This is the age of the rabble-rouser with social media amplifying the noise of the loudest voices. In Delhi, a marginal politician like Kapil Mishra has mastered the art of staying in the news by making provocative remarks. Mishra, once a minister in the AAP government and now with the BJP, is accused of fuelling the flames that have engulfed a part of the national capital by threatening anti Citizenship Amendment Act street protestors to withdraw their agitation or face the consequences. That he did so while standing next to a senior police officer is even more shocking.
It is not without irony that barely days after the long-pending Ayodhya verdict was delivered by the Supreme Court that the Shiv Sena broke its alliance with the BJP. The Sena-BJP tie-up, after all, is the original Hindutva alliance, forged in the high noon of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the late 1980s. It was hugely mutually beneficial: the BJP emerged from the debris of the 1984 election rout to ride on a rath yatra to power in Delhi while the Shiv Sena positioned itself in the aftermath of the post-Ayodhya riots in Mumbai in 1992-93 as the ‘protectors’ of Hindus.
There is a story which BJP leader, the late Pramod Mahajan would happily relate about his alliance talks with Shiv Sena chieftain Bal Thackeray. In 1990, when the two sides agreed to cement a state-wide alliance in the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha Elections for the first time, Thackeray just scribbled a number on a piece of paper and passed it onto Mahajan. “We fight 200 seats, you fight the rest,” Thackeray bluntly told the BJP leader. The deal was done in less than half an hour: the Sena would eventually fight 183 seats and the BJP 105 in the 288 member assembly.
So here is the paradox of our times. Read the business pages, and there is a fair chance that you will get the impression of a Narendra Modi government on the ropes and an economy in serious trouble. Then, read the political pages and find that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) juggernaut is marching from one electoral success to another.
A curious election littered with many firsts is taking place in Maharashtra. A 49 year old Brahmin from Nagpur appears set to be re-elected for a second five year term in a Maratha-dominated polity. A 29 year old member of the Thackeray family is actually contesting an election. The BJP has pushed the original sons of the soil regional force, Shiv Sena to a secondary position in its long-standing alliance. The ageing Sharad Pawar, Maharashtra's tallest leader over nearly half a century, is fighting hard to keep his family, leave aside his party, together.
We Goans are often unfairly lampooned as happy go lucky, alcohol swigging, siesta loving, beach bums. I use the word 'we' cautiously since I truly haven¹t spent enough time in Goa nor can I speak fluent Konkani. But my late father remains the only Goa born Goan cricketer to play for India, enough reason I guess for me to qualify as an ‘honorary’ Goan.
Walking slowly into the central hall of the 17th Lok Sabha after being sworn in as MP amidst ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chants, an opposition MP lamented: "Looks like this is a 10 year mandate for the Modi government." The MP's depression was not surprising: the opposition benches wore a distinctly deserted look and many familiar faces were missing. If the Lok Sabha offers a mirror to the state of our republic, then we are entering a unipolar India, one where diversity is giving way to a saffronised polity.
Confined to AC studios for months, tv anchors are let loose into the field at election time. Parachuted into hotspots in different parts of the country, we suddenly are expected to not just report but predict election outcomes. So, which way is the 'Hawa' (wind) blowing I am repeatedly asked. Now, there are two kinds of political 'hawa': one, where a wave builds up inexorably in favour of one party, the other is described more mysteriously as an 'under-current' where a silent voter is supposedly slowly but surely drawn to one side or the other.
In the age of 24 x 7 news, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the master of political theatre, his every move designed to maximize eyeballs. Which is why a simple tweet from him on Wednesday morning that he was to address the nation across media platforms at noon was enough to set news channels into a frenzy. Since it was an announcement to be made in the backdrop of a Cabinet Committee on Security meeting and within weeks of the Balakote air strikes, the general impression was that it must relate to Pakistan.