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Parliamental – Book Review

Book: Parliamental

Author: Meghnad S.

Reviewed By: Manas Mukul

Publisher: HarperCollins India (2nd July 2019)

Price: 299 INR

Pages: 220 (Paperback)

ISBN-10: 935357059X

ISBN-13: 978-9353570590

Language: English

Genre: Political Satire

My rating: 4/5

 

At 11 am every day, during a parliament session, we witness the proceedings of both the houses through their respective channels. A speaker or chairman heads the overall functioning and MPs from both the sides, in power and opposition, go at each other. For the majority of sessions, you will observe uproar or that the house is adjourned, while on some occasion regular business does take place. In all the confusing chaos that unravels the onlooker feels that given a chance they will simply behead each other.

Well a lot goes on behind the scenes too – while a bill is being introduced, while sharing meals in the canteen, while the members interact with each other outside the parliament, etc. ‘Parliamental’ by Meghnad S. is a political satire, which tries to showcase what goes behind walls and in those power galleries.

I keenly follow politics and have opinions about them; sometimes they take the form of words and end up as tweets or on my blog or like most of the times they simply remain between my ears that gets replaced by a new topic almost every morning. I would like to express my gratitude towards Blogchatter’s Book Review Program for considering me this book review, which gave me an option to explore and review a favorite genre like humor and satire.

About the Author

Meghnad is a columnist, public policy professional and podcaster. He has his own show, Consti-tution, on the Newslaundry and is an influencer on Twitter with the handle @memeghnad. He also travels all over the country to conduct civics classes under the banner Democracy IRL. His articles have appeared and gone viral on BuzzFeed and other content websites.

My Review

The cover of the book is ‘cartoonish-ly’ done and you might recognize some of the faces from a current lot of politicians. ‘Parliamental’ is a great title for the book as it is in complete sync with what goes on in the parliament as well as the satirical tone. The back cover contains the blurb along with a unique thing – some one-line reviews; they are from the characters of the book, for better understanding you will have to grab a copy.

The story mainly revolves around two characters – Raghav Marathe, a young policy analyst bustling with restless energy to bring about a change in the system and Prabhu Srikar, a first time MP whose analyst Raghav is. The story throws up some important supporting characters too – Nikita, a journalist, Helen, a YouTuber, Dushyant, a lawyer, etc.

The story begins with Srikar receiving the news of his surprise victory and how he becomes a first time MP from being a sharp businessman. Raghav, his neighbor, who helped him during his election campaign and speeches, is entrusted with a similar responsibility along with helping Srikar with policy analysis. Srikar tries to stick his neck out whenever he isn’t comfortable about a certain political situation even if it meant going against the wishes of his political party.

Back Cover with Blurb

When a new bill is introduced that threatens freedom of expression on social media, they all unite together to take on the might of the system. During all of this Raghav through his twitter alter ego, @Arnavinator tries to expose the hidden secrets and things that were not meant to see the light of the day. There is a back-story as to why he decides to choose this particular name.

Meghnad craft fully uses satire using simple words and not heavy political jargons. He shows his funny side through the footnotes that are meanings of the regional words but with a comic twist to them. You will constantly have a smile on your face throughout the book. It was smart of him to use a story as the backdrop to highlight the issues rather than putting it out as non-fiction with real names and characters. He even takes potshots at himself with lines like – ‘Raghav felt like the protagonist in a political satire novel.’

The book is crisp and unputdownable and the vocabulary helps. The editing is sharp and polished and it definitely reflects. With less than 200 story pages it is a fast read and even though the book is a fictional political satire, it goes at a thriller pace and keeps you invested till the very end.

Using his sardonic style, Meghnad touches many contemporary serious issues like social media regulation, anti-defection, corruption, etc. He has about seven years of experience of working with members of parliament and none of it goes to waste. No real-life names have been used but that can’t be said for the reference. If you read closely and look widely you will figure out who is who.

The plot is predictable and a bit clichéd and the story end up abruptly. The build-up is nice but once you reach the end you might get a feeling that it ended in a rush. I have mentioned this previously; an extra chapter would do no harm to such a fast-paced book till the time the story is perfectly spaced out.

Overall, it’s a story about how a common man gets entangled and travels through the corridors of power and tries to change or at best question and expose the system. Does he become successful in his motive, for that you need to pick a copy of the book?

Verdict

India is a country where after cricket, which is a religion, and Bollywood, which is everyone’s fascination, political discussion is like a meal. You will find people banging their heads with each other about current political events or ideologies at every tea stall, or during any train journey or while simply waiting in a queue.

The book is a welcome fodder for all those political analysts. I am going with four stars for ‘Parliamental’ by Meghnad S. – three and a half for the satire and the extra half for the amazingly humorous and creative footnotes. This page-turner is a must-read.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This review was done as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program. Please sign up if you are a bibliophile.

My side of the bargain – an honest review – Find the Book here on Goodreads and Amazon.

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When the Wheels came off Mahagathbandhan

This article was first published in the July edition of ‘The EDGE’ as a cover story. You can read the story and other articles here.

It’s been more than a month, since the declaration of results of the General Elections for the 17th Lok Sabha. NDA came back to power with a thumping majority bettering its previous tally from 2014 and in the process BJP too capturing more seats and crossing the majority mark on its own.

The opposition is still sulking from the rout and yet to come out of the shock and analyze what hit them. Many experts and psephologists didn’t even predict this kind of a win for the NDA. A bigger ‘Modi-wave’ hit them, which is popularly being termed as ‘Tsunamo’.

There were many alliances formed, at the national and regional level to take on the might of the juggernaut known as Modi-Shah. The wave has had a far-reaching impact. It is one thing to win an election with a majority and it is another where you end up decimating an entire opposition to the extent where they begin to self-doubt and self-criticize that might eventually lead them to implode.

The cracks in the alliances are beginning to surface. The blame game and mudslinging is at its peak. Nobody wants to own up to their failures and just wants to take the easy way out by pointing faults in others. The wheels have come off the much-hyped ‘Bua-Bhatija’ Samajwadi Party & Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in UP. Mayawati has already made it official that moving forward they would be contesting all elections on their own without any alliance, especially not the current one with SP.

Uttar Pradesh was BJP’s biggest bastion during the general elections of 2014 where they bagged 71 out of 80 seats. The Mahagathbandhan of SP-BSP was touted as a potent force to provide resistance to the wave, though the results tell a different story.

The Mahagathbandhan failed miserably, but the same cannot be said about Mayawati. BSP went from 0 seats to 10 seats from the 38 contested while keeping its vote share intact compared to the 2014 elections. Many experts are of the opinion that SP’s voter base helped Mayawati achieve this, while the same didn’t reciprocate for SP. Mayawati openly lashing out on Akhilesh for not being able to safeguard Dimple Yadav’s seat and criticizing him for the loss paved way for the split-up of SP-BSP alliance.

Irrespective of the result, this alliance would not have lasted long. It is the way BSP has been, it is the way politics of Mayawati is. She rode to power first on the support of BJP, then she shook hands with UPA when they came in power and when she realized that her politics is about to fade and BSP might go extinct, she jumped on the boat of their archrivals SP. Everybody from the political spectrum is aware of what are the events that led to the enmity between both the political fronts.

The formula of ‘Mahagathbandhan’ worked tremendously well in Bihar where the once archrivals, Nitish Kumar and Laloo Prasad Yadav, came together to form an unthinkable alliance along with Congress. Mathematics for the coalition was worked around and it defeated the first Modi wave and Nitish Kumar came back to power, hence laying down foundations for many of such alliances.

Some of them were based on chemistry some simply based on arithmetic but all had one common agenda of defeating BJP and more importantly Modi. Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party tried to use the same formula and formed an alliance along with Ajit Singh’s RLD, which was termed as UP’s Mahagathbandhan.

The common masses believed that Akhilesh Yadav as CM of UP (2012-17) did decent work and his performance was better than previous regimes but his fallout with his own uncle on the eve of UP Assembly elections didn’t go down well with their core voter base. The same base would turn up on the name of Mulayam Singh Yadav and vote blindly for them for the past two and half decades. Now the people would see him as someone who went against his own father’s wishes. The largely conservative rural voters would not approve of this any day.

During the same period, Mayawati was fighting an existential battle. BSP failed to secure a single seat in the General Elections of 2014. Don’t forget that the same Mayawati was eyeing the PM’s chair via a third front. The results of UP assembly elections 2017 came as a reality check for both SP and BSP where SP went from 224 seats in 2012 to a mere 47 seats and BSP went from 80 seats to a paltry 19 seats.

What mislead them were their vote percentages. BSP and SP both got about 22% while BJP single-handedly touched 40%. As per their simple calculations, 22 plus 22 would convert into 44, which was anyway more than what BJP secured; what they didn’t take into consideration that alliances and votes don’t work on mathematics. They work on ideologies.

The followers, party workers, and cadres go by how and what their leaders say or is it? For more than two decades Mayawati and Mulayam Singh spat venom on each other and so did their party members and workers at all levels. Now to expect that all of a sudden the same antagonism would evaporate in a day was an idea little far fetched.

The topmost people of two political parties might get up one day and decide to shake hands and appear to become friends doesn’t necessarily mean that same would transpire among grassroots level party worker leave alone voters. It is literally difficult for them to become friends and work shoulder-to-shoulder with someone, whom they abused and badmouthed for the past twenty years.

When the Lok Sabha by-elections happened in UP after the assembly elections of 2017, the verdict was more or less against Yogi than against Modi. But when it came down to the general elections, the Modi-Shah duo was successful in converting it into a presidential format of election where it was all about a single personality of Narendra Modi. A personality that they have successfully marketed into a towering figure against which no other figure from the opposition stands tall.

As the dates for voting approached, Mayawati started openly batting herself for the prime position of PM that didn’t go down well with the voters. I met people who claimed that they voted for BJP because they didn’t want somebody like a Mayawati to be the PM. She might command respect and support from her community in UP but the same is not the case when it comes to other states of India, whereas Narendra Modi since 2013 has successfully catapulted himself as a national leader.

I am sure how Mayawati worked her way around Akhilesh in gaining their support and in the process bagging more seats, he would not have objected when she would have put her name forward for the PM’s chair.

Both, SP and BSP’s ideologies are caste centric, which made it even harder for their bases to align together. The last time when Mayawati came to power was when the upper caste voted in her favor. That is not the case now. She has even started losing the support of non-jatav dalits and hence the slow decline in BSP’s vote share.

The same worked this time in BJP’s favor where a majority of Hindu votes consolidated in their favor. Of the alliance’s 15 winning candidates, 11 were Muslims, Yadavs and Jatavs. Many reports suggested that this verdict is against caste politics. Well, it is not. BJP was smarter in fielding their candidates. NDA fielded about 34 upper caste candidates and 28 non-yadav OBCs.

In 2014, Mulayam Singh Yadav won by a margin of 3.64 lakh votes from their bastion of Mainpuri, which got reduced to 95,000 votes signifies that the vote transfer didn’t take place on the ground despite Mayawati campaigning for him.

Rajan Pandey, a journalist who co-authored a book on elections in UP highlighted, “BSP claims it is a party of Dalits but it has been reduced to be a party of Jatavs and even not all Jatavs are with it.” The alliance only considered their core voting communities and completely disregarded the non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits.

Surprisingly, they even fielded 20 odd candidates from upper castes when contrarily they were propagating a 2% tax on elite upper castes. In the reserved seats, BJP fielded as many as 15 non-Jatavs and only 2 Jatavs.

BJP played smart in constituencies where their incumbent MPs performed poorly and the general vibe was against them. Like in the case of Menaka Gandhi and Varun Gandhi – they simply swapped their constituencies. The Nishad Party candidate who won the by-poll from Gorakhpur constituency was also easily poached and he joined hands with BJP right before the elections leaving the alliance looking foolish.

The rebellion from Shivpal Yadav and BJP forming strategic alliances with smaller parties like Apna Dal and Nishad party too helped them. Presence of Shivpal in Firozabad ensured that his nephew Akshay Yadav lost.

The fielding of wrong or weak candidates too catalyzed this drubbing at the hands of NDA. Ajit Singh’s RLD fielded 3 candidates out of which 2 were from their family clan and still lost in their traditional Jat belt. Similarly, in Phulpur where the alliance won a stunning by-election by fielding a Kurmi candidate changed its candidate this time around with a Yadav candidate. Phulpur having a Kurmi majority helped BJP’s Kurmi candidate to win by 1.71 lakh votes.

Now, when the alliance has been called off, it is easy to claim that the caste-based politics didn’t work for the Mahagathbandhan but it was the consolidation of other Hindu votes in sync with the ideology of Hindutva against these three core community votes that led to the debacle of the promising alliance.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

46

Zaika-e-Lucknow: Top food places in Lucknow

Zaika-e-Lucknow: Top Food places in Lucknow #BharatkaZaika

Lucknow is popularly known as the city of Nawabs but for the foodies, it has a different connotation altogether, they consider it as the ‘City of Kebabs’. As soon as you arrive in Lucknow the first thing that you will notice is ‘Mukuraiye, Ap Lucknow me hai’ written on billboards and other places, which literally translates to ‘Smile as you are in Lucknow’.

Lucknow has an opulent cultural heritage and is renowned for many things – the monuments with incomparable architectural features, the rich literature, the ‘Chikankari’ on clothes, the ‘Khatirdari’ (hospitality) or the ‘Tehzeeb’ (, the unique lingua franca or the delectable culinary delights. It has its own unique charming vibe to it.

The Awadhi cuisine dishes out copious vegetarian dishes but it is a food lovers’ paradise when it comes to the non-vegetarian offerings. We can all thank a toothless Nawab for the evolution that began in the 17th century for Kebabs. Without delving much in history let me highlight what are the places that are must-visits and what are the must-haves when you pay a visit to this iconic city and its scrumptious food.

Tunday Kababi

Tunday Kababi at Aminabad

No discussion around Lucknow’s food can be complete without the legendary Tunday Kababi. Their one-of-a-kind Galouti kebabs are one of the best kebabs that you will find in India. A one-armed chef for the Nawab of Lucknow first prepared it in the 17th century and since then it has captured the imaginations of all the food lovers across the region. The secret-recipe Kebab is prepared with minced meat and 160 different spices that lend an immaculate flavor to the dish.

The shop that started with humble origins is now converted into a food chain with multiple outlets across the city and country. You can also try Shami Kebab, Boti Kabab and Seekh Kabab along with other non-veg dishes.

Alamgir Restaurant

Alamgir is another gem of a place for non-veg lovers. It is right opposite to the Tunday Kababi restaurant in Aminabad in a small alley. If you walk into that alley today, you will feel as if the whole place is taken over by Alamgir with food being prepared everywhere. Their Band Ghosht and unique chicken Kalimirch are a must-have. Try them with their saffron-colored Sheermal.

I believe that the only place that can compete with Lucknow’s biryani is Hyderabad’s biryani but there are still places in Lucknow that will serve you something totally unique.

Outside Idrees Biryani

Idrees Ki biryani

Another place, which is based on, a secret recipe passed on from the previous generation. Currently run by the sons of Muhammad Idrees, who started this small place in 1968, is a must visit if you love to have biryanis. The place looks so ordinary and small from outside that if you are not keenly looking for it, you might actually end up missing it. Better look out for the huge crowd that is always gathered outside the eatery. You will be actually surprised to know how many celebs visit the place on their visit to Lucknow.

The best way to reach the place is to spot the patanala police station in Raza Bazaar in the Chowk area. If you aren’t comfortable eating in cramped up spaces then my advice for you is to take the biryani home and enjoy it there.

Awadh Biryani Corner

You will not hear a lot about this place, as it is a small place near the Dainik Jagran Chauraha (roundabout) but I can definitely vouch for their biryanis. I started going there during my school days since their biryani was dirt cheap and always came along with a free cola. Over the years I have become a lover of their biryani and their shami kebabs. Watch out for the portions before ordering, it might be too much for a single person.

Wahid Biryani

Idrees biryani getting prepared

Popularly known as the ‘Pride of Lucknow’, Wahid Biryani was started about 60 years ago. They have tried their best to preserve their authentic taste through its 55 spices that go into the preparation of their aromatic biryani. They have multiple outlets across the city.

Rahim Ki Nihari

It’s a 130-year-old restaurant started in 1890 and is famous for its Nihari & Kulche. What Tunday is to Kebabs and Idrees is to biryani, Rahim is to Nihari.

It started as a breakfast joint and you will be surprised to see the crowd even today queued up early in the morning. It is located on phool wali gali near Tehseen Masjid in Chowk. You can also try paaye, sheermal, kakori kabab, parsande, seekh kabab & kheer.

Dastarkhwan

Dastarkhwan is another non-veg eatery with multiple outlets. My favorite one is near the Tulsi theatre. Their Tawa Chicken Masala are a must-have with paratha.

You must be thinking I am mentioning everything related to non-veg but vegetarians don’t get disappointed. Lucknow has a lot to offer in veg especially when it comes to street food.

Band Ghosht & Sheermal at Alamgir

Baati Chokha Restaurant and Banarasiya

The Baati Chokha restaurant in Gomti Nagar and Banarasiya restaurant near Pheonix mall are famous for their local vegetarian cuisines. Both have got this rural ambience, which complements the food really well. Baati Chokha are a must have in them. Their refrigerated Kheer and Bakheer served in earthen bowls is too good.

Ratti Lal ke khaste

It is one of the oldest sweet shops in Lucknow. Lucknowites love to have Khasta Kachori in breakfast along with Jalebis. Ratti Lal is famous for its Khasta Puri. It is located in the Aminabad region.

Royal Café – Basket Chaat

If you are a fan of basket chaat or tokri chaat then you must have already visited the Royal Café in Hazratganj in Lucknow. Currently they have more than one outlet in the city. It is one of the most preferred places to hang out for couples.

Jain Chaat Corner

Sheermal getting prepared

Another great eatery offering mouth-watering chaat is Jain Chaat Corner near Novelty Cinema. It is one of the best places to try any variety of chaat. Their Papdi chaat and Golgappas are a must to have.

Sharma Tea Stall

Sharma Tea stall is one of the oldest tea stalls in the city, started way back in 1948. It is nearby Jain Chaat Corner in Lalbagh. They are famous for their bun Makhan (butter), samosas and of course tea. The highlight is the butter that is homemade. You might have to wait a little longer for your tea, as it is always crowded.

Prakash ki Mashhoor Kulfi

This place was started in 1965 and is one of the best places to try desserts. Their Kulfis are truly amazing. Every time my father used to visit that area in Aminabad, he would make sure he gets a portion for my mother. They have special packing for takeaways so that your kulfi doesn’t melt on its way.

Makhan Malai

Makkhan Malai

It is one of my favorite delicacies that I remember from my childhood. Back then a guy used to sell it on his bicycle door-to-door and we would not miss any chance to have it. Currently there aren’t many takers for this unique fluffy sweet dish and is majorly sold around Gol Darwaja area.

Honorable mentions: Shree Lassi at Chowk, Bajpai poori kachori near Leela Cinema, Raja Thandai near Gol Darwaja Chowk and Azhar Paan near Akbari Darwaja Chowk.

Do let me know whether you liked the collection or not and do highlight if I missed any major place. Now you know what all places to visit the next time that you are in Lucknow.

For all those who love kebabs,

For all those who love kulfis,

For all those who love biryanis,

And

For all those who love food…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

“#BharatKaZaika is a blogging event conducted by #BlogBoosterIndia. Hosted by Aditi, Mahesh, Pragun, Preeti, Saba, Sanjota, Sudip, Suhasini, Supriya and sponsored by Habhit Wellness Private Ltd.

This Post is written under my Food Travels for #BlogBoosterIndia #BharatKaZaika

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Z – Zero Benefit Schemes | #AtoZChallenge

Z – Zero Benefit Schemes | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

Through the journey of 26 posts over the past month, I have tried to bring out some key issues related to the General Elections of 2019. The government should have campaigned and fought this election on the performance of their ministries and schemes but instead, they chose to do otherwise. I personally was disappointed how the institutions have become spineless and opaque and how the government got away without holding a single press conference – a first in Independent India’s history.

The government’s decision to change the narrative to nationalism and taking us back to the era of the early 90s of the Hindu-Muslim divide speaks for itself about the government’s confidence in its performance. In the first few months, a new scheme along with a new slogan was launched. Today they are nowhere discussing any forget all of them.

Ujjwala Yojna

Visit any petrol pump in the country and you are bound to find a hoarding with PM’s face on it and claiming what a big success this yojna has been. If you closely look at the stats, you will realize its fallacies. To begin with, it turned out to be a myth that the poor will get free cylinders. They have to pay Rs 1600 for the stove and cylinder. Many poor families aren’t able to pay this upfront. Secondly, the subsidy that the government pays from their pocket is also taken back from these poor families in the form of installments.

Till January this year, consumers had paid Rs. 9,968 crores for the so-called free gas cylinder. Out of all the families that have been a beneficiary of the scheme only 10-20% of them have applied for the refilling of the cylinders. This speaks for itself. The doubling of the cost of cylinders with a negligible increase in the income of these families forces them to adopt the traditional methods of fuel. A family that earns around 2000-2500 per month, do you believe they have the capacity to buy a cylinder worth Rs 900 (500 for subsidized cylinder and 400 for installment).

Fasal Bima Yojna (Crop Insurance Scheme)

There is a reason why people have started realizing that this government is truly corporate-friendly in nature. ‘Fasal Bima Yojna’ is a prime example of it. The exponential rise in farmer suicides definitely tells one side of the story as to whether these insurances are helping them or not.

Let me highlight the other side of the story. From the start of July 2016 (Kharif season), in two years, insurance companies amassed a total premium of Rs.50,036 crore, paid out a total compensation worth Rs.35,949 crore — saving Rs.14,088 crore as profit! Out of this premium, the farmers paid around Rs 8719 crore and the rest was spared from the taxpayer’s money. Ideally, if the government really wanted to help then they should have transferred this money to the farmers or at least should have waved loans.

Make in India

A promising scheme that turned out to nothing and it felt as if it was launched just to put the mechanical lion logo in foreign airports. Ideally, it should have given a major boost to the manufacturing sector. The contribution of the manufacturing sector has been stagnant for the last five years and it still hovering around 16-18% of the GDP, which it already was before 2014.

Since the sector remained stagnant and with no data to suggest a direct correlation of any job creation with Make in India, we can safely say how this scheme actually fared. As Raghuram Rajan rightly pointed out, it should have been ‘Made in India’ rather than ‘Make it India’ for it to really give a boost to the sector.

PM Aawas Yojna

Another scheme that was started with a lot of fanfare and was a renaming of the previous government’s ‘Indira Aawas Yojna’ was PM Aawas Yojna with an aim of providing low-cost houses to rural and urban poor. Barring the initial year, the target for the houses to be constructed has come down to the 12-13 & 13-14 levels. In fact, as per the data from the ministry of rural development, the number of houses completed is way less than 12-13 levels.

Smart Cities

One scheme that created a lot of buzz long before the government even took the oath was the creation of ‘Smart Cities’. The government aimed at creating 100 smart cities in India but it is yet to come out and openly declare any one of those cities being converted to their benchmark of a smart city. I thought it was illogical to put metro cities under the scheme as they already have most of those facilities, which the mission aims to provide.

The analysis of the Smart Cities Mission, by Delhi-based Housing and Land Rights Network, concluded that there is the glaring absence of emphasis on inclusion and social justice.

Startup India

Along with Mudra loans, another scheme that attracted a lot of youth was ‘Startup India Standup India’. Again the government has no data i.e. they haven’t shared publically what happened to the loans disbursed and how many startups are up and running under the scheme. Two years since the launch of the scheme a bleak 10% of the funds were only released.

As per an economic times report from 2017, 5,350 startups that were officially recognized under the scheme, only 74 have got tax benefits.

Already discussed the Jan Dhan Yojna at length in the ‘Banking’ post. Details about the Mudra loan scheme have been discussed in the ‘unemployment‘ post. Similarly, I highlighted the failures of Skill development scheme in the ‘Youth’ post.

A stat from the PM’s last 35 rallies throws up some disturbingly narcissistic facts. He has mentioned his own ‘surname’ more than 130 times while ‘development’ being mentioned a dismal seven times. India, slowly but surely, has moved towards a presidential-format of elections where it is only about a couple of individuals. Well, democracy is not about that! One should learn the art of referring to one’s own self in the third person from the PM. His self-love is supreme and blinding.

I would like to thank each and everyone who was along with me on this journey especially on this theme. Many close friends said that they resisted from commenting just because of the supercharged and trolling atmosphere, which is why I chose this theme as this kind of atmosphere is driving more and more people away from key issues. A lot of hard work and research has gone in these posts to state only facts and keep away fakery. No words can express my gratitude towards those who took out time to read, comment and share these posts.

Please please please make sure your vote counts and just think about your kids what world we are going to leave for them.

With this, I can officially say that I have completed and survived the challenge. Cheers to all those who did and to those as well who tried but couldn’t. Don’t get disheartened – you are going to come back stronger.

For all those who loved these political posts,

For all those who resisted from commenting,

For all those who encouraged all throughout the journey,

And

For all those who believe most of these schemes were about Jumlas…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the 26th and last post for the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z. My theme in Politics Category is ‘IPL – Indian Parliamentary League’, where I would be covering some relevant issues with the General Elections 2019 through the course of 26 posts.

Read the previous post here: IPL – Indian Parliamentary League

I am also taking part in the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z using another theme –‘Dubai – City of Gold‘. If you love travel head over to the Travel Theme and share your feedback.

7

Y – YOUTH | #AtoZChallenge

Y – Youth | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

The fourth phase of voting has just concluded and the numbers coming in from metropolitan places like Mumbai aren’t much to cheers. Like previous years it is a pretty dismal turnout given the constant push by celebrities to go out there and vote.

India is a young country and by 2020, youth will make up 34% of the country’s population. Since the general elections of 2014, about 45 million Indians have become eligible to vote which forms about 5% of the total voters that would be going to vote in 2019.

Going by the analysis of the last election, youth played a significant part in the current ruling party coming to power. With their social media engineering, the urban and the youth take the center stage for their promotional strategies.

With so many new voters in the fray, issues of unemployment, education and skill development should have been the main topics of discussions. The top five states that have added the maximum number of young voters are Bihar, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and UP. Going by how the states voted in 2014 and then in their respective assembly elections – these states may hold the key to the throne with youth playing a crucial role.

To give you a perspective how their vote is important, out of the total seats about 211 seats i.e. 37% of the seats come from the top ten states that have the maximum number of new voters. You can also understand their criticality by the pitches of the PM for them to go out and vote and regularly dropping hints to vote for him.

The irony is that with the unemployment at its highest in the last 45 years and the education budget being regularly cut for the past five years, the real talking point still remains the Hindu-Muslim divide and Ram Mandir even among the youth.

I am yet to see a single debate on the skill development program initiated by the government. A data suggests not even 3% of all the people trained got a credible source of income. This surely is going to increase restless and hence frustration among the youth. The constant roughing up of students and messing up issues related to prominent universities isn’t helping either.

The issue of Kashmir is always kept on the boil using the youth machinery. Whether they pelt stones or pick up arms, there are underlying strategies definitely going wrong at some level otherwise why would so many young people choose this path.

In the cases of lynching, if you closely observe, it is usually the misguided uneducated youth that commits such heinous acts of violence. Even in the lynching of Akhlaq, the prime accused was the son of a BJP leader, who is just 20 years old. All this is propagated on the pretense of hate.

The youth comes with a lot of political uncertainty. It can swing either way or might do a completely different thing like in Kerala where more than one lakh students didn’t fill the religion and caste column in admission forms.

They are often better informed, more educated and tech-savvy than the rest of their family, and they can take a stand that goes against the family’s established political leanings.

The young voters are the most vulnerable too. They can easily be misguided by the populist sentiment and might not have the right rationale behind their thinking. With so much of information bombardment from so many touch points that it is practically impossible for the young tech-savvy voter to be away from the noise.

One thing I find in the youth of today that most of them are ill-informed and not well read and the government isn’t helping either when they are hell-bent on changing historical facts and not releasing current tenures’ performance data.

There are days when I think that this atrocious amount of free data at such cheap prices would turn out to be exactly like what drugs did to an entire generation of Punjab and Haryana. It is the latest addiction and the empty playing grounds and each neck submerged in smartphones are a prime example of it.

Everybody says that ‘Youth is the future’ but I am afraid if things continue like this, then the same youthful energy will take a perilous route that will take the country in a completely negative direction.

To all the first time voters this time, make sure when you vote, keep in mind your future and the future of this country.

For all those who feel data is the new drugs,

For all those who know that there is massive unemployment,

For all those who feel youth is being used for political gains

And

For all those who still feel that youth is the future…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the 25th post for the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z. My theme in Politics Category is ‘IPL – Indian Parliamentary League’, where I would be covering some relevant issues with the General Elections 2019 through the course of 26 posts.

Read the previous post here: IPL – Indian Parliamentary League

Please do visit tomorrow for the final post with letter ‘Z’

I am also taking part in the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z using another theme –‘Dubai – City of Gold‘. If you love travel head over to the Travel Theme and share your feedback.

4

X – Xenophobia | #AtoZChallenge

X – Xenophobia | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

Something very interesting happened yesterday. A well-known CA who does commentary on issues related to politics and economics and is currently a part-time director of RBI tweeted or I should say re-tweeted a post, which had two pictures. In one there was a crowd gathering holding saffron flags and in the other, the crowd was with green colored flags. The text on the tweet was ‘choose wisely which India you want’. It also suggested that the pic with saffron flags was from PM’s rally in Varanasi and the other one is from RG’s rally in Wayanad.

Now there are a couple of things which are really disturbing here; one that the pic which is being suggested is from Wayanad, is actually from a different rally held long back that was conducted by Indian Union Muslim League and the second is that a person of this stature and repute is sharing such fake and false propaganda news.

The tweet

There is a pattern to this where more and more people with influential power with inclination to different political parties doing it. The sad part is there is no check to it and even educated people are falling prey to it. Followers (read worshipers) of this person will automatically believe whatever is being shared. Nobody takes the pain to verify what is true or not especially when you are being bombarded with so much data every minute.

I am not saying that only the ruling party is doing that, even the opposition is a culprit of propagating false stuff but if you remember these things became a part of regular discourse during 2014 campaigning. The much-hyped Gujarat development model and the pictures related to it were circulating everywhere. Later it was found that most of them were either from Singapore or China.

Xenophobia is defined as, ‘Dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.’

The major issue with this post is the usage of a color to fuel your propaganda. There is a constant attempt to malign one color and its association with a certain neighboring country. I know, India and Pakistan are not friends but then the government in power needs to behave like that. The official documents don’t say that it is an enemy state – I guess we should start from there. Five years was a long enough time with the kind of majority that they could have brought in such ordinances.

We need to categorically understand that we are enemies with that country and not that color. Every time there is a green flag being waved with a moon and a star in between, their supporters go overboard and start shouting Pakistan Pakistan.

A banner from J&K

For the past five years during each election whether assembly, panchayat or general, Pakistan has been a major issue. When they feel that the questions are becoming too troublesome for them and the real issues are facing really hard in their faces they start looking towards Pakistan. Nobody is in love with Pakistan, but when you keep sending wishes on their national day after the Pulwama attack then you are putting your intentions under the scanner. I know the loyal followers will start crying that it was a strategy. If it was strategy then stop making a fool out of common masses and stop spreading this hatred and fear against one color.

I am not a supporter of RG but to be frank let’s assume; even if it was a green flag and it was being waved in India and till the time it is not a Pakistan flag – I don’t see anything wrong in it. It is the flag of a recognized party that has, with proper documentation, submitted its symbol and flag to the election commission and got it approved.

You want to know what ironical and hypocritical – go and check the flags and campaign banners that the ruling party is floating in Jammu & Kashmir. Do you see a prominent color in that and did you notice how conveniently they have done away with the saffron? That is politics for you, my friend. When the PM goes and addresses a rally in J&K he proudly thumps his chest for arresting army soldiers who fired bullets against the stone-pelters – because that will promise him votes with that population. When he flies back to Delhi he abuses the stone-pelters for the same reason.

The PM, during the last assembly elections of Gujarat, kept invoking nationalism by bringing Pakistan into every speech. He even went on to say that the previous PM was in a meeting with Pakistani delegates and was involved in anti-national conspiracies. Well, for one moment if all this is true, then isn’t this failure of intelligence agencies in the first place? Secondly, why are these people roaming free – or was it just to make a mockery of people’s sentiments during the election?

The xenophobic propagation that Muslims are foreigners and they invaded us is to constantly deny that Aryans weren’t foreigners. If you have done a thorough study of ancient history, then you will realize that Aryans are as much foreigners as Muslims are. By their logic shouldn’t we hate British too – since they also ruled us for two centuries and nobody exploited us like they did – What color should we give to them and then start boycotting that too?

But to say that Aryans were foreigner would imply that Hinduism is foreign too. In fact, the current form of Hinduism being practiced is way different from what is there in Vedas. This Brahmanism of the religion and the appearance of Gods like Vishnu and Shiva take place 1000 years after the Vedas. The highlighting of the fact that Buddha is an incarnation of Vishnu is to subdue the conflicts of Hinduism and Buddhism. Going by the history of Buddhism, it left the country for about two thousand years following the conflicts.

While visiting the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, Sri Lanka, I came across some amazing facts. Hindu kings tried everything possible and fought wars to destroy the relics of Buddha, so much so that they had to finally take it to places like Sri Lanka and Thailand to keep them safe.

Quoting Meghnad Desai from his essay, ‘it is not the idea of Hindu nationalism that is worrying. It is that the government will be the propagator of this particular view.’

I am sure Pakistan will soon die its own death if they continue on the same path and the government will then find a new color to hate.

You need to think hard where you want this discourse to go ahead. I am putting this humorously but if this continues that time is not far away that we would be only left with carrots to eat and will have to boycott every green vegetable.

Just make sure when you vote this time it is not for green or saffron but for your present, future and most importantly your kids future and whether you want hate to propagate or otherwise.

For all those who like the green,

For all those who are hate fake news,

For all those who like the saffron,

And

For all those who are xenophobic…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the 24th post for the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z. My theme in Politics Category is ‘IPL – Indian Parliamentary League’, where I would be covering some relevant issues with the General Elections 2019 through the course of 26 posts.

Read the previous post here: IPL – Indian Parliamentary League

Please do visit tomorrow for the next post with letter ‘Y’

I am also taking part in the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z using another theme –‘Dubai – City of Gold‘. If you love travel head over to the Travel Theme and share your feedback.

6

W – WOMEN | #AtoZChallenge

W – Women | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

Today morning I read a report about two women being abducted and raped by a man and filmed throughout the process to extract money. If this wasn’t the terrible part, the wife of the man involved in raping the victims was the one who filmed these women. Hence I decided to dedicate this post on the important issue of women and their participation in politics.

At the time of every General Elections, political parties come out with their manifestos and starting wooing the voters. Over the years they have tried to woo the women voters on the name of Women’s Reservation Bill. The honest reality is for the past 23 years since it’s initial proposal in 1996, the Women’s Reservation Bill is still floating around with no concrete steps being taken on it.

The Women’s Reservation Bill would have reserved 33% of the total seats in both the houses for women candidates. The stats tell a different story.

As of data from the first phase of elections 2019, less than 8% of the total 1,271 candidates contesting are women. As of 2014, there are only 11.8% women in Lok Sabha and 11.4 % of in Rajya Sabha, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

The current Lok Sabha has Just 12.6% of 543 current members as women, far lower than the world average of 24.3%. You will be shocked to know that we are even behind so-called extremist nations like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh where the representation is 27.3%, 20.2% and 20.6% respectively.

Only two parties from the current political fray have agreed to field around 33% women candidates. BJD of Odisha announced 33% seats for women candidates while TMC of West Bengal is giving around 41%. The story has another side to it as well. While the claim of BJD is right what it doesn’t tell is that out of these candidates about half of them are from political families and lineages.

Research by Amrita Basu in Kanchan Chandra’s ‘Democratic Dynasties: State, Party and Family in Contemporary Indian Politics’ finds that 43% of the women elected to Lok Sabha had family members precede them in politics. Surprisingly, only 19% of male MPs were from dynastic families.

The current ruling party made a huge political issue of a gruesome rape of a girl in the national capital. I still remember the towns being painted with slogans of how the current government will eradicate or at least try to curb crimes against women.

But still, cases of violence against women increased by 40 % from 2012 to 2016, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. A woman was raped every 13 minutes, a bride was murdered for dowry every 69 minutes, and six women were gang-raped every day in India in 2016.

Adding to the rhetoric, in the 2014 General Elections, BJP gave only 8.8% tickets to women candidates and Congress just 12.9%. In the Karnataka elections in May 2018, only 6 of the 224 candidates fielded by the BJP were women less than 3% of total candidature while Congress miserably hovering around 4%.

Since the first Lok Sabha of 1951 where women participation was only 4.5%, it has precariously grown to 12.15% in 2014. While the voter turnout has considerably improved over this period, it is still somewhere around 66% for women.

A lot can be said about the males of the dominant society but with powerful female leaders too, the situation still remains grim. You would see women politician taking sexist potshots at other female candidates. The whole psyche is rotten we all know that…how these powerful politicians view and perceive women is simply deplorable.

In the afternoon in front of media, they would be touching their feet out of respect while during nights they would be disrobing them in their rave parties at their farmhouses. We have case after case where a women politician or women closely linked to a politician is running a flesh trade. Government-run shelter homes for adolescent girls have been converted into their playhouses where the screams and cries will never escape the massive political walls.

Not all is grim and there is still some hope.

United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research’s (UNU-WIDER) work last year with data from 4,265 state assembly constituencies across four election cycles found that female representatives report a higher economic growth, about 1.8% more annually, than male legislators.

This supports previous findings by IndiaSpend, which reported women panchayat leaders in Tamil Nadu invested 48% more money than their male counterparts in building roads and improving access. Another study by the United Nations found that women-led panchayats delivered 62% higher drinking water projects than those led by men.

The Panchayati Raj systems exhibit a far more fair and gender-neutral playing ground for women – While the reservation for women is only for 33% of the seats, women make up 46% of the elected representatives in institutions.

Between 1957(the earliest data available) and 2015, the total number of women contestants has increased from 45 to 668. That is a whopping 15-fold increase in the number of women contesting. If we looked at the data for male contestants for the same years, the number has increased from 1474 to 7583, a 5-fold increase.

That means more and more women are participating and are willing to take up politics.

In 1971, the success rate for men contesting elections was 18%, whereas it was 34% for women, which is twice that of men. For the current Lok Sabha, the success rate was 6.4% for men and 9.3% for women.

All I can say is for women to improve the condition of women in the society and politics, more of them have to come out and join the mainstream politics otherwise the male dominant structure will continue to use them for their gains.

The current ideology of extremism doesn’t help either. Everyone knows how they view and treat women where they are nothing more than a commodity.

For all the women out there…please go out and vote and make sure your vote counts.

 

For all those who believe in gender equality,

For all those who think women should join politics,

For all those who treat women with respect,

And

For all those who love women as they are…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul.

This is the 23th post for the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z. My theme in Politics Category is ‘IPL – Indian Parliamentary League’, where I would be covering some relevant issues with the General Elections 2019 through the course of 26 posts.

Read the previous post here: IPL – Indian Parliamentary League

Please do visit tomorrow for the next post with letter ‘X’

I am also taking part in the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z using another theme –‘Dubai – City of Gold‘. If you love travel head over to the Travel Theme and share your feedback.