Monday, July 27, 2015

Judiciary above Suspicion..............Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard/ July 26, 2015

Judiciary Above Suspicion in Pronouncing Justice, Irrespective of Blood Colour of Criminals

Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon

Yakub Memon is not a religion. It’s a proper noun like other names, such as Kehar Singh who was hanged for the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and Renuka Shinde and sister Seema Gavit who are on death row for murdering five children. All of them belong to different faiths and communities. But they share one thing in common. All have committed the rarest of rare crimes and were sentenced to go to the gallows. Yet, some ill-liberals have chosen to splash communal paint on the verdicts as if some names are above the law while the owners of some others must face the noose if they have taken the lives of others. Unfortunately, such insensitive remarks are being raised by a couple of minority community leaders who forget that it is the Indian judiciary that has always corrected illegal distortions in its own system. Ever since the Supreme Court rejected Memon’s clemency petitions, the knives are out to destroy its credibility. Shamelessly spraying criminal justice with communal hues, a few self-appointed leaders belonging to India’s peace-loving Muslim community are questioning the independence of the judiciary. They choose to forget that it has taken over 22 years for the prosecuting agencies to get justice for the 257 innocents who were massacred in the 1993 Mumbai blasts. Starting from the trial court all the way to the apex court, Memon, helped by his advocates and ill-liberal accomplices, was given enough fair opportunities to prove his innocence. It is only in India that the judiciary and the executive take such time-consuming and vigorous scrutiny of each and every piece of evidence at multiple levels. Many times, the prosecution and the judiciary have been at the receiving end of vituperative vocabulary for unnecessarily delaying the delivery of criminal justice. It is quite possible that a section of the judiciary may have erred in some cases, but their intent has never been malicious or prejudiced.
Now, the Indian judiciary is being accused of a communal bias. It is stupendously shocking to note the rising tendency among conscience-peddlers to attack or support court verdicts selectively. Obstreperous social activists are sitting in judgment to decide the merit of judicial verdicts. Judges are expected to deliver sentences to suit the convictions of these amoral advocates of expedience, and not by the law book. If a verdict is against their political ideology or personal preferences they take to the streets, condemning it as unsound and illogical. For them, Yakub’s death sentence is not a correct interpretation of evidence. They conveniently forget that for one Yakub Memon, there are more than a hundred Pulaham Rama Raos, Kattar Singhs, Gurdeep Singhs, Babbanna Patils and Mukul Behari Lals who have been hanged during the past 70 years. Why don’t the liberal lamenters find fault with the judiciary for singling out Hindus for capital punishment? Of the 700-odd criminals hanged since Independence, not more than 65 are Muslims. In a majority-minority state like Jammu and Kashmir, not a single Muslim has ever been hanged. This doesn’t mean the local judiciary has spared criminals with any particular religious tag. In fact, it has considered each case on its merit and not by the name of the accused. For the past few months, even heinous crimes like rapes have acquired political and religious pigmentation. While rape and abduction cases in states like West Bengal are either ignored or underplayed by the ill-liberals, the spotlight is directed on the ones occurring in states run by NDA governments. From their commentaries on social media, it can be gleaned that the colour of Yakub’s blood is different from that of Sharma, Yadav, Reddy, Jacob, Singh and Tomar.
It is only the Indian judiciary, which keeps India’s inclusive character intact. The increase in opinionated attacks on the justice system is aimed at maiming the secular character of our Constitution. In the past, the judiciary has faced criticism for catering to class interests, but has rarely been accused of a communal bias. The idea behind questioning verdicts against terrorists like Yakub, Afzal Guru and Kasab smacks of a conspiracy to divide not only political parties but also the judiciary along communal lines. The latter has usually chosen the path of leniency or mild censure instead of taking penal action against even those who have made personal accusations against the integrity of senior judges. But, what is most dangerous for a vibrant and tolerant democracy like India is the rising agitational anarchy in the name of secularism which aims to deliberately link judicial pronouncements with vote banks.
It is usual for leaders of various political parties to take up cudgels on behalf of criminals belonging to a particular community in order to mobilise votes. Illogical arguments are bandied to condemn judicial decisions. For example, Yakub’s supporters are saying that while he is likely to be hanged, those behind other riots have been spared, or are treated with kid gloves. Some of the Memonites have even gone to ridiculous lengths to debate whether Yakub was actually arrested or whether he surrendered himself—as if this differentiation would atone for the loss of human lives.
It is only in India that freedom of expression is turned into an excuse to diminish the credibility of institutions. Since the Indian judiciary has stood the test of difficult times and stood steadfast with total independence, it acts as the only check on anarchist and undemocratic forces. It has judiciously applied the best standards of scrutiny on every criminal, irrespective of whether he or she was a Hindu, a Christian, a Muslim or from any other religion. Many a time, the judiciary has faced threats to its independence from the executive and the political establishment. Now, a formidable coalition of ill-liberals, communalists, internationalists and atheists are trying to intimidate it. Since there is no section in any law book that provides a palette of different colours for blood, the Indian judiciary is being pressured to pick one and deliver justice going by the colour of the blood of a criminal or a terrorist. Fortunately, in the Indian judiciary, justice is not blind.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, July 20, 2015

Debate, not disruptions, in Parliament ...... Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard/ July 19, 2015

Debate, not Disruptions, in Parliament a Much Better Way to Counter Modi Model of Politics

Dear Rahul,
At this threshold of momentous change, what India needs the most is a strong Opposition in Parliament and a stronger leader in the Opposition. We don’t have either. The Congress is not even a recognised Opposition party in the Lok Sabha. Perhaps to avenge this diminution, all can observe that you have acquired a new vigour in the past few months after the self-imposed exile. You seem far more focused and relatively more visible both inside and outside Parliament and aggressively assertive in your stance. You have learnt the art of going colloquial to match your opponents to increase your image connect in this age of television. Last week, your resolve to reduce Modi’s 56 inches chest to 5-6 inches was hailed by your supporters. It signalled you will be leading the Congress onslaught against the NDA in the coming Parliament session. The blossoming of a clever politician who was once called ‘an Amul Baby who hadn’t grown out of his diapers’ is apparent. You are determined to prove your maturity by adopting a confrontationist agenda during the 5th session of the 16th Lok Sabha, which starts Tuesday.
You have picked up the Sangh Parivar’s gauntlet. You have chosen to strike where it hurts them the most. Your target is not the government but Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. Your promoters believe that it’s the right time to project you as an Alternative to Modi (ALTOMO). They feel this can be done using the institution of Parliament. You have challenged the government to get the Land Acquisition Bill passed. You have indicated the Congress wouldn’t allow legislation on any issue, which it perceives as ‘anti-people’. For the first time, a party with just 44 Lok Sabha MPs and 65 Rajya Sabha MPs was able to paralyse a government led by a mass leader like Modi, who created history by winning an absolute majority after 30 years. You have decided to pay back the BJP in the same coin, when they were in the Opposition. While the UPA was in power, the BJP hardly allowed the last few sessions of Parliament to conduct any business. Official figures list over 35 per cent of time wasted by frequent interruptions during the last few sessions of the 15th Lok Sabha. Lawmakers were engaged in facetious filibustering and charging into the well of both the Houses. Raising a din, staging occasional walkouts and short sit-ins are legitimate and tolerable instruments of protest in a democracy. But for the past three decades, using the might of numbers and lung power has become the favoured weapon to devastate democratic institutions.
During 1991-96, only 10 per cent of the total Lok Sabha time was lost through interruptions. Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao was not just a polyglot but also a pervasive persuader. In spite of leading a minority government for half of his term, he could strike a dialogue anytime, anywhere with any political foe. Your father Rajiv Gandhi had the gift to disarm his adversaries with a charming smile. He commanded a brute majority in Parliament, but during the last 18 months of his premiership, couldn’t run the House as effectively as his numerical strength permitted. During the time of the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Opposition preferred disruption to dialogue on political issues. About 22.5 per cent of the House’s time was lost to the onslaught of the octaves during 1999-2004. UPA I enjoyed smooth sailing in Parliament with minimum breaks except at the fag end of its life when the Indo-US Nuclear Treaty brought the House down. To prove it may be down but not out, the Congress and its allies haven’t lost any opportunity to taunt Modi incessantly during his first year in office. He, however, has been successful in getting his agenda through in the Lok Sabha—it sat for over 562 hours during all the four sessions put together. All the bobbery by the Congress and its non-BJP strategic partners lost the House barely 46 hours.
But the Congress hasn’t allowed the government to have its way in the Rajya Sabha, where the party plus others have a comfortable majority. In its last session, the Upper House spent 72 hours on 13 sittings. Over 21 hours were lost due to Opposition tintamarre over issues like the Land Bill, the statement made by the Prime Minister on his visits abroad and some objectionable remarks made by a few ruling party MPs. On July 31, 2014, Parliament sat for just four hours, out of which 1.55 were lost because your party wanted to discuss a minister’s phone being illegally tapped. Agreed, it’s your legitimate right to put the government on the mat. It is also conceded that it is the ruling party’s responsibility to ensure that the House functions smoothly. But Indian Parliament has become a Formula None track of verbal velocity and the party with the maximum decibel levels is declared the winner. Issues are hardly ever discussed.
As a seeker of stature, you can acquire more acceptability and earn the admiration of adversaries if you argue your case in Parliament instead—not by setting records for disruptions and walkouts, but by making the ruling party accept your terms. You should prove on the floor of the democratic temple what you stand for, instead of being just a scrimmager without substance. You have been mocked as one bereft of ideas. Parliament is not just a forum of disruption, but also a theatre where concepts to transform the nation are born. Your challenge, hence, is to prove that you can lead with thought and deed, and are not just a Gandhi with the right birth certificate.
I know it is difficult for you to distance the Congress from other Opposition parties while attacking the government on the floor of the House. But yours is India’s oldest party, which has ruled the nation for almost six decades. Your rivals blame you and your family for all that is wrong with the economy and the system. An attack on the Gandhi Parivar is their most powerful strategy to demolish the Congress. But as the leader and presumed inheritor of its legacy, it is your responsibility to ensure that the institution of Parliament is not reduced to a wrestling arena. It is well known that you are uncomfortable parleying with leaders opposed to the Idea of Modi. But you can always use Parliament as a forum to present an alternative agenda for good governance. By now you must be fully aware of the weaknesses of Modi and his government and the strengths of the debilitated Congress. India is now at a stage where it needs dialogue between the ruling party and its opponents to progress. If you are able to present a credible agenda for engagement in Parliament, it may turn out to be a much better way to diminish the Modi Model of Governance and Politics. There is no substitute for a healthy debate in a democracy.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, July 13, 2015

Modi, Instead of Extending Olive Branch, ..... Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard/ July 12, 2015

Modi, Instead of Extending Olive Branch, Should Isolate Pakistan Globally to Resolve Stand-off

PM Narendra Modi with Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif
PM Narendra Modi with Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif

History is a saga of surprises. The plain-speaking PM Narendra Modi has never been referred to as a diplomat. His meeting, however, with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Ufa, Russia, brought out a hitherto hidden aspect of his personality. Contrary to his usually loquacious self during confabulations with foreign leaders, he hardly spoke a word before or after his awkward assignation with his counterpart. Modi didn’t move an inch from his designated place to welcome Sharif, who had to walk over 50 steps forward for a handshake. At the end of an elastically hour-long rehearsed dialogue, Modi revealed himself as a polished diplomat who could tell someone to go to hell in such a manner that the person would actually look forward to the trip. Only time will tell if Sharif has walked into a trap laid by Modi or not, but it is evident that the Indian PM has changed the terms of engagement with Pakistan.
South Block mandarins wouldn’t relish the concept of a former Indian police officer and a Pakistani economist discussing the contours of the Indo-Pak relationship. The envoy class has so far been living under the illusion that international relations and dialogue was their monopoly. As has been proved time and again, only generals settle disputes while diplomats are kept busy doing policy pantomimes. By proposing the resumption of a dialogue between two leaders who are non-diplomats by training and tutelage, Modi has delinked terrorism from diplomacy. It is perhaps for the first time that the National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan will set the tone and tenor of discussions between both countries. The only previous example was when Brajesh Mishra, the NSA to PM Vajpayee, held discussions with his Pakistani counterpart Tariq Aziz just before the SAARC summit in 2003. But then, Mishra was also a former diplomat and the principal secretary to the PM. Modi had opposed a soft approach towards Pakistan during his 2014 election campaign when he held the UPA government responsible for the ‘Mar Jawan, Mar Kisan’ (Die Soldier, Die Farmer) atmosphere prevailing in the country. But in Ufa, he opted for the Vajpayee line, which espoused mature magnanimity by giving peace yet another chance.
It is still unclear why and how did Modi decide to resume direct contact with Pakistan. A few days before the Ufa meeting, Javed Ashraf Qazi, a senior Pakistan minister and former ISI chief, warned India that Pakistan will not hesitate to nuke India if needed. The Pakistan army also killed two Indian soldiers along the LoC. The NDA and UPA had previously called off talks after the rising number of border violations, and the Pakistan ambassador to India inviting J&K separatists for discussions incensed New Delhi. There are no indications that Modi had any formal or informal consultations with the members of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) over meeting Sharif before leaving for Russia. Other members of the CCS such as Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley were either travelling or busy with other assignments. It is obvious that Modi took the gamble on his own. There must have been some pressing compulsions for the PM to deviate from his pre-election stance. Modi, it seems, has made a fair assessment about the impact the meeting would have on his core constituency and the opportunity it would provide the Opposition to attack him. Since NSA Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S Jaishanker were accompanying him, the PM made a unique decision. If the past record of Jaishanker is to go by, he would have pushed for a full-scale dialogue, since he has always favoured the US line on Indo-Pak. On the other hand, Doval is a hawk who has always pushed for an end to Pak-sponsored terror as a precondition for resumption of a meaningful dialogue. For Modi, the choice was between Do Nothing and Talk Everything diplomacy or following a Shame Pakistan, Secure India strategy. He voted for security.
Though the details about the terms of the NSA-level talks are yet to emerge, it is clear that Pakistan has agreed to discuss “terror in all forms”. Modi’s detractors could find fault with the government for agreeing to provide fresh evidence about the perpetrators of the 26/11 massacre because the UPA claims it had given enough proof for speeding up the trial in Pakistan. The PM may also face the ire of his supporters for not raising the issue strongly enough of prosecuting Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Hafiz Saeed—financiers and masterminds of terror attacks in India. The only ironic solace for the PM will be the support he will receive at home from those who ideologically and personally abhor Modi but adore him when they feel he thinks like them on Pakistan.
But the success of Modi’s unconventional diplomatic adventurism in Ufa is tenuously linked with Sharif’s ability and capacity to deliver on the terror front. The idea of Pakistan survives and thrives only on anti-India fervour and actions. Terrorists and fire-spewing Pak generals know well that this nefarious notion of Pakistan will die the day its leaders and citizens start breaking bread with their Indian counterparts, and cricketers of both nations start running between the wickets to the applause of excited crowds. Pakistan was born out of hatred for India. The army has controlled it for the past 60 years, with the sole objective of remaining in a state of visible and covert warfare with India. The rise of Islamist fundamentalism nourished by the Pakistan army has made it impossible for even a tiny section of moderate elements across the border to mount pressure on their government to fight the fanatics in the system. The warmongers have sabotaged and subverted every legitimate move to settle all contentious issues with India.
Modi has to remember that Pakistan has contemptuously betrayed the Indian leadership too often by aiding and abetting terror attacks on India just before and after Indian PMs initiated peace moves. It has forced three wars on us. Both countries have signed over a dozen joint statements and mutual agreements on culture, economic and educational relations. None of these have moved forward because of unabated Pakistan-sponsored terror threat to India. All the confidence-building measures (CBMs) have achieved nothing except more blood and mayhem on Indian soil.
The sadistic twist in the tale is that Pakistan has been able to reacquire international acceptability by projecting itself as a victim of homegrown terror. Despite providing sanctuary to terrorists, it has been able to wrangle financial and military equipment from the three powerful members of the UN Security Council—US, China and Russia. Modi has to realise that the solution to the subcontinental standoff doesn’t lie in succumbing to the sugar-coated opinions of the peaceniks, pseudo-secularists and lovers of lavish Pakistani hospitality. India’s success depends on his strategy to globally isolate Pakistan and convince world leaders that today’s idea of Pakistan is a danger to them as much as it is to India. The rest of the world can use it against India only at its own peril. Pakistan can sow satanic seeds of an apocalypse, which can obliterate with fire more towers in New York, restaurants in Bali, media organisations in France, tube stations in London and hotels in India.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Time to Add Large-hearted........ Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard/ July 05, 2015

Time to Add Large-hearted Vajpayeeism to Govt and More of Upadhyay's Credo to Party

Amit Shah with Narendra Modi
Amit Shah with Narendra Modi

Dear Amitji,
Two weeks ago, I wrote in my column that the real target of the attack on select Union ministers and BJP chief ministers is the Prime Minister. In the past few days, many penmeisters and opinion organists have proved me correct by making collaborative comments on the political scene. Some have even raised querulous questions on the credibility of Narendra Modi vis-à-vis Lalit Modi, the controversial Cricket Samrat. By no stretch of imagination can they be compared except by their last name. Ironically, that too also separates the two. Prime Minister Modi is an austere Gujarati, while the Cricket Commando Modi loves to “live life king-size”, as goes the slogan for Four Square cigarettes, produced by the Modi family-owned Godfrey Phillips. Picking Lalit Modi to tar the image of the PM is the stepchild of twisted logic. NaMo is the BJP’s most powerful brand, marketed as a political product, which is miles ahead of its nearest rivals. The PM’s detractors would love to demolish this brand, which will dent      the BJP.
You will agree that it is after many decades that the Sangh Parivar has found a person who can capture the political market with his style and substance. But now, millions of BJP karyakartas and adhikaris have to protect his value by functioning as a vigilant marketing team. You have broken the record by enrolling the highest number of members for the BJP, making it the world’s largest political party. You have also broken records set by your predecessors by covering almost all the 29 states and all the Union Territories. You are in the process of creating a band of young leaders who believe in NaMo and your leadership. But it is your responsibility to insulate the Modi government from vicious attacks emanating from inside the party and outside. The government publicity machinery has failed to reverse the current anti-NaMo perception. Cosy dinners with media mavens, columnists and opinionated intellectuals haven’t paid dividends so far. In fact, the tone and tenor of the MSM have ratcheted up the virulence after prolonged talk fests over gourmet food. Perhaps, what transpired afterwards influenced the minds of the media barons and celebrities. Ironically, a leader, who provided a corruption-free government for a year, is being blamed for violating public probity. When the government apparatus is drowning in a flood of insinuations, it is the party’s job to come to the rescue of its leader.
The time has come for you to step in. The BJP needs to choose its friends carefully and monitor enemies with an eagle eye. There seems to be an attempt to ignore the party’s core constituency and woo those who dine with you but whine with your worst enemies. If you too indulge them, the victims will be the party and PM. The new leadership is yet to acquire credibility with the cadre, in spite of its cutting-edge instruments of communications. Because of your perennial peregrinations, your accessibility to middle-level ministers and office-bearers is limited. They neither have the acumen nor the ability to counter the bombardment of biased opponents directed at NaMo by opponents who flaunt facetious facts with delicate diction in TV studios. The BJP and its government are confused over the target audience of these talking televisionistas. Party insiders notice a covert but ominous conflict between the ersatz liberals in the government and the BJP, and committed nationalist right-wing cadre. Even the PM has acquired the image of a nationalist Leftie who promotes nationalism with welfare state nuances. NaMo and you are ideologically uncomfortable with Nehruvian culture and politics. Both of you are pure Bharatiyas who smell Bharatiyata, practise Bharatiyata and promote Bharatiyata. This has put you in direct conflict with those who hold Indian passports but project themselves as only global citizens. So when you promoted yoga, they adopted an antagonistic posture against the PM’s Indian cultural idiom. When NaMo does his Mann ki Baat, they snigger over cocktails. The BJP’s pronounced policy of Indianising culture, heritage and curriculum threatens the survival of those whose understanding of the Bharatiya way of life is flawed. They stand to lose their elite status acquired through elitist education and luxurious upbringing. If the Bharatiya becomes stronger, they lose their relevance as theoretical tautologists.
The sustained attack on some leaders is to weaken those carrying forward, rightly or wrongly, the Hindutva agenda. Ministers like Smriti Irani and Sushma Swaraj have become eyesores for secularists because they have shaken a system that was controlled by Left-wing intellectuals and Nehruvian acolytes. Irani has dismantled much of the previous academic infrastructure, which was used to sabotage Indian heritage, literature, economics and sociology. She has inducted those who can effectively flush out imbalanced internationalists. Swaraj has helped restore India’s dominance in international affairs. Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis has been hyperactive in cleansing the state’s corrupt and indolent establishment. So, it was no surprise that he was targeted viciously for a fabricated act of negligence. Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje may have committed an act of indiscretion in the Lalit saga, but her fall will weaken the BJP in the state. The campaign against MoS for Home Kiren Rijiju is aimed at destroying the credibility of a government, which is the first to focus on developing the Northeast. NaMo and the BJP had dictated the agenda and terms of public discourse during and after the polls. Now it is the reverse. A coalition of disjointed political parties and retired, tired and fired self-seekers are defining the terms of engagement.
You are going to be the next target of your adversaries, who have inflicted a sliver of slight on the PM’s stature. So far, you have won important elections and revived the party. But ever since the BJP’s devastating defeat in the Delhi Assembly polls, questions are being raised about your organisational skills and capacity to win votes.
Your detractors hope Bihar will be your Waterloo. If you fail in Pataliputra, they would take pride in the fall of a colossus who is NaMo’s most powerful general. You have to be careful in choosing your point-men in Bihar. It is possible a part of the current crisis of credibility is due to your heavy dependence on those who have moved up the party ladder mainly by their loyalty to certain leaders. Delhi was lost because you walked into a trap by choosing outsider Kiran Bedi as the CM candidate over more deserving leaders from within. In Bihar and UP, you have been bubble-wrapped by a cabal to prevent you from receiving contrarian views from all. Those who are loyal to the saffron creed and have faith in NaMo’s leadership are getting isolated. As the party president, it’s time for you to add a bit of large-hearted Vajpayeeism to the government and more of Deendayal Upadhyay’s credo to the party. Any attempt to make the BJP inclusive by including party-hoppers and globetrotters would pose a cataclysmic challenge, eclipsing the one being posed by Gandhi Parivar. Modi won the war by demolishing them. You shouldn’t lose the next one because of them.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla