The World this Week: News Digest 1

In Nitish Kumar’s Boat

courtesy: neeraj bhushan

pic courtesy: neeraj bhushan

If there’s one politician whose dilemma the general public could share at the moment that would be Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar. Earlier this week Kumar spelt out in no uncertain terms that he would leave the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance if it kept projecting (albeit tacitly) saffron poster boy Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general elections. He reiterated there would be no compromise on secular values. Before news pundits could even speculate on his options, Kumar also ruled out aligning with the Congress in Bihar, saying his party the Janata Dal (United) would not tie up with a corrupt party either. Now, secularism and clean governance are non-negotiables for Kumar (who is credited with single-handedly resurrecting Bihar and restoring the legitimacy of the state by practising these) just as they are for many voters like me. But while standing his ground for ethical and vote bank-related reasons may have earned him appreciation from many, that is not enough to help Kumar retain the numbers required for a third consecutive term in office. The dilemma for Nitish Kumar and many voters is this: If not the Congress or BJP, then who? With Arvind ‘Civil Society’ Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party still in its infancy and regional parties that talk about forming a Third Front sharing no common vision except to oust the big 2, one is left with a dearth of options. Quite ironic in a multi-party system. It’ll be interesting to see how Kumar negotiates the situation. Perhaps that will help guide voters as well. Otherwise, there’s always Rule 49-O.

Still in denial, 11 years on

pic courtesy: india tv news

pic courtesy: india tv news

Nitish Kumar’s nemesis Narendra Modi, meanwhile, has made a clever move. Offering up former aide and BJP leader Maya Kodnani as the proverbial lamb to the slaughter, the Modi-led Gujarat government is set to seek the death penalty for the former state minister for women & child development who is convicted for her role in the riots of 2002. This move is being seen as Modi’s bid to show that he too wants justice for the communal pogrom on his watch that left 2000 Muslims dead. The riots case is by far the biggest chink in Modi’s armour. Gujarat’s voters, Muslims included may have forgiven him and re-elected him as their Chief Minister for the third time. But outside Gujarat people are not only less forgiving but unwilling to forget. Modi has quickly realised that no amount of Sadbhavna missions, Google+ Hangouts and pan-India tours to interact with India’s masses and classes will completely wipe out the riots and his complicity in them (still unproven in court) from public memory. These may have earned him his third consecutive term in office, but being given a chance, a term as Prime Minister of the country is a whole other ball game. While he is still far from apologising and being punished by the law, I would like to ask Narendra Modi this: if he could rewind the clock to late-Feb and early March 11 years ago, would he have done things differently?

Dutt’s not the way, Bollywood!

pic courtesy:

pic courtesy:

Saif Ali Khan has dismissed the blackbuck hunting incident as a one-off misdemeanour blaming youthful recklessness at the time for the incident. The actor, who is among 5 other stars accused of the crime, says he is a changed man today, more than a decade on and wouldn’t ever commit such an act again. While the remorse is appreciated, a crime is a crime and pay he must! Stars and other VIPs who believe they’re being singled out when the law takes its course were crying themselves hoarse on social media this past fortnight. This after Bollywood’s bad ‘bhai’ Sanjay Dutt was sentenced to 5 years in jail for illegally possessing arms in the 1993 Bombay Riots case. Dutt too says he is repentant and a changed man and that he has suffered enough while the case hung over him for 20 years. It’s sad to see that the Bollywood fraternity that joined the chorus of Mumbaikars in the aftermath of 26/11- another terrorist attack- to demand justice by bringing the guilty to book, has double standards when it’s one of their own who is in the dock.

Condolences, Boston.

Terror struck in the heart of Boston on Monday night. I was at work when the news came in. The fact that the attack took place at the annual Boston Marathon – a target one least expected – killing 3 innocents and injuring scores of others – was a reminder that terrorism is a ruthless, indiscriminate beast.

pic courtesy: the huffington post

pic courtesy: the huffington post

As I watched US President Barack Obama shake his head in grief on TV and vow not to spare the bombers, I wondered whom the US would attack next in the name of avenging the killings. Where would the next set of drones be dispatched to, which suspected Al Qaeda/Taliban leader would be pulled out of a hidey hole in a tribal village in Pakistan’s northwest. You can’t wage a war on terrorism by bombing out nondescript villages in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Fight terror by tackling its root causes: Poverty. Fight terrorism with Development.


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