The Big Story: Biplab, the revolutionary
Perhaps in an effort to promote the Digital India project, the Bharatiya Janata Party has produced its most meme-friendly chief minister yet. Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb has spawned a cottage industry in social media jokes and suddenly put the tiny North Eastern state on the map for the national media. In speeches and comments made over the last few weeks, Deb deployed that clever mix of nationalism and development that has endeared the BJP to its voters.
When was the internet invented? Look no further than the Mahabharata. This postmodern reading of the epics was also supported by that other bulwark of Indian culture, Tripura governor Tathagata Roy, best known for his insults to minorities. Who is the real Indian beauty among the nation’s roster of beauty pageant winners? Aishwarya Rai, not Diana Hayden, because a racist debate on beauty pageants is just the boost nationalism needs right now. Next, Deb tackled the issue of employment. What should civil engineers do? Join the civil services, naturally. Worried about getting a government job? Stop whining and sell milk or paan instead. This last suggestion even won the approval of the Amul managing director. You can mock these comments at your own peril for Deb promises to chop off the nails of anyone criticising his government. It is certainly a refreshing take on how democratic processes work.
While Deb is a hoot and no one would dream of criticising him, it would also be useful to know the chief minister’s road map for the state he heads. The former gym trainer and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh volunteer embodies the promise of the BJP in Tripura: youthful, upwardly mobile, combining the language of Hindutva with physical fitness. In the assembly elections this year, the BJP won largely due to a young vote bank that had grown impatient with the “pro-poor” politics of the Left, which had ruled the state for 25 years.
One of the factors that brought down former Chief Minister Manik Sarkar’s government was a massive unemployment problem in a state with high literacy rates but few avenues for employment outside government service. The BJP successfully tapped into these wellsprings of anger, promising redress. But more than a month into government, instead of better infrastructure, the chief minister offers mystical theories about the internet. Instead of jobs to absorb the educated unemployed, he tells them to sell milk. For aspiration, he holds up distant ideals of so-called Indian beauty. It would be funny if it were not so tragic.
The Big Scroll
Scroll staff bring you social media humour triggered by Deb’s remarks.
- In the Indian Express, Abdul Khaliq weighs in on the recent debate around the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
- In Hindu, MK Narayanan on the rocky road to the 2019 general elections.
- In the Guardian, Ash Sarkar argues that Sajid Javid, Britain’s first home secretary from an ethnic minority, is not the change needed at the “Tory ministry of racism”.
Aarefa Johari meets the Dalit survivors of the 2016 Una assault:
“The Sarvaiyas and the other Dalits from Una who converted to Buddhism on Sunday have resigned themselves to living in fear. But by changing religions, they say that they hope to break away from the constraints imposed on them within the Hindu caste system.
After the 2016 attack, for instance, Dalit leather tanners in Una and other parts of Gujarat gave up their caste-based occupation as a mark of protest against the discrimination they faced for skinning cattle carcasses. Many of them are now struggling to find new work. Ramesh Sarvaiya is trying to make a living as a tailor while his cousin Jitu Sarvaiya now works as an electrician at a ceramic factory in Morbi district.”
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