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Modi is still the best bet for India

The petty level of Indian politics means some time regional satraps may seem to be good alternatives at the national level. However, national leaders with international perspective are needed for India in this era of globalization. - NewsGram

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Narendra Modi ranks no 9 Most Powerful People

Even if Narendra Modi hasn’t lived up to the expectations which he aroused two years ago, he is still the best person for turning India into a modern and economically advanced country, argues Amulya Ganguli.

 The claim about modernity may seem odd considering that the medievalists of the saffron brotherhood constitute an influential section of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and their affiliates like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) – not to mention the abusive “Internet Hindus”.

Moreover, the hope that Modi will restrain them hasn’t been fulfilled. There are still elements who call for beheading those who do not chant a slogan which is used by the saffronites to check a person’s patriotism.

800px-Woman_harvesting_wheat,_Raisen_district,_Madhya_Pradesh,_India_ggia_version

Besides, the Sangh Parivar’s familiar aversion to beef is still in place, although the unavoidable modernistic trends have compelled some of the BJP-run state governments like Goa to allow the consumption of the forbidden meat.

If, notwithstanding these negative points, Modi is ahead of other leaders in the popularity stakes, as seen in an Economic Times-TNSA survey, the reason is his outlook, which is in sync with the 21st century.

Fortunately for the BJP, this evidence of belonging to the present times cannot be found in some of the others.

Consider, for instance, the credentials of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who wants to lead an anti-BJP combine at the national level to replicate the success of the ‘mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance) in his state.

Yet, the retrogressive nature of his ideas shows that he cannot look beyond the familiar obsession of the Hindi-belt politicians with caste. Not only does he want his caste brethren to find employment in the private sector through quotas, thereby reducing this sole successful segment of the economy to another version of the loss-making public sector, Nitish Kumar is also in favour of expanding the ambit of reservations beyond the 50 percent limit set by the Supreme Court.

Inextricably related to this desire to boost the quota system is the Janata Dal-United chief’s conviction that catering for the backward castes on the plea of social justice is a surefire way to enable his party to win elections and for him to gain popularity.

He is not bothered about job creation via industrial expansion, but wants only to enable the backward castes, the main support base of the mahagathbandhan, to secure government employment via the reservation system which looks at birth and not educational certificates.

If Nitish Kumar’s ideas are implemented, India can say farewell to economic or educational progress. While the quota-based entries into official service will squeeze out the meritorious, the educational system will see a preponderance of those for whom caste is the route to a degree and not a devotion to studies.

If Nitish Kumar had endorsed the elimination of the wealthy “creamy layer” from the beneficiaries of quotas, it would have at least shown that he is not wholly focussed on electoral success and has some interest in taking everyone along, including the upper castes, in the task of ensuring the country’s progress. But he apparently thinks that such a demonstration of reasonableness will be detrimental to his position as a backward caste leader because it will make him vulnerable to the machinations of Lau Prasad and other votaries of caste-based affirmative action.

There is not a word, therefore, from him on industries, infrastructure, educational advancement, health facilities and so on. It is only about caste.

This is where Modi is different. Though he belongs to a backward caste himself – he is a ghanchi or teli – Modi almost never talks in terms of caste.

Nor of Hindus like others in the Hindutva brigade who want to give the community a status above all others in the country. Indeed, Modi has distanced himself from the saffronites to such an extent that he is the only one among them to have described Islam as a religion of peace, a concept which is anathema to the Sangh parivar.

There is little doubt that Modi has shown greater interest than any other politician in recent years in India’s industrial development. Hence his emphasis on projects like Make in India and entrepreneurial endeavours like Start Up India, Stand Up India, Skill India, Digital India and so on.

His predecessor, Manmohan Singh, also favoured market-oriented economic reforms and succeeded in effecting the fastest ever reduction in overall poverty between 2005-06 and 2011-12, according to the Modi government’s chief economic adviser, Arvind Subramanian.

But Manmohan Singh was stopped in his tracks by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who feared that the “accidental” prime minister’s economic success will make him a hero and put her son Rahul Gandhi in the shade.

Modi has picked up from where the gentle sardar had left off and, ironically, facing resistance from none other than Sonia Gandhi, who has threatened to stall the goods and services tax, one of the key components of the economic reforms.

But the middle class, one of Modi’s major bases of support, is aware that only he can make the growth rate cross eight per cent, as Subramanian expects, and ensure a significant erosion in the levels of poverty. (IANS)

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at amulyaganguli@gmail.com)

  • Pragya Jha

    Mr. Narendra Modi have a great vision ,he is surely planning something big to boost up our economy.

  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    Sitting in a coffee shop and uttering words on how politicians should work is quite easy but what he is doing is remarkable. For people who think that they have discernment: think what you are doing for your country, judge yourself and then come up with a verdict

  • harry

    Modi is the need of the day.

SHARE
  • Pragya Jha

    Mr. Narendra Modi have a great vision ,he is surely planning something big to boost up our economy.

  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    Sitting in a coffee shop and uttering words on how politicians should work is quite easy but what he is doing is remarkable. For people who think that they have discernment: think what you are doing for your country, judge yourself and then come up with a verdict

  • harry

    Modi is the need of the day.

Next Story

The Errant Son: Mir Murtaza And Al-Zulfiqar

Would the Bhutto charm, have worked on India? And had it been so, would the map of the Indian sub-continent today, have resembled the idea of a free market zone in South Asia, with porous borders?

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Mir Murtaza Bhutto with Shahnawaz Bhutto
Mir Murtaza Bhutto with Shahnawaz Bhutto
Tania Bhattacharya
Tania Bhattacharya

By: Tania Bhattacharya

India-Pakistan relations have hit a record low following the dastardly Pulwama Attack on a CRPF convoy in Indian administered Kashmir, on the 14th of February this year. Curiously, the Pakistan PM Imran Khan, made a statement a few days ago, endorsing the Indian PM Modi, and suggesting, that in case there was a re-election of the latter, the Kashmir issue may be finally resolved. This scenario is significant, given that both Imran and Modi, are perceived hardliners in their respective nations. As some South Asian policy watchers have noted, it is hawks like the two aforementioned heads of state, and not peaceniks, who are more likely to take large risks over bilateral issues involving the two neighbours, since if any of them is required to acquiesce, they cannot be labelled as anti-nationals. Peaceniks, their good intentions aside, are looked upon with suspicion in their countries, which accuse them of selling out.

 

These are the heady days of jingoist patriotism in South Asia, where Right Wing organizations seem to be faring much better than the other political alternatives; but there was a time not very long ago, when Southern Asia was in a sweet spot between Dictatorship and Democracy, where conducive factors facilitated the spectre of Left-Wing radicalism, in both India and Pakistan. Between the imprisonment of Pakistan’s democratically elected PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the mysterious plane crash that killed President Zia ul Haq in 1988, a shadowy entity by the name of Al-Zulfiqar had emerged out of the pale, and rocked the Zia dictatorship, with its nuisance value. What were the origins of Al Zulfiqar, and who, was its chief executive officer?

The PIA Hijack drama
The PIA Hijack drama

We must retrace our steps to the early 1970s, when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the Pakistan president. His eldest son, and second-born, Mir Murtaza, would build a lavish tent on the sprawling lawns of 70 Clifton, the Bhutto residence at Karachi. Inside the private sanctuary he had made for himself, the young lad would read the influential works of prominent Marxist revolutionaries like Lenin, Mao, and Che Guevara. The walls of his tent would be adorned with posters of world-famous figures, who had adopted Marxist techniques and applied them to their personal agendas. Murtaza had become deeply involved with the guerrilla warfare ethos of Socialist insurgents and quickly became a role model for his younger male sibling, Shahnawaz, junior to him by four years.

 

Sensing that the wayward, and obstinate nature of the older Bhutto was getting him into trouble with his high school officials and law enforcement, Zulfiqar had insisted, that Murtaza abandon his tent, and his Leftist reactionary literature, to concentrate on his school syllabus, so that the straight and the narrow could produce results for the latter. As soon as it became possible, and after consulting his wife Nusrat Bhutto, the President had packed off his enfant terrible to study in the United States, and then to England, where he hoped, that a new environment would change him. It was here, that Murtaza shone. A thorough academic, he researched upon and produced a dissertation, concerning the consequences of India’s nuclear program, on Pakistan. He developed the reputation of being a cad, and somewhat of a lady’s man as well, during his student years in London, where he was a regular sighting at nightclubs, with one or the other pretty girl, on his arm.

 

His father, had made the issue of the ‘Muslim Bomb’ an international one, arguing, that since the Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Marxist political spheres had their own, ultimate weapon of mass destruction, it was only fair that the Islamic world follow suit. Israel though not openly belligerent with the bomb, was suspected of being in possession of the technology to construct one, in 1966 itself. Moreover, it had refused to sign the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty). Pakistan, under his leadership, he had sworn, would ‘gift’ the Muslim world with its first nuclear weapon. The president’s (and later, Prime Minister’s) son, would broach the topic on an academic level, and make its knowledge, widespread.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with his third wife Husna Sheikh
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with his third wife Husna Sheikh.

Murtaza was yet abroad, when his father, by the time, the democratically elected Prime Minister of his country, was toppled in mid-1977, in a military coup, headed by General Zia ul Haq, who until the event, had been Zulfiqar’s handpicked Chief of the Pakistan Armed Forces; and a man, that the confident, and arrogant premier, termed his ‘monkey general’. In a letter, handwritten to her brother, Benazir had advised him to travel to the United States, to meet with American leadership, that were friendly with the Pakistan Peoples Party, to plead for assistance in toppling the dictatorship of Zia. Interestingly, she had told him to steer clear of a top Bhutto aide, Ghulam Mustafa Khar. This is testified by Lt. General Khalid Mahmud Arif in his book Working With Zia. Khar, an uncle of PPP ex-Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar (2008 – 2013), had been a confidante of Prime Minister Bhutto, who he faithfully plied to the home of Bhutto’s first, secret mistress, and then, legally married third wife, Husna Sheikh, on a daily basis.

 

From the United States, Mir Murtaza had decided that it was not judicious to return to a strife-ridden homeland, which was experiencing its umpteenth military rule. Instead, he had flown to Syria and then Libya, to garner support from Bashar al-Assad and Muammar Gaddafi respectively. The Assads and Gaddafi were supportive of the Bhuttos. Zia to them, was an American puppet that had been installed as a means to an end, that too, through an undemocratic and unpopular regime change. It was in Syria occupied Lebanon, that Murtaza had begun building up a guerrilla outfit, which he named, the PLA (Pakistan Liberation Army). Members from the PPP back in Pakistan, were herded off to the Middle East, for rigorous guerrilla training, that was imparted by the Leftist PFLP (Popular Front For The Liberation Of Palestine). When Mir Murtaza deemed that the time was ripe for ambushing Zia’s men in positions of power; the trained militia of PLA flew to Afghanistan, where they continued further arms training, awaiting an opportune moment, to cross into their homeland, using the mountainous, and lawless tribal routes of northern Pakistan, which flanked the Durand Line.

 

While in Kabul, Murtaza Bhutto decided to rename his outfit Al-Zulfiqar Organization, or AZO. Shahnawaz, the younger son of the jailed premier, joined his older brother and was imparted training in guerrilla warfare, and violent Marxist insurrection. When not wielding guns in army fatigues, the young volunteers and the Bhutto brothers, would watch Bollywood flicks to kill time.

 

Initially, all Shahnawaz wished to do, was to open a tourist agency in Pakistan, and live quietly with the Afghan object of his affections. But the restless circumstances that engulfed the young man, forced him to join Al-Zulfiqar, all the more so, as it had his older brother at its helm; a man he had much admired from the days of his youth.

 

One of the first acts of the AZO, was to try to blow up Zia-ul-Haq’s plane with a missile, from an Islamabad rooftop. It did not produce the desired result. Next, was the hijack of a PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) flight. It was flown to Kabul, where the hijackers stated that the plane and its passengers would only be released if ninety-one political prisoners from the PPP, were set free from incarceration in Pakistan. Zia’s response initially, was a “No”. But once it became eminent, that there were no international mediators to take on the case on behalf of Pakistan; especially once Assad and Gaddafi explained the dilemma to General Zia, the latter was forced to rethink his stand. By then, AZO had reduced the demand from ninety-one prisoners, to some fifty-four of them. The Pakistan general was forced to comply with Murtaza’s bargain, as it released the PPP detainees from various gaols in the country, who were then swapped for the PIA plane and its passengers.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with Indira Gandhi and Benazir
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with Indira Gandhi and Benazir.

The mastermind of the hijack, was a seamlessly trained Salamullah Tipu, who was seen waving his gun in the air triumphantly from the door of the airplane, after throwing down the bloodied and dead corpse, of one Major Tariq Rahim on the tarmac. Rahim was a close aide of the Zia administration. While Tipu took the blame upon himself, and the PPP back in Karachi, led by Benazir and her mother Nusrat, denied any knowledge or existence of the AZO, Mir Murtaza Bhutto continued to avoid Pakistani authorities, was never caught on camera during the hijack episode, and was declared a wanted criminal by the Pak judiciary, in absentia.

 

In his biography of the older Bhutto scion, The Terrorist Prince: Life And Death Of Murtaza Bhutto, author, student activist, and political henchman Raja Anwar, notes, that a paranoid Murtaza had ordered for the assassination of anyone who he feared would challenge his methods as head of AZO. A sizeable number of its members were apprehended from their homes, murdered, and dumped in shallow ditches. The same author states, how he himself, Shahnawaz, Mir Murtaza, and some other workers of Al-Zulfiqar, had received lodging, food, money, and military training, in New Delhi. The government of Indira Gandhi, a Centre-Left political organization in India that is recognized as the Indian National Congress, had housed and funded the Bhutto revolutionaries and their fighters, with an eye on ending the rule of the hated Zia. In the late 1980s, when Murtaza had made a stopover at Delhi, during one of his journeys abroad, he had personally met Rajiv, son of Indira, and her successor as the next premier of India, with a large, and impressive bouquet of flowers.

The AZO leaders and members resided in the outskirts of India’s capital, and led well-oiled, luxurious lives, while simultaneously receiving training to destabilize the regime of Zia ul Haq. In this duration, the Bhutto brothers had come close to the Nehru-Gandhi clan of India, and according to a number of verified reports, may have worked as R&AW (Research & Analysis Wing, India’s topmost espionage and intelligence agency) informants for a period of time. A common agenda; that of toppling the American-installed, Islamist, and regressive regime of Zia, being the binding force.

Benazir Bhutto with Rajiv Gandhi
Benazir Bhutto with Rajiv Gandhi

Zia was killed in a plane crash in 1988. The ensuing elections found the PPP, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s political outfit, sweep the polls in Pakistan. Benazir went on to become the Islamic world’s very first woman head of state. Eventually she and Murtaza would have a falling out, with the latter going on to form his own faction of the PPP; the PPP(SB), where SB stood for ‘Shaheed Bhutto’. Unlike his sister’s rule, which can be described as opportunistic and inept, Mir Murtaza Bhutto remained a ‘Peoples Man’. He shunned unnecessary displays of wealth, and was always accessible to the blue-collar cadre base of the PPP(SB). The tussle between him and his sister may have continued on its logical course with a positive outcome for whoever was Destiny’s Chosen One; but for the tragedy that shook the Bhutto dynasty on the evening of the 20th of September 1996. The founder of Al-Zulfiqar was returning home from a political meeting, with his bodyguards and workers, when police opened fire on his cavalcade, right outside his home in Karachi. In the ensuing encounter, a number of his men were killed, while he himself was seriously wounded. A few hours later, the oldest of ZAB’s offspring, the man who was slated to succeed him, died from blood loss and a deliberate attempt to deny him medical attention.

 

Fatima Bhutto, an author, a poet, and an activist in her own right, is the daughter of Mir Murtaza. In her book Songs Of Blood And Sword, she puts the blame of her father’s death, squarely on her uncle, Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of Benazir Bhutto. Whereas in her interviews, Benazir had maintained, that Murtaza was murdered by anti-Bhutto elements within the Pakistan military. She herself would be silenced a decade later, by shady forces lurking within her country’s power corridors. The Bhutto saga brings to mind Salman Rushdie’s novel, Shame, which is a Roman e clef on Pakistan’s most powerful political family.

Nusrat Bhutto, Fatima Bhutto, and her father Mir Murtaza
Nusrat Bhutto, Fatima Bhutto, and her father Mir Murtaza.

Well-wishers of the PPP and people in India who would want Indo-Pak relations to improve, cannot help but wonder, what a future with Mir Murtaza in it, would have beckoned for bi