Can Shiv Sena Go It Alone?

The Shiv Sena, the party sulking for last almost four years, has decided to field its two candidates for the Nashik and Raigad-Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg local authorities constituencies for the Maharashtra Legislative Council elections. It effectively reinforces its stand to have no truck with Bharatiya Janata Party, its longtime ally and presently its bête noire. The election is scheduled to be held next month. A total of six local authorities constituencies would go to polls on May 21.
The politics in Maharashtra for the last few days has been marked by the overtures by BJP to form an alliance with Shiv Sena.Uddhav Thackeray, the executive president of Shiv Sena, announced earlier this year that the party would contest all future elections alone. The announcement was the culmination of a long drawn verbal duel between the two saffron parties. Ever since BJP rode to power, successively at the centre and in state, it rubbed its long time ally wrong way. In its zeal to acquire power on its own, BJP behaved with an aggressive high handedness that offended the party that have endured many a tempests together in over three-decade long journey.
Now the time has come for Shiv Sena to pay in the same coin. Its latest move is viewed as a snub to the BJP’s overtures. The Sena has announced Narendra Darade and Rajeev Sable for Nashik and Raigad-Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituencies, respectively as its candidates.The question is – can Shiv Sena maintain the momentum and pay the price of fighting its battles alone. The party may claim that it has a statewide presence but in reality, it is clustered in Mumbai, Konkan and to an extent Paschim (Western) Maharashtra area. Its support mainly from the urban areas. A large base of cadre has migrated first to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and now to BJP.
On the part of BJP, it indulged itself in many misadventures post-2014. Many of those misadventures actually paid dividends. However, the sense of realpolitik came soon and it started looking for mending fences with Shiv Sena. The BJP leaders including Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and others have made no bones about their willingness to form an alliance with Shiv Sena. Even though Shiv Sena has resolutely said time and again that it will go alone, no one in political circles believed it. Shiv Sena clinging to power both in Centre as well as in state was seen as its fallibility.
uddhav thackeray devendra fadnavisIn fact BJP wants an alliance not only for this election to Legislative Council but also for next Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Shiv Sena leadership has not only neglected those overtures, but discarded them out rightly. However, the changing dynamics of Maharashtra politics may force the party to have rethink of its steadfast and adamant stand.
The Congress and NCP that fought alone in last assembly election, against each other and against BJP as well as Shiv Sena also, are now coming closer. They have given enough signals that they may jump in the arena next time as one entity even at the national level. Congress leadership in the form of Rahul Gandhi and NCP (Sharad Pawar) have held meetings and deliberated on possible alliance. Since BJP has acquired many incomers from these parties. it may face no problem in facing the onslaught of combined strength of these parties. Moreover, it also has cadre that is already buoyed by successive victories of BJP in all levels of election. Shiv Sena can’t claim this type of comfort.
Moreover, CM Fadnavis has very shrewdly given prominence to MNS leader Raj Thackeray who is seen reviving his party’s lost fortune. By attacking Narendra Modi and Fadnavis as well, Raj Thackeray has tried to occupy opposition space that has been laying vacant due to the lackluster performance by Congress and NCP as opposition parties. Shiv Sena tried to play double game by being in power and at the same time being an opposition party. However, this plan did not work out very well. this was clear by its underperformance in elections after elections. So much so that it was humiliated in its own citadel Mumbai during the municipal election.
Shiv Sena’s strategy seems to rely on capitalizing on anti-incumbency factor and the anger over betrayal (by BJP). However, this anti-incumbency thing is a very dicey preposition – except for media and politically enthused social media circles, this factor has not been especially evident anywhere in the state. Again, this factor will benefit, if at all, to Congress NCP and not Shiv Sena because it was an equal partner in whatever the present government did or did not.
In such a scenario, Shiv Sena’s muscle flexing may actually backfire on it. The move may alienate it’s sympathizers and may erode of its voter base. For a solid display and exhibition of political strength, it may be a right move but for a long term gain and goodwill it may prove counterproductive.

Beyond Lingayat Hype, Something Else May Haunt Siddaramaiah

Even as political pundits are engaged in heated debate over what the possible impact of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s decision to accord separate status of religion to Lingayats in Karnataka would be, there is something else that may haunt him in the long run. And that is large number of farmer’s suicide in the state. Karnataka, one of the most naturally abundant states in India, is facing a severe crisis of droughts and weak agriculture. According to state’s own statistics department, as many as 3,515 farmers in Karnataka have committed suicide between April 2013 and November 2017. Of these, 2,525 suicides were due to drought and farm failure, as per the state agriculture department said.

According to a PTI report in December 2017, 3,515 farmers were reported to have committed suicide from April 2013 to November 2017; from April 2008 to April 2012, as many as 1,125 farmers were reported to have committed suicide.Out of the 3,515 suicide cases reported, the agriculture department accepted 2,525 cases as being due to drought and crop failure, the data said.

Agriculture Director B.Y. Srinivas told mediapersons that as many as 112 suicide cases were pending for the want of ratification by a state government panel since 2013. The highest number of suicides (1,483) were reported during 2015-16 and lowest (106) during 2013-14, Srinivas said. “Sugarcane growers top the list of suicides, followed by cotton and paddy cultivators,” and

“As many as 1,332 cases have been registered against money lenders, of which 585 have been arrested in last three years,” were the statements attributed to him.

The farmers who committed suicides included the cultivators of coconut, paddy, areca nut, cash crops and various others. It is just behind Maharashtra in terms of farmers in distress. The signs of this distress are evident even now through the numerous marches that have been taken out in various parts of the state during last few years. The Maharashtra is still in rough weather on resolving the agrarian crisis that has engulfed the state and dented the state’s image in a big way.

It is a common knowledge that the Siddaramaiah government has failed to address the farmers’ plight effectively. So obviously enough, the government is pushed to the corner over the issue. And hence, Siddaramaiah finds it necessary to conjure up issues that have more sentimental appeal than the practical one. Thus, imposition of Hindi and separate flag becomes more pertinent issue than the rising number of farmers’ suicides. Separate Lingayat religion becomes more important than the environmental degradation in cities like Bangalore.

The state government has faced flak for its utter failure in resolving many issues. Moreover, the pulbic opinion is largely becoming hostile to the government due to its failure in arresting the criminialisation of politics. And just ahead of the assembly elections, it has tried to divide Lingayats and Veerashaivas, also Lingayats and other communities, by announcing minority status for them. All this manuevering may bring headlines and mileage to the Congress, but it cannot ensure victory in the electoral fray.

No, Liberals Won’t Get Mersal Share of Pie

The Vijay-starrer Mersal is making well deserved waves at the box office and captivating the audiences. That would only enlighten his fans. However, this time his flick has hit headlines for wrong reasons and unfortunately, pitted against an uncalled for foe – Narendra Modi.

Twitter, ironically enough the social media partner of Mersal, is abuzz with trends of #MersalVsModi. All this because of an innocuous reference to Goods & Services Tax (GST). The non-existent BJP cadres took offence to the reference and demanded its purging. That raised alarm in the liberal camp, ever on the prowl for any Modi-bashing opportunity, raising calls of fascism and censorship.

Senior actors Kamal Haasan became the latest to join the bandwagon for supporting the movie against an imagined onslaught on the freedom of expression. “Counter criticism with logical response. Don’t silence critics. India will shine when it speaks,” he said on – you guess it – Twitter. The micro-blogging site is his favorite bunker for taking shots on his yet-undefined opponents and charting out yet-undefined plans for Tamil Nadu.

After watching Mersal in one of the theatres in Pune, I found the reference to GST largely inoffensive. And blaming actor Vijay for the same will be simply childish. The actor, while mouthing those dialogues, has not opposed GST nor commented on its inefficacy. He has simply compared the GST rates in Singapore and India and the medical services available in both countries. If there are discrepancies in the lines, and they are, the BJP Tamil Nadu has every right to point out.

After all, like director Atlee’s Theri and Bhairava, Mersal is heavily loaded with social message. This time around, the movie comments on lackluster condition of, or simple lack of, medical infrastructure in India as also rampant malpractices in the profession. Thus, keep aside the Vijay fans and looking through the prism of common audience, especially women, they will take an inaccurate message home and BJP is justified in developing concerns for the same. Neither the rate of GST in Singapore is as quoted in movie nor is medical treatment is free in that country.

Here comes another irony. The Tamil Nadu is ruled by AIADMK and Vijay had campaigned extensively for Jayalalithaa. Therefore, the state has a friendly dispensation for him and yet the actor is seen commenting on its poor performance.

Now, coming to support lent by opposition parties to Mersal, it is useless. And to beat up anti-Modi sentiments over it may actually jeopardise their chances. The movie out and out speaks of Tamil supremacy (Tamilan will rule and Tamil is mother of all language). If those details come out and reach to non-Tamil Indians, all the sympathy earned for the movie may burst in a second. Again, as pointed out above, there is hardly a word against GST in the movie. BJP has just termed dialogue “untruths” and demanded that the references be deleted. Party leader H. Raja wen overboard to claim that the movie exposed Vijay’s “anti-Modi hatred”. Even if these demands create anti-BJP sentiments, they will remain confined to Tamil Nadu, where otherwise also BJP has not much at stake since these leaders do not enjoy any stature outside the state. I wonder how many people, including Hindi TV channel anchors, can pronoune Tamilisai Sounderrajan’s name correctly and how many of them know what post she enjoys! And Modi is nowhere involved in this, not from a long shot!

Therefore, if liberals look to Mersal as another stepstone to take aim at Narendra Modi, they will fall flat on their faces. Mersal is a good movie and a must watch for appreciating the evolving movie making techniques (script, role playing and message packaging). As with Kaththi, it is another Diwali gift to relish.

And an advice for Mr. Atlee, as we watched movie the multiplex charged exorbitant rates for simple tea and coffee (because of which we skipped them). Let your concern for society address this issue in your next movie. How about that?

फॉर सिक्रेट आयज ओन्ली…अन आपण

जगात काही कुठं खुट्ट वाजलं, की अमेरिकेच्या नावाने खडे फोडायचा हा आपल्याकडच्या “आंतरराष्ट्रीय तज्ज्ञां’चा आवडता छंद. त्यातही “सेंट्रल इंटेलिजन्स एजन्सी’ (सीआयए) म्हणजे टीकाकारांचे आवडते लक्ष्य. “सीआयएने’ही विविध निमित्ताने आपल्या टीकाकारांना चांगलाच रोजगार पुरविला आहे. गेल्याच आठवड्यात “सीआयए’ने जाहीर केलेली कागदपत्रे ही यांपैकीच एक. क्‍यूबाचे अध्यक्ष फिडेल कॅस्ट्रो यांची 1960 च्या दशकात हत्या करण्यासाठी “सीआयए’ने तीन गुंडांची मदत घेतल्याचे या कागदपत्रांतील माहितीवरून उघडकीस आले. या कागदपत्रांतील काही माहिती या ना त्यानिमित्ताने पूर्वीच उघडकीस आली असली, तरी बरीचशी माहिती नव्यानेच समोर आली आहे. कॅस्ट्रो यांनी 1959 मध्ये क्‍यूबात क्रांतीद्वारे सत्ता हस्तगत केली. त्यांच्या साम्यवादी विचारसरणीमुळे आणि रशियाशी असलेल्या सख्यामुळे कॅस्ट्रो यांच्या हत्येचा कट रचण्यात आला. त्यासाठी “सीआयए’ने प्रथम लास वेगासमधील माफिया जोस रोझेलीशी संपर्क साधला. त्यानंतर मोमो साव्हातोर गियान्काना ऊर्फ सॅम गोल्ड आणि सांतोस ट्राफिकांत यांच्याशी संपर्क साधला गेला. मोमो आणि सांतोस हे तेव्हा अमरिकेला हवे असलेलेच गुन्हेगार होते. कॅस्ट्रो यांच्या हत्येशी अमेरिका किंवा “सीआयए’चा संबंध असणार नाही, असेही त्यांना स्पष्ट करण्यात आले होते.कॅस्ट्रोंना जेवणातून विष देऊन मारण्याची योजना मोमोने आखली होती. नंतर क्‍यूबातील ज्यआन ओर्ता या अधिकाऱ्याच्या मदतीने कॅस्ट्रोंना मारण्याचे प्रयत्न करण्यात आले. त्यात अपयश आल्याने ओर्ताने माघार घेतली, असे हे एकूण प्रकरण आहे.ही माहिती उघड झाली आणि लगेच “सीआयए’ कृष्णकृत्यांत कशी गुंतलेली आहे, हे सांगणारे तज्ज्ञ सरसावले. “अमेरिका जगावर साम्राज्य स्थापू पाहत असून, त्यासाठी मार्गात येणाऱ्यांचा काटा काढण्याची तिची नेहमीच तयारी असते,’ असे ठेवणीतले नेहमीची वाक्‍य फेकणारे अर्थातच त्यात होते. जणू काही ही माहिती यांनीच उघड केली आहे. मुळात चाळीस वर्षांपूर्वीच्या “सीआयए’च्या कारवायांचे हे कागदपत्र उघड झाल्यानंतर “न्यूयॉर्क टाइम्स’ने एक मालिका चालवून ते लोकांसमोर आणले. आताच नव्हे, तर ही कागदपत्रे गोपनीय असतानाच सेमूर हर्ष यांनी “न्यूयॉर्क टाइम्स’मधूनच 1974 मध्ये त्यातील अनेक भाग लोकांसमोर आणले. एवढेच नव्हे, तर त्यानंर “सीआयए’ने त्यांच्यावरच पाळत ठेवण्यास सुरवात केली, हेही त्यांनी जगासमोर आणले. आजही ग्वांटॅनॅमो बे किंवा इराकमधील अमेरिकी सैन्यांच्या अत्याचारी कृत्यांविरूद्ध हर्ष यांनीच सातत्याने लेखन केले आहे. आता उघड झालेल्या माहितीवरून त्यातील काही भाग केवळ अफवा किंवा खोटा असल्याचेही सिद्ध झाले आहे. त्यानंतर “सीआयए’चे प्रमुख इतिहासकार डेव्हिड रोबार्ज यांनी “न्यूयॉर्क टाइम्स’मध्ये लिहिलेल्या ब्लॉगमधून याविषयी “सीआयए’ची भूमिका मांडली आहे. ती खालील ठिकाणी उपलब्ध आहेः
ही कागदपत्रे म्हणजे “फॅमिली जेवेल्स’ नावाच्या दस्तऐवजांचा संग्रह आहे. खरं तर, “सीआयए’ते तत्कालीन प्रमुख होवार्ड जे. ओस्बोर्न यांनी अमेरिकेच्या “नॅशनल सिक्‍युरिटी ऍक्‍ट 1947′ अंतर्गत “सीआयए’च्या नीतीनियमांत न बसणाऱ्या कारवायांची माहिती आपल्या संघटनेच्या गुप्तचरांकडून मागितली होती. त्या माहितीचा हा संग्रह आहे. त्यातील अनेक कागदपत्रे पुन्हा-पुन्हा आली आहेत, काही केवळ कोरे कागद आहेत. याच “फॅमिली ज्वेल्स’च्या बरोबरीने प्रकाशित झालेले “सिझर-पोलो-एसाऊ’ कागदपत्रे ही अभ्यासकांच्या दृष्टीने अधिक कुतुहलाची आहेत. “सिझर-पोलो’ कागदपत्रांमध्ये 1953 ते 1973 पर्यंतच्या रशिया आणि चीनमधील राजकीय नेतृत्वाची माहिती आहे; तर “एसाऊ’ कागदपत्रांमध्ये चीन-रशिया संबंधांची माहिती आहे. मात्र त्यात “सीआयए’वर ताशेरे मारण्याजोगे काही नसल्याने त्याकडे कोणी पाहिले नाही. मुख्य मुद्दा हा आहे, की ही सर्व कागदपत्रे काहीही फेरफार न करता अमेरिकेच्या सरकारने जगभरातील लोकांसाठी इंटरनेटवर मोकळा केला आहे. अगदी या कागदपत्रांवरील “फॉर सिक्रेट आयज्‌ ओन्ली’ हा शिक्काही त्यात पाहायला मिळतो. आता प्रश्‍न हा आहे, की आपल्या देशात माहितीची ही मुक्तता कधी येणार? “तुला वाटते म्हणून नव्हे; तर मी सांगतो म्हणून हे कर,’ असं सांगणारी संस्कृती आपली. स्वातंत्र्यानंतरच्या साठ वर्षांमध्ये एवढे गैरव्यवहार झाले, कोणाची टाप आहे एकातरी गैरव्यवहाराच्या चौकशीचे खरे कागदपत्रे पहाण्याची? त्यामुळेच अमेरिकेचे कौतुक हेच, की स्वतःच्या दोषास्पद बाबींकडेही डोळेझाक न करता त्याला अभ्यासकांच्या नजरांसाठी मोकळं ठेवण्याची वृत्ती त्या देशात आहे.

संयुक्त द्विभाषिक अमेरिका?

हा माझा दोन वर्षांपूर्वीचा लेख आहे. त्यावेळी ‘सकाळ’च्या ‘लक्षवेधी’ सदरात तो छापून आला होता. आता त्यात काही सुधारणा करायच्या आहेल. त्या मी करेनच. तोपर्यंत ही सेवा रुजू करून घ्यावी.
अमेरिकन संस्कृतीचा डंका जगभर वाजत असताना व त्यामुळे जगभरातील मूळ भाषांच्या अस्तित्वावर गदा येत असताना, खुद्द अमेरिकेत मात्र द्विभाषिक व्यवस्थेचे पडघम वाजू लागले आहेत. शेजारच्या कॅनडाप्रमाणेच अमेरिकेतही इंग्रजीसह अन्य एका भाषेला व्यवहारभाषा म्हणून मान्यता मिळायची चिन्हे आहेत. ही दुसरी भाषा असणार आहे स्पॅनिश. सध्याच अमेरिकन जनतेला विमानांचे आरक्षण करताना, व्यवसायासाठी दूरध्वनीचा वापर करताना किंवा बॅंकेत व्यवहार करताना अनेक पर्यांयापैकी एका भाषेची निवड करावी लागत आहे. “हिस्पॅनिक लोकांची संख्या वाढण्यापूर्वी आम्हाला अशा गैरसोयीला तोंड द्यावे लागत नव्हते,’ अशी तक्रार अमेरिकन जनता करू लागली आहे. दक्षिण अमेरिकेतील स्पॅनिश भाषक निर्वासित मोठ्या संख्येने अमेरिकेत स्थलांतर करत असतात. त्यांच्यामुळे स्पॅनिश भाषकांची संख्या नजीकच्या काळात इंग्रजी भाषकांच्या संख्येला ओलांडून जाण्याची शक्‍यता निर्माण झाली आहे. हा धोका इंग्रजी भाषकांनी एवढ्या गांभीर्याने घेतला आहे, की “यू. एस. इंग्लिश’ या नावाची संघटनाच स्थापन करण्यात आली आहे. इंग्रजीला अमेरिकेची राष्ट्रीय भाषा जाहीर करावे, अशी या संघटनेची मागणी आहे. अमेरिकेची एकात्मता टिकविण्यासाठी हे आवश्‍यक आहे, असे या पक्षाच्या लोकांचे म्हणणे आहे. गेल्या वर्षी अध्यक्षपदाच्या निवडणुकीदरम्यान जॉर्ज डब्लू. बुश यांनी हिस्पॅनिक समूहात प्रचार करताना अनेकदा स्पॅनिशमध्ये बोलण्याचा प्रयत्न केला होता. त्यांचे मुख्य स्पर्धक जॉन केरी यांनीही तोच मार्ग चोखाळला होता. अमेरिकेच्या आजूबाजूला स्पॅनिश भाषक देशांची मोठी संख्या आहे. तिथून सातत्याने निर्वासित येत असल्याने, त्या भाषेला “मरण’ नाही, असे भाषातज्ज्ञांचे मत आहे. अमेरिकेच्या जनगणना खात्याने मार्च महिन्यात प्रसिद्ध केलेल्या अंदाजानुसारही, 2050 सालापर्यंत देशात हिस्पॅनिक-अमेरिकन वंशाच्या लोकांची संख्या तिपटीने वाढण्याची शक्‍यता आहे. या वंशाच्या लोकांची संख्या सध्या 3 कोटी 60 लाख आहे, ती 10 कोटी 30 लाख होईल. लोकसंख्येत त्यांचा वाटा 24.4 टक्के असेल, असे या खात्याने म्हटले आहे. मूळ अमेरिकनांचा वाटा सध्या 69.4 टक्के आहे, तो 2050 मध्ये 50.1 टक्‍क्‍यांपर्यंत खाली येण्याची शक्‍यता आहे. त्यामुळे पुढील शतकात अमेरिकेत जाण्यासाठी TOFEL प्रमाणेच TOSFL परीक्षा द्यावी लागल्यास नवल नाही.