NOW WHO WILL BUY IT? NO ONE. EXCEPT AAP.

Well, today was another step in the ‘unravelling’ saga of the uncommon common man Arvind Kejriwal and his uncommon ‘common men’ party, the Aam Aadmi Party.

After presenting a budget that was not innovative enough to the promises he had made while he was asking for votes (apart from hiking budgetary allocation on education), his government today hiked the upper limit on the Value Added Tax (VAT) in Delhi by 10%.

That gives the Delhi government, led by Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party, flexibility to ‘manoeuvre”. Now, what will they ‘manoeuvre’, only they know. On its part, the government is saying the move is not about ‘price increase’.

Now who will buy it?

No one.

Except the AAP.

And there are reasons behind it.

In the run-up to the elections, the AAP announced many populist sops including free Wi-Fi, schools, hospitals, free water and low electricity tariff. The overall list is long and beyond scalable limits. Even Arvind Kejriwal admitted, after winning the absolute majority, that he was not looking at fulfilling ‘all the promises’ he had made.

Now, all that requires money and Kejriwal has already started the process, by subsidizing electricity and water. There are no innovative proposals to raise more money to fund these ‘populist measures’ but empty rhetoric like the one Manish Sisodia, the deputy chief minister, proposed today. His ‘common sense’ wisdom told us today that a common Delhiite was able to save some money (in thousands) thanks to his government’s anti-corruption efforts.

So, the ‘common’ Delhiites have more monetary resources to meet the ends now – with the AAP’s grace. That eases some of the burden of the populist promises. For others, some that the government wants to meet in light of the upcoming polls, with continuation of the most populist measures like subsidies of water and electricity, there are flexible ‘manoeuvrability’ measures like the one proposed today.

No one is buying the government’s arguments and reports have already started saying that prices are to set to increase after the AAP government hiked the upper limit of the VAT from 20% to 30%.

On the contrary, the first policy move of the government post ‘Swaraj’ budget is set to increase prices of cooking fuels and fuel oils. That will have a cascading effect on other items for sure – as another ‘common sense’ wisdom says.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

NDA GOVERNMENT MISSED THIS OPPORTUNITY

Sushma Swaraj says she won’t resign. Vasundhara Raje Scindia says she won’t resign. Pankaja Munde says he won’t resign. Smriti Irani says she won’t resign.

They all say they haven’t done anything wrong. They all say they did, whatever they did, was in good faith. They say opposition is gunning with empty cartridges.

Their party is defending them.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has maintained a stoic silence on related developments. Expecting that he would word his opinion on these matters during his monthly radio talk programme, Mann Ki Baat, was just an expectation. As expected, he did not speak anything even remotely related.

Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitely and other leaders and spokespersons are busy proving innocence of the leaders in question. Yes, they know they have a tough job to do but they also know that they will get through in the prevailing political situation.

Yes, the kind of response Narendra Modi got on his electoral promises did qualify for a changed course to look the norms of political probity, something that is the normal course as the humanity defines, but the first test-case is now a missed opportunity.

The ministers in question should have resigned much earlier, taking the exit route on their own, till they came clean. Contrary to the perceptions that it would have emboldened Congress and the political opposition to charge the government even more, the move would ensured more points of political credibility for Narendra Modi.

Public’s trust in the new political entrant Aam Aadmi Party is an example of that. Yes, the AAP has come in a self-destruct mode within three years, but it won because it promised to change the course of politics to what we have forgotten – targeting corruption and following a life of probity.

Like Rahul Gandhi has missed it – like his delayed visits to farmers in Maval – like his ‘reaction’ on the Lokpal Bill – Narendra Modi, too, missed it this time. He and his government would have out stronger in both cases – if the ministers would be guilty – or they would have proven their detractors wrong – deriving strength from following what ‘is morally correct’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

NO PLACE FOR ETHICS IN TODAY’S POLITICS

It is true there is no place for ethics in the politics of the day.

Had it been so, Sushma Swara, Vasundhara Raje Schindia, Smriti Irani, Vinod Tawde and some more BJP members would have resigned or would have apologised for their roles in the alleged controversies related to them.

Had it been so, Congress would have come clean on Robert Vadra and other scams and controversies related to the party leaders.

Had it been so, some politicians would not go so berserk in different Indian states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal among others.

Had it not been so, we would not be talking about the ‘practical norms’ of the politics of the day where ethics have no space left, where every political outfit is seen on the same platform when it comes to follow the value-system.

Had it not been so, the elector would not have gone with a new political entity, the Aam Aadmi Party, with no history and credentials. Unfortunately, that experiment has started losing its steam within few months only and the deterioration looks ‘planned’ and irreversible. Before the assembly polls this February, the BJP had eight months to deliver but couldn’t gauge the mood.

Had it not been so, the dynasty politics would not be a debatable issue in Indian politics.

Had it not been so, family-bias, nepotism and political corruption would not have become so routine, like it has become now.

Had it not been so, politicians would not consider themselves in a different, higher class than us. Had it not been so, we would not have such a common VIP culture.

So, unless and until it becomes too impossible to ignore, unless and until it becomes too corrosive to hurt electoral prospects, the leaders named in the Lalit Modi controversy would not step down. Yes, the BJP is at the receiving end this time, but it knows it is in the government and even the opposition has many weak spots and it knows next parliamentary elections are four years away. The BJP strategists know the political opposition is trying to squeeze in the maximum political mileage from the ongoing episode and they are ‘focused’ at minimizing it.

So, Arvind Kejriwal didn’t ask Jitendra Singh Tomar to step down when questions were first raised about ‘fake degrees’ of the law minister. Ideally, Arvind should not have made him minister because the row around his degrees precedes his electoral victory. Probably, he feels he is safely home for at least five years.

So, Indian politics is dominated by personality cults around political parties and political parties evolving and revolving around a person or a family.

So, a norm sans ‘ethics’ – in the name of being practical – has become the political pragmatism of the day.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MASALA FILMS: SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS WHILE WATCHING KARMA

(While watching Karma  – a Hindi blockbuster movie by Subhash Ghai, starring Dilip Kumar, Nutan, Anil Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah, Jackie Shroff, Anupam Kher, Sridevi and Poonam Dhillon)

Some of the Hindi blockbuster movies made by some of the biggest names in the industry – the A-league directors – and starring some of the biggest actors – contradict the ‘fact’ that cinema is a serious communication tool – though indeed it is.

It is, in fact, the most serious communication tool for ‘soft power’ projections, exploited exceedingly well by the United States of America.

We may not know what is Scotland Yard or RAW but we certainly know what is FBI or what is CIA. Even Israel has done well on that front. People the world over know what is Mossad. We may not know ISRO or ESA but we certainly know what is NASA.

Anyway, ‘masala’ is a tried and tasted genre of filmmaking in India – a melodrama of action, comedy and romance. Here, with this genre, that is an unspoken norm in films across India, filmmakers aim for an entertainment product that can give them handsome return. In doing so, they try to stuff every ‘hit’ formula in products (films), irrespective of the elements of logic, to pull the cinema-goers.

A big production house, a famed director, the ivy-league actors, a good music and now a days, an efficient marketing – any of these elements or a combination of these elements can ensure handsome return for a ‘masala’ movie – even if the elements of logic are largely or completely ignored.

A holistic treatment for a ‘masala’ movie, something that we see in the cult Hindi hit Sholay, is not found in most of the films. And that is the case with this movie also.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

FRIDAY’S TERROR ATTACK IN FRANCE..

A suspected Islamic terrorist beheaded one person in an attack that didn’t happen in some Middle-East or in some crisis-torn African nation. It happened in France. And within six months of the deadly attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 9 in Paris. In an Islamic State orchestrated attack, terrorists had killed almost entire editorial staff of the magazine behind the controversial cartoons of the Prophet. No one has taken responsibility of today’s attack yet but the signs are clear.

Reports say attacker targeted an American gas and chemicals company, Air Products, which has an Iranian-born Shiite CEO, in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier in South-Eastern France. The target says much – an American company with a Shia CEO in an  European country that is also an important ally of the US in ‘coordinated’ aerial attacks on the IS. Yes, the attacker didn’t get the ‘scale of destruction’ right, but if he was trying to send a terror message, he was obviously on the spot.

The perpetrators of the deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo are dead but the world doesn’t know about their allies. Also, wife of one of the terrorists, who attacked a Jewish store, reportedly fled France successfully to join the IS.

Also, the French Police say they, so far – had thwarted five terror strikes since the Charlie Hebdo attack.

But they could not thwart this one. The sixth happened today. And it is not about the dead-count, it is about the message.

The Arabic inscriptions on severed head, on beheaded body and on flags tell all and the IS, sooner or later, will take responsibility or will come with a statement glorifying the attack. After all, it’s a propaganda savvy terror outfit with a ‘larger than country Caliphate’ ambition.

With this attack in France (with a beheading) on a day that also saw two big terror attacks by the IS (or its affiliates) in two different continents, Kuwait in Asia and Tunisia in Africa, terrrorsts have tried to send their message once again – through killings and destruction – like the IS does so everyday in its area of control – like it’s propaganda videos of brutal executions show. The attacks were coordinated across three continents on a Friday, around the prayer time, in the holy month of Ramadan.

The war, if we say so, has proved a show of reluctance so far, with limited achievements that have failed to deter the IS. The ‘so-called’ coordinated attacks have been dragging on for months but the IS remains a major force in North and West Iraq and in large parts of Syria. And as long as it remains so, even a status-quo will keep threatening the world with more terror designs.

Today’s were, in three countries, across three continents, certainly one (or some) of them.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

IT IS TRUE 25 JUNE 1975 IS DARKEST DAY OF INDIAN DEMOCRACY BUT..

Yes, it is true June 25, 1975 is the darkest day in the world’s largest democracy, a blot on the free spirit a democracy is meant for.

40 years ago, India was pushed to a dictatorship. Civil liberties were suspended and every dissent in any form was crushed.

A widespread mass movement was organized against it and people protested wherever they could – explicitly or while they were underground. More than a lakh were imprisoned including all political opponents of Indira Gandhi.

June 25, 2915 was the 40th anniversary of that black day – a milestone event on the timeline of The Emergency in India.

But while remembering the day and the ‘excesses’ that it brought, we also need to think that it didn’t reflect comprehensively in the electoral outcomes of 1977 and was totally overturned in 1980.

Why I say the reaction was not comprehensive in 1977 is based on the fact that Congress still got 154 of the 542 Lok Sabha seats and 34.52% votes. The Janata Party alliance, which fought 1977 polls on the Bhartiya Lok Dal (BLD) symbol, got 295 seats and 41.32% votes.

Five national parties, CPI, CPM, NCO, BLD and INC, in 1977 polls got 84.67% of votes together while state parties could get just 8.80% votes. Of this 84.67%, Congress and the BLD together got 75.84% votes.

So, in spite of all the protests and negative words against Indira Gandhi, Congress (or her Congress) remained the major political force in India. In fact, Congress did well in South Indian states. It won 41 seats of 42 in Andhra Pradesh, 26 of 28 in Karnataka, 11 of 20 in Kerala (its alliance partner CPI won another four in the state) and 14 of 39 in Tamil Nadu while its alliance partner Anna Dramuk won 17 seats taking the state tally to 31. Congress also did well in Assam and was a major opposition force in Gujarat and Maharashtra.

On the other side, the BLD’s good show was due to the alliance sweeping Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and its further good show in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Haryana and Gujarat. In states like West Bengal, Punjab and Maharashtra, its alliance partners did well taking the overall Janata Party alliance numbers higher.

So, political (and social) opposition of Congress in the first election after The Emergency, that was called by Indira Gandhi, was not uniform across India. And it was led by a loosely connected political alliance that became its undoing in the next three years giving Congress a chance to make electoral comeback.

And Indira Gandhi made a grand comeback in 1980, winning 353 of 529 seats with 42.69% vote share. Janata Party was reduced to a stature of a distant runner-up with 18/97% votes.

Why it happened so?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

HOPE THE EMERGENCY BE NEVER EMERGENT AGAIN

My reflections on life – in quotes

“40 years:
Hope ‘The Emergency’ never gets the occasion to become emergent again.
We cherish our democracy and will work out its loopholes.”

 

Emergency 1

HOPE THE EMERGENCY BE NEVER EMERGENT AGAIN

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

DEAR POLITICIANS AND BUREAUCRATS: CAN’T YOU VOLUNTARILY GIVE UP SUBSIDY IN PARLIAMENT CANTEENS?

Well, if Narendra Modi can request his countrymen to do so for LPG cylinders (liquefied petroleum gas cylinders, main cooking fuel in houses where PNG or ‘piped natural gas’ has not reached – or families that can and can somehow afford it), his government can certainly push the fellow members and their officials and officials of the Parliament and the Government to give up the ‘huge subsidy’ – ranging from 60% to over 100% (in some cases, a dish with raw material cost of Rs. 99 is served for Rs. 33) – on food in the Parliament canteens.

Congress has supported the move. Parliamentarians can give it up voluntarily. Or, they can come with a yardstick. Also, it is a popular issue politically – like Arvind Kejriwal successfully cashed the electoral popularity of ‘VIP culture’ in Delhi polls – most members (of Parliament) would be forced to look positive to such measures. Some may oppose the move but their count would not be enough to obstruct a decision to this effect. And if the politicians there support it, we can count the bureaucrats in.

Now, for the point – as told reportedly – that politicians alone cannot be blamed for the practice – well, politicians and well-to-do bureaucrats are to be blamed for it.

On March 27, Narendra Modi had appealed – as the Times of India writes – “People who can afford buying LPG at market rates should give up subsidy on cooking gas. Money we save from giving up LPG subsidy is the money we will use for the poor, so that they have access to clean energy too.”

It is now almost three months to that statement. MPs and bureaucrats could have set a precedent for masses by refusing subsidized food items in the Parliament. Alternatively, they could have come up with a mechanism to fix market price of each item to pay accordingly.

They did not do it. They have not done it. Would they do it now?

It is not for the Rs. 60.7 crore subsidy given to the Parliament canteens in the last five years, as Subhash Chandra Agrawal’s RTI reply reveals. It is a very small amount when we count the overall government expenditure on politicians. It is about the message that such gesture would send to the masses – in times, when we are moving towards a ‘subsidy free’ governance – in times, when economists urge for the ‘pressing need’ to do so – in times, when the government looks convinced to do so.

The prices that have not been revised since December 2010 look ridiculously low. After all, where do we get a ‘masala dosa’ for Rs. 6 or ‘boiled vegetables’ at Rs. 5? And the long ‘ridiculously funny’ list is replete with such examples. And it is not in the canteens of the Parliament. We have other such spots on the ‘subsidy freeway’ where wrong people are enjoying such perks.

Parliament canteens can set a precedent for all such folks. Would our Parliamentarians, bureaucrats and other ‘financially capable’ people relishing such ‘subsidized delicacies’ do so?

Would they voluntarily give up the subsidy on food items in the Parliament canteens beginning with the Monsoon Session that is from July 21?

Would they pay the ‘market prices’ with ‘service tax’ as every Indian is expected to pay (and has to pay) till the issue is fixed?

And since any such move will be ‘self-driven’, ‘altruistic’ and ‘voluntary, it will take care of those ‘who really need subsidized food items’ from the Indian Parliament canteens.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

AN EVENING AT HYDERABAD’S JAGANNATH TEMPLE – IN IMAGES (II)

PHOTOGRAPHY

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AN EVENING AT HYDERABAD’S JAGANNATH TEMPLE

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

AN EVENING AT HYDERABAD’S JAGANNATH TEMPLE – IN IMAGES (I)

PHOTOGRAPHY

JTH-1 - W

JTH-3 - W

JTH-4 - W

JTH-7 - W

AN EVENING AT HYDERABAD’S JAGANNATH TEMPLE

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/