Category Archives: Politics
The results of the 17th Loksabha elections are out. The Bharatiya Janaty Party (BJP) has won a comfortable majority on it own steam, 303 of a total of 545 seats. While the Indian National Congress (INC or just the Congress)’s haul was 52 seats. It was a clean sweep for the ruling party in the Hindi heartland and western India. Rahul Gandhi who led the INC in this election lost his seat in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh (UP). A seat he had held since 2004. Besides Rahul three other members of the Gandhi family have represented the Amethi consituency since 1980.
UP is the Hindi heart of India. Being the most populous state its sends the greatest number of representatives among all states to the Loksabha. This year the INC has won only one seat in Uttar Pradesh (UP) of a total of 80 and the BJP has won 62. That’s the entire story of these elections in a nutshell. Since what happens in UP determines political fortunes in India.
Rahul Gandhi made mistakes at both the tactical and at the strategic level. Instead of forming pre-poll coalitions to take on the ruling the party they fielded their own candidates in more than 400 constituencies. Most importantly, Rahul Gandhi ceded the ideological space to BJP by letting the Prime Minister Narendra Modi define the terms of the battle, whether it be national security or the place of minorities in the polity. Instead of taking the fight to the BJP, Congress ran away from the fight. This included maintaining a studied silence about the entire Pulwama incident, when it happened, not fielding enough Muslim candidates for the fear of being labeled pro-Muslim and even shying away from visiting Muslim majority areas to ask for their vote. Electorates rarely reward cowardice or incompetence.
So how did the party that led the independence struggle against the British rule and oversaw the establishment of the modern Indian state, its constitution and its institutions come to this sorry pass?
(To be continued)
ETA: The new government wants to stress learning Hindi, so before I go, check out this video which celebrates the linguistic diversity of India, another obstacle to the ultimate goal of the Hindu Rashtra where everyone speaks Hindi and is Hindu. I am so old that I remember when Unity in Diversity was India’s creed.
ETA2: They have walked it back, after a huge outcry from the southern states. I think they were just testing the waters. They will float this proposal again.
(To be continued)
5/23 Update: The Election Commission has started counting the votes and Modi seems to be headed for a second term.
This is a brief primer to help you make sense of the main players on the Indian political scene. Ther Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party) is currently in power, its main opposition, is the Indian National Congress. Then there is a third mostly left of center grouping which calls itself Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) and advocates for the rights of Bahujans (common people, a short hand term for the alliance of Other Backward Castes and Dalits*).
The key to understanding Indian politics is caste, region and ideology, in that order. Most of the analyses I see in the western media and much of the English language media in India misses that point, by focusing solely on ideology and the two main parties. They also ignore India’s linguistic diversity, and regional politics which vary greatly. Most importantly, they ignore caste which plays roughly the same role that race plays in US politics.
In this post I will focus on the BJP and its leader, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
Bharatiya Janata Party: Is the party in power at the center (federal level) right now. It won an outright majority during the last Loksabha elections in 2014. It was the first time a party other than the Congress had managed this feat. The previous BJP Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee headed a coalition government.
Before 2014, Mr. Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. On the national stage he was credited with the economic growth the state had achieved and the 2002 pogrom against Muslims in Ahmedabad, precipitated by the events in Godhra.
Since his election in 2014, Mr. Modi’s government has delivered on the items on hard right agenda. Banning the slaughter of cows had been a long stated goal of the Hindutva hardliners. Twenty states out of twenty nine now have restrictions on the slaughter of cows. It may come as a surprise to many that majority of Hindus are not vegetarian and some even eat beef. These cattle slaughter bans have hit the poor and lower caste Hindus as well as Muslims the hardest. Roving bands of vigilantes who call themselves cow protectors have used these bans to intimidate and sometimes lynch people.
Modi’s record on the economic front has been questionable. The much touted demonetization scheme aimed at removing high denomination currency out of the economy to combat corruption missed all of its stated goals. India’s suffering farmers have seen no respite and the unemployment numbers have been the worst in forty years.
BJP purports to speak on the behalf of all Hindus but their agenda and their saffron roving bands make many Hindus, let alone religious minorities, who don’t share its dogma, nervous. They are not being paranoid because many activists agitating on the behalf of those in tribal areas and lower castes sit in jail under trumped up charges. Journalists have died for speaking out as have academics like M. M Kalburgi.
BJP is the political arm of the all male Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps) modeled after Europe’s Fascist movements of the early twentieth century. RSS seeks to unite Hindus separated by caste, language and region into militant nationalism called Hindutva. RSS was formed in British India in 1925 by K. B. Hedgewar, a Brahmin physician from Maharashtra and has its head quarters in Nagpur, Maharashtra. They were largely absent during India’s freedom struggle against the British, spent most of their time attacking Congress and complaining about their tactics. Mohandas Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse had RSS links.
BJP and its earlier incarnation, the Jan Sangh never achieved much in the way of electoral success until the late 80s. Their electoral fortunes changed when they adopted building a Ram Temple in Ayodhya in place of Mughal emperor Babur’s mosque as their core issue.
The most important project of RSS and other Hindutva idealogues has been to rewrite history to further their own agenda. The last 5 years has seen the mainstreaming of previously fringe RSS propaganda into the political discourse. We have seen the lionization of Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s assassin, vilification of Jawarhlal Nehru, India’s first Prime minister and to a lesser extent of Mohandas Gandhi. Orwell’s 1984 seems to be their Bible, or should I say Gita?
The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command
And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’
Ultimately what is stake in this election is the truth, we will see if India lives up to its motto,
सत्यमेव जयते ( Satyameva Jayate)
And if the truth ultimately triumphs.
In part two of this series I will discuss and analyze the results and the other two other major political groupings contesting the elections.
(*Dalit = downtrodden, these are mostly castes considered to be at the bottom of the caste hierarchy and many are considered ritually impure. Many of these taboos still persist in parts of India. Prejudice against these castes by those in power is commonplace).
Diwali, the festival of lights is here. May there be light in both my ancestral and my adopted home which have taken a disastrous turn towards darkness in the recent years by electing leaders who maintain their grip on power by appealing to fear and by fostering hate.
We all need to do our bit to banish the darkness, so go vote, if you haven’t voted yet, go vote. Your country needs you, the world needs you. Your vote is your voice and your message. Vote for those who cannot vote to protect themselves, the children still separated from their parents sitting in cages, immigrants who pick your lettuce, the doctors who could potentially save your life after you have had a heart attack. The knowlege workers and other immigrants performing tasks large and small to keep the economy humming and the country running. The current president and the compliant legislature controlled by his party, the Republican party has declared a war on them by calling them moochers, job stealers, rapists and murders.
Vote to protect the future generations who will have to bear the brunt of the tax cuts for the 1% and ravages of global warming. Go out there and vote. People have died so you have the right to vote. I voted early, my first vote in a general election after becoming a citizen last July.
So light your lamp be a force for good and vote blue.
Unless you are a Republican, its not going to work for you, kitteh, so behave yourself. The number of credible allegations against the President’s Supreme Court nominee seem to be increasing by the day. So, Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination has been in the news and on my mind, so I made a lol about it, which made the first page. It seems to have struck a nerve because it is garnering many negative votes (thumbs down). So if you like it, give it a thumbs up. What do you think, will he make it to the Supreme Court?
If President Obama was Martin Luther King’s dream come true then the current president is that dream curdled into a nightmare. The latest pointless debate over whether his disparaging remarks calling countries with predominantly black populations shitholes makes him a racist, misses the point. The daily random insult generator in the White House has a one point agenda of hate.
During the Obama years, everything that happened anywhere in the world, was all Obama’s fault. From the genocide in Syria to the leak in British Petroleum’s oil well. For this President, nothing is ever his fault, he is not to be held responsible even for the words coming out of his mouth. Judy Woodruff of the PBS News Hour actually praised the President for his performance during a televised bipartisan meeting about DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), where he seemed to have no idea what he was talking about. She was by far not the only one.The prestigious old media continues give the Republicans cover as they continue to destroy one democratic norm after another.
The sad thing is not that the President is a racist but that millions voted for him despite that or may be even because of that. Though they knew that he was the most ill prepared and ill suited candidate to ever run on a major party’s ticket. Even sadder is the fact that the party of Lincoln condones the bile he spews on a daily basis. It is they who made his rise possible and have given him the institutional support to thrive. They couldn’t care less that he pisses away our international prestige one outrageous statement and one discriminatory policy at a time.
They may make soaring speeches praising Dr. King now but Republicans have been single minded in their quest to overturn his legacy, the civil rights legislation. The Republican led Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Tom Cotton and David Perdue’s goal is to do the same to the Immigration and the Nationalities Act. To them, the man in the White House is a means to an end. Now more than ever we need to do everything to preserve Dr. King’s legacy. Our very lives and what kind of country we want to be depends on it. Our enemies are formidable but we shall overcome.
New York Times has failed as a newspaper this election season. The big scoops about Trump are coming from Washington Post and Newsweek, while the hometown newspaper is asleep at the switch. Even today, NYT is on the both-sides-do-it wagon soft pedaling of Trump’s hate and bigotry. It happened after the immigration speech and it happened again this morning. Their headline this morning reads:
Bitter, Personal Tone Marks 2nd Trump Clinton Debate
Sounds like a bickering match of he said, she said with both parties equally to blame doesn’t it? That’s not what I saw, this is what I saw when I made myself watch yesterday’s debate.
* Trump stalked Hillary Clinton throughout the debate
* Said bragging about sexual assault is OK because ISIS
* He had no clue about what he was talking about be it Syria or healthcare or Russia.
* He admitted as much in so many words about Russia
* He wants give Putin a complete free rein in Syria and elsewhere
* He promised to jail Hillary Clinton like his idol Putin does to his political opponents
* Tried to relitigate Bill Clinton’s infidelities as a negative against Hillary
*Repeated what do black people have to lose by voting for him, line
*Demonized ordinary Muslim citizens and Syrian refugees fleeing war
*Called Hillary Clinton, the devil
*Did not answer a single question, just repeated his fact-free bilious stump speech replete with conspiracy theories
Compared to the toddler tantrum that Trump threw on the debate stage for an hour and half, Hillary Clinton was a model of restraint and civility. She has nerves of steel, I was sputtering with rage at Trump’s indecent and ignorant behavior in my living room. No matter how low Trump goes, New York Times normalizes his behavior and enables him. Paper of record, indeed.
* Thanks to chech 1965 for letting me use his lol.
Congratulations GOP, you have just installed Putin’s puppet as your nominee. Isn’t it curious how Trump’s foreign policy objectives align so completely with what Putin wants. The mainstream media has just woken up to Trump’s soft corner for Russia. While they were obsessing about Hillary Clinton’s email servers, Adam Silverman over at Balloon Juice was on to it even during the primaries.
In the Republican nominee’s New York Times interview he is signaling the end of NATO and that the United States will renege on its treaty obligations. He is willing to throw everything successive administrations since WW II have built,down the toilet, just so that he appears tough.
Mr. Trump wants the United States to run NATO like an extortion racket. His proposals resemble dinner rants of your drunk uncle who everyone in the family goes out of their way to avoid. He wants to destroy the post war world order. He seems to be unaware of his own ignorance and is proud of it. He is evil and stupid, a dangerous combination. The Republican party has placed him on the path to power, to destroy the world as we know it. Hillary Clinton is all that stands between us and Trump induced mayhem.