Wednesday, 31 December 2014

J&K Election Verdict-- An Assertion of Regional Diversity & a Call for Genuine Power Sharing

I fail to understand why the J&K electoral results are being called a “fractured verdict”. I see this as a very determined verdict by all three regions of J&K—each has voted in a resounding manner to drive home a clear message that the regional diversity of J&K needs to be respected, that the three regions have distinct problems that demand equal attention which has been denied thus far.
Even more disappointing is media’s undermining of BJP’s impressive sweep in the Jammu region as proof of the communal polarization engineered by the BJP. Those who think Modi acted like Don Quixote in announcing Mission 44 Plus for J&K, should understand that Modi works with a long term vision even when he is fighting a here-and-now- battle.  Thus far BJP had been acting on the assumption that Muslims are never going to vote for it and the Kashmiri Muslims with not let the party even set foot in the Valley.  Modi proved this assumption wrong by first winning over a substantial percentage of Muslim votes in Gujarat and then making a pitch for the Muslim vote in the rest of India, not through Congress style minority pandering but by promising inclusive politics and good governance encapsulated by the slogan – “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.”
Modi addressing rally in Kashmir

That prepared the ground for his reaching out to voters in all three regions of J&K.  Modi is the first BJP politician to have realized that Atal Bihari Vajpayee has left an indelible and positive imprint on the Kashmiri psyche by his open hearted approach to Kashmiris.  As Prime Minister Vajpayee had extended generous support to Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s PDP government even though it was in alliance with the  Congress Party in the state.  This was an important reason why Mufti could deliver on many of his promises during his brief three year tenure.  Vajpayee’s promise of finding a solution to the vexed Kashmir problem within the framework of “Insaniyat”, resonates deeply in Kashmir even today.
The level of respect commanded by Vajpayee can be gauged by the fact that senior PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Beig openly declared in a public meeting that if Vajpayee were to fight elections from any of the constituencies in Kashmir, he would win hands down.  In my meetings with various separatist leaders, including the extremist Syed Ali Shah Geelani, I have heard them repeatedly say that if Vajpayee had won another term as prime minister, the Kashmir problem would have been resolved for good to the satisfaction of all. 
Hina Bhat, BJP Spokesperson in Kashmir

It is a great pity that after Vajpayee faded out of public life due to ill health none of the national leaders of BJP tried to occupy the place left vacant by Vajpayee in Kashmiri hearts.  What is worse, some of them encouraged a very harmful and divisive politics by BJP leaders of Jammu.  The Jammu unit of BJP was in utter shambles till Narendra Modi stepped on to the scene.  He not only laid claim to Vajpayee’s positive legacy in the Valley by reiterating the “Insaniyat” framework as a guide to his Kashmir policy, along with a rapid job oriented economic development program for the youth of Kashmir, but he also energized the Jammu unit of BJP with his Mission 44+ slogan which told the hitherto neglected Jammu region that the time had come for them to claim their rightful due of political power in the state.

Significance of BJP fielding candidates in the Valley
The BJP may not have secured more than 2.2% percent vote in the Valley but the significance of the following developments cannot be underestimated:
1.       This is the first time BJP dared put up candidates in the Valley with some well-known Kashmiri Muslims keen to fight on BJP ticket.  They campaigned openly without much security.  The importance of BJP flags being openly carried by Kashmiri Muslims in 2014 can be appreciated only if we compare it to the situation in 1992 when Narendra Modi accompanied Murli Manohar Joshi on the Ekatmata Yatra with the mission of hoisting the national flag at Lal Chowk.  At that time, they had to abandon plans of going to Lal Chowk in a rally and instead carried out a token hoisting of the national flag amidst exceptionally high security cover.
2.       This is the first time that former separatist leader Sajjad Lone’s party won two seats in the Valley, despite his having openly embraced Modi as his elder brother and making  no secret of the fact that he is willing to work closely with the BJP.  This indicates that neither BJP nor Modi are considered untouchable by Kashmiri Muslims any more.  What is more, known Kashmiri public figures were seen defending their joining BJP in TV debates and in print media.  All this seemed unthinkable a year ago.
3.       Even in the run up to the May 2014 Lok Sabha Election, Kashmiri were listening to Modi’s speeches very carefully because most of the issues he raised resonated deeply with their own concerns.  He handled even the contentious issue regarding article 370 very deftly by saying all he wanted was an honest discussion on whether this provision had actually done good to Kashmir or damaged its growth potential.  He went on to add that if on balance it comes out that it had been of positive worth, he had no objection to it being retained.  When I visited the Valley just before the May 2014 election, I found Modi was being discussed with a lot of curiosity and interest – most of it not negative.  Kashmiri children had invented their own version of the famous “ab ki baar, Modi sarkar” slogan.  For instance, during power cuts, school-children would spontaneously shout in unison – “Aaj bijli gayi chauthi baar, abki baar Modi Sarkar”.
Despite call for boycott, Kashmiri voters queue in Srinagar

BJP may have fared very poorly in the Valley but Modi has made his intention very clear that the BJP is not willing to accept that Valley based Kashmiri Muslim dominated parties have a total monopoly of speaking on behalf of Muslims of the Valley.  Modi seems determined to establish a direct line of communication with the Muslims of J&K, including the Valley.  This is what has created real panic among parties of the Valley as well as the Congress.  As per media reports the separatists did not give a call for the boycott of elections this time because they were afraid that the BJP candidates might actually win some seats from the Valley.  This benefit of the consequent higher turnout went in some part to the National Conference which got many more seats than it dared dream of.   The separatists favour NC because they have thrived under the lawless regimes of the Abdullah family.  However as pointed out by Ahmed Ali Fayyaz in The Times of India of December 30, 2014, even the 13 segments where the BJP did not contest witnessed heavy polling. Clearly, higher percentage of voting was not all due to the Valley’s desire to keep BJP out. In fact, BJP’s entry added new life into the election process.  In the Lok Sabha elections, the voter turnout was 49.72% while in the December 2014 assembly election, it rose to 65.23%
2014, among the few free & fair elections in J&K
An important reason for high voter turnout is that the ruling National Conference was not allowed to rig the elections, as it is in the habit of doing. By all accounts, the May 2014 Lok Sabha election and the December 2014 assembly elections were among the few free and fair elections in the state. To quote Fayazz again, “The 2014 elections are arguably the first when central agencies and security agencies stood aloof. …BJP’s failure to win a single assembly seat in the Valley…have shut up those mouthing skepticism and cynicism.” This is important considering that one of the reasons for the strength of the secessionist movement was the legitimate charge that the state and Central government invariably sabotaged free and fair elections by facilitating rigging in favor of NC.
But hardly anyone in the media has given Modi due credit for restoring people’s faith in Indian democracy by giving the state one of its few free and fair elections—the other one being in 2002 when Atal Bihari Vajpayi likewise made it clear to state agencies that he would not tolerate any rigging or messing up with the election process.
BJP sweep in Jammu counters domination by Valley
It is disappointing that our self styled secular liberals in the media have interpreted BJP’s dramatic entry into the Valley’s electoral fray and its stellar performance in the Jammu region as an attempt to polarize the election on communal lines.  If the BJP doesn’t field Muslim candidates, it is accused of being anti-minority.  If it does, it is tarred with the charge of seeking communal polarization.  This is a typical case of “Heads I win, tails you lose” logic.  In fact the charge is more fitting for some of the Valley based politicians who worked hard to polarize Kashmiri Muslim votes by responding phobically to BJP’s presence in the electoral fray because they feared an end to their monopoly over J&K politics.  The statement of one of Jammu BJP’s leaders that it’s time J&K got a Hindu chief minister was likewise widely interpreted in the media and by the Valley politicians as an attempt to inject communal poison and an assault on the “secular character” of J&K politics.
BJP sweep in Jammu counters domination by Valley
It is well known that in the last six and a half decades since Independence, the citizens of Jammu and Ladakh have felt aggrieved at being consistently neglected by the regimes in Srinagar.  The politics of the Valley has dominated other regions of the state in a manner that people of Jammu and Ladakh regions feel they have been relegated to the status of second class citizens.  This despite the fact that the Kashmir Valley occupies no more than 15948 sq.kms of J&K territory whereas Jammu is spread over 28,293 sq.kms and Ladakh over 59146 sq.kms.  Even if we take the population into account – as per the 2011 census, Jammu region with 39,96,516 persons is only 13,686 persons less than the 40,10,202 of the densely populated Kashmir Valley. Laddakh is far behind the two regions with a mere 1,59,709 population.  The political preponderance of Kashmir Valley is in part due to the fact that even though it covers a much smaller geographical region and its population size is almost at par with Jammu’s, yet it has 46 assembly seats where as Jammu’s share is just 37 and poor Laddakh is allocated only four.
Because of Sheikh Abdullah having wrested a “special status” for J&K, the Valley people assume it is their birthright to have a Kashmiri Sunni Muslim as the state’s chief minister and that this post can’t be claimed even by a Shia from the Valley or Kargil, leave alone a Gujjar Muslim from Jammu.  The thought of a Hindu from Jammu region or a Buddhist from Laddakh being the state’s chief minister appears blasphemous to Kashmiri Muslims.
Despite the fact that 80.5 percent of India’s population is Hindu, the majority community graciously accepted Muslims as Presidents of India in Dr Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and Dr Abdul Kalam Azad.  Likewise there was no angst when Dr Zakir Hussain was appointed India’s education minister or Salman Khurshid as external affairs and later law minister.  Abdul Rehman Antulay became chief minister of Maharashtra even though Muslims constitute less than 10 percent of the state’s population.   Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s appointment as home minister in the V.P. Singh led government also did not raise anyone’s heckles – at least not until he released dreaded terrorists to get his abducted daughter released from the captivity of the JKLF’s terror brigade.  These are not solitary examples of Muslims being accepted in high offices without much fuss. One can provide a long list of Muslims in key portfolios. But Kashmiri Muslims consider the possibility of a Hindu or Buddhist chief minister as a terrible outrage and a sinister design to rob them of what they consider is their non-negotiable right.  Even Congress party’s Gulam Nabi Azad’s appointment as the chief minister for half a term was not taken too well in the Valley because though a Muslim, he is from the Jammu region.
The entire state of J&K has a 34 percent Hindu population while Hindus account for 66 percent in Jammu. Yet, even expressing the desire to see a Hindu chief minister in J&K is treated as a crime against the sacred tenets of secularism.  Given this mindset it is not surprising that the Sikhs, Dogras and Punjabi Hindus of Jammu as well as the Gujjars and other Muslim communities of Rajouri, Poonch, Doda, etc. in the Jammu region as well as Shias of the Valley and Kargil plus Buddhists of Ladakh feel they remain second class citizens in their own state.  Most of these regions have been neglected even from the point of view of economic development.  It is noteworthy that only a section of the Sunni Muslims of Kashmir Valley has been votaries of “azadi” and or secession from India.  But they have imposed this agenda on the entire state.
In this election both Jammu and Ladakh voted in a determined manner against the political domination of the Valley. Congress won seats in Ladakh because it promised union territory status for that region.   BJP winning 25 out of 37 seats in Jammu has come as a big morale booster for Jammu because it means for the first time people of this region will have a decisive say in government formation.  Clearly, it is not just the Jammu Hindu vote which resulted in a rich electoral harvest for BJP.  A section of Jammu Muslims have also contributed to its unprecedented victory.  It is a happy sign that in the Muslim majority constituency of Kalakote in Jammu region, a Muslim candidate Abdul Ghani Kholi won on a BJP ticket.  Now that BJP has made a serious start in fielding Muslim candidates– that too in the most politically volatile Muslim dominated state of J&K, the self appointed guardians of secularism are outraged and unhappy.
BJP-PDP coalition the only viable & desirable option
Given this context a PDP-BJP coalition is the only viable and desireable combination for government formation because it will ensure a healthy balance of power between Jammu and Kashmir.  However, the two will have to ensure that the interests of Ladakh are not neglected.  Those skeptical about this alliance point to the longstanding conflicts and irritants between the two parties such as BJP’s opposition to article 370 and commitment to bringing about a Uniform Civil Code.  Similarly, PDPs demand for soft borders between Indian Kashmir and POK or its proposal to operationalize a dual currency economy between the Indian Kashmir & POK are not going to be acceptable to the BJP or even the Congress for that matter. In theory it may appear like a good idea but given the dangerous domination of jehadi elements in Pakistani politics and establishment and its continuing policy of bleeding India through endless terror attacks, asking for soft borders between the two countries amounts to ballooning in cloud cuckoo land!
As far as PDP’s revocation of AFSPA goes, the two sides will have to find an acceptable via media.  This demand did not find favour even with PDP’s erstwhile alliance partner – namely the Congress Party.

These differences notwithstanding, the PDP and BJP have a lot more in common than has been acknowledged in the contentious environment inevitably created during elections.  By contrast, partnering with the National Conference can be a major liability for the BJP.
To begin with, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has a clean image and past record.  His tenure as chief minister did not witness any notable scam or scandal.  Like Modi, Mufti is also development oriented-- not in a rigid bureaucratic sense but by involving the people in the process of unleashing new vibrancy in the economy.  Despite serious security threats both Mufti and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti maintain close contact with the people.  This too contrasts dramatically with Omar’s insular style of administration.  He can’t even speak the Kashmiri language and is not comfortable with his own people. That’s why he is known to spend most of his time in Lutyen’s Delhi rather than in Srinagar.
Mufti as CM tried to plug various sources of corruption by bringing in a measure of transparency in recruitment for government jobs and issuing government contracts in sharp contrast to the NC leadership which literally auctions jobs and uses government contracts as patronage racket that too to loyal party men, unlike Omar Abdullah who has been accused of various crimes including involvement in the notorious  sex racket busted by the CBI in 2003, humungous scams and even murder of a senior NC leader Shoukat Chowdhary.
By contrast, neither Mufti nor his daughter Mehbooba has ever been accused of any criminal activity or wrong doing.  Mufti also established his credentials as a man who delivers what he promises.  I have personally witnessed him at public meetings in various regions of the state where local representatives would present him with a list of demands – be it for a high school or a new college or hospital.  In each case, he would carefully go through the list – sift and accept the doable ones and explain why certain demands didn’t seem practical.  After that he would announce deadlines for the accepted demands and projects and ensure that the deadlines were met.  Within three years of his tenure, he created three new fully equipped universities – one in Jammu region, one in the Valley and one in Ladakh.  Due to his active engagement with the people and serious attempts to provide them responsive governance,  Mufti ensured that participation in municipal elections shot up dramatically going up to 88% in several areas – all this in a state where voter apathy and boycott of elections had become the norm.  His “healing touch” policy after decades of lawless rule by the National Conference included swift response by the government to complaints of human rights abuses by the state police and other agencies. 
Mufti addressing public meeting
Mufti also gave free hand to the media including Doordarshan Kendra of Srinagar, so that opinions critical of his government were allowed to be freely aired.  That acted as an important feedback mechanism and safety valve for people’s grievances. By contrast, Omar Abdullah is known to be extremely vindictive towards journalists and media houses who dare criticize his regime.  Homes and offices of media persons are raided and papers threatened with closure if they don’t fall in line.  Mufti allowed any number of small district level TV channels to mushroom which NC regime cracked down on and forced their closure through various means.  Most important of all Mufti’s governance style quietly and systematically weaned away the support base of separatists especially among the youth.  The secessionists had become thoroughly marginalized during his years because he worked to restore people’s faith in India’s democracy and acted as an emotional bridge builder with the rest of India.  To give a personally observed example, in almost all his public meetings he would begin by emphasizing the constructive role being played by the then prime minister Vajpayee in backing the “healing touch” and development oriented policy of PDP led government.  His message, “na bandook se, na goli se, baat banegi boli se” (Neither guns nor bullets can solve our problems; they can be constructively addressed only through dialogue) cut at the very roots of militancy.  That’s why secessionists boiled in rage against Mufti.
I personally heard several Kashmiris tell me, “NC regime is favored by separatists because their high handed and corrupt regime provides a very fertile ground for the growth of militancy.  NC leaders pretend to attack secessionists but they actually encourage such groups because it gives them greater bargaining power with the Centre by making it out as if this party alone stands as road block to Kashmir’s secession to Pakistan.  But history is witness to the fact that secessionism and rabid form of Islamism raise their heads and gain strength every time NC has been in power in the state.  It’s a common joke in Kashmir that the Abdullah family, starting from the once venerated Sheikh Abdullah himself, always carries three flags in their pocket – Pakistani, Indian and the Azad Kashmir flag.  They take out any one of these depending on what suits their purpose at that moment.  They speak one language in Delhi, and quite another in Srinagar or London. Same duplicity is at play when talking to Ladakhis or Jammu region.  In his recent term as CM, Omar Abdullah challenged the accession of J&K to India while his uncle & senior NC leader Mustafa Kamal has time and again advocated that Kashmir should merge with Pakistan. But on national TV Omar projects his party as a martyr to India’s cause in Kashmir!
NC’s high handed ways of putting down even democratic dissent with brute force played a vital role in legitimizing anti India sentiment in Kashmir because the Congress government in Delhi lent full backing for those policies. Whenever the Central Government doesn’t unconditionally back the political shenanigans of the Abdullah dynasty, they begin stoking pro-Pak sentiments in the Valley.  Worst of all NC is addicted to winning elections through rigging.  This is not a recent development on account of NCs losing popularity.  Even during Sheikh Abdullah’s time when the NC was certain of sweeping the elections, Sheikh Sahib would opt for rigging so that the party did not have to deal with even token opposition.  Opposition candidates were often physically beaten out of the fray through strong arm tactics.  Unfortunately, the Congress Party at the Centre overlooked this totalitarian tendency in NC leading to the estrangement of Kashmiris from Indian democracy.  It is important to remember that Muft Mohammad Sayeed as a former Congressman was among the few who consistently challenged Sheikh’s authoritarian politics and NC’s game of breeding estrangement with India. For this he faced incredible amount of abuse and persecution. He left the Congress Party because he felt his party high command allowed Sheik Abdullah to get away with murder of democracy.
Even militancy in Kashmir erupted in 1989 due to a series of brazenly rigged elections by NC backed by the Congress Party.  Even as recent as 2008, NC organized a poll boycott through stone pelting mobs in the 8 seats in Srinagar in order to rig the assembly election by preventing PDP voters from casting their ballot. Secessionist groups lent full support to this rigging exercise by warning people of dire consequences if they cast their ballot.
BJP may find a more pliable alliance partner in NC with a mere 15 seats as opposed to PDP with 28 seats.  But the NC will bring instant discredit to Modi’s claim that he stands for good governance and intends to bring an end to siphoning off of public funds by the ruling establishment.  By contrast, the relatively clean track record of PDP along with experience of providing responsive development centric governance – makes the alliance appears far more attractive to the people in the Valley.
J&K is not just another state.  Since it borders a hostile and troublesome neighbor decisions cannot be based only on electoral arithmetic – which too favors a PDP-BJP alliance.  The security and geopolitical concerns must play an important role in BJP’s choice of an alliance partner.  Mufti blundered just once on this score when as home minister in VP Singh’s government, he agreed to release four militants in return for his abducted daughter.  But he has publicly acknowledged that was a blunder and has since then done a lot to make amends for it by weaning away youth from terrorist politics in the state.
The other blunder was Mehbooba’s when she went overboard during the Amarnath land row agitation originally ignited by NC but later adopted by separatists as well as PDP. Her party has played a heavy price for permanently estranging Jammu region on account of the unwise and inflammatory moves she made at that time. During the last six years Mufti has tried hard to undo the damage caused to PDP’s poll prospects in Jammu region. But the recent election results clearly indicate that Jammu region has not yet come to repose enough trust in PDP. If Mufti now forms government with BJP and works amicably with them, he may be able to win the confidence of Jammu Hindus in good measure.
BJP-PDP tussle over CM’s post
BJP may have a tough task convincing Jammu MLAs that they have to wait for another time till they have a CM from Jammu region.  But this is a small price to pay for political stability in J&K and for installing a regime that can better ensure geopolitical security.  The astute among them can well appreciate that Mufti is better equipped to handle the secessionists in the Valley than someone from Jammu region. The moment a Jammu Hindu is installed, the trouble makers in the Valley will create mayhem which an inexperienced politician from Jammu region may not be able to manage, leave alone control.   But Mufti has deftly managed such situations and never let the secessionists gain upper hand while he was CM.
If the PDP-BJP alliance works well and fulfills its promise of turning J&K into a “Super State”—an economic power house in the next six years, the two together may be able to create an atmosphere whereby people stop judging the worth of a CM by religion or region and instead focus on the actual record of performance in governance. But for that Modi will have to discipline the lunatic fringe of Hindutva who are forever itching to embarrass BJP by their hoodlum tactics in raising contentious issues. They have the potential to tar BJP and Modi’s name far more than their political opponents in Congress or left parties.
Responsible elements within both BJP & RSS are well aware that amicable relations between PDP and BJP as partners in J& K governance will send a very powerful message not just to Muslims in the rest of India but also to Muslims worldwide as well as silence BJP’s critics in the global community.

(The following two articles written in 2005 provide a glimpse into the governance style of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed while he was CM of JK for three years...."Bridging Divides and Healing Hurts --Need to Nurture the Peace Process in Kashmir" and "Democracy as the Best Antidote to Terrorism--Mufti’s “Healing Touch” Proves Efficacy in Kashmir"

First posted at Swarajya Magazine

Friday, 26 December 2014

धर्मान्तरण के पीछे की राजनीति

लगता है कि संघ परिवार से जुड़े कुछ संगठनों ने धर्मांतरण के मुद्दे को एक बहुत सोच समझ के ज्‍वलन्‍त समस्‍या के रूप में खड़ा कर दिया है। अभी तक धर्मान्‍तरण का विरोध अधि‍कतर हिन्‍दु संगठन ही करते रहे क्‍योंकि धर्म परिवर्तन की मुहिम ईसाई व मुस्लिम संगठनही चलाते रहे है। यह धर्मान्‍तरण का ही कमाल है कि देश के उत्तर पूर्वी प्रान्‍तों में विभिन्‍न ईसाई संगठनों ने मिलकर देश के उत्तर पूर्वी प्रान्‍तों की demographic profile पूर्णतया बदल डाली। मसलम देश की आजादी के समय नागालैंड में केवल 2 प्रतिशत ईसाई जनसंख्‍या थी। आज नागालैंड में करीब 98 प्रतिशत लोग ईसाई हो चुके हैं। झारखंड, छत्तीसगढ, उड़ीसा इत्‍यादि प्रान्‍तों की आदिवासी कहलाने वाली जातियां भी ईसाई मिशनरियों के लपेटे में आ चुकी हैं।
मुस्लिम संगठन भी कई प्रान्‍तों में गरीब दलित तबकों को धर्म परिवर्तन का शिकार बनाते आये है। इससे आसाम व बंगाल जैसे सीमान्‍तर प्रान्तों में तो बहुत से हिन्‍दु बहुल्‍य जिले मुस्लिम बहुल्‍य जिलोंमें बदल चुके हैं। यह कोई संयोग की बात नहीं कि जहां जहां हिन्‍दु धर्म से काट कर गरीब तबकों को ईसाई धर्म या इस्‍लाम के दायरे में शामिल कर लिया गया ऐसे सभी प्रान्‍तों व जिलों में अलगाव वादी, आंतकवादी व माओवादी विचारधारा व संगठन मजबूत हुये हैं। जब भी भाजपा या हिन्‍दु संगठनों ने धर्मान्‍तरण के इन खतरनाक पहलूओं की ओर ध्‍यान दिलाया तो काग्रेंस व वामपंथी पार्टियों ने धर्मनिरपेक्षता व संविधान में धार्मिक स्‍वतन्‍त्रता की दी आजादी का हवाला देकर भाजपा को चुप करा दिया और उन्‍हें फासिस्‍ट व अल्‍पसंख्‍यक विरोधी करार दिया।

इस मामले में भाजपा की मांग कि धर्मान्‍तरण पर कानूनी प्रतिबन्‍ध लगाया जाये, महात्‍मा गांधी के विचारों से बिल्‍कुल मेल खाती है। बापू का भी ये मानना था कि धर्मान्‍तरण के पीछे बहुत ही हिंसात्‍मक सोच छुपी हुई है, क्‍योकि यह काम दूसरों के पैदायशी धर्म व संस्‍कारों पर घटिया आक्षेप लगाये बगैर होता ही नहीं। ईसाई व इस्‍लामी मिशनरी हिन्‍दु आस्‍थाओं, देवीदेवताओं व संस्‍कृतिपर बहुत ही भद्दे व आपत्तिजनक कटाक्षोंको ही हथियार बनाकर धर्मपरिवर्तन का काम करते आये हैं। जहां जहां वे सफल हुये है वहां वहां समाज और पारिवारिक रिश्‍ते दोनों टूटे हैं।
अब जब हिन्‍दु संगठनों ने खुलेआम ‘’घर वापसी’’ के नाम पर धर्म परिवर्तन की लड़ाकू मुहिम छेड़ दी है तो इस सवाल पर दोहरे मापदंड की राजनीति चलाना कठिन हो जायेगा। यदि ईसाई व मुस्लिम संगठनों द्वारा किये जा रहे धर्म परिवर्तनों का बचाव कांग्रेस व वामपंथी सगंठन धार्मिक स्‍वतन्‍त्रता का नाम देकर करते हैं तो यह हक हिन्‍दु संगठनों को भी देना पड़ेगा। यदि इस पक्ष के लोग हिन्‍दुओं द्वारा किये जा रहे धर्म परिवर्तन के खिलाफ उठ खड़े होते है तो उन्‍हें ईसाईयों व मुसलमानों पर भी बंदिशें स्‍वीकार करनी पड़ेगी। इस लिहाज से विश्‍व हिन्‍दु परिषद, आर्यसमाज व आरएसएस इत्‍यादि ने बहुत ही शातिर चाल चली है।
परन्‍तु दुख इस बात का है कि हिन्‍दु संगठनों ने आगरा में जो घटिया हथकंडें अपना कर 200 गरीब फटेहाल कूडा बीनने वाले बांगलादेशीयों के साथ ‘’घर वापसी’’ की नौटंकी रची, वह सभी संवेदनशील हिन्‍दुओं के आत्‍म सम्‍मान पर गहरी चोट पहुंचाती है। यदि हिन्‍दु संगठन ईसाई व मुस्लिम संगठनों के साथ इस सवाल पर टक्‍कर लेना चाहते हैं तो उनके शातिर तौर तरीकों से कुछ सबक लें। नहीं तो उन्‍हें बहुत जग हंसाई झेलनी पड़ेगी और इन हरकतों से हिन्‍दु धर्म की छवि बहुत बिगड़ेगी।
जब ईसाई लोग किसी दलित या आदीवासी परिवार को अपने धर्म के आगोश में ले लेते है तो अक्‍सर उस परिवार को बेहतर शिक्षा व स्‍वास्‍थ्‍य सेवाओं की गारंटी भी मिल जाती है। इसके अलावा उनके नेटवर्क द्वारा उन्‍हें नौकरी इत्‍यादि ढ़ूढ़ने में भी बहुत मदद मिलती है। इसके साथ साथ तिरस्‍कृत जीवन से भी काफी हद तक मुक्ति मिल जाती है।
इसी प्रकार मुस्लिम धर्म में शामिल होने वाले परिवारों को भी पिछड़े और अछूत होने की मोहर से कुछ राहत मिल जाती है व कई प्रकार की आर्थिक व सामाजिक सुविधायें भी उन्‍हें मुहैया कराई जाती है। परन्‍तु हिन्‍दु संगठनों ने अपने को इस दिशा में बहुत कम सक्षम किया है। आज भी अनुसूचित जाति या जनजाति के प्रति तिरस्‍कार और घृणा की भावना से हिन्‍दु समाज अपने को मुक्‍त नहीं कर पाया है। इनकी तुलना में आर्ट ऑफ लिविंग जैसे नये हिन्‍दु संगठन जो जात पांत के फसादों से ऊपर उठकर काम कर रहे हैं और जिन्‍होनें बहतरीन जीवन शैली प्रदान करने के कुछ असरदार प्रयास किये है-- उनकी ओर लाखों लोग स्‍वंय ही खिंचे आ रहे हैं हालांकि वो कभी धर्मपरिवर्तन जैसा शब्‍द जुबां पर भी नहीं लाते। आर्यसमाज और विश्‍व हिन्‍दु परिवर्तन को आर्ट ऑफ लिविंग जैसे संगठनों से ये सीखने की जरूरत है कि कैसे हिन्‍दु धर्म की अंदरूनी विशाल हृदयता के सहारे उसे इतना आकर्षक बनाया जा सकता है कि किसी को अन्‍य धर्मो की ओर तांकझांक करने की आवश्‍यकता ही न पड़े।

भाजपा का जम्मू कश्मीर चुनाव में दमदार प्रदर्शन

हमारे वामपंथी व सैक्‍यूलर बुद्धि‍जीवियो की राजनैतिक कलाबाजियों पर हैरत भी होती है और दुख भी। माना कि ये लोग जम्‍मू कश्‍मीर में भाजपा के अद्भुत चुनावी प्रदर्शन पर खुशी मनाने में अक्षम है परन्‍तु उसे पूरी तरह साम्‍प्रदायिकता का चोगा पहना कर नकार देना कोरी मूर्खता होगी।
जब नरेन्‍द्र मोदी ने जम्‍मू कश्‍मीर के लिये 44+ मिशन का ऐलान किया तो यह इस गलतफहमी के साथ कतई नहीं हुआ कि पहली ही छलांग में भाजपा 44 का आंकडा पार कर जायेगी। इससे नरेन्‍द्र मोदी ने अपनी दूरदर्शिता व लम्‍बी सोच का परिचय दिया।
अभी तक भाजपा यह मानकर जी रही थी कि मुसलमान उसे कभी वोट नहीं देंगे और कश्‍मीरी मुसलमान तो उसे घाटी में पैर रखने मात्र जगह भी नहीं देंगे। नरेन्‍द्र मोदी भाजपा के पहले ऐसे नेता हैं जिन्‍होनें यह पहचाना कि अटल बिहारी वाजपेयी कश्‍मीरी मुस्‍लिम मनस पर अपने शासनकाल की बहुत सकारात्‍मक छाप छोड कर गये हैं। कश्‍मीरी मुसलमान उनकी कितनी इज्‍जत करते हैं यह इससे जाहिर होता है कि पीडीपीके मुजफुर हुसैन बेग ने एक बडी जनसभा में यह ऐलान किया कि यदि अटल बिहारी जी कश्‍मीर के किसी भी चुनाव क्षेत्र में खडे हो जायें तो वह भारी बहुमत से बाकी सबको पछाड़ देंगे। सैय्यद अली शाह गिलानी व अन्‍य कई अलगाव वादी नेताओं को मैंने खुद अपने कानों से कहते सुना है कि यदि वाजपेयी जो कुछ और साल प्रधानमंत्रीं बने रहते तो कश्‍मीर समस्‍या का स्‍थायी हल हो गया होता।
अफसोस की बात यह है कि वाजपेयी जी के निष्क्रियहो जाने के बाद भाजपा के किसी नेताने उनकी विरासत को अपनाने की कोशिश नहीं की। नरेन्‍द्र मोदी ने उस विरासत का दावा ही नहीं किया बल्कि उससे भी बहुत आगे जाने का निश्‍चय किया लगता है। तभी तो सत्‍ता में आने के छ: महीनों के अन्‍दर केवल जम्‍मू और लद्दाख क्षेत्र में ही नहीं बल्कि कश्‍मीर घाटी में भी भाजपा के 45 उम्‍मीद्वार खडा करना बहुत हिम्‍मत का काम है। भले ही भाजपा को घाटी में केवल 3 प्रतिशत वोट मिले हो परन्‍तु जिस प्रकार सज्‍जाद लोन की पार्टी नरेन्‍द्र मोदी से खुलेआम हाथ मिलाने के बावजूद घाटी में दो सीट जीत पाई इससे सिद्ध होता है कि नरेन्‍द्र मोदी के प्रति कश्‍मीरी नौजवानों में भी नई जिज्ञासा उत्‍पन्‍न हुई है। उनके हर भाषण को कश्‍मीरी नौजवान बहुत ध्‍यान से सुन रहें हैं। मई 2014के लोकसभा चुनावों के दौरान जब मैं घाटी में गई तो स्‍कूली बच्‍चों द्वारा तरह तरह के मोदी नारे ईजाद करते सुना – मसलन स्‍कूल में यदि बिजली गई तो बच्‍चे चिल्‍लाते ‘’आज बिजली गई पांचवी बार, अबकी बार मोदी सरकार’’ एक वर्ष पहले तक कोई सोच भी नहीं सकता था कि भाजपा के झंडे खुलेआम घाटी में फहराते दिखेंगें व भाजपा की टिकट पर अनेक आने माने मुस्लिम उम्‍मीद्वार फक्र से चुनाव लड़ेंगे और टीवी डिबेट में भाजपा का पुरजोर बचाव करेंगे।
हैरत की बात है कि इसे हमारे सैक्‍यूलर बु‍द्धिजीवी नरेन्‍द्र मोदी की ‘’कम्‍यूनल पोलराइजेशन’’ की नीति का द्योतक मानते हैं। यदि भाजपा के कश्‍मीर के चुनावी क्षेत्र में कश्‍मीरी मुस्लिम पार्टियोंकी मानोपली को चैलेंज करने से अलगाववादी संगठनों ने चुनावी बायकॉट की रणनीति के बजाय लोगों को वोट डालने के लिये उकसाया जिससे चुनाव में इससे पहले चुनावों से कहीं अधिक मतदान हुआ तो इसे प्रजातंत्र की जीत माना जाना चाहिये, ना कि कम्‍यूनल पोलराइजेशन।
इसी प्रकार जम्‍मू क्षेत्र में पहली बार भाजपा ने 37 में से 25 सींटे जीती तो इसे इंडियन एक्‍सप्रैस जैसे सैक्‍यूलर अखबार ने धर्म और क्षेत्रवाद के आधार पर एक घातक किस्‍म के विभाजन का प्रतीक घोषित कर दिया। इसी प्रकार भाजपा के जम्‍मू क्षेत्रीय नेताओं द्वारा यह कहने मात्र भर को कि इस बार जम्‍मू कश्‍मीर प्रान्‍त को एक हिन्‍दु मुख्‍यमंत्री मिलना चाहिये हमारे सैक्‍यूलर मीडिया ने भाजपा पर साम्‍प्रदायिक अलगाववाद का जहर फैलाने का ठप्‍पा लगा दिया।
यह सब जानते है कि पिछले 60 वर्षो में जम्‍मू व लद्दाख क्षेत्र अपने को सैकन्‍ड क्‍लास सिटिजन जैसा महसूस करते रहे। अभी तक कश्‍मीर घाटी की राजनीतिपूरे प्रांत पर हावी रही है। हालांकि कश्मीर घाटी केवल 15,948 वर्ग किलोमीटर तक सीमित है। इसके बनिस्‍पत जम्‍मु 28,293 वर्ग मील में फैला है और लद्दाख 59146 वर्ग मील। जनंसख्‍या के लिहाज से भी 2011 के आंकड़ों के अनुसार जम्‍मु क्षेत्र में 39,96,516 लोग रहते हैं जबकि घाटी की जनसंख्‍या 40,10,202 है, यानि केवल 13,686 ज्‍यादा। लद्दाख क्षेत्र 59,146 किमी फैलाव के बावजूद केवल 1,59,709 जनसंख्‍या का हिस्‍सेदार है। कश्‍मीर बाकी हिस्‍सों पर इसलिये भी हावी है क्‍योंकि जम्‍मु क्षेत्र में लगभग बराबर की जनसंख्‍या होने के बावजूद घाटी से 46 विधानसभा सीटें हैं जबकि जम्‍मु से केवल 37 सांसद चुनकर आ सकते हैं और बेचारे लद्दाख से केवल चार।
कश्‍मीरियों ने इसे अपना जन्‍मसिद्ध अधिकार मान लिया है कि प्रांत का मुख्‍यमंत्री केवल कश्‍मीरी सुन्‍नी मुसलमान हो सकता है – राजौरी या पुन्‍छ का गुज्‍जर या कश्‍मीरी या लद्दाखी शिया भी नहीं। गुलाम नबी आजाद को भी तीन साल तक मुख्‍यमंत्री बननेको कश्‍मीरी आसानी से नहीं झेल पाये। ऐसे भी जम्‍मु का कोई हिन्‍दू या घाटी का कश्‍मीरी पंडित मुख्‍यमंत्री बनने को ख्‍वाब भी नहीं दंख पाये, ऐसा माहैाल केवल मुस्लिम कट्टरवादियों ने नहीं बनाया, वामपंथियों व कांग्रेसियों के सेक्‍यूलरवाद ने भी बनाने में भरसक योगदान दिया। नैशनल कॉन्‍फ्रैंस व पीडीपी के नेताओं को तो बिल्‍कु आग लग गई थी जब भाजपा के एकाध नेताओं ने प्रान्‍त में जम्‍मु क्षेत्र के किसी हिन्‍दु को मुख्‍यमंत्री की कुर्सी पर देखने की आंकाक्षा व्‍यक्‍त करने की जुर्रत की थी।
भारत देश 80.5 प्रतिशत हिन्‍दु होने के बावजूद एक मुस्लिम राष्‍ट्रपति या मुस्लिम गृहमंत्री सहज ही स्‍वीकार कर सकता है। इसी प्रकार महाराष्‍ट्र हिन्‍दु बहुल्‍य होने के बावजूद भी मुस्लिम अंतुले को मुख्‍यमंत्री बना सकता है, परंतु जम्‍मू  कश्‍मीर में 34 प्रतिश‍त हिन्‍दु आबादी होने के बावजूद भी (जम्‍मू  में तो हिन्‍दु 66 प्रतिशत है और मुसलमान केवल 28 प्रतिशत) – इस प्रांत में हिन्‍दु मुख्‍यमंत्री देखने की इच्छा तक व्‍यक्‍त करना सैक्‍यूलरि‍ज्म के खिलाफ घोर अपराध करार दिया गया है।
इस मानसिकता के चलते कोई हैरानीकी बात नहीं कि जम्‍मू के हिनदुओं को ही नहीं राजौरी पुन्‍छ इत्‍यादि के मुस्लिम गुज्‍जरों व लद्दाखी शिया व बौद्धों को कश्‍मीरी सुन्‍नी मुस्लिम प्रधान प्रान्तिय सरकारे उनके द्वैवयम दरजे के नागरिक होने का अहसास दिलाती रही हैं। विकास के लहजे से भी यह क्षेत्र अपने को अवहेलना का शिकार मानते आये हैं। कांग्रेस पार्टी ने जम्‍मू और लद्दाख में अच्‍छी खासी पैठ होने के बावजूद कभी क्षेत्रीय असंतुलन की शिकायतों का ढंग से निदान नही किया।
ऐसे में भाजपा का पहली बार जम्‍मू क्षेत्रसे 37 में से 25 सीटें जीतना, इस क्षेत्र के हिन्‍दुओं के लिये बहुत बडी उपलब्ध्‍िा माना जाना सांप्रदायिक मन मुटाव को मिटाने की ओर एक महत्‍वपूर्ण पड़ाव माना जाना चाहिये। भाजपा जम्‍मू क्षेत्र में कुछेक मुस्लिम वोटों के बिना इतनी सीट नही जीत सकती थी। जम्‍मू के मुस्लिम बहुल्‍य कालाकोट क्षेत्र में तो मुस्लिम उम्‍मीद्वार अब्‍दुल घानी खोली ने भाजपा की टिकट पर जीत भी हासिल की है।
अभी तक भाजपा पर आरोप लगता था कि यह पार्टी मुस्लिम वोटर तक पहुंचनी नही, मुस्लिम उम्‍मीद्वार खड़े करती नहीं। अब जब नरेन्‍द्र मोदी ने यह शुरूआत धमाके दार ढंग से की है तो सैक्‍यूलरिज्‍म के ठेकेदारों को भयंकर तकलीफ हो रही है।
इस पृष्‍ठभूमि में पीडीपी और भाजपा के गठबंधन से बनी सरकार जम्‍मू क्षेत्र व कश्‍मीर घाटी के आपसी मनमुटाव को मिटाने में बहुत बड़ा योगदान दे सकती है जो भी गठबन्‍धन इस बार सरकार बनायेगा उसे जम्‍मू क्षेत्र  व कश्‍मीर घाटी के आपसी मन मुटाव को मिटाने में बहुत बडा योगदान दे सकती है। जो भी गठबंधन इस बार सरकार बनायेगा उसे जम्‍मू  क्षेत्र को पर्याप्‍त नुमायंदगी देनी ही पडेगी। इससे जम्‍मू कश्‍मीर की राजनीति में बेहतर संतुलन आयेगा। जम्‍मू कश्‍मीर में हिन्‍दु मुस्लिम रिश्‍तों की विषमता तभी कम होगी जब दोनों सम्‍प्रदाय सत्‍ता में बराबर की हिस्‍सेदारी करना सीखेंगे। यही फार्मूलापंजाब में अकालियों और भाजपा के गठबंधन के द्वारा कामयाब हुआ। हांलाकि कांग्रेस पार्टी  ने ऑप्रेशन ब्‍लू स्‍टार इत्‍यादि करके हिन्‍दू व सिक्‍खों में दूरी बनाने के भरसक प्रयास किये। अब पंजाब में भी नरेनद्रमोदी बहुत देर तक अकाली दल को सिक्‍खों की नुमायंदगीकी मनोपली देने वाले नहीं बिल्‍कुल उसी तरह जैसे कश्‍मीर में पीडीपी या एनसी को कश्‍मीरी मुसलमानों की नुमायंदगी एकाधि‍कार इस बार भाजपा ने चुनौती देने की दमदार हिम्‍मत की है पीडीपी को भी जम्‍मू के हिन्‍दुओं का दिल जीतने का उतनी मेहनत से प्रयास करना पड़ेगा जितनी मेहनत से भाजपा को मुस्लिम वोटरों को अपना बनाने में करनी होगी। इस मुहिम में नरेन्‍द्र मोदी तभी सफल हो सकते है यदि वह संघ परिवार के प्रवीण तोगा‍िड़या जैसे अराजक व फसादी तत्‍वों पर पूरी तरह अंकुश लगाने में खुद को सक्षम सिद्ध कर पायें।           

First published at:          

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Has 7 Race Course Road Disoriented Modi?

Reproduced below is the unedited version of my interview with Vrinda Gopinath which was first published on
Noted academician Madhu Purnima Kishwar of the Centre for Study of Developing Societies and founder of Manushi, a women’s rights journal, has been in the news a lot. First, for her chronicles on Modi, called Modinama, in which she critiqued the media and human rights activists for “falsely demonising” Modi after the Gujarat riots of 2002. Then for her criticism of Smriti Irani’s “incompetence” as human resource development minister and “fraudulent qualifications”.  In a freewheeling interview with Vrinda Gopinath, Kishwar talks about the disappointment and general despondency six months into Modi’s reign.

Q. Has your enthusiasm for Modi waned vis a vis his appointment of Smriti Irani as HRD Minister?
A. My enthusiasm for Modi as PM came because of the good work he had done as Gujarat chief minister, which I took the trouble to go and assess firsthand. It’s when I saw solid evidence that he was being demonized that I decided to document his tenure as Gujarat CM starting October 2001 when he took the oath of office.
Among other things, I saw a man who recognizes the importance of investing heavily in knowledge, skill development and learning, and who believes India should occupy its rightful place in this domain in the 21st century. He repeatedly emphasized this with conviction and passion in my conversations with him.
Since I have spent my entire life in the world of academia, I feel passionately about it too. For years I taught in a Delhi University college and witnessed the tragic deterioration in teaching standards; Teacher absenteeism even in a supposedly elite university of Delhi is very high. Our colleges and universities all over India are producing unemployable lumpens by millions.  We are wasting generation after generation to bad education.
Therefore, Modi’s appointment of Smriti Irani came as a horrible shock to me. Here’s someone who is not just poorly educated, — she’s just 12th Pass — but she even lied about her qualifications in each of her three affidavits to the Election Commission.  Nor has she garnered the knowledge that comes from engaging with learned people and the life of ordinary people in a serious manner—the way Modi has done. Look at the trajectory of this woman – at 18, she leaves home for the glamour industry, to become a fashion model, a beauty queen, then gets into saas-bahu serials which even by the standards of the entertainment industry, is the lowest and most brainless genre. She does not even have the qualifications to head the National School of Drama.
If Modi is talking about taking India to make up for its lost centuries in education, you need a person with vision, experience of varied domains of knowledge. Given the life she has lived, she sadly lacks on this front. She proved it fast and furious when she said I’ve a Yale degree on the basis of a five-day course she was taken to attend! Such courses are offered by American universities to bring our MPs etc under the influence of the American establishment.
She actually thought it was a badge of honour,– a recognition of her “leadership qualities” whereas it was actually meant to give ‘leadership training” to our naïve MPs. Even I couldn’t believe she was that dumb.

Q. Did you speak to Modi about this? Did he respond to your tweets of anguish?
A. I don’t expect Modi to respond to my protests in social media. He’s not the kind of person who will try to shut up his critics by his having his office phone them. As for me getting in touch with him, I avoided doing that for the simple reason that if in our meeting he had said, ‘Madhuji, chhodo na. Please trust that I know what is best for my government’, it would have been very difficult to say no.  Milne se lihaaz aa hi jaata hai. I didn’t want to drop this matter or surrender my freedom vis a vis other harmful decisions of Modi government.

Q. So, do you think Modi Government is serious about education? Where does this leave Modi?
A. Her appointment is a shocker not just for me but also for people within BJP. It is a trauma I haven’t recovered from because I took Modi’s promises very seriously. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a Laloo Yadav had appointed Smriti Irani as HRD minister. After all, didn’t we take a Rabri Devi’s appointment in our stride, but you don’t expect a Rabri Devi from Narendra Modi, to come head a very key ministry.  You cannot fix anything in India unless we fix our education system. Whether you want good doctors, nurses, competent bureaucrats, well trained engineers and highly professional cops, you need to bring far reaching changes in our education system at all levels. And we have an HRD minister who doesn’t even know the difference between a casual five day course and a university degree!
In fact, it is BJP leaders who introduced me to her colourful background and the questionable means she has used over the years to climb up. Her entry into BJP was apparently facilitated by Pramod Mahajan who got her the ticket to fight against Kapil Sibal in the 2004 election. Smriti’s clout comes from the fact that she is good at latching on to men who are at the top of political power structure. First it was Pramod Mahajan, and then came Gopinath Munde, followed by several others till she found the most powerful patron in Modi.
The rise of such women sends very negative message to other women in the Party—that your work does not count for much. All that counts is patronage of powerful leaders. The kinds of things BJP workers say about Smriti would make anyone cringe. Among other things, she is also an inveterate liar. But she delivers those lies with such passion that she starts believing them herself. The actress that she is, she thinks she can adopt any persona which helps her career at that point. For instance, in an interview to Karan Thapar on 22/12/2001 while describing her initial years of struggle in Mumbai, she proudly said, “It was a learning experience because here I was in Delhi throwing tantrums, you are a rich man’s daughter telling people, Tumhe pataa hai mein kiski beti hoon? Suddenly, cut to wiping floors and cleaning dishes.”
In another early interview, ( she told Vimla Patil how she had borrowed Rs 2 lakhs from her father to prepare herself for Miss India contest. Come 2014 election, Modi makes it politically fashionable to talk of his humble chaiwala background. Suddenly, Irani too follows suit and adopts a new persona to match Modi’s chaiwala image. She then starts playing the rags to riches story by saying her family was so poor that she had to give up education after class 12 and do low paying jobs like selling cosmetics on Janpath and sweeping floors in McDonalds to support her family. Tell me which poor family educates their daughter in a hi-fi Convent school of Delhi and which poor father could have afforded to spare Rs 2 lakhs in 1991-2 to indulge his daughter’s ambition of becoming a fashion model or beauty queen?
So lying about her education is not the only fraud she has committed. She has lied about her assets and much else.
Another lie she has suddenly begun peddling is to claim that her family has been with the RSS for three generations. This sudden love for the RSS does not come from any conviction but the belief that if she keeps them pleased, she is secure in her job.

Q. You still haven’t answered about your disappointment with the Modi Government?
A. Look, I still stand by my commendation of his tenure as Gujarat chief minister.  I examined that period carefully, travelled all over the state, met thousands of people, interviewed hundreds—both in and outside the government– and saw things for myself  He got rewarded for his work in Gujarat, he is now PM. But now starts a new chapter, he’s going to be assessed afresh on the basis of his performance as PM.
However, nobody can make sense of some of his decisions and appointments, neither me nor anyone else. Maybe it’s the evil influence of being ensconced in 7 Race Course Road or may be someone has done black magic on him. Maybe Modi has not got a grip over his government yet. Maybe Delhi has disoriented him. Honestly, I cannot believe this is happening. But it’s too premature to pass a final verdict. This government needs to be given time to prove its worth and I’m waiting and watching like a hawk, weighing its actions carefully while maintaining a safe distance so that I can remain non partisan.

Q. There are stories agog of Smriti’s arrogance and imperiousness.
A. I’ve met several people who have had to interact with her and almost all come back with horrific stories. For instance, a high powered team from FICCI went to make a presentation to her on important new initiatives required in the higher education sector. They came out despairing because she wouldn’t listen nor watch their power point presentation. She just shrugged them off disdainfully saying, “I know it all and we are doing all that needs to be done”. Similarly, vice chancellors and other educationists who have met her say that she acts like a bully—talks and talks aggressively to hide her incompetence, but doesn’t listen.
I recently got a letter written by a person who attended her session on education at the World Hindu Conference at Ashoka Hotel in Delhi. He has expressed deep anguish and outrage at her rough and rude behavior vis a vis participants. The poor man pleaded with her to accept a document he had prepared on education reforms. She was disdainful and refused to even touch that piece of paper leave alone look at it.
Bureaucrats are being screamed at and given sultani farmans. I am told IAS officers are reluctant to work with her because she is overbearing and arrogant. They are asking for transfers out of her ministry. She has changed three information officers in six months because she feels she is not kind of media coverage. Trouble is she is not willing to work quietly, pick up the ropes; she is hungry for media coverage and in the process exposing her incompetence more and more.

Q. Perhaps Modi is not what he’s cracked up to be?
A. I have based my assessment of Modi from the ground – people may have voted for him from what they’ve heard, but I spent a lot of time trying to understand his work. His choice of Irani as HRD minister is not in tune with his track record in Gujarat. This is completely out of character, it’s inexplicable. One of the things he earned respect for was his ability to pick the right person for the right job. He was also known for not encouraging sycophants to hang around him. Nor was he known to cultivate worthless people as favorites.

Q. Is he playing the Delhi game of keeping everyone happy?
A. Given the free hand he has in BJP today, he cannot use that excuse. After all he has marginalized many senior people because they do not fit in with his scheme of things. This is important as it’s made out to look as if Modi owes Smriti something but I don’t buy that argument. She has no political base; there is not a single constituency where she can win a single election on her own steam – even though she was vice-president of BJP. She’s not a Vasundhara Raje Scindia who not only win her own election but also plays a key role in bringing her party into power.  She is not even a Varun Gandhi who wins his own seat on his own steam and also helps several MLAs get elected.
Irani is not credited with having made any contribution towards building the party– she’s no Amit Shah who helped to bring about a tectonic shift in the electoral fortunes of BJP. She simply gives speeches that are fed to her. But no one can accuse her of coming up with any creative new ideas or a vision for the future of India.
Some say she had to be rewarded for giving Rahul Gandhi a tough fight in Amethi. If that were the case, how come nobody talks about rewarding Ajay Agrawal, the BJP candidate who fought Sonia Gandhi and garnered nearly 1.75 lakh votes, despite all odds?  Smriti had unlimited resources at her disposal – money, national media, with numerous top BJP leaders, including Modi campaigning for her. Several bigwigs of BJP, including BJP CMs camped in Amethi for days on end. Modi himself went and pleaded for her as his “chhoti behan”.
By contrast, Ajay Aggrawal was given a ticket last minute and deprived of even monetary support while money flowed like water for Smriti’s campaign.  Not a single BJP leader campaigned for Agrawal. Modi had promised he would hold at least one meeting in Sonia’s constituency but did not keep that promise nor sent other leaders to lend support to Aggrawal. No one in media paid the slightest attention to Aggrawal. Yet he secured 1.75 lakh votes in a constituency where BJP vote tally used to be around 25,000 or less. Did anyone in BJP even acknowledge the fight he put up, leave alone reward him? Not surprisingly, he is a very demoralized man today.

Q. Where else has the Modi government let you down?
A. It’s not a case of this Government letting Madhu Kishwar down. I don’t count for much and Modi doesn’t owe me anything. But the BJP government is letting the people of India down by their reneging on some key promises and their frequent U Turns. The black money case is another blow. Modi had made the return of India’s looted wealth a core issue of his election campaign. Arun Jaitley has deceived the public by pretending he’s doing something. But what he is doing is a joke- like releasing three insignificant names out of 700 while studiously protecting the real culprits—many of who are hios close friends. This is forcing people to believe that this Government is trying to shield the looters. Remember, Jaitley played similar tricks in the Bofors case during the Vajpayee regime.
Similarly, this government is also going out of its way to protect NDTV and Chidambram in the Rs 5500 crore hawala scam.  t has not even reinstated the Income Tax Commissioner who exposed the fraud. It reflects very badly on Modi. Likewise, there is very little sign of the governance reform agenda promised by Modi being put into action. How I really want this government to succeed.

Q. There are rumors that Smriti Irani may be appointed as Delhi CM if BJP comes to power?
A. Anything to rid her from the HRD Ministry. Make her the Deputy PM, if you will but get her out of education. Of course I wouldn’t trust her with any ministry, I don’t think Delhi chief minister is such a lightweight job; it’s a difficult state to run.  All this tells me that nepotism of a very venal variety is at playFor, even if you have favorites, you must at least have talented favorites. That’s what we expect of Modi, to nurture talent.  Modi shouldn’t be doing things that even shock his party.

Q. You’ve listed her lies about her education qualifications in her affidavit. You’ve said she’s lied about her assets. There is also talk of her growing assets since she came to the Rajya Sabha–the fibre glass boats and farm lands she owns. Are you planning to take legal recourse?
A. Unfortunately, the media is not sophisticated enough to see the merits of the case, they would make it a personal issue between her and me. That becomes very ugly. When I tweeted against Smriti’s appointment in May, I had to face very low level, crass and obscene attacks in the social media. I don’t think serious politicians gather such a large army of crass followers as does Smriti. She had her trolls making the most obscene insinuations against me.
However, why me? Why isn’t anyone else’s blood boiling at her lies on oath? Why is the Congress not filing a case against Irani on her false affidavits? Is it because it would expose Sonia Gandhi’s lies in her affidavit? Do you know the offence she has committed would invite a six month imprisonment and her election can be nullified?  I was very forthright, I put my head on the chopping block, I went on national television and spoke my mind openly.
However, getting a credible lawyer to fight such a case is very difficult. You need some top notch, heavy weight lawyer for this along with unlimited resources. These petitions can go on forever. Get me a heavyweight lawyer to back me without charging a bomb and I shall take up the case. Smriti’s lies deserve to be challenged. However, I don’t want to engage a lawyer who has a pathological hatred for Modi, I don’t want to end up in the camp of Modi baiters. I’m not against Modi, In fact, I want him to live up to his promises in letter and spirit because India can’t afford another disappointing PM and another failed regime.

Q. Where do you stand today vis a vis Modi?
A.  I would say I am where Arun Shourie is today, his criticisms are valid. But unlike Shourie, I am not in the party, nor am I in the power game.  
I’m exactly where I was when I supported Modi. At that time too I told truth to power and exposed the lies being peddled by the Congress and its allies in demonizing Modi and the BJP.
Similarly, I have made sure that I retain the freedom to speak my mind fearlessly by maintaining a healthy distance from this government. I have never visited BJP office nor do I go cultivating this or that leader. I will gladly applaud and celebrate good policies and programs of Modi Government. But I will not hesitate to criticize when they go wrong or act in a malafide manner.  
I want to be in the space of a creative, constructive opposition so that I am among those who give timely warning signals against misuse of power.

Are Left Liberals Influencing My Critique of Smriti Irani?

Following publication of my interview by Vrinda Gopinath in  Niti Central had published an attack on me under the title: “Madhu Kishwar Sells Out to Left Liberals’. Within a day the title was changed to “Madhu Kishwar’s Attack on Smriti Irani Disgraceful”.

I am disappointed at this change because I was hoping Niti Central would tell me the names of left liberals who have purchased my loyalty so that I can at least go and claim the price they are supposed to have put on me. 

The writer makes it out as if I my criticism of Modi’s appointment of Smriti Irani as HRD minister is born out of personal angst. Firstly, I don’t have any history of association with Smriti Irani. My one and only brief interaction with her was in a TV studio more than 10 years ago when I took part in a panel discussion she anchored. Other than that I have never interacted with her. I do not inhabit the world she lives in nor does she have anything in common with my world. How can I be jealous of a person I don’t know?

Is it Niti Central’s case that all criticism is born out of jealousy? By that logic Modi must have been extremely jealous of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi because he tore them apart at every conceivable occasion.
I have also repeatedly criticized Modi’s choice of Jaitley as Finance Minister on a number of counts. Is it their case that I wanted to be Finance Minister, hence my criticism!

As Modi fans and followers, it should worry Niti Central that people within the BJP are no less upset at Modi having made such a questionable choice for the crucial HRD portfolio. It has given rise to the most unsavory rumors and surmises within the BJP.  They should actually thank me for not giving legitimacy or currency to those ugly rumors which bring credit neither to Modi nor to Smriti. I have instead focused only on the most obvious issues at hand:
a)      Her lacking the minimum qualifications required for leading the HRD ministry in a credible manner;
b)      Her lying on oath about her educational qualifications;
c)       Her general penchant for lying in order to dress up her credentials.
It is ironical that my having supported Modi at a time when very few even within BJP were willing to stand up for him is being used as a stick to beat me up with. I defended him against malicious attacks because I was convinced he was being unfairly targeted. But that does not mean I signed a lifelong slavery bond with Modi thereby surrendering my right to point out flaws in his decisions –as and when I notice that he is trampling upon the promises he made to the people of India.

I wonder if Niti Central realizes that when they allege that I am attacking Smriti Irani because I have been denied ‘rewards” by Modi or I wanted this portfolio for myself, they are suggesting that only self seeking people came to support Modi, that none came to support him out of conviction.

Let me say it for the Nth time, Modi owes me nothing just as I owe him nothing. My support for Modi as PM and my defense of him against Left-Congress attacks was born out of conviction. He neither offered me any quid pro quo nor did I ever expect anything in return.
My criticism of certain policies of Modi is likewise born out of conviction. Abusive attacks are not going to deter me from expressing my opinion in a fearless manner just as I remained steadfast in support of Modi despite left liberal attempts to defame me.

Modi does not have anything to give me which I could not have gotten on my own strength from the earlier regimes, had I so desired. 

Madhu Kishwar

Madhu Kishwar
इक उम्र असर होने तक… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …اک عمر اثر ہونے تک

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