POLITICAL BATTLE

One big reason Swamy attacking Arvind Subramanian is very different to his anti-Rajan campaign

Arvind Subramanian was appointed by Arun Jaitley.

They might all be renowned Tamil Brahmin economists with fancy foreign degrees but Subramanian Swamy, Raghuram Rajan and Arvind Subramanian have very little in common. Swamy is now more politician than economist, having been nominated this year to the Rajya Sabha by the Bharatiya Janata Party. Rajan is the outgoing Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, whose departure Swamy takes credit for. Subramanian is the current Chief Economic Adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi – and also Swamy's next target.

Swamy carried out a rather public campaign against Raghuram Rajan, calling him among other things an American agent, and insisting that he be removed from the RBI. This weekend, Rajan announced that he would be leaving the central bank when his tenure ends in September. His letter mentioned that Rajan had been "open" to sticking around for longer, but decided against it after consultation with the government.

Technically, Swamy is not part of this government. Yet that hasn't stopped him from taking credit for Rajan's departure.

No one in the government has necessarily come out to rebut this claim. While he was carrying out his anti-Rajan campaign, the only push-back against Swamy came when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said he did not appreciate the "personal attacks" on the RBI governor. The government hasn't otherwise made any official reference to the role Swamy played in the Rajan Saga.

Taking on Arvind Subramanian – one of the top contenders to replace Rajan as RBI Governor – isn't quite the same, which is why the BJP put out word on Wednesday that it does not endorse Swamy's attack.

There is one crucial difference in Swamy – a loose cannon who the BJP has used for its uncomfortable work – attacking Arvind Subramanian after taking on Rajan.

Raghuram Rajan was a United Progressive Alliance appointee. For better or for worse, it is a grand old Indian tradition that heads of institutions are shunted out when a new administration comes to power. There might have been an unsual expectation that Rajan might be given an extension, in part because of his record as well as his stature internationally, but it was not a surprise to see a UPA appointee making way for someone handpicked by the new government.

Subramanian, however, was appointed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October 2014 on the recommendation of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. He has put together two Economic Surveys since then, and his inputs have been crucial in the Budget building process (even if his extremely optimistic expectations have had to be seriously tempered).

Jaitley jumped to Subramanian's defence the very same day that Swamy announced his intention to go after the CEA. Speaking at a Cabinet Briefing, Jaitley said that the government trusts Subramanian and asked the question of whether politicians should be attacking those whose offices do not permit them to respond in kind.

There is a subplot to this: Swamy and Jaitley do not get along.

A large section of the Swamy's "Patriotic Tweeple" army believes that the Finance Minister is the most Congress-like player in Modi's Cabinet, and have long called for him to be removed. Swamy himself believes that Jaitley was responsible for stalling his entry into the party and the denial of a Lok Sabha ticket.

As recently as November last year, Swamy openly went after the Finance Minister, saying "if the government continues to follow Mr. Jaitley’s strategy, black money will not be recovered.” The rivalry did not go unmentioned when Swamy was nominated to the same House of Parliament where Jaitley is the leader.

The question is, where does it go from here? Swamy was not seriously censured for his attack on Rajan, and may even have gotten praise for it internally, which is why he announced his next targets immediately afterwards. But Jaitley is not going to take kindly to his own appointees being question, particularly in the rather crass manner that Swamy and his online army have a tendency to use. The BJP battles may be just beginning.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.