#MyVote2019 – 'Modi Is Good, Quota Isn't'

Pradeep Kumar, 28, Employed With An Apparel Brand, in New Delhi   First things first: Modi ji ke aane se fayda to hua hai (Narendra Modi has been beneficial for the country). The thing that has impressed me the most is his dedication towards a cleaner India. Many youngsters like me think twice before littering and I have seen government offices taking cleanliness more seriously as well. Such campaigns appeal to a civilised citizen. Besides, work is getting done now. In my native state, Uttarakhand, there have been commendable infrastructural activity. The work on the all-weather road connecting the famous chhota chaar dham, namely Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, is on in full flow. Earlier, the roads used to be in a poor condition in many areas in Uttarakhand, especially during monsoons, but the connectivity is much better these days. Of late, many people are talking about the Modi government’s decision to allocate 10% reservation for the economically weaker sections among the upper castes. It doesn’t impact me since I am not a government job aspirant and I already have a job. Frankly, I don’t believe in quota system in employment. Getting a job is about how much drive, confidence and sincerity you have in yourself. Reservation or not, those who have the drive will carve a successful career. I do understand that there are remote areas where people don’t get the opportunity for equal education. That part of reservation policy is fine but it has to stop after a point. On a personal levels, many of Modiji’s decisions that people criticise didn’t affect me directly. I didn’t suffer during demonetisation, though it was tough to see many others stand in long queues. The rise in petrol prices hasn’t affected me much since I don’t have a private vehicle and always travel by public transport. In fact more people have started using public transport, as I see the vehicles getting more crowded. But isn’t that a good thing? Thus, I believe Modiji is currently the best bet we have for a Prime Minister. I don’t see any other leader in close competition. Mujhe nahi lagta ki Rahul Gandhi me PM waali quality hai (I do not think Rahul Gandhi has the virtues to become prime minister of India). Every time I have heard him speak, his focus has been more on what the government has done wrong. He is silent on what his remedy is. He should also speak about what his party will do when it comes to power. Mere hisab se unhe abhi bahut kuch sikhne ki jarurat hai (He needs to learn a lot). So, overall, I want Modiji to come back to power in 2019. There may be many things that need to be changed about his governance style but I think he has done a good job so far in his current term as the leader of the nation.  ]]>

#MyVote2019 – ‘Youth Connects With Modi’

Vibhum Srivastava, 20, an undergraduate in Uttar Pradesh and a first time voter   Last year was the first time when I actually got to seen an EVM and the electoral process during Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. I am excited about the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as this will be the first time I shall cast my vote for Parliament. Ever since I got my election ID made, I see myself as an active participant in choosing our own destiny by lending our support for a party or policy. I am a member of various social media groups and keep abreast with political developments. I debate and take part in several political discussion on my Facebook account and on Twitter. I respect valid arguments of all kind and keep my sanity while placing my views on these forum. I consider myself an aware youth with respectable knowledge about political parties, leaders, policies, etc. Even though I am still studying, I have my views on jobs, infrastructure, road connectivity, safety, women empowerment etc. These are the issues that I believe concern first-time voters like me. I am proud of our country’s growing ranking and image on global platform. This feeling of pride and recognition is what makes me look towards our current leadership with respect. My choice for the next prime minister is definitely Narendra Modi. I cannot see a better option at least till the time I get to cast my vote again (after five years). The reason is: ever since I have started following the political course of our country, I have seen only two leaders – Manmohan Singh and Modi. I find Modi a far more energetic, interactive and effective leader of the two. Critics say it is about his media management but I counter that projection of your image is also a key factor for a leader. As Nehru said, a government not only be doing the right things but also must be seen as doing the right things. When I look around myself, I see the change is taking place gradually. For example, I often hear my uncle (a government employee) murmuring that ever since Modi came to power, he has reach office on time, work more etc. But even he is a Modi supporter. I faced little difficulty due to GST or rising petrol prices as I am still dependent on my father. However, I think, these issues are not permanent. When the dust settles down, they will eventually be of some benefit for us in the long run. Rahul Gandhi is hopeless; he will take at least 10-15 years to have the aura of Modi. My views are not based on the memes and jokes circulating on the social media – that is BJP media cell’s job – but what few speeches of his I have seen and heard. He lacks depth. In spite of being younger than Modi, he does not connect with the youth today. In my view, there should be a live debate between political leaders running for a particular post, like they have in many western countries and also in some of our universities, on the eve of election. This will give the voter a clear chance to make up his mind, especially the young voter, and the country will give a decisive mandate.  ]]>

#Election2019 – Gear Up For The Tamasha

Deepak Pant   Is it any wonder that ever more actors are moving to the political stage in India in recent years and decades? The phenomenon is not unique to India – remember Ronald Reagan – but there is something distinctive about politics and powerplay in India. Think about the cliché: change and continuity. The change is the all-pervasive efflorescence of the media since the early 1990s and the continuity is something rooted in the Indian psyche: ‘tamasha’, or spectacle. Put the two together and you get a semblance of understanding contemporary Indian politics. To be a successful ‘neta’ (leader), you have to be something of an ‘abhineta’ (actor). If elections can be won by tapping into the age-old attraction of ‘tamasha’ (remember 2014), the corollary is that the opposition can also play the same game and win an election using counter-‘tamasha’. The environment today is such that only those who can play the performance game through the media can hope to survive and thrive in electoral politics, and who better than actors to do this: Kamal Haasan, Smriti Irani, Shatrughan Sinha, Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini, Jaya Prada, Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, NT Rama Rao, MG Ramachandran, J Jayalalitha…the list goes on. In other words, the situation in India resembles what an academic might call ‘the politics of permanent performance’; you need to be constantly seen to perform, even if you don’t actually do so in work, to sustain support of the people. It works for some time, until another – better? – ‘tamasha’ takes over. Those who gain power by and through the ‘tamasha’ route in the media face the prospect of losing by the same route. It was Neil Postman, who tellingly argued in 1985 that television has transformed culture into one vast arena for show business in which all public affairs – politics, religion, news, education, journalism, commerce – have been turned into a form of entertainment, or ‘tamasha’. His main contention is that the form of the media includes or excludes the quality of content: rational argument has long been central to print typography, but the form of television and television news excludes rationality since it is essentially a form, medium, devised for entertainment programming. Thus, politics and religion are diluted, and ‘news’ becomes a packaged commodity. Television de-emphasises the quality of information in favour of satisfying the far-reaching needs of entertainment, by which information is encumbered and to which it is subordinate. ‘Tamasha’ has long been one of the defining principles of political communication in India. It took various forms: such as staged satire and poetry in ‘mushairas’ and ‘kavi sammelans’, gossip, ballads, announcements of visits by leaders, processions (perfected by L K Advani’s ‘rath yatra’), street theatre, puppet shows, political verse set to popular Bollywood songs. These forms gained exponential reach and power with the proliferation of the media, including the internet and social media. Claims and counter-claims were equally able to disseminate quickly. Thus, it is no surprise that the opposition Congress also takes to similar idioms to attack the BJP in power: for example, Rahul Gandhi’s description of GST as ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ after the popular villain from ‘Sholay’, as well as his amusing, funny and entertaining quick-on-the-uptake posts on Twitter on issues of the day. During the 2014 elections, the Narendra Modi act – or, ‘tamasha’ – was highly effective. Here was a leader who spoke very well (compared to the then prime minister Manmohan Singh), promised the moon, seemed confident of cutting through bureaucratic and political cobwebs, was immensely entertaining, had tremendous confidence in his abilities to transform India, which the youth found attractive. It was a stellar performance across various media forms: radio, mobile, television, print, newspapers as well as holograms that enabled him to appear at public meetings at various locations simultaneously. Cut to end-2018 and the attraction of his ‘tamasha’ has waned. There are already reports of BJP candidates during recent elections in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan complaining that people no longer come to his rallies in large numbers. The same confident television appearances that attracted many in 2014 don’t seem to have the same pull now, if not a put-off. The key question now is: is the opposition capable of putting up a bigger, better ‘tamasha’ than the BJP during the 2019 elections? In 2014, it was claimed that the taciturn Manmohan Singh was ‘Modi’s most effective election agent’; the former’s persona was a contrast reference point that helped sell the Modi brand. In 2019, will Modi be ‘Rahul’s most effective election agent’? Rahul Gandhi’s stall of an inclusive, less-charged and less-divisive India will be pitted against the polarizing and polarized India symbolized by Modi and the BJP. The Nehru-Gandhi has long exploited the ‘tamasha’ in an India where feudal impulses are still influential. The outcome of the elections remains to be seen, but it is certain that ‘tamasha’ in various forms and media will reach a new high.  ]]>

#Election2019 – Who'll I Vote For, And Why

Akhir Ali, proprietor, Bharat Sports, Morena Sim Bazaar, Madhya Pradesh I am 71 now. I have been selling sports goods for more than five decades. We have a shop, Bharat Sports, in Sim Bazaar (Morena, MP) but our main income comes from fairs at small towns. My work therefore requires me to travel to Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. (Narendra) Modi may be a great leader, but his supporters are a violent lot. ‘Buraai bardashth nahi (Modi’s criticism is unacceptable to them).’ We keep reading about gau rakshaks ganging up against innocent Muslims. TV channels often report about lynch mobs targeting the minority community. Each time there is a mention of the word Modi, in a train, bus or public place, you will find people intensely defending all his actions. I stay away from such debates or discussions. This wasn’t the case earlier. At the fairs, or during travel, we openly discussed politics. Today, it is not advisable to disclose your political views, especially if they are not in favour of the Yogi-Modi brand of leadership. ‘Mahaul bahut kharaab hai (Bad times have befallen).’ No matter what hardships you faced during note-bandi (demonetization), you must bear it silently. In mid-November, 2016, several marriages in our village and nearby area were postponed. For the ones which could not be postponed, families gave written oaths to return money once things normalized. My business suffered. There were no crowds at the fairs where I had brought the stalls. Those were tough times. But no, you cannot say a word against note-bandi. Or you will be called gaddar (traitor). It is doubly difficult for a Muslim, you understand. My vote is reserved for the Congress party. Only Congress can keep Modi in check. Anywhere the BJP comes to power, it lets loose idle youth branding swords and sticks in rallies. There was one Bajrang Dal procession here too some time back. These men with saffron bandanas kept shouting ugly slogans and looked at us threateningly. I have advised my family to keep their gaze low whenever they faces such aggression. Good men are in each party. Shivraj Chauhan (former Madhya Pradesh chief minister) is a good man. The former BJP MLA Rustom (Tomar) phool wala is a good man. He even sanctioned Rs 8 lakh for the graveyard in Morena. We never had any complaint from him. But how can we vote for him? His party wily-nily patronises gau rakshaks, after all.  ]]>

‘We Can Survive GST, Not Hate Politics’

Khurram Mirza, 32-year-old Entrepreneur, Aligarh (Uttar Pradesh) The rise in right-wing nationalism is a phenomenon not only restricted to India, but is finding resonance worldwide. In our country, this started taking an aggressive form since May 2014, when (Narendra) Modi government came to power. I am a Muslim but earlier I didn’t need to prove my Indian-ness constantly. However, since 2014, the main issues related to good governance like health, education and development have been pushed to the background while identity politics has been brought to the forefront. You only have to browse through social media platform to witness this rising phenomenon. Now, our religious identity has taken over our national identity. A lot of people find it easy to openly generalise/stereotype an entire community based on the act of an individual from the community.  Aren’t there black sheep in every group, every collective? Knowing each person individually takes a lot of courage, persistence, openness and compassion while judging others is easy. The ruling party is using technology brilliantly to propagate this judgemental attitude and I believe that the Opposition can stake a claim to power in 2019 only if they also use technology in equal measure to propagate the good values and counter BJP. I want the Opposition, especially Congress, to be proactive rather than reactive. I want them to make their own policies, forge their own path rather than taking actions based on the actions of the BJP. I believe people take all that Congress has done for granted. Apart from the physical infrastructure to the education infrastructure to development policies for the poor and the marginalized, the Congress has managed to give direction to such a huge country. They are not perfect, they made mistakes and they should own up to it. The very technology that Modiji and his party are putting to such good use today was also brought in by Congress – remember Sam Pitroda during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure. Let’s not live under an illusion, ultimately when no one is left to hate, it turns inwards and also starts affecting the people who started hating other people first. We are Indians, and it is a beautiful feeling to perceive poetry, food, music, literature, fashion and psychology and philosophy the way we do. No matter who comes to power, love should be number one on their manifesto. Things like demonetisation, rise in petrol prices, the confusion over GST, we can live with. What we can live is disharmony in society. We all want peace and love. I hope we all make a sensible decision in 2019.]]>

#MyVote2019 – ‘I Will Press NOTA Button'

Narendra Singh, 26, Restaurant Employee, Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh) I completed my graduation in business administration from Jiwaji University five years back. Fresh out of college, in 2014, I voted for (Narendra) Modi. His speeches inspired me. He rose above caste, religion and talked only about development. That was the agenda I too expected from our country’s leaders in 21st century. I even travelled to Uttar Pradesh to attend one of his rallies in March 2014. Mesmerised by the response he drew from the crowd, I felt he was the destiny’s child who would change the way we live in India. I even fought with my parents, who are Congress supporters for generations. But sadly, even with Shivraj Singh in the state and Modi at the Centre, little changed for the common man in my region; I am sure the story is same everywhere in the country. Worse, we are now lynching people for cows, organizing crowds for Ram Temple and building statutes. Whatever happened to the development model! Since March 2014, I have learnt a lot about how politicians of all hues, be it Congress or BJP, thrive on sweet words and golden dreams. In the last five years I have been searching for a respectable job. I can speak fluent English, I have done MBA too. But where are the jobs Modiji promised? In the last four years, I have taken numerous examinations for a sarkari naukri, I have applied in every company from Dilli, Mumbai to Bengaluru that was looking for fresh graduates. Every day I would check my email for a positive response. Finally, look what I am doing here – he points to the ladle and dishes he is carrying – serving daal baati choorma. We own some farm land but the people managing it tell us that the yield is only falling while the cost of seeds and fertilisers are shooting up. For the past three years, there is no income from the land. My family’s favourite pastime is talking about our Bhadoria Rajput lineage. I have begun to feel sick now listening to those stories. Politicians tell us false stories about the future, and voters like my family stay drunk in their false glorious past. The present remains bleak. I will give you my personal example. Several years ago, there was a buzz in my native town that the land near the highway would become costly and builders will be paying handsome money for it. There was euphoria among land-owners. They kept counting their chicken before they hatched. Till date, there are no other takers to those tracts of land. Few understand that real estate business is in poor shape. But people are living in the hope of selling it one day and make good money. This is how politicians keep the voter on the hook – with hope of a better future. This is the lesson I have learnt which no university will ever teach you. I am happy that there is NOTA (none of the above) in the voting machine now. That is where I plan to press my finger.]]>

Who Will Put Up A Bigger Tamasha In 2019 Elections?

Deepak Pant   Is it any wonder that ever more actors are moving to the political stage in India in recent years and decades? The phenomenon is not unique to India – remember Ronald Reagan – but there is something distinctive about politics and powerplay in India. Think about the cliché: change and continuity. The change is the all-pervasive efflorescence of the media since the early 1990s and the continuity is something rooted in the Indian psyche: ‘tamasha’, or spectacle. Put the two together and you get a semblance of understanding contemporary Indian politics. To be a successful ‘neta’ (leader), you have to be something of an ‘abhineta’ (actor). If elections can be won by tapping into the age-old attraction of ‘tamasha’ (remember 2014), the corollary is that the opposition can also play the same game and win an election using counter-‘tamasha’. The environment today is such that only those who can play the performance game through the media can hope to survive and thrive in electoral politics, and who better than actors to do this: Kamal Haasan, Smriti Irani, Shatrughan Sinha, Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini, Jaya Prada, Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, NT Rama Rao, MG Ramachandran, J Jayalalitha…the list goes on. In other words, the situation in India resembles what an academic might call ‘the politics of permanent performance’; you need to be constantly seen to perform, even if you don’t actually do so in work, to sustain support of the people. It works for some time, until another – better? – ‘tamasha’ takes over. Those who gain power by and through the ‘tamasha’ route in the media face the prospect of losing by the same route. It was Neil Postman, who tellingly argued in 1985 that television has transformed culture into one vast arena for show business in which all public affairs – politics, religion, news, education, journalism, commerce – have been turned into a form of entertainment, or ‘tamasha’. His main contention is that the form of the media includes or excludes the quality of content: rational argument has long been central to print typography, but the form of television and television news excludes rationality since it is essentially a form, medium, devised for entertainment programming. Thus, politics and religion are diluted, and ‘news’ becomes a packaged commodity. Television de-emphasises the quality of information in favour of satisfying the far-reaching needs of entertainment, by which information is encumbered and to which it is subordinate. ‘Tamasha’ has long been one of the defining principles of political communication in India. It took various forms: such as staged satire and poetry in ‘mushairas’ and ‘kavi sammelans’, gossip, ballads, announcements of visits by leaders, processions (perfected by L K Advani’s ‘rath yatra’), street theatre, puppet shows, political verse set to popular Bollywood songs. These forms gained exponential reach and power with the proliferation of the media, including the internet and social media. Claims and counter-claims were equally able to disseminate quickly. Thus, it is no surprise that the opposition Congress also takes to similar idioms to attack the BJP in power: for example, Rahul Gandhi’s description of GST as ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ after the popular villain from ‘Sholay’, as well as his amusing, funny and entertaining quick-on-the-uptake posts on Twitter on issues of the day. During the 2014 elections, the Narendra Modi act – or, ‘tamasha’ – was highly effective. Here was a leader who spoke very well (compared to the then prime minister Manmohan Singh), promised the moon, seemed confident of cutting through bureaucratic and political cobwebs, was immensely entertaining, had tremendous confidence in his abilities to transform India, which the youth found attractive. It was a stellar performance across various media forms: radio, mobile, television, print, newspapers as well as holograms that enabled him to appear at public meetings at various locations simultaneously. Cut to end-2018 and the attraction of his ‘tamasha’ has waned. There are already reports of BJP candidates during recent elections in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan complaining that people no longer come to his rallies in large numbers. The same confident television appearances that attracted many in 2014 don’t seem to have the same pull now, if not a put-off. The key question now is: is the opposition capable of putting up a bigger, better ‘tamasha’ than the BJP during the 2019 elections? In 2014, it was claimed that the taciturn Manmohan Singh was ‘Modi’s most effective election agent’; the former’s persona was a contrast reference point that helped sell the Modi brand. In 2019, will Modi be ‘Rahul’s most effective election agent’? Rahul Gandhi’s stall of an inclusive, less-charged and less-divisive India will be pitted against the polarizing and polarized India symbolized by Modi and the BJP. The Nehru-Gandhi has long exploited the ‘tamasha’ in an India where feudal impulses are still influential. The outcome of the elections remains to be seen, but it is certain that ‘tamasha’ in various forms and media will reach a new high.  ]]>

#MyVote2019 – ‘BJP Did Well in Healthcare’

Dr Virendra Verma, Senior Resident, Lucknow’s King George’s Medical University I have witnessed people with heart ailments begging for treatment in front of helpless doctors. There are countless requests for monetary help and discounts in medicines and other products that are used for implants, especially heart. When I judge a government’s performance, I weigh it on the steps taken in the direction toward a welfare healthcare system. In this regard, I hold Modi regime has performed well. The revision of stent prices was a revolutionary decision taken by the government. I have seen patients giving blessings to Modi. Earlier, stents were dubiously priced high and beyond the reach of the poor and lower middle class patients. Things drastically changed when the Centre standardized the stent prices. Even people from low income groups are able to opt for a stent placement. I would like to share the story of Shanti Singh, a patient from Varanasi who came to Lucknow for treatment. When she came here, the price of one stent was about Rs 1.5 lakh. After we gave her an estimate, she quietly went back home. However, after the prices were revised, Shanti came back to us and this time the entire cost of her treatment –which included installing two stents in her coronary arteries, medicines and hospital stay — totaled just Rs 70,000. Next, the Ayushmaan Bharat health scheme is a revolutionary step towards providing comprehensive healthcare services to this country’s citizens. A majority of the beneficiaries under this scheme are able to get themselves treated at private hospitals, which are bound to entertain them without any excuse. This takes the load off government hospitals to a great extent. And we can improve our performance. Private hospitals did have initial objections, but now they have no other choice. A friend of mine who runs a private hospital in the neighboring district was forced to allocate a sizeable number of beds for the beneficiaries of this scheme. He was rather perturbed by this but gradually he had to get accustomed to it. Also putting most of the life-saving drugs under direct price control and opening of Jan Aushadhi Kendras at government hospitals will surely be another feather on the cap for the BJP government. I will undoubtedly support a repeat term for the Narendra Modi government.  ]]>