33

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.

Advertisements
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.

 

6

V – Vanshavaad | #AtoZChallenge

V – Vanshavaad | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

When a certain member of the oldest political party entered into the political fray this year, the debate around dynasty politics or ‘Vanshavaad’ was revived again. Time and again, the current ruling party attacks the opposition and tries to corner them on this topic. This was a huge talking point during the 2014 campaigning and it has become again as soon as the General Elections of 2019 approached.

I am a firm believer of equal opportunities for everyone. One should get a fairground to perform and they should be promoted on the basis of merit. When you keep shouting at the top of your voice that the other party is only of dynasts and nothing else, but you keep fielding almost an equal number of candidates then you are just exposing your hypocrisy.

Since 1999, the Congress has had 36 dynastic MPs elected to the Lok Sabha, with the BJP not far behind with 31. In 2009 the Congress had 11% and BJP had 12% dynasts elected. What this data highlight is the candidate where a father or mother or spouse was a previous candidate, what it doesn’t the candidates who are relatives or close members of a clan. As per Lok Sabha data about 44% of the ruling party comprises of dynasts.

I am not saying that one party is more democratic in nature than the other. If in one the power lies with one family then it is quite evident who controls the bridle in the other. It lies with two men.

When somebody questions their allegiance to dynast regional parties they start looking in the other direction. Regional parties are the biggest dynasts in India. One person starts a movement and three decades later there are a bunch from the same family.

When you have the same grandfather, how is that you abuse one grandson for the grandfather’s crimes but you literally forget the other grandson – just because he is a part of your political family.

Each and every member gets selected to the parliament on voting – we are still a democracy the last time I checked so I don’t understand this hue and cry about dynasty. If you question that means you are questioning every individual who voted for them. Secondly, if you literally want to question then raise them over the candidates fielded. If more and more dynast candidates keep getting voted to parliament, more and more parties will field such candidates. You stop voting for these candidates and the parties will have to change.

Sorry to say but for someone to be tagged as a dynast there have to be people in politics from their family long enough. I am not commenting on anyone’s family lineage, all I am trying to say is that when a party gets established so late and then half of its original members aren’t married because of whatever their ideology is then it is not the fault of other political figures that have kids.

Many say that there is nothing wrong in being dynasts when you are doing business and they claim that politics isn’t business. I beg to differ on that, given the amount of money being spent and the huge corporate backing to parties, especially one, it shows there are business and corporate interests embedded in the funding.

One of my batch mates is working for a political consultancy in Maharashtra in these elections. He said one of a major real estate player alone is pumping in about Rs 500 crore for the ruling party in Maharashtra. I am cent percent sure this work is not being done as a part of a charity. There are vested interests that push to go for such a massive influx of money.

In every walk of life, there are people with family lineage. I am wondering did Narayan Murthy’s son or daughter start as fresher in Infosys?

Blaming the offspring for the crimes of parent…I mean how logical is that. If that is your yardstick then once a person commits a crime the whole family should be maligned forever.

Nowhere it is written that if someone is a dynast then they can’t deliver. I know I am citing Bollywood, but it is the second most abused field when it comes to nepotism. I agree, that the people who get favored, their entry is easy, but I would totally disagree that they would keep getting work after continuous failure. The ones who have the talent and have proved their worth, last longer.

Similarly, in politics, I can give ample examples where the second or third generation have performed equally good if not better whether they hail from any political party.

Another issue that they raise when they discuss Vanshvaad is that these people don’t work at the grass root level and directly get tickets to contest elections. Well, the ruling party is on a hiring spree, purchasing candidates, Bollywood celebrities and cricketers in the morning and giving them tickets by the night just exposes their hypocrisy even more.

In fact, politics the world over is a highly dynastic and countries have elected members of the same family, from the US and Japan to the Philippines and Indonesia, so India is not unique. A study, ‘The Effect of Political Dynasties on

Economic Development’ states – Individuals are 110 times more likely to enter into politics if they have a politician father, compared to other elite professions such as medicine and law.

When you question the youth what profession they want to choose, I hardly see anyone saying that they want to join politics. If you see all around you right from the Panchayati level to the top only the tainted candidates get fielded, with very little as an exception. This scenario will change but over a longer period of time when citizens begin to participate.

The simple logic is if you have a problem with Vanshavaad simply don’t vote them.

Till then all I can say is, Keep enjoying the Mela!

For all those who believe in the merit-based system,

For all those who are against dynasty politics,

For all those who are grass root workers,

And

For all those who believe that Vanshvad is here to stay…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the 22th 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 ‘W’

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

Q – Questions | #AtoZChallenge

Q – Questions | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

It was just yesterday when I was discussing the issue of political candidates switching sides and today we witnessed two such cases. Both motivated by opportunism – one was a historic moment when two major rivals, for the past 25 years, decided to share the same stage, however reluctantly. The second just taught me a lesson. Till noon I was backing a move and had so much respect that someone took a stand against harassment and decided to value her dignity and ultimately quit.

By 1 pm, I was heartbroken when the same person joined another party whose history is only of harassment and hooliganism. They continue to harass women on a daily basis and flash it proudly across their badges. But nobody would dare to question the dignity and ideology that shifted base in a mere 12 hours. Let’s not digress!

The biggest motivation behind me choosing this theme was that this was the first time in the history of independent India that a Prime Minister has not held an open press conference i.e. simply means no direct hard questions were put across.

We all know what kind of tough questions are really being put across.

PSU after PSU is sinking while the PM’s picture is flashed across marketing campaigns of private firms. When the anchors and the ruling party brazenly highlight that the PM works for 18 hours a day, does that mean he isn’t accountable or does that mean we can’t question him?

He won’t appear on platforms, which are ready to put across those questions. The last time when that happened, I don’t want to write this, but he took a sip of water and simply ran away. If he was a man of what he claims to be he should have sat out the entire duration and should have answered, irrespective of how uncomfortable the questions were.

The ones on which he decides to appear are such outright cowards. I don’t take sides but honestly, I must say that dynast had the spine to appear against their so-called pseudo spokesperson. He knew he would be blasted with tough questions and given how his IQ is perceived nobody would be kind to him but to his credit, he still appeared. Did the same jingoist anchor put across the questions with equal ferociousness to the PM? I guess we know the answer.

It is like appearing for an exam for which you already know all the questions and ironically all the answers…since they too are prepared. The PM just has to get ready…appear…and enact or I should say act. The opposition leader might be dumb but dumber are those who are putting these pathetic dolly questions to the PM when the country is reeling under so many issues. And even dumber are those who still believe that these are fair questions and answers session.

I was taught, ‘Democracy is for the people, by the people, and of the people’ but when you taking away the power of putting across people’s questions and issues then you are literally cutting the people out of democracy and voting just becomes a sham.

They say not to question the supreme authority. Consider the scenario when you are working in a team in your company and every member has chosen a particular member to be their team leader. Now working on a project nobody was involved in the decision-making and later the project fails. Don’t we get disgruntled and try to pose the question as to why it happened or do you go to the company next to your office and ask them why it happened?

If somehow the project gets executed and reaches its desirable goal with the hard work of each and every member but when it comes to getting recognition, the team leader decides to hog all the limelight and tries to convince that it was all due to his decision-making that the team achieved the results. What would be your state? I am sure every one of us working in corporate has faced this kind of a scenario. Don’t we feel extremely gutted?

So if the project fails no questions should be asked and no accountability should be fixed but if it succeeds then it is just a masterstroke of one brain.

The same is happening in the country right now. When either the public or their representatives pose any serious question they are met with only diversionary tactics and not surprisingly the bootlickers begin to question the company next door.

The same PM, when he was a CM, awarded a compensation of Rs 1 cr to Karkare’s wife, which she royally refused. Today when he is the PM, he is fielding a candidate, a terror accused, who says that Karkare didn’t die at the hands of terrorists but because of her curse.

Think for a second that we are living in a parallel universe, and let’s believe each and everything she is saying and assume that Karkare was actually the one who harassed her…then also…if her curse is so powerful, shouldn’t she curse our enemy nation so that it gets destroyed or is there a bandwidth limitation to her curses? This isn’t stupidity any longer this is telling you on your face that we are going to take you, the public, for a ride and forget about doing anything, we won’t even let you ask a question.

I would again reiterate the same point that I presented in the first post; stop teaching and encouraging your kids to ask questions because in the end they have to get this rude shock that whatever is taught in school on the name of democracy is just to pass a standard and it does not hold any true logic in the real world.

For all those who are frustrated on how politicians are taking us for a ride,

For all those who hate the ideology of hate,

For all those who want an accountable government,

And

For all those who believe we should still keep Questioning…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the 17th 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 ‘R’

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

P – Political Candidates | #AtoZChallenge

P – Political Candidates | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

In continuation with the yesterdays’ post, I will discuss the political candidates and candidature of the country, when we discuss what are the options and whom to choose from it is a lot dependent on us. Some might say we vote for what is available, I believe its how and whom we vote decides the kind of candidates being fielded.

A terror accused, against which the NIA has admitted that they have sufficient proof, gets a ticket to contest the election. I wonder if any other party would have done the same, the whole world would have gone berserk saying that they are anti-nationals and supportive of such forces.

It is high time that we as voters start thinking about the kind of candidates we want to see. If we vote for the current lot whether from any party, not based on the kind of work they have done but just some sloganeering then we don’t have the right to blame anyone else.

Whether it is a dynast or a megalomaniac, no one is purchasing a seat in Lok Sabha. They are all contesting and it is the majority of the people that vote and send them in. So the elections should be on issues that directly concern us. Even if we can’t choose the candidates, then at least we can pose the right questions to the ones already contesting. Aren’t they answerable?

There is a comical trend that has emerged that highlights both the hypocrisy of a party as well as its supporters. A person is accused of so many things only and only if he or she is a part of the opposition. The same candidates when they are in the opposition party are looked as criminals but the moment they join the current ruling party, a halo emerges around them signifying their innocence and it is then loudly proclaimed that they were criminals only till they were in the opposition.

The candidature of a candidate should be immediately barred or canceled as soon as they migrate from one party to another after a particular election has taken place. People voted for a symbol and the ideology he represents but then a mockery of the system is made, when the next day the candidate jumps to the other side. Election after election we are seeing this and it is a huge cause behind the current horse-trading scenario of politicians.

The much hyped ‘Joota Kand’ that took place between two gladiators of the ruling party. Did anyone try to listen to the charges that they were making against each other? Everyone got lost in counting the number of times one has honored the other with the shoe rather than focusing on the grave accusations made by both on each other. That’s a live proof that nobody is a saint even if they are under the flag of a particular color.

I grew up with a notion that whether you do good work or not but to have criminal inclination is a necessary quality if one has to succeed in politics and that’s the sad reality. Look at the kind of charges against candidates. There are a wide variety of serious charges against them including rape, murder, terrorist activity, and sedition and so on. The system even corrupts the ones who start clean with good intentions. Try to remember the time when we were in school and the teacher used to ask what do you want to become when you grow up…and nobody answered a politician.

Why to only blame the politicians when we ourselves are at fault on so many accounts? The moment our relative or someone close comes to power as a politician or a bureaucrat or even a government official, we try every possible bit to get our work done through them however illegal it may be.

Even the Supreme Court intervened in the matter but with no result. The percentage of tainted candidates who won in the last election was around 35% and it is definitely on the rise in 2019. Everyone from the BJP to Congress, from DMK to AIDMK, each and every political party is a culprit of that.

The political class has played with the law and rules in such a shameful manner that you will be shocked to know that currently, a person who has served less than two years in prison can also contest elections.

We are so dumb that the moment a movie celebrity joins politics and becomes a candidate, everyone blindly votes for them, knowing that they will hardly visit their constituency forget about visiting Lok Sabha and raising the people’s issues.

Nobody questions the returning candidates on their previous performance. Forget questioning, the candidates themselves know that they can’t highlight their own work otherwise they will be shown the mirror royally and hence they play divisive tactics.

I am not saying that every candidate is a criminal but somehow the Good Samaritan gets lost in the glitz, glamour, and influence of a criminal. A Nobel man would never be able to generate the amount of cash and muscle power required to win an election and hence the illicit and immoral will keep coming back to power. The political parties will do everything possible to keep it corrupt, the latest electoral bonds is a prime example of it.

The fallacy lies within us. Till the time we are going to vote for such much-acclaimed candidates the political parties will keep fielding them. We need to look beyond caste, creed, family, lineage, religion and focus on the issues that directly are of concern otherwise the future of your kids’ education will keep going into the hands of those educational ministers who lied about their educational qualifications under oath.

For all those who are fed up of the current lot,

For all those who vote for tainted candidates,

For all those who vote for celebrities,

And

For all those who want a change in the political candidature…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the 16th 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 ‘Q’

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.