Monday, November 09, 2015

My thoughts on 2015 Bihar Election Results

So, what was the giveaway from yesterday's poll results; in short, Lalu-Nitish won, BJP lost. However, dig deeper and you realize that the biggest loser of these polls were the people of Bihar. It is a shame that they have to choose a person like Lalu. Perhaps they thought that Nitish would be able to rein in and keep Lalu and RJD in control. Nevertheless, with RJD being the bigger partner in the alliance, only time will tell how easy will that be. The fact that Congress won 75% of the seats they fought, is another worrying factor. Wasn't 2014 election supposed to be the beginning of an end of these parties? This is why it is a shame, a shame for us who are governed, and a missed opportunity for the BJP and to large extent, BJP (and it's think-tank) are to be blamed as well.

When BJP came to power in 2014, there was much promise of development and country finally moving in right direction, after the corruption filled times of previous govt. 'Sabke saath, sabka vikas' proclaimed BJP (actually Modi) and people believed. Even the skeptics like me were willing to sit, wait and watch. Moreover, people like me wwere looking forward to be proven wrong. It will not be wrong to say that Modi had everything going for him. Yet, for all the talks of development before election, what one got instead was Adityanaths, Girirajs, Sakshi Maharajs and saadhvis. It was not Dinanath Batra, ghar wapsi, beef ban, lynching, hindutva and polarization that people have voted for, it was something else that was promised. As time went, doubts became real. When a statesman like Atal Bihari Vajpayee was not able to control the thugs within BJP, how much of a chance Modi had, given that he seemed to align with them anyways. Bhakts might not agree to this, but Modi is no Vajpayee and it will be long before he can become one. Vajpayee could carry the government and the country despite the rouges in BJP and the constraints that he faced. Modi, on the other hand, had a much clear verdict after 2014 elections and held a (seemingly) much firmer grasp, and effect, on BJP cadre, and despite all that, his record of accomplishment is average to say the least.

It is not that Modi govt has not done anything. I, for one, do not mind his foreign trips. I think it has instilled confidence in Indians in general and for a country claiming to be next superpower, it is important that its leaders act like one. Modi has that persona and it does not harm if he projects that at the world level. He is a good orator and has a charismatic personality that he uses to good effects in general, when on foreign tours. Nothing wrong with that. There are several other things worth noting. His govt's response to evacuating people from middle east, Naga accord and operations in Myanmar are all noteworthy and so are his symbolic gestures/efforts, be it Jan Dhan yojna or swacch bharat. No sane Indian will criticize these efforts. However, amidst all this, elements of RSS and hindutva brigade made sure that they remain the talking point (unfortunately). One can argue, "But look Modi has done some good work and he can't check everyone" or "he needs time". But that just goes against the very image PM Modi has been projecting. Wasn't he supposed to be the one who does not keep mum, unlike MMS. Wasn't he supposed to the strong one, the one who is control and get things done his way (be it marginalization of the likes of Advani and Joshi or keeping RSS brigade in check during his Guj CM time). Therefore, when such a person decides to keep quiet and takes no action against the likes of Giriraj and Adityanath, it sends the wrong message. It shows him as either weak or most likely as someone who is a party to these affairs. In our country, though, it doesn't take much for fortunes to change (take Lalu for example) and images to break. Nobody will mind Modi taking time to fix the ills of this country, be it finances or infrastructure or health and education. But Modi need to understand that what his brigade seem to concentrate their energies on (hindutva, polarization, unnecessary arrogance and chauvinism, communalisation), are also the ills that we want to get rid of. Pushing agenda on these lines has never reaped benefits and it is not going to in future either.

After Bihar results, I was having a whatsapp conversation with my friends and a friend said that Bihar has always voted along caste lines and it is not different this time either. At this moment, another friend, who hails from Bihar, corrected us. He said that all elections were fought along caste lines except the 2010 election. Perhaps, there lied the key and I am amazed that our so-called seasoned politicians failed to see it. The 2010 Bihar assembly elections were fought on the issue of development and these were the elections where BJP registered its only success in Bihar. BJP had won 91 seats in these elections. They fought 2014 elections in the name of development and got a thumping majority. The pattern is clear and has always existed. So why did they fought this election on bogus issues that are seemingly more RSS promoted. Why did they indulge in negativity (patakha in Pakistan etc.), when negativity has seldom paid back (be it BJP losing 2004 elections when they campaigned negatively against Sonia or 2014, when congress campaigned negatively against Modi).

I hope BJP top brass realizes that Bihar is no aberration, just as Delhi was not. There is still time for BJP and Modi to get their act together and start focusing on development agenda, for that is the only factor that guarantees success. If Modi wants to be the proactive, progressive leader that he aspires for, and hopes that people will remember him as, then he needs to rein in the unnecessary elements within his party (and affiliates). Else, writing is already on the wall. Choice is for BJP/Modi to make, whether they want to win the polls only on social media or win hearts of people by doing the real work instead of indulging in foolish one-upmanship that most bhakts indulge in on Social media. Unfortunately, until that time arrives, it is a pity for our country and its citizens, that all the messiahs that spring time and again giving us hope and expectation, ultimately they all turn out to be Lalus, in one form or the other.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

On Female Authors I've Read - 1

When I look back at the books that I have read in last 10 years, which happen to form the bulk of my reading, I realize that I have not read as many female authors as male. It is not that I completely overlooked the works of female writers but the list is smaller in comparison. Perhaps it is because I was never able to take a fancy to the female authors whose work I have read. Therefore, unlike Ruskin Bond, Jose Saramago or Haruki Murakami, whose multiple books form the part of my reading shelf, I hardly possess more than one book of any female author. It is not as if female authors are completely neglected. From the likes of Doris Lessing and Alice Munro to mainstream authors like Elif Shafak and then a number of authors in native Indian Languages, including the likes of Ismat Chugtai, Indira Goswami, Quratulain Haider and Mridula Garg, I have done my bit of reading, though not as extensive as the works of male authors.

In this multi-part blog post, I have decided to recall some of the female authors, and their works, that I have read over the years, with a hope that this exercise will inspire me to read their other works, or perhaps explore other female authors.

I begin with Doris Lessing and Alice Munro, two authors of supreme quality and paragons of storytelling and craft. In Doris Lessing's case, I think I picked the wrong book (The Cleft). Perhaps I should have started with her classic Shikasta, but when I read that there are five books that form the series (Known as Canopus in Argos), I backed off. My plan was to read something else to get familiar with Doris Lessing's style and once I have acquainted myself with it, I will pick the five-part Shikasta. Sadly, The Cleft did not inspire me enough to pick another Doris Lessing book. Not that it was a bad book; the basic idea of reimagining the very start of humankind, and that too from a feministic point of view, was interesting and so was her take on relationship between men and women, something that she attempts to explore from a very primal perspective. Yet, for all its ambition, the novel was not exciting enough. On a side note though, Doris Lessing, who died few years ago, remains itched in my memory for her cute reaction on winning the Nobel (, it just lights you up and brings a smile on your face.

Alice Munro’s was a different case. For last few years, I have been receiving a Murakami book as my birthday gift, my wife well versed about my preferences. The Nobel Prize for literature is usually announced around the same time and for few years running Haruki Murakami’s name has been circulating in media speculation as the frontrunner. However, Murakami has been constantly overlooked in favour of someone else, like it was in 2013 when Canadian author Alice Munro, a master short story teller, won it. Therefore, it was out of curiosity that I picked one of her books, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (Interesting name), in Cincinnati. The book has around ten stories, though I have so far managed to read only one. Strangely enough, though I thoroughly enjoyed this story, somehow I never managed to go beyond that one story.

Often when I travel to a particular country, I pick up books of authors from that country. I bought Elif Shafak’s Forty Rules of Love in Istanbul, following the recommendation of the shop owner (His obvious suggestion was Pamuk, but I have already read him before). A quick read in comparison to say The Cleft, and a bestseller in several countries, the book, which keeps switching between modern day America and 13th century Persia and is high on Sufism, somehow came across as too sweet to me, a bit like Sufi version of Mills and Boons. Especially the narrative set in modern times. Whereas Rumi and his relationship with Shams Tabrizi (who, instead of Rumi, happens to be the central character) makes up for great reading (my inclination towards historical fiction perhaps resulting in the bias), the second narrative come across as superficial and unreal in comparison. A light read, but not good enough to make me an Elif Shafak fan.

In next post, I will list some of the female writers from India and their works that I have read.