2014, Bihar, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

From Gujarat Into Bihar: After the Mahatma, Narendra Modi

Recently in Patna: Not since Indira Gandhi has any non-Bihari come to dominate the state’s political discourse as the BJP’s prime ministerial pick from the far end of the country, Gujarat’s Narendra Modi.

The central clue to Modi’s pre-eminence on the poll run is merely this: both Bihari protagonists, chief minister Nitish Kumar of the JDU, and predecessor Laloo Yadav of the RJD, have all but forsaken cognition of each other and narrowed focus on Modi as their chief adversary, the man to beat in this summer’s Lok Sabha election.

Nitish brought his protracted quarrel with Modi to a head last June, severing his 17-year tryst with the BJP even at the cost of losing majority on the assembly floor and losing out on the support of key upper caste sections. “Modi is a socially divisive and economically non-inclusive politician, a threat to pluralist India,” Nitish has repeatedly remonstrated in advocacy of his decision. More recently, as battle-lines sharpened and stakes rose, he has also been driven, in unlikely fashion, to pit himself in the race for prime ministership.

Laloo, on the other hand, has mocked Nitish’s “secular” avatar, emphasized his long conjugality with the BJP and foregrounded himself as the vanguard of the battle against Modi. “History will tell you, and the future will prove, the strength and force to fight communal and fascist forces like Modi resides in me, none else. I stopped (L.K.) Advani’s communal rath in Bihar, Nitish was the one who flagged it off again, tell me what credibility does he have?”

Continue reading “From Gujarat Into Bihar: After the Mahatma, Narendra Modi”

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2013, Essay, New Delhi, Telegraph Calcutta

2012: The Big Crossover Bid–From Rishi to Raja

Jan 1, 2012: The hubbub of political power in India, or its predecessor entities, has seldom existed unaccompanied by the corrective — and often contrary — decibel of the moral voice. Rajas had their rishis, the sultans their sufis, even the merchant-kings of Europe came informed by more than just the motive of profit; they had the Church and contentious burdens of the White Man.

Kejriwal: Rishi? Raja?
Kejriwal: Rishi? Raja?

Elected Prime Ministers have civil society. Under the current one, the moral voice is an entity called the National Advisory Council, institutionalised under the tutelage of Sonia Gandhi, dowager-regent of the UPA. It could well be that such co-option of civil society created a counterblast whose implications we are probably yet to fully understand.

When the Anna Hazare-Arvind Kejriwal duo raised their standard of reform two years ago they grabbed the nation’s eyeballs and the Establishment’s neck. It was a stir that led many — from callow idealists to disruptive town criers — to mistake it as India’s Tahrir Square, a burgeoning bivouac that would close siege on the institutions of state and eventually impose on them a new Magna Carta of “people’s power” whose central edict would be the “Jan Lokpal”. Continue reading “2012: The Big Crossover Bid–From Rishi to Raja”