Monday, August 14, 2017

The Nandyal Bye-election...

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:
Ms. Roja was a popular telugu actress in the 90s. She later joined the Telugu Desam Party (contested and lost the 2004 and 2009 elections), and then moved on to the Congress and she is currently with YSR Congress (won 2014 elections). Ms. Roja also is a judge on a couple of TV shows. Ms. Roja is also very abusive. She has little control on her tongue while addressing press conferences, and has attacked almost everyone in the Chief Minister’s  family. On December 18, 2015, she abused another MLA in the Assembly for which she has been suspended from attending the house for a year!
Her latest tirade is against the youngest minister in Chandrababu Naidu’s cabinet, Ms. Bhuma Akhila Priya. Ms. Roja has enlightened us that Ms. Akhila Priya is not a traditional lady because she wears chudidars in the public. Upon questioning further, Ms. Roja has further enlightened us that she doesn’t care if Akhila Priya wears a nightie or pyjama or chudidar, but we have a tradition that says women should wear sarees and Akhila Priya doesn’t adhere to that!
To understand what prompted this attack, we will need to get into the current political scene in Andhra Pradesh, that is heating up by the day!
Bhuma Akhila Priya’s parents – Bhuma Nagi Reddy (2-time MLA and 3 time MP) and Shobha Nagi Reddy (4 time MLA)– were powerful political leaders in the Nandyal region of Andhra Pradesh. The mother Shobha Nagi Reddy died in an unfortunate car accident in April 2014. She was contesting as an MLA on behalf of YSRCP, and the election was postponed owing to the death. Akhila Priya was nominated by YSRCP to contest the election in November 2014. A tradition in AP has been in vogue – if a sitting MLA dies and a family member is given ticket, all other political parties will not contest the election. Akhila Priya won unanimously as the MLA.
The father Bhuma Nagi Reddy, was getting vexed with YSRCP – and along with daughter and other followers, re-joined TDP in Feb 2016. Of course, the incentive was that either he or his daughter will be made a minister. Bhuma Nagi Reddy suffered a massive heart attack in March 2017 and passed away. About a month later, Akhila Priya was inducted into the cabinet of Chandrababu Naidu as tourism minister.
At the time of his death, Bhuma Nagi Reddy was representing the Nandyal Assembly constituency. The death mandated a by-poll. Tradition demanded that TDP will decide the candidate, and all other parties will not put up a contest. And here’s where all hell broke loose. Akhila Priya wanted the ticket to be given to one family member. Other powerful members also wanted the ticket. So, the guy who didn’t get ticket from TDP, re-joined YSRCP, and the YSRCP upped ante by announcing a fight in this election.
The upping of the ante didn’t stop at merely announcing a fight. The famed Prashant Kishor is now advising YSRCP. The advise given to Jagan Mohan Reddy, who leads the YSRCP, was to camp in the Nandyal constituency for 10 days, and do road shows every single day. Advise or no advise, Jagan Mohan Reddy has resorted to the lowest level of campaign speeches. First, he said there is nothing wrong if Chandrababu Naidu is shot in the middle of the road!
Needless to say, there was an uproar, and EC sent him a notice. Jagan wrote to the EC apologizing, and then came back on the campaign trail and then tells us that there is nothing wrong if Chandrababu Naidu is hanged to death.
Dear reader – are you trying to recover from the shock? Now, do the barrage of attacks by Ms. Roja on Ms. Akhila Priya make sense? Do those attacks seem miniature compared to what Jagan is doing? Are you wondering why do they have to plumb to such depths? Don’t – because we are now used to this! What should worry us is this - the crowd cheered both the times Jagan wished the death of Chandrababu Naidu. This is being touted as a very close election – which means the possibility of Jagan’s candidate winning is quite high. This would also mean that people gave credence to the abusive campaign mounted by the YSRCP.
Chandrababu Naidu too lost his cool on a campaign trail. A citizen was shouting when he was addressing a rally - the citizen was complaining that there is no power in Nandyal. Chandrababu accused him of being a YSRCP agent, a drunkard, and warned him of spreading falsehoods. The viral video has dented the credibility of the CM. Surely, it doesn’t behove the status of a Chief Minister to warn a private citizen in this manner, even though he was disrupting the speech!
The Nandyal by-election is the most prestigious by-elections in recent times. The YSRCP is fighting to stay alive; and the TDP cannot afford to lose this election because of the ripple effect it might create. And nothing is off the table, to win this election. If encouraging the death of sitting CM fetches attention and some votes, so be it. If accusing the sitting minister of not being traditional because she doesn’t wear sarees, so be it. The election is on August 23rd. Wondering what else we will have to hear!

Hamid Ansari disappoints with his parting note, resorts to rhetoric and falsehoods

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference.
If you were to interview the outgoing Vice President of India who also doubles up as the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, who held the post for 10 years, would you want to talk about his experiences and learnings, or would you want to talk about the current government? Would you want to focus more about his experiences and his decisions as Chairman of Rajya Sabha, or would you want to focus more on events that have dominated the media space in recent times?
Karan Thapar got this opportunity and he asked/intervened (Well, it’s not a Karan Thapar interview if there are no interventions ;)) a total of 122 questions. Out of which only 32 were related to Rajya Sabha, out of which only 15 were related to *his* actions/decisions as Rajya Sabha Chairman. So barely 10% of the time was spent on his primary role. What about the rest of the 90% then?
In conversation with Karan Thapar on his last day as vice president, Hamid Ansari talked about growing intolerance, aggressive nationalism, the government’s political inaction on Kashmir and more.
This very much concurs with the agenda of the Lutyens cabal. And the Vice President obliged the cabal with equally rhetoric answers that have created quite a stir. Before we get into the details of these responses, I would like to highlight the mucky nature of this interview, by highlighting a few questions. Sample the first one below:
KT: You mentioned that on your first birthday as vice president, Dr Manmohan Singh and his wife came over to wish you. I imagine you’ve had three birthdays after Mr Modi took over. Has Mr Modi been to wish you regularly?
HA: Eh, regularly yes. I think the last occasion he was away he sent a message. But first two occasions, yes.
KT: He was there.
HA: Yes, he did, yes.
From where does Karan Thapar and his ilk get such ideas? If he was pursuing such an irrelevant line of questioning, then why didn’t he ask if Dr. Manmohan Singh and wife came to visit him on every birthday? Better yet, he could have counted the first three years of each PM and made a pie-chart out of it and furthered his research! The cheap line of questioning doesn’t end here – here’s another sample: 
KT: Just 48 hours ago or so, the Chinese newspaper the Global Times quoted a Chinese expert who said that a small-scale military operation is possible may be even likely in two weeks. Speaking of the apprehension in India are you apprehensive about this situation?
So now we have to answer based on a “quote” made by an “expert” we don’t know, published in a newspaper we don’t read? Why is KT assuming that the Vice President of the country will feel “apprehensive” about a random quote?!
Let’s anyway get back to the crux of the interview – Shri Hamid Ansari’s views on intolerance, fear, triple talaq etc. The all-knowing Karan Thapar framed the first question like this:
KT: I want to use this moment, Mr Vice President to talk about the general situation in the country today because I know it is one that concerns the large sections of the country. 
The classic cabal game – “Many people think(like me)”, “large sections feel (what I feel)”, “I know (everything!)” – where they generalize few occurences to create an atmosphere of fear. However, what is worrisome are the responses of Mr. Hamid Ansari.
He goes on to give credence to these baseless theories, and uses strong language to further perpetuate this fear. He says that a “certain ambience of acceptance” is now “under threat”; that he shares the feeling that “there is growing intolerance in India”, and spoke about it in an event in Bengaluru a few days back. He says that he has based all these conclusions based on “meeting fellow citizens” and reading papers etc.
Author and tweeter, Anand Ranganathan, has busted many of the myths surrounding the branding by the Lutyens media here. Likewise, there are many social media users who have busted many such propaganda machines. As Vice President, was Mr. Hamid Ansari not aware of these statistics? Is it not his responsibility to reassure the people of the nation, that statistics point out to the fact that we are as tolerant or intolerant as we ever were? Is it not his responsibility to chide the likes of Karan Thapar for trying to spread malice and fear, through their writings? Instead, very disappointgly, he obliges the provocative questions of Karan Thapar with his own rhetoric.
When pressed whether he bought this up with the PM and other ministers, and if he was satisfied with the answers – he gave the following answer:
HA: Well, there is always an explanation and there is always a reason. Now it is a matter of judgment, whether you accept the explanation, you accept the reasoning and its rationale.
Does this mean you don’t accept the explanation, Mr. Ansari? Should you not be telling the people of this country why you don’t accept the explanation?
When asked why he chose this moment to do so, Mr. Ansari responded that he has spoken at various times in the last 10 years whenever – “I have in the last ten years spoken out again and again on matters that I think needed to be aired in public.”.
Given how much corruption and inefficiency was the key point of public discourse in the years 2011 to 2014, I did a keyword search of “corruption” on his website where his speeches are uploaded. About 6-7 speeches came up with only cursory references to the word corruption and not on the mood prevalent in the country then!
When asked about Kashmir, he gave an elaborate answer blaming the ruling political parties for the scenario today. However, we do not find any view when Kashmir was equally burning back in the year 2010 (when he was our Vice President too)
Why then, does Vice President Hamid Ansari, find the need to give credence to the lies that the Lutyens cabal spreads? It is unfortunate that he was sounding more like a spokesperson of the cabal and hasn’t voiced a more independent opinion. It is equally unfortunate that he has chosen not to harp on any of experiences in improving the functioning of the Rajya Sabha (especially in the last 3 years), and instead laments on how he was helpless in controlling unruly members.
Karan Thapar’s conversation is easily one of the most easiest interview once could imagine to have. Rhetorical questions on “reforms in Rajya Sabha” as proposed by Arun Jaitley; money bills etc have all elicited rhetorical answers that don’t give us any clarity.
Further to this, the vile nature of Karan Thapar’s questions will put any neutral journalist to shame. Sample this one:
KT: Let me come to Rajya Sabha TV. To everyone surprise and delight, it’s a channel that established itself with credibility, with independence, with a certain neutrality and that happened under your charge. Important colleagues of mine, who are senior journalists like Siddharth Varadarajan, M.K. Venu, Govind Ethiraj, Bharat Bhushan, have all been anchors. Now that you’re stepping aside, there is a concern in the media world, that perhaps the quality and character Rajya Sabha TV will change.
Blood boils with anger when one reads such ridiculous assertions. It is independent when rabid anti-Modi journalists are given space to vent their frustration? The elongated question sounds more like an exasperation that another fortress has been breached despite all attempts to stop the breach.  
On the whole, it was disappointing to see Vice President Hamid Ansari choosing to step down in this manner. He could have done better.