BJP Surge Evident in South
The trend line for political analysts on poll prospects for decades has been that the BJP has no stand-alone chance in the entire South India. In Maharashtra the party has to work with the Shiv Sena, in Andhra piggyback on TDP, in Tamil Nadu seek an alliance with either of the Dravida parties, in Karnataka the dominant Lingayat community decides, in Kerala the party is squeezed between the UDF and the LDF.
The scene seems to have dramatically changed almost overnight with the BJP announcing its prime ministerial candidate on the one hand and the frustration of local people with the politics of convenience of the regional parties and their satraps. Also to be factored in is the collapse of the Congress in the region due to its regional leadership’s failures and the overpowering inflation. Besides the southerners are reading every day how BJP-led state governments north of the Vindhyas and in Gujarat are making waves that led to consecutive electoral successes.
Proxy Wars Within Congress
It is bad enough for the Congress that it suffered a humiliating defeat in the recent elections to the four state assemblies. But worse is still to follow. Realising that the dynastical charisma of the mother-son duo was losing its electoral sheen, the Congress men and the allies are up in arms against the high command at least in the three major states—Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Kerala—where the aging party is still in power.
The beleaguered Congressmen have reacted to the crushing debacle in two ways. Some are just too stunned to say anything and are quietly looking for other options to secure their uncertain political future. For most of them ideology and commitment to the party programmes are a matter of connivance. And there are others who have decided to take the bull by the horns, challenge the high command and stage an open revolt.
Doubles peak on Secularism
What is the litmus test of secularism in India? Do we only go by the condition of minorities in the Hindu-dominated states such as Gujarat, Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra? Should we also not see how the Hindus are treated in states where they are in the minority such as Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland and Mizoram and the way our “secular” establishment genuflects before the majority there.
Our small but strategically placed tribal state of Mizoram, straddling the Myanmar border, also occupies one of the top spots in literacy with a near 100 per cent literacy rate and school enrolment. So when that state is going for assembly polls this electoral season, you should expect aggressive public discourse on subjects as wide-ranging as jobs, development, aspirations of the young and their addictions, etc.
The blackmail before partition
Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh is the latest politician to absolve the Muslims from the responsibility of having forced a bloody partition of the country in 1947. Of course Mulayam’s assertion is a part of party propaganda in an election season. And propaganda cannot be a substitute for history.
A recall is in order to understand the context in which partition of India became inevitable. After the demise of Aurangzeb in 1707, the Mughal empire started disintegrating. The power vacuum in Delhi was filled by valiant Marathas and the Mughal emperor became their pensioner. Sikhs in Punjab, Marathas in Central India, Jats and Rajputs in the west emerged as new power centres. In 1803, the Marathas lost Delhi’s control to the East India Company after a fierce battle at Noida (then Patparganj) near Delhi and the Mughal emperor then onwards became a pensioner of the British. Muslims naturally resented their newly defined subservient status and a section of them decided to join hands with the Hindus, who too hated the British rule. The result was the first war of independence of 1857.
Cong secular card rings hollow
By some strange coincidence Union finance minister P Chidambaram’s description of the coming general elections as an ideological battle between “secular” parties and the RSS, and the statement of general secretary of the Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind Maulana Madani warning the secular parties, especially the Congress, not to hold up Narendra Modi as a bugbear to win Muslim votes, have come very close to each other.
Madani is not saying, he explained in a discussion with NDTV, that Muslims would vote for the BJP, but that they are no longer taken in by the Congress projection of Modi as a threat to their interests. The Congress, he said, instead should come out with what the party has done for the community in 60 years, accusing it of only exploiting the bugbear of BJP and not doing anything in effect for the Muslims. This would no longer work, he asserted.
One nation, two legal systems
Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s letter to chief ministers to ensure that in the fight against terrorists, care is taken to prevent harassment of innocent Muslims and the “innocent” should be released at once is yet another instance of the ruling Congress’ divisive agenda even in an areas of national security. As expected none of the “secular” parties or academics have protested against the grossly communal missive.
Had the home minister expressed concern over innocents being harassed irrespective of their religious or any other identity that would have been understood as a legitimate expression of the government’s concern at wrong being done to any citizen in the authorities’ enthusiasm to secure India against terror from any source.
With the BJP naming Narendra Modi, the Gujarat chief minister, as its leader to take the party to a resounding success in the battle of the ballot coming May, the Congressmen have been donning the robe of being great democrats. They will not name their leader, they tell the media right and left. In true “democratic” spirit the party would wait for the election results and choose the party leader after the polls. The fly in the ointment, however, is that the world knows who their leader is.
With 42-year-old Rahul Gandhi running around beating the drum for the Congress government’s achievements and an entire war room filled with Oxford and Harvard boys and girls planning the strategy, there is no question who really is calling the shots in the outfit. That makes us ask why are then they not crowning him even though the bugle of the battle has been already sounded. Even prime minister Manmohan Singh has publicly said that Rahul Gandhi is the right person to become the prime minister if the party wins and that he (Singh) would be only too glad to serve under Rahul.
No let-up in Islam vs Islam
After a bloodbath in Egypt, which claimed nearly a thousand lives, a much worse carnage in Syria has hit the headlines where as many as 1,300 people are said to have been gassed to death. If confirmed, it would be the world’s worst chemical weapon attack in decades.
While the details of this gory incident are not available at the time of writing there is little doubt that the massacre has its origins in the age-old Shia-Sunni conflict.
Approximately three-fourths of Syria are Sunni, but its government is predominantly Alawi, a Shia sect that makes up less than 15 per cent of the population, The bloody conflict between the two warring sects of Islam is pretty old. In the 1980s, thousands were killed in clashes between the two.
Going by the events of the previous few weeks in India, whosoever had coined the expression “secularism” must have turned in his/her grave many times over. In Uttar Pradesh, a nine-year-old functioning temple is razed to the ground by the administration. And there is not even a whimper of protest. A week later, in the same area the Uttar Pradesh administration demolishes just one of the walls (illegal) of a mosque under construction, all hell breaks loose. There is a war cry of “secularism in danger”. The ruling Samajwadi Party leads the charge. The UP government promptly suspends and charge sheets the IAS officer concerned, Durga Shakti Nagpal, to demonstrate its “secular” credentials.
Not to be left behind, the “secular” government of Rajasthan, around the same time, orders the transfer of IPS officer Pankaj Choudhary, who had dared to take on Gazi Fakir, the 79-year-old father of Pokhran Congress MLA Saleh Mohammed. Fakir has been under the scanner of intelligence agencies for over four decades. The victimized police officer told the media, “My predecessors have made damning comments about Fakir in the files.”
Fomenting divisive politics
For the Congress the events of 2002 in Gujarat seem to have become the only peg to hang its electoral fortune on. That is understandable. The party dares not speak of its achievements because statistics are no substitute for the food on the plate of the common man. That food is shrinking with inflation refusing to plummet.
With the economy in a shambles, the rupee at its lowest value in a decade, the desperate roadshows of finance minister Chidambaram not getting even a single dollar flow, several large projects like steel plants proposed by POSCO and Arcelor-Mittal, Vedanta, etc. cancelled, the current account deficit in trade is widening. The RBI has in a desperate measure to save the rupee, again raised interest rates. The market response is that this remedy is not working. The Congress has pushed the economy to the ICU.