The Big Story: Have a pakoda
Mitron, if you really want to tackle the burning issues of our times, look no further than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A classified defence deal? The effects of demonetisation? Hate crimes? A plunging Sensex? Jobs? These are obsessions of the fringe and anti-nationals, thank you very much. Two days ago, the prime minister spoke in Parliament – and set the tone for a reified national discourse.
For instance, let’s talk about who should have been prime minister 70 years ago. With a Philip Roth-esque flair for the counterfactual, Modi outlined the fantastic prime ministership of Sardar Patel. Unlike that effete dynast, Nehru, Patel knew a thing or two. He would have stormed Kashmir and taken all of it before the Pakistanis could blink. With those magic words – Nehru, Kashmir, Pakistan, 1947 –the prime minister had all the social media historians reaching hungrily for their keyboards.
Then there is always casual misogyny. Former minister Renuka Chowdhury had interrupted the prime minister’s speech with a hearty guffaw, only to be ticked off by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu. Modi said her laughter reminded him of the Ramayana serial from the 1980s. In case you missed the reference, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju was there at hand. He posted a video of the exchange, only it began with the “evil laugh” of Shurpanakha, sister of the demon king, Ravana. Now, how were Modi and Rijiju to know they were elevating the former Congress minister to the status of feminist icon? But Chowdhury is not amused. She wants to start a privilege motion on the issue.
In other gender-politics news, there was the anklet as protest. On Wednesday, Modi had blamed the Congress for bifurcating Andhra Pradesh without a thought for the state. But the concern seems to have backfired. The Telegu Desam Party, now-disgruntled allies of the BJP, staged a protest in the Lok Sabha the next day, with one member of Parliament wearing anklets and playing a musical instrument. Analyse that.
Finally, a cliff hanger. Tired of being blamed for the non-performing assets crisis, Modi said “the nation should know the truth”; they were “100% UPA’s wrongdoings”, referring to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. Not only did the Congress leave a legacy of bad debt, it misrepresented figures, the prime minister said. In 2014, he claimed, the Congress had said non-performing assets accounted for 36% of loans when the figure was really 82%. The prime minister’s claims were posted by the BJP on social media but when NDTV pointed out that non-performing assets had, in fact, stood at 3.8% in 2013-’14, the tweet quickly vanished.
Is this the BJP’s way of saying watch this space, come back for more?
The Big Scroll
Girish Shahane points out what Modi and Vivekananda have in common.
- In the Indian Express, Ramachandra Guha explains why the Nehru versus Patel debate has come up again.
- Selective judicial activism is now seen as the dominant force against judicial activism, writes S Akbar Zaidi in the Hindu.
- Silence aids the culture of sexual violence, writes Mehmal Sarfraz in the Telegraph.
KS Nair on the first fighter pilot to shoot down an enemy airplane in the Second World War:
In 2006, this author met Wing Commander Ramunny at his home, just outside the coastal town of Thalassery in Kerala. Over the course of two days, Ramunny described vividly, and in greater detail than in his book, a swirling dogfight: “Reddy was shouting all the time, ‘Jap on your tail, Jap on your tail.’” A classic tail-chase developed, with Ramunny being chased by a Japanese fighter, which was being pursued by Reddy, as another Japanese fighter stalked Reddy. Turning and jinking hard, to avoid being shot down, Ramunny glimpsed Reddy shooting down the Japanese fighter on his (Ramunny’s) tail.