This is with reference to We broke the Rotten Benami, Black Economy and its Shell Companies, Amit Shah’s interview with Bhavna Vij-Aurora (July 17).Everything may look hunky-dory for Amit Shah and Narendra Modi now, but the duo’s main anxiety is to ensure victory in the next general elections. Both think that their trump card is Modi’s clean image and the disarray of the Opposition. They should remember that the powerful Indira Gandhi could not win any seats in north India in the Lok Sabha elections after the Emergency. What are the BJP’s achievements if it has not been able to create jobs! The country’s farmers are in misery, textile traders in Surat are agitating and hostility is growing with every neighbouring country—Pakistan, China and Nepal. Building an image by aggressive marketing and PR could be easy, but providing efficient administration which makes people feel secure is a herculean task. Even for a robust optimist, the future looks anything but rosy.
M. Mustafa, Bangalore
After the BJP’s past electoral wins, it is being said that Amit Shah has no match in the party when it comes to strategy. But what are these strategies? The BJP is aggressively implementing schemes it was opposing during the rule of the Congress—Aadhaar Card and the GST bill for instance. Talks of double standards aside, with the implementation of these schemes, the BJP is strengthening their hold over the political landscape of the country. Demonetisation, Modi’s much-touted ‘masterstroke’, was meant to eliminate black money, corruption, fake money and terror funding, but no one can say for certain that it has achieved its objectives. Yet again, the government has got away with it, another indicator of the power it wields over people. Black money and corruption are well-entrenched in India soil, they cannot be rooted out because of these bold-sounding policies. The benami culture and shell companies, which Shah claims to have destroyed, will continue forever. His expertise, however, lies in dividing voters on the line of religion and breaking the Opposition parties by hijacking their leaders to enlist as BJP members, on the promise of ministerial berth or some remunerative post. Most of the assembly elections were won by employing the above strategy. Amit Shah seems to be following in the footsteps of Chanakya. But the Chanakyas of yesteryear were not as aggressive and shrewd as Shah is.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
This refers to your cover story The confidence man, (July 17). Till the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Amit Shah was little known outside Gujarat. His activities were confined to the state, where he has been a longtime and strong political player. His association with Narendra Modi goes as back as October 2001, when Modi replaced Keshubhai Patel as Gujarat chief minister. During Modi’s twelve-year tenure as CM, Shah emerged as one of the most powerful leaders in Gujarat, but he was controversial as well. His name was associated with the case of extrajudicial killings of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kauser Bai and his associate Tulsiram Prajapati. He was also arrested and faced exile from the state for two years. He proved that he was a master election campaign manager when, as the election in-charge of Uttar Pradesh in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he set up management committees for each of the 1,40,000 voting booths in the state, that reached out to the masses in the remotest areas. Shah personally covered 76 out of 80 Lok Sabha constituencies and made the BJP and allies win 73 out of 80 seats, far beyond the expectations of the party which, for the first time, got a majority in the Lok Sabha on its own. It brought him into national prominence. After taking over as president of the BJP in July 2014, he led the party to victory in Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand and Assam. Bihar was the only exception and the reasons were obvious. Before the 2017 UP elections Shah had declared that the BJP would win more than 300 seats but the analysts and poll-pundits were reluctant to give more than 200 seats to the party and its allies. Shah had the last laugh with BJP and allies winning more than 300 seats. It’s appropriate to call him “The wonder man” of the BJP.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
As pointed out by Amit Shah in the interview, lynchings took place in various states before 2014 also, and even after in non-BJP ruled states like Bengal, Karnataka & Kerala. But only the BJP is held responsible by critics and no questions are asked of the leaders of these other states. This points out that a section of the media and the people think that in any case of communalism, the BJP is somehow responsible. Wonder why they would think like that.
Hemanth D. Pai, Bangalore
It is shocking but expected that the chief of India’s ruling party has defended a new brand of terror launched on India’s streets by the so-called gau-rakshaks. But, he must remember that denying wrongdoing does not make it vanish from public conscience. With less than two years to go for the next general elections, the ruling party must correct their priorities and shift focus from Love Jehad and Gau Raksha, which aim at mobilising mobs and dispensing instant vigilante “justice”. Just to tell him, in the first six months of 2017, 20 cow-terror attacks were reported, that’s 75 per cent more than that of the 2016 figure, which was the worst year for such violence since 2010.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
The correct proverb is—behind every successful politician, there is a trusty sidekick.
Hiten Shah, On E-Mail
This refers to Chinks In The Checker’s Board (July 17). Our relation with China soured when we gave asylum to Dalai Lama. Now, a new irritant—Doklam & Dragon, has taken birth. A long stand-off, over three weeks, between Indian and Chinese soldiers on a hotly contested territory contains the seeds of a fearsome possibility. The history of a long-disputed boundary over which a war has been fought, underlines the dire situation. The epicentre of this crisis, Doka- La in Doklam plateau, is in Bhutan, but China claims it is in its territory. China is now bullying Bhutan. But as there are no formal diplomatic relations between the two, and the 1949 Friendship Treaty virtually makes Bhutan a protectorate of India. We have to deal with China directly. Since 1976, the Sino-Indian borders have been peaceful, with not a single shot being fired on impulse. Whether this will hold or not will depend on further developments at Doka-La. In this regard, the first thing is to de-escalate the rhetoric and avoid provocative action on the ground and try to resolve the issue through negotiations only.
Lajwant Singh, On E-Mail
Even after that dreadful 1946 Great Calcutta carnage for a separate Muslim state, West Bengal had managed to maintain an image of religious unity (Prophecy of Blood, July 17). It is only from the time the immigration of Bangladeshis to Bengal started making news that state started becoming communally tense. Today, CM Mamata Banejree is being accused of minority appeasement, that notorious tag which puts a scanner on every activity a government does in relation to the minority population. It’s high time the CM understood that her constant virulent attack against the BJP-led Centre does not make Bengal an ideal state. She should make amends by doing work on the ground.
Seetharam Basaani, Hanamkonda
This is apropos Manoj Joshi’s excellent column on the actual problem between China and India on the Doklam plateau (Chink In The Checker’s Board, Jul 17). This is not the first time that China is building roads and installations that will ultimately lead to an incursion on Indian territory. It’s an old Chinese policy to say something solemnly on the talks table, then do something totally different on the ground—what Joshi terms ‘creating facts on the ground’. At the Bandung Conference, China readily signed agreements of peaceful co-existence, but created enough mischief that resulted in the 1962 war. Besides, China has illegally occupied Tibet on the pretext that it was in the Chinese empire since ancient days. Similarly, they lay claim to the Brahmaputra basin as well as Arunachal Pradesh.
Lt Col Ranjit Sinha (retd), Delhi
The criminals professing to be protectors of cows are having a field day ever since the BJP-led NDA came to power at the Centre (What’s In, Or Not In, a Name, July 10). They even record their deeds on their cell phones as proof of their ‘valour’, knowing for sure that they would not be punished. They are, in fact, lionised for their deeds by those who believe it is high time Muslims were shown their place in the country. The victims, on the other hand, are too scared to complain, as they confront the bitter truth that complaining would only lead to more trouble. There is a growing perception among Muslims that there is a method to the apparent madness unleashed on them. This is a very dangerous situation. All Indians must come forward and work for the preservation of our composite culture for which innumerable Indians, belonging to all religious communities, sacrificed their lives.
Samiul Hassan Quadri, Bikaner
People—Muslims predominantly—are being lynched with increasing frequency in many parts of the country. The PM has even taken a position on the issue, saying he doesn’t approve of violence in the name of gau raksha. I’ve been thinking of the reasons behind the increase in lynchings. Is it because of the rise of hindutva under the current government or a plan by rivals to malign the ruling party? Having said that, those who are going around the nation holding ‘Not In My Name’ placards were missing in action when an armyman got killed by terrorists in J&K and when locals incensed by an offensive Facebook post went on the rampage in Basirhat, West Bengal. It is because of this biased focus of the media that the real issues take a back seat and the government gets away with non-performance.
The delightful item on In & Around (Grin and beer it with cheers, Jul 17), about the decision of the Andhra government regarding beer was refreshing. It’s a wise decision, for total prohibition is a Quixotic fancy, and has failed worldwide. It just helps bootleggers and corrupt officials. Spurious lethal liquor is also a fallout of prohibition and heavy taxation. Moderate drinking is in no way harmful; it reduces stress—that’s why it’s provided cheap to the armed forces.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
Modi’s visit to Israel was bold, path-breaking and historic (The Hard Trek To Mount Of Olives, Jul 17). Since India has always opposed the Jewish nation’s policy of oppressing the Palestinians, Modi’s critics were not happy with his visit. Such criticism has no meaning in today’s world, where even Vietnam has no qualms about shaking hands with Uncle Sam. Ignoring a technologically developed country like Israel for the sake of pleasing the Arab and Islamic world would be akin to living in a fool’s paradise.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
This refers to Riot For Image Makeover (July 17) India’s prisons have long gained notoriety as overcrowded hells that militate against the modern ideal of reformative justice. Corruption is rampant and abuse of power by jailors an everyday occurrence that draws little protest. The money allotted to feed the prisoners is barely adequate to begin with and things get worse when corruption kicks in. But nobody seems to care. The horrors perpetrated are well-documented. Numerous committees of experts have submitted voluminous reports suggesting steps to improve the condition of our prisons, but successive governments have ignored these recommendations.
Padmini Raghavendra, Secunderabad
Your leader comment The Art of Peace (July 17) inspired me to write this poem:
Man is born out of bondage of loveLongingly nurtured on mother’s milk Years of caring go into his making Should all that end with a bullet?
Nothing can compensate a lost life Neither awards nor promises of heaven The great general is one who wins wars Without shedding blood, without fighting
N. Kunju, Delhi
Refer to “Valley of death: No healing yet in the Kashmiri graveyard” (Outlook July 17, 2017). Enough is enough. Whatever may be the causes of the Kashmir problem, it may be Pakistan playing rogue from behind the scenes by sending infiltrators or the media-propogated rumours of ISIS making roots in the valley, the government cannot disown its responsibility for ending the violence and creating peaceful living situation for locals. Strong measures must be taken to restore peace in the Valley.
Mahesh Kumar, New Delhi
One did expect a pitched battle in Pondicherry between Kiran Bedi and V. Narayanswamy, going by the history of spats between Lt governors and chief ministers in small states of the country (Deep Throat, July 17). After all, it was no different upcountry in Delhi, where the respective characters were Najeeb Jung and Arvind Kejriwal. It can’t be just a coincidence that both the L-Gs, who are asserting excessive authorities, are from the BJP—a party that isn’t ruling the UT where the fight is on. Agreed, both Bedi and Jung have been top administrators in the police and civil service respectively, but as L-Gs they are supposed to be guardians of the Constitution and not of BJP’s interests. There should be an atmosphere of mutual respect.
M.S.Khokhar, On E-Mail
This refers to your Cover Story on the crash of the real estate market (The Free Fall, July 10). The expected course correction of the unrealistically high prices in the housing market had to happen with the passage of the Real Estate Regulation and Development Act 2016, aimed at reining in unscrupulous builders. Moreover, the sudden announcement of demonetisation further gave a blow to the inflated sector as it was a hitherto safe haven for unaccounted money. With dubious players unable to make a quick buck exiting the market, prices are bound to stabilise as the economics of demand and supply takes over. On the flip side, the unfinished projects stranded midway will hurt the economy and may also lead to litigations.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
Owning a house has been a long-cherished dream of the urban middle class. This is the class which was in a rat-race for residential flats. As is always the case, profit-hungry builders exploited the demand-supply gap and went on a price-raising spree till owning a house became almost impossible for the middle class. Buyers fled and the builders fell flat. The cover story tells that on an average, prices since 2015 have fallen 30-40 per cent in most parts of the country. Still, the buyers are at bay, perhaps waiting for the real estate prices to bottom out, not exactly knowing what the bottom level is.
Food, clothing and shelter are considered as basic necessities of life. But nowadays people are giving too much importance to ‘shelter’ and building palatial mansions on which they spend enormous amounts. The idea of what a house should be like has undergone a drastic change over the years. Everyone is obsessed with status. Even if someone chooses a small house, the investment for construction is usually done in huge amounts (Being Small Is Beautiful). Nobody seems to be satisfied with tiled floors. The demand for marble and granite has increased. People do not hesitate to cough up huge sums to build their dream houses. The limitless expenditure for interior decoration following latest trends such as Vastu Shastra and Feng Shui concepts is continuously increasing. Modular kitchens are in vogue. So small certainly has become beautiful, but also incredibly costly.
M.K.Somanatha Panicker, Alappuzha
In hindsight, the property price fall is only a symptom of India’s ailing economy. It is tempting to say that demonetisation may have reduced the flow of black money to purchase properties, but in reality, under-development in various sectors and jobless growth could be the real factors behind it. After all, the prices had started to fall way before ‘notebandi’. It remains to be seen if Modi’s transformative decisions would stabilise the property prices with a positive impact on the country’s economy. Nevertheless, the fall in property prices will make housing more affordable.
Sanjiv Gupta, Perth
Property rates are always based on rumours, and isn’t media the best rumour-monger?
Santosh Raj, Pune
This is in reference to the growing roles for actresses from the ’80s and ’90s (Roaring Forties Storm B-Town, July 10). It’s not just a man’s world in Bollywood, for women are taking over lead, mature roles. At last, the trend of women-centric movies is finding its place in mainstream Bollywood. Watching a film with a female lead was a rarity. But this is no longer the case, and women’s issues and active participation of women in social movements have been projected in films like Piku, NH10, English Vinglish, Queen and Angry Indian Goddesses. The variety is impressive—NH10 highlighted ‘honour killing’, and a woman’s fight against the scourge; in Piku, the protagonist defies social conventions; in Queen, a woman finally breaks through the shackles that bound her and in Angry Indian Goddesses, issues like independent women, depression, marital rape and ‘stigma’ related to divorced or lesbian women are tackled. Women’s sexuality also is an issue that needs to be portrayed more. The change is afoot, women-centric films are here to stay, and they are welcome.
Priyam Sinha, New Delhi
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