On the day the exit polls for the Delhi municipal elections were predicting a BJP landslide, AAP spokespersons were in a defiant mood, blaming the EVMs for a looming defeat. But how can you blame an exit poll for potential tampering of an EVM since the pollster is sampling voters, not the machine, I asked? The AAP representative paused and then blurted out: “Sab mile hue hai’. Conspiracy theories abound in India but by blaming EVMs for their debacle, AAP runs the risk of deepening its credibility crisis.
Writing obituaries of political parties can be a hazardous business. In July 2014, an international publication invited me to write an article on the political demise of AAP. This was a few weeks after Narendra Modi had stormed to victory in the general elections and AAP looked like a start-up, which had run out of steam. I was writing a book at the time, so declined the offer. Just as well because a little over six months later, AAP scored a stunning win in the Delhi elections. The doomsday pundits had been proven wrong.
History repeats itself, first as tragedy then as farce, but in Indian politics, the farce plays out so frequently that the tragic element is obscured. Four recent instances highlight just how the disease of immoral politics is now a contagion that has spread across the political class. No party is immune to its depravity.
A few years ago, I was sitting next to Manohar Parrikar on a flight. The defence minister was then Goa chief minister and was travelling economy, dressed in trademark half-sleeve shirt, trousers and chappals. When we landed, he waited for his suitcase to come on the conveyor belt, and then pushed the trolley on his own. No retinue of personal attendants accompanying him, nothing that would remotely suggest a VIP culture. His parting shot as he exited the airport, “all of you think only Arvind Kejriwal is an aam aadmi chief minister.
History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce, but what happens when the farce is played out time and again? Many years ago, I asked the veteran socialist leader, the late Madhu Limaye, on why the Janata Party was unable to hold together in the 1970s. Limaye, a rare political intellectual, answered, “Khichdi when made at home tastes really nice but when you try and cook it in politics, it begins to smell.” The Janata Party, he said, was a khichdi, where parties with contrasting ideologies had come together with the singular purpose of defeating Indira Gandhi.
Call it "tyranny of distance” or simply the nature of the Delhi-centric 24x7 “national” media, but a day after Arvind Kejriwal’s famous win, the BJP swept the local body elections in Assam — only there were no bold headlines or screaming breaking news to announce the results.
In February this year, I met MV Kamath for the last time. Kamath, a veteran journalist, was dean of the Manipal Institute of Communication and had invited me to talk on the political situation in the country. We had to walk two floors: Kamath was 93, ailing, but insisted on taking the stairs. 'I need to get fit,'
The ubiquitous Rotary Clubs are a decent indicator of the urban upper middle class mood. Rotarians are often professionals with a conscience: from blood donation drives to charity runs, they like to feel involved with public service. One of my first assignments as a journalist in 1989 was to cover a Rotary Club event in Mumbai.