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. 

Fifth Column: Hindus vs India

Tavleen Singh, in her column in Indian Express, lists out her objections to Yogi Adityanath being chosen as UP’s new Chief Minister. It’s not because she’s a “Lutyens’ Sickular”, but because she she believes religious leaders have never made for good leaders in history. Writing about recent incidents of anti-romeo squads and burning of butcher shops in UP, Singh has but one question: Why is understandable Hindu rage being used to “Islamize” the Sanatan Dharma?

There is not a country ruled by religious men that allows normal human beings to go about the normal business of living joyfully, without the interference of morality policemen. Interference in the private lives of citizens usually begins with some official deciding what we should eat, drink and wear. These should be private decisions taken by private citizens. Ordaining otherwise becomes the founding principle of theocratic totalitarianism.

Now, It’s Time the Do-Nothing Brigade Revises its Reading of Modi

One of the important consequences of BJP’s resounding win in UP is a shift in the perception of Narendra Modi, writes Swapan Dasgupta in Times of India. He predicts: The feeling that Modi is here to stay post-2019, is likely to reduce the resistance faced by him from the “establishment” in his first three years.

In his first three years in Delhi, Modi confronted subtle but quite insidious resistance from the establishment. This is true both in internal affairs and foreign policy. Post-UP, this resistance is likely to wane significantly. The feeling that Modi is there for the foreseeable future is now widespread both at home and abroad. Modi proclaimed his intention to press on the accelerator in his ‘New India’ speech on March 12. Now he needs to identify his priorities succinctly and choose a team that shares his motivation and desire to move forward relentlessly. 

Adityanath Must Realise it Makes Economic Sense to Keep Abattoirs Open

Yogi Adityanath, has promised to pursue inclusive development, but it would do him well to rethink his decision to waive all outstanding loans to farmers and shut down abattoirs. Karan Thapar in Hindustan Times gives a quick reality-check on UP’s economy in hopes of appealing to Adityanath’s practical side. He writes it would do the new CM well to remember that a sweeping mandate in the elections doesn’t mean a blanket acceptance of BJP’s manifesto.

If the Yogi is committed to sabka saath sabka vikas and development is really his agenda then the advice he’s been offered deserves careful consideration. And if he rejects it he needs to be aware of the high cost of doing so. But if he wishes to succeed a few unfulfilled promises is a small price to pay.  

Water: The Resource That will Determine our Future

Ramachandra Guha, in Hindustan Times, breaks down “the best sarkari report [he has] read in years, entitled, A 21st Century Institutional Architecture for India’s Water Reforms. He culls out some alarming facts and well-researched solutions to resolve India’s water crisis from the underrated report to point us to the truth: the use and abuse of water is the most critical to India’s future.

Sadly, except for a scholarly round-table in the Economic and Political Weekly (December 24 2016) this remarkable report has not got the public attention it deserves. Our media is obsessed with the winning and losing of elections; whereas the truth is that the use and abuse of water is even more critical to India’s economic, social, political, and civilisational future.

Out of my Mind: Pity the Rivers

Writing about Uttarakhand High Court’s decision to give Ganga and Yamuna the same rights as an Indian citizen in Indian Express, Meghnad Desai simply says it won’t work. For one, these rights are still a luxury to most citizens; and two, the rivers can’t be cleaned until people “behave themselves better”. Desai asks if we treat them so badly when we think they’re divine, what good does it do call them humans?

Of course there are laws against polluting these rivers. There have been schemes to clean them up. Remember Rajiv Gandhi’s pledge to clean up the Ganga, and now of course we have the Prime Minister’s promise and Uma Bharti in charge. Yet somehow one cannot expect that the Ganga will ever be clean. I bet there is more likelihood of an ISRO moon landing or a Ram Mandir than of a clean Ganga.

Across the Aisle: Celebrating Gods, Neglecting Children

P Chidambaram is the next to pick up a crucial sarkari report and break it down in Indian Express: The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16. Looking at the deplorable state of child development and nutrition, he pens down a compelling argument for the government to look after the children of India next only to maintaining law and order.

It has been medically established that the first five years of a child determine, by and large, the child’s health and physical and mental development during the rest of its life. What is the state of India’s children? One out of two children is anaemic, one out of three is underweight and stunted, and one out of five is wasted. The reasons are inadequate food, low nutrition, bad drinking water and appalling sanitation. 

Inside Track: Amit Shah’s Choice

Coomi Kapoor spills the beans in her column in Indian Express with the latest gup-shup from the hallowed halls of the Parliament. Look out for rumours about India’s first female tribal president, a lost Congress party and a miffed Rajnath Singh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was given all the credit for the BJP’s victory in UP, until Yogi Adityanath was made Chief Minister. Suddenly, a section of the party began hailing the Yogi for the victory and raising the slogan “Har Har Yogi’’. Some even spoke of him as a future PM. So why would Modi, known to prefer low-key, mild, relatively unknown faces for chief minister, opt for a man who could eventually turn out to be a potential rival? Modi had, in fact, backed Manoj Sinha, his business-like Minister of State for Telecom, for the chief minister’s post. Modi had even conveyed the news to Sinha. Which is why Sinha flew to Varanasi to offer prayers at two key temples. But Amit Shah put a spoke in Sinha’s candidature at the last minute by warning there were murmurs against Sinha from a section of the party. There was a parallel move to install Rajnath Singh as CM. To avoid having to choose between Singh and Sinha, the wily Shah suggested Yogi’s name as the best compromise candidate. Though Adityanath was neither Modi’s nor the RSS’s first choice, they bought the argument that he could be the best bet for winning the 2019 elections, since he was capable of taking tough decisions.

Why Trump’s Pro-War Aide Quotes the Gita

Did you know Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s Chief Strategist is a great admirer of the Bhagavad Gita? Except he wants to “wage a holy war” against Islam to “establish dharma in the world”. Gurcharan Das’ enriching column Men & Ideas in Times of India tries to answer a complex question: how can the moral idea of ‘dharma’ attract both the militarist, Steve Bannon, and the pacifist, Mahatma Gandhi?

A fourth answer lies in two different meanings of dharma in the Gita. Gandhi was attracted to sadharana dharma, which consists of the inner virtues of the conscience — ahimsa, ‘not hurting another’ or satya, ‘telling the truth’. Bannon is attracted to sva-dharma or social duty, which translates to: “I am a Kshatriya and my duty is to wage a just war.” Thus, the Gita can be read both as a pro-war text and an anti-war text.

Hard Nationalism Divides, Rather than Unites

Recent events in India’s political landscape compelled Mark Tully to pen down his thoughts in Hindustan Times. He uses Britain’s hard exit from the European Union as an example to explain how in a frenzy of nationalism, the country has muddled up its identity more than ever before.

So recent events in Britain and elsewhere show how hard nationalism can create divide rather than unite nations, isolate them too, lead to economies which heighten inequality, drive away people who can contribute to the nation. Surely there are some lessons for Indian nationalists here too, specially as their nationalism has to demonstrate that it includes the whole of a very diverse nation. Perhaps they should follow the Pope’s advice and listen to their forefather Mahatma Gandhi.  

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