Tamil Nadu’s ruling party AIADMK says it will not support the Triple Talaq Bill brought by the government in its present form.

They are demanding to remove the clause from the bill that criminalises instant triple talaq and has provisioned a jail sentence for three years.

In addition, the proposed bill, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017, also makes the practice of instant triple talaq non-bailable and cognisable offence.

BJD, the ruling party in Odisha, is opposed to the bill as its feels there are several flaws and internal contradictions and needs amendment. The party like many others in the opposition camp including Congress, are questioning the provisions on criminalisation and jail term.

CPI-M says the move by the government is ‘unwarranted and politically motivated.” Its MP Mohammed Salim said, “When the Supreme Court has already banned the triple talaq, there is no need to bring such a law. If divorce has not happened in the first place, where does the need to criminalise the act arise?”

AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi is outrightly dismissive of the bill saying it violates the Fundamental Rights and is also legally inconsistent. He even moved a notice in the Lok Sabha to oppose the bill.

Parties like SP, BSP and RJD are also opposed to the criminalisation provision, a principal demand of Congress, the largest block in the Rajya Sabha, along with the BJP. Both parties have 57 RS MPs each.

And they all are doing so to address their political constituencies. But does it really help? History tells otherwise.


Shah Bano was 62 when she filed a court petition in Indore in April 1978 demanding maintenance from her divorced husband, a well-to-do lawyer, for herself and her five children, two daughters and three sons. The divorce was not final yet as per Islamic law. Shah Bano demanded her right to alimony, Rs 500 a month, for subsistence under the Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1973 which deals with maintenance issue of wives, children and parents.

Her husband had thrown her out and was staying with his second wife. After he stopped giving the promised monthly maintenance sum of Rs 200, Shah Bano was forced to approach the court in April 1978. Irked by the move, the husband made the talaq irrevocable in November 1978 and claimed he was not liable to pay any monthly subsistence as per the Muslim personal law and what all he owned to Shah Bano was Rs 5400, the amount according to their marriage contract or Mehr.

Shah Bano won, both from the Indore local court in August 1979 and from the Madhya Pradesh High Court in July 1980. After the local court found that a meagre sum of Rs 25 a month was enough for her and her five children, she filed a petition in the high court to revise it. The high court upheld the lower court order and raised the monthly maintenance to Rs 179.20 a month. But it was still a mere pittance, much lower than Rs 500 a month demanded by Shah Bano.

Shah Bano’s husband immediately moved to the Supreme Court against the high court order. The first hearing in the Supreme Court took place in February 1981. They referred the case to a larger bench. Soon the case acquired a much larger social canvas with Muslim bodies like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind joining the case intervenors.

The matter was finally heard by a five judge bench of the Supreme Court. The Justices included India’s 16th Chief Justice Y V Chandrachud, Justice Jangnath Misra, Justice D A Desai, Justice O Chinnappa Reddy and Justice E S Venkataramiah.

They delivered a landmark ruling on 23 April 1985 that not only upheld the high court verdict but also opened the way for awakening among the Muslim women, to raise voice against their commoditization and secondary status, in nuptial agreements, in family and in society. The long fight that has resulted in the Supreme Court banning the practice of instant triple talaq and the government coming up with bill to make it a criminal offence is a testimony of that awakening as the fight was spearheaded by individual Muslim women and Muslim women organizations.


As was expected to happen, the Supreme Court verdict created a storm. The Muslim clergy vehemently opposed it. They took to streets terming the judgement an encroachment upon their personal laws governed by the Shariat. Political overtones of the protests were so strong that the Rajiv Gandhi Government had to surrender finally. It enacted a law in May 1986 that overturned the Supreme Court decision.


The way Rajiv Gandhi surrendered before the compulsions of appeasement politics and overturned the Supreme Court ruling on a social malaise that was affecting and afflicting millions of Muslim women, it sent out a message that the government of the day was ready to go to any extent to save its votebanks.

The move by Rajiv Gandhi sent a powerful message that the Congress government that was totally appeasement centric and if it could overturn a historic decision of the top court of the land to appease the minorities, it could never be friendly to the interests of the majority. And there were many takers for this perception.

Senior BJP leader L K Advani, deposing before the Liberhan Commission on Babri Mosque demolition, in fact counted the Shah Bano case as one of the three factors that led BJP to launch the movement for Ram Mandir construction in Ayodhya, “If the Shah Bano episode had not taken place, if the Government had not actively participated or facilitated the shilanyas or opened the Ram temple gates, may be this would not have weighed with us when we were thinking of the Ayodhya Resolution in 1989.”

The step that Rajiv Gandhi believed would pay political dividend, in fact, proved a major drag on his legacy and the political dividend instead went to parties like BJP and Shiv Sena. Congress started shrinking and BJP started growing. And the consequences are there for everyone to see today. BJP is now in 19 states while Congress has shrunk to just four and the party has come down to a historical low in its Lok Sabha representation. It could win just 44 seats in the 2015 General Election.

And Rajiv Gandhi did it for a social malaise that that had made lives of Muslim women a hell. 95 per cent of the arbitrarily divorced Muslim women don’t get any compensation or maintenance from their husbands, a survey by the BMMA reveals. The BMMA survey also says 92 per cent Muslim women want triple talaq banned.

The Lok Sabha where BJP and its allies are in absolute majority passed the bill to ban instant triple talaq on 28 December. Now the Rajya Sabha will take it up on 2nd January for discussion and passage. If BJP and Congress can reach to a compromise, then opposition by any other party will not matter.

And history says Congress would not do so, reflecting in the fact that it was, in fact, a poorly calculated decision by Rajiv Gandhi, even if under the pressure of Muslim clerics, that became one of the rallying points for Hindutva politics.

Congress, it seems, has learnt its lessons after paying a heavy price. But can we say that about others?



The article originally appeared on India Today. 

China has warned Japan against efforts to acquire F-35B stealth bombers and modify its existing Izumo class helicopter carriers to host them. Though there has been no official confirmation from Japan on the move, global media including Reuters have confirmed the development citing Japanese government sources.

Reminding Japan of its pledge to follow the path of militarization only for self-defence, Hua Chunying, the spokesperson of China’s foreign ministry, said Japan must not forget the commitment made to the international community, “We urge Japan to adhere to the policy of “exclusive defence”, stay committed to the path of peaceful development, act cautiously in the area of military security and do more to enhance mutual trust between regional countries and promote peace and stability in the region, instead of the opposite.”


But while it may be convenient for China to quote a historical development to press Japan from acquiring advanced military capabilities like aircraft carriers and stealth fighter jets, the truth is, times have changed. While Japan has proved itself as a peace-loving country in order to pay for excesses committed by its imperial forces that ended with the World War II, China has emerged as one of the most hardliner nations on earth with an expansionist mindset and is engaged in territorial disputes with many countries including Japan and India.

No one can forget the repeated war threats by the official Chinese media during the 73-day long Doklam standoff between China and India where China tried to usurp a disputed territory in Bhutan to build a road near the Indian border in order to gain strategic advantage.

What makes Chinese threat even more serious is the fact that the country that is run by an iron grip of dictatorial power, is now a major global power, both economically as well as militarily. In post-World War II era, it has fought wars with India and Vietnam to expand its borders, has built artificial islands to further its claims in the South China Sea in spite of global opposition, claims other islands and territories that are part of other countries and has been involved in countless skirmishes with its neighbouring countries on the issue.


Additionally, Japan is also facing a heightened threat from North Korea, a rogue country with China as its only ally. North Korea has already conducted almost half a dozen nuclear and ballistic missile tests including a hydrogen bomb and is threatening the world with nuclear war in response of the mounting pressure of global sanctions imposed on it for continuing with missile and nuclear programme.

In September, North Korea fired a missile over Japan. In October, it warned Japan of nuclear cloud over its skies if the country continued with its mission of pressuring North Korea to give up missile and nuclear programme. And in November, it launched its most advanced inter-continental ballistic missile that landed in the Sea of Japan. To add to the North Korean threat, there are credible intelligence reports that the country might be on the verge of starting production of biological weapons on military scale.


Japan and China has been traditional rivals. They have fought two full scale wars, in 1894-95 and from 1937 to 1945. The second Japan-China war was the largest Asian war of the 20th Century that cost millions of lives, especially in China. It has been such a sensitive issue in China that the country still observes state memorial for war victims and calls for a Japanese apology are routine.

And these two traditional rivals are vying for leadership role in Asia-Pacific. If China is trying to place itself at the centre of Asia-Pacific, its rivals, the US, Australia, Japan and India, are pushing for an Indo-Pacific vision of the reason. In his first national security strategy that he unveiled recently, US President Donald Trump, in fact, has termed China a strategic competitor while Japan, Australia and India as strategic friends.

The proposed quadrilateral has been a brainchild of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and can further increase Japan China rivalry, replacing the recent events of thaw in Japan-China ties based on points of mutual economic interests. Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping recently agreed for a new start to mend the bilateral ties as the peace and friendship agreement between the countries enters its 40th year in 2018.

Another issue that potential derail any Japan-China dialogue is China’s contentious claims in East and South China seas. China claims Japanese Senkaku islands in the East China Sea while Japan has been a vocal opponent of China’s militarization of South China Sea islands. Japan has been wary of China’s growing assertiveness in the East China Sea and Western Pacific and earlier this year, it had to rush a record number of fighter jets, significantly higher than the previous year, to Check Chinese activities.


The interplay of these factors make it essential for Japan to acquire military capability to act in self-defence on a scale that can counter missile and nuclear threat. And it cannot be done without advanced defence technologies like F-35A and F-35B fighter jets and the systems to host and launch them, i.e., the aircraft carriers.

Japan is acquiring 42 advanced F-35A stealth jets that require long runways and conventional take-off and landing. But to meet contingencies like a military hostility where missile attacks have destroyed its land runways or as is the case with remote Japanese islands, where only short runways are available, Japan’s ruling establishment is thinking to include F-35B stealth jets as well as these jets require short runways and can take-off and land vertically. The Izumo class helicopter carriers, that are 248 meters long, are designed in such a way that they can be modified and refitted to operate F-35Bs.

And doing so should not violate the spirit of Article 9 of Japanese constitution, as also interpreted by the Japanese establishment from time to time. Though the Article, shaped by the experiences of the World War II and the atomic bombs attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, literally means that Japan cannot maintain armed forces and war cannot be a mean to address international disputes, governments in Japan have reinterpreted it to raise a commendable self-defence force.

But, still Japan has no aircraft carriers. “Under its strictly defence-oriented policy, Japan has maintained that it cannot possess “attack aircraft carriers,” saying the vessels can be deemed offensive weapons that exceed the minimum capacity Japan needs for self-defence in light of the Constitution,” writes Japan Times.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to change that and “China’s growing maritime assertiveness” is central to the efforts, said Japan Times quoting government sources. Japan is currently debating if the Article 9 can be reviewed and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party “is weighing both moderate and drastic revisions.”



The article originally appeared on India Today on 15 December.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the telecom regulator of the United States of America, has repealed a landmark law the country passed in 2015 to ensure net neutrality in the US and Ajit Pai, a son of immigrant Indians, is at the centre of the debate. He heads the US FCC.

Pai is a Republican, the same party as American President Donald J Trump, and was made the FCC chief in January 2017, the same month the Trump administration took over the White House.

The FCC, the US equivalent of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), has voted in favour of repealing a 2015 law enacted by itself under the Barack Obama government. The FCC is overseen by the US Congressional chairs and currently, like the US Congress (the American equivalent of Parliament), the Republicans are in majority in the FCC, a fact that helped the proposal moved by Pai score a 3-2 victory. Incidentally, Ajit Pai was appointed a commissioner in the FCC in 2012 by then president Barack Obama.

The move by Pai, whose FCC bio states that “consumers benefit most from competition, not pre-emptive regulation and regulators should be skeptical (sic) of pleas to regulate rivals”, has sharply divided America with critics saying repealing the net neutrality law will kill the spirit of free internet.

Critics argue that the repeal plan will benefit only few big telecom players who wield immense power over the flow of internet and telecommunication channels. Opponents of the repeal bill, named Restoring Internet Freedom Order, say it will effectively shut down or marginalise small players and will start a rush of predatory discriminating practices where one telecom company will try all to disadvantage a rival company’s data flowing through its cables.

And above all, internet users will be the ultimate losers with their freedom to get unrestrained access to all content and data gone, the critics add. Net neutrality, they say, ensures that no service provider will speed up or throttle a particular service because of its business interests.


India has also been through this important debate. The country saw a major controversy over services such as Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero plans. These differential pricing plans were alleged to be discriminatory in nature as they would have given preferential treatment to content and data of a particiular telecom company or internet service provider (ISP).

Citizens here were up in arms over this and a public outcry forced the government and the TRAI to initiate consultations on building a framework to ensure net neutrality in the Indian market. And, its outcome has been positive so far with TRAI vouching to uphold the principles of net neutrality in recommendations it released last month.

Ajit Pai’s move is threatening to undo that in America, the world’s largest free market for the internet. Pai’s move has also unnerved the internet’s founding fathers Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf and many other internet pioneers including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker.

They wrote an open letter to US Congress calling on it to cancel the proposed vote yesterday. They called the repeal plan flawed and an imminent threat to the internet.

But Pai was unnerved. He tweeted this morning to let the world know that there would be no change in his plans, “U.S. @SenateMajLdr supports @FCC plan to restore Internet freedom, saying our Internet economy is the “direct result of a bipartisan desire to create an environment of advancement-one that utilized a light regulatory touch.”

Ajit Pai’s parents were doctors. His mother was from Karnataka and father from Andhra Pradesh. They migrated to America where Pai was born in 1973 in Buffalo, New York.

A graduate from Harvard and University of Chicago Law School, Pai’s law career includes assignments mostly with the US judicial services and the US Congress in difference capacities as well as stints with private corporations like Verizon Jenner & Block.



Ajit Pai, son of immigrant Indians, is at the centre of the raging net neutrality debate in the United States. He heads the US body which regulates the internet in America, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He is a Republican and was made the FCC chief in January 2017, the same month the Trump Government was inaugurated in the White House.

The FCC, the US equivalent of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), is bringing a proposal to repeal a 2015 law enacted by it under the Barack Obama Government. The FCC is overseen by US Congressional chairs. The repeal plan is slated for voting today and analysts have projected that it would be approved. Incidentally, Ajit Pai was appointed a commissioner in the FCC in 2012 by Barack Obama only.

The move by Pai, whose FCC bio* states that “consumers benefit most from competition, not pre-emptive regulation and regulators should be skeptical of pleas to regulate rivals”, has sharply divided America with critics saying it will kill the spirit of free internet. Critics argue that the repeal plan will benefit only few big telecom players who wield immense power over the flow of internet and telecommunication channels. The repeal bill, Restoring Internet Freedom Order, will effectively shut down or marginalize small players and will start a rush of predatory discriminating practices where one telecom company will try all to discredit its rival company’s data flowing through its cables.

And above all, the people will be the ultimate losers with their freedom to get unrestrained access to every content and data gone, something that is at the heart of net neutrality which aims to ensure level playing field for every content, every data flowing through communication channels, be it by the world’s largest service provide or a start-up.

India has also been through this important debate. We should not forget the controversy generated by moves like Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero plans. These differential pricing plans were discriminatory in nature as they would have given preferential treatment to content and data of one telecom company or internet service provider (ISP) over the other. People were naturally outraged at this and their mobilization forced the government and the TRAI to initiate consultations to build a framework to ensure net neutrality in the Indian market. And its outcome has been positive so far with TRAI vouching to uphold the principal of net neutrality in India in its final recommendations on the issue that came out last month.

But Ajit Pai’s may undo all that in America, the world’s largest free market for the internet, and a sort of role-model for the world. And Pai’s move is supported by a lobby of few powerful companies including Verizon, one of America’s biggest telecom services providers and Pai’s former employer, as many media reports* suggest. A Guardian report* writes that Pai is adamant to move ahead with his repeal plan in spite of “members of the public across the political spectrum, be it Democrats or Republicans, supporting the net neutrality rules as revealed in the many polls*.”

Pai’s move has also unnerved the Internet’s founding fathers* Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf and many other internet pioneers including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker. They have written an open letter to the US Congress calling on it to cancel the proposed vote today calling Pai’s repeal plan flawed and an imminent threat to the Internet. But Pai, too, is unnerved. He tweeted this morning to let the world know that there would be no change in his plans, “U.S. @SenateMajLdr supports @FCC plan to restore Internet freedom, saying our Internet economy is the “direct result of a bipartisan desire to create an environment of advancement–one that utilized a light regulatory touch.”

Ajit Pai’s parents were doctors. His mother was from Karnataka and father from Andhra Pradesh. They migrated to America where Pai was born in 1973 in Buffalo, New York. A graduate from Harvard and University of Chicago Law School, Pai’s law career includes assignments mostly with the US judicial services and the US Congress in difference capacities as well as stints with private corporations like Verizon Jenner & Block.



The article originally appeared on India Today.

Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf, the founding fathers of the Internet, have written to the US Congress to save the Internet from the disastrous consequences of a proposed repeal of a Barack Obama era law on net neutrality that ensured level playing field for all content and every sort of data by ensuring stiff regulations for the Internet service providers (ISPs).

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under the Barack Obama presidency, had adopted the net neutrality rules in February 2015 and enacted it in a law in June that year. The law gave the US government sweeping power over the network providers to check the discriminatory practices with the content flowing through their channels.

Here, in India, we are going through the grinding of that process and thankfully, after over a year of consultation papers, public comments and meetings, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) last month decided to uphold the supremacy of net neutrality in India.

Now Ajit Pai, son of Indian immigrants and a Republican, who was made the FCC chief by US President Donald Trump in January 2017, is bringing a repeal proposal to that landmark law which is scheduled for voting on December 14.

But the reports that the proposed repeal plan is expected to be approved have worried the proponents of a free internet accessible for all, and the letter by the founding fathers of the Internet reflects that sentiment.

The letter addressed to the Democratic and Republican chairs that control the FCC says that “the FCC’s proposed order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology” terming the proposed Restoring Internet Freedom Order an imminent threat to the Internet, “The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed order to repeal net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create. It should be stopped.”

The letter has urged to US lawmakers to cancel the proposed vote. The open letter that is signed by 19 other internet pioneers including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker and Internet Achieves founder Brewster Kahle, alleges the FCC headed by Pai is acting in haste ignoring exerts’ comments, over 23 million pro net neutrality comments by public and against the established practice, has not held even a single public meeting to discuss its proposed repeal order.

The open letter also alleges that the FCC didn’t bother to investigate and explain to people the flaws of its online comment system “including bot-generated comments that impersonated Americans, including dead people, and an unexplained outage of the FCC’s on-line comment system that occurred at the very moment TV host John Oliver was encouraging Americans to submit comments to the system.”


We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. We are writing to respectfully urge you to call on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to cancel the December 14 vote on the FCC’s proposed Restoring Internet Freedom Order (WC Docket No. 17-108 ).

This proposed Order would repeal key network neutrality protections that prevent Internet access providers from blocking content, websites and applications, slowing or speeding up services or classes of service, and charging online services for access or fast lanes to Internet access providers’ customers. The proposed Order would also repeal oversight over other unreasonable discrimination and unreasonable practices, and over interconnection with last-mile Internet access providers. The proposed Order removes long-standing FCC oversight over Internet access providers without an adequate replacement to protect consumers, free markets and online innovation.

It is important to understand that the FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017. Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order dismantles 15 years of targeted oversight from both Republican and Democratic FCC chairs, who understood the threats that Internet access providers could pose to open markets on the Internet.

The experts’ comment was not the only one the FCC ignored. Over 23 million comments have been submitted by a public that is clearly passionate about protecting the Internet. The FCC could not possibly have considered these adequately.

Indeed, breaking with established practice, the FCC has not held a single open public meeting to hear from citizens and experts about the proposed Order.

Furthermore, the FCC’s online comment system has been plagued by major problems that the FCC has not had time to investigate. These include bot-generated comments that impersonated Americans, including dead people, and an unexplained outage of the FCC’s on-line comment system that occurred at the very moment TV host John Oliver was encouraging Americans to submit comments to the system.

Compounding our concern, the FCC has failed to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests about these incidents and failed to provide information to a New York State Attorney General’s investigation of them. We therefore call on you to urge FCC Chairman Pai to cancel the FCC’s vote. The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed Order to abolish net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create. It should be stopped.


Frederick J. Baker, IETF Chair 1996-2001, ISOC Board Chair 2002-2006
Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman, Mozilla Foundation
Steven M. Bellovin, Internet pioneer, FTC Chief Technologist, 2012-2013
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web & professor, MIT
John Borthwick, CEO, Betaworks
Scott O. Bradner, Internet pioneer
Vinton G. Cerf, Internet pioneer
Stephen D. Crocker, Internet pioneer
Whitfield Diffie, inventor of public-key cryptography
David J. Farber, Internet pioneer, FCC Chief Technologist 1999-2000
Dewayne Hendricks, CEO Tetherless Access
Martin E. Hellman, Internet security pioneer
Brewster Kahle, Internet pioneer, founder, Internet Archive
Susan Landau, cybersecurity expert & professor, Tufts University
Theodor Holm Nelson, hypertext pioneer
David P. Reed, Internet pioneer
Jennifer Rexford, Chair of Computer Science, Princeton University
Ronald L. Rivest, co-inventor of RSA public-key encryption algorithm
Paul Vixie, Internet pioneer
Stephen Wolff, Internet pioneer
Steve Wozniak, co-founder, Apple Computer



First phase of Gujarat state election is over. The second phase is on 14 December and the results will be out on 18 December. But the chances for the BJP, which has ruled Gujarat since 1995, are not looking so bright this time. There are, in fact, signs that say the BJP may lose the polls this time. Signs, that reflect in pre-poll surveys and trends in election campaign.


An opinion poll just days before the first phase of Gujarat assembly election on 9 December projected it to be neck and neck contest between Congress and the BJP. The ABP-Lokniti-CSDS survey projected equal vote share for both parties at 43 per cent. According to the survey, BJP is expected to win 91-99 seats and Congress 78-86.

Though the survey still gives the BJP more seats, when we see it in continuation of its previous pre-election surveys, we can easily see the rising graph of Congress as the campaign is progressing. The same agency in its November survey had predicted 113-121 seats for the BJP and 58-64 for Congress while its August opinion poll had given the BJP even a wider margin projecting 144-152 seats for it against Congress’ 26-32 seats.

Another set of surveys by Times Now also shows a declining graph for the BJP. Its October survey gave the BJP 118-134 seats which came down to 106-116 seats in its December tally. On the other hand, though not much rosy, the Congress pie went up from 49-61 in October to 63-73 in December.

The BJP is facing 22 years of anti-incumbency and to make matters worse this time, there are factors that can derail its juggernaut there, Narendra Modi, demonetisation, GST, atrocities against Dalits and demands of Patel reservation. Narendra Modi is not the chief minister of the state and the CSDS opinion poll showed that the trading class is not happy with demonetisation and GST. And the biggest faces of Patel reservation protests and the movement against Dalit atrocities, Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mewani, are with Congress.


The BJP has unleashed its full force in the Gujarat campaign. Apart from dozens of union ministers, many chief ministers and senior BJP leaders, Narendra Modi himself has devoted fulltime to the party’s prospects in Gujarat. He is addressing multiple rallies in a day with at least a big rally scheduled in every district of the state. Though Vijay Rupani is Gujarat’s chief minister, the BJP face in the Gujarat polls is no doubt Narendra Modi. And all this is to counter a single face from Congress, Rahul Gandhi, who has been pivot of Congress’ campaign.


The BJP released its manifesto just a day before the first phase of Gujarat state election. Though the party quoted busy campaign schedule and technicalities behind this delay, the truth is, the BJP move came after Congress made it an electoral issue with Rahul Gandhi calling it a disrespect to the people of Gujarat. Congress had released its manifesto on 4 December.


Two stands taken by Rahul Gandhi stand out here, saying he is a mature politician now and can take his journey as Congress’ president further. First, he had issued a written instruction to his party leaders last month not to launch personal attacks against Narendra Modi, seeing how a long list of below the belt comments by Congress leaders targeting Narendra Modi had hit the party’s electoral prospects, be it Sonia Gandhi’s ‘maut ka saudagar’ (merchant of death) or Mani Shankar Aiyar’s ‘chaiwala’ or his very own ‘khoon ki dalali’ in last year.

Second, he immediately got Mani Shankar Aiyar suspended from the Congress party for his ‘neech aadmi’ (vile man) comment on Modi saying, “The Congress has a different culture and heritage and I do not appreciate the tone and language used by Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer to address the PM and both, the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said.”

While asserting that “the BJP and PM routinely use filthy language to attack the Congress party”, Rahul, at the same time, denied the BJP the plausibility of using Congress’ personal attacks on Narendra Modi in its favour. And it is evident from the fact that Aiyar’s ‘neech aadmi’ jibe could not get much echo beyond few rallies.


Rahul Gandhi started his Gujarat election campaign from Dwarka and has visited several temples across the state so far while on the campaign trail. He has declared his family and himself ‘Shiv bhakts’ (devotees of Lord Shiva) and is trying consciously to adopt the Soft Hindutva image to counter the BJP’s Hindutva politics. And it seems he has been successful so far in his attempts.

Otherwise the BJP would not have made Rahul Gandhi’s religion such a big issue, and that too based on a fake news. The BJP went big time saying Rahul was not a Hindu as he signed a non-Hindu visitor’s register during his Somnath Temple visit, a claim which was later refuted by the Somnath Temple trust.


The BJP initially said its poll plank was all about development in Gujarat, something that would speak for itself. To counter it, Congress mounted a well-lubricated social media campaign focusing on ‘how development in the state had gone crazy’. But one look at BJP campaign speeches and one can easily see the development plank missing from there, something even its ally Shiv Sena pointed out today in its editorial Saamna.


The final days of campaigning in Gujarat has seen Narendra Modi and the BJP dragging in the issue of China and Pakistan meddling in Gujarat polls with Narendra Modi going as far as to allege that many including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a secret meeting involving the High Commissioner of Pakistan and an ex-Pakistani minister to discuss the Gujarat election.

There have also been allegations that Mani Shankar Aiyar colluded with Pakistan and even put out a contract to eliminate Narendra Modi. But the issue is not finding much traction as evident from the media coverage of elections. Apart from few news outlets, most of them are desisting from taking any stand on these allegations and counter-allegations.



The main reason that convinced the Supreme Court in granting bail to Lt Col Prasad Srikant Purohit in the 2008 Malegaon blast case was the investigation itself – material contradictions as the SC bench puts it in the two charge-sheets filed by two investigating agencies in the case, the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) which investigated the case till 2011 and the National Investigating Agency (NIA) which took over the case probe in 2011.

Interestingly, the supplementary charge-sheet filed by the NIA in May 2016 literally overturned the findings of the ATS charge-sheet that were the base of building a terror case around the accused in the case. After the NIA submitted that the stringent anti-terror Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) was wrongly slapped in the case and many witnesses and accused retracted their statements, Sadhvi Pragya got bail in the case in April 2017 and Lt Col Purohit was next in line to claim it.

Every subsequent round of the bail application of an accused requires fresh grounds on which the bail is being sought. In Lt Col Purohit’s case, the SC was convinced that there were fresh grounds which finally paved the way for a bail to him. The SC bench observed, “That the appellant has refuted the claim of conspiracy on the ground of Intelligence inputs which he informed to his superior officers as well and the alleged role of ATS officials in the planting of RDX at the residence of A-11 clearly indicate the fresh grounds which persuade the appellant herein to take a view different from the one taken in the earlier applications.”

The 25-page long verdict of the Supreme Court delivered by Justices RK Agrawal and Abhay Manohar Sapre on August 21 granting bail to Lt Col Purohit is a comprehensive document that puts light on the anomalies in the investigation of the two agencies while making it amply clear that the judgement delivered here has nothing to do with merits of the case which will be decided by the trial court. The arguments qualified for a bail verdict only and the apex court didn’t go into larger merits and demerits of the case as happens in bail applications.



  • In order to prove the prima facie case against the appellant, the prosecution has relied upon the transcription of the conversations of the meetings obtained from the laptop of Swami Amrutanand (A-10), statement of prosecution witnesses recorded under Sections 161 and 164(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (in short ‘the Code’), intercepted telephonic conversations between the appellant herein and co-accused persons and lastly the finding of traces of RDX in the house of co-accused Sudhakar Chaturvedi (A-11).


  • With regard to the transcription of the conversations of the meetings, it was urged from the side of the appellant that there was no such conspiracy hatched between the persons present in the meeting to commit bomb blasts at Malegaon and the persons present have expressed their general opinion about the then prevailing political and social situation.


  • In this backdrop, it is relevant to note that the appellant herein was a serving Army Officer and was associated with Military Intelligence and Interior Terrorism (Insurgency Activities).
  • In the statement of PW-21, it has been revealed that immediately after the alleged conspiracy meeting, he found the appellant herein disclosing the details of the said meeting to his superior officers in Military Intelligence.


  • Even the appellant herein also informed that it was a ‘covert operation’ of Military Intelligence and he attended the said meetings to create the counterintelligence and no conspirator will ever divulge the details of the conspiracy to the superior officers in Military Intelligence.


  • Besides this, the documents filed by the Ministry of Defence and the papers of the Court of Inquiry also substantiate the claim of the appellant herein.


  • The NIA started the investigation on the basis of the facts stated in the FIR and the evidence collected by the ATS, Mumbai.
  • During investigation, it was found that there were contradictions with regard to the evidence led in the charge sheet by the ATS.
  • On the basis of the specific points covered during the investigation conducted by the NIA, it was concluded that no offence under the MCOC Act was attracted and the confessional statements recorded under the provisions of the said Act by ATS Mumbai were not being relied upon by the NIA in the charge sheet against the accused persons.
  • In fact, on evaluation of the evidence against Pragya Singh Thakur (A-1), the evidence on record were not found sufficient by the NIA to prosecute her as all the witnesses had retracted from their statements and thus no case was made out against her.
  • A perusal of the statements of various prosecution witness recorded under Section 164 of the Code by the NIA, it was revealed that the ATS, Mumbai forced them to make the statements under the aforesaid Section by threatening them to falsely implicate them in the case.
  • In other words, witnesses retracted from their statements recorded by the ATS, Mumbai at Mumbai.
  • Even during re-examination of PW-79 recorded under Section 164 of the Code, he deposed that he did not attend any meeting of ‘Abhinav Bharat’ held at Bhopal and he had never visited Bhopal until ATS took him to Ram Mandir, Bhopal in the month of May, 2009. The very same statement was again recorded at Delhi by learned Metropolitan Magistrate, where he confirmed the same.
  • In view of the above, it would be relevant to quote the retracted statement of PW-55, mentioned in the charge sheet filed by the NIA, wherein he stated that he did not retract in front of the Magistrate while his statement was being recorded under Section 164 of the Code due to threat and pressure of the ATS.
  • However, he sent one complaint to Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission, Mumbai on 05.10.2009 stating that he was forced to give the confessional statement as dictated to him by the ATS Mumbai that too before transfer of the investigation of the case to the NIA.
  • He further alleged that the following lies were dictated to him to depose before the Magistrate by the ATS which he also incorporated in the complaint sent to State Human Rights Commission which are as under:-

(1) That Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit gave him 3 weapons and ammunition to be kept in his house for amonth sometime in 2006. The description of the weapons was also dictated to him.
(2) That he saw RDX in the house of Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit in a green sack at Devlali.
(3) That Lt. Col. Purohit confessed to him about having supplied RDX for Samjhauta Express Blast.
(4) That Lt. Col. Purohit told him in the early 2008 that something was planned to be done soon. He further told him that an action was planned in Nashik District in Oct/Nov. 2008.
(5) That he was asked to say that Lt. Col. Purohithad confessed to him about planning and executing the Malegaon blast along with his accomplices.

  • Apart from the above, during the investigation by the NIA, it was revealed that the Army authorities had conducted a Court of Inquiry (CoI) against the appellant herein.
  • During scrutiny of the proceedings of the CoI, a different story of assembling of IED in the House of Sudhakar Chaturvedi (A-11) came to light.
  • During re-examination of the witnesses by the NIA who deposed before the Court of Inquiry (CoI), it was revealed that they suspiciously found API Bagde of ATS in the house of A-11 when A-11 was not present in the house.
  • On considering the facts narrated by the witnesses, the question arises here as to why API Bagde visited the house of A-11 in his absence.
  • It is also pertinent to mention here that the ATS conducted the search of the house of A-11 on 25.11.2008 wherefrom they had taken the swab of RDX which creates a doubt on the recovery of RDX keeping in view the examination of the witnesses.
  • Even in the charge sheet filed by the ATS, it has been very specifically mentioned that the recovery itself becomes suspect on the ground that the ATS Mumbai may have planted the RDX traces to implicate him and the other accused persons in the case.


  • In our considered opinion, there are material contradictions in the charge sheets filed by the ATS Mumbai and the NIA which are required to be tested at the time of trial and this Court cannot pick or choose one version over the other.
  • The law in regard to grant or refusal of bail is very well settled. The court granting bail should exercise its discretion in a judicious manner and not as a matter of course.
  • Before concluding, we must note that though an accused has a right to make successive applications for grant of bail, the court entertaining such subsequent bail applications has a duty to consider the reasons and grounds on which the earlier bail applications were rejected.
  • In such cases, the court also has a duty to record the fresh grounds which persuade it to take a view different from the one taken in the earlier applications.


  • Further, the appellant herein, who was at the relevant time was an Intelligence officer of the Indian Army has refuted the claim of conspiracy on the ground of Intelligence inputs which he informed to his superior officers as well and the alleged role of ATS officials in the planting of RDX at the residence of A-11 clearly indicate the fresh grounds which persuade the appellant herein to take a view different from the one taken in the earlier applications.
  • Keeping in view the fact that NIA has submitted the supplementary charge-sheet which is at variance with the charge-sheet filed by the ATS and that the trial is likely to take a long time and the appellant has been in prison for about 8 years and 8 months, we are of the considered view that the appellant has made out a prima facie case for release on bail and we deem it appropriate to enlarge the appellant herein on bail, subject to certain conditions.



Mahatma Gandhi had strong views on religious conversion. He believed all religions were equal and therefore the need to switch from one to other religion was seldom justified, especially in the then prevailing Indian scenario, where he believed the Christian missionaries were indulging in proselytizing in the name of humanitarian aid.

Gandhi held the belief that “religion was not like house or cloak which can be changed at will”.

He used to say that he was not against conversion when it was in its purest form, driven by heart’s urge for higher purposes like peace and spirituality. His eldest son Harilal had converted to Islam in May 1936. Gandhiji condemned it saying Harilal’s decision was based on greed and sensual pleasures and he could never be a true follower of Islam.

“I just read in the paper about Harilal’s exploit. There could be no harm in his being converted to Islam with understanding and selfless motives. But he suffers from greed for wealth and sensual pleasures. I shall be spared all mental pain if I find my impression wrong and he turns a new leaf,” he wrote in a letter to his other son Ramlal. And indeed Harilal was driven by lesser motives as proved by his reconversion to the Hinduism fold just five months later.

He would say time and again that how happy he would be had the Christian missionaries be content with the humanitarian aspect of their work only and not in increasing the count of Christians. Following are views expressed by Mahatma Gandhi from time to time on religious conversion being performed by the Christian missionaries as available on


“(And) if a change of religion could be justified for worldly betterment, I would advise it without hesitation. But religion is matter of heart. No physical inconvenience can warrant abandonment of one’s own religion.”


“Christian missionaries have been doing valuable service for generations, but in my humble opinion, their work suffers because at the end of it they expect conversion of these simple people to Christianity …How very nice it would be if the missionaries rendered humanitarian service without the ulterior aim of conversion.”


“These so-called uncivilized communities are bound to attract the attention of missionaries, for it is the latter’s duty to get recruits for the Christian army. I do not regard such proselytization as real service to dharma. But how can we blame the missionaries if the Hindus take no interest in the Bhils? For them anyone who is brought into the Christian fold, no matter how he has become a Christian, has entered a new life and become civilized. If, as a result of such conversion, converts rise spiritually or morally, I personally would have nothing to say against their conversion. But I do not think that this is what happens.”


“Am certainly against the use of hospitals, schools and the like for purposes conversion. It is hardly healthy method and certainly gives rise to bitter resentment, conversion matter of heart and must depend upon silent influence of pure character and conduct of missionaries. True conversion comes imperceptibly like aroma of rose. Thus, am not against conversion as but am certainly against present methods. Conversion must not be reduced to business depending for increase upon pounds, shillings, pence. I also hold that all great religions are of equal merit to respective nations or individuals professing them. India is in no need of conversion of type described. Whilst under swaraj all would be free to exercise their own faiths. Personally, I would wish present methods adopted by missionaries were abandoned even now and that under conviction not compulsion.”


“The idea of converting people to one’s faith by speech and writings, by appeal to reason and emotion and by suggesting that the faith of his forefathers is a bad faith, in my opinion, limits the possibilities of serving humanity. I believe that the great religions of the world are all more or less true and they have descended to us from God.

…Religion is like a rose. It throws out the scent which attracts like magnet and we are drawn to it like involuntarily. The scent of religious contact has greater pungency than the scent of the rose, that is why I hold my view with reference to conversion.”


“But my trouble is that the missionary friends do not bring to their work a purely humanitarian spirit. Their object is to add numbers to their fold, and that is why they are disturbed. The complaint which I have been making all these years is more than justified by what you say. Some of the friends of a Mission were the other day in high glee over the conversion to Christianity of a learned pandit. They have been dear friends, and so I told them that it was hardly proper to go into ecstasies over a man forsaking his religion. Today it is the case of learned Hindu, tomorrow it may be that of an ignorant villager not knowing the principles of his religion… Here is Miraben. I would have her find all the spiritual comfort she needs from Christianity, and I should not dream of converting her to Hinduism, even if she wanted to do so …Take the case of Khan Saheb’s daughter entrusted to my care by her father. I should jealously educate her in her own faith and should strive my utmost against her being lured away from it if ever she was so inclined. I have had privilege of having children and grown-up persons of other faith with me. I was thankful to find them better Christians, Mussalmans, Parsis or Jews by their contact with me.”


“My own detached view may now be stated in few words. I believe that there is no such thing as conversion from one faith to another in the accepted sense of the term. It is highly personal matter for the individual and his God. I may not have any design upon my neighbour as to his faith which I must honour even as I honour my own. For I regard all the great religions of the world as true at any rate for the people professing them as mine is true for me. Having reverently studied the scriptures of the world, I have no difficulty in perceiving the beauties in them. I could no more think of asking a Christian or a Mussalman or a Parsi or a Jew to change his faith than I would think of changing my own.. .It is a conviction daily growing upon me that the great and rich Christian missions will render true service to India, if they can persuade themselves to confine their activities to humanitarian service without the ulterior motive of converting India or at least her unsophisticated villagers to Christianity, and destroying their social superstructure, which notwithstanding its many defects has stood now from time immemorial the onslaughts upon it from within and from without. Whether they—the missionaries—and we wish it or not, what is true in the Hindu faith will abide, what is untrue will fall to pieces. Every living faith must have within itself the power of rejuvenation if it is to live.”


“The missionaries have of course the right to preach the Gospel of Christ and to invite non-Christians to embrace Christianity. But every attempt to press material benefits or attractions in the aid of conversion should be freely exposed, and the Harijans should be educated to resist these temptations.”



It is consensus in India that China backstabbed our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in spite of his friendly stand that believed the Indian and the Chinese were brothers (Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai). The 1962 Sino-Indian war is the biggest symbol of China’s betrayal in spite of Nehru’s sacrifice that allowed China to have permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Mao Zedong, China’s supreme leader, in fact wanted to crush Nehru alleging India of interference in Tibet, a document released by the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars shows. It is a transcription of meeting between Soviet Union Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Chinese leaders including Mao Zedong and Chinese Premier and Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai on October 2, 1959. It was a heated conversation where the Soviet Premier blamed China for Tibet unrest, defending India and Nehru, and blasted the hostile Chinese action at the Sino-Indian border.

Before Nikita Khrushchev arrived in China, the USSR had passed a resolution, known as the TASS Declaration, taking a public stand in order to be seen neutral and ‘not anti-Nehru’ in the ongoing India-China conflict. This stand by one communist nation on another offended China and in fact laid the foundation of cold-war Sino-Soviet split that continued till late 1980s.

By this time, the expansionist Chinese tentacles had become clearly visibly. China had killed and detained Indian soldiers in Ladakh and had forcefully occupied an Indian post at Longju at Assam-China border resulting in casualties on the Indian side and was increasingly sounding belligerent, especially after the Dalai Lama and countless Tibetans, who were given moral support and shelter by India, had to flee the Chinese oppression, a development that brought China a bad name.

The transcript of the meeting shows how China was hell-bent on proving India and Nehru wrong even if it was not able to convince Nikita Khrushchev of its words, motives and action.

Nikita Khrushchev: We….do not understand in particular your conflict with India. You have had good relations with India for many years. Suddenly, here is a bloody incident, as result of which [Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal] Nehru found himself in a very difficult position…..If you let me, I will tell you what a guest should not say the events in Tibet are your fault. You ruled in Tibet, you should have had your intelligence [agencies] there and should have known about the plans and intentions of the Dalai Lama.
Mao Zedong: Nehru also says that the events in Tibet occurred on our fault. Besides, in the Soviet Union they published a TASS declaration on the issue of conflict with India.

Nikita Khrushchev: Do you really want us to approve of your conflict with India? It would be stupid on our part. The TASS declaration was necessary. You still seem to be able to see some difference between Nehru and me. If we had not issued the TASS declaration, there could have been an impression that there was a united front of socialist countries against Nehru. The TASS declaration turned this issue into one between you and India.

Mao Zedong: Our mistake was that we did not disarm the Dalai Lama right away. But at that time we had no contact with the popular masses of Tibet.

Nikita Khrushchev: You have no contact even now with the population of Tibet.

Mao Zedong: We have a different understanding of this issue.

Though sounding harsh on the Dalai Lama, Khrushchev goes on to vindicate India’s stand on giving shelter to the Dalai Lama pinning the blame squarely on the Chinese Communist Party, “It’s not a matter of arrest; I am just saying that you were wrong to let him go. If you allow him an opportunity to flee to India, then what has Nehru to do with it? We believe that the events in Tibet are the fault of the Communist Party of China, not Nehru’s fault.”

Mao Zedong: No, this is Nehru’s fault…. We also support Nehru, but in the question of Tibet we should crush him.
Nikita Khrushchev: Why did you have to kill people on the border with India?

Mao Zedong: They attacked us first, crossed the border and continued firing for 12 hours.

Zhou Enlai: What data do you trust more, Indian or ours?

Nikita Khrushchev: Although the Hindus attacked first, nobody was killed among the Chinese, and only among the Hindus.
Zhou Enlai: But what we are supposed to do if they attack us first. We cannot fire in the air…. In my letter of 9 September to Nehru we provided detailed explanations of all that had occurred between India and us.
Nikita Khrushchev: Comrade Zhou Enlai. You have been Minister of Foreign Affairs of the PRC for many years and know better than me how one can resolve disputed issues without [spilling] blood. In this particular case I do not touch at all the issue of the border, for if the Chinese and the Hindus do not know where the borderline goes between them, it is not for me, a Russian, to meddle. I am only against the methods that have been used.

Zhou Enlai: We did not know until recently about the border incident, and local authorities undertook all the measures there, without authorization from the centre.

Nikita Khrushchev: That the centre knew nothing about the incident is news to me.

Like China is sounding obstinate today, in the ongoing Doklam standoff, it was the same behaviour on display even then. They kept on repeating their falsities that finally frustrated Khrushchev, “There are three of us here, and nine of you, and you keep repeating the same line. I think this is to no use. I only wanted to express our position. It is your business to accept it or not.”

Though Mao Zedong assured Nikita Khrushchev that the border clash with India was a marginal issue and would be resolved peacefully, the Chinese had other designs and it becomes clear from the letter that Zhou Enlai wrote to India in the aftermath where he blamed India for escalating tension by indulging in border aggression, anti China propaganda and Tibet unrest.

China, in fact, was preparing to betray India all along 1950s, clandestinely intruding into the Indian territories to forcefully acquire them and the Tibetan uprising of 1959 was just a pretext to impose its sinister designs of grabbing thousands of kilometres of Indian Territory in Jammu & Kashmir’s Ladakh, i.e., Aksai Chin that the whole world saw after the 1962 war. Prime Minister Nehru, in fact, detailed these Chinese designs in response to Zhou Enlai’s letter that how Chinese were intruding into the Indian territory since 1954, that how they had built a road in Ladakh, that how China arrested Indian security forces personnel in Aksai Chin in 1958 and so on. Nehru also added in the letter that India did not make public these because it was still hoping for their peaceful resolution.

The streak of the Chinese betrayal has continued ever since, resulting in China usurping India’s territory and claiming for more, ignoring India’s sovereignty by developing an economic corridor in Pak-occupied-Kashmir that is legally India’s, its persistent belligerence on Sino-Indian border, its attempts to encircle India by having military presence in India’s neighbouring countries and its anti-India stand on global multilateral platforms that exhibits itself in its moves like blocking India’s entry in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or vetoing India’s and world community resolution to ban Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist Masood Azhar.



Rahul Gandhi and Congress may term Nitish Kumar’s act of dumping the grand alliance government of RJD, JDU and Congress in Bihar to join the NDA and form a government with the BJP as betrayal, rank opportunism and treachery, but it may also be an opportunity for Rahul Gandhi to reinvent himself.

The political opposition in India has dearth of credible faces to take on the BJP, the NDA and Narendra Modi at the moment. Nitish Kumar was the strongest of all those contenders who could have provided a viable face against Narendra Modi in 2019 if the political opposition could pull an alliance.

Odisha’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik is another credible face with a clean image who can have acceptability but he is an outsider for national politics and is content with retaining his father Biju Patnaik’s citadel. And he has done well to hold on to the state. But he is certainly not a known Modi-baiter and certainly not a pan-India face to take on Modi in electoral politics.

The other anti-Modi face with a non-controversial image in the opposition camp is West Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee. But she is also in no position to offer a credible alternative to take on Modi on a pan-India level in electoral politics, at least in the context of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Also, as the BJP is trying to emerge as the principle opposition in West Bengal, sidelining the Left Front and the Congress, she cannot risk neglecting West Bengal for her national ambitions, at least for now.

We have seen what happened with the Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal. They tried to fan out too early after winning the people’s mandate in Delhi. Result! AAP created a sort of record with its candidates forfeiting their deposits in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The humiliation outside Delhi continued in the recently concluded Punjab assembly polls. Like West Bengal is for Mamata Banarjee, Delhi is for Arvind Kejriwal. They cannot risk leaving the states before proving their mettle. And certainly it is not the time.

Remember, even Modi had spent almost 13 years as Gujarat chief minister, consolidating his position, before fanning out of Gujarat. The time was opportune for him in 2014 when the country was looking for an alternative political face and he could make the public believe, based on his credentials of serving Gujarat four times that he was indeed the one who could be the answer to the huge anti-incumbency of ten years of the Congress rule under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Manmohan Singh.

The health of any nation’s democracy needs at least two credible political faces who can compete nationally. The more the merrier. The political opposition space in India is looking for someone who can take on Narendra Modi for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls and Nitish Kumar was the most probable contender.

But as Nitish Kumar has been effectively co-opted by the BJP again, that option is gone, and along with it the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Now only a miracle can save the day for them as hardly a year is left before going full throttle on the campaign spree for the next parliamentary election and we know miracles don’t happen in politics. Every step is a calculated move in this game of possibilities where there are no permanent friends or foes and Nitish Kumar has again showed us this.

Now the political opposition needs to look beyond 2019 to take on Narendra Modi and the BJP. And most importantly a face who can stand against Narendra Modi in elections beyond 2019. The BJP, in fact, has become the only national political party with its governments in every corner of the country. With Bihar again in its kitty, the BJP and its allies have now governments in 18 Indian states while Congress is at a historic low and is seeing further decline. And the central reason behind this is the perceived absence of leadership in the party.


Though Sonia Gandhi is still the Congress’ president, its Rahul Gandhi, the vice-president, who is the de facto head of the party. But willingly or unwillingly, an image of being a reluctant and non-serious politician has overtaken his political identity. Add to it the spate of electoral losses in states and the huge setback in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and we come across a perception that Rahul Gandhi is neither inclined nor able to shoulder the responsibility.

That he needs to break. He needs to reinvent himself because he has the means to emerge as the pan-India alternative of Narendra Modi.

To represent India in national politics, one either needs a long and influential political career, be it at state level like Narendra Modi has had or at national level like PV Narasimha Rao had or it has to be a dynastic lineage of a political party with a pan-India presence.

The Nehru-Gandhi family has had this advantage, be it Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi earlier and Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi now. It is true that Indira Gandhi did build her political career for many years, including participating in the Indian freedom struggle, but she was a union minister for just two years before she became prime minister in 1966. Rajiv Gandhi was also a sort of reluctant politician before he was made prime minister after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. But once in the office, he did try to evolve. Sonia Gandhi was accepted because she belonged to the family and same holds true for Rahul as well.

Though the Congress has shrunk to just five states and one union territory with only two electorally significant states, i.e., Karnataka and Punjab, in fold and could win just 44 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 General Elections, it is still the only other national political party than the BJP with a pan-India presence with 19 per cent vote share in the 2014 elections. The party is still the principle opposition in many states including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Goa. That is still a great leverage over other anti-BJP political parties.

And as the big three, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik, are effectively ruled out as the anti-BJP face of the political opposition, who could have mobilized the whole anti-BJP opposition to form a credible alternative this is an opportunity for Rahul to chip in and claim the place that he enjoys with his Nehru-Gandhi lineage. What also helps his prospects is the fact that other non-Congress regional satraps like Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, K Chandrasekhar Rao and MK Stalin are limited to their states only with no electoral appeal outside.

Rahul began his active political career around 2008 and since the very beginning he has been the most important voice in the Congress, even if Manmohan Singh was the prime minister and he has worked hard and has campaigned hard in every part of the country in every election. True the Congress is looking like a crumbling bloc these days but Rahul’s failures so far tell us he may be lacking in focus in leading the party out of the mess. The opposition in India is in disarray. Its politics looks flabbergasted. It needs someone who can give it some direction. Can Rahul Gandhi realize the opportunity at hand?