So Smriti Irani cannot make for a good human resources development minister because she is not a graduate. Or so we have been told by the likes of Madhu Kishwar and Ajay Maken. In short, people who have degrees make for better politicians is the conclusion being drawn. But is that really the case? Let’s take the case of a certain Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was the defacto Chief Minister of Bihar for more than 15 years. Lalu has a Bachelor of Laws and a Master in Political Science. How did his degrees make any difference? During his rule Bihar went from bad to worse. In fact, when Lalu was questioned about the lack of development in the state, he was very open about admitting that development did not lead to votes. Such was Lalu’s lack of belief in development that even money allocated to the state government by the Central government remained unspent. As Santhosh Mathew and Mick Moore write in a research paper titled State Incapacity by Design: Understanding the Bihar Story,“Despite the poverty of the state, the governments led by Lalu Prasad signally failed to spend the money actually available to them: ‘…Bihar has the country’s lowest utilisation rate for centrally funded programs, and it is estimated that the state forfeited one-fifth of central plan assistance during 1997–2000.’” Interestingly, between 1997 and 2005, Rs 9,600 crore was allocated by the Ministry of Rural Development to Bihar. Around Rs 2,200 crore was not drawn. Of the amount that was drawn only 64% was spent. During Lalu’s rule Bihar went from bad to worse and a whole generation lost out on progress. But yes, Lalu had two degrees. Let’s take an even better example of former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, a PhD from the University of Oxford. Now compare his degree to the mess that we have ended up with under him. Interestingly, most of our politicians who have a degree, tend to have a degree in law. How does that help in anything other than running the law ministry or the ministry of corporate affairs or other similar ministries? And that is assuming that having studied law, the politician understands its intricacies (not every lawyer has the same command on the subject like Arun Jaitley does). If we take this argument further, what it means is that to become a minister an individual should be an expert in that particular area. So, a finance minister should either be an economist or a finance professional. Arun Jaitley is neither. A defence minister should have experience in the area of defence. So, doesn’t that make General V K Singh an excellent choice for being the defence minister? Further, in order to get an individual with the right experience or a degree to head a ministry, one would be looking at technocrats all the time. So, then why bother about electing MPs at all? This would mean moving onto a more American form of government where the President is elected by the people and is allowed to choose his team, a lot of whom are technocrats who have the required experience. Given this, insisting that a minister have a degree, doesn’t make much sense in the present system of government that we have. That’s the general part of the argument. Then there is also the specific part regarding Smriti Irani and Congress’ criticism of her lack of a degree. To her credit Irani is a successful professional, who has risen on her own, in a very competitive television industry. Also, what one needs as a minister is the ability to administer. Whether she has that or not, we will come to know in the time to come. The Congress party is in no position to criticize her. One of their foremost leaders Rajiv Gandhi, never completed any degree after leaving the Doon School. He was the prime minister of the country. His mother Indira, never completed her degree at Oxford. Their current leader Sonia Gandhi’s educational qualifications are also nothing to write home about. So, they really are not in a position to criticise Irani. It’s like the pot calling the kettle black. To make a totally different comparison, all the Ivy League MBAs, PhDs in Maths and Physics who worked on the Wall Street, created a major part of the financial crises that the world is currently going through. To conclude, there is not much of a link between having a degree and having the ability to govern. Look at the mess Kapil Sibal, who held the human resources development ministry between May 2009 and October 2012, made in the education sector. He had got his LLM degree from the Harvard Law School.
Vivek Kaul Rahul Gandhi is turning out to be a fan of trashy Hindi films of the 70s and 80s. A few days back he spoke about ma ke aansoo(tears of his mother) and yesterday it was the turn of khandan ka balidan (the sacrifices of his family). “My grandmother was killed. My father was assassinated and perhaps I may also be killed one day. I am not bothered. I had to tell you what I felt from the heart,” he said yesterday. While, Rahul Gandhi might have been talking from his heart, it is important to understand here that his grandmother and his father were killed because of monsters they managed to create. Indira Gandhi did not like non Congress governments being elected to power in states. Either she dismissed them or created problems for them. She ultimately had to pay a price for this. In 1977, the Akali Dal party had been elected to power in Punjab. The Akali Dal was an ally of the Janata Party which had won the 1977 Lok Sabha elections and managed to throw Indira Gandhi out of power. She came back to power in 1980 and started to create problems for the Akalis. Shashi Tharoor, the current minister of state for human resources development, documents this rather well in India – From Midnight to the Millennium. As he writes “In 1977, the Congress Party had been ousted in Punjab by the Sikh Akali Dal Party, an ally of Janata; Mrs Gandhi typically decided to undermine them from the quarter they least expected, by opponents even more Sikh than the Akalis. So she encouraged (and reportedly even initially financed) the extremist fanaticism of a Sikh fundamentalist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindarwale. Bhindarwale soon tired of assassinating clean shaven Sikhs for their apostasy and instead took up the cause of an independent Sikh state, Khalistan,” writes Tharoor. Ramachandra Guha alludes to the link between Indira Gandhi and Bhindarwale in India After Gandhi. As he writes “By some accounts, Bhindarwale was built by Sanjay Gandhi and the union home minister Zail Singh (himself a former chief minister of Punjab) as a counter to the Akalis. Writing in September 1982 the journalist Ayesha Kagal remarked that the preacher(i.e. Bhindarwale) ‘was originally a product nurtured and marketed by the Centre to cut into the Akali Dal’s ‘sphere of influence’. The key word here is ‘originally’. For whoever it was who first promoted him, Bhindarwale quickly demonstrated his own independent charisma and influence. To him were attracted many Jats of a peasant background who had seen the gains of the Green Revolution being cornered by the landowners. Other followers came from the lower Sikh castes of artisans and labourers.” Bhindarwale soon started operating out of the Golden Temple. As Guha writes “He(i.e. Bhindarwale) had acquired a group of devoted gun-totting followers who acted as his acolytes and bodyguards and, on occasion, as willing and unpaid killers.” The situation soon got out of hand and Indira Gandhi had to send the army into the Golden temple where terrorists led by Bhindarwale were holed in. In fact, Bhindarwale had moved into the Akal Takht(the throne of the timeless one), from where the Sikh gurus had issued their hukumnamas, which the Sikhs were supposed to follow. “Mrs Gandhi had little choice but to destroy the monster she had herself spawned, and she finally violated a basic tenet of the Indian state by sending armed troops into a place of worship, the historic Golden Temple in Amritsar, to flush out terrorists holed up there,” writes Tharoor. Bhindarwale was killed in the fighting that followed the Indian army entering the Golden Temple. Tavleen Singh recounts a conversation she had with General K.S. ‘Bulbul’ Brar who was directly incharge of what came to be known as Operation Bluestar, in her book Durbar. Here is how the conversation went: ‘Is the Sant (i.e. Bhindarwale) dead?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘How did he die?’ ‘Crossfire. Early in the morning on the second day he walked out of the Akal Takht with General Shabeg and Amrik Singh, and they fell.’ ‘Did the fighting stop immediately after that?’ ‘It did. But we lost a lot of men…and the Akal Takht is badly damaged. We had to use tanks and heavy artillery. It was a mess.’ ‘In the villages they say Sant is still alive. Where is the rumour coming from?’ General Brar frowned and looked wearily at his officers. ‘This is a problem,’ he said, ‘we’re not sure how to deal with it. He’s dead.’ The attack on the Golden Temple proved to be a disastrous move. As Tharoor points out “The assault on the Golden Temple deeply alienated many Sikhs whose patriotism was unquestionable; the Gandhi family’s staunchest ally in the independent press, the Sikh editor Khushwant Singh, returned his national honours to the government, and a battalion of Sikhs, the backbone of the army, mutinied.” The attack on the Golden Temple ultimately led to the assassination of Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. “Mrs Gandhi never understood the extent to which so many Sikhs saw Bluestar as a betrayal. She refused to draw the conclusions her security advisers did, and to her credit turned down their recommendations to remove Sikhs from her personal guard detail. Two of them, men sworn to protect her with their lives turned their guns upon her instead…but her real fault lay in having created the problem in the first place and in letting it mount to the point where the destructive force of “Operation Bluestar” seemed the only solution,” writes Tharoor. Operation Bluestar also ended up exacerbating the Punjab problem. As Singh points out “It soon became clear that the operation to save the Golden Temple had been a disaster. It was clear to the army, to journalists and to most political analysts….Far from ending the Punjab problem Operation Blue Star served served to dangerously exacerbate it and to deepen the divisions between Hindus and Sikhs.” Like Bhindarwale in Punjab, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) was also a monster helped to flourish by the Indian state. Guha deals with this in detail in India After Gandhi. “Of the several Tamil resistance organizations, the most influential and powerful were the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE). Led by a brutal fighter named Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE had as its aim a separate nation, to be constituted from the north and east of the island, where the Tamils were in a majority…LTTE fighters had long used the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as a safe haven. Their activities were actively helped by the state government with New Delhi turning an indulgent eye.” As we all know New Delhi was first run by Indira Gandhi and then her son Rajiv, grandmother and father of current vice president of the Congress party, Rahul Gandhi. In 1987, Rajiv Gandhi made the disastrous decision of sending the Indian Peace Keeping Force to end the conflict in Sri Lanka. And this finally led to his assassination on May 21, 1991. The point here is that the father and the grandmother of Rahul Gandhi were not martyrs, as he tried to project them as. They ended up paying for the huge mistakes that they made. Rahul Gandhi also said in reference to the BJP “ye rajneetik laabh ke liye chot pahunchate hain.(they hurt people for political gains.)” It is worth reminding Rahul about what his father Rajiv said in reference to the riots that happened after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.” Trying to create fear and sympathy in the minds of people is a time tested political strategy, which politicians resort to, when they run out of ideas. Rahul Gandhi is just trying to do that. The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on October 24, 2013 (Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)
Vivek Kaul Raman Singh, the chief minister of Chhattisgarh should resign, taking moral responsibility for the killing of 27 people by Maoists near Darbha in Jagdalpur district, 340 km south of state capital Raipur. Or so feels the Congress Party. “Raman Singh should step down… We did not want to say anything political as we felt that the chief minister would himself resign owning responsibility…The irresponsible attitude of the state government has led to a huge loss to democratic values and the chief minister should resign admitting the security lapse,” Congress spokesperson Bhakta Charan Das said on May 28,2013. Those killed included state Congress leaders Mahendra Karma and Uday Mudliyar. The state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel and his son Dinesh were also killed. Senior Congress leader Vidya Charan Shukla, who was the information and broadcasting minister during the dark days of the emergency, was severely injured and is now battling for his life. It is clear that the Congress party has woken up only after its leaders came under direct attack. The party had been very quiet when 76 CRPF jawans were killed by Maoists in April 2010, near Chintalnar village in Dantewada district. So by wanting the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh to resign does the Congress party want us to believe that a life of a politician is more valuable than that of a CRPF solider? And that every time a Congress politician is killed democracy in this country comes to a standstill? The second point that comes out here is that by asking Raman Singh to resign, the Congress party is trying to project Naxalism as a state level problem, which it clearly is not. Naxalism is a menace in other states like Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, as well.The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had acknowledged this in May 2010, after the massacre of CRPF jawans. “I have been saying for the last three years that remains the biggest internal security challenge facing our country…We have not underestimated the problem of Naxalism,” he had said. Also what is interesting is that Chhattisgarh is one state where the Maoists are concentrating on. Most of the top Naxalite leaders in this area are Telgu speaking and not locals. As Ramachandra Guha writes in a column in The Hindu “From the 1980s, Naxalites had been active in the region, asking for higher wages for tribals, harassing traders and forest contractors, and attacking policemen. In the first decade of this century their presence dramatically increased. Dantewada (in Chhattisgarh) was now identified by Maoist ideologues as the most likely part of India where they could create a ‘liberated zone.’ Dozens of Telugu-speaking Naxalites crossed into Chhattisgarh, working assiduously to accomplish this aim.” This is further evidence of the fact that Naxalism is not just Raman Singh’s problem. For the sake of argument, if the Maoists had decided to concentrate on the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, from where they have been driven out, an attack of similar proportions could have happened there. So would the Congress party then have asked for the resignation of its own Chief Minister? Also the party seems to be trying hard to pin all the blame on on the state government. As an earlier article on Firstpost had pointed out, in a meeting that party Vice President Rahul Gandhi had with the Chhattisgarh government after the attack, he kept asking “who will take the responsibility?” Naxalism did not start overnight. It started in the late 1960s, taking its name from the Naxalbari village in West Bengal. The story goes that an anonymous poet wrote on the walls of the city that was then known as Calcutta “Amar bari, tomar bari/Naxalbari Naxalbari”(My home, Naxalbari/Your home, Naxalbari)”, giving the movement its name. The state of West Bengal was then ruled by the Congress party and so were large parts of India where Naxalism spread in the decades to come. Raman Singh became the chief minister of Chhattisgarh only in December 2003. Also, the home minister of the country is responsible for the internal security of the country. When the attack happened home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde was in the United States on an official tour. He has since extended his stay there. The Indian Express reports that sources say that the minister is visiting close relatives of his wife in Maryland. So much for the seriousness of the Congress led UPA government in tackling the Naxal problem. Of course, the official Congress line is that Shine is monitoring the situation from the United States. But as BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi put it “You can sit on the moon and say we are monitoring everything but that is not what is expected of a person who needs to be on the ground and be in control of the situation.” Hence, the Congress is more responsible for the Naxal problem in this country than any other party. And in time like this to seriously tackle the issue of Naxalism, it should be working together with the state government rather than asking Raman Singh to resign. One of the Congress leaders killed in the attack was Mahendra Karma. He was the leader of the opposition in the Chhattisgarh state assembly between 2004 and 2008, and was instrumental in the formation of Salwa Judum (which means purification hunt in the Gondi language). Salwa Judum was essentially a local militia which was created to take on the Maoists. On July 5, 2011, the Supreme Court of India declared the militia to be illegal and called for its disbanding. Karma had the support of Raman Singh when it came to the Salwa Judum operating freely in the state. Ramachandra Guha recounts his meeting with Karma in his column in The Hindu. He writes “We spent an hour in the company of the movement’s originator, Mahendra Karma. He told us that he was fighting a dharma yudh, a holy war. We asked whether the outcome of this war was worth it. We told him of what we had seen, of the homes burnt and the women abused by the men acting in his name and claiming that he was their leader. He answered that in a great movement small mistakes are sometimes made. (The exact words he used were: “Badé andolanon mein kabhi kabhi aisé choté apradh hoté hain.”)” Karma’s quip was inspired from the famous dialogue from the Hindi film Dilwale Dulhainya Le Jayenge (DDLJ), which went like this: “Bade bade deshon main aisi choti choti baatein hoti rehti hain (in big countries these small things keep happening)”. Salwa Judum further exaggerated the Naxal problem in the state. The tribals had to bear the brunt of it. As one of them told Guha “ “Ek taraf Naxaliyon, doosri taraf Salwa Judum, aur hum beech mein, pis gayé” (placed between the Maoists and the vigilantes, we adivasis are being squeezed from both sides).” And Salwa Judum ultimately even consumed its creator in the end. The broader point here is that the attack by the Maoists was primarily against Mahendra Karma and a few other Congress leaders instrumental in launching Salwa Judum. As a letter sent across by the Maoists after the killings clearly says: “The purpose was to punish Mahendra Karma who had launched the anti-Maoist armed movement Salwa Judum and some other Congress leaders.” Or as the old saying goes “live by the sword, die by the sword”. Or in Karma’s own words “ Badé andolanon mein kabhi kabhi aisé choté apradh hoté hain.” So the Congress party (with more than a little help from Raman Singh) was instrumental in ensuring that Naxals got further determined, after unleashing a private militia on them as well as the people of the state. These lessons should have been well learnt by the Congress party by now. Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards after she messed up big time in Punjab and propped up Bhinderwale against the Akalis. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by LTTE, a problem created first by his mother Indira. The final point I want to make is that the tradition of taking moral responsibility and quitting doesn’t exist among the politicians of this country anymore. Lal Bahadur Shastri resigned as the Railway Minister in 1956 after a rail-accident occurred in Ariyalur in Tamil Nadu, killing 144 people. As an editorial in The Hindu points out “In fact, he had put in his papers when an accident had occurred in Mahboobnagar three months earlier, killing 112. But Nehru had not accepted it. He refused to continue in the post after the Ariyalur accident.” They don’t make men like him these days. When was the last time you heard a Railway Minister quitting after an rail accident which killed hundreds of people? In fact in July 2011, Mukul Roy of the Trinamool Congress, who was Minister of State for the Railways, even refused to visit Assam, where a train had derailed injuring hundreds of passengers. The Congress government did not resign when Bombay (now Mumbai) was bombed by Dawood Ibrahim and the ISI in 1993, even though it was a huge lapse of security. Neither did it resign when rains and floods brought the city to a standstill on July 26, 2005. It finally took the savage attack of November 26, 2008, to get the heads rolling. Shivraj Patil kept bungling up as the Home Minister of India between 2004 and 2008, but was allowed to continue, finally being forced to resign after the attacks of November 26, 2008. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat did not resign after the 2002 riots, despite almost everyone calling for his resignation, including those in his own party. The culture of politicians resigning taking moral responsibility does not exist anymore. And this works across the political spectrum. Hence, the Congress asking for Raman Singh’s resignation sounds very hypocritical, when it’s leaders have behaved differently in similar situations in the past.
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on May 29,2013 (Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)
Vivek Kaul During his heydays in the 1990s and the early 2000s, Lalu Prasad Yadav never organised political rallies. He organised Railas. These were very big political rallies held at the Gandhi maidan in Patna. And they were deemed to be so big by Lalu that the feminine sounding word ‘rally’ proved inadequate to describe them. Hence a new word Raila was coined. But time passed and the world went around, and in the end the old adage ‘you can’t fool all the people all the time’, came true in case of Lalu as well. These days Lalu is a minor player both at the state and the central level. Given this, every few months you can hear him saying nice things about Sonia Gandhi, whenever the opposition parties choose to attack her. A couple of days earlier Lalu went back to his favourite method of political engagement. He organised a parivartan (change) rally in Patna (and not a Raila). News reports suggest that Lalu hired thirteen trains to ferry his supporters to Patna for the rally. This is a huge change from the usual. In the Bihar, that this writer grew up in, a rally would mean an open invitation to the supporters of Lalu to board any train that they wanted to. Also like any good father would, Lalu used the occasion of the parivartan rally to soft launch his sons Tej Pratap and Tejashwi into big-time politics. Tej Pratap is a BA drop out and Tejashwi was a budding cricketer who played one Ranji trophy match for Jharkhand in November 2009. He was also a part of the Delhi Daredevils IPL team, warming his bum on the bench for a few seasons. It is interesting if we compare this launch with that of Lalu’s own launch into serious politics which happened in the early 1970s. Lalu had quit student politics in 1970, after he lost the election for the post of the President of the Patna University Students Union (PUSU) to a Congress candidate. Before losing this election, Lalu had been a general secretary of the PUSU for three years. As Sankarshan Thakur writes in Subaltern Sahib: Bihar and the Making of Lalu Yadav, “On the eve of elections of Patna University Students Union (PUSU) in 1973 non-Congress student bodies had again come together, if only for their limited purpose of ousting the Congress. But they needed a credible and energetic backward candidate to head the union. Lalu Yadav was sent for.” The trouble of course was that Lalu was no longer a student. He was an employee of the Patna Veterinary College by then. But then those were the seventies and the state was Bihar, so not being a student was a small problem that could be fixed. As Thakur writes “Assured that the caste arithmetic was loaded against the Congress union, Lalu readily agreed to contest. He quietly buried his job at the Patna Veterinary College and got a backdated admission into the Patna Law College. He stood for elections and won. The non-Congress coalition in fact swept the polls.” And this set up Lalu for the big league as the agitation launched by Jai Prakash Narayan, against Indira Gandhi, gathered speed. The next year i.e. 1974, the agitation against Indira Gandhi spread throughout the country. As Thakur writes, “An agitation committee was formed, the Bihar Chatra Sangharsh Samiti to co-ordinate the activities of various unions and Lalu Yadav as president of PUSU was chosen its chief.” These events catapulted Lalu Yadav into the big league from which he never looked back. He became a member of the Lok Sabha in 1977 at a very young age of 29. He became the Chief Minister of Bihar in 1990. But the fact of the matter remains that he if he wasn’t asked to contest the 1973 PUSU elections, Lalu might have never returned to politics and probably retired by now from the Patna Veterinary College. Lalu was lucky because he was at the right place at the right time. His sons are lucky because they are his sons. The next generation of politicians(even those who are not a part of electoral politics) is always luckier to that extent. They already have a base that has been built to work from. But the question does the next generation respect this base because of which they get lucky? And they answer seems to be no, as a spate of recent examples show. Robert Vadra, with his land dealings in Haryana and Rajasthan, has been a huge embarrassment for Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul and the Congress Party. Sharad Pawar had to recently come to the rescue of his nephew Ajit, after he made insensitive comments in drought hit Maharashtra. Mamata Banerjee’s IIPM educated nephew Abhishek stands accused of running Ponzi schemes in West Bengal. News reports suggest that UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has been spending a lot of time trying to settle ‘who gets the government contract’ dispute between his step brother Prateek and his first cousins. Pawan Bansal, had to recently quit as the Union Railway Minister after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) caught his nephew Vijay Singla for running a jobs for bribes racket in the Indian Railways. And there are examples from the past as well. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s spotless reputation as the Prime Minister of the country was marred by the dealings of his foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya. J Jayalalithaa’s weakness for her foster son V Sudhakaran tarred her reputation. The late Pramod Mahajan’s son Rahul was and continues to be an embarrassment. The late Prime Minister PV Narsimha Rao’s son Prabhakar was accused of being involved in the urea scam in the 1990s. If we go back a little further, Moraji Desai, the fourth prime minister of India, had to deal with allegations of graft against his son Kanti Desai. Kanti Desai had allegedly collected Rs 80 lakh for party funds misusing his position as the PM’s son. Raj Narain a minister in Desai’s cabinet, even came up with the slogan “Hamse kya parda hai, Kantike haath mein garda hai (Why hide it from us, Kanti’s hands are muddied).” Jagjivan Ram could have become the first dalit Prime Minister of independent India if he hadn’t been embarrassed by his son, Suresh Ram. Nude pictures of Suresh were published in a magazine called Surya, which was edited by Maneka Gandhi. The pictures showed him in a compromising position with a 21 year old student of Satyawati College, Delhi University, called Sushma Chaudhury, who he eventually married (On a slightly different note Suresh’s sister Meira Kumar is the speaker of the current Lok Sabha). “If the Kamasutra has 64 poses of making love, this one certainly had 10,” wrote Khuswant Singh in a later column, with regard to these pictures. As veteran journalist and editor Inder Malhotra has been quoted as saying “In fact, in many ways Suresh Ram tried to emulate Sanjay Gandhi and received the same shelter from his father which Sanjay got from her mother. It was a game of one-upmanship.” And Sanjay Gandhi, among all the sons, daughters and relatives of politicians, was the biggest embarrassment of them all. His dictatorial ways ensured that the Congress party was thrown out of power for the first time since independence in 1977 (For a detailed study on this Vinod Mehta’s The Sanjay Story is an excellent read). Indira Gandhi who was known to be very stern otherwise continued to be a mother when it came to Sanjay. The broader point is that the politicians’ weakness and love for their progeny (or even other close relatives) puts them in embarrassing situations. At times, the progeny are acting as fronts for the shenanigans that the politicians indulge in and at times they are on their own. But in either condition there is a cost that is to be paid for. A major reason that Lalu Prasad Yadav finally lost in Bihar was because of the shenanigans that his saalas (brothers in law) Sadhu Yadav and Subhash Yadav, indulged in. They had the political patronage of Rabri Devi, who was the Chief Minister of Bihar. News reports coming out now suggest that Lalu’s two sons are also not the best of buddies. And this can’t be good news for Lalu Yadav whose political fortunes have taken a huge beating since 2005. All the politicians who promote their progeny in politics and allied areas, need to thank Indira Gandhi. If it wasn’t for her, politics in India would have never become a family owned business. As historian Ramachandra Guha said in a lecture titled Verdicts on Nehru: The Rise and Fall of a Reputation(Second V. K. R. V. Rao Memorial Lecture, Institute of Social and Economic Change, Bangalore, 20 January 2005) “After Nehru the Congress chose Lal Bahadur Shastri to become Prime Minister, a post on which he quickly stamped his authority. Mrs (Indira) Gandhi herself may never have become Prime Minister had not Shastri died unexpectedly. She was chosen by the Congress bosses as a compromise candidate who (they thought) would do their bidding. But once in office Mrs Gandhi converted the Indian National Congress into a family business. She first brought in her son Sanjay and, after his death, his brother Rajiv. In each case, it was made clear that the son would succeed Mrs Gandhi as head of Congress and head of Government. Thus, the ‘Nehru-Gandhi dynasty’ should properly be known as the ‘(Indira) Gandhi’ dynasty.” India is still paying the costs of this monstrous mistake as almost all politicians now want to pass on the baton to their progeny and other relatives close to them. Professor Pulin Garg of Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad used to say with regard to family owned businesses in India “Haweli ki umar saath saal ( a family owned business lasts for 60 years).” It will be interesting to see how long political hawelis last on an average? That will be a big determinant of which way India goes in the decades to come. The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on May 17,2013 (Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)
Vivek Kaul Having grown up on a staple of bad Hindi cinema of the seventies and the eighties, I have always associated people with ‘French’ beards as being villanious. Indeed, this is a stereotype of the worst kind, which I have been unable to get rid off. But now comes the news that a Delhi court has set aside the closure report of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Jagdish Tytler, in connection with the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and ordered that the case against him be reopened. For those who don’t know, Tytler has had a rather impressive French beard, over the years. Tytler along with many fellow Congressmen took an active part in inciting the anti-Sikh riots that happened in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of the country, being assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards on the morning of October 31, 1984. As Tavleen Singh writes in Durbar “Mrs Gandhi (Indira) had set out of her house at about 9 a.m. And was walking through her garden towards her office, in a bungalow that adjoined her house, when her Sikh bodyguard, Beant Singh, greeted her with his hands joined together. Then he shot her with his pistol. Another bodyguard, Satwant Singh, opened fire with his automatic weapon.” Gandhi was taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) by her daughter in law Sonia, where she was declared dead. Indira’s son Rajiv was sworn in as the Prime Minister in the evening of the same day. As Singh writes “We watched him on television. In a calm, emotionless voice, he said India had lost a great leader. Someone who was not just his mother but the mother of the country, or words to that effect. Then he stopped and stared sadly at the camera while Doordarshan showed shots of H.K.L. Bhagat (another Congress leader) and his supporters beating their breasts and shouting, ‘Khoon ka badlka khoon se lenge.’ Blood will be avenged with blood.” In the environment that evovled the entire community of Sikhs were held responsible for the murder of Indira Gandhi. By the evening of October 31, the violence started. As Ramachandra Guha writes India After Gandhi – The History of World’s Largest Democracy “Everywhere it was Sikhs and Sikhs alone who were the target…In Delhi alone more than a thousand Sikhs perished in the violence…They were murdered by a variety of methods, and often in front of their own mothers and wives. Bonfires were made of the bodies; in one case, a little child was burnt with his father, the perpetrator saying, ‘Ye saap ka bachcha hai, isse bhi khatam karo’ (This offspring of a snake must be finished too).” And this was not a spontaneous outflow of grief as it would be made out to be. It was mob-violence that was directed at the Sikh community in a cold and calculated way. “The mobs were composed of Hindus who lived in and around Delhi…Often they were led and directed by Congress politicians: metropolitan councillors, members of Parliament, even Union ministers. The Congress leaders promised money and liquor to those willing to do the job; this in addition to whatever goods they could loot. The police looked on, or actively aided the looting and murder.” Jagdish Tytler was seen inciting one such mob around Gurdwara Pul Bangash near the Azad market in Delhi. Surinder Singh, the Head Granthi of the Gurdwara testified against Tytler on sworn affidavits. “On 1st November 1984 in the morning at 9am a big mob which was carrying sticks, iron rods and kerosene oil attacked the Gurdwara. The crowd was being led by our area Member Parliament of Congress (I) Jagdish Tytler. He incited the crowd to set the Gurdwara on fire and to kill the Sikhs…Five to six policemen were also with the crowd. On incitement by Jagdish Tytler, they attacked the gurdwara and set it on fire.” (Source: Tehelka). And while Delhi burnt on those first few days of November 1984, Rajiv Gandhi and his ministers, sat on their bums watching the whole show unfold. Senior leaders approached the government to call out the army on the streets. But nothing happened. As Singh writes “But the new Prime Minister did nothing. Not even when senior political leaders like Chandrashekar and (Mahatma) Gandhiji’s grandson, Rajmohan Gandhi, went to the home minister(P V Narsimha Rao) personally to urge him to call out the army for help was anything done in those first three days of November to stop the violence.” This is something that Guha also writes in India After Gandhi. “There is a large cantonment in Delhi itself, and several infantry divisions within a radius of fifty miles of the capital. The army was put on standby, despite repeated appeals to the prime minister and his home minster P.V.Narsimha Rao, they were not asked to move into action. A show of military strength in the city on the 1st and 2nd would have quelled the riots – yet the order never came.” Doordarshan, the only television channel in the country at that point of time, added fuel to fire by constantly showing crowds baying for the blood of the Sikhs. A few week’s later in a public speech Rajiv Gandhi justified the pogrom(basically an organised massacre of a particular ethnic group) against Sikhs when he said “When a big tree falls, the earth trembles!”. Years later Sher Singh Sher, a Chandigarh based Sikh made the quip “Were there only Sikhs sitting under that tree?” (Source: The Tribune) Gandhi in several speeches in the months to come even alleged that the same extremist elements who had killed his mother had also engineered the riots. Rajiv Gandhi like his mother was assassinated seven years later in 1991. Since then the Congress party has moved on and is now in the hands of his widow Sonia and their son Rahul. In December 2007, Sonia Gandhi, called Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat “maut ka saudagar”. The irony behind Sonia’s statement was that the Congress party had many maut ke saudagars who had gone unpunished for instigating the riots of 1984. It was a situation of the pot calling the kettle black. But that doesn’t mean that nothing happened in Gujarat. Sonia’s statement was made in the context of the riots that happened in Gujarat in 2002, where more than 2000 Muslims were killed. The riots happened after bogey number S6 of the Sabarmati Express caught fire on February 27,2002, on the outskirts of the Godhra railway station. Fifty eight people died in the fire. The bogey had kar sevaks returning from a yagna in Ayodhya. As Guha points out “On their way back home by train , these kar sevaks got into a fight with Muslim vendors at the Godhra railway station…Words of the altercation spread; young men from the Muslim neighbourhood outside the station joined in. The kar sevaks clambered back into the train, which started moving as stones were being thrown. However, the train stopped on the outskirts of the station, when a fire broke out in one of its coaches. Fifty eight people perished in the conflagration…Word that a group of kar sevaks had been burnt to death at Godhra quickly spread through Gujarat. A wave of retributory violence followed.” In fact the behaviour of Modi in the aftermath of the Gujarat riots was very similar to that of Rajiv Gandhi. He justified the violence, like Rajiv Gandhi had, as a spontaneous reaction. He said that the burning of the railway coach at Godhra had led to a ‘chain of action and reaction’. (The original statement of Modi was in Hindi and was made to Zee News: Kriya pratikriya ki chain chal rahi hai. Hum chahte hain ki na kriya ho aur na pratikriya…Godhra main jo parson hua, jahan par chalees mahilaon aur bacchon ko zinda jala diya, issey desh main aur videsh main sadma pahunchna swabhavik tha. Godhra ke is ilake ke logon ki criminal tendencies rahi hain. In logon ne pehle mahila tachers ka khoon kiya. Aur ab yeh jaghanya apraadh kiya hai jiski pratikriya ho rahi hai. (A chain of action and reaction is being witnessed now.We feel that there should be no action nor reaction. Day before yesterday in Godhra, the incident in which forty women and children were burnt alive had to naturally evoke a shocking response in the country and abroad. The people in this locality of Godhra have had criminal tendencies. They first killed the women teachers and now this horrifying crime the reaction to which is being witnessed). Source: Narendra Modi – The Man. The Times by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay). Guha finds man similarities between the two pogroms, the one against the Sikhs of Delhi in 1984, and the one against the Muslims of Gujarat in 2002. Both the cases started with stray acts of violence for which a generalised revenge was taken. “The Sikhs who were butchered were in no way connected to the Sikhs who killed Mrs Gandhi. The Muslims who were killed by the Hindu mobs were completely innocent of the Godhra crime,” writes Guha. In both the cases there was a clear breakdown of law and order. More than that graceless statements justifying the riots, were made, one by a serving Prime Minister and another by a serving Chief Minister. And in both the cases, serving ministers, aided the rioters. But its the final similarity between the two different sets of events that is the most telling, feels Guha. “Both parties, and leaders, reaped electoral rewards from the violence that they had legitimised and overseen. Rajiv Gandhi’s party won the 1984 general election by a large margin, and in December 2002, Narendra Modi was re-elected as the chief minister of Gujarat after his party won a two-thirds majority in the assembly polls,” Guha points out. Modi, the first RSS pracharak to become a chief minister, has won two more polls since then. To conclude, if justice had been quickly delivered in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the Congress leaders who instigated the violence had been jailed, chances are the 1993 Mumbai riots and 2002 Gujarat riots would never have happened. And if they had, they would have happened on a much smaller scale. The original maut ke saudagars of 1984 set the tone for much of what followed. The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on April 11, 2003. (Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)