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Andre Béteille in the Telegraph:
It was not like that in 1951-52, at the time of the first general elections. What has happened between then and now is the steady advance of identity politics over all other kinds of politics in India. Nobody can seriously expect that identity politics will vanish from the Indian scene or even that appeals to the loyalties of caste and community at election time will come to an end. But as long as all issues are subordinated to the articulation of the grievances of particular caste and particular communities, albeit in the name of equity and justice, the electoral process will continue to move in the direction in which it was set off about twenty years ago.
Mukul Kesavan, in the Telegraph, suggests that Varun Gandhi's hate speeches could only have been made by an anglophone Indian:
Varun Gandhi’s recent troubles need to be understood in their proper context. That context is that he is what an earlier generation of critics used to call an Indo-Anglian writer, a poet. In 2000, he wrote a book of poems with the subtle and original title, The Otherness of Self, illustrated, among others, by Anjolie Ela Menon and Manjit Bawa. Asked about his debut, Varun Gandhi said that he wrote poetry “[b]ecause it is so precise and illustrates the strength of language”. To contrast this writerly sentiment with the thigh-slapping crudeness of his election speeches would be a cheap shot because there’s no real contradiction here. Feroze Varun Gandhi reserves his finer feelings for English verse; in the course of an election campaign, he speaks the robust vernacular prose in which Indian politics is done.
There is a long history of the educational qualifications of the Gandhis not quite being what they are claimed to be.
So it should not really be a surprise, really, that Shri Varun Gandhi, who in his appeal to the Allahabad High Court to quash the criminal case filed against him for making hate speeches in Pilibhit, had claimed that he had graduated from the London School of Economics (LSE), and then received a Masters degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) actually turns out to have a
"degree from the LSE (BSc in Economics), earned through a distance-learning provision, although he was never admitted to LSE's own undergraduate body. Later he was enrolled at SOAS (MSc in Sociology) but never completed the degree,"
as this petition points out.
The above is reiterated in a widely circulated e-mail from Dr. Annu Jalais Dept. of Anthropology, London School of Economics (LSE):
The SOAS Alumni Relations Officer, has confirmed that Feroze Varun Gandhi never graduated in Sociology from SOAS (as claimed by him/media) as he withdrew from his MSc programme before completing it. Feroze Varun Gandhi's connection to the LSE was only through the "University of London External System", which is a distance-learning provision administered by the LSE. He was never been admitted into the LSE's own undergraduate student body and was never a member of LSE's campus..
Writing in the Hoot, S. R. Ramanujan finds the media’s indignation hypocritical:
If the media really believed that Varun Gandhi’s speech would cause unrest among a section of the people, did the repeat telecasts of the speech make any sense?
...When the Election Commission sincerely believes that it was indeed a "hate speech" and might cause communal disturbances, it should have intervened and restrained the media from repeat telecast. They did their job by reporting the event with the CD supplied to all channels by a mysterious source. Follow up stories need not always be with the same offensive CD. Finding an excuse to repeat the telecast of the CD only exposes the channels' real intentions. It also helps those who charge the mainline channels of being anti-majority.
Though conventional ethics demands that the source need not be disclosed, on instances like this, where the CD is not the result of the efforts put in by the reporting staff, revealing the source might help viewers make up their mind as to the intentions of those behind the CD that is dished out to them at least a dozen times a day, irrespective of the genuineness of the CD. Particularly so when Varun is harbouring a conspiracy theory. This is analogous to the tendency of both print and electronic media to decry obscenity while showing obscene pictures on the pretext of dealing with the subject, in the process titillating readers and viewers.
Read the full piece: Media Communalism
Siddharth Varadarajan in the Hindu:
The anti-Muslim construct and the threat of violence is a congenital part of the RSS’ philosophical DNA, a genetic flaw so potent that it contaminates anyone who comes into contact with it. Muslims are the enemy around which the edifice of the BJP’s wider politics is built, even if the requirements of legality mean the party has to be guarded in the manner in which it expresses itself. Sometimes, of course, the mask slips, either by carelessness or design. Varun Gandhi is a novice but even a consummate politician like Atal Bihari Vajpayee could occasionally trip up. In a venomous speech at a BJP meeting in Goa in April 2002, shortly after the anti-Muslim violence which shook Gujarat that year started, Mr. Vajpayee, who was Prime Minister at the time, declared: “Wherever Muslims live, they don’t like to live in co-existence with others, they don’t like to mingle with others; and instead of propagating their ideas in a peaceful manner, they want to spread their faith by resorting to terror and threats.”
Read the full article here
Quick, what's common to Hitler, Sanjay Gandhi and Narendra Modi? Small cars! Frivolity apart, while every now and then comparisons between the Gujarat CM and Rajiv Gandhi are sometimes made (when recalling Gujarat 2002, Delhi 1984 is often invoked), here in the third post on Narendra Modi in recent days, Shiv Visvanathan, in the Indian Express, compares Modi to the younger brother, whose son has been making news for all the wrong reasons:
If one reads them without blinders, one realises they are two chapters in the history of liberalisation and globalisation. Sanjay inaugurated the privatisation of the state to which Modi added the corporatisation of the state. For both, concepts and ideology were secondary, mere footnotes to the logic of power. Modi is just a later version of Sanjay, a leader with a PRO. Both knew how to cater to middle class vulnerabilities. In Sanjay’s time order came when trains ran on time and clerks reached office before time. For Modi, the disciplined body of the middle class now reacted to words like security and toughness. Both realised that evil, fascism, tyranny becomes possible if one can play on the insecurities of the middle class.
Shiv Visvanathan also raises the question that has perhaps not been asked often enough by liberal commentators:
One often asks why the Congress in Gujarat is silent about riot victims or development? Why is there a sense of the twining of these parties, both built around the middle class as an abstract imagination?
Read the full article in the Indian Express