The New Statesman features a special package on India.
Patrick French charts the rise of India’s female politicians:
If you do not come from an established ruling family, you have almost no chance of progressing in national politics, unless you join an ideological organisation such as the BJP or the Communist Party of India (Marxist), where lineage is not important and progress is more often based on ability.
Last year, I made a study of how each MP in India’s lower house, the Lok Sabha, had reached parliament. The findings showed that the younger you were, the more likely you were to have “inherited” a place in the chamber. Nearly half of all MPs aged 50 or under are hereditary, selected to contest a seat primarily because they are the children of senior politicians. No MP over the age of 80 is hereditary; every MP under the age of 30 is hereditary. The situation is most serious in the Congress party, where every MP under the age of 35 is the son or daughter of a politician.
Extending the study across the whole Lok Sabha, I found that 33 of the youngest 38 MPs had entered parliament on the grounds of birth. Out of the other five, three progressed through the ranks of the BJP, Bahujan Samaj Party and Communist Party on merit; one was given a break because he was an established student leader-cum-mafioso; and the other was hand-picked for a parliamentary career by Rahul Gandhi, the son of Rajiv and Sonia. Rahul is an MP and heir to the Congress mantle, but has so far concentrated on structural party reorganisation and low-key, village-level campaigning and shows no inclination to take a prime ministerial role. More
Sophie Elmhirst profiles the writer and activist Arundhati Roy, who accuses the elites of “colonising the lower sections of society who have to pay the price for this shining India”:
Roy’s version of India is uncompromising. The country, she says, is in “a genocidal situation, turning upon itself, colonising the lower sections of society who have to pay the price for this shining India”. Its leaders are “such poor men because they have no idea of history, of culture, of anything, except growth rates”. The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is a “pathetic figure as a human being”. Democracy is thriving “for a few people, in the better neighbourhoods of Bombay and Delhi”. The Indian elite are “like an extra state in America”. The country has a defence budget of $34bn this year. “For whom?” she asks. “For us.” In her account, there is a war taking place, not with Pakistan or China, but within India’s borders: the sham democracy has turned on its poorest citizens. More:
In the interview, Ms Elmhirst quotes a conversation with Jyotirmaya Sharma, a political scientist at the University of Hyderabad and former senior editor of the Times of India:
Sharma agrees with Roy in principle: the issues she raises, he tells me on the phone, “are first-rate”. Like Roy, he believes that large parts of the Indian state are essentially criminal in their behaviour. Yet he cannot abide the way she chooses to frame her argument, or the tone – “sanctimonious, pompous, holier than thou” – in which she expresses it. She contributes nothing, he says, to proper public debate other than cooking up a controversy in which she is the central player, “people saying we love her, we hate her”. “You cannot talk to the woman,” he says, so overbearing is her self-righteousness.
Below, Jyotirmaya Sharma’s rejoinder to the deputy editor of the New Statesman:
Dear Mr. Jon Bernstein,
Sophie Elmhirst got in touch with me two weeks ago to speak to me about Arundhati Roy. I have now seen the piece she has written. While I have no problem with the writer’s complete identification with her subject, I find her irresponsible and reckless attribution of motives to her critics untenable. All she needed to do is to find out the public profile of people like Ramachandra Guha or myself before jumping to conclusions. She further imputes that I might be criticising Roy because `but you can’t Continue reading ‘The India story’