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

The BJP’s New Challenge

Unlike last year, Bharatiya Janata Party has very little to be thankful for in 2018. Ram Madhav, the party’s national general secretary, writes in The Indian Express, that on the political front, this year “will not end like last year”.

Of the seven states that went to polls in 2017, the BJP had won six, ending the year with a comfortable victory in Gujarat. Even this year, Madhav points out, the government has tasted a modicum of success recently in Lok Sabha with the passage of the Triple Talaq Bill.

But the year-end brings a sobering moment for him in the party and government. After the BJP’s embarrassing defeat in five recently concluded elections, the party machine has to aggressively gear up for the upcoming election. It needs centralised inspiration but a decentralised initiative, writes Madhav, who also serves as national executive in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

There are issues that Modi and his party have to sit up and take note of. In some sections of the people, there is palpable anger. But it is largely borne out of greater expectations. People will always be in a hurry. But, unfortunately, the governments have a time limit of five years, within which not everything can be accomplished. That is why hardcore politicians keep an eye on the next election and plan things. Populism is the way to win elections for them, irrespective of its consequences.

Last Year’s Lies, Next Year’s Lies

Sifting through the debris of untruth at the end of the year, writer Ruchir Joshi in his column Passing Bite for The Hindu, revisits the potency of public lies and how their capability of rupturing India’s social fabric.

In a stinging, sardonic piece, he reminds the reader of the slow build up of these public lies by the current dispensation. At the end of four and a half years, the country is being fed that, as promised to them, nothing has damaged the social fabric of India since 2014; there’s nothing to see here, please move on.

Actually our social fabric has taken severe damage since 2014. Our minorities are living in terror in many parts of the country. But it’s true that this December the Constitution is safer from Hindutva sabotage than it was last January. This is because four big States have voted against the BJP. It’s true that the Supreme Court looks strong. That is because the senior-most judges came out and pushed back at the Chief Justice’s methods of administration, because they narrowed the scoring angle for anti-democratic forces. It’s true that more and more people are speaking freely and diverse voices are being heard. That’s because thousands of citizens have had the courage to come out on the streets and challenge this small-eyed, know-nothing, backward-hurtling government.

A Year of Bad Choices

In her Sunday column for The Indian Express, Tavleen Singh writes that, she, in this season of good cheer is finding it hard to get in the mood and that, her gloom is dominated solely by doomed political climate of the country.

Singh writes that from a political perspective, 2019 looks like it will be a year of bad options. The general election looms closer and the choices are depressing.

“If Modi has disappointed, pay attention to his possible replacement. The scion of our imperial Dynasty now struts about as Modi’s main challenger because winning Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh was no small victory. But, it is no indication that the Congress has recovered enough to form a government on its own, so he will rely on alliances with some very dodgy ‘secular’ political parties whose economic ideas are stupidly socialist. Free markets, liberalisation and economic reforms are dirty words in their lexicon.”

Filmed by Desire

In light of the furore surrounding Anupam Kher starring ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’, The Telegraph’s editorial this Sunday accentuates that the world knows how insensitive Indian politicians are when it comes to freedom of speech and expression.

In its only editorial on domestic political affairs, The Telegraph points out how politicians keep banging works of art, entertainment and scholarship that they think can hurt the religious, regional, cultural, moral or national sentiments o a particular group of voters. Or their own, for that matter.

By not asking for a ban on the movie, the Congress, in line with Rahul Gandhi’s insistence on the freedom of expression, has done something BJP did not expect.

The BJP would have loved it if the Congress has called into the trap; it did its best by spreading the word that the Congress wanted the film banned. In the post-truth era, this would be a ‘post-ban’ strategy: accusations of banning when there is no intention to do so. The BJP can then say that the Congress is guilty of the same attack on freedom of which critics accuse the BJP and, with greater elation point out that Mr Gandhi does not practice what he preaches.   

An Unusual Life in Unusual Times

Ramachandra Guha is glad he was in Delhi on 18 December, a historic day when former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released collected works running to six volumes in all. Guha, in his Sunday column ‘Past & Present’ for Hindustan Times, writes that Manmohan Singh has led an unusually interesting life in unusually important times. He is a good decent man who has made fundamental contributions to public life in India.

In his account of the evening, Guha writes:

“Dr Singh came across as a person of warmth and compassion. There were no boastful remarks about his contributions to the nation (or to the world of scholarship either). The tone was scrupulously non-partisan throughout, except at the very end, when, as he saw the compere come on stage to announce the event’s closure, he leant towards the microphone and said, ‘ I certainly was not a prime minister who was afraid of talking to the press’, before outlining several instances of unrehearsed press conference that he had held while occupying that office.”

Dress Up

Manmohan Singh comes from a humble background and temperamentally felt more comfortable in a secure government job than a temporary position in power, writes Coomi Kapoor, in her this week’s Inside Track for The Indian Express.

Singh, who has dominated headlines owing to an upcoming movie on him, displayed a wry sense of humour and complete candour at a function last week to release the five-volume collection of his speeches, gave precedence to job security and pension.

“After IG Patel declined the offer to be FM, PC Alexander vaguely mentioned the possibility of Singh being chosen. Since there was nothing definite, Singh left for Geneva for a conference. When he was unpacking on his return, he received a frantic call from Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, insisting he come for the swearing-in ceremony. “Get yourself dressed up,” was Rao’s cryptic advice.”

Stalin’s Call Sets Lines Buzzing

The process of forming an anti-Modi grand coalition has a major problem. There being too many aspirant prime ministers, to satisfy all, the silent agreement was to wait till after the elections but Stalin brooked no silence, writes Meghnad Desai in his latest ‘Out of my mind’ column for The Indian Express.

Unleashing a domino effect, Desai writes, Stalin’s move has inspired the Satraps to begin talk of a Federal Front. Mamata Banerjee had begun this long ago and now K Chandrashekar Rao has revived it. Of the four main players, Mamata and Chandrababu Naidu are, whatever they may have done in the past, anti-Modi rather than anti-BJP. Naveen Patnaik and Chandrashekar Rao are happy to join either coalition. They are also happier running their home state than going to New Delhi.

“Stalin is no amateur. He announced the Rahul candidature precisely to break up the MGB to give the DMK a better chance at influencing Cabinet formation when and if the MGB wins.”

Being Left or Right is Never Simple in India

India has never had a right-wing party for socialists to do battle with except for the comparatively short-lived Swatantra party, writes Mark Tully in his Sunday column for Hindustan Times.

And this makes it difficult to answer the question once raised by Margaret Thatcher’s husband Dennies, who during one of the couple’s visit to India, was witness to an unlikely friendship between Thatcher and Indira Gandhi. He had asked Tully, “I can’t understand it. They get on so well but she is a leftie isn’t she?”.

“So should India be socialist in practice not just just in name? Maybe it would be a mistake to tie India too tightly to an economic doctrine. The license permit raj led to bureaucratic excesses. But I think whatever government comes to power next year should persevere with the implementation of some socialist policies such as raising the tax-GDP ratio to distribute wealth more equally, and with administrative reforms.”

After COP24, We Must Display Political Will

Current emissions reduction pledge under the Paris Agreement are not enough to meet its goal of preventing the most dangerous levels of global temperature rise, writes Naina Lal Kidwai for Hindustan Times.

“I’m very happy to note that India remains on track to overachieve its own national climate pledge for 2020, in large part thanks to the ambitious National Electricity Plan released in April 2018. If we go further yet by seizing the opportunities of our growing and cost-competitive solar industry and clean energy, India, too, could be counted as a global climate leader.”

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