March 22, 2017
Here is an article showing unusual balance for nowadays. Such realistic analysis is what our country is looking for.
Secular Manifesto For Change
A Yogi Adityanath could not have been elevated to CM of the country’s largest state had there not been a complete hollowing out of secular values. For those of us who still have secular stardust in our eyes, let’s recognise that secularism as practised in India has been reduced to electoral management, that first sees Muslims as a herd and then tries to keep that herd together.
It’s a vaguely insulting formulation, particularly as practitioners of the craft of secular politics have auctioned out the task of delivering the imaginary herd to a bunch of middlemen, all too often clerics or strongmen with criminal antecedents.It should be crystal clear by now that they repel others and have brought Indian Muslims to the point where candidates who presume to be the people’s representatives are unelectable and the community’s vote has been rendered ineffective.
The secular model currently offers no counter narrative to challenge Hindutva that claims to unite people above caste and region in a national symphony . All of this has been some time in the making.The clout of clerics increased ever since Congress famously capitulated before them when it overturned the Shah Bano judgment in 1986. This reinforced the “separateness“ of Muslims and contributed to the rise of BJP in national politics.
The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) was at the heart of that churning. Founded in 1973, it is a collection of clerics with a motley crew of professionals whose main purpose is to protect Sharia law. Half its members are life members who represent an orthodox male viewpoint, by default promoted by the state that swears by secularism, that actually means separation of religion and government.Frankly , the Ulema should have no complaint with Yogi Adityanath, the head of a religious order, occupying political office! The same clerics also have their hand in managing Waqf properties that can be described as religious endowments made in the name of Allah for the benefit of the poor. There are approximately 3,00,000 registered Waqf properties in India on about four lakh acres of land (the second largest land holding after Indian railways).It is a national resource that should have been developed for the welfare of the community (the Sikh community is a model to emulate here). Instead, many Waqf boards are repositories of corruption, both petty and large. Yet they get away with it because any demand for scrutiny is described as an attack on Islam.
It’s all rather pathetic. There is actually precious little that the Indian secular state has given the Muslim community except to ensure that they live for eternity in the museum of stereotypes, most notably that of the clerics who mostly talk rubbish when they showcase their views on television. The imagery of these men as “sole spokespersons“ only works to counter mobilise. The community has slipped on all human development indices yet an entire mobilisation has thrived on the argument that they are appeased. It’s true, the clerics have indeed been appeased in a manner of speaking.
The real wealth of the Muslim community lies in its artisans, weavers and craftsmen who make both functional and beautiful things with their hands. It lies in the intellectual reservoirs of poetry and literature, in music and architecture.It is a real irony that over 200 years ago a poet such as Mirza Ghalib would mock the mullahs so relentlessly while we in contemporary India were doomed to take their views so seriously .
These elections have also exposed as a zero sum game the cynical mathematical model that works with the presumed value of the Muslim vote. Indeed, a politician such as Mayawati should recognise that her projection of the mullah-meat tradermuscleman candidates fitted communal stereotyping and hurt rather than helped a community she so grandiosely set out to represent. She spoke so incessantly of Muslims that a casual visitor to Uttar Pradesh during the elections could be forgiven for getting the impression that the state was voting to elect a minority CM! Now that the shock of the verdict has registered some voices are beginning to express bitterness against the mullahpolitician nexus. A process of introspection has begun and at the very least the community must recognise that in the narrative emerging in India their only utility lies as an image that is a caricature of the multiplicity of Muslim identities in India.No one will shed tears unless the change comes from within. Here are my humble suggestions for a manifesto for change:
Tell the mullahs to restrict their activities to the masjid. Ban them (short of issuing a fatwa!) from appearing on TV . Be vocal about stating that you have different role models. Begin the process of examining the structures of law boards and Waqf boards, managed by groups of men guarding their turfs.Get professionals to create a genuine welfare structure for the community .
Ask for participation in existing government schemes instead of harping on separate identity constitutional guarantees. Build campaigns over economic issues, jobs, small loans, education and not issues such as triple talaq. Yes, you will be baited but don’t fall into the many traps.
Salvation lies in propagating the many cultural traditions that unite, not those that separate. Take on the conservative views on music, women’s right and freedoms. Highlight the pluralist traditions.
If someone comes asking for votes on the basis of fear and tells you that Muslims are supposed to be in the frontline of the battle to save secularism, turn around and tell them in that case it may not really be worth saving.
The writer is a journalist and author
January 1, 2017
Demonetisation as a monster or master
Trump in his own track or backtrack
China’s will for goodwill
Pakistan’s hate and fate
Limited glories to continue for Indian sports
Unlimited opportunities for the Indian youth
Prosperity for the whole world
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017
December 11, 2016
mourning, she has been praised by even In this week of mourning, she has been praised by even her bitter political foes. Yet this political correctness must not distort her electoral record.
Since the 1970s, power in Tamil Nadu has oscillated between the DMK and Amma’s AIADMK. The big exception was in 1984, when M G Ramachandran was re-elected.After that, every incumbent was voted out. So, when Amma was re-elected earlier this year, analysts called it spectacular, and attributed it to a record list of freebies and subsidies that supposedly won her the undying love of the masses.
That’s rubbish. Far from winning the undying love of the masses, Amma’s vote share actually crashed from almost 52% in 2011 to just over 42% in 2016. This huge anti-incumbent swing should normally have meant crushing defeat. But, luckily for her, the DMK was so confident of winning that it failed to bring small but significant parties into its alliance. The anti-incumbent vote was split, with the Third Front and PMK winning almost 11% of votes. This allowed Amma to squeak through with tiny margins in many seats. The outcome was more a DMK blunder than a great Amma victory .
To put the figures in perspective, the vote share of Amma’s alliance in her earlier victories was 59.8% in 1991, 50.1% in 2001, and 51.9% in 2011. So, the crash to barely 41% in 2016 is not evidence of some fabulous rapport with the masses. Yes, she had a core of fanatical supporters. But when I covered the election campaign, one female voter said, “Where does Amma get all this money for freebies? From the people, of course. If she then gives back some of it, should we be grateful?“ In any case Amma had no monopoly on freebies, which were espoused by all parties in the state. The DMK over the years also advocated free electricity , canal water, colour TVs and housing schemes. In the election earlier this year, it offered free WiFi connections and the waiving of farm loans.
Compared with northern states, Tamil Nadu has always enjoyed a good economic climate and government services, despite deep corruption. Fast GDP growth in the liberalisation era brought rising revenues and ever-higher freebies from both parties. But state voters proved too smart to be purchased. Despite freebies offered by both sides, voters persistently voted out incumbents for corruption and misgovernance.
This echoed the historical all-India trend. Having won India independence, the Congress dominated elections till 1989. Slow GDP growth in those pre-liberalisation days meant there was no correlation between economic growth and electoral victory . The Congress found victory as easy or difficult in fast-growing Maharashtra as in the slowgrowing BIMAROU states (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand).
Politics became a business. Governments extorted huge sums while in office, and then offered freebies to voters and bought off minor parties and vote banks to form wining alliances. Yet this did not guarantee reelection: three-quarters of all incumbents lost.
The big change came in the 2000s, when economic reforms launched by New Delhi in 1991 facilitated record growth. A new breed of chief ministers came up, mostly in the misgoverned BIMAROU states. These CMs focused on better governance and infrastructure, not freebies. Corruption and subsidies did not vanish, but cleaner politics and purposive development sparked record GDP growth. Bihar and Madhya Pradesh were in some years the fastest-growing states in India.
The electoral consequences were dramatic. Naveen Patnaik in Odisha won four elections in a row. Others won three elections in a row -Nitish Kumar in Bihar, Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh, and Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh. So did Narendra Modi in Gujarat.
Suddenly anti-incumbency was replaced by proincumbency . The trick was to shift (though not entirely) from freebies to cleaner government plus economic development. Where the government was not clean (as in several regimes in Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh), economic growth was slower and CMs did not get re-elected.
BIMAROU chief ministers chalked up far better electoral records than Amma ever did. So, even as we mourn her, let nobody think she proved that popularity is best bought by freebies.
Correction: Swaminomics on Nov 19 said 3 million Indians filed tax returns and less than 2 million paid income tax. The correct figures are 3 crore and 2 crore.