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. 

Out of my Mind: The Game is On

In his weekly column in Indian Express, Meghnad Desai writes about the old days when Congress was one big political fixture and the goal for everyone else was to build a coalition to defeat it. And, while ‘anti-Congressism’ may have worked as a strategy in 1967 and ‘77, it failed in 2009 when the UPA II won in a bigger way than UPA I. He goes on to compare it to the BJP, which has “replaced Congress as the Ogre” or the sole national party today. Desai tangentially asks: Will being ‘anti-BJP’ be enough of a strategy for a coalition to defeat it in 2019?

The election is yet two years away. But even on the urgent question of the candidate for President, the coalition does not seem to have agreed. They want to re-nominate Pranab Mukherjee. No matter how good a President he has been, this sounds more like disagreement within the coalition over the likely names. Anti-BJPism will have to invent a better story to tell.

Across the Aisle: Do Not Stir up a Hornets’ Nest

P Chidambaram recounts an unenviable situation he was caught in last week when he was unable to own or disown a 208 report by the Parliamentary Committee on Official Language, of which he was then chairman. Writing his weekly column in Indian Express, Chidambaram explains how the report, which includes a recommendation that official dignitaries give speeches in Hindi came to pass and why he doesn’t think there will any catastrophic ramifications. In five succinct points, he explains why English is here to stay, how people are becoming multilingual and why there’s “no need to start a controversy.”

Secondly, whether it is Hindi or English, it does not matter to the overwhelming majority of the people (over 90 per cent) who carry on their lives using just one language, their mother tongue. State and local body administrations are in the language of the state — Tamil in Tamil Nadu, Bangla in West Bengal, Punjabi in Punjab and so on. Those who migrate to another state become functionally literate in the language of that state.

Fifth Column: Why PM Narendra Modi Continues to Win

“Of late I have begun to get seriously worried every time the BJP wins yet another election in Narendra Modi’s name,” begins Tavleen Singh as she writes her weekly column in Indian Express. She lays down her chain of thought: Using Modi as a “symbol, slogan and campaign” worked for the BJP in UP, but how did they win using the same trick in the Delhi MCD elections? What’s the secret? Singh concludes there isn’t one; it’s the lack of imagination of the ‘secular’ opposition that is at fault. From whining about EVMs to the President to regurgitating the old cry about fighting communalism, Singh reckons it’s time they come up with a new, relevant rallying point. According to her, the recent lynching of Pehlu Khan is a good and crucial place to start.

He has done this once before, but needs to do it again urgently, and probably would if opposition leaders made vigilante violence the national issue it deserves to be. Why do opposition leaders who wear their ‘secularism’ on the sleeves of their khadi kurtas not concentrate their energies on reminding the Prime Minister that despite his slogan of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’, this is simply not happening in practice? Why do they not remind him that in his reign has flourished a particularly nasty breed of Hindutva hoodlums whose violence has reached alarming levels?

AAP is not a National Party, it Cannot be in a Long Time to Come

Chanakya explains in Hindustan Times why he think Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP lost not only the Delhi MCD elections but the goodwill of the people it forged so optimistically. He thinks it was Kejriwal’s unbridled ambition of power, combined with his constant rage against the unfairness of the system. How many times can people give a second chance, Chanakya asks, referring to AAP winning 67 of 70 seats in the 2015 Delhi elections despite Kejriwal’s failure to translate from “naysayer to seta”.

But where I think AAP could have scored is in maintaining its earthy people connect and keeping up its street corner meetings. Its many politicians could have done more to maintain links with the places they came from. It could have highlighted its splendid mohalla clinics and its efforts to improve schools. It could have held fast to its promise of simplicity and probity in public life. But in his effort to project himself as the salt of the earth, a regular Joe, Kejriwal raised such expectations in people that merely moving into the chief ministerial bungalow was seen by many as a betrayal of his ethics and ideals. The unsavoury facts that emerged about some of his ministers — domestic violence in one case; a forged marksheet in another as well as a break from the core members of the party tarnished the self-appropriated halo.  

Gained in Translation: Who Gets to Own this Land?

Writing in Indian Express, Urkhao Gwra Brahma sums up the two issues that currently dominate the socio-political landscape in Assam: the tribals’ demand for statehood and autonomy and the push against illegal immigrant. Brahma reaches back to the British Raj to give context to Assam’s current “explosive” situation when a scheme sent massive number of Bengal famers to Assam, the Partition which “caused more harm to Assam and Punjab”, to the post-Independence era where the tribals slowly lost faith in the government to protect their ethnic identity and land.

But keeping aside a few differences, both native tribals and the non-tribal Assamese people have commonness in one issue — their political pre-eminence and land rights being gravely endangered by the growth of the illegal migrant population. No wonder the Supreme Court had, in its 2005 judgment in the famous Sarbananda Sonowal vs Union of India case, said that “there can be no manner of doubt that the State of Assam is facing ‘external aggression and internal disturbance’ on account of large-scale illegal migration of Bangladeshi nationals.”

Why has the BJP’s win Made its MPs Tense?

Ashok Malik explains in The Asian Age why the BJP’s recent win in the Delhi MCD elections has got all its MP’s fearful of what is to come in preparations for the 2019 elections. He points out that BJP’s willingness to replace its incumbent ministers from the 2012 elections was one of the major reasons why it won, something PM Modi has attempted previously on the state level with Gujarat’s sitting candidates and legislators. Malik thinks the question troubling BJP’s MP is: how many of them will receive “Delhi-style guillotine treatment”?

A substantial if not wholesale change of sitting candidates and legislators has been attempted by Mr Modi in Gujarat more than once, in Assembly as well as local-bodies’ elections. It was part of his strategy to convert an electoral contest into a referendum on his chief ministry and an affirmation of faith in him personally, and in his individual integrity. The formula was experimented with in Delhi, and Mr Modi’s party celebrated its success. Some people may have worried though: BJP members in the Lok Sabha. How many of the 282 elected in 2014 are going to be re-nominated and how many are going to get a Delhi-style guillotine treatment?

How Indira Gandhi & Co Destroyed our Federal Polity

Lawyer A G Noorani pens down his two cents in The Asian Age on Punjab’s CM, Captain Amarinder Singh’s comment that Rahul Gandhi will be deciding the composition of the State Cabinet. In clear words, he begins by calling it a “mockery of both parliamentary democracy and federalism”. He blames Indira Gandhi for beginning the trend of the high command controlling the composition of the cabinet and thereby, undermining the Chief Minister.

Indira Gandhi saw to it that the chief minister did not become powerful. She would prescribe the composition of the cabinet — to keep it divided. Her umpireship was thus assured. Under the norms of parliamentary democracy and federalism, a state government is responsible to the legislature. The basic policy is laid down by the national party. It is the chief minister who decides how to implement it. He decides on whom to include in his Cabinet and when to advise the governor to dissolve the house. This ensures his freedom from central control. It is necessary that he should also have a say in the award of party tickets.  

Vive l’amour! If Macron wins, so will Love

Shobhaa De, writing for her column in Times of India, tells the currently trending love story of French Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte, in her trademark style, of course. “What a ‘prem kahani’! Wow!”, she begins and goes into how they first met (she was his class teacher when he was 15 years old), obstacles they faced along the way, little snippets from their story like Macron’s toast at their wedding, and what it will mean if the “President of Hearts” and his Brigitte win the elections.

If and when the Macrons win — he has made it clear it will be their joint win — one can expect a return to real l’amour in France, even if it is deemed awfully old-fashioned, tedious and utterly bourgeois by most of the disdainful French. Macron supporters chant, “Brigitte! Brigitte!” at his rallies and say their amazing relationship is ‘‘a conversation that is continuing 25 years after their first meeting.” How lucky! How lovely! Brigitte herself says, “Our love story belongs to us. That is our secret.” 

Inside Track: No-Confidence Vote


End this Sunday morning session with Coomi Kapoor’s weekly report in Indian Express of things a little birdie told her about going ons within the hallowed halls of the Parliament. Read about the latest update on Tamil Nadu’s Chief Ministerial race, what Mulayam Singh Yadav whispered to Sonia Gandhi at the House attendance register and– an intriguing side note in the Nanavati case.

Sonia Gandhi has after many months begun to play a more active role in politics. Since her return from abroad after a medical check-up, Sonia has met several opposition leaders, including Nitish Kumar, Sharad Pawar and D Raja. The ostensible reason for the talks is the choice of a common Presidential candidate to contest against the NDA’s nominee. But the recent talks with opposition leaders are more about trying to sew up a Mahagathbandhan against the BJP in time for the 2019 parliamentary elections. The proposal is that Sonia would be the chairperson of the alliance and Nitish Kumar the convenor. This would effectively make Nitish the Opposition candidate for PM in 2019. Which also effectively suggests a vote of no-confidence in Rahul Gandhi.

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