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This is about Outlook’s cover story on the SP-BSP alliance for the UP bypolls and the possibilities for such alliances ahead of the 2019 parliamentary polls (A Ride From Gorakhpur To Phulpur, Mar 19). The results of the bypolls demonstrated the BJP’s vulnerability. The loss of all three Lok Sabha seats in the Hindi heartland, supposed to be the saffron party’s stronghold, sent out the message that a united opposition can cause it serious trouble. Indeed, forces championing social justice and those practising the politics of hatred and polarisation were pitted against each other. The oscillation of voters from religion to caste does not justify a call for the characterisation of SP, BSP and RJD as ‘casteist’, as it would be tantamount to shifting the blame for acting on caste considerations from dominant castes to other castes. The best thing that can happen to Indian democracy is a consolidation of Dalit, tribal, OBC and Muslim votes. The BJP just cannot take voters for a ride all the time in the name of ‘nationalism’ or Hindutva. Perhaps the principal factor that resulted in the BJP’s drubbing was the perception that the BJP governments at the Centre and in the state were doing nothing to create jobs, provide affordable healthcare and education, mitigate farmer distress and bring about an improvement in their material circumstances. It should not be forgotten that 85 kids lost their lives in a Gorakhpur hospital for want of oxygen cylinders. It’s as if the BJP government’s acts of commission and omission have come home to roost.
G. David Milton, Maruthancode
The alliance has indeed proved to be a game-changer and that too in BJP territory. Gorakhpur was the bastion of the BJP and the Gorakhnath temple priests had almost established a political monopoly in the constituency. UP CM Yogi Adityanath was five-time MP from there. This loss would have hit the party unit in UP hard. After the 2017 saffron sweep of UP, it would have been quite a fall. If we look at the larger picture, these bypolls are certainly a moment in contemporary Indian politics. For the Opposition, these polls might have cleared a few long standing obstacles, but then, they will have to keep in mind that the road to 2019 is still long and arduous. They will have to show cooperation and foresight to take on the BJP bull next year. All said, the alliance formula can well travel beyond these constituencies and reap success elsewhere in the country too. Although, regional parties will have to be more organised and not just go for alliances out of pre-poll panic.
Lal Singh, On E-Mail
BJP’s bosses should by now realise that something went seriously amiss in the UP bypolls. In Gorakhpur, the BJP’s traditional voters chose not to vote for them. The Lok Sabha seats from Gorakhpur and Phulpur were seats vacated by none other than the chief minister and the deputy chief minister respectively. The Gorakhpur seat had gone to the BJP even when a UPA alliance had won the Lok Sabha elections to rule the country in the past. By now it is certain that people are not happy with the way the BJP government is functioning in the state. The Congress has almost run its course, the same could eventually be the fate of the BJP, why not! Anything is possible in politics. Maybe, the next coming would comprise of an alliance of regional parties as happened during the time of the V.P. Singh government.
Madhu Agrawal, Delhi
It is not just the SP-BSP tie-up that has resulted in the BJP’s defeat in Gorakhpur and Phulpur in UP. The voteshare shows that there is a big swing in favour of the Opposition, with a massive disenchantment among the people against the ruling BJP in both UP and Bihar. It proves the people of India are fed up with the BJP government’s ‘jumlas’. The results also go on to prove that a united Opposition is the answer to the growing communal forces in the country. The Congress, however, needs to have a more open approach as an Opposition party if it has to keep up in today’s political scenario. Even in these byelections, it is the Congress that performed the worst. It is the first time in over two decades that the BSP and SP have decided to fight together in the state. It has paved the way for a Dalit voter base and a Muslim-OBC voter base to stand together and defeat the BJP. In Bihar, the RJD, despite its chief Laloo Prasad Yadav being in prison, has also managed to win Araria and Jehanabad. The tides they seem to be changing.
V.P. Shafeeq, New Delhi
This refers to Sunset In The East (March 19). Now that BJP has made inroads into the Northeast, winning Tripura and Nagaland, with the Congress drawing a blank in both the states, one can safely conclude that ‘formula-Modi’ is still very potent. His brand of politics has always been larger than life and he has truly managed to cash in on the ‘development’ plank. The results from the UP bypolls may be slightly discouraging for the state BJP unit, but by and large the party has captured North India. Congress is still unable to set its house in order and the grand old party still lacks tall leaders and a clear agenda.
K.R. Srinivasan, Hyderabad
Voila! The elephant rode on the bicycle and won the race puncturing the lotus instead.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
This refers to All Hands Aboard, the article on efforts by India and China to initiate cordial ties once again (Mar 19). Since both are nuclear-powered neighbours and top powers in Asia, they should come to an understanding, stop flexing muscles and issuing threats to each other. Instead, they should join hands for all-round development. As regards the Dalai Lama, the government must recognise that the conditions under which he was first given shelter have changed considerably, and that logic cannot be claimed permanently. It’s in Pakistan’s interests to play India and China against each other, and it should be seen through by the two powers.
Lt Col Ranjit Sinha (retd), Calcutta
It’s a calculated risk from the Narendra Modi government, which has gone for nothing short of a high-stakes gamble by arresting Karti Chidamaram (X Files: Karma of Karti, March 19). By booking the former finance minister’s son, PM Modi seems to be implementing a two-fold strategy. One, act against the menace of corruption—the BJP has timed it well in the run-up to the assembly polls in Karnataka, where it is looking for a comeback. Two, divert the attention of the public from the high-profile Nirav Modi scam, which was raising uncomfortable questions for the government. In comparison to the PNB scam, the corruption allegations against Karti amount to peanuts. But, Karti’s case has been highlighted nationally, almost replacing the PNB case. A cunning decision by the BJP, both politically and in terms of media management.
K.S. Jayatheertha, Bangalore
Apropos of your editorial comment (Concussion, March 19), writing or rewriting history is indeed the “favourite pastime” of the Hindutva right. We have been told that anashva ratham ‘horseless chariot’ referred to a vehicle with an internal combustion engine. And Ganesha’s elephant head supposedly proved that ancient Hindu ayurvedic practice included plastic and transplant surgery—even though surgery is not practised in modern ayurveda. Churchill was a biased colonialist, but I wouldn’t be inclined to challenge the observation that we are worshippers of the “beastly”. Narasimha, the incarnation of saviour and protector Vishnu, tore open Hiranyakashipu’s chest and scooped out his intestines, just to prove his omnipresence. Vamana, the same Vishnu, tricked Mahabali into giving up his kingdom and pushed him down into the netherworld, just to propitiate the jealous devas who couldn’t tolerate the success and popularity of the asura king. The annual kaavutheendal at Kodungallur Bhagavathi temple in Kerala is another instance of our beastly worship. The goddess is worshipped by sword-waving devotees who sing earthy songs. The worship is tamasic, bordering on the bestial, a celebration of raw and untamed energy, an expression of the repressed.
Col. C.V. Venugopalan (retd), Palakkad
This is about the news of a temple dedicated to a dog (In & Around, The Dogess Deity Off NH75, Mar 19). Most violence on earth is done in the name of religion; no doubt, we are cultured beasts. The Kutiya Maharani ka mandir in Jhansi shows that in India, following the hoary traditions of Puranic Hinduism, we do not discriminate among living beings!
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
The cartoon on the Deep Throat page (March 19) has eloquently conveyed the fate of Gandhi in the post-truth period of Indian politics. Marxist intellectuals have never embraced Gandhian values—to the practitioners of Stalinism, Gandhi is not a real alternative for their gory violence. Ambedkarists see him as their number one enemy, while the RSS has always secretly preferred the masculine Godse to the effeminate Gandhi. Feminists regard him as a sexual abuser. Our PM, himself a swayamsevak, has reduced Gandhi to a mere broom, never considering his dharma; his own role model is Savarkar. The Congressmen claim his inheritance has been somehow transposed to the Gandhi family brand, duping generations of Indians. The Indian middle class with their crass, Western consumerism are opposed to Gandhian values. But one thing is certain: if India is to survive as a democracy of different cultures and languages, the youth must reinvent Gandhi.
K. Aravindakshan, On E-Mail
The cartoon was hilarious and thought-provoking. While Ambedkar is still relevant, Periyar is not as revered today in Tamil Nadu as he was 50 years ago, when he played the role of the self-styled iconoclast; the protests against the desecration of his bust-size statue petered out in no time. True, Periyar fought against social evils, but he was much against the Tamil language and culture. He called Tamil a barbarian’s language and Tamils barbarians. And he wounded the religious feelings of Hindus by breaking Pillaiyar’s idols and adorning Lord Rama’s portrait with a garland of chappals. I think BJP national secretary H. Raja need not have disowned his Facebook post that advocated the removal of the statues of Periyar. Even actor Kamalahaasan opined on the issue saying that statues of all leaders should be removed in Tamil Nadu. It seems that public platforms in many places in Tamil Nadu are not meant for pedestrians, but for statues of Dravidian leaders only. Just as writers like Vairamuthu enjoyed the right to discuss the possibility that Andal might have been a devadasi, and K. Veeramani the right to defend his ‘poonool for pigs’ programme, so too did Raja think he had the right to express his opinions against Periyar. The right to freedom of expression is sacrosanct in a democracy, and cannot simply be buried in the dry river-sands of the Dravidian heartland!
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
This is about the Deep Throat cartoon depicting P. Chidambaran (March 12). An FIR should always result in immediate action. The case against Karti Chidambaram is based on one filed in 2017, based on the complaints of two people who were in jail for two years on suspicion of murder. So the CBI’s present action comes across as selective and belated, whatever be the offence. Let the law of the land take its course and the guilty be punished without any kind of discrimination.
Similarly there is effectively no restriction on cow slaughter in certain states such as Nagaland, Meghalaya or Goa, for example, whereas others are forced to protect and worship the bovine ‘mata’. Is this not another example of selective enforcement?
Nikhil Gopal, Hyderabad
Can someone explain how the decision of a duly constituted judicial authority to order remand, after taking cognisance of material required and presented to it for the purpose and allowing the defence full space to present all its objections, is “political vendetta”? . This absurd claim is raised before the court even as the prosecutor is presenting the related evidence! Each and every ‘political’ accused does this. Who are they trying to fool!
Rajan N., On E-Mail
This is with reference to your leader comment on Tamil Nadu (The Tamil Country, March 12). The editor is right about the present politicians, but says not a word on Periyar’s unique contributions of having brought humanism and scientific temper, the spirit of selflessness and service, the unending fight for social justice and for building a casteless society, emancipation of women. All Tamils, irrespective of their religious affiliations, revere him. The social decadence is despite Periyar, Anna and Kamaraj—it’s sad but true. But to denigrate Tamils alone is unfair.
Simon John, On E-Mail
Rich or poor, educated or uneducated, a local leader is always welcome rather than one from New Delhi. The fate of a region has to be, for the large part, left to its people. A hyper-centralised governance is not too far away from the colonial project in the past.
Srinivasan Raghuraman, On E-Mail
This is with reference to A Billion Bodies, But No Size Fits (March 12). How much of a change will a ‘national’ standardisation in apparel size really bring? People will still try on clothes in the fitting rooms because it’s not just about the size—comfort and design are also important. Besides, in an ethnically diverse country like India, you find people of all shapes and sizes.
Parul Bhandhari, On E-Mail
I refer to the column on Kejriwal’s regime vis-a-vis bureaucrats (Perfect Case of Relations Souring, March 5). It is easy to point fingers. But it’s also clear that all parties could bear some of the blame. Do the civil servants work dispassionately without thinking of their own advancement and convenience? I think not. The politicians also work for their own interests. Therefore, no party is completely guilt-free. So let’s stop the drama.
G.L. Karkal, Pune
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