Magellan’s Calendar

In the September of 1519, a sailor called Ferdinand Magellan set sail to navigate around the globe. This was at a time when earth was believed to be flat and very few thought otherwise, even fewer were ready to prove this by planning an expedition to circumnavigate the earth. Magellan is widely credited to have successfully completed the expedition. Of course, the truth is Magellan died on the islands on the Philippine archipelago and only 18 of the 241-member crew made it back to Spain to prove that it is not possible to fall off the earth by sailing over the horizon.

The fleet of 5 ships and 241 sailors navigated the Atlantic via West Africa and the coast of Brazil. By the time the ships resupplied on the islands of the Strait of Magellan, one of the ships; Santiago was destroyed in a storm and the crew of another called San Antonio had mutinied and returned to Spain. The three remaining ships had entered the South Pacific Ocean in the November of 1520.

 The winds and waves vanished, and the sails dropped. The silent sea as the Pacific is called offered no help. Men succumbed to the tricks of the sea and fell overboard; the crew came into fire from pirates in the sea and native tribesmen on land.  Months passed, and there was no hospitable land to resupply. The commanders of the ships were getting edgy and the admiral foresaw more mutinies.

The admiral decided, the best way to keep the crew from losing their minds over the time passed was to hide the calendar. History records that the captains of the 3 remaining ships were given calendars made by the admiral and they along with the admiral decided what day it was. The Admiral maintained one calendar for himself and his first officers that showed the real date and another calendar for the crew that showed a false date – a date that changed slowly and kept the crew thinking days passed slower than weeks.

The crew eventually crossed the Pacific after 4 agonizing months of navigating through the Pacific and landed Guam in the Philippines sea. When Magellan and his officers revealed that they had spent 4 months navigating through the pacific, the crew was shocked beyond belief. Some felt betrayed, some said they had an inkling, but they didn’t care much now as they had finally made port.


The economic conditions in India are bad. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out now. Economic indicators like the GDP numbers, agricultural income growth, manufacturing growth, employment rate and the aggregate demand in the economy are all declining and have been declining for quite some time now.

Although the decline and the collective decline is concerning, the real concern is that the central government of India is not acknowledging it. What we hear from government and government representatives is that FDI numbers have been the highest, the problem is because of the time bombs left behind by the previous governments or that these are effects of the trade war and other global factors.

Economists, one after the other have said that the slowdown is India’s own doing. Demonetization and the hasty implementation of a half-baked GST is being blamed for the current slowdown in the economy. When the BJP came into power in 2014 we were at a cyclical boom period along with a global fall in crude prices. Our government didn’t see it fit to pass on the advantage to the consumers and saved millions, where are those millions now?

2014 and 2015 were drought years for the agriculture of India and it had just seen a little recovery in 2016 when the government announced demonetization to kill the rural and other unorganized sectors. The government followed one blow after another by the hasty half-baked GST thereby taking care of what was left of the unorganized sectors.

The effects of these hasty and impulsive policies are having an effect now. One may say the financial crisis in Banks and NBFCs was a gift of the previous government, but sadly the numbers say otherwise. While the NPAs was at 2.5 Lakh crore in 2014 it has now come to 8.5 Lakh crores in 2019. Inaction from the current government is the reason for the snowballing of the banking crisis.

There are a lot of problems in our economy and all of them can be fixed. We are the nation that escaped from the meltdown in 1991, we are the nation that averted being part of the global crisis in 2008; so we can definitely find our way around these self-inflicted wounds. If only we have the stomach to accept that there is a crisis.

The finance minister gets defensive and starts shutting down reporters, the home minister is busy plotting booby traps for the opposition leaders and the prime minister is busy planning for his next item number.

I quoted the story of Magellan and his fake calendars because I am a hopeful person inside. I secretly want to believe that no government of India can be so arrogant about its ignorance. I sincerely hope that our central government is holding a Magellan’s calendar in front of us to keep our hearts and is maintaining a genuine calendar for itself that shows the truth.


5 Things Wrong With the Abrogation of Article 370

First things first, My fellow countrymen! Indians! we are stupid stupid creatures! We’ve ruined everything!! Everything by giving power to a seemingly totalitarian regime!! OK now that the outburst is out of the way, lets get on with the meat of the matter. This post is about the wrongs that were done in order to pass a motion in the parliament to repeal the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India.

Legality

Let’s recall the contour tread by the BJP to do this.
1. They bring an amendment into Article 368 of the constitution of India that defines how to read Article 370. In this amendment, they say let’s replace the words “Constituent Assembly” with Legislative assembly since the constituent assembly doesn’t exist any more. OK
2. They say, since the state of J&K is under president’s rule, the word of the governor of the state will act as the word of the legislative assembly. The governor is an appointee of the central government and hence its their word.
So basically, if A has become B and B has become C then its perfectly ok to see A as C?
What does this mean? This means, the governor’s rule in J&K which is actually the central govt is advising itself about what to do. It’s like saying, take my word! I’m saying that I’m right!

So where does this leave us? There are 2 counts of shaky legal ground here.

  1. You apply transitive property to advice yourself to change lives and livelihoods of people and pass it yourself. Without consulting those who are affected. This is not entirely wrong as per the form or letters of the law, but definitely lacks moral patronage and is far from the keeping the spirit of the law.
  2. The constitution of India says that the President of India cannot change Article 1 and Article 370, and it also says that what cannot be changed directly can also not be done indirectly. So the maneuvers done are all on shaky ground.

Lies

By August 1st, the central government had ordered 35,000 fresh troops into the state of J&K. This added to the already existing troops going upto 8 Lakh who are placed in the different places along the LOC and otherwise. Along with this, there were notifications to the J&K police to stand guard and perform an assessment of their riot preparedness. Did any one ask why was this massive mobilisation done? Ofcourse, and the answer? Terror threat!

Yes, there was a widespread news circulating that there was an eminent terror threat in Kashmir, the reason for this deduction? A Rifle and a land mine. That’s right. On behest of this, the annual hindu pilgrimage to lord Amarnath was cancelled and the pilgrims asked to return from wherever they were. The next day, on August 3rd, a few photos of dead bodies were shared on whatsapp to all media houses and more panic was created. It was said they were Pakistani army and that a major operation was planned.

Today no one talks of the terror threat and no more rifles and land mines have appeared.

3 days after the passing of the bill, the NSA Ajit Doval, the most important person in the security of the nation is seen in Kashmir and is having food on the street with some supposedly locals. Not sure if this is an operation or the most important man in national security is always like this.

Lock Down

By far the worst thing that can happen in a democracy. Massive mobilization of para military forces was followed by the unprecedented cutting short of the Amarnath Yatra. The next day, on Aug 3rd the governor’s office issues advisories to stop the annual pilgrims to Machail mata. This act of curtailing pilgrims from the annual pilgrimage had never happened in history. Even at the heights of communal distress in Kashmir, peaceful pilgrims were welcomed and looked after by the natives.

The lock down was escalated by the house arrest of prominent leaders of J&K Farooq Abdullah , Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. It was later revealed that there were over 800 small and big politicians and leaders were held under such and other forms of arrests. All this while the state was under complete clamp down with a virtual curfew enforced. Mobile phones, internet and broadband facilities, cable TVs and even land line phones were shut off. There was absolutely no way to communicate with each other, leave alone the outside world. Tourists from other parts of the country were asked to leave, and even students from outside the state were asked to clear out from their hostels and dormitories. Is this a way a consultative democracy works?

While first of all they navigated away from consulting the state government, putting elected leaders in house arrest and putting a complete lock down on the state leaves no room for anyone to express themselves.

The Downgrade

The home minister, along with the revoking of special status of the state brought in another presidential order – this was to bifurcate the state into two union territories. Firstly, the president needs to consult the state legislation and a resolution needs to be passed in the state assembly whose boundary needs to be redrawn. Since the state was under president’s rule, this became easy, he just had to ask himself if he was ok with what he intended to do. I’m guessing it wasn’t too hard to disagree with himself.

Let’s forget the legality of the matter, the whole episode of revoking of the special status is a punch in the gut to the people of kashmiris. Though the article 370 has been eroded over time and now is nothing but a shell, it still holds some pride and emotional connection with the natives of the state. So revoking the special status under Article 370 was a big blow. To make it worse, the central govt decided to down grade the state to a union territory. This is like saying to your flatmate that he doesn’t get his own room and has to sleep in the hall from now, and to add more insults, you say that he doesn’t get to keep his own key to the apartment.

Was adding insult to injury part of the master plan?

Mass Disillusionment

With the news breaking that the legislation was passed in the houses of the parliament, the whole country emerged in euphoria. The media showed clips of people dancing on the streets and distributing sweets to each other. There were people bursting crackers and telling each other they can now buy land in J&K and marry girls from the state. I mean seriously?? this is the level of celebration we’ve reached to? People were even celebrating the fact that there wont be a J&K flag anymore. Is this something to celebrate? Karnataka has a flag of its own and we in our state are proud of our flag even though the constitution has nothing to do with it. The constitution of India explicitly mentions it doesn’t recognize any flags of states or organisations as official flags of the nation, but its left to the sentiments of the region or state or organisation to have their own flag. Couldn’t we control ourselves over this?

Through the week, people celebrated and paraded over the fact that Kashmir is finally integrated with India. Seriously? was it not a part of India all this while? Or did you not have the ability to see it as a part of India with the special status? Point of information: 10 other states in the country have special status and the newly formed Andhra is fighting for special status.


The fact of the matter is that the special status of J&K has been hollowed over the years and now was merely an emotional or a symbolic tool of pride and autonomy to the natives of the state. There was minimal real life significant difference the special status made to anyone. By picking a fight that was not needed to be picked, the central government just ripped a bandage in one swift move before the skin over the wounds had completely regrown. It remains to be seen how far reaching are the consequences of this obsession of the BJP with article 370.

Doing the right things the wrong way is not right, it is just a sign of weakness.


Politics of Karnataka

The July of 2019 saw the politics of Karnataka reach one of its lowest points. The Congress-JDS alliance government was about to fall – only that it wouldn’t.

With the resignations of the nearly 18 MLAs, the government had gone into a minority in the house and was legally ineligible to run the government of the state. The build up to this situation was also an embarrassment. Horse trading has become a word used too often in the political scenario of Karnataka. Politicians have a price at which they would switch sides and help form or falter governments. Its shameful – but not new.

The coalition had been sworn into governance just 14 months ago and was deemed an unhappy marriage. The ministers in the cabinet had descended to a bunch of squabbling pirates trying to seize power from one another. Greed was so obvious that ministers were changed within months and a visible policy paralysis in the state with barely any representation at the national level. The general election of 2019 made the point clearer when both JDS and Congress were reduced to a solitary seat out of the 27 contesting seats from the state.

All that being said, the BJP which by far had the best numbers – 105 of the 224 seats in the Karnataka assembly was about to succeed finally to form the government. BJP had by hook and crook managed to get the MLAs to resign – ofcourse there is no actual proof that BJP did this, but that’s not the question. The point of concern is, even after the JDS-Congress alliance government went into minority they stalled the proceedings of the house and when the time came to seek the trust vote, the Chief Minister and the parties in government took up almost 3 days – 3 working days and almost 7 non work days to bring on the trust vote. It was just shameful. The whole country was covering the news. Karnataka politics had sunk to a new low, and there was nothing we could do, the public was just a dead rubber duck in a stale tub of dirty bath water.

Finally the government fell on the 23rd of July and made way for the new government to be sworn in. It is at this point that my brother in law sent me a link to a Times of India article which read “Only 3 CMs have successfully completed their term in the history of Karnataka”

I clicked it.

It said, Nijalingappa, Devaraj Urs and Siddaramaiah were the only chief ministers who completed a full term. Ofcourse, it’s just Times of India, so you can expect them to be a little hyperbole. Firstly there were 2 other CMs who completed full terms, Ramakrishna Hegde and SM Krishna. Inside the article it does specify that they are only talking of Congress CM’s but still SM krishna was a congress CM and they conveniently overlooked him.

Leaving the factual error aside, it’s still an eyebrow raising point that of the 15 state assemblies, the state has had 22 Chief ministers, and only 5 of them have stayed the CM for the full term. Why is this?

The people of Karnataka always pride themselves as being different from the rest of the country. Even though there is no lack of patriotism towards the nation, we’ve always been different. Rather we’ve been somewhere in the middle. Unlike Kerala or Tamil nadu or Bengal who have traditionally had their own way of thinking and their own rule, Karnataka politics has interwoven itself into the national politics at many places and also maintains long blank spaces of disconnect.

While there are places where we want conformity with the center, we’ve also struggled to find our own autonomy. The BJP of Karnataka doesn’t speak the language spoken by the BJP of the hindi belt of country, nor does the congress indulge in excessive sycophancy to the Gandhi family; and finally unlike Tamil Nadu, we don’t have a strong regional push for autonomy. Like all humans, the state of Karnataka has always been struggling to find a middle ground and the perfect blend of moderation. So what do the politicians of Karnataka hold dear? Values? where do they get their values from? Are they as confused as any regular citizen of the state?

Nijalingappa and Devaraj Urs are hailed as the greatest leaders that the state has seen. Some even term Ramakrishna Hegde, a prodigi of Nijalingappa, as a big name too, but he was a little too well connected with the underground and mired in scams, so lets not give him a pass for now.

Now speaking of Nijalingappa, he was obviously the most powerful and incorruptible leaders of the states, he came to the position because of his initiatives and movements towards the unification of Karnataka. It was his moves that made Tamil Nadu and Kerala move resolutions in their states for letting go of Kannada territories.

Urs had a lot of achievements to his name, he was the one who changed the name of the state from Mysore to Karnataka, and he was the one who approved the creation of the electronic city in Bangalore. It is also known that his next of kin were also involved in the underground of Bangalore, but that never smeared his image as an efficient administrator and visionary of Karnataka.

Even after the big three, Karnataka saw a spell of stable government when SM Krishna was sworn in as 16th CM of Karnataka in 1999. His vision for Bangalore is also hailed even today in urban legends of Bangalore. However, SM Krishna’s term ended in 2004 and hence started the turbulent times in the politics of Karnataka – a trend that has been going on since then.

Since 2004, in the 15 years there have been 4 assemblies constituted out of which one was dissolved; 10 swearings of the CM, and 2 stints of President’s rule in the state. How did it all go down so fast?

It all started in 2004 HD Kumaraswamy first engineered a defection in 2006 to leave the Congress-JDS coalition to join hands with the BJP with an added incentive of becoming the CM of the state. The Congress-JDS government in the first place had a rocky relationship because of multiple factors, prominent among them being the unassertiveness of CM Dharam Singh. Kumaraswamy’s actions didn’t stop with the first defection, after he held the CM’s post for nearly 20 months he was to transfer power to the BJP based on a power sharing agreement that they had while engineering the defections of 2006. But Kumarswamy didn’t come through, he refused to transfer power and hence the state was put under president’s rule. After 2 months, in the November of 2017, Kumaraswamy again extended support to the BJP and BS Yeddyurappa was sworn in as the CM of the state; but when it came to proving majority, Kumaraswamy again backed away due to disagreements in sharing ministerial positions.

The assembly was hence dissolved after 191 days of president’s rule and the fresh elections where announced. By now the people of the state had lost respect for the JDS and the BJP had gained public sympathy. The BJP came to power on its own by way of a historic victory for the BJP in the south of India. But does that mean this story has a happy ending? No.

The BJP was mired in corruption charges and Yeddyurappa was named in a mining scam chargesheet. The opposition and BJP central leadership demanded Yeddyurappa to step down from the CM’s post, but he wouldn’t. Amids massive public outrage doctored by the opposition, Yeddyurappa remained adamant and maintained that he was innocent and his conscious was clear. Eventually his prosecution in the mining scam reached a fever pitch and he was even pronounced to be held in police custody. BSY was now out of options and had to quit the CM’s post in the July for 2011, about 3 years after he had assumed office. He was so disappointed and disgusted by the lack of support from the central leadership that he even quit and party and joined a regional party called Karnataka Janata Party – he came in at the top as the party president. After this bitter turn of events, the BJP appointed 2 other CMs for the remaining 2 years of the assembly.

In the assembly elections of 2013, though the country was reeling under policy paralysis and sever corruption charges on the central government, the state voted in favour of the congress giving it a clear majority to form the government on its own. The main reasons for this being the split in the BJP and the general sentiment to stay away from corrupt politicians.

This government remained in power for the entire term of 5 years without many hiccups. Although not much was achieved in the term, there was nothing visibly wrong and the opposition just didn’t have enough opportunities to usurp. Point to note – Siddaramaiah, the CM who held the post for the full term is also a defector – in fact he has been in 5 different parties. The biggest episode being his exit from the JDS in 2005.

Then came the assembly elections of 2018. An eventless term of the congress was about to end. There was not much to show and tell for the congress. The BJP stuck to its idea of being one with the nation and trying to breathe a breath of fresh air in the politics of the state. All indications depicted that it was going to be a hung assembly and a story of 2004 to repeat all over again. That’s what we saw in the drama that unfolded in 2018-19.

Now that we know all the facts, the question to be asked is, why? why are these men after power and why do they openly and easily defect? and why is defection so acceptable? is there no place for loyalty and integrity? Most importantly, can we as public do nothing about it? because no matter whom we vote for, they all have their own agenda to push for and they wouldn’t mind switching sides without a second thought about their voters.

I guess this is a riddle for students of political theory?