This is with reference to your cover story Crumbling Edifice Of The Caste Calculus (March 27). I’d refrain from coming to conclusions about the ‘Dalit dream’, as mentioned in your story, but I can say with some certainty that Mayawati’s big dream of becoming PM one day has been postponed endlessly. Even after being UP CM for four terms, her party could not win a single seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and got a measly 19 seats in the recent UP Assembly election. One assumes that her party’s performance in the 2014 election would have come as a wake up call of sorts for the BSP supremo and led her to some introspection on her style of running the party and electoral strategies, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Her attempt this time at a Dalit-Muslim alliance also seems to have failed electorally. Furthermore, instead of accepting that the BSP lost UP by miles, she blamed EVM tampering for her defeat. The reality is that all the three parties—SP, BSP and the Congress—which pursued politics highlighting identity, lost badly against the BJP’s massive pitch of development, which, on the face of it, has an all-inclusive sound to it.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Some views expressed by the author in his article on Mayawati appear to be outdated. The recent mandate in UP has shown that caste identity alone cannot be the deciding factor in elections anymore. Quoting Ambedkar and Charan Singh during election time is no longer enough. Only consistent work at the ground level can convince the voters. What many observers and critics don’t realise is that Modi, though at the front of the BJP, is also seen as a backward caste leader (he is an OBC) by many aspirational OBCs and SCs. When he’s a symbol of success, why will anyone go to Mayawati?
Krishnan, On E-Mail
It’s fallacious to believe that the caste calculus crumbled in the recent Uttar Pradesh elections, where the BJP dexterously exploited the non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits—thus winning an outstanding mandate without fielding a single Muslim candidate (Mahout Who Lost The Elephant, Mar 27). If this has happened in a state where Muslims form close to a fifth of its population, it is because the saffron party managed to weave a network of candidates belonging to those castes who could get it votes. The poll result has only belied the hopes of B.R. Ambedkar that castes would be eliminated in modern India. It has reinforced the fact that castes form the DNA of the country
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
The article by Y.S. Alone makes for interesting reading. Caste politics has its own limitations. It can run once, but not again and again. There is some truth to the claim that the decline and fall of Mayawati is also the end of a Dalit dream as of now. In this assembly election in UP, Mayawati made the additional strategic mistake of openly declaring the Dalit-Muslim alliance as the focus of her campaign. This is also said to have isolated many of her traditional voters. In a state where people have more immediate material needs, mere theory—Ambedkarite and Mandal—cannot be overplayed. Also, once the damage is done, blaming EVM machines will not help.
For decades, UP, the largest state of the country, was being ruled by dominant and dynastic groups. The plight of minorities in the state were largely overlooked. Then came Kanshi Ram, whose vision of politics carved a new space, especially to uplift Dalits in the state. Eventually, his legacy was given to his protégé Mayawati, who successfully led the government many times in the state. But, unfortunately, a lack of vision and the pursuit of personal greatness made Mayawati squander the precious legacy of Kanshi Ram’s political movements. Eventually, people who had once voted for Mayawati lost their confidence in her.
Ramachandran Nair, Oman
The major reason behind the dismal performance of the BSP is that Mayawati has not cultivated any substantial leadership besides her in the party. The people of UP have already given her enough chances to lead the state. There is a new generation of Dalits out there whose fancy she has failed to capture. People would have looked forward to someone new from the BSP if she had a successor in line, but there is none. This is true for other parties as well, even the BJP, but it is having the opposite effect there with Modi being the supreme and hugely popular leader. But his reign has just begun, so he need not worry about appointing a successor just yet.
A.S. Raj, On E-mail
The UP election results have completely decimated the BSP, which was once at the helm of affairs in the state. She has suffered three defeats in five years—two assembly polls (2012 and 2017) and one in the 2014 Parliamentary elections. Presently, many are questioning her ability to infuse energy into the BSP cadre.
Rajiv Boolchand Jain, On E-Mail
It’s an elephantine task to take up both caste and communal politics in the same war.
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
This refers to your story In the Mood for A Desi Robin Hood (March 27). As a senior citizen, I find it really difficult to believe that PM Narendra Modi is a friend of the poor. He may be sympathetic towards the poor, but his actions in the past three years have hardly improved the lot of the have-nots. He is on friendly terms with tycoons such as the Adanis and Ambanis; loves to own the costliest of pens, watches and specially tailored suits and likes to visit developed countries. Demonetisation, sections of the media thought, would dent his popularity. The recent elections in UP and Uttarakhand showed it had done just the opposite. It turned out to be a clever move that didn’t let the poor see how it harmed them and not those who had lots of black money. The tea-seller-to-PM tale seems to have been spun really well for the poor to have lapped it up. In sharp contrast stands the historical image of Jawaharlal Nehru, who, born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth and growing up a connoisseur of the ‘good things in life’, opted for a socialistic pattern of society, keeping the poorer sections at the centre of policy goals and priming the state for catering to their welfare. Nehru’s socialism failed due to corrupt bureaucrats and politicians. One day Modi too will learn that the poor cannot be conned anymore.
Ralph Rodrigues, Bangalore
Now the time has come for Modi to start delivering on the tall promises he made to the people. He must also make all government employees honestly discharge their duties. He should go after the rich but spare the common people; that is, not frame laws that end up harrassing the poor.
Mahesh Kumar, Delhi
This refers to Bad Losers or Whistleblowers (March 27). When Indira Gandhi returned to power with a massive victory in 1980, there were no EVMs (only paper ballots) and yet those who lost blamed their defeat on the election not being fair. That time, the losers—they included those who are now the victors—alleged that the ballot paper imported from Russia had done the trick. The genuine stamp by the voter would disappear in a few hours and a fake stamp made on the Congress symbol would become visible! The allegation of tampered EVMs this time is no different. Those who lose keep such reasons handy to explain away their defeat. It should be obvious that the real reason why the BJP won was that the opposition failed to forge a ‘grand alliance’ against the Hindu nationalist party of the kind that had worked in Bihar not so long ago. People trust decisive leaders over those who bicker among themselves.
V.K, On E-Mail
This refers to Broomstick Broke, AAP Got a Poke (March 27) on the Punjab polls. If anything is done in haste or overdone, it proves to be troublesome to the doer. This is the case with Arvind Kejriwal who still behaves with naivety and pays a heavy price for it. His tirades against Narendra Modi have done him no good. In fact, Arun Jaitley didn’t lose the chance to apply pressure on Kejriwal by slapping a defamation case on him for his impulsive statements.
C.K. Ramani, Navi Mumbai
Any analysis of the consistently hapless Congress is a depressing read for me (Masters of Losses, Mar 27). Blaming Digvijaya Singh for the Goa fiasco is nonsense. The blame lies squarely with Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, who have developed a culture of completely disregarding local leaders. Take the example of Arunachal Pradesh— a sitting CM couldn’t get an appointment with Sonia, but the PM had time for him. The results were a given. The same thing happened to Andhra. The local leaders couldn’t get Delhi’s attention, so they just moved on to other parties. Modi, the tallest leader in India today, makes time for local leaders. He flatters and threatens them as required. The point is, he is engaged.
Akash Verma, Chennai
A decade of mismanagement, unprecedented corruption and unprincipled politics brought about the downfall of the Congress. A good administrator like Manmohan Singh was reduced to a dummy PM, while the parochial Karunanidhi was left free to aim for important cabinet posts—all of his nominees turned out to be corrupt. The fallen image of the party is just too fresh to forget. Again, Rahul is still a novice in politics, while Modi is a modern Chanakya. Congress, if it has to survive, must have a man like Modi to whip up the baggy, loose monster that it is into a disciplined unit, and show the dynastic toadies the door.
T. Santhanam, On e-Mail
The Congress finds itself at a critical juncture today. Although the latest round of assembly polls saw the party form the government in Punjab and emerge as the single-largest party in Goa and Manipur, the magnitude of its defeat in UP and Uttarakhand has been staggering. If the argument that the Congress needs the Gandhis to serve as glue for the party is credible, then Sonia and Rahul should quit their party posts and lead an advisory council of party elders. This way they can bring in fresh blood in the high command while doing away with the sclerotic coterie that has hardened around them.
J. Akshobhya, Mysore
Guess who was praying for a Congress victory in Punjab? The Congress, of course. But so was the BJP, which was desperate to halt Arvind Kejriwal’s march to national status. BJP ministers, including prominent leaders, wished for that. If the AAP had managed to win in Punjab, it would have emboldened Kejriwal and his team to take a clear stab at forming the government in Gujarat, which is due for polls later this year. AAP teams have been visiting Gujarat frequently for several months. Even more worrying for the BJP is the fact that Kejriwal’s team has been in touch with Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel.
Padmini Raghavendra, Secunderabad
This refers to K. Satchidanandan’s brilliant review of Gulzar’s latest book of poetry (A Poet’s Diversions Around A Pothole, Mar 27). In fact, the very title, Suspected Poems, mirrors the pain and anguish of a sensitive mind buffeted by the socio-political turn our nation has taken through the rich medium of Urdu poetry. His poems on almost all burning issues of our times are delicate surgical operations on the minds of all those involved in and affected by our politically volatile times.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
There appears to be substance in the doubt some quarters have over the circumstances of the death of former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalitha (False Spins Wove Curious Plots Till The Last Breath, Mar 27). One needs to probe if the episode has had something to do with the late AIADMK supremo’s key aide V.K. Sasikala, who almost became the CM. Right from the time Jayalalitha was admitted to Chennai’s Apollo in September last year, the bulletins on her health appeared more to conceal facts than reveal them. One day she is said to be out of the ICU, then ready to even leave the hospital, the next day she suffers a “massive heart attack”—something that is said to have led to her death. All this was hard to believe even when it was happening, but what could be done, the public had only one version to go with the one given to them by news bulletins.
Lajwant Singh, On E-Mail
The world is a more intolerant place, and Saif Shahin’s report from the US about the hate crimes afflicting the American-Indian community, is a disconcerting reminder of that (Red Blobs on the Rainbow, Mar 20). Of course, white supremacist triumphalism in the US has reared its ugly head because of the sense of entitlement Donald Trump’s victory has spawned in them. Such sentiments are helped by the fact that there are thousands of Indians in the US without any valid papers. These are people who just arrive there to make a fast buck, with little preparation or education. Again, even though Indians have risen to the top in almost all professions, they are guilty of being insular—other than professional life, they are content to grind in a narrow groove dominated by language and caste. This creates doubt and misgivings in the majority community.
Venkat Sairam, Hyderabad
This refers to Barrels Deter Goodwill Goal (March 6), your story on the Indian Army’s ‘Operation Sadbhavana’ in Kashmir. The army chief’s warning that those who pelt stones may be shot cannot win Kashmiri hearts unless an attempt is made to find out why stones are pelted. We cannot choose our neighbours, but have to live with them. The UN resolution on Kashmir has no effect as it was vetoed by the erstwhile Soviet Union—this fact should be clearly stated. Harsh words and warnings are of no use. If Pakistan feels it is a stakeholder in Kashmir, we have to talk with them. But the nationalist view on the matter does not allow for meaningful dialogue as it sees Pakistan as an enemy.
Raj Ganesh, Secunderabad
This refers to your cover story on the downfall of start-ups (How Start-Ups Die…Plop!, March 20). Not too long ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a grand plan for ‘start-up’ India as part of the ‘Make in India’ scheme. The aim of the programme was to guide and aid budding entrepreneurs interested in opening start-ups. But as this article shows, the optimistic vision is far from being realised. Start-ups are rapidly failing. In order for the start-up India programme to succeed, the government must monitor the work of tax officials, public sector departments and nationalised banks, all offices which can help start-ups to ensure that the programme runs smoothly.
Mahesh Kumar, New Delhi
Start a big company. Buy bubble gum for Rs 100 on credit. Sell it in retail for Rs 90. Do not clear your debts to the vendor, target next vendor. Do the same to the next. Go online to connect. Raise the bar both in inventory and sales. Forget about relationship, the first ethic of business. Then you lose trust, you burst like a bubble. So before any start-up, smart up! This rhyme, in short, is the story of the start-up culture.
This refers to the opinion piece by R. Jagannathan (Value For Losses). Over the years, though perceptions largely remain the same, customers have been taken for granted. In the digital world, in any form of trade, the challenge and aim is to always attract the customer. Several ‘special discounts’ and schemes are launched in order to somehow catch the attention of a potential customer. Most of these schemes are hollow and nothing but a false front to lure the buyer. Since the competition now is so aggressive in the market, several norms which were followed in business earlier are being overlooked.
For any new business to take off, a lot of ground work has to be done. A solid product backed by market research infrastructure has to be launched and aspects such as buy back facilities, banking support, export promotion, certifications and issuance of licenses have to be taken care of. Clearly, as your cover story shows, in order to rush into the much-touted idea of start-ups under the Make in India project, many entrepreneurs bypassed these procedures. Thus, the start up bubble burst as no solid ground was prepared for it to flourish.
Your article on the auto of the future (Relax, Digi Driver Is Here, March 20) reminded me of the condition of my city, New Delhi. The city is one of the most lethally polluted metropolises in the world. Something needs to be done urgently to control pollution here. The future cars described in your article are aimed to make the ride as smooth as possible. But what we really need are green cars, which make lives of the driver as well the people around easier and less hazardous. Since cars have become almost a necessity for a large section of people, they should be made to suit the environment. The true technology of the future would be an eco-friendly one.
Mahesh Kapasi, New Delhi
The start-up philosophy is trying to run a marathon like a 100-metre dash. It doesn’t work!
Rajneesh Batra, New Delhi
Refer to A Farm Twist To Caste Power (March 20). Every now and then, a relatively dominant community, like the Jats in Haryana, resorts to large-scale vandalism and public harassment in the name of reservations. They demand reservation because they are aware that the Indian government has a history of responding to the politics of appeasement. The solution to these recurring disturbances would be to scrap the reservation system altogether and instead bring in revolutionary reforms to uplift the economically backward section. While affirmative action is desirable to a degree, we must realise that we are functioning, as a country, in a free market economy where numbers and statistics have almost become more important than human beings. Decisions are taken on the basis of these statistics. In this context, reservations do hinder the country’s economic development.
M.K., On E-mail
An overwhelming number of Jats from Haryana are agitating for reservations yet again. The fact that they got away lightly after wreaking havoc in the north Indian state last year, when they looted shops and homes, burned property, indulged in violence and disrupted public life, has only encouraged them to blackmail the government again. It’s time for the state and central governments to put their foot down and check this menace. The tendency to treat this mob as a vote bank must be stopped altogether. The majority of the people in the state are gullible and instigated by a few anti-social elements, who tell them that the government will give in to their demands. If stern action is taken, they will understand the futility and danger of their actions. Yielding to their threat of violence will be asking for more protests and similar demands from other communities as well.
L.J. Singh, Amritsar
Apropos your Leader comment The Plot Thickens (March 20), why was it necessary for you to defend Rahul Gandhi? Some say the Congress won in Punjab precisely because of Rahul’s absence in the state campaign. The Congress has faced so many electoral defeats in the past five years, and yet Rahul remains its face. It’s curious that despite the party’s present condition, there is no end to sycophancy within the Congress towards the Gandhi dynasty. Ever since Modi became PM, Rahul has spent most of his time in rhetoric, targeting him rather than doing any substantial work. The results of all that Modi-bashing have been quite counter-productive. No wonder BJP leaders are saying that Rahul is helping the BJP accomplish its mission of a Congress-mukt Bharat.
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