MINIMISE COLLATERAL DAMAGE
What constitutes the mainstream of the Sangh Parivar? Those who kill in the name of cow, and/or roam the streets waylaying young couples, ostensibly to uphold the honour of the womenfolk, and/or offer bounties on the heads of rival politicians? Or those occupying ministerial posts at the Centre and in the states? Granted, the question is unfair, but nevertheless needs to be asked. When the leadership and much of the party rank and file choose to remain silent in the face of periodic assaults against the basic rights of the people, purportedly for the sake of defending one’s faith and/or country, the difference between the fringe and the mainstream stands greatly blurred. Foot soldiers of any movement take their cues from the leadership. Silence of the leader eggs further the wayward core to cross the bounds of law and common decency. Killing in the name of cow is neither sanctioned in law nor in religion. It is an affront to both. It cannot be that those occupying various ministerial gaddis are unaware of the dangers of gau rakshaks running amok against suspected cow slaughterers and beef-eaters. But even if the silence is tactical, it only redounds to their discredit and, ultimately, diminishes respect for cows in society and causes popular revulsion against perpetrators of such wanton acts. A people organised around a common foundational compact cannot afford to look on mutely, while backwoodsmen swearing fealty to some voodoo practices of ancient times wreak havoc on unsuspecting fellow citizens. The onus to speak up is the greatest on those in authority.
Surprisingly, a number of people ensconced in key positions in government or those otherwise able to exercise influence, have failed to send out a clear message. Making it amply clear that taking the law into their own hands will attract strictest possible punishment can greatly end this madness, which has besmirched the otherwise wholesome record of the Modi government. In modern day and age, killing over cows is senseless, especially when the stressed agrarian economy is in no position to sustain tens of lakhs of non-milch bovine population. Millions of humans of all religious persuasions will be rendered jobless should a blanket ban be imposed on disposing of old and non-milch cows, of course under modern and hygienic conditions.
It may be that cow holds a special place in our cultural and historical context. A lot of myths surround the veneration of cow. Yet, no tradition can remain immune to the advance of time and progress. Clinging unthinkingly to these shibboleths can result in bypassing fully the gains of science and modernism. No longer are bullocks integral to farming. Likewise, preserving, nay, venerating cows well past their sell-by-date, particularly when humans do not have enough to keep their body and soul together, is a throwback to the pre-industrial ages.
It is a shame that those who should know better have failed to say a word edgeways in condemnation of the periodic killings in the name of the holy cow. Even when the Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat has rebuked the cow-killers in his latest public remarks, the new converts to the Sangh standard have maintained a stony silence. Putting personal gain ahead of basic decency is a conscience-killer. Unselfish believers do not become apologists of the wrongs committed in the name of the party. Instead, a true believer would not hesitate to speak out, because speaking out is the best way to guard against the party slipping into disarray and irrelevance. Longevity in power is not assured by selfishness. The so-called intellectuals playing mini-me to Modi ought to call a spade a spade when the Saffron Parivar strays from the path of constitutionalism.
Meanwhile, it is unlikely that you have not noticed the clear disconnect between the furious effort to virtually drag the country, tied hand-and-foot, into the digital era and the fitful but undeniable exertions of a section of the Sangh Parivaar to push it back into the dark ages. Modi’s near-obsessive push for the use of modern technology for delivery of government services diverges widely from the renewed zeal of the Parivar to whip up passions over cow and Ram Mandir.
Admittedly, the parallel modern versus ancient dynamics does not seem to be part of any premeditated strategy. It is more an indication of the socio-economic character of the larger Sangh Parivar. The disjunction reflects the prevailing confusion in the Nagpur establishment, with the BJP progressives afraid to risk confrontation with the simple-minded but well-entrenched Hindutva zealots, who generally have had the benefit of a 21st century worldview.
In time, the struggle between the traditionalists harking back to an imagined glorious past and the modernists or rather realists would be settled in favour of the latter. On that score, we need not lose heart. The inexorable march of modernity is impossible to halt. In the meantime, the effort should be to minimise collateral damage, even as Nagpur and New Delhi work out a middle ground.
ONE SCAM AFTER ANOTHER?
Lalu Yadav has sought to justify the acquisition of a multi-crore mall in Patna by his sons, arguing that they could not be expected to go about all their lives in “tattered clothes”. That is right. But the real question is what did his sons, Tejaswi and Tej Pratap, both ministers in the Nitish Kumar government, do to own this and several other prime properties? As far as we know, they had never done a day’s honest work to become multi-billionaires. Was the fodder scam loot invested in the land?
But what is far more audacious is that in order to make money even from mitti (soil), which necessarily must be extracted for building a basement at the proposed mall site, Lalu’s sons could not resist the temptation to bill the poor Bihar taxpayers. A clever stratagem was devised by Tej Pratap Yadav as minister in-charge of the Patna zoo. The soil from the proposed mall site would be bought for Rs 90 lakh, ostensibly for re-laying pathways in the zoo.
Never mind the clear conflict of interest. It is a straightforward case of impropriety. Like father, like sons, did you say? Remember that Lalu stands convicted in one of the fodder scam cases while several others are proceeding against him.
NITISH FED UP WITH RJD
While still on Lalu, the buzz in the political circles is that Nitish Kumar is disgusted with his alliance partner and may, sooner rather than later, choose to go his own separate way. Finding himself trapped in a cul-de-sac, he would ideally like to revive the partnership with the BJP. Conducive conditions for a reunion of the old allies could emerge in the coming months. Tentative efforts in this direction have already begun.
Notably, Lalu has accused Nitish’s aides of providing incriminating documents against him to BJP leader Sushil Modi. More such material exposing the misdeeds of the Yadav clan is expected. It seems the mall in Patna is not the only high-value property owned by Lalu’s family. Even as Nitish seems to have lost control over the RJD ministers in his own government, Lalu remains unrepentant, furiously undermining his ally in order to foist Tejaswi, currently Deputy Chief Minister, as Chief Minister.