Express on Sunday takes stock of the elections in the form of a larger comparative analysis. He juxtaposes the BJP victory in UP to the Congress one in its heyday, likening the two. Desai sees a similarity in how Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Nehru had always led from the front in the state, giving the local leaders only “walk on parts” (as he puts it), something that he thinks the BJP did well too, capitalising on Modi’s presence in the state.

“There is now little doubt that 2019 is likely to see a return of Modi. He won in 2014 because the country needed a new Idea of India. The Congress secularism had failed to deliver the social and economic uplift of Muslims as the Sachar Report showed. Modi has brought inclusive growth across jati and religious vote banks. Growth has no jati nor a religion. If the growth rate can keep up for the next seven years, the Idea of India as a Union of all communities will gain recognition.”

Read more here.

Inside Track: Shahanshah

A wide range of people analyses find place in Coomi Kapoor’s Sunday op-ed for The Indian Express, where she also, unsurprisingly, talks of yesterday’s elections. She begins by discussing the power and magic of BJP party president Amit Shah, where she calls to mind an anecdote that recalled how office-bearers at the BJP office on Ashoka Road were at pains to receive Shah at the gate when he arrived. However, the fact that Shah’s photo had been used (instead of Modi’s) to represent the BJP on a major news channel the previous day, when tallying the UP election results, might not go down too well with Modi, Kapoor believes. She also highlights the failure of Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi’s alliance thus:

“Sensing defeat much earlier, pollster Prashant Kishor had talked privately of a Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati alliance. The last being a reference to the BSP which he felt could turn out to be an invisible ally. Clearly not given much importance by Akhilesh Yadav during the UP campaign, the Congress whiz-kid pollster grumbled that the UP Chief Minister had not played his cards well. Of course when the results were out, the Congress realised that even merging with Saraswati would have been of little use.”

Read more here.

Congress Pvt Ltd: Punjab is Poor Consolation for a Family Firm in Decay

Aakar Patel in his column ‘Aakarvani’ for the Times of India, minces no words in his comparison of the Congress and the BJP, likening the two to different kinds of ‘firms’. The Congress, Patel believes, is a ‘private limited company’, where “one hundred percent of its stock is held by a family”. Here, there is no accountability because the family wouldn’t punish itself (just like a poorly run private limited firm). The BJP, on the other hand, is like a public limited firm, where leaders ARE held accountable for their actions - except that Modi and Shah give the party no cause to.

“The ownership is diverse and the chief executive running it is accountable to other shareholders through performance. If the leader does not perform, there will be dissent and we will get to hear of it. The absolute lack of dissent in the BJP of this NDA over the BJP of Vajpayee’s NDA can be attributed to one thing above all: the competence of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah at delivering electoral victories. Observe the drive in the Prime Minister as he sensed the UP race was tight and flung himself into battle.”

Read more here.

From Harvard to House, How Notebandi Naysayers Got it So Wrong

In his column ‘Right & Wrong’ for the Times of India this morning, Swapan Dasgupta takes a different track from his compatriots in the Sunday papers today, claiming that the election results have effectively silenced, to a degree, the debate over demonetisation. Dasgupta believes that, except for Punjab, “where notebandi has blended with anti-incumbency sentiment”, it doesn’t appear to have affected the BJP adversely. On the contrary, it has helped the party shift its standing point on the economic ladder; where, previously, it has been seen as a party primarily focused on the middle classes, now it has reached out to the lower classes too.

“Most Indians have not gained directly from demonetisation. The benefits are still in the future. A small minority has, however, been adversely affected by being exposed to the tax net. Those who were directly hit have protested loudly while those who were merely inconvenienced have chosen the path of resilience. Anecdotal evidence suggests that in shaping public perception there was a moral quotient at work. The age-old belief that the path of goodness lies through sacrifice has been infrequently tested in the political realm. Mahatma Gandhi was unique among politicians in linking the quest for freedom with personal suffering and sacrifice. For him, freedom also involved the penances linked with tapasya.”

Read more here.

Spare Me the Pseudo-Patriotic Surround Sound

Ruchir Joshi, in a column that he writes for The Hindu, elaborates on the idea of losing the cricket fan in him, and the string/series of factors that led to this eventual outcome. Pinning it on the retirement of the generational greats: Tendulkar, Ganguly and co, Joshi believes it has been hard to retain interest subsequently. The IPL’s money making schemes have not helped, nor has the fact that India can no longer be seen as the underdog in the cricketing world thanks to it housing the richest board (which “ruthlessly swung” its bat in the International Cricket Council). Yet, Kolhi and co have managed to whet his appetite for more:

“By the time this Australian team landed here, I found myself ready once again to ‘participate and partake’, as they say. Kohli and crew have shown true Indian hospitality, especially in the first Test and almost half of the second one as well. As in 2001, we lost the first match by a chunky margin (though in ’01 we didn’t give too much to the token spinner the Aussies were carrying), and clawed back the second Test from a bad position. As in the 2007-08 series with the Maanki-gate business, we have sledging overdrive and multiple personal rubs, this time with the added spicing of allegations of gamesmanship and counter-allegations. At 1-1 the series is nicely set up, and there is every chance there will be further crazy cricket inside the boundary ropes and more mayhem outside.”

Read more here.

The Burden of Proof - Kolhi Versus Smith

In the same vein as Ruchir Joshi (in the column mentioned above), Mukul Kesavan writes for The Telegraph this morning of the Smith-Kohli debate on the cricketing field. Viart Kohli’s press conference, where he accused the Australian team of “systematic, sharp practice”, was a powerful one. It resulted in the BCCI acting on its 48-hour window to lodge a formal charge against Steve Smith and Peter Handscomb. However, curiously enough, the charge was withdrawn before midnight. The allegations that Kolhi had levelled against his opponents were that the latter had consistently, throughout the series, looked to the dressing room for cues. However, Kesavan believes that the fact that BCCI withdrew its charge could only be because “video evidence” of that doesn’t exist.

“The BCCI owns the television rights to every match played in India. It doesn’t just own the telecast that viewers see, it owns all the separate camera feeds that go into making up the telecast. During a telecast, in the production control room, the vision mixer and director can monitor every camera’s feed, from the spider-cam to the stump cams. It’s the closest anyone can get to godlike omniscience. Presumably, the BCCI put its people to work in the days after the press conference to scour the recordings of these camera feeds for evidence of the chronic sharp practice that Kohli had alleged. I imagine Kohli’s time at the crease, during which he claimed to have seen the Australians consult their dressing room on two occasions, was scanned with particular care. If there had been any hint of consultation, the BCCI would have been all over it. But the failure to press Kohli’s charge is proof positive that there wasn’t.”

Read more here.

After UP, BJP Swings Into Election Mode in Gujarat

While the UP election results reflect a victory of prestige for Prime Minister Modi and his party, as Hari Shankar Vyas writes for his column ‘Gup Shup’ in The Pioneer, Gujarat could well be the “do or die battle” for the party. The Assembly Elections in Gujarat are scheduled for the end of the year, and Modi, Amit Shah and co well know that this was the state that paved the way to Delhi for them (a connection they are unlikely to forget in a hurry). Which is why both Modi and Shah have gone into overdrive within hours of the UP victory:

“...after hectic campaigning in the last phase of UP elections, the Prime Minister rushed to Gujarat. He spent two days there and participated in several programmes. State Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also hosted a dinner for him. Modi met party MLAs and other leaders during his visit, discussing with them the strategies for the upcoming elections. He is also said to have spoken about the challenges posed by Hardik Patel. Party president Amit Shah is also devoting a lot of time to Gujarat, beginning his State tour soon after UP elections. Although he wasn’t present at the dinner hosted by the CM, he along with Modi paid obeisance at the Somnath temple. Shah has been managing Gujarat elections for years, but this would be the first election for him after the BJP has assumed power at the Centre, hence it is a big challenge for him.”

Read more here.

Fifth Column: Political Pundits. Really?

Tavleen Singh seems to ask the question no one else has posed yet, in her Sunday column for The Indian Express, ‘Fifth Column’: how did the political pundits and journalists get it so wrong? The distance between “us”, Singh says, and the electorate had first become evident after the 2014 elections, but it reared its head during the UP elections too. According to Singh, the reason can be attributed to the pundits and journalists “taking sides” and wanting to look at the same picture they had created, every time. One of the key ingredients of this, as she explains, is the contempt for any leader “unashamed of being Hindu”. The Indian media’s “demonisation of Modi” is the phenomenon she refers to unabashedly, claiming that journalists had always treated him “as if he were the first Indian politician responsible for organised ethnic violence.”

“The problem also is that most political pundits continue to believe their own myth-making. Modi continues to be a monster for us, so even if he says something that is not ‘communal’, it becomes anti-Muslim in our eyes. Personally I found nothing offensive about his suggestion that villages should provide land for both graveyards and cremation grounds, but it became a huge anti-Muslim issue in the national media. Pundits pondered over it for weeks on primetime. Clearly nobody has noticed that most Hindus are no longer prepared to accept that they should be treated to fewer government freebies just because they are not Muslim. In Uttar Pradesh, what nobody seemed to notice either was that the old equations of caste and creed are no longer as relevant as they were even in 2012. Another reason for primetime prophecies going awry.”

Read more here.

From The Quint:

Narendra Modi Regains His 2014 Mojo (Well, Almost)
UP Exit Poll Results: BJP’s Gamble of Not Having a CM Face Worked
Aus Wants Kohli and India to ‘Move On’. Uh, Remember Monkeygate?
Maneka Gandhi, What The Hell Do You Mean By “Hormonal Outburst”?