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The diverse Opposition parties can unite, but none of its leaders has a pan-India appeal (Finding the Challenger, June 18). The regional leaders are strong enough on their own but their alliance could turn out to be just a poll gimmick. Against such an unconvincing unity, it will be their idiocy if they think they can fool the electorate. If their ‘unity’ wins, every leader will want to be PM. They stand a better chance if the Congress replaces Rahul Gandhi at its helm with an able leader to run the election campaign (like BJP did by floating Narendra Modi in 2014). The Karnataka assembly outcome may not have any bearing on 2019.
Sanjiv Gupta, Perth
In the article titled An Anti-Modi Puzzle, the writer deftly analyses many aspects of the ‘Modi versus the rest’ question, but a few observations don’t sit well with how things are. Nitish Kumar has been painted in poor taste for joining the BJP. Why? He wouldn’t remain CM if he hadn’t done that. Secondly, Modi’s second term hasn’t been talked about. Wouldn’t that be an interesting insight for the readers? Modi is the only PM till date to make such a definite impact on the global scene. At the global summits he drops in, you can see the kind of respect world leaders have for him.
The insurmountable hoax of Modi has been created by his supporters through the hyper ideological use of social and electronic media. His theatrical extempore speeches seldom have any substance. He tactfully avoids any conflict with his mentors sitting in Nagpur and with communal forces on the ground—like the love jehad and gau raksha brigades. His brand of populism is nothing but a balloon, waiting to be burst. But who will burst it? The “unconditional” united front gets stuck because everyone is selfish. “What is in it for me if Modi gets dislodged?” they think. But it could play out interestingly this time, let us wait and watch. Ten months are left for the general elections, a long enough time period to crystallise any firm trend in a volatile political atmosphere.
M.N. Bhartiya, Porvorim, Goa
Prime Minister Modi has emerged as a Goliath in the arena of Indian politics. That is why the disparate Opposition parties are joining hands to overcome the giant. All of them have suddenly become integrationists. Many leaders in the inchoate coalition have such extreme ambitions that they won’t be able to contain for a long time. This might end up disrupting the current developments of an attempt to form a ‘super’ coalition. And any time in this process; the unnoticeable process of disintegration will spontaneously start. It is a fact that each one of them knows their inherent characteristics, which would lead to ideological inequalities. Further, the volatility will make the future of the coalition iffy. But they are standing hand-in-hand because they are afraid of the disaster lurking. Certainly, they have apprehension that if in 2019, Modi comes to power again, it would force some players’ exit from politics. Recent bypoll results and the formation of the government in Karnataka have given a shot in the arm to the possibility of a coalition for 2019, but the air is full of skepticism. The prevalent view in the realpolitik still remains Modi’s image of a dynamic leader. People know the axiomatic failure of coalitions. The public observes the optics.
Indu S. Dube, Varanasi
Ask any Opposition leader about the prime ministerial face of the proposed grand alliance, and you would get no answer. They argue there was no face of the anti-Congress Opposition in 1977 and again in 1989, when the PM was decided only after the elections. Both times, the people voted decisively against the party in power—against Indira Gandhi’s Congress for imposing Emergency, and against Rajiv Gandhi’s for the scandals such as Bofors. But can people’s disenchantment with Modi match that? The CSDS survey shows Modi’s popularity has gone down by just two per cent since 2014. In fact, the Opposition has nobody who can stand up to Modi. Rahul Gandhi is being projected as the challenger because he is the leader of the only other pan-Indian party. The findings of the survey indicate that Rahul is more popular than Modi only in the southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, but trails behind him by huge margins in all other states, including Mamata Banerjee’s Bengal, Naveen Patnaik’s Odisha and Arvind Kejriwal’s Delhi.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
The nation is really looking forward to a viable Opposition that can end the saffron storm that has taken the country hostage. Considering the political situation in the country, it can be concluded that only a mainstream political party can be an alternative to the BJP at the Centre. The regional parties do not have the bandwidth to capture the national imagination for obvious reasons. But if all Opposition parties come together, they can change the stale, oft-repetitive political script into a more dynamic and flexible narrative. The only issue is the conflict of political interests that has the inevitable capacity to spoil such a coalition dream.
J. Kishore, Hyderabad
“Abki baar: bhay-mukt (fearless) sarkar” should be the slogan for the 2019 general elections.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
This refer’s to A Hundred and One Nights on the Edge, the story on Jammu’s border villages (June 18). The Line of Control (LoC) should indeed be christened the “Line of Misery”, as your slug suggests. The LoC is among the borders that have remained unsettled for the longest while. Settlement of borders didn’t take this long even after the World Wars or the Korean War. One can argue that politicians of both India and Pakistan are not willing to settle the issue due to their vested interests. Instead, their efforts have been directed towards strengthening their war machines rather than enhancing their respective people’s living standards. The people of both countries are made to feel enmity towards each other in spite of cultural and linguistic similarities. Friendship between the two countries would make them powerful geopolitical entities working in tandem instead of undercutting each other’s global influence, while the resources they now waste on their war machines could be diverted towards people’s welfare.
Lt Col (retd) Ranjit Sinha, Calcutta
‘Couch culture’ pervades the entire film industry, not Bollywood alone (#MeMum, June 11). As long as actresses refuse to oblige and speak out, it can be tackled. But power is an ugly game, with its own sinister sedatives—the promise of fame, the fear of not getting work.
George Jacob, Kochi
Apropos of Guzzle Grain, Go Hungry (June 11), the government’s new policy of using grains to produce biofuel has invited adverse comment from both Dr Swaminathan and the UN. The concerned authorities must realise that in a country where it is very difficult to arrange adequate food grains for the people, using up these scarce resources in ethanol production cannot be justified.
Lt Col (Retd) Ranjit Sinha, Calcutta
This is apropos the photo essay The Elephant in the Alley (June 11). Human-wildlife conflict is on a rise across the country; Elephants and tigers are becoming scapegoats of the callousness of forest officials. Ironically, your piece focuses largely on the devastation that elephants are causing to man and not the other way round. Authorities fail to realise how they destroy habitats. For instance, the conversion of a 162 km metre gauge, from New Jalpaiguri to the Alipurduar, to a broad gauge in the year 2000 in north Bengal resulted in victimising many elephants. More than 200 elephants lost their lives on this eponymous ‘death railway’.
Unfortunately, like the Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) in Odisha, officials in other states are also not taking wildlife conservation seriously. The funds for the environment sector are not being allocated commensurately. Political parties show very little concern in protecting wildlife because animals are not voters.
Nelson Petrie, On E-Mail
With reference to Tales From the 4G Rumour Mill (June 11), a solution must be found to combat fake news and rumours spread through social media before others lose their lives in this bizzarre wave of fear. The government must implement strict regulation and take legal action against the crazed transmitters of such messages, while mainstream media should take action to counter fake news whenever it raises its ugly head.
Mahesh Kumar, On E-Mail
Change, as you rightly remind us in Ping-Pongology: Table For Ten (May 28), is a way of life—and having been a regular reader of Outlook since the late Vinod Mehta’s days, I have been a first-hand witness to this. However, one thing that continues to mystify me is why Outlook, despite having accepted ‘Mumbai’ and ‘Chennai’ for Bombay and Madras respectively, refuses to switch over from ‘Calcutta’ to its changed name.
R.N. Bhat, On E-Mail
The analysis on how the Congress has to rethink its strategy in order to make a serious play for the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 was very good (Palm Fringed? May 28). Indeed, if the Congress ties up with each and every regional and national party in the coming polls in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, besides the general elections in 2019, I think it would pose itself as a great barrier before the BJP’s well-oiled electoral machine. Moreover, in 2019, Rahul Gandhi should not be the party’s prime ministerial candidate; there are other singularly talented young leaders there. If it happens, it will look like there has been a revolution of sorts in the Congress. And believe me, people are really waiting for such symbolic revolutions. If the Congress can get out of this, its voteshare will certainly go up. In addition, the party has to be ready for compromise wherever there are potentially stronger allies—like the TMC in Bengal.
A.K. Chakraborty, Guwahati