A FRIEND WAS SHOCKED at the low levels to which the Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi can stoop. He was convinced that the posters on the Bihar Congress leaders (picturre above), mentioning the caste of its leaders and thanking Rahul for making the party so inclusive and diversified, was BJP’s handiwork.
It did not occur to him that by the same logic it could be said that Mahatma Gandhi —having finished the job of struggle for freedom from the Biritish and making Nehru the PM — was killed by the Congress Party so that the BJP could be blamed for it.
IT IS A STRANGE coincidence that online and print media flashed the two news items on the same day: one about the Nagpur Mayor, Dr Nanda S. Jichkar, BJP, taking her son to
the US as her private secretary and the other about former minister Kapil Sibal deriding a little known Bharatiya Janata Party worker for washing the feet of a party MP.
Sibal strongly reacted to the later – and reports that the worker also drank the water with which the feet were washed. He immediately related it to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the man every Congressman loves to hate (though the PM had nothing to do with it). Sibal forgot to mention that the first political leader to hit headlines for similarly washing the feet of his mentor was none other than a Congress leader, Dr Shrikant Jichkar.
The late Dr Jichkar, whom I knew personally, was not some illiterate unknown worker but a former Maharashtra minister, once India’s youngest MP and one reputed to be the most educated politician in India as he has the largest number of degrees.
In Maharashtra, the second initial is usually the father or husband’s name and some may have wrongly thought the two Jichkars, both from Nagpur, were related, just as many may have thought that S. B. Chavan, whose feet Dr Jichkar had washed, was the borhter of Y. B. Chavan, the state’s first and most famous Chief Minister. But I knew Dr Shrikant’s wife was Rajashree. A little search revealed the Mayor’s husband was an RTO named Sharad.
And neither Kabil Sibal nor any other Congress leader was outraged about Dr Shrikant’s act. None of them issued statements condemning him. What prominent Congressmen do becomes reprehensible if done by an unknown, lowly, BJP man!
An office-bearer of the Congress Party killing his wife and trying to burn her in a hotel tandoor (a furnace) or youth Congress workers in a special train looting shops at stations along the way are their own actions and the party chief has nothing to do with them, but if a BJP man violates traffic rules, Narendra Modi is to blame for it.
Whether owing allegience to a leader simply because he belongs to the dynasty and wagging tails everytime his/her name is mentioned is any less than washing feet is for people to decide. But before anyone from another culture is shocked or surprised at these Indian traditions, these oriental customs have to be understood in their context.There is someting oriental about them, alien to the occidental mind. A Chinese-American teacher in my journalism school six decades ago said that a floor has to be kept “so clean that you can eat off it.” Then she would explain that people don’t eat off the floor in China. I told her I undeerstood what she meant, as I was an oriental too.
In Uttar Pradesh state of India, someone passing by a Brahmin known to him on foot or a bicycle, used to say “Pai lagoo panditji” (I touch your feet, learned one). This verbal feet touching – whether the Brahmin was really learned or not – comes from generations of customs that have lost their original meaning and have been ritualised – like most of Hinduism.
I do not know whether the custom, even in its ritualised form, continues or not, but I do remember the days when Pandit Kamalapati Tripathi, then Chief Minister of UP, used to meet visitors with a single chair for himself in the room. Every visitor had to touch his feet first. It is said Tripathi used to remember months later a visitor who did NOT touch his feet and hold that against him. He was a Congressman but Jawaharlal Nehru was not blamed for it. Feet touching is one of the first such rituals Modi stopped after becoming India’s Prime Minister, a fact never acknowledged.
Feet touching or prostrating on the ground at the feet of a learned and revered person was considered a mark of reverence for hundreds of years in India. At a parents’ day in a school just 30-35 years ago, I used to see an eminent scientist in full suit prostrating before the swamiji (poston June 30,2017: A Spiritual Space Scientist) who ran the school. It was a sign not only of respect but also humility, a virtue regarded highly in Indian culture.
The story of Dr Nanda taking her son to USA as Secretary though he was not an employee of the Municipal Corporation of which she is the Mayor also seems to have got a big play in the media because she too belongs to BJP.
Without defending her, I am reminded of the story of the first Chief MInister of Andhra Pradesh, Tanguturi Prakasham (being a Brahmin, he was always addressed as Pantulu or Panditji, as Nehru too was). The first linguistic state of India, Andhra, had Karnool as its interim capital, with many offices in tents.
Like all Congress chief ministers, he too faced opposition and ouster moves by factions in the party itself, one led by Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, who later became India’s President. In the state legislature there a no-confidence motion was moved against Prakasham for appointing his own son as his PA — just what the BJP Mayor of Nagpur did.
The Opposition had Communist stalwarts like P. Sundaraiah and Nagi Reddy. My friend the late G. Krishna, who had covered the legislature, told me of the fiery speeches of the comrades, the machinations of Sanjiva Reddy in engineering the no-trust move and the moving reply to the debate by Prakasham Pantulu .
Prakasham had earned millions as a Mylapore lawyer in Chennai and sacrificed all the wealth for the freedom struggle (travelling in what Congress leader Sashi Tharoor called the cattle class with followers and asking if someone had bought a ticket for him as he had no money to buy). He was called Andhra Kesari (Lion of Andhra) by Gandhiji as he bared his chest to British bullets during the freedom struggle.
The Chief Minister told the legislature that he had appointed his son to take care of him as his PA because he was a patient of prostate enlargement, as a result of which he had no control over bladder and bowel movements – a condition in which no outsider appointed as his PA would care for him.
The speech, according to Krishna, was so touching that it literally brought tears to the eyes of the Opposition leaders who crossed the floor to the CM’s seat, held his hands and said sorry to Prakasham Pantulu before withdrawing the no-confidence motion.
It is not known under what circumstances the Mayor showed her son as her PA. She did not even appoint him as a PA formally. Her act cannot be equated to that of Prakasham Pantulu, but it does remind me of a Chief Justice of AP High Court who, just days before his retirement, wanted to go to some place in the USA for medical treatment (of course at government expense). This was challenged in a public interest litigation.
But none was filed against many Indian leaders going abroad for treatment even though Indian hospital standarads have improved so much that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj opted for a kidney transplant in India
Sibal, in his tirade, asks if BJP members of Parliament would wash Modi’s feet and drink that “dirty water”. Whether Jichkar, who drank the water off Chavan’s feet, drank ‘dirty’ water or clean water after washing the feet clean first is not known. The same is also not known in the case of the BJP worker.
But what is known is that washing feet clean before any ritual is very highly valued in Indian traditions — something even Kapil Sibal cannot find fault with.
There are many people inside the Congress party working hard for the victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Sanjay (Anpadh, gawar) Nirupam has now joined their ranks.
The most prominent among them is Mani (Neech Admi) Sankar (chaiwala) Iyer who contributed most to Modi’s victory by calling him a lowly tea seller and asking him to serve tea at the next Congress session.
Renuka (hahaha) Choudhary opens her mouth against Modi only to add to the votes he would win in the next election.
Both the defectors (Renuka from Telugu Desam and Nirupam from Shiv Sena) had used foul language against Congress earlier – and made it win. Now they joined Congress and are using foul language to help Modi win.
Shashi (Hindu Pakistani) Tharoor absuses Modi for advocating Hinduism and then circulates a video on why he is a Hindu. Congress has coalition with Muslim League and has helped Razakars (those who wanted Nizam’s state – now Telangana – to join Pakistan) start a party – Majlis Ittehadul-Muslumeen (MIM) and calls itself secular by slaughtering a cow in public and holding a beef party in Kerala.
A Congress leader who promised the post of a judge to a woman lawyer in return for sexual favours talks of the importance of judiciary!
Congress lawyers argue court cases favouring triple talaak and nikah halala and play vote bank politics of giving IDs and ration cards overnight to migrants (to show them as citizens).
And they call for advancement of minorities! They declare Rahul is a ‘janaudhaari’ Brahmin though the grandson of Feroze never had an Upanayanam (thread ceremony).
Decades of Congress rule in India resulted in a political culture of treating political rivalsasenemies.
Obviously Rahul’s only qualification is that he is son of Rajiv, who they swear by.
After all the symbol of Bharatiya Janata Party is Rajiv (lotus) and the mother of Indira ‘Gandhi’ was Kamala (also lotus).
Today, September 5, is Teachers’ Day in India, being the birthday of a great teacher andthe second President, Dr S. Radhakrishnan.
On this day we should also remember Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the late President of India and famous space scientist.
What is heart-touching about Dr Kalam is his commendable reverence for his teachers. He mentioned them in his books and attributed all his achievements to them.
In ‘Wings of Fire‘ he says he could become a missile scientist because of the teacher who taught him mathematics in primary school in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu. He recalled his name too.
When he went to Gujarat immediately after the riots there when Narendra
Modi was the Chief Minister of that state, many ‘sicular liberals’ were irked and criticised him for it, as though a Muslim he was made the President by the ‘communal’ Bharatiya Janata Party.
What they forgot, or deliberately chose to ignore, was that the visit was in connection with the birth centenary of his teacher and Guru, Dr Vikram Sarabhai, father of India’s space program.
And they attributed it to his loyaoty to BJP!
It was perhaps the only reason found by the Congress to deny him a second term and instead put up a dynasty loyalist, who brought brown the level of the post, Pratibha Patil, as President.
THE LAST POST in this blog, on the need for bipartisan politics, came into the spotlight with quotes from the eulogies to the late Arizona Senator John McCain and the emotional, angry, thought-provoking speech by his daughter, Meghan McCain.
It also evoked some interesting reactions. While many agreed, in emails or personal conversations, with the need for bipartisan politics in India some were uncomfortable with that conclusion. It made one thing obvious: Some agree with and admire Prime Ministerr Narendra Modi for his expressed views and stand, as I do; some others’ support for him is purely dogmatic, as they belong to his school of thought, just as the opposition to him by some is just because he belongs to another religion.
“I am not a Hindu, so I must oppose whatever he says and find fault with it,” they think just as the supporters think, “He stands for Hindutva, just as I do, so I must support him.”
It is for you to decide which of the two categories the following e-mail an ex-student sent (which explains the ‘sir’) belongs to
This was a wonderful piece. As usual, bringing out a nuanced argument about the issue at hand.
I agree with the fact pointed out by McCain’s daughter … America was great always and need not be made great again (as Trump wants to) but was immediately drawn to the potential to compare with India — Modi and his ilk trying to do it … India is great already … no need to do what is being unnecessarily pushed in the
name of development.
But reading this para … “The Arizona senator planned to make his death an extraordinary political moment that has elevated a national debate on the values on which the United States was founded. McCain’s funeral marked the largest gathering of the bipartisan political establishment… I could not help but wonder … why did you not throw in a comparison here with Vajpayee’s death and the funeral spectacle that was made?
The only difference is … McCain planned it and Vajpayee was in no position to do it. But had he been, he would not have done it.
Do you agree with the conclusion that Vajpayee, during whose regime relations with an
inimical Pakistan were the most friendly in 71 years of independent India and who did not hesitate to praise Indira Gandhi as goddess Durga when she took courageous action against an event that brought into India an influx of refugees never before experienced by any Western country, would not have advocated bipartisan politics – if he was not reduced to a vegetable existence in his last days
perhaps due to Parkinson’s and/or dementia?
Would Vajpayee have decided to ignore the dynastic parties crying hoarse about ‘intolerance to Muslims’ just to create their vote banks without realising that educated, enlightened Muslims would see through the game?
Would Vajpayee have not called for a bipartisan stand when the so-called liberals shed tears for the Myanmar minority of Rohingya Muslims while they said nothing about the influx India faced during the Bangladesh war?
Would Vajpayee have not questioned the ‘liberals’ backing Kashmiri militants who threw out thousands of Pandits from their own land and are now demanding human rights and ‘independence’ for a land they forcibly occupied as invaders?
Had Hindus been not tolerant of other religions, would many countries where they left imprints of their culture and religion not have become Hindu countries when India itself, being partitioned on the basis of religion, chose to be secular?
The reason some supporters of the coalition ruling India feel embarrassed is that Modi too is considered a maverick rightist like with Donald Trump who, like Modi, is also an “outsider” (not in the ruling dynasty or a professional politician seeking power for self-aggrandizement) who got elected unexpectedly. Any comparison with Trump would lead to Modi’s ‘Hindutva’ stand being compared to Trump’s reliance on “redneck Bible-belt white supremacist’ support to come to power. Both are taking some not-very-popular strong decisions.
And it is grudged both are bringing to their countries economic prosperity and success.
A WORLD WITHOUT strife, warfare, hatred and mutual distrust is an ideal world. It is what visionaries dreamt human evolution would lead to. It will be the heaven all want — all who are normal, peace-loving humans, and not perverts or evil people.
And every thinking human being presumes he/she is a normal, peace-loving, good person and that everyone opposing him/her is a pervert, evil, self-seeking, bad person. The aim of all politics is harmony, well-being. All religions seek enlightenment, peace, bliss and happiness for every human being.
But more blood has been flown, more humans killed, more people subjected to misery and hardship in the name of religion and politics than any other cause, because of people who think their religion ALONE is right, their God ALONE is the Supreme God and their way of governance ALONE is the right way. Everything else is wrong. All else is to be changed, if necessary by violence, inflicting pain or even killing.
They do not realise the world is not just black or white. There are greys too.
The welfare and progress of the majority is believed to be the goal of democracy. How that is determined, however, remains uncertain. The West has designed the 51:49 model which, for want of anything better, has been adopted by most countries, while some believed that a dictator or a king has the divine right to decide. So some want dynastic rule. In the Western model, if 51 say something and 49 something else, what the former says prevails.
The ancient Indian model of democracy is that of Adi Shankaracharya who traversed the length and breadth of the vast Indian sub-continent twice before he died in his thirties, to argue and convince by reasoning and logic, all those who questioned the Hindu philosophy and way of life. Ancient Indians believed in consensus, as against majority. One washerman doubting the chastity of Sita could make Rama ask her to prove it, though millions worshipped Rama and Sita.
Adi Shankara vanquished in his debate all but Mandana Mishra and agreed to have a debate with him. Who was to judge the winner? Mandana Mishra’s own wife, who was herself a great scholar. And when Shankara was adjudged by her as the winner, he accepted her contention that his victory was incomplete as she was the better half of Mandana Mishra and he should defeat her too.
He accepted that too, showing what space women (then) occupied in Indian thinking.
Listening to funeral orations on the death of one who is described as the American maverick, Arizona Senator John McCain — some brilliant, touching speeches made on Saturday (here in America) — one is struck by one word: Bipartisan.
Several of those who paid tributes to McCain, at the memorial service at Washington’s National Cathedral on Saturday, were from the opposition Democratic party. It was the departed leader’s own desire that they should deliver the eulogies. Several disagreed with his political goals. But none doubted his intentions, the sincerity of his beliefs, the genuineness of the man himself.
It took a grieving daughter to capture the spirit of the man. Meghan McCain spoke, often in tears and breaking down emotionally, of him as the “fierce conscience of the nation’s best self.” The “culmination of a uniquely political week of mourning,” as a channel put it, was the realisation that democracy was all about the wellbeing and happiness of a majority.
Meghan said: “We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness. The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly.” It is widely believed to be a reference to Donald Trump, President of the USA, who belongs to McCain’s own party
In “a stunning eulogy laced with grief, anger, pride and love” and a rebuttal to Trump, Meghan said, “the America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.” An outburst of spontaneous applause interrupted her eulogy.
Today there cannot be a consensus on everything. But rational thinking and debate can establish what is right and what is wrong. Democracy is believed to support this debate, this churning of minds to bring out the truth. Truth can be only one. If 51 out of 100 say (due to fear or offering of some sops in return) that black is white, it does not become so.
Under Narendra Modi, the Army’s surgical strike had to be criticised. His call for rural toilets and cleanliness is ridiculed. Demonetization to eradicate black money and his crusade against corruption is faulted. Efforts for a national identity citizenship card are fought. Vajpayee praised Indira Gandhi as goddess Durga for Bangladesh liberation, but politics had to be played on his ashes after cremation.
All to keep a dynasty in power.
McCain was eulogized for his courage, patriotic service, obstinacy, humor, reverence for freedom and contempt for bullies, the personification of America itself. John McCain was a senator, like a member of India’s Lok Sabha — not the President of Vice president of the party now in the majority and ruling the country. He had contested in a party primary against President George Bush and in a presidential race against Barrack Obama.
And yet the nation celebrated him — something which India’s rulers till 2014 could never think of. The three non-dynasty Congress Prime Ministers who preceded Modi were only stop-gap arrangements tolerated by the Congress long as the dynasty called the shots. Their role is belittled. They did not deserve memorials. Their portraits do not adorn the party dais.
The Arizona senator planned to make his death an extraordinary political moment that has elevated a national debate on the values on which the United States was founded. McCain’s funeral marked the largest gathering of the bipartisan political establishment.
Bipartisan politics, where the rivals agree on national issues, is a far cry in India.
INDIA, WORLD’S BIGGEST democracy was never as close to the world’s greatest democracy, the United States of America, as it is today.
The ‘comrades’ who drove the country into what was the Communist camp of the Soviet Union before it broke up, regret this. Political differences on the issue can be debated at length, and both sides can be right on some points.
But there can be no differences on the fact that we seem to always learn the wrong things from other countries and religions.
Watching the funeral eulogies of Senator John McCain, who died on August 25, just 4 days before he was to turn 82, reminded me of how leaders of the Majlis Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (MIM) in Aurangabad Municipal Corporation opposed an obituary resolution on the death of one of India’s most successful and respected of Prime Ministers, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who died on August 16, just because he was a Hindu. They were thrashed and chased out by the Bharatiya Janata Party members.
McCain, a staunch Republican who lost a primary contest to President George Bush and a presidential race to President Barack Obama, had just before his desired that his funeral eulogies should be delivered by George Bush, Barack Obama and the Democratic Vice-president of Obama regime, Joe Biden.
This brings into focus what I just heard in an audiobook (in preparation for the coming blindness) by Joe Biden on the death of his son Bo ‘Promise Me, Dad – A Year of Hope, Hardship And Purpose’. In the touching narration of his son’s last days of battle with cancer and his own dilemma over contesting for presidentship after Obama, Biden says the Republicans were just his rivals and not enemies.
Both parties have their own vision of a united America, its people’s aspirations and values and their beliefs. Contesting against Obama in the primaries and against Bush in the presidential race were just democratic actions, not a war. He has his own values but accepts the rivals’ right to their own values and goals. And he was all praise for McCain’s sincerity and beliefs, though he differed. True, I sat through in Parliament in Press gallery, when leaders of all parties paid tributes to departed MPs of all parties in many ‘obituary references’. But they were all mere formal rituals None sounded so true as the eulogies by Biden or Obama. Not one was memorable.
The political culture nurtured by decades of Congress party rule in India is one in which the political rivals are enemies, some parties are deemed “untouchable” and dynastic rule is sought to be made legitimate. What Modi says has to be opposed even if right and in people’s interest. You can align with Muslim League and MIM, put up candidates on the basis of caste and religion, organise genocide of one community and regularise refugees of one faith to build religion-based vote banks. But those who talk of the majority Hindus are ‘communal’!
Even after 71 years of Independence, Indian polity is yet to mature