Monday, December 29, 2008

The "Jarring Note"

There was something I found interesting and intriguing about Sunday's TV coverage of the Jammu and Kashmir. It seemed to me that both NDTV and CNN-IBN were united in describing the results from Jammu as a "jarring note". Barkha waxed eloquent about how the Jammu outcome would bring about regionalism and communal sentiment and even disrupt the political consensus. The CNN-IBN followed it with similar tut-tutting. I didn't find the two channels (at least during the time I spent watching) talk to any of the emerging players from Jammu. I can only presume that they were not deemed respectable enough.

Jammu recorded the highest voter turnout in the state--somewhere above the 70 per cent mark which is staggering by the standards of North India. If a high turnout election resulted in the Congress being defeated in the Jammu city and adjoining constituencies, the phenomenon is worth exploring. Yet, the verdict of the electorate was dismissed as "jarring" and "disturbing. Is it because the voters were Hindus? Would the response have been similar if, for the sake of argument, some out-and-out separatists had contested the elections and won from some seats in the Kashmir Valley?

The reverence and respect shown towards the separatist leaders who claimed they got it wrong showed the skewed nature of media even-handedness.

I have always refrained from adding fuel to the anger of those who insist that the English language media is inherently biased against Hindus. On Sunday I was inclined to join in the chorus and even contribute a jerrycan of inflamable liquid.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas chatter

A party at a non-official bungalow in Lutyens' Delhi on Christmas eve was a good occasion to assess how the chattering classes feel about Indian politics. In more normal circumstances the people in the party would be natural BJP supporters. Indeed I know that many of them have actively helped out the BJP in the past with funds. This Christmas I found them more circumspect and worried. There was a clear impression that as things stood at present the BJP and its allies wouldn't be in a position to cross the magic 270 mark in the Lok Sabha.

The feeling was that the UPA wouldn't be in a happy predicament either.

It's bad news for Mayawati that the hype created around her seems set to burst. As opposed to the past when there seemed an inclination to give her a chance to redeem herself and join the mainstream, the feeling now is that she is unlikely to change her ways.

This is good news for the Congress-SP alliance in Uttar Pradesh. The feeling was that if these two got together, it would give the UPA a massive leg-up and compensate for the likely losses in Maharashtra, Bihar and Tamil Nadu. I also get the feeling that the media is likely to root for the UPA in the general election, but not too enthusiastically.

One heartening news for the BJP was the evident goodwill for Narendra Modi. I think that the BJP-voting classes have decided in their minds that the successor to L.K. Advani is the present Gujarat Chief Minister. As usual, the party is lagging behind its voters.

The Good Pakistani

My article in The Telegraph drew some horrified responses from those liberals who imagine they have attained nirvana by consorting with sundry Pakistanis. Actually most of us have nothing against individual Pakistanis, particularly those who have the right accents, appreciate cricket and don't bore us to tears with their Urdu. They're quite kosher, except when they get shirty and patriotic. The worst are those Indians who still think Lahore is the epicentre of the world and have a shairi for every occasion. They get into an existential crisis each time a terror attack takes place in an Indian city. I wonder why?

Anyway, berating the professional bleeding hearts is as harmless as being a bleeding heart. What is a little more complex is evolving a considered response to those who are still dreaming of a war fought World War II-style with Panzers, infantry and air raids.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Burra din

I am too old to be on Facebook, or so my son informs me. Yet I have the uncontrollable urge to write down all that I can't write in my newspaper columns or say on the TV talk shows. The blog is, therefore, my act of self-indulgence. I don't see blogging as a "meaningful" act of democratic intervention.

I am inaugurating this blog on Christmas eve 2008. This has absolutely no religious significance but I grew up thinking of December 25 as burra din. It has remained by burra din always, a time for good European food and wine. This, as you may well have guessed, is a loaded statement. Like the erstwhile Cardinal Ratzinger I believe that Christianity is a load-bearing pillar of western civilisation. I don't buy all that talk of universalism.

Ever since I was introduced to them at the morning Assembly in school, I have loved the robust hymns that were prescribed by the CoE. The love grew in the long years I spent in England (it will always be England to me). To me there is nothing more appealing than listening to a choir on an overcast Sunday morning.

I have an incorrigibly romantic notion of Christmas and the Christmas lunch--does the Queen still make her mandatory TV appearance late in the afternoon? It's a very Anglophile view of an England that may not exist any longer, except perhaps in some enclaves in the 'Shires.

Tragically, there are few Anglophiles left in India. They are also an endangered specie in multicultural UK.
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