The page of Gurcharan Das
Why classic liberals don’t win elections, and populists do
We are in the midst of another election season in India, and each time a poll rolls around, I get depressed at the thought that we are about to elect criminals, corrupt populists, and members of political dynasties rather than upright, independent, reform-minded liberals.
The Budget will tell if aspirational Modi is now a populist Modi
The question on our minds is: has the Prime Minister changed? Is Narendra Modi turning populist? We shall have the answer on Wednesday when the finance minister presents the Budget. The nation elected Mr Modi on an aspirational platform of creating jobs, containing inflation, and stopping corruption. Indeed, in the first half of his term, he has pursued responsible policies to meet these goals.
As stagnant West gets meaner, rising India spells hope but there’s a big if
2016 was a dreadful year and it is a relief that it’s over. The values I cherish most took a profound battering. As a classic liberal, I want equal rights for all; I reject racial and caste discrimination; I revere religious freedom; I seek a free economy based on competition; and I uphold dissent. These beliefs have been undermined by Donald Trump’s election in America, Britain’s exit from Europe, and rising racism, intolerance and nationalism in the world, including in India where Narendra Modi has made his first big mistake with ill-considered notebandi.
When netas see votes in clean air, they’ll cut through the smog
Two apparently unrelated events occured in Delhi in the past few days. In the first, Narendra Modi made a tough, risky move — one of the riskiest in his career — against the long-festering problem of black money. In the second, Arvind Kejriwal was seen floundering as he tried to cope with Delhi’s foul air. What connects the two events is the stark contrast between the decisive action in the case of black money and a sense of helplessness in response to pollution.
Beyond the control of scions in India’s family businesses
Indians have a saying that captures the tendency of family businesses to decline over generations: “The life of a business house is 60 years.” This phenomenon was portrayed by the German writer Thomas Mann in Buddenbrooks, his novel about a wealthy merchant family in the city of Lübeck whose business disintegrates as the children lose an appetite for making money.
Army’s surgical strikes did more than save India’s izzat
The terrorist killing of sleeping soldiers at Uri on September 18 revolted me. It reminded me of Ashvatthama’s night-time massacre of the sleeping Pandava armies, which turned the mood of the Mahabharata from heroic triumphalism to dark, stoic resignation. Soldiers are ready to give their lives in battle but they don’t expect to die while asleep in peacetime. For ten days I felt uneasy and angry.
Saved by the bill? Reform aims to fix India’s medical education
A fresh breeze is blowing in Delhi’s corridors and it could well turn into a squall. It is whooshing about, not in the ministries but in Niti Aayog, which has recently hired 50 professionals, educated at the world’s best universities. The first institution to experience the welcome showers will be medical colleges as part of an overhaul of the (MCI).
Independence Day quiz: Are you a patriot or a nationalist?
It was a rare afternoon in Delhi’s August. The rain had stopped and an occasional nimbus cloud punctuated the astonishingly blue sky. A quiet breeze sent me on a walk into Lodhi Gardens on the way to meet an old friend in Khan Market. Our conversation over chai was halting and uneasy and we kept returning to the ill-fated rise of nationalism in the world.
Mr Javadekar, ask these three questions before you get to work
What was supposed to be a routine cabinet expansion this week turned into a bold shake-up. The big change is at the ministry of human resource development where the affable Prakash Javadekar has replaced the combative Smriti Irani. India has been unlucky in the poor quality of its education ministers. Irani was always the wrong choice and she did not help by picking a fight with everyone. She has moved to the textiles ministry, which is not a demotion as everyone thinks.
Arrogant liberals are doing a big disservice to liberalism
A few months ago, I was at an attractive event in Delhi, surrounded by elegantly dressed, articulate Indians and a sprinkling of foreigners. Into this privileged gathering walked an awkward young man who someone recognized from Hindi television. He seemed to be lost and was mostly ignored until someone provoked him and there followed a loud, ugly argument over the JNU controversy. He put up a spirited defence of the Hindu nationalist position but he was quickly shouted down.