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I think your Cover Story, India’s Chanakyas, skips a good week of cowering current issues on the ground for the upcoming elections (April 1). Regional parties face a challenge with regard to the possibility of a united Opposition against the BJP. You mention Kancherla Keshava Rao, popularly known as KK, Chandrasekara Rao’s lieutenant in Telangana being instrumental in the plan of a ‘federal front’ for 2019. But can such a front, or any front, be formed in current political circumstances of ‘one-party- politics?
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
It’s an insightful compilation, all this information about so many leader-advisors in one place. Every political leader in power has ‘backroom boys’ who act as their strategists, guides, publicity manager and even brokers. They wield undefined powers. The historical name among the leaders’ advisors is R.K. Dhawan. He rose from a stenographer in Nehru’s office to become Indira Gandhi’s consultant and the most important person in the PMO of that time. Indira had an entire team of family loyalists: Fotedar, Haksar, and Dhar. But in current times, regional leaders Stalin, Tejashwi Yadav, E.K. Palaniswami, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Devendra Fadnavis and Ashok Gehlot can hardly be counted as “top political leaders” in the general elections scheme of things. Descriptions of backroom boys of former PMs Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh as well as of current PM Narendra Modi and PM contender Rahul Gandhi should have been looked into.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
With the advent of social media and 24-hour news channels, managing elections and political careers has become a serious and professional business, where a slip-up can mean political wilderness forever or at least till the next elections. That’s where the modern-day Chanakyas become inevitable necessities. These behind-the-scenes aides utilise their knowledge of caste combinations, fears and anxieties and hopes and aspirations of the electorate and ensure that the netas tread the right path. They are a special and inseparable part of present-day politicians.
Deepak Kher, Pune
Gujarat has been used as a hindutva model for the other BJP-ruled states to learn from since this government came to power. The Congress always operated from behind a symbolic idealism associated with Mahatma Gandhi. But the BJP and its subsidiaries have been cultivating the foil to Gandhi’s idealism for decades. And now, the hindutva model is slowly replacing the old ideals. With such polar ideas being flung at the masses through State power, there is bound to be a churn. There will be no room for peace.
Vishwanath Dhotre, On E-Mail
This refers to your cover story (Fangs of a Vigilante Herd, March 25). The heart-rending incidents of lynchings of poor and innocent people due to religious fanaticism on the pretext of preventing cow slaughter continues to be perceived as a factor likely to bring rich electoral dividends to the ruling party. In the absence of unequivocal official condemnation of the incidents, the perpetrators are encouraged to continue indulging fearlessly in such despicable acts, causing simmering discontent among the minority community, widening further the gap between the majority and the minorities. It is alienating a large section of minorities from the mainstream, as they are also deprived of economic activities necessary for their livelihood. The Election Commission must take cognisance of communally charged rhetoric, which has the potential to scuttle the secular nature of our democracy.
Jaideep Mittra, Varanasi
Sanjoy Narayan’s Finland Diary (April 1) is timely and makes a very interesting read. It should be made compulsory reading for India’s disunited Opposition, which aims at defeating the Modi government and cobble together (what would almost certainly be) a shaky coalition. Finland (population: 5.5 million) has a coalition government with six out of eight parties. They have been able to bury their differences, or ideologies, and provide a stable government. Our netas, who have stooped to a low level of decorum, have a lot to learn from their counterparts in Helsinki.
G.S. Rao, Bangalore
Modern-day Chanakyas are essential in keeping afloat all our political Samudraguptas.
Anil S., Pune
Family Portraits of the Nation (April 1) brilliantly evokes the grief of families of CRPF jawans who lost their lives in the line of duty. It reminds us that being heroic has a huge cost. Duty and honour are lofty ideals, but in our zeal to project our notions of heroism, we limit our jawans to their ability to kill or avoid getting killed. We forget their quotidian concerns, dilemma and their unique Ardh Satya (1983) moments where they are torn between machismo and pusillanimity. What about the choices a soldier makes? The fear and anxiety they face? After the media gushing, it is conveniently forgotten that the jawan is no metaphorical invocation. He is an irreplaceable flesh-and-blood figure and no amount of glorification can heal the wounds of their mourning families. The only true tribute to the fallen soldier is to be sensitive to his family and not let them languish in a labyrinth of bureaucratic processes and delays.
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
Although The Kill Zone in Cyberia (April 1) was informative, I do not agree with the author on certain points. Most popular video games are violent in nature. They have no benefits and are a sheer waste of time, energy and health, despite the claim that they help sharpen players’ minds. Such games are proving to be addictive not just for children, but for adult office-goers and teenagers alike. Restricting time spent on gaming often proves futile. If not a blanket ban on such games, the government must enforce a time limit of about one hour per day. It is our collective responsibility to save future generations from this serious addiction.
Minati Pradhan, Bangalore
Your story mentions that the Gujarat government thinks the game can drag youth towards terrorist activities. Wow! That’s just like G-government, full of terrorism conspiracy theories. We saw a few of them in the last two decades, something related to encounters was it? I don’t remember your story having a school student’s quote. They (children) are truly the aggrieved party here, for whom an innocuous little smartphone game has been turned into contraband. But, maybe, the game is super addictive, enough to make kids go crazy. Another thing that was crazy addictive was the ‘PUBG’ being played in newsrooms after the Balakot air strikes. News channels even showed actual visuals from a video game to depict the surgical saga.
Shael Jha, On E-Mail
This is with reference to your article on memorable faces of advertisement models (Time’s Filter: Made For Each Other, April 1). We don’t realise the ways in which ads influence us as we are used to seeing them as interruptions in our worlds of entertainment. But the beauty of advertising lies in its power through repetiton. It gets you the fourth time, or the seventh time...or the 15th, and without you realising that the short moving image has left an indelible imprint on your memory. Take, for instance, my reading this story: I was suddenly reminded of these models and their ads. Some from the vintage collection have left a mark on places too. Take a trip to Kodaikanal. Hail the first taxi you find and tell the driver/guide to take you to the places to see. Find yourself on way to the Liril Falls.
Ram Avadheesh, On E-Mail
The characters I can relate to most from the ad stars you mention are the 5 Star brothers Ramesh and Suresh. We share a common trait—after consuming our favourite treat, we go into a state of mindless bliss, often forgetting the chores we’ve been assigned (yes, chores map the large part of my life too). I believe there are many like us. We find ourselves floating in the most unlikely of places. Ramesh and Suresh are transported to a fashion show ramp in their new ad. I remember being transported to a fashion show once, wandering amidst all the glitz and glam with an enlightened look. Long live the 5 Star brothers, may their tribe increase.
Dhiren Shah, Mumbai
Refer to Gavel On The Duds, your story on the flimsy PILs filed by attention seeking petitioners to waste the time of the courts (April 1). It’s only appropriate that judges are now imposing fines on such petitioners. The already overburdened judiciary has no space to take up the whims and fancies of some ignorant and agenda-driven individuals. The petition asking Indian Muslims to be sent to Pakistan is outrightly deplorable and I think the person who filed that PIL should be charged with trying to incite enmity between people. He should be made an example of. Also, it’s diheartening to see that lawyers are among such petitioners too.
Sushant Kanwal, Bangalore
Refer to The Job Boom On Paper (April 1). It’s no surprise that an industry lobby had to come out with an independent report contradicting official ‘leaked’ data claims of an employment crisis in the country. The report just reveals a grave fact: that corporates have to come to the rescue of the government’s image in today’s India. The nexus stands exposed. Surely, joblesness is not a thing we can see outright, it lies hidden deep, within the worried minds of the electorate. But political manipulations have resulted in diverting the people’s attention from their own woes to the created threats to their faiths.
Kshitij Vyas, On E-Mail