“The BJP behaves as if it is in office, but not in power. The more accommodative it tries to be with the Congress, TMC, JD(U) and the Left, the more aggressive the Opposition becomes. … The Congress is out of power but the ecosystem it has created over decades enables it to punch above its weight. The talent deficit in the Modi government exacerbates matters. Apart from eight to ten ministers and a few dozen MPs (out of 281) in the Lok Sabha, the BJP lacks intellectual breadth.” – Minhaz Merchant
In an extraordinarily misconceived video comment for The Guardian last week, Shashi Tharoor, a Congress MP, said: “The impression has gained ground that India is now governed by obtrusive and intolerant forces determined to put minorities, rationalists and liberals in their place, somewhere not far from the dustbin.” Narendra Modi’s war on pluralism is destroying India’s reputation, The Guardian interpreted Tharoor as saying.
It is difficult to think of a more concentrated piece of incendiary nonsense in a 2.42 minute video comment.
The corrupt Lutyens’ ecosystem meanwhile roared with delight. India was getting a good, little bashing. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, that arriviste, was being shown his place.
Why do so many Indians so often demean India?
V. S. Naipaul put his finger on it when he said India remains a wounded civilisation. Hinduism has been in retreat for centuries—first through internal caste divisions, then Islamic invasions, and finally colonial occupation.
The anti-Indian rantings of Arundhati Roy should not be taken seriously. Every country has its share of dissenters and critics, many with outlandish and (as in Roy’s case) subversive ideas. In a democracy they should be welcome. Such views need sunlight: they will then be disinfected. Democracy is a great leveller in the fullness of time.
In India, though, the enemy lies within.
Jairam Ramesh, a former Union minister, speaking on carbon emissions, said this three days before the climate change summit in Paris earlier this month: “Unfortunately, India’s style has been very confrontational, very argumentative. It is a Krishna Menon style, it is a moralistic style. I think the world does not like that. As far as Africa and the Small Island States are concerned, we are part of the problem. So India must be less moralistic, less argumentative, less confrontational and more in an engagement mode.”
Maneka Gandhi, Union minister for women and child development, told a television channel just as India was battling to get a fair deal for the developing world at the climate change summit: “Historically (the fact that) the polluters have been the West doesn’t absolve India from the fact that it is today one of the major polluters. It is a question of putting the blame always … the West did it. They may have done it hundred years ago. India is one of the main players destroying the climate. We, China and Brazil are the largest producers of methane. Coal, animals and rice, these are the three reasons for methane and methane is 26 per cent more powerful than carbon dioxide in creating climate change.”
What do these two ministers, past and present, have in common? They compromise India’s interests at crucial times and play into the West’s hands.
It gets worse.
Last month in Pakistan, former Union ministers Mani Shankar Aiyar and Salman Khurshid made public remarks that were perverse in intent. Aiyar told a Pakistani television talk show host: “First, you need to remove Modi … otherwise the talks will not move forward.”
Khurshid at a conference in the Jinnah Institute in Islamabad said: “If you look back at the first face-to-face between our PMs, your PM took a brave, far-sighted decision. What we said and did made things uncomfortable for Pakistan after the visit. If there has been a leader of democratic Pakistan who wanted peace with India, it is (Nawaz Sharif who) was the first non-military (Pakistani) leader to try for peace.”
What went wrong
In a recent interview with Swarajya magazine, five-time MP Dr Subramanian Swamy recalled his close friendship with former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi: “I thought well of Rajiv. He was a great patriot, I thought he would make a great prime minister if he came back for the second time around, and I supported him. Openly, on the floor of Parliament (I said) he didn’t get the Bofors money, (Ottavio) Quattrocchi (Sonia Gandhi’s close friend) got it, and these were proved quite later, too late.
“(When) I had a ministerial rank position in (Narasimha Rao’s) government, as the chairman of a commission (Sonia) used to meet me once a week for tea. She, in fact, told me, ‘I’m more Sicilian than an Indian.’ I said, ‘Why do you say that?’ She said, ‘Indians like to be kicked.’ That’s what she told me. ‘Whereas you are a ruthless person,’ she told me.”
This conversation can’t be independently verified and remains Dr Swamy’s version. Pertinently though, no one has ever sued Dr Swamy for defamation despite the several serious allegations of corruption he has levelled against, especially, the Gandhis.
In contrast, the BJP (apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi) remains resolutely respectful of the Gandhis. In return, it periodically gets kicked in the teeth. The body language of several BJP ministers and MPs is deferential—in Parliament, in TV studios, and in public.
The sight of parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu pleading with a handful of Opposition MPs tells multiple stories. The BJP behaves as if it is in office, but not in power. The more accommodative it tries to be with the Congress, TMC, JD(U) and the Left, the more aggressive the Opposition becomes.
The Congress and its handmaidens—AAP, RJD, JD(U), the Left, TMC and National Conference—meanwhile swagger their way through Parliament, TV debates, media interviews and public functions. The Congress is out of power but the ecosystem it has created over decades enables it to punch above its weight. The talent deficit in the Modi government exacerbates matters. Apart from eight to ten ministers and a few dozen MPs (out of 281) in the Lok Sabha, the BJP lacks intellectual breadth.
Modi has begun to turn the economy around, reboot foreign policy and reform infrastructure financing among many other achievements. But the positive message is hijacked by an Opposition well versed, as embattled finance minister Jaitley observed, in Gobblesian propaganda. The BJP’s Delhi unit has been ineffective for years. It is time talented and honest administrators are brought into the party’s Delhi unit or its 67-3 rout in the February 2015 Assembly elections will not be the last.
The Congress behaves like a colonial master, the BJP, despite attempts at retaliation, like a deferential subject in a colony where it has the majority but not the wit to enforce its will. While Modi has his hands full cleaning up the detritus left behind by the scam-tainted, policy-paralysed ten-year regime of the UPA, he must now turn his attention to bridging the talent deficit in the government. He also needs to change the over-deferential psychological mindset of the BJP.
That doesn’t mean emulating the Congress’ empty swagger but being clinically assertive. “Playing nice” will not work with colonial-clone bullies. As with all bullies, aggression conceals cowardice. There’s only one way to deal with that: stand up to it.
Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) announced through advertisements in newspapers last week that an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of its shareholders would be held in Lucknow on January 21, 2016. The aim: to seek approval to convert the AJL into a section 8 company under the Companies Act 2013 (equivalent to a section 25 company under the old Companies Act, 1956) and change its name.
The notice, clearly sparked by recent court events in the National Herald case, says: “The board of the company has been considering for more than four years that the company should not be commercially motivated with a view to distribute any benefits or dividends to its members. It should, instead, operate and undertake its activities for the larger public good. As such, the board has decided to take necessary steps to convert the company into a non-for-profit section 8 company under the Companies Act, 2013.”
A close reading of the Companies Act, 2013, Business Standard reported, reveals that under sub-section (9) of section 8, “If on the winding up or dissolution of a company registered under this section, there remains, after the satisfaction of its debts and liabilities, any assets, they may be transferred to another company registered under this section and having similar objects, subject to such conditions as the tribunal may impose, or may be sold and proceeds thereof credited to the Rehabilitation and Insolvency Fund formed under section 269.”
As Business Standard correctly pointed out: “This means that the assets, after meeting debts and liabilities, could be transferred to another section 8 company. The assets could also be sold and the proceeds credited to the government’s Rehabilitation and Insolvency Fund. A section 8 company could also be converted into a regular company after meeting some prescribed requirements under the companies law.”
This last critical fact significantly weakens the not-for-profit argument on which Sonia and Rahul Gandhi’s lawyers have based their defence against Dr Swamy’s complaint. – Daily O, 22 December 2015