The best way to know the self is feeling oneself at the moments of reckoning. The feeling of being alone, just with your senses, may lead you to think more consciously. More and more of such moments may sensitize ‘you towards you’, towards others. We become regular with introspection and retrospection. We get ‘the’ gradual connect to the higher self we may name Spirituality or God or just a Humane Conscious. We tend to get a rhythm again in life. We need to learn the art of being lonely in crowd while being part of the crowd. A multitude of loneliness in mosaic of relations! One needs to feel it severally, with conscience, before making it a way of life. One needs to live several such lonely moments. One needs to live severallyalone.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

WHAT REJECTION OF SADHVI PRAGYA'S BAIL PLEA TELLS US..

That all those who claim that all is lost should go back and try to tweak their organs to see the realities!

And the realities are:

Both the good and the bad co-exist in our society - good people and bad people - good ideologies and bad ideologies - good objectives and bad objectives - good behaviours and bad behaviours - good language and bad language - and so on.

The good for the proponents of that 'good' may be 'bad' for others - and vice versa.

But they co-exist as long as someone or some of them doesn't/don't look and found breaching the norms of laws in our democratic society.

For many Sadhvi Pragya is a terrorist who should be put behind bars for her alleged roles in propagating terror activities in India.

For many, she is a crusader of Hinduism who did a brave job.

For many others, she is someone who was made a scapegoat and she had nothing to do with all the terror activities she has been alleged for.

Accordingly, there have been allegations and counter allegations on attempts to implicate or exonerate her in the cases involving the 2008 Malegaon terror strike case.

The political sides with their differing ideologies would always see and would want to see the event from their own respective perspectives.

So, some say that all has been lost and everything has been compromised - especially after the NIA removed her name from the supplementary chargesheet it filed in the case and removed the MCOCA charges on her.

Those with rival ideologies say nothing like that happened and law was taking its own course.

That is the normal diplomatic discourse in the our democratic country.

The good thing is -  the spirit of law is still maintained. Yes, corruption has afflicted all wings of our administrative institutions including the judiciary - but if curative and responsive hopes lie somewhere, it is our judiciary only - and it upheld that today - when it rejected Pragya Thakur's bail plea.

Let the law take its own course.

To continue..


©SantoshChaubey

ONLINE PIRACY THREATS: CATCH THEM WHERE THEY ARE!

If the DVD business is dying - due to increasing digital distribution, cloud storage and piracy - if the Box Office collection has to remain under the shadow of piracy threats – then why can't cinema be taken to more and more people – people who see the online access as the preferred reference point for their cinema-watching experience?

Why restrict cinema only to theatres?

Why can’t a movie be released simultaneously in theatres and on the internet?

Why can’t it be made available on cable television's on-demand services - the day it is released in theatres?

According to a recent Google India report, one in ten online searches on Google is cinema related. Movie junkies on the internet frantically search for downloadable links whenever a new film hits the theatres. The next stage is obviously about sharing the file and in no time the film is all across the internet.

Even China could not prevent images of Wukan protests from going viral on the Internet and therefore in the whole world. Wukan is a Chinese village that was the epicentre of the anti-corruption protests in 2011 and had seen months long police-villagers standoff. Villagers alleged that their land was taken from them by the government officials and they were not paid proper compensation.

Even Russia could not effectively censor political bloggers and activists like Alexei Navalny for writing against Vladimir Putin. The internet is a maze where monitoring content is a tiresome process with no guarantee of results.

If China and Russia cannot stop the internet sites from hosting the material that they do not want, how can we expect the same from filmmakers - even if they have formed specialized agencies for the purpose and regularly hire top ex-cops?

Then why can't it be used to advantage then? It is better to befriend an adversary whom you know you can never win.

Many people would come forward to pay for downloading a film on their smartphones or computers if they get the chance to have an authentic print with  on the same day the film is being released in the theatres. Many would jump to this prospect of getting a original BluRay or HD-DVD quality digital print - as everyone loves a hassle free cinema-watching experience.  

When filmmakers cannot stop online piracy, whatever they get by making their films simultaneously available on the internet platforms will only increase your revenue.

©SantoshChaubey

Monday, 27 June 2016

WHY MAURYA'S EXIT WOULDN'T IMPACT BSP'S SOCIAL ENGINEERING

Because the OBCs don't figure in this!

Though the opinion is divided on the possible impact of the exit of Swami Prasad Maurya, the OBC face of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on BSP's prospects, it is beyond any doubt that the prospects can prove detrimental.

It is further bolstered by the fact that Swami Prasad Maurya is yet to come clear on his future political plans.

On June 22, Swami Prasad Maurya, a BSP MLA and the Leader of Opposition of the party in the Uttar Pradesh assembly quit the BSP alleging Mayawati of being dictatorial and corrupt. He alleged that the OBC workers were being ignored in the BSP and Mayawati was indulged in open auctioning of the party tickets for the next assembly polls. Mayawati hit back and said Swami Prasad Maurya felt ‘suffocated’ in the BSP because she denied tickets to his son and daughter and that  she herself was soon to expel Maurya from the BSP.

Two senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leaders, Shivpal Yadav and Azam Khan, rushed to praise Swami Prasad Maurya soon after it. They said he was a good person and a respectable politician. Azam Khan went on to the extent to say that he wanted Maurya to join his party. Akhilesh Yadav, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, found him a popular leader.

But next day he became a 'mentally unsound' and lowly fellow when Maurya said that there was no question of joining the SP, a party of 'goondas and mafias'.  And it was the same Shivpal Yadav who described him with these words.

So Maurya is not joining the SP. He also met with the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and there are chances that he may find a place there as the BJP is trying to strengthen its OBC plank - with an OBC president and Narendra Modi himself being an OBC.

But it doesn't impact the BSP. If Maurya's move can at all be any threat, it will for the SP, the party UP's OBC voters traditionally have voted for.

Swami Prasad Maurya has been the BSP’s OBC face. He is an influential leader and can help strengthening the balance of the OBC votes in the favour of the BJP. The SP is trying to check the split in the OBC votes, an SP forte, in case of any threat presented by another influential OBC leader, Nitish Kumar, the Bihar chief minister, and his party JD(U).

Projections, surveys and political analyses have started predicting a lead to Mayawati’s BSP.

In a television opinion poll in March 2016, she was shown winning 185 seats in the 403 members UP assembly along with 31% vote share, while the SP was shown reduced to just 80 seats with 23% votes. The projection showed the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging as the second largest party with 120 seats and 24% votes.

Besides, Mayawati has also been cosying up with the Congress. Her decision to support Harish Rawat in the court monitored trust vote in the Uttarakhand assembly was a clear signal to the Muslim voters that she is against the BJP.

Her projected 31% vote share would make a formidable alliance when taken together with the Congress’s 12% that it got in the 2012 UP assembly polls.

That is more than enough for the party to sail through given the fact that the BJP swept UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls with a 42% vote share. The BJP along with its ally Apna Dal won 73 out of 80 UP Lok Sabha seats then.

Then there is another pillar of the BSP’s social engineering – the Brahmin votebank. Brahmins constitute around 13% of voters in the state and were an important factor in ensuring the BSP’s emphatic victory in the 2007 UP assembly polls.

These developments - coupled with the sky-high anti-incumbency against the Akhilesh Yadav government and a rock-bottom law and order scenario in the state - and with the BJP's insistence on the OBC votes (the BJP made an OBC state president in UP by removing a Brahmin) gives the BSP an ideal platform to exercise its social engineering experiment - like it had done in the 2007 assembly polls that had sent Mayawati to Lucknow's Secretariat with a complete majority in the UP assembly.

The Dalits constitute 20% of the state population and are seen loyal to Mayawati. They form a deadly alliance with the Muslims (18.5%) and the Brahmins (13%). That is a whopping 51.5% - more than enough to give the BSP an absolute majority.

And a Swami Prasad Maurya cannot do anything to hurt this prospect. Let's see how the UP politics rolls out further. Let's see if Mayawati can replicate her social engineering experiment of 2007 by building on the factors that again look in her favour.

©SantoshChaubey

Sunday, 26 June 2016

LOK SABHA TV V RAJYA SABHA TV: BJP AND CONGRESS IMPRINTS

The Rajya Sabha speaks in the voice of the Indian National Congress and the political opposition that see its ideological and political survival in BJP bashing.

That is the sole reason responsible for the logjam around important Bills like Land Acquisition, tax reform bills including the Goods and Services Tax Bill, the Whistleblowers Bill and so on.

Both the Houses define each other as tyrannical and anarchist - and the debate always rages.

And this skewed discourse is best reflected best in the content of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha television channels.

As the names suggest, the Lok Sabha TV comes under the control of the Lok Sabha Secretariat and the Rajya Sabha TV under the Rajya Sabha Secretariat.

The content and the manpower selection and retention are thus aligned accordingly.

Yesterday, while randomly changing channels – I came across a perfect testimony to this – on June 25, around 3 PM.


The Lok Sabha TV was showing a programme on Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, once a minister in the Jawahar Lal Nehru’s cabinet who quit the Congress due to his difference with Pundit Nehru and formed the Bhartiya Jana Sangh, the predecessor of the BJP.

Like him or like any other political figure or ideologue associated with the BJP or its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha (RSS), most in India would not see much of them on TV (especially on the state run TV channels). But they are now all over, especially on the state channels run by the government like the Doordarshan, India’s national broadcaster.

Likewise, on the Rajya Sabha TV, still under the control of the Rajya Sabha with its control gear in the hands of a Congress member, it still revolves around political, ideological and historical figures of the post-Independence India – like Pundit Nehru.

The Lok Sabha TV was showing a programme on the Zamindari Abolition Act with Pundit Nehru in focus.

The two programmes on these two channels – in the same time slot – on the same day – indicated only this – reaffirmed only this – though it may be an unrelated, random event.

©SantoshChaubey

Saturday, 25 June 2016

AKHILESH YADAV PREVAILS..FOR NOW!

Finally, the Samajwadi Party-Quami Ekta Dal merger is off – after Akhilesh Yadav, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister and the SP’s state president made his anger public today. He said he would always oppose entry of people like Mukhtar Ansari into the SP. He said that he had no involvement in this decision and he would always speak his mind wherever necessary.

On June 21, the Quami Ekta Dal (QED), the political party founded by Mukhtar Ansari, a notorious gangster and criminal-turned-politician who is presently lodged in jail, merged with the SP – in spite of the stiff opposition from Akhilesh Yadav. The merger was obviously to exploit Mukhtar Ansari’s appeal among the sections of Muslim voters who see him as some ‘Robin Hood’ figure.

So displeased was Akhilesh with the merger that he sacked his senior minister Balram Yadav, the mediator behind the merger deal, and cancelled his all official engagements of the day. Later, Shivpal who is said to have masterminded the deal along with Amar Singh, another recent SP re-inductee into the party, tried to pacify Akhilesh by saying that the deal had blessings of Mulayam. Balram Yadav, too, reiterated this claim. But it didn’t work.

BUT IT DOESN’T END HERE

Akhilesh Yadav, the 42 year old chief-minister of Uttar Pradesh from the SP, is a sulking man even though he prevailed today – amid the flurry of inductions into the party that Akhilesh is not comfortable with.

And he is facing a resurgent Shivpal Yadav, Akhilesh’s uncle and a senior UP minister, who is seen being not on good terms with Akhilesh ever since Mulayam promoted his son Akhilesh instead of him as the UP chief-ministerial face in 2011. He looks calling the shots in the party now – even if the QED merger deal has been called off.

Huge anti-incumbency against the Akhilesh Yadav government and a rock-bottom law and order scenario in the state are giving the SP nightmares on how to solve the 2017 assembly polls riddle.  Four years ago, when Uttar Pradesh had voted Akhilesh Yadav in, he seemed to have a force of his own  – a young face, fresh energy, a corruption-free vision – that effectively spoke to the voters – giving the SP 228 assembly seats in a House of 403. People saw that there was a person in the SP who could wash the taint of SP being a political party harbouring criminals.

After four years of Akhilesh Yadav’s in the Lucknow secretariat, all those hopes have gone. The force looks dissipated. Though there have been no allegations of individual corruption on Akhilesh, no one can deny that UP has parallel power centres run by Mulayam Singh Yadav, Shivpal Yadav and Azam khan – and Akhilesh is not in control. They all behave as if they are the chief ministers of the state.

It seems the top brass of the SP doesn’t believe anymore in the development credentials of the Akhilesh Yadav government to bring home the electoral victory when the state goes to polls the next year. And the top brass has its own way of doing politics – the old SP way – setting and basing everything on caste equations.

SETTING ‘THEIR’ PRIORITIES RIGHT

So, the SP is trying to check the split in the OBC votes, an SP forte, in case of any possible threat presented by another influential OBC leader, Nitish Kumar, the Bihar chief minister and his party JD(U) coupled with the BJP’s drive to rally the OBC votes by quoting Narendra Modi’s OBC credentials and by appointing an OBC, Keshav Prasad Maurya, as the state chief.

And the SP is trying to ensure that the Muslim voters remain loyal to it – the base of voters that, with the OBC votes, gave the SP a thumping victory in the 2012 Assembly polls.

Mukhtar Ansari is a minority face. The QED’s merger tells how desperate the SP is to attract the Muslim votes. There is a clear chance that Muslims will vote for Mayawati this time as they had done in 2007 that had given Mayawati a clear majority. The Muzaffarnagar riots, its aftermath and the Dadri lynching incidents have eroded the credibility base of the SP among the Muslims.

The SP top brass including Mulayam wants to win it back at any cost – even if it means antagonising Akhilesh. The failed QED merger with the SP to exploit Mukhtar Ansari’s appeal among the Muslim voters is just an example.

FIRST CLEAR INDICATIONS

When seen in the context of mergers and inductions in the party in the recent months, it tells us that the SP is not convinced with the winnability of Akhilesh.

The first clear indication to which way the wind was going to blow in the SP came in April 2016 when Mulayam made Shivpal incharge of the SP’s UP unit, a position that effectively makes him the election incharge for the next polls. The responsibility was given to Akhilesh in 2012. Though the reports said today that Akhilesh would look after the upcoming elections, there was no official word about it.

Next month, in May 2016, Amar Singh, an old SP hand and a Mulayam favourite, who was expelled from the party, and a person whom Akhilesh doesn’t like, was taken back in the SP fold. Amar Singh is seen as a master deal-broker in the political circles. The same month, another influential OBC leader and an old SP hand, Beni Prasad Verma, Mulayam’s friend-turned-foe, was re-inducted into the party after nine years. Both Amar Singh and Beni Prasad Verma are now Rajya Sabha members from the SP.

BSP’S STRIDES

Projections, surveys and political analyses have started predicting a lead to Mayawati’s BSP. In an opinion poll in March 2016, she was shown winning 185 seats in the 403 members UP assembly along with 31% vote share, while the SP was shown reduced to just 80 seats with 23% votes. The projection showed the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging as the second largest party with 120 seats and 24% votes.

Besides, Mayawati has also been cosying up with the Congress. Her decision to support Harish Rawat in the court monitored trust vote in the Uttarakhand assembly was a clear signal to the Muslim voters that she is against the BJP.

Her projected 31% vote share would make a formidable alliance when taken together with the Congress’s 12% that it got in the 2012 UP assembly polls.

That is more than enough for the party to sail through given the fact that the BJP swept UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls with a 42% vote share. The BJP along with its ally Apna Dal won 73 out of 80 UP Lok Sabha seats then.

Then there is another pillar of the BSP’s social engineering – the Brahmin votebank. Brahmins constitute around 13% of voters in the state and were an important factor in ensuring the BSP’s emphatic victory in the 2007 UP assembly polls.

BACK TO THE OLD SP SCHOOL

As a result, the party leadership, sans Akhilesh Yadav, has probably decided that it is now the tried and tasted way of identity politics ahead – an identity politics in UP that is riddled with caste and community equations that goes to any extent to appease voters – even if it means marching with dreaded gangsters like Mukhtar Ansari.

Before the 2012 assembly polls, the old monks of the SP top brass led by the SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav were all prepared to induct DP Yadav, a criminal-turned politician, into the party. But Akhilesh put his foot down declaring that since DP Yadav was a criminal, there was no place for him in his party.

If DP Yadav is a criminal whom Akhilesh Yadav cannot see in his party, Mukhtar Ansari is synonymous with terror. And even though Mukhtar’s brother Afzal Ansari said that the QED had nothing to do with Mukhtar, who is in jail in a murder case, no one was going to take it.

In and out of BSP, Mukhtar Ansari formed his own political outfit QED in 2010 after he was ousted from the BSP. He had almost won the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Varanasi. BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi could win only with a thin margin of 17000 votes in the last rounds of the counting. He won the 2012 UP assembly polls from the Mau constituency. And this all in spite of him being a dreaded criminal.

WINNABILITY IS THE PRIORITY

To remain in the race and to maintain its winnability prospects, the SP is trying to consolidate its traditional base of voters – OBCs and Muslims – and the way to do that is – ‘making deals and poaching personalities’ – no matter what.

And all these have blessings of Mulayam Singh Yadav – even if Akhilesh doesn’t like Mukhtar Ansari or Amar Singh. Beni Prasad Verma and Mukhtar Ansari are influential caste leaders and they can effectively swing votes. And Amar Singh is a strategic taskmaster expert in political deals.

The SP needs such faces more than ever as it seems Akhilesh Yadav is no more a face for them who alone can win the next assembly polls for the party.

©SantoshChaubey

Friday, 24 June 2016

NSG DIDN'T COME INDIA'S WAY..AND IT WAS EXPECTED.

NSG didn't come India's way - and it was expected.

It is not at all a diplomatic failure. It worked where Narendra Modi has been burning his midnight oil - in strengthening relations with major powers like the US, the UK, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Japan, and so on - and all of them supported India's bid. In fact, the US vehemently pushed for it.

It was the NSG's 26th plenary and there will obviously be the 27th one. India's NSG membership issue has been on the table for quite some time though India formally applied for it on May 12 only - something that set in motion a formal process. And mind you there was no direct no.

The members, in fact, agreed for more discussion on the issue and decided to lay down criteria for inducting the non-NPT members - the sole point of contention behind China's 'no to India' attitude. That, in fact, is a win for India.

The gain that India got could be gauged from the fact that a special session was organized the last night to discuss India's NSG membership request only even if China had said initially that 'India's membership' was not on the agenda.

In Fact, barring seven countries (some reports say 10) - China, Brazil, New Zealand, Austria, Ireland, Turkey and Switzerland - all other countries in the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) supported India's entry into the grouping that represents major nuclear trading nations of the world.

More or less, this was the same block of the countries which was opposed to any exemption to India in 2008. Like this time, China was the major roadblock even then. And the sceptics were - Austria, New Zealand, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway, and the Netherlands. The NSG used to be a 45-nation bloc then.

The India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Deal or the 123 Agreement signed in July 2008 came after some intense negotiations before the NSG allowed exemptions to India - after a pledge by Pranab Mukherjee that India would not carry anymore nuclear tests. The NSG exemptions allowed countries to do nuclear trading with India - lifting provisions of the NSG and other export control regimes.

It made possible the 2008 India-US deal and paved way for further such agreements. Today, India has bilateral nuclear trading relations with France, the UK, Australia, Canada, Russia, Kazakhstan and some other countries. And the list is expected to grow as India is poised to grow - as Indian market needs an ever increasing scale of energy consumption for its growing economy that is slated to be in the world top three. And that means good business for everyone.

Yes, it is some worthwhile food for thought for another line of discussion that how Narendra Modi's government committed another Image Management hara-kiri by blowing the incident over the top - as if it was the grand finale and India was going to get a grand entry in the NSG - reaffirming again that 'Narendra Modi' is the best thing to happen to India.

It was better as 'India's NSG push'. The government shouldn't have allowed it to get 'India's NSG bid' perception.

©SantoshChaubey

Thursday, 23 June 2016

AKHILESH YADAV NO MORE A WINNING FACE FOR THE SP?

One can easily read this writing on the wall going by the developments in the recent months.

A  sulking Akhilesh Yadav, the 42 year old chief-minister of Uttar Pradesh from the Samajwadi Party (SP) - amid the flurry of inductions into the party that Akhilesh is not comfortable with!

And a resurgent Shivpal Yadav, Akhilesh's uncle and a senior UP minister, who is seen not on good terms with Akhilesh ever since Mulayam promoted his son Akhilesh instead of him as the UP chief-ministerial face in 2011 - looks calling the shots in  the party now!  

On June 22, Swami Prasad Maurya, a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA and the Leader of Opposition of the party in the Uttar Pradesh assembly quit the BSP alleging Mayawati of being dictatorial and corrupt. He alleged that the OBC workers are ignored in the BSP and Mayawati is openly auctioning party tickets for the next assembly polls. Mayawati hit back and said Swami Prasad Maurya felt ‘suffocated’ in the BSP because she denied tickets to his son and daughter and that  she herself was soon to expel Maurya from the BSP.

Yes, these types of ‘ins and outs’ from every political party are expected to pace up as the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls approach near. The UP assembly is completing its term in May 2017.

But what makes Maurya’s move significant and indicative of the SP’s old wing taking control of the things is the fact that the top SP leadership rushed to praise Swami Prasad Maurya soon after the BSP LoP quit his party. They said he was a good person and a respectable politician. Azam Khan went on to the extent to say that he wanted Maurya to join his party. It says a lot that who would have curated the move then. Later in the day, Swami met with Azam Khan and Shivpal Yadav and it is expected that he will be inducted as a cabinet minister in the scheduled expansion of Akhilesh’s cabinet on June 27. Akhilesh was not so quick to react on the development though Akhilesh praised Maurya today.

Swami Prasad Maurya has been the BSP’s OBC face. He is an influential leader and can help maintaining the balance of the OBC votes in the favour of the SP which is trying to check the split in the OBC votes, an SP forte, in case of any threat presented by another influential OBC leader, Nitish Kumar, the Bihar chief minister, and his party JD(U). So Akhilesh should welcome the move - as he was seen doing today.

But when seen in the context of other mergers and inductions in the party in the recent months, it tells us that the SP is now not at all convinced with the winnability of Akhilesh Yadav when the state goes to the polls next year.

Projections, surveys and political analyses have started predicting a lead to Mayawati’s BSP. In a television opinion poll in March 2016, she was shown winning 185 seats in the 403 members UP assembly along with 31% vote share, while the SP was shown reduced to just 80 seats with 23% votes. The projection showed the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging as the second largest party with 120 seats and 24% votes.

Besides, Mayawati has also been cosying up with the Congress. Her decision to support Harish Rawat in the court monitored trust vote in the Uttarakhand assembly was a clear signal to the Muslim voters that she is against the BJP.

Her projected 31% vote share would make a formidable alliance when taken together with the Congress’s 12% that it got in the 2012 UP assembly polls.

That is more than enough for the party to sail through given the fact that the BJP swept UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls with a 42% vote share. The BJP along with its ally Apna Dal won 73 out of 80 UP Lok Sabha seats then.

Then there is another pillar of the BSP’s social engineering – the Brahmin votebank. Brahmins constitute around 13% of voters in the state and were an important factor in ensuring the BSP’s emphatic victory in the 2007 UP assembly polls.

These developments - coupled with the sky-high anti-incumbency against the Akhilesh Yadav government and a rock-bottom law and order scenario in the state, are giving the SP nightmares on how to solve the 2017 assembly polls riddle.

As a result, the party leadership, sans Akhilesh Yadav, has probably decided that it is now the tried and tasted way of identity politics ahead – an identity politics in UP that is riddled with caste and community equations that goes to any extent to appease voters – even if it means marching with dreaded gangsters like Mukhtar Ansari.

Before the 2012 assembly polls, the old monks of the SP top brass led by the SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav were all prepared to induct DP Yadav, a criminal-turned politician, into the party. But Akhilesh put his foot down declaring that since DP Yadav was a criminal, there was no place for him in his party. Akhilesh seemed to have a force of his own then – a young face, fresh energy, a corruption-free vision – that effectively spoke to voters – giving the SP 228 assembly seats in the poll. People saw that there was a person in the SP who could wash the taint of SP being a political party harbouring criminals.

After four years of Akhilesh Yadav’s in the Lucknow secretariat, all those hopes have gone. The force looks dissipated. Though there have been no allegations of individual corruption on Akhilesh, no one can deny that UP has parallel power centres run by Mulayam Singh Yadav, Shivpal Yadav and Azam khan – and Akhilesh is not in control. They all behave as if they are the chief ministers of the state. And they have their own way to do politics – the old SP way - setting and basing everything on caste equations.

We all saw the most visible testimony to this when on June 21, the Quami Ekta Dal (QED), the political party founded by Mukhtar Ansari, a notorious gangste and criminal-turned-politician, merged with the SP – in spite of the stiff opposition from Akhilesh Yadav. So displeased was Akhilesh with the merger that he sacked his senior minister Balram Yadav, the mediator behind the merger deal, and cancelled his all official engagements of the day. Later, Shivpal who is said to have masterminded the deal along with Amar Singh, another recent SP re-inductee into the party, tried to pacify Akhilesh by saying that the deal had blessings of Mulayam. Balram Yadav, too, reiterated this claim.

If DP Yadav is a criminal whom Akhilesh Yadav cannot see in his party, Mukhtar Ansari is synonymous with terror. And even though Mukhtar’s brother Afzal Ansari said that the QED had nothing to do with Mukhtar, who is in jail in a murder case, no one is going to take it. Now it is upto Akhilesh that how he justifies it to the electorate.

In and out of BSP, Mukhtar Ansari formed his own political outfit QED in 2010 after he was ousted from the BSP. He had almost won the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Varanasi. BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi could win only with a thin margin of 17000 votes in the last rounds of the counting. He won the 2012 UP assembly polls from the Mau constituency. And this all in spite of him being a dreaded criminal.

Mukhtar Ansari is a minority face. The QED’s merger tells how desperate the SP is to attract the Muslim votebank – the votebank that supported it in the 2012 assembly polls. Now there is a clear chance that Muslims will again vote for Mayawati. The Muzaffarnagar riots, its aftermath and the Dadri lynching incidents have eroded the credibility base of the SP among the Muslims.

And the SP top brass including Mulayam wants to win back it at any cost – even if it means antagonising Akhilesh! The QED has been merged with the SP to exploit Mukhtar Ansari’s appeal among the Muslim voters who see him as some ‘Robin Hood’ figure.

The first clear indication to which way the wind was going to blow in the SP came in April 2016 when Mulayam made Shivpal incharge of the SP’s UP unit, a position that effectively makes him the election incharge for the next polls. The responsibility was given to Akhilesh in 2012.

Next month, in May 2016, Amar Singh, an old SP hand and a Mulayam favourite, who was expelled from the party, and a person whom Akhilesh doesn’t like, was taken back in the SP fold. Amar Singh is seen as a master deal-broker in the political circles. The same month, another influential OBC leader and an old SP hand, Beni Prasad Verma, Mulayam’s friend-turned-foe, was re-inducted into the party after nine years. Both Amar Singh and Beni Prasad Verma are now Rajya Sabha members from the SP.

To remain in the race and to maintain its winnability prospects, the SP is trying to consolidate its traditional votebanks – OBCs and Muslims – and the way to do that is - 'making deals and poaching personalities' - no matter what.

And all these have blessings of Mulayam Singh Yadav – even if Akhilesh doesn’t like Mukhtar Ansari or Amar Singh. Beni Prasad Verma, Swami Prasad Maurya and Mukhtar Ansari are influential caste leaders and they can effectively swing votes. And Amar Singh is a strategic taskmaster expert in political deals. The SP needs them more than ever as Akhilesh Yadav is no more a face for them who can win the next assembly polls for the party.

©SantoshChaubey

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

YESTERDAY MUKHTAR, TODAY SWAMI PRASAD MAURYA: WHAT DOES IT SAY?

Yesterday, it was Mukhtar Ansari's Quami Ekta Dal.

Today, it is BSP's Swami Prasad Maurya.

Quami Ekta Dal doesn't exist anymore. Swami Prasad Maurya is not in BSP anymore.

In and out of BSP, Mukhtar Ansari formed his own political outfit Quami Ekta Dal in 2010 after he was ousted from BSP. He is in Agra Central Jail for the murder of BJP leader Krishnanad Rai. He had almost won the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Varanasi. BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi could win only with a thin margin of 17000 votes. He is a dreaded gangster-turned politician. 

Yesterday his political party of 2 MLAs, QED, merged with SP. 

Going by the reputation that CM Akhilesh Yadav had built by saying no to another gangster-turned politician DP Yadav before the 2012 assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, it was least expected, if not totally unexpected.

But it has happened, even if a miffed Akhilesh has expelled the leader behind this merger, Balram Yadav, from the party - even if it contradicts personal projections of Akhilesh Yadav - only months before the next assembly polls.

And today when senior SP leaders including Azam Khan and Shivpal Yadav praised Swami Prasad Maurya after his exit from BSP, it became clear that the realization has dawned in the party that all is not well and it is facing a bleak future. 

Maurya's act, fueled by SP overtures, is another testimony to the fact that SP is staring at the possibility of an electoral defeat in the assembly polls next year after surveys have stated projecting a BSP win - given the high anti-incumbency against the Akhilesh Yadav government and the worsening law and order situation in UP.

Seeing this, senior leaders and old monks of SP have started coming together to try everything else - other than development - setting caste and community equations before all - something that has long been a hallmark of SP politics (and UP politics) - to appeasement votebanks.

Mukhtar Ansari has been taken in for the minority (Muslim) votebank. Swami Prasad Maurya, the Leader of Opposition in the UP assembly till today, is seen as an influential OBC leader. Another influential OBC (Kurmi caste) leader and a party hopper, Beni Prasad Verma, is already back in SP fold and has been rewarded with a Rajya Sabha seat. 

And it seems just the beginning. To set caste equations straight, SP may go scouting for parties and leaders with influence in different votebanks, irrespective of their political history and criminal background. 

Or Akhilesh Yadav is going to do some more 'no to DP Yadav' acts like the last time?

©SantoshChaubey

DEATH IS A WAY OF LIFE IN VARANASI

What is it about dying in Varanasi (or Banaras or Kashi – the other names this eternal city is known as)?

Death is an event in life that though sums up everything for a life, leaves a lifetime of thoughts and afterthoughts for others who are associated with the departed. It leaves a void that remains there, throughout. The pain, that is unbearable initially, becomes a way of life with time.

That is what happens with death in every normal human life – even for people of this eternal city – one of the oldest living places – a living mix of spirituality, religion and a living weaved around that.

But for people from this eternal city who care to go beyond their routine to know what Varanasi stands for, what Kashi means and why it pulls everyone from across the globe who look for ‘questions into life and death’, death brings more meanings about it than they already know.

For me, it has always been a captivating mystery. Apart from my roots in Varanasi, the city’s mysticism weaved around death is another major reason that pulls me to this city.

It is said a life threatening horrible experience changes fundamentally your outlook towards it. That also holds true for a life-defining liberating experience – an experience that you have while sitting at the steps of its round the clock burning ghats – of life’s realities and illusions – of life’s purpose and a retrospective into that – something that has been a regular event in my life while I was growing up – and now whenever I go there. While sitting there, it is an observational learning that you spontaneously internalize.

For many, death is a way of life in Varanasi. It supports many families. The business of death sustains lives here. And it has continued for generations.

For many, it is the spiritual realisation that shows them the way ahead – clearing the clouds of ambiguities and dichotomies.

Death is something that makes one free of all bonds, a point where materialism goes into oblivion, even for a moment. It evokes spiritual vibes naturally then.

Varanasi has seen generations built around this tradition. The city has been flowing the way history has been written but has been able to sustain the course of spiritual discourse that pertains to the questions of life, ways of living and ethos of existentialism.

For all Banarasis and many outside the city, dying here, in this city of Lord Shiva, is the ultimate nirvana, a freedom from the cycle of rebirth, the Moksha, the core of Hinduism/Vedanta philosophy.

For Banarasi folks like me and visitors/tourists/pilgrims, the Lord Shiva, Ganga and death association (The Holy Trinity of Hinduism) with the city and its addresses, especially the Varanasi ghats, including its two eternal cremation ghats, Manikarnika and Harishchandra, are a must visit. Many visitors of the city, in fact, make it a point to spend quality time at these two places while the ordinary Banarasi has countless strolls of them in his lifetime.

For thinking folks, it leaves an indelible impression.

And that imprints an equally indelible reality of death – the only certain event of life.

Sitting at these two ghats makes you feel ‘not low’ but poignant about life’s uncertainty and its only defined fate – death. One can see through layers of illusions. The introspection and retrospection here, in those moments, are most objective that one can have.

And it all happens wrapped in the fundamental tenet of living – what lies beyond and what goes with you. One doesn’t need to be a sage to ponder over these aspects. The atmosphere there begins the thought process in you.

Visiting Varanasi looking for questions of life or spending time at its round the clock working crematoria doesn’t change the way you live but its changes fundamentally the way you think – that how to sift reality from the countless illusions your soul is trapped into.

That is what the city has taught me so far.

©SantoshChaubey

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

HOW WILL DELHI-VARANASI BULLET TRAIN WILL CHANGE MY LIFE?

Please don’t get into debates on ‘why call every high speed train a ‘bullet train’’. We love to call (proverbially) every wrestler (or bodybuilder) Dara Singh or Gama Pahalvan – every racer (or someone who walks too fast) Milkha Singh. For a long time, each vegetable ghee brand used to be ‘Dalda’ for us and every noodle ‘Maggi’, every soya nugget brand Nutrela and every fairness cream ‘Fair & Lovely’.

Likewise, every high speed train came to be called a ‘bullet train’ – the English nickname of the high speed Japanese trains Shinkansen – the world pioneers in the category. And it is said so the world over – even if we have seen other high speed rail services in different countries – like French TGV or German ICE or American Amtrak and so on.

I believe calling many names by some ‘name’ is in our genes and is not country specific – a simple principle of brand visibility – that every brand aspires to master.

So, how will a Delhi-Varanasi bullet train change my life?

I am born and brought up in Varanasi and I love my city. I am in Delhi for the last ten years but Varanasi is my priority to settle down.

So what if it is among the most polluted and dirtiest cities in India! So what if you find its roads stuffed with filth in many areas! So what if civic amenities are virtually non-existent!

If we have no reasons to believe in Narendra Modi’s words, we don’t have reasons to doubt his intentions either.

So what if the work to make Varanasi Kyoto, the Japanese temple town and a global standard in maintaining heritage with modernity, is yet to begin!

So what if Varanasi is still the same Varanasi that it was when it had elected Narendra Modi as its parliamentary representative in 2014!

At least his words have flown with all their might and I believe the day will come soon that will bring ‘Achhe Din (good days)’ for Varanasi – and all its residents like me!

Now with a feather in the cap – with this proposed bullet train corridor from Delhi to Kolkata that will take a part of it – the Delhi-Varanasi corridor on priority!

Like ‘bullet’ is used with anything that moves at a very high speed, I believe the Delhi-Varanasi bullet train will graduate me to a fast paced life. It will do so by removing the most pressing problem on my mind – of finding and maintaining a rented accommodation in the megacity Delhi that is getting expensive every passing year – burning a deep hole in your pocket. Add to that the annual 10% raise the house-owners put in the rent-deed. And above all, even complying with all the demands (and whims) of the landlord, you are never sure that your house-lease will be extended next year. When this is the situation of a borrowed life in a rented accommodation, one can easily imagine how expensive it is to buy a house in Delhi.

The Delhi-Varanasi bullet train will solve this life-threatening problem in one go. It will help me to go back to my home town without affecting my livelihood options in Delhi. I will again stay in a big-enough house that is my own – while commuting to Delhi daily. I have a good sized house back in my home town that is many times of my rented, squeezed in apartment in Delhi. And I will be making some very smart and much needed savings. After all, maintaining a good lifestyle in Delhi, and that too in a rented accommodation, leaves you high and dry many times.

The proposed travel time of 2 hours and 40 minutes from Varanasi to Delhi is something that you can easily make your routine every morning and evening. The nightmarish traffic of Delhi and NCR takes around similar time and when the distance is long, like from East Delhi to Gurgaon or Noida to Gurgaon or Ghaziabad to Faridabad, it can easily take around 2 to 3 hours for a one side trip.

So 2 hours and 40 minutes sounds quite good. In fact it can be a good time to have some ‘hours’ of power nap. Being a bullet train, obviously, it will be expensive enough for most people to afford. The Chinese high speed rail experience, with the longest high speed network in the world now, says that most high speed trains run with empty coaches there due to the high fare structure.

I can afford it when I see this in the context of the high cost of living and maintaining a lifestyle in Delhi. I believe a share of that can easily suffice my monthly travel expense by the proposed Delhi-Varanasi bullet train. I firmly believe that the opportunity cost will be favorably tilted in my favour. Then there is always this ‘very real’ probability that this travel time will come down further. The high speed trains have achieved a speed of over 400 km/hour in test runs and Delhi-Varanasi rail corridor is just within 800 kms.

Once I internalize the proposed travel time initially – I need so because my current daily commuting time to my office is around 1 hour and 30 minutes (to and fro) – it is then raining benefits from all the sides.

I will be able to stay in my home city where my family and other relatives are. One doesn’t need to explain how important and mentally healthy it is for you to spend time daily with family – that how important it is to regularly meet your neighbours and relatives. I will get home cooked food daily. I will have weekends full of family and fun time. I am sure the ‘quality of life’ will have ‘very real’ connotations for me then than now.

And above all, I will have company of good vibes – driven by the ‘high and mighty’ promises that Narendra Modi has made for Varanasi. There is always this wait that when Varanasi is going to be next Kyoto for the world – that when will it get dirt and filth free – that when will it become the spiritual capital of the world (and not just India) – and accordingly would get aptly suited civic amenities and infrastructure including a swanky new airport and the proposed Varanasi metro train line that passes through my house – and so on.

Someone has said ‘hope is probably the best thing to happen to a person’ and I thank Narendra Modi to give me another reason to hope for ‘Varanasi’s Achhe Din’.

I thank Narendra Modi for the good time that I will have while waiting for the ‘hopes of Varanasi’s Achhe Din’ and for a life with positive changes.

©SantoshChaubey