Jaitley vs Justice Katju: The pot calling the kettle black

The public kerfuffle between Mr. Arun Jaitley and Justice Katju has been in the news of late. Justice Katju, in an opinion piece in a leading daily, criticized Mr. Modi and his track record in a blatant attempt to counter his growing popularity. Mr. Jaitley, in turn, accused Justice Katju of being overtly political and called for his dismissal from chief of the press council. Justice Katju responded by asking Mr. Jaitley to quit politics and take up “sanyas!”

Mr. Jaitley is the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. He is not directly elected by the people since he is a Rajya Sabha member from the state of Gujarat (though he has been Delhi-based for decades). As a senior member of the BJP, it makes sense for Mr. Jaitley to stand up for Mr. Modi and respond to such attacks. At the same time, it is quite understandable that at some level, he “owes’ Mr. Modi for his Rajya Sabha seat. Besides, Mr. Modi is being projected by many (including himself!) as the PM in waiting. Getting further into Mr. Modi’s good books can only help rather than hurt Mr. Jaitley’s future prospects. All in all, Mr. Jaitley has plenty of possible reasons for his open attack on Justice Katju.

Justice Katju, for his part, has been a very vocal figure since taking over as the chief of the press council. In a matter of months, he has gone from a virtual unknown to hitting the headlines every few weeks by attacking all and sundry. He has not even spared the people of the country at large, referring to Indians as “idiots, communal, etc.”. Despite the controversies that seem to follow Justice Katju’s statements, I think we need more visible, outspoken people. If anything, I would fault Justice Katju for not being even more outspoken. Even if one might agree with Justice Katju’s views on Mr. Modi, it is questionable as to why he chooses not to ever mention the attack on the Sikhs after the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi. Besides, an outspoken man of his stature has had little to say so far about the unrestrained corruption under the current government.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

It’s issues, not personalities, that should be our focus

With the 2014 elections not very far away, recent political developments of the two major parties in the country are worth looking into and pondering about. The Congress party gave its “yuvraj” a promotion. After accepting the promotion, Mr. Gandhi has gone back to where he is most comfortable – under the radar, away from the people, beyond the eyes of the media. There is little indication that this is likely to change anytime soon, and it appears that Mr. Gandhi wants to succeed his mother as the power behind the throne.

With the UPA government fighting a losing credibility battle, the Anna movement having fizzled out, and the Aam Aadmi Party’s future tied to its maiden polls in Delhi, the field is wide open for other entrants to grab the center stage. Narendra Modi seems to have expanded to fill this vacuum, armed with his 24×7 PR machinery, the strong backing of the industrial houses, and the blatant, appalling support of large sections of the media.

According to media reports and political and social commentators, Mr. Modi has more than a streak of authoritarianism in him. Even his ardent supporters admit that he rules Gujarat with an “iron hand.” Want to open a factory, no problem. The CM will quickly and single-handedly steamroll the environmentalists and displaced villagers into submission and lay out the red carpet, practically overnight. In his government, there are no number twos or threes. Everything is centralized and controlled by one man. This approach has clearly made the power rungs within the BJP nervous. Slowly but surely, many are starting to fall in line, lest they fall by the way side. They realize that it’s better not to stand in the way of the Modi juggernaut. If you can’t beat him, join him, seems to be the fast emerging rationale in the BJP ranks.

The fact is that with each passing day, an India beyond the Congress and the BJP is emerging, as is evident in the virtual absence of these parties in many states and the rise of regional parties. Under these circumstances, the odds of a leader with a pan-Indian appeal emerging is less likely. In light of this, the Rahul vs. Modi battle that is being played up by the media seems so out of tune with where the country is headed. Clearly, media, which can play an objective and constructive role in shaping the debate and educating the masses, is failing miserably. A perfect example is the recent needless euphoria in sections of the media over a speech by Narendra Modi at SRCC in Delhi. Thankfully, one major newspaper from down south didn’t bother to report on it. The editor, to his credit, tweeted, “We refuse to be part of the herd. Every story on our p1 was far more newsworthy than a speech by a CM to a Delhi college.”

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times