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    Nothing like your morning cuppa and a newspaper on a Sunday. (Photo: iStockphoto)
    | 10 min read

    Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You 

    Out of my Mind: Faith in RS Polls Shattered

    Meghnad Desai is still reeling from the unpredictable results of the recent Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls, like all of us. Writing for The Indian Express, Desai expresses shock at not only the dirty politics and extremely legal nitpicking done during the polls, but he is most surprised at having recently learnt that the Rajya Sabha secret ballot isn’t secret, after all?

    Nevertheless, he insists, it is time for the Congress to take a step back and realise that the BJP is now the single largest party in the Rajya Sabha (also). The time for a reality check is now or never, he says, surprisingly with a whole lot of hope for the future.

    It is hard to be hopeful that the Congress will revive itself. The conversion of a cadre-based party into a family fiefdom by Indira Gandhi emptied the party of anyone who can think outside the box and dare to point to the Emperor’s (or the Crown Prince’s) clothes. The last time it was an “outsider” from deep inside, Sonia Gandhi, who saved the party from terminal decline and delivered its comeback in 2004. You can’t step into the same stream twice. Maybe it is not a crisis but an opportunity. At 70, India can witness the passing of the baton from the Grand Old Party born in British times to a party born post-Independence. India has confidence in its democracy and is happy to renew it by a change of the hegemonic party.

    Across the Aisle: India at 70 – The Economy

    P Chidambaram is here with a roundup on India’s economic growth as she approaches her 70th Independence Day. In The Indian Express, Chidambaram begins by congratulating all the parties who have played a role since 1947 in drastically transforming India compared to the socio-economic status back then. A rise in per capita income, literacy, life expectancy; reduction in poverty and diseases– the last 70 years have seen unarguable growth.

    But when it comes to doing a health-check of the current economy now, Chidambaram has with him ready, five areas of weaknesses for PM Narendra Modi to focus on: jobs, industrial production, credit growth, investment and GDP growth.

    Yet the government will lead the ‘celebration’ of India at 70. Who will join them? Not the 22 per cent at the bottom of the pyramid, not the farmers, not the manufacturers of goods or their workers, not the lenders or the potential borrowers, not the young job seekers, not those denied education loans and higher education, not women, not the Dalits, and not the minorities. It will be a celebration without joy.

    Fifth Column: Trysts That Remain Broken

    Taking stock of broken promises with Independence Day coming up, Tavleen Singh in The Indian Express, is extremely disheartened at the lack of importance given to the issues of education and public health in the whole scheme of vikas by PM Modi. Even though the BJP has only gone from strength to strength under his guidance, why does it feel to a self-confessed Modi ‘bhakt’ that something is amiss?

    Quickly bouncing back from the disappointment, Singh has some great solutions for the government. From building libraries in every village by next 15 August to inculcate the love and habit of reading in children, giving more money to Panchayat and local hospitals, ending the license raj in higher education to straight-out abolishing the redundant post of a ‘Collector’ in villages– Singh has ideas, if anyone’s listening.

    They do not notice that there is almost no village in India that has a library or a bookshop. How can children really learn to read if there are no books? How can children understand what it means to be Indian or Bengali or Marathi or Telugu if they do not read literature in their own languages? Why has the Modi government done nothing to change a colonial school system that creates deracinated Indians in our finest schools, and semi-literate, unemployable ones lower down the ladder? Why are BJP governments perpetuating the worst failures of the Congress?

    Is it Too Early to Get Optimistic About the European Union?

    The President of the Eurasia group, Ian Bremmer, presents a status report on the current condition of the main European countries, in Hindustan Times. France is climbing up the popularity charts thanks to its new President Emmanuel Macron, Italy is in a political stalemate with 90,000 refugees entering its borders in the last six months alone, France and Austria are closing their borders increasingly while Turkey has a problematic President who is doing the entire Union a favour by keeping out an even bigger number of refugees– for cash, of course. Sure Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel provide a ray of hope, but Bremmer thinks it’ll be a while before the EU can be counted on for its stability again.

    If all that weren’t enough to worry about, there is also the quest of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to give himself Putin-like powers in his country and the problems that creates between Turkey and the EU. Erdogan has discovered that public hostility toward Europe boosts his popularity at home, and a re-election bid next year is sure to create more friction with Germany and others. It could also jeopardise Erdogan’s deal with the EU that keeps huge numbers of refugees in Turkey in exchange for European cash and various political promises. That deal will probably hold, because it works for both sides. If it doesn’t, Europe could face another migrant crisis, reviving populist anger across the continent.

    White Teeth: Service with a Smile

    Read Mukul Kesavan’s delightful op-ed in The Telegraph as he links the selection of Prasoon Joshi as the CBFC Chief with a famous Happydent ad he did a few years ago. Kesavan accepts he made the initial mistake of viewing that ad as satire, just as liberals did when Modi congratulated outgoing Vice-President Hamid Ansari implying that now that his constitutional duties were over, he was free to go back to carrying out his duties ‘as a Muslim’.

    Kesavan dissects the context behind this cutting (strange) statement made by the Prime Minister and in the process, provides a satire of his own on the condition and treatment of minorities in India.

    Priti Gandhi, of the BJP Mahila Morcha tweeted: “For 10yrs my Hindu majority nation accepted you with open arms, placed you at the pinnacle of power & you still feel uneasy?” It was this feeling that Modi channelled. Instead of abasing himself in the cause of the nation that the sangh believes had graciously fostered him and his kind, Ansari had had the gall to take India and its citizenship for granted. A mere 70 years after 1947, Ansari behaved as if Partition had never happened, as if Muslims could be equal stakeholders in India without going that extra yard to prove their patriotism, by suffering in silence, if indeed they were suffering. There are many grave connoisseurs of India’s communal temperature who don’t think that a rash of lynchings adds up to a fever.

    Three Cheers for Folks Who Made the 70th Bash Possible

    Aakar Patel can be harsh, when he wants to be. An entire piece written fluently in sarcasm, Patel, in The Times of India, points to the relatively insignificant and often damaging contribution of RSS and BJP leaders through India’s history since independence.

    From setting up established institutions, to the stellar economic growth under BJP to never-seen-before military might under their rule, Patel is determined to “rewrite history”. As he says, if “Pratap can defeat Akbar”, then why not?

    Most of all I am moved to tears by the BJP’s martyrdoms. The Prime Minister said that three generations had sacrificed themselves so that he could become PM in a Lok Sabha with a BJP majority.Yes. A lot of sacrificing was done by BJP leaders. One of them died at the hands of her bodyguards, whom she trusted. Another, only a few years later, was killed by assassins he chose to mingle with. Such offerings to the nation which other party has made?

    A Tale of Two Women

    In his column in The Times of India, IPS officer Amit Lodha pens down a few urgent thoughts on his mind with regards to the recent stalking case in Chandigarh and the hot-topic of open defecation, thanks to Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. He tips his hat to Varnika Kundu for showing exemplary bravery in a situation most women would choose to ignore, but also reminds us that being followed, raped or videographed while going to the field for their morning ablutions is a daily fear lakhs of ‘aam aurats’ face in rural India. He solely places the blame on the the poor upbringing of boys who either grow up to be “wimps or misogynists”. This Independence Day, Lodha suggests, try empowering a woman instead.

    One of the country’s target paramilitary forces, the SSB, is headed by a woman IPS officer. And hundreds of fighting fit women constables of the BSF are ‘womanning’ the India Pakistan border. The nation’s security is in their hands. Is it not time to make a Varnika or a Jaya feel safe in her own backyard? This Independence Day, don’t protect women, empower them. Even better, our men should grow up. Jai Hind. 

    Visa-Giving Temples and Other Such Hair-Raising Tales

    Twinkle Khanna aka Mrs Funnybones lends us a page out of her (very funny) diary with her two cents on god, religion and superstition in India which usually come in a ‘Buy 1 Get 2 Free’ policy. Writing for The Times of India, Khanna goes through hot topics such as Chilkur’s Visa Balaji being Trump’s arch-nemesis, Baba Ramdev’s new stint as a judge on a singing show (Om Shanti Om), the mysterious braid cutting incidents in North India and ‘magic’ sweet water from the filthy Arabian Sea at Mahim which her mother-in-law insists is everything she’s missing in her life.

    This morning, the newspapers are carrying a picture of two women from Bhiwandi, holding bits of their hair in their hand. If you ask me, these women are cutting off their own hair, unless you are ready to believe the invisible hair-chopping entity also happens to be a diehard Aamir Khan fan. Perhaps he’s watched Dangal a few too many times and inspired by his beloved hero saying, ‘Off with the hair’ to his tormented daughters, our mystical friend has just taken it a few steps further.

    Inside Track: Who’s With Whom?

    Lastly, presenting Coomi Kapoor’s weekly dossier on the going-ons behind closed doors of the Indian Parliament in her column in The Indian Express. Look out for details on the latest Gujarat RS polls (who switched off their phone after pledging support to the Congress at the last minute?), Smriti Zubin Irani’s itinerary for 17 August and a request Sushma Swaraj hasn’t respond to on time! Gasp.

    Congress leader Manish Tewari is a senior fellow of the US think-tank Atlantic Council. Last month, he invited several journalists and politicians, specialists in foreign affairs and security, to meet council chairperson Frederick Kempe. One of the invitees was Tewari’s boss, Rahul Gandhi, who repeatedly referred to BJP leader Yashwant Sinha as Yashwant Singh, apparently mixing him up with Jaswant Singh. Finally Sinha had perforce to correct him. A journalist asked why the Congress did not demand that Sinha’s report on Kashmir, which emphasised the importance of dialogue, be discussed in Parliament. Gandhi nixed the suggestion. He gave the analogy that it was like being asked to go from Delhi Gymkhana Club to Connaught Place, when you don’t have a car. When another scribe asked what political steps might be advisable for the Congress, he remarked that one does not instruct Sachin Tendulkar how to bat.
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