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Is it the Modi wave or the Opposition weakness ..?

Congress lacks cadre, status of regional parties is akin to private limited company!

There is no hesitation in saying that Narendra Modi is the most powerful Prime Minister after Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Both at national and international levels. But there is a big difference too. At the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Congress had dominated the whole country and the Opposition was not strong but many leaders of the party and the Opposition were strong enough to shake the government in Parliament. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was not the only great resistance to Nehru but the stature of his opponents, right from Shyamaprasad Mukherjee to  Hiren Mukherjee, AK Gopalan, JB Kripalani, Ram Manohar Lohia, C. Rajagopalachari, Gopinath Bardolai to Firoz Gandhi were so great that Nehru took them seriously. The absence of Opposition was never felt. At the time of Indira Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee of Jan Sangh and P. Ramamurthy and Jyotirmoy Basu of CPI (M) were very influential in Parliament. There was a group of stalwarts like Morarji Desai, Madhu Limaye, George Fernandes, Jaiprakash Narayan, Madhu Dandavate, Mohan Dhariya, Krishnakant, Sharad Yadav. It can be said that though numerically the Opposition was not superior, however, in terms of moral strength the Opposition was very strong.
The circumstances around the third strongest Prime Minister Narendra Modi are quite the opposite. The Opposition may have big guns to boast, but the reality is that in today's situation, none of them is able to challenge Narendra Modi at any level. If any party can challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi, then it is Congress. The Congress is a secular party. It is the party that has the interests of the poor, farmers, labourers, tribals at heart. It has got deep understanding of this country. It has the widespread experience of power management, but unfortunately Congress has become a party where there are plenty of leaders, but has an abysmal shortage of workers! Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi should think over what the umpteen leaders, the party  are doing? What is their usefulness? The entire Congress party has become the victim of five star culture. Lakhs of people used to throng the public meetings of Nehruji and Indiraji, today crowds have to be brought in even for the big leaders. A contract is given for gathering the crowd.  It should be a matter of serious concern for the Congress leadership that the party has come to such a sorry pass. I remember that earlier the Congress elections would be held in full faith. From the ward and the panchayat level to block, the district and then to the state level, the party activists were visibly active. The problem started after 1980 when the big leaders gradually turned the election into a form of appointments and factionalism started spreading in the party. 
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party has prepared its full base. A network of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which operated from behind the scenes, was already present and the BJP got the benefit. Earlier there used to be the ‘shakhas’ of Seva Dal which slowly ended. The Congress leaders did not understand that the people have fascination and love for Nehru-Gandhi family but what will remain when the workers leave the party? I am probably getting a bit outspoken but the reality is that the Congress has not been destroyed by someone else but the Congressmen themselves. When Indira Gandhi had lost the election in 1977, she had bounced back on the strength of her party workers and had come to power again. Today, Rahul Gandhi is working hard but how many leaders are there who are in the field? It is very easy to issue statements in newspapers and give bites to TV channels, but it is difficult to get into the field. Is the Congress leadership thinking about for how long it has not been in power in Bihar, UP, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Odisha? Congress had a strong presence in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh but lost it too. Only leaders are responsible for this because power was handed over in the hands of wrong people! One more thing is that when the party was in power in Delhi and Mumbai, none cared for loyal workers and competent leaders. Even today, the leaders are not easily available. One has to wait for months for appointments. This question always keeps popping in my mind why despite our leader Rahul Gandhi being the youngest leader, the youth of this country is with Modi? If the Modi wave is to be stalled, then the whole party should focus on this question.
None of the other parties has the power to stop the Modi wave. The condition of regional parties is akin to that of the private limited company. The parties run in the name of the families. There is no democratic structure there too. The interests of such parties are limited to their families and relatives. They have nothing to do with the state and the country. Communist Party, considered to be the benefactor of the poor, has survived somewhat in West Bengal and Kerala. Their existence from the rest of the states is almost gone.
All the world's political scientists have been saying that in a country where Opposition becomes weak, there is a big threat to democracy. So has this situation come about in India? At the moment, it will be premature to say so because our democracy is so strong that no wave can shake it! Yes, it is of course that if the Opposition remains weak for a long time then condition will definitely be weak. Cursing the Bharatiya Janata Party, Sangh or Modi and Shah will not fetch you any dividends. Nor will lifting finger on the functionality of EVM machine will do! The only need is that political parties should rise above their self-interest and join hands with one other, strengthen the Opposition. The Congress should play this role, but the question is unless the Congress itself becomes strong, who will come with it and how will the people trust? At present, there are more than 1700 registered political parties in the country but among them the status of the national party is only with the Indian National Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Indian Communist Party (Marxist), Indian Communist Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Nationalist Congress Party. Lalu, Nitish, Mulayam, Akhilesh, Mamta's parties are part of the state-level 49 parties. None of them can provide leadership.
So will the wave continue like this? It seems to me that the opposition of this country is subscribing to the theory of eminent sociologist Ashish Nandy, that it does not take more than one and a half years for the people to get disenchanted with government? But it seems that this theory is not working at the moment. Unless the opposition itself will be strong, the wave will continue!
Before I conclude
Demand for such devices has suddenly increased in Japan, which can save the man in the event of nuclear attack. One tool is the Atomic Shelter which can be hidden and the other is the air purifier which prevents radiation. Last year only 10 shelters were sold, while this year in April alone 8 shelters and over 50 air purifiers have been sold. Indeed, as the tension between North Korea and the US is heading towards the extreme, Japan is worried because it is the world's only nation which has suffered the dire consequences of the nuclear warhead.


Why do officers & leaders want to look different?

 At long last, the central government has finally decided that the cars of VIPs will no longer sport red, yellow, blue beacons. Indeed, for a long time the common man had bottled up his anger against these beacons. For, the tradition of stopping vehicular traffic for these ‘colourful lights’ had troubled the common man more than anything else. These lights had became the main weapon of VIP culture. The removal of these beacons has hurt the ego and arrogance of the leaders and officers. I congratulate Modiji for this bold step.

You will be amazed to know that even if the number of VIPs in all the countries of the world is added together, the number of VIPs in India will be many times more. Available statistics show that there are 84 VIPs in Britain, 109 in France, 125 in Japan, 142 in Germany, 205 in Australia, 252 in the US, 282 in South Korea, 312 in Russia and 435 in China. But in India, this figure runs up to more than 5.79 lakhs. The question arises as to why so many people are considered VIPs?
It is said that in a democracy, the common man holds the key. It is the common man’s vote which forms the government. From the leader to the officer, all are the servants. But we all know what the reality is! From the minister to lawmaker, legislator and leader, all are above the people and do not even want to be seen among the common man. As soon as someone becomes a minister or an officer, his behavior changes.
Today’s generation born and brought up in the red, blue, yellow-beacon culture probably will not even know that wherever Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, went, he had just one motorbike rider as a pilot. When Indiraji was the Prime Minister, just one vehicle moved ahead of her car as a pilot car. Even in Mumbai, till the 1970s only the governor and the chief minister had a red light atop their cars and that too without flash! No minister was allowed to sport a red light on his or her car. Today, even when a legislator comes, he is accompanied by five to seven vehicles! If any minister is passing by, the vehicular traffic is stopped. Obviously, the common man of this country is being inconvenienced most because of this VIP culture.
The question therefore, arises is what will happen if red, blue, yellow beacons are removed? Will the autocracy of politicians and officers be done away with? It seems that this step of the government will make a difference but it should not be expected to make much difference because the autocracy is more a matter of mentality than anything else. The desire to be different from the common man among our leaders and officers is the result of this mentality. Its effect is also deep. When a collector or commissioner arrives in a village, it seems as if the king has come! The leader has to go to the public every five years, so he is afraid, but there is no accountability for the bureaucracy. Modiji should also think about this. Some officers, however, are very friendly and want to be close to the common man, but the common man has been so far removed that he can not even get close. I think it is important to take initiative on a wide scale to end this VIP culture. Governors and administrators will have to be taught that you are not the masters of the public; you are the servants and will remain as servants!
The question must be arising in your mind that when it was not a VIP culture till the 1970s, how did it flourish? Former Cabinet secretary V Balachandran had mentioned in one of his articles that it was first started by the police department. Police vehicles started sporting stars and flags. After that, the officials sitting in the secretariat felt why they should stay behind? They gradually changed the rules and coloured lights were fixed atop the cars, the fact that no one had any need for them notwithstanding. To silence the leaders in power, similar arrangements were made for them too. As the market of lights flourished, these coloured beacons became status symbols. This was how the leaders and officials got detached from the common man!
I’ll tell you an instance. My ‘Babuji’ freedom fighter Jawaharlal Darda was being sworn-in in the Maharashtra cabinet. Ministers were given car with red beacon and siren. A minister was upset that his light was not flashing properly. He immediately went to the market and brought a new beacon and a loud siren and put it on his car.
You will be surprised to know that the colour lights atop cars everywhere in the world are  for emergency vehicles only. India is probably the only country where cars sport so many types of lights or beacons without any emergency. Everyone here wants to be a VIP. There are different categories of security cover like X, Y or Z which politicians compete to grab.
Here, if Modiji travels in the metro train, TV channels keep running the footage all day long, but do you know that Mark Rutte, the prime minister of Netherlands, one of the richest countries in the world, goes to his office from home on a bicycle. I went to China with then prime minister Narasimha Rao. The prime minister of China was also present in a program. He came by a government car but when he left, he left on a bicycle. I immediately asked him why are you leaving on a bicycle? His answer was - when necessary I came by the car. My duty is over, now I am going home on my bicycle! Will our leaders and officers present such an example?
Before I conclude
Another citadel of Congress collapsed! The BJP has won the Latur Municipal Corporation election for the first time. Last time, the BJP did not get a single seat and this time it got 36! Congress has been defeated for the first time in 65 years. People are refusing dynastic politics. I am a born Congressman. Therefore, it is natural for me to be seriously worried. There is no harm in admitting that the present time belongs to the BJP, but what has happened to the Congress? The answer to this question must be found. What has gone wrong? Why is Congress failing to win the trust of the common man? Will Congressmen try and find answers to these questions?





We Worship Bapu but why Don’t We Follow his Path?

The date of April 16 is very significant in the history of India. On April 16, 1917, Mahatma Gandhi sowed the first seeds of satyagraha against the oppression of farmers in Champaran, Bihar. On that day, Bapu had left Motihari for Jaslalpatti village when the British District Magistrate of Champaran gave him the order to leave the district. The order said that Gandhi can create turmoil. Bapu refused to obey this order and he was arrested.
The next day in court, when the judge asked Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who is your lawyer, he said no one! His answer was: "I have sent a reply to the notice of the Collector!" When the judge said that the reply did not reach the court, Gandhiji took out a paper and started reading. Written therein was: "I will not accept any restrictions on the freedom to work or go anywhere in my country. Yes, I accept the crime of not accepting the order of the District Magistrate and also demand punishment for that." The judge wondered what it was! The judge asked Gandhiji to obtain bail. Gandhiji said, "I do not have the money to obtain bail!' The judge advised him to leave the district and promise not to come again. The case will be closed then, the judge said. Gandhiji said, "How can this happen! After you release me from jail, I will make my permanent house here in Champaran." In the meantime, the direction came from Delhi not to fight with this man.
Indeed, Gandhiji came to Champaran very thoughtfully. An anonymous farmer, Rajkumar Shukla had complained in 1916 during the Congress convention that the British were cultivating indigo. The British had made rules that farmers should cultivate indigo in some part of their farm land. At that time, synthetic indigo had not hit the market and the demand for indigo was very much there in Europe's markets. Farmers did not have any special benefit from this farming, but the British were definitely getting rich. Farmers' land was also becoming barren due to the cultivation of indigo. Apart from this, 46 types of taxes were being collected from farmers. Shukla had requested Gandhiji to lead the movement on this issue. Gandhiji first understood the problems of the indigo cultivators and felt that since this is a cash crop, the farmers will be ready to join him in satyagraha. His assessment was right.
On account of the legal acumen he displayed in the court, Gandhiji's fame spread throughout the area. The then deputy governor of Bihar Edward Gate called Gandhiji for a discussion and 'Champaran Agrarian Committee' was formed to solve the problems of the farmers. The government also made Gandhiji a member of this committee. Based on the recommendations of the committee, there was reduction in the taxes of the farmers and they also received compensation.
Perhaps no one at that time could have even realised that the initiative by Gandhiji to solve the problems of farmers would become the cause of the British departure. This satyagraha of Gandhiji became the weapon of freedom movement. Thousands and thousands of people got ready to go to jail on his call. Personally, I feel proud that my father freedom fighter Jawaharlal Darda alias Babuji was among those who went to jail on the call of Gandhiji.
I have heard a lot of stories from Babuji about Gandhiji. It seems that today the countrymen though remember Gandhiji, they do not follow his path. Gandhiji knew that to change the fate of this country, it will have to start with the farmers only. Maybe that is why he went to Champaran. What is the condition of our farmers today? 
In my article last week I had put this fact in black and white. Thousands of farmers commit suicide each year because they take loans for farming but the crop yield is not such that they could repay the loan and also eat two square meals a day! It is a dream for them to give good education to their children and live a life of little comfort. As a result, the distressed farmers commit suicide. I think that if we want the farmers to stop committing suicide and create better conditions, then Gandhiji and his Champaran satyagraha can show a new direction.
But the point here is that we need to try honestly to find a way to improve the conditions of the farmers. When Gandhiji was included in the committee, Edward had not even realised that Gandhiji would present before him such facts that it would not be possible for him to refute.Then, Gandhiji had called a lot of workers from all over the country and prepared a complete data of injustices sufferred by the farmers.
Are we preparing such data which can show us a real picture of our farmers? The truth is that neither the government nor the society, regardless of the problems of the farmers, is worried. I am sad to see that Gandhiji's name is used by all the parties. All are seen bowing down before him in reverence in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, but no one remembers the path he had shown. Bapu's path of secularism seems to have gone missing somewhere in the darkness. On the completion of hundred years of the Satyagraha of Champaran, will we follow the path of Bapu?
Before I conclude
It is a worrisome news that over two-third of the Great Barrier Reef located in Australia, the world's largest coral system, has been damaged. Before the news of the scientists arrived, the length of this wall was approximately 2300 kilometres. Most of it is under water but some part is also visible outside. Its specialty is that it is the only living thing on Earth that can also be seen from space. Scientists have said that due to the bad effects of climate change, there are lesser chances for survival of the Great Barrier Reef, and there is a possibility that the reef will be completely destroyed by 2050. Nature has given us many unusual gifts but we don’t care. All creatures are creatures of nature, then why is man destroying nature?


Please, Don't Play Politics in Name of Farmers..!

I want to appreciate Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for waiving the farmers' debt to the tune of Rs 36,000 crore in one stroke. The measure has benefitted 2.30 crore farmers of his state. He has fulfilled his election promise. Now, the question is why are not other states taking such a step? I would like to specially mention Maharashtra which witnesses the suicide of one or the other farmer everyday due to the debt burden. It is estimated that more than 30,000 farmers and agricultural labourers committed suicide in Maharashtra between 2009 and 2016.
Other states too are sailing in the same boat. The farmers there too are plagued with indebtedness. Of the 16.5 lakh farmers of Haryana, 15.36 lakh farmers are in debt. They have a cumulative debt of Rs 56,336 crore. There is a debt of Rs 63,000 crore on farmers in Punjab. In Rajasthan, there are 12.5 lakh indebted farmers. Now, the question arises that when the situation is so bad, why are the Central and State Governments not looking for the way to get the farmers rid of their debt burden? In the Rajya Sabha, I raised this question many times and cited facts and figures to highlight the pitiable condition of the farmers in Maharashtra and other states in the country. I would like to remind that in the year 2008, when Dr Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister, the debt of farmers to the tune of Rs 71,000 crore was waived across the country. Why are Modi government and Maharashtra Government along with the BJP governments of other states of the country not taking any major decision in this matter? Especially in Maharashtra, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis should take the decision of immediate debt waiver.
Let's look at some data which makes it clear what attitude the governments have towards farmers. As per the official figures, there are 11.88 crore farmers who cultivate their land in this country. Most of them have less than 2 acres of land. Almost 14.4 crore people work with these farmers. They are called agricultural labourers whose livelihood is directly related to farming. That is, about 26 crore people are getting employment from agriculture and the contribution of agriculture to the country's gross domestic product (GDP) is 14 per cent. On the contrary, if you take a look at the industries, then only 3 crore people are employed, but the industry is the beneficiary of government's favour. Seeing the debt figure on farmers across the country, it is about 12.6 lakh crore. You would be surprised to know that between the financial years 2013 and 2016, the industrialists of the country were given a tax waiver of Rs 17.15 lakh crore. I am not against industries being promoted or granted tax waiver. But the question is 'why only the industrialists should enjoy and farmers should continue to commit suicide?'
Some people question the necessity for loan waiver, saying what problem can it solve? Farmers will again take a loan, and the cycle will continue! I believe that if a patient is groaning with severe pain, he should be given a pain-killer pill first and then the wound should be treated.
Compared to other countries in the world, our farmers are in a constant state of poverty. If you consider the condition of agriculture in countries like America, Australia, New Zealand and Israel, it is considered a matter of pride to do farming. The governments give a lot of subsidies to the farmers. Farming has got the status of industry there. What is the situation in our country is not hidden from anyone.
Our governments have never even tried to make the farmers modern. Most of our farmers still suffer from a shortage of modern farming tools, good manure and quality seeds. There is huge black marketing of manure. And who knows better than farmers the way the market is flooded with spurious manure and seeds? When the seeds themselves are spurious what crop can they yield? There are no means of irrigation, so farmers depend on the vagaries of nature. During Indira Gandhi's prime ministership, large canals were built in different parts of the country, most of which are now useless.
The scandals that have emerged in recent years regarding new irrigation tools have created apprehensions. In 2012, it emerged in Maharashtra that a huge sum of Rs 70,000 crore was spent to strengthen the irrigation system in one decade, but the coverage of the irrigated land increased by only 0.1 per cent. Many big names are involved in this scam.
We have fixed the purchase price of the crops but farmers do not get fair prices. A caucus of middlemen is dominant in the market that does not allow any plan to succeed.
One reason is that the problem of farmers has become a victim of politics. Political parties pay attention to farmers’ problems only at the time of election. In fact, we have to strictly ensure transparency in cases related to farmers and see to it that scandal-tainted get immediate punishment. It is also necessary to construct small ponds at village level and take care of old ponds. I would like to commend Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who has done excellent work to increase the water storage capacity under the Jalayukt Shivar Yojna.
Because if the rainwater is swept away, where will the water for the crop come in summer days? Along with this, his initiative in maintaining and improving the quality of soil is also very commendable. I also appreciate the work done by former minister Amrish Patel in the interest of farmers or the way Aamir Khan has raised the issue of farmers. My candid opinion is that to improve the status of farmers of this country, the Central government should immediately implement the report of the Swaminathan Committee. To overcome the difficulties of farmers, all political parties will have to rise above narrow concerns of politics and work for the farmers’ welfare.
Before I conclude
It was reassuring to read the news that Indian Railways has cancelled licences of 16 food contractors and put them on black list. These contractors were not serving good and fresh food to the passengers. In fact, Indian Railways is infamous for the poor quality of food served on trains. In recent years, the campaign has been started to improve the quality. But strict steps need to be taken to mend the ways of the contractors who are inured to serve poor quality food since decades! It is expected that at least in respect of food and cleanliness, the Indian Railways should enhance the image of India!