Threat to EC observers
Punjab and the Indian Army
Of crockery, cutlery and table manners
The joy and pain
The defeat of Mr Nara Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections does not come as a surprise. While the TDP-BJP alliance has managed to win only 49 seats in the 294-member Assembly, the Congress and its allies have secured a three-fourth majority by capturing 226 seats. The landslide victory of the Congress suggests that it was riding high on anti-incumbency and a string of populist promises, coupled with the Telangana factor. When the State Assembly was dissolved last November, the Congress was hardly in a position to face the electorate. It was the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) which, with its emotive demand for a separate Telangana state, provided the much-needed thrust to the Congress to take on the TDP. The magnitude of the defeat was so severe that the TDP could not perform well even in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, its strongholds. The reasons for the TDP’s defeat are many. There was general disillusionment with the Naidu government for its failure to provide assured power supply and water for irrigation. Whatever development that the state had witnessed in the last five or six years was mostly confined to Hyderabad and some other major cities. Andhra Pradesh has surpassed other states in the number of suicides committed by farmers. But then, one cannot put the blame entirely on Mr Naidu. Four consecutive years of drought proved too costly for the TDP. Few will disagree with Mr Naidu’s statement on Tuesday that he had “worked hard” to make Andhra Pradesh “a model state”. Surely, he has created a niche for the state in information technology and e-governance. Adept in micro-management, he has introduced many path-breaking administrative reforms. His government’s “Vision 2020” is said to be a blueprint for all modern federal governments. He got huge loans from the World Bank through the Structural Adjustment Programme and maximum assistance from the Centre. Despite all this, there is an impression that Mr Naidu was out of touch with the ground reality. He missed a hat-trick because the voters were more concerned about their power supply and drinking water needs than his plans to put Andhra Pradesh on a fast track.
The reasons for the TDP’s defeat are many. There was general disillusionment with the Naidu government for its failure to provide assured power supply and water for irrigation. Whatever development that the state had witnessed in the last five or six years was mostly confined to Hyderabad and some other major cities. Andhra Pradesh has surpassed other states in the number of suicides committed by farmers. But then, one cannot put the blame entirely on Mr Naidu. Four consecutive years of drought proved too costly for the TDP.
Few will disagree with Mr Naidu’s statement on Tuesday that he had “worked hard” to make Andhra Pradesh “a model state”. Surely, he has created a niche for the state in information technology and e-governance. Adept in micro-management, he has introduced many path-breaking administrative reforms. His government’s “Vision 2020” is said to be a blueprint for all modern federal governments. He got huge loans from the World Bank through the Structural Adjustment Programme and maximum assistance from the Centre. Despite all this, there is an impression that Mr Naidu was out of touch with the ground reality. He missed a hat-trick because the voters were more concerned about their power supply and drinking water needs than his plans to put Andhra Pradesh on a fast track.
Much that can vitiate an election was in full flow during the April 26 polling in the Chhapra constituency: violence, poll rigging, booth capturing and terrorisation of voters. As such, it is in the fitness of things that the election has been countermanded and is to be held again on May 31. Whatever Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav, the RJD candidate from the constituency, may say, it was an outright attempt of hijacking the electoral process. The Election Commission has had to censure returning officers and other officials, besides admitting that security arrangements on the voting day were grossly inadequate. While Mr Yadav is needlessly accusing the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of influencing the Election Commission, it is a fact that bogus voting has taken place at many other places in the country on a large scale. The Tribune and other newspapers have carried detailed reports exposing this malpractice in several states. That clearly shows that despite the introduction of electronic voting machines, professional "vote catchers" have been at it regardless. The use of EVMs slows down the process of casting fake votes but does not stop it.
What is most alarming is the complicity of poll personnel in the rigging. Without their connivance, rigging just cannot take place on such a massive scale. Whether they allowed this on account of fear or favour, they made a mockery of elections. It is this aspect which the Election Commission must tackle on top priority. Whether an advertisement on radio or TV or a road sign extolling the virtues of one leader or the other can influence the poll outcome is a matter of conjecture. But poll personnel turning a blind eye to bogus voting definitely do. Unless some guilty persons get exemplary punishment, the practice is bound to proliferate.
Threat to EC observers
The Election Commission’s FIR against the Left Front Chairman and CPM Politburo member, Mr Biman Bose, cannot be faulted because no one should be allowed to cause hindrance in the work of poll observers in ensuring free and fair elections. Mr Bose is reported to have said that people would drag the observers by their collars to the nearest police station should they “exceed their brief” on Monday, the polling day. This is illegal and unbecoming of the high party office that he holds. This also amounts to interfering with the functioning of the observers. By issuing such a provocative statement, Mr Bose was trying to incite his party cadres to prevent the observers from performing their duty and vitiate the electoral process. The Trinamool Congress and the BJP have brought this to the notice of the commission and demanded action against Mr Bose.
The problem with the Left Front leaders is that most of them incite their party cadres to take the law into their own hands, little realising that, as the party in power, they have greater responsibility to help the Election Commission conduct free and fair elections. The observers say that they are unable to work freely and independently due to the lack of adequate protection. This is too serious a charge against the government to be viewed lightly. It should tighten the security for the observers and extend all possible cooperation to them till the completion of the poll process.
The Election Commission is a constitutional body. If political parties impute motives on the conduct of poll observers, will it not amount to vitiating the electoral process? Mr Bose complains that the observers were supporting the Trinamool Congress and the BJP in the campaigning against the CPM. If this was true, he should have brought it to the attention of the Election Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer of the state instead of inciting the CPM cadres to attack the observers which is illegal.
Punjab and the Indian Army
As far as I know, “The Indian Army and the Making of Punjab” by Rajit K. Mazumder is the first book of its kind. It gives a connected and comprehensive account of the Punjabisation of the Indian Army and the impact that it had on the making of Punjab. It came out only a few months ago and has been published by one of the more innovative publishers.
In a sense, most of what the book says is known. What it, however, does is to quote chapter and verse in support of the argument which the author builds up. That the scale of operations was really large should be clear from some of the figures which he quotes. In 1857, there were 30,000 Punjabis in the Indian Army. By June 1858, a year later, the strength had risen to 80,000 troops. Of them, 75,000 were Punjabis; the Sikhs alone numbered 23,000.
One explanation is well known. During the Mutiny, the Sikhs had helped the British and, therefore, the British rulers decided to involve them more and more in their scheme of things. In world War-I, 56 per cent of the combatants were Punjabis and the Sikhs constituted 26 per cent out of them. The entire book is loaded with figures of all kinds. I have seldom come across a book which gives facts and figures in such an abundant and convincing manner. As a study of the problem, therefore, nothing has been left to chance and the author has done a first-rate job!
Without going into further details, one thing that kept on bothering me all the time when I was reading it was: why did not even one academic in any of the Punjab universities come forward and do this kind of analysis? In my opinion, this issue cannot be pushed under the carpet as some defenders of the academic establishment would like to be done.
Foreign scholars are writing about India all the time and now even non-Punjabis find Punjab a comparatively neglected area of study and venture into it. There is no clear answer to this question, therefore, except the obvious one that, over the decades, Punjab has allowed its universities to degenerate into dens of mediocrity. It goes without saying that the tradition of research in Punjab’s universities, particularly in the humanities and the social sciences, is weak or absent or both. Whatever be the truth, it is a matter of serious concern, most of all for those who deal with policy making.
In the course of the book, the author has given a brief history of the Indian Army, the post-1857 repression, the Russian threat, and the “martial race” theory. Most of it would fall under the heading of the administrative and policy assumptions on the basis of which the Indian Army was reorganised and how the Punjabi share began to grow. Lord Roberts, for example, with his widely known book, “Forty-one Years in India,” preferred Gorkhas, Sikhs, Dogras and select Muslims to constitute the bulk of the army and made no secret of his views.
Since the Russian threat was also a factor, the British were smart enough to build the Grand Trunk Road as soon as they captured power in Punjab. They got down to this job immediately after the annexation in 1849. To be precise, the road to Peshawar had been completed by 1853; that is to say, four years after the annexation of Punjab and four years before the Mutiny. Meanwhile, the telegraph lines had also been laid and both these technical innovations played a notable role in the way the British organised a counter-attack on Delhi.
Without going into further details, two additional things may be said. One is that beginning with the eighties of the 19th century and till World War-I, the entire revenue expenditure on the army in India was approximately 50 per cent of the total outlay and a good deal of it was spent in Punjab. Secondly, in 1971, to quote the author again, the Northwestern Railway constituted 23 per cent of the total railway system in India. In the preceding half a century, the capital expenditure on the railways had increased by 7-800 per cent. All this data is given in the book and it is to the credit of the author that he has done a thorough and masterly job.
The issue before the author was: What impact did the Punjabisation of the Indian Army have on the making of Punjab? The brief answer to it is that 50 per cent of the total “effective” expenditure by the Government of India was on the soldiers’ pay. This in turn leads him to analyse the impact of the changing food habits, the growth of domestic facilities and various other things which go with an increased income. The commercialisation of Punjab’s agriculture, which took place unmistakably during these years, was a part of what was happening.
A question which the author poses is: How was the thinking of people in Punjab affected by what was happening? This in turn leads him to go into the details of army recruitment, the preferential employment given to them and, above all, the preventive legislation that was adopted even when, in certain cases, the local government had to be overruled. This happened in the early 20th century.
As most students of Punjab would recall, the early years of the 20th century in Punjab were somewhat disturbed. There was a spurt of agitation in which Lala Lajpat Rai and Sardar Kishan Singh (father of Bhagat Singh) figured prominently. Before that, the Land Alienation Act had been adopted in 1901. This Act gave extraordinary protection to the land-owners. Indeed, it was so extraordinary that when the same system was sought to be applied to other states in the country — Maharashtra, for example — it could not be done. The local complications were much too many and the attempt was given up.
The state of Punjab, however, was a different proposition. It was a favourite of the British rulers. To quote the author again, the amount of pension distributed in Amritsar district about the time the Jalianwala Bagh incident took place was approximately two-thirds of the revenue raised from there.
In return, those who joined the army gave ample evidence of their loyalty so much so that, in the decade of the twenties, when soldiers had been demobbed, the prices were rising and the epidemic of influenza had taken a heavy toll, the bulk of the peasantry still remained loyal to the Raj. Without going into further detail, the author sums it up by saying that the “Punjabisation of India had restrained colonialism and restricted nationalism.”
These two propositions are illustrated in detail by the manner in which provincial diarchy was introduced in the early twenties and the Unionist Party emerged as a dominant political force. As a matter of fact, this very party continued to be in power till early 1947, a few months before Partition took place.
It was none of the job of the author to go into the causes of Partition or any such thing. But it seems the author, more or less, stops short in his analysis of Punjab by the early 20th century and does not cover the decades of the thirties and the forties. While it is possible to defend this kind of summary treatment given to the last two decades of the Raj as being somewhat logical, the book might have gained in the depth of its analysis had these two decades been also covered. It should not be forgotten that the Sikhs, once awakened and organised, became a political force after 1925 and moved away from the Raj to no small extent.
Of crockery, cutlery and table manners
I can never forget the day when our adjutant (one of the former princes himself) delivered a historic hands-on lecture-cum-demonstration on table manners good three and a half decades ago at Mt. Abu. After giving out an exhausting handout on table manners he sat down himself at the head of the table to give us an initiation into formal eating which he described as a euphemism for ‘systematic starvation’. Compared to the usual informal devouring that you did on other days there was the dreadful mess night when you wore a stiff button-up formal dining attire and carried out a drama of affectation. You breathed a sigh of relief when it all come to an end after an hour or so of excruciating drill. It was what we called “a Sermon on Mt. Abu”, which strangely enough ended with a toast to the President.
The litany ran: “While sitting down on a table you never dragged your chair”, but “lifted it”. If there was a “lady by your side you had to pull her chair back before you sat down yourself”. Same ritual was to be followed at the conclusion of the charade. A mixture of the opposite sexes was to be regularly interspersed in the seating arrangement. The table talk had to be “light, polite, almost inaudible” instead of a babel of tongues. The sound of the interplay of cutlery was supposed to be louder than the humming of conversation. It had to be above all a “decent conversation”...so on and so forth.
We had to take the family of cutlery too seriously. There was the important commandment of not lifting the knife above the plate. It was the fork which carried the food to the mouth. The knife was supposed to cut the larger portions into smaller morsels and was not meant to escort food to the mouth. Some of us who daringly carried the food on the knife earlier had to do a precarious balancing act totally oblivious of the affront to table manners. Additionally, there was a fear of cutting your tongue.
One often wondered why a person with reasonably agile fingers could not do a neater and safer job of eating the Indian way. But perhaps that was not to be. That was not a part of the training. I wish someday our academies will teach us how to eat better — Indian style.
We were demonstrated how a fish knife was different from a meat cutting knife, how a fruit knife was different from a butter knife. The difference between a dessert spoon, a soup spoon and a teaspoon was as vital as it was between a full plate, a half plate, a quarter plate and a saucer!
When it came down to glasses the differences were more mystifying — we often confused one with the other when the mixed family for imbibing whiskey, gin, brandy, cocktails, wine and champagne all found place on the same shelf. It was amazing to note that the bulbous brandy glasses were the largest in rotundity as one was supposed to warm the contents of the glass with the heat of one’s own hand. The smaller brand of liqueur glasses had their own place in the scheme of things.
With beer you could not afford to be moderate — the beer tankards or tumblers had to absorb at least half a bottle in one go! That explains the beer belly that some of us developed over the years. We often wondered why we did not follow a similar mumbo-jumbo when it came down to eating or drinking Indian
Till the other day, he was the toast of the national media with his image of being a forward-looking, proactive Chief Minister in the country. The educated middle class adored him for being pro-reforms and pro-development. The poster boy of the IT industry reciprocated by being the most media-savvy Chief Minister the country has ever had.
Suddenly, everything has turned topsy-turvy for the 54-year old Nara Chandrababu Naidu, who, prior to the poll, looked the master of all he surveyed. The self-declared CEO of Andhra Pradesh Inc was so confident of a hat trick that he had advanced the Assembly poll by nearly eight months. But his game plan has gone awry with the party facing a massive defeat at the hustings.
What has gone wrong with the man, who has made a mark for himself as a modern political manager par excellence?
“I really can’t say anything at this point on why we lost so badly. Our defeat even in Hyderabad city, for which we have done so much, is astonishing,” a bewildered Naidu admitted.
He obviously misread the mood of the people, who were cut up with the TDP for ignoring the essentials such as irrigation, drinking water and unemployment. Caught in the web of his own hype, Naidu lost touch with the reality. His personalised style of functioning, where everybody else, including his Cabinet ministers, is a zero, stifled the party at all levels.
When T Devender Goud, a senior minister, openly admitted after the poll that all was not well for the TDP in the elections, an angry Naidu reprimanded him. Such is the control that he exercised over the party.
Naidu would probably blame his defeat on the Telanaga slogan, the Naxalite backing for the Opposition and the Congress promise of free power to the agriculture sector. While they indeed have played a role, it is people’s disillusionment with his policies that has really undone him.
Take the fact the TDP lost more seats in coastal Andhra, a traditional stronghold, where the Congress did not have a TRS as an ally. Even his own Rayalaseema region did not come to his rescue. And this after the entire Telugu film industry was deployed during the poll campaign to swing the voters in favour of the TDP.
The AP results have showed that political craftsmanship and micro management do not always ensure a victory in the elections.
Naidu’s credibility over the years took a beating as he gave a go-by to principles in favour of immediate political mileage. He effortlessly moved from being the kingmaker in the United Front government to being the crucial backer of the NDA government.
He completely reversed welfare policies such as rice and power subsidies that earned the party its social base. His economic reforms only resulted in higher power tariffs, and the focus on IT has not changed the life the commoner in any significant manner.
Despite all these, the voters returned his party in 1999 believing that he meant good for the people. But as Naidu got carried away by his own hype and started feeding the middle class fantasies ignoring the deprived sections, the party lost its moorings among large sections of the populace, including the farmers, the Dalits and the BCs.
His centralised style of functioning has few friends left for him within his own party. Most of the senior leaders in the party such as K Yerran Naidu harbour ill-will against Naidu for denying them berths in the NDA government.
Almost all of NTR’s family members are now up against him, as he had conveniently kept them at a distance. Dr D Venkateswara Rao, elder son-in-law of NTR, with whose help Naidu overthrew the patriarch of the party, will now be back in the Assembly as a Congress MLA and even probably as a minister, while his wife and NTR’s daughter Purandeswari is waiting for the results to be a Congress MP.
This defeat, of course, is not the end of Naidu and his party. Relatively young, Naidu is a long distance runner. Having won hands down in Kuppam in his native Chittoor district, Naidu will play the role of Opposition Leader to the hilt in the new assembly. He probably will have to refashion his politics and play to the gallery, but Naidu has it in him to bounce back.
Given the fact that the TDP is the fount of anti-Congressism in the state, it has a huge following even in defeat. And with TRS as an ally, a Congress government can be expected to provide enough fodder for the TDP to survive and even make a dent in the coming months.
Though the TDP will not be able to repeat the party’s performance in the LS elections, the party will certainly be in a position to provide key support to the NDA in its bid to form a government. Naidu had already made it clear that he would sail with the NDA. In the circumstances, Naidu is most likely to join the government in case of the NDA’s victory. That will provide him enough room to play around with the Congress government in the
The joy and pain
THE wise woman knows that she can be everything in the world to her partner, everything that matters, but she cannot be new. The even wiser woman knows that trying too hard to appear fresh and new just makes you look silly and paranoid.
There is a terrible design fault in men — their contempt for the familiar, their infatuation with the new. It happens the other way too but women are less likely to be attracted by the new than they are to become besotted by the way someone treats them as new.
From the woman's point of view, the true cancer of long-term relationships isn't infidelity or cruelty, it's indifference and neglect. When a woman has had a long time of being taken for granted by her partner, and feels placed in importance somewhere below his need for clean socks, it can be fatally tantalising to be found interesting again even if her only opinion is what's going to happen next in her favourite soap opera.
Women have been known to throw away relationships of many years' standing just to feel that way again - fascinating, mysterious, enchanting, amusing, new. Just like an acting troupe or a travelling circus, she gets tired of staying put trying to entice the same old tough audience and moves on to a new, much more appreciative crowd where just being herself inspires rapturous applause.
Compare and contrast with all those self-help books where even reading the titles makes you feel like climbing into the bath with an electrical appliance. Things like How to Survive Long-Term Relationships and How to Keep the Same Man Happy for the Rest of Your Life. These books always have chapters on the importance of `new', although they call it `retaining a sense of mystery'.
However, they never seem to have any good ideas about how to do it, just a lot of waffle about not talking too much, not giving too much away and ensuring that you're still capable of being surprising.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a shortage of uncommonly thick men around eager to fall for this kind of thing. I know when I've tried to exude a sense of mystery I've always been asked if I've got a tummy ache.
There also seems to be a limit to the amount of surprises a man can be expected to enjoy. A new hairdo is one thing, turning up with a whole new set of children quite another (`I got bored with the old lot, I thought we could do with a change'). It would seem that `retaining a sense of mystery' might be incompatible with daily life. How can you retain a sense of mystery when you're asking someone to pick up light bulbs from the shop?
That's the problem really - it's so boring and exhausting being exciting, but the only other way is to accept that sooner or later people are going to get used to you and eventually slightly tired of you, and the `new' thing will disappear forever.
And there's the rub: we are always being told to be ourselves in relationships but which self, which relationship, and what do we do when that `self' isn't enough any more? Maybe `self' has a shelf-life like everything else. Talk to anyone in the first throes of deep love and they will rave about how wonderful it is to feel so comfortable with another human being. `I can be myself,' they cry, sometimes adding that this is for the very first time. Catch up with them again later and the unlucky ones have discovered that this `being yourself' thing only works if the other person plays their appreciative, adoring part. So once they don't like your act any more, maybe it is time to pack up and move on to that different audience. Maybe not. After all, there's nothing so old as new. — The Guardian
Those that have devotion towards Me will get knowledge and renunciation and they will attain liberation from the round of births and deaths. — Sri Rama The devotees of God become ecstatic even with a little of a single Divine attribute. No one can contain within him the realisation of all His glories and excellences. — Sri Ramakrishna If you want to be perfect, go and sell what you have, give to the poor and come and follow me. And you will have treasure in Heaven. — Jesus Christ All the woes and pains of a man who hungers for the true name are consumed in that hunger. — Guru Nanak Leisure is a beautiful garment, but it will not do for constant wear. — Anon.
— Sri Rama
The devotees of God become ecstatic even with a little of a single Divine attribute. No one can contain within him the realisation of all His glories and excellences.
— Sri Ramakrishna
If you want to be perfect, go and sell what you have, give to the poor and come and follow me. And you will have treasure in Heaven.
— Jesus Christ
All the woes and pains of a man who hungers for the true name are consumed in that hunger.
— Guru Nanak
Leisure is a beautiful garment, but it will not do for constant wear.