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This refers to Raga Darbari On High Notes, your cover story on Rahul Gandhi. While the sensationalist PM Modi is taking the public for a ride, Rahul is winning hearts with his simplicity. But the Congress is still not able to convince people of its capabilities. It has also not been able to expose the BJP’s gross mismanagement in states like Chhattisgarh and MP. The BJP government is performing poorly, but its leaders are good at distracting the public’s focus by making use of their twisted rhetoric. Rahul needs to devise a workable counter to this.
Vanet DeSouza, On E-Mail
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Apart from winning Punjab and a good number of assembly seats in Gujarat, Rahul has not done much to elicit attention. While he fought ferociously in Gujarat, he lost lamentably in the North-East. In UP and Bihar he just played the role of a junior partner. The real litmus test for the Congress president will be the Karnataka assembly polls, where he is playing for high stakes by mixing politics and religion. If Rahul loses Karnataka, his objective of working with like-minded parties to evolve a common workable programme to defeat the BJP might come a cropper. Other parties, having their own political orientation, might be chary of accepting Rahul as their leader. In the Congress plenary session, Rahul spent more time targeting Modi than in spelling out a clear alternative for the country’s major economic problems like unemployment, farmers’ distress or education. However, I thought that the economic resolution recommending the imposition of 5 per cent cess on the country’s one per cent richest was the highlight of the session, for it could narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. Rahul has compared the Congress to the Pandavas from the Mahabharata. But if the Congress really wants to beat the BJP, Rahul must try and piece together a credible anti-BJP coalition to be able to win the Kurukshetra war of 2019.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
I refer to Game of the Ashramites. It’s interesting to see the extremely low bar Rahul Gandhi has to clear in order to become cover story material for media outlets like Outlook. He gives an ‘ok’ speech (god knows who wrote it) at best and visits a few temples, and the media thinks he is PM material.
Akash Verma, Chennai
As you rightly pointed out, most Congressmen/women are not aware of the heritage they have gained, accidentally. The Congress was the political party responsible for the independence of India. That makes it a national treasure—and the present office bearers of the party are its custodians, including Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. They are not the owners of the party. Sadly, this thought is missing from the head of the typical ‘Congressi’. This can be gauged from their conduct and public utterances. Under the garb of secularism, most Congressmen are actually communal and divisive. This statement is completely justified, one only has to count the number of Congress leaders who have left the party to join the BJP on such flimsy grounds as not getting a ticket or an office-bearer’s post. Most importantly, they all are arrogant. Their arrogance was spilling over when they were in office.
Gilbert D’Souza, Bangalore
The optimism around the SP-BSP camps for a bright electoral future is understandable given their recent wins in the UP bypolls. But what is the Congress party celebrating after losing its deposits in all the bypolls? It only makes for a case of “Begani Shaadi Mein Abdullah Diwana” (beating the drums in someone else’s wedding).
Pramod Srivastava, On E-Mail
A ‘combative’ Rahul Gandhi! So says Outlook. While reading the article, I had those moments of doubt about whether I was reading an INC newsletter or a news magazine. It eventually dawned upon me: Outlook is efficiently handling its job as an unofficial mouthpiece of the Congress. It is not mere chance that they think Rahul has come of age. It is also not a coincidence that this issue came out around April fool’s day. The joke’s on us, I guess.
Ravi, On E-Mail
The ‘boy who cried wolf’ can only go so far as to be patronised once in a while by a media house.
Jitendra Kamath, On E-Mail
This refers to Minority Position (April 2). It is unfortunate that the Karnataka state cabinet approved the recommendation of the Justice Nagamohan Das-headed expert committee to accord the status of minorities to the “Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat” communities.What would such a decree actually mean? It would mean that Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats, one of Karnataka’s leading communities, will have special privileges under Section 25, 28, 29 and 30 of the Constitution.These include the right to profess and propagate their religion, access to special religious instruction and worship and, perhaps most importantly, the freedom to run and manage minority educational institutions. The latter is sure to benefit several Lingayat educational trusts, which exist all over the state, but especially flourish in north Karnataka. Lingayats already enjoy a 15 per cent reservation under categories 2A and 3B of the OBCs in Karnataka. Of course Lingayats in Telangana too enjoy reservations. With this particular demand having been around for years, the question,of course, is the timing. And that, clearly, is political—the Congress is desperate to hold on to its gateway to the south and the BJP is determined to breach it and set up its own. Accommodating many sects and giving them autonomy and empowerment is nothing new. Nor is conflict between different schools of Hinduism. This is why Hinduism, a religion without a book, pope or any rigid commandments is considered more a way of life. Not all Lingayats, who are also found in Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, want a separate religion. They consider themselves a part of Hinduism, albeit with distinctive features. All this has been obscured as the battle for Karnataka gains momentum. What could have been a debate on the assimilative genius of Hinduism will now be reduced to a discussion about electoral mathematics and vote banks.
P. Arihanth, Hyderabad
Will the Congress party reap the benefit of providing religious minority status to Lingayats in the upcoming Karnataka Assembly polls? This is the million dollar question, although CM Siddaramaiah seems to believe that it will help his party get at least 10 to 20 per cent of Lingayat votes.
Who are Lingayats? They are followers of the 12th century reformer Basavanna who rejected the caste hierarchy and vedic rituals. Lingayats do not consider themselves Hindus, having rejected the tenets of traditional Hinduism like karma, ritualism and caste, and having emphasised the necessity as well as the dignity of labour. Veerashaivism attracted converts from all castes, including Dalits. The new religion followed the teachings of Basavanna based on a rigid doctrine of monotheism—Shiva is regarded as the supreme transcendent entity. Over the centuries the Veerashaivas became an endogamous community called Lingayats, distinguished by the Shivalinga and rudraksha on their person. Of course, Shiva is one of the principal deities of Hinduism. He is the supreme being within Shaivism, one of the major traditions within contemporary Hinduism. If Shiva is a Hindu deity then surely Lingayats too are Hindus.
J. Akshobhya, Mysore
Our leaders have inherited the mantra of ‘divide and rule’ from the British and are following it with zest; the RSS and the BJP in particular have perfected it, and thus reaped a rich harvest. Now, the supposedly different Congress is following in their footsteps. Siddaramaiah’s decision to classify Lingayats as a religious minority is one step in this direction, as is Rahul Gandhi’s ‘soft hindutva’—a way for him to have his cake and eat it.
Rakesh Agarwal, Dehradun
This refers to your editorial comment Congress & Media (April 2). Given the lack of committed ground-level workers in the Congress, the very question of their return to power does not arise. Those who live in their own air-conditioned shells, despite their quest for their lost sultanate, are naturally wary of the unsympathetic electronic media, lest a slip of the tongue betray their arrogance. In sharp contrast, the BJP’s RSS cadre-based footsoldiery comes fully brainwashed from childhood in the shakhas. To these disciplined soldiers of the Hindu Rashtra, independent thinking looks like a luxury they cannot afford if they are to rise up the ranks. Like the cavaliers in Lord Tennyson’s poem The Charge of the Light Brigade, their only mantra is: “Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die,” as per the command of their Nagpur-based top guns. The Congress can regain its relevance to Indian politics only if its leaders adjust with anybody who stands for pluralism, secularism and social justice, without asking “what’s in it for me?” Basking in their glorious past will not do.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
With reference to Malice As News (March 26). I do not have a computer or smartphone and I am totally ignorant of the consequences of having a Facebook or of such things being abused. But if I am not mistaken, this is not the first time that scientific inventions have been misused by people for the sake of power—remember how the Chinese invented black powder (gunpowder) and used it mostly for fireworks, before it was weaponised. So, perhaps the article should have been titled ‘Malice in the name of scientific inventions.’
G.L. Karkal, Pune
This refers to the column No Quarter for the Innocent (April 2) by Talmiz Ahmad. The consequences for non-believers living in a Muslim country infected with Wahhabism are well known. The loss of 39 innocent lives is unfortunate, but the odds of their surviving were anyway very low. Sushma needlessly kept high hopes.
In the four years since the BJP came to power, it has led many successful operations to rescue Indian citizens from extremists. In the case of the 39 killed in the Middle East, the external affairs minister made several statements in Parliament, claiming the hostages were alive. The intention might have been to avoid anguish to the victims’ kin, but in the end it turned out to be counterproductive as they came to know of the deaths on TV. The minister should have just said that the hostages were missing and the government was doing its best.
Lal Singh, Amritsar
This is about Talmiz Ahmed’s column on the fate of the 39 Indians who were killed by ISIS in Mosul, Iraq (No Quarter For The Innocent, April 2). It’s unbelievable that despite having a diplomatic mission in Baghdad, our government was totally in the dark about the fate of the Indians four years ago. It’s another instance of our intelligence failure. Had the government followed up what Harjit Masih (the lone survivor of the carnage) had revealed—that all were killed by ISIS in 2014 itself, at least their bodies could have been brought home earlier, instead of serving false hope to their hapless families.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
Such tragedies happen in conflict-ridden areas like Iraq, more so when a murderous group like ISIS operates with impunity. What is unacceptable is how the external affairs ministry gave hope to the families and told them that efforts were on to locate the men, while dismissing media reports and the account of the lone survivor. It seems there was no urgency on the part of the government to find out the facts, granted that it was fiendishly difficult to do so in a strife-torn country. As it is, when the news was broken a few days back, it came as an utter shock to the relatives, who were living under some hope up till this point.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
The ‘land scam’ controversy has embarrassed not just the top Catholic clergy in Kerala, but a chunk of the state’s Christian community (Sheep Call The Shepherd Wolf, April 2). The laity has all the rights to know the business deals taking place in bishops’ houses, as the Church’s properties, institutions and other wealth all ultimately come from the contributions of laymen. The Church Act proposed by the Law Reforms Commission has to be implemented, as the clergy have no right to manipulate the finances.
P.A. Jacob, Muscat
I write about the story on how West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee is trying to cobble together a federal front for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls to counter the march of the BJP (Sister’s Need For Unity, April 2). It’s high time that the CPI(M)’s senior leadership rethought their strategy to halt the juggernaut of Hindutva forces, and stopped keeping the Trinamool and the Congress at arm’s length citing ‘ideological differences’. Actually, had they allied with the Congress, they would not have lost so badly in Tripura. To bolster the fight against the BJP’s aggressive posturing in Bengal, the Left should swallow their ego and knit an alliance of progressive liberals, even if it means playing second fiddle to Mamata. Didi’s efforts in this direction should not be blunted by stubborn Marxist intellectuals.
Shailendra Dasari, Ballary
If a federal front can be mounted against the NDA, and if it can edge past the BJP in the 2019 polls, then Mamata could actually become prime minister with the help of regional chieftains like Sharad Pawar, Chandrababu Naidu and K. Chandrasekhara Rao, with the Congress lending outside support. But will it happen? Narendra Modi has a huge party apparatus, including the trained and dedicated RSS, which has expanded its footprints all over the country. But Mamata will have to bend backwards to assuage the egos of the regional supremos if she has any ambition to claim leadership.
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