Phir ek baar?

Did Modi decide that he wanted to become the PM of this nation, or did Amit Shah decide that he will make Modi the PM of this nation. I always wonder how it was? Was there a day, perhaps when the two of them sat for a tea and one of the above happened.

India is voting to elect its 17th Lok Sabha. 900 million Indians are eligible to vote except maybe in WB where non-Indians too will vote 😉 This is the worlds biggest democratic exercise. This time around there will be 7 polling days spread over a month. The results should be out on May 23rd. Leading the BJP, current ruling party, is Narendra Modi, who in my humble opinion, is the world’s best politician. As he goes in for re-election, he has effectively made this election a referendum on himself. He runs the most cutting edge campaign in India’s history. Its made up of massive rallies all across the nation (typically 3-4 rallies a day, & he speaks for about 40-50 mins) All his speeches are a clever mix of nationalist issues, local issues, his performance, and his ideas for the next 5 years. His speeches have a good amount of rhetoric, blaming the past governments for stifling India’s progress for the past 6 decades, primarily the Nehru-Gandhi era & the current state government if its not a BJP government. When he is not campaigning, he is doing ‘exclusives’ with national & local media. He also finds time to sit down for a chat with a very popular Bollywood Actor to talk non-political aspects of his life and makes it too into a political masterstroke. His social media accounts actively engage the masses. He was even able to scout the social media for the INS Viraat vacation incident and make it into a major issue in the last stages of this elections. All this keeps the opposition miles behind. It feels like the opposition is still stuck in the early 2000s in terms of the campaigning strategy.

I attended his campaign rally in Bangalore. What I realized is that he has a very precisely crafted persona. I am sure that a lot of detail goes into projecting Narendra Modi that we see in the media & on stage. Not that it’s a bad thing. In a country like ours, you need a larger than life image to cut across the regional, communal, language barriers, else you will end up just being a regional stalwart, like the current crop of leaders found in the MahaThugBandhan.

Modi has successfully converted this election into a vote on his 5 years of PM-ship. I have always maintained, that you take out Modi from the BJP, and BJP is just another slight upgrade on Congress. He shows the killers instinct when the need arises. He can very well get down into a bare-knuckle street-fight (like the Bhrashtachari no 1 comment) just before polls in places where Sikhs have a significant influence. I believe he understands that there no point holding the higher moral ground & losing like Atalj in 2004. Indians need a tamasha when it comes to politics. He knows it.

Of course, ‘Ghar mein guske marenge’ narrative post-Pulwama, boosted his national image even further as he came across as a leader who is not afraid to deal with Pakistan in a language that they understand. As the elections got underway, one could see the undercurrent of his social schemes like LPG scheme, electrification of villages, rural sanitation, Mudra loans becoming discussion points amongst the common folks.

Another key narrative was set in Bengal, where thanks to TMC, BJP got into the driver’s seat on Hindutva. Bengal helped reaffirm the pro-Hindu stance of the BJP, which I feel they could not do it UP owing to the stalemate on Ram Janma Bhoomi issue. Coming to UP, the MahaThugBandhan became more of the top-down approach aimed clearly by salvage the political careers of the Yadav Parivaar and Mayawati. The masses I feel never really bought it as it’s like getting the North and the South Pole of a magnet to join together.

Another key issue was the opposition crying Rafale all over India. And it never seemed to become a key issue. The opposition peaked too soon on this. My personal opinion is that it became too complex for most to understand. It didn’t help that Rahul kept changing the numbers at every rally. Modi on the other hand never gave it any importance. ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ has to be one of the most ill-conceived one-liner in a campaign. Whoever came up with it and whoever approved it must be fired straight away. Modi kept his campaign fresh. He shifted into the top gear very close to the actual polling dates. Also, he played it smart with his talk with Akshay Kumar, that made up for the ban on the movie, his biography, by the EC.

While I am no expert, my observation is that the people who in 2014 voted Modi, who at that time was fairly inexperienced at the national stage and foreign affairs, have seen enough to vote for him again. Of course, the Modi government never went overboard appeasing the middle-class, though it did it in bits and pieces, except for maybe in the last budget. But doles are not what most middle class want. Safe cities, better infrastructure are important considerations too for them. Also, ‘There is no alternative’ is also a valid reason to vote Modi. Another small and yet significant segment that I would expect to vote him is the non-minority(2 of those) non-political electorate that may be motivated to vote him just because he has given a relatively stable, clean govt and seen his personal work ethic in the last 5 years. I assume a lot of first-time voters, and females voters to be part of this. At this point, credit must be also given to lots of groups who generated a lot of awareness on radio and social media that has made voting a pretty cool thing to do. While I was voting I saw quite a few first-time voters, waiting to get inked so that they could then snap a selfie and post it in their social circles just to get that – ‘I am responsible youth’ swagger 🙂

Another factor I have seen within my social media circle is that the voter, both urban and rural seems to clearly differentiate between a state and a national election. It also helped that the much-hyped loan-waivers promised by Congress when they won the state elections in late 2018 became a fiasco, with allegations of corruption which served a timely reminder as to what Congress brings to the table when in power. The quick deterioration in law and order in these states also grabbed headlines leading up to the national polls. People didn’t really buy into the NYAY especially looking at the Congress track record and it also had the middle class spooked as they realized that to fund this mega waste, it would inevitably mean more taxes, cesses on the middle class. Sam Pitroda and PC in a way confirming it by asking the middle class to be more generous in uplifting the less privileged.

So what are my predictions? Well, it’s not easy to put a number out. If I just go state wise, it’s difficult to imagine BJP could fare better than 2014. They already maxed out in BJP friendly state last time around. So the head says crossing 270 would be difficult. But if I go by my heart, and just looking at various snippets of simple people talking so passionately about Modi all over the country, the hordes of volunteers campaigning for Modi, I am inclined to say 320-330. But now the results are less than a week away. Surprisingly, none of the BJP supporters seem to be considering a remote possibility of BJP stumbling to less than 200. I shudder to think how these folks may react to a non Modi PM. The opposition seems to have already begun targeting the judiciary to create obstacles in the parliamentary process post results. EC has already been termed pro-Modi. EVMs are already faulty. And BJP voters already accused of being fascists.

Well if indeed Modi is our next PM, then the credit only goes to him and the huge trust capital that he has amassed with the people of India in the last 5 years. This trust capital is what has motivated crores to vote Modi in 2019 which the BJP and all their candidates are banking on the 23rd of May 2019.

Respect

Yesterday was election day in Bangalore for the 2019 Lok Sabha. I have my name enrolled in Indiranagar. I haven’t changed it to Hennur, because I don’t want to fix what’s not broken. I am not sure if I fully trust the Election Commission to transfer my vote to Hennur without any hassles. People who have lived in Bangalore for decades, voted as recent as 2018, find their name deleted this election. But that’s a story for another blog.

Standing in the queue for voting is always a moment of reflection for me. Though I have never experienced serpentine queue, instead, each one so far has been a pretty relaxed experience. The people who come out to vote always seem to have a sense of duty towards our democracy. Ours is not a perfect one by a long mile, but it’s also not the worst. Also, in the mix for this sense of duty, there are the first time voters who radiate enthusiasm, though I get confused – Is it for the election process? or the ubercool inked selfie to announce to their friends on social media that they are now responsible enough to participate in the process that decides the course this nation takes.

Yesterday, while I was queuing up to vote, in the uncharacteristically hot Bangalore summer, I witness a very memorable incident. A very senior citizen walks in to cast his vote helped by middle aged man who I later came to know was his son in law. What struck me was his 1000-watt smile as he was greeted by many folks, both young and old as he made his way inside the polling station. The respect he was getting was what got me curious. As a senior citizen, he quickly went in the booth, voted and came out. Even as he was being helped back into his car, many more people went over to him and greeted him. He cheerfully acknowledge all of them. The person standing behind me, another ‘young’ senior citizen also said hi to this old man. When he had left, I asked the gentleman behind me, who that person was. Was he some office bearer of some local organisation? a politician? The gentleman behind me replied – ‘He is nobody, but just a simple teacher, who has taught a lot of folks in that neighbourhood’. And I thought to myself – but of course!

As I gathered back my thoughts, I also remembered how my father-in-law also gets a lot of respect when he moves around in his town. He was a teacher too. At the end of the day, I can think of only two professions in India and perhaps the world, that can garner such respect from ordinary folks – Doctors & Teachers. I am an engineer by profession, I can never hope to get such adulation. There is something noble about the profession of doctors & teachers. One helps save lives, the other helps us to make our lives. I have very fond memories of my school days. I still vividly remember my teachers that have taught me. And when my thoughts wander to those days, they always bring a smile on my face. Be it Gopi teacher, or Surlacar Sir, or Mrs Surlacar, or my maths teacher Smita, or my science teacher Linda or Amonkar Sir, or Thakur teacher or Volvoikar Sir or Sunanda Pai teacher. All I can say is that I am grateful!

It’s a noble, albeit an underpaid profession. But at the end of the day, I guess it makes up for it when you walk around with a stick and people stop by and greet you with smile with nothing but gratitude and then there is this one guy who doesn’t know you, asks around to know who you are and then you leave an imprint on him too…

Pulwama attack 2019

Yet another ghastly attack on the Indian Armed Forces. The perpetrators the usual JEM. Our response… well thats the tricky part.

URI2??? Or another measured silence??? or some other Out-Of-Box response that will catch all of us by surprise.

The timing of this attack puts Modi in a very uncomfortable situation. The recent hit movie URI, seen by a majority of Indians has brought in focus the perils of serving in the Indian Armed Forces specifically those deployed in the conflict zone. It, also for the first time, brought into the focus the aftermath of such attacks especially for the family and the loved ones of the martyrs. Earlier we used to focus only on the soldiers. I am hundred percent sure that today, for the first time, all the thoughts of the people of India are with the family of the soldiers who were martyred. Every one of us is picturing a wife, a daughter, a son, a mother of each of the these soldiers. Yes, it’s a difficult day today.

Emotions are running high… everyone wants revenge. But you must also realise that the Pakistani Army, who surely is responsible for this in some capacity, will be on high alert. The JEM will also be on high alert. So that leaves URI2 as a high risk option. Modi will also need to take into consideration the LokSabha elections which are due in a couple of months. Any miscalculation can be disastrous. But at the same time, if his actions bear fruits, it will guarantee a second term.
Pulling out of the Indus water treaty is a more diplomatic options, plus, we could also stop all trades with Pakistan. But will it really be crippling?

Also, since the attack is fresh, all media outlets will be harping ‘Revenge’ but this narrative will change over the coming days to a more moderate tone as the usual Pakistani sympathisers who are hiding today, will start appearing in the news studios and social media sphere and blabber about how an unproportionate response could diminish the support for this Fight-Againt-Terror.

I personally think, that if the Indian Govt can, they should take out Masood Azhar soon. And may be a few others just as a cherry on the cake. Some sort to armed escalation would also help. But this will require elaborate planning and could be expensive also. This has an added risk that if it spirals out of control so close to the national elections, it could undo all the work done in the last 5 years by this govt. Plus this would undoubtedly invite pressure from the international community, primarily US & China. But it’s an options none the less.

Either which way he choses, Modi’s political acumen will be tested this time. He himself has come out and said that the sacrifice of the jawans will not be in vain. His senior ministers have also echoed the same. So this has to manifest in tangible actions else the opposition will make this a poll issue. If there is no response, then the Congress President will not stop screaming about it in all his rallies leading upto the polls. All the other members of the Thugbandhan will also be critical of how the issue was be handled by the PMO.

So as it stands, this is a difficult time for the nation and it’s leadership. All eyes will be on the PMO. I hope that the action Modi choses, surprises us. Honestly, I don’t think the end to this conflict is near. It’s a vicious cycle. But in this day & age, no retaliation is a sign of cowardice rather than upholding of Gandhian principles.

Jai Hind!

Barack Obama

I have always maintained, two of the biggest underachieving politicians of the past decade are our Ex PM Manmohan Singh and the US President Barack Obama.

The following picture with Anthony Bourdain is an apt reminder of the Obama Presidency, plenty of Photo Ops, very little substance.

obamabourdain
obamabourdain

The history will always remember Obama as America’s first black president. Period! Nothing more. And that is the real disappointment. The high point of his presidency was the day he took the oath in 2009. Despite being the most powerful person in the world for 8 years, he never did anything substantial.

George W Bush Sr stood against Saddam, Bill Clinton tried to bring peace to the middle east- the historic occasion when U.S. President Bill Clinton stood in the background when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (L) and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat shook hands don’t happen everyday.

oslo accords
oslo accords
.

George W Bush Jr will be remembered for standing on a mountain of rubble at ground zero with a bull horn comforting America in crisis.

George Bush Jr
GeorgeBush

Obama will be remembered for … ??? well, his colour of skin.

He had eight years to make a mark. But nothing! In a way, he has now paved way for Donald Trump – the anti-politician. American people have given up on politicians, and decided to throw their weight behind a businessman, who speaks his mind regardless of it being politically incorrect. They have taken liking to a person who has never held any public office, nor served in the army.

Not that I am against Donald Trump. Infact, I think, even I am fed up of the typical politician who value being politically correct over being just plain correct.

It’s time to throw caution to the wind and just give brashness an chance. What is the worst that could happen – Status Quo?!?

past posts
Obama Presidency
2008: King in waiting

India 2014

What an watershed year this was in the political sphere of our nation. The man who was touted as enemy number 1 by the Congress and all the news media houses of this nation triumphed in the most epic fashion. Narendra Modi won the hearts of Indians. All through his campaign he brought forth the naked truth of the so called seculars aka sickulars for the enlightened lot. He stuck to his agenda of development for all. He went hammer and tongs after 60 years of misrule of Congress (INC). And emerged victorious at the end. If ever one needed a example of how to beat the odds, Modi’s campaign of 2014 was it.

Not even me, a hardcore NaMo fan thought he could pull of the win. My realistic numbers were around 210-230. And I was expecting Amma to help him pull through in the Lok Sabha. But Modi and Amit Shah proved us all pleasantly wrong. For the first time since the 1984, had a national party won the clear majority to form the govt on its own. The last time that had happened was in 1984, against the backdrop of the assassination of Indian born head of Congress, Smt Indira Gandhi, a clear case of mass outpouring of the sympathy.

When on the 26th of May, 2014 the worlds most famous chaiwala, Narendra Damodardas Modi, took the oath to the Prime Ministers Office in the presence of SAARC leaders, for us – the NaMo fans, it was a moment of pride and joy. From that first Google Hangout with Ajay Devgan, to that inspiring speech at SRCC, and to that historic speech in Patna, NaMo went from strength to strength, uniting Indians who loved this nation, and who had watched helplessly as it decayed under Manmohan Singh. Modi instilled hope, and that all is not lost for us, and that we could still gather the pieces together and re-ignite the path to development and success.

Today, 6 months down the line, many more people have realized the dedication and determination of Modi to deliver on all that he has promised. With his charm, he has single handedly tried to bring forth a new image of India to the world. Be it his Make In India campaign, or the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, he effort to get a world yoga day, or his interaction with Indians abroad, and with other heads of state. Modi is revamping Brand India. He is making it more vibrant, young and positive. If the past 6 months are any indication of what lies ahead, than most definitely, the next 5 years are going to be most important in the history of this nation.

Achhe din anyone !?!