Tuesday, October 22, 2013

India After Gandhi: Ramchandra Guha

After a pretty long time I am writing about a book. India After Gandhi, by Ramchandra Guha, takes us in the era, which history books in school end at. For most of us, India's history ends with Nehru's famous tryst with destiny speech and the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. But, in reality India's history as a nation, begins from 1947, when her existing boundaries and shape came into being.

The book talks about all the major events that have shaped the present situations in the country since 1947.
The enormous tasks and challenges presented by the independence, partition and the British mandate to the princely states of being free to join either union or declare independence from both. The country's first cabinet faced challenges from different directions at the same time. These ranged from rehabilitation of those displaced by the partition; uniting people who were divided along all imaginable lines like religion, caste, language, territory, etc.; presenting to the country a set of rules and regulations that would govern them with fairness and most important of all, food and shelter. 

The book very nicely describes the way Nehru's cabinet negotiated through the amazingly complex maze and labyrinth. Negotiations, persuasions and debates were the only ways used in resolving almost all disputes. Guha describes the challenges faced by the constitutional assembly and the bureaucracy in turning the nation into a democratic society based on universal adult franchise. With the benefit of hindsight that we now have, the book makes us realise how fortunate we were to have leaders of the calibre of Nehru, Ambedkar, S. P. Mookerjee, J. B. Kriplani and others. Nehru's staunch belief in democratic process meant that many of his favourite ideas and views were critically debated and he was constantly ready to accommodate the concerns of the opposition too. Several proposals of his were modified and watered down but each was fiercely debated in Parliament.

The country has never been without challenges. Right from independence, there have been movements aimed at seceding from India, external invasions and internal troubles. The book talks about some of the successes and failures that the nation has seen in this regard. It also talks about the way India went on to build its economy and the push and pull from within about the direction of the development. As we read the book, we realise how leaders with strong grass root connections can actually give a good shape to discussions and debates on various issues. Of course, this has its pitfalls, like Indira Gandhi responding to the masses' disappointment with her infamous garibi hatao slogan. One of the most glaring examples of not being connected to the masses and acting on suggestions of coterie is that of Rajiv Gandhi reversing the Shah Bano judgement and then opening the locks of the Ram temple/Babri masjid in Ayodhya.

Guha also talks about the statesmanship of opposition leaders like J. B. Kriplani, A. B. Vajpayee amongst various others, which sort of makes the reader a little sad when compared to the politicians of the present. He talks of the deterioration in the democratic processes since Indira Gandhi's time, which has continued till date. Increased instances of governments trying to become more populist and trying to enforce their mandates (and views) without thorough discussion in the legislative platforms provided by the constitution. A very pertinent point, which stands out till date, was made by Nehru and is quoted in Guha's book, which sums up the democracy that we are:
 The quality of men who are selected by these modern democratic methods of adult franchise gradually deteriorates because of lack of thinking and the noise of propaganda... He [the voter] reacts to sound and to the din, he reacts to repetition and produces either a dictator or a dumb politician who is insensitive. Such a politician can stand all the din in the world and still remain standing on his two feet and, therefore, he gets selected in the end because the others have collapsed because of the din.
The book ends with the results of the 2004 elections, considering the fact that since 2004 till date it was a contemporary period for Ramchandra Guha, rather than a history. The book is a great reading for those who want to understand the country and its political and economic discourse since 1948. It definitely helps in reshaping our views about the decisions that were taken at that time, which of course continue to affect us till date.

India After Gandhi: Ramchandra GuhaSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mumbai crowds understand their cricket, Virat!

Virat Kohli is unhappy about how the crowd jeered him in Mumbai, during the Mumbai Indians vs. Royal Challengers Bangalore game. And, he lashed back at them during the post-match presentation and press conference

He wants the crowd to remember that he plays for India too!! And hence, he should not be booed. Since when did representing India become a certificate that will prevent booing? He doesn't understand why is there so much "hatred" at this particular venue. And he feels people should be aware of their cricket. Well, Kohli, you are the vice-captain of the Indian team, and captain of the Royal Challengers' team, but your statements certainly reveal your ignorance of the historic passion the Mumbai crowd has for cricket. This is a crowd that has booed and jeered visiting teams when they play Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy matches. For them, when Mumbai is playing they are passionate and take every win and loss of the team almost personally. So, instead of actually enjoying the fact that city-based leagues like IPL are creating local fans who feel an attachment to their team, Virat wants these fans (and consequently all those others watching the IPL) to be magnanimous and remember that players representing other cities play for India too and hence shouldn't be jeered/booed.

No sir, that isn't what city-based leagues are supposed to do. They are exactly supposed to do what the Ranji Trophy does. Create a loyal base of fans for your team. That is what happens in other leagues like everyone's favourite the EPL. And it is the same with (American and Canadian) football leagues here and ice-hockey matches. Fans root for their city/state/province and if they feel like, boo the opposition. It doesn't matter if there are players in the opposition who represent their country. Right now, you are a rival of our home team! And you will be viewed as one. Doesn't Virat passionately advertise for the Bangalore team? 

Yes Virat, Mumbai cricket fans are a passionate lot and when Mumbai plays, they take it personally. And they will cheer for you, when you appear for team India, but when you play in the IPL, you are a rival. Try to take it sportingly. Perhaps the IPL is successful in creating city-based loyalties, which is necessary even for franchisees if they want a marketable fan-base. Ask your boss (and his son), they would be happy to see a Bangalore crowd which demonstrates fierce loyalty towards its team. Right now, your 'viraat' verbal diarrhea against the Mumbai crowd doesn't give you any brownie points and shows that you do not have it in you to stomach such opposition with a large heart. Perhaps, you might want to learn a few things from your RCB predecessors- Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble.
Mumbai crowds understand their cricket, Virat!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, February 21, 2013

It is the power of perception, silly

We are now well aware of the love that Justice Katju has for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. And also how this love spruced up Arun Jaitley's love for Justice Katju.

In his article, Justice Katju persuades 'idiot' Indians to not commit the mistake that the Germans made in 1933, when they elected Adolf Hitler to power. But Justice Katju does not mention why this happened. Germany was humiliated at the end of World War 1. The country was asked to bear the costs of the war and simultaneously was restrained from developing its industrial capacities and power to the fullest potential. This led to economic mismanagement, hyper inflation, joblessness and erosion of  hard-earned personal savings. Amidst all this Hitler's party provided a road map to what Germans of that time perceived as recovery to glory. And Hitler bolstered these perceptions through actions at critical points in time. This strengthened the perception that only the Nazi party can restore Germany's lost glory. The final nail in the coffin was the Great Depression, a product of the great American economic mismanagement. The result: an overwhelming number of unemployed young and old people in a stagnant economy and a political landscape that didn't inspire any hope or confidence.

See some common part? The creation of a perception and backing it up with visible actions. Today the youth of India perceive Modi as a man of action. They want an economy that is fully functional and provides them with jobs. They realise that the only way to achieve progress is through economic development. And he has backed these perceptions with actions. When every Tom, Dick and Harry is looting the country, Modi comes across as a clean person who hasn't indulged in any kind of corruption. His biggest PR coup was in getting Tata Motors' Nano plant to Gujarat in a matter of days. And almost every industrial house has lauded him for his skills in providing an investment friendly atmosphere.

What is the perception about Modi's challenger, Rahul Gandhi? He doesn't seem to have a firm stand on any issue that troubles today's youth. He doesn't appear to take a strong stand against those in his government who are  accused of corruption. His election time speeches haven't inspired the voters in UP, Bihar and Gujarat. He claims to strive for merit but is made Vice President of the Congress party even when he hasn't led the party to a single electoral victory! Majority of the 'youth' he has promoted are sons of erstwhile ministers. His plans on kick starting the economy are not known. He doesn't interact with people through media or social media and always seems to keep away from scrutiny. His own brother-in-law seems to be financially benefiting from Rahul and Sonia Gandhi's position in the centre. To top it, Robert Vadra called us 'idiot Indians' as "mango people in banana republic." In such a scenario, how cam he persuade people to vote for his party?

Oh yes, the riots of Gujarat were a reality and Narendra Modi was at the helm of affairs during those riots. You claim he hasn't been brought to justice. But so is the case with the 1984 anti-Sikh riots of Delhi. Who has been punished for those riots? In fact, the man who said that this is a reaction of very very angry people was made the Prime Minister of the country in just a few weeks of making that statement. Justice Katju, you did appeal to us 'idiot Indians' to not commit the mistake that the Germans committed in 1933. That we should not have a situation where Narendra Modi is at the helm of affairs of our country. Going by your appeal even those at the helm of the Congress should not be brought back to power. But sir, you haven't enlightened us about a possible and credible alternative to Mr. Modi. In such a scenario what are we 'idiots' supposed to do? Hope you do not take us on a ride with this opinion of yours!
It is the power of perception, sillySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend