Tag Archive for 'Bharatiya Janata Party'

Gujarat CM Narendra Modi interviewed by WSJ

Amol Sharma in WSJ:

WSJ: Do you see yourself as a future prime minister?

Modi: I don’t carry the burden of the past or the madness of the future. I live in the present. My present is my Gujarat, the 60 million people of this state, the villages, the poor farmers, the children – to change their destiny. I can’t think beyond that.

WSJ: Your critics say you should apologize for the 2002 riots. Why won’t you?

Modi: One only has to ask for forgiveness if one is guilty of a crime. If you think it’s such a big crime, why should the culprit be forgiven? Just because Modi is a chief minister, why should he be forgiven? I think Modi should get the biggest punishment possible if he is guilty. And the world should know there isn’t any tolerance for these kind of political leaders.

Read the full story here, Q&A here.

And what he said on malnutrition:

“We are the first state in the country to raise the issue of malnutrition. It came to our mind that Gujarat is by and large a vegetarian state. And secondly, Gujarat is also a middle-class state. The middle class is more beauty conscious than health conscious – that is a challenge. If a mother tells her daughter to have milk, they’ll have a fight. She’ll tell her mother, ‘I won’t drink milk. I’ll get fat.’ They have money but she’s beauty conscious, she’s not health conscious. So being a middle-class state is also a problem for me. A large segment of the population in my state is middle-class. Second is vegetarianism.

More on this here


The true story of one of the biggest scandals in recent Indian parliamentary history

Ashish Khetan in Tehelka:

This is a story that stands to turn contemporary discourse on its head. It is a dark story of how three mainstream political parties—and sections of the media—have fooled the nation. It is a story of how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) willfully set out to entrap its opponents in the cash-for-votes scandal. It is a story of how the Samajwadi Party voluntarily fell into the trap. It is a story of how the Congress covered it all up. It is also, unfortunately, a story of how sections of the media muddied the truth.

This is how the story goes.

As everyone knows, the two-year-old cash-for-votes scandal is back to haunt the UPA government. Parliament has been in uproar over the past few days as outraged Opposition parties, led by the BJP, have demanded that the government headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh step down on moral grounds. “A government which survived on such a political sin has no authority to continue even for one minute. We demand this government resign immediately,” thundered Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. BJP veteran LK Advani reiterated this position, saying, “We would like the Prime Minister to come to the House and announce that he has decided to resign in the light of the new revelations.”

As everyone knows too, this political storm was triggered by a secret diplomatic cable published by The Hindu , in partnership with WikiLeaks, on 17 March. In this cable sent by the US Embassy in New Delhi to the State Department of the United States on 17 July 2008, the US Charge d’Affaires Steven White wrote that five days before the Manmohan Singh government was to face a crucial vote of confidence on the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008, Nachiketa Kapur, an aide to Congress leader Satish Sharma, had showed him two chests containing cash. According to Kapur, the cash was part of a larger fund of Rs 50 crore to Rs 60 crore that was lying around Satish Sharma’s house to purchase the support of MPs to clinch the vote.

According to this cable, Kapur also claimed that four MPs belonging to Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) had already been paid Rs 10 crore each to ensure they voted in the UPA’s favour on the floor of the Lok Sabha.

There were several inaccuracies in this cable that made it problematic. Nachiketa Kapur was not a formal aide of Satish Sharma but a Congress hanger-on who was sacked from service in the past by Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury for corruption. The RLD had three MPs at the time, not four. And the Lok Sabha records show that none of them voted in favour of the UPA government. More:

BJP’s sole currency is its anger

In India, electoral politics is actually not ideological, and caste is more important than ideology. Aakar Patel in Mint:

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is sneeringly called the Brahmin-Baniya party, but this isn’t true. It is actually the party of Brahmins. BJP president Nitin Gadkari is Brahmin and so are the party’s leaders in both Lok Sabha (Sushma Swaraj) and Rajya Sabha (Arun Jaitley).

The BJP has always been a party of Brahmins. Founded in 1951 as Jana Sangh, the BJP’s first leader was Brahmin (Syama Prasad Mookerjee), its most important thinker was Brahmin (Deendayal Upadhyaya) and its most successful leader was Brahmin (Vajpayee).

The party’s top leadership is peppered with Brahmins (Murli Manohar Joshi, Ananth Kumar, Seshadri Chari, Kalraj Mishra, Bal Apte).

L.K. Advani is different, and from the same Lohana caste as Jinnah.

The Brahmin gene is coded into the BJP by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), whose founder (Hedgewar), most important thinker (Golwalkar), current leader (Bhagwat), and previous leader (Sudarshan) were Brahmin, as was the author of Hindutva (Savarkar). More:

Babri Masjid: A fight to the end

The court will soon decide who owns the Babri Masjid site. Whichever way the verdict goes, the politics of religion will make a comeback. Hartosh Singh Bal in Open:

This is not lost on anyone. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently noted, “I am told in a few days’ time, you will [see the] judgment of the Babri Masjid [title suit]. Now the way the country handles this—the aftermath—will have a profound impact on the evolution of our country.”

An appeal in the Supreme Court is likely to follow the judgment, but the decision itself, whatever it is, will become fodder for new arguments. An Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report of 2003 on the excavations at the site is likely to be one of the key pieces of evidence contributing to the court’s judgment—but it will not settle the dispute, it will only become another element of the debate. Amidst the political rhetoric that will spill out onto the streets, historians will fight the same fight with equal vehemence in TV studios. Such arguments will matter little, because the battle in Ayodhya is not about history, but popular perception.

At my hotel in Faizabad, I ask for the number of a guide in Ayodhya. I want to hear the narrative a guide selected at random would provide. My guide turns out to be Rama Pragat Mishra, a Pandit with his caste mark visible on his forehead. Born in Sultanpur district of Uttar Pradesh (UP), he had studied in Ayodhya before going to work in Gujarat at a polyester firm. He returned in 1999 to become a guide, catering mainly to the Gujarati and Maharashtrian pilgrims who make up the bulk of visitors to Ayodhya.

His Ayodhya tour takes me to the banks of the Sarayu river, the walls of Valmik Bhawan where the Sanskrit text of The Ramayan has been inscribed in full, a nearby gaushala where a cow has just taken birth, the datun kund where Rama is believed to have taken care of his dental hygiene every morning, Dashrath’s palace, Kanak Bhavan gifted to Sita by Kaikeyi, the karyashala, and the site where the Babri Masjid stood. More:

Also read: Uncorking the Babri genie: Jawed Naqvi in Dawn

God and the gospel of globalisation

Against all hope, secularism remains a myth. Meera Nanda in Himal Southasian. Meera Nanda’s most recent book is “The God Market: How globalization is making India more Hindu (2010)”.

Asha Dangol / Himal Southasian

The defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s general elections last year was greeted with relief by secularists and democrats everywhere. Not entirely unreasonably: they read the fact that the BJP lost a solid 3.4 percent of its previous poll share as evidence that Indian voters had rejected the majoritarian politics of Hindu pride and prejudice, peddled by the BJP and the rest of the Sangh Parivar. The general consensus is that the ideology of Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva, has lost its appeal among the urban youth and middle classes – that secularism has won and “God has left politics,” to borrow the elegant title of a recent essay by Delhi journalist Hartosh Singh Bal. Market reforms and globalisation emerge as the stars of this saga. Both the friends and critics of the BJP agree that it is the fervour for making money in India’s roaring economy that doused the flames of Hindu nationalism from the hearts of the middle classes. But that is not all. The ‘free’ market, we are told by a section of influential Dalit intellectuals, will not only free India from the menace of communal violence, but will also lift the curse of caste oppression. It is fair to say that the gospel of globalisation is gaining ground in India.

The story about how the markets defeated the BJP goes as follows. Hindutva appealed to the middle classes and youth back in the bad-old-days of the 1980s and 1990s, when these groups were feeling beleaguered and angry due to the failures of Nehruvian socialism and ‘pseudo-secularism’, which, in their view, gave undue preference to Muslim and Christian minorities. But in the nearly two decades of economic liberalisation and foreign investments that began in the early 1990s, India has witnessed a great burst of economic growth. As a result, the Hindu middle classes are angry no more. Far from feeling beleaguered and discriminated against, they have become more cosmopolitan, more self-confident, and more willing to take on global challenges and seek out global opportunities. Indeed, so confident is the Great Indian Middle Class that it has claimed the 21st century as India’s Century. And so the critics ask: What use can such forward-looking people possibly have for the past glories of Hinduism, about which the stodgy old men in khaki shorts keep harping? This story has found great favour among the self-proclaimed Friends of the BJP, who want the party to drop Hindutva altogether, or at least to make it sound less communal, and emerge as a ‘normal’ pro-market, pro-defence, anti-‘minority-appeasement’, right-of-centre party. More:

Beyond boundaries

India’s heterodox religions and their traditions remain stronger than the idea of a unified nation-state. They have survived a long and violent history, writes Pankaj Mishra in The National

India is one of the world’s oldest civilisations; but as a nation-state it is relatively very new, and its nationalism can still appear weak and unresolved, as became freshly clear in August, when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party expelled its veteran leader Jaswant Singh. Singh had dared to praise, in a new book about the partition of India, the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Indian nationalists, of both the hardline Hindu and soft-secular kind, see Jinnah as the Muslim fanatic primarily responsible for the vivisection of their “Mother India” in 1947. But Singh chose to blame the partition on allegedly power-hungry Hindu freedom fighters, rather than Jinnah, who he claimed had stood for a united India. more

God has left politics

There’s proof Indians are becoming more religious. Yet the days of politics based on religion seem to be over. What happened? Hartosh Singh Bal in Open:

Religiosity is on the ascendant in this country as never before. In the last five years, daily attendance at Hindu shrines has risen dramatically. At Tirupati, it has gone up from 20,000 to 35,000. At Vaishno Devi, annual attendance has gone up from 5 million in 2004 to 7.7 million in the first 11 months of this year. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), stuck in New Delhi debating the Liberhan report in the backdrop of what could have been, has found its vote share in consistent decline over the past decade. In the Indian general election held earlier this year, it dipped to its lowest level since the party shot to prominence in 1991. If today the party is in shambles, offering little hope even to its most committed supporters, it is because it has failed to ‘harvest the souls’ that according to conventional wisdom should have been the saffron party’s for the taking.

This paradox, India’s increasing religiosity and a right wing in terminal decline, is uniquely ours. Across the world, the growth of middle-class religiosity fuelled by consumerism has strengthened right wing movements. Countries such as Turkey, which have seen a boom in the economy, have responded by voting in right wing governments to power, and in the US, the growth of evangelism has benefitted the Republicans. More:

Saw this, Liberhan?

A team of TV journalists recorded what happened — and what didn’t happen — on December 6, 1992, in Ayodhya. Madhu Trehan in Hindustan Times:

babriIt should have taken 60 minutes — 30 minutes to watch the footage from Newstrack, the old video magazine, and 30 minutes to write the report. Newstrack’s December 1992 edition gave a minute-by-minute account of what happened in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. And yet, M.S. Liberhan took 17 years to come up with what he came up with.

Mritinjoy Jha along with his team were in Ayodhya from November 23, 1992. Thousands of pumped-up, slogan-shouting people were pouring in, carrying pick-axes and other equipment. Manoj Raghuvanshi, with another Newstrack team, had pulled the story together. In his voice-over, Raghuvanshi spoke about “a chief minister who spoke from both sides of his mouth — promising the Supreme Court that no construction would take place on the disputed site — and a prime minister who trusted everybody, including his central forces sent ostensibly to defend the masjid”.

The recordings captured Hindu leaders, including Tyagi Maharaj and Acharya Dharmendra, exhorting the crowd that the masjid must be destroyed and a temple built. Uma Bharti in her speech made three crucial points by demanding answers from the crowd: “Will you restrain yourselves when the leaders ask you to? Will you maintain peace and observe rules? Will you obey your leaders?’” The crowd bellowed a yes. But did the BJP really believe that it could control the kar sevaks, the RSS volunteers, the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad after its own passion-rousing rath yatra? More:

Advani: No burning desire to be PM

Veteran Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party leader Lal Krishna Advani relinquished his post as the leader of the opposition in Parliament. An interview in the Hindustan Times:

advani2Many people are saying your exit is the end of the ‘Advani era’?

How many people can feel as satisfied as I am today after such an eventful life? I got the support and affection of so many people. My years may have been spent more in the opposition than in the government, but I have had a satisfactory innings. As I told the MPs, there cannot be an end to a yatra that began for me when I joined the RSS at 14, which was to see India emerge as a great country. I mean it.

But were you not pressured by the RSS to leave?

Not at all. A point comes in a person’s life when one ceases to be pro-active on account of health reasons — as it happened in the case of Atalji, who is three years elder to me, and George Fernandes, who is three years younger to me. I do not want to use the word “retire”. More:

The battle for the soul of the BJP

Samanth Subramanian in Foreign Affairs:

bjpTeen Murti Bhavan, a classical stone-and-stucco structure in the handsomest enclave of New Delhi, has long been identified with its most famous former resident: Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister and the architect of the Congress Party. It took a biting sense of irony, therefore, to organize the book release for Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence at Nehru’s old house this past August. Over the course of 650-odd pages, the opposition stalwart frequently pins the blame for the 1947 partition of India on Nehru (and, by extension, the Congress Party) and largely absolves Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, of responsibility.

As one of the house intellectuals of the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Singh — a former minister of finance and external affairs — might have felt safe making such an argument. He was not. Two days after the release party, Singh was expelled from the BJP by a committee that, in all probability, had not even read his book. Where there had previously been only peepholes, his expulsion opened a whole window onto the most riveting political theater in India today: the precarious disarray of the BJP. And the disarray matters. For nearly two decades now, the BJP has been a contender, a semblance of a coherent alternative to the otherwise dominant Congress Party. A fragmented BJP would thus mean a tectonically different polity, one in which a single party would always form the core of the Indian government. More:

Is there life after democracy?


Activist and writer Arundhati Roy in Dawn:

So, is there life after democracy?

Attempts to answer this question often turn into a comparison of different systems of governance, and end with a somewhat prickly, combative defence of democracy. It’s flawed, we say. It isn’t perfect, but it’s better than everything else that’s on offer. Inevitably, someone in the room will say: ‘Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia . . . is that what you would prefer?’

Whether democracy should be the utopia that all ‘developing’ societies aspire to be is a separate question altogether. (I think it should. The early, idealistic phase can be quite heady.) The question about life after democracy is addressed to those of us who already live in democracies, or in countries that pretend to be democracies. It isn’t meant to suggest that we lapse into older, discredited models of totalitarian or authoritarian governance. It’s meant to suggest that the system of representative democracy-too much representation, too little democracy-needs some structural adjustment.

The question here, really, is what have we done to democracy? What have we turned it into? What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning? What happens when each of its institutions has metastasised into something dangerous? What happens now that democracy and the Free Market have fused into a single predatory organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of maximising profit? Is it possible to reverse this process? Can something that has mutated go back to being what it used to be? More:

The party man or the economist?

LK Advani and Manmohan Singh

LK Advani and Manmohan Singh

One wants to be the Prime Minister of India for the next five years; the other, the incumbent, has been PM for the past five. Aakar Patel on LK Advani and Manmohan Singh in Mint-Lounge:

He opposes the Indo-US nuclear deal. Why? Because America does not treat India as “equals”. He views strategic policy through honour and emotion.

Of his autobiography’s 48 chapters, not one is on economics. Muslims, Kashmir, terrorism, Pakistan, Musharraf, Kargil, Shah Bano, Naxalism, Godhra, Assam, Ayodhya. These are his concerns. His passion is all about what other people should not do.

Under Advani, the BJP’s three policy thrusts were all negative: Muslims should not keep Babri Masjid; Muslims should not have polygamy; Kashmir should not have special status.

He offers nothing creative, even to Hindus, only resentment.

There is one brutally tough man in politics, but it is not Advani. This man is cold and emotionless when you observe him talk.

If power means the ability to influence change, he is the most powerful leader in the history of India.
His policies, 18 years old, cannot be bent, forget changed, by leaders who came after he wrote them.


What kind of BJP does Advani want?

Aaakar Patel in The News:

Gujarat erupted in March 2002. Modi won an election that December in an emotional Hindus-versus-Muslims campaign.

Modi’s model is good governance, but with a strong dose of Hindu identity. This brought about a state that turned soft during a riot, so that violence took place with little interference, and then justice was made difficult for Muslims. In politics, as we have seen, he has made Gujarati Muslims irrelevant and forced them from the system.

Modi appeals to the Gujaratis’ practical business side and emotional side. On the practical side, they admire Modi for his ability to govern, which India’s corporates, including Tata, Mittal and Ambani, have acknowledged. On the emotional side they love him because he has shown Muslims their place. So steeped in bigotry is Modi’s Gujarat that the Supreme Court lost faith in the Gujarat judiciary and sent riots cases to Bombay.

Advani says the BJP wants to replicate the Gujarat Model in the rest of India. Can the BJP replicate this anti-Muslim plus good governance formula outside of Gujarat? No.

The sentiment of middle-class Gujarati Hindus towards Muslims is not shared across India. That is because the identity marker of Indians is primarily caste, not religion. The electoral battle across India’s largest states — UP, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bengal, Maharashtra — is secular and has always been between backward castes, even though these states have substantial Muslim populations.