Thursday, 27 June 2019

Modi is an informed choice in 2019

(This article first appeared in Kamal Sandesh)

If in 2014 Modi was a gamble, in 2019 he has been an informed choice; if vote for Modi then was an expression of anti-incumbency, this time it has been an assertion of right choice; if Modi’14 was magic and wave, then Modi‘19 is the voice of ‘New India’ loud and clear.
While the 2019 election seems to have built up on the aspirations of 2014, there is one crucial way in which it has been different. In this election we are no longer looking through the narrow prism of old vertical identities of caste, language and religion, among others. We have now seen the rise of new interest groups such as poor, women, youth, disabled and farmers. As the old watertight and discriminatory identities are now blurring, people are now relating more to the emerging interest groups that represent their concerns better. In 2019, Modi has effectively captured the imagination of these interest groups and has come to represent the voice of an India of new identities.

Should Rahul Gandhi get rid of Leftist aides or is it still not enough to revive Congress?

(This write-up appeared as a 'Quick Take' in The Print)

Rahul Gandhi should know when you raise issues of fringe groups, you are likely to end up becoming one

Any long-lasting political victory stands on the foundation of an ideological movement. The Congress party of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi carried the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and many Gandhians were part of its politics in post-Independence era. But decades of political splits and dissensions denuded this foundation and by 2006, the advisory council led by Sonia Gandhi was already full of people who were Left-leaning.
In truth, Rahul Gandhi simply followed this pattern and it was not surprising that many of his advisers were old Communists and pushed ideas that suited them. For example, the national vice-president of any mainstream political party will not easily go to JNU to protest the arrest of a student leader charged with raising anti-India slogans. When you raise issues of fringe organisations, you are likely to end up becoming one and that is exactly what Rahul Gandhi’s Congress did in the last few years. At a time when the Lok Sabha elections were taking place in the backdrop of a major terror attack, promising abolition of AFSPA and sedition law becomes an ideological luxury that one cannot afford.
The Rahul Gandhi-led Congress, influenced by Left-leaning organisations, does not represent the value systems that it did half a century ago. While there may be structural and organisational shortcomings in Rahul Gandhi’s Congress, but the real work lies in reinventing its ideological foundation – the only thing that can ensure its survival.

Is Modi correct in saying media is biased against him in his pre-election interviews?

(This write-up appeared as a 'Quick Take' in The Print)

It is time journalists remove their tinted glasses and see Modi for the man and the PM he is

As chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi sustained a double-digit growth rate and started several innovative schemes, but was never credited in the media.
In the last five years too, Modi started several schemes that benefitted crores of people but an unbiased evaluation of these schemes was missing from the op-ed pages of the Delhi print media, especially the English media.
A section of the elite media sees him as an ‘outsider’ and approaches him with a sense of ‘otherness’. This segment does not see Modi as its representative. They are allowed to have their personal beliefs, but the problem is that it gets reflected in their professional output. Modi is an elected leader and even if journalists are unable to relate to Modi, they are duty-bound to cast their personal bias aside when making a journalistic call.
If Narendra Modi govt has built national highways at double the pace than the last government, if it has built crores of toilets, transferred more than Rs 5 lakh crore in more than 450 schemes through direct benefit transfer, or if it is talking about Dalit venture capitalist fund, then why these issues do not get as much mention as they deserve? If these schemes were implemented effectively, the benefit must have reached people from all sections of the society.
If the media were to be believed, Modi’s austerity is for shutterbugs, his interminable work hours a source of fun, and his nationalism just for show. Perhaps, this media should not be believed. Or, perhaps, it is time journalists removed their tinted glasses and see Modi for the man and the prime minister he is.

What can we expect from Narendra Modi in his second term?

(This write-up appeared as a 'Quick-Take' in The Print)

In his second term, Modi will make India more inclusive

If in 2014 Narendra Modi was a gamble, in 2019 he has been an informed choice. If the vote for Modi then was an expression of anti-incumbency, this time it has been an assertion of the right course. If Modi 1.0 was magic and wave, then Modi 2.0 is the voice of ‘New India’ loud and clear.
The Modi government was formed five years ago with the slogan of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas” and in 2019, “Sabka Vishwas” has been added to this equation. Over the span of his first term, Modi tried to reach every section of society through a range of schemes and programmes. These programmes directly benefitted over 20 crore people and it has been a result of this that the 2019 elections have defied the traditional vertical identities of caste, language and religion, among others.
We now have the rise of interest groups – women, farmers, disabled, poor – with which people associate more. Modi has emerged as the voice of these interest groups and during his second term, these groups will be heard more and more, as he moves to make a more inclusive India.
The task ahead for Modi is not easy, but he has never been the one to choose an easy goal. In Modi, India has found the leader who has the grit to take difficult decisions without electoral considerations. In the coming years, we can expect more action on the lines of ‘what must be done’ by the government instead of ‘what can be done’.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

TMC & the land of holy terror

(This article first appeared in the DNA newspaper)

A roadshow of BJP national president Amit Shah was attacked in Kolkata.  Priyanka Sharma, an activist of BJP’s youth wing, is arrested in Kolkata for making a meme of Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Journalists are heckled during election coverage in Asansol and the body of an opposition party activist is found hanging from a tree in Midnapore.
These are only some of the many incidents that signal that all is not well with democracy in the Mamata Banerjee-ruled West Bengal. The ‘Mamata model of politics’, it seems, has no room for opposition, media and free speech.

Why BJP’s startup push is better for Indians looking for jobs than Congress’ Nyay

(This article first appeared in The Print)

A leaked National Sample Survey Office report putting India’s unemployment rate at a 45-year high in 2017-18 allowed the opposition parties to blame the Narendra Modi government for not creating enough jobs in the last five years. The BJP argued back by saying that India’s youth now have new avenues for jobs, which is reflected in the country’s booming startup ecosystem, massive infrastructure development and record rise in exports.
Given the emerging complexity of the job scenario, the contradictions in various employment data become understandable. While the latest data from the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) shows that new enrolments rose to a 17-month high, the much cited NSSO data points towards the opposite direction. The near saturation of traditional employment sectors is an accepted fact. But what has largely gone undocumented is the rise of new innovation and technology driven jobs.
“Current job surveys that focus on employment in the traditional sectors no longer provide an accurate representation of job creation,” an Ernst & Young report, ‘Future of Jobs In India: A 2022 Perspective’, said while describing India’s job landscape as being in a transition phase — saturation in core sectors and parallel emergence of “new engines of job creation”. Among the trends it recognises, two are particularly relevant: absorption of surplus farm labour into self-employment/micro entrepreneurship and emergence of new opportunities created through Internet and technologies.

What tough election? A Modi wave will sweep Uttar Pradesh

(This article first appeared in DailyO

Rajesh Kumar works as an insurance agent in Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, where I met him last week during a visit. He belongs to the Dalit community and comes from a modest background. In the last five years, his family has got a house under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and a cylinder under the Ujjwala Yojana.
He said he is definitely voting for Modi in this election.
Sachendra Singh is a well-off advocate in the same region. He says Modi’s decision to carry out surgical strikes has saved the honour of the country. He thinks India is safe in Modi’s hands — and he too is voting for Modi this time.
In this region of Uttar Pradesh, people swear by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — many have been beneficiaries of his schemes and many others admire his decisive leadership. His personality cult is strong and his personal integrity is unquestioned.

Ayodhya, Bofors, Communalism: Why India needs to remember Rajiv Gandhi’s reign as PM

(This article first appeared on DailyO)

It’s 2019 and India is in the slog overs of its crucial General Elections. With just a week left, you would think that the poll pitch would now be on the wane when Prime Minister Narendra Modi — who has been the single focus point of this election — says “Rajiv Gandhi was corrupt number 1” and all hell breaks loose.
Why, 28 years after his death, was Rajiv Gandhi invoked? How is he relevant to the contemporary political debate?
This election, as has often been reiterated, is a face-off between two distinct styles of politics that have taken shape in India. These two, today, are manifested in the form of the Narendra Modi-led BJP, on the one hand, and the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress on the other.
These two leaders represent two different narratives of Indian politics.
Prime Minister Modi, over the last five years, has come to stand for development, nationalism and security. However, the Congress still functions as a fiefdom of the Nehru-Gandhi family with the party president, Rahul Gandhi, flaunting the legacy of his father, the late Rajiv Gandhi. To many, it continues to represent the narrative of dynasty, appeasement and corruption and, without a doubt, to my mind and several others, Rajiv Gandhi was the epitome of this brand of politics.

Is BJP manifesto strong enough to make voters bring back Narendra Modi in May 2019?

(My take was published in the 'Talk Point' segment of ThePrint) 

BJP manifesto is practical, visionary and inclusive

While releasing the BJP Sankalp Patra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented a grand vision of a developed and prosperous India by 2047 and stressed that 2019-2024 would be the period to lay the foundation.
He said nationalism is the inspiration, antyodaya is the philosophy and good governance is the motto of the BJP.
Detractors have always been dismissive of the PM but what they fail to see in his choice of words and ideas is that he has managed to not only meet the aspirations of the people but also push them to desire for more and better.
This push for bigger objectives and the possibility of achieving a ‘great Indian dream’ are mirrored in the Sankalp Patra.
The Sankalp Patra presents 75 ‘resolves’ that are practical, visionary as well as inclusive. The manifesto talks about gaon (village), garib (poor), kisan (farmer), yuva (youth), as well as the middle class and neo-middle class. In this sense, it reflects collective as well as individual aspirations of our diverse electorate. The manifesto stresses on inclusive growth and has a nationalist vision. It offers a new security doctrine of ‘offensive defence’.
Farmers get significant attention with stress on doubling income and no interest on loans up to Rs 1 lakh via farmer credit card. It promises pension for marginal farmers, small shopkeepers and unorganised sector workers, and financial support of Rs 6,000 to all farmers.
People will vote for this manifesto not because it promises them sops but because it promises to make them resource creators.
This is a very strong document that is not just the manifesto of a party but the vision of a country.

Taking a pro-Modi stand: Why we are running the Academics4NaMo campaign

(This article first appeared on DailyO)

The campaign for the 2019 General Election is in full swing. It is the time when political leaders have hit poll trails, party offices are buzzing, and the news is full of who said what, where and when. In this milieu, it is easy to forget the larger picture — that the 2019 election is not a battle of seats or candidates or sops or data.
It is a battle of narratives and ideas.

Modi is the agenda
When Narendra Modi took the Prime Minister’s seat five years ago, the nation had voted decidedly against corruption and for a development model. In 2019, to my mind, Modi has come to represent a decisive, far-sighted and clean government that is willing to take chances for long-term goals and refuses to give in to pressure tactics.
As the country gets ready to vote, Modi himself has become the agenda.