Thursday, 16 August 2018

Don't push security forces into a corner






The integrity and sovereignty of the country is on a higher pedestal than even the Constitution which the judges take oath to protect.’ (Source: PIL filed by 356 army men in the Supreme Court.)


It is really shocking that the security forces, working in most difficult conditions and sacrificing their lives to defend the country from the external and internal enemies, have also to face humiliations and judicial restrictions on their duties.   

After the ‘surgical strike’ in September 2016, almost all opposition politicians united to question its veracity, as if they had got a ‘cause’ to form a grand alliance against Prime Minister Modi. Not satisfied with disbelieving the Government and the Army, in July 2017, Congress leader Sandeep Dixit called army chief a sadak ka goonda (‘goon on the street’). In June this year,  without any basis, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad declared that Army operations in Jammu & Kashmir killed more civilians than terrorists. He said, “They (forces) take action against four terrorists and kill 20 civilians.” 

On January 27, 2018, when a security force convoy passing through Ganovpora village in Shopian district of Kashmir opened firing in self-defence to stop stone-petters (the incident resulting in some casualties) the then Mehbooba Mufti government filed FIRs against some army personnel. Not only the separatists, several so-called human right activists and politicians feel more disturbed when stone-petters are stopped, not when terrorists and infiltrators kill the men of the security forces and civilians.

We should salute the security forces and the Army Chief who quietly swallowed these insults and continued to perform their duty to defend the country.

However, the actions being taken by the Supreme Court (SC) of India may exhaust their patience.

For the last few years, the Supreme Court has been hearing a PIL filed by the Extra-Judicial Execution Victims Families Association Manipur (EVFAM), an association of wives and mothers of persons who were killed by the security forces during anti-insurgency operations, formed in July 2009. The EVFAM claims that between 1979 and 2012,  1528 civilians were ‘extra-judicially’ killed by the Manipur police and the security forces (mainly the Assam Rifles and the Army) in Manipur.  In 2012, EEVFAM and a sister organisation, Human Rights Alert, filed a PIL before the SC seeking investigations into all 1528 cases.

In July 2017, the SC ordered the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) to investigate over 90 cases. The CBI investigated some cases and filed charge-sheets. On July 31 this year (2018) the SC had called and pulled up the CBI Director for the delay in filing of FIRs against the Manipur police commandos and armed forces personnel allegedly involved in ‘extra-judicial killings’. Justice Madan B Lokur asked why the CBI was not arresting those charge-sheeted. His exact words were: “according to you, there are 14 murderers in these cases and they are loafing around Manipur freely. You have not arrested any of them. What happens to society? If somebody commits rape, what is there to recover? So you (CBI) will allow him to roam free?” The CBI Director’s reply that after the agency filed its charge-sheets, the trial court concerned has to decide whether to grant the accused bail or send them to judicial custody, did not satisfy the Court.

Disturbed by these developments, on August 14 this year, 356 army me, including 75 officers — a brigadier,  29 colonels, 15 lieutenant colonels, 19 majors and 11 captains — who command thousands of soldiers in anti-militancy and anti-insurgency operations in the disturbed areas of the northeast and J& K filed a PIL in the  SC to register their protest against the Court’s order to the CBI. They have said that they have been constrained to file the petition in view of an extremely hostile situation on the ground due to the prosecution of officers and soldiers for bona fide actions during military operations. Their fear that is that the Court order to the CBI amounts to taking away the shield provided by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in force in Assam and Manipur that protected them from any legal action for anti-insurgency operations.

In the PIL, they have expressed their deep anguish, raised some very valid issues and asked some disturbing questions with far-reaching consequences for the defence of the country.

§    “Soldiers never hesitate to lay down their lives in the line of duty in order to uphold the dignity of the Indian flag. However, the extraordinary circumstances in which their colleagues are being persecuted and prosecuted for carrying out their bona fide duties, without making any distinction or determination whether the acts in question were done in good faith, without any criminal intent.”

§    “A country that doubts its soldiers and their martyrdom is bound to lead to a collapse of its sovereignty and integrity. Questioning honest actions has a demoralising effect on officers and soldiers deployed in disturbed areas for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in J&K and northeastern states.”

§    “If the armed forces were not given the protection they required to engage with enemies at the frontiers and within in actions that could mean dying in the line of duty, there would be grave peril to national sovereignty, endangering India’s existence as a constitutional sovereign democratic republic.”

§    “When soldiers get ambushed, they have to make split-second decisions to protect the integrity and sovereignty of the country, which is on a higher pedestal than even the Constitution which the judges take oath to protect.

§    The soldiers “are asking their commanders whether they should continue to fight against militants and insurgents engaged in proxy war against India or operate as per peace time yardsticks guided by the Criminal Procedure Code.”

They have a point. The government asked them to act and gave them protection from any legal action against excesses committed during operational exigencies and now the court has withdrawn that with retrospective effect. 

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra has agreed to hear the petition on August 20 after counsel Aishwarya Bhati said the matter required urgent adjudication as the issues raised affected the morale of armed forces, tasked to maintain security and integrity of the nation.

Separately, Six Manipur police commandos facing prosecution have also moved a petition before the Supreme Court. They are apprehending that notwithstanding several SC orders that free and fair trial was part of an accused person’s right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, they may not get a fair trial. They are aggrieved by what Justice Lokur told the CBI director on July 31 last. They too have read flagged some thought-provoking issues.

§    They are accused of ‘fake encounters’ by vested interest groups. They have stated that, “Calling the members of armed forces and police force ‘murderers’ and comparing them with rapists has dealt a serious blow to the morale of the forces and their families, little realising that (responsibility to maintain) sovereignty and security of the nation is placed on the shoulders of these members of the forces, who very often lay down their lives for the safety and security of the motherland and its citizenry.”

§    “With hostile neighbours around, the country can ill-afford to have a demoralised, confused and low morale force that may imperil the very existence of the nation, its Constitution, the rule of law and fair and impartial administration of criminal justice system of the country.”

In the interest of fair trial, they want the case to be referred to a five-judge bench excluding Justice Lokur.

As if the action already being taken by the SC is not enough to demoralise and weaken the security forces, Dr. E. A. S. Sarma, a retired IAS officer and a former Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs and a former Director, Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad,  has filed a PIL accusing the security forces of “cold-blooded fake encounter killing of two suspected members of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit) faction” on March 30 , 2017 in Assam’s Simalguri village. The PIL is based on a newspaper report and has sought a thorough probe into the allegation.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice has issued notices to all the authorities concerned as well as the Human Rights Commission.

I have no idea of Sarma’s real agenda but readers should know that he was one of the 49 retired civil servants who wrote a letter to the Prime Minister on April 16, 2018, about rapes in Kathua (Jammu) and Unnao (Uttar Pradesh). They described the prevailing environment as “our darkest hour” in post-Independence India.  They blamed the Sangh Parivar for the culture of majoritarian belligerence and aggression in Kathua.  Some passages from the letter need to be re-read. They called upon the Prime Minister

§    ‘to reach out to the families of the victims of rape in Unnao and Kathua and seek their forgiveness’
§    “to offer special protection to Muslims, to Dalits, to members of other minority communities, to women and children so that they need not fear for their life and liberty and any threat to these will be extinguished with the full force of State authority.”

Ask anyone to read these passages without mentioning who the authors are, the first impression would be that all these words have been spoken by the Congress President Rahul Gandhi. The political overtone the letter is so blatant. I had written a blog to reply to that politically motivated letter.
I wish I had resources to hire a Supreme Court advocate to file a PIL to demand an enquiry into sources of finance for all the campaigns and PILs against the security forces.

Perhaps, it is for the first time that in any country the security forces are fighting a legal battle to do their duty.

The SC has to give its verdict on whether the Criminal Procedure Code is above the integrity and sovereignty of the country, whether the democratic constitutional system of the country can survive if the security forces are not given respect and support to carry out their duties.

If the SC verdict goes against the security forces, the consequences could be disastrous. What if the jawans refuse to work? The Army rules provide for their court-martial but how many persons can be court-martialed? What if their revolt takes an ugly turn? Two joint PILs mean already serving officers have formed some sort of unions to protect their interest.

The apprehensions should not be dismissed as hypothetical baseless. In 1946, the revolt of the Navy had frightened the colonial rulers of India and probably hastened their departure.

Hope, we do not prove German philosopher and historian G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831) once again right. He has said: “What experience and history teach is this – technicians and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.” (Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, 1830).

Don’t push the security forces in a corner. It can be disastrous for the country. 


Devendra Narain


Friday, 10 August 2018

Prime Minister Modi proposes, bureaucracy disposes







 (Photographs downloaded from internet.)

An efficient, honest and committed bureaucracy is a prerequisite of rapid development of any country. By ‘committed’ bureaucracy I mean committed to the country’s development and welfare, not committed to any political ideology or party. However progressive and committed to the country’s development a political leadership may be, it cannot do much without the full support of bureaucracy. The political leadership provides vision of development, takes policy decisions, suggests projects and programmes. The responsibility for examining the feasibility of political decisions, fearlessly telling the political leadership if the decisions are not feasible or not in the interest of the country, preparation of operational details of what can and should be implemented and finally implementation rests on the shoulders of the bureaucracy.

The political leadership also expects the higher bureaucracy to give ideas and suggestions based on its rich experience. The political leadership also expects the bureaucracy to ensure that the citizens’ grievances are redressed quickly and effectively.

The higher bureaucracy is expected to provide leadership to the lower bureaucracy. If the higher progress is inefficient and corrupt, the lower bureaucracy will be more inefficient and corrupt and will take pleasure in harassing the citizens.

Over the years, the Indian bureaucracy got used to working in an environment in which success depended on dancing to the tune of political masters, in which wrong political decisions had become the norm and the higher bureaucracy’s role was reduced to approving proposals, whether coming from above or below. There was no need to give any innovative suggestion in the interest of the country. There was no pressure to take measures to redress citizens’ grievances.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to make India a developed country in which all citizens have basic amenities of life and do not feel aggrieved. Naturally, he wanted to change the old bureaucratic style and the role of the bureaucracy. When he became Prime Minister in 2014, there were murmurs in Delhi that the higher bureaucracy had become nervous and afraid of working under a hard taskmaster.

I have no idea what Prime Minister Modi thinks of the bureaucracy after more than four years in office. However, I have reasons to believe that it has not come up to his expectation. There is a vast gap between what he expected or expects and what he is getting. I will give just two examples to substantiate why I am saying so.

Failure to give innovative ideas

Addressing a meeting of more than 80 Secretaries of the Central Government on November 2, 2014, Prime Minister asked them to come up with innovative ideas for the Union Budget 2015-16. (Source: Indian Express, Delhi edition, November 3, 2014.)

Nothing appeared thereafter in the media whether the Secretaries gave ideas for the Budget or not. Therefore, on February 9, 2018, I sent an online RTI (Right to Information) application to the PMO. I wanted to know:

(1) The list of Secretaries who gave ideas for the 2015-16 Budget, list of ideas given by them and list of ideas which were accepted.

(2) The dates on which the Union Secretaries were asked to give similar ideas for 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 Union Budgets, list of ideas for each budget and the list of ideas which were accepted.

On February 27, 2028, the PMO replied that

(1) The application had been forwarded to the Department of Economic Affairs for furnishing information in respect of the 2015-16 Budget.
(2) Information sought in respect of Budgets for 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19, “does not come under the definition of ‘information’ as per Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act, 2005.”
On March 09, 2018, Deputy Director (Budget), Department of Economic Affairs, informed me that “According to RTI Act, the information which is maintained and readily available could be provided to the applicant. The requisite information is neither maintained nor compiled in the W&M Section of the Budget Division.”

On March 11, 2018, I sent an appeal to Director, PMO and the First Appellate Authority (FAA) under the RTI Act against denial of information by the PMO in respect of Union Budgets 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.

In his order dated April 10, 2018, the FAA stated that “the information sought did not form part of records” of office and, therefore, it is “not covered within the meaning of information u/s 2 (f) of the Act.”

The obvious conclusion is that the Prime Minister did not get any “innovative idea” from any of more than 80 Union Secretaries. Had the Secretaries given any idea/suggestion, the PMO would have enthusiastically furnished information.

I agree with the FAA’s order approving the PMO’s reply that information sought in respect of subsequent years is not covered by ‘information’ under the RTI Act. A Public Information Officer (PIO) can supply only that information which is on record. Since there was no information on record, he took the correct stand that what I had asked for was not covered by ‘information’ under the RTI Act.
Obviously, having failed to get any “innovative idea” from the Secretaries for the 2015-16 Budget, Prime Minister did not ask them to give suggestions/ideas for subsequent Budgets.

No interest in addressing public grievances

In his monthly meeting with Union Secretaries in January 2016, Prime Minister asked Secretaries of departments having extensive public dealing to set up a system for top-level monitoring of grievances. In 2015, the Central Government received 8.81 lakh complaints, as against 2.7 lakh in 2014. Subsequently, the PMO asked the Secretaries to personally examine at least 10 grievances every week and upload the report on the Cabinet Secretariat’s e-samiksha portal to be monitored by the Prime Minister. (Source: Economic Times, Delhi edition, March 09, 2016)

Since the Cabinet Secretariat’s e-Samiksha portal does not contain any information on the examination of grievances by the Secretaries and their report, on June 03, 2018, I sent an online RTI application to the PMO to know the number of reports monitored by the Prime Minister in 2016, 2017 and (up to May) 2018.

On June 5, 2018, the PMO informed me (online) that the request for information had been forwarded to the PIO. His email ID was given as rtipmo.applications@gov.in.

The PIO has not furnished any information. Under the RTI Act, information has to be furnished within 30 days of the receipt of the application. Obviously, there is no information to be furnished.

On June 06, 2018, I sent another online RTI application to the Cabinet Secretariat. Drawing attention to the same news item, I sought information about the number of grievances personally examined by Secretaries and reports uploaded on the e-samiksha portal in 2016, 2017 and (up to May) 2018.

On June 12, 2018, Under Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat (Directorate of Public Grievances), Sardar Patel Bhawan, New Delhi, sent reply (by speed post) informing me that he “is neither the custodian of the information sought in your RTI application nor held by him. Therefore, it cannot be provided to you. Your RTI application has already been transferred online under Section 6 (3) of the RTI Act, 2005 on 8. 6. 2018 to Shri K. J. Sibichan, Under Secretary & CPIO, captured Secretary in, Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi, for providing information to you directly.” (I wonder why the application was forwarded to an officer who had no information.)

I have not received any information from Shri Sibichan so far. He is required to furnish information within 30 days of the receipt of application. He has not replied obviously because it does not have any information.

Separately, on June 15, 2018, the Cabinet Secretariat forwarded my application to the Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances (DARPG) with a new registration number stating that “further details will be available on viewing the status of the above-mentioned new request registration number.”

On the same day (June 15, 2018), the DARPG informed me (online) that “the information sought by you is not available with this CPIO as such information is not collected/compiled by DARPG.”

Again, the obvious inference is that the Prime Minister’s effort to involve the Secretaries in redressal of public grievances did not succeed.

Surprisingly, the Cabinet Secretariat does not know what information the DARPG collects.

These two examples cannot be ignored as minor aberrations. Instead, these are proofs of incapability of the highest bureaucracy of the country. Most, if not all, of the Secretaries the Government of India are incapable of giving innovative suggestions to the government or of redressing common peoples’ grievances. These instances prove that our senior bureaucracy does not have much interest in the real issues before the government or in the public grievances.

These instances also show the vast gap between what a dynamic leadership needs and expects and what it gets.

Most of the brickbats the Modi government is getting is due to inefficiency and corruption in bureaucracy, from top to bottom. Much of the inefficiency and corruption at the lower level is because of the lack of administrative leadership, either due to the letter’s own inefficiency and corruption or due to lack of interest in governance.

Most of the grievances the people have against demonetisation and GST (Goods and Services Tax) are also due to bureaucratic inefficiency and mismanagement. (I will write about these two issues later.)

Prime Minister Modi proposes, bureaucracy disposes.

Devendra Narain
August 10, 2018
_____________________________________________________________
I have written this article on the basis of information collected under the RTI Act. If any reader has information to the contrary, I requested him/her to share. I will incorporate that and amend my conclusion.
Devendra Narain
August 10, 2018






Thursday, 9 August 2018

Very good development for India








Here is a very good development for the country.

Everyday Rahul Gandhiji is giving a clear and loud message that he is presiding over the liquidation of the Congress party.

After India’s independence, Mahatma Gandhi had advised dissolution of the Congress party. Nehru and others did not listen to him. Thank God, Rahulji has taken the responsibility to fulfil the Mahatma’s desire.

Let us pray he achieves his mission, sooner the better for the country and for him.

Devendra Narain
August 09, 2018




Sunday, 29 July 2018

Save India from political crisis




Set alarm bells ringing for world economy

           Sometime in the early 1960s, I heard a very good lecture on the Great Depression. During the course of the lecture, the speaker narrated a story which was already a legend. The story is that a day or two before September 4, 1929, before entering the New York Stock Exchange, Joseph Patrick “Joe” Kennedy Sr., a high profile American businessman, investor, and politician, went to a shoeshine boy sitting in front of the building to get his shoes polished. While doing his work, the boy gave some tips about shares in which he advised his customer to invest.

The shoeshine boy’s ‘knowledge’ of the stock market set alarm bells ringing in the ears of “Joe” Kennedy. At that time, his fortune was worth $ 4 million. ‘If an illiterate shoeshine boy is giving shared tips, there must be something seriously wrong with the stock market.’ That day itself he sold all his stocks. On September 4, the stock prices started falling and the New York Stock Exchange crashed on October 29, triggering The Great Depression or Economic Crisis that engulfed the entire world, except the Soviet Union and isolated economies. The economists and political leaders of the West had to struggle hard for a long time to revive the world economy. However, “Joe” Kennedy had saved his fortune that increased 20 times in the next five years.

Now you can read the story on the Internet though different websites give different versions of the date and the businessman. In January 1961, “Joe” Kennedy’s son John F. Kennedy became the 35th President of the United States.




Setting larm bells ringing for Indian politics

(Tejashwi Yadav at extreme right)

 I was reminded of the story on July 24 this year when I heard Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Leader of Bihar, Tejashwi Yadav, saying, "Rahul Gandhi is not the only leader in the race for it. There are other opposition leaders like (West Bengal Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee, (Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister) Chandrababu Naidu, (NCP chief) Sharad Pawar and (BSP leader) Mayawati.”

If corrupt Lalu Yadav’s Class IX fail son has become a politician ‘big’ enough to suggest names of prime ministerial candidates in 2019, there is something seriously wrong with Indian politics. This should send alarm bells among all the people who are worried about the future of the country.

This is something that cannot be ignored. It is a bad omen, omen of a serious political crisis that may start in 2019 and God knows when that will end.

The answer is not to withdraw from politics. Politics is not stock market from which you can withdraw to save yourself in the time of crisis. Politics is sum total of all the opinions, activities and policies used to gain and hold power in government.

The English word ‘idiot’ is derived from the ancient Greek word ‘idiotes’. It was used in the Athenian democracy to describe those persons who did not take interest in public affairs, those who were interested only in their private affairs. In the ancient city republics only a small percentage of the population, the elite, had the right to participate in public affairs. In a modern representative democracy, a party or alliance of parties that gets the support of the majority of voters forms the government and that government is expected to work for the welfare of the people. Naturally, the people, to be more precise the voters, cannot behave like the ancient Greek “idiotes”.

Wisdom does not lie in ignoring the likes of Tejashwi Yadav, Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, etc. or in underestimating them. United, they have the number to create a political crisis. They have become bold because all the good works of the Modi government notwithstanding, the government is being weakened by enemies within, including the self-appointed gaurakshaks in the Hindi heartland.

Therefore, instead of running away or ignoring the lealities, we have to unite and vote against the opportunistic alliance of self-serving politicians to save the country from political crisis.

Devendra Narain
July 29, 2018



Thursday, 26 July 2018

Nervous rahul Gandhi




                           Rahul Gandhi is nervous

Before 'No-Confidence' Motion Rahul missed no opportunity to attack BJP and RSS. He accused RSS of assassinating Gandhi. He used to say that the fight between Congress and BJP/RSS was fight between two ideologies.

Towards the end of his speech on the 'No-Trust' Motion, he expressed his gratitude to BJP and RSS for explaining to him the meaning of Hinduism!

Earlier his election strategy was to attack on BJP and RSS. Now his strategy is to convince people that the Modi government is corrupt though he has no proof.

Vijay Mallya Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi managed to get loans from banks because of corruption in the banking system. There were getting loans illegally even during the UPA regime but Rahul Gandhi blames Narendra Modi for transferring money collected through the monetisation to these crooks.

Rafale aircraft deal did not make any real progress during the UPA regime which did not bother about the requirements of the armed Forces. When there no price was finalised during the UPA regime, how can Rahul Gandhi compare the price paid by the present government for 36 aircrafts?

(In respect of Rafale deal, Rahul Gandhi took advantage of the unnecessary secrecy maintained by the Modi government. The facts – substantial differences between what the UPA government was negotiating and what the centre government has finalised – are in the public domain.)

Perhaps, Rahul has drawn inspiration from Hitler’s propaganda Minister Goebbels who believed that lies could be converted into truths. Some of his famous quotes are:
  • “A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

  • “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.”

  • “If you tell the same lie enough times, people will believe it; and the bigger the lie, the better.”
In the heart of his heat Rahul Gandhi knows that can not defeat Modi the way V. P. Singh defeated his father Rajiv Gandhi in 1989. In every speech V. P. Singh would say that he had proof of corruption in Bofors gun deal though he had nothing with him. There is no corruption in Rafale deal and Rahul Gandhi has nothing to prove except raising his voice and producing imaginary figures.

Earlier he had announced his ambition to be Prime Minister in 2019. After he heard dissenting voices of Tejashswi Yadav, he is saying that he is ready to sacrifice his ambition in the interest of the unity of the opposition parties! Even Lalu's son can make him nervous.

Obviously Rahul Gandhi losing hope and getting nervous.

Devendra Narain
July 26, 2018


Monday, 23 July 2018

Hamid Ansari may derail Rahul Gandhi’s ambition in 2019



or





The preparations for the battle royal to capture the ‘fort’ (7, Lok Kalyan Marg, New Delhi, Prime Minister’s official residence) in 2019 is getting intense. While BJP is trying to strengthen its position in new areas and to find new allies, opposition parties are desperate to forge an effective alliance.   

Whether the opposition parties will be able to form one alliance or will be split into two or more is in the realm of speculation. In all probability, there will be no unanimity on the choice of a leader before the election.

The Congress has announced its leader and expects other political parties to accept that. Yesterday (July 22, 2018, the Congress Working Committee declared that it would work for a broad coalition of like-minded parties led by Rahul Gandhi.Unfortunately for the Congress, Mamata Banerjee has already given enough hint that Rahul’s leadership would not be acceptable to her. She is going her own way. Last week, she gave a call to start working for a big rally to be held in Kolkata six months hence, on January 19 for which “Leaders of the Federal front will come down to Kolkata.”

Rahul Gandhi's stock has gone down so much that today (July 23) even Lalu's son Tejashwi Yadav has said that Sharad Pawar, Mayawati, Mamata etc. are also candidates. Perhaps, he did not include his own name or his mother Rabri devi's name out of 'modesty'!

The million dollar question is, in the (unlikely) event of the non-NDA parties outnumbering the NDA, ‘who is most likely to emerge as the consensus leader post-election?’ 

If the grand alliance defeats the NDA, the Congress is likely to have the largest number, though it may not reach three digit number. No other party is likely to get more than 30-35. Most of the parties’ strength will be in single digit. With the largest number, it is bound to insist on making Raul Gandhi Prime Minister. Whatever others may think of Rahul, for the dynasty and its loyal supporters he is the most suitable candidate for the post.

If there is no consensus on Raul Gandhi, who has the best chance? Mamata Banerjee has no chance. Thanks to her mercurial temperament, no party other than her own are likely to accept her as Prime Minister. Who knows when she will lose her temper and decide to slap a Minister! The Mulayam clan or Mayawati may not get enough number. Nor will Chandrababu Naidu.

I will bet on Mohammad Hamid Ansari. In my opinion, it is Ansari who may emerge as the consensus leader and derail Rahul Gandhi’s ambition in 2019. Readers may ask, ‘Why Hamid Ansari? Why not somebody else?’

I am betting on Hamid Ansari because he has several advantages over all others including Rahul Gandhi.

One, he is a Muslim. The self-styled secularists and opponents of Narendra Modi will find it difficult to say ‘NO’. There is no other Muslim leader in any political party who is taller than him. There is an acute shortage of Muslim political leaders at the national level. The Maulanas and members of various Muslim outfits who appear on TV channels are not leaders. Ghulam Nabi Azad, the most visible Muslim face the Congress, is not the prime ministerial material, though there are instances of non-prime ministerial materials - HD Devegowda and I. K. Gujral - occupying the post. Salman Khurshid is a spent force. The most aggressive Muslim politician Asaduddin Owaisi has a very small political base. By posing to be aggressive and using his lung power to the best of his capacity, he tries to make up for the small political base.

Two, he is an educated person with a rich experience. He served in the Indian Foreign Service for about years. After retirement, he served as Visiting Professor of the West Asian and African Studies Department of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (1999-2000), Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University (2000-2002), Visiting Professor of the Academy for Third World Studies Department of the Jamila Milia (2003-05) and Chairman of the Minorities Commission (2006 to June 2007). He was Vice President (VP) of the country for 10 years(11 August 2007 – 11 August 2017).

Three, he is anti-BJP and anti-Modi, a necessary condition to be the leader of the grand alliance. Ever since his second term as VP ended, he is not missing any opportunity to send a clear and loud message that he wants to be known as a political leader who is not only anti-BJP and anti-Modi but also fees that injustice has been done to his community persons and he stands by all their demands. To get an idea of the image he is building of himself, one should through his two interviews, one just before the end of his term as VP and the other a couple of weeks ago and also through some of his speeches and utterances.

Interview on August 9, 2017

Just two days before the end of the term, in an interview to Karan Thapar on Rajya Sabha TV channel, Hamid Ansari said many things that must have pleased politicians like Asaduddin Owaisi and Digvijay Singh, orthodox Muslims of all hues and terrorists.

·         On intolerance in the country: In reply to a question whether he was also fearing that for himself, he said,Yes, because I interact with fellow citizens and there are great many people from different walks of life who come and talk about it.”


(It is shocking that a person who has been an IFS officer for 34 years and VP of India 10 years should say that because of “intolerance” in the country, he was fearing that for himself! He did not show any such fear in the past. Had he said so if he had been made President of India? Definitely not. In other words, there was no problem as long as he was enjoying the powers and privileges of high offices and there would have been no problem had he continued to do so. To put it differently, he is more worried about his position than about the position of his community members. He feels for them only when his feeling for himself. Now he is a speaking in the language of Owaisi and other communal politicians and religious leaders. There were loud protests when some most popular Muslim actors who have made several hundred crores of rupees through their films said that that they were feeling insecure in India. Later, they had to say that they were misunderstood. There was no uproar after Ansari made this irresponsible statement nor has he given any clarification.)

·                 On national anthem and national song: About a Supreme Court order that ‘Jana Gana Mana’ must be played before every film screening and a Madras High Court order that ‘Vande Mataram’ must be sung at least once a week in Tamil Nadu schools and colleges and at least once a month in government offices and private establishments, he said that these court orders reflected a sense of insecurity.

(Why should these court orders reflect a sense of insecurity? If the Hindus and Muslims have no objection to singing ‘Jana Gana Mana Adhinayak, Jai Hey Bharat Bhagya Vidhata’ which was originally composed by Ravindra Nath Tagore in praise of George V, the Emperor of India, what is the justification of objection to singing ‘Vande Mataram’? The Muslims are ready to call someone ‘Bharat Bhagya Vidhata’ but not ready to sing ‘Vande Mataram’ at any cost. This is nothing but hypocrisy. Neither of the two songs has anything to do with religion. Orthodox Muslims are objecting only because of their unjustified rigidity.)

 

·                 On triple talaq: The reform has to come from within the community.
(This again amounts to supporting orthodox Muslims who do not want to reform Islamic personal laws. If the state is concerned with the welfare of the people, it cannot wait indefinitely for the people to start their centuries-old bad customs and practices. The state intervention becomes necessary. The state had to intervene to stop ‘Sati’, child marriage, dowry, etc.)

·              On stone-pelters in Kashmir: “…when young boys and girls come out on to the streets and throw stones day after day, week after week, month after month, it’s something to worry about because they are our children, they are our citizens.”  

(He did not utter a word about the adverse circumstances under which the military and paramilitary forces and JK police are fighting terrorists, local as well as those sent by Pakistan. He ignored the fact that there is enough evidence that Pakistan is financing these stone-pelters Kashmir. Now he is speaking in the language of Mehbooba Mufti)

Interview to Sagarika Ghosh of Times of India on July 12, 2018

In this interview, in addition to reiterating what he had said in the first interview, he gave more proofs of his partisan views.

·                 On fear among Muslims: “Muslims are concerned. There is a sense of unease among religious minorities and this is something that has to be addressed… On occasion, Muslims are fearful and under siege. Not everybody is, that would be an exaggeration. But there have been incidents that have been commented on within and outside the country. You can’t deny facts.”

·                 On the definition of “nationalism”: “The philosophy of nationalism that is being purveyed goes against my basic understanding of what is India and Indian nationalism. Sometimes asking questions is becoming dangerous. I am a citizen, I have a constitutional structure. If that structure is not delivering as per the norms laid down, then I am entitled to ask why is it not delivering.”

·                 On triple talaq: “Triple talaq is totally un-Islamic but it has become a social evil. But these are social practices and you cannot reform them by administrative edict.”

(Muslim clerics, members of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and orthodox Muslims will not agree with him that triple talaq is “totally un-Islamic but they will agree that they do not want administrative edict.)

·                 On Jinnah’s portrait in Aligarh Muslim University: “If Victoria Memorial is there, what’s wrong with Jinnah’s portrait?”

·                 On attending the function in Kerala: “I did not know that this think tank in Delhi had an institutional arrangement with a body called PFI. Nor did the local officials, including the local police chief, tell me anything about it.”

   (On Sept 23, 2017, he had participated in an event in Kozhikode in which the National Women’s Front, the women’s wing of the Popular Front of India, was a co-organiser. The Popular Front of India commerce set up in 2006, is a well-known extremist and militant Islamic fundamentalist organisation in India and is on the radar of the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Later, he defended himself by pretending ignorance about the PFI. It is difficult to believe that a person like Hamid Ansari could not be aware of the PFI and its activities. The local officials would not have said anything out of courtesy or not have expected that there would be protests later. However, Ansari once again admitted his ignorance of anti-Indian organisations in the country.)

His other attacks

On the same day i.e. July 12, 2018, he strongly backed the proposal of opening Sharia courts in the country, saying that each community has the right to practise its own personal law. “Personal law in India covers marriage, divorce, adoption, and inheritance. Each community has a right to practise its own personal law," he told news agency ANI. (In other words, he is against Article 44 of the Constitution which says that “the states shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”)

On Jul 17, 2018, on the occasion of the launch of his book "Dare I Question? Reflections on Contemporary Challenges" (a collection of his speeches and articles), he remarked that our electoral democracy “has not transformed itself into a substantive, inclusive and participatory democracy." He expressed apprehension that it could metamorphose itself into an "illiberal, ethnic democracy based on the principles of a socio-political philosophy called Hindutva, whose core concepts circumscribe the ambit of citizenship."

Last but not the least, Ansari does not want to displease any congressperson. On July 11 this year, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor had made a very irresponsible remark about the BJP. He had said, "If they (BJP) win a repeat in the Lok Sabha our democratic constitution as we understand it will not survive as they will have all the elements they need to tear apart the constitution of India & write a new one. That new one (Constitution) will be the one which will enshrine principles of Hindu Rashtra, that'll remove equality for minorities, that will create a Hindu Pakistan.” Next day, speaking in support of Tharoor, Hamid Ansari said that though he had not read what Tharoor had said, “He is a learned man and whatever he says will be well considered." Ansari further said that "Tharoor has a right to make his own judgment."

Ansari regrets that he is being perceived as a Muslim leader but he alone is responsible for that. True, some Muslims have become victims of mob violence but Hindus to have been victims. The mobs that lynch someone suspected to be witch or child-lifter or indulging in human trafficking or rapist, do not make any distinction between Hindus and Muslims. Almost every day we read in newspapers about violent clashes following a dispute over car parking or road rage.  In Kerala CPM and RSS have been engaged in a bloody war for decades. West Bengal

The trouble with the Indian intellectuals is that they flag problems but do not come forward with any solution. Nor do they offer to work with the masses to change their heart. All of them have their own political agenda.

Hamid Ansari is no exception. Perhaps, his agenda is to portray himself as a consensus candidate for the post of Prime Minister in 2019. Even if it is not his agenda, he may turn out to be real threat to Rahul Gandhi's agenda. If there is danger of losing the battle, Sonia Gandhi herself may proposeAnsari's name.


Some readers may say that the age will be against him. He will turn 82 on the eve of the next general election. But politicians always claim to be fit to hold any political post. Morarji Desai was 81 when he became Prime Minister in 1977.

Devendra Narain
July 23, 2018