Karnataka

Why nobody is allowed to criticize Sonia Gandhi

Take a deep breath and reflect who you are not allowed to criticize in India. I could think of no other than Sonia Gandhi, former Congress and UPA chairperson. Run the entire gamut, pore over the worksheet of honchos of Indian media, Shekhar Gupta, Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose etc; google as you might; dive into the archives of Lutyens Media like Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, The Hindu; Sonia Gandhi, much like Caesar’s wife, has been above reproach.

That’s astounding. I mean nobody has been the president of 134-year-old Congress longer than her (19 years); she got her party two consecutive Lok Sabha victories; a whole lot of scams were unearthed; yet not a word against her. I mean yes, BJP and her bete noire Dr. Subramaniam Swamy keep pelting her windows but that’s par for course for any opposition. But what accounts for no “black sheep” within Congress bleating ever? No media house opening its edit pages for trenchant views; no historian/academician offering critiques? No scholarly paper in JNU? No diagnosis on a person out on bail?

I do recall two embarrassing Sonia interviews, that is for any self-respecting journalist, by Rajdeep Sardesai (he kept saying “fought like a tigress,” both in 2005 and 2016), as it was for Aroon Purie on another occasion, coy and adolescent.  Yes Shekhar Gupta (“she keeps a formidable dynasty on her slender shoulders,”), Barkha Dutt (“she has made a public commitment to Women’s Reservation Bill”) have also interviewed her;  Vir Sanghvi has been profound in “Nobody-in-Nehru-Gandhi-Family-Has-Given-Kind-of-Authority-she-has-to Manmohan-Singh,” echoed by a gushing Sagarika Ghose ( “She never undermined Manmohan Singh, always backed him up”). Both Sanghvi and Ghose don’t touch upon how another Prime Minister, PV Narasimha Rao, was humiliated, even in death. And these clowns happily go toting about “bhakts” to everyone else. Phew.

Two books on Sonia immediately come to my mind. One is a pathetic account by a sychophant;  another is “Red Sari” which was unofficially banned in India for six years due to machinations by Abhishek Sanghvi, as alleged by its author.

There was though one voice of dissent which was muzzled without much ado by this “deep state” in India. Margaret Alva, a former Union minister of state and Governor, was quite scathing in her autobiography: “Courage and Commitment:” Excerpts:

“While Pilot, Prasada and Scindia got all the honours due to them as Congress leaders—with shamianas erected at the AICC to receive their remains before the last rites—PV Narasimha Rao, the tallest of them all, was denied a state funeral in Delhi. His body was not even let into the AICC compound; instead, the gun carriage carrying the former Prime Minister and Congress President was parked on the pavement outside the gates, with chairs lined for party leaders. I was shocked…ever since, I have regretted not protesting and walking away.” – On PV Narasimha Rao’s death in 2004

Alva details that she played a peacebroker between Sonia and Rao: the latter falling out probably for deciding to appeal against the Delhi High Court’s decision to quash a complaint against the Bofors case. Sonia Gandhi once retorted to Alva: “What does the Prime Minister want to do? Send me to jail?”

Alva’s outburst about the unfair ticket distribution in Karnataka led to her ouster. She was asked to resign from the post of All-India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in 2009. In her resignation, Alva wrote thus:

“Times have changed and for the first time I have come to feel like a misfit in an organization that I considered as precious as my own home. A look at our recent candidates lists show a distinct patter of patronages to the wealthy and rich lobbies like mining, education and real-estate…”

Just reflect on the above in line of recent Karnataka assembly elections and ponder why no newspaper or media celebrity ever brought this book out of the shelves to examine Congress’ candidates in 2018? Why Congress’ demise in the state is not looked through the prism which Alva afforded us?

As per one reviewer of the book: “Alva’s book offers an amazing insight into the maneuverings of 10 Janpath—the home of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Without being too harsh, Alva clearly indicts Gandhi for lacking transparency in her manner of functioning, her penchant for surrounding herself with a handful of loyalists…”.

Alva was made to leave Delhi, appointed as she was governor of Uttarakhand. In her words: “Once I had made the mistake of saying: `The Alvas are the only political family to have a member in Parliament without a break for almost half a century.’ This statement sealed our fate.”

(As an aside, Alva was Governor of Rajasthan when Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. Alva describes her meeting with Modi thus: `I told him I had come to pay my respects, not plead for an extension, adding `I am not prepared to quit anytime.’ “There is no question,” He (Modi) replied. “You are doing a good job please continue where you are.” She was subsequently given additional charge of Goa and Gujarat!).

Lutyens Media are now at Kumaraswamy’s throat

Coincidences do happen. Both Times of India and Hindustan Times took the editorial route to chide HD Kumaraswamy on Tuesday. Next day, an Indian Express edit scolded the Karnataka chief minister. All three hags from the Lutyens’ Media were fuming.  All three were lecturing HDK to understand the “reality” of coalition. To understand that as a senior party, Congress has a right to be a bull in the china shop.  All coincidences, isn’t it.

Hindustan Times felt it’s nothing but drama from Kumaraswamy. Strange, for Arvind Kejriwal has been doing his “drama” for four years and yet escaped HT’s attention. The newspaper cited roads, power supply, garbage as issues dogging Bangalore. All these happen at a grander scale in Delhi. Right under its nose. But the stench never reaches the nostrils of these pen-pushers. Meanwhile, Congress has all its support: “It’s natural it (Congress) wishes itself to be taken into account before a major decision.” Wah, when it’s matter of allies of BJP, it’s the latter which is being “autocratic” and riding roughshod over its juniors. But in the matter of Congress, it’s juniors who must hide their tails between the legs. Pathetic, I say.

Times of India, says almost the same thing, the same day, the same lead on its edit page. Only coincidences, I understand. It wants Kumaraswamy “must accept this reality and soldier on” for in a situation of collapse, the “prime beneficiary would be BJP.” It warns HDK that his public lament would “not be music to voters.” Bravo.

And that must not happen, isn’t it. BJP must not benefit. Innocent, gullible voting cattles must not see this wrong connection which has made a mockery of democracy. Kumaraswamy has been given the chief minister’s chair and he must act like Manmohan Singh (yes, that’s the exact advice Times of India gives to HDK!). Sealed lips, zero conscience.

Indian Express wants Kumaraswamy to understand “asserting his control over the coalition would be difficult.” The “journalism of courage” doesn’t explain how the Chief Minister could run when the dogs are tugging at his dhoti. Or, without his allies behind him, how he could push through legislation in the state assembly.  It also gives HDK a lecture in statecraft: “people hate tears.” Ask Pushpa (yes, it draws analogy from movie Amar Prem-that’s the  seriousness it accords to the matter).

The newspaper terms it “idle tears” for if Kumaraswamy is serious he must give way to a colleague of his to run the government. I wish Indian Express had the courage to offer the same advice to Congress. Likes Gandhis, JD(S) is also all about Gowdas. They are dynasts no less. Would Rahul Gandhi step aside only because Congress is in a coma?

None of these three newspapers steel their spine and address a simple logic: If Kumaraswamy is distraught, if he is crying in public, could it be because Congress MLAs have made his life hell in Bangalore. And if it’s so why Congress is not reining them in? Is it because Congress simply can’t for the MLAs would then run under the BJP’s banyan tree? Why blame one opportunist when the other has turned it into an art form in last 70 years?

But then Congress is a different matter. It’s a holy cow with hind legs of a horse which can kick you in your teeth. The milky diet that you are fed on would be withdrawn. Hello Lutyens Media, why do the sham of being worried about democracy and a billion-plus people of this country? Why not concede you are lackeys and little else?

Joke is on Siddaramaiah; he and his loyalists are now BJP’s B team!!!

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The joke is on Siddaramaiah.

The former Karnataka chief minister had dubbed Janata Dal (Secular) as the B team of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the run-up to the Karnataka elections last month.

It would appear that he and his supporting MLAs and ministers today snugly fit the inscription as BJP’s B team themselves!!!

Siddaramaiah was hung out to dry by Congress leadership after the party lost the Karnataka elections and 17 of his ministers were made to bite the dust.  Siddaramaiah contested from two seats and barely won from one.

Since then, the downturn in his fortunes has only gathered pace. HD Kumaraswamy, the usurper of his CM seat, ignores him as car drivers do beggars at street lights. Every time there is an issue, Kumaraswamy rushes to Rahul Gandhi in the Capital. When he went public against the Kumaraswamy-drafted State budget, Siddaramaiah was asked to mind his own business by the high command. And now there is a crimiinal FIR against Siddaramaiah in a Land Notification’s case by Kumaraswamy’s police!

Siddaramaiah is not alone. His loyalists include many present and former legislators are miffed at being ignored in the present state cabinet. These include MLAs Byrati Basavaraj, ST Somashekhar and Muniratna. Even Ramesh Jarkholi, who has been given a Cabinet berth after his supporters burnt tyres in front of the Raj Bhavan, had come out in support of Siddaramaiah. Important Congress leaders like HC Balakrishna, N. Cheluvaraya Swamy and former minister PM Narendraswamy are holding meetings in his support.

Siddaramaiah, that old fox, certainly knows a trick or two. As head of the coordination committee between Congress and JD(S), he is now driving hard for a bargain for his supporters. The prize in front of them are Cabinet berths in the next expansion. Most critically, they have set their eyes upon 30 posts of Chairman for various boards and corporations. As a sop, Siddaramaiah is being offered a Cabinet berth.

You readers are only being logical if you question why Congress central command is not being able to rein in Siddaramaiah? Further, why Siddaramaiah is not being able to stop the disquiet among his supporters for perks and posts? The answer is obvious: there is such a groovy train which has run on their tracks for the last five years in Karnataka that everyone knows each other’s dirty secrets, hoarded jewellery or stashed-away millions.

In normal times, such ambitions could easily have been accommodated. Innovative portfolios, like the Pooh Ministry, could have been floated. But this is now a coalition government—the one with their sworn enemy JD(S) being the face of power. JD(S) themselves have been parched for powers for years and are eager to dip into the pond of gratification. Egos and insecurity are the two other chlorines in the water.

And BJP? They are in no hurry to bring down the government. Indeed, the longer this alliance stays in saddle, the better it is for them. Thus the BJP might miss out on Karnataka, but they could showcase this mirror in run-up to the 2019 General Elections. The Karnataka analogy would make “mahagathbandhan” look some kind of joke on the voters. BJP could also question media (and judiciary) for being on testosterone steroids around the Karnataka Elections—only to go limp and flaccid once the Congress-JD(S) bonhomie began shedding its clothes. All those photo-ops of holding hands aloft at swearing-in in Bengaluru; Mamata and Mayawati; Akhilesh and Tejaswi Yadav; Kejriwal and Yechury; Chandrababu Naidu and Ajit Singh, calling it “victory for Democracy” appearing such a scam to people.

Just think about it: such lumpen and unscrupulous elements of Indian politics are being glorified in our newspapers every day. Lutyens Media may bury their heads in the sand stupidly unmindful that it leaves their butts in the air.

Thank God Congress-JDS; for there is Indian Express

The “fake news” in our mainstream English dailies is a slow poison. This venom seizes our brains; paralyses our actions, manifests itself into a kind of plague. This wind is then seized by off-shore forces which then returns with terrifying ferocity and sinks truth into a bottomless pit.

The expansion of H.D. Kumaraswamy’s unholy government in Karnataka on Wednesday was one such news.  Karnataka is important to Indians in many respects: it’s a template for opposition unity; alligators and hippos sunning together. The 6.41-crore people of the state have suffered a thousand cuts; being treated no better than cattle. First, made to lock horns; then kiss each other’s butts and finally, left to numbness inside a deep freezer. A 37-seat party chief was hoisted as Chief Minister in a 224-seat state. All in the name of “saving democracy.”

When the gates of Supreme Court were opened after midnight; it wasn’t for democracy. When Rahul Gandhi went abroad, it wasn’t for democracy. If Kumaraswamy and Congis parked themselves in the Capital, logging air miles, it wasn’t for democracy. If no portfolio has still been allocated after nearly a fortnight, it isn’t for democracy. If some ministerial berths have been left vacant, to accommodate dissenters, it isn’t for democracy.

Now look at how our mainstream English dailies have gone about their task on Thursday. Nearly everyone has headlined: “expands cabinet”. What cabinet? What expansion? Who all were there in the first place to merit the tag “expansion”? And all without portfolios?

Indian Express, which specializes in making dead bodies appear kissable, unsurprisingly took the cake in its “fake news.” It spelt out all the data: how many ministers, how many Vookaligas, who Lingayat, who Muslim, who woman, who Dalit in the “expanded” cabinet. What it skillfully hid from its readers’ view is that the event marked an open revolt among senior Congress-JDS leaders. No mention, not even a vague line as its comrade-in-arms The Hindu casually slipped in: “(it) triggered protests by the supporters of the ministerial aspirants.”

So Indian Express didn’t know about the protests. It didn’t know that HK Patil, who won the Gadag assembly seat, a minister in the outgoing Siddaramaiah government, hailed as  “Tiger of Hulkoti” has openly rebelled? It didn’t know MB Patil, former water resources minister, said after the swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday: “I will call on the former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwara to know why I was not included in the Cabinet…my self-respect is hurt.”

Three-time MLA from Hirekerur, BC Patil said: “MLAs who indulged in blackmail politics and those with money power have been given Cabinet berth.” Patil, an actor, producer and director, has said he would consult his constituency before taking next course of action.

TB Nagaraj, MLA from Hoskote, BK Sangameshwar, from Bhadravati, too criticized party leaders, threatening to quit party, if he didn’t get a “suitable post.”

  1. Satyanarana, MLA for Sira, said: “My name was on the list till last night…I am very much pained.”

Senior leader AH Vishwanath, for Hunsur, remarked: “I won’t accept the post of the Deputy Speaker (even if it comes my way).”

These are just a few MLAs. Trust me, I am leaving out almost as many who are protesting and dissenting as I have mentioned.

(As an aside, do any of your readers remember what happened to BJP’s call for a day’s strike on May 28 in Karnataka? Well, it couldn’t go ahead as Kamal Pant, ADGP, Karnataka, had put his foot down: “Calling for a bandh is illegal.” You are unlikely to have read it in your morning’s newspaper.”)

So tomorrow, when these dissenting MLAs quit, and the Congress-JDS alliance is in minority on the floor of the House, these very presstitutes would go to the town, claiming “murder of democracy.” Rahul would decry Modi-Shah duo for their fascist tendencies. The New York Times would comment that Indian democracy is subverted. Archbishops of this country would worry about the sanctity of Constitution. The “Mombatti-gangs” would hold protests around the country. A few former Election Commissioners, Chief Justices would write sanguine pieces in edit pages of “journalism of corrupt.” Randeep Surjewala, in his irritating high-pitched tone, would chew out such words: The nation can’t take it any more.

But then, be beware of the strike of the silent. You all are out there in open in your full glory. The sight is not pretty for the citizens of this country. Your echo-chamber would be of little use. Down you must go. All.

(You must know another update on “Mahagathbandan”: Mayawati and Akhilesh skipped the Iftaar Party which Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) had thrown on Wednesday. Even as celebrations of Kairana win are still on. No wonders, most MSMs have ignored it).

 

 

Angoorlata and her oath in Sanskrit

Angoorlata Deka, the newly elected BJP MLA from Batadroba constituency in Assam, has made front-page headlines with her oath in Sanskrit language. The newspapers are shocked at her audacity for don’t we all have given up the language as dead?

Our ignorance deserves a reality check. Sanskrit is one of the 22 languages listed in a Schedule to the Constitution. It’s the official language in the state of Uttarakhand. Since 1967, Sahitya Akademi has been giving award for literary works in Sanskrit. It’s true of adult as well as kids’ literature.

In all, there are 15 Sanskrit universities, thousands of Sanskrit colleges. Features films are being made in Sanskrit, the ones on Adi Shankaracharya, Bhagavad Gita and Mudrarakshasa (a film on great emperor Chandragupta Maurya) instantly come to mind.

An animated film in Sanskrit, “Punyakoti” is scheduled for release in 2016. There are more than 75 dailies, weeklies and monthlies in Sanskrit. We have television news in Sanskrit. No less than our Prime Minister tweets in Sanskrit. In Karnataka, two villages of Mattur and Hosahalli has everyone speaking in Sanskrit to this date.

All the 125 major languages and 1500 minor languages of the country can trace its origin on Sanskrit. It’s not just India alone, Nepal’s motto is a pick from Valmiki’s Ramayana. There’s Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the word Angkor meaning “City” in Sanskrit.

Initially, Sanskrit wasn’t known by its present name. It was called Bhasha. This was a fact at least till the 6th century BCE. It was essentially a spoken language. When rendered into writing, various different scripts were used. The use of Devanagari is of a recent vintage. In its grammar, letters and words freely merge to form compound letters and compound words. Two of these principals are called sandhi and samasa.

The greatest proponent of Sanskrit language was poet Kalidasa. His classics, such as Malavikagnimitram (the love story between King Agnimitra and Malavika), Abhijnanashakuntalam (the famous Shaknutala story) and Meghadutam (Cloud as messenger) haven’t lost its lustre till this day.

It’s a fallacy to believe that Sanskrit was only spoken by Kshatriyas and Brahmans in ancient times. Instances abound where commoners were known to use the language. In the Rig Veda, 21 out of 407 rishis were women. There was no gender bias in the use of the language.

Since 2003, India has a National Mission for Manuscripts (Namami). Its task is to list, digitize, publish and translate manuscripts at least 75 years old. As of now, Namami has a listing/digitization of three million—the anticipated stock of manuscripts in India is 35 milion. There are at least 60,000 manuscripts in Europe and another 1,50,000 elsewhere in South Asia. Ninety-five percent of these manuscripts have never been listed, collated or translated. To give you an idea of the enormity of the task: Since the advent of printing only an estimated 130 million books have been published in all languages of the world.

We don’t know the treasure waiting to be rediscovered. Take the instance of Arthashastra for instance. The classic on political economy and governance was written by Kautilya (350-275 BCE). But it was rediscovered by R. Shamasastry in 1904, published in 1909 and translated into English in 1915. We don’t know how many Arthashastra we have lost in all these centuries.

Same is true of many variations of scripts of Sanskrit. The sharada script, popular in Kashmir at one time in history, is completely lost. Same is true of Paishachi language and a very famous work in this script, Brihatkatha. Both are lost to us. Many Buddhist and Jain texts were written in Sanskrit too. And lest we forget, Ayurveda, the treatises on medicine, the work of Charaka (2nd century CE), no longer survives.

And here is the surprise of all surprises: “A Companion to Sanskrit Literature,” authored by Sures Chandra Banerji, has an entire chapter on the contribution of Muslims to Sanskrit. This volume traverses 3000 years of Sanskrit literature.

Naheed Abidi was bestowed with Padma Shri in 2014 for her contributions to Sanskrit literature. Her first book in 2008 titled “Sanskrit Sahitya Mein Rahim” is an account of the Sanskrit leanings of renowned poet Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana. Another bookof hers, “Sirr-e-Akbar” is a hindi translation of 50 Upanishads, earlier translated by the Mughal prince, Dara Shikoh into Persian. Naheed has published a Hindi translation of Vedanta, translated into Persian by Dara Shikoh and also the Sufi texts by the prince.

There is no denying the crisis though. The last Census in 2011 still don’t tell us how many speak Sanskrit in our country. The Census of 2001 had put the number to 14,135. There is an initiative from the government for the long-term vision and roadmap for the development of Sanskrit. Angoorlata’s act of oath has brought the Sanskrit language into popular mainstream and we ought to be grateful to her.

(The background of this article is largely based on Dr. Bibek Debroy’s speech in Paris on the occasion of International Mother Tongue Day, organized by UNESCO on March 3, 2016).