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I would like to thank you for your cover story 20 Icons and 1 Con (Aug 20). Your choices are interesting—a politician writing about another politician, a renowned former filmstar about a budding one and more. Outlook has used different scalpels on PM Narendra Modi, Sonia Gandhi, Chetan Bhagat et al, and its Sadhguru forceps on Baba Ramdev. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the issue.
Ashim Kumar Chakraborty, Guwahati
The politics of Nehru-Gandhi family is anchored in dynastic succession (Legend of the renunciate, Aug 20). Political convenience forced Sonia Gandhi to abdicate the rights of leadership to outsiders like P.V. Narasimha Rao and former prime minister Manmohan Singh. Following the unexpected defeat of the NDA in the 2004 general election, Sonia successfully cobbled together a coalition of anti-BJP parties and became the chairperson of the UPA. After her so-called sacrifice in refusing the PM’s mantle, she nominated Manmohan Singh, an Oxbridge scholar who could be trusted to keep the PM’s seat warm for son Rahul Gandhi. But things turned out to be different and the Congress lost the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Though less decisive than Indira Gandhi, at one time, Sonia breathed fresh life into a moribund Congress and held the grand old party tightly together. While she allowed her government under Manmohan Singh to be roiled by a succession of corruption scandals, she gave him her strong support for enacting progressive legislations like the right to information, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the National Food Security Act. In 2009, Forbes declared her as the world’s most powerful woman leader. Sonia deserves commendation for successfully adapting herself to an Indian way of political life in a short span of time. Her dress sense is traditional and contemporary at the same time, and essentially Indian. Indeed, there are people who acknowledge her love for India, the country she adopted as her own.
There is nothing great about Sonia Gandhi. She became president of the Congress by sheer privilege of being the wife of Rajiv Gandhi and because of the infamous sycophancy of party members. They could not find a suitable Indian to lead the party. While I agree that she renounced the primeministership in 2004, she did not give up on real power. She became the puppeteer behind the throne. It is an open secret that she pulled the strings in the UPA government and, as the head of the National Advisory Council, framed policies for the government. She turned a blind eye to the colossal scams happening under the UPA’s watch. Poor Manmohan Singh, he had to take the flak for all the ills of the government while Mrs Gandhi was credited for all its achievements. She managed the impossible, enjoyed power without responsibility.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
All the words mentioned in the article Pradhan Sevak Above All Else about Prime Minister Narendra Modi depict truth. The PM has already churned out innovative, unconventional and bold schemes to jolt the country out of its slumber. I personally feel that now he needs to carefully plan the good governance of two of the most fundamental social sectors: our education system and our healthcare.
At present, these two fields are languishing and even this government hasn’t been able to figure out ways to revive them.
Kundan, On E-Mail
‘Remember remember’ the 8th of November, when your grand icon robbed us of all our cash.
Vineet Kamra, Mumbai
This is about the story on Dalit leaders in the NDA being in a tight spot due to widespread disquiet within the community. Now, realising that the Supreme Court order ‘diluting’ the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was turning out to be a political hot potato, the Narendra Modi cabinet has decided to bring an amendment bill which, if passed by Parliament, will turn the clock back to the original law that had provisions for an FIR without any preliminary inquiry and immediate arrest of the accused. Truly, the government was under great pressure, with Ram Athawale and Ram Vilas Paswan virtually putting it on notice, threatening protests. Plus, there was a nationwide Dalit agitation planned in the first week of August. But how come Athawale and Paswan didn’t vociferously protest at news of the Una atrocity, where Dalits were assaulted for the alleged skinning of a dead cow? Truly, politicians are only actuated by considerations of votes.
K.S. Jayatheertha, Bangalore
Outlook’s articles on Karunanidhi on his death were a good read (Karunanidhi: Episodes From The Script, He Who Spoke Chentamizh, Aug 20). The state is orphaned by the demise of its tallest leader. The question is, will the legacy of the DMK patriarch be carried forward with the same zeal in the midst of the already brewing dispute in the family over control of the party. Notwithstanding the fact that Karunanidhi was a Brahmin-baiter and anti-Hindi activist (in the ’60s), his contribution to literature, good oratory, shrewdness, championship of social justice and reforms programme undertaken for the downtrodden made him a popular leader of the masses. However, as a selective rationalist, his thoughts and actions on many occasions exposed his hypocrisy and opportunism.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
A five-term CM of Tamil Nadu, Karunanidhi was a phenomenon. Educated up to class VIII, he became one of the greatest scholars and interpreters of ancient Tamil literature and turned the Tamil film industry into an instrument of social and political change. He stood at the centre of a movement that asserted a language and race-based identity of the Tamil people. He made all Tamilians breathe, smell, speak and write Tamil with pride. Indeed, so involved was he on the well-being of all Tamils that he even interfered—with the Centre’s approbation, one must add—in the movement for equality among Sri Lanka’s Tamil community. He strove hard to leverage the political scene to make Tamil Nadu a fulcrum of national politics. In the end, he will be known for persuading the Centre to acknowledge the identity of states within the Indian federation, as well as falling to that familiar failing of a long-term politician—promoting dynastic rule.
Meghana A., Shell Cove, Australia
This is with reference to your Independence Day special cover, 21 Century Makers (Aug 20). Honestly, I couldn’t make out the solitary “con” in your issue, most of which is pure, unadulterated sycophantic rant, the article on the sports icon, M.S. Dhoni, being the exception. It is preposterous for Nirmala Sitharaman to compare Narendra Modi with Swami Vivekananda. Modi could be anyone but the Swami. Both, fellow Congressmen, Shashi Tharoor and Mani Shankar Iyer have plush jobs, all they have to do is continue to be critical of Modi and uncritical of their own party members. Shashi Tharoor delves into spiritual theories to eulogise Sonia Gandhi in his Legend of the Renunciate: “Italian by birth and Indian by karma,” he writes. And Sonia Gandhi did not leave power in the hands of her “grey-haired viziers”, as Tharoor claims, but in the hands of her still dark-haired son. Another ‘guest writer’ singing peans of his chosen candidate, the fellow godman-businessman Baba Ramdev, is Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev (The Baba of Big Bucks). Such are the tunes that come out of his write up: “Combining commercial success with simplicity, Ramdev is a class apart”. Refreshingly different is Ashish Nehra’s admiration for the “real ageless copter” M.S. Dhoni (A Real Ageless Copter). Like Nehra, quite a few of us believe that “the way Dhoni is playing, he will surely go on to play the 50-over World Cup next year”. But the piece-de-resistance is Sunny Leone. She does look every inch a smart pin-up.
C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
That incident was indeed your second birthday, sir (HJT-16 Diary, Aug 20). I have never been near a fighter jet before, but just reading your account gave me that stomach drop that pilots are said to feel while flying one. It also reaffirmed my faith in guardian angels. They don’t come from the sky, but reside here on earth as humans. Your flight instructor N.M. Gupte was surely one for you.
Dinesh Ravindran, Hyderabad
Sunny Leone is a star, undoubtedly (Beyond the Bolly Cloud, Aug 20). Wouldn’t BJP president Amit Shah have wished he had Sunny’s charm? After all, his party supporters tweeted pictures of her viral visit to Kerala last year as his own. While Sunny’s admirers filled almost a mile on a street to get a glimpse of her, Amit Shah’s Kerala rally was a sparse, depressing affair. Sunny is a true professional who has played the Bollywood game on her own terms. Every inch of the success she has achieved is well deserved. And she was an absolute outsider to the industry. She is certainly an inspiring icon.
Ravi Jain, New Delhi
Your cover story We Are All Harappans (August 13) is interesting, but I do not agree with the assertion of the ‘Iran farmer’ link mentioned in it. I have written two online articles that establish South India’s influence in the thinking of the Arab nations in the past. And in my latest book Nanchinadu: Harbinger of Rice and Plough Culture in the Ancient World, I argue that the origin of rice cultivation was in Nanchinadu in South India. More books remain to be written on this theme, which will reveal the unwritten past of the Kerala region.
V. Sankaran Nair, On E-Mail
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