Follow Us:
Friday, July 20, 2018

The Neta in an Alphabet Soup

The A to Z of a high-voltage,fractious year in Indian politics.

Written by Seema Chishti | New Delhi | Published: January 1, 2012 10:46:09 pm

The A to Z of a high-voltage,fractious year in Indian politics.


Political theorists forgot Anna Dorai and lovers of Tolstoy decided to ditch Karenina,as “Anna” this year meant just The Hazare. The Marathi manoos from Ralegan Siddhi,with a strong resemblance to Morarji Desai,but who pushed himself as Gandhi-II,was at the front of a wildly successful brand exercise,which managed to press several hot buttons. He succeeded in getting most of Middle India agitated. One angry section sees Anna as a messiah in Corrupt India and the other,equally angry lot,sees him as the scourge of democracy and bully number one.


If 2009 and 2010 were years when the babalog emerged from the woodwork,2011 signalled the return of the guru-babas. Relegated to the political margins after the Ayodhya fracas,new faces did quick headstands and took deep breaths to emerge centrestage. Whether it was Baba Ramdev,Sri Sri Ravi Shankar or Bhaiyyuji Maharaj,they were the frequent flyers in and out of Delhi,raging about “the system,” in a spiritual sense,of course.


Seen as the uncompromising conscience of India,who always managed to punch way above their electoral weight,the Left suffered a brutal blow in 2011. They were rejected in the Bengal and Kerala polls,capping a string of defeats around the country. Mostly unrepentant even now,they are the Veto-party who oppose Everything.


She promised to end Left rule in Poschim Banga and did so with a thumping victory,but only to end the year somewhat embattled. Mamata Banerjee still seems to think “they” are ruling,as she blamed them for “poisoning the water supply” and even the hooch tragedy. She was determined to be so Left-like that Manmohan Singh did not miss anything at all.


Whichever way you look at it — inflation and jobs,manufacturing and farming,the rupee falling and the Sensex toppling — the economy seemed to infect politics directly,as the big debates opened up. It looks set to dominate in 2012 too.


Definitely the new F-word. It had the Opposition parties frothing at the mouth,and even ruling allies joined in. The Centre retracted,and the Ikea chief,rumoured to be so excited that he got here pronto,flew back in 12 hours.


Haanji,this was one letter that packed a power punch. From 2G to the Gandhi-aspirant on TV to the Gandhis (Sonia G and Rahul G) and UPA firefighter Pranab MukherG,it pretty much dominated the debate.


Sonia Gandhi’s illness and her hushed departure abroad again led to talk of a “handover” to the reluctant heir: son and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi. He was in the list of four Congress members supposed to manage affairs in Madam’s absence. Some saw an attempt to push Rahul centrestage. But we don’t know if the handover has taken place. The Hand seems to be in the Congress President’s grip again.

Iron Ore

Iron oxide finally claimed Karnataka CM BS Yeddyurappa,after years of unchecked pillage in Bellary. It also marked a tricky new phase in Karnataka politics,as the Bellary brothers left the BJP. In the recent by-election in the state,the BJP lost its deposit in Bellary,the Congress did not win and the JD(S) is nowhere to be seen,at least at the moment.


Jail was house to several elected representatives this year as A Raja,Kanimozhi,Suresh Kalmadi and Amar Singh,among other MLAs,ended up as sarkari mehmaan at Tihar Jail. Most newspapers and TV stations had to invent a Tihar beat,but votaries of rights of prisoners have never had it so good.


The N-debate kicked off again on the question of a nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu that had so far been assumed safe. Sound-bytes and letters were exchanged,and declarations that the site was “safe” were waved about. But like the Higgs Boson,closure seems to elude the issue,with “locals” insisting that post-tsunami in Japan,the safety question needs a relook.


The answer for everything this year was laws and legislation,and more and more of those — whether to end the food crisis faced by the poor,communal violence or corruption in public life. But despite the brouhaha,very few got passed.


The comfortable belief up North that all South Indians were Madrasis got a jolt when the Mullaperiyar dam in Idukki burst on the scene and Madrasis (from Tamil Nadu) faced off with Mallus (from neighbouring Kerala). Dam strength and engineering skills stoked angry emotions as there seemed to be no easy answer to the life-versus-livelihood debate. Leaders at the Centre are waiting for other problems to bubble up so that this can be relegated to the background.

Nandan and Nilekani

The Aadhar project,tom-tommed by the UPA as a key programme,became a punching bag for the Opposition as well as the government,and came in for criticism from within the ruling party. Nandan Nilekani was left wondering what the aadhar for all the fracas was,as he struggled to get a clear line from the top. The Home Ministry finally cleared the monies he needed,just last week.


Telugu for “giving solace to grievers”. It got a strong political connotation with YSR son Jagan’s defiant Odarapu Yatra. But for most of this year,the Congress was in need of Odarapu in Andhra Pradesh as the UPA’s prized province lunged from one crisis to the other — demands for Telangana,a new chief minister,an uncompromising Opposition,bandhs and unrest,and Chiranjeevi emerging as the saviour for his new party,the Congress. In all of this,mum was the word from Delhi.


Petitions before the Lordships found resonance in politics. The dramatic and forced departure of the CVC,an appointment that was struck down early this year by the Supreme Court,set the tone for the continued embarrassment of the Centre in hallowed legal chambers in several cases.


Whether for Dalits in government purchases,backwards among minorities,or in the Lokpal,quotas came back into vogue after a longish absence. Analysts say that as the economy seems less robust after a long spell of boom,luring voters with the promise of a sarkari job,or forcing private-wallahs to hire people from socially backward categories,seems to be an attractive political idea.

Retired babus

They ruled the imagination of anger,all those who were once inside the Indian bureaucracy and said enough is enough. Retired officers concluded that negotiating things in India for the aam aadmi was difficult and that netas needed to be grilled. In different arenas,Arvind Kejriwal,JM Lyngdoh,EAS Sarma and Kiran Bedi had points to make about how the steel frame needed a shake-up.


In a more innocent time,it measured the span of a rainbow in physics textbooks. But “Spectrum” in 2011 was the telecom jargon that became the stuff of teashop conversations,and a prefix for a corruption-tainted minister,as in Spectrum Raja. Everyone had an opinion if the estimate of the CAG on the loss incurred during sale of 2G licenses was accurate or an exaggeration. Spectrum got India excited. And nothing disappeared into thin air.


Parliament decided it was too stressful to debate in peace. But in the shutdown that followed,TV stations flourished with their angry and verbose debates. The subjects varied,but the heckling anchors,the panelists and the little matchboxes they spoke from remained the same. The upside: the minutiae of law-making,from the business advisory committee to the standing committee,controversial clauses and the definition of errata made it to Breaking News,adding to political literacy big time.


Uttar Pradesh or the not-so United Provinces and the assembly elections due there in February became the ruling party’s alibi for everything. When quizzed on mismanagement and an arrogant and unconvincing public face,they would murmur “just watch UP”. Some feel that the UPA should be renamed UP with the kind of attention being paid to details in a state where the ruling party last had more MPs than MLAs.


The Dar-ul-Uloom,the high seat of learning of the serious and reclusive Musalman in Deoband,chose a chatty head,but the surprise factor lasted only for a few months. Maulana Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi and his comments on Narendra Modi’s impact on Muslims in Gujarat got him into trouble. No amount of recanting helped and he was expelled from the post in seven months,but not after he put up a fight against what he described as the ancien regime at Deoband.

We in The Middle

It was a year when the middle class,which now is of a significant size in every city and town,took it upon itself to rage at how things work. Disparate,angry,and sometimes with good reason,Middle India,derided sometimes for not voting as enthusiastically as it should,took full advantage of its lung power to make its unease clear about what it thinks is “wrong” and must be “fixed”.


The X-factor this year was Subramanian Swamy,the mercurial and fluent President of the Janta Party and an ex-MP who re-emerged in the news headlines. This self-taught lawyer was part of several cases that embarrassed the government. His actions stirred up the debate,and in a different context,his article in a newspaper on “Islamic terror” attracted the ire of Harvard University,which cancelled his summer teaching job.


2011 saw another Advani Yatra. An interesting one,but more for what was not said,rather than what was. The “Kaun Banega Pradhan Mantri” question in the BJP remained unresolved as Narendra Modi too launched an extraordinary fast routine in August,uncharacteristically named the Sadbhavna fast around the same time,and muddled things up even more.

Zero Hours

With due respect to MPs,Zero Hour in 2011 was not the solemn hour where several special matters could be raised in the House,but an example of time wasted due to disruptions by the Opposition and mismanagement by the government. It was the worst year in decades if one evaluates the amount of debate-time squandered.

For all the latest News Archive News, download Indian Express App