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

Narendra Modi May Win, but BJP’s Campaign Diminished Us

Karan Thapar says he has no idea who’s going to win the elections but is fairly certain that the person who has lost the campaign is Narendra Modi. In Hindustan Times, he writes about how the prime minister did not campaign in terms of jobs, rural distress, health, education or the achievements of his five years in office. Instead, he talked at great length about terrorism, the threat of Pakistan, thus reminding the people of India’s vulnerability and making him the saviour the country needs. On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi might have overdone the Rafale message but he at least discussed real issues.

"“The same is also true of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress manifestos. The latter is full of thought-provoking ideas, not just Nyay and job creation but also diluting Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, scrapping sedition and criminal defamation. The BJP manifesto is full of details but it lacks a unifying vision. It reminds me of Luigi Pirandello’s play Six Characters in Search of an Author! And, now, all that’s left is to grit one’s teeth and wait for the hours to slowly pass before we find out our future. I know what I’m hoping for but I fear that may not be the case.”" - Karan Thapar in Hindustan TimesNo Questions Please: Narendra Modi and the Media

Passing off pre-planned performances as interviews blurs the distinction between editorial and advertorial and should actually count as campaigning, writes Sunanda K Datta Ray in The Telegraph. These interviews definitely give the leaders massive publicity but throws light upon journalists who claim to bravely fly the independent media’s colours but are really just an influential politician’s fifth column.

"“Those meetings failed because neither Kamaraj nor Zia would suffer examination. In their culture, politicians ordain and journalists broadcast their wisdom. Tom Wicker, a New York Times reporter, noted that whatever the American president says is news and must be reported. It’s the same with South Asia’s leaders. But if Modi comes across as monarchical, his interlocutors are at least as much to blame. No one told him when he thundered about the heresy of “two prime ministers in Hindustan” that he may not know but every province had a prime minister until 1950. No one forced him to confront his 2014 promises regarding job creation, farmers’ incomes and black money repatriation. Or asked why demonetisation hadn’t snuffed out terrorism. Nor was any interviewer courageous enough to mention his bizarre theories regarding genetics and human transplants.”" - Sunanda K Datta Ray in The TelegraphBigg Boss Syndrome: How Reality TV Politics Hides the Real Issues

The Bigg Boss syndrome has caught on in politics and for this 2019 polls, it’s the badass anti-hero who rules, writes Sagarika Ghosh in The Times Of India. Bad behaviour in public sells, for example, Modi’s targeting of the Gandhi family may seem distasteful to his critics, but some of the prime minister’s vitriolic comments get most applause. And when media amplifies noisy, sensational drama, the focus is not on real issues, and this favours the leaders who get to dub any of the party-poopers as anti-national.

"“When Mamata Banerjee plays the roughly behaved Bigg Boss, TMC’s weaknesses get swept under the carpet. When Mayawati targets the PM’s personal life, her own spotty record in protecting Dalit rights gets lost in the diatribes. Raj Thackeray essays the role of the controversial enfant terrible to generate macho swagger, Navjot Sidhu is a star campaigner because of his ability to be pungently insulting, never mind the substance of his speeches. Badly behaved public figures are more admired than rebuffed.”" - Sagarika Ghosh in The Times Of IndiaA Government Which Lacks Iqbal Invites Lawlessness

The reason for the weakness of governments in India, writes Mark Tully in Hindustan Times, is the failure to reform the structures and systems inherited from the British. Also, back in the day, government officials didn’t need to make threats and false promises which would not be fulfilled. They have lost their respect and importance, thanks to corrupt politicians.

"“Nowadays, the iqbal of the government is undermined by countless regulations which are not enforceable and should have been rescinded years ago. For instance, the craze for taking photographs set off by mobile phones has made the railways look stupid by their failure to implement the obsolete ban on photography at stations. There is no respect for traffic police who, no matter how many challans they issue, are unable to instil respect for red lights in two-wheeler riders, control parking, prevent overloading, and punish those guilty of numerous other traffic offences.”" - Mark Tully in Hindustan TimesOne Outcome of Elections 2019 Is Clear: Regional Parties Can No Longer Be Wished Away

Much to the discomfort of national parties, Priyanka Chaturvedi believes the outcome of the 2019 elections will be determined by regional parties. She writes in The Indian Express about how the participation of state parties is important for the democratic process to ensure that India’s federal structure is not weakened by disproportionate power in the hands of the few. It also helps maintain the balance of power between the centre and the state.

"“So, yet again in 2019, as India’s seven-phase general election concludes, it is becoming apparent that post results, it would be the regional players who would be an important factor in forming the government at the Centre. Over the years several of these state parties have been rightly or wrongly accused of being roadblocks to the idea of nation-building, they have risen at the cost of India’s development. The regional parties have also been attacked for making governments fall by withdrawing support on a whim, delaying decisions by threatening to withdraw support, many times of arm twisting to drop important policies or put them in cold storage, for e.g. the Women’s Reservation Bill. The reality though is that multi-party coalitions with all its inherent challenges and pressures are here to stay. How best the governance outcomes are streamlined will be the true test of leadership and coalition dharma.”" - Priyanka Chaturvedi in The Indian ExpressDemocracy Is Hard Work

This elections, the voters were given the choice between the promise of change, someone who has to some degree delivered on this promise, and those who promise nothing new at all, writes Tavleen Singh in The Indian Express. Explaining voter patterns she writes that the average rural voter is no longer casting their vote for political heirs; they want a more inclusive political system. And if Modi wins again, it will be imperative that he abandons the Hindutva project.

"“Ordinary Indian voters do not see Modi as wicked. They believe it is because of him that such things as toilets, gas connections and loans to build homes have become available to them. Muslims and Dalits mostly constitute the category of voters who will not be voting for him because cow vigilantism affected their lives directly. Ironically, upper caste Hindu farmers are now suffering as well because herds of hungry, abandoned cows have become a serious threat to their crops.”" - Tavleen Singh in The Indian ExpressAt Last, the End, with Bitterness

As the election voting season comes to a close, P Chidambaram writes in The Indian Express about how these elections saw an abundance of roadshows, money spent, abuses hurled and violence – except for debates on policies. Print and visual media took sides, many ‘afraid’ of talking about the unfulfilled promises made by Prime Minister Modi in 2014.

"“The level of public discourse declined sharply. There is no denying that abuses and epithets were hurled across the net but, in the melee, even sarcasm and allusion were labelled unparliamentary! ‘Slap of democracy’ was taken literally as a threat to slap the prime minister. An allusion to a Mahabharata character was interpreted as name-calling. Mr Narendra Modi took offence to everything that was said about him and played victim, ignoring the fact that he had left behind a long trail of victims.”" - P Chidambaram writes in The Indian ExpressAsia Bibi’s Plight Retrains the Spotlight on Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law

Khaled Ahmed talks about how Pakistan is trapped as its top judiciary marginalises minorities because it is caught up in the desire for superiority of particular groups. In The Indian Express, he writes about how victims get to walk away with a very short jail term and legislations like the ‘black law’ which seek to punish individuals who insult the Holy Prophet in ‘word gesture or innuendo,’ typically targets the minorities in Pakistan.

"“India follows in the footsteps of Pakistan in setting aside what its founding fathers had sought to avoid while writing its constitution. The violence unleashed against the minorities by mobs in the streets while no existing law supports or allows it, is the new “identity” trend. Fukuyama says: ‘National identities can be built around liberal and democratic political values, and the common experiences that provide the connective tissue around which diverse communities can thrive. India, France, and the United States are examples of countries that have tried to do this. Such an inclusive sense of national identity remains critical for the maintenance of a successful modern political order for a number of reasons’.”" - Khaled Ahmed in The Indian ExpressInside Track: Khan Market Gang

Modi probably used the term ‘Khan Market Gang’ to represent the views of an elite group or a group of young MPs with entitled backgrounds because he felt it would resonate more with his voters than the expression ‘Lutyens elite’. Coomi Kapoor writes in The Indian Express about how Modi’s statement of having rich experience of working with coalition governments can be seen as an indication of his nervousness about the poll outcome, Maneka Gandhi’s close encounter with her niece Priyanka Gandhi while campaigning, Modi’s mockery of Digvijaya Singh and Amit Shah’s early start in politics.

"“Modi suggests that shoppers at the market represent the views of a small elite, opposed to him. Khan Market named after Pashtun leader Ghaffar Khan’s brother, Jabbar Khan, was originally a modest refugee colony with shops below and apartments above. But over the decades, because of its central location, it transformed into a ritzy shopping centre with expensive boutiques, trendy eateries and high-priced imported edibles. The original inhabitants have mostly sold out since real estate prices are today among the most expensive in India. The term “Khan Market Gang” was originally coined by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as a jocular reference to a group of young MPs from entitled backgrounds who often ate at Khan Market restaurants during Parliament lunch breaks.”" - Coomi Kapoor in The Indian Express

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