Should a failed FM be made the President?
Is the Congress pushing Pranab Mukherjee, the UPA II Finance Minister, upstairs into the Rashtrapati Bhavan, because he is the best person, with vast political experience, and therefore best fit for this constitutional job? Or is it being done to get the North Block seat vacated, since he has messed up the economy completely?
Elusive peace with Pakistan
With Pakistan about to set up an interim civilian government in preparation for a new general election, there will certainly be a freeze in any initiative from New Delhi on the western front. In so far as the world is concerned, the issue in Pakistan is not the election itself, but whether the civilian government, always at the edge, will survive and the terror factories operating in the country shut down.
In this context the revelation by a Pakistan army officer that the Kargil War was planned and executed by the Pakistan military under General Pervez Musharraf who then was the army commander, is a timely reminder to both Pakistan and India (and to the world) of the key role that the military plays in the political affairs of our western neighbour.
Is Anything More Corrupt Than A Govt Buying MPs?
During a recent meeting in Ralegan Siddhi, Anna Hazare’s team decided to renew its fight for probity in public life. One could say it is also time to judge the impact of his campaign on the system, asking some relevant questions. Has the first, “successful” phase of the movement really touched the collective conscience of ‘civil society’ and affected the attitude of the ruling establishment towards corruption? Or is its influence superficial?
Stripped of hyperbole, the real achievements of the movement are modest. Nothing has changed for the better on the ground. Our venal rulers continue on their course, smug as ever. Otherwise, the two whistle-blowers, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahavir Singh Bhagora, former Lok Sabha MPs (both of the BJP), would not be behind bars for exposing the cash-for-votes scam of July 2008, and their third comrade, Ashok Argal, would not be facing arrest.
One factor pertaining to the recent assembly elections that every analyst has commented upon is the virtual eclipse of the Left, particularly in West Bengal, which a Left coalition ruled for 34 years without a break. As for Tamil Nadu, the focus has been on how the people have cut the DMK and the Karunanidhi family to size. Lost in the hullabaloo over the rout of the DMK and the Left is J. Jayalalitha’s invitation to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to her swearing-in ceremony, a recognition of his growing stature both within the BJP and outside it. Jayalalitha’s AIADMK, it must be remembered, has the Left parties as its allies in the Tamil Nadu assembly, and for the Left, Modi is like a red rag. But she has preferred to ignore this, and invited Modi even though the BJP was not her ally and had in fact fought the Tamil Nadu elections on its own.
Pretty Prose And Guns From Cloud Cuckoo Land
It’s difficult not to admire the perseverance and passion of Arundhati Roy, writer and born rebel. More so when she packages her attacks on the basics of the country—she projects the Indian State as an enemy of the people—in beautiful English prose. In her 18-page essay, The Trickledown Revolution (Sept 20), she wails: “Sometimes it seems very much as though those who have a radical vision for a newer, better world do not have the steel it takes to resist the military onslaught, and those who have the steel do not have the vision.” So, after denouncing corporations as the devil incarnate, the Indian State as a lackey of these capitalists, and describing the government’s operation to curb the violence in the Maoist-affected areas as “a war on the people”, and giving everyone else, including the Maoists, a dressing down, Arundhati plays god for all anti-nationals—from Kashmir to Manipur to Dantewada—who have waged war against civil society.
Many photographs in newspapers and TV channels of 14- and 16-year-olds aiming bricks or stones at the security forces have filled our minds over the last few days as street violence in the Kashmir Valley escalates. A 14-year-old identified by the police as a regular stone-thrower during protests could not recall to the media why he was pelting stones and what the protests were about. Perhaps he was simply enjoying the fun, as street urchins do, especially when they find an expensive car parked on the village road.
But this was not adolescent fun. As the embattled Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said, these stone-throwers were trained and stationed to provoke and force the security forces to open fire. The resultant deaths provide enough fuel to provoke more protests and for the security forces to fire in self-defence and ensure law and order.
We are trapped in a caste cage 60 years after independence, but we still seem eager to lock ourselves further—in the divisive politics of caste. So intense are the feelings across the political spectrum for reintroducing a caste-based census that most parties (except caste-based ones) are divided on the issue.
Every politician who supports caste enumeration swears that caste is a reality in our country. True, that reality cannot be denied. But the question is whether we want such divisions to gather strength. Don’t we want an Indian identity that’s beyond caste to evolve? Look at what cricket has done for us. Do we have quotas in our cricket team? Or look at Bollywood. Nobody asks what religion or caste the big stars or directors belong to. Nobody even cares where they come from. Open competition in Indian cricket and Bollywood has resulted in the best talent coming to the fore—as Indians first and last. So it’s not as if Indians do not look beyond caste; they do, and indeed feel proud about what could be called a pan-Indian identity.