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Political Assassination

Political Assassination

Social activist and journalist Gauri Lankesh has become the latest martyr for the idea of India. She was shot dead almost in a similar fashion like rationalist MM Kalburgi, at her residence in Bengaluru by unknown assailants.

Lankesh has been one of the many people who have been using the social media, and one of the few to use the mass media, to oppose fascist tendencies in Indian politics and social life. Her tabloid ‘Gauri Lankesh Patrike’ was able to sustain itself from just the subscription money in an age when major corporate and political funding, patronage, threat and blackmail control the levers of what the Indian media should report.

At the time of writing this, the assailants have not been nabbed. However, it is revealing that several trolls in social media who support right wing extremism — many of who are followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter — have expressed joy at the murder. Some of them have said that it was the result of her ‘karma’. The others have called her an anti-national. While the standard of right-wing trolls are known to anyone who has a social media account, the surprising thing is that they have almost owned up the murder even before any detail has come out on who has done it!

Congress-ruled Karnataka has not been able to crack the Kalburgi murder that took place two years ago. While it sounds good to hear the likes of Congress President Sonia Gandhi condemn the latest political assassination, the important thing for her is to ask her Chief Minister why horrible things are assuming a recurring pattern in his state.

Law and order is a state subject and if Congress-ruled Karnataka cannot get to the bottom of a political killing, how can it legitimately claim the role of a leader in fighting dark forces that have been let loose in the last few years?

The Congress has another reason to be ashamed: Even rationalist Narendra Dabholkar was killed when its government was in power in Maharashtra. Is it Congress’ case that its government is better than the BJP regime in Madhya Pradesh, where someone associated with the Vyapam scam has been dying intermittently for several years now?

The death of so many people should not be allowed to go in vain. The public has to seek an account from governments on why the guilty are not nabbed and punished. Let’s hope the public protest does not die down hours after the last candle lit for Lankesh goes out.

What Ceiling?

I could not understand what the media fuss was all about after Nirmala Sitharaman’s appointment as India’s Defence Minister, during the reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers that Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertook recently. The electronic and print media gushed over a quiet colleague being adequately rewarded for her hard work and how she broke the glass ceiling.

One needs to qualify here that what Sitharaman broke was the ‘Sanghi glass ceiling’ because Indira Gandhi had become the highest executive of the country when Sitharaman was barely 7 years old.

Indira Gandhi became the first woman Prime Minister of India in 1966. Along with Sri Lanka’s Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Israel’s Golda Meir, Asia showcased women empowerment to Europe and America in the 1960s, despite the fact that even today majority of people in the continent may believe in male supremacy. Indira Gandhi also held portfolios of Defence, External Affairs and Finance at various times during her tenure as PM. And to put the record straight on Sitharaman’s performance, investments came down during her stint as Commerce Minister.

Few days before Sitharaman became the Defence Minister, there was news that the Adani Group had entered into a deal with Sweden’s Saab Group for manufacture of Gripen fighter jets in India. The collaboration comes even before the IAF has initiated the selection process for single-engine fighter aircraft to replace the current fleet of MIG-21s and MIG-27s.

Whether the IAF procures Gripen will depend on whether Saab-Adani would qualify first, and later win the contract against competition. Even the process of screening companies has not begun yet. However, Saab-Adani seems confident that it will not only qualify but also be able to submit the winning tender despite the fact that competitors could include the likes of America’s Lockheed Martin.

Of course at the news conference held in New Delhi the Saab-Adani team said that it also planned to manufacture fighter jets in India for exports. But why would any European company think of setting fighter jet manufacturing facility in a place like India just for exports to other countries?

Many defence joint ventures involving strategic Indian corporate partners are expected to come up in the next several months. These are worth multi-billion dollars but most Indian partners are likely to be confined to the likes of the Ambanis and Adanis, though they have next to zero experience/technology in the concerned fields.

Defence strategic partnerships are being floated under the ‘Make in India’ programme. India would stand to gain tremendously if these ventures take off as it could create several hundreds of jobs and transfer of technology too. However, if the Ambanis’ role in Delhi’s airport metro project is anything to go by, that doesn’t look easily achievable.

Whatever be the case, it will always be good for manufacturers to deal with a defence minister who does not function with an independent mind, raising issues flagged by defence experts or the armed forces committee. Sitharaman’s talent spotters may have realised that she fits the bill as someone who could agree to what the bureaucrats in the Prime Minister’s Office tell her to do. The feature that won her the Defence portfolio in all likelihood seems to be her willingness to sign on the dotted line. That definitely is a smooth process defence manufacturers would look forward to.

Goa Model

Alphons J Kannanthanam has pulled off a coup of sorts by becoming India’s tourism minister overnight. Reflexes of the Kerala BJP suggest that it was clueless of the appointment. Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have never considered them as Kerala BJP leaders are at loggerheads with each other and facing serious charges of corruption too.

Kannanthanam apparently is the darling of a section of Kerala’s Catholic Church, or so he claims. After private assertions, he has now officially said that he would be the ‘bridge’ between Kerala’s Christian community and the PM. Hopefully, the fishes and loaves of office would not see leaders of the Christian community in Kerala overlooking the reasons why, in the first place, there is a ‘gap’ between BJP and Christians.


(Published on 11th September 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 37)