TACKLING CORRUPTION IN THE WAKE OF VAZEGATE - The Daily Guardian
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TACKLING CORRUPTION IN THE WAKE OF VAZEGATE

The controversy surrounding the police and state government of Maharashtra after ex-top cop Param Bir Singh’s explosive letter has laid bare the loopholes in the state apparatus meant to catch and prevent corruption. In such a scenario, the success of the Gujarat ACB might have some lessons for Maharashtra, and the country in general, moving ahead.

Abhijit Bhatt

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Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh recently moved the Supreme Court seeking a CBI probe into the alleged corrupt practices followed by his erstwhile super boss, the Home Minister of Maharashtra, Anil Deshmukh. He alleged that the minister had called meetings with some of the officers reporting to him, at his residence, and given them a target of collecting Rs 100 crore every month from individuals and establishments such as hotels, restaurants, bars and shops. This is the story of just a few cops in Mumbai, leaving other departments in Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra aside.

Transparency International, a global watchdog for corruption ranked India the 86th most corrupt country in 2020, out of 179 countries, according to perceived levels of public sector corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.

In our system of governance, deviants and criminals manage to move up the echelons of political or even bureaucratic power because the state apparatus and its appendages, meant to arrest and nip corruption in the bud, are not geared to do so. Once the corrupt come to occupy positions of power, they also tend to manipulate laws and policies, and ensure that oversight of institutions such as the police is carried out in accordance with their interests. In such a scenario, forms of corruption get institutionalised, leading to wholesale criminalisation of the state with disastrous consequences for the public at large. 

The ‘Vazegate’ scandal is an example of such a scenario. Addressing corruption in the public sphere is therefore essential to ensure the legitimacy of the state, maintain public order and the rule of law, and maintain public trust in the state and its institutions. To achieve that, it’s imperative that the structures and institutions established to curb corruption have proper physical and human resource infrastructure, proper mentoring, motivation and recognition, and of course regular training of the personnel in new and emerging investigation procedures, including the use of ever-evolving IT tools.

How the technological breakthrough of DNA fingerprinting heralded a new paradigm in investigating heinous crimes may remind us not to neglect the whole new array of tools and apps that are commonplace in other walks of contemporary life. What had originally emerged as a method used to distinguish an individual from another, using a sample of one’s DNA’s unique patterns, was first employed in a criminal investigation in 1987 by the British police. This technique was developed in 1985 in the laboratory of the University of Leicester, Great Britain, just a few miles off the scene of the crime, where two teenage girls had been raped and murdered by a serial killer. The police had rounded up a 17-year-old mentally challenged boy, as the main suspect. However, DNA sampling not only proved the boy innocent, but also led to the real culprit, thus preventing a grave miscarriage of justice. Soon the investigative potential of the technique was recognised and rapidly embraced by police forces around the world, leading to the conviction of perhaps tens of thousands of criminals over the world.

By law, every state government in India has established anti-corruption bureaus or vigilance directorates. These bureaus/directorates have the express mandate to work for preventive vigilance apart from probing matters relating to corruption in the public sphere. This is where the latest in IT and science needs to find its way through the tools and techniques for intelligence gathering and investigative procedures that are swift, sure and empirically verifiable. A legal framework through the acts of 1860 and 1988 is already in place. What is required now is the enforcement of these laws in spirit and not just in letter. This can only come through when dedicated agencies like the state ACBs or the CBI and others are guided and led by leaders who are true professionals and empathetic in equal measure, ready to be guided by the core ideals of the Constitution of India, to which they take the oath of allegiance upon joining the public service.

We started off with Mumbai and Maharashtra. The other part of the former state of Bombay, now called Gujarat, makes for an interesting reference point. The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Gujarat, during recent years, under the continuous and sustained leadership of its head, has displayed a never heard of 75% conviction rate. It had begun at just around 16% five years ago. Not only did the number of cases where the agency intervened increase substantially year on year, the conviction rates before the courts also jumped steadily through 25%, 41% to 75% on a year-to-year basis by 2020. The Gujarat agency caught on to the major factor of the delay between registering a case and the actual filing of a chargesheet before the court of law. By and large the law mandates a maximum of 90 days, however, the officers/offices all over India take much more time to do so. Ironically, no accountability is fixed here, which gives the accused and the witnesses a lot of time for ‘imagination’ and avoidance.  

The Gujarat ACB during the last two years registered about 225 cases per year, on an average, and succeeded in filing chargesheets in all cases within the stipulated period of 90 days. Constant monitoring, motivation, use of information technology, and an awareness drive through the media and word of mouth have helped the agency look at the menace in the eye. The focus of the agency on watertight evidence backed by using forensic science methodologies along with use of IT for information gathering, corroboration, and more importantly, monitoring by developing an in-house app has been the cornerstone of its working and efficacy. For example, an input about misappropriation of funds in the construction of johads, or farm tanks for irrigation, in the state was followed by geological mapping to find whether any such tanks were actually being dug and figure out how crores of rupees for the purpose were going missing. Apart from using DNA fingerprinting, the agency extensively uses layered voice analysis that uses the accused’s voice modulation to catch whether the accused is fibbing. 

The agency also uses the services of officers in government departments being probed, like the state PWD, land registration offices, banks and RTOs, to unearth benami properties, and engages a panel of lawyers and chartered accountants to verify financial transactions. The agency’s model of training and using interns from forensic sciences and law universities and students of other sciences like IT could be upscaled at the national level to support investigations besides professionally orienting university students and scholars. One of the landmark judgements of the Supreme Court, whereby the apex court widened the scope of the definition of “Public Servant”, was a result of a criminal case registered by the Anti-Corruption Bureau Gujarat, vide Prevention of Corruption Act, against the Trustee of Sumandeep Vidyapeeth, a Deemed to be University in Vadodara. The judgment is liable to be used by all states and the CBI at the national level.

The work done by the Gujarat ACB could lead us to the structural, procedural and systemic changes required to bring a pan-India change so that the country moves up the ladder in Transparency International’s rankings, notwithstanding how much we value such foreign agencies, their methodologies and motivations.

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DR AMBEDKAR AND HIS SUBLIME VISION OF SOCIAL DEMOCRACY

It might be unfair to associate Babasaheb Ambedkar with any particular section of society because his vision for the country encompassed every citizen of the nation. That is the reason why his thoughts and words on democracy, equality and the idea of the nation continue to be relevant.

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Whenever I think of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s thoughts and his sublime vision, his works on social democracy strike the mind. It is not a coincidence that Babasaheb Ambedkar kept social democracy at the centre of the address he gave at the last meeting of the Constituent Assembly.

He said that the caste system and democracy cannot coexist. That is why the Indian Constitution introduced such rules that there is no discrimination on the basis of caste and language for the citizens living in any part of the country.

I believe that any nation is formed by combining its traditions, culture, religion, castes and languages. Therefore, nationalism has no place for parochialism. The main task of proving the provisions of the draft and their justification in the Constituent Assembly was carried out by Dr Ambedkar and other Drafting Committee members. He drafted the Constitution with his able colleagues and gave a voice to the traditions, faith and beliefs of the country. But, the basic thing in it was that all the citizens of the country are Indians first and have some other identity later.

If we go into the depth of Dr Ambedkar’s statements in the Constituent Assembly, we will also find that there is a unique confluence of politics, law, history and philosophy. Everyone has a sense of equality, not just any one caste.

In November 1948, while proposing to consider the draft of the Constitution, he said that they had called India a Union of States and not a Federation of States. I believe that Dr Ambedkar was concerned with social separation in India, so he said, “If we want to build a democracy, we have to recognize the obstacles in our path because the grand palace of the Constitution stands on the foundation of people’s allegiance in democracy.”

I think Dr Ambedkar’s views are in fact related to the nationalism in which there is no distinction between caste and religion among the individuals. Every citizen of the country has the same principle. There is harmony among all of us under social order and social thinking. That is why our nation is a classic example of unity in diversity. Even in the Preamble of the Constitution, equality and fraternity have been talked about for all citizens.

Dr Ambedkar also explained this vision for India in a wider perspective in his thoughts. Giving importance to the land, its society, and the best traditions for nation building, he also stressed that the nation is not a physical entity. The nation is the result of the continuous efforts, sacrifice and patriotism of the people of the past.

While describing the nation as lively, he also said that nationality is social consciousness and is how citizens come close to each other. The sense of fraternity develops from this. In this, the idea of narrowness is the biggest obstacle. He clearly said that he wants all the people of India to consider themselves as Indian and only Indian. Ambedkar said that if for some reason this cannot happen, then we will commit the biggest sin, and he will always keep opposing it with his strength.

Dr Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution, took three words from the French Revolution: liberty, equality and fraternity. These words, included in the core of the Constitution, also deeply influenced his political and social philosophy. That is why the Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution explain the Right to Equality through Articles 14 to 18, Right to Freedom through Articles 19 to 22, and Articles 23 and 24 provide the Right Against Exploitation. The important fact is that Article 19 (2) also prohibits unrestrained expression against any caste, class or community under the Right to Freedom of Expression. If there is any law for the preservation of these three or if there is any law being made, it should not be hindered. The Right to Religious Freedom is also given in the Constitution of India through Articles 25 to 28. I believe that it is only the Indian Constitution, among other constitutions around the world, in which the fundamental rights have been interpreted in this way.

Dr Ambedkar’s contemplation is also profound because he pushed himself forward by having a fundamental vision for almost all-important areas. If we take his thoughts on women’s education, it also feels as if he was the first initiator for reservation for women in jobs. While addressing the Mahila Sabha of Bombay, he once said, “Woman is the creator of the nation, every citizen grows up in her lap, the development of the nation is not possible without awakening the woman.” His depth of thought also probably made him the first scholar who tried to understand the position of women in the caste structure from the point of view of gender in the Indian context. For this, women rights were also advocated.

At the core of his vision was the thought that equality should be established at all levels of society. That is why he constantly emphasized on making society classless. His saying, “Revolution is for the people, people are not for the revolution” will always enlighten minds.

Dr Ambedkar was a great personality. I also believe that it is intellectual poverty if we associate him with a particular class or caste. He was a great man with a lofty vision. There is also a need to explain his view of seeing everyone as equal as something essential for the rounded development of the nation.

It also needs to be understood that Article 370, which has been abrogated 72 years after Independence due to the strong will and resolve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, had been added to the Constitution against Dr Ambedkar’s will.

Instead of looking at his thoughts and vision from a single point of view, there is a need to think deeply about it in totality and see the seeds of equality, unity and integrity of the country in his words. His multifaceted philosophy of “Bahujana Hitaya Bahujana Sukhaya”, speaking of equality and justice, is relevant even today and will remain so tomorrow too.

The author is the Governor of Rajasthan.

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THERE IS A DEARTH OF FINE JEWELLERS IN INDIA: RISHABH TONGYA

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Rishabh Tongya, Creative Director, Diacolor, recently joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation as a part of NewsX India A-List and said that one might feel that there are more jewellers than confectionery stores in India, but when it comes to fine jewellery, there is a dearth of it. 

Tracing the journey of his family business Diacolor, Rishabh said, “Jewellery has been my family business. It was started by my great-grandfather. We have been working with a lot of brands and designers around the world, mostly overseas. It was after I had my son that we decided to move to Delhi and open up our store. Since then, there has been no looking back. It has been a tremendous, incredible and happy journey and I think that the best is yet to come.”

When asked about any significant milestones, achievements, or growth plans he would like to share, Rishabh said, “When you just start your first store, you want to get everything right. The checks on the list, you trying to get the right team in place, the right setting, the right product, and then of course reaching out to the Indian consumer. We have three branch stores in India with another two in pipeline and we have got plans to further move to other cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. We feel that in India, there’s a dearth of fine jewellers. One might sort of argue that there are more jewellers than confectionery stores in India, but when it comes to fine jewellery, I think there is the dearth of it. That’s where we find a space and that’s what we’re looking to expand.”

Diacolor has long been known for its range of rare emeralds as a jewellery brand. An admirer of his father’s craftsmanship, Rishabh said that his father is very passionate about stones, so whenever he comes across something nice and beautiful, he makes an attempt to acquire it. Speaking on two stones that they acquired a few years back, Rishabh shared, “About five years ago, one of them was found in Zambia and it was one of the most important finds in the last 12-13 years. Two years later, they found another important, rough stone with the right colour, saturation and size. Again, we couldn’t resist from acquiring it. Interestingly, we got covered as one of the most read stories of 2019 by CNN. We’re very happy and proud to have it over with us.”

On acquiring the assets for their brand, Rishabh expressed, “The most important thing that remains a challenge for any jewellery brand today is the acquisition because there is no consistent supply when it comes to emeralds, diamonds and rubies. We took a step further and acquired some great assets in Mozambique for rubies, for emeralds in Ethiopia and Colombia. We sort of pursue further assets and so, like in the energy business where one tends to focus all the way from pit to plug, I think here our challenge and our sort of mission is to acquire and secure our own assets in coloured stones and diamonds.”

When asked about the challenges he had faced during the pandemic, he expressed, “2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, especially in the luxury business. Unlike other products, unless you really have the feel of ambiance, one doesn’t really transact. I must say the first eight-nine months of the year were extremely challenging. But then, things in India sort of turned the corner and the wedding boom was back again.”

On a concluding note, Rishabh shared his success mantra and said, “I think persistence, I mean, nothing comes easy and nothing comes faster. We’re all living in a generation and at a time when everybody wants to add things immediately, but I think if you believe in it and if you want it and if you are persistent about any project you wish to pursue or anything you’d like to do in life, then I think things sort of come around. Human persistence and passion, I think, are two things that work for me.”

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DIKSHU KUKREJA DECIPHERS INDIA’S SOFT POWER WITH SUNIL KANT MUNJAL

Designer and architect Dikshu Kukreja captures the essence of Indian artisans and varied crafts along with Sunil Kant Munjal in the episode, ‘Life of a Wondrous Craft’, on Deciphering Design with Dikshu.

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India has been known for its rich culture and heritage and she has been rated the top-most culturally rich country across the globe. Indian artisans are known as the backbone of the non-farm rural economy. This Saturday witnessed a conversation around India’s soft power between designer and architect Dikshu Kukreja of C.P. Kukreja Architects and Sunil Kant Munjal of Hero Enterprises.

“Our culture of art and business skills has been one of the strongest in the world. But in more recent times, we’ve given it a go by and one doesn’t see much of it in homes or offices. In everyday use, it appears that we’ve also started to make this distinction between high art and low art,” said Munjal, when asked about the positioning of India’s resplendent crafts in the contemporary world.

With mobile times and global economies, awareness towards craft and the value of our artisanal skills, and India’s influence in this regard, is coming back and on the rise. However, while the craft is out there and being made present through multiple opportunities, newer generations do not want to carry it forward and are more willing to relocate for jobs. The actual art is getting lost in the urbanisation of lifestyles and the diminished value of its existence.

“I think for the country to grow in a balanced way, it can’t just be about urban centres and smart cities and all of that. It’s really the balanced growth of urban and rural areas that has to defend it for certain,” says Dikshu Kukreja

The time has come when we put our artisanal skills and products in the limelight and create the right kind of design awareness around it. Understanding the growing importance of design in our day to day lives, Dikshu Kukreja has curated his show, Deciphering Design with Dikshu, to increase sensitivity and create awareness towards design, and bring back the value it holds in our lives. “This show is not just about conversations, it’s about creating a community of like-minded people to come together and create a ripple effect towards design awareness” he says. 

Today, Indian artisans are uncertain about their future and are decreasing in number due to a lack of affordable livelihoods. Given this context, the Serendipity Arts Foundation, an initiative led by Sunil Kant Munjal, is doing pathbreaking work by coming up with sustainability initiatives in the arts and craft world for reviving various art forms.

“We widened the scope to look at all art forms because traditionally in India there were no silos or barriers between different art forms as we normally see. What we actually see right now is an inheritance from British times. The Western sensibility looks at arts as theatre, music, crafts and dance — each in its own category. Whereas that was not the way the arts were in India. So, one of our attempts was to bring back different art forms and look at what happens at their junctions,” says Munjal.

Kukreja, Chief Architect of the Live Museum Project, conceptualised by the Serendipity Arts Foundation, is creating a unique building which will speak its own language based on the heritage of architectural design in India. Speaking about the lost richness of Indian culture, which demonstrated itself in its design and architecture, he says, “That is something I ponder over many times because, if you see, our history is witness to the kind of architecture that this country has possessed. I don’t think there are that many places in the world which can have this kind of plethora of works. Somewhere down the line it started to change and unfortunately, I would say, then it slipped into decay before we knew it. Otherwise, there has been tremendous synergy between craftspeople and professionals. Architects were the visionaries who envisioned a great building but the craftsmen were the invisible hands that executed the designs to perfection. In our country, whether it is the stone work or woodwork or metal work or textiles, it has been an amazing journey all through those graphs. So, what you said, I think, is very fascinating because somewhere we have probably followed that Western model.” 

Both Dikshu Kukreja and Sunil Kant Munjal are creating common pathways today for creating awareness and bringing to light the importance of design. They are actively working towards building a revolutionary icon through the Live Museum on the cultural landscape of the world.

Log into www.designwithdikshu.com to watch the entire episode of rebuilding India’s soft power and join Dikshu Kukreja in his journey of creating awareness towards design by following and subscribing to the show. You can also directly connect with Dikshu Kukreja and find answers to your questions about design by using the hashtag #designwithdikshu on Instagram or Twitter. For more updates follow @DikshuKukreja on Instagram and Twitter.

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A VIOLENT POLL PROCESS: WHAT AILS THE STATE OF BENGAL?

Joyeeta Basu

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A very sad case of lynching took place in West Bengal’s North Dinajpur district, where a Station House Officer from Bihar’s Kishanganj, Ashwini Kumar, was beaten to death by a village mob, which was instigated to attack him by a few criminals who had stolen a bike in Bihar and fled to their village in Bengal. If this was not enough, the incident came at a time when the fourth phase of polling in the state was marred by unbelievable violence. At Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar district, a young voter died after being attacked allegedly by the cadre of the state’s ruling party; and then the Central forces shot dead four young men after allegedly coming under attack by a local mob. Even otherwise, the poll process has been marred by violence, making one wonder what ails the state of Bengal. This sort of violence is not observed in any other state, in fact not even in Jammu and Kashmir, where too elections have to be spread over several days so that voters can vote peacefully. But Jammu and Kashmir is the most “disturbed” region in the country—a “conflict zone”. To place Bengal in the same category as Kashmir, raises the obvious question: where has Bengal gone wrong? Even Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, once considered the two most violent states in the country, have smooth election processes now, but not Bengal.

Bengal’s elite takes great pride in the state’s culture and its icons. In fact one of the main attacks on the Prime Minister and his party coming from this section—echoing the ruling Trinamool Congress—is that they being “outsiders”, are unable to fathom Bengal’s syncretic culture. There is no denying Bengal’s rich cultural heritage. But the problem starts when the only culture that is apparent to the rest of the country at present is the culture of violence—something that cannot be justified by saying “but political violence is in the DNA of Bengal”. Worse, in this election season, it’s also about politics over violence. The two parties trying to make the maximum political capital out of the Central-force incident at Sitalkuchi, the CPM and the Trinamool Congress, are also totally responsible for the present state of affairs. In 35 years of CPM rule, Bengal witnessed complete anarchy. The Left single-handedly drove out industry from the state, and stopped the rise of any viable political opposition, by unleashing violence through its unions and cadre. Over a period of time, Left rule become synonymous with murder, massacre and mayhem. So, when Mamata Banerjee’s government came to power in 2011, it was hoped that since she herself had withstood Left violence, she would be mindful of this aspect. However, to “eliminate” the Left, which was too entrenched in the ground, her party needed the help of elements—ironically, many of them originally CPM—who could fight a tough turf war. From there onwards, the situation has deteriorated to the extent that ground level criminality is one of the biggest issues of the 2021 elections. It was this criminality that made 30% of the panchayat seats go uncontested in 2018. In fact, 2018 was the turning point for Mamata Banerjee’s second term in office. Coming within two years of a landslide Assembly victory in 2016, there was no reason for the TMC to fear any adverse outcome in the panchayat elections. Even then voters were not allowed to vote and terror was unleashed. 2018 showed how free and fair elections were next to impossible in the state unless conducted under strict supervision. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Central forces did an exemplary job. In 2021 too they are doing an equally good job. They have been able to instil a certain degree of confidence among the people, and in fact have created conditions that are helping some voters in some areas exercise their franchise for the first time in five or ten years. Voters in general are all praise for the forces. Hence, it is rather unfortunate that supposedly responsible politicians are trying to spread disaffection about them by hurling the most outrageous charges at them. The forces are above politics. So is the Election Commission. There is no point crying foul over them when, as Sitalkuchi showed, even eight phases of election may not have been enough for Bengal. It is not the EC’s fault that the fear of intimidation and vote manipulation is very real in Bengal. Hence, politicians of all hues need to behave more responsibly, talk more responsibly and create conditions so that voters can vote in peace. Parties need to rein in their goons. After 45 years—35 years of the Left and 10 of TMC—Bengal is broken. A state has lost almost half a century of its existence to anarchy. The canker of violence is eating away at the innards of Bengal. This cannot be allowed to continue.

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Did PK score a self-goal in an attempt to save Mamata?

Political strategist Prashant Kishor’s admission about the BJP’s rise in West Bengal during an informal interaction on Clubhouse has baffled political observers. Was it a ploy to attract the Muslim vote in Bengal, a way to build an image for his next assignment or a mere gaffe?

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The great political strategist for Mamata Banerjee has scored a self-goal because of the propensity of the truth to come out in different ways. There is nothing off record in any briefing today, whether you are talking to pliant, critical or neutral media. The boss—in this case Mamata Banerjee—would have come to know of what was said anyway. But the crucial question is: Why did Prashant Kishor do this?

Kishor has not doubted the authenticity of the leaked chat although some people have demanded the release of the entire chat. He has asked why the BJP is trusting the leaked Clubhouse interaction, in which he spoke to some mediapersons, and not their own leaders who have asserted that the party would win a minimum of 200 Assembly seats.

When such comments come from a person who has gained expertise as a political strategist and has been working overtime to ensure a victory for Mamata, any political party would take this as an endorsement of their calculations. When your critics turn into admirers, you are bound to take it as an endorsement. But the intention behind this interaction may go farther than what meets the eye.

What could be the reason for this media briefing? Either the strategist wanted to lull the BJP into a sense of overconfidence or was trying to build his image for the next political assignment, which is the Punjab Assembly election. There is also the possibility that by raking up the issue of the BJP winning, the strategist wanted to create a fear of the BJP among Muslim voters and achieve complete polarisation by making the community favour the Trinamool Congress.

If Kishor knows the functioning of the BJP, which he knows quite well considering that he was a part of the party’s campaign during the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, he should be certain that the party has perfected its election machinery and such talks are unlikely to impact its momentum negatively. On the contrary, it is likely to enthuse the BJP cadre and help fence-sitters make up their minds. Fear of the TMC might have forced them not to go against Banerjee but the impression of a surging BJP may now embolden them to come out and try to vote her out. 

The second reason seems more likely. He stuck his neck out in December 2020 when he said the BJP would struggle to cross double-digit figures and, if it did, he would quit Twitter, the platform where he had made this prediction. Then, in an interview with a television channel in March this year, he said he would quit his job as a political strategist if the BJP won 100 seats in the state. Now, his admission of a BJP surge in West Bengal during the Clubhouse interaction belies his claims. Is he then building his case for not quitting, should the BJP win in the state by defeating the Trinamool Congress?

His image as a political strategist rests on the impression that he can make parties win elections by using social media as a tool to shore up an image and strengthen political constituencies. It is a different matter that his claims have not been fully established. The BJP has surged ahead despite rival political parties trying to use his services to stop the saffron juggernaut.

This brings us to the third possibility. It is quite possible that Mamata Banerjee’s political managers have concluded that the only way to win the elections is through the complete consolidation of Muslim votes for the TMC. The vote is getting split due to the desperate Congress and Left joining hands with the Indian Secular Front formed by Abbas Siddiqui. In a sharply polarised election between the BJP and the TMC, both the Left and the Congress are looking for political relevance. The Muslims must therefore be told not to waste their votes. The projection of a strong BJP may persuade them to change their minds. Promises fail but fear works, that is the principle being applied here.

Whatever his intention, the issues that cropped up during the interaction should be discussed publicly. A crucial statement made by Kishor is about the “emergence of the Prime Minister as a demigod for some 15 percent population of the country”. If this is true, it would translate into the support of 21 crore Hindu voters who consider him a “demigod”. This is enough to propel him to power with a massive majority in 2024 when the Lok Sabha elections take place.

Kishor also said that about 50 percent Hindus would vote for Modi, which includes 75 percent Matua voters. Even if we take this as an indicator and extrapolate it to the national level, this would translate into the support of 26 crore voters, considering that 62 crore people voted last time (in 2019) and out of that about 84 percent must have been Hindus. The BJP had secured 17.1 crore votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and 22.9 crore in 2019. The likely scenario is a complete sweep for Modi and the BJP in 2024.

One of the other critical issues raised but not discussed fully is the policy of minority appeasement in West Bengal by various parties. Muslims have emerged as a vote bank and hence every party has treated them with velvet gloves in terms of giving them concessions. This has produced a counter-narrative in the state. The policy of uniting Muslims and dividing Hindus is no longer working. Banerjee tried to secularise herself through temple-hopping, talking about her Brahmin gotra and doling out some concessions to Hindu priests. But people know that these were theatrics, just like her campaigning in a wheelchair.

Nobody in the media pliant to Banerjee has been talking of anti-incumbency. Actually, the performance, or a lack of it, has not been discussed in the media that has become too obsessed with communal polarisation. The controversial statement of a nondescript leader from the BJP is blown out of proportion but the carefully woven narrative by the Prime Minister and other senior leaders around faster development is completely ignored. Banerjee’s communal and vituperative statements in which she appeals to the minority Muslim community to vote for her party has added fuel to the fire and various other statements of this kind have recharged the atmosphere.

Thus, besides a huge section of the majority that concludes they have been ignored and given an unfair deal, a progressive section genuinely believes that the state badly needs development, for which the BJP under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi is their best bet. They want a secure and strong country, and faster development. And it is here that Mamata Banerjee has completely failed. 

Thus, Prashant Kishor knows that a government with so many odds arranged against it cannot win. Attempting a consolidation of the Muslims is merely a ploy that may not work. It can fuel the counter-narrative, but in his heart of hearts, he knows that Banerjee is on sticky wickets. He has already absolved himself by speaking the truth in an informal media interaction. That would be there to back him up.

Punjab is more promising because Captain Amarinder Singh appears to be on a strong wicket. The Akalis and the BJP have split and the BJP would need to work very hard to work its way up. In politics or in the roadmap to becoming a political strategist you have to save your skin for another day and prepare for the next fight.   

The writer is convener of the Media Relations Department of the BJP and represents the party as a spokesperson on TV debates. He has authored the book ‘Narendra Modi: The Game Changer’. The views expressed are personal.

If Kishor knows the functioning of the BJP, which he knows quite well considering that he was a part of the party’s campaign during the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, he should be certain that the party has perfected its election machinery and such talks are unlikely to impact its momentum negatively. On the contrary, it is likely to enthuse the BJP cadre and help fence-sitters make up their minds. Fear of the TMC might have forced them not to go against Banerjee but the impression of a surging BJP may now embolden them to come out and try to vote her out. 

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People might forget films but good music stays with them forever: Jatin Pandit

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Music composer Jatin Pandit reminisced about his Bollywood journey, the inspiration behind his new single and much more. Popularly known by the name Jatin-Lalit, the duo has delivered timeless songs in movies like ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’, ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’, and ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ among many other blockbusters. The composer has now ventured into independent music with his first-ever non-film music album called Dhadakte Rehna.

Speaking about the inspiration behind his new single Dhadakte Rehna, Jatin said, “I was just sitting at home, utilising my time by playing some tunes on my guitar. The rhythm and the words of this song hit out of nowhere. I was just humming the words and playing the tune accordingly. It felt unique and pleasing to my ears and I realised that it had created a melody. My son Rahul Pandit heard it and insisted me to complete the song.”

He explained the meaning of the lyrics, “To me, it seemed like a new approach. When I reviewed the lyrics after writing a few lines, I knew that it was going to be fresh and unique. That’s when I decided to complete it. We decided to shoot the song and started our hunt for a few locations and finally decided to shoot in West Coast California. We shot the whole sequence with Rahul and a Mexican model named Jessica Lopez. The chemistry between the two looks amazing.”

Speaking about how it felt to create an independent music single, Jatin expressed that the entire experience has been amazing. “The song was shot during the Covid-19 pandemic. The presence of Rahul in the video appeals to the youth and revives the young-love element in the video. It was a special moment for me.” 

When asked about his opinion on the changing trends in the music industry, he said, “With the advent of technology, new trends have emerged in the music industry which is good. Music has evolved with time. Now, there are many music directors and background singers. Earlier, the music used to create such an impact that people would forget the stories, the films but good music stayed in their memories forever.”

Talking about his favourite song, Jatin said, “Nothing like Pehla Nasha, composed by my brother Lalit Pandit and I, has ever been created or can be created in future. I believe that the song is immortal.” On a concluding note, the music composer and his son crooned a few lines of Pehla Nasha.

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