For some months now, I have been thinking of someone whom I saw on television during the parliamentary election campaign. The place was Benaras and Modi’s candidature from the seat had just been declared. The television journalist was interviewing a group of clearly poor people, taking their reactions on this new, though expected development. This person, fairly drunk in his Modi-elixir – and perhaps also a bit literally drunk – swaggered as he answered, affirming his support for Modi: Modi bhi chaiwala hai, hum bhi chaiwala hain (Modi is also a tea-seller and I am also a tea-seller). His words reflected the success of the remarkable gamble – that of projecting the new poster boy of corporate capital as a humble tea-seller. It was clear how so many of the poor had bought into this campaign.
What reminded me of this person initially, was that very soon after the election results were out, even before the government was formed, ‘team Modi’ announced a series of measures for the development of Benaras, which included the building of 60 flyovers – ‘to ease traffic congestion’. Mainly meant for the benefit of smooth flow of motorized traffic (rikshas, cycles and pedestrians, after all, have little place in the economy of the flyover), this was the beginning of a plan that would transform this holy city. If the experience of building flyovers anywhere in India is any experience, this would additionally mean mass demolition of settlements of the poor, shops and even entire informal markets – including tea shops that have long been part of life of local communities.
Then the government took office. Within a couple of months, the plan for Varanasi’s upgradation started being drawn up more concretely. Not everything in the proposed subsequent plan (end July 2014) seemed objectionable -not the least the idea to work on a possible mono rail, improvement of the bus network, and a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) like the one in Ahmedabad. Except that this would mean more and more dislocation of the poor and destruction of their livelihoods. We have seen this happen in city after city in India, including in Delhi. Continue reading ‘Make in India’ – Modi’s War on the Poor→
Reports of manipulations of Electronic Voting Machines across constituencies have been coming in, and discrepancies in voting figures have been noted in some constituencies. Earlier, before the elections, there had been reports of two machines in Assam that were so programmed as to vote BJP, whichever button you pressed. A Congress counterpart of this was also discovered in Maharashtra. These reports were then dismissed as aberrations. The question now, it seems, is far more serious. Here is a report from Dainik Jagaran (Varanasi edition), that reports that a Sector Magistrate who had taken the machines home is now in trouble after the EC had to investigate an allegation to this effect and found it to be true. Acdcording to the report, the son of the magistrate concerned took some photographs and posted them on Facebook. One of them went viral.
The self-righteous Delhi based mainstream media has of course chosen to ignore this news completely; Jagaran has at least reported it, even it actually minimizes the significance of this lapse. Here is the Jagaran report:
Of course, this is not the first time that this has happened. Earlier, soon after the 2009 elections too, serious allegations had been raised and this is what one report in Huffington Post had observed:
From May 6 onwards, the candidate’s name was ‘coded’, based on their position on the EVM, and the number of ‘votes polled’ were added, even though voting had yet to take place in many constituencies and, even where voting had taken place, votes were yet to be counted. Even more confounding, the ‘votes polled’ numbers were adjusted in subsequent spreadsheets before the results were announced.
The matter is very serious and needs to be pursued. Investigations continue.
The narrow streets of Goduliya Chowk were bursting at the seams yesterday. It was the time of the famous Varanasi aarti at the ghats of the Ganga, a time when the crowd multiplies by several hundreds of people. Narendra Modi was preparing to head out on his triumphant road show through this area, choc-a-bloc full. The BJP’s activists were in a frenzied trance – waving saffron flags, flaunting Modi caps (a tawdry imitation of the original AAP trademark), dancing and chanting: Modi, Modi. As a person with no love lost for Modi, I responded to the exultant mood with some apprehension. My thoughts were straying to the nukkad sabha of the AAP that I attended last evening when a group of 20 young and old AAP volunteers had gone around campaigning for Medha Patkar’s meeting. I found myself thinking about the evening a couple of days ago when I stood with Anand Patwardhan and some activists who were distributing leaflets right there at Goduliya Chowk, and a group of BJP men came surrounded us. I thought about another night spent at Kabir Math Chowk after watching the Dastangoi performance – when a group of young men from Bangalore and Maharashtra were confronted by BJP supporters. I was worried about their safety standing amidst a crowd which appeared dangerous in its swaggering triumph. Yesterday, with Modi’s cavalcade approaching, frictions were reaching fever pitch – encounters one could not possibly see on the images on TV at home.
Standing there amidst the crowd, I spotted an elderly Sikh gentleman walking through the throng of people wearing his AAP topi. Suddenly a roar went up, as Modi sympathisers lunged after him shouting ‘pagal, pagal’ (mad/mad). A little distance ahead I saw another man wearing the AAP cap. The crowd spotted him too, and ran after them both, gesticulating, heckling. As I start walking quickly towards the men I saw them, seemingly unperturbed, walk right through the charging hoard, not a sign of nervousness about their gait. They were walking the confident walk of men who know no fear. Continue reading BJP’s Campaign of Intimidation – A Report from Banaras: Monobina Gupta→
Reports of Modi Thugs on the rampage in Benaras: Over the last few days, as the days of the election appraoch, Modi supporters have become more and more desperate and violent. This is just one in a long series of disruptions of meetings and attacks that has been meted out by the goon squad to AAP volunteers.
जिन्हें नाज़ है हिन्द पर वो कहाँ हैं? उन्हें ये गलियाँ, ये कूचे, ये मंज़र दिखाओ…