VARANASI VIBES: IN GOD’S OWN CITY
THE GHAT LIFE AS THE GANGA FLOWS
INDIA’S OLDEST LIVING CITY – INDIA’S HERITAGE AND CULTURAL CAPITAL – AND THE WORLD’S SPIRITUAL CAPITAL THROUGH RANDOM CLICKS
There were many in India who felt like celebrating Diwali on Donald Trump’s shock win the US polls, a win that has sent shockwaves across the world. Some even went ahead, from the class of political herds with borrowed mentality, to perform hawans on Trump’s victory.
Even if the Trump’s victory bitterly divided America, Indians those who liked to see things from a ‘Trumpian’ mirror, saw their liberator, their saviour in Donald Trump, who has very real chances to emerge as the most inept US president so far.
For them, the irony could never be stark, could never be darker than its contours.
An Indian has become the target of hate crime that threatens the American social weaving. A Hyderabad engineer, working in the US, has been shot and killed in a mad rush increasing Trumpism in the US society. His friend, a Hyderabadi Indian, got seriously injured. Someone killed him because he didn’t like outsiders on the US soil.
And these ‘someones’ are in multitudes, voting for Trump, fuelled by his lethal speeches that show his hatred for immigrants, racial minority and Muslims.
After his travel ban plan was halted by the courts, Trump is now talking of ‘military disciplined’ deportation of immigrants that include some 300,000 Indians.
1. JAWAHAR LAL NEHRU: RAM LALLA IDOL WAS PLACE INSIDE BABRI MASJID ON THE INTERVENING NIGHT OF DEC 22-23, 1949. HE IS PRIMARILY BLAMED FOR NOT REALIZING THE POTENTIAL THREAT THAT THE ISSUE WOULD BECOME, THUS ADOPTING A SOFT APPROACH. IT IS SAID THAT NEHRU COULD NEVER FIND TIME TO VISIT AYODHYA FOR THE ISSUE THAT SHOWS HE COULD NEVER FIND IT POTENT ENOUGH TO MAKE A PRIORITY.
2. INDIRA GANDHI: IT IS SAID THAT SHE TOOK THE DECISION TO OPEN THE BABRI MASJID LOCKS. MANY INCLUDE AG NOORANI SAY THAT. THE ANALYSTS OPINE THAT IT WAS A CONSIOUS STRATEGY OF HER HINDU CARD POLITICS. PV NARASIMHA RAO, IN HIS BOOK ‘AYODHYA: 6 DEC 1992’ WRITES THAT ‘INDIRA GANDHI HAD ASKED TO PREPARE VARIOUS PLANS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF AYODHYA’. ALSO IT IS DURING INDIRA GANDHI’S TENURE THAT THE BABRI-RAM JAMNABHOOMI ISSUE TOOK POLITICAL CONTOURS FROM BEING A LARGELY RELIGIOUS ISSUE.
3. RAJIV GANDHI: OPENED THE LOCKS ON FEB 1, 1986. POLITICAL COMPULSIONS FORCED HIM TO PLAY THE HINDU CARD. HE OPENED THE PADLOCK AMID THE GLEAMING CAMERA LENSES TO SEND OUT THE MESSAGE. THOUGH HE WAS ARMED WITH A DISTRICT MEGISTRATE ORDER, HIS GOVERNMENT NEVER THOUGHT TO APPEAL AGAINST IT.
4. RAJIV GANDHI: ALLOWED THE RAM TEMPLE SHILANYAS BY THE VISHWA HINDU PARISHAD TO HAPPEN ON NOV 9, 1989, AGAIN A CONSCIOUS PLOY OF HINDU CARD POLITICS. HE WAS PRIME MINISTER TILL DECEMBER 2 BUT COULDN’T FIND LEGAL WAYS TO DERAIL OR STOP THE LIKES OF THE VHP.
5. PV NARASIMHA RAO: HE IS BLAMED FOR FAILING TO PREVENT BABRI DEMOLITION ON DEC 6, 1992. RAO IS BLAMED FOR CONSCIOUSLY IGNORING THE SIGNALS THAT A DEMOLITION WAS CERTAIN. HE DECIDED TO GO BY THE WORDS OF KALYAN SINGH WHO HAD TAKEN A VOW TO THE BUILD THE RAM TEMPLE IN AYODHYA THAN PEOPLE LIKE JYOTI BASU, ARJUN SINGH AND HIS OWN UNION HOME SECRETARY. FORMER PM VP SINGH BLAMED HIM FOR CRIMINAL NEGLIGENE. ANOTHER FORMER PM CHANDRA SHEKHAR BLAMED HIM FOR ‘DELIBERATE DERELICTION OF DUTY’.
DETAILED RESEARCH BASED ARTICLE TO FOLLOW.
The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified and extended.
First the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, then the 2014 Maharashtra assembly polls and now the Maharashtra civic polls, they are point to this – that the ‘who is the big brother in Shiv Sena-BJP alliance in Maharastra’ story that began with the Maharashtra assembly polls in October 2014, has seen its climax in place now and we can say the BJP is going to be the ultimate big brother in a BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra, if indeed the alliance continues.
The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has ruled India’s richest civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for the last 20 years but both parties were contesting these Maharashtra civic polls separately. Their electoral rivalry saw both parties placing bitter allegations and using choices of words to paint each other in a negative light.
But in the end, the BJP has emerged as the clear winner, not only in the BMC where it is neck to neck with Shiv Sena in the final tally but in the overall tally of the Maharashtra civic polls. The BJP has won 471 seats in all 10 municipal corporations where polls were held, gaining majority in 8 out of 10. It is over two fold jump from BJP’s tally of 205 in 2012 Maharashtra civic polls.
And it is stellar in the BMC, from 31 in 2012 to 82 in 2017.
As per the information available so far as the counting is still on in some places, while Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are the biggest losers, crashing down from 529 seats in 2012 from 207 seats in 2012, Shiv Sena, too, has been given a rough treatment by the voters. The party had got 227 seats in the 2012 Maharashtra civic polls which stands at 215 now. And though it has claimed that the BJP has not gone up in the BMC at Shiv Sena’s expense, its marginal rise, from 75 seats in 2012 to 84 in 2017, is certainly not a consolation when seen in the context of the huge gains made by the BJP. Now, if the Shiv Sena has to continue with its run in the BMC, it will have to go with the BJP, who claims support of four independents, to cross the majority mark of 114 in 227 members strong BMC. And it will certainly be on BJP’s terms now.
But the Shiv Sena setback story had begun much before.
THE 2014 SCRIPT REPEATED
The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance for the Maharashtra civic polls got the same fate, in the same manner, as it had happened before the 2014 assembly polls. Based on its performance in the Lok Sabha and assembly polls in Maharashtra, the BJP was demanding 114 seats to contest out of BMC’s 227 seats and was not ready to go down below 105 seats. The Shiv Sena, citing 2012 BMC results, when the Shiv Sena had won 75 seats, contesting on 135 seats, more than double of the BJP’s score of 31 wins, refused to compromise. The BJP then had contested on 63 seats. The Shiv Sena didn’t accept the BJP’s demand and instead chose to split the alliance that was in place since 1997.
THE 2014 FIASCO
2014 saw the Shiv Sena splitting its decades old alliance with the BJP to save its ‘big brother’ status and then rejoining the BJP in a humiliating setback. Out of NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena, the biggest setback went to Shiv Sena. It was the biggest loser in spite of registering growth, in seats and in vote share.
For just 5 seats, the Shiv Sena lost the ‘big brother’ or senior ally tag in Maharashtra, and that too, by a huge margin. Though it was the second largest party in Maharashtra assembly, their 63 seats were nowhere near to the BJP’s 122 seats, given the fact that the BJP had been the junior partner of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and was ready to compromise even during the last assembly polls in October 2014, agreeing to contest on lesser number of seats than the Shiv Sena in the failed seat-sharing talks. The BJP, with 15 assembly constituencies, had won more seats even in Mumbai than the Shiv Sena’s 14 seats.
The BJP had performed exceedingly well in the Lok Sabha elections cornering maximum number of Lok Sabha seats from Maharashtra that sends 48 members to the parliament and therefore its demand didn’t seem misplaced. In 2014 the LS polls, the BJP had won 23 seats with 27% vote share while the Shiv Sena had 18 seats with 21% vote share. It was a considerable improvement for both. The BJP had taken up its tally from 9 LS seats and 19% vote share in 2009 to 23 seats in 2014. The Shiv Sena also did very well taking up its tally from 10 seats to 18 seats with 17% vote share in 2009.
But the Shiv Sena’s performance was not at par with its junior ally of the past, when seen in comparison with the BJP’s rising graph in the state. Even in the perceived citadel of the Shiv Sena, in Mumbai, the BJP, with 15 assembly constituencies, won more seats that the Shiv Sena’s 14 in the 2014 assembly polls. In 2009 assembly polls, the junior partner of the alliance had won two seats more (46) than the Shiv Sena’s 44 seats. And when it simply outperformed everyone in the Lok Sabha polls registering 8% increase in vote share and over 150% increase in seats, it was right to expect for more.
The BJP had a symbolic edge over the Shiv Sena with 2009 assembly election results but the 2014 LS polls outcome placed it much ahead of all others, including the Shiv Sena. The Shiv Sena had to realize it and should have appreciated when the BJP didn’t ask for sky-high price for its electoral edge. But alleging the BJP of the ‘big brother’ attitude, the Shiv Sena refused to budge and the seat-sharing talks and thus the alliance collapsed.
THE HUMILIATING RETURN
The BJP went on to form the government in Maharashtra in 2014, even if it was 23 seats short of the majority mark in the 288-member strong Maharashtra assembly. The NCP offer of unconditional outside support had taken whatever sheen the Shiv Sena was left with in a post-election scenario of the hung assembly.
In the 2014 assembly polls, the BJP won more than what the Shiv Sena was offering, 119 seats. Had it been in the alliance, even if with 5 more seats, BJP would not have been able to win so many seats. What BJP was demanding was modest. What Shiv Sena’s refusal gave it was grand. And what Shiv Sena lost was grander, costing it the ‘senior alliance partner’ position, and the leverage in the national politics.
So much so, that in order to remain relevant in Maharashtra politics, the Shiv Sena had to compromise and join the Devendra Fadnavis government in December 2014. But the political flow since then shows their hearts could never meet. Even if it rejoined the alliance, the Shiv Sena always acted like a squabbling partner, always sparring in public with its pet line that ‘the BJP should not take the Shiv Sena’s support for granted’ and its ministers in the alliance government were always ready to submit their resignations. It shows the Shiv Sena could never make itself comfortable with the fact that it is now the BJP that will dictate the terms. Even today, a day that proved the meteoric rise of the BJP in Maharashtra politics, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray went on to claim that not just the next Mumbai mayor but even the next Maharashtra chief minister will be from the Shiv Sena.
Now this boomeranged. Shobhaa De, who defines herself as a ‘journalist, columnist, social commentator, opinion-shaper and author of 18 books’ as per her Twitter bio, tried to shape an opinion here, even if it intended to begin a series light-hearted conversation or a ‘pun-intended corollary’ or a simple ‘absent-minded’ attempt to draw a humorous marker.
But it didn’t go down well. The pun was on her and it was so direct and open, unlike ‘her intended pun’, that she was forced to backtrack and had to come forward to issue clarification that she ‘didn’t intend to offend anyone’. But then, in the style of ‘old habits don’t go’, she ended up giving advice to the Madhya Pradesh Police to ‘consult a dietician if indeed the image of the overweight policeman was authentic’.
We all saw what the Mumbai Police response did here. Let’s see how the Madhya Pradesh Police responds, if at all it goes to respond.
It was began yesterday. Mumbaikars were voting for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls and as happens, the security apparatus of the city was geared up to meet the occasion with heavy police deployment. The election process went on smoothly and the day thankfully passed without any incident.
But Shobhaa De, the famed but controversial socialite of Mumbai social circles, known for especially her controversial tweets these days, thought to take a different take on this heavy police deployment. She tweeted ‘heavy police bandobast in Mumbai today!’ with an old photograph of an overweight policeman thrust somehow in a plastic chair. The photograph is a Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp favourite and has done rounds and rounds of social media circulation.
Now it was for Shobaa De only to clarify what was her intention behind tweeting her mind with photograph but the Mumbai Police certainly did not like it, ‘even if there was an intended pun in Shobhaa De’s tweet’
The Mumbai Police tweeted to express its displeasure, tagging Shobhaa De and her tweet, and pinned it as well. It said it too loved jokes but certainly not the ones in bad taste, like this one by Shobhaa De. And it certainly expected a better corollary from a responsible citizen like Shobhaa De.
After this Mumbai Police tweet, now the joke was on Shobhaa De. Twitterati soon began slamming Shobhaa De and it is still continued unabated.
And we can say the Janata consensus can be summed in comedian Suresh Menon’s response. Responding to the Mumbai Police tweet, he wrote, “well said Mumbai Police, but please forgive Shobha aunty. It’s called attempted humour cum hallucinations as age sets in.”
Right or wrong, Shobhaa De has been in multiple controversies with her tweets. She was slammed for Rio selfie tweet where she mocked the Indian contingent at Rio Olympics last August, “Goal of Team India at the Olympics: Rio jao. Selfies lo. Khaali haat wapas aao. What a waste of money and opportunity.”
She had objection on prime minister Narendra Modi being called a rockstar for his speech to the Indian Diaspora at Dubai Cricket Stadium for which she was widely panned, “Can we please stop referring to India’s Prime Minister as a ‘Rockstar’!!!! Hello!Dubai. He isn’t from Bollywood!”
Or for instance, her ‘beef and compulsory Marathi films screening’ tweet targeting Devendra Fadnavis, “Devendra ‘Diktatwala’ Fadnavis is at it again!!!From beef to movies. This is not the Maharashtra we all love! Nako!Nako! Yeh sab roko!” for which she got privilege notice from the Maharashtra Legislature.
The Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa today visited the Line of Control (LoC). Like has been the tradition, he used the occasion to spew venom against India. He termed India terror sponsor of the region and said that the Pakistan Army is fully geared up to protect Pakistan. Seeing a pattern in the alleged cease fire violations (CFVs) by India, he repeated Pakistan’s favourite Kashmir rant vowing to save people of Kashmir, that Pakistan calls Azad Kashmir and that is in illegal occupation of Pakistan, from the Indian aggression and assured Pakistan’s continued solidarity with people of Jammu and Kashmir, the remaining bigger part of the state that is an integral part of India.
Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, spokesperson of the Pakistan Armed Forces, tweeted a video of Gen Bajwa’s LoC visit.
Pakistan is blamed for perpetrating terror in Pak-occupied-Kashmir and running it through a puppet government and pushing terrorists and promoting terrorism and unrest in Jammu and Kashmir. The world recognizes its propaganda and no major power stands with Pakistan when it comes to its absurd claims on Kashmir.
In fact, there has been a growing global consensus that Pakistan is the new terror backyard of the world, harbouring and sheltering terrorists who threaten the global peace, be it Taliban and its factions or Al Qaeda or the Haqqani Network or LeT or JeM or countless others. The recent move to ban Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT) front Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and its chief Hafiz Saeed is most probably a drama that tells the world community how shameless Pakistan has become on this front. People say the sham crackdown on Hafiz Saeed is under the US pressure but we should not forget that the US bounty of $10 million on Saeed is in place since 2012. And then, Osama bin Laden was also hunted down and killed in Pakistan.
But continuing the tradition of Pak doublespeak on Kashmir, Gen Bajwa blamed CFVs by India as ‘efforts to divert the world attention from the so-called Indian atrocities against the Kashmiris’.
India and Pakistan consistently blame each-other for CFVs and summon each other’s High Commissions officials regularly to lodge their official protests. Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) says India committed at least 178 CFVs last year in which 19 civilians lost their lives. Hansraj Ahir, MoS Home, India stated in a written reply in the Lok Sabha that Pakistan violated cease fire some 450 times last year, with around 300 of them after India’s successful surgical strike in Pak-occupied-Kashmir in September 2016 to eliminate terror camps. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), 28 people including 13 security forces personnel in Jammu and Kashmir lost their lives in CFVs by Pakistan in 2016.
Another part of Gen Bajwa’s rhetoric today was about Kulbhushan Yadav, the alleged Indian spy in Pakistan’s custody. He said that Kulbhushan Yadav is the ‘evidence of Indian designs to support terror in Pakistan and the region’. But ever since Yadav’s arrest in March 2016, that Indian intelligence agencies say was an act of abduction, Pakistan’s has denied every Indian request to provide consular access to him. Instead, Pakistan has been using every sort of propaganda, including Yadav’s coerced confessional video statement, to shed crocodile tears that it is a victim of Indian sponsored terror in Pakistan.
India has very clearly said that Kulbhushan Yadav was indeed an Indian Navy officer but after his retirement, the Indian government had no connection with him but Pakistan is hell-bent on proving him a serving Indian Navy officer. But in spite of all its grandstanding before the world, no one in the world community has bought the Pakistani claims. Pakistan’s propaganda in this case becomes clear from the fact that even its own Foreign Affairs Advisor, Sartaj Aziz, has accepted that there is no enough proof to convict Yadav and additional evidence needs to be collected.
The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified and extended.
The Pakistani army has denied that its chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had asked his officers to emulate the values of Indian democracy. In a tweet, Major Gen Asif Ghafoor, spokesman of the Pakistan armed forces, have said that the ‘news/comments quoting COAS (chief of the army staff)’ address to officers at Rawalpindi regarding book ‘Army and Nation’ is a disinformation’.
Gen Bajwa’s photograph is tagged with the tweet which further clarifies its context with an incomplete caption that reads ‘army officers should learn from Indian democracy, says Pakistan army chief Qamar J…’ – essentially a poor damage control act after Gen Bajwa’s vision for the Pakistani army was widely reported in the Indian media.
On February 13, Pakistan’s newspaper The Nation had published a piece on its new army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa’s vision for the Pakistan’s army as told by him during his first official address to his colleagues in December 2016.
Titled ‘Coordination, not competition, with civilians: The Army Chief’s Glasnost’, among many other things, the article had quoted the Pak army chief saying something that was so unlike Pak army that it caught immediate international attention. Gen Bajwa, in no unequivocal terms, as The Nation piece puts it, conveyed to his colleagues that the Pak army must remain within the constitutional role defined for it and must not meddle in affairs of the civilian government.
Saying a civilian Vs military dichotomy is always ‘counter-productive for a country and the army should have no ‘business in running the government’, he advised his colleagues to read “Army and Nation”, a book written by Yale University professor Steven I Wilkinson, a well received book that details how India has emerged as a successful democracy with civilian supremacy over its military establishment.
Gen Asif Ghafoor’s tweet, that is the first official denial from the Pak army on the issue, looks like a shabby, reluctant attempt to damage control. It might have been driven by this afterthought that the Pak army has always been in control in Pakistan and such views by its army chief may be seen undermining its supremacy in the society. Coming five days later of The Nation piece, the tweet clarification conveys a half-hearted attempt at best that sounds too little, too late. Had it been so alarming, we would have seen a denial the same day the article appeared, like it happened with India’s surgical strike inside Pak-occupied-Kashmir. Within hours, the Pak army had forced its political establishment to toe its line to deny any Indian surgical strike, a lame attempt to save face.