Mar 21, 2009

Zabaan Sambhal Ke

Varun Gandhi has arrived. And how! He strode on to the political battleground with a vacuum for brains and a loose cannon for a mouth. Noxious combination, this. And while we screamed hoarse on blogs and feverishly worked on the Lead India '09 campaign, here was a man who grabbed all the headlines - major and minor - albeit for all the wrong reasons. As long as our 24x7 news channels went crazy over him, who in the wide world cared what actually happened? Everyone from Riyadh to Rohtak and Paris to Palakkad knows the man who spewed deadly venom all over the nation. Mission accomplished - hook, line and sinker.

At an emotionally charged rally in his constituency Pilibhit, this new pin-up boy of the very saffron BJP posed a serious threat to Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. He seems to have surpassed the veteran when it comes to violating the very nature of the Indian Constitution. But what comes as a nasty sting is where Varun comes from. He is not an uncouth bahubali who speaks only the language of abuse and profanity. Nor is he a bumbling buffoon caught in a situation he is not equipped to handle. He is an educated and suave young man who is expected, at the very least, to know what he can say and what he must not. He carries the lineage of a secular great-grandfather, a fiery grandmother, a dynamic uncle, an intelligent aunt, polished cousins and a distinguished mother. This LSE-alumnus represents India's first and most well-known family, but 'Feroze' Varun Gandhi displayed utter disregard for the sensibilities of India and her law as he happily cussed and cursed in a manner reminiscent of C-grade Bollywood. For this kin of a family who scripted India's history, he has conveniently forgotten that the people he judges on faith and asks to leave India had made their choice way back in 1947 - they chose India. For this son of a mother reknowned for her compassion and humanity for animals, branding a part of India with the choicest contempt and the vilest slurs is as unimaginable as it is unforgivable.

In a nation with India's sheer size and interwoven diversity, it would be logical to assume that development and social upliftment should be the ideal planks for winning an election. Sadly, things never were that way and have not changed either. We thrive on hate, which is still widely believed to be a huge and popular driver of votes. If not that, it at least guarantees full media attention. Thus said, it was not really surprising for Varun Gandhi to use this tried-and-tested technique for his share of the spotlight. He played his cards perfectly and dealt the three aces which clinched the air-time: dynasty, religion, and emotional manipulation. He says he is "a Gandhi, a Hindu and an Indian in equal measure". It is not just the order he places these personal identities in that bothers.

For a country that prides itself on a rich culture and was the first civilsation, the one obvious lesson we have learnt to never learn is this - hate can only take us so far. It may inflame sentiments and ignite passions, but it will always create a resentment that will have its own pre-determined backlash. We, the Indian voters, want solutions in these especially trying times. We want to know if our money in the banks is safe. We want to know if we will still report to work tomorrow. We want to know if we will be allowed a life where we don't spend every mooment wondering if we will get back home alive to see our family smile at us. We want to know if we as women have as much right to freedom and happiness as the men do. We want to know whether we and our children will have clean water to drink and fresh air to breathe. This is what the politicians, more so the new-age ones, should ideally be focusing on.

That may yet be mere wishful thinking. Once again, we, the Indian voters, will be asked to choose not between good and evil but between hate and progress. Gujarat's new roads will cover the bloodstains of Godhra yet again. That is the saddest part. Hate may yet again win. But that would not be the moniker of winning an election; it would be an aberration of democracy. Barack Obama won his election on hope. He suggested a change for the better and promised a future steeped in consonance. Our leaders learnt nothing from this historic event and choose to adopt a path of dissonance where hate is aggressively marketed to the masses. They promote trepidation and vehemence rather than equanimity and sanguinity. The basic lesson marketing teaches us is that customers buy benefits. Indian politics has bucked the trend.

The youngest Gandhi, along with others of his generation, represented the hope and faith we had in the young and dynamic Gen-Next leaders we thought would change the face of India. Well, this one does seem to be doing just that - changing India from a secular democratic republic to a hardliner fundamentalist religious entity. The BJP fervently projected Varun as the new face of Hindutva in the hope to free their treasured ideology of its pariah image. The idea was also, more sinisterly, to defeat the secular model of Nehruvian political project - and what better way to hit back at Nehru than to have one of his own question the very essence of his legacy. Varun’s rhetoric that made the Thackeray patriarch proud (if not blush) actually came as no surprise. Neither does his choice of a dias - his mother’s constituency, a region with a substantial Muslim population. This was no desperate attempt by a wannabe to secure his 15 minutes of fame. It was the emergence of a member of the Nehru-Gandhi clan wholeheartedly embracing the Hindutva mission. If this is not a historic incident, I wonder what is.

Varun's timing to take up a divisive campaign may seem far from judicious, especially when his party leadership has been struggling to look beyond temples and mosques to try and focus on governance. The simple answer is that he probably thought he could get away with it. In fact, had it not been for an alert media and an active Opposition, he probably would have got away. Heck, he actually will eventually get away, and in all probability even win his election from Pilibhit. Once the dust settles, Varun Gandhi may well become the icon for those who believe it is necessary to show the minorities 'their place'. This is the inexorable price we must pay for having long allowed our politics to degenerate into a bloodbath of divide-and-rule. Yet, if we have any faith in the nation as a secular democracy with an inclusive society and a republican constitution, we must not allow Varun to get away at all, at least not so easily. More importantly, our Muslim population must not validate his ludicrous invectives by actually reacting and thereby substantiating this depravity, which is what his party expects them to. That’s the least India and her founding fathers would expect of us.


  1. You know, watching varun gandhi speak, I thought to myself.."nothing sells like controversy". He needed the controversy to project himself into national politics with a bang and he did it brilliantly, just as you said.

    I refuse to believe that this was not a well-thought out speech. He knew exactly what he was talking about and what effect it would have. He knew he would get his publicity and within a month people would forget everything. win-win right?

    What's funny is that a person who is 1/4 parsi and 1/2 sikh is now the self-declared flag bearer of the hindutva movement. That must be flattering for all Hindus.

    Sometimes, I wonder how much effect our blogs really have. None of those morons who will vote these hate-mongers into office will ever read it or reason honestly about the effects of electing such people.

    It's always "oh the muslims are spewing hatred against us in kashmir or hyderabad so lets spew hatred against them too". Why is this the only solution? Why not clamor to uphold secular values and put pressure on the politicians and media to incarcerate anyone (Muslim/Hindus/Xtians/Sikhs) who spews hatred against/threatens with violence any other community? Why not shout out for Uniform Civil code? Those would be better use of time and energy and a more secular goal.

    Anyway, a man can dream. Can't he? :-)

    Btw, nice well-articulated post as always.

  2. I saw him and thought if he wins then i will commit suicide [:D]
    I just could not understand, from which angle or triangle he looks like a man capable of taking care of democracy.
    He is just a "second year" senior who has all of a sudden realized his power :D
    Poor him

  3. ''Everyone from Riyadh to Rohtak and Paris to Palakkad knows the man who spewed deadly venom all over the nation. Mission accomplished - hook, line and sinker.''

    yes ,Surbhi this seemed to be his agenda..anyone who wants to be a politician has to spout nonsense in the name of religion and voila!mission accomplished!

    ''He carries the lineage of a secular great-grandfather, a fiery grandmother, a dynamic uncle, an intelligent aunt, polished cousins and a distinguished mother.''
    yes Surbhi but the idiotic father seems to have influenced him the most!varun gandhi seems to have lost it...some are saying its a poll gimmick..and that he may infact win...
    I really hope he is chucked out and the EC takes strict action against him..
    He should not be allowed to contest.
    Lets see how he wins then the moron!

    loved Nitwik Nastik's comment
    ''What's funny is that a person who is 1/4 parsi and 1/2 sikh is now the self-declared flag bearer of the hindutva movement. That must be flattering for all Hindus.''

    Irony for all the morons who follow him in the name of Hindutva!

  4. I guess the whole purpose of this was to hog limelight which he succeeded in doing. As an Indian and a Hindu, I was ashamed. The worst part is that he is literate, writes sensitive poems and is a part of the gen-next of Indian politics.After spitting this venom he is a prized possession of the extremist organizations. Shiv Sena has already welcomed his words. I feel bad for the few muslims who are a part of BJP.I wonder how they will explain it to their voters because Varun is still the official candidate of the BJP in Pilibhit.

  5. Good to see your outrage. Although I am not sure you reacted similarly when Hindu educational institutions were discriminated. In India, only Hindu run educational institutions have to follow government mandated caste-based reservations. Not the so-called minority ones. Thanks to the ultra secular government we have at the center.

    In Kerala, Christian educational insitutions are actually a majority and they can still enjoy special privileges. Andhra Pradesh is the only place in the world where Christians get Haj-like subsidy to go to Jerusalem. And we all know there is no Haj among Christians. When Tasleema Nasreen was attacked, cases were filed against her while the attackers went untouched. If what happened to The Statesman recently happened in the west, the seculars would not have been silent. Our seculars went into hiding.


  6. See anonymously he is trying to advocate for Hindu's. Hindu's are never tht coward I guess e.g: Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, LK Advani, Varun Gandhi :D, so your point(s) shud not be considered I guess :D :)

  7. Seriously, I mean why can't political parties employ PR Consultants who tell them what the people want to hear, how to say the right things.

    But then, I think, this is so much better - you see the person for what he or she is. I guess, the BJP is happy but won't show it.

    Hope he is barred from contesting elections.

  8. Gk here, has apparently nothing better to do than copy paste the same comment in a dozen places.

  9. Nitwit:
    You are right; it was a very well-thought out speech with a very well-planned strategy. You are also right in saying that we think the only solution for hatred/violence is more hatred/violence. It beomes a vicious cycle and never reaches an end.
    "What's funny is that a person who is 1/4 parsi and 1/2 sikh is now the self-declared flag bearer of the hindutva movement. That must be flattering for all Hindus." Yes, it sure is flattering. (The sarcasm was sharp and I hope it hits him where it hurts most).
    True. I don't know if the readers we intend to target actually read all that we write! And if they do, whether it affects them or even makes them think!
    All we can do is write as much as we can, so that we reach out to as many people as possible. Raising a voice is the least we can do.

  10. Tarun:
    "... if he wins then i will commit suicide" Right, and how would that help ANYONE? Don't be stupid and don't talk like that. There are many who deserve to commit suicide. You must help them achieve that. ;)
    "He is just a "second year" senior who has all of a sudden realized his power" LOL... But he is so much more sinister coz he is not just looking for his 15 minutes of fame but is actually working for an evil ideology in a vile manner to seemingly gullible people. We can only hope the janta there has enough sense not to vote for him after this.

  11. Indyeah:
    "I really hope he is chucked out and the EC takes strict action against him" You really think that'll happen? The EC has now put the ball in BJP's court! So actually Varun gets to decide for himself whether he should or should not contest!
    "all the morons who follow him in the name of Hindutva" Yeah, and all those who think Hindutva is not religious terrorism. It is. Anything that teaches hatred and begets ethnic violence is terrorism.
    He'll contest, and win, and thumb his victory under all our noses. :(

  12. Prerna:
    Welcome! First time here, I guess. I hope to see you more often. :)
    You said, "The worst part is that he is literate, writes sensitive poems and is a part of the gen-next of Indian politics." Yes. That killed the hope we had from this young educated politician, that he would bring fresh ideas to the table and even that he could bring about a revolution in the religion-obsessed BJP.
    The few Muslims who are part of BJP have shown their displeasure all right, but their voices were muffled and weak. That is the more unfortunate part. You know, Venkaiah Naidu actually said Varun is "immature" and should be let off! So if he is "immature" at 29, how is he standing at a dais addressing a rally in the first place?

  13. GK:
    "I am not sure you reacted similarly when Hindu educational institutions were discriminated"
    Right! That's just the kind of attitude that makes me, with all due respect, scream! So if something happened in the past with a Hindu institution, it justifies what Varun did, eh? Great!
    I'm also upset by the way you wrote "so-called minority". What exactly do you mean by "so-called"? Please don't tell me you're the type who frantically try to keep fictitious tabs on how man children each woman in a "minority" community produces, and then lament that they produce 10 while Hindus produce 1! That is as ridiculous as ridiculous can be.
    Yes, we do have an "ultra secular government", and thank your lucky stars for it. If your favorite party BJP (assuming by the manner in which you wrote your comment) comes to party, we'll have communal riots all over India and there'll be a mass ethnic cleansing of your "so-called" minorities. Mark my words! I may have exaggerated but this surely must be the BJP's agenda, going by Varun Gandhi's landmark speech.
    I am ashamed at you for thinking that Hindus can only survive with the assistance of a Hindu government, and can't find their place in a secular nation. That actually defeats the whole point of Hinduism, which is an extremely inclusive religion. Tell me, GK, after this thought, what is the difference between you and the Islamic fanatics who feel Islam can only survive in an Islamic nation and not in a secular inclusive society?
    I do hope you'll think about this. Also read IHM's reply to you on her blog.
    For the future, kindly quit copy-pasting the same comment everywhere. Since all our posts are different, the comments if copied word-for-word do not serve much purpose and instead would show your desperation for getting your point (if any) across.

  14. Rakesh:
    "... PR Consultants who tell them what the people want to hear ..." No, Varun doesn't need a PR consultant. He knew exactly what he was saying and he thought that was exactly what people wanted to hear. If you look at the kind of people who attended that rally, I bet you they were the type who'd received a day's supply of wheat/toddy from Varun's henchmen to come and attend. If you watch closely, there was a party-member right in front of the people who was actually guiding them when to clap and when to shout slogans. I bet the audience neither knew nor cared who was speaking and what. Maybe they were told that if they voted for Varun they'd be rewarded in some manner, etc.
    "I guess, the BJP is happy but won't show it." Yes, you are so right. the BJP is jumping with jo coz this was exactly what they wanted. Now people in places other than Pilibhit know about Varun, plus they have supporters in the aam janta too. What's more, now they get to decide whether Varun should still contest his election. That's a total win-win situation!

  15. Indyeah:
    So much the good for us, so much the worse for GK. He/She will have to deal with a multitude of replies now, all of which I sincerely hope will make him/her think. :)

  16. Tarun:
    "... anonymously he is trying to advocate for Hindus" Yeah, LOL... As if Hindus (or anyone for that matter) need GK as an advocate. ROTFLMAO...

  17. Varun Gandhi is a moron and most of what he did probably was because of cheap publicity but in either case, he should be given any press. Can't believe his grandmother was Indra gandhi

  18. Chirag:
    I don't think Varun is so naive as to crave for publicity in this manner. Okay, maybe he doesn't like being second-best to his cousins Rahul and Priyanka in terms of media air-time, but he is smart and evil - a terrible combination - and knows exactly what he can get away with and how he can win an election (going by our history of how divide-and-rule has always worked).

  19. Well he has taken the shortcut to come into the limelight of politics, and now he will just say 'No Comments' or a hushed sorry somewhere and releive himself of all his crimes.

  20. haha!! I m not gonna die that early, death by choice is my motto :D
    Point number two, he is having no brains, you slap him twice and he will wet his pants :)

  21. Surbhi, Have I posted on this blog before? I don't remember this blog of yours. I don't know how I missed it. I always check the other one.

    As for Varun Gandhi for years he was sidelines because he was too polished. I was watching one of his earlier interviews where he vehemently hated Modi but supported Vajpayee and now this Varun is going Modi way and now finally found acceptance with his hate speech. The latest is that he is BJP's star campaigner.

    Controversy is an easy ticket to politics.

    Let me add this to my blogroll so that I don't miss your posts here in future.

  22. Rahul:
    He didn't say sorry - that's the audacity of this unruly brat.
    BTW, you have a great blog going with lots of hullabaloo. I've blogrolled you!
    Keep dropping in!

  23. Tarun:
    LOL... You hit the nail right on the head. He surel has no brains - he proved that.

  24. Solilo:
    Varun "hated Modi but supported Vajpayee"? Reall? I find that kinda hard to believe after Pilibhit!
    Sure, controversy is the shortest route to any place. I remember this interview with Madha Patkar where she said to Arnab Goswami that her kind of silent non-violent protest doesn't get noticed by the media, while the antics of thugs like Muthalik or wannabes like Rahul Mahajan are instantly lapped up and broadcasted far and wide. She said the amount of publicity you get is directly proportional to the amount of chaos you create. And that is what Varun learnt at the BJP's knee.
    What's worse is not that he is unapologetic (which was anyway expected of him), but that nobody could make him withdraw his candidature, and he was easily let off with nothing more than just a reprimand (that too for formality).
    Thanks for blogrolling me, sweetie! Love to Peanut!

  25. Hmm. Varun Gandhi's Quarter Parsi, Half-Sikh and Full Hindu?

    I don't get it.

    Minorities supporting the BJP is like Chicken rooting for KFC.. simple as that.

  26. Yaamyn:
    Not only the minorities, no body at all should have any reason to support BJP. Any organisation that cannot represent the nation as a whole and all its citizens alike has no business even contesting for elections. These elections are NATIONAL and GENERAL.

  27. great blog! i mean, this is exactly the kind of secular media that helps every politician in the country get away with 'minority appeasement' and not be spoken against. Subsidies for Haj and Jerusalem are part of the secular ethos, I suppose, but not a visit to nankana sahib in Pakistan. And for all those who think Varun Gandhi is a moron, well, it seems that the urbane youth is so dazzled by the polish and suaveness of rahul gandhi that his basic hollownss and vacancy of an actual ideology to believe in seems immaterial. Style over substance, huh?

  28. Uthra:
    I'll make this short, because I have nothing much to say to you if you have decided to perpetually keep your head buried in the sand. I can only hope you emerge and at least read my post again, slowly. For good measure, listen to Varun Gandhi's speech again too.
    To your last comment, I say this. To me, no or hollow ideology is far more welcome than one steeped in hate and soaked in fanaticism. Now that is downright unacceptable to me as a citizen of this nation - a socialist secular democratic republic.
    I have nothing more to say to you.

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