Why Classic Liberals Don’t Win Elections, and Populists Do
Yogi Aditynath is the new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and Sagarika Ghose spells out a few doubts about that in her column in The Times of India. She cuts to the chase: “The Muslim political voice has been effectively silenced in India.” What now? Will Narendra Modi replicate his Gujarat success in UP? That’s not necessarily a good thing either, Ghose is quick to remind us.
If 2017 is the dawn of a new Hindu dispensation, the new government has the chance to rise above violent communal rhetoric (which is the trademark of Adityanath) and move towards a new Hindu-Muslim social contract. The Sachar Committee findings are an indictment of how badly secular parties failed Muslims. Can BJP succeed where secular opponents have failed? Modi’s promise in the UP campaign was administrative efficiency and vikas. But can a dispensation led by someone who raises the bogey of love jihad rise to the level of modern governance?
The Indian State is Authoritarian, and There’s Nothing ‘Right’ About It
The ‘Right’ is on the rise in India and Aakar Patel calls it as it is in his column Aakarvani in The Times of India. But that usually implies two things: majoritarianism and authoritarian. The first is “clearly happening”, Patel says, but takes up back to our criminal justice system to point out the latter cannot be attributed to the ‘Right’.
Every Indian state has laws under which Indians can be picked up and held without trial. If we readers do not know or make much about it, it is because our faith, class and caste structures protect us from the excesses of a nasty and authoritarian state. The names of the laws themselves reveal how casually and arbitrarily the Indian can be jailed. Categories that come up in time are added randomly to produce such laws as the ‘Tamil Nadu Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug-offenders, Forest-offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders, Sand-offenders, Sexual Offenders, Slum-grabbers and Video Pirates Act, 1982.’ (Yes, this is one single law.)
In Goa and Manipur, BJP had the Numbers on its Side to Form Government
What’s all this talk about democracy being “murdered” in Goa and Manipur? asks Karan Thapar, writing in Hindustan Times. Arguing the claim that the BJP unfairly formed the government in the two states despite not being the single largest party, he goes as far back as to the first hung Assembly in 1989 and what the Constitution really says about it.
The correct constitutional position is simple but, because it requires an act of subjective judgement, it can, on occasion, be messy. The person most likely to command a majority in the House is the person who should be called to form a government. When a political party has a majority its leader is presumed to be that person. In such circumstances the choice is simple.
Out of my Mind: Memo for Rahul Gandhi
Lord Meghnad Desai minces no words in this tough-love open letter to Rahul Gandhi in Indian Express. Going through his political career through the eyes of someone who was optimistic about him initially only to see him fall, Desai asks Rahul Gandhi to quit while he can still do something for the Congress and "just GO” build a new life in secret, somewhere.
The shock of defeat galvanised you. You have spoken more often and landed one or two effective blows, such as suit boot ki sarkar. But let us face it: you do not actually like politics. You do it because Mother expects. We all grow up to fulfil our parents’ wishes for our future. You had no choice.
Why Literature is the Answer to Fundamentalism
Tabish Khair adds a refreshing idea in The Hindu to the complex debate on how to best fight fundamentalism. For him, the solution does not lie in alternative messages and readings of social, religious, and political text, but in the very act of reading these texts and understanding the multiplicity of perspectives in each of them.
All fundamentalists — secular or religious — take the complex realities of life and language, and reduce them to a few parameters. They not only ban certain texts, they mostly even confine the ‘sanctioned’ texts to a single message. This runs against everything that literature does and that students of literature were trained to do. No significant literary text offers only one message. In that sense, the trend to append simplistic morals to literary works is a serious misreading.
Without EVMs, Maya May Have Got Fewer Votes
Commenting on the allegations of tampering of EVMs by the BJP to explain its victory, S A Aiyar charts the history and research behind EVMs in Times of India. He emphasises on the benefits they have had over paper ballots ever since they became the national norm in 2002. Is this a case of seeing the past with rose-tinted glasses, then?
A welcome though unexpected outcome was a sharp fall in the overall crime rate, especially of murder and rape, after EVMs were introduced. The effect was greatest in the gang-ridden states. Earlier, all parties needed gangs to do their dirty work, and the protection they extended to such gangs naturally led to more crime. But EVMs reduced the political need for, and hence protection given to, such gangs. So, the impact of EVMs went far beyond elections to public safety and reduced criminality, a huge bonus.
The Mourning After: Ways to Tackle an Electoral Defeat
Mukul Kesavan thinks the social media mourning about the BJP’s victory in UP has gone on long enough; he writes it is both “self-indulgent” and “self-harming” in The Telegraph. What is important is the lessons we learn and he distills two– for the Opposition, if they’re listening, and for all the mourners, who stand on the side and watch a game being played by others.
In recent times, progressives have treated electoral setbacks as deaths in the family and they have chosen to pitto. This is true of public discourse - op-eds in newspapers, their equivalent on television - but it is especially marked in the semi-private online spaces that define modern life, social media communities like Facebook. The particular consolation of Facebook is that everyone gets to be chief mourner. The moment a person posts “I can’t believe this is happening”, “what sort of country do we live in”, “I can’t read the papers I’m so depressed”, a group of ancillary mourners gathers and this faux community of people has a comfortable funeral. This is harmless and possibly therapeutic; but it isn’t a form of ‘engagement’.
Winning was the Easy Part
Writing in Indian Express, Tavleen Singh says Uttar Pradesh has given Narendra Modi, and not BJP, a remarkable mandate. She gives credit where its due and even calls out Akhilesh Yadav for not being able to give the people of UP amenities they need. What next, though? Singh wonders. Will Modi be able to give UP the “very little” it needs to fix it?
Can the Prime Minister prove that in this state ruined by colonial ideas of governance and ancient divisions of caste and religion there can be political, economic and social change? This last ingredient is almost more important than all the others, and as the first Prime Minister to have talked of social change from the ramparts of the Red Fort, can Modi really make a difference?
Inside Track: Maun Vrat?
To end your morning reading session on a lighter note, here’s the latest scoop from inside the Parliament, brought to you by Coomi Kapoor in her weekly column in the Indian Express. She has the latest on Ramdev’s seven-star spa, Amar Singh’s current feelings for the Yadavs and a midnight letter to the Governor of Goa.
During the past six months TMC chief Mamata Banerjee has kept her MPs in Delhi on their toes, with one protest after another against the Modi government. From the beginning of the year, TMC MPs have staged a series of dharnas at Gandhiji’s statue in the Parliament compound. The protest issues have ranged from demonetisation to CBI raids on TMC MPs. But since the Uttar Pradesh results, there has been no word from the Bengal CM to her flock in Delhi. In fact a message has been conveyed that there is no need to create a ruckus in Parliament or outside.
From The Quint:
- More Presidential Than Before, PM Modi Can Now Usher in Achhe Din
- Why BJP Will Swear by Ram Temple, but Not Build It Anytime Soon
- UP Verdict: Chance for Non-BJP Parties in the Midst of Total Rout?
- What TVF’s Arunabh Could Face If Guilty of Sexual Harassment
- Saving AAP: The Original ‘Rebel of Indian Politics’ Image May Help