New Niyams

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[Picture courtesy DNA]

Now that the Narendra Modi will never become prime minister in the multicultural cauldron that is India and there is no Modi wave cards have been conclusively trumped, it is but inevitable that the Modi rule will end India will be turned face-up onto the deck. In that vein, I have been reading, with more than a slight bit of amusement, the slew of “open letters” and predictions of dystopia from our intellectuals, otherwise normally so against the concept of fear-mongering (being a most fascist trait, or so are told). While one respectfully appreciates their point of view (not doing so would be most fascist, or so we are told), one does feel the need to lay down a few niyams, in the manner of Bill Maher’s famous “New Rules” segment in Real Time With Bill Maher.

New Niyam: You have got to stop using Hitler as the metaphor.

I have written before on how logically well-founded the whole  “Modi is a fascist” banshee shriek is and so I won’t go into it again for, let’s accept it, no one likes to repeat rules. But if you are going to equate him to a Fascist dictator, then you have to start using names other than Hitler, like Mussolini or Franco. And if we move beyond fascism as an European political philosophy and embrace a wider meaning of the word i.e. “genocidal dictator who enforces absolute obedience” may I suggest Stalin, Idi Amin or Pol Pot, all of whom I can assure you are sufficiently terrifying. But Hitler? Come on. That’s such a cliche that they have a Mithun Chakroborty movie by that name.

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Good Bye Dr. Singh

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Manmohan-Singh_1438480c

Good bye Dr. Manmohan Singh.

You had once said that you hoped that history remembers you more kindly than the present does. Given that history at least in our country is written by a cabal of  historians that are ideologically well-oriented towards your world-view and viscerally opposed to your opponents, you might very well get your wish. Be as it may, and I would not grudge you the odd hagiography, the thing is Dr. Singh I will not remember you kindly.

And let me explain why.

You failed as a leader.

National crises make even ordinary leaders like George W Bush look good. Except you could not pass for a leader even then. When our nation was in peril like as on 26/11 or our people were agitated like after the Delhi gang rape, you surfaced, almost always too late, with a prepared statement that had in it as much passion and hope and spontaneity as a tax form. Now the cynical intellectual in you may scoff at this, but alas when the country is attacked and terrorists do what they do, spread terror, ordinary people often just needs to hear a firm and reassuring voice. Yet the abiding memory of one of the most dastardly acts of aggression this country has seen will remain  your most efficient Home Minister changing his bandhgalas like Suchitra Sen changing saris in a song sequence, and the resounding sound of silence from supposedly the most powerful person in the country.

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Fascism Is Coming

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jailor

It’s coming, coming, coming, coming.

Take your Cashmere shawls and your long-stemmed champagne glasses and run for the hills. (Or Paris if you have the money). The RSS (yes they have the SS already in there) are coming in their black Shikari Shambhu shorts to pour milk into your Cognac and convert India Habitat Center to India Hindu Center. They will ban your Marxist-feminist tomes, reduce the minorities to dhimmitude, rip the tongues of the free press (Open Magazine tera kar doonga khullam khullah) and put all the dissidents into the Bamboo gulaag with only copies of Bal Narendra for company. And the Chauthi Reich will be established, Devang Patel shall become Wagner, Chetan Bhagat Nietzche (if he isn’t already) and the Brahminical Nazis shall all stretch their hands out and up and say “Kemcho Fuhrer”.

Now I will confess that I am a sucker for doomsday scenarios. That is I believe all of them. Aliens will attack the earth from giant pods and the American president will save us by piloting a plane. Mughalistan shall be established and all women love-Jihaded. The Pope shall rule India through his insidious agents and through Catholic viruses implanted in EVMs. A team easily winning an IPL game in a canter shall lose 6 wickets for 2 runs and contrive to lose. To those who call me paranoid, that last thing did happen to KKR.

But of all these doom-and-gloom-Nazis-are-coming futures, the one that I take most seriously is the one that relates to the ascent of the Saffron Insidious of the Fifty Six Inch, because every respectable media outlet tells me that if he comes to power, the India we know shall cease to exist or to quote Bryan Cranston in Godzilla “You have no idea  what’s coming and it will send us back to the Stone Age”.

And if I cannot believe the media, then hell what am I supposed to believe? My own common sense.

Bah.

So why do I believe that fascism is coming?

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The Most Awesome Candidates of Election 2014 -Part 1

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KRK

KRK

When the atrocities of the Manoos-es on poor “North Indians” , led by The Bane of Arnab Goswami from the Thacker House, had reached the tipping point, a handsome hero rose by the name of “Deshdrohi” from the Hindi heartland. Through dialogs like “Jitne nafrat humhare liye tumhare  dil main  hain , usse zyada pyar tumhare liye humare  seene main hain. Kabhi UP Bihar aake dekhna, mehman ko bhagwan samajhte hain hum” (The hatred in your heart is surpassed by the love in our heart, come to UP Bihar, we treat our guests like Gods) and the Azamgarh slide, a martial arts move where a man slides and punches the enemy in the testiclewa, KRK established himself as a champion of the common people. Subsequently he went to Big Boss House to represent the awaam where he engineered an eviction based on a carefully constructed act of high drama, (the throwing of a glass at a contestant), a gambit whose principle would be copied in a different context by another mustachioed champion of the aam aadmi to eject himself after 49 days of a similar reality show.

Despite having his milk come from Holland and his water from France and some of his opinions of humanity from the middle ages, KRK’s empathy for the ordinary man and especially for the extraordinary woman (Asin) and his politics of kick and kiss is well known by people on Twitter. Hence come election time, it would be expected that the Deshpremi inside him would triumph over the Deshdrohi.

What was fortunate was that there already existed a political party that shared his progressive views on women and secularism and other important things.

Samajwadi Party.

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Deconstructing Kejriwal Part 4

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[Image courtesy Hindu]

[Previous part of the series--Part 3]

One of the principal, if not the principal scourge of the Indian political system is the cynical use of targeted intimidation as a populist political weapon. Deep divisions run without our country with persistent narratives of fear,  historical notions of “hurt”, and generational denial of opportunities. Political parties have realized that the lowest hanging fruit is pandering to this, through violence or the threat of violence. The message is simple. While your elected representatives may not be able to provide basic amenities, they can surely facilitate “revenge” and “maintenance of morality” and “self-confidence” , where the latter is invariably defined by the subjugation of some other group.

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Deconstructing Kejriwal Part 2

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[Please read Part 1 first]

Sociologists have a name for it.

It’s called The Alok Nath syndrome.

In it someone creates an image which ends up being so over-the-top in its absoluteness that it becomes impossible for any human being to live up to it in reality. In Alok Nath’s case, that image as we all know is of the living embodiment of  Bharatiya Sanskriti.   If any minor deviation from the ideal is ever discovered,  like lingering hand a bit too much on the shoulder of a “Jagatjanani” not your “Bhagyawan” or missing an aarti for Aarti or wanting to do a Kanya-grahan more than a Kanya-daan, it will not be excused as merely “being human” like it would be for everyone else, but considered a cardinal sin, only because it runs against the grain of the very standards Alok Nath claims he sets for himself, and by extension, expects of the world.

Arvind Kejriwal suffers from the Alok Nath syndrome. He is obligated to maintain the halo of the stubbornly incorruptible and absolutely selfless and supremely reluctant politician. For that is his USP. Without that, he will lose the devoted and the donors and the voices that sing his hymns. Yet the more he stays in the public spotlight, the more he is seen to fall from his own lofty perch, while still remaining entirely unforgiving of infractions done by others.  The more that happens, the more he gets criticized by those that have not bought into his cult. And the more his bhakts scream “Why do you attack our krantikaari, you paid agents of [insert industrial house here] and Modi”?

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Deconstructing Kejriwal Part 1

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When a media organization like Quartz throws all pretense of objectivity to the side, and publishes something like this, you know you are standing at the doorstep of revolution. (We want revolution, Jaipaan revolution…to those of you old enough to remember this) [Link]

Arvind Kejriwal is the Harry Potter of Indian politics. Perched on a magic broom—the election symbol of his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)—he has catapulted himself as a boy wizard fighting against all odds in a shadowy world inhabited by demons and beasts. He has even conjured a supreme malevolent villain on the lines of Voldemort as a fountainhead of the Dark Arts reincarnated as corrupt politics. Donning the Potter mantle, Kejriwal  has publicly denounced Mukesh Ambani, India’s biggest business magnate, who was so far the one Who-Must-Not-Be-Named despite persistent gossip about his growing clout in the corridors of power. Kejriwal’s assertion that the country’s two main political parties, the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are mere puppets of the evil lord (that would be Ambani) seeks to turn the upcoming contest in the national polls this summer into a battle between good and evil.

It’s tempting for us Potterheads to keep playing the game of associating  AAP members with denizens of  the Harry Potter world (Yogendra Yadav=Hagrid, Manish Sisodia’s white moustache=Hedwig, Ashutosh=Dobby). But we must move onto the task at hand. Namely a deconstruction of Kejriwal, whose personal cult is now passing through the phase that Himesh Reshammiya’s went through in 2007.

In order to understand Kejriwal, we must first do two things.

No. I am not talking about giving your email address to Somnath Bharti. That he already has.

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Deconstructing Modi Part 4

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[Previous part: Part 3]

In my last post on this topic, admittedly many eons ago, I had finished with a reference to Congress as Modi’s biggest polling agent.

Much of Modi’s support outside the BJP’s core base, I would suppose all but the most committed of Modi fanboys would accept this, stems from the performance (and lack of it) of the Congress-UPA government. Only those who have been given a Padmabhushan by this government or hope to be given one in the future would defend its inglorious legacy of slush and paralysis and so I would presume there is no need to put the history of the UPA under the scanner here. The UPA has been Rohit Sharma in New Zealand and most of us can agree with that.

The problem with the Congress is so basic, so deep is the cancer bonded with its DNA, that there is nothing much it can do about it in the near future. Which makes the job so much easier for Modi.

The Congress, ever since Sonia Gandhi firmly took over its reins and relegated reformers like Narasimha Rao to the dustbin of history, has become a party with one single obsession. Namely to perpetuate the Gandhi dynasty. Rahul Gandhi poses the greatest challenge to this, as his public pronouncements and singular ability to shirk responsibility, notwithstanding an army of cheerleaders throwing legs and waving their pompoms, has made him an object of more or less universal ridicule. If there has been something worse than the sight of Rahul Gandhi (he admittedly is funny, in an unintentionally subversive way) trying to act statesmanly, it is the naked display of sycophancy that goes on in parallel, almost like a real-life enactment of the fable of the Emperor with No Clothes (remember how the courtiers keep applauding the king’s excellent clothes even though he is stark naked). In the 70s when people were more enthralled by the Gandhis and in general more respectful of royal authority, this kind of tomfoolery might have had some political impact. Now this just makes people roll their eyes. Of course, such is the web of power inside the Congress, and props to Sonia Gandhi for that, that no single Congress leader, no matter how much more suitable he might be than Rahul Gandhi as a leader, will dare to make a play for the party leadership. Unless Sonia Gandhi chooses him as the next cipher.

Which should make Modi  happy.

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Us And Them

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Being a very filmy person (but you already knew that I suppose), my ideal of a reporter was the character played by Sekhar Suman in “Tridev” whose murder, while doing investigative journalism piece on the dangerous Bhujang, let loose a sequence of spectacular events, that included but was not limited to Sunny Deol looking at the camera and saying, in a deadpan voice, “Ek aur sipahi desh ke liye shaheed ho gaye”.

In real life, the only people who came close to that khadi-clad, jhola-carrying ideal were the guys at Tehelka. Or that’s the way I saw things when they did the match-fixing sting, blowing the lid off the conspiracy of silence in a most spectacular way. And if that was not enough, then went up against the might of the NDA government and in the process was almost finished off by them.

This was brave stuff. They wrote their pieces well. True they came across as  a bit  too sensational and full of themselves at times, but then again with that name what else could you do.

Then, over the years, I began to see a pattern.

That Tehelka chose its targets selectively. While the facade of fairness was sought to be kept, it was obvious which side of the political spectrum Tehelka was. Their editorial tone, over the years, became increasingly fundamentalist, which I define as those who split the world into “us” and “them”, with different standards for “us” (people who are ideologically aligned with our idea of the world) and different standards for “them” (those that are not).  In their defense, they couldn’t even lay claim left-wing counterculture street-cred any more, with what their big-ticket, big-business-sponsored “thinkfests” and the perception of them being aligned in pushing the agenda of the ruling party. Tehelka was big media now, and the edgy-independent paper posturing had worn thin.

And now the Tejpal story has broken, as grave charges of sexual assault have been levelled against Tarun Tejpal by a Tehelka staffer.

I was shocked.

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Deconstructing Modi Part 3

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[First part]

[Second part]

A few moons ago, there was this incident. A Muslim cleric decided to ambush Narendra Modi by offering a skullcap at a public political event. [Video] While Modi did not wear the skull-cap, he did wear the green Islamic shawl the cleric offered (this was not reported). This immediately set in motion the gears of nightly-news-outrage and morning-paper-editorializing.

[Drumroll]

“Modi has shown, as if it needed further showing, his communal and non-secular core.”

[Ominous music]

Nitish Kumar, who has of late discovered the dark side of Modi and whose absolute dreaminess has of late been discovered by sections of the Indian intelligentsia, said most famously:

To govern a country like India, you have to take everyone along; sometimes you will have to wear topi and sometimes tilak (kabhi topi bhi pehenni padhegi, kabhi tilak bhi lagana padega).

No discussion of Modi or of Indian politics can be complete without an ogle at the concept of “secularism”.

In India, politicians are expected to be “secular”, at least as far as demonstrations go, in the Nitish Kumar way of things, much more than they are expected to efficient or to be honest.

And the thing about Modi, he is not secular. After all, if he was, he would have worn that skullcap.

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